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The 5th Wave

Indoctrination and Misdirection
In the last 15 years, maybe more, there haven't been many Sci-Fi or Action films with a story. Most have featured special effects, nudity, and profanity because they believe that the public is stupid.

They're certainly not ready for this movie because you must pay attention to catch the subtleties (no, I didn't misspell subtitles). The target audience probably won't get the movie, which sort of explains the low ratings.

Of course, if you can follow a story and you're not expecting nudity (washing in the creek scene only), profanity, or sex, this movie offers a good story.

Strangely, along with Super 8, it is located around U.S. 35 in western Ohio.

It's all about the indoctrination of the planet's youth. It already feels as though it's happened in real life, but could real kids be pushed into the ranks?

Party Animalz

Cliché's, Gags, Bad Manners, and a Donkey
What can you expect from a movie where one of the characters is named Leño? Everything Los Angeles and Chicano is what you should expect, except maybe for the blue and the red.

Noah Gugliemi and Pablo Santos are central in this crazy film about a party where East LA meets Beverly Hills. What would you do with a big empty house? Throw a party! The characters aren't so different from people I know in Northern California but the donkey was more of a SoCal thing.

Of course, there are the sexual bits, the surprised neighbors, the smoking, the food, some unusual use of electricity, and a small donkey that isn't a burrito.

It's House Party for Chicanos.

The Shannara Chronicles

Excellent and Awful; Faithful and Stretched
I've read something like six of the Shannara books. I was pleased to see this TV series arrive. The tone of the series is much different than the books in many parts.

I don't remember Wil Ohmsford having any fun, pulling off clothes, or going further in the books. That's not to say that it wouldn't happen, but it seems as though a few things were stretched for MTV to buy it.

The sets were incredible, as were the graphics. The acting was acceptable and that was often augmented with visible abs to compensate.

It's difficult to bring books like The Elfstones of Shannara to any screen. We, as readers, build these worlds and characters in our minds. We also see the cover art and other illustrations that help us resolve the words. Look at what they did with the Lord of the Rings series. It came out fairly well and yet, it probably didn't please a lot of people.

The Shannara Chronicles deviates from Terry Brooks' path to interest younger viewers but not as to kill the story, only to keep them interested. It's worth watching.

The Sensei

Flashbacks are a tool, not a weapon
I appreciate the thoughts behind this film. It makes points, if you can find them, that need to be seen and said and realized and remembered.

Following the story takes strong dedication as the numerous flashbacks injure the story and misdirect the message.

Diana Lee Inosanto and Michael O'Laskey II are good but not exactly convincing and they should be. Their fighting is more convincing than their acting.

Sab Shimono and Emily Kuroda delivered realistic performances but they were mostly in the background.

McClain's female friend needs acting lessons.

I admire the take on hate, ignorance, and discrimination.

This is definitely the opposite of a Hollywood movie, but that shouldn't kill it. Regardless of the flaws, it's worth watching two or three times to see what's happening. The ideas were worth making into a movie.


Sloppy but Occasionally Interesting
I recently got the whole four years on Blu-Ray for little more than I paid for each season of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. As I watched each episode, I was reminded how sloppy the stories were and how bad some of the regular actors were, and how good the visuals were.

The idea for the series was great. The execution was not even close. Whether it was that CBS had greater control of this series than the others or that the executive producers and producers had changed has probably been debated until fans were green in the face.

It took until the third season to push forward as much as the pilot episode did. Even then, the writing and acting wasn't as good as they should have been. They should probably have a evenhanded fan look over the scripts before actually using them but that can be said about every Star Trek series.

You can see that the crew worked very hard on the series but that's about the end of it.

The fourth year was rushed to tie up the loose ends between The Original Series and Enterprise. It reminded me of the sloppiness of Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III.

Scott Bakula, Jolene Blalock, and John Billingsley gave strong performances throughout the series, as did Jeffrey Combs and other guest stars.


Slow and thoughtful
Typical, popular movies are a combination of profanity and some degree of nudity, along with some action and special effects. This is not one of those. This is not even rated PG-13. You realize at that point that the story is everything.

