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Smallville: Ambush (2010)
One of the worst episodes in several years
How dumb is Lucy? Some guy shows up, says he's a Colonel and asks her to plant a tracking device on her father the general and she just does it? Besides, Flagg was already tracking him at the beginning of the episode. Why not just kill him then?
The Vigilante Registration Act comes out of nowhere. I'm not even sure what it would mean for vigilantes to register. It seems modeled on some similar bills in the Marvel Universe, but they were trying to get people to register based on their powers. Getting vigilantes to register would amount to licensing their actions, which is the opposite of what the act seems to do, not that it is ever explained beyond it being somehow anti- vigilante.
What the hell does Flagg think is going to happen if he kills Sam Lane? Killing a general isn't like killing a union boss or civil rights leader. If a major proponent of anti-vigilante legislation is assassinated, people aren't going to just give up out of fear. They will conclude, quite reasonably, that vigilantes did it and this is why we need them under control. The vote was the next day, apparently. How exactly would this convince any senator to vote no? For that matter, why did they have a military consultant on a bill that has no obvious connection to military matters? And why did Clark just hear about it now when his mom is in the senate and his girlfriend's dad was a consultant on the bill when both his mom and girlfriend know this is relevant to his interests?
What really bugged me about this episode, though, was the fact that Sam is heavily anti-vigilante and very suspicious of his daughter's boyfriends and comes to suspect that Clark is a vigilante- sympathizer. He even has the Pentagon check him out. No one ever mentions that Lois dated Oliver Queen for most of season 6. It is public knowledge that he's Green Arrow. I'm pretty sure that the public would know that he and Clark are friends, too. When they need to tie Clark to a vigilante, they use his cousin, Kara, though.
For that matter, Kara apparently got clearly photographed when she rescued Gordon Godfrey a month or two earlier as Sam Lane recognizes her when shown the picture. It's understandable that the Pentagon missed the connection when doing their background check and she was never Clark's cousin on paper. That's just how he introduced her. However, didn't anyone who knew her in Smallville other than Clark see the pictures and start asking awkward questions? I suppose it's vaguely plausible the military got a hold of the photos and suppressed their publication somehow, but considering it happened at a press conference and they have no real reason to do this since the existence of super-powered people is public knowledge, so there's nothing to cover up, and having the public's help identifying one would make the whole registration thing easier.
Cruel World (2005)
Damned by faint praise
The cover of the Blu-ray for this movie proclaimed that Edward Furlong is fun to watch. You'll notice this isn't really praise for the movie itself. There's a reason for that: The movie is pretty damned stupid. Furlong does create a rather unique sort of serial killer character, but there's a reason this hasn't been done before. He's a master of ceremonies who does barely any killing himself, nor does he set up elaborate traps or make contestants kill each other for the most part (which would have made more sense thematically). He has a dumb goon do the killings on his behalf. The goon never really makes any sense in terms of his motivations nor does he tie into the themes of the movie in a discernible way.
Furlong's character is presumably supposed to be a commentary on the exploitative nature of TV production. It isn't very subtle, but this is a slasher film, or at least tries to be, so I won't begrudge them that. The only other characters of any significance are the contestants, who are of course a bunch of whiny idiots who only care about being on TV and all consciously adopt personas based on previously successful reality TV stars.
This sounds clever in theory, but doesn't work in principle. This is partly because the villain mainly sits at a monitor yelling stuff into the intercom, partially because the actors are mostly bad and partially because many of its points that it seems to be trying to make about reality shows get lost in ridiculous set-ups. There are some legit criticism to be made here, but the movie mostly misses the mark. It doesn't help that I wasn't sold on its resolution either because of the writing or the the acting. I'm going to go ahead an give this a three, because the movie did seem to be making some effort to be good, just not enough.
Beer League (2006)
I am a worse person for having seen this movie
Beer League is for the most part competently made. The actors are believable and the sets look like what they are supposed to and the camera man doesn't trip with the the steadicam. That's about all I have to say about it that's positive. That, and that by IMDb votes, apparently only one girl in her tender developing years has been subjected to it.
