erostew

IMDb member since November 2005
    Lifetime Total
    25+
    IMDb Member
    13 years

Reviews

Bushwick
(2017)

Sadly Failed Effort
I really wanted to like this movie. I watched it all the way through hoping it would get better. It didn't.

It wasn't all bad. In fact there were even some brief flashes of brilliance. But not near enough to make this movie come together as a worthwhile story. In fact the story is what stands head and shoulders above the other problems as the real culprit of a failed effort. I kind of doubted that there was even a script at times.

The whole idea is basically "Texas" wants to secede from the Union so they decide to hold New York hostage so that the US Congress will let them go. But here's the thing: It isn't exactly Texas. The soldier that gets interrogated to provide the info says he is from Kentucky. He also lists 6 or 7 states that are "with us". Strangely none of the states he lists is Kentucky! And then he is supposed to be a mercenary. But claims he was just following orders. And the reason that these guys dressed like SWAT teams are shooting everyone on sight is because Bushwick has so many guns and people are fighting back. And well that just shouldn't have happened because "guns are illegal here". So they got orders to shoot to kill. And apparently they are just invading this one neighbourhood in New York.

That pile of crap is what you get from the one short scene that is supposed to explain what is happening. And of course it contradicts an earlier scene in the movie that says that they also "invaded" Washington, Chicago and a few other cities. Not to mention a scene of most of New York in flames. On the other hand the character that informed us of the invasion of those cities apparently forgot that as soon as he said it because he was the one that was interrogating the "mercenary" to find out what was going on. It's glaringly obvious that there were rewrites and changes with a complete lack of effort at continuity. I could go on and on about the gaping plot holes but it's basically all hole and no plot.

The acting isn't the worst that I have seen. Nothing great but then the actor's didn't have anything to work with so it's not really fair to judge them too harshly.

Special effects you ask? Well don't go expecting a bunch of impressive CGI effects because there aren't any. What there is, is mainly some plumes of smoke and some flames. Non-CGI effects included some quite decent pyrotechnics work that worked pretty well. Most of the explosions and such are actually off screen. Basically a loud boom, camera shake and maybe the lights flicker. And there were some helicopters.

The camera work was decent. Quite competent and at times even impressive. There were a lot of scenes that went for quite a while without a cut and it seemed that most if not all of the movie was shot with one hand-held camera. With a better story to tell it could have been very effective.

The sound was not great. Dialogue wasn't always clear. It was often hard to tell if the bangs were guns or explosions or what. In fact it seemed like they used the exact same explosion effect about 80% of the time. The music was pretty awful and in many cases just did not go with what was on screen.

Direction? What direction? The movie basically looks like the directors gave some very basic instruction and then went and smoked weed in the corner. Many of the scenes end up being very flat and one- dimensional. Probably because the actors are putting most of their attention into where they are going physically in the extended and sometimes complex scenes.

The concept I think was pretty good. If they had pulled it off it would have been a very realistic real-time thrill-ride. But they did NOT pull it off. It appears that they tried to fix things by shooting a new ending or something. The last 5 minutes are jarringly different in look from the rest of the movie and the ending fails on many levels. I won't get into that.

So: Might be worth a look if you are bored and non-judgmental. If you are more of a stickler for a coherent and logical story you will hate it. A lot. My honest recommendation would be to watch the trailer and then NOT watch the movie. That way you might get a little enjoyment and you will miss the aggravation and disappointment.

Last Day of School
(2016)

Just Stay Away From This Movie!
I actually like a lot of Troma films. Low budget comedy isn't always a bad thing but it does have to have at least a sense of humour and some decent casting. This film has neither.

Unfunny script and no-talent actors in their 30s playing college kids is a recipe for a disaster and that certainly holds true for this "movie". Add the total lack of meaningful production values and you have a steaming pile of crap trying to be the next Van Wilder.

They spent about $5 on the opening titles--all 20 seconds of them-- and maybe $7.50 on the score. The background music is so horrible that I almost turned the movie off after the first 30 seconds. Most amateur efforts on YouTube have better music.

Then there is the setting. A dorm room (I guess) with a couple of thirty something college kids eating what is supposed to be a high class meal. There's a chocolate cake and some cheap looking wine on the table. The movie is supposed to be in Las Vegas so they segue to some stock footage of a fountain that I guess is the Bellagio and then you see some guys talking on a generic looking street.

After that I just quit watching. I didn't laugh and in fact I didn't even crack a smile during what was probably less than 10 minutes. But it felt like a couple of hours of torture. I didn't even manage to stick around to see Lloyd Kaufman who I usually enjoy. It just wasn't worth it.

So you can discount my review and hope that it gets better after I quit watching but I really strongly doubt it.

Avoid at all costs unless you have a relative in this movie. That's probably the reason that the rating is 6 point something. There are only about 250 ratings at the time I write this so I'm certain that most of those ratings came from cast, crew and relatives!

Merrill's Marauders
(1962)

B-Movie Gold
This probably was not Sam Fuller's lowest budget movie. In fact, if the information here on IMDb is correct, it had a fairly decent budget. But I suspect that makes no difference at all to his style or the movie that he made. There is no CGI, no jump cuts and no shaky-cam. He got his actors to act and made effective use of pyrotechnics and extras to put realistic and horrifying battle on film.

I am not a prolific reviewer, in fact I probably average 2 or 3 reviews a year. That's because I normally only bother when a movie makes me feel something (or it really makes me mad). It might be laughter or it might be horror but to me a worthwhile movie has to make you react. And this movie certainly does that.

