Posted on 6/24/10 08:48 PM
When I had first heard of "Solar Crisis" and the load of the cast, I wondered why I had never heard of a movie with such a big cast before. Then I saw it.
NOW I KNOW.
Oh the hilarity! Oh the joy! Another film that is so bad it's good! Or, so I thought. In actual fact, this one misses the "so bad its good" phase and goes, sadly, straight to the "could have been so bad its good, but they screwed it up and made it plain bad".
For a start its way too long. Cut half an hour and it might have been more endurable. Then put in such ludicrous plots as "the man who is sabotaging the mission to save the Earth, because he has all the food stockpiled and he'll be rich if the mission fails!"Duh! Or the "talking bomb" plot device last seen in Dark Star. Guess what....just like in Dark Star; the bomb has a malfunction.....hmm... Add in a dash of "we can't act our way out of a kindergarten play" and you have Solar Crisis in a nutshell.
And the effects, while good, are pretty underwhelming; we're talking about the imminent destruction of the planet Earth if a team of scientists and soldiers cannot deflect a deadly solar flare. But other than shouting, sweating and a red glow about everything, there's no real feel of emergency. The ending is a sequence copied from (but mercifully shorter than) the end sequence from 2001.
One star, mostly for lost opportunities and bad career moves.
I wonder how Alan Smithee keeps his job doing junk like this?
Posted on 5/24/10 11:24 AM
From the greatest anti-communist comic book hero of all time, Captain America was made to a film in this forgettable 1992 straight to video release. Still can?t believe this was made in the 90?s. Think of the worst superhero movie ever made (probably DareDevil). It is far way worse than that.
Captain America seems like it was doomed to fail long before the opening credits ran. The feature was plagued with Legal Red Tape when 21st Century films went under shortly after this film was in the can. It was shelved for 2 years before finally being released to video.
The acting was terrible, had no story, the special effects were god awful, it looked like it was filmed from a VHS camcorder, and just wow. I expected better from Ronny Cox (Robocop, Total Recall), Ronny obviously had car repayments due when he signed on the dotted line for this little piece of cinema slop. Nothing like some cheap hack slash of a film hoping to make a couple of bucks when you're in receivership I guess.
It's obvious that the people who helped make this have no feel for the characters or the comics. The story is full of holes, lacks logic (why did the Red Skull cut off his own hand to escape Cap instead of plunging the knife into Cap's chest? And why was there no blood gushing from the Skull's wrist?) Overall it was another attempt to take a character with a long history in the comics and put the filmmakers' own spin on it to poor effect. Captain America is a great character, and I'd love to see him done right (hopefully in the 2011 version).
You can Consider yourself duly warned so rent/buy (if someone hasn't stolen it for use in satanic ritual as this is pretty much all its good for) and watch at your own risk. Only seasoned die-hard Captain America fans will truly appreciate it, if only for the occasional moment when he is doing superhero like stuff. The rest of the time they too will be reaching for the straight razor to put an end to the madness.
Posted on 3/02/10 11:12 AM
-May Contain Spoilers-
Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands is a genuine spectacle of a movie. By turns visually stunning, romantic, suspenseful, amusing, postmodern, and deeply touching, it leaves a stronger impression on me with each viewing, never once showing its 20 years, and more importantly after all these years it remains one of the most unique, satisfying, and downright perfect pieces of cinema ever made.
On a spectacular and sprawling yet (mostly) abandoned Gothic castle high on a hill surrounded by mouthwatering gardens and views lives an artificial man named Edward (Johnny Depp), whose old inventor's (Vincent Price) death left him completely alone and with sharp metal shears for hands. But then one day he is rescued from this life of mundane isolation by Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), a kindly local Avon representative who takes him home to live with her and her family, her everyman husband Bill (Alan Arkin), their typical girl-next-door teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and cheeky younger son Kevin (Robert Oliveri). He becomes a hit with the locals for his amazing gift for hairdressing and dog-grooming, but that is hardly what he will remember most about this experience. Like in any true fairytale, Edward immediately finds himself infatuated over Kim and (though they first meet with disastrous results) Kim slowly finds herself feeling the same way for this artificial but uncommonly gentle and kind man. But when her rough boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) finds out about this and tries to stop it by tricking Edward into committing a crime, a series of events transpire that put Edward in great harm.
