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Journey to the Center of the Earth

Take the Journey
The only way to review this movie fairly is to review the 3-D version of it. Not a remake or adaptation of Jules Vernes novel, it instead goes on the premise that Vernes novel was a true story, and that the book was more of a guide than a story. Brenden Fraser takes his nephew, and a local mountain guide on journey to find out what happened to his missing brother. Their trek takes them, of course, to the center of the Earth where they encounter underwater oceans, man eating plants, and a T-Rex, among other things. The story moves briskly, although there are many plot holes to dodge, and the actors are capable, likable, and don't grate on the nerves. But ultimately the enjoyment of this movie is based on its visual effects, and the 3-D experience, which I'm glad to say, is first rate. There are the typically redundant "comin' at ya" 3-D moments that serve no purpose other than to drive the effect home. But mostly the effects actually serve the story. They do what they are meant to do, which is put you in the moment. They make you feel like you are in this environment, and more than once I saw people in the theater ducking and dodging incoming objects. So, as a flat 2-D experience, the movie would be an enjoyable, if forgettable movie. As 3-D experience, however, it's a great time at the movies.

Day of the Dead

Not NEARLY as bad as you have heard.
First of all, let me state my position on zombie movies. I do NOT think that George Romero is a God. I think zombies that run are FAR scarier than the lumbering ones that you can easily escape from. I think the remake of Dawn Of The Dead is not only superior to the original, but the best zombie movie ever made. Finally I think that the remake of Day Of The Dead has been unfairly dumped on, but is so far superior to the boring-as-hell original (directed by Romero) that it's not even funny. Director Steve Miner has crafted a fast moving, atmospheric, gore filled zombie flick that has not gotten the support it deserves. Not a follow up to Zack Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead, it takes place in a tiny Colorado town where the Army is trying to quarantine the town's inhabitants. Mena Suvari is an army corporal, who just happens to have grown up in that very town. She's assigned a few new soldiers, including Nick Cannon, to secure help secure one of the towns checkpoints. There is a cold-like virus loose in the towns that, when it kicks in, rots human flesh, and turns the people infected into zombies. Zombies that, like in the Dawn remake, run like track athletes. The movie starts quickly and never slows down. There's no shortage of zombies, so trying to escape from the town proves to be every bit as difficult as you'd expect. The zombies are also different in the way that they retain some of the intelligence and personality they had when they were alive. So we get scenes like a platoon of dead soldiers coming at survivors, wildly (perhaps uncontrollably) firing their weapons. It's also the first time we get a bit of zombie cannibalism, as they turn on one another. Mena Suvari gives a good performance in your typical tough chick role. Plus she looks really good in Army green. Ving Rhames turns in a cameo as her superior, not a reprise of his Dawn Character. The biggest negative about the movie is Nick Cannon. Although I don't think it's necessarily his fault. The character is so stereotypical, it's borderline insulting. He plays the put upon black man that rants about all the things white people do, and has no shortage of attitude and street slang. Why does the black man's character have to be so degrading to the black man? We even get typical mispronunciation of words that must sound "street", even a few "aights" thrown in there. He almost singlehandedly brings the movie down. Fortunately there's a lot more going on. Like I said, the movie never stops moving. The survivors never get a chance to take a breath, as every place they think is safe, is quickly overrun. There are some great visuals here, topped off by several zombies leaping from the upper windows of a nearby building in an attempt to feed on our heroes. Director Steve (Halloween H20, Lake Placid, Friday the 13th 2 and 3) is horror veteran and knows how to keep things rolling. Lots of action, lots of gore, and good scares. I don't know what the problems were with this movie that kept the studio from releasing it theatrically, but it's a shame they didn't support it. Go ahead and rent it, you will be pleasantly surprised. I was.


Transformers..Exactly what meets the eye...and nothing more
Michael Bay has long been a target of detractors who say his movies are long on style, and short on substance. With that in mind, you'd think "Transformers" would be the perfect vehicle for him (No pun intended). After all, no one is going to attend this film for the actual humans that inhabit this world. They are going to see some giant robots blow stuff up real good. In that sense, you get your money's worth. The problem is, that only accounts for about 45 minutes of the movie. For the remaining 1 hour 45 minutes, we have to sit through one of the most poorly scripted summer movies of the year. That's really saying something considering the lackluster year it has been for summer movies. The people in this movie are just not interesting. Not even for a Michael Bay movie. Shia Labeouf (Sam) and Megan Fox (Mikaela) do their thing in relatively harmless fashion. Their characters are the definition of cookie cutter. He's the geek that is determined to win the heart of the hottest girl in school. She's the hottest girl in school. She dates the star athlete, but isn't into his mentality. She has the requisite heart of gold. Of course they'll be smooching by the end of the movie. They go through the motions as actors. Unfortunately, they are surrounded by way too many useless characters. Some are supposed to be their for tension, others for comic relief. None of them works. Rachael Taylor leads a group of high school students that crack the robot's code and discover what they are up to. (ID4 ripoff?) It's amazing that the smartest people in the world, using the most advance equipment in the world can't crack this code...but a hot blonde with great legs can. Only in a Michael Bay movie. When she can't figure it out? Who does she turn to? Anthony Anderson. Who divides his time between hacking the internet, and playing Dance Dance Revolution in his bedroom. John Turturro cashes a paycheck as a government spook is neither threatening or funny when he needs to be. The worst offenders are Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Labeouf's parents. Every scene they are in is cringe worthy. Their annoyance continues into the end credits where they continue to pop up as if we needed more of their inane blathering. But like I said, no one is paying to see them. You're paying to see giant robots throw down. That you get. You have 2 sides...the noble Autobots, and the evil Decepticons. Only a hardcore fan could keep these things straight. They are a sight to behold. However, the novelty of them "transforming" grows old after the first few times. It's one thing if they change quickly from robot to vehicle or vice versa. It's quite another to have long tracking shots of every little piece of these things reforming. We know ILM can do amazing CG work. We don't need it drilled into our heads. As characters, none of the Transformers is particularly interesting. They learned to speak English by watching TV. (Obviously they got the idea from watching Splash. At least they're as smart as mermaids) So they all have their own "personalities". The wise leader, the shoot first/ask questions later hothead, and the token urban Transformer. The villains...well...they growl a lot. They also like to say their names a lot. To be fair, there are couple of great action scenes. A chase between a Decepticon police car and the hero Camaro called Bumblebee is fun, and an aerial battle between an evil Decepticon called Starscream, and a pack of military fighters is quick and inventive. There's also a nice final throw down between the leader of the of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, and the Decepticon leader Megatron. However it is not enough to sustain this movie for it's run time. This is a good 90 minute movie, with 60 minutes of filler, useless characters, childish humor (did we really need TWO urination jokes?), and inane plot devices. If you grew up on Transformers, well then I guess your time is here. It's probably everything you want in a movie. For a movie lover, like myself, it's yet another in a long string of summer movies that are long on hype, and short on delivery. What's worse is, all the best parts are in the preview..and the worst part of's something that I don't care if I ever see again. If non-Tranformers fan boy thinks as I do, and I suspect a lot will, that will not bode well for the movies box office after what I'm sure will be a HUGE opening weekend. But hey...par for the course this summer. Too bad Michael Bay, except for this and Pearl Harbor, I like your movies.

