datarush's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Apollo 13
Apollo 13(1995)
½

With great acting, pacing, suspense and only a mild case of sentimental mush, Apollo 13 has all thrusters working from start to finish. Its not pro-this or anti-that to any great degree but recounts in Hollywood fashion the accident and near disaster of Apollo 13. If Ron Howard ever gets on a diet of no sap he'd be a great director, but he doesn't lay it on very thick here.

This was the IMAX version on the 2 disc Anniversary set. The theatrical release is on the other disc and is about 30 minutes longer. I didn't watch that one as the IMAX flavor has a DTS soundtrack making it the obvious choice for me. I didn't notice anything missing. Extras have a lot of historical footage and commentary by astronauts, especially by James Lovell the Apollo 13 commander. It looked and sounded spectacular. This is a movie made for the big screen, and the DVDs get a 9/10.

The Spartans
The Spartans(1996)
½

This is a mildy interesting docu that occasionally comes up with something interesting about the Spartans of the Classical Greece period. Bettany Hughes narrates and adds some color to the otherwise static shots of Greek ruins and battle sites. A major problem with doing anything lengthy about the Spartans is they left virtually no written materials, relatively few artifacts and not much else. So a lot of what we know about them was written by their enemies, such as classical Athens, Sparta's principal rival. The docu doesn't exactly say it but it has a lot to do with why it spends a fair amount of time talking about Athens and not Sparta.

What is well-known is that Sparta aspired to the perfect state through a system of breeding the perfect warrior. Most remembered and immortalized for the 300 Spartans' defense at Thermopylai, for a time they were the class act on the battlefields of old, their matchless discipline much admired by later civs who cherry-picked elements of the Spartan philosophy. Spartan women had far more freedom and influence than females in any other classical civ. That Sparta also had a crude eugenics program via a particularly ruthless form of infanticide, roaming terror squads that killed anyone remotely an enemy of the state, and enslaved fellow Greeks to free themselves of labor are less admirable elements of their extreme culture. After a long decline, they never recovered after they lost their slave-based economy.

The production is pretty low budget with a camera following Hughes in her funky vehicle, with a little drama added with some reenactors marching around as Greek hoplites. I always thought their helmets were cool :cool: Anyone needing an Antiquity fix or in need some elective CEU's you could do worse. Its' all 4:3 and mono.

Battlestar Galactica
½

I caught this as a new release in '03 but then got off the track. It came back to me as I watched the whole miniseries on DVD. Anyone who remembers the old short-lived Battlestar series will know the story and character names, but that's about it. The modern version is much darker and adult, thank the gods.

There is some tribute here and there to the original series; a little bit of its theme song plays, and the original Cylons, updated to passably good effects, make an appearance. I always thought they were cool with the cycling red 'eye'. Modern Cylons look human and are impossible to detect, an extreme convenience when it comes to makeup.

The most exotic of these 'humanoid Cylons' is Number 6 (Tricia Helfer). Helfer is supermodel grade and actually has some kind of Supermodel award. Fortunately she's has some acting ability. Also it doesn't hurt that she has a great skimpy/sexy wardrobe to go with some bold sexual scenes with Dr. Baltar (James Callis). Dr. Baltar is guilty of a terrible thing, and reminds me of no one else so much as Dr. Smith from the ancient Lost in Space series, with lots of sex added. He has the same strength of character; none at all.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Number6Battlestar.jpg[/img]

The foundation is well laid in the miniseries, with strong acting by James Olmos and Mary McDonnell who form an uneasy alliance getting the remnants of humanity out of the solar system. Once the shock of a female Starbucks wears off and a solid Adama appears, I'm ready to watch the 1st season!

[img]http://www.thebucklist.com/battlestargalactica_files/image012.jpg[/img]

The DVD looks and sounds real good. Its great that they've filmed it in widescreen and a solid soundtrack. No extras so far. DVD #1 gets an 8/10.

Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas

This isn't your father's Disney. The original Disney franchise players now reside in the Land Where Everyone is Nice, preschool toons rendered in kiddie-grade Pixarish 3D. Mickey always was a little wimpy but even Donald has been completely Dippified with the Evil Daisy Duck pussywhipping him at every opportunity. He was a WWII hero for chrissakes, selling War Bonds to defeat Der Fuhrer. Goofy, who was in some very funny sports cartoons (usually a whole bunch of Goofys vs. a bunch of other Goofys), has become a caricature of himself and his goofiness has been choreographed without a shred of humor. Huey Dewey & Louie can't stay conniving for more than 30 seconds without guilt spoiling it all, while Pluto would be better off on Animal Control's 3 Day Plan. Its not pretty, what they've done to these old Toons.

The only way to reclaim my interest after this would be Donald doing his popular 'Who's Your Daddy?' with Daisy sparking his enthusiasm. I'd like to see someone with a duckbill pull that off :eek: They could've made it an Easter egg, being ducks after all. I can give this one a 6 because kids like it. They don't know any better.

The Call of Cthulhu
½

[b]The Call of Cthulhu 6.8/10
[/b]A labor of love from the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society, ...Cthulhu doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. In fact I sat through a sort of docu on making the movie just to hear it pronounced. Only one guy did and he said it real fast, just in case he wasn't saying it right, and he said it while speaking into his armpit. That's how in awe the HPLHS members are of this Lovecraft tale.

Cthulu is worthy of a full review with pics and etc..., but lets just say that it would really help if you know Lovecraft. This was made as a silent movie, possibly because they couldn't stretch the $5.86 budget to get a sound engineer, let alone equipment. That's right, Cthulhu has a budget somewhat less than Bubba Ho Tep. The ship scenes were filmed in someone's backyard, meetings in vacant homes in Burbank, and so on. There's a kernal of goodness in Cthulhu, but its not in production values. Critics love this kind of stuff, but I was less enthusiastic.


[b]Bridge to Terabithia 7.0/10[/b]
Fairly typical Disney fare, the blend of reality and fantasy is a little different. Special effects are relatively sparse, though, and there is actually a story to tell.
[b]
Letters from Iwo Jima 9.4/10
[/b]Iwo Jima might be a 10/10 if I watch it again. Much better than Flags of Our Fathers, the WWII Japanese are allowed to be human now that time brings some perspective. Filmed in the washed out color similar to Flags... it tells the tale of the doomed defenders of Iwo Jima, the first WWII battle in Japanese terrritory. About 5 weeks later, the last of the 22,000 defenders were starving and dying of thirst. Almost all of them died, along with 6,800 Americans in one of the nastiest sustained ground battles ever. Taking Mt. Suribachi wasn't such a big deal, as most of the fighting was yet to come. It just looked good.

36th Chamber of Shaolin (Shao Lin san shi liu fang)
½

[b]Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ...... 6.8/10
[/b]This one gets a low passing grade at least partly for my childhood affection of the irreverent group. The Silver Surfer is the best part of the film, and Jessica Alba and her awful skin tone is the worst. Gah. The romance between Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman has an icky taste. At the end, though, it was still good to see the comic book characters fly off in their comic book car.

[b]36th Chamber of Shaolin ..... 8.8/10
[/b]The early 80's was the beginning of the end for the original Chop Socky movies, but 36th Chamber... is already a classic. A little obscure in the beginning and perhaps a little too much of a combat training video in the middle, the finish is great and the movie doesn't get too caught up in pretentious bullshit while the players back theirs up with some excellent combat sequences.

[b]Cinema Paradiso ........ 9.4/10
[/b]Close to a 10/10 were I not so stingy, Cinema Paradiso is like a breath of fresh air after the tedious 'CGI-filled/90,000 car chase scenes with no worthwhile story' that Hollywood is stuck on. In the days before TV and video games, there was the cinema. The story centers on the goings on at Cinema Paradiso and the kid/projectionist/grown man that grew up loving movies. Filled with beautiful people that look mostly ordinary at best, coupled with a picturesque Sicilian town and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, anyone with about 3 hours (Director's cut) would be better off watching this.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/CinemaParPissedMom.jpg[/img]

[b]Salvatore pisses off his beautiful but sad mom again, with Alfredo getting some grief too.[/b]

Luis Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe
½

Its probably because I've been watching TV's Lost that I picked up this oldie. I saw this movie once upon a time, and as I watched it again I finally came to the part that I remembered. Up to that moment I was thinking that I must've mistaken this movie for another.

Its a fairly accurate adaptation of Dafoe's story. I don't see how anyone could live alone for 20+ years without going a little nuts, and they do spend some time with Crusoe wrestling with his own sanity. Once he rescues Friday all the old stereotypes poke their ugly heads out of the sand, whereas before you could forget that Crusoe is a castaway slave trader. It does make the interesting point on how common cannibalism was not so long ago in the Pacific.

The DVD was from a restored version of the film, and while they've certainly cleaned it up, the picture is soft and the colors are undersaturated. The audio wasn't fixed well if at all and has a lot of blips, beeps and is a bit shrill. For a foreign produced film using a cheap film variant it I suppose its better than it being lost. The DVD gets a 7/10 for existing.

Ecstasy (Ekstase) (Rhapsody of Love) (Symphony of Love)
½

[font=Verdana]Ecstasy was a bold movie in its time. The Hedy Lamarr ([/font][font=Arial][font=Verdana] Hedwig Eva Kiesler) nude scene actually pissed off the Pope and Rome condemned the movie. These days that would improve ticket sales but back then Hedwig had to change her name to Hedy a few years later before she could get a major movie contract.

Its pretty tame by current standards. The 18yr. old Hedy plays a bride to a middle-aged man who'd rather play with his toothbrush on the honeymoon than with Hedy. Stupid man. Love finds a way, though not with him, and that nude swim in the pond does have something to do with that.

You watch this to see the young and beautiful Hedy. There were better poses in the movie than this famous one but ya probably gotta buy the DVD to snag them.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/HedyEcstasy.jpg[/img]
[/font][/font]

Jing wu ying xiong (Fist of Legend)

I'm not burdened by comparing Fist of Legend with the original Bruce Lee film (Chinese Connection), since I haven't seen it. The story they share is about revenge, insult and racism in China during the 1930's before WWII. Japan was muscling onto the Chinese coast with designs on the whole country. Beyond what's essential to the story you can tell by some political remarks in the movie that the Chinese are still sore about being assaulted by Japan.

If you like in-your-face expertly choreographed martial arts with a minimum of wirework, this is your movie. These guys throw and block more punches and kicks per minute than I can switch channels on the remote. Jet Li is definitely the go-to guy for serious martial arts. The story and dialog are only adequate in keeping Fist of Legend something more than just a facade for kung fu entertainment, however. Its predictable and isn't much more than something to put onscreen between the fights.

The DVD is barebones with almost nothing on it besides the movie, and I was noticing occasional image smearing during onscreen motion. The DVD gets a 6.5/10 .

Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) (Demons '95) (Of Death, of Love)

-I've seen most of Scorsese's films and Departed is his best. It deserves all the awards its received.

-Dead Man's Chest was a few moments of interesting FX mixed in with totally dull, silly plot and dialog.

-Cars has its moments, especially in the last 1/3 but its not quite up some such as Finding Nemo or The Incredibles.

-I admit that prurient interest slants my score to Cemetary Man. It must be the Bellucci Syndrome where I'm attracted to Italian women such as Anna Falchi. I don't think they're from Earth. Rupert Everett does pretty good anyway as the cemetary caretaker, casually keeping the dead in their place.

Gun Crazy (Deadly Is the Female)

A classic film noir, almost. John Dall plays a really good sap (as he did in other films), well-meaning but ultimately led by his nose to wrack and ruin. Peggy Cummins is appropriately the crazier of the two, but deviates a bit from the classic femme fatale because she loves the sap too much for her own good. It plays better than you might think for an 'B' movie oldie, and subsequent films took some cues from the duo's dynamics. Required viewing for any classic movie fan.

The Straight Story

[b]The Fountain ..... 7.4/10[/b]
There's some real passion in this movie, losing the love of your life, but when it turns to Jackman in a full-screen sob, my gut reaction was 'not in my face!' Which was too bad as this movie could've been a lot better with some adjustments. It has great FX, the kind of computer work that movies ought to have more of instead of the mostly stupid monster/icky blob/zombie stuff. Best on a big screen.

[b]Death Proof..... 8.1/10
[/b]No attempt was made for this to be Tarentino's best movie. Its just as described originally in its Grindhouse release; A no BS serve-em-up and cut-em-off action/thriller. Complete with plenty of flesh revealed or somehow suggested, it has some of the best car stunt work done lately. Just ask Stuntman Mike!

[b]The Straight Story..... 8.4/10
[/b]Farnsworth came out of retirement to make this, his last movie, driving 100s of miles along the highway on a lawnmower to see his estranged brother. The acting makes all the difference, and the story can be poignant at times. Sissy Spacek is amazing.
[b]
Goldfinger............ 9.6/10
[/b]Possibly the best JB movie. Bond is at the top of his [size=-1]one-liner game, so what the hell. With Odd Job, Pussy Galore and of course the Q's Secret Agent Aston Martin on board, who the hell cares if it really makes sense to load a 3 ton piece of scrap metal onto a 1/4 ton runabout? Get Smart lifted all the spy gizmos right off the screen, and out of JB's shoe! [/size]

Death Proof
Death Proof(2007)

[b]The Fountain ..... 7.4/10[/b]
There's some real passion in this movie, losing the love of your life, but when it turns to Jackman in a full-screen sob, my gut reaction was 'not in my face!' Which was too bad as this movie could've been a lot better with some adjustments. It has great FX, the kind of computer work that movies ought to have more of instead of the mostly stupid monster/icky blob/zombie stuff. Best on a big screen.

[b]Death Proof..... 8.1/10
[/b]No attempt was made for this to be Tarentino's best movie. Its just as described originally in its Grindhouse release; A no BS serve-em-up and cut-em-off action/thriller. Complete with plenty of flesh revealed or somehow suggested, it has some of the best car stunt work done lately. Just ask Stuntman Mike!

[b]The Straight Story..... 8.4/10
[/b]Farnsworth came out of retirement to make this, his last movie, driving 100s of miles along the highway on a lawnmower to see his estranged brother. The acting makes all the difference, and the story can be poignant at times. Sissy Spacek is amazing.
[b]
Goldfinger............ 9.6/10
[/b]Possibly the best JB movie. Bond is at the top of his [size=-1]one-liner game, so what the hell. With Odd Job, Pussy Galore and of course the Q's Secret Agent Aston Martin on board, who the hell cares if it really makes sense to load a 3 ton piece of scrap metal onto a 1/4 ton runabout? Get Smart lifted all the spy gizmos right off the screen, and out of JB's shoe! [/size]

Goldfinger
Goldfinger(1964)

[b]The Fountain ..... 7.4/10[/b]
There's some real passion in this movie, losing the love of your life, but when it turns to Jackman in a full-screen sob, my gut reaction was 'not in my face!' Which was too bad as this movie could've been a lot better with some adjustments. It has great FX, the kind of computer work that movies ought to have more of instead of the mostly stupid monster/icky blob/zombie stuff. Best on a big screen.

[b]Death Proof..... 8.1/10
[/b]No attempt was made for this to be Tarentino's best movie. Its just as described originally in its Grindhouse release; A no BS serve-em-up and cut-em-off action/thriller. Complete with plenty of flesh revealed or somehow suggested, it has some of the best car stunt work done lately. Just ask Stuntman Mike!

[b]The Straight Story..... 8.4/10
[/b]Farnsworth came out of retirement to make this, his last movie, driving 100s of miles along the highway on a lawnmower to see his estranged brother. The acting makes all the difference, and the story can be poignant at times. Sissy Spacek is amazing.
[b]
Goldfinger............ 9.6/10
[/b]Possibly the best JB movie. Bond is at the top of his [size=-1]one-liner game, so what the hell. With Odd Job, Pussy Galore and of course the Q's Secret Agent Aston Martin on board, who the hell cares if it really makes sense to load a 3 ton piece of scrap metal onto a 1/4 ton runabout? Get Smart lifted all the spy gizmos right off the screen, and out of JB's shoe! [/size]

The Fountain
The Fountain(2006)
½

[b]The Fountain ..... 7.4/10[/b]
There's some real passion in this movie, losing the love of your life, but when it turns to Jackman in a full-screen sob, my gut reaction was 'not in my face!' Which was too bad as this movie could've been a lot better with some adjustments. It has great FX, the kind of computer work that movies ought to have more of instead of the mostly stupid monster/icky blob/zombie stuff. Best on a big screen.

[b]Death Proof..... 8.1/10
[/b]No attempt was made for this to be Tarentino's best movie. Its just as described originally in its Grindhouse release; A no BS serve-em-up and cut-em-off action/thriller. Complete with plenty of flesh revealed or somehow suggested, it has some of the best car stunt work done lately. Just ask Stuntman Mike!

[b]The Straight Story..... 8.4/10
[/b]Farnsworth came out of retirement to make this, his last movie, driving 100s of miles along the highway on a lawnmower to see his estranged brother. The acting makes all the difference, and the story can be poignant at times. Sissy Spacek is amazing.
[b]
Goldfinger............ 9.6/10
[/b]Possibly the best JB movie. Bond is at the top of his [size=-1]one-liner game, so what the hell. With Odd Job, Pussy Galore and of course the Q's Secret Agent Aston Martin on board, who the hell cares if it really makes sense to load a 3 ton piece of scrap metal onto a 1/4 ton runabout? Get Smart lifted all the spy gizmos right off the screen, and out of JB's shoe! [/size]

Black Snake Moan
½

[b]The Living Daylights... 7.3/10
[/b]Timothy Dalton premieres as the new James Bond, and was a promising candidate for a good run of movies. The movie, however, suffers from a vanilla plot, mediocre bad guys and a Bond Woman who came off as more a Bond Girl. The transition was helped along a bit by some old standbys like Q and M, but not enough to rescue it from some crummy directing.
[b]
Black Snake Moan... 7.0/10
[/b]This movie sold itself on a provocative premise but the story has little to do with that. The message is that everyone is profoundly screwed up and it takes a herculean effort to collectively climb out of all those private hellholes. Ricci and Jackson are good but it just wasn't very entertaining.
[b]
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.... 7.1/10
[/b]You could say that this is a snapshot of late 60's lifestyle, but its so Hollywoodized and filled with multilayered dopiness that anyone seeking a capsule summary of the era's drug culture would be sadly misinformed. It is, however, a great source of Playboy-grade T&A, sex before AIDS, pre-funk hippie jargon and fairly typical 60's music, all encased in a road movie. Literally a road movie, as the map is a screen overlay as the tale begins.
[b]
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.... 7.2/10
[/b]The weakest of the 'trilogy', this tale of bad moves and bad decisions that lead to a series of unrelentingly nasty acts of violence just ran me out of caring about what happened to anyone. There is some good acting and that is its best quality.
[b]
Spirited Away.... 9.3/10
[/b]Easily the best of this group, [b]Hayao Miyazaki's [/b]animated storytelling is so much better than just about anything that comes out of Hollywood. They should be taking notes. Seriously. This may be his best ever, as the tale about a pre-teen girl's bizarre separation from her parents and her servitude in the strangest bathhouse you'll ever see. While she looks for a way to be reunited with them, her life is filled with exotic characters of a certain depth. Tossing out provocative imagery like candy at a parade, there's something wrong with you if you don't like this.

Spirited Away
½

[b]The Living Daylights... 7.3/10
[/b]Timothy Dalton premieres as the new James Bond, and was a promising candidate for a good run of movies. The movie, however, suffers from a vanilla plot, mediocre bad guys and a Bond Woman who came off as more a Bond Girl. The transition was helped along a bit by some old standbys like Q and M, but not enough to rescue it from some crummy directing.
[b]
Black Snake Moan... 7.0/10
[/b]This movie sold itself on a provocative premise but the story has little to do with that. The message is that everyone is profoundly screwed up and it takes a herculean effort to collectively climb out of all those private hellholes. Ricci and Jackson are good but it just wasn't very entertaining.
[b]
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.... 7.1/10
[/b]You could say that this is a snapshot of late 60's lifestyle, but its so Hollywoodized and filled with multilayered dopiness that anyone seeking a capsule summary of the era's drug culture would be sadly misinformed. It is, however, a great source of Playboy-grade T&A, sex before AIDS, pre-funk hippie jargon and fairly typical 60's music, all encased in a road movie. Literally a road movie, as the map is a screen overlay as the tale begins.
[b]
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.... 7.2/10
[/b]The weakest of the 'trilogy', this tale of bad moves and bad decisions that lead to a series of unrelentingly nasty acts of violence just ran me out of caring about what happened to anyone. There is some good acting and that is its best quality.
[b]
Spirited Away.... 9.3/10
[/b]Easily the best of this group, [b]Hayao Miyazaki's [/b]animated storytelling is so much better than just about anything that comes out of Hollywood. They should be taking notes. Seriously. This may be his best ever, as the tale about a pre-teen girl's bizarre separation from her parents and her servitude in the strangest bathhouse you'll ever see. While she looks for a way to be reunited with them, her life is filled with exotic characters of a certain depth. Tossing out provocative imagery like candy at a parade, there's something wrong with you if you don't like this.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
½

[b]The Living Daylights... 7.3/10
[/b]Timothy Dalton premieres as the new James Bond, and was a promising candidate for a good run of movies. The movie, however, suffers from a vanilla plot, mediocre bad guys and a Bond Woman who came off as more a Bond Girl. The transition was helped along a bit by some old standbys like Q and M, but not enough to rescue it from some crummy directing.
[b]
Black Snake Moan... 7.0/10
[/b]This movie sold itself on a provocative premise but the story has little to do with that. The message is that everyone is profoundly screwed up and it takes a herculean effort to collectively climb out of all those private hellholes. Ricci and Jackson are good but it just wasn't very entertaining.
[b]
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.... 7.1/10
[/b]You could say that this is a snapshot of late 60's lifestyle, but its so Hollywoodized and filled with multilayered dopiness that anyone seeking a capsule summary of the era's drug culture would be sadly misinformed. It is, however, a great source of Playboy-grade T&A, sex before AIDS, pre-funk hippie jargon and fairly typical 60's music, all encased in a road movie. Literally a road movie, as the map is a screen overlay as the tale begins.
[b]
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.... 7.2/10
[/b]The weakest of the 'trilogy', this tale of bad moves and bad decisions that lead to a series of unrelentingly nasty acts of violence just ran me out of caring about what happened to anyone. There is some good acting and that is its best quality.
[b]
Spirited Away.... 9.3/10
[/b]Easily the best of this group, [b]Hayao Miyazaki's [/b]animated storytelling is so much better than just about anything that comes out of Hollywood. They should be taking notes. Seriously. This may be his best ever, as the tale about a pre-teen girl's bizarre separation from her parents and her servitude in the strangest bathhouse you'll ever see. While she looks for a way to be reunited with them, her life is filled with exotic characters of a certain depth. Tossing out provocative imagery like candy at a parade, there's something wrong with you if you don't like this.

The Living Daylights
½

[b]The Living Daylights... 7.3/10
[/b]Timothy Dalton premieres as the new James Bond, and was a promising candidate for a good run of movies. The movie, however, suffers from a vanilla plot, mediocre bad guys and a Bond Woman who came off as more a Bond Girl. The transition was helped along a bit by some old standbys like Q and M, but not enough to rescue it from some crummy directing.
[b]
Black Snake Moan... 7.0/10
[/b]This movie sold itself on a provocative premise but the story has little to do with that. The message is that everyone is profoundly screwed up and it takes a herculean effort to collectively climb out of all those private hellholes. Ricci and Jackson are good but it just wasn't very entertaining.
[b]
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.... 7.1/10
[/b]You could say that this is a snapshot of late 60's lifestyle, but its so Hollywoodized and filled with multilayered dopiness that anyone seeking a capsule summary of the era's drug culture would be sadly misinformed. It is, however, a great source of Playboy-grade T&A, sex before AIDS, pre-funk hippie jargon and fairly typical 60's music, all encased in a road movie. Literally a road movie, as the map is a screen overlay as the tale begins.
[b]
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.... 7.2/10
[/b]The weakest of the 'trilogy', this tale of bad moves and bad decisions that lead to a series of unrelentingly nasty acts of violence just ran me out of caring about what happened to anyone. There is some good acting and that is its best quality.
[b]
Spirited Away.... 9.3/10
[/b]Easily the best of this group, [b]Hayao Miyazaki's [/b]animated storytelling is so much better than just about anything that comes out of Hollywood. They should be taking notes. Seriously. This may be his best ever, as the tale about a pre-teen girl's bizarre separation from her parents and her servitude in the strangest bathhouse you'll ever see. While she looks for a way to be reunited with them, her life is filled with exotic characters of a certain depth. Tossing out provocative imagery like candy at a parade, there's something wrong with you if you don't like this.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
½

[b]The Living Daylights... 7.3/10
[/b]Timothy Dalton premieres as the new James Bond, and was a promising candidate for a good run of movies. The movie, however, suffers from a vanilla plot, mediocre bad guys and a Bond Woman who came off as more a Bond Girl. The transition was helped along a bit by some old standbys like Q and M, but not enough to rescue it from some crummy directing.
[b]
Black Snake Moan... 7.0/10
[/b]This movie sold itself on a provocative premise but the story has little to do with that. The message is that everyone is profoundly screwed up and it takes a herculean effort to collectively climb out of all those private hellholes. Ricci and Jackson are good but it just wasn't very entertaining.
[b]
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.... 7.1/10
[/b]You could say that this is a snapshot of late 60's lifestyle, but its so Hollywoodized and filled with multilayered dopiness that anyone seeking a capsule summary of the era's drug culture would be sadly misinformed. It is, however, a great source of Playboy-grade T&A, sex before AIDS, pre-funk hippie jargon and fairly typical 60's music, all encased in a road movie. Literally a road movie, as the map is a screen overlay as the tale begins.
[b]
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.... 7.2/10
[/b]The weakest of the 'trilogy', this tale of bad moves and bad decisions that lead to a series of unrelentingly nasty acts of violence just ran me out of caring about what happened to anyone. There is some good acting and that is its best quality.
[b]
Spirited Away.... 9.3/10
[/b]Easily the best of this group, [b]Hayao Miyazaki's [/b]animated storytelling is so much better than just about anything that comes out of Hollywood. They should be taking notes. Seriously. This may be his best ever, as the tale about a pre-teen girl's bizarre separation from her parents and her servitude in the strangest bathhouse you'll ever see. While she looks for a way to be reunited with them, her life is filled with exotic characters of a certain depth. Tossing out provocative imagery like candy at a parade, there's something wrong with you if you don't like this.

Red Sun
Red Sun(1972)

The Western genre was just about worn out by now so they were doing things like bringing actors from other countries into a Western for curiosity and a little fish-out-of-water effect.

Red Sun is worth a look if only to see Bronson and Mifune work it on the same screen. The two tough guys play pretty good together in an otherwise fairly average movie. The Bronson character is doublecrossed on a train robbery and Mifune is sworn to recover stolen sword that was swiped by the doublecrossing Alain Delon. They become reluctant partners in their common pursuit.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RedSunGetSword.jpg[/img]
[b]
Hey lets get the sword, then go to one of those red light houses!

[/b]They do, but not in that order. They fight each other as much as anyone else while they pick up the bad guy's woman at the cat house. Naturally the story wouldn't be complete without rampaging Commanche war parties with their own agenda.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RedSunSpearSword.jpg[/img]
[b]
If I was the guy with the spear I would run away as fast as I can!

[/b]Red Sun has a wannabe-like-an Ennio Morricone soundtrack and some nice cinematography. Its too bad the transfer is pretty crappy. The film is worth the time to restore it properly.

A View to a Kill

Roger Moore's swan song as Agent 007 rates somewhere in the middle of the pack of Bond movies. A youngish Christopher Walken was just hitting his stride in his bad guy roles and plays a competent but not quite great nemesis to Bond. Nobody ever beats JB though, so he gets a pass for playing it with a smirk on his face.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ViewKillDuran.jpg[/img]

[b]View... has a great Bond theme song and a classic Bond movie intro action sequence.

[/b]View... also has a cool credit rollout, something which I don't often pay much attention too, but this one is exceptional, even for a Bond film.

The plot is variation #3843 of 'take over the world'. This time bad guy Zorin plots to get a corner on the world's newest gold in 1984: microchips. All he has to do is send Silicon Valley to the bottom of the Bay. Naturally JB gets onto his plan and follows and foils Zorin's fiendish schemes in detail, with only an occasional lapse of a dead ally or attempt on his life.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ViewKillMichelin.jpg[/img]

[b]Always bring a valve wrench on a drive around a lake. You may need the air!

[/b]Actually, Bond didn't so those must be some of Q's Emergency Air Supply Michelins.

Tanya Roberts, along with another Bond Woman or three, provide the standard female eye candy. Grace Jones is a whole different kind of Bond Woman.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ViewKillEscape.jpg[/img]
[b]
Developers could've used a construction office with a popup blimp to escape the California subprime debacle!

[/b]Moore was the least physically dynamic of all the Bonds, but probably the closest match in mental agility and style to Ian Fleming's Bond. For that his seven Bond films hold up pretty well.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ViewKillBlowUp.jpg[/img]

[b]Another Bond bad guy bites the bag![/b]

Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)
½

[b]Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ...... 6.8/10
[/b]This one gets a low passing grade at least partly for my childhood affection of the irreverent group. The Silver Surfer is the best part of the film, and Jessica Alba and her awful skin tone is the worst. Gah. The romance between Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman has an icky taste. At the end, though, it was still good to see the comic book characters fly off in their comic book car.

[b]36th Chamber of Shaolin ..... 8.8/10
[/b]The early 80's was the beginning of the end for the original Chop Socky movies, but 36th Chamber... is already a classic. A little obscure in the beginning and perhaps a little too much of a combat training video in the middle, the finish is great and the movie doesn't get too caught up in pretentious bullshit while the players back theirs up with some excellent combat sequences.

[b]Cinema Paradiso ........ 9.4/10
[/b]Close to a 10/10 were I not so stingy, Cinema Paradiso is like a breath of fresh air after the tedious 'CGI-filled/90,000 car chase scenes with no worthwhile story' that Hollywood is stuck on. In the days before TV and video games, there was the cinema. The story centers on the goings on at Cinema Paradiso and the kid/projectionist/grown man that grew up loving movies. Filled with beautiful people that look mostly ordinary at best, coupled with a picturesque Sicilian town and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, anyone with about 3 hours (Director's cut) would be better off watching this.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/CinemaParPissedMom.jpg[/img]

[b]Salvatore pisses off his beautiful but sad mom again, with Alfredo getting some grief too.[/b]

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
½

[b]Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ...... 6.8/10
[/b]This one gets a low passing grade at least partly for my childhood affection of the irreverent group. The Silver Surfer is the best part of the film, and Jessica Alba and her awful skin tone is the worst. Gah. The romance between Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman has an icky taste. At the end, though, it was still good to see the comic book characters fly off in their comic book car.

[b]36th Chamber of Shaolin ..... 8.8/10
[/b]The early 80's was the beginning of the end for the original Chop Socky movies, but 36th Chamber... is already a classic. A little obscure in the beginning and perhaps a little too much of a combat training video in the middle, the finish is great and the movie doesn't get too caught up in pretentious bullshit while the players back theirs up with some excellent combat sequences.

[b]Cinema Paradiso ........ 9.4/10
[/b]Close to a 10/10 were I not so stingy, Cinema Paradiso is like a breath of fresh air after the tedious 'CGI-filled/90,000 car chase scenes with no worthwhile story' that Hollywood is stuck on. In the days before TV and video games, there was the cinema. The story centers on the goings on at Cinema Paradiso and the kid/projectionist/grown man that grew up loving movies. Filled with beautiful people that look mostly ordinary at best, coupled with a picturesque Sicilian town and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, anyone with about 3 hours (Director's cut) would be better off watching this.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/CinemaParPissedMom.jpg[/img]

[b]Salvatore pisses off his beautiful but sad mom again, with Alfredo getting some grief too.[/b]

La Dolce Vita
½

[b]Open Range ..... 7.8/10
[/b]The cinematography really captures the vastness of the western hills, and the shootouts are well-staged. The acting is good all around, and Costner appears to have 'the man who will kick ass' down pat, playing a role not unlike Billy Munny in Unforgiven. They all said goodbye too many times though, and it draggged a bit.

[b]Hard Boiled ........ 9.0/10
[/b]The 'Woo' action only stops long enough for everyone to catch their breath and say a few snappy lines and retorts. Then massive amounts of lead fly and bombs explode all over again. In that regard Hard Boiled is unsurpassed in gun battles of all kinds. The heroes seem to be just about invincible....

[b]Inside Man ......... 8.2/10
[/b]A clever variation of the bank heist movie. The 'bank robbers' thought of everything, and the cops can barely keep up. Denzel and Clive are very good in this.

[b]Blow Up ...... 8.3/10
[/b]If nothing else seeing a very young Vanessa Redgrave makes this worth a look, but its more than that. There's a good story here, and a trip back in time on the methods of the dying art of black and white film photography, and 60's British pop/drug culture.

[b]La Dolce Vita .......... 8.9/10
[/b]Postwar Roman culture in transition, with the cultural fringe living out their mostly pointless hedonistic lives in a very artful way in the architecturally rich city of Rome. Watching a Fellini movie is like a visit to a museum of portrait paintings. He captures humanity on film as good as any, if sometimes in state of chic poofiness.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Anita_ekberg_Trevi.jpg[/img]

[b]Anita and her 'Ekbergs' in the famous Trevi Fountain scene.
[/b]

Lat sau san taam (Hard-Boiled)
½

[b]Open Range ..... 7.8/10
[/b]The cinematography really captures the vastness of the western hills, and the shootouts are well-staged. The acting is good all around, and Costner appears to have 'the man who will kick ass' down pat, playing a role not unlike Billy Munny in Unforgiven. They all said goodbye too many times though, and it draggged a bit.

