dgranger

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Reviews

Red Sparrow (2018)

With "Red Sparrow" and "Hostiles", the 2018 Oscar Best Picture race is on! Without giving away too much, this a smart intelligent spy thriller that emphasizes the suspense and head games of espionage than on action thriller. It is about a lady who has trained as a prime ballerina, who has a tragic accident on stage and must become a spy in order to take care of her sick mother. She later learns that her accident wasn't an accident and that she had been set up by her uncle all along to become a type of spy called Red Sparrow. She is given an assignment to find the American mole in the Russian government. She spends the rest of the film trying get out of this life and still take care of her mother. No more spoilers.

The plot has lots of twists and turns. The final surprise ending you won't see coming unless you question everything she is doing because nothing is what it seams in this film. And all the clues to the ending is show right in your face!

The film does drag during her training as a Sparrow. But picks up once she has her assignment. I will warn you this film is a hard "R" rating for a lot of graphic sex and violence. This not a film for young kids to see. It is a film made for mature adults to watch.

This film has Oscar quality written all over it. If it gets ignored by the academy, at least this film and "Hostiles" will have set the bar high for this year's Oscars contenders.

The Star (2017)

Go See "The Star"! It is a great entertaining movie. I'll start this review off by mentioning something specific and unique about this film that proves that I have seen this film while I suspect one reviewer didn't. The film handles the traditional nativity story while modifying the King Herod's attempt to find the Christ child and the Holy Family and murder them. (And, frankly, IMO, that part of the story that leads to the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem is not a suitable subject for family animated movie for children and is wisely left out of this film.) How they changed the King Herod part was to tell the story from the animal's point of view. The donkey Bo, Dave the bird, and Ruth the lamb all notice a new star in the sky and conclude that something great is doing to happen. Now Bo, who is a donkey of a miller, escapes his cruel master, and is adopted by Mary and Joesph. Only after Mary and Joesph leave on their journey to Bethlehem, does Bo learn that Herod has sent a soldier henchman with a long nasty looking sword and two mean chained together dogs to search for Mary and the baby and kill them. Bo enlists the aid of his friend Dave the dove and a lamb named Ruth, to chase after Mary and Joesph in order to warn them of the Soldier hunting them and to protect the holy family. Bo doesn't know why Mary is being hunted. The camels of the Magi, who Bo, Dave, and Ruth don't meet until the end of the film, witness Herod's original plotting. As I said, the film wisely leaves out the massacre of the children of Bethlehem and stops before that point in the biblical narrative means this film does not have a very violent, bloody, and adult scary scene in it for children to watch.

While telling the nativity story from the animals' point of view is not a new idea, using them to modify, and soften Herod's part is.

The animation is stunning in this film.

The story is easy to fallow and treats the traditional nativity story respectfully while infusing the obviously fictional part of the animals talking. It also has jokes in it to keep the tone of the picture light and easy .

The soundtrack's use of the carols and new music is lively, and enjoyable without getting too heavy handed with the religious theme. But the soundtrack doesn't get too light ether. It hits the right balence of seriousness and entertaining.

I would highly recommend taking children to see this film.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

I don't need to give a spoiler because you will figure out the ending within five minutes after it begins. That is how bad and predictable the story is. There was no plot twist I didn't see coming a mile away. There is nothing new here. It used all the old clinches. Understand, I never saw "Prometheus" (2012). So I didn't know who was evil or not or how that film turned out. But even I was able to figure out who was evil or not well before his villainy was revealed. But when the word Prometheus was said in the film, there was a huge groan from the audience and someone said that's David, the evil robot. That was when I had realized that this just a connector movie between the first Alien movie to Prometheus. That was when my expectations just sank well down because connector movies are seldom good or have anything new. They just connect from point a to point b. Ridley Scott did an excellent job in directing and creating the world, but there is only so much one can do with a bad script. My advice is to save your money and skip this one. Wait for it when it gets shown for free on cable or broadcast TV.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Great eye candy but that all it was. Flat monotone performances by all except Pilou Asbæk. His was great. Vague slow paced story. But the worst part is when the constant action sequences keep coming at you with no let up or change of pace, that gets boring. This film put me to sleep TWICE! ( aka, the first time I saw it I was a little tired and the seat I was in was a dream lounger in full recline position. So I gave it a second chance viewing and it still put me to sleep even though the seat was in the upright position.) I recommend to save your money and only rent it after you had seen everything else that is newly released first. The feeding of the dogs and the one hound returning and not running away is the best parts of this film.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

