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Better Without Woody
"Scoop" is a cute, supernatural whodunit. Among the leads, Scarlet Johanssen is probably the best cast. Hugh Jackman is probably a bit too 'on the nose' physically as the scion of an aristocratic family, but he does a decent job here.

Unquestionably, the worst casting decision Woody Allen made was to cast Woody Allen in a key role.

His sputtering, stuttering, free-associating, super-neurotic persona is supremely annoying here. If I could fast forward thrust his cringe-inducing parts, I would. Sadly, he appears in most of the movie, so he is key to the story whether you like it or not.

This film is light fun and not a bad way to kill about 90 minutes. Just try not to let Woody Allen's onscreen persona ruin it for you.

Time Freak

Skyler Gisondo!
I'm a sucker for time travel movies and trying to fix what went wrong. Add a romance to that and I'm often a bigger sucker.

This movie is okay. It's sweet and silly and sometimes a bit ludicrous, but above-average fun.

I think that the biggest surprise and the movie's saving grace is Skyler Gisondo as Evan. I've never seen him before, but his work here is remarkable. He takes what could have been a thankless, ridiculous second banana role and arguably makes the whole film so much more than it would be without him.

If you watch this movie just to see what Skyler does with his part, and think about - and this is apropos for a time travel movie - the acting choices he could have made, or what another lesser actor might have done with the role, you won't be sorry.

Feng huo fang fei

Not a Remake of the 1965 John Wayne Film
This had the same title as a 1965 John Wayne movie, so I suppose I was expecting something of a remake. This was not.

The film is a Chinese production.

It's nominally the story of an American pilot stranded in Japanese-occupied China. At the beginning, the story is set up as the pilot being debriefed; his story becomes the narrative.

Actually, though, it's a Chinese story of Chinese heroism overcoming their fear of the Japanese.

While there is very little "action", the story is a gripping human one.

The movie is made as a tribute to Chinese heroism and sacrifice against the brutal Japanese occupation, but I think the underlying question, as always in a story of this sort, is, what would you have done if confronted with this situation?

Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon
Episode 5, Season 12

When your expectations have gotten so low ....
.... that reviewers are giving this episode a 9 and 10.

I have to insert a minor spoiler in this review, so be prepared. I'll warn you.

This episode was puttering along at about a 5 for about the first half. (Typical of a Chibnall/Whittaker series.) Then - and here comes the small spoiler -

Captain Jack Harkness pops up in the story. He only appears for a couple of minutes and doesn't do much of anything, but I think his appearance alone elevates this episode to a 7. That's because his couple of minutes reminds us how Doctor Who has felt since it was brought back with Christopher Eccleston.

Sure the last half of the episode was interesting, as was the reveal near the end. But the enthusiasm brought by John Barrowman's appearance just shows by comparison how pale this incarnation of the Doctor has been.

I have nothing against Whittaker as an actor. I just feel that the Chibnall/Whittaker Doctor has been an overall disappointment.

Manifest: False Horizon
Episode 3, Season 2

The last 15 minutes ...
... are worth the last 3 hours.

I admit that some episodes of this series feel like endurance tests, but this episode pays off nicely.

Some great drama, great lines, great disclosures, and great moments.

It's worth the wait.

Sette contro la morte

Better than it looks. Worth a watch.
I was going to give this movie a 5 and say, "This is a solid 5!" Then I decided that if it's such a solid 5, why don't I give it a 6?

Why?, you may ask.

I watched it on FX cable last night, having missed the first 10 minutes or so. They were already trapped in the cavern. In a few minutes I was hooked. I happened across it again a few hours later just after the credits and caught the first few minutes until I was up with where I came in. Then I almost sat to watch it again. That alone says something.

Let's get some things out of the way about this film. This is in the public domain. It was shot in 1.85:1, but was broadcast in 4:3. It was broadcast on an HD channel, but still looked as if I was watching it through a silk screen. It may have been a 16mm transfer or a multigenerational copy.

Do not judge a book by its cover.

Many of the comments here about weakness in the script, character motivations and low budget production values are reasonable, but with a caveat. Many of those bad character decisions or odd motivations take place after being trapped in the cavern for weeks and months. When that is taken into account, some of the irrationality might be excused, or at least rationalized.

The cast is actually quite good, though half are likely unknown to most viewers.

The early exterior shots are not encouraging. The opening few minutes which set up the story look low budget. One German soldier stopped his motorcycle to give a report to an officer. After the report, he couldn't restart it, but they kept the "take".

Once the main characters are trapped in the cavern, however, the low budget matters less than the story.

Not everyone survives, and heroes and not-so-much heroes may not be who you expect. But that's a large part of what makes the film engaging.

It won't be the best ~80 minutes of your life, but it won't be a waste.