Since I wasn't alive during World War II, I cannot speak to the conditions, but being a little kid in the 1960s, I suspect that life had only changed a little.

As the movie begins, there is a recording of Pres. FDR and it is somewhat difficult for me to hear, as I am Japanese. I have often avoided WWII-related movies.

However, this movie is about dealing with life and death, while growing up.

The main character is hopeful, but naive. Homer realizes that his work seemed simple but in the deep of things, dealing with real life is not so sweet. $15 per week seems really high pay, maybe three times what I expected.

There isn't a lot of chemistry between the actors but it is enough to keep the story going. Claiming Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks sells the film but they have minimal roles. Alex Neustaedter has big shoes to fill and does fine in general.

I felt a great deal when Homer delivered the death notices to the families. He certainly felt a great deal.

It's somewhat obvious that the film is not at the high end of the scale. There are mistakes. However, how do you get the high end right now without profanity and at least some nudity? If you place yourself into the film's era, it can work because life was slower then.

Flowers in the Attic

Victoria Chase should have been cast
Victoria Chase should have been cast in the Lifetime Original Movie "Flowers in the Attic", as its over-dramatic, self-indulgent mother.

I always thought that Heather Graham could act well, but this film proved otherwise. Did she never have any really difficult moments from which to draw? I saw the original movie way back when, and was surprised to see a remake. Remakes tend to promise much but add nothing. This one seemed to subtract a lot for the mere thought of a sex scene.

While Ellen Burstyn's character was certainly unlikable, she couldn't make me hate her. I felt sorry for her. That never happened with Louise Fletcher. She found a way to make her character truly evil.

Equally, I never felt the sympathy for the children--it was all two dimensional. They were just there, bored. I kept waiting for one of them to pull out a phone and take a selfie.

The crew did a good job, however.

Star Trek Into Darkness

This is a demonstration of what's wrong with Hollywood
The poor writing and the bad acting converge with the ridiculous lights in this epic to re-boot Star Trek.

That's not to say that the original cast of the Star Trek series from the 1960s had great acting. Taking a cowboy and putting him into the Captain's chair didn't always work well. The difference was the writing.

They weren't trying to use a checklist to do a TV series, as much as this movie's writers were.

Rather than create a totally unrelated story and make it great, they chose to pick bits and pieces of Star Trek and other media to piece together the requirements of the checklist.

It's obvious that the budget was blown on sets and special effects, not on acting and not on writing.

What's memorable? Nothing else but the lighting.

That said, it wasn't nearly as bad as the first re-boot, as it didn't really have anything worthwhile to recommend it.

This one, as a continuance of the alternative, was less of a mess. However, there was no feeling of confrontation or any real emotion of any kind. The drama was surreal and the humor wasn't funny. This was a special effects movie with no personality. It could have been just as effective made as a 1960s-style animation.


Well, the crew is good
I'd like to say some really good things about this show. I really would. I really, really would.

Okay, the photography is clear and the audio is clear. There are no wardrobe malfunctions. The decals have a good design.

If Garnier used their advertising agency to do a television series, this might be it--real life broken down into superficial clips concentrating on style and beauty without substance.

I can't imagine why the 40+ (are there more than that?) executive producers put their money into this. Did they need a tax write-off? The cast is athletic. They speak words. On occasion, they make you care. Okay, okay, I'm making up the last one. The cast is athletic. They speak words. Oh, right, I did those already.

The crew does a wonderful job but the writers and actors have a long way to go.

Silver Bells

A long advertisement for the Salvation Army
I want to write things like heart-warming but I didn't see that in more than a very superficial way.

Most of the characters were over the top and there wasn't any real chemistry between them--or apparently, the actors. Antonio Fargas brings some warmth to Major Melvin Lowell but every other character seems to be a caricature.

Holiday movies are a dime a dozen, and in fact, there is another Silver Bells movie that was only slightly more pertinent. Unfortunately, this ends up being a ~90 minute advertisement for the Salvation Army. Helping people is a good thing, but this movie wasn't a documentary and it wasn't in the least a deep, thoughtful attempt to show how good it is to help people. It only made me think that the Salvation Army paid someone to try to bring sympathy to their cause and it backfired, and that makes me sad.