They finally got King Kong right! Look, when the story of King Kong was first written, he was meant to be scary and then he becomes the hero as men mistakenly try to kill him. It was meant to be a scary but action story all along. The film that was able to pull off the bring Kong into the city was the first one. Every single remake after that, the movie starts to go wrong after they try to bring King Kong off of the island and into the city. This movie wisely jettisons all that and keeps it as an action movie with some horrific monsters in it and some horrific moments in it. It also wisely gets rid of the monkey falling in love with the human girl. And it still accomplishes the same goals as the original does. Kong it first seen as a monster but eventually turns into a hero protecting men from something worse, usually cause by man's own stupidity as happens in this film. Kong is protecting the natives on the island from the other monsters on the island that the bombs that Goodman's character drops and awakens. The best part of this movie is John C. Riley's character of a WW2 vet who was stranded on the island for twenty five years and who know what to do and what not to do and he tries to stop Samuel Jackson crazy gung-ho marine character from killing Kong because, if Kong dies, who is going to stop the skull eaters from killing the rest of the people on the island. The action is well paced and intense. Too intense for little kids as the film shows people getting eaten or crushed to death. This is not a film you should let younger children see. This is too intense and gory for young kids. The effects are top notch. I will say one thing. SIT THROUGH THE CREDITS! There is a killer after the credits scene at the end of the film. The only tip off to it is in the credits after the song credits where the list credits of using classic monster images that didn't appear in the film. The after the credits scene explains that.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Great stunts and action in a pretty forgettable film. As the title says, this film has great stunts and action. But what this film doesn't have is a story or any dramatic tension at all. The film only served as an excuse to go from one over-the-top action scene to another using a cliché ridden ridiculous and unbelievable plot. What story there was in it was this: There is a weapon called Pandora's box that can make satellites fall out of the sky and kill people at will. The original prototype was used to kill Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) who is sitting in a cafe and trying to recruit a new spy. (Yes, that is just the first of the many unbelievable clinches used in this film - wiping out a whole town, killing everybody, by dropping a satellite on it right on the cafe where he is at, (wow, what remarkable aiming and knowledge of where he is), and he survives it while everyone else in town gets killed), while the realistic cheaper means of sending a professional agent/hit-man/assassin to kill Gibbons is never thought of or used). Then a team of highly trained stuntmen breach into a secure government building where a secret meeting high level is taking place and where someone was stupid enough to bring a new and improved version of Pandora's box to the meeting instead locking up that sucker in a secure vault somewhere. The device is stolen and everyone at the meeting is murdered, except for two people. Naturally one is a traitor and was in on the whole thing. And because the thieve showed that they where trained in extreme sports moves, there was no other man in the government similarly trained except Xander Cage and the government needs to bring him back from the dead (or really out of hiding). This where we get introduced to another of the film's clichés: the irrational snarling man (usually the government agent) that serves no other purpose other than go throughout the whole picture snarling at Cage and throwing insults and only ending as another obstacle Cage has to beat at the end. Naturally Cage recruits his own team of Triple xXx outsides and former Triple xXx agents in order to get the other guys. By the time Cage's finally recovers the stolen box, they find out that the other guys where also former Triple xXx agents too and they were trying save the world from the evil government. Wow! Another over used cliché:big government = evil, self serving egotistical anti-social rebels - good! When Cage returns the box to his superior, the government betrays him and his team and he has to get them in order to retrieve the box so that no-one can have the power to use it. That is the whole story. There is no dept to the characters at all except one: Adele Wolff who does some pretty cool stunts in her scenes. What this series needs to do is to go back to the original premise of the first one: there are some areas of the world and society that gentlemen agents like James Bond can't walk into and would get spotted right off while Cage can - aka: the anti-Bond world. And start with a solid story built realistically and logically from there to the wild. The original xXx showed that there is a whole section of the wealthy society that does the grunge thing and are not the type that would visit the casinos and nightclubs that Bond would go to. My advice is to save your money and wait for the video or cable showing of it.

