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Absolutely ridiculous--One of the worst movies this year
I didn't buy it for a second. Shannon's character is so obviously over-the-top, bug-eyed crazy, that there's no way anyone is going to fall under his sway, even Ashley Judd's beaten-down, exhausted character. The extended sequence where Judd shows she's just as crazy and comes up with an explanation for her son's disappearance many years before was pretty much the moment where I was primed to turn off this ridiculous movie.
Unfortunately, I stuck it out to the end. Not scary in the least, this movie really needed something more to make me buy into its central conceit. Maybe if they'd included plot elements to suggest that maybe Mr. Psycho-Delusional wasn't so crazy after all? I can't imagine how this would work as a play; it fails miserably as a film.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Not as good as the original, but not as bad as some of these posts would have you believe.
I love movies like this--downbeat, end-of-the-world, apocalyptic, hopeless films. And _28 Weeks Later_ is pessimistic in spades. It is also one of the bloodiest films I've seen in some time. Sure, it's hard to follow up a blazingly original movie with an effective sequel (_Aliens_ is one of the few successes), but this movie is a lot better than the haters would have you believe. I've read reviews that take the film to task for its alleged plot holes. For example, the ease with which the two kids escape the quarantine zone and head for home. Does no one recall the American sniper who sees them leave, reports it in, and the helicopter and bio-suited soldiers waiting for them when they step out of their house? Or the lax security measures surrounding the mother, a carrier of the disease but not affected by it? The American head of medical quarantine has only just confirmed that the woman is indeed infected, causing the general in charge to set off for the woman's room with the intention of killing her. All of this is happening at the same time that Robert Carlyle, the guilty father/husband is sneaking in to see his wife. Granted, he probably shouldn't have an all-access pass that allows him in, but the point is, they haven't at this point confirmed that she's infected yet. So the lack of security measures is not necessarily a fault. Once the infection takes hold and begins to spread, the movie becomes a roller-coaster ride that never lets up. My only gripe was when the helicopter starts shooting at the car as it drives down London streets--if a car is moving, that means someone is alive in there and that someone is normal and uninfected. So why shoot? The "shoot everything" directive makes sense at first in the big crowd, where the soldiers can't tell who is and is not infected. But after that, it doesn't make a lot of sense (which also leads to the completely unnecessary death by fire of Jeremey Renner's character). As with the first movie, I loved the scenes of a silent, empty London. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to shoot those? London is one of the world's busiest and most populous metropolises, so it's amazing to have those shots of silent, empty streets. I liked the ending, too. Hopefully, there will be a third movie in this series that will extend the story. Now that the infection has escaped the relative isolation of the UK, the potential for true terror has just been realized.
Torchwood: Out of Time (2006)
Another Outstanding Episode
I'd agree--this was one of the best episodes yet, and Torchwood has set the bar pretty high so far for writing and acting. Torchwood has struck me as a kind of British X-Files, but no American series would address the "out of time" storyline in such an unflinching and adult way as this episode does. Seeing bare buttocks shouldn't surprise me--this IS a British show after all--but I have to admit being surprised at the casual way the "F-word" is bandied about (here, and in other episodes). A very moving treatment of how 3 people who fly through a temporal displacement and land in 2006/7 Cardiff after taking off in the early 1950s might react to coming unstuck in time. I am having a bit of a hard time buying Burn Gorman as a romantic lead, but his love affair with the pilot was quite moving. The best story has to be the old man, who tracks down his son, now an old man himself and afflicted with Alzheimer's. How that story resolves itself is amazingly brave and matter-of-fact. Torchwood has had a pretty impressive first series. Here's hoping the high standard continues in subsequent ones.
