innocuous

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Reviews

The Cold Equations
(1996)

A terrible adaptation of a classic SF short story
This movie truly dishonors the short story on which it is based. Some reviewers have tried to excuse this on the basis that any short story must be padded out by screenwriters. I don't buy it. If a short story is not suitable for a feature-length movie, then it isn't. Just deal with it and make a short, or use it as an episode in an anthology. (This same short story has received much better treatment as just such an episode.) All the love story and social justice elements in the movie do nothing but detract from the fundamental themes of the original story. In particular, the main female character has been transformed from a sympathetic young woman to some sort of manic-depressive "anti-heroine" with whom we are unlikely to empathize. This movie is just sad, and not in a good way.

The Last Ship
(2014)

Entertaining, but frustrating.
I understand that any TV show must rely upon conflict and crisis to maintain a story-line, but TLS can be a very frustrating ride for most viewers. I have to attribute this to lazy writers, an unfortunately common trait in recent shows and movies.

First, there's way too much Star Trek-itis, where the captain and XO go on every mission and patrol (since they're the "best men" for the job). They might as well be wearing red shirts. Second, every character is stupid. And I mean REALLY stupid. Well-trained crew members wonder "if the captain is keeping something from us," as if that's not SOP for military operations. Everyone makes very bad decisions. People act completely contrary to their own best interests. Third, crew members and military personnel often behave as if they have never been through any training. Professionalism is almost completely absent.

Other than that, it has a story and can be entertaining, even when it's insulting to members of the armed services.

Rocket City Rednecks
(2011)

Need to take it in the right spirit....
Accepting this as being similar to Mythbusters is very difficult, and rightly so. Your best bet is to just sit back and pretend that it's a fictional show about rednecks trying to achieve some engineering feats and how they might go about it. I live in NC and so the accents are not off-putting to me, but there are a few negative aspects that I had to make allowances for. Among these are: (1) The constant statements about how useful their inventions and concepts might be to the world or to the military. In fact, virtually everything they try has either been done before (and done much better), is impractical in the real world, or just doesn't work. (2) I would also expect that they could anticipate a few of their problems by doing more math before they try something. (3) Some of the outcomes are obviously exaggerated, either by selective editing or other methods, to the point that you might call them "fake." (4) Contrary to the statements about making do with what they've got at hand, they obviously spend thousands of dollars on some of the projects, purchasing multiple high-tech motors, blu-ray players, high-tech materials, and similar supplies. On the whole, Mythbusters is a lot more scientific and reliable as to results.

Neighbors
(2014)

Finally, proof that trolls and spoofers have the upper hand...
As I write this review, there are around 200 reviews posted. As far as I can tell, fewer than 10 of them rate this film at 7 stars or above, yet its average rating is slightly more than 7 stars. In fact, while the vast majority of reviews on the first five pages give it only 1 star, the ratings summary says that only 1.2% of those rating it gave it just 1 star.

This is a long way of saying that it's now inescapable fact that trolls, spoofers, and studio shills dominate the site. A system is only useful until enough people figure out how to game it, and this is (sadly) now the case for this site.

On to the review: Neighbors had a big challenge to overcome with me, as I just don't normally find Seth R. and his "Seth Pack" to be very funny. Unfortunately, this film fails on every level to provide either humor or entertainment. It's a rare film that can depict all characters as totally unsympathetic and get away with it. After all, the viewer needs to be able to identify with SOMEONE in a story or film, even if it's the third-party narrator. This movie has absolutely no sympathetic characters in it at all. It's the essence of comedic nihilism. I didn't like any of the characters, none of them said anything that was vaguely funny, and I didn't identify with any point of view expressed in the film. To make matters worse, the director relied solely on profanity and T&A for shock value.

Totally worthless movie. Don't waste your time.

Dinosaur Island
(1994)

Some reviewers don't watch many movies.
My friends must tire of hearing me say, "I watch the bad movies so you don't have to." I average about 600 movies a year (really)...and most of them are bad. DI wouldn't even make it into the bottom 100 movies I've seen, in spite of what some reviewers have stated. It is obviously self-mocking and completely tongue-in-cheek, intended as a bit of soft-core disposable fluff. There are absolutely no pretensions.