Hell or High Water (2016)

Despite the great performances and beautiful cinematography, it was like watching paint dry. Despite the great performances and beautiful cinematography, it was like watching paint dry because the story wasn't there and the pacing was slower than a statue crawling in a leisurely stroll down a sidewalk. The story is supposed to be about two brothers who rob the branches of one specific bank, Texas Midland Bank, and the two Texas Rangers (not one as the advertising would lead you to believe) that chase them. The plan is to rob the banks that hold the reverse mortgage on the ranch the younger brother inherited and then use that money to payoff the mortgage. Aka, pay the bank with the same money they stole from it, after they launder the money through an out of state casino of course. Two Texas Rangers that don't really like each other are assigned the case. Of course, one is an old near retirement bigot and the other is Mexican and Commanchie minority. Of the brothers, one is a father with two sons and an ex-wife. The other brother is an ex-con that was convicted of - what else?- bank robbing. He is looking for redemption. He is dumber than his younger brother. That is all the depth these characters have because They all are rather flat and swallow. The story is shallow because certain things were never explained. They tell that the bank is evil and deserve to be robbed. But they never tell you why or show the bank doing an evil act to deserve retribution for their action. This makes it hard to feel for the brothers. Don't use old overworked tired reference clinches. SHOW US! The makers of this film relying on the average audience members having their own problems with their banks in order to having immediate sympathy with the brothers. That is a bad idea and lazy storytelling. In, the way the details of the plan was worked out and who thought of it was vague too. We never see the young brother coming up with the plan. We just hear everyone else say he thought of it AFTER THE PLAN WAS ALREADY SET INTO MOTION when the film starts! Yes, we don't see any of the pre-planning. Lazy storytelling again. In fact, almost all of the script seams to be racists jokes about Mexicans, Indians, Christians, and religion. Oh, and of course, near the end, we see the tired cliché of the old ranger having a hound dog as a pet.

This film does have it's good points like it's realistic touches and cinematography that makes you feel in you are in Texas. However, when it comes to the acting, it falls apart. The lead roles all turn in stellar performance which Pine and Bridges are the best. But once you get past the leads, it comes crystal clear many of the supporting roles had people who were not professional actors, especially the cowboy in the bank, the Cowboys in the restaurant, and the T-bone steak waitress. But even with the professional actors there was a problem because between Bridges and Gil Birmingham who play the two Texas Rangers, there was no chemistry at all between the two actors. Birmingham played his role like he was made of wood because it was so understated.

This movie is way way over hyped. Save money. Wait for it on free TV.

Jason Bourne (2016)

Bourne equal boring. Hard to believe for an action movie. Yup this action movie almost put me to sleep twice. What happened is that this movie is 90% action and extended chase scenes that move at the same pace constantly throughout the movie and that pace got boring and tiring.

What was worst is that some of the chase scenes were stupid, confusing, and defied logic! They were confusing because there was too much jumping around that you can't keep track of what they were doing or where each person are. Chase scenes work best where the audience is allowed to keep track of where every character that scene is and what they are doing. As for stupid and defying logic, here are two examples: 1) in Athens Greece, born meet with another ex-CIA female agent to exchange information in the middle of a riot. They are fallowed by a CIA hit man called "The Asset" whose assignment is to kill both Bourne and the woman he meets. The asset is controlled by telegraphic communications of another CIA computer monitor agent Heather Lee who is using satellite and local cameras to track and locate Bourne and directing the asset. During the riot, the Greek police are closing off the area and closing in. Fire bombing is happening everywhere. Now this where is gets dumb and illogical. During the chase, the asset crashes his car and has to continue his chase on foot. Bourne and his friend are still riding a motorcycle throughout this chase. Lee, monitoring the situation back in Washington DC, is able to determine Bourne's route out of the area before Bourne knows it himself, she directs the asset to go to the roof a certain building to set up a sniper's position because Bourne's route will circle around that point. The asset manages still have time to climb up to the roof and assemble his sniper's rifle and Bourne hasn't left the area on the cycle. How unbelievable. Now Bourne and his friend, still on the cycle, are constantly changing there own route because of a sudden police blockade or unexpected firebomb and their route becomes what Lee had predicted without one bit of CIA interference. The assets is still able to kill Bourne's friend after all that. Even more unbelievable. 2) In Vegas, Nevada, USA, the asset is assigned a job to go to assassinate Internet guru, Killoor at a convention. It is shown that the asset is studying the plans of the building. Therefore, the asset knows all the exits to the building including a very prominently marked on the plans, sewer line and access tunnels. Bourne doesn't know them. Now thinking logically, both the asset and Bourne are CIA trained to drop the weapon and exit the scene as fast as possible . Every Bourne film shows him doing this. It is logical for the asset to do the same. Well, in this film, Bourne is able to foil the attack, chase the asset a little bit, change his mind and go up to the 23rd floor in an elevator, have a conversation with Lee and CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), kill Bradley, get back into the elevator, get back down to the lobby, scan the rushing crowd to search for the asset, find the asset because for some unexplained reason, the asset wasn't able to get out of the building while Bourne was up stairs and the final chase scene starts. How believable was that? Not believable at all.

