dhetteix's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

The Man From Earth
½

Continually bordering on brilliant, and brought down by a lack of cinematography, production skill, and a rather overpowering mid-movie twist that simply spills

Encounters at the End of the World

Herzog is an eccentric, and perhaps an acquired taste. This film hits you with the immediate bluntness and selfishness of a rookie documentarian, but an awareness that the man speaking from behind the camera might actually be someone worth listening to... not in a traditional documentarian sense of neutrality or cautious respect... but more akin to an entertaining and slightly absent-minded uncle waxing poetic and seeming a bit ridiculous, but still holding the room at rapt attention.

Encounters at the End of the World simply follows that eccentric uncle as he wanders around base-camp, talking about whatever wanders into our out of his mind, making unabashedly random and whimsical commentaries with glacial surety. It drags on, but Herzog is simply too forceful to let you go, and you end with a feeling that you were forced along for the ride but weirdly don't regret the experience.

The Conscientious Objector
½

Hero-worship is all too common, and this film sadly overindulges to the point of making an otherwise worthy subject instead a 2-Dimensional poster-boy for politically-correct heroism. However praiseworthy Desmond Doss's story, convictions, and actions may have been, the documentary does little to explore any emotion other than diamond-in-the-rough praise, with a requisite prelude of ingratitude and hardship. In the end, little is explored beyond a simple narrative that reads a bit too much like a propaganda film or comic-book reimagining (indeed, the film-maker cites his boyhood facination with a comic-book about Doss.) Doss himself is a bit too vague to provide much insight beyond that of a strange form of directors-commentary... and we are left with a sadly isolated view of an otherwise remarkable story, unable to connect any strings or make any inferences other than a big, blaring neon light leading down a path to hero-worship with as much substance as a Hollywood script-writer could manufacture in a weekend. Truly, the substance must have been there... but its direction and cinematic narrative structure have far too many stars in their eyes to unearth more than a few heartstrings to tug at.

Fall From Grace

A satisfyingly balanced, and for that all the more scathing, look into a rather minor but vocal sideshow of the American Heartland.

It feels like one of those micro-history books sitting in your local bookstore: focused on one subject and rarely if ever deviating to even briefly take a larger overview of its context, yet managing a true documentary level of implied social commentary, leaving the subject matter to work for itself. In that way, we can excuse this film for not tackling larger matters, such as Christian Fundamentalism as a whole, simply because Fred Phelps world is inherently isolationist and not open to these larger issues. The audience is left to interpret the morals and the role this group may have in the world at large, and for that, the film deserves a bit of praise considering the volatile subject matter that could easily have turned into a aimless hack-job. Instead, the documentary presents you with the axe, the grinder, and the instructions... and lets you handle the rest once the film is over. For that, its focus and lack of context is not misplaced: it knows the audience comes in with a preconception, and instead gives ammunition in the form of details, facts, and calm analysis. Satisfaction, and a fair bit of outrage, guaranteed... as long as one reads between the lines and doesn't make this narrow molehill of a subject into a broad mountain of disgust.

Our Man Flint

A classic of the spy-genre, in its all-out parody glory. Age has only added a new sheen of humor, as we guffaw at the retro aura (the kung-fu grips, the 1960's womanizing, go-go dancing, and ridiculous faux-buddhist upper-class chicness.
Our Man Flint is an essential entry in the genre of parody, and actually manages to stand on its own without knowledge of what it is trying to parody in a way that the more recent (and less sophisticated) Austin Powers has managed to do. Yet where Austin Powers is slapstick hilarity, Our Man Flint is buffoonishly mock-serious.... a parody style that fits the spy-film genre far more comfortably and more satisfyingly... and has aged remarkably well for a highly topical parody.

The Botany of Desire
½

Lopsided and a bit misdirected, but overall entertaining and informative. The Botany of Desire is obviously trying to entice people into watching a film about something that sends most people to sleep: agriculture and botany. Not a sexy subject in the least, it tries its best (most obviously, in its title) to make its subject appealing to a mass audience. As such, it gets a bit anthro-centric and pop-culturey... complete with gimmicky title cards and simplified narrative structures.
Underneath all the polish though, is an informative and well-thought piece of educational film, notably the beautifully neutral section on Marijuana and the riveting socio-economic history of the Tulip. The genetic-food focus of the Potato, and the somewhat mythologized history of the Apple, the bookends of the film, fall short. Overall, it succeeds as education but looks a bit ridiculous as it tries to pantomime entertainment.

Style Wars
Style Wars(1983)

An original, and simultaneously THE original, documentary on graffiti culture, and by extension and to a lesser degree, Hip-Hop culture in general. The 1980's of New York may be long gone, but they are captured here not with beauty or compassion, but with a detached emphasis on humanity.

Well shot, well interviewed, and to a certain extent unbiased. At times it reads like a 60-minutes special, but at its best it provides a genuine, if sometimes too restricted and short, view into a world that has since evolved into something far more pervasive and different.

Terrorstorm: A History of Government Sponsored Terrorism

A disconcerting blend of fact and fiction. Accurate but overblown analysis of past revolutionary false-flag events cast an inappropriately logical light on further "revelations" concerning the London, NYC and Pentagon terrorist attacks of the past decade. A great deal of this conspiratorial message fails to stand up to true logical analysis... and much of the evidence shown fails to explain proper context, interview credible witnesses, or even explain any of its own accusations in greater depth.

Regardless, though, of the beliefs contained within, the film is laughably arranged with large red fonts punctuating word-for-word the narration, eerie warped images and a hilarious "special effects" mentality. I burst out in laughter as the film decries the use of mind-control fear-tactics as the film itself uses threatening music and huge, flaming letters to explain how you have been mind-controlled... and subsequently asked my roommates to re-watch the sequence to make sure I wasn't dreaming it.

Hypocritical and overblown, look to cooler heads to explain that unwholesome truths are rarely as exciting and clear-cut as this film makes them out to be. True analysis is rarely this rewardingly outrageous.

PS: As a response to the grandiose 5-stars on this site for this film, I would like to suggest that if anyone finds the information this film proposes to be even vaguely interesting, to please graduate to such writers as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein or Jeremy Scahill for a much more level-headed and complex analysis of the true effects of US foreign and economic policy over the last 80 years.

Barton Fink
Barton Fink(1991)

The Coen brothers best, and most simple, film. What few elements Barton Fink possesses, are sharpened and detailed to the point of cinematic perfection... the most striking example being the main setting of the dilapidated Hotel Earle, whose every detail has been painstakingly crafted and considered.

In the end, Barton Fink is a near-perfect example of the interplay between the tool of cinema and the underlying art of storytelling. In that sense, it is true minimalist cinema which doesn't remove the cinematic experience from the story, but instead supports it honestly and without pretension. Its brilliance is clear, focused, and precise... nothing left to chance.

On the Beach
On the Beach(1959)

One of the earliest apocalyptic films, despite being over half-a-century old, has a startlingly unique and refreshing viewpoint on nuclear annihilation. Not post-apocalyptic in the ruined wasteland scenario, nor a commentary on the events leading up to such an event. It still remains one of the only films to take place in a place utterly untouched by war, but reeling psychologically from its aftermath.

On the Beach instead deals with the end of the world as a slowly creeping outside influence, utterly terrifying and alien... yet calmly assured. A threat whose nationalistic cause is eerily dealt with through nationalist pride.

Perhaps the best non-documentary analysis of nuclear war.

Fahrenheit 451

A classic sci-fi film in the social-commentary vein of Soylent Green. Unlike the latter, though, Fahrenheit 451 as a film ages very badly. The world seems thin, as if it were only fleshed out enough to support the weight of its single message and metaphor... and whatever meat is put on its skeletal plot, seems to clumsy and dull to fit with a message that begs for darkly polished satire.

Regardless, the film contains some of the more iconic scenes of 1960's socially-minded sci-fi, and influential (if shallow and occasionally unfounded) messages, and is worth watching at least for this alone. Sadly, it is unmistakable as a poor adaptation whose high-points are not a result of good film-making or engaging acting, but instead it's excellent source material.

This Is England
½

A violent gracefulness pervades Shane Meadows intimate semi-autobiographical story about White Nationalism in 1980's England.

You can feel the smooth sincerity of the film-making even amid the grit of its subject matter... which makes the film all the more endearing despite its seriously dark and alienating content. Meadows maintains a deep intimacy with the pulse of his setting that allows simple events to carry immense weight without need for over-dramatization.

Think of it as a grounded prequel to the "Clockwork Orange" which loses none of its visceral ambiance despite its sobriety.

A Scanner Darkly
½

A numbing exercise in blunt visual metaphor. The rotoscoping effect becomes tiresome, having us focus on meaningless vector eccentricities instead of the acting.

Squint and you can see a decent, if average, film behind it all. The supporting cast of Robert Downey, Jr. and Rory Cochrane are superb, further casting a pall over Reeve's vapid performance.

Disregarding the scattershot acting or visuals, the adapted Philip K. Dick plotline retains a sense of paranoid grandeur similar to such classics as "Soylent Green."

Squint hard enough, and you can lose the rotoscoped gimmick and the wannabe Fear-and-Loathing cinematography. You'll be left with a pleasantly entertaining near-future dystopia and a none-too-subtle backhand against Big Pharma in the classic Orwellian tradition.

Vantage Point
½

Rashomon this is not. It seems much closer to "Phone Booth" meets "Reservoir Dogs", with a constrained setting told from multiple points of view in overlapping order.

Sadly, Vantage Point tires of its own gimmick, refusing to utilize a plot that actually needs it. Instead, we are given a straight-forward high-tech action plot that would feel more at home in a "Die Hard" film... a plot which works against it's own gimmick. Indeed, the whole concept of different characters "vantages" are cribbed and obfuscated so that the entire device is abandoned in the last 45 minutes in favor of a forced straight-narrative climax.

With a bland albeit satisfying plot, the gimmick of following characters in sequence needed to be adhered to. Instead, the last 45 minutes betrays the film for the tired pretension of an action film that it is, with the lingering aftertaste of something that could possibly have been interesting.

Next
Next(2007)

A low-grade action-film with a twist, "Next" manages a rather bold ending and some plot devices... if only it wasn't a decade or two too late to be anything close to innovative.

Time manipulation is a strained hook to hang a film on without an equally intriguing plot. Sadly, a nifty superpower given to a generally unlikable and boring character doesn't make them worthy of being the centerpiece of a film. While Nicholas Cage is admittedly given very little to work with, he doesn't help matters by prattling on about fate and destiny and a stalker-like conception of true love.

At least a bad modern film like "Jumper" used a superpower that has barely been used. "Next" bores us on two fronts simultaneously... they might as well have gone ahead and cast Keanu Reeves.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie(2008)

There are some thrilling moments in history that don't need to be put into the "thriller" genre. The stories of the German Resistance are among them. Highly complex and intensely personal tales of nationalism and pride simply become meaningless fodder when all the audience is looking for are explosions and civil unrest.

Thankfully, Valkyrie doesn't add in any meaningless action than is necessary, and tries to get as much tension out of standard military meetings and conspiratorial banter... but in the end, the films focus on assassination and revolt obfuscates the intent behind these actions.

While the events are essentially spot-on, the context is thus entirely lacking, leaving the plot thin and drawn out. The film begins in German with subtitles, but immediately fades into English with barely a German accent to be seen. This lack of immersion, despite all the attention to detail, is the films undoing.

A historical thriller which tries to pull through as a complex drama, whose intricacy fades as quickly as it's subtitles.

Tky Zankoku Keisatsu (Tokyo Gore Police)
½

A bizzarre gore-fest that delivers a seemingly endless amount of freakish situations... as if Kill Bill were combined with Videodrome and directed by a deranged Sigmund Freud.

Sadly, it doesn't have its tongue in its cheek nearly enough to be considered a comedy, nor is it coherent enough to be logically considered a horror film. In the end, the film takes its over-the-top gore far too seriously. Gore films are about the gore, naturally, but also absurdity. These core elements (gratuitous violence) must be supported by its cinematic elements (plot, dialog), rather than compete with them. As it stands, Tokyo Gore Police attempts to have a serious dramatic plot mixed with ridiculous violence... and the two don't mix well, resulting in a heavily layered but remarkably hollow pretension of a film. No amount of ingenious and satisfying torrents of blood, guts, and vagina-dentata can withstand such a brazen attempt to be taken seriously.

One should excuse director Nishimura, as a special-effects and make-up artist first and director second... but sadly, it is hard to excuse the film.

Special
Special(2006)
½

A churning, dark drama that inexplicably bills itself as satirical or humorous. The concept: to play out dark psychological drama against a paper-thin backdrop of comic-book heroism is jarring to say the least... especially when the self-importance of such a backdrop is continually torn and punctured by the presence of the reality underneath it all. This isn't a film about a superhero dealing with being human, or a human trying to be a superhero. In the end, its an average human dealing with being human and getting very messed up in the process.

Sadly, the plot is riddled with holes, and a small array of cinematic stylizations that eventually wear a bit thin.

It takes a bit of effort to see past the low-budgeted hurdles... but such effort is rewarded with a glimpse of the inspired acting by Rapaport (the film beautifully abuses his nice-guy persona) as well as the simple yet grittily accented story underneath it all.

A unique presentation of a depressing concept, which falters more often than it flies. Yet unlike other films, whose failures confuse or anger, one can clearly see (and enjoy) the film that lies beneath the blemishes. That achievement alone is something to be celebrated, and is the essence of independent film-making.

Milk
Milk(2008)

A stunningly acted, if occasionally inaccurate, portrayal of the life and times of not the first, but indisputably the most prominent, LGBT public official of the 20th century.

Sadly, the film cuts itself short, choosing to keep a positive note, and glossing over the trial and bloody riots that occurred shortly after Milk's death. As with most historic dramas or documentaries, the film eliminates aspects of history not because they are troubling, but because they downplay the supreme importance of the topic at hand: certain real-world contexts lessen the dramatic tension or story accessibility... and as such, the danger and menace that should permeate the film are given only cursory and hesitant examinations.

Regardless, the film makes a generally neglected part of the civil rights movement unabashedly vivid and accessible. Heavy-handed application of romanticized tenderness aside, the film's execution, especially Penn's effortless and charismatic performance, is enthralling.

7 Up!
7 Up!(1964)

A short, sweet, addicting, and influential film. Translating an inclusive lifelong study (of the kind usually reserved for clinical trials) into a sociological documentary takes bravado... but it is amiably handled here.

Regardless, the film is limited due to the short-sightedness of its thesis question: does class structure create an inescapable framework that will govern these children's lives?

While the question itself is intriguing, it means the selection of children fails to have enough sample space for looking at what would become the major themes of the decades these children would grow up: feminism and racism. There is only one child who represents a minority, and merely a handful of girls.

Regardless, such limitations are only blemishes on the horizon in this introductory documentary that serves as a light introduction to an epic series, as well as a brief, poignant look into the mind of a 7-year-old.

Krull
Krull(1983)
½

A quintessential 1980's fantasy film. The film quite simply contains every important epic storybook fantasy trope, and blends it into a charmingly campy under-the-radar film. What the film lacks in execution, it more than makes up for in ambition and storytelling. A wonderful introduction to the genre of Adventure Fantasy beyond "The Neverending Story", or the genre's comedic spoof, "The Princess Bride"

Retrograde
Retrograde(2004)

A confoundingly poor action film. Plot is not usually the genre's strong suit... but in this case, it is not merely ridiculous or unrealistic, but utterly pathetic. One imagines all the high-tech bullets that whiz around during this film are responsible for this hole-riddled plot. Weak (at best) martial arts between clumsily-clad future space commandos makes one think they were on sleeping pills while fighting... and the gunplay is even more frustrating, with pistols that can apparently explode helicopters but can't keep them from resorting to knives against each other 100% of the time. I barely even want to touch on the romantic subplot that manages to be exceedingly convoluted despite its utter superficiality.

Hardly worth ones time, with nearly none of its premises (a supervirus, time-travel, or sci-fi action) being even remotely delivered. All one gets are numerous closeups of the freakish bone structure of Dolph Lundgren in such varied settings as "cargo bay", "frozen cargo bay", "frozen tundra" and "corpse-strewn tundra."

One might as well just look at publicity stills to receive the same excitement the film has to offer, without wasting an hour and a half of ones life.

Cyber Wars
Cyber Wars(2006)
½

Cashing in on the Matrix franchise, this crime (drama?) has a bounty hunter track down a quintet of megacorporation owners who are forcing everyone to be pawns in a large game of their own devising... apparently. One has to take the characters word on this, because the entire "matrix" concept is barely fleshed out, only bandied about in the dialog to make everyone wake up and think they are watching a different film.

An interesting concept with some solid sci-fi elements. It would be watchable, if the plot was at all coherent or consequential, or even remotely reflected what the characters were talking about at any particular point in the film. Throwing some interesting, if cliched, ideas into a trash pile doesn't disguise the mess.