The story is worth telling but like most of Fuller's work the focus is really on the people and not on glory. The acting is superb and supremely believable. The actors in this movie aren't really known for award quality work but they really impress here. Samuel Fuller ignores the usual formulaic tropes and tells the story his way. There's an unneeded intro and a bombastic outro that I suspect were added by the studio but it starts where it starts and ends where it ends. No attempts to make a neat little package.

The story is gripping and Fuller makes you feel like you have a personal interest in the outcome. His writing is top notch and tight with no filler. There is no obligatory love interest in this movie and no cheesy flashbacks either. It's relentless and often grim but always effective. I'm not a historian but I feel that it captures the essence of the real life battles.

His direction is masterful. From the claustrophobic to the panoramic he makes the land itself an important character in the film. And he gets amazingly good performances from his actors. You can feel their pain and exhaustion.

Jeff Chandler is more believable than in any other role that I can think of him playing. Most people have likely forgotten that he was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Cochise in Broken Arrow. That was over-shadowed by the the fact that most of his roles were in B and C-grade pictures. Personally I would rate most of his work as competent but not impressive. However I was very impressed by his portrayal of General Merrill. Sadly this was his last film. He died of complications from back surgery before it was released.

One other stand out was Claude Akins. A very competent character actor who really shines in his role as Sergeant Kolowicz. There is a scene with him and a young native boy and an old woman that blew me away. Not a word of dialogue but he makes you feel his pain and it made me tear up in sympathy.

The only bad part about this movie is the knowledge that we will never see it's like again. Give one of today's hotshot directors 500 times the budget and he will probably spend 200 million on CGI that will be impressive as heck but won't really make you feel anything at a visceral level. I suspect that it's a difference in life experience. Sam Fuller and most of the actors in this movie actually lived and fought through the Second World War.

Trailer Park Boys: Don't Legalize It
(2014)

Kind of Tired but Funny at Times
**Spoilers are pretty minor in nature and don't mention the ending.

Apparently this was Mike Clattenburg's last visit to the Trailer Park. I don't know exactly what went on behind the scenes but the 3 main characters apparently bought out Clattenburg and Barrie Dunn and will be in control from Season 8 forwards. And that's probably a good thing because Clattenburg and Dunn made a bit of a mess of this movie.

The camaraderie from the previous efforts is not much in evidence and some of it just seems plain mean spirited. The boys aren't getting along and Bubbles is in pretty rough shape. There is no way that the old Ricky and Julian would let Bubbles be reduced to living under J-Roc's deck.

On top of that it isn't even set in a "trailer park"! The supposed park is new and clean with a bunch of new and clean looking "manufactured homes". It's like they spent no time at all making things look right. At least Rick still had his New Yorker.

Overall there were some funny scenes; John Dunsworth and Robb Wells and Mike Smith did their usual great job. For some bizarre reason Pat Roach was given a Justin Bieber hairstyle that just wasn't funny and rode around on a Segway. And John Paul Tremblay didn't seem like he could really get into his role. I suspect he might have been less than happy with being made into the Merchant of P*ss. Maybe he did something to get Mike Clattenburg and Barrie Dunn particularly angry with him.

I think the actors did their best but the writing just wasn't up to snuff. It almost feels like Clattenburg and Dunn were doing their best to torpedo any future for the Boys. Luckily the strength of the series has always been the characters and their respective actors. So it's worth watching for fans but if you aren't a fan don't bother. Luckily I found TPB Season 8 to be a lot better than this movie and it looks a lot more like the series used to be than this movie.

Swearnet: The Movie
(2014)

Funny as *u**
Even though this is NOT a Trailer Park Boys movie it IS a Trailer Park Boys movie. The 3 stars of the cult favourite TV series and many of the supporting cast members play "themselves" in this movie about setting up their own TV network so that they won't have to put up with any more censorship. Apparently they REALLY like swearing!

The boys kind of play the same characters that they do in the TPB series but with some differences. For instance "Mike Smith" is a violent, drug and booze fuelled party monster. Pretty much the polar opposite to Bubbles. John Dunsworth shows absolutely nothing of Jim Lahey. Pat Roach is a real hoot as Swearman although "Dickman" might be a more accurate name. He has a pretty good sized role in this and does a good job. Tom Green and Carrot Top are kind of blah in their parts. Tom has an obsession with handing out key-chains and Carrot Top kind of reminds me of the late Joan Rivers in a Ronald McDonald wig. Insert bad plastic surgery joke here.

Over all a darn good movie. It isn't going to win an Oscar but then have you actually watched some of the crap that HAS won an Oscar? If dick jokes, weed, booze and F-bombs turn you off then turn this off. Likewise if you hate the Trailer Park Boys you will hate this. If you like the TPBs then you will like this.

I give it a solid 8 out of 10

Maps to the Stars
(2014)

Some Great Acting
Okay, let me say this right now: I don't think this movie is about neurotic society or Hollywood narcissism or anything else in that vein. Of course I can't say what the writer and director were intending. Perhaps it was actually meant to be about those things. But it's really a story about some weird damn people living weird damn lives. A sort of freak show I suppose you could say. David Cronenberg has always liked strange tales so it isn't surprising that he is the director.