As far as the FX, I've seen much worse in many recent independent (and major studio) releases. Plus, the editing is coherent (even if the continuity is deliberately uneven) and you can actually hear the dialogue.

As far as the plot, it actually has one, even if it's as silly as a Carol Burnett sketch. (BTW, the "healing boobs" scene is pretty sly.) Anyway, there's a lot more pretentious junk than this to watch, so give it a try some evening when you've had a few drinks and you need something disposable.

Under the Dome
(2013)

"...With The World's Dumbest Sheriff's Deputy"
The only differences between this series and an Asylum film is that the FX are better in this series and the acting is marginally better. The screenplay is a poor adaptation from the original novel, lacking any of the rich and interesting detail that King normally provides.

Add to this the unbelievable stupidity of the deputy who is acting as sheriff and the sheep-like citizens of the town and you have a fairly frustrating viewing experience. How Big Jim had managed to conceal his sociopathic tendencies prior to the big event is a total mystery. To put the frosting on the cake, it's very slow-paced, often going an entire episode without revealing a relevant plot point.

I watched the episodes each week for about five weeks as they became available for free, but then this week I noticed that I had not watched the more recent episodes. I hadn't intentionally skipped them, I just forgot. This gives you an idea of how memorable a series it is. (Disclosure: I watched all the remaining episodes simply to be able to write a fair and informed review.)

Not recommended unless you're a die-hard King fan.

100 Degrees Below Zero
(2013)

Oh, come on! There are lots worse than this.
Yes, it's another typical Asylum film, but we saw plenty of films from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that were much worse. At least it proceeds with some sort of plot and story-line. It's silly, but coherent. You can hear all the dialogue, which is sort of unusual for recent films.

There ARE a few things you have to overlook. For one, the bargain basement FX. It's also sort of weird to have virtually no extras, even in the normally crowded streets of Paris. The best way to watch this is to play the drinking game: every time someone falls down, you take a shot. You'll also enjoy hearing every Brit speaking with some unusual accent.

Definitely not worth the scorn it receives. See it if only to hear the geese story.

Lockout
(2012)

Again, I blame gamers for movies like this....
I like Guy Pearce a lot and I generally enjoy Luc Besson movies, so I was sort of looking forward to kicking back and watching this one Saturday night. Immediately after the opening interrogation scene, I knew I was in trouble. While I can tolerate absurd and unlikely situations (really...mattresses stacked in the alley right where they're needed?), I can't tolerate third-rate CGI that's simply unnecessary to the plot. I am not exaggerating when I say that most video games back in 2003 had better graphics than this movie does. What's impressive about a cheaply-rendered city bus overturning on a cheaply-rendered bridge as it's being forced over by cheaply-rendered cars? Where's the skill, the vision, the imagination, or the artisanship of the filmmaker? Why even bother? You might as well have one character simply say to another, "Yeah...on the way over here the guys chasing me forced a bus off the road." Would the audience have enjoyed "Speed" so much if the bus, the road, and all the passengers were simply CGI? Needless to say, this is actually one of the high points of the movie. It's all downhill from that point.

OK, I'm off my soapbox. I just hate it when good filmmakers are led astray and talent (along with funding) is wasted.

Eve of Destruction
(2013)

Those whacky physicists...always accidentally destroying the world!
But you have to love them.

Sometimes you get movies that are well-written and challenging (e.g., "Primer"), but with budget effects and sets. Then you get "Eve of Destruction," which is exactly the opposite. Relying on 1960s "Star Trek" physics, this movie actually spent some time on locating or creating the sets, and the effects are not nearly as bad as some other reviewers would have you believe. And it is the ONLY movie I can recall where you get to see someone drill through a telephone pole. (It's always been simulated drilling in other films.)

My favorite scene is when the two Nobel-laureate physicists decide the answer is to create a "denser vacuum." I'm pretty sure that they mean a vacuum with LESS average density or mass, since there's no vacuum existing at that time, but we get by that fairly quickly. And they never seem to question why using their apparatus to do something over HERE, makes bad things happen about two miles over THERE.

My second favorite scene is when an eco-terrorist "occupy" movement is broken up by riot police. As far as I could see, there were exactly two riot police (though both of them were costumed very nicely).

