pacificboy

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Reviews

The Mist
(2017)

"The Mist" minus the monsters equals a 70s disaster movie
You know how 70s disaster movies tried to show the people at the heart of the disaster? The ordinary folks swept away in The Poseidon Adventure, or set ablaze in The Towering Inferno, or quaked in Earthquake? Even Independence Day did it: remember how much we cared about what happened to Will Smith's wife and the first lady? Me neither.

No, what we remember is the sheer spectacle. And no one blames those movies for trying to offset the grandiose effects with a little humanity now and then. But this "Mist" series has it all wrong. It made the fatal mistake of taking the original premise, stretching it out to series length...and then gutted the effects.

That's right. There are more beasties in the Frank Darabont film than the seven hours of this show I've watched so far. Hell, there are more otherworldly creatures in The English Patient than there are in this show.

So the mist, in this version, does all kinds of mental things to people. Golly, people going crazy from 1995-era CGI smoke effects always makes me think "great TV." How 'bout you? This would be fine if we had one group of characters -- heck, one SINGLE character -- with the juice of a Mrs. Carmody in this series. But, no. Every single one is made of cardboard.

This new mist robs victims of their humanity, alright. It's proved every time one of the actors utters a line.

The Big Wedding
(2013)

The stars can't save it
As a fan of four key people in the cast (De Niro, Keaton, Williams, Sarandon), it was pretty much a given that I was going to see this, even if the ads told me that I was destined for a rough ride.

There was a certain stripe of made-for-TV movie in the 1980s and early 90s, movies with titles like "Crash Course" and "Baby of the Bride." They featured casts bursting with stars of all the then-hot series (Jackee, Rue McClanahan, etc.) and wacky premises (a wacky driver's ed school! a pregnant old woman!) and were just as terrible as they looked in the ads. "The Big Wedding," from its title to its awful script, is just the big-screen version of one of those disposable made-for-TV clunkers. The only thing setting it apart is the caliber of star they managed to get for this crapfest and the "sexual" situations involved in some of the plot. Even De Niro's raunchy dialogue seems forced, as if the filmmakers were desperate to set their movie apart from bad TV movies.

That said, I expected that at least the cast would make it worthwhile. I mean, we've all watched movies just for the cast, or seen otherwise lousy movies that were redeemed to some degree by a favorite actor. None of that is the case here. De Niro's been phoning it in for the last decade or so, and this is no exception. Keaton plays the same role she's been playing since "Something's Gotta Give" put her back on the radar. Sarandon acquits herself. But worst of all is Williams, who has less than five minutes on screen in a part anyone could've played. It actually feels as if he was directed NOT to ad lib or have any fun with the role. It's an extended cameo that he could've made shine, but there is NO "Robin Williamsness" in his performance. Overall, no one in the main cast performs with any personality.

In short, don't see it unless you're completing your checklist of one of the main stars' filmographies. And even then, be prepared to be sorely disappointed.

Glimpses of Australia
(1939)

Hooray for the "white race!"
TCM tacked this short onto the end of "The Sundowners" (set in Australia) to fill out the time allotted for the movie. It was filmed in 1939 and looks and sounds like it. So I'm enjoying a typical 30s cheese-filled travelogue when the narrator starts expounding on the success of the segment of the "white race" that settled Australia. Moments later, he explains how devotion to the home and family contributes to quality of life in this "white man's paradise." I've been around a while, so I know that we see through a progressive filter these days, but...wow. It's a little shocking to hear it laid on so thick in a ho-hum travelogue, and doubly so in a TCM broadcast.

Alcatraz
(2012)

Less than the sum of its parts
When I first heard about "Alcatraz," I was intrigued by the notion of mixing a typical procedural with J.J. Abrams' brand of Shyamalan-style crypto-nonsense. It would, I thought, at least keep the new show from becoming the drawn-out exercise in downright silliness that "Lost" became just because it had to keep raising the stakes to create and keep secrets.