There's some really good acting in this. Mia Wasikowska does a phenomenal job and John Cusack is brilliant. His character oozes a kind of malevolent charm and you can see the rage that is barely held in check. I've always liked John Cusack but I was honestly surprised that he could act this well. Kiara Glasco and Sarah Gadon both turned in solidly good performances. I'm not a Robert Pattinson fan at all and I didn't see anything in this movie to make me change my mind. He wasn't bad but there are probably thousands of actors that could have done as good or better in his role. Julianne Moore proves that her talents have not faded with her looks (Not that I'm saying she isn't still beautiful). She gives a great performance as the sad and vulnerable fading actress. I have to admit that I actually watched As The World Turns back in the 80s just because she was in it. I was unemployed and sitting at home flipping through the channels when I just happened to catch her in that soap and I've been a fan ever since. The only performance I really couldn't stand was Evan Bird as Benji Weiss. I hated his character in the Killing and that has probably coloured my judgement when it comes to his performance here.

David Cronenberg does a good job of keeping things moving and the script is pretty solid. I didn't have any of the WTF? moments that I have had with so many recent movies. Certainly this film deserves a better score than the 6.3 it currently has. I suspect that some of the low rating is due to the scene with the penis and the taboo secret behind the Weiss marriage. A major plus for me is that I actually watched the whole movie at one sitting. I haven't done much of that lately. At all.

Over all a very very good movie with great acting and some of the Cronenberg weirdness. 9 out of 10.

Dead Within
(2014)

I really wanted to like this but...
I ended up hating it.

I saw the low ratings and decided to give it a shot anyway. It's the kind of movie that has the potential to give us situational horror instead of just another gore-fest. I like character driven movies if they can deliver compelling characters and an interesting story. Sadly Dead Within just doesn't deliver. On any front.

As another reviewer mentions: It isn't a Zombie flick. He's right. It is the result of somebody having the idea to make a Zombie movie but not having any real cash to spend. Basically: "We can't afford the costs of having a horde of Zombies in our movie so we will basically shoot most of it in one small set with only 2 actors, and the story will be about the people trying to survive and not about the Zombies."

Unfortunately the creators of this micro-budgeted waste of time make the same mistakes as so many other low-budget filmmakers: They seem to have hired actors because they would work cheap instead of hiring them because they can act.

I don't want to mislead you into thinking that the acting is the only bad component of this movie though. The direction and editing are lousy too. Camera-work is not terrible but it certainly doesn't add anything to the viewing experience. It's shaky and hand-held low-budget stuff. The writing, if you can call it that is unoriginal and tells a disjointed story with way too many flashbacks. The ending is pretty much NOT a surprise. Despite having four credited writers, two of them being the lead actors, it feels mostly improvised. There isn't much in the way of special effects and what there is is pretty amateur. The "Zombies" are basically people with black contacts. Those contacts, some gauze and some black "blood" that looks like used motor oil are the majority of the makeup effects.

The only bright light in the whole sorry effort is the sound. It SOUNDS creepy.

2 out of 10

The Last Ship
(2014)

Unoriginal and Stupid
Poorly done piece of "seen it before" that fails to bring anything new or interesting to the table. Would have been better as a TV movie than as a series.

This show is very poorly written with no discernible attempt at realism. The acting is pretty bad though the actors really don't have much to work with. The dialogue is soap opera melodrama with a touch of gung ho rah rah.

The budget was apparently spent entirely on the set with all of the blinking lights and stuff. This of course left no money for decent effects or even makeup. Their idea of 50 below zero Arctic conditions is to have some weird crystals on the cheeks of the actors that are probably meant to resemble frostbite.

The so-called Russian helicopters that pop up in the middle of the Arctic, far away from any ship or base, are pathetic. The only non-CG helicopter is a plain old civilian helicopter painted black with some dumb looking fibreglass panels stuck on it. They fire off a crapload of missiles and bullets and manage to hit exactly one person and it's apparently a flesh wound. Then there are the Russian commandos: They jump out of the chopper when it's 30 or 40 feet in the air and are promptly killed by the brave defenders.

And speaking of the defenders: There were two scientists and two guards and with fancy snowmobiles. Then all of a sudden there are 6 or 8 defenders. With a guard dog. The defenders are some sort of naval unit but they have a dog. On a ship. In the US Navy. Yeah I'm sure that happens all the time. And they were taken to and from the ice/island/whatever it was supposed to be in a helicopter. One helicopter for all of those people and snowmobiles? And that's just the first few minutes! Unfortunately things did NOT improve.

The really sad thing is that this isn't even the worst thing I've seen on TV. The basic premise at least seems interesting. Poor execution pretty much kills it though.

The Canyons
(2013)

Surprisingly Un-Sexy
This film suffers heavily from a distinct lack of sexiness and way too much boring dialogue. And that is just the beginning of the problems. You really know a film is bad when Lindsay Lohan is the only bright light in it!

The Acting: Lindsay Lohan does quite a good job in a couple of scenes involving emotion, though she is much less effective in the (too abundant) dialogue heavy scenes. James Deen shows a few flashes of talent but mainly seems as if he is trying to emulate a method actor with no real understanding of how to actually pull it off. The other "performances" are uniformly bad to less-bad.

The Writing: One word... Awful. Boring dialogue and unbelievable story. Poor ending. I think Bret Easton Ellis is a one-trick pony. He has never managed to equal what he achieved with American Psycho.

The Directing: Same word as above... Awful. Paul Schraeder really should sink back into obscurity. This project is definitely not going to help his career. Poor choice of camera angles and poor framing abounds. He shows no sign of his earlier talents. I think he is lost in his own imagined "genius" as he tries for a gritty realism and gets ugly pretentiousness.