If I had a son and wanted to encourage him to go into physics, I would show him this film. It would go something like this:

"See! All the women you meet will have really nice breasts and great cleavage."

"But, Dad, they're all either evil or misguided!"

"Yes, which is why we need more male physicists."

Check it out!

The Revenge of Al Capone
(1989)

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick....
I watched the whole thing, and it wasn't awful by any means. You just have to understand that this movie is "based on real characters, but the events bear no relationship to what actually happened...and forget about the anachronisms." I'm not even going to try to list the goofs and errors in the movie. Just kick back and have a good time.

The production values are not too bad, though I doubt that the USA in the 1930s was as clean as it looks here. FDR, Cermak, and some others are a real hoot. I also suspect that Ness was a lot closer to the way he's played here than in other movies and TV shows.

The biggest objection I had was to Ray Sharkey playing Capone. Sorry, but it was a mistake. Sharkey does have a menacing quality about him, but you'd never have known that he was playing Capone unless the dialogue told you. (OK...maybe the scar.) They didn't put any effort at all into making him resemble the paunchy and balding gangster.

Finally, this movie is shot like a TV movie, but it IS worthy of the R rating. It's not really gratuitous, but it stands out.

The Numbers Station
(2013)

Just sort of going through the motions.
I think that I liked TNS more than some of the other reviewers did, but that's not to say that I thought it was an exciting or thoughtful film. It's always enjoyable to see John Cusack in the role of a burned-out something, and he steps right up to the plate here.

Some of the reviewers have pointed out that the location (and this is basically a single-location film) seemed unlikely. Plus, it was not realistic to have (literally) one burned-out field operative protecting the whole place. I don't really have a big issue with this, but that's just me.

The problem for me was that the film is poorly-paced. It's pretty much the same all the way through. There's minimum tension and not much mystery. If something is foreshadowed, it happens in the next few minutes. Mysteries are resolved shortly after being introduced. And even the fights are pretty lukewarm. In this respect, it's somewhat similar to the B&W spy thrillers of the 60s and 70s, but without the "whodunnit" factor. (Now that I think about it, I didn't even notice or care "whodunnit.")

Pretty much for Cusack fans. Those interested in gratuitous nudity or violence need not apply.

Interview with a Hitman
(2012)

A notch above the typical B-movie.
While I can't give the film a "Must See!" rating, it was definitely not the cheap production that I expected. In general, the production values were good. The actors (especially Luke Goss) were competent and the story held together, even if it was derivative of several better-known movies. Oddly, IWAH is not particularly bloody. Even close-range shots from a handgun fail to produce noticeable blood or any damage to the clothing. And the camera frequently frames the scene so the victim is out of frame.

One thing that did drive me nuts was the sound. The soundtrack and incidental music were fine, but the dialogue is frequently hard to hear. This movie should have been looped (or looped BETTER). There are some points in the film where ALL of the following occur at the same time: (1) the speaker has an accent (to my USA ears, at least); (2) the speaker is facing away from the camera or obliquely to the frame; (3) the volume is low and the room is reverberant; and (4) the words are critical to the plot or to establishing tone. I found I had to stop and re-play several scenes because I had no idea what the actor/actress said. I mean, I got what was going on, but somebody worked very hard to get those six or seven words "just right."

Worth a watch, but not going to win a bunch of awards.

Livvagterne
(2009)

Definitely worthwhile!
I'm not sure what brought this fine Danish TV series to my attention, but I have to admit that I have really enjoyed watching the first 15 episodes. The characterizations and the story lines are well above average and the series strikes a good balance between the cliffhanger nature of some of the story arcs and the ability to watch each episode independently (or out of sequence).

The only reason I didn't rank this series higher is because, frankly, the "protectors" (PET) are pretty lousy at being bodyguards. They're great at solving crimes and fighting terrorism, but it's obvious that the show's writer(s) and director don't know anything about executive protection. If they do, they are deliberately going out of their way to make the characters look like they don't. This isn't a fatal flaw, but it does give one the idea that being a good bodyguard is something that takes very little training or experience (except for some very basic PT and defense training). Example: In one episode, a bodyguard is covering an actress at a theater. The actress's manager comes up to ask the bodyguard a question and the bodyguard then devotes her entire attention to the manager, allowing the actress to simply saunter outside into the alley so she can have a smoke by herself. This would never happen.