Visually, Edward Scissorhands is almost impossible to beat as you'd expect from a director whose first job in the movie business was as an animator at Walt Disney Studios. The sets are jaw-dropping in both their design and construction, with the sets of the spooky Gothic castle and the Boggs' brightly colored suburban street wonderfully juxtaposing the life of nearly complete isolation that in the beginning Edward only knows to the very friendly, close-knit and normal suburban environment from which he is eventually cut off once again in the end. Stefan Czapsky's cinematography, while (perhaps smartly) restrained for the first two acts, is astonishing in the unforgettable ice angel sequence the best scene Burton has ever filmed and in the almost equally perfect climax, the editing is fluid and Burton crafts one of his best personal opening credits sequences of all. And the brilliant Danny Elfman's score is nothing short of astonishing, becoming (like the scores of most films that depend heavily on any kind of music) absolutely instrumental in the effect of the finale.
Caroline Thompson's (who helped Burton develop the concept for the movie) screenplay is an underrated gem, and working from it Burton also succeeds in making a fantasy movie that is not just real eye candy, but also an amazingly well-acted fantasy movie. Ryder succeeds in displaying a far nicer side as opposed to the strong cynicism she showed in the hilarious Heathers and Burton's earlier work Beetlejuice, and she truly makes you believe a girl like Kim could fall for an artificial guy with metal shears for hands, Wiest's sweet as pie warmth has never been put to better use as the kind but slightly naïve woman who sees past Edward's exterior and tries to help him fit in.But none of them can hold a candle to Depp, who's never been better before or since as he is here, astonishingly portraying with great dignity, subtlety and barely 100 words of dialogue (and let's not forget he had to endure a very tight leather suit and the afore-mentioned "metal" shears for hands and on that note a shout-out to the late, great make-up artist Stan Winston) an uncommonly gentle and kind but misunderstood and isolated artificial man who is hurt emotionally when he discovers that even the lightest touch with his scissor hands inflicts pain.
There are directors with distinctive styles and then there are geniuses like Tim Burton, whose extraordinarily vast, individual and visual imaginations are complimented by a real interest in telling beautiful stories to provide viewers with a film that will ultimately reach them on a personal level as well as dazzling their senses. He is one of the all-time gods not just of film-making, but of the arts in general, and with this film he is truly at the height of his powers. Burton still considers this to be his most personal film, and it thoroughly shows. He has and will never top this.
Posted on 3/01/10 09:17 PM
Ghost was the Number 1 box office smash hit of 1990. It made household names of rising stars Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and netted an Oscar for the always excellent Whoopi Goldberg. It's easy to see where its appeal lies. By its heart wrenching love story, a compelling murder plot, moments of real comedy, and fantastic special effects. All the components needed to turn Ghost into a crowd pleaser. Not everything about the film always rings true. And some of the revelations about the afterlife are disappointingly clumsy and clichéd, but for the most part Ghost is a film that's remarkably assured, and delivers on what it promises.
Swayze is an investment councilor Sam Wheat who enjoys a blossoming relationship with artist Molly Jensen (Moore). It all goes unpleasant when Sam is shot and killed by a mugger. But remains on Earth as a spirit. He is unable to be seen or heard by anyone and incapable of physical human contact. But when it turns out his death was all part of an elaborate setup, Sam enlists the aid of charlatan psychic Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg, gloriously entertaining) to warn Molly that the killers are after her now.
Some people found entertaining about Ghost was the logical approach it takes in weaving a story from a spirit's POV. When Sam becomes a ghost, it takes a while for him to learn the rules. He learns right away that he can't touch anything. But it takes longer for him to learn that it's not impossible for him to regain the ability to move objects. He discovers this when he meets a more seasoned ghost on a subway train (the late Vincent Schiavelli).
I was drawn to Ghost for its romantic elements. The way it explores the area of love that goes beyond the boundaries of mortal souls, beyond the realms of this world, a bond which transcends that fragile hold on life to an unknown world of everlasting love. I love the infamous pottery scene.