Camera, Lighting, etc.: Poor lighting in almost every indoor scene. It looks like it was shot on a smart phone. The music is irritating. Wardrobe... What wardrobe? It looks like the actors supplied the clothes they wanted to wear. There is no costume design or set design in evidence here.

Sexiness: Basically there is none. Lindsay Lohan looks pretty sad with her prominent beer belly, sagging breasts and 1960s style lingerie. Control-top granny panties are not lust-inducing! The sex scenes are boring and much less spicy than the hype suggested. The "orgy" was so badly filmed it and lit that it was impossible to find it sexy or even interesting. Women or those with a gay interest may find it more sexually appealing but I don't find dangling limp penises to be anything but silly looking. The entertainment media painted this as shockingly graphic but it is pretty tame compared to cable shows like True Blood if you discount the number of penises on view.

In Conclusion: Not really worth a look even if you just want to see Lindsay Lohan in the buff. There was more of her on view in Playboy and her body looked at least a bit better in the magazine. If you are looking for titillating sex scenes you would be better off with Skinemax. If you want to see a dramatic expose of Hollywood's dark underbelly look elsewhere. In fact just look elsewhere. Period.

The Numbers Station
(2013)

Better than the numbers indicate
I won't try and stretch your credulity by saying this is a must see movie. You could give it a miss and your life will be just the same as if you saw it. However... It really isn't a bad little flick if you can get past the misleading posters, etc. They say "Action Movie" and the reality is that it is a character piece. A definite case of poor marketing.

John Cusack plays a burnt out CIA black ops guy that is assigned to watch over Malin Akerman after screwing up a job. The movie is more about him confronting his demons than about fighting off some nameless terrorist types. He does a decent and believable job.

Malin Akerman's character is somewhat under-developed. Her acting wasn't terrible, I just think the role could have been better written. I just couldn't seem to care all that much about whether she lived through it.

The one really jarring note was the location. It is supposed to be a remote secret base, but they used one of the many former air bases scattered through England as the setting. The thing is none of those bases are all that remote and it is a large complex with bunkers and electric gates and crap like that which kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. They would have done better to set it on an island off Scotland or something.

Over all it was worth seeing but it's better to rent than to buy.

Boris and Natasha
(1992)

Dave Thomas is Great in This
I'm not sure if this movie made it into theatres or not. If I remember correctly it had a short run in Canadian theatres but I could be wrong.

The movie is the kind of screwball comedy in which Dave Thomas excels. He gives a great performance and really hams it up. I have been a big fan of his since the very earliest days of SCTV when it was still shot in Edmonton. There are a couple of other SCTV alumni in this movie also. Both Andrea Martin and John Candy spice things up a bit.

The only slightly sour note is the casting of Sally Kellerman as Natasha. She does her usual quirky and funny job of acting and by no means did a bad job. However at the time this move was made she was into her 50s and 10 or 12 years older than Dave Thomas. So, even though they work well together, their chemistry could have been a bit better. No doubt she was cast because they needed a known name to go with Dave Thomas who was not known as a lead actor, and for that matter still isn't usually a lead.

So in summary: If you get a chance to see this on Netflix or see the DVD on sale somewhere don't hesitate to watch it.

Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers
(2011)

Badly Botched Effort
I'm probably in the minority here but I found this film to be a steaming pile of "could have". It could have been better, it could have used a bigger budget, it could have used a better director and better actors. And most of all it could have used a better cinematographer.

From the very start of the film it's pretty obvious that this is an extremely low budget effort for the extremely ambitious story they are trying to tell. And unfortunately this just is NOT done well. I've seen lo-budget war pictures before that ended up being extremely effective. In the main they used a fairly limited number of sets and actors and tried to tell "smaller" stories. Pathfinders is an attempt to tell a very large story on a shoestring.

The opening of the movie has a woman singing a song that sounds nothing like a period piece. The wardrobe is just barely up from Halloween costume quality. And the acting is stiff and phony. And it doesn't get any better. Hiring a bunch of amateur hour actors so that you can spend most of your limited budget trying (unsuccessfully) to make your film look authentic is a bad bad idea.

Another irritating thing is the very initial premise of the movie. The use of Pathfinders before the D-Day invasion has been a secret for 60 years. HUH??? Secret from who for crying out loud? Anyone with even a passing interest in WW2 history knows that. It may well be true that nobody made a movie about just that exact facet of D-Day before but it sure as hell hasn't been a secret for 60 years. Pathfinders are at least mentioned in several films, including The Longest Day.

Despite all of the shortcomings of the film, my biggest gripe is with the camera work. Why the heck are there so many needless closeups? Are they trying to hide the shoddy quality of the sets and wardrobe? Honestly this is not the worst film I've ever seen. If it was just a low budget effort with some shortcomings I'd probably give it a 5 or 6 out of 10 rating. BUT it's a movie that never should have been made for this kind of budget! There are some things you just cannot pull off successfully without money. And the people behind this film would have done a lot better if they had tried to work within budget limitations. Ignoring the small budget and trying to do it anyway is just a case of stupidity and arrogance.

3 out of 10.

Sweet Movie
(1974)

I just can't decide - Brilliant or Crap.
I gave this movie a 6 out of 10. Not because I'm sure that it merits that score but because I'm not sure that it doesn't. Then I decided not to score it at all. I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either. So "no score" wins for now.

Be forewarned that there are some very disturbing scenes. This is a movie that would never be made today because of some of the pedophilic imagery. And I admit to having a weak enough stomache that I had to fast-forward through some of the scenes involving feces, urine and vomit.