[b]Hard Boiled ........ 9.0/10
[/b]The 'Woo' action only stops long enough for everyone to catch their breath and say a few snappy lines and retorts. Then massive amounts of lead fly and bombs explode all over again. In that regard Hard Boiled is unsurpassed in gun battles of all kinds. The heroes seem to be just about invincible....

[b]Inside Man ......... 8.2/10
[/b]A clever variation of the bank heist movie. The 'bank robbers' thought of everything, and the cops can barely keep up. Denzel and Clive are very good in this.

[b]Blow Up ...... 8.3/10
[/b]If nothing else seeing a very young Vanessa Redgrave makes this worth a look, but its more than that. There's a good story here, and a trip back in time on the methods of the dying art of black and white film photography, and 60's British pop/drug culture.

[b]La Dolce Vita .......... 8.9/10
[/b]Postwar Roman culture in transition, with the cultural fringe living out their mostly pointless hedonistic lives in a very artful way in the architecturally rich city of Rome. Watching a Fellini movie is like a visit to a museum of portrait paintings. He captures humanity on film as good as any, if sometimes in state of chic poofiness.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Anita_ekberg_Trevi.jpg[/img]

[b]Anita and her 'Ekbergs' in the famous Trevi Fountain scene.
[/b]

Blow-Up
Blow-Up(1966)

[b]Open Range ..... 7.8/10
[/b]The cinematography really captures the vastness of the western hills, and the shootouts are well-staged. The acting is good all around, and Costner appears to have 'the man who will kick ass' down pat, playing a role not unlike Billy Munny in Unforgiven. They all said goodbye too many times though, and it draggged a bit.

[b]Hard Boiled ........ 9.0/10
[/b]The 'Woo' action only stops long enough for everyone to catch their breath and say a few snappy lines and retorts. Then massive amounts of lead fly and bombs explode all over again. In that regard Hard Boiled is unsurpassed in gun battles of all kinds. The heroes seem to be just about invincible....

[b]Inside Man ......... 8.2/10
[/b]A clever variation of the bank heist movie. The 'bank robbers' thought of everything, and the cops can barely keep up. Denzel and Clive are very good in this.

[b]Blow Up ...... 8.3/10
[/b]If nothing else seeing a very young Vanessa Redgrave makes this worth a look, but its more than that. There's a good story here, and a trip back in time on the methods of the dying art of black and white film photography, and 60's British pop/drug culture.

[b]La Dolce Vita .......... 8.9/10
[/b]Postwar Roman culture in transition, with the cultural fringe living out their mostly pointless hedonistic lives in a very artful way in the architecturally rich city of Rome. Watching a Fellini movie is like a visit to a museum of portrait paintings. He captures humanity on film as good as any, if sometimes in state of chic poofiness.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Anita_ekberg_Trevi.jpg[/img]

[b]Anita and her 'Ekbergs' in the famous Trevi Fountain scene.
[/b]

Open Range
Open Range(2003)

[b]Open Range ..... 7.8/10
[/b]The cinematography really captures the vastness of the western hills, and the shootouts are well-staged. The acting is good all around, and Costner appears to have 'the man who will kick ass' down pat, playing a role not unlike Billy Munny in Unforgiven. They all said goodbye too many times though, and it draggged a bit.

[b]Hard Boiled ........ 9.0/10
[/b]The 'Woo' action only stops long enough for everyone to catch their breath and say a few snappy lines and retorts. Then massive amounts of lead fly and bombs explode all over again. In that regard Hard Boiled is unsurpassed in gun battles of all kinds. The heroes seem to be just about invincible....

[b]Inside Man ......... 8.2/10
[/b]A clever variation of the bank heist movie. The 'bank robbers' thought of everything, and the cops can barely keep up. Denzel and Clive are very good in this.

[b]Blow Up ...... 8.3/10
[/b]If nothing else seeing a very young Vanessa Redgrave makes this worth a look, but its more than that. There's a good story here, and a trip back in time on the methods of the dying art of black and white film photography, and 60's British pop/drug culture.

[b]La Dolce Vita .......... 8.9/10
[/b]Postwar Roman culture in transition, with the cultural fringe living out their mostly pointless hedonistic lives in a very artful way in the architecturally rich city of Rome. Watching a Fellini movie is like a visit to a museum of portrait paintings. He captures humanity on film as good as any, if sometimes in state of chic poofiness.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Anita_ekberg_Trevi.jpg[/img]

[b]Anita and her 'Ekbergs' in the famous Trevi Fountain scene.
[/b]

Inside Man
Inside Man(2006)

[b]Open Range ..... 7.8/10
[/b]The cinematography really captures the vastness of the western hills, and the shootouts are well-staged. The acting is good all around, and Costner appears to have 'the man who will kick ass' down pat, playing a role not unlike Billy Munny in Unforgiven. They all said goodbye too many times though, and it draggged a bit.

[b]Hard Boiled ........ 9.0/10
[/b]The 'Woo' action only stops long enough for everyone to catch their breath and say a few snappy lines and retorts. Then massive amounts of lead fly and bombs explode all over again. In that regard Hard Boiled is unsurpassed in gun battles of all kinds. The heroes seem to be just about invincible....

[b]Inside Man ......... 8.2/10
[/b]A clever variation of the bank heist movie. The 'bank robbers' thought of everything, and the cops can barely keep up. Denzel and Clive are very good in this.

[b]Blow Up ...... 8.3/10
[/b]If nothing else seeing a very young Vanessa Redgrave makes this worth a look, but its more than that. There's a good story here, and a trip back in time on the methods of the dying art of black and white film photography, and 60's British pop/drug culture.

[b]La Dolce Vita .......... 8.9/10
[/b]Postwar Roman culture in transition, with the cultural fringe living out their mostly pointless hedonistic lives in a very artful way in the architecturally rich city of Rome. Watching a Fellini movie is like a visit to a museum of portrait paintings. He captures humanity on film as good as any, if sometimes in state of chic poofiness.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Anita_ekberg_Trevi.jpg[/img]

[b]Anita and her 'Ekbergs' in the famous Trevi Fountain scene.
[/b]

Underworld: Evolution

[b]Everything is Illuminated ..... 8.6/10[/b]
Sometimes small is best. This is a small, thought-provoking movie set in one of the former USSR republics. Jonathan (E. Wood), an eccentric collector goes there to search for his roots.

[b]Hot Fuzz ......... 8.1/10
[/b]The Shaun of the Dead boys are back and playing cops in a seemingly peaceful, practically perfect town in Britain. Its nothing like that of course, but it takes a while for the townsfolk to show their true colors. This movie has as much LFE effects as I've heard, laying explosive track after track to where I wondered if the neighbors were getting vibes. It tries a little too hard to be funny, though.

[b]Underworld: Evolution ....... 6.2/10
[/b]It sure looks pretty and sounds great, just like the 1st Underworld, with Beckinsale still getting poured into her vampire supersuit. The story is ridiculous, stretching the already thin logic about vampires and wolfmen to about a micron thickness.

[b]The Messengers ...... 3.0/10
[/b]This movie is just plain stupid, substituting a bunch of Jack-in-the-Box jolts for horror. Its an insult to your intelligence.

[b]Battle Royale ............ 9.2/10
[/b]The best of this group. What would a bunch of 9th graders do if it comes down to kill or be killed? Some interesting results, and great screenplay. Worth an entry all its own.

Battle Royale
½

[b]Everything is Illuminated ..... 8.6/10[/b]
Sometimes small is best. This is a small, thought-provoking movie set in one of the former USSR republics. Jonathan (E. Wood), an eccentric collector goes there to search for his roots.

[b]Hot Fuzz ......... 8.1/10
[/b]The Shaun of the Dead boys are back and playing cops in a seemingly peaceful, practically perfect town in Britain. Its nothing like that of course, but it takes a while for the townsfolk to show their true colors. This movie has as much LFE effects as I've heard, laying explosive track after track to where I wondered if the neighbors were getting vibes. It tries a little too hard to be funny, though.

[b]Underworld: Evolution ....... 6.2/10
[/b]It sure looks pretty and sounds great, just like the 1st Underworld, with Beckinsale still getting poured into her vampire supersuit. The story is ridiculous, stretching the already thin logic about vampires and wolfmen to about a micron thickness.

[b]The Messengers ...... 3.0/10
[/b]This movie is just plain stupid, substituting a bunch of Jack-in-the-Box jolts for horror. Its an insult to your intelligence.

[b]Battle Royale ............ 9.2/10
[/b]The best of this group. What would a bunch of 9th graders do if it comes down to kill or be killed? Some interesting results, and great screenplay. Worth an entry all its own.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)

[b]Everything is Illuminated ..... 8.6/10[/b]
Sometimes small is best. This is a small, thought-provoking movie set in one of the former USSR republics. Jonathan (E. Wood), an eccentric collector goes there to search for his roots.

[b]Hot Fuzz ......... 8.1/10
[/b]The Shaun of the Dead boys are back and playing cops in a seemingly peaceful, practically perfect town in Britain. Its nothing like that of course, but it takes a while for the townsfolk to show their true colors. This movie has as much LFE effects as I've heard, laying explosive track after track to where I wondered if the neighbors were getting vibes. It tries a little too hard to be funny, though.

[b]Underworld: Evolution ....... 6.2/10
[/b]It sure looks pretty and sounds great, just like the 1st Underworld, with Beckinsale still getting poured into her vampire supersuit. The story is ridiculous, stretching the already thin logic about vampires and wolfmen to about a micron thickness.

[b]The Messengers ...... 3.0/10
[/b]This movie is just plain stupid, substituting a bunch of Jack-in-the-Box jolts for horror. Its an insult to your intelligence.

[b]Battle Royale ............ 9.2/10
[/b]The best of this group. What would a bunch of 9th graders do if it comes down to kill or be killed? Some interesting results, and great screenplay. Worth an entry all its own.

Everything is Illuminated
½

[b]Everything is Illuminated ..... 8.6/10[/b]
Sometimes small is best. This is a small, thought-provoking movie set in one of the former USSR republics. Jonathan (E. Wood), an eccentric collector goes there to search for his roots.

[b]Hot Fuzz ......... 8.1/10
[/b]The Shaun of the Dead boys are back and playing cops in a seemingly peaceful, practically perfect town in Britain. Its nothing like that of course, but it takes a while for the townsfolk to show their true colors. This movie has as much LFE effects as I've heard, laying explosive track after track to where I wondered if the neighbors were getting vibes. It tries a little too hard to be funny, though.

[b]Underworld: Evolution ....... 6.2/10
[/b]It sure looks pretty and sounds great, just like the 1st Underworld, with Beckinsale still getting poured into her vampire supersuit. The story is ridiculous, stretching the already thin logic about vampires and wolfmen to about a micron thickness.

[b]The Messengers ...... 3.0/10
[/b]This movie is just plain stupid, substituting a bunch of Jack-in-the-Box jolts for horror. Its an insult to your intelligence.

[b]Battle Royale ............ 9.2/10
[/b]The best of this group. What would a bunch of 9th graders do if it comes down to kill or be killed? Some interesting results, and great screenplay. Worth an entry all its own.

The Messengers
½

[b]Everything is Illuminated ..... 8.6/10[/b]
Sometimes small is best. This is a small, thought-provoking movie set in one of the former USSR republics. Jonathan (E. Wood), an eccentric collector goes there to search for his roots.

[b]Hot Fuzz ......... 8.1/10
[/b]The Shaun of the Dead boys are back and playing cops in a seemingly peaceful, practically perfect town in Britain. Its nothing like that of course, but it takes a while for the townsfolk to show their true colors. This movie has as much LFE effects as I've heard, laying explosive track after track to where I wondered if the neighbors were getting vibes. It tries a little too hard to be funny, though.

[b]Underworld: Evolution ....... 6.2/10
[/b]It sure looks pretty and sounds great, just like the 1st Underworld, with Beckinsale still getting poured into her vampire supersuit. The story is ridiculous, stretching the already thin logic about vampires and wolfmen to about a micron thickness.

[b]The Messengers ...... 3.0/10
[/b]This movie is just plain stupid, substituting a bunch of Jack-in-the-Box jolts for horror. Its an insult to your intelligence.

[b]Battle Royale ............ 9.2/10
[/b]The best of this group. What would a bunch of 9th graders do if it comes down to kill or be killed? Some interesting results, and great screenplay. Worth an entry all its own.

Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet(2006)
½

[b]Babel 7.2/10
[/b]3 stories coupled together with Connections logic. The tourists and illegal immigrant stories tied together pretty well but the Japanease segment didn't hook to them well at all and seemed out of place. It is a way of making a full length movie using material that wouldn't make one by itself and it appeals to anyone who can't focus for more than a few minutes on a subject. The acting is good overall. My favorite story was the tourists.

[b]Clerks II 8.3/10
[/b]The humor is outrageous and doesn't always work, but they get points for always going for the laugh at almost any cost. Emily the Mule or whatever was out too far for me. I would flip burgers for Rosario Dawson for free.

[b]Kinky Boots 7.0/10
[/b]Going for the kink in straight-faced British style, it works and yet it may have played it a little too safe. Ejiofor or whatever his name is a helluva drag queen. It didn't make me want to wear thigh boots but they're a wonder to look at!
[b]
Posse 7.9/10
[/b]An old school Western for the most part, Posse departs about midway and takes on some political overtones. Some of the smaller roles seemed like purposeful caricatures and I loved the turnabout at the end. A good story in the Western style.

[b]Ultraviolet 5.2/10
[/b]You know a movie is in trouble when the 'making of' on the DVD can't congratulate the filmmakers enough. I'm not quite so down on it compared to most, but I was put off by odd things. Such as why they often blurred Violet's nose in closeups. I wondered if Milla didn't have a big zit on her nose on those days. I just couldn't figure out why they did that. What style is that? Also, if Violet is gonna terminate battalions of armed and armored troops, how do a few cuts on her hand level the results? The least they should've done is make her a mess by the end. The Ultraviolet comic books are fake, which I didn't know at the outset and now leaves a phony aftertaste. Milla looks great and is about the only reason to watch this, but she needs to work on her delivery.

Babel
Babel(2006)
½

[b]Babel 7.2/10
[/b]3 stories coupled together with Connections logic. The tourists and illegal immigrant stories tied together pretty well but the Japanease segment didn't hook to them well at all and seemed out of place. It is a way of making a full length movie using material that wouldn't make one by itself and it appeals to anyone who can't focus for more than a few minutes on a subject. The acting is good overall. My favorite story was the tourists.

[b]Clerks II 8.3/10
[/b]The humor is outrageous and doesn't always work, but they get points for always going for the laugh at almost any cost. Emily the Mule or whatever was out too far for me. I would flip burgers for Rosario Dawson for free.

[b]Kinky Boots 7.0/10
[/b]Going for the kink in straight-faced British style, it works and yet it may have played it a little too safe. Ejiofor or whatever his name is a helluva drag queen. It didn't make me want to wear thigh boots but they're a wonder to look at!
[b]
Posse 7.9/10
[/b]An old school Western for the most part, Posse departs about midway and takes on some political overtones. Some of the smaller roles seemed like purposeful caricatures and I loved the turnabout at the end. A good story in the Western style.

[b]Ultraviolet 5.2/10
[/b]You know a movie is in trouble when the 'making of' on the DVD can't congratulate the filmmakers enough. I'm not quite so down on it compared to most, but I was put off by odd things. Such as why they often blurred Violet's nose in closeups. I wondered if Milla didn't have a big zit on her nose on those days. I just couldn't figure out why they did that. What style is that? Also, if Violet is gonna terminate battalions of armed and armored troops, how do a few cuts on her hand level the results? The least they should've done is make her a mess by the end. The Ultraviolet comic books are fake, which I didn't know at the outset and now leaves a phony aftertaste. Milla looks great and is about the only reason to watch this, but she needs to work on her delivery.

Clerks II
Clerks II(2006)

[b]Babel 7.2/10
[/b]3 stories coupled together with Connections logic. The tourists and illegal immigrant stories tied together pretty well but the Japanease segment didn't hook to them well at all and seemed out of place. It is a way of making a full length movie using material that wouldn't make one by itself and it appeals to anyone who can't focus for more than a few minutes on a subject. The acting is good overall. My favorite story was the tourists.

[b]Clerks II 8.3/10
[/b]The humor is outrageous and doesn't always work, but they get points for always going for the laugh at almost any cost. Emily the Mule or whatever was out too far for me. I would flip burgers for Rosario Dawson for free.

[b]Kinky Boots 7.0/10
[/b]Going for the kink in straight-faced British style, it works and yet it may have played it a little too safe. Ejiofor or whatever his name is a helluva drag queen. It didn't make me want to wear thigh boots but they're a wonder to look at!
[b]
Posse 7.9/10
[/b]An old school Western for the most part, Posse departs about midway and takes on some political overtones. Some of the smaller roles seemed like purposeful caricatures and I loved the turnabout at the end. A good story in the Western style.

[b]Ultraviolet 5.2/10
[/b]You know a movie is in trouble when the 'making of' on the DVD can't congratulate the filmmakers enough. I'm not quite so down on it compared to most, but I was put off by odd things. Such as why they often blurred Violet's nose in closeups. I wondered if Milla didn't have a big zit on her nose on those days. I just couldn't figure out why they did that. What style is that? Also, if Violet is gonna terminate battalions of armed and armored troops, how do a few cuts on her hand level the results? The least they should've done is make her a mess by the end. The Ultraviolet comic books are fake, which I didn't know at the outset and now leaves a phony aftertaste. Milla looks great and is about the only reason to watch this, but she needs to work on her delivery.

Posse
Posse(1975)

[b]Babel 7.2/10
[/b]3 stories coupled together with Connections logic. The tourists and illegal immigrant stories tied together pretty well but the Japanease segment didn't hook to them well at all and seemed out of place. It is a way of making a full length movie using material that wouldn't make one by itself and it appeals to anyone who can't focus for more than a few minutes on a subject. The acting is good overall. My favorite story was the tourists.

[b]Clerks II 8.3/10
[/b]The humor is outrageous and doesn't always work, but they get points for always going for the laugh at almost any cost. Emily the Mule or whatever was out too far for me. I would flip burgers for Rosario Dawson for free.

[b]Kinky Boots 7.0/10
[/b]Going for the kink in straight-faced British style, it works and yet it may have played it a little too safe. Ejiofor or whatever his name is a helluva drag queen. It didn't make me want to wear thigh boots but they're a wonder to look at!
[b]
Posse 7.9/10
[/b]An old school Western for the most part, Posse departs about midway and takes on some political overtones. Some of the smaller roles seemed like purposeful caricatures and I loved the turnabout at the end. A good story in the Western style.

[b]Ultraviolet 5.2/10
[/b]You know a movie is in trouble when the 'making of' on the DVD can't congratulate the filmmakers enough. I'm not quite so down on it compared to most, but I was put off by odd things. Such as why they often blurred Violet's nose in closeups. I wondered if Milla didn't have a big zit on her nose on those days. I just couldn't figure out why they did that. What style is that? Also, if Violet is gonna terminate battalions of armed and armored troops, how do a few cuts on her hand level the results? The least they should've done is make her a mess by the end. The Ultraviolet comic books are fake, which I didn't know at the outset and now leaves a phony aftertaste. Milla looks great and is about the only reason to watch this, but she needs to work on her delivery.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots(2006)
½

[b]Babel 7.2/10
[/b]3 stories coupled together with Connections logic. The tourists and illegal immigrant stories tied together pretty well but the Japanease segment didn't hook to them well at all and seemed out of place. It is a way of making a full length movie using material that wouldn't make one by itself and it appeals to anyone who can't focus for more than a few minutes on a subject. The acting is good overall. My favorite story was the tourists.

[b]Clerks II 8.3/10
[/b]The humor is outrageous and doesn't always work, but they get points for always going for the laugh at almost any cost. Emily the Mule or whatever was out too far for me. I would flip burgers for Rosario Dawson for free.

[b]Kinky Boots 7.0/10
[/b]Going for the kink in straight-faced British style, it works and yet it may have played it a little too safe. Ejiofor or whatever his name is a helluva drag queen. It didn't make me want to wear thigh boots but they're a wonder to look at!
[b]
Posse 7.9/10
[/b]An old school Western for the most part, Posse departs about midway and takes on some political overtones. Some of the smaller roles seemed like purposeful caricatures and I loved the turnabout at the end. A good story in the Western style.

[b]Ultraviolet 5.2/10
[/b]You know a movie is in trouble when the 'making of' on the DVD can't congratulate the filmmakers enough. I'm not quite so down on it compared to most, but I was put off by odd things. Such as why they often blurred Violet's nose in closeups. I wondered if Milla didn't have a big zit on her nose on those days. I just couldn't figure out why they did that. What style is that? Also, if Violet is gonna terminate battalions of armed and armored troops, how do a few cuts on her hand level the results? The least they should've done is make her a mess by the end. The Ultraviolet comic books are fake, which I didn't know at the outset and now leaves a phony aftertaste. Milla looks great and is about the only reason to watch this, but she needs to work on her delivery.

Bridge to Terabithia
½

[b]The Call of Cthulhu 6.8/10
[/b]A labor of love from the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society, ...Cthulhu doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. In fact I sat through a sort of docu on making the movie just to hear it pronounced. Only one guy did and he said it real fast, just in case he wasn't saying it right, and he said it while speaking into his armpit. That's how in awe the HPLHS members are of this Lovecraft tale.

Cthulu is worthy of a full review with pics and etc..., but lets just say that it would really help if you know Lovecraft. This was made as a silent movie, possibly because they couldn't stretch the $5.86 budget to get a sound engineer, let alone equipment. That's right, Cthulhu has a budget somewhat less than Bubba Ho Tep. The ship scenes were filmed in someone's backyard, meetings in vacant homes in Burbank, and so on. There's a kernal of goodness in Cthulhu, but its not in production values. Critics love this kind of stuff, but I was less enthusiastic.


[b]Bridge to Terabithia 7.0/10[/b]
Fairly typical Disney fare, the blend of reality and fantasy is a little different. Special effects are relatively sparse, though, and there is actually a story to tell.
[b]
Letters from Iwo Jima 9.4/10
[/b]Iwo Jima might be a 10/10 if I watch it again. Much better than Flags of Our Fathers, the WWII Japanese are allowed to be human now that time brings some perspective. Filmed in the washed out color similar to Flags... it tells the tale of the doomed defenders of Iwo Jima, the first WWII battle in Japanese terrritory. About 5 weeks later, the last of the 22,000 defenders were starving and dying of thirst. Almost all of them died, along with 6,800 Americans in one of the nastiest sustained ground battles ever. Taking Mt. Suribachi wasn't such a big deal, as most of the fighting was yet to come. It just looked good.

Letters from Iwo Jima
½

[b]The Call of Cthulhu 6.8/10
[/b]A labor of love from the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society, ...Cthulhu doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. In fact I sat through a sort of docu on making the movie just to hear it pronounced. Only one guy did and he said it real fast, just in case he wasn't saying it right, and he said it while speaking into his armpit. That's how in awe the HPLHS members are of this Lovecraft tale.

Cthulu is worthy of a full review with pics and etc..., but lets just say that it would really help if you know Lovecraft. This was made as a silent movie, possibly because they couldn't stretch the $5.86 budget to get a sound engineer, let alone equipment. That's right, Cthulhu has a budget somewhat less than Bubba Ho Tep. The ship scenes were filmed in someone's backyard, meetings in vacant homes in Burbank, and so on. There's a kernal of goodness in Cthulhu, but its not in production values. Critics love this kind of stuff, but I was less enthusiastic.


[b]Bridge to Terabithia 7.0/10[/b]
Fairly typical Disney fare, the blend of reality and fantasy is a little different. Special effects are relatively sparse, though, and there is actually a story to tell.
[b]
Letters from Iwo Jima 9.4/10
[/b]Iwo Jima might be a 10/10 if I watch it again. Much better than Flags of Our Fathers, the WWII Japanese are allowed to be human now that time brings some perspective. Filmed in the washed out color similar to Flags... it tells the tale of the doomed defenders of Iwo Jima, the first WWII battle in Japanese terrritory. About 5 weeks later, the last of the 22,000 defenders were starving and dying of thirst. Almost all of them died, along with 6,800 Americans in one of the nastiest sustained ground battles ever. Taking Mt. Suribachi wasn't such a big deal, as most of the fighting was yet to come. It just looked good.

Becket
Becket(1964)
½

[b]Becket 7.0/10
[/b]Some critics ooh and aah the scenes with Burton and O'Toole, and they are the best of it, but I thought it was kind of boring overall. Burton played the role of New Convert many times but this one wasn't very convincing. I didn't see the motivation for his sudden switch. O'Toole beats his role as the petulant Henry II to death.

[b]The Illustrated Man 6.8/10
[/b]Ray Bradbury novels have hardly ever been successfully translated to the screen and this is another miss. Rod Steiger's stout blemished form bothered me as the canvas to put 'Skin Illustrations' on to begin with. I know they spent a lot of time actually painting his skin but the results were not the mindfuck they should be. They should've had some hippies on acid do the art! While Claire Bloom looked the part of the Illustrator, at times she seemed a little stiff.
[b]
Sahara 7.2/10
[/b]One of many WWII patriotic movies to come out during the war, this one has most of the allied nations represented in a desperate fight in the desert against the Nazis. Even the Italian prisoner was forgiven for his 'misguided' Il Duce dragging Italy onto the wrong side. Humphie is good as always.

[b]Charlotte's Web 7.3/10
[/b]The story is endearing but this is definitely a kid's movie, at least this screen version. Dakota Fanning is too strong if not too old for the role, talented or not, and some of the jokes are losers. Fortunately Wilbur and Charlotte carry on pretty well and the ending is happy/sad. For a Spring Pig movie 'Babe' still rules.

Sahara
Sahara(1943)
½

[b]Becket 7.0/10
[/b]Some critics ooh and aah the scenes with Burton and O'Toole, and they are the best of it, but I thought it was kind of boring overall. Burton played the role of New Convert many times but this one wasn't very convincing. I didn't see the motivation for his sudden switch. O'Toole beats his role as the petulant Henry II to death.

[b]The Illustrated Man 6.8/10
[/b]Ray Bradbury novels have hardly ever been successfully translated to the screen and this is another miss. Rod Steiger's stout blemished form bothered me as the canvas to put 'Skin Illustrations' on to begin with. I know they spent a lot of time actually painting his skin but the results were not the mindfuck they should be. They should've had some hippies on acid do the art! While Claire Bloom looked the part of the Illustrator, at times she seemed a little stiff.
[b]
Sahara 7.2/10
[/b]One of many WWII patriotic movies to come out during the war, this one has most of the allied nations represented in a desperate fight in the desert against the Nazis. Even the Italian prisoner was forgiven for his 'misguided' Il Duce dragging Italy onto the wrong side. Humphie is good as always.

[b]Charlotte's Web 7.3/10
[/b]The story is endearing but this is definitely a kid's movie, at least this screen version. Dakota Fanning is too strong if not too old for the role, talented or not, and some of the jokes are losers. Fortunately Wilbur and Charlotte carry on pretty well and the ending is happy/sad. For a Spring Pig movie 'Babe' still rules.

Charlotte's Web
½

[b]Becket 7.0/10
[/b]Some critics ooh and aah the scenes with Burton and O'Toole, and they are the best of it, but I thought it was kind of boring overall. Burton played the role of New Convert many times but this one wasn't very convincing. I didn't see the motivation for his sudden switch. O'Toole beats his role as the petulant Henry II to death.

[b]The Illustrated Man 6.8/10
[/b]Ray Bradbury novels have hardly ever been successfully translated to the screen and this is another miss. Rod Steiger's stout blemished form bothered me as the canvas to put 'Skin Illustrations' on to begin with. I know they spent a lot of time actually painting his skin but the results were not the mindfuck they should be. They should've had some hippies on acid do the art! While Claire Bloom looked the part of the Illustrator, at times she seemed a little stiff.
[b]
Sahara 7.2/10
[/b]One of many WWII patriotic movies to come out during the war, this one has most of the allied nations represented in a desperate fight in the desert against the Nazis. Even the Italian prisoner was forgiven for his 'misguided' Il Duce dragging Italy onto the wrong side. Humphie is good as always.

[b]Charlotte's Web 7.3/10
[/b]The story is endearing but this is definitely a kid's movie, at least this screen version. Dakota Fanning is too strong if not too old for the role, talented or not, and some of the jokes are losers. Fortunately Wilbur and Charlotte carry on pretty well and the ending is happy/sad. For a Spring Pig movie 'Babe' still rules.

The Illustrated Man
½

[b]Becket 7.0/10
[/b]Some critics ooh and aah the scenes with Burton and O'Toole, and they are the best of it, but I thought it was kind of boring overall. Burton played the role of New Convert many times but this one wasn't very convincing. I didn't see the motivation for his sudden switch. O'Toole beats his role as the petulant Henry II to death.

[b]The Illustrated Man 6.8/10
[/b]Ray Bradbury novels have hardly ever been successfully translated to the screen and this is another miss. Rod Steiger's stout blemished form bothered me as the canvas to put 'Skin Illustrations' on to begin with. I know they spent a lot of time actually painting his skin but the results were not the mindfuck they should be. They should've had some hippies on acid do the art! While Claire Bloom looked the part of the Illustrator, at times she seemed a little stiff.
[b]
Sahara 7.2/10
[/b]One of many WWII patriotic movies to come out during the war, this one has most of the allied nations represented in a desperate fight in the desert against the Nazis. Even the Italian prisoner was forgiven for his 'misguided' Il Duce dragging Italy onto the wrong side. Humphie is good as always.

[b]Charlotte's Web 7.3/10
[/b]The story is endearing but this is definitely a kid's movie, at least this screen version. Dakota Fanning is too strong if not too old for the role, talented or not, and some of the jokes are losers. Fortunately Wilbur and Charlotte carry on pretty well and the ending is happy/sad. For a Spring Pig movie 'Babe' still rules.

Fright Night
Fright Night(1985)

[b]Fright Night 8.4/10[/b]
Roddy McDowall as the reluctant Vampire hunter and Chris Sarandon as one of the best screen bloodsuckers make Fright Night work as well as it does. A young Amanda Bearse adds a level of sexuality that you might not expect from Al Bundy's neighbor. One of the better Vampire movies, Fright Night also plays for some laughs along the way.

[b]Octopussy 7.1/10[/b]
..Pussy gets panned a lot by critics, but what do they know?? Its not a threat to the Top 10 Bond movies, but its not bad, if a little formulaic. India provides exotic location shooting. By now Roger Moore was getting a little crusty and the action sequences were limited for 007.

[b]The Howling 7.0/10[/b]
This has Werewolf sex, nudity and blood going for it, along with a few cutting-edge-for-their-time morph sequences of human to werewolf. They almost make up for the bad acting, but not quite. At times you feel like yelling 'You're Stupid!' at the screen, which could be in its favor. Very much a movie of the 70's, although technically an 80's release.

[b]The Return 7.1/10[/b]
Russian movie that garnered some awards. Subtitles seem to track along OK but I was left wondering what story was in it that made it worth making or watching. It left some questions unanswered. Interesting location shooting, the film was shot with a washed-out look which fit the drab scenery.

The Howling
The Howling(1981)
½

[b]Fright Night 8.4/10[/b]
Roddy McDowall as the reluctant Vampire hunter and Chris Sarandon as one of the best screen bloodsuckers make Fright Night work as well as it does. A young Amanda Bearse adds a level of sexuality that you might not expect from Al Bundy's neighbor. One of the better Vampire movies, Fright Night also plays for some laughs along the way.

[b]Octopussy 7.1/10[/b]
..Pussy gets panned a lot by critics, but what do they know?? Its not a threat to the Top 10 Bond movies, but its not bad, if a little formulaic. India provides exotic location shooting. By now Roger Moore was getting a little crusty and the action sequences were limited for 007.

[b]The Howling 7.0/10[/b]
This has Werewolf sex, nudity and blood going for it, along with a few cutting-edge-for-their-time morph sequences of human to werewolf. They almost make up for the bad acting, but not quite. At times you feel like yelling 'You're Stupid!' at the screen, which could be in its favor. Very much a movie of the 70's, although technically an 80's release.

[b]The Return 7.1/10[/b]
Russian movie that garnered some awards. Subtitles seem to track along OK but I was left wondering what story was in it that made it worth making or watching. It left some questions unanswered. Interesting location shooting, the film was shot with a washed-out look which fit the drab scenery.

Octopussy
Octopussy(1983)
½

[b]Fright Night 8.4/10[/b]
Roddy McDowall as the reluctant Vampire hunter and Chris Sarandon as one of the best screen bloodsuckers make Fright Night work as well as it does. A young Amanda Bearse adds a level of sexuality that you might not expect from Al Bundy's neighbor. One of the better Vampire movies, Fright Night also plays for some laughs along the way.

[b]Octopussy 7.1/10[/b]
..Pussy gets panned a lot by critics, but what do they know?? Its not a threat to the Top 10 Bond movies, but its not bad, if a little formulaic. India provides exotic location shooting. By now Roger Moore was getting a little crusty and the action sequences were limited for 007.

[b]The Howling 7.0/10[/b]
This has Werewolf sex, nudity and blood going for it, along with a few cutting-edge-for-their-time morph sequences of human to werewolf. They almost make up for the bad acting, but not quite. At times you feel like yelling 'You're Stupid!' at the screen, which could be in its favor. Very much a movie of the 70's, although technically an 80's release.