Perhaps if the movie weren't so misogynistic, it would have been merely stupid. This movie isn't funny and has nothing valuable to say. About the only use for it that I can think of is to demonstrate the virgin/whore dichotomy, perhaps more on display here than anywhere else. As of right now, this movie is only marginally below Ghostbusters 2 in its overall score. What is wrong with these people?
The Last Sentinel (2007)
Bad and dishonest
What's wrong with this movie? Let's start with how it was marketed. Katee Sackhoff is the only identifiable person on the artwork of the DVD and Blu-ray, but she isn't the lead. The tagline about it coming down to one woman is similarly bullshit. Katee's just there so Don Wilson can talk to somebody other than his talking gun. She doesn't affect the plot much.
I'm not sure what the title even refers to. Tallis is never called a sentinel in the film, nor would this make any sense. Nobody else is the last of anything as far as I could tell.
Next, there's the plot. What the hell happened that made the world go all post-apocalyptic? It has something to do with drone police, but we never really find out what, exactly. Similarly, the premise isn't never really fleshed out properly. What is the eye-computer for, for instance? The execution is even worse. We basically have a bunch of awkwardly garbed bad guys who can't shoot worth crap, which is fortunate as none of the good guys have a lick of sense about fighting. They repeatedly rush the enemy to kill with knives and such or stand out in the open while firing. The editing often resorts to shots that last a fraction of a second during fighting.
It gets two stars because the actors, or at least the leads do the best they can with what they are given. Keith David, who's always great gets special recognition here. The supporting actors, particularly the scientist and the propaganda girl are not good.
In a better movie, not explaining the apocalypse might be a bold move to strip the genre down to its bare essentials and not distract from whatever the movie was really about, which might be something like what happens to people when civilization goes away. This movie doesn't actually seem to be about anything, save shooting and/or stabbing lots of drones. Frankly, this isn't enough to carry an hour and a half, even if we do get some side-boob along the way.
Very funny, but doesn't make a lot of sense
Wake up, Ron Burgundy is allegedly made of deleted scenes from Anchorman, but while it's obvious how some scenes fit into the movie such as Ron's dangerous driving here leading to the parking scene in Anchorman, there's no way most of this would have ever fit. I assume a lot of last-minute re-shoots were involved.
Some elements work. The Alarm Clock gang is hilarious. They are a group with political goals, but seem unclear on what they are and lack any sort of grand plan. The bit with Amy Poehler as a bank teller who refuses to give them any money because they are so inept as bank robbers is one of the best in the movie. Justin Long as Ed's sullen teenage son, Chris, and Chad Everett as Jess Moondragon, Ron's mentor who won't shut up about how inappropriately he loves nature, also have some very memorable bits. Note that none of these (fairly significant) characters are in Anchorman.
Unfortunately, the movie is just a series of bits. It doesn't really come together. To some degree, this is to be expected in a movie assembled from deleted scenes, but it's more than that. The jokes get too much narrative priority, often leading to things that just don't fit in the context of the movie. Veronica Corningstone's personality is all over the place and Champ King's moment in the car goes on way too long, even though it starts well, for instance. This really hurts suspension of disbelief as it never really establishes any rules to play by.
This is a serious problem, but I'm giving the movie a 6 anyway, mainly because it made me laugh so hard I nearly vomited on several occasions, like when Brick explained what he was eating or any of Paul's attempts to explain the manifesto. In short, this is a great way to present deleted scenes. It isn't a great movie.
Smallville: Pariah (2005)
The best episode of the show thus far
Pariah very deftly addressed pretty much everything that had been bugging about Smallville up to this point. This basic point of the episode is that all these mostly paper-thin Kryptonite weirdos who have served as the villains in most episodes are people, too.
From the beginning, the show had this ugly xenophobic undercurrent where anyone who is different must be evil. For a show about a literal alien, it should have known better. Here, we see Alicia Baker in a far more sympathetic light. This isn't a whitewashing. Her flaws are very much in evidence, but we can see that she is a flawed person, not just a freak. What makes this important is that it emphasizes the prejudices of every other character in the show and Clark and Chloe at least learn something.
Since it has some rare and much needed sympathy for the mentally ill, I am willing to forgive the obvious villain (Who's the bad guy? could it be the guy who was introduced out of nowhere and is getting a lot of screen time despite having no obvious connection to the plot?) and lame special effect for the villain. This is an episode that doesn't beat you about the head with whatever the lesson is supposed to be. It's the best I've seen so far.