As for the plot, it is basic and lame. Bourne now remembers his real name and his past and that his father recruited him for the CIA and that his father was murdered by the asset on CIA orders. He discovers that the latest launch of a new internet networking program is really a CIA infected program designed to spy on everyone and the head of the computer company, Aaron Kalloor wants to expose the CIA plot. Naturally, Dewey wants him silenced. That is almost the whole story. There is no twists or turns in this film that are the hallmark of a typical Robert Ludlum story because he didn't write this story. Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse did. The characters are flat and one dimensional except for Kalloor and Lee. As for Matt Damon's portrayal of Bourne this time, he spends more time imitating the Terminator from the first terminator film than portraying Bourne. Damon just simply walks through this whole film with a grimace on his face and not saying a word. I doubt he had spoken more than twenty lines throughout whole the film. Jones, Vilander (Lee), Cassel (the asset), and Ahmed (Killoor) have a larger speaking parts than Damon does. This is Tommy Lee Jone's film more than it is Matt Damon's.

Advice, save your money and wait for the video or the on demand download.

The Jungle Book (2016)

The best version of this classic book I have ever seen. The title says it all. This is the best version of the story I have ever seen. Only minor flaws keep it from a perfect 10. It does look like Mowguli he is talking to the animals and the animals are talking back to him. But however the few scenes you can tell he is not talking directly at the animal because he is on a sound stage in the real physical world while the animals were all CGI characters inside a computer. In other words, he was looking into space because animals were not there. In a few shots, you can tell he was superimposed on it because he was a little too bright compared to the rest of the scene. They even worked three of the songs from Disney's original animated version of this into the movie.

It was well acted and I believed in every single character. However, I was a little disappointed, but not much, in Bill Murray's portrayal Baloo. It was a little flat because he played it too laid back. The bear was more of a con man and hustler to which I have seen Murray can play that type of character before. A little more on the hustle please.

This version is a little dark and scary. It may not be appropriate for real little children like under five. Particularly the Shere Khan scenes.

However this film does includes many of the story details usually left out of all the other films. It is the best version of Kipling's story because it remained really faithful to that book despite that facts that in the book King Louie is not in the book and that the Snake Kea is a friend and adviser to Moguli and not a villain.

London Has Fallen (2016)

White House Down/Olympus Has Fallen Goes to London Spoilers are definitely coming. Sorry, I had to write the title like that because I didn't see "Olympus Has Fallen", the series pilot film of this series, but I did see "White House Down" and this was how the film felt to me as I was watching this. And it all does back to "Die Hard" anyway. But this film comes nowhere as good as "Die Hard", or "Die Hard 2" were. It doesn't match up to "Air Force One". Why? Because after the initial attack happens, the story and characters stop developing and just rehashed the same old clichés. It is even obvious who the inside trader is while all the other films I had mentioned (except "White House Down") keeps developing the story and characters as the film continues and thus keeps the audience engaged and held in suspense. I just wasn't kept guessing what was going to happen next the way a good action suspense film should do in this genre.

Here is the basic plot. A terrorist arms dealer wants to get revenge for a botched attempt to assassinate him but killed his daughter and family instead. Set he sets a trap by poisoning the Prime Minister of Great Britian and then plans to kill all the heads of state who attends the funeral. Once the attack happens, the US president and his trusty secret service agent must run a gauntlet in order to get the president to safety. That would have been fine enough because the action is good. The effects are spectacular. The cinematography was great. The director does compose great visuals. But the story runs through all the clichés including Shakespeare's famous one from Macbeth were a tender moment is shown for a character to raise the audience's sympathy for that character and then that character get brutally murdered. They even used the girl giving a flower to someone cliché that comes straight from the wedding scene in "The Guns Of Navarone". (Yes, I did think of that when I saw it and thought that something bad is going to happen to that lady.) But the worst part of the film is how they underutilized some strong actors that I haven't seen for while: Colin Salmon, Robert Forster, and Angela Bassett. Forster and Salmon were reduced to talking head cameos almost. They are better than that.

But if you like action without too much thinking, then this film is for you.