Check it out!

Death Valley
(2011)

Currently 7.7 stars? Hard to believe.
I should have guessed that a show which has been on for an entire season, but which has only 14 reviews here, might not be that great. With no offense intended to anyone who really enjoys the show, I have to say that it just doesn't do anything for me. I'm a big zombie fan (and was around to watch MTV's first broadcast) but DV is not something I would ever intentionally watch. (OK, let me be clear...I obviously watched it intentionally and managed to make it through three episodes before I gave up.)

My feeling is that it just doesn't know what it wants to be. It's a knock-off of "Cops," but it clearly doesn't understand what makes that show interesting and fun (except for the werewolf traffic stop at the very end of the first episode). It's gory and violent, but not enough to make it interesting. It's not intended to be suspenseful...and it's not. The characters aren't very interesting, so I don't really care what's happening to them. And the humor is way too slapstick and unclever to make me laugh.

So, why would I want to spend my time watching this? I don't. But I'm happy for the fans who apparently do enjoy it.

The Cabin in the Woods
(2011)

I feel like the high ratings on this film have redeemed me.
I've caught some crap from other reviewers and in the forums on this site because I like a certain two films: "Thir13en Ghosts" (2001) and "Darkness Falls" (2003). I gave each one a pretty decent rating. This has made me a BAD PERSON and a TERRIBLE REVIEWER.

The high ratings that "The Cabin In The Woods" has received so far make me feel much better about myself, since this is basically a pretty mediocre movie and lots of people think it's a great work of art. It's sort of interesting in parts, but you can only plug so many homages into a single film without it feeling like it's just patched together from other people's films. I can't think of a single original scene or plot point in the whole movie.

I think what disappoints me the most is that TCITW tries to be lot more than it can be. The two other movies (see above) I mentioned are pretty small and compact films, with moderate budgets and limited aspirations. TCITW tries to be a lot more. One of the most disappointing things about TCITW is the lousy CGI. It opts for extended CGI sequences that would require a lot of work (and money) to get right. And the move doesn't get them right, or even believable. You feel like the director and producers are saying, "Isn't this a great concept to have all these classic creatures in a single scene? Too bad we didn't have the budget to make it impressive on the screen, but the idea to do it was cool."

So, I'm not saying you shouldn't watch this. Just don't expect a very scary (or impressively different) film.

BTW, I'm a massive Whedon fan.

Death Note: Desu nôto
(2006)

Don't bother if you're not already a fan of the manga....
I might have given DN a few extra stars if it could stand on its own, but it can't. In spite of what anyone else says, this movie will only appeal to those who are already fans of the manga. Unlike most reviewers, I was completely unfamiliar with the source material and simply thought that the plot sounded interesting. About 30 minutes into the movie, I turned to the person watching with me and said, "This has GOT to be based on a comic, anime, or manga of some sort. The technique and the poor story make it obvious." And that continued to be true throughout the rest of the film. It's simply a film version of a manga, and the film suffers because of it.

I went ahead and took a look at the manga after I watched the film. Given the choice, stick to the manga.

One of the most disappointing things about the film is that there is little or no room for any sympathy for the main character, Light. I was hoping that there would be some moral ambivalence, that he might question what he's doing and the methods he's using. Nope. He's evil, right from 10 minutes into the film. This makes him a much less interesting character.

Overall, skip this film unless you just have to see the live-actor version of the manga.

Wilfred
(2011)

I'm a bit shocked by the high ratings so far...
I certainly don't hate this show, and, believe me, I do "get it." But I find it difficult to understand why so many dog owners love it so very much and see Wilfred as being similar to their own pet(s). I've owned both dogs and cats for over 30 years and I have to say that I've never owned (or known) a dog with a personality like Wilfred's. I get along great with virtually all dogs and they seem consistently delighted to have someone around. Wilfred's a bit too moody and independent for me to believe he has the traits and personality of a dog.

Now, my CATS are a lot like Wilfred. Dismissive, smart-ass. demanding, and unpredictable.