Smallville: Façade (2004)
A very special episode of Smallville
Lois and the football team and the larger continuity of the episode are great, but this episode really got on my nerves. It was chock-full of didactic and cloying after-school-specialness. If they are trying to tell us that we shouldn't be so concerned about looking good, how about putting an ugly person on the show? There are ways to treat this topic that would have worked, but this wasn't one of them. It just comes across as preachy and hypocritical, with a bit of the early season's xenophobia, which is a bad combination. The villain is terribly one-note and Abigail isn't taken seriously as a character. If not for the presence of Lois, this would rate even lower.
Paint Your Wagon (1969)
(some mild spoilers) Paint Your Wagon isn't a bad movie. it;s very watchable, but it just seemed to badly squander its potential. It has several major flaws. The first is a lack of a central conflict. The illegal mining plot which is the basis for the apparent climax of the movie is introduced more than halfway through. The love triangle which should be the basis of the conflict isn't very well handled. The filmmakers were apparently not interested in making any sort of point about multiple marriage and don't handle a lot different than any other triangle situation, nor are we ever really sold on Elizabeth and Ben.
The other major problem, and this is a huge problem for a musical, is that the songs seem to be essentially interludes in a straight movie, not integral like they should be. They serve to make the movie longer, but very few actually move the plot around, revolve around characters making decisions, etc as is usually the case. In fact, I can't think of any singing conversations. It's all solos and chorus stuff. The parody on The Simpsons was catchier than any of the songs actually in the movie. The song with the town-folk and the Parson in front of the whorehouse is the only song that actually seems like it belongs in this movie, though They Call the Wind Mariah is also decent. There are related problems with the music. For instance, the French tarts aren't given a single number, which seems like a huge oversight.
IMDb's trivia says that Paint Your Wagon went way over schedule and over budget. I'm guessing this was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen and with a tighter creative team, it could have been much better.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
A Worthy Sophomore Effort
I really loved Night of the Living Dead. It's one of my all-time favorite horror movies. Despite this, I just now got around to watching this sequel, even though it came out a couple years before I was born. I watched the US theatrical version for this review.
The movie isn't quite as good as its near-perfect predecessor, despite clearly having some money (though not a bunch) to work with this time. The main problem is that it can be rather heavy-handed. Yes, we get that consumer culture makes us all into zombies. You don't need to spell it out for us every few minutes.
Unlike today's dead-teenager flicks (and the remake of Dawn of the Dead) with their plethora of expendables to up the kill-count, this movie gets it right. We have four main characters and we get to know them all, so when someone dies, it matters. It's pretty tight POV, like we're living in the mall with everyone and we get into everyone's life. It's alternately tense and funny.
Despite hitting you in the face with its themes half a dozen times, the movie really works, partially because it's still socially relevant (and there are some more subtle parts, too) and partially because of the well-developed characters. I recommend it.
Robin's Big Date (2005)
I've long held to the theory of comedy that says there's nothing funnier than a guy being a jerk for no apparent reason. This short is a perfect illustration. Robin is trying to have a quiet date when Bat-Man shows up uninvited, appoints himself wingman and proceeds to make an ass of himself. Justin Long does a good job playing the exasperated straight man as Sam Rockwell's Bat-Man becomes increasingly more bizarre and obnoxious. Meanwhile, his prospective date gets sick of both of them. The low-quality costumes and Bat-Man's beard just make it funnier. This is the best fan-made Batman parody I've seen. It's easy to find on the net. I recommend you do so.
