dukevega

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Reviews

Headshot
(2016)

Call Me Ishmael
Another drop-dead serious martial arts movie from star Iko Uwais. This movie is neither light nor kid-friendly, so make sure to watch it when they are out of the house.

There is nothing new here in terms of plot--another reviewer called this an Indonesian version of "Bourne Identity", and that is pretty accurate--but what makes this movie stand above the rest is by bringing some emotional heft as it delves into characters' emotional backgrounds.

If you're looking for something that treats martial arts as something dangerous rather than entertaining and doesn't shy away from the darker side of life, then this might just be what you're looking for.

Serbuan Maut 2: Berandal
(2014)

Rare Gem of an Action Sequel
I will admit I was a little leery when I saw that this movie was 2 ½ hours long; that's just not something you normally see in an action movie. But my fears were allayed, writer/director Gareth Edwards surpassed himself in just about every way possible over the original "Raid".

What sets this apart from most action movies are what I call the "in-between" scenes, which are basically scenes that set up the next action sequence. In this movie, they are not just filler; they add a layer of depth rarely found in action movies. In this case, most of them relate to the central theme of ambition and how it can drive people to do dangerous things.

Another thing I noticed in this movie is the brutality of the violence. This isn't over-the-top gore like you see in slasher movies, but rather what you can expect when two people meet with the intention of killing each other. In most martial art movies, the fights usually last until one fighter is too beaten to continue; in this it is usually to the death.

If you like your action with some depth that is unflinching in its portrayal of violence, look no further.

Calvary
(2014)

One of the Best Movies About Religion
I tend to avoid movies about religion because the makers often get heavy-handed with their message (eg, "Courageous" and the like), but the TV spots I saw for this one showed that it might be a little bit different, and it certainly was. I won't hash over what the film's main plot, but rather I will discuss what the film REALLY is about, at least in my opinion.

What I saw in this film was a priest trying to be meaningful and relevant in today's society. While it seems most of his parishioners are almost reveling in their sin and immorality, he still ministers to them, which I'm sure is a challenge to some of those in that vocation.

This was a film dealing with very tricky subject matter and I thought it was done very well. It would be nice if it is remembered come Oscar time.

Bikini Girls on Ice
(2009)

Managed To Sneak In UNDER My Expectations
Some movies you just know are going to be bad, and normally I'm able to resist their siren call; but with this one, like a car wreck you have to rubberneck, it just has to be looked at. I think it was the title (I admit it, I'm a movie snob, but I'm still superficial at times).

This is a by-the-numbers slasher flick, with all the usual elements: Good Girl Protagonist, Morally Corrupt Associates, The Cute Guy She Really Likes, Abandoned Setting, Warning By Kooky Local Which Goes Ignored, People Going Off Alone So They Can Be Easily Killed, Killer With Vanishing Skills That Would Make A Ninja Green With Envy, and the Indestructible Killer (did I miss any? I tend to avoid slasher movies, so I may have missed a few).

However, there were two important points the makers missed, the Killer's Backstory and the Virgin's Revenge. Now, with the Killer's Backstory, I'm sure that had there been one it would have made little difference in the overall quality of the film, but it would've been nice to have some reason why he did what he did.

My degree in Armchair Psychology tells me this guy grew up in an abusive home by a single parent (I'm not sure which). Given his penchant for cutting off his victims' bikini tops, either he watched as his father brought home women and focused on their breasts or his mother liked going around the house topless. As for his apparent sexual thrusting during his kills, he was probably caught masturbating and beaten within an inch of his life and now has severe performance anxiety.

As for the Virgin's Revenge, missing this one is practically a cardinal sin. You've seen it once, you've seen it a million times. The morally pure protagonist, having spent the first 90% of the movie trying to escape the killer, now faces down the deranged killer all by herself and only by casting aside her puritanical values is she able to defeat him.