Torchwood: Countrycide (2006)
Quite a change from the early going, but pretty powerful stuff
I don't know what's more horrifying--the story's premise of cannibals in the countryside, or the thought of Gwen throwing caution to the wind with Owen at episode's end. I enjoyed the opening episodes of Torchwood, but this one is at a whole other level. Don't know what the reaction to this was in England (I can only imagine), but it's as good as anything The X-Files ever gave us and pretty darn scary for an hour of television. Torchwood is a great show and a welcome spin-off from the recent updating of Dr. Who. This is the adult-themed show that science fiction fans have been waiting for since we lost Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
Friday Night Lights (2006)
Best treatment of high school since Freaks and Geeks
Friday Night Lights is an excellent show and very realistic in its portrayal of those awkward high school years. Kyle Chandler does a great job as the coach and is very different here than in his role in Early Edition. He's got the speech and the mannerisms down to be completely believable as the man in charge of this high-powered high school football team. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind who would actually want the job, with townspeople constantly second-guessing every decision he makes, and even confronting and bad-mouthing him (and his daughter) in public. I like the story lines that have the golden boy quarterback sidelined with a paralyzing injury and the untested sophomore Matt Saracen coming in to replace him. Saracen and his buddies are the easiest characters to identify with so far and it's nice to see Matt stand up for one of his friends who is beaten by a teammate, even though it might hurt the team. Also, the "Voodoo" Tatum storyline has been well-handled, too. The actors are all appealing and the young women who play Lyla and Tyra are amazingly beautiful. Man, I hope this show has a chance, though it sounds like it might not make it a full season.
Masters of Horror: Sick Girl (2006)
Easily the Worst Episode of the First Series
Lucky McKee's "Sick Girl" is just plain awful. Amateurish acting, lame, almost nonexistent production values, and a constantly shifting tone (this might have been better played straight rather than as campy humor) add up to a big disappointment. Angela Bettis was great in McKee's debut feature _May_, which I liked quite a bit, but here she's just terrible, with a weird, Mae-West-Come-up-and-see-me-sometime accent that comes and goes. And her insect-loving scientist isn't very credible, either. Misty Mundae has never been known for great acting and she doesn't rise above the cheap production here, either. She's game for a bit of nudity in this lesbian-themed story, but otherwise I'm not sure why she's even involved. The lame creature effects and minimal gore don't help, either. This was a big, big disappointment in a series that hasn't really been that great. I had much higher hopes for Masters of Horror.
Lucky Louie (2006)
The worst show HBO has aired since _Mind of the Married Man_
Basically a foul-mouthed version of _Married, With Children_, this is painfully bad. Not funny at all. The situations are unrealistic, the acting is amateurish, and the plot...well, I struggled to get through the premiere and gladly gave up on the show after that. Who is this Louis CK anyway?
What are you thinking, HBO? I'll give you points for taking chances on things like _The Comeback_ and _Carnivale_, but this one is just too far out there. I don't know if this can be saved, but I wouldn't waste my time with it. It's certainly no _Entourage_ or _Curb Your Enthusiasm_.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Not Bad, But Little More Than An Extended Episode Of Alias
From the patented opening scene that drops us in the middle of the action, then goes back in time and leads us in, this really isn't much more than an extended version of a typical episode of _Alias_. Except this time, Abrams and his crew can actually afford to go to the exotic places where the story is set, rather than trying to find stand-ins in LA and its environs. That said, this really wasn't a bad movie. It was enjoyable from start to finish, but not something you'll spend much time thinking about after it's over. I'm really surprised that none of the MI movies has really been a rousing action picture so far, so saying that this is the best of the three isn't saying that much, unfortunately. Still, as action pics go, you could do much worse and the film has really done a good job of kicking off the summer 2006 film season, which largely seems to be what it was designed to do.
Excellent show--too bad it isn't more visible
I stumbled on Epitafios while browsing through my On Demand service, looking for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Am I glad I took a chance with this intricate, twisty series. Sometimes it goes a bit too far--our serial killer has escaped one too many times to be entirely believable--but I love the characters and their interactions and the fact that no one is safe. The show shouldn't be buried on HBO-Latino. This is a show that deserves to run alongside Rome and Deadwood and other higher-profile, regular HBO series. If you haven't watched this and think that a Spanish-language series with subtitles isn't your thing, just give the first episode or two a try. I bet you'll be hooked.
Disappointing, but how could it be otherwise?