If you can get past that I am quite sure that there is a message in there somewhere. Except when I think it's a piece of crap, that is. The trouble is that I can almost get what it's saying but I can't quite make the leap. Possibly it would have been easier to understand closer to the time it was filmed.

I am pretty sure that it is a simultaneous indictment of both the former Eastern Bloc and the West. You can feel the filmmaker's hatred of the Soviet system and his disappointment with the West. Or not. Maybe I have that completely wrong! It comes down to one basic fact. It left me thinking.

I didn't really like it and I don't think I entirely respect it either. Nonetheless I came away from this cinematic enigma with something. I just don't know if that something is worth having :) However I don't regret the time I spent watching it.

My advice is just to watch it for yourself. The reviewers that call it "brilliant" are probably just poor self-deluded victims of their own pretensions. The ones that call it crap or garbage are probably at least honest about their feelings but they likely didn't even try to understand. Make up your own mind.

Baiohazâdo: Dijenerêshon
(2008)

Nothing More Than a Video Game Cut-scene
If you are a big fan of the Resident Evil video game franchise you'll probably love this. If you are a fan of the live action movies (like me) you'll probably hate it.

This movie bears no relation at all to the movies. The only thing it has in common are some names. Plenty of reviewers have made much of the fact that this movie has more in common with the games than the live-action films do. Well that's only a plus if you have actually played the games and enjoyed them. Fans of the movies will be at a loss trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

As far as the animation goes: See the title of this comment. It is indeed nothing more than a very extended video game cut-scene. Granted it looks as good as if that cut-scene was played back on the biggest and fastest game system available but that still puts it on a level below many other 3D animated films. Lip sync is non-existent so it's like watching a foreign movie dubbed into English. Which is exactly what this is. Facial expressions often do not match the emotion of the voice actor's performance. It's quite disconcerting to see a calm face when the voice is full of panic. In short: It's very good from a video game standpoint but sub par from a film standpoint.

Voice actors: Purely second string talent here. There's probably nobody that you ever heard of before. They aren't bad but they really don't do anything exceptionally well. Say what you want about Milla Jovovitch, but at least she can create a memorable performance.

Characterizations: Quite sub par. All the cliché characters that are present in most games and films of this genre. There is no character development.

Music and Sound: Both are at standard video game level and don't add much to a film experience.

Conclusion: Only for fans of the game and those who just love any kind of zombie flick. If you are an action movie fan: This film fails on several levels. Mostly because an action film needs realistic action. If you are a horror movie fan: Well it's just not scary. If you are an animation fan: You might enjoy it.

This movie lacks a "Wow factor" that would make it's shortcomings less important.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
(2008)

Truly Pointless
I went into this with pretty low expectations and I was still disappointed. It liberally steals from other, better, movies like the Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's like they put a bunch of scenes from successful "family adventure" movies in a hat and then made the movie with whatever came out of the hat.

This "film" has zero to do with the book or the original film. It has lacklustre special effects, terrible direction, poor acting and an incoherent script. You can tell that the director, Eric Brevig, is a special effects supervisor by trade. He seems to have very little idea of how to direct actual living people, and it shows. Surprisingly, for a movie directed by a special effects guy, the special effects are quite bad. Maybe it was better in 3-D. Without the 3-D it's a gimmick movie with a missing gimmick. Truly pointless.

The one small bright point is Anita Briem. Not that she's a great actress or anything. But she doesn't stink too badly and she looks great and has a sexy accent.

If you have kids you can throw in the DVD sometime and leave them alone to watch it. They might actually enjoy it.

Takeshis'
(2005)

Fascinating and Puzzling
I don't think it's even possible to understand this movie if you aren't Japanese. And I'm not even sure most Japanese fans will really understand it. I can see elements of other Beat Takeshi films from Battle Royale to Zatoichi. And I'm sure that there are tons of references that I just don't recognize. But that's perfectly okay.

If you think of this film as music for your eyes and don't worry about understanding it, it's very enjoyable. You could also say that it's meant to be looked at instead of 'watched', like a moving painting. It isn't necessary to understand every tiny piece to enjoy the whole. But don't let that scare you away. This isn't artsy fartsy crap. There are boobs and guns and yakuzas to keep it interesting.

Of course I'm sure that many who consider themselves knowledgeable about Japanese cinema and Beat Takeshi in particular will think I'm talking out of my butt and will try to analyze and explain every little piece. And that's okay too, as long as they take time to actually enjoy the film.

The Ruins
(2008)

Tries but Misses the Mark
There are some fairly well-known names in the credits for this flick so I went into it with fairly high expectations. I was disappointed.

This film does at least have a semi-original premise. Similar things have been done before but not with evil vines as the villain/monster. At least not that I can remember.

And that's kind of the problem with the whole thing. The plants just aren't that scary. Which leaves any chills in this movie to the gory stuff. There were a couple of pretty gross scenes but not enough to balance out the lack of suspense.

The other big problem is the writing. The characters are one dimensional and I really didn't care much about any of them. Lines like "Four Americans do not go missing on vacation" don't help anything either. The ending is clichéd and it's been done about 1000 times before.

The whole premise of the story is kind of weak. They get off the bus and have 11 miles to go in a taxi and 2 miles on foot if I remember correctly. So this "unknown" Mayan temple isn't exactly way back in the boonies somewhere. But nobody knows it's there, or that it has an evil plant on it? And what's up with the hand-cranked generator that needs one crank and then they have electric light for the rest of the movie? The screenwriter (who also wrote the book) has one previous credit to his name that wasn't exactly a blockbuster, but was better than this.