But in this, aside from throwing a knife into his neck, the protagonist keeps running around screaming and asking him why he's doing what he's doing. Only a timely arrival by the Kooky Local (now armed with a shotgun) saves her. What's more, we don't even see this final battle, instead we are treated to a close up of her eyes. Granted, in real life this is exactly what would happen, but this isn't real life, this is a slasher flick.

Usually, when I go into a movie with low expectations, there is always something that keeps it from being a complete waste of my time, but this one actually managed to come in under my expectations. I think I'm going to watch "Scream" now to see a slasher movie done right.

Star Trek Into Darkness
(2013)

Beyond Darkness Lies...Nothing
Those who know me have heard umpteen times my saying about original ideas in the movies. This is particularly true when doing a reboot/remake/sequel; you have a universe that has already been set up, now how do you give the audience something different while still playing within the limits of that universe? The Star Trek reboot I thought was one that got it right, and if that wasn't enough, they reset the universe in such a way that they could pretty much do whatever they wanted.

And what did they do with this opportunity? They lamely ripped off a previous entry in the franchise, threw in some glaring logic holes and a preachy message, while producer/director J.J. Abrams forced some hammy overacting out of the villain.

LAME RIP-OFFS

The previous entry they ripped off was "Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan", and they ripped off the ending, but only swapped the roles between Kirk and Spock, and if that wasn't enough, Spock screams Khan's name after Kirk dies, just Kirk did when Khan taunted him in the original.

LOGIC ERRORS

How does an armed ship fly up to Starfleet Headquarters and proceed to blow away a meeting of admirals? Where's security (especially since it occurred right after a "terrorist" attack)?

How does Scotty manage to fly into an enemy base by pulling the old "Let's Blend in with the Drones" trick? Where's their security?

THEME PROBLEMS

The "terrorist attack" clearly parallels the terrorist situation of today and so we're clubbed over the head with a debate on how to respond to them. I know this debate will never end, and I can see both sides of this issue, but did the writers have to be so blatant about it? This was the reason I hated "Avatar" so much, but at least this movie only hit us over the head twice.

HAMMY OVERACTING

Before this movie, I had never heard of Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor playing the villain. I then saw him in a BBC TV series "Sherlock" (an example of a reboot done right), and could see he was the right man for the job. In the trailers, he oozed menace out of the simplest lines like "Now, shall we begin?". That was clearly his best line, because the rest of his deliveries were so hammy I was waiting for some eggs to show up.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As I previously mentioned, BBC's "Sherlock", a modern-day update of the one-man CSI lab, is an example of a remake done right. Benedict owns the role, and the writers really challenged the character while still staying faithful to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Another good remake was "Assassination of a High School President", which took a well-known noir film and remade it into a teen film (it's good, trust me).

Absentia
(2011)

Major Studio Heads Should See This
I saw this based on a recommendation from my brother, who is into movies although not as much as I am; after seeing this, I am glad I listened to him. My gripe against most big "horror" movies is that they are wall-to-wall gorefests which are excuses for the special effects crew to show off while any plot and characterization go right out the window; this movie did not fall prey to that mistake.

In this movie it kept the focus on where it should be, on the characters and the story while keeping the special effects to a minimum. There were a few scary moments , but mostly the film worked on creating an atmosphere of menace, which was doubly effective given the urban setting. The major movie studios need to take note; this is how you make a scary movie.

Bunraku
(2010)

Someone Needs To Call The Cliché Police
This movie has earned a place of honor in my lists of movies. It did to me what no other movie has done in over 20 years: it made me not finish it. I have seen plenty of bad movies (Avatar, Order, Practical Magic) but with those I was at least able to sit through them in their entirety (I think I deserve an award for sitting through "Avatar", but that's just me). This one I couldn't.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where guns are banned, Drifter (is that his name or were the writers just unable to think of one?) and non-violent samurai Yoshi (yeah, wrap your head around that one, but don't worry, his vow lasts less than 5 minutes) show up in a town run by a crime boss named Nicola (Ron Perlman, looking like he wandered in from one of those Geico caveman commercials), but for what reason I don't know. As far as I can tell, Drifter is just looking for a game of cards (which is also banned) and Yoshi is on a mission from his father to get…something.