[b]The Return 7.1/10[/b]
Russian movie that garnered some awards. Subtitles seem to track along OK but I was left wondering what story was in it that made it worth making or watching. It left some questions unanswered. Interesting location shooting, the film was shot with a washed-out look which fit the drab scenery.

The Lucky Ones
½

[b]Fright Night 8.4/10[/b]
Roddy McDowall as the reluctant Vampire hunter and Chris Sarandon as one of the best screen bloodsuckers make Fright Night work as well as it does. A young Amanda Bearse adds a level of sexuality that you might not expect from Al Bundy's neighbor. One of the better Vampire movies, Fright Night also plays for some laughs along the way.

[b]Octopussy 7.1/10[/b]
..Pussy gets panned a lot by critics, but what do they know?? Its not a threat to the Top 10 Bond movies, but its not bad, if a little formulaic. India provides exotic location shooting. By now Roger Moore was getting a little crusty and the action sequences were limited for 007.

[b]The Howling 7.0/10[/b]
This has Werewolf sex, nudity and blood going for it, along with a few cutting-edge-for-their-time morph sequences of human to werewolf. They almost make up for the bad acting, but not quite. At times you feel like yelling 'You're Stupid!' at the screen, which could be in its favor. Very much a movie of the 70's, although technically an 80's release.

[b]The Return 7.1/10[/b]
Russian movie that garnered some awards. Subtitles seem to track along OK but I was left wondering what story was in it that made it worth making or watching. It left some questions unanswered. Interesting location shooting, the film was shot with a washed-out look which fit the drab scenery.

The Host
The Host(2007)

An idiot USA lab director orders the dumping of a bunch of formaldehyde into Seoul's main river and guess what? They get a nasty monster hanging around, picking off the lunch crowd!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/HostThrowFood.jpg[/img]

[b]Look at that big thing. Lets throw food at it![/b]

One of the pick-offs is the roach coach (actually squid coach) operator's daughter. The rest of the movie centers on her rescue by the semi-dysfunctional family that reunite to face the threat, and big guvmint's ability to screw everything up, literally.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/HostGovtHelp.jpg[/img]

[b]You're crazy and your govt. is going to fix that, ready or not![/b]

The Host (Gwoemul) trys for humor of the absurd at certain moments, but you might miss it even when it works, which is only sometimes. The film's best moments are the icky/creepy ones in the sewer with the daughter vs. the monster. A little more buildup before the creature gets onscreen would've been better. There's a strain of anti-America running through the film, but ultimately its anti-Big Govt. because it does stupid things. I watched it with subtitles but it does have an English dubbed version.

I kept thinking the monster reminded me of something and this is what that hungry big little guy might be, just larger and mutated:

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/tadpole3.jpg[/img]

[b]The sequel's heading will be " They killed her baby, and is she pissed!"[/b]

300
300(2007)
½

Frank Miller's 300 isn't historical fiction. Gawd I hope he doesn't think so. No, it grabs a factoid here and there from the Greco-Persian wars and creates an allegory. 300 viewers have seen all kinds of allegory in the show, including of course the war in Iraq with Xerxes being either George W or Al Queda depending on your politics, and even an allegory for a business startup in Silicon Valley! No kidding! Tempting tho it may be to pick the nits on historical accuracy it just doesn't matter because there's little that is accurate. For that they gotta make a movie on the 'Gates of Fire' novel, which would be great but thats another subject.

Its a very black and white story, about facing down evil/subjugation and actions of cowardice and courage in the face of impossible odds. That's always been the big hook that's elevated the Battle at Thermopylae to legendary status. Miller's 300 is a highly stylized version, closely copied for the movie with just a tweak here and there for screenplay's sake. The book's bold imagery hammers again and again at both strength and honor and a violent bloody clash of wills, with betrayal and greed tagging along as usual.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/300LeonidasXerxes.jpg[/img]

[b]Zack Snyder went to the LOTR School of Perspective![/b]

But not everyone can resist the temptation to politicize and/or kinkify every fucking thing that comes along. For those I suggest a different interpretation of what's on the screen.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/300Xerxes.jpg[/img]


[b]Xerxes (Santoro) is the first ever living reverb, with a 5 band equalizer! You can see the knobs! Why else would he sound like that?[/b]

I can get 300 into the 9's because not only do I like Swords and Sandals movies, Leonidas and his band of death junkies are another type of Seven Samurai, just more of them. That's 2 points right there, so normal human beings might put 300 in 7/10 range. Less than 7 and you may not be normal. But here's another thing most people don't know:

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/300AbsOfSteel.jpg[/img]


[b]The Persian horde spent all its time in harems, so one look at those abs and they drop dead. Check the posing; its going on![/b]


Director Snyder must like 'Gladiator', breezy wheat fields, or both, as many of the meaningful looks and thoughts happen in them. Its cool, but close to overdone. The most annoying thing tho was the word "Spartans!" After hearing "Spartans!" get hollered about 5000 times it became suspiciously like a substitute for dialog. OK OK they're Spartans, goddamit! Gerard Butler hereby redeems himself for being the worst Phantom of the Opera ever, but he's cursed for life with dealing with every wannabe/thinkthey're Leonidas that comes along. Gah! Good luck with that!

I was cheap and just got the single disc version. As it is it looks as good as I can imagine short of an HD version. Extras are very 'Spartan'.

Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa(2006)
½

[b]Bucket of Blood ....... 7.0/10[/b]
I had thought I'd seen this before but it must've been another Roger Corman cheapo. Bucket of Blood works when it does because it paints such a goofy picture of the beatnik scene of the 50's. Like man its Maynard Krebs in a full-length movie. Dick Martin clicks as the pathetic waiter in the bistro who hits on a macabre way to become popular.

[b]Rocky Balboa ......... 7.2/10[/b]
This is too thick with sap and sentiment through most of the picture but the last 1/3 shines almost bright enough to make you forget what you had to watch to get there. It was good to see the elder pugilist go the distance one more time, implausible or not.

[b]Lost Boys ............ 8.4/10[/b]
Call it a silly summer horror film and you're almost there. Its dumb with plenty of lame dialog and predictable screenplay. It bubbles up a little higher than typical summer fare though, having Kiefer Sutherland in it, a few laughs and some decent tunes, although they're played by cover bands like Echo & the Bunnymen. I'm also a little prejudiced in its favor because of the Santa Cruz setting. Fright Night at the Beach.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LostBoys.jpg[/img]

[b]"Yo Kiefer!"[/b]

The Lost Boys

[b]Bucket of Blood ....... 7.0/10[/b]
I had thought I'd seen this before but it must've been another Roger Corman cheapo. Bucket of Blood works when it does because it paints such a goofy picture of the beatnik scene of the 50's. Like man its Maynard Krebs in a full-length movie. Dick Martin clicks as the pathetic waiter in the bistro who hits on a macabre way to become popular.

[b]Rocky Balboa ......... 7.2/10[/b]
This is too thick with sap and sentiment through most of the picture but the last 1/3 shines almost bright enough to make you forget what you had to watch to get there. It was good to see the elder pugilist go the distance one more time, implausible or not.

[b]Lost Boys ............ 8.4/10[/b]
Call it a silly summer horror film and you're almost there. Its dumb with plenty of lame dialog and predictable screenplay. It bubbles up a little higher than typical summer fare though, having Kiefer Sutherland in it, a few laughs and some decent tunes, although they're played by cover bands like Echo & the Bunnymen. I'm also a little prejudiced in its favor because of the Santa Cruz setting. Fright Night at the Beach.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LostBoys.jpg[/img]

[b]"Yo Kiefer!"[/b]

A Bucket of Blood
½

[b]Bucket of Blood ....... 7.0/10[/b]
I had thought I'd seen this before but it must've been another Roger Corman cheapo. Bucket of Blood works when it does because it paints such a goofy picture of the beatnik scene of the 50's. Like man its Maynard Krebs in a full-length movie. Dick Martin clicks as the pathetic waiter in the bistro who hits on a macabre way to become popular.

[b]Rocky Balboa ......... 7.2/10[/b]
This is too thick with sap and sentiment through most of the picture but the last 1/3 shines almost bright enough to make you forget what you had to watch to get there. It was good to see the elder pugilist go the distance one more time, implausible or not.

[b]Lost Boys ............ 8.4/10[/b]
Call it a silly summer horror film and you're almost there. Its dumb with plenty of lame dialog and predictable screenplay. It bubbles up a little higher than typical summer fare though, having Kiefer Sutherland in it, a few laughs and some decent tunes, although they're played by cover bands like Echo & the Bunnymen. I'm also a little prejudiced in its favor because of the Santa Cruz setting. Fright Night at the Beach.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LostBoys.jpg[/img]

[b]"Yo Kiefer!"[/b]

Tsotsi (Thug)

[b]Night of the Comet...... 7.4/10[/b]
A long-awaited comet appears and has an unexpected fatal effect on almost everyone. Those who survive either have Big Hair or wear Risky Business Ray Bans, and they all talk stupid. Coincidence or cause and effect? That's the B-Movie charm of it all.

[b]Tsotsi .......... 8.1/10[/b]
A South African Township dweller has been rolling Snake Eyes all his short life and has become a hard-hearted thief/murderer. It takes a crying baby kidnapped by mistake for him to recover his humanity. A bit like City of God, but the ghetto is even worse. The main character remains expressionless until the end but that was intended I think. Good if depressing.

[b]The Last King of Scotland......... 7.3/10[/b]
The fictional Scottish doctor evokes zero sympathy, smart enough to be a doctor but thinks with his dick instead. So you invest with other supporting characters. Forest Whitaker gives an award-winning performance, very scary as Idi Amin, but he doesn't have all that much screentime.

The Last King of Scotland
½

[b]Night of the Comet...... 7.4/10[/b]
A long-awaited comet appears and has an unexpected fatal effect on almost everyone. Those who survive either have Big Hair or wear Risky Business Ray Bans, and they all talk stupid. Coincidence or cause and effect? That's the B-Movie charm of it all.

[b]Tsotsi .......... 8.1/10[/b]
A South African Township dweller has been rolling Snake Eyes all his short life and has become a hard-hearted thief/murderer. It takes a crying baby kidnapped by mistake for him to recover his humanity. A bit like City of God, but the ghetto is even worse. The main character remains expressionless until the end but that was intended I think. Good if depressing.

[b]The Last King of Scotland......... 7.3/10[/b]
The fictional Scottish doctor evokes zero sympathy, smart enough to be a doctor but thinks with his dick instead. So you invest with other supporting characters. Forest Whitaker gives an award-winning performance, very scary as Idi Amin, but he doesn't have all that much screentime.

Night of the Comet
½

[b]Night of the Comet...... 7.4/10[/b]
A long-awaited comet appears and has an unexpected fatal effect on almost everyone. Those who survive either have Big Hair or wear Risky Business Ray Bans, and they all talk stupid. Coincidence or cause and effect? That's the B-Movie charm of it all.

[b]Tsotsi .......... 8.1/10[/b]
A South African Township dweller has been rolling Snake Eyes all his short life and has become a hard-hearted thief/murderer. It takes a crying baby kidnapped by mistake for him to recover his humanity. A bit like City of God, but the ghetto is even worse. The main character remains expressionless until the end but that was intended I think. Good if depressing.

[b]The Last King of Scotland......... 7.3/10[/b]
The fictional Scottish doctor evokes zero sympathy, smart enough to be a doctor but thinks with his dick instead. So you invest with other supporting characters. Forest Whitaker gives an award-winning performance, very scary as Idi Amin, but he doesn't have all that much screentime.

Volver
Volver(2006)
½

A high-rating by a nose or some other protruding part of the anatomy. A few minutes into it I was thinking that I need to stick with my favorite genres but then it grew on me. The story got more intriguing about halfway in. Strangely, while most scenes are fairly ramshackle the overall pallet comes out very perky and stimulating. Must be all the reds working on the psyche. All Volver's intense lipsmacking-in-the-ear greetings brought back memories of the drive-by kissing I got from female relatives when I was a kid :eek:

This was the kind of role Sophia Loren would get, if she wasn't 70-something, but Cruz looks great.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/VolverLookslike.jpg[/img]


[b]Who would've thought!?[/b]

Children of Men

[b]Borat..... 5.5/10[/b]
Jeeesh!

[b]Jarhead .......... 7.1/10[/b]
This felt like an updated Apocalypse Now with a heavy lean towards a dramatized documentary. I didn't actually see a lot that made for a good movie.

[b]Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.... 9.1/10[/b]
The excellent English dubbing made this more entertaining for the rest of the world, with Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman among the voice talents. I don't know if it was planned but the extra large mustaches removed any lip sync issues! Its a good imaginative story of a future being overrun by the Toxic Forest and the giant insects within it. It reminded me of some sci fi I've read.

[b]Children of Men .......... 8.3/10[/b]
The future couldn't be any darker than this, unless they make a film of nothing but dead bodies. This last scene was compelling and very artistic.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ChildrenMenRowboat.jpg[/img]

[b]Suitable for framing![/b]

Jarhead
Jarhead(2005)
½

[b]Borat..... 5.5/10[/b]
Jeeesh!

[b]Jarhead .......... 7.1/10[/b]
This felt like an updated Apocalypse Now with a heavy lean towards a dramatized documentary. I didn't actually see a lot that made for a good movie.

[b]Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.... 9.1/10[/b]
The excellent English dubbing made this more entertaining for the rest of the world, with Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman among the voice talents. I don't know if it was planned but the extra large mustaches removed any lip sync issues! Its a good imaginative story of a future being overrun by the Toxic Forest and the giant insects within it. It reminded me of some sci fi I've read.

[b]Children of Men .......... 8.3/10[/b]
The future couldn't be any darker than this, unless they make a film of nothing but dead bodies. This last scene was compelling and very artistic.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ChildrenMenRowboat.jpg[/img]

[b]Suitable for framing![/b]

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no tani no Naushika)
½

[b]Borat..... 5.5/10[/b]
Jeeesh!

[b]Jarhead .......... 7.1/10[/b]
This felt like an updated Apocalypse Now with a heavy lean towards a dramatized documentary. I didn't actually see a lot that made for a good movie.

[b]Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.... 9.1/10[/b]
The excellent English dubbing made this more entertaining for the rest of the world, with Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman among the voice talents. I don't know if it was planned but the extra large mustaches removed any lip sync issues! Its a good imaginative story of a future being overrun by the Toxic Forest and the giant insects within it. It reminded me of some sci fi I've read.

[b]Children of Men .......... 8.3/10[/b]
The future couldn't be any darker than this, unless they make a film of nothing but dead bodies. This last scene was compelling and very artistic.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ChildrenMenRowboat.jpg[/img]

[b]Suitable for framing![/b]

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
½

[b]Borat..... 5.5/10[/b]
Jeeesh!

[b]Jarhead .......... 7.1/10[/b]
This felt like an updated Apocalypse Now with a heavy lean towards a dramatized documentary. I didn't actually see a lot that made for a good movie.

[b]Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.... 9.1/10[/b]
The excellent English dubbing made this more entertaining for the rest of the world, with Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman among the voice talents. I don't know if it was planned but the extra large mustaches removed any lip sync issues! Its a good imaginative story of a future being overrun by the Toxic Forest and the giant insects within it. It reminded me of some sci fi I've read.

[b]Children of Men .......... 8.3/10[/b]
The future couldn't be any darker than this, unless they make a film of nothing but dead bodies. This last scene was compelling and very artistic.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ChildrenMenRowboat.jpg[/img]

[b]Suitable for framing![/b]

Dreamgirls
Dreamgirls(2006)

Based on a Broadway play that was loosely based on the 60's Motown Records and their primo group The Supremes, its fun but also frustrating. With all the singing talent onboard and some wandering from the play going on anyway, it would've been great if they had actually done some real Motown tunes instead of all those often-overwrought Broadway pieces that just hint at their roots. The girls were great but Eddie Murphy ought to do more of this kind of role than those stupid comedies. He was good!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DreamGirlsBabyLoveMoment.jpg[/img]

[b]The perfect moment for "ooooooooooo Baby Love"[/b]

Its a slick production for sure. Video and audio quality are topnotch DVD material. The DVD has a bunch of standalone music videos of most of the shows songs. Altho they do end suddenly you can see the whole song without the story interweaving into them.

Lifeboat
Lifeboat(1944)

[b]Lifeboat ......... 7.6/10[/b]
A literally tight little drama aboard a lifeboat after a German Unterseeboot sinks a merchant ship, and in turn is sunk by the ship's gun on the way down. Good portrayals of flawed characters in extreme conditions, made more extreme by the presence of a German survivor from the Uboat. Very inventive camera work.

[b]The Good German ......... 7.2/10[/b]
Taken as a tribute movie its not bad. The filmmakers and cast went to great lengths to mimic the 40's movie style, right down to using 40's movie cameras, and its mostly successful. The story itself goes all over the place and was not that interesting.

[b]Laura ......... 8.6/10[/b]
Old movies give such a different vibe than what's being made today. A case in point is 'Laura', one of the better ones of the film noir genre. Tough guys getting sappy over beautiful dames, saps getting sappier, men wear funny-looking pants with suspenders, and everyone smokes, anywhere and a lot. B&W filmmaking as good as it gets, with Gene Tierney as the main cupcake, er.. femme fatale.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Laura_3.jpg[/img]


[b]"Allright copper, I stole the Oreos! Got milk?"[/b]

Laura
Laura(1944)
½

[b]Lifeboat ......... 7.6/10[/b]
A literally tight little drama aboard a lifeboat after a German Unterseeboot sinks a merchant ship, and in turn is sunk by the ship's gun on the way down. Good portrayals of flawed characters in extreme conditions, made more extreme by the presence of a German survivor from the Uboat. Very inventive camera work.

[b]The Good German ......... 7.2/10[/b]
Taken as a tribute movie its not bad. The filmmakers and cast went to great lengths to mimic the 40's movie style, right down to using 40's movie cameras, and its mostly successful. The story itself goes all over the place and was not that interesting.

[b]Laura ......... 8.6/10[/b]
Old movies give such a different vibe than what's being made today. A case in point is 'Laura', one of the better ones of the film noir genre. Tough guys getting sappy over beautiful dames, saps getting sappier, men wear funny-looking pants with suspenders, and everyone smokes, anywhere and a lot. B&W filmmaking as good as it gets, with Gene Tierney as the main cupcake, er.. femme fatale.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Laura_3.jpg[/img]


[b]"Allright copper, I stole the Oreos! Got milk?"[/b]

The Good German
½

[b]Lifeboat ......... 7.6/10[/b]
A literally tight little drama aboard a lifeboat after a German Unterseeboot sinks a merchant ship, and in turn is sunk by the ship's gun on the way down. Good portrayals of flawed characters in extreme conditions, made more extreme by the presence of a German survivor from the Uboat. Very inventive camera work.

[b]The Good German ......... 7.2/10[/b]
Taken as a tribute movie its not bad. The filmmakers and cast went to great lengths to mimic the 40's movie style, right down to using 40's movie cameras, and its mostly successful. The story itself goes all over the place and was not that interesting.

[b]Laura ......... 8.6/10[/b]
Old movies give such a different vibe than what's being made today. A case in point is 'Laura', one of the better ones of the film noir genre. Tough guys getting sappy over beautiful dames, saps getting sappier, men wear funny-looking pants with suspenders, and everyone smokes, anywhere and a lot. B&W filmmaking as good as it gets, with Gene Tierney as the main cupcake, er.. femme fatale.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Laura_3.jpg[/img]


[b]"Allright copper, I stole the Oreos! Got milk?"[/b]

Ran
Ran(1985)
½

Kurosawa's epic Ran is in many Top 100 lists, and many of those listers think its his best work. It's his biggest movie as far as I know, an epic story of palace intrigue, betrayal and revenge.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RanHidetora.jpg[/img]

[b]Hidetora announces the succession to his lordship.[/b]

I don't know King Lear from King Ralph but its said that there's a lot of Lear in Ran. It certainly has the auspices of a Shakespearean tragedy. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Hidetora should've given it more thought.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RanLadyKaede.jpg[/img]

[b]Lady Kaede has a discussion with the new ruler![/b]

I was most impressed with Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada). What a mistress/concubine/wife to have sleeping next to you! She has her own plans for the kingdom. She's got more energy than all 3 of Hidetora's sons combined.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RanBattle.jpg[/img]

[b]At least you know whose side is who with the colored pennants as a [/b][b]guide![/b]

Kurosawa's staged battles are excellent, but where they really stand out is how the story is wrapped right in to the battles' progress. Costuming was great except that the actors were obviously all wearing skullcaps over their hair which made their heads look too big.

The only fly in the soup is the overlong Hidetora sequences where he discovers what most of the world really thinks of him. This is a central element and important but its done over and over and makes the movie longer than needed IMHO. Otherwise it'd be a 10/10.

Dr. No
Dr. No(1962)

The first Bond movie struck a chord with moviegoers. The producers Broccoli & Saltzman tried for years to get rights and organize a film series because they knew they had a hot property. Once they lined up Sean Connery to play James Bond (Roger Moore was busy being The Saint) everything finally clicked.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DrNoBondJamesBond.jpg[/img]

[b]"Bond. James Bond"[/b]

Just about the most famous movie line it is. Connery turned out to be a great pick. Suave and ruthless as the situation required, they launched Bond, his tailor-made suits, Morlands ciggies, chauvinistic attitude and snappy one-liners in Dr. No. After another movie or two half of the Western world either wanted to be him or do him.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DrNoHoneyRider.jpg[/img]

[b]"Looking for shells?"[/b]

The first official Bond Woman was Honey Rider. Played by Ursula Andress, a natural beauty who got photo promotion by Bunny Yeager (Bettie Page Photographer) during the shoot. Her English was bad and quite a bit of her dialog is dubbed.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DrNoPoster.jpg[/img]

[b]The beginning of the super spy craze![/b]

Spider Baby
Spider Baby(1968)

This here movie would be worthy of a Joe Bob Briggs Drive-in Movie Review, as Joe Bob might say, because its definitely a B grade drive-in movie. B grade drive-in movies are unlike ordinary B movies. A recent example of a B Drive-in movie would be Bubba Ho-tep. As you may know, Bubba... was made for about $8.93 and its a hard limit for B drive-ins to have almost no budget. They were made to put something up on the screen and run an ad in the paper, so you could say you were going to the drive-in to watch movies. Yea right. Anyway you can tell right off what yer lookin' at when the $0.45 (in 2007 dollars) screen credits roll.

Its got all the usual schlock; women in skimpy clothes getting chased around (no breasts tho, it was shown too early at night for T&A), generally bad acting and an old pro winding up his career. In Spider Baby that'd be Lon Chaney Jr., still showing his ability to look like a crazy mutha f.... even in his Sunset Retirement Ranch years. Spider Baby is a minor cult movie and worth a look if only so you'll know what your elders pretended to watch back in the day. Two memorable moments for me is when the really crazy Virginia becomes a lap pet and Ohlmert falls for the nutty kid after just a little persuasion, ala Young Frankenstein, and I half-expected her to sing about 'at last I found you...'.

The DVD has a revised scene and a 30 year reunion showing in a 'crazy part of LA' theater. The B&W movie didn't look bad, considering. It can get an 8/10 because such a B movie gets props for surviving amidst all the other long-forgotten schlockoramas of the era.

The Sixth Sense
½

[b]Blood Diamond ..... 7.2/10 [/b]Beyond enjoying DiCaprio and Connelly the movie was a bit too manipulative and preachy. Hounsou overacted, very possibly as directed. The emoting at the refugee camp fence was made solely as a trailer snippet, as it made no sense to carry on like that.

[b]The Way of the Gun ..... 8.2/10 [/b]Very good except that as the story evolves the two 'protagonists' display more and more pro-killer and scam artistry than the scruffy drifters the film leads to think they are in the beginning. Just about everyone is pretty nasty with just a tiny bit of humanity showing.

[b]The Sixth Sense..... 9.1/10 [/b]I remember feeling stupid after watching most of this the 1st time and not figuring out what's up with Willis's character. Watching it again I can appreciate how well done it is, and if you're not too skeptical, you could miss it. Shyamalan's best.

[b]The Others....... 8.3/10[/b] This could've been a 10 if they had gotten into the psychological angle more, specifically Kidman's. The deliberate murkiness that holds through the middle of the movie makes you sympathetic towards her but it might've been better to go the other way and dig into what she was and why sooner rather than just at the end.

The Others
The Others(2001)

[b]Blood Diamond ..... 7.2/10 [/b]Beyond enjoying DiCaprio and Connelly the movie was a bit too manipulative and preachy. Hounsou overacted, very possibly as directed. The emoting at the refugee camp fence was made solely as a trailer snippet, as it made no sense to carry on like that.

[b]The Way of the Gun ..... 8.2/10 [/b]Very good except that as the story evolves the two 'protagonists' display more and more pro-killer and scam artistry than the scruffy drifters the film leads to think they are in the beginning. Just about everyone is pretty nasty with just a tiny bit of humanity showing.

[b]The Sixth Sense..... 9.1/10 [/b]I remember feeling stupid after watching most of this the 1st time and not figuring out what's up with Willis's character. Watching it again I can appreciate how well done it is, and if you're not too skeptical, you could miss it. Shyamalan's best.

[b]The Others....... 8.3/10[/b] This could've been a 10 if they had gotten into the psychological angle more, specifically Kidman's. The deliberate murkiness that holds through the middle of the movie makes you sympathetic towards her but it might've been better to go the other way and dig into what she was and why sooner rather than just at the end.

The Way of the Gun

[b]Blood Diamond ..... 7.2/10 [/b]Beyond enjoying DiCaprio and Connelly the movie was a bit too manipulative and preachy. Hounsou overacted, very possibly as directed. The emoting at the refugee camp fence was made solely as a trailer snippet, as it made no sense to carry on like that.

[b]The Way of the Gun ..... 8.2/10 [/b]Very good except that as the story evolves the two 'protagonists' display more and more pro-killer and scam artistry than the scruffy drifters the film leads to think they are in the beginning. Just about everyone is pretty nasty with just a tiny bit of humanity showing.

[b]The Sixth Sense..... 9.1/10 [/b]I remember feeling stupid after watching most of this the 1st time and not figuring out what's up with Willis's character. Watching it again I can appreciate how well done it is, and if you're not too skeptical, you could miss it. Shyamalan's best.

[b]The Others....... 8.3/10[/b] This could've been a 10 if they had gotten into the psychological angle more, specifically Kidman's. The deliberate murkiness that holds through the middle of the movie makes you sympathetic towards her but it might've been better to go the other way and dig into what she was and why sooner rather than just at the end.

Blood Diamond
½

[b]Blood Diamond ..... 7.2/10 [/b]Beyond enjoying DiCaprio and Connelly the movie was a bit too manipulative and preachy. Hounsou overacted, very possibly as directed. The emoting at the refugee camp fence was made solely as a trailer snippet, as it made no sense to carry on like that.

[b]The Way of the Gun ..... 8.2/10 [/b]Very good except that as the story evolves the two 'protagonists' display more and more pro-killer and scam artistry than the scruffy drifters the film leads to think they are in the beginning. Just about everyone is pretty nasty with just a tiny bit of humanity showing.

[b]The Sixth Sense..... 9.1/10 [/b]I remember feeling stupid after watching most of this the 1st time and not figuring out what's up with Willis's character. Watching it again I can appreciate how well done it is, and if you're not too skeptical, you could miss it. Shyamalan's best.

[b]The Others....... 8.3/10[/b] This could've been a 10 if they had gotten into the psychological angle more, specifically Kidman's. The deliberate murkiness that holds through the middle of the movie makes you sympathetic towards her but it might've been better to go the other way and dig into what she was and why sooner rather than just at the end.

Pan's Labyrinth
½

A dark dark fairy tale. An exposition of a fascist economy as well, where if you have a two cows, they take both of them and shoot you! Actually rabbits here, but close enough.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/PansLabyBigFroggie.jpg[/img]

[b]The Princess gets blown off by the Giant Tree-Killer Frog![/b]

Awesome imagery both in the real and fantasy worlds, Director Del Toro plucks some of the same notes as Tarentino and Rodriguez, leaning heavily towards the fantastical. The story seemed a little murky, but I was crippled by relying on subtitles so the actual dialog coulda been a lot better.

Kids and anyone that finds a movie like Happy Feet poignant shouldn't see this movie. The happy/sad ending is very touching and likely too stressful for the 'happily ever after' bunch, to say nothing of the gruesome brutality of the evil stepfather.

Diamonds Are Forever

Sean Connery's swan song in an official James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever followed Majesty's Secret Service and Lazenby's one shot as Bond. Not the best Connery Bond movie, he nonetheless had more voltage in this than You Only Live Twice, and the movie is better for it.

Set almost entirely in Las Vegas, DAF also is a time capsule of the old hardcore gambler's mecca that Vegas was. Many of the casinos in the movie are gone. Vegas was also much smaller. A scene showing the old Dunes looked down Flamingo Blvd. and there was....NOTHING!

As usual for Bond in this era, his battle continued with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the Grand Foozle of all the Bond villains. This time Blofeld is using stolen diamonds for extortion on a worldwide scale. Along the way Bond stumbles onto something in the desert around Vegas.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DAFProof.jpg[/img]

[b]Bond peeks (arrow) at proof that the Moon Landings are all fake![/b]

Actually he's tracking down the ultimate destination of 50,000 carats of diamonds. While he's tracking, he's being tracked by a pair of killers who may also be the first openly gay pair in a mainstream movie. One of the pair, Bruce Glover, has that same semi-creepy aura as his son, Crispin. Very weird.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DAFBambiThumper.jpg[/img]

[b]Bambi and Thumper have opened a can of whupass on James Bond![/b]

Needless to say, Bond gets through it all, with an average Bond body count. The Bond Women seemed exceptionally alluring in DAF, with Lana Wood as Plenty O'Toole and Jill St. John as Tiffany Case.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DAFAnotherMess.jpg[/img]

[b]Bond leaves another mess for someone else to clean up.[/b]

This wasn't the super duper restored DVD, just the old MGM release. Its still the same movie, just not as clean and amazingly fresh like those new masters. Also once you get used to multichannel audio soundtracks, an old stereo track seems half dead. Still tho, DAF is a candidate for the James Bond Top 10.

From Russia With Love
½

FRWL is a prime candidate for the best Bond film. Preceding Goldfinger, it established James Bond as a bona fide 60's craze. Sean Connery was getting the role down and he delivered nonchalant one-liners, fists, kicks and other parts of his anatomy with a confidence that inspired all sorts of wannabes, including his successors.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/HirsuteBond.jpg[/img]

[b]Eat your heart out, Austin Powers ![/b]

For better or worse, men and women were more clearly defined in the classic Bond era.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BellyDances.jpg[/img]

[b]"Its not just my belly thats dancing!"[/b]

FRWL had the first Bond movie theme song, but what got played was the classic Bond theme; twangy guitar and brass. In later movies it was used just for special Bond moments.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/StrangleBond.jpg[/img]

[b]"And now Mr. Bond, you will tell me about the sticky glop on the James Bond DVD cases!"[/b]

It has one of the best Bond fights of all, beautiful Bond Women, a perfect amount of James Bond gimmickry and probably the best James Bond, shot in exotic locations.

Besides the stupid security crap that glops up the DVD cases, the restored Bond DVDs might put out a better movie than what was in the theater. A remastered 5.1 audio, including DTS 5.1 and a bit by bit 4K coding of the movie gets you a film that doesn't look 40-something at all. And now you don't have to buy the movies in odd groups, as they sell single disc restored versions of the top sellers pretty cheap. What's not to like?

Apocalypto
Apocalypto(2006)

Four 8's is a good poker hand, and also my most common score. Its not that I never see crappy movies. One still sneaks onto the screen once in a while. I just don't tell anybody!

[b]United 93... 9.2/10.....[/b] the best of this bunch, at least the way it affected me. I really felt for those doomed people on the plane, and had no sympathy at all for the murdering terrorists. Someone should tell them that they really don't go to paradise and get a bunch of virgins. They burn in hell.

[b]Apocalypto....8.3/10 [/b]Once you realize that it has little to do with anything historical, mixes up Aztec and Maya into one bloody mess in [b]The Land of Thongs[/b], its pretty good, if a bit long. The costuming was fascinating when they were wearing more than[b] Thongs[/b]. The jungle chase would've made Cornel Wilde proud ala [b]The Naked Prey[/b] [url="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/"]http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/[/url]

[b]Munich....8.4/10 [/b]Very moving story about government-sanctioned revenge, and what it did to the people involved. Hinds, Craig, Bana, they're all good, and in this movie the enemy is often a lot like them, which can make a killing very difficult. What good came out of it? A good question that the movie doesn't answer.

[b]On Her Majesty's Secret Service..... 7.8/10 [/b]I was gonna write this one up with nice screenshots but there's no time. This barely makes my Top Ten James Bond films, mostly because of Diana Rigg, great ski chases and the most meaningful story of all the Bonds. George Lazenby made about as good a James Bond as I would've. To me he looks like a relative of Alfred E. Neuman, so that means I would do better as James Bond. Hah!

[b]The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.... 7.9/10 [/b]This is Jodie Foster's first starring role, I think. She's been acting forever and was a pro already at 14, when this was made. It's kind of an odd creepy movie with Foster being mostly normal, in an abnormal situation, but then she... Well she'll do anything to keep her independence, you know. I liked the way she resolved her difficulties with some very unsavory adults.

United 93
United 93(2006)
½

Four 8's is a good poker hand, and also my most common score. Its not that I never see crappy movies. One still sneaks onto the screen once in a while. I just don't tell anybody!