Frost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon(2008)
½

A movie with a keen sense of its own limits.

Frost/Nixon manages to convey its drama within a highly limited narrative structure, a result of its roots as a staged play. At times, it seems to overinflate its drama... as if compensating for the rigorous containment of the narrative arc: at only two point is the audience allowed any context outside of the interview at hand: a brief montage of war footage, and footage of Nixon's resignation.

An average film, and somewhat dubious historical document... yet, if the extra critical considerations that come with a motion picture as opposed to a play are dropped, we are left only with stunning acting and throbbingly tense dialog.

When considered as a filmed performance of a play, it shines beautifully. For a cinematic experience, look elsewhere.

The Ice Pirates

An utterly terrible, bumbling mess of camp and sci-fi. And, for that reason, thoroughly enjoyable for its ridiculousness. Buxom space amazons riding unicorns? Space herpes? Conveyor-belt assembly-line castration devices? Bumbling chippendale battle robots?

An overlooked B-Film that delivers an endless amount of confusing, ridiculous throw-away plot elements. While it won't earn it high scores, to its credit, it never becomes tedious or boring.

A hasty, tongue-in-cheek madcap adventure that fails to impress, but succeeds in keeping your attention.

Time After Time
½

A well thought out "what if" crime caper. HG Wells seeks out his former best-friend now revealed as Jack the Ripper, as he takes up his prostitute-slaying ways in 1970's San Francisco.

The morality lectures are short and to the point, and evoke a clever subplot: the Ripper is delighted by the decadence of modern society, almost tenderly declaring that it is where he belongs... while Wells languishes as his ideals of a future utopia are crushed.

Thankfully, for a time-travel film, the obligatory "culture-shock" sequences don't overstay their welcome, and a both characters manage to act with actual intelligence in covering up their origins to avoid being thrown into the nuthouse.

A clever little innocuous exercise which stands out for deftly avoiding the genres pitfalls... though, it hardly rises above them.

The Take
The Take(2004)
½

Brilliant, if naturally one-sided. Though, deciding to come down hard on one side of the political fence when the other side is utterly monstrous, is something to be applauded. Especially considering America's utter neglect toward the hemisphere in which we honed our brutalizing tactics... this documentary brings to light an event that is nowhere close to the spotlight of the international media, yet utterly essential to understanding how we might rise above our current problems.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After a while, one must wonder... what's the point?

With other film series managing far more impressive feats of storytelling in far shorter a time, the epic story-arc of Harry Potter shows how utterly thin and ill-suited it is in a cinematic form. Even a densely compressed and over-edited film such as 'Half-Blood Prince', feels weak and tiresome... as if the entire series has outstayed it's nearly decade-long welcome. There is little fantasy, enchantment or magic left in this once novel film franchise that simply is going through the motions due to a half-greedy, half-fanboy driven momentum.

Quite simply, it collapses under it's own weight. Star-Wars managed it's plot in three films, as did the Lord of the Rings. Other films manage to bring you to tears for a main characters death in under 60 minutes. How long is too long for a story arc? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? It hardly matters... your tongue will be raw and bloody by the time you ever find out. Is the payoff worth the time invested?

As far as the films go, the answer is an unequivocal no.

Kataude mashin gru (The Machine Girl)

A whos-who of low-budget over-the-top death sequences. You have such classics as Chainsaw stab, Chainsaw slide (both perpendicular and, gasp, parallell), the "shot with such a big gun it leaves a hole in your torso", and the only-seen-in-cartoons "I sliced you in 5 pieces, but it takes you 5 seconds to notice and then you slide into little pieces of pepperoni." It even has a few original moments, such as the "manually stuffing a shuriken into your mouth", the incredibly rare "Flying Guillotine", and the inspired "bra mounted with mechanical drill nipples". And who can forget, "covering your arm with batter, than shoving it in a pot of boiling oil to make your entire right limb a piece of bloody tempura."

All in all, an utterly fun and thoroughly disgusting time. It realizes its power doesn't lie anywhere near plot, acting, or even basic decency. Surprisingly, the power it does have, as an utterly gross low-budget gore-fest, actually manages to quite effectively compensate.

Bring popcorn. Bring friends. Yell loudly at the screen. Have fun.

The Hunt for Red October

Thankfully avoiding a good many submarine movie cliches, such as the infamous "pressure increasing on the hull" gimmick... but, strangely enough, without such gimmicks, The Hunt for Red October is predominantly an intellectual exercise with little visceral punch. The music and the lighting seem to be like constantly insisting nervous tension is at hand, but end up coming off like an overeagre parent insisting a child should cover there eyes because something scary is happening. The tension on screen never matches up with what is actually occuring.

Chalk it up to Tom Clancy's macro-scale opinion of what constitutes terror and excitement. Regardless, the film is enjoyable for its acting and easy-to-understand yet nuanced plot. If you are expecting action, though, be sure your idea of action is to watch a deliberately played game of chess.

Panic in Year Zero! (End of the World)
½

The Grapes of Wrath meets Xenophon's Persian Expedition, with healthy amounts of Cold-War propaganda mixed in, and diluted down into a campy 1950's morality tale about what it means to be civilized.

You have your characteristic no-good greasers, a young woman in need of rescuing, a nagging and worrysome housewife, and a father who knows best.

When their afternoon fishing trip is interrupted by a small-scale nuclear war which drives the populace into barbarism and cruelty, they begin resorting to equally brutal tactics to defend themselves.

While tension and fear are prime motivators, the actual expression of that tension is lacking. The films script and acting admirably give life to a truly catastrophic event, but the surroundings never seem as threatening as everyone lets on: the only truly despicable characters are a recurring band of outrageously villainous teenage hoodlums, and a few price-gouging storeclerks.

In the end, it is the family themselves who interact with the world in panicked and barbaric ways... and this is where the film shines.

A promising film that ends up being dragged down by silly 1950's value judgments and stereotypes, and a poorly budgeted and fleshed-out setting.

Eragon
Eragon(2006)
½

If there was originality in the book, it seems to have been lost here. If, for film, they needed to distill down to the major plot-points of the book, it essentially was "I am a farmboy who rides dragons. They are quite rare, you know. Oh, whats that, the realm needs saving?" If there was some uniqueness in the story, they probably cut it off as useless fat.

Underworld
Underworld(2003)

If only it didn't shamelessly steal from one of my favorite RPG series.

Or, for that matter, was a good action film.

Dude, Where's My Car?
½

A meme does not a film make. A rather sad attempt at a classic stoner-comedy.

The Terminal
The Terminal(2004)

Well made, but ultimately it's memory can be boiled down to two set-piece scenes. Everything else is filler.

Alice in Wonderland
½

For all it's charm and whimsy, it fails to capture the true, disjointed, and uneasy satire and wit of Carroll's original book. There are much better adaptations out there than this, and it is sad that most people directly think to this version when they think of Alice.

The Weather Underground
½

A sobering and much-needed documentary. Sadly, it only begins to scrape the surface of the importance and context of the Weather Underground.

Sadly, this film would be much more at home as a History Channel special event feature, rather than the groundbreaking documentary that still needs to be made about the Weather Underground.

Regardless, don't wait around for it. This film is especially a must-see for anyone who wasn't alive during the 1960's and can't seem to bring themselves past retro-caricaturisation of the era. Direct interviews (most notably from the former FBI investigators) are more than welcome addition, although at times it seems as if the film struggles to provide detail without detracting from the coherency of the overall narrative.

Clash of the Titans
½

No star-studding can make one overlook the utterly mundane and long-winded plot. If anything, "Clash of the Titans" is more valuable as a special-effects showcase. It is a great way to show future generations what was possible in 1981.

Regardless, as far as cheesy action-fantasy films go, you should start here before moving into the more obscure entries in the genre.

Up
Up(2009)

Pixar's strog suit has always been storytelling, not their animation ability and attention to detail... which, needless to say, is still rather high, but not the best in the business (Studio Ghibli comes to mind.) Its comedic moments seems to be better geared towards its marvelous shorts, rather than full-length features. Thankfully, it seems Pixar has decided not only for its customary originality, but to challenge itself with an unconventional and extremely adult storyline of loss and redemption... and its a pleasure to be told such a story.

Up's first 10 minutes, documenting an entire life of happiness and lost promises, and finally, a crushing loss, is one of the most moving sequences they've yet made... and the entire film runs off of the emotion generated from those 10 minutes. As the film rolls on, and the references and reliance on those sad and powerful moments begin to get further and further spaced apart as more annd more comedic side-elements get introduced, the films power fades back into standard Pixar territory... which, thankfully, is still of the highest caliber.

A potent mix, but one can't help but think if the drama to comedy ratio was a bit further refined, it would perhaps be the first movie in history to actually fully deliver on the "It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry" cliche.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Luckily, Washington brings much needed understatement and confusion to an otherwise overly sure of itself thriller. While, in most respects, closely following the original plotline, the remake of 123 seems to assume far too much from its audience, and explains next to nothing and drops almost all explainations in favor of quick and jarring cuts of subway tunnels and screeching trains to needlessly amplify the excitement levels.

Two characters are all given much more backstory than the original, to the determent of almost all other character interaction and acting opportunities. The film banks on Washinton vs. Travolta, but in the end, loses all the context of their tense back-and-forth.

Tuturro is given so little time, and his character so needless, he is only allowed enough time to act himself into the role of a thumbs-up yes-man to Washington. And Travolta seems so psychotic that depth might actually detract from his character (Which his largely unclear backstory indeed does.)

It seems like Tony Scott wanted more than anything to stay OUT of the subway, and felt amazingly uncomfortable directing a movie within it, to the point that the centerpiece of the whole film becomes a confusing mess: the actual hijacking and the logic behind it. The original was simple and accessible, but Scott throws reams of needless subway lore about tracks beneath the Waldorf Astoria, and rerouting breaker boxes and setting up wireless signals, that it becomes obvious that he's dazzling you with meaningless fluff because he himself doesn't even understand the films setting or its appeal. He tries to cram in so much, with so little skill or organization, that the entire film seems like a poorly written encyclopedia flipped in front of your eyes, with occasional stops on well-written banter between a psychopath and a guy who is having a really bad day.

Piranha
Piranha(1978)
½

Terrible dialog and a swarm of Piranha that attack with blurry blood-red repetitive bite footage and shrieks that sound like one of those out-of-control novelty toddler railroad trains that they set up in Malls around christmas time.

Regardless, absurd first-5-minute nudity and coitus interruptus with piranhas, along with a total lack of standard horror-movie ethics about who to maim or kill (dogs, small children), and an especially ridiculous plotline involving government coverups and greedy corporate resort owners and a failed marriage... end up making a terrible film varied enough to be worth watching for sheer camp value, and to witness the quote: "The piranha are coming! You've got to believe me!"

The Wrong Box

A classic and hilariously convoluted comedy of errors, which plays expertly on Victorian morals and mores. It might fall a bit flat for modern audiences due to the lack of throw-away jokes and punchlines. Instead, it offers a never-ending series of sight-gags, plot twists and general comedic mayhem. They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler(2008)

Takes very few cinematic shortcuts, always maintains its integrity as a film, and catalogs a beautiful if simple tale of a belonging and loss... where wrestling (and strip-clubs) are merely convenient settings to express a simple concept: is ones sense of identity and belonging meaningful, even in a world filled with fakery, false identities, and shallow idolatry? Is the effort required to find belonging in such a world, worth the physical and psychological toll?

A brilliant performance by Rourke, with average cinematography but enlightened directing from Aronofsky that squeezes a great deal of nuance and complexity from a simplistic plot and script.

Kiss Me Deadly
½

A tough-as-nails gumshoe Film Noir, a standout gem with perhaps the most memorable "whats-it" in the genre. A cast of amazingly memorable and sleazy characters, innumerable plot-twists, convenient death monologues, dames with guns, and bloody-fisted interrogations from a protagonist that genuinely seems to enjoy the violence he's inflicting as much as the audience has in watching the story unfold.

In short: captivating, exacting, gritty fun. A classic that should not be overlooked.

Phoebe in Wonderland

A wonderful performance from Fanning, an original and poetic take on the story of Alice in Wonderland. Still, the film wavers a bit clumsily between heavy-handed whimsicality and dark adult themes.... and as such, dilutes both extremes from reaching their full potential.

Regardless, the story is well told, and worth watching.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)
½

A simple, successful reboot of a troubled and dense franchise. Unlike all previous reboots of beloved properties, Star Trek manages to actually tie its redo into the existing continuity... a feat that, while a bit labored at times, manages to acknowledge the long-standing history of the series while finding new ground to retell its origins.

As a final note, Zachary Quinto does a fine job as Spock, although Nimoy's presence nearly upstages the entire film, to say nothing of Quinto's performance.

Solaris
Solaris(1976)

Thoughtful but conflicted, Tarkovsky manages to pull a rather elegant commentary about what it means to be human out of source material that was merely intended to portray something truthfully and scientifically "alien"

Bondarchuk is astounding as the Hari, and perhaps one of the main reasons to see the film, other than the signature Tarkovsky cinematography.

It Conquered the World

One of the best examples of the drastic disconnect between what a film is attempting to convey and what it actually manages... an essential characteristic of B-Films.

There is supposed to be something of earth-shattering significance occurring, but the most people can express is mild concern... at best. The main joy that can be extracted from this film lies in that fundamental flaw... as well as one of the most absurd monster-designs of the 1950's.

Still, "It Conquered the World" isn't bad enough to be utterly fun, yet still seems "serious" enough, in its ham-fisted but depressing defense of humankind, to be considered as an actual sci-fi movie rather than a B-Film. As such, it is best saved for a time when you seriously have nothing else to watch.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)
½

An amazingly well paced, organized and enthralling plot combined with a wonderful attention to detail and character development.

Few films cinematically activate an honest setting like this without losing the feeling that a gritty reality lies behind it. Instead, the favela setting is evident not merely the aesthetics of the film, but the acting itself... which, after all, is the main focus of the film: the characters struggle over where their identities end and where their environment begins.

Powerful and meticulously orchestrated, City of God is a film that deserves to be seen.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
½

An average comedy, which lacks the political bite, the gross-out weirdness, or the unabashed nudity or drug use to be considered a true "stoner comedy."

It is a teenage comedy for kids who haven't realized such films already exist in better forms, although it is sure to earn a representative place in its genres history for its era-specific setting and references.

The Golden Compass

Among the better of the recent glut of popular modern fantasy franchises to get movie treatment. Thanks to some well-done source material, it has a good deal of interesting, and unique, plot elements to play around with.

That said, it could have been more tightly controlled, because much of it still feels like there are too many interesting ideas being casually referenced, a common result of distilling a book into a screenplay. To people unfamilar with the books, as I am, it is far too obvious that I am looking at cinematic Cliffs Notes, as opposed to a stand-alone movie. This is painfully apparent with the cliffhanger ending... although, that implies some tension at the end. Rather, it's just as if the movie took a commercial break, and decided to roll credits.

Despite it all... the Polar-Bear vs. Polar Bear fight scene. Out of all the over-the-top "Oh, Snap" moments to view with your slightly morbid family relations this holiday season, make this the one.

----- Review Ends Here. Read on only for a biased defense of the movie against hard-line religous criticism

Ok, apparently a pretty vocal group have been giving themselves fits over this one due to the "god killing" ideas supposedly oozing out of this movie from every orafice. Point 1: The movie admits to the concept of a soul. Alot more spitiuality and morality than say, '300', which it seems alot of the people who despise this movie want to have babies with. Point 2: The God-Killing theme NEVER APPEARS in this film. Point 3: Even if it did, from what I got out of the film, having NEVER read the books, is that the eventual theme is more about predestination versus free will.

So, in the end, if your kid is old enough to watch a Polar bear totally wailing on some dudes, they are old enough not to get brainwashed. Honestly, the cute furry chipmunk-spirt-companion-thing isn't going to tell your kid to go arson down the nearest church. If we are going to demolish movies for being original, and maybe siding with different choices, then why watch movies in the first place? Are we so jaded that we cannot enjoy a Polar Bear ripping off another Polar Bears jaw, because some dude who came up with it thinks differently than us? No. Polar-Bear on Polar-Bear action is awesome nomatter the moral overtones. So stop the whining and bawling, you fear-mongers. If your kid hasn't gone Wiccan from Harry Potter, they sure as hell wont become Animist god-killing Scientists from this one.

Downfall (Der Untergang)

Downfall breaks many taboos, primarily the act of "humanizing" one of the most hated mass-murderers of the past century... in a fashion.

Downfall tackles its subject with such deft accuracy that it defuses the hyperbole of its subject matter. Leave the tensions, preconceptions and intense emotions that come with Hitler at the door... and you will find the film reconstructs for you the exact same emotions of hatred, only now with a razor-sharp subtlety and justification that does credit to the complexity and utter horror that hangs like a pall over this moment in history.