Live Free or Die Hard

John McClane Lives Hard With A Vengeance!!!!!!!!!
When the original Die Hard was released in 1988, it did not receive much fanfare. It was the 80's, and every semi-celebrity, singer, pro athlete, was getting a crack at being a movie star. Mostly men, starring in low rent action flicks (Hi, Brian Bosworth). Die Hard starred an actor known only for his comedic chops on a popular, chick-friendly TV show. No one had any kind of expectations. Yet, history was made with that movie. It introduced the "everyman" hero. The normal guy who gets scared, bleeds when he gets shot, and is easily identifiable with the audience. Plus it was the most fast paced, edge of your seat, in your face action movie ever made. To this day, it is the movie that all modern action films are measured against. It inspired endless clones and, of course, the inevitable sequels. Sequels are, of course, often inferior to the original. But a sequel doesn't have to be better than its predecessor to be a good movie. Die Hard 2 and Die Hard With A Vengeance, while not as good as the original, are still great action movies. Now, almost 20 years after the first film, Bruce Willis returns to the role that made him a movie star, and delivers once again. Live Free Or Die Hard is not only the most amazing action movie in years, but is the best in the series since the original. Timothy Olyphant leads a group of cyber terrorists bent on destroying the American infrastructure. They completely shut down traffic, crash the stock market, and plunge the entire eastern seaboard into a blackout. Willis' put upon character John McClane is thrown into the middle of the mess when he is told to pick up a young computer hacker who may be involved in a series of murders involving other hackers. Justing Long does a great job as the hacker, Martin, who had no idea what he was getting into. It could have been a cliché role. The helpless nerd that screams and cowers in fear when the you-know-what hits the fan. Instead Martin proves himself a capable young man that, though scared out his mind, rises to the occasion, and stands by McClane even though he knows it could cost him his life. The scenes between Willis and McClane are the heart of the movie. They form a bond much like an estranged father and son reconnecting. But Martin is every bit the sarcastic smart-ass that McClane is, and their banter creates some truly hilarious moments. Also noteworthy is Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays McClanes daughter, Lucy. She too could have had a cliché role. She could have either been the typical damsel in distress, or the too tough for her own good chick, who generally comes across as laughable. Instead, she strikes a perfect balance between the two. She's is a vulnerable young woman, but she's also the daughter of an NYPD cop, and can take care of herself. At one point she flat out challenges Olyphant's character to a fight by saying "Let's step outside. We'll see who hurts who." And you believe that, given the chance, she might very well mop the floor with this guy. Of all the actors in the movie Timothy Olyphant has the biggest shoes to fill. Olyphant's villain, while not as flamboyant as the others, seems to be the most driven. He doesn't make time for fancy speeches like Alan Rickman's Hans, or give the good guy puzzles to figure out like Jeremy Irons' Simon. He's just totally straightforward. He knows what he wants done, and he wants it now. He's not an especially memorable villain, but he is an effective one. But when you talk Die Hard, you really are talking one thing in general...action. This movie delivers and then some. I must give director Len Wiseman a tremendous credit. There are several virtuoso action scenes in this movie. From a shootout in Martin's cramped apartment building, to a cat and mouse game between a helicopter and a police car that culminates in an absolutely thrilling tunnel sequence, the movie never lets go. Only at the end, when McClane squares off with a military F-35 while driving a semi truck, does the movie venture more into True Lies territory, than Die Hard. Still, it's an exciting sequence that's fun to watch. Finally, I must say THANK GOD for Bruce Willis. What has been missing in modern action movies, more than anything else, is a real TOUGH GUY. Thanks to cgi, we've grown accustomed to scrawny little actors like Keanu Reeves becoming action heroes, because visual effects can make them do anything. (To be fair to Keanu, I must acknowledge the fact that he did bulk up in another of the great action movies, Speed) We have been in need of guy that we believe can kick bad guy tail. Bruce still has the everyman thing going on, but he's also got the tough guy down cold. He is in perfect form in his signature roll. He's tough, cool, and works the "why me?" attitude better than anyone around. McClane isn't in this fight to prove anything. He's doing it because he has to. Because, as they say in the movie, he's "that guy". In a summer full over over budget, over-hyped sequels, this is the first one to deliver the goods. It gives you what you want, and adds more on top of it. In a sense, history is repeating itself. In 1988, no one expected anything from the original Die Hard. Now, 19 years later, in a summer full of overblown "epics" that rest on the laurels of their predecessors, Live Free Or Die Hard makes good on the promise made to us in 1988 with the first blows us through the back wall of the theater. It may not be the biggest movie of the summer, but so far, it is BY FAR the best.

Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3....the web snaps, and brings us down with it.
Spider-Man 3 is not a bad movie. Just a mediocre one. Very much a been there, done that experience. The problems are many: 1. There is very little actual Spider-Man in the movie. For a movie that is almost 2 and a half hours long, do you realize that Spider-Man himself appears on screen for a mere 25 minutes total? How do I know? Well, I have a copy of it, timed all the various times he appears on screen, and added it up. 25 minutes. Sorry Tobey Maguire, but your Peter Parker is not a very interesting character. Three movies in, and you should have evolved beyond the whiny geek you were in the first movie. No change at all. In fact I think Peter cries more in this movie than in the first one. 2. Sam Raimi has said in public that he does not like the character of Venom. Among fans however, he's a favorite. Many, I'm sure, actually like him MORE than Spider-Man. Since Raimi doesn't, he does not do the character justice. On screen, he's never referred to as Venom, never refers to himself as "We", thus eliminating the whole purpose of the symbiote existence. The goo is attracted to rage and negative feelings? Great. They took the pink slime from Ghostbusters II and turned it black. Venom was what the majority of fans were looking forward to in this movie. But we're given the scrawny Topher Grace giving a performance almost as whiny as Tobey ("Do you remember how you hurt me?"). He's never shown as being as evil and as powerful as he is, even needing Sandman's help to defeat Spider-Man. Yeah. OK. Raimi obviously gave in to studio pressure to include Venom. His heart wasn't in it. 3. Sandman is not a very interesting villain. We're never given any reason for Spider-Man to root against him. The scene with his daughter establishes the fact that he's not a bad person. So when it's said that he really killed Uncle Ben, any person with a modicum of common sense will instantly realize that his death was an accident. They show Peter's nightmares about what happened, but the intelligent moviegoer knows that that's not how it happened. So Sandman's confession at the end is just another reason for Tobey to cry. Plus, he lets Sandman go! He just flies off. What? The death of Uncle Ben may have been an accident, but he's still a criminal. He hurt several people, including police officers, since his escape. So...Spidey will let a criminal go as long as he hasn't done anything to him personally? Sandman's storyline is never resolved, so in the end, there was no point of him being in the movie to begin with. 4. The absence of previous screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. They are the creators of Smallville. Both with Smallville and in their Spidey 2 script, they showed that they have a real gift of knowing the characters, and developing them properly. Their absence on Smallville is felt in the current hit or miss season. It's also felt in Spidey 3 because Raimi and his brother are only slightly better screenwriters than George Lucas. They have no real grasp on character development. Tobey Maguire has not matured at all as Peter or Spider-Man. Mary Jane was at her most annoying in this movie. She says to Peter "Everything is not about you", but it's her that seems to have that attitude. "I got fired. Pity me." With Harry Osbourne, we get the cruelest injustice of all...amnesia. It is one of the oldest, and poorest excuses for conflict in a script. His friend-turned enemy-turned friend-turned enemy-turned friend routine in this movie is cheesy and manipulative, because we know it won't last. The resolution to the whole this is far to convenient, and a sell out. I've already said the problems with the handling of the villains, so there's no reason to go into that. 5. The visual effects. They were bad. There's no two ways about it. The backgrounds never fit in with characters in close up. This is especially evident in the fight between Peter and Harry. It SCREAMED blue screen. The CGI doubles for the actors always looked rubbery, and never looked convincing. 6. The movie ends on a down note. It's supposed to be a heroic movie. Even if you look at this as a trilogy, the second act (Spidey 2) is the one that is supposed to end a down note, to be redeemed by the end of the third movie. Here, we don't even get Spidey's triumphant swinging across the city, which in my opinion, is as necessary as Superman's flight over the earth at the end of his movies. Here we get yet ANOTHER sequence of Peter and Mary Jane staring silently at each other (which I had enough of even before the end of Spidey 2), before slow dancing into a fadeout of Peter's solemn face. HUH? Nothing like sending the audience out depressed. Now the movie has opened to $148 million in it's opening weekend. In all probability, it will gross more than $300 million. Problem is, it doesn't deserve it. It opened big because of the popularity of the first two, and some slick marketing by the studio. The product itself doesn't deliver on what was promised. Not by a long shot. Shame. Because it's success will show the studio that they don't even have to try anymore. They can turn out a mediocre product, and the American movie-going public, like the drones they are, will line up, and hand over their money without a thought. So if you, like me, were severely honest. Tell people it's not worth it. Wait for video, because you aren't missing anything. There's nothing here you haven't seen before. Let the second weekend grosses plummet. Show the studio we deserve better than this. Not that they'll listen. But it's worth a try.