[b]United 93... 9.2/10.....[/b] the best of this bunch, at least the way it affected me. I really felt for those doomed people on the plane, and had no sympathy at all for the murdering terrorists. Someone should tell them that they really don't go to paradise and get a bunch of virgins. They burn in hell.

[b]Apocalypto....8.3/10 [/b]Once you realize that it has little to do with anything historical, mixes up Aztec and Maya into one bloody mess in [b]The Land of Thongs[/b], its pretty good, if a bit long. The costuming was fascinating when they were wearing more than[b] Thongs[/b]. The jungle chase would've made Cornel Wilde proud ala [b]The Naked Prey[/b] [url="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/"]http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/[/url]

[b]Munich....8.4/10 [/b]Very moving story about government-sanctioned revenge, and what it did to the people involved. Hinds, Craig, Bana, they're all good, and in this movie the enemy is often a lot like them, which can make a killing very difficult. What good came out of it? A good question that the movie doesn't answer.

[b]On Her Majesty's Secret Service..... 7.8/10 [/b]I was gonna write this one up with nice screenshots but there's no time. This barely makes my Top Ten James Bond films, mostly because of Diana Rigg, great ski chases and the most meaningful story of all the Bonds. George Lazenby made about as good a James Bond as I would've. To me he looks like a relative of Alfred E. Neuman, so that means I would do better as James Bond. Hah!

[b]The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.... 7.9/10 [/b]This is Jodie Foster's first starring role, I think. She's been acting forever and was a pro already at 14, when this was made. It's kind of an odd creepy movie with Foster being mostly normal, in an abnormal situation, but then she... Well she'll do anything to keep her independence, you know. I liked the way she resolved her difficulties with some very unsavory adults.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Four 8's is a good poker hand, and also my most common score. Its not that I never see crappy movies. One still sneaks onto the screen once in a while. I just don't tell anybody!

[b]United 93... 9.2/10.....[/b] the best of this bunch, at least the way it affected me. I really felt for those doomed people on the plane, and had no sympathy at all for the murdering terrorists. Someone should tell them that they really don't go to paradise and get a bunch of virgins. They burn in hell.

[b]Apocalypto....8.3/10 [/b]Once you realize that it has little to do with anything historical, mixes up Aztec and Maya into one bloody mess in [b]The Land of Thongs[/b], its pretty good, if a bit long. The costuming was fascinating when they were wearing more than[b] Thongs[/b]. The jungle chase would've made Cornel Wilde proud ala [b]The Naked Prey[/b] [url="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/"]http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/[/url]

[b]Munich....8.4/10 [/b]Very moving story about government-sanctioned revenge, and what it did to the people involved. Hinds, Craig, Bana, they're all good, and in this movie the enemy is often a lot like them, which can make a killing very difficult. What good came out of it? A good question that the movie doesn't answer.

[b]On Her Majesty's Secret Service..... 7.8/10 [/b]I was gonna write this one up with nice screenshots but there's no time. This barely makes my Top Ten James Bond films, mostly because of Diana Rigg, great ski chases and the most meaningful story of all the Bonds. George Lazenby made about as good a James Bond as I would've. To me he looks like a relative of Alfred E. Neuman, so that means I would do better as James Bond. Hah!

[b]The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.... 7.9/10 [/b]This is Jodie Foster's first starring role, I think. She's been acting forever and was a pro already at 14, when this was made. It's kind of an odd creepy movie with Foster being mostly normal, in an abnormal situation, but then she... Well she'll do anything to keep her independence, you know. I liked the way she resolved her difficulties with some very unsavory adults.

Munich
Munich(2005)

Four 8's is a good poker hand, and also my most common score. Its not that I never see crappy movies. One still sneaks onto the screen once in a while. I just don't tell anybody!

[b]United 93... 9.2/10.....[/b] the best of this bunch, at least the way it affected me. I really felt for those doomed people on the plane, and had no sympathy at all for the murdering terrorists. Someone should tell them that they really don't go to paradise and get a bunch of virgins. They burn in hell.

[b]Apocalypto....8.3/10 [/b]Once you realize that it has little to do with anything historical, mixes up Aztec and Maya into one bloody mess in [b]The Land of Thongs[/b], its pretty good, if a bit long. The costuming was fascinating when they were wearing more than[b] Thongs[/b]. The jungle chase would've made Cornel Wilde proud ala [b]The Naked Prey[/b] [url="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/"]http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/[/url]

[b]Munich....8.4/10 [/b]Very moving story about government-sanctioned revenge, and what it did to the people involved. Hinds, Craig, Bana, they're all good, and in this movie the enemy is often a lot like them, which can make a killing very difficult. What good came out of it? A good question that the movie doesn't answer.

[b]On Her Majesty's Secret Service..... 7.8/10 [/b]I was gonna write this one up with nice screenshots but there's no time. This barely makes my Top Ten James Bond films, mostly because of Diana Rigg, great ski chases and the most meaningful story of all the Bonds. George Lazenby made about as good a James Bond as I would've. To me he looks like a relative of Alfred E. Neuman, so that means I would do better as James Bond. Hah!

[b]The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.... 7.9/10 [/b]This is Jodie Foster's first starring role, I think. She's been acting forever and was a pro already at 14, when this was made. It's kind of an odd creepy movie with Foster being mostly normal, in an abnormal situation, but then she... Well she'll do anything to keep her independence, you know. I liked the way she resolved her difficulties with some very unsavory adults.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Four 8's is a good poker hand, and also my most common score. Its not that I never see crappy movies. One still sneaks onto the screen once in a while. I just don't tell anybody!

[b]United 93... 9.2/10.....[/b] the best of this bunch, at least the way it affected me. I really felt for those doomed people on the plane, and had no sympathy at all for the murdering terrorists. Someone should tell them that they really don't go to paradise and get a bunch of virgins. They burn in hell.

[b]Apocalypto....8.3/10 [/b]Once you realize that it has little to do with anything historical, mixes up Aztec and Maya into one bloody mess in [b]The Land of Thongs[/b], its pretty good, if a bit long. The costuming was fascinating when they were wearing more than[b] Thongs[/b]. The jungle chase would've made Cornel Wilde proud ala [b]The Naked Prey[/b] [url="http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/"]http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0060736/[/url]

[b]Munich....8.4/10 [/b]Very moving story about government-sanctioned revenge, and what it did to the people involved. Hinds, Craig, Bana, they're all good, and in this movie the enemy is often a lot like them, which can make a killing very difficult. What good came out of it? A good question that the movie doesn't answer.

[b]On Her Majesty's Secret Service..... 7.8/10 [/b]I was gonna write this one up with nice screenshots but there's no time. This barely makes my Top Ten James Bond films, mostly because of Diana Rigg, great ski chases and the most meaningful story of all the Bonds. George Lazenby made about as good a James Bond as I would've. To me he looks like a relative of Alfred E. Neuman, so that means I would do better as James Bond. Hah!

[b]The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.... 7.9/10 [/b]This is Jodie Foster's first starring role, I think. She's been acting forever and was a pro already at 14, when this was made. It's kind of an odd creepy movie with Foster being mostly normal, in an abnormal situation, but then she... Well she'll do anything to keep her independence, you know. I liked the way she resolved her difficulties with some very unsavory adults.

Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda(2004)
½

Hey its Rotten Tomatoes. But really, I don't sit half asleep in a dark room looking at some kind of screen all day. I just finished painting the outside of the house, and fixing the front windows. Looks much better and if the RE market around here ever stops sucking it'll be easier to sell if wanted. I took some pics but I gotta fix some of the landscaping too. After years of just doing the minimum it kind of shows.

Movies.

[b]Hotel Rwanda ...... 9.0/10 [/b]
This is compared a lot to Schindler's List. There is some overlap. Genocide and saving some people from it, a feeling of helplessness against the gov't. approved mass murder. But it plays out quite a bit differently and runs over a period of days and not years. Cheadle is excellent, as is Nolte, but some of the supporting cast seemed a wee bit lightweight.

[b]Mission Impossible III ...... 6.9/10[/b]
The action segments are the only thing this movie has going for it. The plot, such as it is, has been used about a million times and has little in common with the original IMF stories. Cruise seems personable enough in planned interviews but is an attention whore so he needs to shut the hell up and just make movies.

[b]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ............. 8.1/10[/b]
About 10 minutes into this movie and thinking that 'these guys are just making cookie cutter movies now', I realized that I had seen it before. Oh dopey me. Its good then its probably my favorite Potter movie so far. Its a darker Potter, like Prisoner of Azkaban, but a little more classic Potter themed. Only a little wincingly painful prepubescent chatter. Nice bunch of sashaying female wizard wannabes. Bad guys are really bad.

Mission: Impossible III
½

Hey its Rotten Tomatoes. But really, I don't sit half asleep in a dark room looking at some kind of screen all day. I just finished painting the outside of the house, and fixing the front windows. Looks much better and if the RE market around here ever stops sucking it'll be easier to sell if wanted. I took some pics but I gotta fix some of the landscaping too. After years of just doing the minimum it kind of shows.

Movies.

[b]Hotel Rwanda ...... 9.0/10 [/b]
This is compared a lot to Schindler's List. There is some overlap. Genocide and saving some people from it, a feeling of helplessness against the gov't. approved mass murder. But it plays out quite a bit differently and runs over a period of days and not years. Cheadle is excellent, as is Nolte, but some of the supporting cast seemed a wee bit lightweight.

[b]Mission Impossible III ...... 6.9/10[/b]
The action segments are the only thing this movie has going for it. The plot, such as it is, has been used about a million times and has little in common with the original IMF stories. Cruise seems personable enough in planned interviews but is an attention whore so he needs to shut the hell up and just make movies.

[b]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ............. 8.1/10[/b]
About 10 minutes into this movie and thinking that 'these guys are just making cookie cutter movies now', I realized that I had seen it before. Oh dopey me. Its good then its probably my favorite Potter movie so far. Its a darker Potter, like Prisoner of Azkaban, but a little more classic Potter themed. Only a little wincingly painful prepubescent chatter. Nice bunch of sashaying female wizard wannabes. Bad guys are really bad.

The Illusionist
½

[b]The Illusionist .......... 8.9/10[/b] Way better than I expected. Foolish me to think it was a Prestige-type movie. Realizing that they can do anything magical in a movie didn't seem to keep me from suspending my disbelief. Very eerie effects, I thought. This is a good example of a movie that you shouldn't know anything about beforehand, since it would be spoiled.

[b]Fearless ............ 8.3/10[/b] Jet Li's announced grand finale as a Kung Fu movie star. Does that mean he'll never martial the arts again, or just that it won't be a Kung Fu movie? Fearless is quite good in any case. Heavy duty combat of many types and mixes to demonstrate Jet's true prowess. It was a good way to die!

[b]Little Miss Sunshine ............. 8.1/10[/b] A cute road movie with plenty of emoting all around. Abigail Breslin was pure-hearted, especially compared to the made-up overdone little wannabe professional girls. They really do that to kids! I would've clapped for her too.

Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia) (Legend of a Fighter)

[b]The Illusionist .......... 8.9/10[/b] Way better than I expected. Foolish me to think it was a Prestige-type movie. Realizing that they can do anything magical in a movie didn't seem to keep me from suspending my disbelief. Very eerie effects, I thought. This is a good example of a movie that you shouldn't know anything about beforehand, since it would be spoiled.

[b]Fearless ............ 8.3/10[/b] Jet Li's announced grand finale as a Kung Fu movie star. Does that mean he'll never martial the arts again, or just that it won't be a Kung Fu movie? Fearless is quite good in any case. Heavy duty combat of many types and mixes to demonstrate Jet's true prowess. It was a good way to die!

[b]Little Miss Sunshine ............. 8.1/10[/b] A cute road movie with plenty of emoting all around. Abigail Breslin was pure-hearted, especially compared to the made-up overdone little wannabe professional girls. They really do that to kids! I would've clapped for her too.

Little Miss Sunshine

[b]The Illusionist .......... 8.9/10[/b] Way better than I expected. Foolish me to think it was a Prestige-type movie. Realizing that they can do anything magical in a movie didn't seem to keep me from suspending my disbelief. Very eerie effects, I thought. This is a good example of a movie that you shouldn't know anything about beforehand, since it would be spoiled.

[b]Fearless ............ 8.3/10[/b] Jet Li's announced grand finale as a Kung Fu movie star. Does that mean he'll never martial the arts again, or just that it won't be a Kung Fu movie? Fearless is quite good in any case. Heavy duty combat of many types and mixes to demonstrate Jet's true prowess. It was a good way to die!

[b]Little Miss Sunshine ............. 8.1/10[/b] A cute road movie with plenty of emoting all around. Abigail Breslin was pure-hearted, especially compared to the made-up overdone little wannabe professional girls. They really do that to kids! I would've clapped for her too.

For Your Eyes Only

Another Roger Moore - James Bond in the Top 10 Bond Films, this is my favorite Moore/Bond movie. The producers returned Bond to more mundane tasks, like recovering the ATAC cipher machine in FYEO. First, Bond had to retire a bad guy once and for all...

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/FYEOBlofeld.jpg[/img]

[b]Ernst Stavro Blofeld gets chimneyed for his swan song.[/b]

For Your Eyes Only was also the last movie to have hooks to an Ian Fleming story - a short story at that (until Casino Royale). Its has some good action segments, with Bond getting chased around in the Alps, dragged around in the ocean, and other indignities for him to overcome in Bond fashion.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/FYEONewEvent.jpg[/img]

[b]A trial Olympic Bobsled/ski/motorcyle run![/b]

Moore was about as old as he should've gotten in FYEO - getting a little long in the tooth and jowly. The Bond Women were way younger, but Bond deals with the potential inelegance with the usual flair. I think they made the skater a nympho so when Bond turns her down he doesn't look so bad later on when he goes undercover (actually underwater) with Carole Bouquet.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/FYEOBondClimbs.jpg[/img]

[b]We'll walk up, but you, Mr. Bond, get to climb up the sheer cliff on the right![/b]

For Your Eyes Only theme song is the sweetest one, if not quite the best 'James Bond Movie' theme song. Sheena Easton sang it perfectly.

The Bond Ultimate DVDs look and sound about as good as they can. These 20-40 year old flicks got the 4K digital restoration, and a remastered DTS soundtrack, so of course its just a matter of time before they come out in an HD format.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

I've always suspected Shakespeare to be full of malaprops, but between the fast and furious dialog with antique sentence structure and no real motivation to study it, I've just preceded where its led hehee.

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern (R&G) are clueless minor characters playing out their roles in Hamlet. They are like two huge malaprops, feeling their way through the story, not even sure who's Rosenkrantz and who's Guildenstern. As if born yesterday, R&G, ably played by Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, get summoned by Denmark's new king to help figure out what's up with Hamlet, or so they think. Along the way, they meet the traveling acting troupe that figures later in the tragedy, led by The Player (Dreyfuss).

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RosenkrantzEtAl.jpg[/img]

[b]All the world's a stage![/b]

In fact they have little choice. Their path is set. Even as the troupe acts out the Murder of Gonzago which mirrors the king's evil deed, revealing Hamlet for knowing what he knows, R&G just stumble along to their destiny.

Oldman has the most fun, playing Rosenkrantz as a speech-challenged dolt who's on the verge of discovering Newtonian physics, the laws of probability and flight, but can never make any of his impromptu demos work for the deadpan Guildenstern to witness. Meanwhile The Player alone seems to realize that the whole thing is an act.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RosenkrantzFlight.jpg[/img]

[b]Rosenkrantz about to discover winged flight with a page from Shakespeare's Hamlet![/b]


Hell I never thought existentialism could have a humorous twist, but R&G can be funny!

The Spy Who Loved Me

One of the two Roger Moore - James Bond movies that qualify for my Bond Top 10 list, The Spy Who Loved Me has it all. Great opening, great song, bad guys, gadgets and sexy women based on an actual Ian Fleming story. Hell it even has Egypt & the Pyramids with Bond channeling T.E. Lawrence!

The plot is fairly typical Bond takes on an evil genius, this time played perfectly by Curt Jurgens, scheming to take over the world by pirating nuclear submarines and inciting a nuclear exchange. Bond teams up with Soviet Agent XXX to foil the perps. Barbara Bach played XXX as the most challenging female to Bond's machismo up to that time.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/SpyWhoLovedMeJaws.jpg[/img]


[b]Jaws is about to get an electrifying signal![/b]

An important ingredient of having fun with James Bond movies are the outrageous villains. Howard Keel plays Jaws. Its only natural he winds up in a tank, in combat with a shark.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/SpyWhoLovedMeLotus.jpg[/img]


[b]A Hybrid car from the 70's, complete with Q's gadgetry! [/b]

Needless to say, Bond saves the world, gets the woman and trumps all officialdom with his audacity. Nobody Does It Better!

24 - Season 5

Previously on 24, this was picked up via CTU secure node 2e2ff43...

Datarush - Hey Jack, I thought you were dead!?

Jack Bauer - That's just what we wanted you to think.

Data - Hell they can't get rid of Jack Bauer! Others come and go, get bagged or shoveled off, but Jack is the man!

Jack - Some days its just one crazy terrorist after another.

Data - They brought back Kim to the show.

Jack - Kim?

Data - Your daughter, Kim Bauer. You know, the drama queen.

Jack - Oh yea. Sorry I've had a lot on my mind the last 24 hours.

Data - I hear ya, Jack. What's up with CTU-LA? Do they get any training at all?

Jack - Well the turnover is very high. Death, double agents, personal problems up the wazoo...

Data - No shit. President Langdon is a real piece of work. Would you gladly give your life for him?

Jack - He did get something from me, but not my life hehehe.

Data - Gah! If it weren't for you and a few other CTU stalwarts, half the country would be toast.

Jack - Aw shucks! Anyone else would do the same thing.

Data - I dunno. Your torture techniques take mucho cajones. You're the 3 minute torture king!

Jack - Thousands of lives are at stake!

Data - There's CTU, and there's Jack Bauer working with his CTU homeys, hiding right in front of the powerplaying meatheads!

Jack - There's no time, there's never any time!

Data - Nobody does it better...

Jack - I do it for the country. I get no joy in shooting people above the kneecap.

Data - Nobody does it half as good as you...

Jack - I promise you, this is one group of terrorists that did not go to paradise with 88 virgins!

Data - You're easily the best!

Jack - Hey I've heard that before. He's just a fictional character.

Data - Great stuff Jack!, Thanks for the memories. There's just one thing I'll say to finish.

Jack - What's that?

Data - Shanghai!

Jack - Aiiiieee!

Oldboy
Oldboy(2005)
½

Oldboy's has an interesting story to tell, where characters have crossed the line in sexual taboos, and not always knowing that they did! Since its on the DVD back cover, its no spoiler to say that the central character spends 15 years cut off from contact with other humans. This would mess with anyone's mind.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LiveFood.jpg[/img]

[b]The Phylum Mollusca Protection League missed this live food segment![/b]

Dae-su has to find out who put him away, and why. Along the way, he acquires a love interest with complications and gets into some serious jams with the local thugs.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/KnifeInBackFu.jpg[/img]

[b]Knife-in-back Fu, as Dae-su (right) fights with the dipshits in the hallway.[/b]

I liked the movie, mostly. Its uses the kludge of hypnotism to move the story along and put characters where they wouldn't have been otherwise, and runs a little long. There's a cringeworthy moment or two involving amateur oral surgery, but if you cover your eyes with your hands and peek you may conclude that anticipation of an event is worse than the event itself.

The English dubbing for the movie was better than usual, but you can go with subtitles too. The DVD had some extras that would've been more interesting if I spoke Korean. Deleted scenes with Korean commentary got skipped thru and right to the trailers.

Betty Page: Bondage Queen

The first thing I noticed about The Notorious Betty Page is what a great match Gretchen Mol is for Betty.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BettyPageWhip.jpg[/img]


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BettyGretchenMol.jpg[/img]

Actually there were moments when Gretchen just was so Betty, more than this one. But these two were about the best pinup poses of each. Betty is a bit more on the voluptuous side, but with a dark mop of hair Gretchen is a dead ringer in certain angles and light.

The actual movie is sort of meh. Men either react with horror and disgust or happy joy joy at the whole BDSM thing, with not much in between. The way kinky men slobber over the fetish stuff is amusing, like they finally found the dark chocolate in a closet and can't keep away from it. Gretchen is great, though, and makes it worth a rental.

The other, [b]Betty Page: Bondage Queen [/b]is one of several Betty Page DVDs floating around, rereleased around the same time as the Notorious.. to rake in some dough no doubt. This had some commentary, including a little essay from Betty, a few pics, some shorts (they didn't all have Betty in them). Captured Jungle Girl is the most famous of her BDSM skits, they say, and is included. Its old 8mm stuff for sure, and often pretty crappy. Since Irving Klaw tossed all his originals, they must've been what Paula Klaw shoved in her pocket while she was yelling 'Its all gone!' at the end of 'The Notorious Betty Page! Its one of not a whole lot of ways to get a look at the original Pinup/Bondage Queen.

The Notorious Bettie Page
½

The first thing I noticed about The Notorious Betty Page is what a great match Gretchen Mol is for Betty.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BettyPageWhip.jpg[/img]


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BettyGretchenMol.jpg[/img]

Actually there were moments when Gretchen just was so Betty, more than this one. But these two were about the best pinup poses of each. Betty is a bit more on the voluptuous side, but with a dark mop of hair Gretchen is a dead ringer in certain angles and light.

The actual movie is sort of meh. Men either react with horror and disgust or happy joy joy at the whole BDSM thing, with not much in between. The way kinky men slobber over the fetish stuff is amusing, like they finally found the dark chocolate in a closet and can't keep away from it. Gretchen is great, though, and makes it worth a rental.

The other, [b]Betty Page: Bondage Queen [/b]is one of several Betty Page DVDs floating around, rereleased around the same time as the Notorious.. to rake in some dough no doubt. This had some commentary, including a little essay from Betty, a few pics, some shorts (they didn't all have Betty in them). Captured Jungle Girl is the most famous of her BDSM skits, they say, and is included. Its old 8mm stuff for sure, and often pretty crappy. Since Irving Klaw tossed all his originals, they must've been what Paula Klaw shoved in her pocket while she was yelling 'Its all gone!' at the end of 'The Notorious Betty Page! Its one of not a whole lot of ways to get a look at the original Pinup/Bondage Queen.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Sci Fi was heading in several directions in the 70's. You've got Logan's Run style with good story mixed with old style effects. Star Wars, the prototype effects-laden space opera is now the most common variant. and then there's The Man Who Fell to Earth, a very cerebral sci fi. David Bowie was perfectly cast for this, a humanoid visitor from a planet that's running out of water.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/TakeMeLeader.jpg[/img]

[b]Take me to your leader![/b]

Its possible Bowie made himself even more spindly for the role. The Visitor's planet has less gravity; he's therefore weak and some movements send him reeling. He comes prepared, however, to take care of himself and plans a return to his homeworld. On the way to that point in the movie, sex, sexuality and sex with aliens make appearances that you'll not see in a George Lucas film.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/VisitingLandingSite.jpg[/img]

[b]Beefeater gives The Visitor visions at the landing site.[/b]

Looking forward 30 years ago gets some weird results. The Visitor's family shots reminded me of the Coneheads. Some, like his visual tech that looked like OLED, are startlingly prescient, while other prognostications miss it entirely, like this...

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LPs466.jpg[/img]

[b]An audiophile's heaven. LP's $4.66![/b]

Its no surprise that an older movie is slower than the current norm, but it also goes on too long. There's some great film art here, though, but you have to be patient.

Marie Antoinette
½

Three movies that average to an 8 rating, again. Am I so clever that I can just pick movies that are good or better, or do you just see what I think is worth the effort of moving my highly trained fingers around the keyboard?

[b]Marie Antoinette ..... 6.8/10[/b] ........... often boring as hell. Especially the 1st half. It's not necessarily bad that it lacks gravitas; I can eat cake and enjoy it! But the combo of no depth and dull onscreen action puts me in the sleep mode as you might in a quiet dark room. Of course, I can fall asleep in the dentist's chair too so who knows what this overstuffed show might do for others. The rock music soundtrack that came later was the best thing about it. I will say that Kirsten Dunst did OK as Marie. It wasn't her fault it was so torpid.

[b]Casino Royale....... 9.2/10[/b].......... I've seen all the James Bond movies, and this was one of the most exciting. Top notch hand-to-hand and hand-to-whatever's-loose-and-hurts combat. Incredible and sometimes ridiculous stunts that puny mortals would never attempt are no problem for 007. Eva Green is a luscious and updated Bond woman. I wasn't convinced that Craig fits the Bond profile, but he's into the role 110% and he knows where they keep their guns! I did miss the signature spectacular James Bond movie opening. It sort've had one, just not quite at the beginning.

[b]Freaks.........7.7/10[/b]......this has been on my movie list forever. I didn't know what I'd think of it. It redeems itself because it wasn't made as a monster movie and the bad guys are some of the 'normal' people and the 'freaks' are victims. The story is not half bad if a bit used. Harry Earles (the dwarf) has an interesting life story and helped bankroll the show as movie roles for him were far and few between.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/FreaksWCaretaker.jpg[/img]

Freaks
Freaks(1932)

Three movies that average to an 8 rating, again. Am I so clever that I can just pick movies that are good or better, or do you just see what I think is worth the effort of moving my highly trained fingers around the keyboard?

[b]Marie Antoinette ..... 6.8/10[/b] ........... often boring as hell. Especially the 1st half. It's not necessarily bad that it lacks gravitas; I can eat cake and enjoy it! But the combo of no depth and dull onscreen action puts me in the sleep mode as you might in a quiet dark room. Of course, I can fall asleep in the dentist's chair too so who knows what this overstuffed show might do for others. The rock music soundtrack that came later was the best thing about it. I will say that Kirsten Dunst did OK as Marie. It wasn't her fault it was so torpid.

[b]Casino Royale....... 9.2/10[/b].......... I've seen all the James Bond movies, and this was one of the most exciting. Top notch hand-to-hand and hand-to-whatever's-loose-and-hurts combat. Incredible and sometimes ridiculous stunts that puny mortals would never attempt are no problem for 007. Eva Green is a luscious and updated Bond woman. I wasn't convinced that Craig fits the Bond profile, but he's into the role 110% and he knows where they keep their guns! I did miss the signature spectacular James Bond movie opening. It sort've had one, just not quite at the beginning.

[b]Freaks.........7.7/10[/b]......this has been on my movie list forever. I didn't know what I'd think of it. It redeems itself because it wasn't made as a monster movie and the bad guys are some of the 'normal' people and the 'freaks' are victims. The story is not half bad if a bit used. Harry Earles (the dwarf) has an interesting life story and helped bankroll the show as movie roles for him were far and few between.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/FreaksWCaretaker.jpg[/img]

Casino Royale
½

Three movies that average to an 8 rating, again. Am I so clever that I can just pick movies that are good or better, or do you just see what I think is worth the effort of moving my highly trained fingers around the keyboard?

[b]Marie Antoinette ..... 6.8/10[/b] ........... often boring as hell. Especially the 1st half. It's not necessarily bad that it lacks gravitas; I can eat cake and enjoy it! But the combo of no depth and dull onscreen action puts me in the sleep mode as you might in a quiet dark room. Of course, I can fall asleep in the dentist's chair too so who knows what this overstuffed show might do for others. The rock music soundtrack that came later was the best thing about it. I will say that Kirsten Dunst did OK as Marie. It wasn't her fault it was so torpid.

[b]Casino Royale....... 9.2/10[/b].......... I've seen all the James Bond movies, and this was one of the most exciting. Top notch hand-to-hand and hand-to-whatever's-loose-and-hurts combat. Incredible and sometimes ridiculous stunts that puny mortals would never attempt are no problem for 007. Eva Green is a luscious and updated Bond woman. I wasn't convinced that Craig fits the Bond profile, but he's into the role 110% and he knows where they keep their guns! I did miss the signature spectacular James Bond movie opening. It sort've had one, just not quite at the beginning.

[b]Freaks.........7.7/10[/b]......this has been on my movie list forever. I didn't know what I'd think of it. It redeems itself because it wasn't made as a monster movie and the bad guys are some of the 'normal' people and the 'freaks' are victims. The story is not half bad if a bit used. Harry Earles (the dwarf) has an interesting life story and helped bankroll the show as movie roles for him were far and few between.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/FreaksWCaretaker.jpg[/img]

Flags of Our Fathers

Three 8's, more or less, have come and gone from my movie screen. They don't all get there the same way, though.

[b]Flushed Away... 7.7/10... [/b]had a lot of cute things going on, the cutest being the slugs who upstage everything else when they're onscreen. Excellent in the video/audio technical areas, this flick didn't make me laugh as much as [b]Wallace & Gromit.... [/b]

[b]Flags of Our Fathers...8.3/10... [/b]Superbly well-made movie, but the story just went on and on. I would've been puking like Ira after a few days of that War Bond tour. The best part were the Iwo Jima scenes, which makes me think that perhaps Letters from Iwo Jima may be a tauter, heavier-hitting movie.

[b]Malena...8.1/10...[/b] has some very funny dream sequences with the kid fantasizing about Malena. Who wouldn't? The story gets pretty damn dark, however, more than I was willing to swing my mood into. The 1st 2/3 of the movie were great.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/MalenaBoys.jpg[/img]

[b]Many 'measurements' are taken in Sicily when the beauty passes by.
Then the boys move so she can pass by again![/b]

Flushed Away
Flushed Away(2006)

Three 8's, more or less, have come and gone from my movie screen. They don't all get there the same way, though.

[b]Flushed Away... 7.7/10... [/b]had a lot of cute things going on, the cutest being the slugs who upstage everything else when they're onscreen. Excellent in the video/audio technical areas, this flick didn't make me laugh as much as [b]Wallace & Gromit.... [/b]

[b]Flags of Our Fathers...8.3/10... [/b]Superbly well-made movie, but the story just went on and on. I would've been puking like Ira after a few days of that War Bond tour. The best part were the Iwo Jima scenes, which makes me think that perhaps Letters from Iwo Jima may be a tauter, heavier-hitting movie.

[b]Malena...8.1/10...[/b] has some very funny dream sequences with the kid fantasizing about Malena. Who wouldn't? The story gets pretty damn dark, however, more than I was willing to swing my mood into. The 1st 2/3 of the movie were great.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/MalenaBoys.jpg[/img]

[b]Many 'measurements' are taken in Sicily when the beauty passes by.
Then the boys move so she can pass by again![/b]

A Place in the Sun
½

Good old movies have a peculiar attraction for me. The experience of watching a classic such as 'A Place in the Sun' is quite a bit different than viewing something from the current crop of action-addicted flicks made for people with the attention span of a bunny. As a chocoholic I might say its like chipping into some luscious flavenoid-rich dark bar that's been stashed so only I know where it is.

The story itself has been told in about a million variations, but its so well-done here you get caught up nonetheless. Clift is brilliant as a decent guy in a trap of his own making, with murder on his mind. Does he deserve 'the chair' as DA Burr declares in a performance that presaged his long run as Perry Mason?



[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/APlaceInTheSun.jpg[/img]

[b]I wish that were my head in her lap![/b]

Who would not fall in love with this Elizabeth Taylor? Or, considering his inclinations, they might also fall for Montgomery Clift. Even if you don't, there's no denying that they're both in top form, displaying a natural chemistry between two almost painfully good-looking people in a doomed romance. Great support includes Raymond Burr and Shelley Winters, the latter who performs a scene in a boat with Clift that should be required viewing for any aspiring actor.

Great stuff, this.

The Legend of Drunken Master (Jui kuen II) (Drunken Fist II)
½

[b]Eight Below (8.4/10)[/b] It would've been like leaving your kids behind! This group of dogs is as well-trained as I've seen, and maybe even enough to turn me into a dog lover. This is the kind of live-action movie Disney does best.

[b]Ice Age: The Meltdown (7.0/10)[/b] The antics of Scrat the Saber-toothed Squirrel in pursuit of the elusive acorn is the only reason to watch this. Once Scrat is off-screen Ice Age is a very ordinary animation movie with worn-out plots and characters.

[b]Legend of Drunken Master (9.3/10)[/b] is one of the best Kung Fu movies. The best fight is when Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) does the Zui Quan (Drunken Fist) demonstration while fighting some thugs. But all the fights are good; the Ax Gang, the grand finale at the factory, etc... Chan always mixes in some humor and it even works, most of the time, thru the dubbing.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LegendDrunkenMaster.jpg[/img]

[b]Get drunk and fight like a crazy mutha![/b]

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
½

[b]Eight Below (8.4/10)[/b] It would've been like leaving your kids behind! This group of dogs is as well-trained as I've seen, and maybe even enough to turn me into a dog lover. This is the kind of live-action movie Disney does best.

[b]Ice Age: The Meltdown (7.0/10)[/b] The antics of Scrat the Saber-toothed Squirrel in pursuit of the elusive acorn is the only reason to watch this. Once Scrat is off-screen Ice Age is a very ordinary animation movie with worn-out plots and characters.

[b]Legend of Drunken Master (9.3/10)[/b] is one of the best Kung Fu movies. The best fight is when Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) does the Zui Quan (Drunken Fist) demonstration while fighting some thugs. But all the fights are good; the Ax Gang, the grand finale at the factory, etc... Chan always mixes in some humor and it even works, most of the time, thru the dubbing.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LegendDrunkenMaster.jpg[/img]

[b]Get drunk and fight like a crazy mutha![/b]

Eight Below
Eight Below(2006)

[b]Eight Below (8.4/10)[/b] It would've been like leaving your kids behind! This group of dogs is as well-trained as I've seen, and maybe even enough to turn me into a dog lover. This is the kind of live-action movie Disney does best.