This is a nuanced (but by no means insignificant or easily accomplished) feat that one rarely sees in a historical drama: accuracy that reigns in hyperbole, and redirects it into a historic context that allows you to both revile its protagonist, while uncomfortably understanding his motives.

To say this films power lies in its subject matter does it a discredit: it is a result of extraordinary directing and acting.

Taxi to the Dark Side

Despite its name and apparent focus, this movie uses the single atrocity of an Afghani taxi driver unjustly jailed, tortured and killed as a springboard into the entire military incarceration system during in the last 10 years.

Limited yet lucid (though occasionally one-sided) interviews reveal significant context behind the all-too-familiar Abu Ghraib "scandal." Given the vast scope of the Iraq-Afghan conflict, this film fits perfectly in with its peers in highlighting specific parts of a much wider war with little partisan namecalling or sabre-rattling... and thus doing sober justice to its subject.

Reptilicus
Reptilicus(1963)

Nearly terrible, if not for its sheer uniqueness as one of (make that the only) Danish monster movie. Covering all of the required B-Move formulas, with the added bonus of giving New York and Tokyo a rest in favor of exotic (and hilariously modeled) Copenhagen.

The final icing on the cake is the absurdly pupeteered Reptilicus, which dangles on marionette strings and has a non-existent body almost always hidden by a convenient grove of trees.

The American version removes a hilariously bad flying sequence, but fear not, it adds a laughable "special effect" of neon projectile goo.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks
½

A movie cannot rely on pure whimsy alone, and dangling plot elements leave much to be desired (whatever happened to that nefarious bookdealer and his goon?), as well as the fact that Disney let this one sit on its shelf until it was perhaps 25 years beyond being relevant. Also, it misses an essential component of a good childrens film: it needs an element of fear to temper the exuberance.

Regardless, the final scenes in which the ghosts of England come alive, and the classic magical effects and gags, make this classic film well worth your time.

No End in Sight
½

Remarkably in-depth, this film refuses to become an expansive political warcry and instead focuses effectively and pointedly upon the facts surrounding the management of a country under occupation without questioning the ethics of doing so in the first place.

By focusing upon the early-occupation timeline of Iraqi civil management and reconstruction, the film remains neutral in tone, and thus effectively conveys a honest and important message without any partisan smokescreens.

Sadly, its focus limits its effectiveness, and the viewer must look elsewhere for vital context. Yet, in all fairness, as long as you haven't been under a rock for the past 10 years, you have that context.

All in all, a documentary in the purest sense of the word. One that does not merely reiterate, but provides a vital voice to, the facts surrounding its subject. Essential viewing.

Ponyo
Ponyo(2009)
½

One of Miyazaki's most expressive films, which is all the more startling for his drastic switch from his infatuation with air-travel to the realm of sea life. Also one of his most childish, and an absolute joy to watch, even if it isn't terribly challenging.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Disjointed and self-indulgent, this film conveys its story poorly, expounds lengthily while delivering little of value, and makes brave stylistic moves for styles sake. One may very well argue that the film conveys, if not coherency, then at least the "spirit" of alienation and disjointedness that the plot revolves around. In that regard, the film succeeds, but at the blatant risk of disregarding the plot entirely in an attempt to find its "soul." This isn't to say it tells no story... the story is just poorly told, constantly crippled by misplaced cinematic license.

This film at its worst fails to tell a story at all, and increasingly this is the case as the film progresses, becoming so enraptured with its capturing the essence of alienation that it alienates good portions of its audience.

This film is a cult film, indeed, but a cult film in the truest sense of the word: it is enjoyable to an elite who enjoy its rarity and odditiy, or by those who find kinship with its disjointed, dilated, and eerie essence. Unlike better cult films, there is little being said of value, little that can be gained by investing the time to understand it, and no true narrative (which is merely a foil, an excuse to indulge in an exercise of thematic expression) or meta-narrative (it tackles no real issues or cultural phenomena) to speak of beyond the phenomena of its heavy-handed effect.

Over-rated.

Marooned
Marooned(1969)
½

It unfolds slowly, with realistic but often no cinematic purpose. As the last quarter of the film approaches, it regains its cinematic credentials and regains a tense, anxious air.

It truly shines when understood in its timeframe, between the Moon Landing and Apollo 13 incident. It covers the same ground that many later Space Race dramas would cover, and often covers them with better humanity and thoroughness.

An excellent window into this tense stage of space-travel... and if it fails occasionally as a film, it can be excused for what it lets us watch with a sense of authenticity and honesty.

Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet(2006)

Nigh-incomprehensible unless you've got some background on the story and setting. The action is adequate but stifles under unnecessary melodrama and overwrought framing: in the end, the action is the only thing you can defend this film with, and it's "good", in the way that every other action sequence nowadays is "good"

Still, it is perhaps on of the most successful uses of a filter-effect in a film: subtle and not mindlessly applied for sheer effect.

Sadly, the image filter is perhaps the only thing in this film that is not applied for sheer effect... due to a dearth of substance.

Wild Gals of the Naked West
½

Pretty terrible... actually, amazingly terrible. But in one of those hilarious manners than seemingly only Meyer can pull off with just the right amount of sleaziness and still, bizarrely, a childish sense of humor.

The film amounts to a silent-film gag reel of running jokes and slapstick with an absurd amount of gratuitous, but totally nonsexual (to our current standards), nudity.

Most of the jokes are awful, poorly executed, and utterly strange... yet combined with the childish perverseness of Russ Meyer, it amounts to something to stare in awe at, incredulously elbowing your friends and remarking "It may be trashing, I may not know what the blazes is going on... but it sure as hell isn't boring."

Hancock
Hancock(2008)
½

A film which desperately tries to milk a seemingly intriguing subject, only to find nothing of worth comes forth. Thus, it drastically expands its plot... while not necessarily convoluted, you can still picture the plot desperately being put through a taffy-pulling machine. Thus, the film's trailer provides just as much total entertainment as the movie itself.

The nuanced character study the film proclaims itself as ends up being a shell for an average movie action-adventure with the requisite love story and exposition thrown in.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)
½

It is closer to the source material in some regards, further away in others, and reeks of a hastily re-shot ending.

Regardless of its similarity to the original story, though, Smith delivers one of his better performances and the effects are reasonably inspiring. Plotwise, it suffers from building toward a false, reworked ending. This results in a strong momentum completely falling apart by the last third of the film.

Still, it is worthy of the original stories name, although perhaps not its spirit.

Chop Shop
Chop Shop(2008)
½

Chop Shop, a neorealistic view into a modern urban lower-class, is a remarkably well put together film, with a plot that is about as serious and realistic as you can ever get in cinema... which I mean literally. Usually, seriousness can get away with fudging realism to amplify its message... or realism ends up being used in the service of a simplistic moral message. Instead, Chop Shop delivers raw realism, and unabashedly complex morals on an bare-bones plot. Add its documentarian cinematic style, non-actors, and one of the most interesting and on-edge neighborhoods in New York City, and you have a gem of a film. We'll have to keep an eye on director Ahmad Razvi.

Speed Racer
Speed Racer(2008)
½

Fun and honest, it is one of those few movies that taps into nostalgia and manages to come up with something equal to the original television show: it isn't ambitiously trying to transcend its source material. Thus, it is neither reliant on an audience of fans to be successful... yet at the same time, might actually create new fans. Its an honorable achievement from a fun, campy, and thoroughly enjoyable film.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)

Hellboy II does a good job at being a fun, energetic film that pits Del Toro's artistic fantasy against Mignola's hard contrasting mythologies. The two have styles that sync up well... in theory. In effect, the film seems to have a split-personality, making the film feel a bit looser than its predecessor was.

For fans of either Mignola or Del Toro, the film is a treat and appreciative gallery of stylistic wonderlands and inside references. For casual viewers, the interest will simmer into a moderately entertaining experience with little lasting appeal.

In Bruges
In Bruges(2008)

Don't let the prevalence of guns confuse you into expecting too much action: the film is about violent men, but not violence itself. It is has well-thought character-driven plot, an interesting setting, and good acting.

It meanders slowly, taking its time outlining the facets of its singular plot device, rarely digressing. At the same time, because it never meanders without purpose, it remains thoroughly watchable, becoming casual yet intellectual at the same time.

Into the Wild

Inspiring, without really inspiring anything specific. Which, in the end, is true to the spirit of the films subject: it is merely about spectacle. Honest, awesome spectacle... and the deeply emotive philosophies that casually hang upon it.

The film postulates that however deep the meaning, the shallowness of isolated "Walden"-like experience pales in comparison to sharing it with someone. This basic conflict of glorified experiential individualism vs. social interaction gives the film its too-subtle conflict, a layer of meaning that is overshadowed by the powerful cinematography. This ends up making the tragedy of the film less broadly meaningful. In the end, we understand the sights seen but not the lessons learned.

The Incredible Hulk

In the end, it redeems the Hulk, but doesn't do much to truly redeem Hero-movies. If you've seen one, you've seen them all... and it becomes a painfully transparent vehicle to put in place all the prerequisites for the inevitable launch of an "Avengers" film.

Still, the Hulk stays true to his "Hulk Smash" origins, although ANY hyper-realized CG portrayal of the Hulk will be off... sheerly because a big, green, angry bulging thing is only truly realized in a comic medium, and the way a person views and understands the Hulk is almost impossible to portray with photo-realism... doing so dilutes the essence of the character.

That said, the film thankfully doesn't fail at portraying the Hulk... the essence of the character is preserved in some form. Still, you can't help but be a bit disappointed, in the way that you would be disappointed if you re-united with a loved one, only to face the fact that the loved one was a reanimated zombie. Sure, its still the person you loved... but they are far too different to embrace in the way you once did.

Wanted
Wanted(2008)
½

Wanted saddles the fence, which can be frustrating and confusing: it is either a homage to over-the-top stylized post-Matrix action films, or a lampooning of them. There is no direct comedy to guide us toward one or the other. Instead, it merely plays on the meta-ridiculousness of the genre, such as "Hot Fuzz", only without the self-aware tongue-in-cheek attitude.

In the end, its ridiculousness stands it apart from the pack: "curving" bullets by flicking the gun really fast, lots of specialized 2D badasses that serve as "boss-fight" fodder, jumping across rooftops, and shooting someone in the face, shoving the gun through, and shooting out of the back of their head while using them as a human shield.

In the end, it is Office Space, only everyone is an assassin and there are lots of guns and violence instead of sarcastic humor.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)
½

Perhaps Pixar's best thus far. A beautiful combination of humor and style, with a thoughtful social commentary that elevates it far beyond its genre.

Recount
Recount(2008)
½

A marvelous drama masquerading as a documentary... or the other way around. Unlike some others claiming the same, it is fair and balanced, while keeping what actually happened from being wiped clean of any significance. Yes, some people have egg on their face, but no noses are rubbed into it, there is no shaming. All that is left is excellent acting wrapped around a prominent (and more importantly, relevant) piece of American history.

A convoluted story to tell convincingly, let alone gracefully.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
½

Yes, Lucas kind of fell down a bit in the plot department, but Spielberg still exhibits some marvelous action set pieces (when have we, other than in Children of Men, actually seen honest-to-goodness chase scenes in recent memory?). The film is mired only by the moments where the film drunkenly staggers from "campy and fun" to "moronic and inexcusable". Monkey troops attacking Cate Blanchett, anyone?

While Indy is admittedly beyond his 1930's halcyon days, "Crystal Skull" doesn't try to rehash the same era, but manages to go from 1930's Pulp-Adventure to 1950's "Weird Tales" magazines... and oddly enough, Indy seems to fit in. Of course, if you always put Indy on the podium of "fine cinema", you'll be spitting blood at this one. Still, the jokes on them: it fails not because it strays too far, but because it tries to cram in way too many familiar "Indy" fan-boy elements and references into a single film, desperately trying to make us feel nostalgic.

So, those of us too bent on seeing Indy as we remember him will be disappointed... but those who expect the same grit, wit, and fisticuffs (with none of the stunt-doubling) will be entertained to no end.

Sure, there are Greaser fights, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S., Aliens, and Harrison Ford hiding in a refrigerator during an A-Bomb test... but what, grabbing someones beating heart from their chest or holy relics melting peoples faces off was more realistic? Nah, its all just action-packed campy send-ups of classic adventure genres from days gone by. Indy isn't the original 1930's gung-ho archaeologist hero... hes a modern homage to a much older archetype... and so what, he moves on to some new 1950's references? What, did we want him to raiding a Nazi retirement home in Argentina?

Actually, that probably would have been pretty awesome...

Sex and the City

There were 15 ventilation grills in the ceiling of the movie theater. Recalling anything more about my experience with this film is painful.

Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew(2007)
½

Not bad. Makes fun of the conventions of the book with some tongue-in-cheek humor. It's heavily modernized and gimmicky, but I somehow doubt that it really matters at all to its core demographic. The non-gimmicked moments, such as the throwback 1950's hometown, are witty and enjoyable.

Eve and the Handyman
½

A bit faster than the methodical "Mr. Teas" which preceded it, and with more plot and much less nudity. Yet still, the punchlines are lacking, and the plot, while present, is merely a single, cheesy punchline.

All the same, this is a movie which worships cheesy punchlines and sophmoric ogling, and shows director Russ Meyer moving away from indulgent nudity and towards his trademark clever innuendo and stick-and-carrot fetishism.

The Immoral Mr Teas

Slow, plodding, yet one of the first films containing unabashed nudity, and Russ Meyer's first commercially successful film.

Not something to sit through and watch from end to end, although it does have some light-hearted ribald humor if you stick with it long enough.

Otherwise, its a neat insight into the first, and by modern standards utterly innocent, steps toward nudity in film.

Before this film, nudity was masqueraded as "educational films" about nudist camps, whereas "The Immoral Mr. Teas", while constantly placing in educational facts about sunlight and water density, does so with a tongue so firmly in its cheek, its hard not to laugh at it's absurdity, yet appreciate its honesty... especially in comparison to what would come later on in the 1960's.

C.H.U.D. (Chud)
½

Varied, haphazard, and memorable. Its a set-piece grindhouse creature-feature, and worth the watch, either just to watch once and say you know what the genre is about, or as part of a long-lasting fascination with atrociously-made horror films.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

Superhero Movies generally are terrible. Instead, this film pretty much "nails it." The special effects make sense, well placed, and not over-the-top. The characters are genuinely interesting and well-played. The humor is actually funny, instead of being nothing but in-jokes... and the plot refuses to bear the burden of setting up both an origin, arch-villain, and purpose for the hero... preferring to focus entirely on origin, and leaving any real "Battles" until very late in the film. You can argue that it takes its time, but in a genre that prefers to throw six or so epic battles into each film, it is a welcome breath of fresh, and sane, air. This film has one epic battle, and two brief action sequences that I can recall. It keeps the characters, who are the most interesting element the film has to offer, as the main element, as opposed to tedious one-liner heroics.

The Mist
The Mist(2007)

I had low expectations, but honestly, the film is excellent. I forewarn you, I am a sucker for movies about supernatural entrapment and social dynamics, such as The Thing. No, this movie isn't scary. Yes, this movie does every single cliched thing it can with its setting.. yet, each time, it puts a tiny little twist on it that keeps you guessing... as well as some spot-on dialog. Speaking of dialog, the social dynamics are the main star here: each person interacts realistically with the other and the situation at hand (see the last paragraph).

There is little use of CG, and a contextually "low" budget for something touted as a big "Hollywood" blockbuster, and this keeps the film grounded, having being shot on location in a remarkably short amount of time for a film of its marketing class. Less big-budget effects means more personality, and more social intimacy.

Just add to the icing the one thing that few horror movies have people do, but would realistically happen: kill themselves. Really, not everyone can be a hero or ape-shit insane... and a good share of suicides keep this film morbidly grounded in realism. For that, this movie has balls. Big, brass balls. Be forewarned, if you actually stay involved with the characters, its ending kind of kicks you right in the crotch. And in a high-pitched, painful voice I thank it kindly... even though that testicular trauma wasn't entirely necessary, and that Children of Men did just fine ending its film ambiguously and awash in mist.

Street Fight
Street Fight(2005)

A well spun, if moralized and occasionally amateur, tale on the inequities of city-level politiking.

The films subject matter is engaging, and is more than enough to carry the film, and this is lucky, because the actual skill behind the documentary is lackluster, however honest and diligent it may be.

American Carny: True Tales From the Circus Sideshow
½

Not a history, but a story that chronicles what kind of personalities and people inhabit the Circus Sideshows. It nicely outlines the actual lives behind it, even if it skimps on actual day-to-day details. It reads like a biography, not necessarily a documentary.

The Devil Came on Horseback
½

An excellent, well-shot, and cautious documentary which has some truly shocking, and heart-wrenching, moments. It speaks powerfully not only about its own subject, but the conspicuous and utterly horrifying lack of attention it was given, all seen through intensely personal moments.