The director is a fashion photographer. Really. He shot 2 short films before this. And you can tell. Not because the actors look like models (they don't), but because he just doesn't do anything with this script. He lets the actors stumble around in the dark.

The cinematographer is well known and quite talented. Unfortunately he doesn't add much to this film. That isn't really his fault, but it's a fact.

Cgi is kind of lame. But honestly it's hard to make a killer vine look good I guess.

Sound and score are the only 2 really good parts of the whole project. They are both quite creepy and effective.

I can't really criticize the actors much because they just didn't have a lot to work with. On the other hand I have seen good performances in bad movies. Not in this one though.

Conclusion: I didn't particularly enjoy it but I have seen worse efforts. If you have nothing else to watch I guess it could help you waste an hour and a half. I definitely will not be running to see anything new by the writer or director.

The Mist
(2007)

Depressing Vision, Decent Film
I can't say that this was a bad movie but I can't say that I liked it either. I'm a Stephen King fan, and have been for many years. But the main message of this movie seems to be that humanity is too rotten to live. So stay far away if you want something fun to watch.

The acting was pretty good overall, although I found the kid that played Thomas Jane's son to be kind of irritating. Marcia Gay Harden in particular did a very good job. So good that if I saw her in person anytime soon after watching the movie I'd probably slap her face.

As far as creature effects go, they were a bit low rent. Not the worst I ever saw, but not the best either. Maybe they should have skipped the puppetry and used more cgi. Probably a budget issue, but also a case of somewhat lackluster creature design. Other special effects were the same. Not the worst but far from big budget best.

Direction was okay. Frank Darabont is no Steven Spielberg but he gets the job done. Camera work was good to very good. Sound and music were both excellent. Editing was good. Writing was okay. I have a minor gripe with the extras. Would have been nice if they had used just one group for the entire film but there was kind of a revolving door amongst the non-speaking cast. The number of people in the store seems to fluctuate also.

My main reason for not particularly liking it is the story itself. It's very dark and does not have the adrenaline rush of many horror films. In fact I wouldn't really call this a horror film at all. More of a psychodrama or even a disaster movie in my opinion.

So the conclusion: If you want something light that will give you a rush I don't advise watching this movie. If you're a big Stephen King fan or you like this kind of movie then go ahead.

Senior Skip Day
(2008)

Pretty decent light-weight teen comedy
Not bad at all. Worth a look.

If you're looking for a film with meaning keep on looking. If you want a little escapist fun then have a look.

Unlike another reviewer I do not think this is as good as Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The script isn't really all that similar except for the psycho prinicpal. Ferris was "king of the school" skips class for a day of fun. This movie is "school loser throws a party for the whole class and becomes semi-cool". They do have characters talking to the screen in common. I do agree it's pretty much a copy of the premise though.

The main difference between the 2 movies is the quality of the cast. These guys aren't terrible, and there are actually some pretty good performances, but they don't match the quality of the Ferris cast.

The male lead, Gary Lundy, is okay if a bit blah. His unrequited love interest is played in a likable and competent way by Kayla Ewell. Both are basically unknowns, at least to me. Tara Reid is pretty good although in a fairly small part. She doesn't look as hot as she used to but then she's not playing a teen lead anymore. And Lea Thompson still looks too good to be anybody's mom, but does a nice job. Larry Miller is kind of irritating but does okay. Clint Howard is the same as always, no Macbeth but a quirky and funny character.

Not much else to say really. I didn't bust a gut laughing but I enjoyed it.

The Ninth Gate
(1999)

Understated Excellence
To be honest I can't think of a single thing wrong with this film. It's not my favourite film of all time, but I can certainly appreciate excellence when I see it. If you're a big fan of Hollywood horror films you might just hate it. I would call it more of a thriller than a horror film, but even that isn't quite correct. It's almost like a Bergman film that transcends genres. The film is the story and the story is the film.

Roman Polanski has created a film about devil worshipers that has almost no blood and the violence is not at all excessive. There are no teenagers and there are no slashers. There aren't even any traditional villains or heroes really. The villains aren't the usual caricatures that we have become used to and the protagonist is certainly less than heroic. And the demons don't look any different from us.

The action is slow and evenly paced over a long movie and it leaves us wanting more at the finish. Which is what a movie should do. Polanski does not wrap every thing up in a neatly tied Hollywood conclusion. We are left with unanswered questions. Since most Hollywood endings are disappointing to at least some viewers, that's a good thing.

Very well directed and excellent performances from all of the actors. Emmanuelle Seigner gives a very understated performance and effective performance. Johnny Depp is excellent as always.

Cinematography is perfectly suited to the story and the editing doesn't miss a beat. Music and sound are both very good. Special effects are very minimal and used very effectively. And the locations are perfect.

I've been a Johnny Depp fan for years, but I somehow missed this film. I'm glad that I finally had the opportunity to see it.

Jumper
(2008)

Cool Idea Spoiled by Poor Execution.
This movie just isn't worth the time it takes to watch it. If all you have to watch besides this is drying paint... I'm not sure which one would be more interesting.

Hayden Christensen really sucks in this, which doesn't surprise me. I could put up with him in the Star Wars films, because there was enough in the rest of the movies to be entertaining. But this is not the case here. bad actor in a bad movie. Samuel L. Jackson has given a couple of less than stellar performances over the years but this is probably his worst effort to date. Jar Jar Binks would have been more interesting. The rest of the cast just doesn't matter. No great performances by anyone.