The Revenant (2015)

Emotional, good performances, and effective but over long, self indulgent, and frankly, a bit boring. The title of this review sums it up almost perfectly. The film does have major strengths but also has major weaknesses. While intense at certain points, it gets as vague as hell in others which kills the narrative drive and tension of the film. Also, another problem with this is my age as in the I have lived long enough to have seen and remember films of similar stories and themes. With "The Revenant", I had felt like I was watching a variation of a theme that I had seen before. That is bad for a film because it jerks the viewer out of his enjoyment of the film. Every film should make you feel that you are seeing something new and unique even if it isn't. With me, I had thought I was watching a variation of "The Naked Prey (1965). While the Naked Prey film was set in Africa, the historical event that it is based on, Colter's Run, happened in North America, in Yellowstone park, just like The Revenant. And both Colter and Glass were guides and experienced mountain men. The stories were too similar. And it didn't help that I had just finished reading a novel that had mentioned Colter's Run shortly before seeing this movie. Bad timing on that. As far as acting goes, I was not particularly empressed by Dicaprio's performance and felt it was the weakest of the major players of the film. I thought Will Poulter's was the best and stole the show. Gleason and former child star, Lukas Haas, gave strong performances. Hardy was good, but frankly, there was points where I couldn't understand what the hell he was saying because the accent he had used was so thick and he had mumbled some of his lines. But in the end, the strength of the story and the directing did pull me in and I did feel emotion at what was happening on screen which a good film should do. So therefore, I say this film has both good points and weaknesses. I will say that if you are looking for a fast action packed film, this not the film for you since this film takes it's time (aka, "slow"), and builds towards it's ending that doesn't really pay out.

San Andreas (2015)

A great paint by the numbers action movie that manages to avoid some clichés. This movie is a great fun action film that did get me to feel for the characters only because I had taken a CPR class a long time ago and knew you have up to five minutes to resuscitate a drowning victim before brain damage or brain death sets in. That wasn't explained in the film. Otherwise, the action was fast paced, well shot, and the situations well explained. I am sure the science in this film is all correct. But however it it had an overall paint by the numbers feel to it where you never have a doubt they were going to make it out alive. It did manage to avoid the movie clichés like if their are two loving comical brothers in the film, one is going to die, or the black guy dies. It manages to miss several clichés but hits so many others.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

One long car chase with little or no story to it. Warning: Spoilers ahead. Specially in the third paragraph. Actually, make this a seven and 1/2 stars because the action and special effects are that well executed. The acting was not that bad ether. In fact, the acting was rather good. Other than that, the title of this review basically says it all. What little story there was, was mostly contained in the garbled section of the first few minutes of the film and starts to develop only a little more and slowly after, I guess, the first fifteen minutes of the car chase and then only to set up the next section of the chase. And the chase begins right away. The film is wall to wall action from beginning to end.

What is nice about this film is that it ties the previous Mad Max films together by having Gas Town reappearing in this film ("Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior"), the masked warlord Immortan Joe closely resembling the insane masked Humungas from "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior", and Mad Max being haunted by the memory of his dead daughter or child of another Mad Max film (there is at least one kid in every film) ("Mad Max" and "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome"). I even think, but not sure, Bartertown from Thunderdome shows up on a map Max is making in the film. The first few garbled minutes of the film is basically that Max (Tom Hardy) is captured by a band that fallows the insane and sick (physically and mentally) orders of a masked warlord named "Immortan Joe", (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and is taken to a fortress called "The Citadel". Max is branded as property and is used to provide blood (called a 'blood bag' in the film) to a young warrior named "Nux", (Nicholas Hoult), who believes Joe's twisted theology based on Norse mythology and cars. Nux was led to believe he is dying and wants to go out in a blaze of glory in service to Joe. Immortan Joe controls the people of the Citadel by controlling and rationing out the abundant the water supply at the Citadel. He tells the people not to get addicted to water and to do without. Isn't he a nice guy??? ... NOT!!!! Joe keeps a harem of wives because he wants a son that he can rise as a warlord and heir to his kingdom. The wives do not want to live with him and had arranged to escape in a secret compartment inside a tanker/war machine driven by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) while on a supply run to Gastown. Joe finds out about the escape and decides to give chase. Nux convinced a friend to let him join In and let him take his blood bag with him. Well there you have it. The first five to ten minutes of the film as best I could figure it out. From there on, you are on your own. I will say that there is one inescapable silly element in the film. It is that one of the chase vehicles that Joe has with him is a rig with a group of drummers pounding war drums in the back with a heavy metal rock guitarist in front playing a guitar with a flamethrower attached to it. It looks great at first but it becomes a sick glitch as the film wears on and how the director spends way to much screen time on it. And all it was for was to give Max a chance to get his hands on the flamethrower. I have seen this movie in 2d but I can tell you, if you are planning to see it in 3d, a lot (and I do mean a lot) of things are thrown at the audience. If you like that in 3D, enjoy.