Easy to comprehend, but daunting to fully understand, this documentary has no answers, only emotions and images... and that is what makes it powerful. Like him, we are forced to sit and watch helplessly by the sidelines, and we can easily understand his frustration and pain.

Natural Born Killers
½

Over the top, but so reliably so, that it loses its impact. It doesn't help that whatever moral commentary it tries to make, is lost in the confusion.

One can easily see the Tarentino moments languishing under the surface treatment and post production.

Despite all of this, it fufills its role as a post-adolescent mind-trip, something to watch in between Donnie Darko and Cecil B. Demented. Natural Born Killers amounts to an overly-violent "Fear and Loathing" for those with a short attention span.

Still, the final scenes of the film, as well as the acting, is spot on, and bluntly entertaining.

Motor Psycho
Motor Psycho(1965)

Often overshadowed by "Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill" (made in the same year), this film has far less camp and more grit... whilst keeping all of the androgyny, as well as better directorial work. Overall, it is a slightly better film for it... it just isn't as gaudy or entertaining. It's depiction of violence, without as much humor, makes "Motor Psycho" more shocking and memorable than it's sister film.

A neat piece of trivia: this is the first depiction of a post-traumatic-stress addled Vietnam Vet in film.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
½

Charmingly Screwball. This film gorges itself on 1940 high-society, which ends up being alternatively engrossing and hackneyed.

A good popcorn film.

One Hour Photo
½

It continually smacks you into submission by attempting to prove how creepy Robin Williams character is, without actually requiring him to act it through. That isn't to say he isn't creepy... just not as much as the soundtrack makes him out to be.

Still, it avoids cliche, tailors its plot well (if a bit too slow... it takes the first 40 minutes for the film to realize that it needs to actually begin throwing in some actual plot developments, instead of just mood-setting scenes that remind you how obsessed he is), and overall manages to emerge with a character who can scare you without actually being physically imposing or violent... something which is not in much in vogue nowadays, and is a joy to see in modern film.

No Country for Old Men

The inherent problem with all movies is that they are bound by their medium. Characters which are built up, are built up for a payoff. The camera must follow the action. Dialog must further a plot, and the plot must find a conclusion.

No Country For Old Men skillfully masters, and transcends, those boundaries. No matter the director, an observant movie goer can discern a directors style, and surprising an audience becomes harder and harder. Good movies can avoid this. The Coen brothers manage it, whilst maintaining total realism.

This film gets everything right, and still isn't satisfied. It crafts throwaway material with equal skill, and reminds you at every turn: this film will not follow the rules. Unlike many experimental films, though, and what garners it such high praise, is that it breaks these rules to the immense benefit of the storytelling itself. Yes, there is alot of "thrown away" material, and that is what garners it five-stars for me. The throwaway stuff is there to make you think about what actually mattered, and where these characters are going. It lets you imagine the story-arc as much fuller than you can cram into a couple of hours... and the abrupt ending doesn't seem nearly as biting. What else is there left to tell, really, when you think about it? It leaves you feeling like a sock puppet, yet unlike other films that do so ("Dead Man", for instance), you feel grateful for the experience.

Cocaine Cowboys
½

The first few minutes scream "amateur", almost making you wonder wether the cheesy visuals and re-enactnment / stock footage montages are going to be the primary story-telling vehicle.

And then, it all clears up, and you are left with a nicely-done if a bit standardly-executed and long-winded look at the Cocaine Trade of Miami in the 70's and 80's.

The range of interviewees is excellent, the stories are interesting and genuine. It could have covered a bit more ground given the time period, such as the perspectives from the Columbian Cartels, but this is probably hoping for the impossible. Finally, there is almost no moralizing, which is a refreshing and clarifying touch to a documentary about drug trafficking, and this alone makes the film worth the rental price.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Documentaries with difficult topics end up proving to us the true merit of their subjects. This one manages to prove not the merit of playing Video Games... but instead treats us to an unlikely and totally outrageous rivalry. And, most of all, the most thoroughly dislikable portrayals of a person in recent memory.

Still, it breaks the rules in that the film severely skews perspectives and guides your emotions too heavily, and is guilty of much error by omission... but the way it does so is quite skillfull. Never will you despise a human being more than the villain of this film, whilst feeling entertained by doing so.

Confessions of a Superhero

A beautifully made, well-executed, occasionally heart-wrenching, oftentimes awkward story about a group of people you'd never give a second notice.

Well, they definitely deserve that second notice, and this documentary manages to coax out of an amazingly difficult and odd subject a thoroughly captivating and honest story.

The Business of Being Born

The first half constitutes an interesting and highly important documentary / public service announcement. The second half, for better or for worse, loses the documentary overtones and decides to follow its subjects without much exposition or explanation, essentially taking the viewer on a ride to witness what natural births actually are.

A bit disjointed, and because of its odd decision to stop discussing the actual topic half-way through, instead just following the birthing process, it doesn't feel like it manages to cover the entire issue... as if it just didn't really finish the point, and meandered off somewhere.

Still, good film for anyone interested in the subject... and a must see for anyone who feels like the subject isn't worth their time... well, the first 45 minutes, anyway.

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
½

A pleasant surprise, in that finally a film has captured the visual whimsy of Dr. Seuss. Jim Carrey's Horton is well done (again, surprising in that he doesn't overdo it), but Carell's Mayor of Whoville is the true star of the show.

Heartfelt, cute, and with only minimal "modern" jokes and pop-culture refrences mixed in... and when they are, usually, they are fairly under-the-radar enough not to notice (except for two inexcusable moments, one of which is a totally random and jolting send-up of anime cartoons)

An alright film, made better by the fact that finally someone has realized that animation, not live-action, is the only way to do Seuss justice.

The Future of Food

Unfortunately, this documentary paints too many topics with one brush... redeemingly, though, it occasionaly sheds some interesting if brief light on some of the true nuances of its subject.

The latter (genetic food labeling, farm subsidy analysis, etc.) was overshadowed by a moralizing "corporations bad, genetic engineering bad, families good" generalization.
If the film took the same nuanced approach to genetic engineering (perhaps separating the technology from the corporate megaliths which control its usage) and perhaps has a bit more variety in it's interviews, it could have been amazing.

Sadly, much of this topic was covered better, briefer, and with greater context in "The Corporation"... yet, for anyone with a passing interest in the subject, this movie is well worth your time.

Strangers on a Train
½

One of the best blackmailing plots of all time, as well as a unique murder-thriller... in no small part due to the stoic performance of Farley Granger, which only serves to amplify Robert Walker's mentally unbalanced portrayal of Bruno.

One of Hitchcock's best, and perhaps one of the most dramatic uses of setting for a fight-sequence that even 1980's action films couldn't dream of topping.

Hitchcock here is also at his less neurotic... (see Shadow of a Doubt for him indulging to excess along those lines), which allows for a enjoyable blend of mainstream entertainment and symbolic, layered cinema.

Gone Baby Gone

Few movies let you question the motives of the main protagonist, even fewer entice you to envision a completely different course of events than what the movie ends up going with.

Even fewer movies take it upon themselves to force the audience to question themselves, while still entertaining them. For such a loaded theme as Child abduction, it would have been easy to simply lay down a stirring drama... but Gone Baby Gone challenges itself, and provides no easy answers... just choices.

Beautiful, erudite, and utterly unexpected.

Stranger Than Fiction
½

Casablanca shows that a movie doesn't need to be original to be excellent, it simply needs to know when it's taking a formulaic approach, and do it so well that it doesn't matter anymore. The plot paradoxes tackled here, however played out they are, end up being so wonderfully woven that it takes a while to realize this is something you've already seen and understand... it doesn't take a genius, a film enthusiast, or a literature snob to connect with this film. And sadly, much of this seems critically overlooked. Who cares about watered-down happy endings, when the movie makes you long for one? Are we all that prudishly art-house? Happy endings can work, and sometimes, the cop-out is to leave a movie as an easy, avant-garde tragedy.

When a movie takes something so old it feels new again, and makes you realize why some clichs actually worked in the first place... well, it's simply a joy to watch.

Charlie Bartlett
½

Harold and Maude, updated and drastically retooled for Generation X. Throw in some commentary on the over-medication of todays youth, and replace the morbid lonesomeness of the entitled rich kid to a school-bound desire to fit in... of a lonesome, entitled rich kid.

Not original, but the execution makes it unrecognizable from its spiritual predecessor, and updating the "go live your life to the fullest" message. The bluntest homage is the soundtrack... without it, I probably wouldn't have realized how similar the two movies really are.

Superman: Doomsday

There are better things to do with ones time, such as, for example, actually reading the comics. This animated iteration, while quite good for an animated superman movie, is a woeful under achievement as both an animated film, and as an interpretation of the comics.

Penelope
Penelope(2006)

A charming, if occasionally flawed and sometimes ill-executed romantic fairy-tale. If you feel intrigued by the premise, this movie will be exactly what you expect. Beyond its premise, though, there is little else to see. Still, the premise is more than enough to carry the movie through to its conclusion.

The Spiderwick Chronicles
½

A short and sweet family film, I was delighted with this films intimacy. It eschewes over-the-top fantasy epicness for something with a bit more heart.

It is a pleasantly suprising and honorable film. It won't captivate, or spawn any long cinematic discussions... but could easily become a childhood favorite of anyone under a certain age in the theatre... and unlike such pop-cultural panderings as "Alvin and the Chipmunks", this film is a joy for any kid with curiosity and imagination.

Resident Evil: Extinction

A true zombie film!

...in so far as every person responsible in making it must have been a pallid, brainless animated corpse. It almost makes me want to eat someones brain just to replace the one this movie prematurely atrophied.

Please, for the love of god, watch "Day of the Dead" instead, if only to see how this movie (ironically) cannibalizes the ideas of another, far... FAR superior zombie movie. Oh, and I hope zombie Hitchcock exacts retribution on the filmmakers for ripping off "The Birds" in a manner so bad that borders on insulting.

Cloverfield
Cloverfield(2008)
½

Like a hyperglycemic rabbit on meth, this movie doesn't stop: it is loud, blurry and intense. It gives you an almost unnacceptably long introductory sequence, at which point you can't wait for the yuppy main characters to get maimed somehow... but at least it delivers.

Sadly, for all the films excitement, if we stripped away a few special effects, and got the director a steady-cam, the film would be amazingly boring and predictable... and after a while, the monster just becomes a multi-ton tourist confusedly wandering around through Manhattan, doing nothing in particular other than getting shot at.

Although Godzilla was at least angry about Nuclear testing, asking much more from this film is pointless. Its a monster film, and it does a damned good, and at least unique, job of it... the film does a good job of keeping a gigantic monster hidden until close to the very end... and at least the characters made some mildly intellgent decisions... although I doubt I'd yell "look out behind you" anyway, what with my fondness for watching them get horribly dismembered increasing steadily after the first 10 minutes.

But hey, shaky camera movements and special effects, while usually not enough to justify a movie, at least polishes to a mirror sheen this otherwise dull clunker of a film... and for a film which decides to relentlessy jam its stylistic intent in your eye socket, at least something shiny and good-looking is left sticking painfully out of your retina.

Bloodsport
Bloodsport(1988)

Bad. Not that it won't entertain, but this movie fails at everything it sets out to do... even the amount of blood in "Bloodsport" is pretty pathetic, and the fighting is standard.

Failing at an interesting plot wouldn't be so bad for a movie like this, but it also tries to be a biopic, a love story, a movie about honor, an underdog story, a crime drama, a buddy picture, and Mortal Kombat.

Still, perhaps that is it's charm... a pathetic, sniveling charm.

I'm Not There

It works.

Multiple actors, each playing a character that isn't Bob Dylan, but symbolically represents him, all along a Tarentino-esque jumping timeline... yet, it actually works. Even for people who have no clue about Bob Dylan, the movie is remarkably easy to follow despite it's density and difficult biographical material.

A surreal, smart, schizophrenic and humorous biopic.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Eeerie, but difficult to really get immersed in... although that is obvious for a using a visual medium to depict a story about smell.

Still, a unique protagonist, creepy murders, and a morbidly fond attention to subject matter makes it a pure joy to sit through... until the ending throws you into an equally good (in its own way), but jarringly different tone than the rest of the film.

Beautifully shot and interpreted, it keeps you interested, if not immersed.

Flatliners
Flatliners(1990)
½

A needlessly oppressive and confusing atmosphere that borders on the neurotically symbolic... as well as aggressively two-dimensional characters... and a group of sub-plots that attempt to blanket every possible pathos to ensure you are personally involved and moved by the films singular, unrelenting moral.

What that moral happens to be, though, is the crux of the film... and by being totally unclear, the film can neither fail nor succeed. It just ends up being a good-looking let-down.

It collapses under its own intriguing premise, like a person who can't sidestep an oncoming train because of sheer confusion.

Shaft's Big Score!

Shaft just seems out of his element here, with little or no action, and large expanses of utterly forgettable and unnecessary plot elements for him to navigate. Even the helicopter-fight sequence near the end is utterly boring... for some reason, Roundtree can't conjure up the iconic "Shaft" persona for this sequel, and without a strong protagonist, the film falls flat.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

A difficult film, both for someone to make in the 70's, and for a modern audience to swallow, but both Film and Novel take their subject matter seriously. This movie took guts.

The militant uprising themes are portrayed through character development, and by the end you are forced to analyze how far the protagonist has progressed, or deluded himself, depending on your point of view. Thankfully, the movie leaves it up to the viewer. To pigeonhole this film as mere propaganda is a bit harsh, as it tells a story not with ideology or metaphor but a well-rounded protagonist, and you are left free to interpret how the film ends.

Yet, the film itself is nothing but a one-trick pony, and cannot rely on gutsy thematic content alone, and the supporting cast is blatantly two-dimensional, the plot, while unique in its setting, is sub-par when you strip away its thematic overtones. The films greatness is dependent on the arguments and thoughts it provokes once it is over, and not on its cinematic merit alone.

The film is trapped in Schroedinger's box, but is well worth the time to examine for yourself, and see what emerges.

Black Caesar
Black Caesar(1973)

Fred Williamson is one of the best actors of the Blaxploitation era, and his performance here is on par with his other work.

As a spin-off film, taking previously made plots and story hooks, and incorporating all-black casts for marketability, the film is a success, drawing nicely on mob and crime films of the era. As anything but Blaxploitation, the film adds nothing new to the easily-executed crime genre. Standard and forgettable when taken out of its niche.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
½

On one hand, a vibrant but muddled fugitive-on-the-run story... on the other, a remarkable cultural milestone. Independent, amazingly low-budget and experimental, Van Peebles work influenced the way in which African-Americans would break the color-barrier in film by directly spawning the Blaxploitation genre.

That said, this movie is NOT Blaxploitation, instead having all the earmarks of an independent experimental film... Blaxploitation was merely Hollywood's response to this movies groundbreaking thematic content. To look at this movie without context, only looking at its technical execution, loses much of what made it powerful. While later films would also have low-budgets and deal with similar militant themes, they nowhere near reached the raw content and reality of this film: Peebles' actually contracted Gonorrhea from the sex-scenes in the film, for god sakes. There are some movies which would be impossible to ever duplicate, and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song proudly stands as one of them.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Hooray For Santy Claus... err, no. This movie is beyond terrible. Try to cram Plan Nine From Outer Space, The Three Stooges, and some general Yuletide Spirit into a single film, and this monstrosity shambles into being like a man in badly-made Polar Bear costume.

Be sure to take a lot of eggnog before undertaking this one, and it just might be more entertaining than watching a Yule Log.

Be warned: no actual conquering occurs in this film in any way, shape or form. It's "Miracle on 34th Street", only 34th street has been replaced with Mars somehow.

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
½

One of those exploitation-spoof flicks that actually makes you laugh wholeheartedly.

Well, maybe the only one, but it's still wonderful to watch. The 80's humor is out in full force, while both spoofing and genuinely being a sexploitation movie, in the vein of Austin Powers. A light, entertaining movie with a few good laughs. Great to pull out and watch with disbelieving and confused friends, and then watch their face melt into a wide grin.

Oh, and Bill Maher is there too.

Human Tornado
½

At some point half-way through this movie, you get rewarded for sitting through the first half, apart from Rudy Ray Moore jumping naked down a hill.
Finally, the Dolemite character moves out of a standard, poor-grade Blaxploitation, into a wonderfully cheesy poor-grade Blaxploitation. Dolomite isn't a Blaxploitation character, he was a stand-up comic character, and for the last hour, the character is in his element.

There is a fine line between "so-bad-its-good" and just bad... and you can watch the transition in this film, as the movie goes for the self-important laughs to decidedly surreal, cheesy laughs... from standardly-bad martial arts to astoundingly cheesy sped-up martial-arts with all the sound effects, and spanking.