The supporting cast is just as boring. There's also Woody Harrelson as The Bartender (an odd name, "The"; did his parents hate him or were they just lazy?), the one local willing to help them, although it's in the form of cryptic riddles and pop-up books. There's a girl involved as well, Nicola's beautiful but unwilling girlfriend (she joined him to save her true love's life; I have an idea who the true love is, but I didn't stick around to find out. I wonder if they get back together?). Enough, enough, ENOUGH ALREADY! I'M CALLING THE CLICHÉ POLICE!

I'm wondering if the writers purposely set out to throw every action movie cliché they could think of into this and then really REALLY hoped their paper-maiche sets would somehow distract us. Would it have killed them to give us characters who weren't as thin as the paper they used for their sets? Give me something, ANYTHING to make me care about any of the people in this, is that too much to ask? For the makers of this film, it clearly was.

The Dilemma
(2011)

Identity Crisis
No having seen a trailer for this, I could only go with the stars as to what kind of movie this was. Given the two leads, this seemed to me like it would be a comedy. Sure, Vince Vaughn has done some dramatic roles, but to me he is a comedic actor first, and Kevin James is strictly comedic.

After this movie ended, I was confused; was this supposed to be a comedy or a drama? If it was supposed to be a comedy, then it wasn't very funny, and if it was a drama, then it was rather light. Further muddying the waters was Channing Tatum's character, whose personality seems to change with each line; in one he is a violent lunatic, the next he is a touchy-feely type.

All in all, this was 110 minutes of wasted time, except for the scenes at Blackhawks games (I'm a fan).

Open Water
(2003)

A VERY Flexible Food Chain
What would it be like to trapped in the great outdoors? This movie provides one idea. Left in the ocean due to human error, a married couple must now deal with the consequences.

What the makers really did well was capturing the sense of isolation for the couple. A lot of scenes really went out of their way to show the vast expanse of the ocean, which created an effect of the couple being small and insignificant. It serves as a reminder that we might be at the top of the food chain, but that position is not fixed; all it takes is one botched headcount and you are at Mother Nature's mercy.

While I classify this as a thriller, this is not a standard one; the conflict is mostly psychological, as the couple tries to keep their hopes up in face of these overwhelming set of circumstances. Filmgoers looking for something big, scary and gory should look elsewhere.

Courageous
(2011)

Good Message, Heavy-Handed Execution
While never having seen this or the other movies from this director, I had a good idea of what to expect: a heavy-handed wall-to-wall sermon regarding the movie's theme, which in this case was about being a good father.

For the first 45 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised; while faith was brought up, it was kept somewhat low-key. There were also some genuinely funny moments, mostly between the lead cop and his partner.

But then tragedy struck, and I was proved right; after that, it seemed like every other scene discussed God or faith or the Bible, and it was very blunt about delivering its message, which I rarely like in a movie, regardless of its genre. It also included a scene about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

I agree with the film's message; fathers need to step up and fulfill their responsibilities, I just believe that there are other ways besides the Bible and faith to guide you. It almost seems like this film is saying it's the only and/or best way to do it. So what about fathers from other faiths? Or atheist fathers? Does that mean they are incapable of being good fathers? I disagree.

It seems to me organized religion and its followers are always difficult topics to bring up in a film; either the followers are portrayed as close-minded fundamentalist zealots or just one step away from sainthood. There is only movie I can immediately think of that does not fall into one of those categories, and that is "Saint Ralph".

Death Race 2
(2010)

Bad Case of Sequelitis (and Mistitled Too)
Bad Case of Sequelitis (and Mistitled Too)

WHAT SUCKED ABOUT THIS MOVIE

1) Title. When you have a number after a title, that usually means "sequel", not "prequel". Better titles could've been "Death Race: The Beginning" or "Death Race: Birth of Frankenstein".