I mean, these books are so crammed full of character and incident, how can they possibly be adapted to a two or two and a half hour film? I think the screenwriters did a better job with the last film--I never felt lost or saw gaping plot holes. This time, there's so much stuff that needs to be introduced and new characters to take the stage, that it just feels rushed and incomplete somehow. The whole first hour or so is primarily exposition and is so sketchy that those who aren't intimately familiar with the books might be lost. The movie takes too long to get going and when it finally does warm up and get exciting, blink, and it's over. I'm not one of those purists that thinks every little incident and character mentioned in the books has to be translated to the screen, but I think they might have tried to do too much this time out. We've got a very busy movie that doesn't really have a strong narrative arc leading through it. Again, I much preferred Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to this muddled mess, though it does have its strengths, notably Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. Next time out, they're going to really have to work harder on a screenplay that streamlines and clarifies the story, or else they're going to have to go the other direction and give us a three-hour movie.
Un sussurro nel buio (1976)
What a Dull, Slow-Moving and Pointless Film!
I'm glad there are companies like NoShame that are resurrecting lost Italian genre films for DVD. I just wish these films would live up to their reputations! _A Whisper in the Dark_ is never even remotely scary and is, ultimately, a very slow-moving and rather pointless movie. It is not in the same league as films like Mario Bava's _Shock_ or _The Sixth Sense_, as another poster here has suggested. It doesn't even really have much to do with Henry James' _The Turn of the Screw_ or films based on that story. I kept waiting impatiently for something--ANYTHING--to happen and it never did. When the final credits rolled, I was thinking "is that it?" If you really want to see the movie for yourself, save your money and rent it from Netflix, as I did. Even then, you might regret taking up a space in your queue with this nonsense.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
I haven't had this much fun at the movies in a long time
I wasn't sure what to make of the movie at first. The opening sequences are almost a bit too much, with the story stopping and starting and reversing and Robert Downey's narration seeming a bit arch. But then it settles into a groove and becomes one of the funniest and most entertaining films I've seen in quite awhile. I've never been a huge fan of Downey, but here his sarcastic persona really fits the role, that of a low level thief turned actor turned apprentice detective. His snarky comments fit the movie and its allusions to pulp detective fiction perfectly. Val Kilmer is another actor that I haven't always liked, yet he, too, is great in the role of a gay private detective, underplaying and very funny at the same time. At times, the movie reminded me of The Last Boy Scout, one of Black's earlier screenplays and a dark movie that I absolutely hated, unrelieved by even a hint of comic relief. But every time this movie threatened to go in that direction, it would pull back and lighten up. Ultimately, it was a great ride and I would love to see these characters back in action again. Sequel, anyone?
The Weather Man (2005)
Complete, selfish jerk slowly comes around
Nicholas Cage is on a role, with this film and the excellent Lord of War. It's not easy to play a character the audience isn't going to like, yet somehow making that character come to life and hold our interest. Yet this is what Mr. Cage does so effectively in both of these movies. His character this time is a selfish, overgrown adolescent who can't understand why his life is so crappy. He's oblivious to the fact that his ex-wife hates him and any reconciliation is out of the question. But he obviously cares about his children and wants to connect with them (some of the best sequences in the film show him doing this, often in quite tentative ways). And he wants to distinguish himself in the eyes of his famous father. He just doesn't know what to do or how to do it. He's like a big kid who's never grown up, yet during the course of the movie, he realizes that he must and begins the slow, painful process of doing so. It's a tribute to Cage that he makes this process both funny and painful at times, and even though his character is an unlikeable one (though never as unlikeable as his arms dealer in Lord of War), we're still riveted to the screen and rooting for him to change. I wasn't sure what to expect from this film--the trailer is a bit misleading in that it seems to promise an outright comedy--but I wasn't disappointed. This is one of the most complex treatments of contemporary life that a big studio has released in years. Both Cage and Michael Caine as his famous writer/father turn in acting turns that are Oscar-worthy. But I'm afraid no one will remember this little gem after another week or so.
Saw II (2005)
Really not that bad.....