Screw character development, we can see the actors, crew and Moore himself develop within the short span of a hour and a half, as if the movie-studio big-wigs casually stopped paying attention, and everyone was able to go for the gusto.

Dolemite
Dolemite(1975)

All in all, a pretty bad Blaxploitation film that really is just a vehicle for Rudy Ray Moore, who delivers the standard poor-quality Blaxploitation jive with an unrivaled edginess.

There ARE some redeeming movies in the Blaxploitation genre, but this not one of them, despite being amazingly popular. Drugs, Sex and Martial Arts as themes usually warrant some entertainment value, even if done poorly... but somehow, Dolomite fails to reach even that standard. When Dolomite fails, it doesn't do so in an entertaining B-Movie way, it just ends up being boring.

That said, Rudy Ray Moore's jive IS the best sounding of the era, if not necessarily the best written. In that regard, Dolomite is amazingly watchable, but the second Moore leaves the screen, which is often, you suddenly realize easy it is to fall asleep until you hear the sound of his voice again. Be sure you have friends to heckle the film between Moore's scenes, or you'll be out cold.

Charlie Wilson's War

Kudos for maintaining accuracy whilst generating broad appeal... despite a rather tricky range of subject matter. But that broad appeal waters the film down a bit too much.

Hanks is rather good, if a bit uninspiring, in his portrayal of Charlie Wilson... although Hoffman's supporting role gives the movie a decided and appreciated edge. The plot is simple, but at least it recognizes the political complexities of the story without whitewashing them out of the plot entirely... it covers some fairly complex stuff in large, navigable chunks and themes.

Those looking for education may find too little scholarship, and those looking for entertainment may find too much of it.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

If Kill Bill was artistic dismemberment, behold some artistic throat-slitting. You get to see every artery-gushing moment, and Burton, as usual, doesn't skimp on the visuals. Surely, musical cinema has evolved quite a long way since "Chicago" revitalized the genre not so long ago, and Sweeney Todd is currently the genre in it's most refined form.

It cut much, yet maintained the integrity of the plot. The songs are amazingly well integrated into the film, and rarely become spontaneous outbreaks of rapturous song. The acting was excellent, the singing, while not Broadway level, doesn't need to be. Depp's gritty singing comes through far better, and more in character, on cinema speakers than any Broadway star. Broadway and Hollywood require two different sounds, and Burton has treated us to the former.

One of the best adaptations of a Broadway musical to ever reach the screen.

Persepolis
Persepolis(2007)
½

Cinematically beautiful and haunting. When you look beyond the enthralling artistic style, the translation of that style from Graphic Novel to film is powerful and fluid. You simply cannot compare it to the glut of other Graphic Novels-tuned-movies in the recent years.

Excellent voice acting, almost impeccable (and, of course, unique) animation, and a touching and often hilarious autobiographical plot which has all the trademarks of a story, not a screenplay. It is difficult for films to bring to mind memories of the Oral Storytelling tradition, and this one manages it within the first few minutes.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Not nearly as much extravagance as the first, and it seems to have generally dropped the whole conspiratorial overtones, favoring a more "Indiana Jones" style treasure hunt... a good thing. But the whole thematic originality of the thing remains the same...

Thus, my brain feels like it needs to vomit after injesting the pretentious trivia-dropping in this movie, in the manner of a pretentious party goer name-dropping celebrities. It's as if someone opened a trivia guide to U.S. government, an encyclopedia, and then ripped out the pages and plastered them onto a bat, and hit me over the head with it repeatedly. Worse yet, now each of those facts is essentially now in the vocabulary of every person with $10 and a few hours to spare, ensuring that every time I bring up the Resolute desk in casual conversation, I'll be unceremoniously whacked with that bat yet again... to say nothing of being smacked clear across the face with the response "WHICH Statue Of Lbrty? Th3rz 3, Lol!" every time I mention the big green lady that stands in the harbor near my house. This is the movie that'll keep hurting for a long while to come.

I guess it'd be mean to pan a movie for giving an audience a totally narrow view of any topic, because... well, the goal isn't to make anyone learn anything, but rather to mindlessly entertain them. But still... how come when a movie spews half-trivia to justify a boring, predictable plot, its ok... but when I spew trivia just as self-righteously, everyone thinks I'm a dorkish freak? Damn you, Nicolas Cage, and your edutainment-enabling good looks and hijinks. That, and this terrible movie trilogy. (Yeah, this is perhaps one of the only films I have ever seen that set itself up for another sequel not at the end, but half-way into the film.)

Legend
Legend(1985)

Nevermind a ludicrous plot, even for a fairy-tale. The cinematography is confusing and muddled, and has the worst sense of day-night since "Plan 9 From Outer Space" It blatantly steals from, well, every other fantasy book or movie ever made, while generally having little of the charm. It has everything, and does none of it well. Still, for kids, its a wonderful smorgasboard of fantasy.

At least it decided to be scary and menacing at times, to give it an edge. And Tim Curry as, "Darkness" (read, Satan) is pretty confusing, albiet well acted. So, his idea of "wooing" is a billowy experimental dance around a dinner table? Hmm...

Rescue Dawn
Rescue Dawn(2007)

Probably the best "escape" film i've seen, either prison or P.O.W. It has some very slight comedic elements, but otherwise is a powerful, tense, and tightly made suspense drama.

Kudos to Herzog for not taking a moralizing, sentimental approach when such a narrative path would have been much easier. Instead, he goes gritty, realistic and morally ambiguous... a polar opposite to "The Great Escape"

Thirteen Ghosts (13 Ghosts)

After the first half of the film, the novelty wears off suprisingly fast. Luckily, the movie is well made enough to keep it running... barely.

28 Weeks Later...

Gaping plot holes and a rather mishandled setting aside, the film is what you expect it to be.

Zardoz
Zardoz(1974)

So this is what happens when you give a director free reign after they make a really good film about rape, kayaking and banjo-playing.

You get, apparently, Zardoz.

While it is worth watching sheerly for the odd imagery, this movie feels way too much like an extended version of the final sequence of "A Boy and his Dog"

So, to clarify: take one part Wizard of Oz, another part Planet of the Apes, and mix it in with the 1960 Time Machine. Then put Sean Connery in it.

Some say there is a good deal of philosophy supposedly going on in this movie. For me, it seems more like someone face-planting while still talking incoherently the whole way down. Philosophic? Sure. Confusingly pompous? Absolutely. A happily cheesy movie otherwise? Yep. So if you want to see Sean Connery flying around in a giant stone head that spits out guns to horse-back riding asexuals in the far future... well then, apparently this is your movie.

Videodrome
Videodrome(1983)
½

Dated, but still a confusing joyride. While Cronenberg is a master of realistic stage-gore, his movies weren't nearly as convincing as his visual execution of them.

Yet, it has some genuinely strange themes running throughout, and is easily something you can get wrapped up in... and even more easily get lost in... in a pleasing gross-out way that doesn't overdo it.

Still, it feels like the movie relies too much on its set-piece special-effects scenes, with far too little cinematic support to really keep the movie from becoming a slide-show of detached progressive weirdness. While that worked for "The Fly" (What's he gonna look like next!?) it really doesn't help in a tense psychological suspense film like this one.

...So Goes the Nation

A well done documentary about the electoral process, specifically in Ohio. While it could be a little clearer about the overall campaigning system, there are far too many documentaries which cover that process. Instead, it takes a broader strategic view, uses the 2004 elections as a case study, and puts many of the events in context.

Clear, well done, and really does an excellent job at remaining neutral. Still, by being neutral, it doesn't get to have a feel-good "go do something" ending... which is needed to keep any political documentary from becoming a downer.

Paprika
Paprika(2006)

At one point near the finale of this film, two main characters simply stand, stunned, and then turn to look at each other.

That is really all I can say about this film.

Return to Oz
Return to Oz(1985)

This movie has balls, although that's probably a poor choice of words for what seems to be a childrens movie.

Not so. Please, kids, stay away from this one. It's not specifically for adults, but it will inadvertently scare the crap out of kids without actually trying. Flying moose-headed couches, and some pretty creepy animation and characters all adds up to a well-done adaptation that captures the mood in Baum's original Oz books... a kind of threatening whimsy.

So for adults, how does it stack up? Well, it doesn't pull punches, at least for a "childrens" movie. Like the family films of old, they definitley weren't family friendly by todays sterilized standards. Plus, the plot is reasonably gripping, even though the deux ex machina is obvious from the very start. Either way, if you ever take the time out to revisit this rather familiar setting, you'll be happily suprised to find it strange, new and if not entertaining, than at least worth the new perspective.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

A musical dance number about the second coming, god talks to his son through a bowl of ice cream... uh, and Jesus teams up with the Mexican God of Wrestling to take out a a gang of lesbian vampires who walk around during the day with a second coating of grafted skin.

Bad. Terrible. Obscene. Low-Budget. There are so many hyperboles for this movie... and watching it amounts to yelling "What!?" at the TV every few minutes.

A batman style spinning screen transition with an image of Jesus on a cross, and the sound effect of "Jee-ssuuuuus!" A never ending clown-car filled van of Agnostic martial artists? All wrapped around a plot that so desperately wants to be a porn movie. Apparently, when all the actors are pretty much the directors closest friends, its hard to say "take your top off.", so basically its like a cheesy porn film without the porn... which, in some ways, is pretty refreshing.

Yeah. Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Wow, never seeing that again. But I'd never for a moment think that that would dissuade anyone from seeing a film like this... the premise is too absurd to pass up, nomatter how poorly done. Yet another fine example of cinematic rubbernecking.

Juno
Juno(2007)

Funny, with some excellent use of slang dialog, and memorable characters... although the quirky art direction is not necessarily unique or groundbreaking in any way.

Still, it thankfully amounts to more than its simple stylization, and the characters are not cartoonish cliches as they were in say, Napoleon Dynamite. The obligatory artistic humor is thankfully balanced with an avoidance of one-liners, and some genuinely dramatic plot twists and character development. Nothing is overdone, and it never feels as if it is pushing anything in your face beyond a rather annoyingly paced opening credit sequence.

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver(1976)

It's character is a gripping anti-hero. The acting is great, the settings and cinematography are amazingly executed. It's a 4 1/2 star film as the camera pans over the end result of blood and various discarded guns. And then, Scorsese goes and pulls an "M. Night Shyamalan"

What, he's totally OK now? De Niro just needed to go and kill some hippie pimps with a shmorgasboard of guns, spending weeks to bulk-up and practice shooting guns... what, to clear his head? Now that he's done all that, he can go back to being a normal dude with the same hair-cut and he's totally sane, with no ill effects and everyone loves him, and worse yet, he believes it, and even meets his old flame? Did the Secret Service not figure out hey, this guy who gunned a bunch of people down and is in all the papers, he looks oddly familar. And that all of his guns were bought on the black market? And uh... he KILLED a crap load of people?

Uh, was that the films moral ambiguity and realism that just flew out the window, or Scorsese's integrity? Sadly, both.

Fido
Fido(2007)
½

Some movies are so specific, so incredibly devoted to a single niche, that they can only be made once. Thankfully, the subgenre of Retro Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Comedy has been executed with a lightly morbid wit, and tons of tongue-in-cheek stylization. Plenty of humor, although not so much from jokes as from the utterly ludicrous turns of events. Tim Blake Nelson stands out particularly as the creepy, lovable owner of his very own Zombie Girlfriend.

For a zombie-film fan, a must see. Excellent acting, extremely memorable characters, and a setting so unique that will doubtless never be repeated in cinema ever again. Frankly, it deserves its high star rating simply because... well, what else can you compare it to?

The Reaping
The Reaping(2007)

It's executed OK, with the exception of an apocalyptic plot that really doesn't realize it is one until the latter half of the movie. Sadly, it doesn't explore many of the characters personal motivations, instead briefly mentioning them, as if that constitutes character development. The same thing goes both for the religious and scientific angles of the film. Mentioning that there are scientific explanations for the plagues is enough to convince us that Swank happens to be a scientist, despite her tendency to trek through swamps chasing strange girls and investigating cults.
Sure, you could say I just don't like movies where religion beats science, but religion is treated in a similarly gimmicky way. There isn't any real religion, in the way that "Damien" doesn't have any religion. It has satanists, lots of satanists, and some fire and brimstone. What action movies are to physics, this movie is to religion.
In the end, it is merely another "apocalypse is coming" movie, only with a better budget and some slick post-production. Good with popcorn, but everyone, leave your Bibles and Encyclopedias at home.

Rumble in the Bronx
½

Chan's first big American breakthrough is simply not well executed, and lacks much of the humor of his other work, and what comedy there is is a bit lowbrow for Chan (Mooning the audience, a lady sitting on a toilet being exposed, etc.), especially when you realize the "Fist-Helmet-Wrench" sequence is much more his style. Still, plot and acting were never terribly important to Martial Arts films, and "Rumble in the Bronx" focuses on what people want to see: stunts. That, and running people over in hovercrafts.

Cabin Fever
Cabin Fever(2002)
½

It starts off strong, but wastes many of its extravagent and tense gore-moments early on, creating a repetitive and predictable sequence of infections. The movie starts with excellent potential, and ends up losing its tension as quickly as it stops using actual makeup and ends up just covering its actors with fake blood.

Still, for a film without any definitive killer, it stands easily as the king of coitus interruptus horror. Serial killers in the backseat are a mere nuisance compared to flesh-eating STD's during intercourse.

Also, yes, I must at least mention the shaving scene. Great for clip shows... but the movie it's wrapped around isn't nearly as well-executed. (Such as "Zombi 2" and its shard-of-wood scene.)

I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba)
½

Almost sublime cinematography and storytelling. Half of the movie makes you wonder simply about how the cameraman got those shots.

One masterful sequence detailing a parade/rally, has the camera being placed on a clothesline and carefully pullied over the crowds while being stabalized so there is little jitter.

The effects gained with this sublime (albiet obviously propaganda) film are a wonder to behold. Americas propaganda was blunt and crude, but here we find something worth watching beyond its political message.

Superfly
Superfly(1972)
½

A bit stretched thin, but it takes all of the standard blaxploitation conventions (crooked white cops, drugs, etc.) and mixes them into what is considered an unusual pro-drug sentiment (at least, for this particular genre, which likes to adopt the "crack-is-whack" standpoint.)

But the pro-drug sentiment overblown: it is the racial commentary: that drug-dealing is really all that "the system" lets inner-city blacks do with their own ambition, which is what the films drug-plot really revolves around. Because of that, it's message and morality comes the closest to Sweet Sweetback out of any other blaxploitation movie I've seen thus far, and for that, it gets high marks, despite its slow pacing and lack of much dialog or action.

Superbad
Superbad(2007)

Never before had a comedy actually made me laugh wholeheartedly. Some made me snicker, amused my intellect... but this simply was a purely funny film, especially for anyone who had gone through high-school in the '90's. Wonderfully acted, sharply and unabashedly written. Nothing less than 100% entertaining.

Grindhouse
Grindhouse(2007)

Rodriguez and Tarentino go to their own roots, and make a film that one suspects was entirely for themselves, with even less consideration for an audience than usual. Instead, if Exploitation Film could be personified and made to sit in a theatre, then Grindhouse would be the movie it would watch to blow off some steam.

Tarentino does everything he is known for, almost intentionally over-flexing his style with comprehensive shots of feet, no less than three trunk-shots, and excellent dialog (dialog whose femininity flies in the face of his previous macho conversational topics from previous films... and proves his supremacy in scriptwriting.)

Rodgriguez only slightly falls short of Tarentinos vision, which acts as a mosaic of Grindhouse Cinema, without making anything new from the concoction, where Tarentino seems to take the Grindhouse vision and make a modern homage... Where Rodriguez erects a sickeningly brilliant shrine to the Exploitation, Tarentino gives it a thoughtful euology.

An amazingly unique film that harkens back to an era of cinema that we, in the age of the straight-to-DVD-video, will never see again.

The Simpsons Movie

Best, episode, ever.

It's just that. A movie with the pacing of a Simpsons episode, with cinematography thrown in. The movie is happy to shy away from being an epic centerpiece to the Simpsons franchise... and fits beautifully in with its long and illustrious cartoon history, rather than being an unspoken milestone (as with so many other cartoon-to-movie attempts) of a franchise passing its prime.

Bee Movie
Bee Movie(2007)
½

Having admittedly been dragged to see this film, I found it, despite a firm desire to dislike it, rather enjoyable. It is a silly vehicle for well-timed jokes and gags. So, "Bee Movie" is exactly what you would expect... except it actually manages to be funny a good portion of the time. Pleasantly surprising and admirably unwilling to take a flatly lowbrow approach to its humor.

Joyeux Nol (Merry Christmas)

Well acted, brilliantly portrayed. It keeps its individuality despite what could have been an oppressive number of characters, as well as remarkable amounts of character depth and development despite everyone getting relatively little screen time.