Then the show started. After a few episodes, I started to realize that in addition to plot holes that would have negated the whole series, the show also suffered from just not being that good. At least as a procedural. When I finished the season, I realized that I was right. The big "secret" had been pushed off-screen most of the time to make room for a police drama that just wasn't compelling. Having carried over the mystery to a (presumed) second season, the bulk of the show's running time is given to a big who-cares game of "will they or won't they" with this week's escaped criminal.

What is eventually revealed about the incidents of this fictitious version of Alcatraz may be fascinating. But so far, the producers have been so free with the chase-the-bad-guy part and so tight-fisted with the rest of it that I no longer really care. I'm not willing to sit through another season of a third-rate cop show just to discover the Big Truth. It just couldn't be worth it.

The Spirit of St. Louis
(1957)

A 40-hour flight...and it feels like it
I gave this a five only for Stewart's characteristically fine performance; the film itself deserves about two, I guess, just for keeping the camera steady. Movies about a single character's solitary endeavor need to have a hook to keep the audience's interest, and this movie has more than a bait & tackle shop. Whether it's talking to a fly who's hitched a ride or chatting to himself, Stewart's okay in the moment. But the film shoehorns in one needless flashback to Lindbergh's early life after another, almost none of which are interesting in and of themselves. Put it this way: If the flashbacks were placed chronologically at the beginning of the movie, the audience would be asleep before Lucky Lindy took off for France. The film's first hour suffers as it is (it takes about that long for our hero to begin his landmark journey). Thrill as Lindbergh haggles with an old man for his first plane! Witness the provocative fundraising scene! Forget it. There are better ways to learn about Charles Lindbergh than this dull, factually questionable biopic, and better films to see by both Stewart or director Billy Wilder.

Wrong
(2005)

9 Minutes I'll Never Get Back
Perhaps others will find depth in this pointless, depressing, pointlessly depressing odyssey into despair, but it'll probably involve a pack of bloodhounds and some industrial-strength flashlights. To recap, the "film" (and I use the term loosely) follows a lonely single man with a pet comb-over who brings home a blow-up sex doll, He has prolonged, squeaky sex with it, and returns it to the store. It's between steps two and three that we're apparently meant to be moved, but it only moved me toward the remote. The guy's emotions may be accurate, and certainly the special effects are top-notch (think "There's Something About Mary," "Happiness," or, if you're a man, your last lonely Saturday night), but the result is a big "so what?" The DirecTV synopsis for this film read "A man tries to return a blow-up doll to the store." I was expecting a wacky short film set in a sex shop, as some poor schlub tries to explain exactly why he's unhappy with his Hump Me Pump Me Susan. The "return" sequence takes up a good minute or so at the end, and is literally just a retail transaction: no acting, no intriguing dialogue, no humor, no drama. Just a man returning a blow-up doll the way one would Aunt Harriet's unwanted gift of a toaster oven to Wal-Mart. The high point is "Do you have a receipt?" I wish I had one for the time I'd wasted on this dreck.

Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies
(1973)

Wow, what a turkey
I'd like to begin by expressing my disbelief that this doesn't show up on "worst" lists, if not for all time, then at least for the era.

This isn't just a ho-hum movie; it's actively and aggressively offensive. This is a film whose main character calls his young son a "dumb, ugly, son of a bitch." A film which not only features a cockfight, but depicts it with such detail and at such length that we're expected to become as excited about its outcome as our "hero." A film in which an 11-year-old is privy to the sexual adventures of his father.

Yes, it's a family picture.

Steven Spielberg gets a story credit on this shamefest. His detractors would blame much of the movie's problems on him; his worshippers would argue that there's a difference between a story treatment and the way a movie plays out when it reaches the screen. Neither side truly wins in this case, but I'm in the latter camp, because I feel that much of the film's failing comes from the atrocious script that was drawn from Spielberg's story, and the misguided direction.