PS: One of these actors went on to a long-term gig as host of "Hollywood Squares". See if you can spot him. Another went on to be an iconic character on the TV series "Dallas". And this will be one of Brian Aherne's last roles, and not bad though certainly not his best.

Snow Angels

Not just a family drama. A full-on tragedy.
For my short review, I'll start by saying that the movie is extremely well done by folks behind and in front of camera, but is not for the faint of heart.

But if you're easily depressed, this is not the film for you.

If you are okay with a very well done slice-of-life tragedy, you may appreciate this story.

For me, it was more than I bargained for, and is unfortunately sticking in my head.

A Christmas Carol

An incomparable version of a classic story, but in a good way
I have always been an "Alastair Sim Christmas Carol" guy and I always will be. I don't think any traditional adaption of the story will ever surpass the 1951 version or Sim's performance in it.

I also thought that the FX version was a remarkable adaptation, and worthy of being its own classic.

I find these two versions of Dickens' tales incomparable. That is to say that you literally cannot compare them because they are two entirely different movies built only on the same skeletal story outline.

I would normally consider this a huge negative in almost any movie adaptation of a great and beloved story, but not in this case.

"A Christmas Carol" has been done and done and re-done. The FX version added grit and honesty and, in entirely its own way, heart. Much of the story specifics were new and entirely unexpected, and there's something to be said for finding a new way to tell an old story in a manner that still does honor to the original concept without aping it.

I gave the movie an 8 out of 10 mainly because the roughly 190 minute version (it ran on FX at 3 hours 20 minutes including maybe a dozen short commercial breaks), whether as a movie or a miniseries, was just way too long for the story being told. This was not, after all, D-day with more stories than time.

I say this as more than just an idle observation. After the first half hour and knowing how much time lay ahead of me before the final denouement, I began to look at scenes thinking, "this could've been edited tighter," or "some of this dialog or scene chewing or this dramatic pause could have been done away with without harming the story in the slightest." I found myself checking the time counter with ever more frequency to see how close to the end we were getting; this is never a good sign, and was in spite of the storytelling and performances, not because of them.

I strongly recommend watching this version of "A Christmas Carol" and doing so without a Sim-centric bias or the cheat of a "fastforward" here or a "fastforward" there.

I would also recommend a director's cut with a sharper knife.

This film has the potential to be a Christmas classic in its own right.

East Broadway

Before there was "Crazy Rich Asians" ...
There isn't much here that's unpredictable, but that doesn't make it less fun.

It doesn't spoil anything to tell you that Grace Tang, a young and successful Chinese-American woman is soon misidentified, leading to deeper and deeper complications in her life.

This movie isn't a 10 and it isn't a 3. Unlike Grace, it neither more nor less than it pretends to be, but like Grace it is good at what it is.

Just watch and enjoy this little uplifting film for its feel-good romance. .

Robin Hood

This Is Not The Myth You're Looking For
If this is the first thing you read, take my advice: until you have watched the movie, don't read the reviews (except maybe this one) and don't read the trivia. That will only spoil the movie for you.

And there is a teeny tiny maybe-spoiler in the last sentence. I'll warn you.

I rarely give less than a 5 (Meh. They tried and it could've been worse) or more than a 9 (Nothing is perfect), but I'm giving this film a 10.


Viewing time is precious, and I'm always in a state of triage on my DVR. After putting off this film for literally weeks, being attracted only by bits I'd glimpsed while scanning movie channels, I found it to be surprisingly gripping and a surprisingly speedy 140 minutes.

It is a total re-imagining of the legend in which only characters may be familiar. I think this is the source of the most negative reviews. So, if you're looking for a traditional telling, gird your loins for something completely different.

For me this was not a bad thing. It meant that every predictable turn of the tale was actually not. I found myself enjoying that frequent surprise.

Many reviews talk about this actor's range being limited or that actor being under-utilized. I would ignore that.

I'm my opinion, this movie does what a movie should do. It engages the viewer from the start, because it starts in unexpected ways. It tells a familiar myth in ways that are unexpected but not off-putting. It ends in a small surprise. (This is why many reviewers ravage the last 20-30 minutes).

Is the movie flawed? Certainly. Some historical liberties taken? Sure.

Is it fun in startling ways and an overall i regretted way to spend that140 Minutes? Absolutely. And that's why I'm giving it a 10.

Suspend your disbelief and have a good time.

The spoiler? Next line.

It sets itself up for a potential sequel.


Just. Couldn't. Care.
I never read, or even heard of, the book but with a cool title like NOS4A2 on a license plate, this was a must-sample.

Could it be a new twist on the vampire genre?

Um. No.

I gave the show three episodes to show me some fangs, and even wanting to like it, well, my review title says it.

The lead character "Vic" and her family problems seem to make up about half of the show and I found her and her oeuvre totally tedious.