Subdued but precise cinematography captures the characters moods and perspective, keeping us firmly "in the trenches." On top of the mere cinematic qualities, this movie lovingly and rigorously handles its plot, raising it to a level of storytelling as opposed to entertainment.

All in all, it is difficult for a war film to break the boundaries of its genre, but Joyeux Noel manages to do just that, combining a touching and dramatic story with a well-crafted piece of cinema.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

I had a more coherent opinion of this movie before watching it. Afterwards... well, I am just dumbstruck. How did this drivel achieve such hype? Its bad, even rating it by B-Movie standards... worse, SLASHER B-Movie standards.

The villian, supposedly in total control over a weird dream-reality, not only lacks any sort of real exposition (like everything else in the film) but he is also flummoxed by overturned trash cans and booby-traps that could have been cobbled together by a lazy Macaulay Culkin.

Maybe that is the charm, but unlike other B-Films, this movie really tries to take itself seriously, as if there is some semblance of tension or horror given by stringing together a bunch of scenes involving beds: (Girl hovers over bed bleeding, Bed erupts blood, Bed swallows Johnny Depp, Greaser kid murdered by his bed... Why can't the murderer just be an evil bed-demon, for god sakes!) These scenes can be charitably described as "shocking" and more honestly, "neat-o"

Maybe kids in 1983 were blown away by shirtless Greasers, murderous bedsheets, and the school Boiler Room. But to me, it's just pathetic considering the legacy this film touts around with it.

The Cell
The Cell(2000)

A surreal mind-bender. Occasionally, it exhibits some of the most original cinematography I've seen in a modern major motion picture.
As a story, its pretty standard. The kind of thing Stephen King and Issac Asimov would have created if they ever had teamed up. Obviously influenced heavily by the works of the British artist Damien Hirst. Worth watching sheerly for the visual effects... both disturbing and hypnotic.

Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green
½

The illustrious Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce never falter in their acting, although this particular outing for Holmes is a bit of a letdown.

To be sure, the themes of Hypnotism and serial-killing are out-and-out Doyle, but the inclusion of Moriarty, seemingly included for effect, merely softens the plot by introducing a major character for a somewhat brief caper.

The film starts strong, yet ends predictably, with none of Holmes' deductive reasoning being revealed. Whilst strong in all other ways, the movie thus forgets the first rule of a Mystery plot: to remain mysterious.

The Day After
½

Focusing on the stories of Middle-American families in the aftermath of a Nuclear attack, this film follows a long heritage of films depicting the effects of Nuclear Fallout.

Sadly, this one isn't terribly good, especially if one has seen earlier treatment of the same material (The War Game, for example). Far too often one is reminded that this is a made-for-TV movie. The film is made as if the only way to make someone learn about Nuclear Fallout is to pander: there is a vast cast of characters, each with their own melodrama, so everyone can relate so something... which ends up making its 2 long hours a foggy mess.

Still, a few moments manage to be actual cinema, especially a moment where, with Russian missiles incoming, a mother refuses to stop making her bed, and has to be dragged screaming into the basement/family bomb shelter.

Despite some shocking and honest treatment of material, this film still plays more as melodrama than as a social commentary.

Hellraiser
Hellraiser(1987)
½

Genuinely disturbing at points, and shocking (at least) when it isn't genuinely disturbing. The script is tight, to the point, and leaves little fluff or padding.

For a small budget, and a highly restricted shoot, this film ended up seeming like a grade-A production... especially notable for the almost total inexperience of Barker at this point.

A cult-horror classic that can still revolt, disturb and entertain... and has originality far surpassing other 1980's slasher films with which Hellraiser is often associated. Still, it's narrow focus is restricting. It's the kind of entertainment that comes from riding a rollercoaster in the dark... you're not sure WHAT you just watched, you know there were some inversions back there somewhere, and you definitely feel woozy... but you really didn't have much leeway to drink anything in or much less think about what was happening. (Note: If this movie makes you want to "drink anything in", seek psychiatric help.)

School of Rock
½

For a running-gag thematic comedy involving kids learning important life lessons by sticking it to "___" and being supported by a misunderstood adult... it actually manages to be watchable, occasionally funny. Still, the funnyness was in Blacks comedic over-acting, not in anything remotely laudable or witty.

The Fly II
The Fly II(1989)
½

Forgettable sequel which, like so many horror sequels, merely devolves into a gore-fest now that everyone is familiar with the general storyline borrowed from the first film. Still, there are two moments worth watching:

1) The quote: "He stole my girl, got her pregnant, caused her death... he dissolved my hand and foot with Fly Vomit! I have no love for the man." Of course, this quote comes from the only actor to return from the original, John Getz.

2) When a security guards face gets melted off from the aforementioned Fly Vomit. If there is only one up-side to having a Special Effects artist direct a film, it would be this.

The Dead Zone
½

Well done adaptation, with enough star-power to dispel the lingering aftertastes of a rather simplistic plot and altogether mellow mood for a psychological horror film.

It's the acting that makes the film creepy, with Walken giving a restrained, spot-on performance and Sheen hamming it up to enforce his dislikability. More of a creepy drama than a modern horror film... but then again, creepy dramas WERE horror films back in the day, such as Frankenstein. Not Cronenbergs best, but he works well with what he has.

Kingdom of Heaven

Long, and Bloom's role in the lead is a bit stagnant... the plot is a bit tricky to hold onto without background knowledge or watching a directors cut.

Still, this is hardly damning criticism for a film which is shot wonderfully (but not innovatively), has to deal with a complex plot in a time period few people are interested in, while also managing a fair degree of historical accuracy. Neeson's performance, particularly, is unexpected and graceful.

A movie for affocionados of the Historical Epic... but others will nod off, only awakening to watch the highly entertaining battle sequences.

The Terminator
½

There is little to be said about a plot which revolves around a mindless, determined killing machine... aside from the occasional glimpses into the post-apocalyptic future.

Sheer 1980's action, yet it knows how to stylize the spaces in-between fights, especially the slow, drawn out tension of the ending. All in all, the original is distinct from the sequels which spawned from it... especially given that Schwarzenegger is if anything, a secondary character in this movie.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The small-scale town gives such immediacy and tension to this original 1950's sci-fi film. The Macarthyite paranoia is a vauge, mostly unverifiable shadow. Really, this film is made to be heavy and tense. It's a desperate plea told through flash-backs, instead of a thrill-ride... which gives a much needed aim to the plot.

The acting isn't astounding, but the plot truly is. The characters and their roles merge seamlessly, and evolve into a believable but fantastic story. Unlike later adaptations, the "invasion" makes sense here, and seems plausible: an essential key to keeping the paranoia of the film intact.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

A good remake, but it doesn't deliver anything more than the original, and loses something in the transition to a large-scale city like San Francisco. The plot wanders a bit aimlessly at points, and transforms the Macarthyite paranoia into a grating 1970's thriller which, instead of being atmospherically threatening, becomes randomly and acutely dangerous. with too many arbitrarily applied moments of tension and payoffs.

Still, for better or worse, it's star-studded cast, despite jockeying for screen time, gives an excellent performance, and the special effects at least make the random moments of tension rather satisfying and enjoyable to watch.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
½

A brilliant western, with an impeccable cast and a simple, but nuanced and deep plot arc. Nowhere can you find the chemistry that erupts between the polar opposites of Stewart and Wayne. Each supporting character, however shallow their portrayal, is memorable and fun to watch... a comedic ensemble in a deeply serious western drama.

Re-Animator
Re-Animator(1985)

What happens when cheesy is executed skillfully, but not as a cliched homage, but as a serious piece? You get something like the "Re-Animator."
It's "Lovecraft moderne" themes, good acting, and absolutley eerie yet hilarious set pieces end up achieving a hard-to-reach 50-50 balance between Humor and Horror.
A must see cult classic.

Safety Last!
Safety Last!(1923)

Brilliant, perhaps the finest and most famous of the silent-era comedies. Technically amazing, and hilarious to boot.

The Fly
The Fly(1986)

Vincent Price would be a long way from home. Luckily, the 1986 fly manages to take familiar territory and reinvent the approach, adding more pseudo-science and a high-strung tension and seriousness than the original.

Unafraid to pull its punches when it comes to disturbingly gorey special effects, it still reigns itself in by the end and presents the Frankensteinian plight, as opposed to taking the easy way out and becoming a standard, corny 1980's monster movie.

A great blend of horror and humanity that is unlikely to be seen again in modern Hollywood, especially where the closest we have to analyzing humanity in the face of monstrous circumstances is "The Hills Have Eyes" or "Saw"

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Compared to the usual suspects of heist movies, this movie stands out. It is unique in a genre which does not cater to uncompromised realism, and has influenced numerous films after it, perhaps to the point that "Pelham" is no longer as unique as it was at the time. The film manages also the notoriously tricky task of making a heist without sacrificing realism for stylization and melodrama: this film is as accurate and detailed as one could make it: a plan that is both insane and also one that might have actually worked. The characters and dialog are human, and stereotypically New Yorker. The humor isn't through jokes, but through the portrayal of those stereotypes during the films unusual course of events.

The acting is almost minimalist, (with the exception of the few comic-relief loudmouths.) A worthy urban crime drama for its era, and a classic, but eclipsed by the films which took cues from it.

Independent Lens
½

A heartening look into the grassroots campaign trail, and dynastic and unbreakable incumbency politics in the United States. Can actual people prevail over polls and politics?

Narc
Narc(2002)
½

Well done, albeit a movie without a single second of hope, humor, or even vague contentment. Still, the acting is passable, and the gritty dark ambiance fits nicely with the slightly convoluted plot. Still, expect your entertainment to come at the price of being drained of all happiness for a hour or so. I'm still on the fence as to whether it was worth it or not, or whether a person dying from trying to toke-up with a shotgun can be truly considered an entire movies "comic relief"

The Hudsucker Proxy
½

Perhaps the Coen's best film apart from "The Big Lebowski", the over-the-top cliched stylization of the 1950's almost seems an Orwellian science-fiction... a "Brazil" esque world unto it's own.

Take every component of the 1950's (alcoholic corporate types, Madison Avenue, fast-talking reporters, etc.), throw them in a blender and add the Coen's rich cinematography and captivating dialog (tongue-in-cheek overacting included)... and you have a classic.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

It is treat to see a bonafide Western on the big screen, and 3:10 to Yuma keeps it all horses, showdowns and stagecoaches. The plot is original, and it seamlessly blends together numerous aspects of the old west without being cheesy about it.

The plot is great, and is anything but predictable. Character development is superb, although the gunfights err toward the American Western as opposed to the Spaghetti Western.

Keep an eye out for an exploding horse.

Smokin' Aces
Smokin' Aces(2007)

Any movie which kills off a major, and annoying, star early on and plays with his corpse earns points in my book.

Sadly, the fighting is not nearly as overdone as would be required by a movie of this level of stylization, and entirely takes place in elevator lobbies. Too many characters get too little action to make a lasting impact on the audience. Do too many cooks spoil the broth? Perhaps not, but it does water it down heavily.

Cheerleader Ninjas

Pathetically funny... i.e. laughing at the fact that they just tried to get you to laugh at a miserable joke.

Don't waste your time, unless the time is specifically set aside to be wasted... in which case, you could do far worse.

The Departed
The Departed(2006)
½

Wonderfully acted with one major caveat (see below), although Nicholson seems to be evoking his old Joker persona a bit too readily. Scorsese, though, is recycling an existing plot, so it's hard to give him much credit (his cinematography is a bit over-indulgent.)

That said, the film is a pleasure to watch, although it does err heavily by being far too long. Still, it is hard to think about what should have been cut given the films realism and complexity.

Sadly, the air of realism is almost single-handedly brought crashing to the ground by atrocious (and seemingly random applications of) New-England accents.

Superman
Superman(1978)

A must-see, especially in an age of modern movies running amok with Superheroes and heroines. This movie captures the feeling of the comics, whilst managing to actually convey a real drama instead of a series of action-packed set-pieces.

Modern superhero-movies like to say their action is in the service of character development, a protagonist discovering what it means to be a true hero... they never reached the character-development standard set by this 1978 classic.

Ski School 2
Ski School 2(1994)

Strangely enough, combining a juvenile teen sex comedy with sub-par skiing montages actually makes a watchable movie. Watchable, yes, good, no. I think thats a bit too much to ask from the subject matter.

Thank for subjecting me to this, Netflix Instant Viewing option.

The Number 23

Sorry, Mr. Carrey, but a quirky numerology theme fused with the "Secret Window" plot line does not a movie make.

Although, a numerology-centric drinking game may be this movies only good use. A shot each time a viewer can obtusely and unnecessarily manage to reference anything in this movie to the number 23.

Lucky Number Slevin
½

An original take on the revenge-film genre, with quirky characters and a murky plot-line, that eerily makes sense by the end of the film.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance
½

Samuel L. Jackson makes for a dynamic companion to Willis's McClane, and the villianous "Simon" is one of the more original and three-dimensional you are likely to see in an action film, with motives that continually alter throughout the film... and even has some ethics to him, which is rare in an action movie of this sort. The plot is convoluted but crystal-clear, with a refreshing mix of equal parts mind-game and gun-play.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This series has become watchable for the special effects and architectural ambience... but not much else. If people separated the films from the books, they'd realize that even though "Harry Potter" is pretty neat, his movies are really nowhere near the level of "literature."

That said, the acting isn't half bad, but to repeat: it is gothic eyecandy for the crowd of people who actually read the books, and end up filling in all of the plot flaws with their superior memories of the book.

Surely, a movie that requires its novel to be read as a travel-guide beforehand.

The Last Man on Earth
½

A fantastic rendition of Matheson's "I Am Legend." Vincent Price portrays his character with a brilliant complexity. The cinematography and film shows a fair degree of age, but the plot and acting stand up impressively.

Perhaps the best "zombie" or "vampire" film ever made, managing to imbue a level of grace and thoughtfulness that no post-Romero film has pulled off since.

An Unreasonable Man
½

The directors really know their stuff, and focus on keeping everything from Nader's perspective. Word has it from the directors that Nader enjoys the movie himself, but mostly spent his screening thinking about other ways of helping society. I'm sure most intelligent people will do the same during the course of this picture. Less Nader biography, more "One Man Can Make A Difference" moral.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)

A brilliant foray into classic and modern action movie devices. Hilarious as both satire and parody: fans and detractors of the action genre will both have a great time.

The brilliance lies in the pacing, which references, then finally executes, its subject matter. The attention to detail is amazing, covering mid-90's action to Spaghetti Westerns, and all of their subtle (and not-so-subtle) characteristics.

The Bourne Ultimatum

A well executed film, but what they are executing really merely seems to be a clone of the past two films. Has anyone noticed that Damon seems to be enjoying parts with pretty much no dialog whatsoever?

The low rating is sheerly for the precident the cinematography of the Bourne series begins. The heavily-cut hand-held style was sed, for example in Saving Private Ryan, was much more cohesive. The heavy cutting, flash-focuses, and zooms are well executed in Bourne... but are spawning a never-ending series of horrific imitators.

If you enjoy the style, though, go ahead and give Bourne 4 stars. Instead, I will remain impressed with Children of Mens masterful, long-cut action sequences instead.

Finally... has anyone noticed all the Bourne Series covers have Damon running at the same angle looking in the same direction, in each one looking more and more tired?

Sicko
Sicko(2007)

Perhaps Moore's least polarizing film to date, it takes a great deal of complexity and narrows them down, as usual, into simplified plot lines and human-interest stories. Luckily, this is a theme where those simplifications are truly accurate and welcome, unlike some of his other topics.

Jarring, disturbing and captivating. A little brother or nephew, perhaps, to An Inconvenient Truth.

Manufactured Landscapes

Long, with little insight into either the photographer or his subjects. A slide-show gallery tour of his work, suited more for a museum installation than a feature-length film.

Regardless, the images are as captivating as any you'll see short of the "koyaaniquatsi" trilogy... buy a book to look at his photos... the movie isn't neccessary.

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)

Charming, brilliantly stylized, and the most sophisticated and thus "adult" of the Pixar films. The voice-acting is wonderful, and the plot is well-balanced and original.

La Vie en Rose (La Mome)
½

A brilliant performance, and an epic biography of one of the most dazzling and troubled singers of the 20th century. An interesting and inspired choice of editing breathes life into the "flashback" style of storytelling, giving it a unique and fluid twist.

Unfortunately, appreciation of Piaf in America is jaw-droppingly low except among our pepperpot population. This movie is destined to be an under looked gem.

Live Free or Die Hard

Modern action films like leaving you awed and impressed. This film leaves you with primordial satisfaction.

"Live Free or Die Hard" doesn't take the "Bourne Supremacy" methodology of action film. Instead of slick gunplay, we get "big object A gets implausibly shot at big object B", or "Place A + Object B implausibly combine to be the scene of Major Fight C."

