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Rating History

You Only Live Twice
2 months ago via Flixster

Perhaps this is the weakest of the Sean Connery Bond movies, but it is still tons of fun and there are plenty of redeeming qualities here. Savor the style of the movie, because after that the series loses its iconic Mid-Century sheik. It gets off to a strong start and takes us to Japan. The Japanese setting is exotic and makes for escapist fun, but it also comes with a few dated karate movie clichés that do not fit. The worst part of the movie is a time-consuming and poorly substantiated plot tangent in which James Bond must become a ninja. Why does James have to have fake a marriage to a Japanese woman? Why must he become a Ninja in order to get military backup? Some of the middle parts make no sense at all. Thankfully, it recovers and finishes strong with a climactic battle inside a wonderfully staged volcano lair. The main villain played by Donald Pleasance and his foxy henchwoman Karin Dor are both excellent. It lacks focus and if you can look beyond the ninjas and the martial arts then this is still a great time.

Stargate
Stargate (1994)
2 months ago via Flixster

Combining aliens, gateways to unknown places in space and time and the history of ancient Egypt is a unique and exciting idea. By studying Egyptian ruins and artifacts, a team of historians and scientists under control of the United States military, open a gateway to another world. The story takes time to introduce you to a likable but overlooked historian character played by James Spader. The audience parallels his experiences as his pessimism slowly turns into curiosity, then excitement and then ultimately of wonder. Spader's enthusiasm and sheer joy of uncovering ancient mysteries keep the movie fun. It is particularly helpful to the movie by sharply contrasts the stern attitudes of the military crew around him. The light situational humor and Spader make for a playful take on a conceptual science fiction adventure like this. Action during the climax does quite not hold up to the rest of the movie. It does not look particularly bad for its time, but has a somewhat campy feel to it. Without establishing the playful tone earlier, this could cause the entire production to collapse, but because it is there, it still works. It is a wildly imaginative concept. No wonder a successful television series followed it to expand the idea and build off this story.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
2 months ago via Flixster

Oh boy, this did not look good going in, and I was right. This is a strange meshing of modern weaponry and old-time fairy tales. The classic charters of Hansel and Gretel grow up to become bounty hunters of witches and monsters. They are equipped with machine guns, and elaborate gadgets. There is part of me that wants to take it for what it is and enjoy over-the-top explosive action mixed with magic. This could actually work, but the movie does not deliver those kinds of fast-paced thrills until late in the movie. The closing scene is the best and was just a taste of what this movie could have been. Instead, this movie attempts to make too much out of the characters and their back-story. Sometimes with a preposterous concept, the best thing to do is embrace the silliness. Join in on the joke and make a fun-loving spectacle with big action. I want to see the characters break the wall of reality down and make small jokes about the ridiculous things they are doing. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton both play the part seriously, which is a shame. The same actors could have worked in an approach that is more self-aware. This movie went for all out exaggerated thrills; it just did not go far enough. It lands in an awkward middle ground that is hard to enjoy.

The Devil-Doll
2 months ago via Flixster
½

Two men escape prison together. One is an old scientist, and the other is a middle-aged man in jail for embezzling his bank practice, but he claims that his partners framed him. The younger man helps get the older man back to his home and laboratory. There he sees the old man is obsessed with shrinking animals and even humans down to miniature sizes. In some ways, he succeeds, but the brain function of the shrunken individuals breaks down. They become tiny mindless drones that follow commands of their creator without question. The younger man questions the morality of the old man's work. Later, he plots to use the miniature drones posed as realistic dolls to get revenge on his partners and reclaim his name. There is supposed to be a dark suspense to the movie but the tiny people are just not very threatening. The filmmakers seemed fascinated by the camera technology of making miniature people on film. This movie comes off the heels of the Bride of Frankenstein, which used these techniques in a more limited and more effective way. There is actually enough story content and substance with the characters to save the movie from falling into cheesy chiller movie territory. In fact, I would rather see the escaped prisoner outsmart those wronged him in the shadows on his own. The story of men escaping prison and man seeking revenge on his partners would actually be better without the tiny sinister drones.

Amityville II: The Possession
2 months ago via Flixster

Despite the title, this is actually a prequel of the first Amityville Horror movie. It is, however, a fictionalized story and not based on the same accounts as the previous movie. Real or not, there are some scary and unnerving things about this movie and some quality moments in the direction. There is not much fall of from the first haunted house film, but the story is darker and has some strangely unsettling plot points. The actors are adequate, but the characters do not feel as realistic as they did in the first movie. It is very much a divided movie of two halves. The first hour involves a family moving into the haunted house where the oldest son becomes possessed by demon type power. The second part focuses on a priest who is determined to fight the evil within the house. That shift in the plot is shockingly abrupt. I much prefer the intangibility and tension of the first half of the movie. Politics and events of the priest's story go on too long and do not have the same emotional impact. Without this final half hour, the tone of the movie would be unreasonably cruel. The story makes sense as a whole but concluding scene is a directorial mess. Most of the special effects are impressive, but in the climax, they are simply bad. There are structural flaws here, but it is scary and uses the characters to tell a story effectively. It is far from perfect, but most horror movies fail to do some of the things this one gets right.