Saw II was sooooooo much better than the original Saw. I don't know what happened to Danny Glover and Cary Elwes on the original--their acting was just terrible. The one thing that movie had going for it was the final shock moment. The sequel on the other hand, is a fully-developed movie, with characterization and some good acting, from the likes of Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith, and Glenn Plummer. Even Franky G, the loathsome drug dealer Xavier, turns in a pretty good performance. It is a gruesome movie, but I don't think it's a sick film, the way some critics have gone overboard in describing this as something fit only for borderline psychopaths. It's got a neat puzzle of a plot and it is all very logical and holds together quite well (that's another criticism I've read that has me scratching my head, that the film makes all sort of logical leaps, etc.). There's a reason for everything that happens and several neat twists and turns to the plot that we don't foresee. As in the first film, just when we think we know where things are going, we're suddenly clued into the fact that we have no idea where it's all going. If we could all just slow down and listen carefully to each other, and work together for the good of everyone, maybe these bad things could be avoided! On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to see the theater ushers come in and make a group of 10 or 12 young kids leave the movie--it definitely isn't appropriate for them.
The real mystery in this movie is what attracted such an A-list group of stars (Ewan Macgregor, Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling, Bob Hoskins, etc.) to such a poorly-written and imagined screenplay. The whole thing plays out like an ultra-cheesy episode of _The Twilight Zone_, though at almost 100 minutes, your patience is likely to run out long before the climactic "reveal" that supposedly ties everything together. I say "supposedly" because I don't think it does tie anything together--you're likely to have just as many, if not more, questions at the end. I was suckered in by mysterious trailers that made this film seem to be something intriguing and mysterious, and it is that, but people want answers. The whole thing seems to promise a final twist along the lines of _The Sixth Sense_, but there's just nothing. It's a very self-consciously arty film (one critic I read called it a "look-what-I-learned-in film-school" film--good description), with a theme and story than might seem weighty to an eight-grader. If you're familiar with _Jacob's Ladder_ or _Carnival of Souls_ or Ambrose Bierce's story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," then you've already seen this story before, and you should save your money and your time. I found myself wishing I'd gone to see _Doom_ instead.
North Country (2005)
Good, but not great treatment of sexual harassment theme
Seeing _North Country_ is almost a civic duty if you live in Minnesota, as I do. It's great to see familiar scenes and places up on the screen (I've eaten in that same Village Inn in Virginia several times) and to have a local story with recognizable characters. Unfortunately, I thought the movie was a bit of a failure. I'm sure the sexual harassment these women faced was horrible and I don't condone it for a minute, but the film is a bit too melodramatic in its treatment of such a serious theme. I was especially put off by the ending. If you've read anything about the real case the movie was based on, you know that it went on for years and years before being decided. The film has a very abrupt ending which doesn't reflect this lengthy struggle. Also, like others, I object to the caricatures of some of the characters. Again, I'm sure there were some awful people working in those mines, but the leering cavemen portrayed in the movie are just a bit much. And the Minnesota accents are just plain ridiculous, more overplayed than anything this side of _Fargo_. Particularly bad was Woody Harrelson's "red ice, yellow ice" speech in the courtroom scenes near the end of the movie, as he berates Jeremy Renner's character into admitting his lie. That said, there are certainly many worthwhile moments in the film. Charlize Theron nails another great, non-glamorous role. Frances McDormand seems a shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Sissy Spacek and the great Richard Jenkins do memorable work as Theron's parents. Surprisingly, Sean Bean doesn't seem to be miscast as McDormand's husband, a former miner injured on the job. But as others have noted, I just don't buy Woody Harrelson as a former hockey legend, as a lawyer, or as a Minnesotan. The film is something of a mixed bag and certainly worth seeing, but I can't help but feel somewhat disappointed by it.