Ironically, this movie came out the same year as "Paper Moon," which covers some of the same dramatic territory. Like "Ace Eli," it features a smart-mouthed youngster attached to a single, itinerant, philandering con artist. But where that film was a classy, Oscar-winning charmer, "Ace Eli" just makes one sick to the stomach.

Untraceable
(2008)

Stale meat with fresh gravy...oh yeah, and there's a hair in it
I went into Untraceable with an open mind, though the subject matter looked overly familiar. Diane Lane and Colin Hanks are dependable, and I enjoyed Hoblit's Primal Fear and, to a lesser extent, Fallen (never got the fuss over Frequency, though). The reviews, too, seemed to set this one above the pack. Boy, was I ever wrong. This movie was nothing but high-gloss torture porn, oh-so-thinly disguised as a classier movie in an attempt to raise it above its cousins, Hostel and Saw. No matter how many recognizable stars and big-studio production values you throw at a movie like this, there's no hiding what it is.

The characters are alternately smart and stupid, depending on the needs of the plot, resulting in laughable moments like the one in which computer crimes expert Lane leaves her work laptop up and running at home so her 8-year-old daughter can get a look at the depravity, or the one where Hanks is lured by a phony phone call. Have these people not been in the movie I've just been watching? Real computer crimes people must have either laughed at or been justifiably offended by their portrayal in this mess.

The plot is straight out of bad television, running straight from A to B with virtually no sense of surprise. The movie itself doesn't even seem to care about its own story. When we're finally clued in to the killer's motives, we've long since lost interest. We've known who he is from the beginning, how he works, and that it's only a matter of time before the good guys manage to half-heartedly connect the dots.

The action and murder scenes are carried out like everyone both in front of and behind the camera has had too much cough medicine. The "ingenious" killing devices are unimaginative (a death knell for a movie like this, which relies on ingenuity for much of its gleefully grim momentum). The movie keeps telling us how urgent the situation is, but the experts are virtually helpless to do anything. Therefore, we're treated to the scene in which all of Hanks' co-workers eagerly watch his torture and death. You'd think at least someone would look away. If there's no real way to plot against the bad guys, there is no real urgency. Why should we the audience care when apparently no one else did? Finally, I'd like to suggest a moratorium on "thrillers" that employ the internet as a core plot device. There has yet to be a good one, and they've been cranking them out now for some 13 years (after so-so Copycat and The Net, it's all been downhill). The diminishing box office returns should indicate to filmmakers that there's nothing less exciting than watching a character watch a computer screen.

Rarg
(1988)

Imaginative tale brought to life with terrific artwork
What a fun animated short. Others here have related the synopsis, so I'll simply weigh in on the inspired settings and character design. Everything in Rarg, from the streets to the palace, is lovingly detailed. It's a kind of hyper-reality that demonstrates perfectly the craft of animation design. The characters, likewise, are caricatures with distinct personalities. While the plot is only revealed bit by bit, the viewer understands each character's role. This is no small feat in a film that features an infant as one of the city's most advanced minds.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I left out the charming moment when the two Rargians (?) sent to our world muffle the alarm clock. I've seen Rarg dozens of times, and it never fails to tickle me.

The High and the Mighty
(1954)

Who says turkeys can't fly?
I've been in the video business for more than 20 years, and always heard about this "missing classic." When "McClintock" finally wheezed onto video in 1993, it was the next Wayne picture that everyone was clamoring for. I just got my chance to see it on TCM.

Of all the things I'll remember of the 2-1/2 hours I wasted on this epic, it won't be the oft-complimented score, the tension-filled finale, the absurdity of the sleeping little boy or the flat, embarrassing dialog.

It will be Joy Kim repeating that prophetic phrase, "Dumb bunny. Dumb bunny. Dumb bunny," as if she's talking directly to me.