2) Lead character. Another criminal with a heart of gold, only this one has somehow managed to not only make a career out of it (being a criminal, not a hero), but earn the trust of a crime boss (Sean Bean doing a ridiculous accent of some kind). Right.

3) Plot. If you have a movie about vehicular carnage, give us some ASAP, do not wait for an hour to finally get to it, okay?

4) Logicality of plot. I know in action movies real-world facts have no place there; if you want a revolver to fire 7 bullets without reloading, then it can. But when you have a woman hanging on to a speeding car wrenching a Minigun—-which weighs over 200 pounds—-out of its mount, pointing it backwards and firing it without being knocked off the car, that stretches plausibility past the breaking point for me.

5) There will be another sequel / prequel. What will it be about?

WHAT WAS GOOD ABOUT THIS MOVIE

(Crickets chirping)

RECOMMENDATIONS

Watch any other "Death Race" movie, your time will be much better spent. I personally prefer "Death Race" over "Death Race 2000", but that's just me.

Catch .44
(2011)

Q.T. Light
Ingredients of a Tarantino movie found in this movie:

Dialogue heavy: check Colorful low-end characters: check Nonlinear plot: check Elements of 70s pop culture: check Quality: NO NO NO!!!

If there's one thing I hate, it's ripoffs that don't credit the person/film being ripped off, but what I hate more is ripoffs that suck, like "Avatar" and "Never Back Down". This movie lost me within the first 10 minutes, when we opened in some low-end greasy spoon out in the middle of nowhere with three part-time hitwomen discussing the nature of compromising in a relationship (could "Reservoir Dogs" be ripped off any more?) then turns into a robbery (shades of "Pulp Fiction", anyone?) and then we jump back in time to get to know the hitwomen a little better ("Reservoir Dogs" again) and find out how they ended up there.

The only problem is that by this time I'm so past the point of caring about these characters is that now I'm counting the minutes until it's over; even the appearance of Forest Whitaker as a chameleon-like Spanish hit-man (yeah, I'm scratching my head at that one) and Bruce Willis as a nut-munching mob boss suffering from 70s fashion sense can't raise my interest.

There's something about a drug deal or maybe a double cross that brought them all together, but by now I'm watching only to find out how it ends, which thankfully it does. In the end, there are a lot of bodies and revelations and double crosses, but who cares? If you want a Quentin Tarantino experience watch one of his movies rather than wasting your time with this cheap knockoff.

Trespass
(2011)

Longest 180 Minutes of My Life
When watching a good movie, you hardly notice the passage of time as you are swept into the film's world. When watching a bad movie, you notice it all too well as you sit through the tortuous experience of it. This film falls into the latter category, and at only 90 minutes, it feels twice as long, if not longer.

This film was bad enough in just the first 10 minutes, seeing the leads not fully committed to their roles, but when the home invaders show up, it only gets worse. There are 4 of them, and 2.5 of them are useless: squeamish leader, coldly efficient muscle, leader's delusional brother and leader's drug addict girlfriend. They present no united front at all; whenever the leader or the muscle starts to step up, the leader's delusional brother steps in (he thinks he and Nicole are destined to be together) or the drug addict girlfriend starts to wig out, forcing the leader or the muscle to deal with them and giving the protagonists plenty of opportunities to fight back. By the time this was over, I was working out in my mind how I would've done it had I possessed the callousness to do it.

This one is going on my list of all-time worst movies, joining the likes of "Practical Magic", "The Order", "Robocop 2" and "Avatar".

The Resident
(2011)

Dear Hilary: FIRE YOUR AGENT!!!
First off, I'm not a fan of Hilary Swank, nor do I hate her. It's just that after doing what most actresses can only dream--winning multiple acting Oscars--you would expect her to have a good sense for bad scripts. How this one slipped through is beyond me. This is your standard stalker movie, complete with the clichés of The Talking Killer and The Killer Who Looks Dead But Really Isn't.