Not quite over the top attempt to showcase bullying
When I saw "bullying", I thought "Oh, geez, another over-the-top, sensitive, feel-good movie that doesn't make a real point." but Contest isn't so far off from real life, although it tosses in a few over-the-top points, which are supposed to help the viewer become aware, not distract them from the message.

It's obvious that it would be tricky to attack bullying without seeming ridiculous, especially since no one really knows how to handle it in real life. I suspect that everyone has been bullied in real life, especially the bullies, but dealing with it in in real life always seems to be non-confrontational.

It's also obvious that everyone in the film tried to make it work and that there was some good chemistry between the characters. Daniel Flaherty's character, Tommy, seems as good a victim as you would hope--someone who just can't catch a break, but still hard-working and caring. It's evident in a scene where he's being swindled by another teen who says his parents lost their jobs. Kenton Duty's character, Matt, doesn't really seem a bully though his brother Kyle does, but that he doesn't want to be bullied, so he goes along with it rather than be ostracized by the rest of the team, and tries to have some fun along the way. Katherine McNamara's character, Sarah, is the intelligent, don't-take-no-for-an-answer type. Tommy's grandmother is the only character that seemed unrealistic, as she wanted to cook for the bullies, to ply them with food, to make them see reason. I don't know of any place in the northeast where that works and I don't recall a grandmother who wasn't at least a little feisty. Still, along the way she has words of wisdom and becomes the voice of reason.

There is plenty of scheming and double-dealing and you might need a score card to keep up with who is on which side. Sarah seemed to be keeping up with most everything, but strangely never threatened.

In the end, things work out pretty well for Tommy, despite the minor disasters and soul-searching but all the scheming behind the scenes because of Kyle and Joe made me wonder if Matt was safe. Kyle and Joe didn't seem to learn or regret and there weren't any real consequences that would make them change their minds. Wrapping up the story with a perfect ending is fine when you don't have a fabric store full of loose threads, like a 1960s sitcom.

Alien Dawn

Good stories that aren't overwhelmed by special effects, language, or violence
I'm sure most people were expecting 90% special effects, 2% acting, 4% bad language, 4% violence. We've all seen those mindless shows that keep the eyes busy and the brain empty.

Cam and his friends are seeking answers but they find more questions than answers. Loyalties are not clear and situations question those loyalties constantly--just like real life. Even the bad parts are there but they're not infused with bad language, so you can actually hear the story.

The show is appealing to me because it makes me think. It should be making everyone think. I suspect that a great number of people will change channels merely because they want instant gratification. That's unfortunate. They're missing out on skills that make life easier.

The writing is quite good and the acting generally keeps up. If they have plenty of stories to tell, things can only become better.

Star Trek

What a huge light bill! Too bad about the story and the acting.
To me, this movie would get 2 out of 10 stars if the Star Trek universe didn't already exist. I know that it was meant for people who didn't like Star Trek and I'm sure it appealed to people who just wanted a shoot 'em up.

Unfortunately, it has a poor story, which is consistent with most movies today, including the re-makes that make changes for the sake of changes. This story tries to tie people and events together with annoying lights. (Ask me about Super 8.) I could imagine that California was suffering from rolling blackouts during the filming of this blockbuster of luminary proportions.

The action could be interesting, but isn't. The gratuitous sex scene is included. The special effects aren't that special. The prosthetics were replaced with tattoos. Jar Jar Bink's annoying cousin was even included at an icy outpost.

The "Is the parking brake on?" scene is ridiculous and nearly a take-off of the scene in Galaxy Quest where Tommy first takes control of the helm of the real ship. It's supposed to be funny like that scene was, but it's not. In fact, none of the funny stuff is funny and the dramatic scenes are without personality. The witty commentary is witless.

So, we're left with a movie that is loosely based on a cult television series, trying to explain many things but leaving me to not care. It belongs in the bargain bin. It's too bad that they paid more than US$100,000 for it.

Lost Boys: The Tribe

Wake me up when it's finished
I'd like to say something really wonderful about this film, but I don't want to lie.