[b]Ice Age: The Meltdown (7.0/10)[/b] The antics of Scrat the Saber-toothed Squirrel in pursuit of the elusive acorn is the only reason to watch this. Once Scrat is off-screen Ice Age is a very ordinary animation movie with worn-out plots and characters.

[b]Legend of Drunken Master (9.3/10)[/b] is one of the best Kung Fu movies. The best fight is when Wong Fei-Hung (Jackie Chan) does the Zui Quan (Drunken Fist) demonstration while fighting some thugs. But all the fights are good; the Ax Gang, the grand finale at the factory, etc... Chan always mixes in some humor and it even works, most of the time, thru the dubbing.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/LegendDrunkenMaster.jpg[/img]

[b]Get drunk and fight like a crazy mutha![/b]

The Departed
The Departed(2006)

-I've seen most of Scorsese's films and Departed is his best. It deserves all the awards its received.

-Dead Man's Chest was a few moments of interesting FX mixed in with totally dull, silly plot and dialog.

-Cars has its moments, especially in the last 1/3 but its not quite up some such as Finding Nemo or The Incredibles.

-I admit that prurient interest slants my score to Cemetary Man. It must be the Bellucci Syndrome where I'm attracted to Italian women such as Anna Falchi. I don't think they're from Earth. Rupert Everett does pretty good anyway as the cemetary caretaker, casually keeping the dead in their place.

Cars
Cars(2006)
½

-I've seen most of Scorsese's films and Departed is his best. It deserves all the awards its received.

-Dead Man's Chest was a few moments of interesting FX mixed in with totally dull, silly plot and dialog.

-Cars has its moments, especially in the last 1/3 but its not quite up some such as Finding Nemo or The Incredibles.

-I admit that prurient interest slants my score to Cemetary Man. It must be the Bellucci Syndrome where I'm attracted to Italian women such as Anna Falchi. I don't think they're from Earth. Rupert Everett does pretty good anyway as the cemetary caretaker, casually keeping the dead in their place.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

-I've seen most of Scorsese's films and Departed is his best. It deserves all the awards its received.

-Dead Man's Chest was a few moments of interesting FX mixed in with totally dull, silly plot and dialog.

-Cars has its moments, especially in the last 1/3 but its not quite up some such as Finding Nemo or The Incredibles.

-I admit that prurient interest slants my score to Cemetary Man. It must be the Bellucci Syndrome where I'm attracted to Italian women such as Anna Falchi. I don't think they're from Earth. Rupert Everett does pretty good anyway as the cemetary caretaker, casually keeping the dead in their place.

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.5

The 2nd season of BG continues threads from the 1st season and starts some new ones. Starbuck and Apollo are typically at odds with Cmdr. Adama, everyone hates Col. Tigh, Sharon assumes room temperature , but only for a while, and Cylons and humans weave plot and create intrigue where none existed, as the 'Toasters' and humans both become more conflicted in their dealings with each other.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarFleet.jpg[/img]

[b]The rag tag fleet, in generally pretty good CGI[/b]

The cast gets help from fairly strong recurring/guests. Michelle Forbes was most memorable as Admiral Cain, coming close to goosestepping her way to a total hostile takeover of the fleet. These were the best episodes of the season, but there were others like when some nonmilitary types were making fun of the whole 'So say we all' rah rah stuff in the 2-part 'Home' episodes.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarApollo.jpg[/img]

[b]A +6 Arrow of Asskicking? A key that opens a doorway to Earth?[/b]

Unlike the one season 70's series that had all kinds of mostly silly variations of English, this BG cleverly modifies just a few words. BG gets a special award for being the only TV show I know of that can Frak this and frak that all day, all the time. Frakin' A!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarFraternize.jpg[/img]

[b]All kinds of fraternizing with the crew is going on! Cylon/Human, Human/Human, maybe even Cylon/Cylon![/b]

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarTestForCylons.jpg[/img]

[b]Cylon or Human? Baltar is gonna check![/b]

I watched both Seasons 2.0 and 2.5, which was an obvious Cylon plot to squeeze more money out of the DVD sales by breaking the distribution in half. They shot the miniseries on film and the entire series on HD and it looks great
on DVD, and glorious in HD if you catch it on UHD. The extras are fairly lean with some deleted scenes, a bit of set exposition and a little cast screwing around. Season 3 is just winding down so that makes me about a year behind as I haven't seen much of it. Its a great series with very little let up in quality. No frakin' way!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarSharon.jpg[/img]

[b]Nice little Cylon that messes with mens' minds, and everything else![/b]

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.0

The 2nd season of BG continues threads from the 1st season and starts some new ones. Starbuck and Apollo are typically at odds with Cmdr. Adama, everyone hates Col. Tigh, Sharon assumes room temperature , but only for a while, and Cylons and humans weave plot and create intrigue where none existed, as the 'Toasters' and humans both become more conflicted in their dealings with each other.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarFleet.jpg[/img]

[b]The rag tag fleet, in generally pretty good CGI[/b]

The cast gets help from fairly strong recurring/guests. Michelle Forbes was most memorable as Admiral Cain, coming close to goosestepping her way to a total hostile takeover of the fleet. These were the best episodes of the season, but there were others like when some nonmilitary types were making fun of the whole 'So say we all' rah rah stuff in the 2-part 'Home' episodes.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarApollo.jpg[/img]

[b]A +6 Arrow of Asskicking? A key that opens a doorway to Earth?[/b]

Unlike the one season 70's series that had all kinds of mostly silly variations of English, this BG cleverly modifies just a few words. BG gets a special award for being the only TV show I know of that can Frak this and frak that all day, all the time. Frakin' A!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarFraternize.jpg[/img]

[b]All kinds of fraternizing with the crew is going on! Cylon/Human, Human/Human, maybe even Cylon/Cylon![/b]

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarTestForCylons.jpg[/img]

[b]Cylon or Human? Baltar is gonna check![/b]

I watched both Seasons 2.0 and 2.5, which was an obvious Cylon plot to squeeze more money out of the DVD sales by breaking the distribution in half. They shot the miniseries on film and the entire series on HD and it looks great
on DVD, and glorious in HD if you catch it on UHD. The extras are fairly lean with some deleted scenes, a bit of set exposition and a little cast screwing around. Season 3 is just winding down so that makes me about a year behind as I haven't seen much of it. Its a great series with very little let up in quality. No frakin' way!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/BattlestarSharon.jpg[/img]

[b]Nice little Cylon that messes with mens' minds, and everything else![/b]

A Scanner Darkly

Short Cuts has a mean streak running through it and has a crap ending. I felt no connection to any of the self-involved fucks it portrayed. Even so, it was occasionally funny. 7.3/10

Stay away from Predator if you're allergic to testosterone because there's so much wafting around in this movie that you could almost see it. Great stuff, though, right down to former Governor Ventura's spit. 9.3/10

Da Vinci Code was better than I thought it'd be, but not as good as it could've been. I think Hanks bonked the movie. His Langdon wasn't supposed to be an action hero but even so Hanks seemed strangely subdued. Maybe he didn't like what he was doing or was sick or something. 8.0/10

I probably need to see Scanner Darkly again to really get it all. There's some fairly obscure stuff in it. Rotoscoping is weird if only because in my memories of the movie the actors are as they really are and not rotoscoped. Keanu Reeves doesn't emote like a proper contemporary twit so he gets no respect for his work. A nude Winona does add to the interest of a rerun.... 8.2/10


RT is free and all but its getting really difficult to manuever onto and off of blogs. It barely works and frequently times out. I try to hit some new posts but this damn site just won't flow!

Short Cuts
Short Cuts(1993)
½

Short Cuts has a mean streak running through it and has a crap ending. I felt no connection to any of the self-involved fucks it portrayed. Even so, it was occasionally funny. 7.3/10

Stay away from Predator if you're allergic to testosterone because there's so much wafting around in this movie that you could almost see it. Great stuff, though, right down to former Governor Ventura's spit. 9.3/10

Da Vinci Code was better than I thought it'd be, but not as good as it could've been. I think Hanks bonked the movie. His Langdon wasn't supposed to be an action hero but even so Hanks seemed strangely subdued. Maybe he didn't like what he was doing or was sick or something. 8.0/10

I probably need to see Scanner Darkly again to really get it all. There's some fairly obscure stuff in it. Rotoscoping is weird if only because in my memories of the movie the actors are as they really are and not rotoscoped. Keanu Reeves doesn't emote like a proper contemporary twit so he gets no respect for his work. A nude Winona does add to the interest of a rerun.... 8.2/10


RT is free and all but its getting really difficult to manuever onto and off of blogs. It barely works and frequently times out. I try to hit some new posts but this damn site just won't flow!

The Da Vinci Code

Short Cuts has a mean streak running through it and has a crap ending. I felt no connection to any of the self-involved fucks it portrayed. Even so, it was occasionally funny. 7.3/10

Stay away from Predator if you're allergic to testosterone because there's so much wafting around in this movie that you could almost see it. Great stuff, though, right down to former Governor Ventura's spit. 9.3/10

Da Vinci Code was better than I thought it'd be, but not as good as it could've been. I think Hanks bonked the movie. His Langdon wasn't supposed to be an action hero but even so Hanks seemed strangely subdued. Maybe he didn't like what he was doing or was sick or something. 8.0/10

I probably need to see Scanner Darkly again to really get it all. There's some fairly obscure stuff in it. Rotoscoping is weird if only because in my memories of the movie the actors are as they really are and not rotoscoped. Keanu Reeves doesn't emote like a proper contemporary twit so he gets no respect for his work. A nude Winona does add to the interest of a rerun.... 8.2/10


RT is free and all but its getting really difficult to manuever onto and off of blogs. It barely works and frequently times out. I try to hit some new posts but this damn site just won't flow!

Predator
Predator(1987)
½

Short Cuts has a mean streak running through it and has a crap ending. I felt no connection to any of the self-involved fucks it portrayed. Even so, it was occasionally funny. 7.3/10

Stay away from Predator if you're allergic to testosterone because there's so much wafting around in this movie that you could almost see it. Great stuff, though, right down to former Governor Ventura's spit. 9.3/10

Da Vinci Code was better than I thought it'd be, but not as good as it could've been. I think Hanks bonked the movie. His Langdon wasn't supposed to be an action hero but even so Hanks seemed strangely subdued. Maybe he didn't like what he was doing or was sick or something. 8.0/10

I probably need to see Scanner Darkly again to really get it all. There's some fairly obscure stuff in it. Rotoscoping is weird if only because in my memories of the movie the actors are as they really are and not rotoscoped. Keanu Reeves doesn't emote like a proper contemporary twit so he gets no respect for his work. A nude Winona does add to the interest of a rerun.... 8.2/10


RT is free and all but its getting really difficult to manuever onto and off of blogs. It barely works and frequently times out. I try to hit some new posts but this damn site just won't flow!

Forbidden Planet

No other Sci Fi movie is more deserving of "Mother of All Science Fiction Movies" than Forbidden Planet. Its as if the filmmakers had wiretaps into Area 51. A lot of the science fiction in sci fi movies has been derivative ever since.

Not exactly the first A grade sci fi movie, it was the first to drill into outer space tech of the future and present it in a way that it looked like it could work. Astrogator, deceleration fields, particle beams, view screens, blasters, etc... All analog but very clever.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ForbiddenWeAreSaucermen.jpg[/img]

[b]We are the ones flying around in saucers.[/b]

Complete with excellent matte painting and no CGI, the Federation ship lands on Altair 4 to look for survivors from a science team left there 20 years ago.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ForbiddenDecelerate.jpg[/img]

[b]Time to beam... er... decelerate out of hyperdrive and into normal space.[/b]

They find Morbius, the sole survivor of the team, his daughter Alta, Robby the Robot and the remnants of a technically vastly superior but vanished alien race.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ForbiddenLubeReady.jpg[/img]

[b]"I'll be ready, Miss, as soon as I get some lube."[/b]

Aside from the work-around they dreamed up for Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robby was the first robot that looked like he could work. Announcing his server status by claiming to speak 187 languages and sub tongues, it took another 20 years before C3PO would make a similar claim.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Forbidden3D.jpg[/img]

[b]"Help us, Obi..............". Alta wore miniskirts before there were miniskirts. [/b]

Forbidden Planet is more than just a treasure trove for technoweenies, it has a really good writer. Shakespeare. Its an adaptation of The Tempest, with Morbius as Prospero. In this alien world, he has subconsciously tapped into the awesome power of the still intact alien instrumentalities.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/ForbiddenMonsterOfId.jpg[/img]


[b]Monster of the Id[/b]

Seen on a big screen, the DVD could almost pass as HD quality if you don't look real close. The soundtrack for Forbidden Planet is one of a kind; a labor of love that was cooked up using a theremin and many electrical gizmos that the Barrons made by hand just to create spacey effects. They've even remastered the unique soundtrack into a passable 5.1 version. It comes with lots of extras, including interviews with surviving cast, some extended/deleted scenes, etc... Most of it is worth watching. There's a 2nd movie on the 2nd DVD. I didn't watch "The Invisible Boy", an add-on since it also had Robby in it, because it looked pretty stupid.

Dead Man
Dead Man(1995)
½

Two interesting things about Dead Man. One is the cast:

[b]Written and Directed by[/b] Jim Jarmusch.
[b]With[/b]
Johnny Depp [i]as[/i] William Blake,
Gary Farmer [i]as[/i] Nobody,
Mili Avital [i]as[/i] Thel Russell,
Lance Henriksen [i]as[/i] Cole Wilson,
Michael Wincott [i]as[/i] Conway Twill,
Gabriel Byrne [i]as[/i] Charlie Dickinson,
John Hurt [i]as[/i] John Scholfield,
Alfred Molina [i]as[/i] Trading Post Missionary,
Crispin Glover [i]as[/i] The Fireman,
Iggy Pop [i]as[/i] Salvatore "Sally" Jenko,
Billy Bob Thornton [i]as[/i] Big George Drakoulious,
Jared Harris [i]as[/i] Benmont Tench,
Steve Buscemi [i]as[/i] Bartender (uncredited),
Robert Mitchum [i]as[/i] John Dickinson.
[b]Cinematography by[/b] Robby Müller.
[b]Music by[/b] Neil Young.

Lots of well-known actors, although you might have to watch close to see some as they may come and go quickly.

If you're prepared to meditate on the meanings of movie images and dialog, this is a show for you. If you're looking for a shoot-em-up classic Western, this'll drive you nuts.

The long train ride that William Blake (Depp) takes to get a new job should decide it for you. The ride is long and slow, like most of the movie. I thought it was interesting, more so near the end of the ride when the Fireman (Glover) inquires and then talks in his uniquely creepy way about what's going on in the West.

Dead Man is Depp's kind of movie role; pretty guileless but adapts quickly to his grim new reality of being a wanted man after forced into killing. Gary Farmer as Nobody is the most interesting character onscreen though. After mistaking Depp's Blake for William Blake the poet, he spends most of the movie puzzling Depp with quips and quotes that are either incredibly wise or beyond comprehension, take your pick, most of them quotes from William Blake the poet. Nobody is puzzled himself why Depp's Blake doesn't know his own poetry.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DeadMan1996.jpg[/img]

[b]"Do you have any tobacco?"[/b]

Everyone in this part of the West craved tobacco, except Depp, and this was the first thing he heard from anyone. Speaking of the West, I would call Dead Man a story set in the west much more than it being a Western. It is way too reflective and sympathetic to the displaced natives for a 'Western'. Dead Man is shot beautifully in black and white and is a work of art in that respect.

The 2nd not-as-interesting thing about Dead Man is the coincidence of Johnny Depp also being in Dead Man's Chest, which has way more pics on the web if you ever try a search for a 'Dead Man' movie shot.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
½

All I could say about Casablanca has already been said. Its just as good as it can be. Buckaroo is totally off the wall and weird. Office Space is pretty funny. Arabesques's only hook is Sophia Loren in her prime.

Arabesque
Arabesque(1966)

All I could say about Casablanca has already been said. Its just as good as it can be. Buckaroo is totally off the wall and weird. Office Space is pretty funny. Arabesques's only hook is Sophia Loren in her prime.

Casablanca
Casablanca(1942)

All I could say about Casablanca has already been said. Its just as good as it can be. Buckaroo is totally off the wall and weird. Office Space is pretty funny. Arabesques's only hook is Sophia Loren in her prime.

Office Space
Office Space(1999)

All I could say about Casablanca has already been said. Its just as good as it can be. Buckaroo is totally off the wall and weird. Office Space is pretty funny. Arabesques's only hook is Sophia Loren in her prime.

Rome - The Complete First Season

Swords and Sandals epics are pretty rare and often flawed, likeTroy or Alexander. HBO's Rome has an epic story but is not quite so epic in scale which might be a good thing. Expensive as hell for an HBO series, it is the drama is what raises this retold classic above the usually stilted dialog in this sort of story.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/rome3.jpg[/img]

[b]Caesar on his way to the Rubicon[/b]

The series fills in the story that goes on over about 10 years, from Caesar's triumph in Gaul to his assassination in the Senate. HBO fills in all kinds of plausible details, and the story is as much about the lives of legionnaires Pullo and Vorenus. They are virtually fictional characters but in fact are the only two soldiers mentioned in Caesar's own histories. Pullo and Vorenus appear to be favored by the gods, so much so that Caesar spares them more than once for not following orders, let alone his wishes. This element adds quite a bit of humanity to the telling.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/rome2.jpg[/img]

[b]Pullo and Vorenus come upon the defeated Pompey.[/b]

Class consciousness was a very big deal in Rome, with slaves, plebes and aristocrats able to tell one from the other at a glance. The slaves were usually easy since they all had labels on a necklace. The distinctions were often subtle, but you had to know who you could kick around and who to suck up to at a glance back in those days.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/rome4.jpg[/img]

[b]Most everyone would suck up to Atia of the Julii and Marc Antony.[/b]

Filmed outside of Rome, Romans were used as the crowd extras. Great attention to physical detail was impressive, and it must've helped the actors get into their roles. Coming from a totally dysfunctional family and witness to murderous plot and intrigue, the young Octavian (Max Perkis) was my personal favorite.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RomeSkullMosaic.jpg[/img]

[b]In life, some are winners, some are losers, yet all are mortal. In the end, death will always even the score.[/b]

That's what the mosaic means in short. I liked the way they animated it at the beginning of the show.

Tristan & Isolde
½

Tristan and Isolde has loads of different fake accents. You either accept multiple accents in these period movies or try to get everyone to sound the same. I think they should forget about uniformity. Who knows how they really spoke Gaelic or old English back then, or what a Mycenaean or Trojan sounded like for that matter.

Franco is impressive in the action segments, less so in dramatic moments. Myles looks a bit like Kate Winslet in some angles, and is a plausible Irish princess. They're OK together but there's no sense of 'love of my life' between them. After seeing Franco perpetually pouty-eyed in the 2nd half I determined that it was part of his makeup.

Battles were done at a scale that was probably realistic for the times, and those scenes are the best part of Tristan and Isolde. The 'starcrossed lovers, doomed to stay apart' has a few moments of poignancy but is otherwise pretty soso.

Wild Strawberries
½

Filmed around the same time as the original Twilight Zone, Ingmar Bergman and Rod Serling may have been swapping notes. A story of an old man who's spent most of his life alone, he has strange Daliesque dreams about time. One the last things he does is go on a short trip for his Honorarium at the school he's been teaching at for 50 years as medical doctor. . He travels with and picks up much younger people, giving him even more to reflect on, eventually moving into a land of both shadow and substance, a dimension of mind. Like the Twilight Zone, sans ironic twists, the old man relives some of his past, talking with his first love, and regretting.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/Wild_Strawberries.jpg[/img]

[b]Sitting around the strawberry patch with Bibi Andersson, cringing at what's in the looking glass.[/b]

Ingmar Bergman is impressive. I started to watch two of his movies recently, thinking that they'll just be crusty and overrated. By the end, I've forgotten that they're old. He gets into characters' minds and shooshes out the ghosts and skeletons rattling around, for your consideration. Just be ready to pay attention; unless you speak Swedish, ya gotta read subtitles!

Monster House
½

Meh. Monster House would definitely be better in 3D as it was in some theaters. Some of the scenes are really made for it, especially the house animations. There's some cuteness here and there. Sans 3D, however, the story has to carry more load and it is pretty lightweight. A lot of juvenile shit is going on which I suppose you'd expect, but the teenage jerks needed some serious asskicking nonetheless. The story also wimps out with a wholesome ending. Those people that got sucked/pulled into that crazy house were DEAD!

Lucky Number Slevin

Slevin is pre-school jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of little chunks missing out of the 10 pieces to make you think that was more complicated than it was. Its got a little Tarantino in it but who can blame a filmmaker for emulating his success. Come to think of it, a more biting soundtrack like a Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill would've helped, but instead ...Slevin has very soso background music.

I found some nuggets of entertainment in Slevin watching Kingsley, Freeman and Willis working with what they got. Hartnett takes a really good punch to the chops, several of them, so he's paid his dues and can now start doing more of the punching. I like Lucy Liu but did not believe her character or the totally fake love-at-first-sight with Slevin(Hartnett). That came way too easy.

Done correctly I can enjoy casual brutality, killing off entire gangs, retribution, murdering innocent witnesses and then doing lunch. Maybe that's why I like Zombie movies. ...Slevin doesn't quite get there but director McGuigan could be on the right track.

Charade
Charade(1963)
½

This is a good 60's movie, unlike so many sucky 60's movies, with a soundtrack that had a little of the early James Bond feel to it. The movie itself has a bit of spy stuff, but mostly its a whodunit and whereisit. Grant and Hepburn play well together, nominally love interests but comes out as father/daughter most of the time. They're fun to watch.

Charade also has a good supporting cast including Walther Mattheu and James Colburn in not-very-nice-guys earlier roles.

It just doesn't feel right for some reason that Audrey Hepburn is past tense. It must be her slight frame and perky look that persisted past middle age that makes her seem as if still among the living. Weird.

Hoodwinked
Hoodwinked(2005)
½

Movies I've seen lately but don't feel like writing about.

Amelie is very good but I already wrote about it once. Hoodwinked was OK, but the rest were disappointing in one way or another.

On TV, [b]Battlestar Galactica[/b] rules. Its the only show I try to watch, and miss it sometimes anyway. That's what DVD sets are good for, besides, the extras are cool. [b]Lost [/b]is also good but currently off. HBO's [b]Rome[/b] 2nd season starts Jan 14 and is enough reason to get HBO again. Other than that just some NFL and the occasional flick. eBay totally sucks for selling DVDs anymore unless its a very popular movie/show. The lists are flooded with Asian crap, most of which are warez, so no one browses anymore because of all the misrepresented junk. I'm shifting to Netflix mode soon.

X-Men: The Last Stand

Movies I've seen lately but don't feel like writing about.

Amelie is very good but I already wrote about it once. Hoodwinked was OK, but the rest were disappointing in one way or another.

On TV, [b]Battlestar Galactica[/b] rules. Its the only show I try to watch, and miss it sometimes anyway. That's what DVD sets are good for, besides, the extras are cool. [b]Lost [/b]is also good but currently off. HBO's [b]Rome[/b] 2nd season starts Jan 14 and is enough reason to get HBO again. Other than that just some NFL and the occasional flick. eBay totally sucks for selling DVDs anymore unless its a very popular movie/show. The lists are flooded with Asian crap, most of which are warez, so no one browses anymore because of all the misrepresented junk. I'm shifting to Netflix mode soon.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Movies I've seen lately but don't feel like writing about.

Amelie is very good but I already wrote about it once. Hoodwinked was OK, but the rest were disappointing in one way or another.

On TV, [b]Battlestar Galactica[/b] rules. Its the only show I try to watch, and miss it sometimes anyway. That's what DVD sets are good for, besides, the extras are cool. [b]Lost [/b]is also good but currently off. HBO's [b]Rome[/b] 2nd season starts Jan 14 and is enough reason to get HBO again. Other than that just some NFL and the occasional flick. eBay totally sucks for selling DVDs anymore unless its a very popular movie/show. The lists are flooded with Asian crap, most of which are warez, so no one browses anymore because of all the misrepresented junk. I'm shifting to Netflix mode soon.

The Matador
The Matador(2006)
½

Movies I've seen lately but don't feel like writing about.

Amelie is very good but I already wrote about it once. Hoodwinked was OK, but the rest were disappointing in one way or another.

On TV, [b]Battlestar Galactica[/b] rules. Its the only show I try to watch, and miss it sometimes anyway. That's what DVD sets are good for, besides, the extras are cool. [b]Lost [/b]is also good but currently off. HBO's [b]Rome[/b] 2nd season starts Jan 14 and is enough reason to get HBO again. Other than that just some NFL and the occasional flick. eBay totally sucks for selling DVDs anymore unless its a very popular movie/show. The lists are flooded with Asian crap, most of which are warez, so no one browses anymore because of all the misrepresented junk. I'm shifting to Netflix mode soon.

The Red Violin (Le violon rouge)
½

325 years ago, at about the same time Europe was experiencing The Little Ice Age, trees were growing slowly with dense rings and the Italian violin makers reached the peak of their art. One, Nicolo Bussotti, created his masterpiece at this time, The Red Violin.

Told through the reading of Tarot cards for Busotti's pregnant wife, the reading is really about the travels that the Red Violin would take in its life. The Tarot cards are about the violin because all through that time the violin carries a bit of her with it.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RedViolinFinish.jpg[/img]

[b]Busotti applies the finish which ties the tragedy of his wife to the violin.[/b]

The violin takes a fascinating journey, a sort of time travel story, from an orphanage to its discovery and sale at a Canadian auction. The movie zips back and forth from the origin of the violin to the auction, showing the travels and users of the Red Violin in the main thread. It works pretty good and keeps you interested, although its a little fuzzy on just how a violin that was known by its genius maker to be his best work spends most of its life in humble obscurity.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/RedViolinProdigy.jpg[/img]

[b]The poor little orphan prodigy plays a helluva violin![/b]

The acting is good. Samuel Jackson does really well as the expert who discovers the Red Violin.

Violin is my favorite instrument. It gets into my head more than any other. The recurring somber theme for The Red Violin is not my favorite kind of playing, but there's plenty of more energetic works during the course of the movie. This is a good show.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
½

A near classic spoof on classic, mostly film noir movies of the 30's-40's, Dead Men... was made back when Steve Martin was funny most of the time. One of his best films, it is a collaboration amongst comic writers including himself and Carl Reiner.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DeadMenRachelBullet.jpg[/img]

[b]"Here, let me suck that bullet out of your arm"[/b]

Rachel Ward does suck bullets, more than once, while Martin cops feels in an ongoing goofy screen romance that keeps the film lively. Ward was a good pick as she would've fit right in those old femme fatale roles.

The real attraction is the technical achievement in juxtaposing 35-45 year old movie segments with the Dead Men ... characters. The first one with Alan Ladd about to do a hit on the Martin character is amazing, as are all the others. Bogart naturally got incised into several scenes, and there's Crawford, Davis, Turner etc... Perhaps the most amazing thing is all the primo editing and absolute fidelity in matching set details didn't get an Oscar.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Movies/DeadMenSteamyPuppy.jpg[/img]

[b]"Pick that up? But its all hot and steamy!"[/b]

This movie is a hoot even if the old gangster/detective dramas don't float your boat.

The Petrified Forest
½

Adapted from a play, The Petrified Forest is a tight story of contrasts and carries some of the 30's Depression-era suffering and transition with it. I was drawn to it because this is the last movie where Bogie was a supporting actor, or when he got enough attention to get leading roles, depending how you look at it.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/PetrifiedForestDukeGang.jpg[/img]

[b]Duke Mantee with part of his gang, looking like the stolen clothes come up a bit short.[/b]

Bogart is not his usual snappy self as Mantee. Dangerous but resigned to his fate as a lifelong fugitive/prisoner/killer, he puts on a very stylized performance, sometimes muddling through his dilemma, other times threatening death to all his captives at the restaurant in the desert.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/PetrifiedForestDuke.jpg[/img]

[b]"Siddown and keep yer yap shut!"[/b]

Most of the show belongs to Leslie Howard and Bette Davis, who were a good match in this and a few other movies. In her youth, you can really get the line 'She had Bette Davis eyes'. They were great pair of blues.

Paper Moon
Paper Moon(1973)
½

When Paper Moon starts you're treated to what could be the opening of a 30's movie. 30's music, credits roll first (not all that long back then) and then a segue to a cemetary where Addie's (Tatum) mother is being laid to rest. Just then a backfiring convertible jalopy arrives and Moses Pray (Ryan) arrives, and reluctantly agrees to take the orphaned Addie to St. Joe. Moses is a con man and has an angle to make money on the deal, but what he doesn't know, besides not knowing for sure whether or not he's Addie's dad, is that Addie is a better con artist than he is.
Tatum's Addie is really the star of the show, and at 8 or 9 during filming is the youngest Oscar winner ever. She isn't just a precocious cutey like maybe Shirley Temple; she brings astonishing confidence and depth to the role.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/PaperMoon84Dollars.jpg[/img]

[b]"You owe me $84.12!"[/b]

It takes Addie about 2 seconds worth of eavesdropping to figure out that Moses was making money on her tragedy, and about a minute to turn it around on him and become his partner in the Bible selling business. Their exchanges are great, all the more so since she's just a little shit playing hardball with the adults.

You could describe Paper Moon as the filmmakers do as a 30's roadshow with 70's actors and come pretty close. Its got great 30's trappings; the music, all those old cars that'd probably be hard as hell to round up now, wardrobe items from George Raft movies, towns and shops that look like where else could they be but Depression-era Kansas. Well-known supporting actors kind of surprise you when they have their few minutes. As a period piece there's no sense that its dated; its all set in the 30's anyway.

If you don't like this movie then there's something wrong with you !

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)

While I was testing a recode of Last Action Hero and flashed on its Death character, it dawned on me that I lacked a primary reference point. I don't remember ever seeing an Ingmar Bergman film and definitely not The Seventh Seal. Was it Fate that The Seventh Seal was on so I could to wrap my head around it? Could it be Destiny that there was no excuse not to watch a seriously heavy movie?

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/SeventhSeal_Chess.jpg[/img]

[b]How about a nice game of chess?[/b]

Those are the sort of topics that come up in The Seventh Seal. Set in the calamitous 14th Century, a knight returns to Sweden, full of cynicism and doubt, and Death comes for him. He bargains with Death by challenging him to a chess game, and can continue to live as long as the game goes on.

The game goes on intermittently for several days. The outcome is obvious, but along the way a lot of ethical and philisophical situations crop up, from a witch burning as a scapegoat for the Black Death ravaging the country, self-flagellation, and the standbys fidelity and bigotry.

With all that you might think you'd just want to curl up and die from all the depressing things that people do to each other and themselves, but there's a little sunshine even in this B&W classic. The travelling acting troupe break up the gloom, and include Bibi Andersson who could put a twinkle in anyone's eye. Gunnar Bjornstrand is excellent as the squire and Max von Sydow is almost as good as the skeptical knight. In the end, its a movie with heavy meanings but it thankfully doesn't drop it all on your head at once. This is a movie that should never ever be in color. Afterward, you can feel very smug now that you watched a Bergman film.

Lost Highway
Lost Highway(1997)

Go ahead, try to figure out this Lynch film. There's about as many opinions about whats going on as there are people who've seen the film, including more than a few who don't think anything at all is really going on, besides Lynch jerking your chain.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LostHighwayArquette.jpg[/img]

[b]Arquette is requested to strip.[/b]

Watching it late at night with all my remaining active braincells fully engaged, it occurred to me that this was all about what's in Fred Madison's (Pullman) mind. Its all in his mind.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LostHighwayPullman.jpg[/img]

[b]Fred gets a lot of headaches after he's sentenced to death.[/b]

Lynch pulls off some high level creepiness in the Madison home with nothing more than dim lighting, dark halls and a subdued tense soundtrack. Its very disturbing if you let yourself run with it.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LostHighwayBlake.jpg[/img]

[b]Robert Blake in his last pre-murder trial role, playing with no makeup.[/b]

Lynch likes to use old child actors playing the most decadent roles. Blake is actually pretty good, playing what I'd guess is Fred's id. I wouldn't really want to run into my own id at a party either.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LostHighwayVision.jpg[/img]

[b]This art could be as understandable as its namesake, the Lost Highway.[/b]

In the end, even if you don't know what's going on, there's undeniable high style to this movie, some moments of real creepiness, a mostly nude Patricia Arquette, a pretty Magic Moment, and a memorable episode of road rage that may be a clue that this movie is a bunch of director's skits thrown together.

Night of the Living Dead
½

A great American tradition began with this film. Zombies were around before this, and cannibalism goes way back, but Romero first put flesh-eating zombies onto film, and look at where we are today!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/NightofLivingDead2.jpg[/img]

[b]The first filmed Zombie only needed some dental hygiene, but they ripen with age.[/b]

In the 50's & 60's movies had radiation to blame for giant insects, monsters rampaging through Tokyo, and space aliens dropping in warn us about atomic energy. So it is no stretch to pin an outbreak of flesh-eating zombies on radiation.