A Christmas Story (1983)

This isn't a Christmas movie. It is an overrated anti-Christmas Movie If anything this is an overrated anti-Christmas film. It is not funny. It is depressing. It's whole reason for being seams to cater to people who are so frustrated with the pressure of the Holidays that they want to blow off steam by flipping around and mock the whole holiday scene. For that is what it does. It mocks every holiday tradition in sight. The characters are despicable and insensitive. The only things I could relate to is the washing out the mouth with soap as punishment for saying a swear word and the decoder ring because that happened to me. Otherwise the story is blatantly unbelievable. A nine year old kid who still believes in Santa Claus? A grandmother who still knits a full body bunny suit pajamas for a nine year old child but not for his younger brother? Those type of pajamas are for toddlers and infants. No sane person would make them for a kids even at the age of six. But yet we are led to believe that the grandmother is so senile that she still thinks Ralphie is still 6 years old when he is nine in the movie. How about the parents stepping in to tell the grandmother to stop making those pajamas because the kid is too old for them and she is embarrassing him. That would be the realistic thing to do. But do they in this film? No. They seam to enjoy embarrassing their own son by forcing him to wear them. Or how believable is it to have a nine year child still going to a department store Santa, sitting on his lap and ask for a BB. Gun? Not very. Worst yet, no department or mall would ever allow their Santa to put his foot in the face of a child to push him down a slide. They would have faced a ton of law suits. Another absolutely unbelievable part of the film was Darren McGavin as the father "The Old Man - Mr. Parker". He was way too old to be married to Melinda Dillon "Mrs. Parker" and still be called a young couple in the film. He looks like should be having Grandchildren or Great-grandchildren instead of his first round of offspring. Yes, I understand this story is presented through the distorted lens of a child viewing his parents as old. I just think that if you can spot the dye in McGavin's hair, the director carried the exaggeration to far and broke the willing suspension of disbelief. I never bought for a moment McGavin as being the father in that family. The mother is not that much better. A woman who has a husband who has swear words pouring out of his mouth freely as water flowing over the edge of Niagara falls but yet is shocked when one of her sons eventually starts using the same language he had picked up from his father. Come on! Even Though nonsense words are substituted for the real swear words, it is clear what was really meant that the father was saying and what Ralphie was saying. The F word and it is not "Fudge". The father doesn't think his foul mouth isn't partly the blame? Also the bit of the mother separating the two boys fighting but not stopping to see if one boy is alright when she sees that one boy has a bloody nose was a bit far-fetched. How many mothers you know act like that? Not many. Ralphie was just plainly stupid. He should have known better at his age not to swear in front of his parents. Here is another piece of stupidity by Ralphie. After being told how dangerous BB rifles were and was told not to place the target in front of a metal surface because BBs ricochet off of metal, what does he do? He places the target on a lattice in front of a metal fence where the BB goes through the target, through the lattice and hits the metal fence and ricochets back and hits Ralphie in the glasses on the first shot.

As for the story and the jokes, the story was predictable and the many of the jokes were ether not funny, or just plain flat. Every plot point was televised a mile ahead of time. I mean I knew from the from almost the start that Ralphie was going to get his BB. rifle and shoot his eye out in the end. I knew the tongue was going to stick to the flagpole. I knew that the mother was somehow going destroy the leg lamp. As far as the leg lamp gag went, that was not that funny in the first place and got old faster than a particle traveling at the speed of light. The story is so bereft of content that a group of animators made a 30 second parody of it that covers every important point in the story. If the story can be condensed into 30 seconds, it means that there is not that much content in it in the first place. That can be viewed at http://www.angryalien.com/aa/xmas_storybuns.asp .

Oh, what a lovely messages this film sends out. Like, for instamce, if you get in trouble blame, it is okey to it on a totally innocent kid in order to get yourself out of trouble. Or how about that mean Santa Claus so much wants to get rid of kids that he will put his foot in your face. Wow, I would just love my kids to see that. NOT!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