Long live the drive-in movie.
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have teamed up once again to make Grindhouse, as close to the drive-in going experience that you can have in a theater. The results are mixed. First we get a phony preview for a movie called "Machete". It's a hilarious take on the 70's revenge/action movie. Our first is movie, "Planet Terror", directed by Robert Rodriguez. It's primarily the story of a stripper named Cherry Darling, and her fight to stay alive in the face of a horde of zombies. Cherry is played by Rose McGowan, and for this genre, it's a star making role. Cherry quits the stripper life, and sets off to realize her dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. She runs into her old boyfriend, El Ray, played by Freddy Rodriguez. Cherry and El Ray meet up at run down diner, and pick up their bickering where they left off. But the undead are loose in town, and their numbers are growing. This is where we get into classic zombie movie territory, as we meet individual survivors, who will all eventually meet up at the same place, and fight for their lives.Lurking in the background somewhere is Bruce Willis as the leader of a military unit that knows far more than they are revealing about the zombie outbreak. It's a complete throwback to the campy horror movies of the 70's, complete with a scratchy film print, dodgy audio, and even a missing real that causes the story to jump hours ahead. Of course the most recognized image from the movie is Rose McGowans machine gun for a leg. It's ridiculous and I loved it. This is a fun zombie flick that ranks right up there with the best of them. Let us not forget the gore. We have running gun battles, knifings, impalings, smashings, and of course, severed limbs flying everywhere. If the movie ended here, I'd feel I got my money's worth. However it doesn't, and it's all downhill from here. After "Planet Terror" ends we are shown three more previews for movies that don't exist. "Werewolf Women Of The S.S." is dumb, and the low point of the movie. Only slightly better is "Don't", a take on haunted house movies. Finally there's "Thanksgiving" a rip on holiday themed slasher movies. After that preview, we begin the second feature, Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof". I'm sorry to say that, for the most part, it's a snoozer. It begins as the story of four very bitchy and uninteresting women setting out for a girl's night out. The cruise, drink, do drugs, and party at a local bar, while engaging in various man bashing conversations. All of this is done under the watchful eye of a mysterious stranger known as Stuntman Mike. Mike is played by Kurt "The MAN" Russell, and he owns every second that he is on the screen. Unfortunately, he's not up there long enough. Even though he is billed as the star of the movie, he's in the whole thing for MAYBE thirty minutes. In this story he gets acquainted with the girls, and sees if they are the caliber of women they think they are. They are not, Mike decides, and therefore they must be punished. To do this, he uses a specially reinforced Hollywood stunt car that he claims is "death proof". In one instant he uses this car to rid the world (and the audience) of this group of air headed women. From here, the story begins again with a NEW group of women, only slightly more interesting than the first group. These women are stunt women themselves, and they aren't the dope fiends that the first group of girls were, but they never shut their mouths. This group includes Rosario Dawson, Zoe (a real life stunt woman, playing herself), and the insanely cute Mary Elizabeth Winsted. Our group of ladies is looking for a rush, and they decide to get it by Zoe strapping herself to the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, as the other ladies sit inside, pushing the car to speeds close to 200 mph. It's here that Mike re-enters the movie, and decides to up the ante on this joyride. He smashes into the car with Zoe still on the hood. It's here that the movie gives us it's money shot. Zoe clings, face first to the roof of the car, and we get a camera shot from behind her, getting a full view of the road as it whizzes under her. Things do not go Mike's way, as the ladies manage to turn the chase on him. It's an incredibly exciting chase scene.The problem is that it takes WAY too long to get there.Mike's attack on the first group of women is hardcore and brutal. It also lasts for about 10 seconds on film. We're shown the crash four times, so we can see (in detail) how every girl meets her fate. We then get another hour of the next group of women sitting around talking, before we get back into the action. Tarantino is famous for his dialog sequences. His characters always have something off the wall to say, and they say it using the most colorful words they can. But unlike "Death Proof", the conversations were usually something the audience could identify with. Here, what we get are two groups of women, that obviously don't like men at all, and they need to tell us that...over and over and over again. So for the price of admission we get one kick ass zombie movie, and so-so revenge/thriller/action movie with an incredibly boring set up, an amazing finale, and Kurt Russell at his coolest since Snake Plissken. Too bad he couldn't completely save the movie.


A true epic of courage and sacrifice.
Ever since Gladiator, we have been subjected to many lesser movies like Troy and Alexander. But now with 300, the bar has been raised even higher. A visual masterpiece, 300 tells the story of King Leonidis and 300 of his Spartan warriors that defend their land from 250,000 invading Persian warriors. Their courage rallied an entire nation to fight against a foe previously thought invincible. I can't say enough about the amazing visuals in this movie. What surprised me the most is the film's use of slow motion. Normally I am wholeheartedly opposed to extensive use of it in action movies. What you usually see in slow motion action movies is things like a character leaping through the air firing 2 guns at the same time, or bullet casing hitting the floor, or people making impossible leaps in carefully choreographed martial arts fights. You guessed it, I'm not a fan of The Matrix, or any movie directed by John Woo. Not that I hate them, but give the slow motion a rest. But here, it actually serves the story and the characters. The Spartans were the best combatants of their time. They weren't simple countrymen who served in battle when they were needed. They were born and bred soldiers. They could easily handle themselves when faced with odds of 3 to 1...or more. The slow motion shows the ease with which they could dispatch multiple enemies without even breaking a sweat. The slow motion also gives an epic sense to the battle scenes that, if played in real time, would simply be a mind boggling jumble. It brings the brutality home. But the slow motion is just part of the visual style. From the great use of CG, to the color schemes, to the camera angles, the movie is a feast for the eyes. It truly NEEDS to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. There is a sequence that shows the Spartans watching from the cliffs during a torrential storm while the Persian fleet is consumed by the sea that is a particular favorite of mine. Is there a ton of character development? No. But then, you don't need it. This is a simple story of men doing what they were trained to do, fighting for what they believed in against an enemy they knew they had no chance of defeating. Even in the face of certain death, their courage never wavers. They knew going in that they were fighting for something greater than themselves. Zack Snyder is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. His remake of Dawn Of The Dead is not only the best zombie movie ever made, but one of my favorite horror movies of all time. He turned the genre on it's ear by changing the lumbering zombies of George Romero, and turning them into fast running, meat seeking missiles. Now with 300 he has taken the gladiator genre, shaken it, and given it a life like never before. It's truly unlike anything ever seen before. Hopefully a sign of things to come, 300 is the first must see movie of 2007.

Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa....A Worthy Final Round
There are very few characters in American movie history that are more iconic than Rocky Balboa. Ever since 1977 he has been THE symbol of the underdog. He has been the personification of the never-say-die American spirit. No matter what anybody else tells you, the most important thing you can do is believe in yourself. The film series is a phenomenon almost unequaled in popularity. The first four films in the series all finished among the top 5 box office grossers of their respective years. The fifth film met with a substantially smaller reception. What was supposed to be Rocky's swan song, instead came across as a lame duck. From the stories I've heard over the years, I would put the blame more on the studio than on Sylvester Stallone, and those associated with the film's production. But regardless of where the finger gets pointed, Rocky V left moviegoers with a bad taste in their mouths, and it cast a shadow over what the series had achieved up to that point. But now, both Rocky and Stallone have both come full circle. When the movie was pitched to theaters, Stallone was nearly laughed out of the building. When the news came that there would be another Rocky film, audiences either groaned or laughed. Did the world need another Rocky film? No...but Stallone did. Rocky is the reason the man ever had a career to begin with. He shared people's disappointment with Rocky V, and wanted to make it right. Like Rocky himself, Stallone believed in himself, in his talent, and in his creation, and knew there was a deeply human chapter of Rocky's life that was yet to be told. In spite of all those that laughed at him, Stallone now has the last laugh. This is an amazing movie, and a fitting final chapter in Rocky's saga. The film opens with Rocky in a perpetual state of mourning. His beloved Adrian has died, his son is almost a stranger, and the throngs that once chanted his name seem to have forgotten him. He lives a simple life running a restaurant named after his late wife. He poses for pictures, and recalls his old boxing stories to his diners. His grief over Adrian, and peoples' insistence on hearing his stories keep Rocky living in the past. He feels there is nothing left but memories of the glory days. Then ESPN hold a computer simulated bout between Rocky (in his prime), and the current heavyweight champion Mason "The Line" Dixon. Dixon is a put upon champion who doesn't get much respect because his fights end too quickly, and the world doesn't think much of him as a champion because he doesn't fight anyone that possesses any real skill. When the simulated fight predicts that Rocky would be the winner, Dixon's people come up with a plan. An exhibition fight between Balboa and Dixon would not only provide a financial windfall, but might raise the opinion that people have for Dixon by fighting a legendary champion. Like the original film, this is where Rocky's story and Stallone's story seem to merge into one. When it is announced that Rocky is coming out of retirement, there is laughter and ridicule. No one thinks Rocky stands a chance, and more than a few jokes are made at his expense. But the doesn't dampen his spirit or his drive. He knows what he has inside, or as Rocky puts it "in the basement". When he shows up to fight, he shows that anything is possible if you just believe in what you know you can do. This is undoubtedly the same thing Stallone went through to get the movie made, and he pours that experience and those feelings into his movie. When the final fight gets into full swing, I dare you to try and sit still in your seat. One of the biggest surprises of this film is that it does not make Mason Dixon a monster. He is not out to destroy Rocky. In fact Rocky and Dixon aren't that different. Dixon knows what he is capable of, and has had it with people telling him he can't compete with a skilled opponent. He believes in himself, and only wants the respect he knows he deserves. Dixon is closer to Apollo Creed than Clubber Lang. But the movie is not about defeating the bad guy. It's about the power of the human spirit, and not ever giving up on the things that are important to you, even if the rest of the world tells you to. At an early part of the movie Rocky pleads his case to the boxing commission that refuses to grant him a license. He says that the older he gets, the more he loses. But that's life. But what he has not lost is his heart. He has not lost his passion. It was always there, but just needed the chance to be shown again. He only needed to make everyone else believe. My hat is off to Sylvester Stallone for taking such a huge risk on a project that he KNEW was going to get him laughed at from the start. Stallone is not the box office powerhouse that he was in the 80's. If this film failed, he would've been lucky to get direct-to-video movies made for the rest of his career. But like his creation, he believed in himself, and let nothing stand in his way. Rocky walks out of the ring with his head and his hands held high. Sylvester Stallone can do the same. Bravo Mr. Stallone!

Superman II

Superman Returns Again!
First I must say the the original version of Superman II is one of my favorite movies of all time. Like all other Superman fans I was anxious to see the movie as it was originally intended. The result is very different film from what has existed for the last 25 years. It is darker, more dramatic, and far more emotional. The restored scenes between Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve are nothing short of AMAZING! When Superman steps into the crystal chamber to relinquish his powers, the image of Jor-El turns and looks at Lois Lane, and you can almost hear him saying to her..."What have you done?" A lot of the cartoonish humor has been removed from the movie, especially when it comes to the three supervillians. Zod is much more menacing, Ursa is colder (if that's at all possible), and Non is no longer the muscle headed dunce he was before. The Battle Over Metropolis is also improved. We get Superman being kicked into the Statue Of Liberty, and Non receiving an uppercut that sends him cartwheeling into the Empire State Building. The hide-and-seek rematch at the Fortress Of Solitude has been removed, and the ending of the film has been changed. I'm glad Richard Donner has finally gotten to have his vision put out there for the public to see. It flows seamlessly with the first movie. HOWEVER....not everything works. Some of the dialog has been altered, and it doesn't always work. When Superman arrives in Metropolis to challenge the villains, his new line "General, haven't you ever heard of freedom of the press?" is nowhere as good as the original "General, would you care to step outside?" The biggest question mark is the new ending. Which isn't really "new", but is essentially the end from the first movie. Superman spinning the Earth backward was originally intended to be the end of the second movie, and that's why it is here. While it is superior to the memory erasing kiss that Clark lays on Lois, it creates some major continuity problems. Especially when Clark returns to the diner where he got beaten up. Why go back? Who will remember him? The fight never occurred now! Doesn't make sense. But all in all this is a very exciting look into the film that could have been. It's a worth addition to the Superman history. But I'll have to watch it a few more times to really decide if I'd rate it better than the original. But it's great this version has seen the light of day. It may not be the exact version that Donner intended, but it's close enough, and the world of Superman is all the better for it.


This is what Scary Movie WANTED to be!
Like everyone else here, I discovered this movie way back when on cable. When VCR's were the size of suitcases, records and cassettes were the only way to buy music, and the internet had yet to be invented. This is either a love it or hate it movie. There is no middle ground. You either get it or you don't. There really is no plot to describe. It's enough to say that this movie spoofs every single horror movie and genre made up to that point in time. There are endless quotes from the movie: "The library is closed. All white people must leave." "You're doomed!" "What difference does it make?" "Of course we're serious! Why do you think we're dressed like this?" "Great, a town with two village idiots." "I'm a ghost writer. My name's Casper." "Hi. That's some skinny home you got there!" "No we're not zombies, we're loonies." "Awwwww NO!" Those quotes are just a few, and they won't mean anything if you haven't seen the movie. But for those who have, just reading those quotes puts a smile on your face. Admit it! I love this movie, and consider it the very definition of a cult classic. I say we fans of the movie must rally together and form a REAL fan club for it!!!! Who's with me? How much do my friends and I love the movie? Let me put it this this day, they still call me Fritz.

Jackass Number Two

Non stop laughs....if you can stomach them
I laughed more times in this movie than any other movie in recent years that I can remember. I also cringed more. To say that Jackass is an acquired taste is an understatement. I have no problem watching guys beat themselves up, and their friends, for a laugh. But some things are just a bit hard to look at straight on. Most notably, a beer enema, and manual masturbation of a horse (and the drinking of the results). But overall there are so many hard laughs in this movie, that at some points I found myself gasping for breath. They stress that you don't try any of these stunts at home, but some of them would be fun to attempt. My favorites being Firehose Rodeo and several attempt to jump a lake through use of several, shall we say jet-propelled vehicles ranging from a shopping cart, to a full sized rocket. Johnny Knoxville, who surprised the Hell out of me by turning out to be a talented actor, is the ringleader of this circus of freaks. Bam Margera continues to torture his parents, Steve-O proves to be someone I would never want to meet in real life, and Wee Man turns out to be one of the most daring, and foul mouthed of the bunch. Watch for Wee Man's adventure with a parachute and a high powered fan. I was in tears. So yes, there is no such thing as good taste when it comes to Jackass...and thank GOD for that! These guys will do anything for a laugh, and as long as they do, I'll be watching.