The Bogus Witch Project (2000)
The concept has problems
This isn't exactly a movie. It's six short parodies of the Blair Witch Project with miscellaneous skits in between. Like many compilation movies, the quality is terribly uneven. A couple of the sections are pretty decent. The first one, the Watts Bitch Project, about some white kids who get lost in the ghetto is one of my favorites. The last one, The Willie Witch Project, about government housing in the woods is also pretty good. Both are dependent on broad racial humor, which I must admit I am a fan of. The other segments range from not great to awful. The filler bits are almost all awful. Besides this problem, since the skits all have more or less the same plot (except Pauly Shore's The Bogus Witch, which is at least different if not good), it gets pretty repetitive. While there are a couple good bits, I can't really recommend this to anyone.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Pretty good, but not as good as the first two
When I wrote my review for X2, I commented on how deftly it handled a huge cast of characters. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the sequel. Perhaps a lot of the problem is that it is nearly half an hour shorter. Angel is merely as a plot device. Colossus doesn't seem to even be integral to the story. Even Beast doesn't quite get his due. Kitty gets lots of screen time, but relatively little character development. The bad guys fare worse. Try to name two personality traits of any of Magneto's new goons. I can't do it.
The previously established characters don't fare a lot better. Storm gets more screen time, but none of it particularly interesting. There are some bits with other characters, but the main cast is pared down to Professor X, Jean, Wolverine and Magneto, all fine characters, but a drastic reduction from the previous movies.
The lack of characterization is noticeable compared to previous movies, though it more lessens the effect than wrecking it. All other aspects of the movie are quite strong, luckily. The effects, while perhaps taking too much of the focus, are top notch and the plot, about a company trying to market a cure for mutants and the political repercussions is quite interesting.
I could have done with more character, more running time and less or better set pieces, but it's fairly good and I still look forward to any future output from the franchise.
Two Harbors (2005)
Wow! Way better than I expected.
I caught this movie at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival. It's one of the better movies I've seen in a while. I hope someone picks this up and I very much want to buy it. It is the story of a grumpy middle-aged seller of antique action figures, Vic, who meets a sweet, very vulnerable young woman, Cassie, who sells dolls in a booth in the same center. He has been trying for years to catch the notice of extra-terrestrials, apparently because no one down here notices him and she goes along with it because she has the same problem. It was at once funny and tragic. It does a great job of making its two major characters very real, despite their general bizarreness and likable, despite Vic's abusiveness to almost everyone he meets. It's not perfect, but it's about as close as you can get for a movie made for so little money. The fact it was a first film for the writer/director makes it all the more amazing. The hope of finding something like this is the reason I go to independent film festivals. Buy it if it ever comes to DVD.
Aimée Price (2005)
Shows promise, but lacks in the delivery
I caught this movie at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival. It's about a woman who gives up a year of her life for a lifetime of happiness, then decides thirty years later she wants it back. It's a strong premise and fantastic realism is one of my favorite genres. The technical qualities are also very nice. Everything is lit and shot impeccably and I had assumed there were two actresses playing the character at different ages until I saw the make-up credits. Unfortunately, the script has a bunch of weak places where it seems like the writer had two ideas she wanted to get between but didn't know how to do so. Some things, like the exact nature of the deal when Aimée 's year is restored, aren't made clear enough. Also, the acting was rather in a bunch of spots, including from the lead. This sort of thing isn't necessarily the actors' fault. I'm not saying anyone is bad, just that they largely weren't great here. John Savage as the antiquarian is a notable exception. Overall, it was decent, but could have been a lot better with some more experience put into it. This was a first film for the director (and writers, for that matter) and it shows.
Snow Foolin' (1949)
This cartoon starts with a bunch of animals putting on their winter coats and quickly gives way to lots of animals skating and what appears to be body-slalom with various happenings which I suppose were supposed to be jokes, but I didn't find very funny.
Then, a kangaroo tells to follow the bouncing egg we're suddenly in a bizarre sing-along version of Jingle Bells. The amazing part about this is they do all the verses, then a little more skating, then it's over. There's no real plot, not even a slapstick joke-plot and the gags were all done better in other cartoons of the era. Certainly odd and interesting to people who are into early (pre-TV) animation, but not going to be a holiday classic anytime soon.
Santa's Surprise (1947)
This is a cartoon about some kids who decide that since Santa does so much for them every year, they should do something for him. So they break into his house and attempt to help him clean.
Like so many things from the 1940s, this cartoon is full of what would today be considered offensive racial stereotypes in what was probably an attempt at diversity. Check out the design on the black and Chinese kids, especially.