The hero was a wimpy kid in high school and one day found out he had a super power worthy of his own comic book. Unfortunately he doesn't lose his wimpiness when he gains his power. He also doesn't become a hero. Instead he becomes a collector. He collects money and other crap that fills his apartment. Despite the money he doesn't actually use it to buy anything, he just steals whatever he wants. And he's so freaking lazy that he teleports 2 feet to reach the remote for his TV. For 8 years. Then he meets Samuel L. Jackson who is hunting "Jumpers" because they are "abominations". And supposedly this "war" has been going on for thousands of years. And in all that time it's all been kept so secret that nobody ever noticed anything. And they apparently control governments enough that they can do whatever they want while hunting jumpers.

What a load of crap! I could understand rival jumper clans or some such thing but this premise is just plain stupid.

I might have missed some salient plot points because I spent a lot of time fast-forwarding. But it boils down to an interesting premise that just wasn't handled correctly. I got the impression that this thing was written to set up the next entry in a franchise. Fortunately the next installment is very unlikely to appear. Bad writing and bad acting abound.

Day of the Dead
(2008)

Total Crap
I'm not even sure where to begin to comment on the crapfest that is "Day of the Dead". I put that title in quotes because the only thing this movie has in common with the movie that it is supposed to be a remake of is a part of one character. Yes Bud the zombie from the original gets something of a reprise.

I thought going in that it would be fun to see a remake of the movie that is arguably the weakest in George Romero's original 3 movies. I was wrong. Given a bigger budget and modern special effects how could you possibly make a movie that looks worse than a film that was made for about 14 dollars? The makeup effects were pitiful and unimpressive and looked fake. The gore effects were unimpressive and looked fake. The cinematography was terrible. The cgi was just plain stupid as well as unimpressive and fake.

The worst part of this movie was the script closely followed by the direction. The original movie was a sequel and built on what had come before it. This "script" is written as a complete standalone. The whole zombie outbreak begins in this movie and the script tries to come up with a plausible explanation. Well the explanation was just plain lame. It's been done before and done better. The original didn't really try to explain how the zombie plague came to be. It was an unknown and used to good effect that way. Trying to explain it just takes away from the suspense. Not that there was any real suspense in this movie anyway. I'm not even going to go into the plot holes. I'll just say that suspension of disbelief is possible in some movies but this one needs you to be brain-damaged to believe any of it. And I'm sorry for implying that a brain-damaged person might like it. Can anyone explain to me why these zombies burn up like vampires in the sun at the slightest touch of fire? Were they all alcoholics with too much booze in their blood? Why do they run around like super-zombies one minute and then shuffle around looking at nothing the next?

So on top of the lame script we have Steve Miner's lame attempt at directing. All the crowd zombie scenes were done in such a way that it didn't really look like what it was supposed to be. It could have been drunken sports fans after their team lost a big game. It was all dark and shot from a distance for the most part. Miner is just lame enough to throw in some occasional camera shake and slow motion in an attempt to make it look "cool". Combine that with the shoddy cgi and it's really just irritating. Every single thing in this lame attempt has been done before and been done better.

And here's the thing that's really stupid. This is another zombie movie without zombies. The dead don't come to life and crawl out of their graves. Instead 75% of the town turns into "zombies" at the same time and starts eating the other 25%. Unlike the Dawn of the Dead remake, which this thing tries to emulate in part, it isn't a slow process. Unlike 28 Days Later, which it also seems to try to emulate a bit, the process isn't fast. It's fairly slow. Except when it's fast. And apparently even though it's a virus, the people that are "naturally immune" to the virus can get covered in blood and guts but don't become infected unless they are bitten. Except that they sometimes do. Oh and there's a "boss zombie" who is faster and smarter than the other zombies because he was the head scientist on this project, see? In other words this crapfest doesn't even stay true to it's own premise and keeps contradicting itself. So what we end up with is a zombie move without zombies, a horror film without horror and a remake that isn't a remake. All they did was take the title of a movie with a built in fanbase and try to trick them into seeing this piece of crap which unsuccessfully tries to ripoff other movies.

The ONLY bright point in this thing was Mena Suvari. Unlike a lot of others I thought she did a pretty decent job. Unfortunately for her, her character was just as badly written as the rest of this "movie".

Stay away!

'Gung Ho!': The Story of Carlson's Makin Island Raiders
(1943)

Historically inaccurate but I enjoyed it.
First off a word about the "jingoism" battles that seem to be raging in regards to this movie. Get over it! Of course it's racist propaganda, it was made in 1943 for crying out loud. And really the only reason you can call it racist is because the Japanese are the bad guys. They aren't really made out to be any worse than the Germans in other films of the era. But, because of the different race, it is called racist. I haven't seen any Japanes films of the same period but I suspect they were equally as harsh in their portrayal of the Americans. I have seen print examples of Japanese propaganda from that time and they were much worse.

On to the more relevant part of the review. The acting was not bad and the story was exciting. Direction and cinematography were okay but nothing to get excited about. The script, as you might expect, was a bit long on melodrama and short on accuracy.

The lack of accuracy may be the reason that the names of all the characters were changed from the actual Raiders that took part. It seems very strange for a film to have a subtitle mentioning Carlson's Raiders with the main character being called Colonel Thorwald. The only name that was kept was the nickname of Transport. And the real Transport didn't die in the raid. In fact he was one of the film's technical advisors.