The Last Starfighter

A vastly underrated gem that stands the test of time
Today's audiences will rarely see a movie that doesn't contain some sort of CGI effects. But back 1984 they were just taking the first steps into this age of effects. Both The Last Starfighter and Tron took the leap, and both made the most of it. While the effects of Starfighter are certainly dated, the movie isn't. Simply because it doesn't make the mistake that so many effects-heavy movies never loses sight of character. The characters and the story are the most important elements here, and that's what makes timeless. Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is a young man that, like Luke Skywalker, dreams of his life becoming more than what it seems he is destined for. In Star Wars, you can feel the dreams that Luke has as he looks out over the Tatooine desert at the twin sunset. There is a similar moment in Starfighter when Alex sits in his room, and stares at the mobile of the solar system on his bedroom ceiling being blown about by the wind coming through the window. When he breaks the record on the Starfighter game, he is recruited by a mysterious visitor named Centauri (Robert Preston), who is in fact an alien that reveals to him that the Starfighter game is a test sent out across the universe to find the few with the "gift" to become true Starfighters. Whisked away to the planet Rylos, Alex finds that he is needed to defend the universe against the villains he defeated in the game. Back on earth, Alex is replaced by a "simuloid" called Beta who looks like Alex, but has no idea on how to be him. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart with Alex's girlfriend Maggie (the stunning Catherine Mary Stewart). But heart is what this movie has in abundance. It's light hearted, exciting, funny, and moving. It's literally the kind of movie you don't see anymore, and that's a shame. In today's age, the characters in movies similar to this, are as phony as the CGI worlds they inhabit. But Starfighter never lets us forget that no matter how spectacular a visual effect is, it's an empty thing without people to care about. Another element that cannot be ignored is the musical score by Craig Safan. It's one of the best of the 80's. Similar to John Williams' Star Wars and Superman themes, it change in tempo can make it exciting or romantic. I really wish I could find it on CD. I saw this movie for the first time in 1984, and today I shared it for the first time with my two kids, ages 9 and 7. They LOVED it. My son wanted to know if there was a REAL video game for it, or if there were action figures for it. It was really special to share this movie with them. It proves it's multi-generational, and worthy of a place in movie history, for more reasons than just it's ground breaking visual effects. A classic.

Road House 2: Last Call

Road House 2: The Sucker Punch
The original Road House is by no means an award winning film. But it is one of the great guilty pleasures of all time. It shouldn't have been that hard to make a sequel. There's no need for a big budget, big name stars, and spectacular visual effects. Even the story didn't have to be original. All it needed was a good time vibe, and some great fist fights. I don't mean Matrix-style "wire-fu", just some well choreographed barroom brawls. Lots of them. There are a couple of decent fights in the movie, but none of them are memorable, and the focus is more on gun play. Plus, the way it ties in to the original film is laughable, bordering on insulting. Johnathon Schaech plays Shane Tanner, an undercover DEA agent who is good with his hands and feet. But here's the kicker...he's the son of Patrick Swayze's character Dalton!!!! Say what????? Let's see, the original Road House was made in 1989. So for Dalton to have a son in his late 20's (maybe even 30) in 2006...well you get the idea. They give it a cheesy explanation that he lived with his uncle Nate (Will Patton) while his father "travelled around a lot". Oh please. That itself almost warranted shutting this movie off. But I digress. Schaech is completely out of his element. Sure he can throw a couple of kicks, but he's got nothing going on as an actor. Plus, he's referred to in the movie by the bad guys as "pretty boy". I've never scrutinized men that closely, but I don't think this guy is too good looking. He looks sick. His face is way too thin, and his sunken eyes make it look like he's going to pass out at any moment. I'd never heard of him before, but I think he should give up acting and go back to his day job. Jake Busey plays the local drug runner Wild Bill. Busey is not a terrible actor. He was good in Starship Troopers, and even made a menacing villain in Hitcher 2. But here, he just chews the scenery in standard bad guy mode. Even his "threating" dialog is yawn worthy. We're supposed to buy him as the man that has the whole town in his pocket. But why? What does he do? Because he wants to buy a bar from Patton "by any means necessary"? Ellen Hollman has the token girlfriend role. A woman with a secret. Too bad that secret is about as difficult to figure out as 2+2. She's the local elementary school teacher who happens to be a former Army soldier. Guess what that means? It means that while she may quiver with fear for the majority of the movie, she'll be ready to smash heads when the fur starts to fly. Oh well, at least she's hot. Actually the fight between her and Wild Bill's girl is the best one in the movie. It's fast, brutal, and entertaining. Which leads me to my next problem with the movie...the fights. As I said Schaech knows how to throw a punch. The same can't be said for anyone he faces in the movie. Obviously the movie will all come down to Schaech versus Busey. Busey is an actor, not a fighter. He doesn't possess the skills to pull of a movie fight. Swayze may have been a trained dancer, but his athletic ability gave him the means to pull off well choreographed fights. He also faced a couple of worthy opponents, and had one killer (literally) move. None of that here. With a couple of exceptions, the fights are forced, poorly staged, and routine. The punches sound like someone smacking a 2X4 on the concrete, and there's even a couple of parts where the sound doesn't even match up to the punch. It's embarrassing. There isn't even the good southern/redneck music of the original. Road House had the Jeff Healy Band, who were a somewhat popular band at the time. This movie features a singer called John Otto, whose music is tepid, and his acting even worse. He's given one line in the movie, which was probably inserted to appease whatever fans he may have out there. Either that, or someone owed him a favor. My final complaint about the movie is one that comes out of just being picky...the continuity. Movies are shot out of sequence, and then it's the editor's job to piece it all together. Well someone should give the editor of this movie a little shove. The problems range from little things like people not looking the same direction when a shot changes, to RE-USED footage at the end of the movie. In the beginning, we are introduced to the bar, The Black Pellican. As the camera moves through the bar, you see the band, the bouncers, and the people dancing. At the end of the movie, when the bad guys have been defeated, we get another shot of the same bar, with insert shots of our hero sitting at the bar with his girl. The problem is, the footage of the people in the bar is the SAME footage from the beginning of the movie!!! I kid you not. It's the same people, standing (or dancing) in the same places, wearing the same clothes. Want to know the funniest part? You see bouncers in the shot that were KILLED earlier in the movie. Do yourself a favor, don't watch this movie unless YOU feel the need to go out and punch someone. This movie will make you angry enough to do it.

Superman Returns

An AMAZING and very touching return of the Man Of Steel
This is the Superman movie we've been waiting for since the 80's. It has everything you could want in a Superman movie. Action, romance, humor, danger, daring rescues, sinister villains, and INCREDIBLE visual effects on an epic scale.

Director Bryan Singer shows his love of Richard Donner's original, with many homages to it throughout. But he never copies it. Never inserts something we'll recognize from the earlier films just for the sake of having it. It fits the story, and the history of Superman.

Brandon Routh can wear the cape with pride. Is he as good as Christopher Reeve? God no. It would be unfair to expect that from him. But what he does is take what has come before, put his own twist on it, and make the character his own. There are times when a chill went up my spine, because for a second I felt as if I was watching Reeve. He brings a dimension to the role that wasn't necessary for Reeve. Reeve's Superman always knew his place. People were so enamored of him, he lived in the constant adoration of the people of the world. Routh's Superman finds himself in a world that isn't sure needs him anymore. The woman he loves has moved on, and the world apparently has learned to solve their problems without need of his help. But when it becomes apparent that the world still needs their Superman, Routh plays it with all the heroic appeal you could hope for.

Kevin Spacey makes for the most chilling Lex Luthor yet. Yes he incorporates humor into the role as Gene Hackman did, but with Spacey you always sense the menace underneath. It shows that Luthor never lost his gift for scheming, his obsession with world domination, and his hatred of Superman. His grand scheme in this movie incorporates all three at the same time. He also shows he has no fear of Superman. He plays his scenes with a "I know something that you don't" attitude. He's never a goof ball, and when he lays the smack down on Superman, it's chilling.