The cheesiness, though, is dulled, but smartly so. Willis merely smirks and laughs through a good deal of pain when he destroys a helicopter with a car... a scene usually begging for a poorly-written and wry remark. This film knows what is overkill, and instead Willis's incredulous laugh mimics the audiences reaction perfectly. This sort of dialog and the acting keeps the film from overindulging itself... although it is almost tipped out of balance by a plot that gleefully gluts itself on stereotypical Action-movie plot points.

Since the Matrix, the standard has been quick-cut, slow-motion, overly-witty action flicks that bend over backward to make their action seem realistic and cutting-edge. It's a wonder to behold a movie that goes back to good old Explosion, Grit & Guts.

Shaft
Shaft(1971)

What makes Shaft impressive isn't the mere stylization of the blaxploitation era it depicts. Rather, the movie is actually a bona-fide private-eye flick, with serious attempts at portrayals of race-relations in New York. The lack of thoughtless stereotyping manages to elevate this movie past it's blaxploitation roots.

Breach
Breach(2007)

A refreshingly well done spy-thriller, with pretty much no gunplay or action, and a true to life post-cold-war setting. A great example of how a movie can adapt a real-life event faithfully without sacrificing entertainment quality or artistic license.

A movie that treats it's audience maturely, but doesn't go into labyrinthine plot twists merely to prove that what is happening it complex.

Evan Almighty
½

Carell forced into his much less interesting "Anchorman" persona for the tween-to-teen crowd. Nonetheless, he carries the movies intent with skill... too bad the intent was a fluffy, harmless piece of slapstick with a "care for your family and/or the environment" subplot thrown in.

Harmless, cute, fluff.

Blacula
Blacula(1972)
½

What Blacula lacks, it makes up for by being a heartfelt and serious attempt at being a horror movie, not simply a blaxploitation movie (no drug subplot, pimps, not much jive-talking, etc.) Instead, Blacula barely skirts blaxploitation, and is set much more soundly in the generalized exploitation era, or the realm of cheesy spin-offs of popular franchises.

In a nutshell, really it's just a vampire story, albiet of one desperately in love. Blacula, despite it's flaws, manages to deliver an entertaining experience on its pretty sub-standard plot, acting and dialog by, well, exploiting its niche.

Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown(1974)

The shock of the volatile ingredients of "Coffy" have been diluted somewhat in "Foxy Brown." Violent sex, female domination, strangulation, and Gier's blouse being pulled open every 10 to 15 minutes is not as outrageous as it was in Coffy, and thus becomes much more a part of the standard vengeance plot.

More blatantly racist overtones, interracial rape, and setting people on fire push this movie much more seriously into a violent blaxploitation category... one where Geier is not an invincible heroine, but a girl who can be exploited yet goes to unthinkable levels for revenge afterwards.

Less set-pieces than Coffy with more gore... but in the end, less original, and overly violent, where characters are obviously introduced merely to be brutalized and killed; or seduced, brutalized, and killed. One can't deny how bad-ass Foxy is... but her remorseless joy of killing people seems at odds with the compassion for others which supposedly gives her justification for it.

Coffy
Coffy(1973)

A not-so-classy revenge flick that launched Pam Grier to superstardom.

The film is more gutsy than many other Blaxploitation movies, both in the seriousness, and in gore content... we literally get a half-second of head exploding within the first 5 minutes, and fights seem to start at the drop of a hat. The obligatory anti-drug protagonism and eponymous title song identify it strongly as a blaxploitation film.

But, not entirely. Layer the excessive nudity and catfights on top of the violence, and it almost begins to seem like a film Russ Meier would have idolized... low-cut blouses get ripped open at any and all times, and of course, a man doesn't flash so much as a nipple: the film is almost a pure blend of sexploitation and blaxploitation.

By the end, a scene which must have influenced Tarentino in Kill Bill: Vol 2, where the revenge-driven femme-fatale is forced to confront the object of her vengeance: her former lover.

Bucktown, USA

A standout but little-known gem of the blaxploitation genre. It contains all the Blaxploitation ingredients: (Crooked cops, a black gang, jive-talking, dashes of pimping, drugs, kung-fu and sex.) But where most Blaxploitation films combine these to corny yet endearing effect, Bucktown manages to reconfigure the chronology and intensity of the ingredients, and come up with a highly refreshing and intense action movie. The whole becomes much more than the sum of its parts.

This is all helped greatly by Williamson's controlled intensity on screen, managing to almost totally eclipse Grier: no mean feat.

Car Wash
Car Wash(1976)

A fine blaxploitation-era comedy, which juggles an amazing number of characters with almost no confusion whatsoever, with subplots and a jokes on as many different levels of appeal as there are characters. Lively and entertaining.

Cleopatra Jones
½

Tamara Dobson defitley blends Bond and Blaxplotation well, from kung-fu action to a gaggle of vaugely similar looking crooks, and an absolutley implausable yet oh-so-cliched villian... and, the standard blaxploitation subplot of drugs and being busted by the cops who always recruit according to the 50% racist quota.

Cleopatra Jones is cheesy, but entertaining, and well put together.

Black Belt Jones

Some truly horrible things, such as bad acting, cornball retro-kung-fu action, gratuitous exploitation, trampoline-jumping beach babes, and lame stereotypes. Strangely, when they are all put together, a creepily entertaining film emerges.

Nonetheless, I admit that this is a standard Blaxploitation genre, with a marvelously cheesy end-fight scene... with lots of bad kung-fu to boot. At least it doesn't take itself too seriously (see Disco Godfather.)

Across 110th Street
½

An interesting if standard blaxploitation crime drama, of course involving a black crimelord, villianous racist Italian mobsters... but the complex and origina play between old-school 1940's hardboiled street cop (Anthony Quinn) and the by-the-book yet besieged modern black cop (Kotto), manages to hold ones attention for the duration of the otherwise standard crime-drama and blaxploitation plot hooks (which are gritty and violent, but no more so than other similar blaxploitation movies of the era.)

As a side note, Richard Ward's role as the quintessential black crime-boss is one of the best in the genre.

Princess Mononoke
½

Perhaps among the best of the genre. Miyazaki is at his best here, flexing his muscle on all grounds. He has an unlimited amount of room to practice fantasy, gritty urbanism, the quintessential female heroine. It suffers from this overextending of his favorite themes... but the combination of them all into a single uncompromised space truly provides a sweeping vision of Miyazakis work in general.

Day Watch
Day Watch(2007)

Surprisingly, a sequel that has come out in the last few years which is as good as, and in many ways better than, the original.

A well-thought out, gutsy, and satisfying continuation of "Night Watch" that doesn't dumb anything down, but also (unlike the first) does not feel too confused and overwhelming... the culture-shock of the new world being introduced has died down since the first film, which better lets us appreciate its finer points in the second.

Disco Godfather

Watchable for some occasionally hilarious one-liners, and to see the honest "stop doing drugs" message crash and burn along with horrible acting, a transparent plot, painfully bad "drug sequences", disco-dance sequences, laughable kung-fu "action" sequences... the list goes on.

A cinematic index of 70's stereotypes, classic badly-done Blaxploitation.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

A luminous entry into a grimy genre. It never goes too far, but dwells around an androgynous zone with so many phallic metaphors it makes your head spin. Russ Meyer seems unfairly slapped with a moniker of father of the porno film, especially considering this movie is less about sex and much more about gender roles.

It's dead on seriousness, especially for what might have been campy subject matter, makes it far bolder and watchable than one would believe at first. A classic cult-film.

When Worlds Collide
½

One of the earliest and most amazing (for the time, of course) usages of special effects to "Destroy the World", such as tsunamis and volcanic floods. The message is hopeful of a better future, but the plot is all about the war between humanities better and worse natures in the rush to evacuate planet earth. Unlike modern-day reinterpretations of the theme, the focus is on the people, not the disasters.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Classic Cold-War Science-Fiction, it hits each topic on the (stereotypical) head. Well acted, well paced, and with a plot that takes itself seriously, but isn't outrageous. Well proportioned sci-fi happiness, with a pacifist gooey center.

Also, Gort is one heck of a neat robot.

Fantastic Voyage

Slow-paced, and not terribly exciting in the least. Still, the premise is enough to earn a high degree of interest, and although the effects are terribly dated, they still manage to hold up well (probably due to a lack of other journey-into -the-center-of-the -body movies as comparison)

Not the most entertaining of sci-fi movies, but still refreshing in its originality.

Stephen King's The Stand

It seems like someone needs to learn how to film an epic story "tightly"... sometimes, alot of excellent ideas transmogrifies into a bowl of muddy, extra-long cinema. It captures your attention and imagination, but in a slow, methodical way... kind of like the rack.

This is a TV miniseries, and should be viewed as one. It makes you think of the days of story-writing in which the longer the writer could prolong the plot and wordcount in the serial, spanning many issues, the more money he got.

Dagon
Dagon(2001)

It's one of the best Lovecraftian movies behind the Reanimator... and frankly, the only one dealing with a major Mythos theme, such as Innsmouth, to a recognizable degree.

Sadly, whilst being the best, it is also terrible. The Cthulhu Mythos is a theme that can never translate well into film, it seems. I hope someday I'll be proven wrong by some brilliant director.

Six-String Samurai
½

It is quasi-low budget, and patently absurd. Buddy Holly goes to post-apocalyptic Lost Vegas to claim the vacated throne of the monarch of the post-nuclear-United-States... Elvis Presley. But the dark spectre of Heavy Metal intends on claiming the throne.

The themes and mood are over-the-top. The acting is acceptably absurd. The script is filled with the appropriate number of non-contextual one-liners.

Overall, it is excellent as a rarely-seen cult movie... just don't try to make it out to be anything more than that.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
½

A demo-reel at feature-length. Uh, at least it is a very pretty demo-reel.

Watership Down
½

Unique animation and vision of a classic book, which shows its age and its attempts to lower an adult story down to a childs level at times... but nevertheless captures its rather adult themes.

It made me run out of my room at age 7 yelling at my parents "Why are you letting me watch a film about DEATH!?!" Frankly, that is exactly what the movie should have done to a young child: it got the subject matter pretty dead-on.

Army of Darkness
½

Worth viewing for the intentional cult-film self-branding that obviously is occuring throughout the film, but not much more than that.

Sorry, people, but cult films should be unintentional, not explicitly marketed as such from the get-go. Thus, the original Evil Dead and its sequel are worthy, but the third is simple marketing.

Creepshow
Creepshow(1982)

A fun cavalcade of horror-featurettes, each of which has it's moment or two. Feels like cable televsion, though, and not a movie, which brings it down quite a few notches.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
½

Rather than write a review, the fact that this film is perhaps the reigning champion of montage-sequences surely tells you something about how watchable it is.

Just My Luck
Just My Luck(2006)
½

It is hard to write this review without double-negatives, such as "it isnt terrible" or "Not bad"... For a romantic comedy, it is decent, which isn't saying much... yet still, one could spend 90 minutes doing worse things that seeing this movie.

Speedy
Speedy(1928)
½

Lloyds films were known for being technologically advanced, and simply hilarious. Here, Lloyd's New York setting allows him to practice his perfect comedic slapstick timing in the guise of his "Glasses Character", as well as meet up with Babe Ruth along the way.

The wonderful shots of Coney Island in its heyday are astounding. (The Coney Island shots had to be filmed with hidden cameras, a very big technical problem for the time, in order to keep all the people from realizing Harold Lloyd was filming a movie. The crew couldn't get the Amusement Park to close, so the entire sequence was filmed trying to avoid Lloyd getting mobbed by fans.)

The Thing
The Thing(1982)

The Thing is one of those films that bridge the gap between Horror and Thriller, in the vein of The Shining. There is blood, there is gore, but it's never about the payoff, it's always about the buildup. Great acting and original plot make it a standout in a genre which usually doesn't find much use for either.

The Flight of Dragons
½

In the style of many classic 1980 fantasy cartoons, this movie is one of the few to sympathize with the march of progress, as well as making some minor social commentary on the Cold War, instead of merely dramatizing the tragic loss of nature and magic.

Shadow of a Doubt

A crime drama beyond peer, its dialog sways between cinematic and realistic, and the camera is artistic as well as efficient. There is nothing wasted, and everything is intentional. You can spend hours upon hours reanalyzing, or merely sit through it and be entertained.

Layered and beautiful, this is Hitchcock at his most exacting and precise.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

It's all about the characters, , folks. Whatever moral or plot will come to naught. That does not mean that the moral or plot is wimpy by any means... in fact, both are well crafted. But when you look back, all you will think about is not how much one character stole the show, but how all of them did... despite their totally one-dimensional nature. They each represent some collective portion of a fantastical whole that stands as a metaphor for old-world Vernian imagination. Sadly, the film aspires to not much more than that homage, but it reaches great heights nonetheless.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

A classic interlocking-subplot heist flick, which doesn't try to do anything new, but does everything well... very well, in fact. The dialouge is appropriately sharp, the action is kept at the level of a saloon gunfight, and the crime bosses are cliched one-dimensional badasess... as it should be. An excellent action/heist film that distances itself from a genre of gluttonous budgets, star-power, and fast-cut-edge-of-your-seat nonsense.

Zombi 2
Zombi 2(1980)

Everything between a zombie fighting a shark, and a woman getting her eye pierced by some broken wood, is utterly forgettable and contrived, even for a zombie movie. The overdubbing hovers between passable and atrocious.

Dunston Checks In

Pretty much the standard-bearer of the always rare but overly obnoxious "monkey-doing-people-things" genre.

You know the producers knew that monkey hijinks pretty much overshadow any poor qualities in the film. Also, it acutely limits the film to a 3-star-maximum, in the same way that one must limit "Weekend At Bernies." Monkeys and Dead People are comedies two great equalizers.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

A reasonably well made film, although it definitley doesn't stand firm as a serious documentary. It watches more like a feature-length TV News Special Report, complete with airing the names of the secretive members of the MPAA Reviews Board, a private investigator, and taped telephone conversations. In it's defense, much of this is simply due to the rather independent nature of the film, and some rather limited goals.
One really would like much more facts or coverage, instead of slapdash moments of inference which really could have been covered in much shorter a time. It falls into the documentary pitfall of having half of your documentary be about how you made your documentary.

Joe's Apartment

For MTV's first film, quite tame and not at all bad. As a film overall, reasonably bad, but it does have the sort of gritty, low-budget mid-nineties charm... which pretty much fits the subject matter perfectly. Simply put, it's bad, but it's hard to figure out how they could have done it better.

A time to both praise and blame the subject matter, perhaps.

Frankenweenie

This unknown and overlooked film is quite simply the most "Burtonesque" of Tim Burton's films, and paradoxially, the most charming.

Nightwatch
Nightwatch(1998)

A beautiful, if sprawling, and cinematically unique (artistic use of subtitles, especially) urban fantasy epic.

The story seems to inflate to an unweildly size, but this is often a symptom of a movie taken from a book. Thankfully, this sense of sprawl manages to give a sense of depth, and not a sense of unexamined and cursory detail.

A dose of originality in a genre which usually accepts tried-and-true formulae.

Donnie Brasco

A mobster film which doesn't fall into the cliches that riddle this genre like potholes.

Meet the Feebles

There are few movies so depraved, that even as a cult film they are hardly worth watching. This movie exhibits such intentionally bad taste, that it is utterly inexcusable. Not only do I not reccommend this movie, I actively urge you to avoid it at all costs if you have at least respect for your own human decency.

If you are one of those people who enjoys rubbernecking at someone breaking every rule of human decency sheerly because nobody can stop them... well, by all means, see this film. Hell, you may even enjoy it... you sick, sick bastard.

But make no mistake, this is a colossal travesty of a film, nomatter what enjoyment you manage to extract from it.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Not the Royal Tenenbaums, although you might enjoy it for the nostalgia it might evoke of its predecessor. It really doesn't cover any new ground, and seems more like a stepping stone for pubescent kids looking for something less mainstream, but not willing to look too far... the casting of Andersons films seems to reaffirm this targeted demographic.

That said, it has its moments, but they seem more like appetizers to a main course that never quite arrives.

Nanook of the North

Yes, it was highly staged. But for the time period, this was perhaps the closest one could get to Cinema Verite. The clunky camera necessitated the staged aspects of the film, and the filmaker emphasizing spears over the guns that had become prevalent in Inuit culture at the time, was instead a move by Flaherty to capture a part of the culture that was already of the verge of being forgotten.

The film lends firm authenticity to its events, and gives solid and truthful insight into its subject, even if the context is off, flawed, or contrived. A very important early work of cinema, not only for its subject matter but for being perhaps the first feature-length documentary ever made.

Day of the Dead
½

There are zombie films, and there are horror films in which there are zombies.

This is the former, and deals with zombies not as a terrorizing menace, but as some kind of serious plot device. Agreed, that zombies make TERRIBLE serious plot devices, but the audacity of trying gives this movie a charm that is often overlooked between the tour-du-forces of "Night" and "Dawn." The "Empire Strikes Back" of the classic Romero trilogy, perhaps.