A reasonably faith adaptation Blockbuster that meets expectations. There is a good chance Mr. Harry will meet Mr. Oscar. This has got to be one of the best in the series. David Yates does an unbelievably great job of bringing this story to the silver screen. And he brings with a faithfulness to the book plus including Ron's story of overcoming self doubt in the Quidditch match that was left out of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. In fact, Quidditch match in the light snow shower is one of the better ones in the series. Director David Yates gives us a darker more realistic world of Hogwarts while filming it in a way we have not seen the castle before. The cinematography is gorgeous in this film. But the best part is the script. Knowles and Yates distills the story down to it's major plot points and throws out all that was unnecessary in the book. He hits every single major plot point in the story. He doesn't miss a beat. What he couldn't film or changed for dramatic purposes, he replaced with thoroughly satisfying substitutions that carried the same message in the book. Like for instance, instead of telling us that Deatheaters are attacking Muggles and kidnapping people, he shows it to us. He takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride to an ending that packs a stunning emotional punch. As the wands rise to defeat the darkness with light. He also packs a couple of good scares in the cave scene as a monster drags Harry into the water. My only problem with the story is that it drags a little in small parts, It doesn't fully explain the meaning of the term "Half Blood Prince" and doesn't properly set up the love potion poisoned box of chocolates intended for Harry that Ron eats. But truly, the story doesn't slow down as much as the trolls have been claiming. So don't listen to them. It fairly and evenly well paced.

The acting is excellent. particularly Broadbent and Felton. You literally feel sorry for these two as they struggle with their consciences. From the first moment of Harry and Dumbledore standing up for the press photo right after defeating Voldemort in Phoenix to Ron, Harry and Hermione meeting in the tower at the end, This is one film that is sure to please.

Nowhere Man (1995)

Before 24 and Lost there was Nowhere Man. A masterpiece that never should have been canceled. This show had it all. Intelligent script, well defined characters, brilliant directing, fine acting, action, suspense that carried you in it's grip from week to week, a clear vision of where it was going to lead to. Each show built on the one before it in a clear storyline with a piece to the puzzle in every episode. Yet each episode was individual and can stand on it's own. This show was well conceived from beginning to end. Bruce Greenwood's acting in this is so fine, I became a fan of him for life. To me, he can act anybody under the table if he wants to. He was the quite common intelligent fast thinking Everyman with something not quite right about him that the character Thomas Veil needed to be.

As we first is it, we see it through Thomas Veil's viewpoint as we see him being the happily married veteran war photographer who was going put on His first major show of his work and made one photograph the centerpiece of it. In the space of a few short hours, his every existence of totally wiped out, marriage and all. And it all centers around that photograph to which he doesn't know why some high powered and well connected covert organization is trying to get their hands on all the copies of it and the negatives. He goes on the run. He starts to investigate every detail he sees in the picture. He eventually learns that what he thought was his real life was nothing but a fraud that involved brainwashing. He slowly starts to realize he had another life. A shadowy life. He starts to question, "Who am I? Who am I really?" And the mystery deepens.

You will get no answers here. Watch the show.

The intrigue, mystery and suspense is so well plotted throughout the episodes that I can rate this on par with an early 60's show that did the same with intelligence, "The Fugitive" and a well qualified succor to it. It is a shame that the UPN network, which aired it didn't see fit, to keep the show running and canceled it while going with the sure cash cows of "Star Trek Voyager". I am not going to belittle Voyager because it makes no sense when there were so many other UPN shows that were far worse than Voyager but they canceled Nowhere Man while they kept shows like "The Sentinel", "Malcolm & Eddie", and "Moesha". Some of them were brain dead series that couldn't reach one quarter of the quality of Voyager, never the less bother to comparing them to Nowhere Man's. But they were low budget, low non-confrontational, safe money makers. In fact, I remember that Nowhere Man was the highest rated show one week. So I ask why was it canceled?????? And yet, I have my answer too.

At least, Nowhere Man had a clear concept and direction from start to finish and did not lose it's direction as "Lost" did or "Twin Peaks" did. "Twin Peaks" was the worst crime because it was a mystery that was made up as it went along. No self-respecting mystery writer today does that. They always write the end goal and solution first and then create the mystery and place the clues throughout. Nowhere Man was clearly constructed like that. Solution first. That is what places it above "Twin Peaks".

What also sets it apart is the in every episode, there was an well drawn conflict and well drawn characters that are unique to those episodes. That was what made everyone of them fresh and individual while being pieces of a larger story.

Speed Racer (2008)

an adrenaline rush with major flaws. I have been a fan of this show since it first air in late 60's and early 70's when it aired in syndicated TV. So, I was eager to see this movie. I knew it was going to be actioned packed, insane stunts, and manic pacing and I wasn't disappointed. This film is an adrenaline rush.