Kudos to Mr. Morgan, he was a little bit creepier than your usual stalker, and Christopher Lee did a nice job in all of the 2 minutes he was on screen, but they weren't able to save this stinker. Save your money, watch some paint dry (it will be more entertaining too).

Singin' in the Rain
(1952)

From A Guy Who Doesn't Like Musicals
I'll admit I'm biased against musicals; I just have a hard time suspending my disbelief when I see a group of people burst into pitch-perfect song and well-choreographed dance. I know, I know, I can willingly accept a movie that happened a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, but I can't accept a musical that takes place right here right now? Anyway, I happened upon it during a business trip, and with nothing better to do, I popped it into my DVD player and had my mind changed.

What I liked most about it were the musical numbers. As I watched them, they impressed me because these weren't simple numbers, and a lot of them featured extended takes, so kudos to the performers for making them so fun to watch.

I also like the humor in the film; I didn't know much about the film except that it was a musical, so would the non-musical parts be comedic, dramatic, tragic, what? I can tell that it was predominantly a comedy, although it had its dramatic moments. The funniest scene I remember took place when a silent film was being filmed, and it was a romantic scene, yet the actors in it were insulting each other, hilarious!

All in all, a nice family film to sit down to, my only complaint is that there is one musical number that runs a little too long and doesn't really contribute anything to the plot, in my opinion.

The Three Musketeers
(2011)

Greater In Scale Only
When I saw the trailer, two things caught my eye: airships and Orlando Bloom as a villain. And while these two elements were admirable, the rest were average at best, leaving an admittedly visually impressive movie that was left quite thin in the area of the characters. They were quite bland, except for Orlando as a foppish but rather mean-spirited Duke of Buckingham and an unknown (to me) as an equally foppish King of France. Even Christophe Waltz as the Cardinal left me rather bored (oh, the downside of playing such as impressive villain in Colonel Hans Landa).

For my money, the 1993 version was much better; the characters were given room to really show off, and Tim Curry almost stole the show as the Cardinal.

Predators
(2010)

Where's the Character?
Since I don't get trailers where I am, all I knew about this movie was that Robert Rodriguez was involved and Oscar winner Adrien Brody was the star.

What sets this apart from its predecessors are two things: 1) unlike the previous 2 which were set on Earth, this one is set on another planet, "one big game preserve", as one of the characters put it; 2) rather than having characters who were professional soldiers or policemen, here a major of the characters are from the opposite side of the spectrum (criminals, death squad members and mercenaries). There are a couple of professional soldiers, who also seem to play the part of moral compass for the group, but everyone else has probably been on a wanted poster at some point.

The movie opens strongly enough, with Adrien free falling through the alien sky, albeit unconscious. He wakes up and activates the chute the Predators thoughtfully gave him. He quickly links up with the other prey and they all quickly realize where they aren't and why they are there, and then off they go not only to survive, but to win.

What I have learned in my studying of films is that a problem with a movie can be found in one (or more) of three areas: structure, plot and character. The film is structurally sound, with a solid beginning, middle and end, and the plot is as straightforward as you can get--survival. The problem therefore is with the characters.

The problem is that they're all razor-thin, there is nothing for us to hold on to, no reason to root for them, and the efforts of the professional soldiers to play the soul of the movie are half-hearted at best. The only one of the prey who stood out was a nearly-silent Yakuza assassin who, upon his arrival on the planet, does not freak out but rather calmly takes off his shoes. No reason is given for this, but it was interesting enough for me to focus on him throughout.

Aside from the paper-thin characters, this film is solid enough and has enough action and gunplay to recommend for a rental.

She's Out of My League
(2010)

Nice Little Surprise
In all honesty, I have no idea why I went to see this movie. It clearly falls in one of the most clichéd of all film genres and stars only one person I have ever heard of. But I went to see it anyway and I was glad I did.

I think I liked it mostly because of the leads. I liked the guy because he never tried to impress the girl, he was just himself, even when it was painful and difficult to do so, and I liked the girl because once you got past her looks, you found an interesting person underneath.