Another thing of interest is the surprisingly smart screenplay written by Bruce Joel Rubin. Not only does he handle the spiritual side of Ghost with consummate skill, but he also crafts a credible thriller, and keeps things ticking along nicely, balancing the drama with comedy whenever things threaten to get too maudlin. Jerry Zucker's direction is also worthy of mention because it's so confident and assured. Surprising, considering he comes from a background of screwball comedy.
As for the performances, they're a little uneven. Although Patrick Swayze is not one of the greatest actors to grace the Earth, he's quite well suited to the part of a ghost. In fact this is probably his best role. But it's in his scenes with Whoopi where he really shines. They make quite an amusing double act. There's one inspired scene where he has to talk her through closing an account and half the time she misinterprets his instructions. Or when he (eventually) convinces her to hand over a check for 4 million dollars to some nuns (a bit prophetic for what was to come for Whoopi!).
But its Whoopi Goldberg who steals the film out from everyone else. She's downright hilarious from the moment she appears. She's clearly having a ball as the fake medium who's more surprised than anyone when she finds her powers are genuine. She gets all the best lines and she knows it. And she has greater chemistry with Swayze than he does with Moore. She deserved to walk away with the Oscar. Sometimes they do get it right!
The special effects have lost a little of their sparkle over the years but hold up well. The images of Sam, moving through a human body and seeing blood and inner workings is striking. Or seeing him walk through doors and leap from train to train is memorable..
Thanks to its good plot twists, beautifully directed love scenes and great performances from Swayze and Whoopi. Ghost is a film that flies high.
To Patrick Swayze, August 18, 1952 -- September 14, 2009
Posted on 3/01/10 06:13 PM
A remake of legendary director George Romero's 1973 film, The Crazies, Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard) plays Dave Dutton, a sheriff in a small farmer's town that has become infected by a virus that causes the citizens to start killing each other. Dave finds out that this was probably due to the water supply being tainted by the government's accidental chemical spill. He and his doctor wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) and two friends are soon chased by the crazies (the contaminated) as well as the military who are trying to eradicate all the infected and possibly the uninfected.
Now lately all the remakes have been terrible, this is not the case for this film. It's actually a decent remake. I am not really a horror kind of guy but I kind of liked this film. Not as good as the original but its close.
This film, in spirit, is a zombie film, although they aren't technically zombies. Much like 28 Days Later and Omega Man, they are like viral zombies because it involves a virus; usually they are still people, but not themselves. What makes them so dangerous is that they want to kill average people. Unfortunately, we're not told in detail precisely how this virus works that makes them want to kill. Does it make people violent and extreme like 28 Days Later? Not really a lot of these guys appear somewhat designed and well, slow, most of the time. For me, those being "crazy" didn't seem like a strong enough cause. After all, these aren't cannibals like zombies have a hunger or a built-in need to assimilate the population. These guys in general just want to kill. If new people do get infected by the virus, it's generally by accident, not because these guys bite. Regular zombies are scarier than these "crazies" because they play with our fears of the animalistic, killer nature. These guys, however, while they do use tools, just don't draw out the feeling of urgent threat that zombies give.
On the other hand, one may argue that the real foe is the government. Not only do the protagonists have to deal with the crazies, they have to deal with the military trying to slaughter them. This aspect makes the film feel more like a thriller than a horror film.
I felt director Breck Eisner's approach to this film was quite by-the-numbers. I felt like the film relied too much on jump scenes punctuated by loud tunes, an overused gimmick seen in many modern B-movie horror flicks. There's plenty of close-up shots and shaky camera work. With that said, there are some fun scenes, such as the car-wash scene and the ending--they were somewhat different. I wished the film worked more on the feeling of atmosphere.
Overall, while I was entertained for the most part, many scenes felt a little repetitive and excitement or actual creepiness factor wasn't particularly high for me. Whether it's more a homage or simply lack of innovation, the movie felt quite by-the-numbers in its execution. I suppose it didn't help that the "crazies" felt like toned-down zombies to me. A very interesting ending to it though.
Posted on 2/27/10 08:11 PM
I guess behind every successful man lies a woman, and in Mongol, depicting the early life of Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan Temudjin, this couldn't be more true. In fact, Russian director Segei Bodrov had pivoted the film and its narrative on the love story between Temudjin and his young bride Borte, whom had provided him objectives, and also an advisory insight into what he should, and should not have done under various circumstances.