Clerks II
(2006)

Open Letter to Kevin Smith
Dear Mr. Smith, I'm generally suspicious of any artist who settles down, has a child, and develops a newfound sappiness that seeps into his or her work. It's why I abandoned Live when they recorded the song about the lead singer's daughter being an angel. It's why I left Rosie behind when she went from a smartmouthed comic to a mushy, preachy talk show host. And it's why I avoided your Jersey Girl like the plague.

Makes no difference to me that you made that film; you have your motivations, and I respect them. But with Jersey Girl, I was warned in advance.

I sat through the first hour of Clerks II and found it pure genius - a worthy follow-up to the original film and JASBSB. Then you did the unspeakable. A scene in which a guy admits to a girl that he can't dance, and then we get a rooftop lesson? How tragically unoriginal. And then it got worse. Go back to leaving the camera in one place, as your critics used to remark. It was a lot better than the vertigo-inducing argument scene between Dante and Randal. I suppose you were trying to build tension, but it had me looking away so I didn't become sick. You finally lost me permanently with the jail cell scene. Not just for the movie, but for trusting you ever again to make a funny film. Sappy, contrived drivel, every word of it. After the hilarity of the first hour, I felt utterly betrayed. And let us not forget that the reason the two actors can be forgiven not being able to act up to this point is that they were never asked to. They were there simply to deliver your jokes, not emote. The dialogue, the scene, none of it fit.

Ultimately, you are guilty of a heinous bait-and-switch. I don't care what personal feelings you want to portray on screen. I don't mind that you want to attempt to show depth of character and sensitivity. It makes absolutely no difference to me.

Just don't lure me in by calling it Clerks.

Young Man's Fancy
(1952)

Young Man's Fancy Crinkle-Cut Potatoes
Wow, what an expose of the suburbs this is. Mother (apparently blind) sings the praises of electrical appliances while daughter Judy eats bacon like it's going to get up and leave. Then the real drama begins. Brother brings home college buddy Alexander Phipps ("sounds revolting," exclaims sis), and the two of them head upstairs to take a shower. After that homoerotic tableau, Alex spends much of the rest of the film becoming closer to Judy's mother, with whom he shares a deep affection for all things electrical, while Judy throws out her back trying to impress Alex, who she ultimately found dreamy. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder how this one got past the censors. Dog bless the Satellite of Love.

Cold Creek Manor
(2003)

Bad. Like...MST bad.
This may be the worst "industry" movie to come along in the last five years. Figgis used to be one of our finest directors (Leaving Las Vegas, anyone?), but this one smacks of being turned over to an untalented 2nd AD. No sense of peril, no interest in any of the characters, and what may be the single most annoying score since the single-piano key riff of Eyes Wide Shut. I only wish Mystery Science Theater had been around for a while longer. This movie is filled with amateur-hour moments in every department: acting, writing, directing, editing.

My favorite is the scene where Quaid & Stone are moving debris away from the "secret" hole in the ground. "Help me move this," Quaid says, asking for help moving a log that probably weighs about 15 pounds. He then reaches over and touches another log, as if he's going to move it, too, but then doesn't.

I had thought this was a supernatural thriller at first, but I should have run screaming in the other direction when I realized it was a family-terrorized-in-their-new-home-by-psychotic-former-owners movie. There's NEVER been a good one.

Ecologia del delitto
(1971)

Is it just me, or...?
After years of hearing about the brilliance of Bava and his contemporaries and the influence they had on modern horror, particularly slasher films (which I'll admit to having a morbid interest in), I finally watched this film last weekend. All I can say is, "huh?" Before I get flamed: yes, I know that giallo films are supposed to be short on plot, long on style. But I didn't get ANY sense of danger or suspense at all during this movie, only of a desire for it to be over.

SPOILER AHEAD: Only the hanging death at the beginning was of any interest, mainly because every other murder in the entire movie looked as if it was doused in red tempera paint. There was almost no realism to any of the murders. The beheading was particularly ludicrous: there were holes in the back of the "neck" of the decapitated body! Sorry, giallo fans, but I just don't get what all the fuss is about.

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