The animation is very cheap and the songs are pretty bad, but it does have some charming (cute) sight-gags. And it's only nine minutes long, so you won't waste too much of your life.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Okay, but a bit slow and sappy
If not for Sleepless in Seattle and the Warren Beatty/Annette Bening remake, I probably never would have seen or even heard of this movie.
I thought the script was a bit too melodramatic for its own good and it was rather slow-paced compared to modern movies. Note the many singing sequences which do nothing to move the story along. Were this made today, it probably would have lost 10-15 minutes.
Also, I was somewhat annoyed at the obvious sets. The boat where most of the first half takes places obviously isn't and Nickie's grandmother's house is obviously in front of a large drop, not the sea as nothing in the background moves.
That's a minor annoyance though and the turns out pretty well anyway thanks to its actors, particularly Cary Grant, though he is cast somewhat implausibly as an Italian. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr were one of those screen couples that probably could have made any script tolerable (they were in a total of four movies together), and here they're working with a script that isn't half-bad.
I'd recommend this to old-fashioned romantics, but if you don't have a taste for fifties movies, particularly romances, you probably won't like this either.
Dinner with Friends (2001)
Clearly a stage play, but not bad
Dinner with Friends is somewhat unusual. Perhaps I''m just not as well-versed as I thought, but I haven't seen other movies about two couples that are friends, one splits up and its effect on the other couple.
This movie obviously originates as a stage play as it consists of four people sitting around and talking. As such, you can only make it so interesting, visually.
Because of this, the movie relies pretty much exclusively on the dialog and actors to make things interesting, and they mostly deliver. There were a few moments where the acting seemed very stage-style, for lack of a better term, but still decent overall.
I would caution you that you won't like this movie if you can't connect with the source material. It's a study of marriages and why some work and others don't as well as the effects of a divorce on friends. I would recommend it mostly to people who have had long- term relationships and/or are interested in them.
Porky's II: The Next Day (1983)
This is a sex comedy?
Porky's is generally considered to be the movie that started the high-school sex-comedy subgenre, yet its sequel has very little nudity and not a lot of jokes either.
The movie starts off pretty well with a story about Pee-Wee trying to get revenge for the Cherry Forever prank in the previous movie, but soon veers off into an after-school-special-with-swearing about censorship, corrupt politicians and racial intolerance. Which would all be great if it were funny, but it isn't.
It's not that the jokes don't work: there just aren't very many of them. Essentially, you get to see lots of straw-man villains act all evil and hypocritical, then get a mildly clever comeuppance. It does represent the fifties better than the original, but again passes up many joke opportunities.
As for nudity, there are only two naked women. One is in a grainy black and white movie. There are also lots of limp penises on mostly unattractive males. Oh, and no one actually has sex in this one.
In short, Porky's II could have been a lot funnier and sexier without weakening the points it was trying to make. In fact, it could have made them better and been funnier with better villains. Balbricker is underused here and the new guys just aren't as hilariously evil as Porky. In fact, the titular character doesn't show up outside the recap or even get mentioned that I remember.
So not much nudity, not many jokes, lackluster villains, so-so melodrama and okay revenge. I can't find much to recommend this movie.
Permanent Midnight (1998)
Decent First Effort from a New Director
With a cast that includes Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Janeane Garofalo, many people probably came into expecting a comedy. The trailer also sort of implied this. While Permanent Midnight has its funny moments, it's basically a drama.
While this is based on the true story of TV writer Jerry Stahl, it fictionalized a bit. The shows Jerry works on in the movie are stand-ins for the ones he worked on in real life, for instance. Probably to avoid licensing issues.
This was David Veloz's first (and to date, only) directorial job and it shows. It's not the direction is bad, but it's certainly nothing special and there are a few places where it's a little hard to follow.
This doesn't drag the movie too far down though as it rests largely on the actors, specifically Ben Stiller, who shows any naysayers here that he can do drama. He does a great job portraying someone who's a likable guy with a pretty decent life who just keeps using more and more drugs until he starts freaking out in public, shooting up into his jugular and generally wrecking everything and losing whatever self-respect he had.
Despite the subject matter, Permanent Midnight avoids becoming too depressing through bits of humor, a short (88 min) running time and an optimistic perspective.
I doubt this is the best movie for scaring your kids off drugs, but recommended for people who like stories about overcoming or are fans of Jerry Stahl or any of the actors.