Kate Bosworth makes for a feisty Lois Lane, and holds her own well against the boys. She is no longer the schoolgirl with a crush that Margot Kidder was. She is a woman that gave her heart to a man she feels let her down. She tries to be understanding, but isn't going to let Superman off the hook so easy. She's tough, self sufficient, and a woman to be reckoned with.

James Marsden surprised me most of all. He finds himself in the middle of another Bryan Singer love triangle. But unlike his Cyclops role in X-Men, this time he's not a wimp. He's a good man, and truly does love Lois. When Superman is thrown into the mix, Marsden's Richard White could have easily gone down several roads of stereotypes. He doesn't become insanely jealous and spiteful of Superman. He doesn't become abusive to Lois. He resigns himself to the fact that Lois still has feelings for Superman. But he's not about to roll over and give up his place in her life. He remains a man, and when the moment calls for it, he does what a man MUST do when the people he loves are in danger. I was very impressed at the meal he made of this role.

Is the movie wall to wall action? No. But the lesson it teaches is that the biggest, most extravagant action scenes are meaningless, and far less exciting, if you don't care about the characters involved. It opens big with an INCREDIBLE rescue scene involving the space shuttle, and it's companion airplane. Then the movie lets us catch up with the characters. How they've evolved since the last movie. Why Superman left earth, how humanity moved on without him, and how Lois has learned to live with the hurt of losing him for so long. Then as we get into Lex Luthor's plan, the movie lets the epic size action rip. From Superman's rescue of a crumbling metropolis, to his confrontation with a Kryptonite wielding Lex Luthor. All great stuff that must be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. My only complaint about the movie is the ending. Much like the end of the last Lord Of The Rings movie, it drags and doesn't seem to know when to end. There is a major revelation during this time, but it could have been sped up a bit. The last 20 minutes could've been cut in half, and not have lost anything. The shots go on too long, and almost seem repetitive. That said, this is still a GREAT entertainment, and worthy entry into the Superman legacy. I was especially glad to be able to share this with my 9 year old son. I was his age when the original debuted in 1978, and to be with him for his first Superman movie on the big screen is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Superman: Brainiac Attacks

Action packed and funny.
Of course this movie was made to capitalize on the release of Superman Returns. What's wrong with that? I say...nothing. Brainiac Attacks is a fun and fast moving adventure story. The epic battles are truly fun to watch. The animation is the same as you see on the animated series, and on Justice League. Tim Daly returns as the voice of Clark/Superman, as does Dana Delany as Lois. Lance Henricksen takes on the role of Brainiac, and while he may not have the smooth coolness the character used to have, his gravelly voice is menacing nonetheless, and he does a great job. If I have one complaint about the movie, it's with Lex Luthor. He's not the same character he used to be. He's far more aloof, and even a bit of a clod. He's not as menacing, and seems to go for the joke too often. He does get a couple of good lines, however. During a huge battle with Brainiac, Superman ends up face to face with Lex who gives him a "Rootin' for ya, my man!". That was quite funny. But it's not Clancy Brown who reprises his role as Lex. Powers Boothe takes over, and while he's a good actor, he's not really right for Lex. He does a serviceable job, but it would have been MUCH better with Brown. So if you are a fan of the animated series, there is much to enjoy here. Unless of course, you can't get around the whole Lex thing. It's a good rent.

X-Men: The Last Stand

Exactly what I expected...and that ain't good.
I've never read any of the X-Men comics. Apparently fans of the comics are beside themselves because this movie does not follow something called the "Dark Phoenix" storyline. I guess it was something pretty amazing. My entire knowledge of the X-Men comes from the first two movies. Both of which, I loved. With that in mind, I can tell you that X3 basically craps on EVERYTHING established in the first two movies. Major characters from the first two are killed off in favor of new characters who, frankly...stink. Angel is a waste of film and adds nothing new to the movie. Beast talks. And talks. And talks. And at the end of the movie, he hits a few people. Thrilling. Kitty Pride can run through walls. OK. Honestly it was more interesting in X2 when she went through her bed to the floor below. Juggernaut makes the obligatory potty joke and runs though solid objects. None of this is at all interesting. We deal with 3 deaths (sort of) and a couple of other characters losing their mutant powers. One on accident, the other on purpose. So instead of building on that, it just happens and it's done. How about showing how they feel about no longer being mutants? Especially the one that is robbed of it's power. But no. We get A LOT of characters staring at each other. A LOT of Halle Berry making several "They can't cure us. There's nothing wrong with us." speeches. And does anyone know if Hugh Jackman was paid for every time he says "Jean" in this movie? If he was, he made a pretty good buck. I haven't heard a characters name so much since "Carol Anne" was screamed every 2 minutes in Poltergeist III. The movie is incredibly dull until about the last 20 minutes when the good and bad mutants finally have at it. They fight on Alcatraz, and for some reason Magneto feels the need to rip apart the Golden Gate Bridge with his powers, and re-position it so his army can march onto Alcatraz Island. I guess stealing a boat or two would've been too much trouble. It's the movie's signature fx moment, and it's utterly useless. What's really unforgivable with this movie is the way the characters are treated. Like I said, several are killed unceremoniously. Those that are left behind are treading water. The biggest sin of all is they've turned Wolverine into a WIMP!!!! If he's not wandering around like a lovesick puppy, hoping to save the newly reincarnated Jean Grey, he's dispensing fatherly advice to the young students at the mutant school. Sure they show him fighting, but there's no impact to it. It feels thrown in. And if there is any justice in Hollywood, someone will put out a recall for Halle Berry's Oscar. She's just terrible. I had a bad feeling about this movie ever since Bret Ratner was announced as director. He is a competent director, but not a talented one. He can connect the dots. That's it. He has no vision. He's only as good as the script he's handed. He can add nothing to it. Unfortunately for him, the script here is bland. It starts with a good idea (a mutant cure) but never goes anywhere with it. Some mutants want it, some don't, and the bad mutants are going stop humans from making more of it. Jean Grey returns, but really, she does nothing. She stand there, stares, and stuff flies apart. She's a robot. She kills for no reason. Even she doesn't seem to understand why half the time. A friend I saw it with tonight equated it with the first X-Men movie, but he's dead wrong. The original movie had character development, good action, and a vision. X2 is probably the finest superhero movie since Richard Donner's Superman. X3 is not a terrible movie. But it's PAINFULLY mediocre. It brings nothing new to the table. If you wait for video, you're not missing anything. Here's hoping that Bryan Singer's abandoning of the X-Men series in favor of Superman Returns proves worthwhile. I don't think I could handle 2 mediocre superhero movies in one summer.