The 1st recorded zombie was a pretty good mover. Not yet fully accustomed to the Zombie Shuffle walk, he sort of ran with a limp and didn't try to bite at first. Slightly later the shuffle walk became the true mark by which other zombies could identify their zombie brethren, and most normal humans were easily picked out if they tried to imitate it. Tearing apart living humans and eating them was a natural next step and became their only purpose in life.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/NightofLivingDead1.jpg[/img]

[b]Dad is dead, and I'm hungry![/b]

Night of the Living Dead is a well-done movie. It builds tension, has plenty of onscreen conflict and a gamut of human response to the zombie horror. Also, every one of the news broadcasters had geeky horn rimmed glasses, which must mean something.

Not much nudity; no breasts, a few butts, including at least one that I didn't need to see. Plenty of gore which is strangely grisly and cringeworthy to this day, possibly because of the grainy newsish handheld filming used to show the recently deceased being ripped apart (mostly hidden) and devoured.

This was a film of the 60's and reflected the nothing-is-safe-or-sacred turmoil that was going on amidst assassinations, Vietnam and racial strife. A bit of social commentary is layered onto Night of the Living Dead, probably going right by today's audience. Considering that it cost about as much to make as Christina Aguilera's pole-dancing thongs, a little money went a long way.

Lost - The Complete First Season
½

The only show I actually watch regularly on commercial TV, the First Season's 24 episodes including the pilot are a boatload of viewing, about 1200 minutes including sampling an entire 7th DVD worth of extras (making ofs, casting, bloopers, etc...).

For a Lost fan who didn't catch on until about the 6th episode it was required viewing, and it gave me a better understanding of just what the mindset of the characters are. They add up to one big unhappy dysfunctional family, all pretty much going their own way as much as possible, as they struggle to survive after their way-off-course plane crashed on an island that's incredibly large, no natives and apparently completely ignored.

There's sci fi going on in Lost; some Forbidden Planet, as well as a dash of Twin Peaks and a smidgen of Survivor, located in photogenic Hawaii with a healthy dose of flashbacks filmed mostly in LA. Production values are high: the plane crash aftermath is A movie grade material, the series is generally high quality throughout and very little in the way of cheap.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LostSeasonOneCast.jpg[/img]

[b]HELP! We're lost on Oahu and can't find our way back.[/b]


Just like a family, some of the characters are likeable and some you wish would shrivel up and die. They've all got issues of course, with a backdrop of extras fillling out the 40 or so crash survivors who probably amount to the 'normal' people who don't have interesting stories but do things like collect wood and push rafts into the water, or die once in a while.

Season One is great stuff. I didn't like Season Two as much, and they've already pissed me off with Season Three, but that's another story. The DVDs look and sound fantastic.

It Came from Outer Space
½

This is one of the original sci fi oldies. Its message is at least as much about society's response to the unknown, after first being in complete denial of its existence, as anything else. That's the scariest part of the movie, and similar in that way to a few other sci fi flicks of the era, like Day the Earth Stood Still.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/ItCameFromCharlesDrake.jpg[/img]

[b]No one but the Producer knows why the blond is in this movie![/b]

Ray Bradbury stories like this one are better reads than movies, but what else is new? The actual alien would've been best left in the shadows, as the shuffling pile of glop that shows up late in the movie does not do justice to an extraterrestrial way of life.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/it-came-from-outer-space-02.jpg[/img]

[b]Its up there somewhere! ..................................1950's gratuitous shots came fully clothed...[/b]

The subject was so novel they couldn't even give it good names, so 50's sci fi movies had lots of 'It', 'Them', 'X', 'They', 'Other's', etc.. in the title, which is why I thought this was another movie when I saw it listed on TCM. Movies like this performed a service since they were the inspiration for modern slightly more plausible if still fantastic sci fi flicks. Its primitive, but even so ...From Outer Space has some interesting moments, and actors that went on to more familiar roles.

Out of the Past
½

A movie that really is from another world, another time. Claimed to be one of the best of the film noir genre, its very much along the lines of Bogie movies of that era, and in fact he turned down the gumshoe that Mitchum plays, and plays very well.

It has all the trappings: femme fatale, sap(s) getting duped by the femme fatale, and lots of shadows, even in the daytime. It also has a page full of zippy one-liners to add to your list of retorts in those tense situations. It makes you want to get a trenchcoat and fedora, and pray for gloomy days so you can walk around and look weird but retro cool, giving Neighborhood Watch something to worry about.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/OutOfThePast3.jpg[/img]

[b]If you didn't smoke in Film Noir you weren't allowed to make wisecracks, get the woman or kill anybody.[/b]

Dark City
Dark City(1998)
½

The underrated Dark City had almost no theater play, released and then buried by the studio. It deserved better.

A little bit Matrix before there was a Matrix, a little Borg Collective and a neo Noir look make Dark City a little off the beaten sci fi path. People in the City literally live in the dark, never seeing daylight, not even remembering the last time they saw daylight. That's because the Strangers are constantly screwing with human memories and chemisty, Taking Down the whole city every Midnight and Tuning it and the people that live in it, trying to capture the human soul for use by their dying race.



[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DarkCityStrangers.jpg[/img]

[b]The Strangers, looking like they might be from San Francisco.[/b]

Within the population of Dark City are notably beautiful hookers, Emma (Jennifer Connelly) and John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell), Detective Bumstead (William Hurt), and a Kiefer Sutherland playing a psychiatrist role that Jack Bauer fans would be aghast at. They're all good and make Dark City better for their effort.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DarkCityConnellySing.jpg[/img]

[b]Where else would a singer sing in Dark City but a darkly lit nightclub?[/b]

But maybe Kiefer isn't so far out of his expected character, since he's been playing dumb all the while doing his own chemical adjustments to counter the Strangers.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DarkCityTuning.jpg[/img]

[b]He can Tune with the best of them![/b]

It plays very well until the climactic showdown, which was a kind of a letdown. The film does recover a bit and land on its feet at the very end. With just a scene twiddle here and scene joggle there Dark City could've been a sci fi classic. Its very good as it is.

Mulholland Drive
½

Mulholland Drive. Leave it to David Lynch to name his meandering 'is it real or is it Memorex' show for a meandering hilltop road. I think you'd need a degree in Lynchology to really decipher this movie.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Mulholland16Reasons.jpg[/img]

[b]"16 Reasons", a 50's twist onto the already enigmatic story[/b]

My 2nd viewing didn't necessarily add to my comprehension of what its really about. It is clear enough, if mud is ever clear, that some characters are more real and some are more fabrications of what some characters might've been once upon a time.

I feel like I'm playing Clue, holding a couple of room cards, Mr. Green and the Candlestick when I Suggest that Lynch had a chapter in his life a lot like the director in the movie and is probably the most realistic element. I also Suggest that Betty is less real than Diane and Rita of course was never anything more than a blow on the head of Camille. They're all some kind of dead, but you can't tell for sure because the biggest clue in the whole flick is at the Silencio where one thing is made very clear: its all an illusion. I'm not giving anything away here since if you haven't seen the show it won't make any sense and it might not help if you have. The fact that Lynch can put together something on film that makes you think in circles and tangents like Mulholland Drive does demonstrates that he's the GrandMaster of the mindfuck. Memento, although quite different, is the only movie I can think of that puts your head in a similarly whirling place but I prefer Mulholland for its imagery.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/MulhollandNaomiLaura.jpg[/img]

[b]"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" could've been playing here, but maybe that's too much 50's.[/b]

Speaking of imagery if there ever was a lesbo love scene that could titillate the most square of the straight it is the one in Mulholland Drive. Call it whatever you like but when Naomi Watts and Laura Harring discover their mutual attraction, made easier at the time because they're already mostly nude, Naomi & Harring are variations of a Sailor's Dream and together they make quite a pair.

Platoon
Platoon(1986)
½

One thing in common that all the Vietnam War movies that I've seen is how they zero in on the physical and mental trauma of the frontline soldiers. Everything from the extreme discomfort of combat in the tropics to the sheer terror of being in a war zone where you trust no one. Platoon probably does this part best of all. I could relate to Taylor (Charlie Sheen) right from the beginning, ready to pass out from the heat, the bugs and the psychic load of knowing that you volunteered for this shit.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/PlatoonSheen.jpg[/img]

Excluding the few veterans that re-up for reasons known mostly to themselves, the typical grunt in Taylor's platoon counts the days until he can get the hell out. In between jungle firefights with an enemy they can barely see they do fun things like clean out latrines and dig foxholes. A fair number of them smoke dope, a lot of dope, including Lerner (Johnny Depp) in one his early minor roles. Marijuana's popularity in the USA took off during the Vietnam era.

So that part is done really well, probably because Oliver Stone did a Vietnam tour himself. The rest of it is a bit fuzzier on the reality meter.

All in all Platoon is an excellent war movie, my 3rd favorite Vietnam movie, and Best Picture in 1986 if that matters.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I really like the series overall but they are not equally cool. Raiders is the best by a healthy margin, while I like Temple of Doom more than some do and Last Crusade less than some others.


[b]Raiders of the Lost Ark (9.7/10)[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

The opening sequence (darts, traps, ball and all)

The 'woohoo' feel of tracking down a major Biblical artifact.

Exotic nature of Cairo/Egypt (Partly Tunisia, but what the hell)

Some of the best chase scenes in moviedom.

authentic replicas of WWII gear

[u]Didn't Like[/u]

Indy is a fortune hunter and in no way practices archaeology.

Indy's trip on the submarine is ridiculous.

[u]Overall the best and most original of the 3 with only minor lapses into silliness.[/u]



[b]Temple of Doom 8.45/10[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

The opening dance/club fight (I should watch more musicals?)

Short Round & generally the banter

The Mine Chase

The Maharajah dinner was OK

[u]Didn't Like[/u]

The voodoo bullshit with sticking pins in Indy doll

The crocodiles looked silly looking down at them.

They were fruit bats not vampire bats (don't play us for stupid)

Why would all those bugs be down there like that?

Willie was usually OK but overdid 'I broke a nail' stuff

[u]Overall a good movie but it feels thick and unappetizing during the Thuggee segment and doesn't quite get a 9/10.[/u]



[b]The Last Crusade (9.1/10)[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

Indiana's early years w/River Phoenix

The old Crusader

Der Blonde Fraulein

The antique German tank repro

Great action segments

Petra as a location of the Grail


[u]Didn't Like[/u]

Old man Jones was too frumpy

They practice Archaeology like I practice haute cuisine!

Rats just because they had to do something

The Guardians of the Grail seemed even less likely than the Old Crusader

The traps to the Grail were too techie to be medieval

Why would there be so many cups?

[u]Overall its good if a bit overrated. It comes a little too close to being a factory-made Indiana Jones movie.[/u]

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I really like the series overall but they are not equally cool. Raiders is the best by a healthy margin, while I like Temple of Doom more than some do and Last Crusade less than some others.


[b]Raiders of the Lost Ark (9.7/10)[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

The opening sequence (darts, traps, ball and all)

The 'woohoo' feel of tracking down a major Biblical artifact.

Exotic nature of Cairo/Egypt (Partly Tunisia, but what the hell)

Some of the best chase scenes in moviedom.

authentic replicas of WWII gear

[u]Didn't Like[/u]

Indy is a fortune hunter and in no way practices archaeology.

Indy's trip on the submarine is ridiculous.

[u]Overall the best and most original of the 3 with only minor lapses into silliness.[/u]



[b]Temple of Doom 8.45/10[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

The opening dance/club fight (I should watch more musicals?)

Short Round & generally the banter

The Mine Chase

The Maharajah dinner was OK

[u]Didn't Like[/u]

The voodoo bullshit with sticking pins in Indy doll

The crocodiles looked silly looking down at them.

They were fruit bats not vampire bats (don't play us for stupid)

Why would all those bugs be down there like that?

Willie was usually OK but overdid 'I broke a nail' stuff

[u]Overall a good movie but it feels thick and unappetizing during the Thuggee segment and doesn't quite get a 9/10.[/u]



[b]The Last Crusade (9.1/10)[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

Indiana's early years w/River Phoenix

The old Crusader

Der Blonde Fraulein

The antique German tank repro

Great action segments

Petra as a location of the Grail


[u]Didn't Like[/u]

Old man Jones was too frumpy

They practice Archaeology like I practice haute cuisine!

Rats just because they had to do something

The Guardians of the Grail seemed even less likely than the Old Crusader

The traps to the Grail were too techie to be medieval

Why would there be so many cups?

[u]Overall its good if a bit overrated. It comes a little too close to being a factory-made Indiana Jones movie.[/u]

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
½

I really like the series overall but they are not equally cool. Raiders is the best by a healthy margin, while I like Temple of Doom more than some do and Last Crusade less than some others.


[b]Raiders of the Lost Ark (9.7/10)[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

The opening sequence (darts, traps, ball and all)

The 'woohoo' feel of tracking down a major Biblical artifact.

Exotic nature of Cairo/Egypt (Partly Tunisia, but what the hell)

Some of the best chase scenes in moviedom.

authentic replicas of WWII gear

[u]Didn't Like[/u]

Indy is a fortune hunter and in no way practices archaeology.

Indy's trip on the submarine is ridiculous.

[u]Overall the best and most original of the 3 with only minor lapses into silliness.[/u]



[b]Temple of Doom 8.45/10[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

The opening dance/club fight (I should watch more musicals?)

Short Round & generally the banter

The Mine Chase

The Maharajah dinner was OK

[u]Didn't Like[/u]

The voodoo bullshit with sticking pins in Indy doll

The crocodiles looked silly looking down at them.

They were fruit bats not vampire bats (don't play us for stupid)

Why would all those bugs be down there like that?

Willie was usually OK but overdid 'I broke a nail' stuff

[u]Overall a good movie but it feels thick and unappetizing during the Thuggee segment and doesn't quite get a 9/10.[/u]



[b]The Last Crusade (9.1/10)[/b]

[u]What I liked[/u]

Indiana's early years w/River Phoenix

The old Crusader

Der Blonde Fraulein

The antique German tank repro

Great action segments

Petra as a location of the Grail


[u]Didn't Like[/u]

Old man Jones was too frumpy

They practice Archaeology like I practice haute cuisine!

Rats just because they had to do something

The Guardians of the Grail seemed even less likely than the Old Crusader

The traps to the Grail were too techie to be medieval

Why would there be so many cups?

[u]Overall its good if a bit overrated. It comes a little too close to being a factory-made Indiana Jones movie.[/u]

Jaws
Jaws(1975)

The preeminent summer movie, Jaws can still make me squirm at key moments, starting with Chrissie's Last Swim

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/JawsTastySnack.jpg[/img]

[b]A tasty midnight snack![/b]

Who cares that sharks aren't vindictive, usually take a bite of us and spit it out, and generally don't care about us. Just the idea of a huge creature with a gaping maw full of sharp teeth can come up and chomp on us and drag us down is enough for most flee in panic out of the water when someone yells "Shark"!.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/JawsPond.jpg[/img]

[b]Even the pond isn't safe![/b]

After a few meals of human flesh the giant Great White finally totally scares the crap out of the town fathers who normally bother the Police Chief about piddley stuff like illegal parking and broken fences and of course tourist dollars. The last half of the movie is the duel with the shark in open water.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/JawsBiggerBoat.jpg[/img]

[b]The Chief is about to say "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"[/b]

What follows is some great on-the-edge-of-your-seat action. The Police Chief (Roy Scheider) is the landlubber but the most sensible of the trio. Robert Shaw was great as the old salty shark hunter.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/JawsShouldaGotBigger.jpg[/img]


[b]He should've gotten a bigger boat![/b]

The shark isn't actually onscreen that much. Its most believeable in the underwater passes.

From the opening low-strumming Jaws music theme to the very end of the movie Jaws remains a terror classic.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)

For mood and atmosphere nothing Sci Fi beats Blade Runner. Except for a little leanness in humanity, this adaptation of 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' is as good as science fiction gets.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/BRunner2019.jpg[/img]

[b]2019 is a little soon for this vision of LA, but it could be sometime.[/b]

The world is overpopulated and the gov't offers new life in offworld colonies. But its dangerous out there so man creates replicants, short-lived but strong humanoids. A few of these escape back to Earth, and a call to the Blade Runner (Ford) is made.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/BRunnerTyrell.jpg[/img]

[b]Tyrell Corporation headquarters. Another masterpiece of imagery.[/b]

A Blade Runner 'retires' replicants, he doesn't kill them. His search for them, and their search for more life are the core of the story.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/BRunnerMoralAbuses.jpg[/img]

[b]"Hello, I'm from the Committee on Moral Abuses. Are you or your snake being exploited?"[/b]

Sci fi gimmickry works best when it is seamlessly interjected into the story, as it is in Blade Runner. Hover Cars, Clones, Rocket Pistols all just fit in.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/BRunnerSebastian.jpg[/img]

[b]Sebastians menagerie. He's got a lot of cool toys at the Bradbury Hotel![/b]

The Blade Runner's hunt and Replicant's search inevitably collide, but the results would make anyone question just what the hell we're doing to them and ourselves.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/BRunnerRoyDie.jpg[/img]

[b]Roy has seen the stars and space battles, all lost like tears in the rain. One of the best death scenes ever.[/b]

You have to wonder why they're not making movies like Blade Runner. There's very little contemporary cinema that can stand up to it.

The Gift
The Gift(2000)

A Southern Suspense/Mystery/Horror/Thriller with a look generally similar to the more recent Skeleton Key. This is a better if predictable story with superior acting, its major fault giving away too much too soon, with clues you could trip over.

Blanchett demonstrates again that she's the best actress around. She's very believeable as a Southern USA reader or seer, who's waking dreams resolve into juxtaposed puzzles of the near future. Recently devastated by her husband's death, she gets mentally abused by the Keanu Reeves' character, whose hobbies include womanizing, wife beating and making terrorist threats.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TheGiftNudingHolmes.jpg[/img]

[b]Kate's character is in contact with the recently deceased in this waking dream. No actual actresses were used in this scene.[/b]

It was interesting that they painted the ability to read, or see, as almost a curse, since such a special power evokes violent superstitious reactions or total ridicule and disbelief. Kate does a great job as the humble widowed mother of 3 continuing her practice in a world full of Gomers. The acting elevates this movie. I wouldn't call it scary but there were a couple of jump-out-my-seat moments.

The DVD looked just fine and had a little bit of audio ommph now and again. Extras include some backslapping interviews, a trailer and video "Furnace Room Lullaby" performed by Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, which had a nice sound. The DVD gets a 7/10

V for Vendetta
½

This is real close to a low 10. I'm not sure why, but I can't quite get it up there.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/VForVendetta.jpg[/img]

I never read the V comics. The movie is a swirling mix of 1984, Beauty and the Beast, a dash of Zorro and few bytes of the Matrix in its' look and feel. I don't know quite what to think of the political angle, but I was glad to see all those 'Vs' at the end. Great action, some gripping scenes, good work by Portman and extraordinary delivery by Hugo Weaving make this a movie you could watch more than once.

The DVD was the single disc version. It looked and sounded terrific. There's a fairly short making of doc but that's about it for extras. The DVD gets an 8/10.

The Seven Year Itch

While I watched this I kept thinking 'OK I just want to see her one more time.' Then the movie was over. The funny thing about MM is that most of the pics of her don't really do her justice. More than anything she looks overdone, fake, which could've also been the way they presented her. She had drop dead good looks, but you have to pay attention. Once seen you'd be just like Tom Ewell in this flick, totally whacked out by this female force of nature that arrived at his doorstep.

The movie is amusing, but 50 year-old dialog and exchanges do show their age. If you can get past its antiquity, its a cute show with some laughs. Tom Ewell had the part down pat after doing it on stage a million times and his imagined romantic interludes with the Marilyn Monroe character are fun to watch. Marilyn was good at comedy and this is the flick with the famous pose of her airlifted skirt. I wish I could've been her hands :p

24 - Season 4
½

Previously on 24...


Jack Bauer -"I'm glad I left CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit)

Audrey -"I think I'm falling in love with you, Jack"

Jack- "I know"


Before you know it, though, Jack is sucked back into it, kicking terrorist ass!
Jack rescues his boss and Audrey, who just happens to be the bosses' daughter.

Datarush- "Jack, I have to ask you a few questions"

Jack- "I don't have much time"

Datarush -"You never do, Jack. Always on the go. It took you what, 1 1/2 episodes to get your CTU replacment killed?"

Jack -"He made the wrong call. Arrest the terrorist!? Jeesh! We had to follow his ass to find my kidnapped boss"

Datarush -"So you're not employed by CTU?"

Jack- "I'm just provisional"

Datarush -"You busted up that plot for sure, good work, Jack!"

Audrey -"Oh Jack I thought we were gonna die!"

Jack -"Not on my watch!"

Audrey- "Just wait til I get you alone (hover, cling, grope)"

Jack -"Later. I gotta find that Dobson Device!"

Later on, after Jack finds the Dobson, gets ambushed, breaks the codes and generally is the only person that can save the Free World, I catch up to him..

Datarush- "Wow that was close! The whole country almost needed a sunblock with an SPF of 95 million!"

Jack- "My buddy Tony saved our butts"

Datarush -"Ya its great to see him back too. Great writing on the action segments"

Jack- "What? Segments? Me and my buds save the world and you think its just a story?"

Datarush- "Nevermind. That psychodrama at CTU headquarters is something else"

Jack- "No kidding. That's why I'm in field ops. Its like a soap opera down there."

Audrey arrives.- "Jack, can we talk about my feelings?"

Jack- "Later, honeybunny. I'm going undercover with Dina, er, you know, to infiltrate the terrorists."

Audrey gives him a long pensive 'this affair won't last the season' look.

Datarush- "Can I go with you jack?"

But Jack never hears.


Still later, I catch up to Jack

Datarush -"Just how did you travel 43 miles in 18 minutes on the LA freeways at rush hour?"

Jack- "Thats classified information"

Datarush- "Did CTU pick up some Star Trek Teleporters on eBay?"

Jack- "Skip it. If those clowns at CTU headquarters would just get off their pissy little personal problems, I coulda save the President!"

Datarush -"It must be frustrating. The President!? He's still alive, right?"

Jack -"Audrey's husband wouldn't talk so I had to torture him to get a lead."

Data -"Omigosh! What does Audrey think about that?"

Audrey walks up- "You tortured my husband?!"

Jack- "The wire was UL approved lamp cord!"

Audrey -"I could smell his skin burning, goddamit!"

Jack- "I did it for my country, and I asked you to leave"

Audrey- "I'm leaving alright!"

Jack shows up a little later. Its never much later since he never has more than 24 hours.

Datarush- "Hell Jack, the terrorists have one of our nuclear missiles!"

Jack- "Its a big one too. Milions of lives depend on me, and Audrey went berserk just because I forced the doctor to fix that Chinese guy so I could find out where the missile is."

Datarush- "Ya but he was operating on her husband and you forced him at gunpoint to fix the Chinese guy instead."

Jack- "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"

Datarush- "Hey that's Spock talk. I just knew CTU was buying Star Trek stuff on eBay!"

Enter Audrey. -"You bastard. You killed my husband!"

Jack- "That Chinese guy was our only lead!

Audrey- "Asshole!"

Jack- "Bitch!"

Datarush- "I still love you, Jack"

Jack- "Don't even think about going there!"

Cleopatra
Cleopatra(1963)
½

Full of pomp and circumstance and telling a story that goes on and on, this Cleopatra is Hollywood's most epic of the epics. Costing something like $500 million in today's dollars, it didn't break even for years.

With full scale sets beyond compare and a highly paid cast, you can see where at least some the $$$ went. But does anyone care about the tale of the last of the Egyptian/Greek rulers by the end of the movie?

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/CleopatraRecline.jpg[/img]

[b]"Just relax Julius, while I seduce you."[/b]

The 1st half of the movie is best. Although later on Roddy McDowall does good work as Octavian, its the thing between Caesar and Cleopatra, with Antony waiting in the wings, that is most interesting. Battles and palace intrigue flow like wine at a royal orgy.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/CleopatraInRome.jpg[/img]

[b]Egypt comes to Rome mostly dressed, mostly in gold.[/b]

Up to the Ides of March the screen dynamics were pretty good. Burton is OK as Antony, at his best playing him like a shadow after Actium, but the 2nd half just doesn't have the power of the 1st.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/CleopatraAntonysTurn.jpg[/img]

[b]Caesar is dead. Antony takes his turn.[/b]


Taylor was a knockout at the time and they dressed her like a goddess. It worked for me. Cleopatra 1963 is required viewing for any Swords and Sandals fan.

The DVDs are excellent, with a 3rd DVD full of trivia and production info on this monster of a movie. Sound was remastered to a 5.1 mix which actually worked most of the time. The DVDs get a 9/10.

Superman
Superman(1978)
½

[color=black]This remains the primo Superman movie, with perhaps a nod to its sequel Superman II for bringing the main comic book dynamic to the screen; a battle among superbeings. But Superman The Movie sets it all up right from the beginning, establishing a basis for the sequel as well as Jor-El (Brando) launching Kal_El (baby Superman) from the doomed Krypton. The SFX are effective if impossible to match today's standard.[/color]

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/SupermanCReevesTribute.jpg[/img]

[b]Christopher Reeves' chiselled features are easy to stylize into the appearance of a superbeing.[/b]


[color=black]Reeves was also great at playing Clark Kent as a bumbling boob, with just a little too much fawning over Lois Lane.[/color]

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/SupermanValerie_perrine.jpg[/img]

[b][color=black]"Miss Teschmacher!" [/color][/b]

I prefer the flawed Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine), Lex Luthor's moll. That along with Gene Hackman's Luthor and his idiot employee Otis (Ned Beatty) make this movie a lot more fun to watch.

The DVD is an older release with the cheapie cardboard snapcase and unlabelled DVD. It looks good, though, and the sound was remastered to 5.1 and sounds excellent. The DVD gets a 7/10.

The Name of the Rose (Der Name der Rose)
½

This movie about murdered monks is full of inspired ideas on how life might have looked and gone on in the late Middle Ages. With a cast that looks handpicked for a police lineup, and Ron Perlman as a grotesque hunchback, Sean Connery and you Christian Slater stand out for being more or less ordinary.

It certainly looks realistic. I'm sure that I wouldn't want to be a monk after watching this; mostly a bunch of jealous little men twittering around. F. Murray Abraham puts in a stint as a Grand Inquisitor (with a license to torture and burn people on the stake). The acting is generally good, but the story is unconnected and wanders around, never answering questions like how the heck did the Connery and Slater characters get out of the burning library. Capturing the look of a gloomy monastic life, the filmmakers didn't know how to tell a story about them.

The DVD is pretty ordinary. There is a German docu on the movie, which was annoying since they dubbed German over the otherwise understandble English spoken on the set. The DVD can't be better than a 7/10.

Gilda
Gilda(1946)
½

Gilda is kind of a film noir and kind of a messy story, but it highlights one the screens' female legends. Even in B&W you can't miss Rita Hayworth's allure.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Gilda1.jpg[/img]

[b]"I'll dance with you so I can look at him"[/b]

Hayworth is more than just a looker. She's got so much sensuality that even those old style clothes can barely keep her bottled up. She was also a good dancer.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Gilda2.jpg[/img]

[b]Oops! Caught with his hands in the nookie jar![/b]

Her sexuality is at Battle Speed at least partly because there was real chem between her and Glenn Ford, at least on the screen. Meaningful looks and their Love/Hate relationship fuel this show. Its no wonder she was the WWII Love Goddess that all the GIs wanted to go home with. The rest of the story is pretty blah Post War paranoia stuff.

The DVD has a modicum of extras including a trailer and vintage advertising. A short featurette on Hayworth's career is worth watching. The movie looked restored. Mono sound is about all you can expect. The DVD gets an 8/10.

Firefly - The Complete Series

When I first started to watch Firefly I was reminded of the old classic computer game Elite, an open-ended game where you flew around the galaxy trading, fighting and surviving. Elite was way ahead of its time much like Firefly must've been since they barely got 14 episodes done before the studio cancelled it.

In the Firefly universe 'good dogs' are the ones they sell at the BBQ in an Old Westernized version of the future where English is interlaced with Chinese, packing a 6 Gun with an Autoloading 10mm is socially acceptable, even required when you smuggle stuff to the outer worlds to make a tidy profit.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/SerenityPoster.jpg[/img]

River, here with the blades of her trade, shows her stuff in the movie Serenity, while in Firefly she spends almost the entire time pretty messed up. This slow development and seeing the movie before I saw the series made it more interesting somehow to see how the series would lead in to the movie. It does quite well, at least the way Josh Whedon set up the series to play on DVD.

I saw a little Unforgiven in one episode, Ronin in another and Star Treg TNG in another. Not that Firefly isn't original. It is very unique with lots of backstory for the ensemble cast to work with. Watching its short run I couldn't believe its life got cut short. It had good-looking women in it too!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/FireflyWomen.jpg[/img]

When Worlds Collide
½

The phenomena of nothing but crap coming out on DVD along with the longest ever string of crappy new movies forces me to dig into the movie library to find something besides total junk to watch.

When Worlds Collide is more or less the grandfather of disaster movies, mixing sci fi with WWII military trappings much like lots of 50's movies did, right down to barracks and uniforms. Barbara Rush had more looks than the movie deserved but had only schmucks to share it onscreen with.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/BRushWorldsCollide.jpg[/img]

[b]Fiance? What fiance? Oh, this guy I'm dancing with.[/b]

This oldie went along fine until the end and the final scene had a silly cheap painting of a supposedly alien planet posing as reality. So I looked into how they could've been so crude even 50 years ago and the studio released the movie before George Pal could finish a set for it. Way to go, dumbass studio executives.

The DVD is full screen with just a trailer for extras and gets a 6/10.

Gettysburg
Gettysburg(1993)
½

Gettysburg is a pure war movie. No eve-of-battle romances. No interpersonal conflicts to get resolved. The battle on July 1-3, 1863 was recreated with great detail with a powerful cast and peopled with thousands of Civil War Reenactors. The epic sweep begins with Buford's decision to hold his cavalry at the high ground near Seminary Ridge right on through the desperate battle at Little Round Top to the doomed Pickett's Charge. This battle more than any signalled the end of Napoleonic style warfare. The weapon technology had advanced beyond tactics and led to huge casualties.

I'm not so sure that Lee was as spacy as Martin Sheen played him, but the rest of the cast was great. Its worth watching just for Jeff Daniels part as Chamberlain, but many others including Tom Berenger and Sam Elliott make it all work. Filmed on location, it really was the 'lovely ground' of the strong Union position that gave it the edge.

Gettysburg is a bit too long at over 4 hours and my only quibble even if they may have needed the time. There was a bit more commiserating amongst the generals than necessary. Don't figure on catching it during a long lunch hour. The DVD that I watched is a flipper with several interesting extras, so it can be an all day event just plowing through it all. The DVD gets an 8/10

Dune
Dune(1984)

There's only a few Sci Fi novels that reach as high as Frank Herbert's Dune. Asimov's Foundation and I Robot novels, Heinlein's Lazarus Long and Stranger in a Strange Land.

The most common cut is that it is a muddled mess, and with Lynch at the helm it may well be unfathomable unless you've read the books. The later TV miniseries is more understandable. This Dune, though, captures the drama and epic proportions of the story far better.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneEmperor3rdStageNav.jpg[/img]

[b]3rd Stage Navigator has a chat with the Emperor. The spice must flow![/b]

That is what Dune (or Arrakis) has that you can't get anywhere else. Spice; the melange that allows mutated humans to fold space in the year 10,029, give or take. The story is nominally all about control of Arrakis, but Paul Atreides is about to complicate all the clever schemes.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneAtreidesToArrakis.jpg[/img]


[b]House Atriedes on its way to Dune[/b]


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneTellMeUssul.jpg[/img]

[b]"Tell me of your home world, Ussul"[/b]

If Sean Young was my Chani, well never mind. The story moves inexorably, placing Paul Atreides in with the Fremen, the tough and durable natives of Dune. Chani, above, becomes his mate on his way to his destiny to turn the Water of Life.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneCallingTheWorm.jpg[/img]

[b]Calling the Worm[/b]

Paul adapts and leads the war against the hateful degenerate Harkonnen.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneRidingShaiHulud.jpg[/img]

[b]Riding Shai' Hulud[/b]

The studio lined up quite a few name actors for this movie, then got into endless squabbles with Lynch about which version of Dune to release. The theatrical version is best, although less understandable to the unitiated. They did at least get rid of some of the overdone talkovers found in the original release.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneAtomics.jpg[/img]

[b]Atomics![/b]

Herbert considered that in the far future atomics would be used very sparingly, such as for blowing up mountains and not directly against other humans. That's something you'll never pick up in the movies.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/DuneFeydKnifeFight.jpg[/img]

[b]Sting, er, Feyd gets into a knife fight with Paul Muad'Dib while the Emperor's daughter (Virginia Madsen) watches.[/b]

This DVD is the older release so its probably not as good as the more recent one. Still it looked and sounded good to me. Dune is required viewing for any sci fi fan.

Minority Report
½

Adding to a long string of 9/10 movies I've seen lately, Minority Report is a very sharp sci fi film. One of Spielberg's and Cruise's better movies. Whether or not crimes could ever actually be stopped because violent intent could be detected ahead of time is probably technobabble, but the apparatus developed to seize the moment of a crime about to happen and stop it is fascinating. Smart spiders, protective plants, a transportation system that gets rid of gridlock combine with lots of tension, and a little dark humor about eyeballs make this movie worth watching again. Which I did, since this is the 2nd or 3rd time I've seen it.

The supporting cast is all good but I especially liked Lois Smith as more or less the brains behind PreCrime and Colin Farrell who got to shift his character into goodguy territory before... stuff happens. I still hesitate to give it a 10 for the usual falloff at movie's end that just doesn't match up to what came before. Still its a great ride.