Premiere episode not bad
The first episode was much better than the over-hyped Threshold. I wasn't expecting much, so maybe I was pleasantly surprised? I liked the different stories, particularly the cute marine biologist in the deep sea submersible. Where did Lake Bell suddenly materialize from? I'm surprised we haven't seen her in something before this. There was a certain low-key approach to the whole thing that might carry this show a long way. They're not trying to call attention to themselves and position the show as "must-see TV" (yet). The sinister government conspiracy was more believable and better contained than that in the similar Threshold. I liked Rade Serbedzija (sp?) as the lead scientist. If this show continues to develop in a similar vein to the premiere episode, I'll keep watching, though it might get a bit tiresome to keep the creatures in the shadows. Give Surface a chance!
Mail Order Wife (2004)
A Real Gem of a Movie
I stumbled on this after reading a very positive review of it in the local paper. I was surprised that I hadn't read or heard anything about it prior to that, because I try to keep current with new releases and haunt Internet sites like IMDb for information on upcoming movies. This was one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time and it only dawned on me quite gradually that maybe it wasn't really a documentary after all. There are so many believable, true-to-life, uncomfortable moments in the film that it really had me going. In a way, I guess I'm actually glad to have come into it without any preconceptions, but the film is so far under the radar that you may never hear about it and it might not ever find the wide audience it really deserves. Highly recommended! If this movie comes anywhere near you, you really owe it to yourself to try to see it.
Not bad, but why completely re-write the back-story?
Constantine wasn't a horrible movie, though it does blatantly rip-off the series of Prophecy movies with Christopher Walken (as others have noted here). What I don't understand is the complete trashing of the comic character's back-story. John Constantine is British, for crying out loud! Obviously, some bright studio exec got ahold of this and said "Couldn't we write this as a vehicle for Keanu Reeves?" and true to all the Hollywood clichés, the end result bears only a tiny resemblance to its source. The John Constantine from the Hellblazer comics would make for a much more interesting movie character than Keanu's occult detective/fix-it-man. The real John Constantine is much more of a bastard, perhaps the most selfish character to ever carry a series. And he's pretty much an expert on all things arcane--wouldn't need a weapons man holed up in the pin-setting works of a bowling alley to act as a low-rent Q. All this aside, I didn't completely hate the movie, but it certainly wasn't the revelatory breakthrough that some critics have branded it. There are some undeniably impressive visuals, but the story is weak and confusing and, ultimately, not very original (rent The Prophecy to see what I mean).
Like a Great, Forgotten Movie From the 70s
_Stander_ was completely fascinating, from start to finish. I don't know when the last time was I saw a movie that I enjoyed so completely. It really was like some overlooked classic from the early 70s, in the styles and the composition. The colors have just the right washed-out look to make you think this film might be a contemporary of films like _Dog Day Afternoon_ or _Network_. And the settings, the costumes, the cars--all the period details bring us right back to the mid-70s. Never having visited South Africa and not really knowing that much about it, I almost feel like I've had a bit of a crash course in South African history and culture after watching the film. It's amazing that Thomas Jane, who hasn't exactly had the most memorable career to date, could so completely inhabit this character and bring him to life. This is the same guy who was the romantic lead in the insipid _The Sweetest Thing_! And the morose protagonist of _The Punisher_. He needs to keep stretching and looking for these more offbeat roles. And it's always a pleasure to see the beautiful Deborah Kara Unger in a film--here she plays Stander's wife. I won't recount the plot--plenty of other posters have already--but just urge you to rent this movie if you get the chance. It was immensely entertaining.
Briar Patch (2003)
I stumbled onto this on a Saturday afternoon on the Starz channel on TV and I don't know just why I stuck with it, but I'm glad I did. As others have mentioned, there's something about this film that casts a spell on viewers and holds their attention. It is a surprisingly moving story that builds to a great resolution in the rain. Dominique Swain is a young woman, promised her "true love," by a local seer played by Karen Allen (of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame). Since Swain is already involved in an affair with a local businessman, she naturally assumes him to be the one. Unfortunately, she's married to an abusive lout, played by Henry Thomas of all people, who keeps her chained up in their run-down shack whiles he's out committing petty crimes with his pal Flowers (Arie Verveen). Swain manipulates things so that her husband winds up dead and she can leave with her businessman beau, only to be confronted with her real true love during the climactic rainstorm. Some very real acting and believable characters and a slow-moving yet powerful story combine into something very special. This is a true under-the-radar gem.