Mission: Impossible III

The best Mission yet...but still lacking greatness
All of the Mission: Impossible movies have been entertaining in their own ways, but none of them has amounted to a great, MUST SEE movie. Brian DePalma's original was an overly intricate head scratcher that pretty much crapped upon everything the television series established. After all, taking the iconic hero of the series and making him the villain of the movie is about as insulting the source material as you can get. Nonetheless it contained two great scenes...Cruise's dangling theft of the secret list, and the final helicopter/train sequence at the end. John Woo's follow up was an overly stylish ballet that focused way too heavily on Woo's obsession with slow motion. A more straightforward plot got drawn out by Woo's "look how pretty my action sequences are" style of directing. Now J.J. Abrams takes his "Alias" show and replaces Jennifer Garner with Tom Cruise. The result is curious mix of "Alias", "James Bond", and "24". A lot of action, and plot that is as bare bones as you can get. In fact, the item that is the macguffin of this whole thing, something called "The Rabbit's Foot" is never even explained. It's basic good guy vs. bad guy with the item itself being insignificant. Tom Cruise is basically on auto-pilot here. In fact in this movie he's more "Tom Cruise" than "Ethan Hunt". With many close ups of Cruise's mug, his eyes shrink wrapped in tears, I kept waiting for him to jump on a couch and say how incredible Katie Holmes is. Is it a coincidence that his wife in the film is played by Michelle Monaghan, an actress that bears a striking resemblance to Katie? I think not. Ving Rhames returns in his thankless walk on role. Laurence Fishburne continues to pack on the pounds and gives another NyQuil induced performance, much like he was in the last two Matrix movies. Phillip Seymore Hoffman is the main bad guy, and while he chews the scenery well in a couple of scenes, never really comes off THAT menacing. One of the better performances in the movie is by the gorgeous Keri Russell. She makes a meal out of her role as Cruise's one time protégée, but unfortunately she isn't in the movie long enough. Another standout in the film is from "Shaun Of The Dead" star Simon Pegg, as the equivalent of Q from the Bond films. He's quick, funny, and instantly likable. There is more action this time around, but unfortunately, director Abrams doesn't believe in keeping the camera in the same space for more than two seconds. The camera NEVER stops moving. During some of the most intense action scenes in fact, the camera shakes so bad, you'd think it was sitting on top of a blender. Michael Bay's cameras don't move this much. But action there is. Gunfights-a-plenty, car chases, and a bridge attack that is thrilling, but unfortunately lifted almost directly from "True Lies", a far superior spy movie. Now with all this, I know it sounds like I hated the movie. I didn't. I, in fact, enjoyed this more than the first two Mission's. But it's just that there's nothing spectacular about them. The presence of Tom Cruise seems to make people think that there will be something here that hasn't been seen before. But we have seen it before. It's big, fast, loud, and by the numbers. And I think Tom Cruise's recent public meltdowns, and increasingly bizarre behavior will keep many people away. And those that do go, may realize that without his hype, Tom Cruise is just another actor, and M:I 3 is just another in one end, out the other action movie.

The Shining

Don't compare this to Kubrick's movie
I have seen both the Kubrick version, and this remake. I have read the original Stephen King novel. So which is better? In some ways it's impossible to say. As a horror movie, the Kubrick version is superior. As a story, and a character study, the remake is better. As a faithful adaptation of the novel, the remake is FAR better. So comparing the 2 is like apples and oranges. You want a flat out horror flick with a WAY over the top (as usual) performance by Jack Nicholson? Then watch Kubrick's version. You want to watch a seemingly normal family be torn apart not only by addictions but forces beyond their control? Watch the remake.

I have to say that I much prefer the remake, that was filmed largely at the Stanley Hotel, the hotel that inspired King to write the story in the first place. I've been to that very hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. It is widely known as one of the most haunted hotels in all of America, even having ghost tours on the weekends. Now obviously this is a much truer version of the book, since the screenplay was written by King himself. Jack Nicholson may be famous for "Here's Johnny", but he is not the Jack Torrance of the book. Nicholson's character was a borderline psychotic right from the get go. There was never anything normal about him, so his digression into a killer may be shocking to watch, but there's no depth to it. Steven Weber IS Jack Torrance. A devoted family man who is also, unfortunately, an alcoholic. He struggles with his addiction, and it's affects on him every day. He loves his wife and son completely, but is at a total loss of control when he falls prey to his demons. Shelly Duvall as Here is something from the Nicholson movie I cannot defend. I think she is a horrible actress, and her performance in the movie had me wishing that Kubrick would REALLY deviate from the story and kill her off. What a whiner. Rebecca DeMornay however, is tough, beautiful, and a great mother. She never surrenders to the evil forces and work, and cowers in a corner. She fights for herself, her son, and even her husband because she knows that what is happening to him is not his fault. Danny Boyle as the original Danny had some good "shock" looks, but he had the unfortunate duty of talking to his finger when he was communicating with "Tony". And talking the constipated "Tony" voice was not a very good idea. Courtland Meade as Danny gives a thoughtful and touching performance as the psychic little boy that just wants a normal life, and for his mom and dad to love him. If only he didn't have such a buck toothed mouth. Sometimes you wonder if he can close his mouth completely. But he gives a really good performance. The movie contains more than it's fair share of spooky moments, especially the lady in room 217. There's no BIG scares, and in the end, the villain (Jack) is more sympathetic because you know deep down he's a good man. So that may take a bit of the horror out for those expecting Nicholson. So I would say, that your enjoyment of the different versions of The Shining all depend on what you are looking for. If you are a King fan, I would say you'll get more out of this one. I have a good friend though, who is a HUGE King fan, but is also a HUGE Nicholson fan. Poor girl's torn. She loves the Kubrick version, and Nicholson's performance. But she appreciates the loyalty that this version has for the book. Right down to when Torrance yells that "Sorry is for people who aren't of managerial timbre!". When we watched this she yelled "YES! HE said it!" Obviously that was something else missed in Kubrick's version. Stanley Kubrick's version is scarier. No doubt about that. But director Mick Garris' remake is a better adaptation of the book, and a better movie overall.

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Better than the original!
Ever since Hollywood fully adopted computer animated family films, there has been a great variance in quality. Some have been have great, and others aren't worth the film they are printed on. Pixar continues to set the bar with movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. A lot of people complain that no other movies of this genre are on par with Pixar. So what? Does that mean they are all bad movies? Not at all. If Finding Nemo is the gold standard, then Ice Age is the silver. The animation is beautiful, the characters are funny and engaging, the story is fast paced and moving, and most of all it deserves another follow up. The story centers around Manny the Mammoth, Syd the Sloth, and Diego the Sabretooth Tiger, making their way out of the great valley before the quickly thawing landscape floods the land. Along the way they meet two possums, and a female Mammoth named Ellie that thinks she is a possum. (Don't'll find out) They join several other species as they make their way to "the boat" that will carry them to safety when the great flood comes. They are also trying to stay ahead of two fierce sea monsters that have already been thawed from their icy prison. Also back is Scrat the Squirrel who continues in his hunt for his beloved acorn. Will our heroes reach their destination? Will Manny and Ellie find love? Will Scrat ever been reunited with his prize acorn? Will Diego conquer his fear of water? Will Syd ever find respect? Most importantly...will you and your family enjoy this movie? Of course you will! This is an excellent family film that mixes humor for both kids and adults. Some of the very young children my be a little frightened during the sea monster attacks, but it will by no means induce nightmares. The characters are still incredibly lovable, and the movie is very good at teaching the strength of family and togetherness. It's better than the first movie on all counts. My personal favorite scene has to do with Scrat vs. a school of hungry piranhas. When Scrat falls in the water, the piranhas snatch his acorn. Let's just say he does not take it well. This ranks high above other recent CG animated movies like Madagascar and Doogle. Personally I like the Ice Age films better than the two Shrek movies which I find HIGHLY overrated. Both my kids and I hope there will be an Ice Age 3. Is there any higher praise?


Classic summer camp movie from Disney
It's really too bad that summer camps aren't as prevalent in today's society as they used to be. It was a way for kids to get away for a few months every summer. It was a chance to be on your own (away from parents anyway), visit a place that you would otherwise never see, have what may be the most important experiences of your childhood, and make friends that you would truly never forget. Kids just do not get that today. The only way they can really experience the magic of summer camp is in the movies. Unfortunately there are not many movies that really show that experience. Meatballs (1979, with Bill Murray) may very well be the best example, and Indian Summer (1996) shows how those friendships last when a group of 30 year old former campers reunite at the summer camp of their youth. But here with Heavyweights, we have another great, if not to realistic portrayal of the summer camp experience. Camp Hope is a camp that caters strictly to fat kids. It's where they go to lose weight, and make friends with other kids that may also be considered outcasts back home because of their weight. But in fat camp, all kids are equal. At least until the kind owners of the camp, The Pushkins, are forced to sell the camp to a villainous fitness guru wannabe, played with demonic zeal by Ben Stiller. It is, in fact, a performance Stiller would virtually copy for the movie Dodgeball. He attempts to force the kids to lose weight through, shall we say, questionable methods in order to create a weight loss infomercial. But the kids, rebel, take over the camp, and have summer their way. There are many classic moments, such as the kids "downloading" their stash of candies and snacks in various hiding places, Ben Stiller's interrogation of kids that are actually gaining weight, a competition with the jocks from Camp MVP across the lake, and many more. There's also scenes showing that the kids can be anything they want if they just apply themselves. Such as a dance with the girls from across the lake. At first everyone just stands around. But when the boys start dancing, the girls join in, and success is in the air, until Stiller shows up to degrade the boys again. Sure this movie is by the numbers, but it's a fun ride, with great characters, beautiful scenery, and a villain who couldn't be more over the top. Epitomized by the scene where Stiller somersaults from a second story window, hits the floor, quietly says to himself "Ouch", and whips his head into a full villain "Nobody's gonna stop me" speech. Great family movie.