Dogville
Dogville(2003)
½

If a movie can be judged by how long you ponder exactly what effect the movie had on you far after you walk out of the theatre... well, then this must be among the best examples of it. It focuses all of its effort on its ending, and the true thinking really starts once the climax is over and the lights come back on... that is, if you can survive the cinematic bombardment which Lars Von Trier subjects you to during the course of the movie. To some, the medium will be inexcusable despite the complex handling of the message.

Apocalypto
Apocalypto(2006)
½

It's Rambo, with better cinematography, and no guy destroying a helicopter with a rock.

Unfortunately, it's still Rambo... rather, half the film is. The other half is "by golly, look at these people! They have crazy piercings and stuff! Are you not entranced? Is this movie not a gritty depiction of clubbing interesting-looking people to death?"

Make no mistake, this movie does for Maya culture what "Gladiator" did for Roman culture... that is, not much besides making it look neat. Expect to FEEL like you understand Mayan culture without actually learning or knowing a single useful thing.

The War Game
The War Game(1966)
½

A disturbing fictional account of a nuclear attack on Britain. The level of detail this "documentary" goes into would be called "enlightening" if it wasn't for the positive connotations that word implies.

The grim newsreel style documenting the horror of a post-nuclear emergency is firmly based in factual extrapolations based on the Dresden Bombings as well as Hiroshima. The film moves fluidly and effectively from the blast all the way to food riots, disposal of bodies and corpse identification.

Amazingly effective for a low-budget TV movie, with amazing acting for a cast of total unknowns.

Graphic and socially unnerving. One of the few films that transcends the age of Atomic Paranoia in which it was made and focuses upon.

Dog Soldiers
Dog Soldiers(2002)

So bad. So terribly bad.

So amazingly watchable.

Signs
Signs(2002)
½

Something about M. Night Shymalan simply screams:

Excellent at the build-up, but pathetically inadequate at the climax. The movie is a thrilling "what is that!?" plot where you never get to see the creature/s... and then, you do, and you kind of laugh. Despite the modernity and special-effects, this movie should remind us that we still haven't overcome the B-Movie problem where the horrific, nomatter how long you build it up, ends up being laughably stupid once you show it.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

It's pro war! It's anti-war! It's pro-war... well, not really. It's just about McNamara, and his uncanny ability to avoid both of the previous questions.

Some might find the neutral tone refreshing, regardless. Not about miltiary strategy, but the morally-neutral engineering of military PR and morale in the late 20th century.. the day-to-day business of an unpopular war.

Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog)
½

Powerful, short, and disturbing. Looking back over half a century later, this is a vivid primary reminder. A reel of images that capture the immensity while it was still too recent to analyze... it was something to be seen and quietly observed, the mouth was too slack-jawed to form a response. There is no way to analyze a film which simply lays bare the image and nothing more.

This is a film not merely about the concentration camps, not merely about any time or place, but inhumanity wherever and whenever it has occured.

The Game
The Game(1997)

A movie which will definitley prod the paranoid viewer over the edge, take the easily gullible or the ADD riddled for a ride... and everyone else for a pretty unimaginative series of "duh" moments. Your enjoyment of the movie boils down to one cliche:

Are you the kind of person who would use reverse-reverse-reverse psychology? Are you kind of like that character in "The Princess Bride?" Do you like wondering if your room is bugged, nomatter the plot line or who you were thinking was listening in?

If so, go see it. If not... see it with someone who IS like that, and observe how easy it is to mess with someone with the plotline equivalent of "is so!" "is not!" "is so!" "nuh-uh!" "uh-huh!"

The Edge
The Edge(1997)

Two guys kill a bear, go rather crazy in the woods, and almost kill each other over some adultery.

Over the top survival epic that really dramatizes the idea of "survival" into something much more digestible for the action-movie lover.

Sure, its a grizzled I-havn't-shaved-in-many-days lets-make-a-compass-out-of-grass survival movie, but it is also really just an action movie about a really big bear chasing some guys in the woods... cleverly mingled with some boy-scout manual tidbits that make it seem like these guys are not just camping out in the local zoo's Kodiak Bear enclosure.

Alice in Wonderland
½

Damned better than the Disneyfied version. It seems so much more like Wonderland, and it accurately follows the scenes from only Wonderland (no Looking Glass crossover here, thank you very much.) Sure, it is a cameo-appearance parade, but at least they capture the spirit of Alice that had never been truly captured before.

Of course, it would have been nice it the meta-plot wasn't so contrived and stupid... but since it's one of the only Alice interpretations out there that has some respect for the material, it's hard to gripe.

Cecil B. Demented

Among the better of the over-the-top films that satisfies pubescent angst in the middle-school years of a teenagers life. Sadly, it doesn't amount to much more than that... Which would be exactly what Cecil would have wanted, anyway. Snuff, porn and action movies are the genres of honor here, and they all have their moments of half-parody, half-homage.

Equilibrium
Equilibrium(2002)

The Matrix with a less "I'm gong to fuck with your mind needlessly" mentality. The movie is far better versed in its classic sci-fi and dystopian future fundamentals than the Matrix could ever hope to be. While it doesn't give the formers sense of nuance, it does accomplish the same general effects without risking pure silliness. Better acting, as well, in my opinion.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)
½

This movie knows its roots, and holds fast to them. It updates Skull Island to what we'd all imagine a dinosaur-infested jungle hell straight from Darwins worst nightmares might look like.

The numerous references to the old Kong (the tribal dancers at Kongs broadway debut look strangely familiar...) help you overlook any flaws the film might present... and in the end, the major change from Kong the Destroyer to Kong the Lover makes sure you can't just dismiss it as a pointless rehash. Well done, despite all expectations to the contrary.

The acting, though, is cringe-worthy. Admittedly, saying the final line is a tough thing to make dramatic sense out of... and of course, Black totally ruins it. This is not excusable, because from a casting standpoint, his failure to deliver that line should have been amazingly predictable.

Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet(1986)
½

Sometimes there comes along a movie that is #*%@ked up. Actually, MOST of the time there is such a movie. But usually, it is in a totally outrageous way. No, Lynch does it realistically. It would seem mundane, if it wasn't for the freakishness laced throughout.

A wonderful, if demented, noir film. A fine puppeteering of inhibitions, taboos, repressed desires, and lust/sensuality.

300
300(2007)
½

Pretty much a movie built on being Epic. Pure, over the top Epic. The stylized blood, the honor and glory motif, as well as some frighteningly excellent fight choreography. I was stunned by the amazing skill, grace and brutality of the fight sequences (which are pretty much the entire film.) The extravagence of each side, the gritty realism (insofar as there are no gods or supernatural forces) and the absolutley gorgeous cinematography that literally makes Millers work come alive on-screen.

Definitley a masterpiece of battle cinema. A gory, sweat-filled example of artistic dismemberment.

Deep Blue Sea
½

Horrible movie, but it has one thing going for it.

Sharks.

And it knows it. Thus, this is a movie about mutant, intelligent, oversized sharks.

The second best part? A particularly unexpeted death sequence that welcomingly pokes fun at the film itself and its choice in casting, as well as its predictable plot progression.

Saving Private Ryan
½

There is something, of course, that everyone expects to see in a war movie.

But Spielberg makes sure that this isn't just gore and glory... although there is ample amounts of the former.

The true beauty of this film, often overlooked, is the morality displayed by its characters... namely, whenever a character acts morally, they get killed.

It is a subtle and absolutley damning statement against war itself. The new recruit saves the life of a German POW... only to kill him in cold blood in the end. Thus, he is one of the only characters to survive. The sniper dies whilst yelling for his companion to save himself.

There is no justice in war, and this film explicitly directs it to be so.

Coffee and Cigarettes
½

An ecclectic reel of shorts, focusing entirely on acting and dialouge, as well as the marvellous directing of Jarmusch. A film for film-lovers, it expresses the skill and art of "cinema" without the restrictions and presumptions of making a "movie."

Moving from ponderous, quixotic, to awkward, hauntingly sad, to simply hilarious... this film is almost a wildlife documentary of actors in their natural habitat.

Dead Man
Dead Man(1995)
½

Rarely does a film really put you as the viewer into the realm of dying. Not adrenaline-pumping death throes, but a slow agonizing and totally alien death. Depp's ennui and fatigue is mesmerizing.

The film contains one of the most grittily honest views of the old west I have yet to see in a film, and is viewable for that alone.

Thankfully, there are many more reasons to see it. Again, Depp's performance is perhaps the best in his entire career. The dialouge also stands out as particularly well-crafted.

The haunting and repetitive guitar riff keeps you feeling like you are suffering a slow, delusional death. Rarely does a movie start out so clear, and intentionally lower you into a symbolic and hazy world where you feel you went through the cauls of death itself.

Some might say caul of death, but others might merely say it made them sleepy. If you really want to see what direction can do other than thrill, scare, entertain, humor or romanticize... well, this is a movie to explore.

Casino Royale
½

Any review is going to essentially talk about Craig as the new bond. And, well... I personally believe him to be one of the best since Connery. He simply is far beyond the Pierce-Bond. He gets blood on his hands, screws up a few times, and that makes him less of a Fonzarelli-God-Superspy and far more debonair secret agent who lives (and at times, self-cannibalizes) on his own wit in order to survive. He will wear himself down to the last ounce of strength. He doesn't have an answer for everything... but given the situations, plot, and screenwriting, thats more than OK. It's not like the audience is getting a "turn around!" horror movie syndrome where we know what the character should do. If anything, he acts better than we'd expect, and still gets screwed.

A gritty secret-agent realism, sweat, blood and bullets, ends up paying off bigtime for this latest franchise-reset.

Casino Royale
½

Bizzare, fragmented, and absurd. A schizofrenic, rambling excuse for a plot... and as a satire, it works beautifully. A simple delight to watch, and given its broad (or rather, totally erratic) range of humor, there is likely to be at least some humor that fits your tastes. Just don't try to appreciate its finer, subtle points.

Lat sau san taam (Hard-Boiled)

This is the movie if you want to see skillfully executed and filmed firefights, among the best ever filmed. The plot is ludicrous, but at least fits relatively well with the over-the-top action sequences.

All you'll end up doing between these show-stoppers, is "I bet theres a gun in the plant!" "I bet theres a gun in the statue!" "I bet they'll be a firefight in the real estate office!"

Bravo to the stunts, dolly-work, effects, and especially the fight-coaching.

For Your Consideration
½

Guest finally thows off the Mockumentary format, and does a straight film with his classic entourage and ad-libbed methodology. The result is something akin to a horrific highway pile-up involving nothing but clown cars... that is, tragically hilarious.

Guest may be following some well-worn grooves, and perhaps the material isn't as fresh as earlier in his career... but it still funny, and that is all that counts.

Hearts and Minds
½

What more is there to say about a documentary such as this? It is truly required viewing to anyone who wants to comprehend the complexities of war.

I've heard derision of this film over at IMDB, partly over the minor connection it draws between the sports-culture in America and the connection with wartime machismo. I believe it is an interesting and not entirely false connection to make. There IS a connection between War and Sport, and I believe the film was not saying anything new by briefly liking the two together, and it only does so on two occasions... specifically, right before a particularly graphic montage of the Tet Offensive.

This movie presents both sides, although not always fairly.. but at the same time, it is hard to present the pro-war side fairly when many of their arguments are obviously absurd, callous or evidence of their desire to mitigate their sense of loss, embarassment, or guilt.

One of the best, or at least most popular, war documentaries ever made.

Crank
Crank(2006)

For some reason, the excessively hyperkinetic cutting, the strange over-the-top plot, the acting... well, most everything is inherently watchable, but lets be clear: its a terrible movie. But it almost begs to be rubbernecked. Run Lola Run with guns, action, and none of the nuance, grace, or talent.

An Inconvenient Truth
½

Of course, a must see. A requirement on both sides of the political spectrum, this movie is about Gore, yes... but don't let yourself be fooled that it is about Gore as a politician. He has used his status to launch himself into a career as a private citizen of the Nader's Raider archetype. Scoff all you want at the style or the presentation... this movie is unparalleled in its message.

Of course it isn't entirely accurate, nor is it comprehensive. It is a slide show, among other things, but is a much needed place to start. Unless you are already knee-deep in climate change issues, this movie can be an excellent refresher or a convincing introduction.

The Maltese Falcon
½

Perhaps the best detective drama I have ever seen, or am likely to see. There is no excuse not to see this film.

Manos: The Hands of Fate

This is the worst film ever made, hands down, which remains watchable.

Perhaps, due to its status as a film which a salesman made as a drunken bet, in which all the audio is overdubbed by himself and his wife for all the other characters... well, it is just one of my favorite movies.

Why? It's the lovable, big-kneed Torgo... a satyr who had his goat-leg prop installed backward and they only caught the mistake halfway into filming. He's the most brilliant low-budget B-Movie Igor-style character ever to stumble onto the silver screen... well, the movie had only one screening at a local theatre, before the entire thing became the laughing-stock of the town.

Either way, its amazing. It's fun. It's unbelievably bad.

Random mud-wrestling scene, anyone? 20 minutes of footage from the window of a car because they decided to cut the introductory titles, leaving only corn-field footage in it's wake for an insufferable amount of time? Or perhaps a bunch of cops who keep interrupting two teenagers having sex, which never end up tying into the actual plot of the movie?

It's THAT good... er... bad.

Psycho
Psycho(1960)
½

A classic. Horror at its most modern. Not thriller, not slasher, not gorefest. No. It's skilled, well-crafted slow-reveal Horror, with a capital H. Only the Hitchcock touch could do something like this justice... as sadly evidenced by the 1998 version.

King Kong
King Kong(1933)
½

Come on, who doesn't like a Great Ape tearing around through different locales, especially New York City?

As long as one keeps in mind the time it was made, it still manages to blow away the remake. Those special effects still hold up after 70 years.

A Mighty Wind

Perhaps not as good as its forebearers, and maybe it begins to show Guest starting to chafe under the mocumentary format... but it is still hilarious down to it's core.... although their is a caveat. To really understand the humor, you need to understand the American Folk scene, or to have seen another Christopher Guest film.

Mars Attacks!

The more old-school sci-fi you watch, the more you learn to appreciate how hard it is to make an intentionally bad sci-fi film. For all it's faults, Burton really got as close as he could to walking the razors edge between homaging the horribly bad B-movie genre, while knowing the movie was supposed to be good at the same time.

With such a schizophrenic personality, no wonder it falls a bit short. But hey, doesn't that make it watchable on a bad-sci-fi appreciation level?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit
½

Pure and simple fun. A one-shot concept that really fills out an entire world. Combine that with a dash of Chinatown, and you have a difficult movie to pull off.

They not only pulled it off, it really soars. Maybe not side-splitting, but comedically endearing instead... which is just as good.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Horrible, but oh so watchable. At this low of a rating, it's good to be bad. But this still isn't the bottom of the barrel, nomatter what the box art says.

Dawn of the Dead
½

It's all about the satire, and appreciating how amazing the gore is for 1978. Few films can pull off satire without resorting to comedy (to such an extent that most think the two are inseperable.) Romero pulls it off.

Dawn of the Dead

An entertaining remake, but not entirely up to snuff. At least in the original the gore had some substance and satire backing it up. Now, its all celebrity-zombie-death.

The first 5 minutes are worth the admission price alone.

Night of the Living Dead

The best part of the Zombie movie is the human interaction as people are being besieged. Night of the Living Dead is a stellar example of this, whereas the rest of the zombie genre focused mainly on the brain-eating.

The ending is perhaps one of the best of any horror film that I know of.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

Just as good as the original, but for different reasons. They took all the moments where in the original a serious, dramatic or "survivor deals with the horrible truth" moment, and instead focuses on amping up the dark humor which was the series strong-suit all along.

The Evil Dead

I prefer the original Evil Dead to it's sequel, but that is only because of its hilarity and corny grue. The shoestring budget is wonderful to watch. But as a well-made film? Eh... I don't think many people can speak with praise about the acting, writing, plot...

The series turned into an over-the-top gore comedy for a reason. Raimi isn't really aiming for it here, but thats why it is such a unique gem to watch.

The Aviator
The Aviator(2004)

As much as I wanted a movie about Howard Hughes and the Spruce Goose and all that fun stuff, DiCaprio really wasn't the guy to do it.

Knowing alot about Hughes going in, made the plot and effects matter less to me. Unfortunatley, those two things are the movies strongpoints.

It's a Wonderful Life
½

An over-rated movie that luckily has Henry Travers in it... which makes the whole thing endearing, warm and fuzzy. Can't really call it cliche, because it just might be the origin of the entire concept of cliche.

Children of Men

Lives up to the dystopian precident of its forebearers, such as THX, Metropolis, Brazil, Soylent Green, etc.