If you really liked the original Lost Boys film, you may like this. If you enjoy pain and suffering, you may really enjoy this movie.

The only memorable scene is at the end where the aunt/landlady is ready to throw the pair out.

The rest of it is male bravado, yelling, attempted intimacy, partying, and all the things that are supposed to get you to believe that this is more than a hurried shuffle of a script with some new elements added.

It could be worse, and that's the one good thing I can say about this film.

Super 8

What's with the !@#$ blue lines?
The kids carry this film from start to finish. They do an admirable job to keep it moving.

I have to say that I was amused at the supposed location of the story. As I saw it on the map, it's about 40 miles from my current location. The place on screen looks nothing like that, of course, since they shot it about 2 hours from there.

There was plenty of personal interaction and it seems genuine, believable. I can't fault the actors for giving good and sometimes, great performances.

If anyone was over the top, the military was, and I would imagine it was written that way. It seemed as though it was written by someone who had no real contact with the military.

The more I think about it, the more things didn't really fit together, but the kids carried the film and kept it going. Someone would say that it was bound together with trite conversation and emotion, but that's daily life, isn't it? I've seen plenty of regular 8 and super 8 film and I just want to know, what is with the !@#$ blue lines? This must be Mr. Abrams' mark, as Star Trek had annoying light features also.

It's worth watching, but great cinema? It isn't.

The Three Musketeers

Enjoyable for all the wrong reasons
Poor Mr. Dumas would probably laugh about this. Someone has taken a bit of literary freedom with his story. It reminds me of Die Schatzinsel, a revised look at Stevenson's Treasure Island.

We have the young man some older, wiser, and very cynical men and at least, one woman trying to tie up all the loose ends of the story.

The plot centers around trying to take over the kingdom of France. If that's a spoiler, I guess the book is a spoiler. Perhaps, because of this movie, someone will open the book and read the original story written by Dumas.

The fight scenes are quite good and entertaining, though the fast-slow-fast-slow is annoying. The personal scenes lack chemistry. e.g., as D'Artanyan finishes his sword practice with his father. His father reaches to place his had upon the heart, but D'Artanyan takes a step back. Perhaps, he fears his father? It seemed unfortunate.

In fact, the quiet moments are where the movie falters and it is unfortunate since the action scenes are so good.

I can say that I like the film and that, seeing the 3D version, it was not 3D for the sake of 3D, save one element.

I believe that most people will be bored after the initial big fight sequence until the very end where the action is resumed.


It's a human interest story, not a wrestling story
This story is about dealing with life. It has little to do with wrestling. The sport is just the glue that ties the story together. It's a simple story: there is a loss, no one really deals with loss and it breaks a family apart, there is long term misunderstanding, and a sport brings the remaining family together again.

It's the kind of story that ends up on Lifetime, Oxygen, WE, or Hallmark channel any day of the week. However, it included wrestling and that limits it in the eyes of the public. The WWE Entertainment people were willing to take a risk and put it in the cinema. The previous amateur wrestling film was "Reversal" and it had to fight to get into the cinema without big backing.

Without telling too much, younger brother Cal (Devon Graye) somehow decides to become a wrestler, following his older brother and father in the sport. He's in high school and he's thin. He's going to take on wrestlers who have been in the sport since they were four years old without training and what seems to be no interest in sports. That's possible, isn't it? I've photographed and known more amateur wrestling teams than most people in the U.S.A. have ever seen and I know that it happens, but it's not something that happens often and it doesn't end in success.

The 135 pound slot has one wrestler and he's injured, so Cal has to step up. He loses, a lot, but with help from his older brother Mike and Mike's friend, he starts to win. He asks early about "reverse cradle", an advanced, risky wrestling move to finish a match and he employs it at the final match without success. Had he been an advanced wrestler, I could have believed it. If he had been heavier, I might have believed it. Why beanpole Cal wasn't flat on the mat doesn't matter because this is a human interest story, not a wrestling story.