Manx's shtick got old really fast (no pun intended), and watching this series became like being in hell waiting for SOMEthing to happen ... but nothing does.

What a waste of a great title.

Till Human Voices Wake Us

All Heart with a Bit of Mystery
Not a fast-moving film and not truly supernatural, yet gripping in its way. If you have ever had your heart broken, this film will resonate, and perhaps even help a bit.

It's about love, loss, grief, forgiveness, and finally acceptance. Acceptance of the loss, and forgiveness of self.

All the performances are beautiful and spot on. The direction is patient and takes you deeply into the story. The cinematography is like one of the performances. The musical score is evocative and serves the film well.

As a fan of movie and TV scores, I must note two things. First, while I can find no actual relationship in musical pedigree, the score evokes "Meet Joe Black", which in a way brings forth similar emotions. My second musical observation is the use of "The Skye Boat Song", used now as the main theme of "Outlander (2014- )".

I also must note the character of Silvie's dad, Maurie Lewis. He doesn't have a lot of screen time, but he's still central to the arc of life, love and forgiveness. His implied and generous forgiveness of young Sam as having any responsibility for Silvie's fate certainly must play a huge role in Sam's forgiveness of himself, though it takes another 20 years.

I gave the film an 8 mainly because it plants questions that are never answered. What is the significance of old Mrs. Shaw, her dreams and her sleep signing, aside from the later callback? Whose grave did adult Sam place a stone upon since its implied that it could not be Silvie's and clearly was not his dad's? Was Silvie's fate accidental or somehow intentional?

These unanswered questions are not trivial, but the heart of this story still leaves one affected and introspective.

If it's your kind of movie, it accomplishes what it sets out to do.


Come For The Cinematography, Stay For The Cinematography
This is a low-budget indie film that looks it, and a better, stronger cast probably could have added more "sizzle". That said ...

The cinematography is the most engaging part of the film, and may be the real star. It's not flashy or effects-heavy. No obvious CGI or fancy cutting. Just honest scenic filming that shows the town, the environment, some representative inhabitants, and some outlying territory.

Overall, I've seen better acting in adult community theater and worse, which is to say that the acting, while adequate to the story, will not hit you like a shot of caffeine on a sleepy day.

Some of the dialog feels unnatural to the ear, some of the characters' motivations seem vague, and the key elements of the story reveal themselves in the last half hour while still leaving some room for assumptive guessing at the end.

This movie isn't a waste of your time if you like good camerawork, visions of a slowly-suffocating smalltown America, and a slow plot that eventually mostly gets where it's going; mostly.

A final mystery is left dangling, but with enough suggestion that the answer seems mostly obvious enough to offer a mildly frustrating closure.

A good movie for idle curiosity watched on a personal low-energy night

Just Visiting

I wanted to like something about this movie ...
... but it kept aggravating me.

I like time travel movies, what-if love stories and fantasy films, so this seemed like something I would at least mildly enjoy.

But how much disaster can two men wreak before asking them to PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING?!

Yet this is a repetitive theme in the kitchen, the bathroom, the restaurant ...

The actors are earnest and do what they can with the material, but it really is asking too much of them.

Roger Ebert gave this movie an 'okay' review, liking it better than the French film of which it is a remake, and if you like over-the-top slapstick and potty humor this might be a film for you.

For me, however, I kept fast-forwarding through it in spurts, hoping the modern characters would be less - I'm sorry to use the word - stupid. Alas, it was not to be.

Some folks may enjoy the mostly low humor, but if that's not your style, I suggest you don't stay at "Just Visiting".

In the Heat of the Night

The Story's "What If..."
SPOILER: While this film is typically regarded as a great film about changing race relations during the 1960s, it is never considered a "Pro-Choice" film. Looked at in that way, it's worth considering that all the consequential action in the story - the murder, Tibbs being Shanghaied off the train by Gillespie, the racist assaults and epithets and even the final solving of the crime - all come back to one 16-year-old girl needing an abortion, and no legal, private, confidential abortion service being available for her. Had abortion been legal in Mississippi in 1967, there would have been no murder, no robbery, no Tibbs-Gillespie drama, and no story.

Crack in the World

A scientist tries to find a limitless, non-polluting energy source by drilling really, really deep into the earth. This can't end 'well'.
I first saw this film when I was about 14. The movie itself is an okay science fiction story. Probably better than most for that period in time. Interestingly, aside from the final scene, which was pretty awesome to me at 14, the thing that might have made the strongest impression on me at the time was the film score. (I hadn't realized it at the time, but I've been a film/TV score junkie since at least 5 years old!) I can still remember it to this day, even though I haven't seen this move in probably a couple of decades, at least.

See the movie if you can rent it or catch it on TV, but make sure you pay attention to the music, as well. It's a major part of the experience in this story.

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