Other than that, it's sort of amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. The ideas are a bit too cutesy and get old pretty quickly.

Worth watching, but be prepared to move on to something else after a few episodes.

The Silent Partner
(1978)

Nicely written with some very tense moments.
I'm not a big fan of Gould's, but he managed to allow himself to be properly directed in this thriller from the early 70s. Contrary to what some other reviewers have mentioned, I don't find this to be a particularly violent move. It's true that there are a few gratuitous scenes where someone may want to avert his or her eyes for a moment, but most of the tension is psychological. It's a good story and the viewer will have a difficult time anticipating what happens next.

In my opinion, however, Plummer was miscast. He is intense, but almost a bit too conciliatory and reasonable to be believed in his role.

This movie is not too dated and is enjoyable today as it was 30+ years ago...with one exception. Whenever I see it, I turn to the person with me and ask, "Why do I not remember EVERY woman under 50 going braless back then?" I mean, a lot of the characters work in a bank or in some other professional setting and I really don't believe that any of the women aged under 50 wear bras in any scene. Now, this is in addition to copious female nudity, but the bralessness IS striking.

Enjoy!

The Glades
(2010)

Take my advice...stop after the first season.
I don't actually expect my TV shows to be totally realistic, but "The Glades" is really pushing it as far as I'm concerned. The pilot episode is sort of slow, but interesting. The rest of the first season is quite good. I truly enjoy the main character and the fact that the show doesn't rely on action scenes and chases.

BUUUTT... when you get to the second season, you're likely to be disappointed. The producers obviously felt they had a great female lead to work with and so they decided to promote her to become "Super Callie." Yes, in the first season, Callie is the (quite interesting and personable) girl friend (or is she?) She is simultaneously an excellent single mother, a full-time nurse at the local hospital, and a medical student. Yes, really. In the second season, she continues to do all of the above AND is now a certified forensic nurse working with the FDLE investigators. That's right. She's also pretty much a better investigator than the lead character.

Anyway, this show totally lost me in the second season. Take my advice and stop watching after the first season.

Decisions
(2011)

This is actually another version of "Tales From the Hood"
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this movie wasn't it. After a very confusing introduction to the main characters, you soon learn that a mysterious ghetto stranger is going to teach some kids what's right and what's wrong through a story about what might happen if they make bad decisions. There are other movies that dwell at length on the theme of bearing the responsibilities of the decisions one makes, but this film instead tries to emulate "Tales From the Hood" (i.e., people who make bad decisions that hurt other people will die horrible, if appropriate, deaths). The only difference is that there are no supernatural forces in this film.

By itself, this isn't a bad thing, but the execution is pretty sloppy here. The acting is mostly amateurish (though Corey Haim and Vitale really ham it up and make watching them at least worthwhile). The sound is highly variable and I had to keep turning up the volume in parts to understand the dialogue. And it may be a low-budget film, but they apparently got a bulk rate on squibs.

Back to the "bad decisions thing"....one of the major problems I had with this film is that it isn't a case of making a few bad decisions. No, the characters are (basically) bad people. With the exception of Haim's new partner, I didn't like them or the way they behaved. I didn't care about them or what happened to them. Really. Zero sympathy. They had made many bad decisions over the courses of their lives. The total lack of sympathy is fatal in a film like this.

I would avoid this film.

Merlin's Apprentice
(2006)

More of an after-school special than an epic.
While the original mini-series was more charming and quirky than an actual Arthurian epic, "Merlin's Apprentice" doesn't even rise to that level. Don't misunderstand me...I have a genuine fondness for "Merlin" and own the DVD, watching it at least once a year. But "Merlin" had a tone and a theme that make it a pleasure to watch.

"Merlin's Apprentice" has competent cinematography, good lighting, decent editing, competent sound, and a lot of other qualities that are too often overlooked in recent films.

The script and direction, however, leave a lot to be desired. The story itself really does seem to have come from an after-school special. There's a heavy-handed politically-correct attitude that is definitely intended to teach kids some lessons about life as it should be. (The character of Brian is an egregious example of this, and it is an example of outright pandering to the PC crowd.) One thing that is sadly lacking is any sense of grandeur. The magic barely rises to the level of parlor tricks, making objects fly around the room or stopping an arrow in flight.