Decent First Effort for a New Sub-Genre
Porky's kicked off the teen-sex comedy sub-genre that led to so many classic 80s movies and the recent American Pie series. Generally speaking, the first of something won't be the best as filmmakers learn as they go along, and this is no exception.
Porky's revolves around a group of high school boys in the 1950s and their attempts to get laid. These attempts bring them to Porky's, where Porky rips them off and humiliates them, then it's time for revenge.
Strangely, this is a period comedy that makes almost no jokes about the era in which it's set. The first time I watched it, I didn't even realize it was set in the 1950s. I just figured everyone was driving classic cars.
There's some nudity here, though not as much as in its spiritual successors.
Like those, it's as much about situational humor and awkward situations as titillation.
Overall, the joke density is a little low by modern standards and the more serious subplots are somewhat questionable, but the scene in the girl's shower is priceless. And no one ever gets tired of revenge. In the end, a decent comedy.
My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance (2004)
Started great, but ended badly
I'm a huge fan of the reality prank show sub-genre, but I strongly dislike mean-spirited reality shows. I don't think it was the producer's intention to be mean spirited. It certainly didn't seem to be aimed at humiliating the participants.
The first couple episodes of this show were hilarious with Steve putting Randi through a private hell with his obnoxious behavior, but things turned south in the final episodes with Randi's family. The bottom line is that irritating people and their victims are funny, but real families nearly being torn apart aren't.
I know some reviews have said the last couple episodes worked as drama, but I disagree. Drama needs to have some sort of point to work, and as often happens with reality, there was no clear point here.
These problems really should have been foreseeable. I don't know what the producers were thinking. As it was, it wrecked the show. If you want to see reality prank TV done right, skip this one and watch The Joe Schmo Show.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Great Soundtrack, Lame Movie
With Queen of the Damned, as with many adaptations and sequels, there is the question of whether it should be judged on its own merits or relative to the original. As this movie is an adaptation and a sequel, this applies double. The answer I suppose, depends on how familiar you are with the original works.
This project showed problems from the beginning. Though it was a sequel to a critical and financial success , the budget was 30% lower and Anne Rice, who adapted her own novel the first time around, was denied the chance to do so again.
In fact, forget what I said about this being a sequel. None of the cast and crew from Interview with the Vampire return, the events of the previous movie are never mentioned, the style is quite different and only one character returns in any identifiable way. What you're left with is two movies with a vampire named Lestat who seems to be full of himself. If it weren't for the novels and Anne Rice's credit, people would probably regard this as a coincidence.
Queen of the Damned inadvisably combines Anne Rice's novels Queen of the Damned and The Vampire Lestat into a single feature. Fans of the books will be upset by the nearly eliminated back-story and the numerous changes, many of them significant and without apparent reason. People who aren't familiar with the books will probably be a little more receptive, but even on its own merits, the movie isn't very good.
Its main problem is that the script is full of ideas that aren't developed very well. We're left with characters that are doing things, but why and why we should care are barely touched upon because the sections explaining that were removed or altered. For instance, the ancients, who played a major part in the book, are in the movie, but we aren't told why they're here or who they are. They're just some vampires who show up for some reason.
A slightly more serious problem is we aren't given any characters to like or identify with. Unlike the book, the vampire characters kill indiscriminately, making them come across as much more villainous. Jesse, the only major mortal character comes across as dumb. If we don't like anyone or understand what's going on, how are we supposed to care how it all turns out?
The acting is serviceable, but not great. Vincent Perez is quite good as Marius, and Aaliyah has a strong screen presence, but her dubbed dialogue doesn't really work. Everyone else is one notch above bad. Accents are a particularly notable problem. Lead Stuart Townsend's attempt at a French accent is unfortunately one of the worst.
The special effects are a mixed bag. The vampire deaths are very impressive, but the speed and flying effects are laughable. The sad part is that the DVD shows a documentary about the special effects and several of the other ideas they considered for this effect looked much better.
The only real saving grace of the movie is the soundtrack. Richard Gibbs and Jonathan Davis collaborated on an excellent score and also several original songs Lestat's band performs. While I know a few people disagree with me, I feel these are very fitting . It's perfectly believable these songs could become hits and they seem just like what Lestat would come up with.