The characters were reasonably well played. Patricia Clarkson is generally believable as the mother, Sharon Chetley, though I find it difficult to believe she would call her son "Studly-do-right". John Cena comes across much better than I expected. I know how tough some people can be on the outside and he just showed that little glimmer of being fragile. Madeleine Martin, the girl(friend) next door was so annoying that I hope that the part was written that way. Danny Glover was good as an inspirational figure and voice of wisdom.

For the masses, it's an odd introduction to amateur wrestling and for the wrestling community, it's a story that doesn't ring true. It's not a bad film but it skips around reality and doesn't really get to fantasy, either. If you're really interested in amateur wrestling, watch "Reversal" or even "Vision Quest".

Journey to the Center of the Earth

It's not a remake of anything
Sure, they're on the Earth's surface and then, they're inside. That's where the similarities end.

There is a story attached to it and the book by Jules Verne is only a part of the story, not the story itself.

How many times have we seen the reluctant, sometimes sarcastic teen dumped on relatives to end up being a better, more rounded person? That's what happens here. Through progressive struggles, Sean ends up being ready for anything and even has closure concerning his long lost dad.

The dad, it seems, was part of a secret society of people who believe that what Jules Verne wrote was fact, not fiction and it turns out to be true.

The characters were real enough to make the audience feel for them, though maybe a bit thin and it's really only about the three principal characters plus the missing dad/brother. They build some haphazard relationships between themselves. Perhaps, it was stronger than that but my cynicism sees it as a bit thinner.

The actors did a reasonable job with the computer generated bits and pieces and the CG bits and pieces were nicely integrated. It was obvious that the film was made for 3D but worked just fine in 2D. It didn't look like the typical film where they spent 99% of their time pushing the 3D effects on you. I only wish the local cinema had the 3D equipment.

It wasn't great (not much is) but it was worth watching.

Hau mo chu

A vehicle for a re-built Boy'z
I'd like to say that this was a great movie, but it was only adequate. It wasn't particularly scary or funny, even from an Asian point of view.

I figure that the only way that the producers got money was the inclusion of Steven Cheung and Dennis Mak, both part of the Boy'z music group. It was a good way for the group to recover after Kenny Kwan left for a solo career.

Steven Cheung is fairly funny in unscripted material but that same humour doesn't work, even in the funny bits. The problem seems to be that none of the actors have chemistry together, not even Steven and Dennis. If there was some real feeling of friendship, you might feel sympathy as they're killed, yet it seems more likely that you're just hoping that the whole school will collapse and finish off everyone at the same time.

That said, it has its moments, but they could have used a better screenwriter and a cast who worked as one.

In the Beginning

Probably not good for believers to watch
This played just last night on PAX TV, a small network that often runs religious-themed programming. I had seen it partly when it was new.

I was surprised to find that Abraham, who is revered in the big 3 western religions, to be an adulterer with a slave girl mistress and seemingly a liar, manipulating the words of god to fit his emotional weakness and his manipulative wife.

Joseph seemed to be there, not so much as glue to tie the Egyptians with the Jews, but as eye candy. I'm sure the producers and screenwriters were trying to avoid tripping over all those other stories but was the bathing scene so necessary? The whole thing seems more as a weapon to show how ignorant, selfish, and manipulative these people were. Perhaps, the faithful should avoid it.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Sadly surprised
Recently, I finished reading this book. Even though much of it has been translated, the book has very precise, very detail imagery and emotional states. Being Japanese, I felt strongly about how the story was told.

Seeing the film for the first time, it seemed thin. Someone else mentioned the scenery and it's magnificent. The streets were so wide, so unreal. The clothing was beautiful and seemed appropriate.

Unfortunately, the story seems to be a poor backdrop for the scenery and clothing. It's not that the original story was poor, but it's almost been discarded in making something commercial that U.S. audiences might like.

It's not even the Chinese and Korean actors, though I find it difficult to believe there were not enough Japanese actors available. Perhaps, they protested how un-Japanese the screen play turned out to be and refused to participate. I am saddened at how the main characters don't seem Japanese at all. Perhaps, the accents and faces count somewhat, but it's the mannerisms that show the difference.

There were a few points where there was good chemistry between actors but for the most part, the film seemed held together with the imagery. Even though the words protested the role of geisha, the movie made them to be expensive prostitutes.

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