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An absolute chore to watch
I get why people like this, I get what Disney was trying to do. But by modern story telling conventions, this film is excruciatingly boring for 90 percent of its run time. I don't need some art critic explaining what is about to happen. I don't need an overture. I don't need 10 minutes of musicians getting up and coming back. I'm glad the film exists but it's just not fun to watch in any sort of sense.

Lady and the Tramp

Like it was made by people weirdly embarrassed by the original
Clearly they weren't going to put Lady and the Tramp in theaters because everything that made the original fun and inventive obviously embarrassed the hell out of the people who made this. It's like a bizarre Twilight Zone episode where they dropped 2019 society in 1909.

Set the movie in in the 1970s-2010s and all these problems go away, easily.

On the entertainment level, it's boring. Nothing exciting, nothing to make the film memorable in any way whatsoever. The voice casting is all wrong for Lady and Tramp. Tessa Thompson just doesn't have the same tonal sound as the original which is not her fault, it's just bad casting. Theroux as the Tramp doesn't feel as vibrant as the original. I'm not going to even get into the cats or other characters because that's like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic with the foundational problems.

One good quality, if you've ever been to Savannah, Georgia, you can see how its beauty permeates the film. But that makes it even more jarring because American society didn't look like this in 1909 Savannah Georgia, obviously.

TL;DR: Watch the original and be happy you didn't burn $50 at the theater watching this.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

Absolute garbage, a literal stain on an American Cultural touchstone
As someone who grew up with Star Wars and has an open mind about things and realizes that nothing lasts forever, this movie is an absolute pile of trash. I actually really liked The Force Awakens so this isn't an old man hates new things rant. Let me head off all the lazy defenders of this catastrophe: I don't have an issue with a female protagonist. I don't have an issue with a visually diverse cast. I have an issue with stupid plotting, stupid writing and a complete and utter failure to understand what makes Star Wars successful. It's not special effects, it's not light sabers, it's not cornball jokes, it's not space ships. What makes Star Wars special is it's simplicity of telling an epic story of good overcoming massive obstacles to defeat evil. The Last Jedi is a total violation of everything that makes Star Wars special. You have basically a checklist of marketing and identity politics concepts thrown into a space movie with no regard for plotting, structure, writing or directing. Characters make stupid and nonsensical decisions. Established characters do things that completely fly in the face of their previous portrayals. Example: Luke abandoning his friends. That's literally not Luke Skywalker. Even Mark Hamill knows this. Things happen that completely ignore the rules of the universe that have been established through 7 other films. Examples: You can't use hyperspace to run into things. Force ghosts aren't capable of altering the physical world. Spacecraft don't run out of fuel. You don't "drop" bombs in space. The Force does not protect you from the vacuum of space. The Millennium Falcon does not teleport. And the worst thing of all is that at the end of the movie there is nothing, I mean nothing there to bring you any kind of sense of joy or enrichment. There is nothing to excite you about another movie because The Last Jedi broke Star Wars. I saw it twice to make sure I was seeing the same things over again and not imagining it. It has taken something from me that had an big influence on my life and defiled it. It's an absolute disgrace and it absolutely broke my heart.


Absolutely Hilarious
This show is literally one of the funniest shows on television. My wife is a teacher and Teachers basically crushes it with the personalities she works with. Can not recommend it more highly. It's a fantastic show. It really picks up in Season 2 and just kills it with every successive episode. Check it out.

Bringing Up Baby

Mind-numbingly stupid
I love classic movies and I like to make a point of seeing ones that have huge stars such as this one. Hawks is also one of my favorite directors but Hawks, Grant and Hepburn can't rescue what amounts to the largest collection of non-critically thinking characters I have ever seen. The characters in this movie are flat out unabashedly stupid people. It's like being in a dream where people do things that don't make any sense. Every scene is centered around someone misunderstanding someone else and nobody even bothering to explain themselves, or when they do, another character interrupts to obliterate any budding coherency. I found myself literally wishing Susan (Hepburn) would stfu. Sure this might have hindered the "comedy" but it would have given my brain 5 seconds to breathe. Because of the time when this film was made there is absolutely no soundtrack music so it is Hepburn's grating voice at a high decibel level almost non-stop throughout the movie. It is literally fatiguing to listen to. Also at 102 minutes it feels like 45 years. In summary: great cast, great director, torturous film.