I kind of wonder why they bothered with technical advisors, because the movie has basically zero percent of the actual raid in it. The most puzzling thing is the omission of the second in command of the 2nd. Raider Battalion. I really have no idea why the movie propaganda machine of the time would miss a chance to trumpet the fact that Franklin D. Roosevelt's son, Major James Roosevelt, was there. Perhaps that ties in with the reason that the characters were fictionalized. Or perhaps there were security concerns.

The portrayal of Carson/Thorwald is somewhat accurate but probably sanitized for public consumption. His time in China had basically turned him into a communist. The actual questioning of the candidates to join the battalion included questions about the political significance of the war and the training included a certain amount of political indoctrination.

As I said the actual raid isn't really present in this film. The raid actually lasted much longer than a single day. The last men made it off the island about 11PM the second night. And Carlson at one point actually tried to surrender, partially out of concern for the presence of Major Roosevelt. This fell through mostly because there were so few Japanese left alive on the island. The entire American flag plot line was completely made up and had no basis in reality.

The raid was considered by some to be a failure, or at least ineffective in causing the Japanese to be distracted from Guadalcanal and the Solomons. The Solomons were invaded 10 days before the Makin Island raid took place, and the raid was intended as a distraction and intelligence gathering operation. Carlson himself was thought by some to have done a poor job, and he later admitted that he hadn't been at his best.

Regardless of the effectiveness of the raid itself and Carlson's performance, the 2nd. Raiders went on to do a much better job on Guadalcanal. But that's another story. Both raider battalions were disbanded not long after Guadalcanal, because it was felt that elite units were not required when all Marines were elite soldiers already.

In spite of the falsity of the story it was still an enjoyable film. Especially if you like war movies. Despite the cries of revisionists and appologists, it would seem strange if a film made in 1943 did NOT have a propaganda content. It is a pretty accurate portrayal of the sentiments of the American public of the time. So it's a slice of history in that sense. Tom Sawyer is still a great book, in spite of it's racist content. And Gung Ho is still a decent movie in spite of it's content.

War
(2007)

Great Until The End
This movie started out at a furious pace and pretty much kept it up to the end. And I enjoyed it very much until the end. The stunts were great. The chase scenes were great. Pretty much everything was great. Until the end.

And the twist ending kind of sucked. I didn't find it believable. And honestly I don't think Statham and Li found it very believable either. That was the only part of the movie that I thought either of them did a less than decent job. I believe that the twist ending was an unnecessary complication and the movie would have been better with a more "standard" ending. Sometimes less is more.

As you would probably expect, the script was heavy on action and light on meaningful dialogue. Perhaps the back-story of Rogue could have been a bit clearer. Not that that made a difference to the film. It was after all an action movie. Cinematography was good and overall the entire look of the movie was vivid and colourful.

The only minor gripe I had was with the wardrobe. Why didn't the FBI guys look like FBI guys? It looked kind of like they changed the script to make them FBI after the wardrobe was already done, and originally they were supposed to be part of some other agency.

Performances by Statham and Li were overall good. I've seen both of them show more range in other films but they did just fine with what they had to work with. There just wasn't anything in the script that required them to do much except fight. It was nice to see Luis Guzman again. He always does a great job with even small parts. Saul Rubinek was good in the tiny part that he had. I was surprised that his part was so small considering he had fairly high billing. Devon Aoki was good, although she didn't seem entirely comfortable in the role. John Lone was good. Ryo Ishibashi was great, one of the high points of the movie.

It is extremely graphically violent and has a significant amount of nudity. I personally don't find it offensive but it is definitely not a family movie, so be warned.

Overall it is certainly worth seeing, even with my disappointment at the ending.

Unforgiven
(1992)

A Fitting End
There may never be another real western. Clint appears to be done with the genre and there really isn't anyone else I can think of that can do it Properly. Sergio Leone is gone. William Wellman is gone. Sam Peckinpah is gone. John Huston is gone. John Ford is gone. Howard Hawks is gone.

Kevin Costner tries hard but he just doesn't get it. Dances With Wolves wasn't really a western. It wasn't even an anti-western. It was more like a political indictment of the actions of the Americans of the time. For all that I did enjoy it.

Most of the others since Unforgiven are movies where somebody decides to put the characters on a horse, but the story is just generic pap. Nobody has the balls to make something with a meaning.

I will grant that Deadwood is a truly excellent series but it isn't a movie.

That's why I believe that Unforgiven is a fitting end to the western genre. I won't get all rhapsodic and spout a bunch of crap about how Clint made this movie as a symbol of the end of the western. Cuz that's a load of crap. The script had been around since the early 70s when things were still going strong. What it is, is a movie that shows us that there is no black and white in any time. There are only shades of grey.

It is also just as dirty and violent as things actually were for most people in that era. Life was comparatively cheap and most people didn't have much hope of justice. The middle class was very small and the upper class was tiny. The vast majority belonged to the under-classes.

Good guys didn't wear white hats and not every sheriff was a good guy. Some were violent and corrupt braggarts and bullies. Little Bill mocks English Bob's self-promotion, but at the same time he knocks Bob down he builds himself up. He doesn't bother with courts or judges and he is his own executioner. He isn't motivated by any innate sense of justice when he deals with any criminal elements. It's more that he takes it as an insult to his own power.

William Munny is a killer, plain and simple. He has human feelings but basically he is unrepentant. He changed for his wife, but like many changes it wasn't permanent. He won't sleep with a whore but when he needs money he is willing to kill for it. At the same time he treats the whore with kindness and is loyal to his friend. And somehow he managed to get a good woman to love him. A classic anti-hero.

Rather than being about the end of the Western genre I believe that it is actually an ode to what came before it. Sergio Leone would have been proud.

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