The Incredibles (2004)
Excellent Movie, Not Just For Kids
I can't believe a movie this good would rack up so many negative comments. I took my 8-year-old nephew and 7-year-old niece, knowing they both really wanted to see it, but dreading a "kiddie" flick. What a wonderful surprise! As others have said, this is easily one of the best movies, period, that I've seen all year, not just the best animated film. The story and the writing really appeal to an adult sensibility, especially a well-read comic geek such as myself, while the action sequences are plentiful and appeal to the younger crowd. If anything, there may be a bit too much of the family/work life scenes for younger kids--the movie is rather slow for long stretches. But I don't count that as a negative. The insights and the message which comes through is amazingly subversive--beware of a world in which there is nothing special, where mediocrity is celebrated. You don't expect that from a Disney film. The whole domestic take on superheroes and their secret identities could have come direct from an issue of Brian Michael Bendis' Powers or Alias, though not taken to those extremes. More importantly, not only did I have a great time at the film, my niece and nephew did, too. We're all looking forward to the sequel.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Amazingly good movie
I went to both _Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind_ and _Dawn of the Dead_ yesterday, and while I was expecting the former to be a great movie, I really didn't know what to expect from the latter. Surprisingly, of the two, the one that sticks in my mind is _Dawn of the Dead_. As others have noted, this really is a superior remake, in many ways better than the original--better acting, better effects, etc. Now I know the original is a classic, but this remake was just outright horrifying from beginning to end. It is doom-laden and edge-of-your-seat scary. I haven't had so much fun at a movie in a long, long time and when it was done, I wanted to see it again right away. Sarah Polley and Jake Webber are great and Ving Rhames lends able support. Mekhi Phifer is good as the young father slowly losing his mind in the aftermath of the breakdown of society. The movie is gruesome and very convincing in depicting an absolute breakdown--the first 30 minutes or so are just unrelenting in setting the scene and getting the audience in the mood--cars run over pedestrians, houses are on fire, you can't really tell who's friendly or who's a foe. I'll admit I didn't expect a whole lot from this movie, but it was just out and out fantastic! Highly recommended, if you've got the stomach for it.
Something's gotta happen, and soon...
... or I might very well give up on this show. As I'm writing, there is only one episode left in Season 1, and so far, not a whole lot has happened. As others have noted, this is a very ponderous and slow-moving affair, and that's not always bad, but this show seems to want to walk over the same ground again and again. At this rate, we're not going to get to the "final showdown between good and evil" until sometime in Season 10 (assuming the show lasts). I admit to being intrigued by the premise and, even now, it isn't entirely clear who's "good" and who's "evil," Nick Stahl or Clancy Brown, but things are going to have to start happening or this show isn't going to make it. Hopefully the season finale will provide some shocks.
Kurt & Courtney (1998)
I can't believe I watched the whole thing
"Origami" sums things up pretty nicely (see below)--those were pretty much the same thoughts I was thinking as I watched. This was a pretty poor excuse for a documentary, with the interviewer asking all kinds of leading questions (i.e. "So, did Kurt have a fascination with fetuses?" after looking at a painting of a fetus surrounded by stark, skeletal trees that Cobain gave to a former girlfriend) of a strange assortment of drugged-out losers. A highlight is when the film crew walks into the entryway of the state lottery building, because, reportedly, Kurt used to shoot a pellet gun at the windows there. Ooh! some controversy! The receptionist promptly tells them to get out and calls for security. One of the scarier individuals is "El Duce," lead singer of The Mentors, who claims to have been offered $50,000 by Courtney Love to kill Kurt. If anyone deserved to be hit by a train, it was this guy. One thing that does come through quite clearly is that Courtney is a pretty scary person, willing to do whatever it takes to stifle any negative publicity and further her career. The only person with any real credibility is Kurt's aunt, who seems to be one of the few people who really cared about him and is honestly sad that he's gone. A pretty sad attempt at stirring up some dirt on a sad story.