The other big reason I liked it was because it managed to take one of the oldest romantic clichés ever--racing to the airport to declare your love before that Perfect Someone leaves--and put a nice twist on it. Kudos to the writers on that one, that alone was worth several points on this scale.

This is actually one of the better movies I've seen this year, I highly recommend it.

Youth in Revolt
(2009)

"Fight Club" As A Teen Romantic Comedy
Walking into this movie, I had no idea what it was about; I was seeing it because I am a fan of Michael Cera. What I like about him is that he has an Everyman quality to him, much like John Cusack. This film did not disappoint.

In most romantic comedies, we are given a loser who must rise above himself, must become better than the man he was, in order to win the girl. In this, it is just the opposite.

Nick Twisp (Cera), by his own admission, is not much of a catch; he listens to old Frank Sinatra records--yes, records--and likes old foreign films. But Fate intervenes when he meets the girl of his dreams in the most unlikely of places: a trailer park. But then Fate takes her away from him, and in order to get her back, he channels his inner Tyler Durden, a charming, blunt and bold sociopath named Francois Dillinger.

Long story short, he does get the girl, but not without some hilarious laugh-out-loud obstacles and consequences to his actions.

This movie is well-worth seeing. What's more, it's less than 90 minutes, another surprise. You normally don't expect quality from a movie this short, but this one definitely delivers. I look forward to seeing it on DVD.

Assassination of a High School President
(2008)

"Chinatown" -- In Modern Day High School!
I imagine that was the pitch for this film, a dead-on parody of film noir. Some people seem to wonder why this would be classified as a comedy, but I got it right away; this is not a laugh-out-loud parody, like the films of Mel Brooks or the Wayans Brothers.

The humor of this film is that the elements of noir, like the chain-smoking trenchcoat-wearing investigator or the exotic femme fatale, are given their own teenage twist to them, and they pay off. The lead, previously unknown me, totally nailed the part and Bruce Willis was absolutely hysterical with his quiet intensity that was just looking for a target to explode on. For me, this is one of the best films I have seen in a long while.

I highly encourage seeing this, and if you have some knowledge of noir, that will help you appreciate this a whole lot more.

The Book of Eli
(2010)

Weak, Very Weak
On the whole, I have not been impressed with Denzel's body of work since he won his second Oscar for "Training Day", and this film does nothing to reverse that trend.

In this, he plays a lone warrior wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but unlike most other protagonists in films like this, he actually has a place to go and something to do. I won't say where he's going or why, but he's been doing it for over 30 years, which quite possibly makes him the hero with the worst sense of direction ever (has he ever heard of a map and compass?). But I digress.

It starts interestingly enough, establishing his character in some ways you don't usually see. Of course he is a good fighter, as you have to be in a world like this, but then he unheroically leaves a couple of fellow wanderers to the untender mercies of some roaming bikers after dealing with a larger group of bandits. What, now he's afraid to fight? I suppose that, given his purpose, that can be excused, but that's still a bit hard to swallow.

Anyway, he comes across a small town ruled by the iron fist of Gary Oldman, whose great power is that he can...read. That's not a typo, he can read, and that is apparently all the power he needs. We never once see him do anything that shows his evil nature, unless you count him raising his voice against a couple of women and pulling on the hair of a blind Jennifer Beals. Come on, this is Gary Oldman, the King of Psychotic Villains, and this is the best you can do with him?

I could go on with other problems, such as there being no final showdown in the third act or Denzel's ability to survive a gut shot long after he should have been dead, but frankly I can't go any further. The more I type, the more I realize exactly how much this movie sucked and the less chance I have of forgetting that I saw it. About the only good thing about this movie the "sacred" item he had and a few neat twists at the end, but definitely not worth the price of admission.

Daybreakers
(2009)

Plenty of Fang, But Little Bite
I must give the makers credit for putting a new spin on the vampire film: in this one, the vampires have already taken over and we are shown what a world with them as the majority would be like (I particularly liked the ad for whitening toothpaste and the smoking preteens). It glosses over how it happened, as that is not really relevant, and gets on with showing us this new world.