The Dark Knight

Chris Nolan and company taught us a lesson about how the foundation of the world we live in is constructed. And they did it with a Batman movie.
I'm just going to get this out of the way right off the bat (no pun intended), The Dark Knight is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is on the level of The Lord of The Rings. It surpasses The Godfather Part II. It isn't just a great superhero movie, it's more than that. It's a great comedy, drama, action, horror, and a monster summer blockbuster. Just for a moment, let's look over the past 29 years that superhero films have been made and compare the better ones with The Dark Knight.

Superman The Movie? Garbage. Superman II? Garbage. Batman? Garbage. Batman Returns? Garbage. Spider-man? Garbage. Spider-man 2? Garbage. X-men 2? Garbage. Iron Man? Garbage.

Absolute and utter trash in comparison. And I love those movies.

Please understand, this movie cannot be oversold. And furthermore, it must be viewed multiple times to get the full impact of what is coming at you. The first time I saw it, it was overwhelming with everything that happens, it is simply a sensory overload, but having seen it again, and being able to concentrate better on what is going on with regards to the plot, I can without the slightest shadow of a doubt tell you that this is one of the few films that can be considered great art.

The Dark Knight makes a statement on the psyche of Western culture, and I am not talking about the "Post 9/11" comments some critics have been throwing out there. I am talking about the very fabric of what makes the Western mind and therefore, civilization, function. It is commentary on the dynamics of the human condition. This is the subject matter that philosophers spend their lives exploring and scholars spend their careers defining.

Director Chris Nolan doesn't care about making movies that are instantly forgettable. He wants to make movies that stick with you and this is what he has done with The Dark Knight. Clearly Batman Begins was just the setting to hold this crown jewel of a sequel. More to the point, this film barely resembles its predecessor. You know, George Washington had an older brother. The reason no one knows who he was is because his little brother was George Washington. That's the level of difference we have here.

You may want to know about the performances of the cast and to tell you the truth, when you have actors like Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, and Maggie Gylenhaal, it's kind of a stupid question. Of course they all play their roles to the best of the possibilities.

And then there is Ledger. Like I said earlier about the other superhero movies in comparison to The Dark Knight, so is the comparison between Ledger and his fellow actors. Ledger disappears into the Joker. There is no Ledger here, just pure unadulterated evil with a wicked sense of humor. From his various affectations in voice and movement to his use of misguided mentally ill individuals as his henchmen, there is no comparison. I'm not going to say that he should be in the running for an award, that should already be self-evident to anyone with a shred of intelligence.

The basic plot is that Batman (Bale), Gordon (Oldman), and Harvey Dent (Eckhart) are on a mission to get rid of organized crime and go to great, even illegal lengths to accomplish their goal. With the pressure really on, the mob turns to the Joker to kill Batman so they can be free to run their criminal enterprises. This sets up the confrontation between Batman and the Joker that eventually leads to Dent's downfall and transformation into Two-Face. This is all set against the backdrop of Gotham being terrorized by various attacks propagated by the Joker in an attempt to bring chaos to the city. The set pieces are fantastic. There is not a weak point in this film from start to finish. It is technically brilliant. But be aware that this is not a light-hearted movie. It is brutal, horrific and tragic. It does not have a happy ending, it simply has the ending that needs to happen. And that is where it takes its leave of typical superhero films.

The Dark Knight presents the reality of difficult choices that have to be made in order to preserve society and protect the innocent and even the not so-innocent. It strikes at the notions that separate good from evil in human nature and how we as people attempt to struggle with and compartmentalize them. We think there has to be a reason for evil, and there has to be a resolution with evil. The problem is that this is not always clear cut because even though there are the darkest and brightest times, there are also shades in between which will drive us in one direction or the other as we reason our way through catastrophe and crisis. In this film, Chris Nolan and company taught us a lesson about how the foundation of the world we live in is constructed.