And I suppose given her resolve to stick by her man despite whatever hardships and injustices thrown at them, is more than reason enough for Temudjin to accomplish his destiny. Of course this biopic has loads of artistic license taken, but I felt this angle was a unique one at looking at one man's rise to power and becoming an historical legend in his own right. Books notwithstanding, my only other film exposure to a Genghis Khan character, would be some Hong Kong television serial a long time ago.
The story begins when Temudjin is nine (Odnyam Odsuren), and his father Esugei (Sen Ba) takes him to select a bride from another tribe. Who would've guessed that Temudjin got smitten by the girl Borte (Bayertsetseg Erdenebat) who is very direct and speaks her mind, and without hesitation coupled with some sexist comments from dad, makes his very obvious choice. But things don't go smooth sailing for our young chap, who got to witness his dad's demise leading to the looting of his household property, which sets the stage for his realization that the Mongols as a people are nothing but loose sand.
Art house familiar face Asano Tadanobu takes over the adult Temudjin role, and we see that great men are not born overnight, but have a number of hurdles to clear and overcome before they earn their recognition. For Temudjin, his life is mainly that of being prey to enemy Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov) who sees the boy as a threat, and also the falling out with sworn brother Jamukha (played by the excellent Chinese actor Sun Hong Lei). For the most part, Temudjin's early life is not remarkable, only owing to incredible luck that he wasn't dispatched to heaven early, and spent a long time being under chain, a slave, or an exhibit.
This international production comes with plenty of beautiful landscapes shot on location in China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, which makes it a pretty gorgeously looking film to follow. If anything, it compensated for a relatively choppy narrative which fast forwarded itself for convenience, which sometimes leave you begging for more since things happen quite miraculously without explanation. Take for instance Temudjin's sudden meteoric rise to have conquered half of Mongolia. One moment he's praying to the gods for strength and the next he's one more obstacle away from being Khan.
For those who might be seduced by the notions of watching yet another film steeped in historical battles, you might just come away a tad disappointed. This is not to say that the fight sequences here were weak, but there could have been a lot more, and an extension of the sequences wouldn't be unwelcome. Loads of CG blood got spilled on screen and the sword fighting's nothing but lethal with its slash and parries, slicing and dicing, and decapitations. Don't go looking for that fulfillment of a promise of superb military strategy ala Red Cliff, because sadly it doesn't happen.
But that aside, the film still works because of its focus on the man himself, much like Oliver Stone's Alexander, his predicaments, love life, and some statements about the infighting of the various nomadic Mongolian tribes, and the desire by Temudjin for unification. The original trilogy planned by Bodrov is now a two-parter, and I'm definitely looking toward the next installment, which this one had left you wanting more. Definitely recommended, especially for the fans of biopics about legendary conquerors.
Posted on 2/27/10 06:31 PM
This film is so flawless, it's hard to think of a place where it misses a single beat. I'm a great fan of the Merchant/Ivory cannon, and believe them to be unbeatable in their perfection of the Ideal. Here we are given a masterful lesson by Roger Michell in the perfectly real. And it's OK to like both. I do not agree at all with the premise that romance and long dresses make any movie a chick flick, which is a fairly modern invention - both in grammar and a particular vein of shallow popular movie making. This is not that, and I cannot watch a true chick flick - they're not even good movies, none of them will be named here, you know which ones they are.
Most of the well known period pieces made in the last 20 years are some of the very best movies we have. I think them not so much an acquired taste, as an appreciation that must be learned. Like many of the finer things and varied seasons of your life, it took someone showing you before you knew what you were looking at, or looking for. It is that way here. Once you see the truth they have to tell, then decide you don't prefer them - at least you've validated your own choice through actual experience. But to dismiss them out of hand from ignorance, or prejudice, or misplaced masculinity makes such a view less relevant. And I think more importantly, causes you to miss out on something you might find quite beautiful, had you seen it.
For the uninitiated, let me take a moment to explain. It is the inner beauty of good people, the proper behavior and right conduct toward others as a societal norm - just because they are others like yourself, not because you wanted anything from them. Real Gentleman and True Ladies. This all happened for the first time in history on this scale and at this level within the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Though this is the period right before the Victorian, they are directly connected and that's what is on display here. It will feed your spirit if you let it.