The direction of Wu leaves a lot to be desired as well. The actors are capable of much more, but Wu fails to bring it out for the camera.

Overall, though, it's worth watching, especially if you enjoyed the original.

Breakout Kings
(2011)

If the first five episodes are anything to go by....
Who is watching this series and giving it 7+ ratings? I gave up over 4 hours of my life to watch the first five episodes and this is terrible. It's boring, contrived (of course), and silly. I don't like any of the characters...no, let me rephrase that. I don't CARE about any of the characters. Go back to jail, get shot, save somebody's life...I don't care. All the police are total idiots. ("Wait. We had to release someone from prison in order to learn that we should contact the escapee's past associates? Why didn't they tell us that in US Marshal's school?")

As usual, the writer(s) have based the plots, conversations, and details on what they THINK that prisons, guards, law enforcement investigations, and convicted felons are like. They are quite wrong.

OK, I've typed the minimum number of words. For the life of me, I can't understand how anyone would watch this show every week, even for one season. What?? There's a second season?!? Oh, s***.

Evilution
(2008)

Pretty sad for the amount of effort put into it.
I mean, it's OK, I guess. Lots of blood, some acceptable FX, a couple plot twists, and some explosions, but no real "zing" to it. You never get involved enough to care that characters are doing something stupid or dangerous. You don't really care when they die gruesomely. (OK, OK...it's not usually THAT gruesome. The FX are about 50% of what they should be.) This ought to be a roller-coaster ride and it's actually a carousel. The tension ought to build and then release, only to build again. It doesn't.

Now, as far as the whole alien sub-plot. That was just someone thinking that the script wasn't cerebral enough. They were nervous and decided to add a "twist." Bad mistake. It definitely weakened the whole film. (And why do I get the feeling that the writer had just watched "Die Hard"? He/she was probably thinking, "Cool! They weren't terrorists after all. They were just thieves. Hey! I know! In my movie, it won't just be a zombie virus. It will be an alien zombie virus!"

Anyway, save this for late at night, when you don't care if you fall asleep halfway through.

Resurrection Mary
(2007)

Oops! I accidentally confused this movie with another version.
You'd think that I could keep the different versions of RM straight in my head, but a "certain on-line service that stream videos like this one" has been mixing up the images and the production years. Anyway, this version is not nearly as bad as the other version, which has Mr. Estevez in it (in case you need to be able to distinguish between the two). So the rule is, "If RM has a Kirkland in it, it's watchable. If it has an Estevez in it, it isn't." I hope this helps horror film fans everywhere.

Other than that, I'll just point out that it's a ghost story with some average carnage in it and kind of a silly story.

Enjoy! Don't thank me now.

Resurrection Mary
(2005)

Oh, my! This is a difficult one to sit through.
I know that it's hard to make a movie, and I truly believe that the director and producer put a lot of effort into this one, but it's got to be depressing to look at a finished film and see something like RM. Forget the acting (which is, coincidentally, quite forgettable) and just look at the plot. I watched this film for about 45 minutes, then backed it up because I figured that I must have fallen asleep. Nope. I did it again about 20 minutes later. I was absolutely convinced that I had missed some important plot points. The story just doesn't make any sense. It certainly doesn't bear any resemblance to the "vanishing hitchhiker" urban legend that we all associate with RM. All good horror stories have to have some sort of rules, even if the rules get broken as part of the plot. Not this movie. I truly don't understand what was going on and why things were happening. I didn't understand why certain people were killed and others weren't. I didn't even understand why the fiancée got so mad at the guy...and that took place in the first ten minutes. (And I shudder to think what would happen if my wife or GF decided to get mad at me about thoughts in my head that I had never even expressed.) Not recommended.

Almost forgot. With all due respect to the current "most helpful" reviewer, there is no way that he/she could really mean what was written. Don't believe me? Watch the film, read the review again, and then let me know what YOU think.

BTW, there are at least four different "Resurrection Mary" movies that have been released in the last ten years. Do not confuse them! None of them are good, but the one with Sally Kirkland is better than this one. Remember, go for Kirkland, not Estevez. I don't know about the other two.

You're welcome.

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