I'm giving this movie a 3/10. The music and a few good effects and production design decisions are all that keep it from being a one. It isn't campy enough to be fun, isn't scary at all, so doesn't work as horror and has no apparent point or themes so it doesn't make for good drama either. Recommended for the morbidly curious only. Watch at your own risk.
Five the Hard Way (1969)
No movie ever became a cult classic by being boring
I've seen almost all the bad movie classics. Most of the classics of bad cinema are bad because of low production values, bad acting and silly plots. No such luck here. The production values are adequate for the subject matter and the plot is fairly standard. Unfortunately, these are the things that make the classics entertaining.
What we're left with is a meandering script with a very standard plot, bad acting, and worst of all, incompetent direction. The movie is filled with long sequences, such as the sidehacking race from which it gets one of its titles, that add nothing to the plot or characters that couldn't have been accomplished in one tenth the time.
If that weren't enough, what little plot is stuck between these sequences is either difficult to follow or just doesn't make sense. For instance, at one point a character is killed and it took me a while to figure it out. Not that it was supposed to be a secret, the point just wasn't conveyed the way it was apparently intended. And throughout the whole movie, up to and including the end, I couldn't understand why the characters were doing the things they were doing. In the few places I did understand, I didn't get why they were going about it the way they were.
In short, this movie is incredibly bad, and not in any fun way. It's quite probably the worst movie I've ever seen. I would not recommend this to anyone for a straight viewing. The only way anyone will get any fun out of it is by ripping into it with friends or letting the professionals do it for them via the excellent MST3K treatment, which is available on DVD.
Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
Overwhelms the Eyes and Ears, but Found Lacking by the Heart and Brain
The problem with Blood: The Last Vampire isn't that it's too short or badly written per se; it's just that what we're given isn't nearly a complete story. I realize there's a lot more material out there which gives you a proper background, including manga and video games, but this movie is the only thing available for the English-speaking market.
We're left wondering who these people are, why and how they're involved with killing demons and what exactly the larger goal is. The subtitle `The Last Vampire` gives us as much backstory as the dialog. If you want to know more, better start taking those Japanese classes and importing.
Also of note for native English speakers is the rather odd way all the English dialog in this movie is delivered. Everyone talks very slowly as if they are perhaps confused. Presumably, this was done so that Japanese audiences could keep up with a language most of them are only semi-fluent in, but it will just sound unnatural to people who are used to using English.
Another thing that may distract, or perhaps even offend many westerners is the character design of a black soldier toward the end of this movie. He bears little resemblance to any black person I've ever seen and more than one review I've read refers to him as frog-man.
And as I mentioned before, the movie is short. When you factor in the relatively long credits, its 48-minute running time is about the same as your average hour-long TV show after commercials. When the closing credits started rolling the first time I watched, the short length combined with the lack of an actual conclusion made me remark that it had taken a very long time to get to the opening credits. Then, I realized it was over.
So with all these strikes against it, why should you watch? There are, in fact, several good reasons. Number one is the visual strength of the material. The design is flawless and contrary to what some other reviewers have said, the combination of CG and cel animation works very well.
Additionally, the editing and cinematography are very strong. This movie has a sort of visceral visual impact that rarely seen.
The DVD is great for showing off sound systems. If you have a surround sound set-up, or even a decent pair of headphones, you may want to consider this title. The audio mix is very strong. The mix is one of the best I've heard. It's aggressive, but never too aggressive and makes excellent use of movement. Once you hear the subway train in beginning, you'll be hooked.
So if you don't count plot, character and acting, this movie is a tour de force. I've seen very few movies that can equal the beauty and technical power of this one. Ultimately, Blood: The Last Vampire is a movie which overwhelms the eyes and ears, but as presented here without context, has little for the heart and brain. How much you like it will be very much a question of how tolerant you are of this.
I would recommend you rent this title, but few rental outlets are likely to have it. The current $25 US SRP is too much considering how little material you're getting, so I can't really recommend a purchase either. My advice is to bum this off a friend. If you find a cheap used copy or the price drops sometime after this writing, you may want to consider a purchase.