Good films come from good stories, and stories get their strength from the Power of Words. Like the ones I'm using here. Films and stories are important only because Words are important. So do film makers, film goers, writers, and people - like you. All with something to say, when given a chance - will say it.
Thus ends my attempt at persuasion, for those of you who might give great period pieces a view. Let their good words minister, let their morality speak. In an age where people have become products, and talk is cheap. You'll get a little bit of help from the Light that is in them. A spoonful at a time is all we are given, because a spoonful is all we can handle. Pictures, and words and stories of the way people used to be. The goodness in films like Persuasion -- is an example of how good film making ought to be.
Posted on 2/27/10 05:02 PM
So subtle, yet so very clever. There are some films you watch again and again just because you like them, or something about them. Even if you don't think them among the best ever - they're one of your favorites. This is not that. There are others you really have to watch several times just to penetrate the layers of things hidden - multiple meaning and real subtext. Modern film goers aren't used to this. Many find even the idea of intelligent films that require your intelligence to watch them, a foreign concept. This is one of those.
Now mind you I'm not saying this is a hard film to watch, it is not. It's extremely easy to watch, and very enjoyable - if you like people (or at least the idea of liking people). If you don't like people, you probably won't like this or any period piece. This movie actually has something to say, which is easy to miss. Meaning if you stay on the surface of it, it's very easy to take for granted - looking at the lovely and missing the principles and truths on display. Attention is something you have to pay, and some are simply not willing to do that. They feel the price of the ticket should have covered it.
If you love excellence then you'll love this film, because it is filled with excellence. It's not fast paced like a thriller, but not a single moment of the film is wasted. All the transitions from scene to scene are seamless, and every scene is full. The language here is the language of relationships. With one of the stronger underlying themes being that of the Biblical law of reaping what you sow, and accountability for one's actions.
Pay special attention to where the film begins and the offense (morally) that occurs there, where the film ends - and who is given what would have been theirs (at least in part) had the right thing been done instead of the offense, and the way that it all comes about. Which is part of what causes you to not notice it. Believe me; it is so subtle pretty nearly everyone misses it. In an almost altruistic sense the story comes full circle by ending exactly where it began. Watch how the inanimate objects of an umbrella, a sword, and a house participate in the flow of events, and thereby the direction of lives. This is probably the most nuanced film you'll ever see, and it is a masterpiece . . .
Posted on 2/26/10 06:52 PM
With many successful hits such as "Face/Off" and "Con Air" behind him, Nicolas Cage ventures out in one of the worst films of the late 90's. "8MM" is so awful it doesn't even deserve to be in video stores.
"8mm" surrounds Cage's portrayal of a private investigator named Tom Welles, who becomes involved in a missing persons case. A missing persons case that leads Welles into a disturbing world that includes pornography. Which I think a film with pornography is just terrible and wrong in so many different ways.
There are only a few scenes in this film that make the film just short of a total waste of money. They include scenes of mystery and those that make you wonder what is going on and with his family.
Nicolas Cage is a very smart and brilliant action star; however, he must have let it slip his mind to go over the script with a magnifying glass.
"8MM" deserves a spot in the hall of shame.
Posted on 2/26/10 04:21 PM
"Love Story" remains one of the finest romances ever brought to the silver screen. Erich Segal has harnessed his immense talent and dispatched it toward his pen as he wrote one of the finest romance novels.
From powerful performances to a story that brings your emotions to the forefront, "Love Story" has risen to the highest plateau in Hollywood. The cast led by Ryan O'Neal, the stunningly beautiful Ali MacGraw, Ray Milland and John Marley is truly unique to other romances.
MacGraw and O'Neal turned in their best performances with "Love Story," and they will always be remembered as the most romantic couple ever to come on the big screen.
Segal's story is the type of story, which makes me want to live within that world and never leave and I want to watch over and over.
These are the feelings I have toward "Love Story." True love and chemistry has not radiated from two characters on screen as "Love Story" did with Ryan O'Neal's character Oliver and Ali Macgraw's Jenny.
This film covers the good times, bad times, depressing times, and everything in between. It is true testament to the talent of the fine actors involved, the writer who penned the novel and the director who turned the novel into a movie.
"Love Story" set the standard for which other romance dramas should strive to become. EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH THIS FILM.