The DVD looks about as good as it can, mixing the real and computerized in a definitely blue-tinged world. DTS soundtracks have the best sampling and least compression issues, as a rule, so its a good thing that Minority Report has the DTS option. Lots of stuff on the 2nd disc can keep you occupied for hours. The DVD set gets an 9/10.

An American Werewolf in London
½

This film clicks in so many places it can be forgiven a few little tweaky problems. From the moment the boys get let out of the back of the sheep truck to the end there is a tension to the film that most don't have even if they try. Of course the morph from man to werewolf, the original morph that attracted SFX crew to do it one better for years, is the highlight of the show.

Acting is very good. I never saw Naughton before or after but he plays the doomed American well. Getting a nurse like Jenny Agutter to take you home with her is almost worth a bad case of lycanthropy.

The DVD has some interesting goodies. The featurette really shows how old this movie is. Styles have changed since then. Video is a bit soft and grainy while the audio is very decent for an early 80's movie. The DVD gets a 7/10.

The Legend of Hell House
½

If there's ever been any doubt of the sexual undertones of most horror films Legend of Hell House puts them to rest. They're all about sex; lustful, wanton sex with good creepy mood music.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LegendCatFog.jpg[/img]

[b]Complete with the requisite black cat (who has a role), ghastly mansion and fog.[/b]

Hell House was built by a 20th century magnate Belasco, who was last seen bricking up the windows with the guests inside. All died and Belasco was never found. 2 previous groups of investigators were almost wiped out. These 4, including the only survivor from the last group, are being well-paid to figure out what's going on.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LegendSitting.jpg[/img]

[b]Stop looking at her legs and check out that ectoplasm creeping from her fingers.[/b]

Legend... has good mood music. If it had some low frequency booming I'd be tempted to give it a low 10/10.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LegendSexPossessed.jpg[/img]

[b]She's a nice girl but is currently occupied by a horny evil spirit.[/b]

The interior is a well-done spookhouse. They'd have to pay me a lot to stay there.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LegendWantSome.jpg[/img]

[b]Yes! Right there and down a little. Would you rub it for me?[/b]

More than one doesn't make it out alive, what with vicious cat attacks, exploding instruments, falling chandeliers and crosses. Legend.. has a little British dryness to it but it still plays well.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/LegendGhostSex.jpg[/img]

[b]Ghosts can get pretty rough after not getting any for 60-70 years.[/b]

The DVD has one of those stupid promos that you can't skip. The picture looks pretty good for its age, but the soundtrack just gets by. Remastered audio could do wonders for atmosphere. The DVD gets a 6/10 for the crummy promo's evil presence.

Quest for Fire
½

Quest For Fire gets the award for Most Realistic Caveman Movie. It doesn't have a lot of competition. Clan of the Cave Bear? The rest are almost entirely goofy fantasies.

Quest For Fire does get a little goofy in its own way. In the filmmakers Quest for realism, they spent years researching likely or at least plausible behavior of people living 80,000 years ago, they wound up with a little too much ape in the mix. It gets goofy when the actors literally 'go ape'.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/QuestFireTrio.jpg[/img]

[b]Ron Perlman - 'Amoukar' leads the way searching for a Paleolithic Micky D and some hot food after a devastating attack by a squad of Neanderthals.[/b]


But that's just a small part of the flick. Most of it is really well thought-out, dealing with sex and love, sex and fat women, sex at the campfire, cannibalism, primitive weapons, a little slapstick comedy, and of course fire and how to make it or get it. The drama is very effective at times.

Orson Welles narrates a Making Of feature. Filmed in Canada, Scotland and Aftrica, the scenery is great. The actors either froze their asses off or gasped for air in the heat. The DVD looks a little soft and grainy, while the sound is pretty decent, and gets a 7/10.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth(1998)
½

This is as they say an interpretation, historical fiction that mixes fact with conjecture. Elizabeth's early years are pretty muddy so what she was leading into her ascension to the throne is open for speculation. Nonetheless, the major points are accurate for the most part and makes for a tight drama that plays a bit like a Royal Godfather, with all the palace intrigue, plots and murders. Costumes are sumptuous and the castles are impressive.

Its also Kate Blanchett's breakout role. Watching, and almost as important, listening to her, you can see why she's so highly regarded. You can really believe that she is Elizabeth, strong-willed as her father Henry VIII, and a more dedicated sovereign never existed. She married England, sort of.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Elizabeth1998.jpg[/img]

[b]This is what happens to you when you marry a country![/b]

Luckily, this was the end of the movie. Before that she still looked like Kate Blanchett

The DVD is the older release (if there is a newer post 1998 version). It has excellent video and sound, with a featurette that goes on and on. The DVD gets an 8/10.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)
½

About 1/3 into the movie, this King Kong becomes a nonstop elephant stampede that doesn't end until the big ape gets it in the end.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/NaomiKong.jpg[/img]

[b]Kong got a little rough on their first date![/b]

I liked this version's leadup to the arrival at Skull Island, the tramp steamer, they way they portrayed Skull Island and the savages that lived there. The dinosaur action was a bit overdone, but Naomi and Kong hit it off really well after some initial friction, easily topping previous attempts to have a meaningful interaction between beauty and beast. I thought Naomi was especially good in this movie, as well as Serkis as the motion-captured Kong. As usual I was pulling for the ape to get away somehow.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/KingKongNaomiLiz.jpg[/img]

[b]Watch it buster! I'm already hooked up with King Kong![/b]

The DVD video and sound is spectacular. This was the single disc version with no extras, but for what it does it gets a 9/10.

The Maltese Falcon
½

They didn't know they were doing film-noir at the time, and MF doesn't quite have the dramatic chiaroscuro of later works like Out of the Past, but it set the table first with a tough guy gumshoe, a deceiving femme fatale and a supporting cast of lowlifes all out for their slice of the pie, or bird in this case.

Bogart is the man! Very average in size, his persona dominated any scene that he was in.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/MalteseFalcon.jpg[/img]

[b]"It's gonna hurt ratting you out, but you've gotta do something about that messy mascara running all over the place"[/b]

Filmed in 4:3 that was typical for the day, this movie plays well on any size screen. Video and audio just get the job done. The DVD gets a 7/10.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I had trouble with the kids in this movie. Maybe its because I just went to Disneyland and am currently sick of the spoiled, smelly, noisy things. I don't know. Except for little Georgie the kids are completely disposable. Of course the core of the movie is about 4 kids rescuing and ruling Narnia so not caring for the kids makes it hard to like the movie.

Somehow I manage. I entertained myself by noticing how many fantasy creatures in Narnia are in my favorite strategy game. Quite a few are in it, in fact, and all are well done and look good on the screen. Of course Tilda Swinton as the White Witch is excellent. She really looked like she could've wrung Edmund's neck. I wish she would've slapped him silly anyway. Its a kids story and in that respect it does well, carefully avoiding any signs or blood or other consequences of violence per the Disney Code.

The DVD is just great-looking, and has a DTS soundtrack for your enjoyment. A modicum of extras on the single disc version get the DVD up to a 9/10.

Lust for Life

When I was in college I had a couple of Van Gogh posters, Starry Night and Cornfield, on my wall. I'm not a total fan of all his works but his heavy brushwork impressed me as the real content. This guy, I thought, painted with a lot of intensity.

You have to think after considering his short painful life that his style and works just aren't a possible outcome from a normal mind. He painted the world in his lucid moments as seen through the eyes a human spirit on fire. He was probably bipolar, and like many true artists he lived much of his life alone with his artistry.

I wasn't sure Kirk Douglas would be so great in this role but he pulled it off quite well. Not the usual no-bs-man-of-action role that he played most often. Anthony Quinn is also good as is the rest of the cast. A lot of effort went in to finding extras and locales that look very much like what Van Gogh saw and painted. The movie itself plods, possibly a matter of perception, watching a slower-paced 50 year old movie. One of the best elements are the many Van Goghs' that get on the screen.

The audio is strictly mono and the video transfer is blah on this recent DVD release, a pity considering that the Van Gogh palette is way more vivid than the wishy-washy colors onscreen. Just a trailer and a commentary fill out the DVD, which gets a 7/10.

Downfall (Der Untergang)
½

This is one of the most grindingly realistic war dramas ever made. Probably because they are examining their own souls, the Germans make WWII themed movies better than anyone.

Downfall centers on the final few days of Adolf Hitler's life in the bunker while Berlin was put in a stranglehold by the advancing Russians. Growing more delusional by the day, Hitler retained enough sanity to blow his brains out before being captured. His dark departure still wasn't enough to still some fanatical Nazis who continued to do terrible things right up to being captured.

I don't think Hitler was crazy until near the end. At least not in the usual sense of someone that needs meds and/or therapy. The original bunch of Nazis weren't demons or space aliens, they were human and all the more scary. If Adolf hadn't fallen for his own hype of Aryan invincibility and waste his Wehrmacht in Mother Russia, we might all be doing the goosestep. The inspiration for the vilest epithets today, the real Hitler was capable of swaying millions of people to unswerving loyalty to his cause, even though most of those converts didn't actually get the whole story on what his cause was.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/HitlerDownfall.jpg[/img]


Its difficult to watch some of Downfall. Its definitely worth the time but I'll probably never watch it again. The screen exudes the morose deathly atmosphere of the bunker. The acting is fantastic all around but be prepared for subtitles unless you Sprechen sie Deutsch. I have to say that it did seem to go on a bit too long, but thats the extent what could've been better about Downfall.

There was more action in Downfall than I expected, and it has exceptional Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and expert use of the subwoofer. Video is very clean but heavy on the greens and blues, intentional no doubt to pound home the overall depressing yet horrific message. The extras include cast interviews and quite a long narrative on the actual characters in the movie as told by the actors that portray them. The DVD gets an 8/10.

Star Trek: The Original Series - Season Three
½

Who today would have the nerve to crank out sci fi episodes with almost no effects budget, using blinking lights for spaceships, smearing glop on people for makeup, dime store wigs and skanky junk jewelry? They had nerve back then, and the 10PM Friday night time slot, so no one was watching what they were up to.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3KlingonAtHiDef.jpg[/img]

[b]Star Trek had HiDef screens first![/b]

But Star Trek also got a lot of women with nice legs in miniskirts. Maybe it was so they saved on material, or how they decided on casting, but i liked the way they creep up to the upper thigh when they sit down hehe. Could that style even work at all now with all the fatsos around?? The imagery of fat-creased legs bobbing along isn't a pretty one. Cheesy costumes yes but at least they meant well.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3GreenRoughedUp.jpg[/img]

[b]Green women always get the men up to no good, spacesuits etc...![/b]

"Spock, the Vulcan Mind Meld."
"Very well, Captain."
Ya of course. Its well established that the Mind Meld solves all kinds of problems. In the case of the "Day of the Gun" it convinces our crew that they really haven't been made into Swiss cheese by the Earps at the OK Corral.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3KirkMouthMouth.jpg[/img]

[b]Everyone has skills. Here Kirk demonstrates his talent with the natives.[/b]

[b][img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3NavelTraining.jpg[/img][/b]

[b]Chekov applies for Navel Training.[/b]

The 3rd Season does have a few crummy episodes, best seen when slightly drunk or falling asleep. "And the Children Shall Lead" is probably the poorest, while "The Way to Eden" is so cringingly hippiefied only belted Trekkies can stand to watch it. I don't include "Spock's Brain" because its so much at the caliber of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" it deserves special notice. I think the cast was gagging on their lines. I'm sure Kelley (McCoy) was laughing when he was pretending to remote control the brainless Spock's body, and he turned away from the camera so you couldn't see it. This was the 1st episode of the 3rd season, and may have been the last for a chunk of the already small Friday night audience.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3McCoyBrainBoost.jpg[/img]

[b]McCoy needs all the synapses he can get to reconnect Spock's Brain![/b]

Aliens taking over the ship/crew, plague/disease threatening millions, cast members disappearing all the time, exploding suns/worlds and combinations of the above are too common premises. The 3rd season is the weakest, with an even smaller budget and no standout episode. Even so they still managed to export current issues to the Star Trek universe for exposition. Racism, religious dogma, overpopulation and caste systems get the Star Trek treatment. 'Requiem for Methuselah' is a goodun, even if Kirk acts like a total twit. It reminded me of Heinlein's 'Time Enough for Love' tale of a man that lives for thousands of years. "All Our Yesterdays" is another good time travel episode and one of a few where Spock gets the woman.

The 3rd Season DVD set has two versions of the original pilot, The Cage. The original version has chunks of B&W of scenes that did not make the revised and restored version. They are mostly of dated effects and what amounts to deleted scenes. Narratives by surviving cast and crew and text commentaries for a few episodes round out the 7 disc set. TOS never looked or sounded better and even has an LFE effect now and then to give your subwoofer something to do. Woohah!

The 3rd Season gets the least play in reruns simply because they tend to start out with the 1st year and sometimes break it off before they play them all out. I didn't recognize a couple of these. I couldn't see any sign that the cast knew the show was cancelled, but that already happened to them after the 2nd year, so even if they knew it might not have had much impact. Who can say what would've come up as an episode if they had finished their 5 year mission?

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3ScottyICanna.jpg[/img]

[b]"I canna give you Warp Drive, Captain! The Dilithium Crystals are fused!"[/b]


TOS dealt interjected a lot of issues of the day and that is one of the reasons
it retains a certain popularity. It was the first of its kind; not just on a 5 year mission to stay in production, but a mission to put perspective on difficult problems and wrap them in a gloss of sci-fi. Almost 10 years after its cancellation and years of syndication, the 'Star Trek II' series was on the eve of production when the success of Star Wars motivated the money men to switch it into a major motion picture, but that is another story.

May this classic series continue to live long and prosper.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS3CrewOnBridge.jpg[/img]

The Aviator
The Aviator(2004)
½

Of these 4, I enjoyed watching Lord of War most. There is a message in this movie. Prodigal Son has some great Kung Fu but there's too many ugly people in it pathetically attempting to be funny. Aviator is a good promo to make a Katherine Hepburn biopic starring Cate Blanchett. Who knows maybe they'll figure that out. Aviator has other good stuff, like a beautiful Beckinsale but I just didn't care to watch Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) get weird. It wasn't DiCaprio's fault, but it wasn't entertainment. Cinderella Man mischaracterizes like crazy to create drama. Otherwise it was sort of a Seabiscuit kind of story.

Cinderella Man

Of these 4, I enjoyed watching Lord of War most. There is a message in this movie. Prodigal Son has some great Kung Fu but there's too many ugly people in it pathetically attempting to be funny. Aviator is a good promo to make a Katherine Hepburn biopic starring Cate Blanchett. Who knows maybe they'll figure that out. Aviator has other good stuff, like a beautiful Beckinsale but I just didn't care to watch Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) get weird. It wasn't DiCaprio's fault, but it wasn't entertainment. Cinderella Man mischaracterizes like crazy to create drama. Otherwise it was sort of a Seabiscuit kind of story.

Lord of War
Lord of War(2005)
½

Of these 4, I enjoyed watching Lord of War most. There is a message in this movie. Prodigal Son has some great Kung Fu but there's too many ugly people in it pathetically attempting to be funny. Aviator is a good promo to make a Katherine Hepburn biopic starring Cate Blanchett. Who knows maybe they'll figure that out. Aviator has other good stuff, like a beautiful Beckinsale but I just didn't care to watch Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) get weird. It wasn't DiCaprio's fault, but it wasn't entertainment. Cinderella Man mischaracterizes like crazy to create drama. Otherwise it was sort of a Seabiscuit kind of story.

The Prodigal Son

Of these 4, I enjoyed watching Lord of War most. There is a message in this movie. Prodigal Son has some great Kung Fu but there's too many ugly people in it pathetically attempting to be funny. Aviator is a good promo to make a Katherine Hepburn biopic starring Cate Blanchett. Who knows maybe they'll figure that out. Aviator has other good stuff, like a beautiful Beckinsale but I just didn't care to watch Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) get weird. It wasn't DiCaprio's fault, but it wasn't entertainment. Cinderella Man mischaracterizes like crazy to create drama. Otherwise it was sort of a Seabiscuit kind of story.

Dark Water
Dark Water(2005)
½

The dreary, rainy weather reminded me of this extra wet/cool spring we're having in Calif and suited this dreary movie. A woman (Connelly) with issues and a hostile divorcing husband has to find a cheap nice place to live in NYC. This oxymoron is unsolveable and so she finds a cheap place to live just outside town, a horrible-looking prison of a complex. Complete with old drab paint, she's promised a new coat of paint, etc.. She gets a new coat of the same drab paint that would depress anyone. Her young daughter initiallly hates the place but suddenly changes her mind after an unattended visit to the rooftop. So as this little story plods on it becomes apparent that weird stuff goes on inside this craptacular building.

Until the filmmakers shove it in your face, the only sure things are that the building has the worst plumbing in the world, leaks like hell and has a haunted laundry room. There's a few moments of suspense that are telegraphed way ahead so there's hardly a surprise at all, except why anyone would stay once the dirty water starts.

Connelly does well with what she's got to work with, but she's borderline emaciated and really oughta get some meat back on her bones. The show would've done better with more of Tim Roth and a head slap or two to the prick husband (Scott). If you're in the mood to be mildy spooked while being depressed this is a good choice.

The Skeleton Key
½

Skeleton Key starts off as sort of a modernized Nancy Drew novel, with Kate Hudson as the youngish female who never found a door that she won't open so she can snoop around. Once her inquiring mind is established its a sure thing that she'll get to the bottom of whatever problems she encounters. In this case its at the top in the attic of a Southern Antebellum plantation home. She takes on hospice work for the supposedly terminal man of the house (John Hurt) who manages to evoke a lot of emotion in a virtually nonspeaking role. As the story moves on it may be that his wife (Gena Rowlands) may not have his best interests in mind, and almost meets her match as the Hudson character zeroes in on the situation.

The story is a bunch of voodoo/hoodoo mumbo jumbo and about as believeable as reading chicken entrails. Visually interesting and technically well-done, the movie is also salvaged by good acting. Had the actual story been more gripping this could've been a high strung little drama with a big helping of Southern backwoods hokum.

Battlestar Galactica - Season 1
½

Its theory that about 70,000 years ago Mount Toba in Sumatra had the mother of all volcanic eruptions, and earth had a 6 year volcanic winter. The result is that modern humans are descendents of the 40,000 or so survivors. A real genetic bottleneck. Genetics doesn't prove this particular event as the cause, but the bottleneck is there and increased odds for variations in the population.

Battlestar Galactica has almost nothing in common with this scenario. But its curious that there are about 40,000 survivors in spaceships after a massive Cylon nuclear strike that kills almost everyone. The survivors aren't likely to develop advanced stone tools in a huge population explosion afterwards, but they've found Tilium, the fuel of the fleet, and just like us they've organized a government and are bickering about every goddam thing. This group of 40,000 is now looking for the mythical Earth to get a new start.

I had no trouble engaging the story. I watched 2-4 episodes a pop; its a good sign when you start considering whether you have the time to watch 'one more episode'. I squeezed another Battlestar episode in more than once, and was sorry that there weren't more. The episodes pretty much stick to the main thread and rarely go off it for very long. Its good drama in a Sci Fi setting, with a heap of paranoia once its discovered that the Cylons can look like people and you know who some of them are. Cylons are a robotic race originally created by humans but are now intractable enemies.

13 episodes seems a bit light to be called a season, but with the miniseries its quite a bit of Battlestar Galactica. An excellent season finale convinced me that its one of the best made TV shows going with good production values. I recommend it to anyone with even a mild interest in Sci Fi with a large chunk of human drama.

I've seen some these episodes before on Sci Fi Channel. After watching them in 16:9 on a progressive DVD I don't think I could stand watching those fuzzy 4:3 Sci Fi signals, they look that much better. Also the sound is wonderful, from the opening melancholy horn to the militant end credits, with plenty of LFE as needed during the action segments. Disc 5 has a fair amount of extras including a Making Of docu and some mildly interesting deleted scenes. The DVD set gets an 8/10.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/CapricaArrow.jpg[/img]

[b]Directions to Earth. The arrow points the way, if you can read it.[/b]

My Battlestar Season One promo audio inspired by Cello Girl -

[url="http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/MyBattlestar.wav"]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/MyBattlestar.wav[/url]

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Visually the most stunning yet of the series, Goblet of Fire had some good moments and some bad moments. The good ones, like the duel with the dragon and the underwater scene, are almost routinely plentiful. The audience must be getting spoiled; CGI it is, but its damn good CGI in very creative scenes.

There's a few clunky moments, mostly involving the adult cast who frequently act like boobs. Its their lines, they can't help it. They show more of the Weaslty twins this time, but they don't really do anything. Its like someone decided "Lets get those cute twins in the shots". So they do but then what? Nothing happens.

They do always manage to bring in a strong guest actor. This time its Brendan Gleeson, who's become quite a character actor, and his Madeye Moody is quite a character. If you had that eye of his you wouldn't need anything else for a costume.

The trio is growing up. If they're going to do all the books they better hurry up.



[b]The trio in younger, more innocent days.[/b]

A History of Violence
½

I'm not a violent man. I never get in fights. I sometimes think about kicking the snot out of deserving creatures that pass for humans, however, and this flick is a good vehicle to exploit that latent ultraviolence. Tom (Viggo) is the mild-mannered coffee shop owner that just wants to pour you a cup of coffee and get along, until he isn't when some real nasties show up. He appears to channel an inner badass that no one else knew about and deals with the scum like a shortorder shit on a shingle. When he's the ordinary hero who gets his 15 minutes of fame, even worse badasses show up in town, and they know all about that inner bad mutha fucka of his.

[img]http://www.exclaim.ca/images/a_history_of_violence.jpg[/img]

[b]"I'm a man of piece. This piece is a 9 millimeter"[/b]

Its so common anymore for the 1st half of a movie to be much better than the 2nd it must be an evil Hollywood plot. History... continues this unwanted trend, except for the scene where that inner badass gets channeled for some stairway sex. I'm not gonna stick my head in a noose and say women lust for wild sex with violent men, but Tom/Joey's wife got a pretty good angle on it.


[img]http://z.about.com/d/movies/1/0/V/p/5/ahistoryofviolencepubc.jpg[/img]

[b]I love you, Tom, but when I dress up like a cheerleader, you're Joey![/b]

The DVD is up to snuff. Its got good audio and video with some pretty good extras, including quite a few backstage scene setup and practice and deleted scenes. It gets an 8/10.

Walk the Line

I always associate the song Walk the Line with a movie called I Walk the Line, which is understandable since it was its theme. The movie was a soso Gregory Peck movie but it was probably the first time I paid much attention to a Johnny Cash song.

[img]http://www.undercover.com.au/pics/junecartercashjohnnycash60s.jpg[/img]

Besides Walk the Line, another favorite of mine was A Boy Named Sue. Cash did have a sense of humor that was mostly missing in the movie. I wasn't quite as sold as some with Phoenix's take on the Cash character, but it was close enough, and Witherspoon deserved the Oscar for such a great vibe she added to any scene she was in.

There was a lot of drama in their lives but it comes off a little heavy and the movie goes on too long. The movie would've been better if it didn't take itself so seriously. The stage scenes and songs are great and go a long way in making up for some of the heaviness.

The single DVD is perfectamundo for having a good picture and a DTS soundtrack, not compressed to make room for a bunch of trivial extras; instead just a trailer and some interesting deleted scenes. The DVD gets a 9/10, almost losing that score because of the craptacular ads that can't be skipped in the beginning. I hate that!

Logan's Run
Logan's Run(1976)
½

In 2274, a Utopian future society has built their city within a dome. Divided by dress into shades of green and red, they can spend their entire lives doing nothing, partying, sex and silly games. The fly in the soup is that an entire life is 30 years.

And then the crystal implanted into the palm of their hand blinks red. Time for them to go to Carousel where they are enveloped in a force field and levitate to a crowd cheering them to..



[img]http://www.stomptokyo.com/img-m1/logans-run2.jpg[/img]
[b]"Renew!"[/b]

They don't mean renew their magazine subscriptions either, but get a new life. Everyone wants to believe they do. Get renewed, that is, although no one can point to anyone that has. There's a sneaking suspicion among some that no one renews, they just die. These turn into Runners, which are hunted by Sandmen such as the hero Logan. Logan's a happy enough fellow, with booze, sex and killing all coming pretty easy. But Central forces Logan to become a runner, and so the title.

[img]http://www.cylon.org/images/films/logan-200web.jpg[/img]

[b]"There is no Sanctuary!"[/b]

Logan's Run gets a boost with good acting. Besides York, Jordan and Agutter, there's Peter Ustinov as the quirky old man. Living in the Capitol Building with a horde of cats, he's living proof that life can go way past 30 and still be charming in a futzy way. This is a good sci-fi story that Hollywood can barely remember how to make.

[img]http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/thumb/b/b7/300px-JennyAgutterLogansRun.jpg[/img]

[b]"Take me with you, Logan!"[/b]


They used miniatures for the City where today it would be CGI. Its kind of cool in a 60's Disney style. Considering its age, the effects are OK. They did really well making future tech obscure enough so it looked like magic, although communication devices were bulky. The large buildings' shoots were done in large buildings in Texas. The Island pretty much lifted its look from Logan's Run.

The DVD actually has a behind-the-scenes short on the movie. They must've been doing a TV promo to attract an audience. The video and audio are very decent for a venerable movie, and the DVD gets an 8/10.

I'd just like to know where that old man got the idea to give cats 3 names like my family always has?

The Island
The Island(2005)

This is not an original story. There's been several variations of the 'Clones are grown for body parts, then they find out' story. Its most like Parts: The Clonus Horror but its also got some of Coma. It starts out promising enough with our heroes living very controlled lives inside a large tall building, and they dream of winning the Lottery and go to The Island, where they think life will be beautiful all the time. Lincoln Six Echo, however, questions a lot of what he sees, and the story takes off once he discovers the awful truth. Winning the Lottery is not a prize after all. The core is a pretty grim story of a future meat market where people are grown for parts and have no rights.

I liked the 1st part of The Island quite a bit, and if nothing else Michael Bay does good chase scenes. It lost me somewhere in the time where the Lincoln clone meets the real Lincoln. After that it got unrealistic, if you can measure a sci fi story in terms of reality. But it was when the Johansson character whipped out a gun in the operating room that the lights really went out. Huh? How'd she do that? The film further unravels when Sean Bean, the head bad guy, appears with a gun to shoot it out with Ewan in a now totally formula movie.

Performances were OK. Steve Buscemi puts in a fairly short support role and is always fun, right down to the kinky clothes in the closet. Ewan and Scarlett do well, but why did they have to make her a blond?? Sean Bean needs to get a little crazier.

The single disc DVD has a decent production video that shows how complicated it is to set up all those crashes. The audio and video are good and the DVD gets a 8/10.

Westworld
Westworld(1973)

Westworld is one of 3 theme settings in a fictional adult playground that includes Medieval World and Roman World. In these 'parks' customers can indulge their every whim with lifelike androids, which of course will include murder and sex about 10 seconds after the paying customers hit the pavement. This is Michael Crichton's 1st movie, and it is like many of his other stories; everything goes wrong. Hi-tech rears up and bites people in the ass, killing them for pretending to be gods. Innovative for its time, Westworld has more akin to Star Trek TOS technically than Jurassic Park, where its similar theme is matched with modern screen magic. Westworld has lots of blinking light panels to simulate massive computers at work, and the old reel tape storage whizzing away. Well hell it was 1973.

[img]http://coronaeborealis.w.interia.pl/westworld.jpg[/img]

[b]"Let's fill him up with helium so he sounds like a chipmunk!"[/b]

Yul Brynner is the most interesting part of this show. Looking much like his Magnificent Seven character, he's an android that won't quit. He's always coming back for another quickdraw gunfight with the Richard Benjamin and James Brolin characters, only to get gunned down again. But then he gets faster... He also does well when he looks with wonder at new things, as if he wants to ask 'What the hell is that?'.

The DVD is pretty barebones; in a cardboard snapcase with a 4:3 version on one side and the widescreen on the other. Extras are nonexistent except for a trailer. The DVD gets a 7/10 for a decent nonanamorphic picture and basic sound.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
½

Things I learned from Curse of the Were-Rabbit:

-Rube Goldberg lives on in the minds of Aardman

-Don't do brain alterations with a rabbit in your helmet

-You too can grow giant vegetables in your backyard!

-A really smart dog can save your ass

-Always show an interest in a woman's produce

[img]http://www.geekroar.com/wp-content/wg_diet.jpg[/img]

[b]A lovely dish of produce for Wallace the Cheese Junkie[/b]

March of the Penguins
½

Chilly Willy was the 1st penguin that I ever saw; a cartoon character a bit like Tweety Bird without a cage and liked to eat fish. A goofy character that would not fit with an extreme breeding group like the Emperor Penguins. Sliding and waddling for miles across a icy Daliesque landscape, every 4 years these sturdy birds mate and then walk around for months with an egg balanced on the top of their feet, huddled like a rugby players in a scrum against a killer cold. It must be a helluva big deal, that egg.

[img]http://www.cinematical.com/images/2005/06/EmperorArrivalLine.jpg[/img]

Antarctica is so hostile I wondered if these penguins have been going there for longer than they've been penguins; like its the ancestral home back when it was a home. They definitely have it to themselves most of the time. Personally, I'm glad I'm not an Emperor Penguin.

The DVD has a docu on the docu that is almost as good as the main show. The 2 Frenchmen that did most of the filming went through an ordeal themselves to get this made. This is where they show some penguins trapped in crevices, but there were quite a few and difficult rescue prospects. As it was the crew almost died in a whiteout. The Crittercam was fun too. The DVD looks and sounds quite good considering the filming conditions and gets a 9/10 also.

Danny the Dog

The premise of a man being raised as an attack dog isn't so far-fetched. I think with some early intervention one of my neighbors could've been one of those. Maybe he just needs a collar like Danny the Dog has in Unleashed to act as an on/off switch for total attack mode.

I watched this movie mostly for the action sequences. They had to figure out the BigDog Kung Fu style for Jet Li, which is pretty wild. They didn't call it BigDog but it fits, going berserk in an organized way. No wire fu or superhero fu, just good 'ol down-to-earth bone-crunching Kung Fu expertly choreographed. There is one very good one-on-one that had to watch again :cool:

"That man can talk some serious shit."

That's what Bob Hoskins does as Uncle Bart, Danny's not-very-nice owner who uses Danny as an enforcer and makes money when he fights. I haven't seen him much since Roger Rabbit and he's a mean mutha in Unleashed, one that you hope gets a major ass kicking. He and his associates have zero sympathy for Danny and mistreat him just like they would a mutt.

Morgan Freeman and Kerry Condon play the sweet part of life that Danny discovers. Its pretty synthetic but no more so than the whole Dog thing, without getting too sappy.

The DVD has a good look and sound with the upscale DTS soundtrack. I watched the Unrated version, but I don't know what was added. The naked woman in the shower? Bart slamming the whores? There is one good docu on making the movie worth watching. The DVD also gets an 8/10.

GoodFellas
GoodFellas(1990)

The first 5 minutes of the movie make it clear that Goodfellas isn't gonna be a tasteful reserved look at organized crime. Nope, its a violent, bloody affair based on the real Henry Hill's story. Liotta and the rest of the cast make this movie as good as it is.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/GoodfellaRayL.jpg[/img]

[b]Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in appropriate wiseguy smooth criminal dress[/b]


"I've been working nights"

So says Pesci's character DeVito to his mom, after they've stopped over to pick up a shovel to bury a wiseguy that they just murdered. This line cracked me up.

"Sure, mom, I settle down with a nice girl every night, then I'm free the next morning."

Another DeVito wiseguy remark. Right through some of Bracco's narration the women of the wiseguys manage to remain somehow oblivious most of the time to their mens' thieving murderous careers. Women are almost all portrayed as classless boinks whose taste in clothes and interior decoration looks like a bad imitation of a Tim Burton caricature. Gah! Henry's wife Karen (Bracco) is smarter than the rest and gives Henry occasional hell, but she's got crappy taste too.

[img]http://a1259.g.akamai.net/f/1259/5586/1d/images.art.com/images/-/Goodfellas-Photograph-C12120110.jpeg[/img]

[b]"Did you have the Chicken n' cheese or the Big beefy?"
[/b]

Gangsters carry around bags of money like the rest of us carry groceries, even while meeting with their probation officer. Takes balls, or continuous coke-snorting. Hill turns into a total cokehead which leads to disaster.

Wiseguy has several special moments that stick with you. Digging up the stinking 6 month old corpse, Henry pistol-whipping the nasty neighbor, Karen ready to blow away Henry, and the whole sequence of Henry & associates about to get busted.

The DVD is the older version; a flipper that has split the movie to front and back. Its decent enough with a little crud or defect here and there. The more recent release is probably better. Extras are minimal. The DVD gets a 7/10

Land of the Dead

Romero has gravitas and a bigger budget for movies now. What he came up with here made me think that with just a little more edginess, a little more acting chops it'd be much like a good John Carpenter film, which is much better than a crappy John Carpenter film. Getting back to Romero, this is the best followup to the original 60s movie.

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/movie/gallery/1146962/photo_04.jpg[/img]

[b]The Zombie Fearless Leader likes to keep himself and his gun clean![/b]

If anyone is allowed to move zombies up the evolutionary ladder of the undead it would be George Romero. At least a few of these zombies have some working brains and rudimentary communications with other zombies, and discover weapons sort of like the apes did in 2001. This is good because there's been so many zombie movies where they do nothing besides shuffle around muttering variations of 'Muaahaaho!' that they were due for an upgrade.

The Unrated DVD has lots of gore. Head shots, decapitations, zombie biting people with the typical fleshy ripping...intestines...the works all in the brightest red. A couple scenes even made desensitized me cringe a little at the savage gorefest.