*********WARNING THIS IS WHERE THE SPOILERS START*************** It remains true to it's original concept and the characters don't stray that much from the original show except Trixie (played by Christina Ricci). Trixie has a great catty tomboy side to her that is a welcomed addition to the character. There is on scene in the film where she is in the race car and you can see her get excited and aroused by the action and trash on the cars. At the end of it, she displays this little smirk that tells audience that she loves what she is doing. That smirk is worth a billion dollars. Hmmmmmm a girl who loves her work, what we all like.(Don't worry, they do it very cleanly, After all, this is a kids movie. They are not completely insane.)

The story is the typical small independent vs the corrupt conglomerate Industrialist bad guy who cheats and breaks the rules storyline. Gee where have we heard this story before???????? It also has another cliché and that is a family dishonored by one of it's family members and seeks to regain the family honor and to foil the cheats. What gives the story depth is the family living with the dishonor and Speed's attempts for personal honor while seeing his naivete being stripped from him. and there is one of the flaws, The mobsters and the mobster drivers. They are all of the worst type of comical stereotype characters possible and not even remotely convincing. There is one scene that was ludicrous of where the Mobsters are in an office with a tank full of Piranhas which turns out to be in the trailer of a semi truck and it is attacked by Racer X in his car. Great effects but unbelievable scene. There is another implausible scene at the beginning of the film where a jet somehow lands in the middle of the street but somehow doesn't trash the lawn. Gladly these implausible parts are all in the early parts of the story but when MR, Royale explains the "other" history of racing, the story tightens and the action revs up and makes the film and enjoyable experience.

Since this film is based on a cartoon, the colors and the sets are made to invoke the world of the cartoon like when Warren Beatty had the same technique with the colors in the "Dick Tracy" film for the same reason. This film has one eye popping visual special effect after another in it so fast and gives the audience little time to rest between effects. All of them are done unbelievably well. Expect this film to be nominated for an Oscar for the shear amount of effects. The film is one long special effect. The races course look like that they come from a video games which was not bad since the film is a cartoon world. In fact, I think one course came out of the race course in the "Racing The Clock" episode of "Reboot" and another that came out of my Wipeout 64 video game.

This film is definitely style over substance.

But there is where the other problems come in with the special visual effects. There is one scene at the beginning where Speed is remembering his older brother. At one point he imagines himself behind the wheel of a cartoon car, and there is another point where Speed's brother Rex is standing against a background with fake clouds that was so cheesy that it was pathetic. Then there was these two completely unnecessary special effects shots where Speed's little brother Spindle strikes a martial arts poses and then there is a second or two of him being an Anime character flying through the air attacking someone - dumb. And then there is the talking heads that the Wachowski Brothers had used as wipes across the screen. For those who don't known what a wipe is, it is a stylistic transition change from one shot or scene to another with transitions other than a simple cut. One of the many forms of the wipe is to have an object move from one side of the screen to the other, with the old shot or scene being transitioned from on one side and the new shot or scene on the other side. The object in this case was close ups of talking heads. It happens every five minutes in the film. There must about a hundred of them and it is annoying. After the twenty millionth one, I felt like going over to the Wachowski Brothers house and personally un-install the effects software from their computers and not give it back unless they promise to never use it again. The wipes, the mobsters and the fake clouds are the reason I gave this eight stars and not a full ten. And if I think about it any more, I'll probably lower it even further.

I liked everybody's performance, but I was a little disappointed by John Goodman's performance. I felt he could have done Pops a little better.

Vantage Point (2008)

a gimmick film that delivers what it promises. What can I say? This film is a gimmick film that relates the same event through the eyes of eight different characters that each hold a piece of the puzzle. The film stops and rewinds back to 20 minutes before the event for each character. It gets a little annoying because each time it stops, the audience is left on a cliffhanger which carries the film's tension into the next character.

As for what the film promises, it promises a good puzzle, suspense and intense action. It delivers on all accounts. This plot has twists and turns and is completely logical. Half way through this movie, if you think you got it all figured out, you haven't got a clue.

The action is fairly balanced through out the film and keeps the film moving. The car chase in this film is one of the better ones I have seen in a long long time. It had some shots in it that I think were a small homage of the original The Italian Job (1969) car chase scene.

Even though I personally thought that some of the characters were paper thin, many of the actors gave strong performances that made the characters believable. Forest Whitaker was the best. I had a little problem with Dennis Quaid's character, Secret Service Agent Thomas Barnes, starting out as the thinnest of all the characters but he grows in the film. Of course, Edgar Ramirez, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Eduardo Noriega were right on and make the film (but not as much as Whitaker).

The premise of this film makes a refreshing change from the ordinary style of mainstream movies.

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