For the most part, we see the world through the eyes of Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) a vampire who is a blood doctor working on a substitute for human blood for his fellow vampires to feed on. You see, with the majority of the world now vampire, and with the remaining humans doing their best not to be the next meal, human blood supply is rapidly diminishing. But while he may be working on a way to save his fellow vampires, he does not enjoy his existence; he does not feed on humans, choosing to feed on animals. But the chance for change occurs when he runs--almost literally--into the human resistance and they give him an opportunity to work on what he really wants, which is to find a cure for vampirism. And change he does, finding a cure in a rather unique way (more kudos to the makers on the originality of it).

But therein lies the problem with this film; in my opinion, for a film to be truly good, the protagonist must undergo a change, that the person he was at the beginning is not the same person at the end. Yes, he does change, but only physically; psychologically, he is already where he needs to be, and so now he only needs to bring his body over. I think a psychological change is much more dramatic and ultimately satisfying.

So while I give the makers kudos for the originality and detail of this vampiric world, they missed out on a chance to make something truly great.

The Informers
(2008)

Pretty But Shallow Time-Waster
If you watch carefully the first five minutes of the movie, the rest of it just expands upon it: at a glitzy Los Angeles party, one of its attendees gets run over by a car. It is, in effect, a wake up call to the rest of the attendees that the party has to end some time, and it may not be in a way you like. The rest of the film takes its ensemble and gives them each a wake up call. Some hear it and start on the road to redemption, while others hear it but fail and others just flat out ignore it.

To be honest, I hate that; if you're going to foreshadow the whole movie in five minutes, then what's the point of the rest? You're just wasting the moviegoers' time. But I will give the makers credit for faithfully recapturing the look of the 80's. It was a nice trip down Memory Lane.

Zombieland
(2009)

Best Zombie Comedy of the Year!
Okay, I know that's not saying much, given it was the only movie of its type to come out last year, but that still takes nothing away from this film. While this movie may be about four people struggling to survive in a world overrun with zombies, really it's about four people learning to tolerate and put up with each other long enough to come together in order to survive in a world overrun by zombies.

And I think that's the appeal of this film, at least for me. In most other zombie movies, all that matters is whether another individual is living or the living dead, but here it takes a little longer. Another factor which appealed to me was the protagonist, a neurotic loner well-played by Jesse Eisenberg ("Adventureland"). His character is not the sort of person you'd expect to possibly be the last non-undead in the world, but because he is pretty much an Average Joe, it made it easier for me to root for him; besides, the alpha-male zombie butt-kicker part is left up to Woody Harrelson, who is constantly teetering on the verge of a violent psychotic outbreak (and his not being able to find some Twinkies isn't helping matters).

All in all, this is film well worth seeing, considering it clocks in at less than 90 minutes. Throw in a cameo by a well-known actor playing himself and a rocking opening song (Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls"), and you got yourself a good candidate for a purchase.

Stiletto
(2008)

About What you'd Expect
This movie suffers from two problems: the cast is too big and if you don't read the back of the cover, you have no idea why Stana Katic ("Castle") is carving up people with an edged weapon that is too big to be a knife and too small to be a sword.

In a movie this long, you need to focus on the protagonist, the antagonist and the world they live in; everything else just bogs down the story. And in a revenge movie, you need to know why the protagonist is going after people, otherwise it makes it difficult for the audience to root for her.

What saves this movie is a nice little twist at the end and the character of a cop working for the mob; he almost becomes the protagonist because you get to know him a little and sense that while he may be working for the mob, he is not dirty.

All in all, barely worth the price of a rental, but I will keep an eye on the writer--he shows some potential.

Note to the Publicity Department: If you're going to name a movie "Stiletto" and the cover is going to feature an armed woman, she should probably be holding the weapon rather than a pair of guns.

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