And they did it with a Batman movie. Amazing.

5 stars

Six: The Mark Unleashed

An inventive and not so heavy-handed Christian film.
I saw this at the 2004 Greater Orlando Christian Film Festival. Most Christian movies have a well-earned reputation of being terrible on just about every level from acting to directing to writing to production. They look like your average church youth group with a dv camera ran out and shot a movie. As such I was braced for more of the same but Six (not sure why it is named that) actually is a cut above normal Christian films. The writing, while not always the smartest, definitely keeps you guessing what will happen next. I had some issues with things that didn't make a lot of sense, such as why in a prison where they are executing prisoners if they don't convert to the antichrist, they are allowing the inmates to have Bible studies and write Bible verses all over the walls. It seems contradictory at best. Also the backstory is given short shrift as to how or why the Leader came to power. There is some mentioning of purges and that's about it. Other issues have to do with things that happen for no apparent reason. Like there is a character that recalls how he got saved. So we see him driving his car along a road mocking a large group of people that are walking for some inexplicable reason to some unexplained or unrevealed destination, and then he gets yanked out of the car and beat up. This scene has no context. Just because it is a flashback does not mean that within the flashback, context is optional. So that's the bad, or what I can remember of it. Now for the good. Six has some of the best acting that I have seen in a Christian film, notably on the part of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Tom Newman. He delivers his lines in a nice deadpan way and never goes over the top. Stephen Baldwin(!) has a great turn as the prophetic Luke. Baldwin puts that menacingly creepy little whisper delivery that he used in The Usual Suspects to great effect here with his moments opposite Morgan. Writing, directing, and starring is Kevin Downes as Jerry the hacker. Downes does an admirable job and in all of these roles but is best at his ability to hold back the film from spiraling out of control into the realms of the ludicrous with his even direction. While it has a solid Christian thriller vibe, it doesn't ram the "you're going to hell" message down your throat. It's more complex than that and expects its audience to think critically. While not a big screen level of quality (this is to be excused because it isn't being made with a massive budget), the movie is definitely the equal of your normal made-for-tv fare. Firmly anchored if not always rock steady, Six is a film that you can watch and not be embarrassed with if you are a Christian. 3.5 stars of 5.

Open Range

Costner does what he knows, and that's a Western.
I was put off one night from seeing this film on the advice of a trusted movie buff friend, but I went and saw it this afternoon and I was very pleasantly surprised. Not being a huge fan of Dances With Wolves I had in mind a lot of boring shots of cattle herding and very short snippets of dialogue. Much to the contrary, Open Range moves along at a not too hurried and not too slow pace, much the way a cowboy moseys up and down the street. Duvall turns in a fantastic performance as Boss Spearman, a tough old free ranger that has a sense of right and wrong that compels him to risk death just to make sure a score is settled. Costner has in the past been in desperate need of an editor when he directs but this time I couldn't find an instance of something that he should have cut, with the sole exception of the sort of double ending. He gets the characters from A to B to C of the story without messing around unnecessarily. The cinematography is on par with The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, and evokes life in 1882 western America quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. Many people will reference the gunfight near the end of the film as the only shining point but while it is expertly staged and has a fantastic pay off, I feel the film as a whole the movie is merely improved from really good to great. Costner doesn't do anything spectacular or break new ground as an actor but he does what he needs to do and he doesn't take over the film or steal from Duvall who most likely will get a Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination. While the film is long, it didn't feel like it to me, I really enjoyed the back and forth between Boss and Charley. The love story between Benning and Costner is done just right and I am of the opinion that it isn't as rushed and unnecessary as some other people might feel. It doesn't take away from the story but it serves as an example of how Costner's Charley is growing as a person. Michael Gambon turns in a serviceable villain though he is no Gene Hackman (Unforgiven, The Quick And The Dead). Annette Bening doesn't have a whole lot to do with her role but does very well with what little she has. It must be said that after a summer of long winded, artificial movies, it is a fantastic change of pace to have a movie about when things were simpler. 4/5 stars

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