Eight Below

An exciting and moving tale of survival
This is an amazing story of survival for members of man's best friend. Set in 1993 at an Antarctic American research facility, the story begins when the facilities expedition guide (Paul Walker) and his team of sled dogs is recruited by a scientist seeking out proof of a fallen meteorite. When the scientist is severely injured, the team gets him back to the research station, saving his life. A major storm blows in, and that coupled with the human injury, forces the researchers to evacuate quickly, leaving the dogs behind due to lack of space on the plane. The rest of the movie is told in two parts. One being Walker's quest to find a way back to his dogs, even though he knows he may not find them alive. He simply has to know. The dogs are his family and his love and he believes he owes them every effort to save them. The other part of the film follows the dogs across the frozen tundra in their quest to survive. They hunt, play, fend off an attack by a leopard seal, and stick together in a remarkably structured group. But their situation is not without tragedy, and if you take kids to the movie, be prepared to explain to them what is happening.

SPOILER WARNING...2 of the dogs do not survive. But it is not shown in a violent or gratuitous way. It's simply nature, and I give the filmmakers credit for not making this a fantasy where all's well that ends well. They add a touch of realism, and the movie is all the better for it. END SPOILER...

For the record, I brought my 6 year old daughter and 9 year old son, and they LOVED the movie. It is and exciting, tension filled adventure with an ending guaranteed to make the animal lover (even grown men) cry like a baby! If you cry easy, I recommend you bring a BOX of tissue. Odds are it will be empty at the end. I highly recommend Eight Below, and if you enjoy this type of movie I also recommend Disney's White Fang and Iron Will. All of them are visually stunning wilderness adventures.


Subpar CG animation + Top notch writing = GREAT movie
People have gotten spoiled on computer animation. If it isn't revolutionary, too many people think it's not worthwhile. Hoodwinked is proof that you can't judge a book by it's cover. True, the animation is nowhere near the level of any Pixar movie. But the animation is not the story, the story is the story. This movie had me and my kids rolling. Particularly great is the "Fletch"-like segment featuring the Wolf and his partner Twitchy. That whole sequence contains some of the best laughs I've had at the movies in a LONG time. The movie is told in segments, as each character tells their side of the story. So while you may think the story keeps getting retold, you're actually seeing each character's part in the whole story, and will notice throughout how each story fills in the blanks. It's fast, it's fun, and it's definitely better than things like Chicken Little, Robots, and even Shrek. I just read that Hoodwinked 2 is in the works. I can't wait.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter And The Movie Of Boredom
I've never read the books, and they may very well stimulate the imaginations of children all over the world. That's commendable. BUT as a movie series, these movies have been mediocre at best. This latest movie, Goblet Of Fire, is the worst yet. It's slow paced, the characters are either not interesting or completely annoying, and the movie is so dark that it's impossible to see things sometime. The biggest problem I have is not with the film itself, but with the actors' thick accents, quick speech patterns, and tendency to whisper, it's impossible to understand what they are saying half the time. The movie does have some noteworthy sequences though. Harry's face off with a dragon is very exciting. An underwater rescue is also very good, with some amazing special effects. A sequence involving a huge hedge maze that makes the maze in the Shining look like child's play, is exciting, but possibly way too scary and violent for young kids. It's rated PG-13 for a reason. I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but I gave the movie a chance because my kids wanted to see it, and I was very interested in seeing the Superman Returns preview they were going to show before the movie (and that looks INCREDIBLE). But neither I nor my children were at all impressed. For our money....ZATHURA was FAR superior. Stick to the books kids, I'm sure they are far better than this drivel.

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

The best family movie since The Incredibles
After starring in three classic short films, Wallace & Gromit finally make the leap to the big screen. It may have taken 5 years to make the film, but it was worth every second of the wait. The film appeals to everyone, and even though it's rated G, anyone with a love for great movies will find much to appreciate. What the movie proves is you don't need state of the art computer effects to dazzle. What is most important to ANY movie is story and character. There have been so many movies made in the family arena that skate by on computer animation, but have no story to tell. Many are so obsessed with pop culture, that it goes over young kids heads, and will not play to future generations because they will not understand the references. But Wallace & Gromit have a story to tell. And in my opinion it's all the more dazzling because it IS done with claymation. It shows far more creativity and devotion to the movie. But unlike so many "family" films, the visuals don't tell the story. The characters do. You can't help but love these characters the INSTANT they come on screen. But the movie is also filled with great jokes, exciting chases, and even a little scare or two. Not to fear parents, they won't bother kids. I have two small kids, and we see many family films. But it's not every time that they enjoy the movies so thoroughly. My 6 year old little girl drove it home when I asked her if she liked it. She said "I LOVED IT!!". Even before we were out of the theater she asked if we could buy it when it comes on video. One extra bonus...before the movie we are treated to a short film featuring the penguins from Madagascar. The funny thing is...Madagascar is one of those lackluster family movies I mentioned. The short film, however, is great. Very funny and entertaining. I hope that this movie makes BOATLOADS of money to show Hollywood that computers and effects do not make a movie great. It all begins and ends with characters. And as Roger Ebert put it, "Wallace & Gromit are in a class by themselves." Amen, brother!

Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation

A scary twist on the original
As the filmmakers themselves said, if the original was a WWII satire, then this is a haunted house movie. Faced with a limited budget, the aim here was to create a claustrophobic horror movie. It still has the human vs. bug battle scenes, and it introduces a new bug to add to the chaos. It's a fact that in low budget movies, it's an easy trick to use actors as villains instead of monsters. So this movie has an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" element to it. The movie plays it very straight, and doesn't have much of the "gung-ho" feel of the original. But that's a good thing. They didn't try to REPEAT the original movie. They came up with a fresh idea, and ran with it. The result is a taut, exciting, and sometimes scary ride. Director, and fx legend Phil Tippett keeps things tight and confined. He creates a very isolated feel to the movie that always has you looking beyond the characters in the foreground to see what or who might be coming up behind them. Most of the actors are very good, and the ones that aren't die quickly. LOL. A strange piece of casting is Brenda Strong who played the starship captain in the original. She's playing a different character here, but the filmmakers (in their commentary track) never really explain why they cast her. If they did, I missed it. Richard Burgi is excellent as the battle weary Captain Dax. The character was originally supposed to be Sgt. Zim from the first movie, but actor Clancy Brown was unavailable. But Burgi is great here. He's the solid center to the other characters, most of whom are coming apart for one reason or another. Fans of the show Nip/Tuck (the men anyway) will be overjoyed to see the insanely beautiful Kelly Carlson here. Her character plays the sexed-up Pvt. Soda, and she appears completely in the nude not once but TWICE!!! Proof that God hates blind people. LOL. The limited budget doesn't show in the special effects. While far more limited from the original, they play well here. The Arachnids are still menacing, and the new bugs are great for giving you the creepy crawlies. And not to disappoint the gore fans, the blood flows freely here. Never let it be said that they don't come up with new ways to rip the human form to shreds. So if you like the original, or a good haunted house flick, or just want to see Kelly Carlson with NO CLOTHES ON...this is the one for you.

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