The DVD was made with some care certainly because most people who see Land of the Dead will see it at home. Its got good anamorphic video and a quality DTS soundtrack. Extras include a doc of the filming and another that shows Shaun of the Dead in his cameo performance. The DVD gets an 8/10.

The Shootist
The Shootist(1976)
½

John Wayne and the Western were part of an entire vanished era of moviemaking, exiting the scene at about the same time. The Shootist was his last movie and was one of the last old school Westerns made. But for Clint Eastwood almost singlehandedly pumping a few corpuscles into the genre over the following years, the Western would've gone extinct.

Everyone with a clue knew it was going to be his last movie, so many actors offered themselves up cheap just to get into the show. Wayne plays J.B. Books, a fictional gunman who finds himself old, sick and obsolete, and determines to go out with guns blazing rather than laying around delirious with pain. Poignant is used a lot to define his last role, and it was since Wayne and cancer were old acquaintances. Its very much a character piece but has formidable support from the rest of the cast. It may be the best of all his 69 westerns.

The DVD is pretty basic. It has a decent Making Of sort of extra. Video is clean but looks a little subdued, filmed as it was mostly in winter in Nevada, so colors aren't going to jump up and shout. Audio is a mono. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Signs
Signs(2002)

Its tempting to rate Signs by 1/3s. The 1st 1/3 is a mildly entertaining family movie with a little creepy/sad undertone. The 2nd 1/3, starting at the rooftop spectre, has moments of a true creep out as well as some funny moments. If it stopped there Signs would be a 9+, but the last 1/3, right after the pantry, gets a little dim. The whole alien thing is turned into a non-event, with the all too common Scary Aliens are Stupid finish, some unconvincing fatalism added for flourish. Signs is redeemed somewhat by a quality cast and touching story threads. Night Shyamalan has some excellent ideas but whipping up the whole enchilada remains elusive.

The DVD is very well done, with a quality THX level video and DTS audio. Extras include quite a few deleted scenes and a kind of docu on making Signs. The DVD gets a solid 8/10.

The Time Machine
½

800,000 years into the future and you'd think that humanity would be far advanced. You'd be wrong.

"A million years of sensitive men dying for their dreams... FOR WHAT? So you can swim and dance and play."

So says George the Time Traveller in frustration. Thats what the Eloi do to take up their day. Apparently most like us, they don't run the show. The Morlocks, split off from the Eloi ages ago to live underground, are the planet bosses.

[img]http://datacore.sciflicks.com/the_time_machine/images/the_time_machine_large_09.jpg[/img]

[b]The Eloi can't read, don't know how to make fire or even a fist, but they can still get a perm.[/b]

Besides turning blue, the Morlocks have acquired a taste for human flesh. George is forced to go underground to both find his time machine and rescue the very edible Yvette Mimieux from being the main dish.

This is one of the better sci-fi from the 50-60s, more traditional storytelling than what would follow starting around the late 60's. A little slow at first, it can still fascinate in how it transports you into the future.

[img]http://datacore.sciflicks.com/the_time_machine/images/the_time_machine_large_02.jpg[/img]

[b]The noon whistle in 800,000 AD. If the Eloi hurry they get to be the menu![/b]

The movie was restored for the DVD and looks good. Audio has been remastered to a 5.1 soundtrack that even gives the subwoofer something to do. There's a docu on the making of the movie with Rod Taylor as host, which was made for TV. The DVD gets an 8/10.

[b]


[/b]

Barabbas
Barabbas(1961)

[img]http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B00005V1WY.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg[/img]

"It begins where the other big ones leave off"

That doesn't make a lot of sense to anyone watching the trailer 40 years later. You can deduce that the studio thinks Barabbas is a big one too, and the other big ones are Swords and Sandals epics like Ben Hur.

I haven't seen tons of Anthony Quinn movies but the role of a muddled, uncertain man was one he was good at. Barabbas is just that, spending most of the movie wondering why he was freed instead of Jesus and whether he should believe. Every time he thinks he's figured it out his crude acts get him in deep doodoo, eventually bringing him to Rome at the arena in a clever gladitorial duel with scene stealer Jack Palance. Barabbas is worth watching just to see Palance play one of his better crazed brute roles.

There's plenty of moralizing to endure and while not quite as big as some of the other 'big ones', Barabbas is entertaining.

The DVD is basic. Almost no extras. The film has been restored and has a crisp clean appearance. Audio is all in the front. The DVD gets an 8/10 because it looks pretty good for a 60's movie.

Fortress
Fortress(1993)
½

Fortress gets points as a unique sci fi prison movie, set in the overpopulated near-future-that-sucks. Lambert is a good action movie guy and does well in those segments, including a good fight. There's a few nuggets of good sci fi here and there but the film loses its edge trying to explain itself. There's also some shitty bit players and silly clonebots that don't help.

Stuart Gordon channels some Re-Animator into Fortress with Jeffrey Combs playing the coke glasses brains of the cellmates; 5 guys crammed into a cell with as much individual space as egg-laying chickens. That's one of the many cost-savings that goes on when a corporation runs the Fortress, a state of the art prison in the year 2017.

"This is an unauthorized thought process."

He might say it, but Prison Director Poe (Kurtwood Smith) is getting off on Lambert dreaming about doing it with Locklin, piped into his prison control room on multiple screens and angles. Kurtwood is a really good dirtbag but this role doesn't quite allow him to express how utterly dirtbaggedly he can be. All he can do here is cause Lambert pain. "Intestate" doesn't sound nice at all, but thats what prisoners get from the device that they all got forced down their throats when they entered the Fortress. Sort of like a triple strength kick in the stomach.

The DVD is pretty basic, being 4:3 and no widescreen available for chrissakes! Such as it is the audio and video do the job but don't worry about waking up the neighbors with this stereo soundtrack. Extras are sparse. The DVD gets a 5/10.

Gattaca
Gattaca(1997)
½

[color=black][img]http://www.celtoslavica.de/chiaroscuro/films/gattaca/1.jpg[/img][/color]


[color=black]The best of sci fi deals with ideas and the nature of the mind. Will parents order up perfect babies if they can, free of serious defects right down to the toenails and enhanced chances for excellence? Or would it be left to chance? Would the government nose in on the decision? [/color]

"There's more vodka in this piss than there is piss."

'Jerome' (Hawke) is concerned because he's got a piss bag care of the real 'Jerome' (Law). Constant scanning of all the human detritus has become SOP. Since 'Jerome' has for a fee copped the crippled Jerome's identity so he can go on a rocket to Titan, extreme measures are taken to assume his identity, including daily body scrubs, blood sample fingerprints, leg surgery, etc.. The opening credit scene is one showing the formidable amount of sluffing off our bodies are always about, and the challenge 'Jerome' has in keeping routine sweeps from revealing his 'In Valid' identity. Toss in a murder at Gattaca that has the place swarming with cops and 'Jerome' has to be the supreme fake to keep up appearances.

"The only trip I'll take in space is around the sun on this satellite right here."

Exquisite and smart Irene (Thurman) is one of the elite 'Valid' but even so has a defect that'll keep her grounded for life. At first attracted to 'Jerome' but unaware of his fraud, she later sympathizes and helps 'Jerome'.

"Hello everyone, nice to see you. I am your detective for the evening. Please don't leave the premises."

The best movies of any kind have a cast with depth. Alan Arkin does great work as the detective trying to unravel the mystery, always just a step behind 'Jerome'. There's lots more going on in this clever 90's sci fi.

The DVD is fairly basic. Video and audio are good but not great. Extra's includes some interesting deleted scenes. There's been a newer release that may be a bit cleaner than this. The DVD gets a 7/10.[color=black]
[/color]

Constantine
Constantine(2005)
½

You can always count on 'Whoa' Reeves to be fairly stiff. As Constantine, a chain-smoking demon fighter with terminal cancer, I'm not so sure he missed it this time. But the story is completely silly. Its a crazy mix of exorcism, biblical good vs evil, superpowers, the paranormal and the true cause of electricity blackouts.

Why are Catholics the only ones that ever fight the devil and his minions? How come Baptists, Presbyterians and the rest don't lock horns with Lucifer? Why do soldier demons have half their heads missing? Seems kind of brainless to me. How in the wide world of sports did the Spear of Destiny (actually the Spearpoint of Destiny, but what the hell), get buried in Mexico? Why is the Angel Gabriel, formerly employed as the messenger of God, in another not very nice role?

Rachel Weisz does a good turn, and along with a couple of other supporting cast is the only reason to actually watch Constantine rather than look up from your meal/manicure/book when it gets loud.

The DVD looks and sounds good. There were lots of deleted scenes as extras on the disc which may indicate that they didn't know what the hell to do with the story, so they shot a bunch of stuff just in case. The DVD gets a 7/10.

A Clockwork Orange

[img]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bb/Clockworkorangeposter.jpg[/img]

A Clockwork Orange is something incredibly odd. That describes the phrase and not the movie. Except for a few inevitable lapses in future tech, the movie is a way-ahead-of-its-time look at degenerate British culture in the near future.

"What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolence."

[img]http://it.geocities.com/marilyn_3d/DROOGS.JPG[/img]

That's what Alex and his droogs were up to on a particular night, after getting juiced up at the chemically enhanced milkbar. Speaking a strange teen dialect of Russianized English, they'd pillage, murder and rape to the tune of 'Singin' in the Rain' or Beethoven's 9th, and if you weren't seeing what they were doing you might think they're just getting rowdy after a football game.

I can't imagine anyone besides Malcolm McDowell playing Alex, sociopath and later brainwashed victim of society's wrath against its own failures. Alex is so deeply murderous that even after he's sent to prison, his interest in the Bible rests in imagining himself the cruel Roman at Golgotha or the wicked pagan languishing in his harem of naked beauties.

"Excellent. He's enterprising, aggressive, outgoing, young, bold, vicious. He'll do"

Alex sets himself up for an experimental treatment, an extreme aversion therapy that will get him released in 2 weeks instead of 12 years. He is cured, by having the choice of violence tortured out of his brain, but his still-pretty-recent victims don't care. Singly or in groups, society kicks the shit out of Alex, and that's where you'll find the real message of this deep study.

The 'Kubrick Classics' DVD is very basic. The movie just starts up. Audio is in blazing monotone. Even so this is an intense movie and whether the audience needs modern bells and whistles is doubtful. They don't make movies like this anymore that combine filmmaking artistry with such a multilevel story so that watching it again is not a rerun but catching up.

Battle Beyond the Stars
½

A few critics that wouldn't recognize a spoof if they tripped over one have called this a Star Wars ripoff. That's just silly. Roger Corman, who's had his name associated with more mostly cheap/bad sci-fi and horror films than anyone else, was ripping off ideas way older than Star Wars. With Robert Vaughn reprising his role as the twitchy gunman, it couldn't be more clear that this is really The Magnificent Seven in Space. Seven ships manned by various odd aliens and misfits defend a helpless farm planet from an evil overlord and his big nasty ship.

"Do you think you can show me the ropes?"

Says she who's already had a taste of the ropes to John Boy, er.. Richard Thomas, who's repairing Nell. Nell, who looks like a mix of spacecraft, cow and 44DDs, owes something to Barbarella's ship, I just don't know what. Most of the ships appear to have the same set of handlebars for steering, a Roger Corman budget moment. More moments come when the same explosion effect is used 427 times, and all the evil aliens have the same scars, hell the same face because they only made one mold. You've gotta accept this stuff and make it part of the fun. Even though its actually not bad and is faithful enough to the sci fi concept to have a serious moment now and then, if you take it seriously you'll just get demoralized. I mean what else can you do with George Peppard's push button whiskey dispenser on his belt? No female breasts, although one came close; the rest are just assumed to exist. No other hints of nudity but there's plenty of innuendo.

The disc is very basic but surprisingly the 5.1 audio track wasn't just make-believe and the surrounds got to do something. Some dirt and grain onscreen, especially in the beginning. The disc is old school and gets a 7/10 only because the audio didn't suck.

[img]http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B000055ZF1.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg[/img]

Independence Day
½

This movie is like a Churros snack at a carnival. Fatty, sugary stuff that lures you with a rich aroma that only unhealthy foods can have. But once you get your little plate of powdered, crunchy, tasty snack you only begin to regret your weakness near the end, trying to hand off the rest to your companions.

Independence Day is like that. After the Churros dish of fun special effects, you get some fries with cheese gobbed on them. That's about when President Bill Pullman gives the 4th of July speech to the pickup team of pilots about to attack one of the giant saucers.

In between the sugar and cheese you get the usual disaster movie character interaction:

Hero - "We have to fly the alien fighter to the mother ship and plant the virus:cool: "

Hero's Honey - "We need to talk:( "

Hero - "After we get in the mother ship we gotta set the nuclear bomb for a 30 second delay:p "

Hero's Honey - "Do you still love me?:confused: "

Hero - "Of course baby. Why do we only have 30 seconds? That's not enough time to escape :eek: "

Hero's Honey - "Just love isn't enough. You don't understand me :down: "

Hero - "OK, lets get married, then I'll go save the world :D "

It goes on for a while until the filmmakers figure you can't stand any more. Repeat variations of this in 3-4 relationships, add a few more cliche moments and you're ready to spread viruses and plant the bomb yourself. Why is it that vastly superior aliens are always dumbasses in the clutch? Do they even have asses? Only a skilled movie fan can ignore all this bullshit and still find enough goodness to give this flick a decent score.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

Tim Burton does a lot of good work. Even when his movies aren't that great there are elements that make it interesting. Corpse Bride comes close to his best. The artistry of the main characters is mahvelous, the voice-acting perfectamundo. The movie loses a bit of luster though. Either some of it got rushed or they just ran out of ideas and slapped some of the minor characters together, and they seemed unworthy to be on the screen.


[img]http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000C3L27U.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg[/img]


The biggest gripe I have was about the DVD. On my DVD the music just about overwhelms the singing and dialog at times. The opening tune of the parents sounded like the voice actors were in the last row of the orchestra. That's messed up. The video was very soft at times. I don't know whether that was intended to smooth out the animation or just a haphazard job. Sometimes it looked great. The DVD gets a 6/10. Maybe I'll try another DVD.

Death on the Nile
½

My fascination with Egypt slants this whodunit score to more exalted territory than it probably deserves. But it is easy to look at, the excellent cast is a big help, and I just love the way Ustinov plays Hercule Poirot.

"Oh! Never have I seen such a reptile in a first class cabin!"

All the 'what if he/she did its' get played out until the final denouement. In the meantime the characters amuse you with their grotesque personalities, Angela Lansbury being especially terrifying.

The DVD is anamorphic and looks good, with a bit of grain and dirt here and there that betrays the film's age. Sound is mono but this is mostly dialog anyway and it sounds good enough for that. It surprised me to see a making of a sort, with some cast and crew talking about the shoot and finding an old Nile paddle boat and then building a mockup of it for shooting in a tank. It gets an 8/10.

Shark Tale
Shark Tale(2004)
½

Finding Nemo had Dory the ditzy blue tang and Ice Age had Scrat the nut-crazy squirrel. Shark Tale has no standout screwball and that is one of its' weak points. The other is it got made to cash in on animations' current popularity without having that great of a story. Will Smith carries a lot of the load, but a few grins and a quiet chuckle is about all it got out me.

An annoying thing about this DVD is forced advertising at the beginning. All you can do is fast forward, skipping is blocked off. There should be warning labels. "WARNING! Includes advertising that you can't shut off." The DVD does look and sound nice. Extras are run-of-the-mill. The DVD gets and 8/10 for pristine video.

Star Trek - The Complete Second Season
½

The 2nd Season of Star Trek established several TOS trekkisms:

-If you wore a red shirt and you beamed down to a planet with the regular cast you were gonna die.

-Blobs, bleeps and rotating dots were signs of a vastly superior race ready to take over the universe, or at least the ship. Vastly superior races didn't need transporters, they just blipped on and off the screen. Vastly superior races also frequently abducted the regular cast. You could tell a vastly superior being had taken over someone's body because they spoke with a reverb voice.The crew had 45 minutes to defeat vastly superior beings.

"400 Quadloos for the newcomers"!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS2MirrorMirror.jpg[/img]

"That was a woman" said Kirk.
"A mass of conflicting impulses"

-So said Nomad, an errant superpowerful space probe. Kirk got to kiss and seduce almost all the women, who were always easy. McCoy, Spock, Scotty got almost no nookie for 3 years!

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS2Transporter.jpg[/img]



-Landing parties always got into trouble right away.

-The Federation's Prime Directive of noninterference with native life didn't stop Kirk and crew from constant meddling into alien affairs.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS2ShipPhaser.jpg[/img]

-Chekov wore a wig to look like a Beatle or a Monkee at first, but then later he didn't when they realized it looked stupid. Lots of aliens wore cheap wigs to make them look like real aliens.

-Each episode had a special effects budget of about $3.74, adjusted to 2006 dollars.

Amidst all the silliness, the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trio grew to be engaging, with the banter between McCoy and Spock still fun to listen to. The TOS had the first ensemble cast on TV, and went where no other TV series had been before with episodes that exported the Cold war, Vietnam and race relations to a sci fi milieu for commentary. For a 40 year old show, its not bad at all.
The DVDs look amazing, if you consider that scrubbing old effects shots are painfully expensive so those are still dirty. The set work and outside shots look good, and audio is spotless, remastered to 5.1 Dolby Digital (don't expect much subwoofer action). 26 episodes of sci fi goodnesss from the early days of TV are a trip back in time themselves. The DVDs get an 8/10.

"They'll be no tribble at all"

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/TOS2Tribbles.jpg[/img]

Strictly Ballroom

High levels of formula and an overlong back stretch take away from the natural energy levels that exist in Strictly Ballroom. The dancing is what attracts, as well as some of those doing the dancing. Paul Mercurio as Scott doesn't get much notice North of the equator, although he did well as Joseph in that miniseries, and you might expect him to have more of a hunk stature. Tara Morice does an exceptional ugly duckling transformation as Fran, the dance partner that nobody wanted.

I know nothing of ballroom dancing so it may very well be crusty and overstructured to death. Those who have interests in keeping it that way play as the big obstacle to Scott's desire to dance his own way, with who he wants. Its worth marking time for the grand finale, I just wish it got there 10-15 minutes sooner.

The DVD's audio and video are oke doke without being anything to mark for an award. The primary colors of many of the costumes are vivid, and the tuneful soundtrack runs clear. There isn't a variety of extras, but a notable docu on Australian ballroom dancing set in the 80's is watchable. A recurring thought I had watching the docu and the movie is that women generally can get away with dressing up like peacocks better than men. So if you're male and dress up in canary yellow or orange orange you're gonna look like your pants have been getting pulled up too tight all your life. The DVD gets an 8/10.

Pitch Black
Pitch Black(2000)

Pitch Black does a lot with a little. Little budget, little dialog, little story. Some of the dialog is also pretty lame. Even so the visuals are interesting, the characters believeable, the monsters in the dark are nasty and the ruthless Riddick character got redemption of a sort by the end. The movie had more clarity the 2nd time around, which could mean that I wasn't paying attention the 1st time.

The DVD looks and sounds good. It has the coveted DTS soundtrack. There may be a newer DVD release than this but I don't care. Extras included some Raves dedicated to Pitch Black at its theatrical release. They didn't look that exciting. Not a good blend they looked like about 2000 guys and 50 girls. The DVD gets an 8/10.

House of Wax
House of Wax(2005)

House of Wax was a good choice for my first attempt at Speed Viewing. Its sort of like Speed Reading. Take a movie with predictable plot, dialog and screenplay and watch it at double speed. You play it at regular speed whenever something interesting is happening. You know, things like special effects, meaningful dialog, nude women in chains, etc.. In the case of the House of Wax, there was about 30 minutes of that, so I shrunk this gooey 2 hour show down to about 75 minutes. For one thing it proves they coulda made it a 90 minute affair like any other self-respecting B Horror movie, and just lop off the rest like they did with some of the casts' heads. Speed Viewing does interesting things to movie dialog too. Long shrieks of horror, for instance, are more like bleating sheep. I bet the movie critics do this to get past all the crap movies on their watch lists.

Paris Hilton has a fairly small role that could've been played with equivalent mediocrity by dozens of actresses with decent bods and red underwear. The most interesting thing about her role is the manner of death. Cuthbert keeps most of her body parts which was best since she's got good parts. Murray isn't bad as he seques his troublemaker character into the hero. The rest of the cast is disposable. This movie could've been more if they had come up with something better than a variation of the usual crazed killer(s) that infest most slasher movies. Just because they give their victims a wax job isn't quite enough. House of Wax does get a 10 for making gooey and sometimes bloody messes. Watch it for the few moments of DID and FX. They did try hard to make it look cool and it usually worked.

The DVD shows whatever they filmed the best it can be. Audio is shriekingly clear but without a lot of low frequency (people don't put out a lot of LFE when they get their fingers nipped off) :eek: Extras are merely OK. The DVD gets an 8/10.

The Polar Express

When this was in theaters it got favorable reviews if it was seen on the big 70 foot IMAX screen in 3D and fairly skanky reviews otherwise. Clearly there were scenes made for their 3D effect. The DVD is not 3D but did look good. It would not be exciting on a 27" TV.

I had mixed feelings about the type of animation used. Like The Spirits Within, it mimics real life in supposedly the most realistic way. It works sometimes. There were bits like the hot chocolate waiters and the reindeer that were fun to watch. Faces remain the problem. I took an immediate dislike of the doubting kid, probably because I didn't like his face. It just doesn't sell itself altogether.

The technology is secondary to any story. This one is basically sound if it does slap modern sensibilities onto a '50s kind of backdrop. I think if you were a kid and could 'believe', like the story's main message, you wouldn't notice and just go along for the train ride. There's nothing spooky about it except perhaps those animated faces. This is a kids' show and from that perspective its not bad.

I mentioned the DVD's good video. The Dolby soundtrack has some great LFE and I'm always greatful to hear my subs do something to earn their keep. Overall the audio keeps all the speakers active and has some good intentional localized sounds. The DVD is pretty sparse for extras though, and gets an 8/10.

Serenity
Serenity(2005)

Serenity proves that I'm just not up to speed on TV series. Most of TV is crap, but every once in a while a morsel of goodness slips in despite all attempts at keeping everything craptastical. If something like Firefly, the TV show leading to Serenity, slips in then it will likely be stepped on and cancelled before anyone gets the idea there can be quality TV.

I didn't know jack about Firefly, but Serenity is the breath of fresh air that Sci Fi movies really needed. Its got self-deprecating attitude, smartass space jockeying, young mentally fucked-with tortured female killing machine (all of that), 'companions', technology that just get used without hogging the screen and CGI thats portioned out in palatable chunks. It all makes for a helluva a ride through space.

The DVD has just enough going for it to get a 9/10. Very acceptable video and audio make Serenity look good on the big screen. Lots of outtakes that prove that these guys had fun making this flick, some interesting deleted scenes and Firefly background fanbase docu make this one worth owning and watching again.

Fantastic Four
½

My favorite childhood comic, once into tweenage, was the Fantastic 4. I liked the smartass banter of the Torch and Thing's solution to almost all problems; 'Its cloberrin' time!' In kind of a rock/paper/scissors/fire sort of way,individually they would often be outclassed against the Bad Guy/Gal of the Month, but as a team they always won.

The movie has some of that. It also has some of the same problems that the 1st XMen had, having to spend quite a bit of time establishing the who what and why these superheros exist. Dr. Doom was the prototypical bad guy for many evil geniuses/bad guys that have come since, but here he is not the fist-waving maniac with a voice deeper than Darth Vader's that he shoulda been. The 4 themselves aren't so bad, but aren't great either. The Thing does first have to accept his new self and pays the biggest price, and so it was difficult to get the banter with the Torch clicking. Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman also aren't bad, but Gruffudd and Alba have the chemistry you might expect on a blind date. If they do another 4 movie, they gotta do something about that. I think the Human Torch would've been better as a teenager per the comics.

The F4 group has a lot of potential, and the film does have its moments. The next movie has got to be a marvel, however, to bring people back again.

The DVD packs a lot of goodies, in addition to an excellent transfer and having the coveted DTS soundtrack. A couple of videos, a making of and deleted scenes squeeze the DVD into the 8/10 category

Batman Begins

This is the best comic book movie I've seen, so it gets a nominal 10. Call it irrational exuberance. Batman Begins is not quite a perfect 10 since there's a little problem here and there with dialog, and Katie Holmes was too young to be a hard-hitting DA, even if Gotham kids do grow up fast :eek: But once it got going and past the doubtful League of Shadows training, there was an edge, an atmosphere with a perfectly tense musical score that elevated the movie several notches. The bats were a great effect, especially in the asylum, and notice of the Joker's arrival in Gotham was an exciting promise of things to come.

"Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

From the '89 Batman, which I have some affection for mostly because Nicholson was a great Joker, and had all the best lines like this one. It applies just as well to Batman Begins, done better because there's a plausible context for most of those toys. Begins doesn't have a Nicholson, but the casting beats the crap out of previous efforts.

"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."

This sounds heavy duty but its just BS that superheroes say before they do great deeds. If you can't find the real you underneath then where the hell are you, taking a smoke break?

I don't know how they could've made Batman Begins look or sound better. There's probably something, but I don't know what. The DVD only has a trailer, and so gets just a 9/10 for being skimpy.

Star Wars - Clone Wars: Vol. 1
½

I was expecting Saturday cartoons but instead this is quite a good if short animation set in the interlude between Episode 2 and 3. The animation is not of the highest level yet in its leaning-towards-anime appearance renders quite well characters that are a bit thin in the Star Wars episodes, and adds a few new ones. I liked this animated portrayal of Anakin far more than what we had to put up with in the movies, while Obi Wan is almost too awesome to be real. Its a combo of several shorts that paste together pretty well, and there's at least a Volume 2.

The DVD has a pretty good making of and docu, along with some stuff that was too nerdy for me. The show looks great on a big screen but its just too bad its only a stereo soundtrack. I could process it for 5.1 but nada on any LFE of which there would've been plenty considering all the battles. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Major Dundee
Major Dundee(1965)

Sony spent a lot of effort restoring this old movie, even getting a brand new musical score made for it. Initially Columbia studio hijacked the raw film and issued its own cut without the director's input, and it was a messy story. The new DVD issue offers something approaching what Peckinpah originally had in mind, filling in lots of gaps in the story.

Loads of great cinematography and early signs of Peckinpah's talent for staging gun battles kept interest alive for Dundee. Now that there's a whole story it plays quite well, and has quite a few character actors from the Western era. The tension between the temporarily allied Union and Confederate troops, and some racial tension are strong elements, with the pursuit of Apache renegade secondary for most of the show. The characters are all flawed with varied defects to explore. The restored version runs a little long, plodding at times, but finishes with a great battle. Lots of good classic movie stuntwork. Gratuitous female love interests.

The DVD has a decent docu on making Major Dundee, with commentary carrying most of the weight but it still surprises with some still shots of the production and some filmed staging. It looks and sounds good and gets an 8/10 as well.

Deep Impact
Deep Impact(1998)
½

Deep Impact is such a pukey movie title, it makes think of silly alternates like Huge Thrust or Barely Dented. Deep Impact slaps together some decent acting and special effects with a formula end-of-the-world disaster script.

Aside from an occasional cool effect, the most interesting thing are a few of the characters. Morgan Freeman plays a good President, right down to hiding secrets from the public and saying the end is nigh, good luck to ya, and not mention the last minute heroics of the crew of the spaceship Messiah led by the capable if sleepy Robert Duvall. Its also good for picking up on Elijah Wood in pre-Frodo form and Leelee Sobieski as a barely-teen bride.

I stuck around for the few small rewards this movie has; its best to turn off your brain and it won't hurt thinking about: how a spaceship could make it through a storm of garage-sized boulders, why Leelee wouldn't leave her parents the 1st time (and ride a boring bus) but did the 2nd (and ride a motorcycle), how ICBMs with monstrous payloads can escape earth and have no effect on an asteroid that was rigged by design with relatively tiny nuclear devices, or why they didn't just nudge that damn rock off its path.

The DVD looked and sounded good, but without many extras. It gets an 8/10.

War of the Worlds

Spielberg does some filmmaking stuff as good as they get. For creating dramatic effect onscreen he may be without peer. There are truly awesome things going onscreen in this War of the Worlds. Yet while great at the big and larger than life, he still trips over the smaller, human scale sometimes, ending up with characters you wish would crawl in a hole and die.

Cruise's character comes around eventually, but I had a hard time tolerating either of his kids. The son was especially obnoxious, followed closely by Fanning when she started screaming. Gah! The movie may have been better off without Tim Robbins at all.

This could've been one of the best ever sci-fi movies. Instead it is merely good, tethered to some lazy storytelling that makes it too easy for the main character to do what he does and be where he has to be, and ultimately diminished by clinging to H.G.Wells' original ending. The aliens schemed on Earth for a million years and forgot about microbiology? Oh Duh! There's some amazing modern sci fi, including alien invasions, that filmmakers ought to use to take this kind of tale to the next level.

The DVD has outstanding audio and video. A clear filmlike appearance along with powerful sound effects will keep you on the edge of your seat even if you are pissed off at Dakota Fanning for screaming too much. The single disc version is very limited with extras, so it gets just a 9/10.

Braveheart
Braveheart(1995)

The greatest of the modern semihistorical epics, Braveheart hooks men with the clash of steel in big battles and women with the tragic love story. In truth men like that part too but being manly is a thankless job. This is probably the only movie with 1000 bare asses onscreen at once.

You can have the greatest looking stuff onscreen, but without strength in acting it will never get past being soso. Braveheart has outstanding characterizations. There must've been a lot of energy on the set with everyone so into it. Both McCormack and Marceau are worthy love interests for the 'scrapper' Wallace. Patrick McGoohan should've at least been nominated for Supporting Actor as Longshanks, but noooo. This is the first time I saw Gleeson and David O'hara the crazy Irishman. Of course there's Mel, one of very few actors that can get away with flaring his nostrils, the beast. He was a bit too old but you only notice that in the beginning when he's courting a much younger McCormack.
The DVD has been around for a while. Its got quality in both videoa and audio, with some very low frequency drumming sending a powerful visceral message that heavy shit is about to happen. There's a making of which is just right; not too long, not too short. The DVD gets a 9/10.

Shaolin Vs Lama

This is the stuff of the old Kung Fu Theater. Much better than most of the plotless and weird kung fu movies of the 70's and 80's, this one actually has a story and characters. Oh yeah it has all the usual kung fu B movie trappings: the one-on-one tournament ladder barely supported by the story where the weaker kung fuers get it kicked until its down to the the two masters; silly dubbing like "Your kung fu is bad, you'll lick my toes" or "Now you die a screaming death, maggot!" or "All you did is beat one of my styles. Now it is time for the Buddha Finger!" Not much wire fu or superpowers. Lots of Blessings to Buddha. I don't know why the Lama are all ticked off; its not often that Tibetan monks are on the rampage.

The DVD gets it on the screen, and thats about it. Extras are almost not there at all. The film is grainy, the sound is mono, but thats what you expect from one of these. The DVD gets a 6/10.

Robots
Robots(1999)

3D animation continues to advance. Robots is as sharp as animation can get, for the moment. In a few more years I bet they'll be able to render a plausible alternate reality. Its all about processing power and managing bigass files.

While I was occasionally dazzled and laughing at Robots, the story is totally a been-there-done-that. But who watches stuff like Robots to get a dose of deep thinking or nuance of characterization? Some of the sight gags are reminiscent of some of the crazy stunts in classic cartoons, and in that way it shines. The best thing I saw on the DVD was the teaser for Ice Age 2, starring Scrat the Sabre-toothed squirrel. He's got more character than all of the Robots.

The DVD extras clearly identify kids as the Robots' target audience. It does have a sort of making-of that is about as self-congratulatory as they come, so I cut it off. I'm glad they all love each other and themselves, but show me some real sweat and blood that went into the film, goddamit! Not too much I suppose, except for cracked nails or carpal tunnel from all the keyboarding. Technically, Robots would be a great demo for DVD on the big screen. It looks and sounds glorious with a DTS soundtrack. The DVD would get a 10/10 if not for some smarmy extras, so its just a 9/10.

Hellboy
Hellboy(2004)
½

Movies that aren't that great are harder to write about. Hellboy does have good things about it. The acting is generally OK. John Hurt does a sick old man very well, and Ron Perlman was made to play Hellboy. The CGI gets a little mushy sometimes but is good overall.

Hellboy would've benefited from an expose' opener, like the original X-Men. Not that the original X-Men didn't get tedious about it, but at least there was some background to the characters that way. All we know about Hellboy is that he popped out of the Nexus that Rasputin!? created with Nazi assistance in WWII.

Rasputin brings up the biggest problem with Hellboy; the story is ridiculous. How does Rasputin keep reincarnating? What's so special about him? What's he doing with the Nazis? Why does he want mankind to be exterminated? Do monsters live inside the moon? What's the story with Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, etc..? Is the detritus in Hollywood underwater scenes come from the crew's lunch? These are some of the big questions that the Hellboy movie brought to mind and never answered. The journey down to the underground caverns had elements of high adventure but fell flat, being treated like just another walk in the park. I've never read Hellboy comics, but I've never read X-Men or Sin City either and enjoyed those flicks more. It just didn't feel like it had much depth, even for a comic book movie.

The 3 disc DVD set is mostly for fanatics, but I got a good deal on it so what the hell. There were a few nuggets of goodness here and there on the extra 2 discs that anyone could enjoy, but stuff like Comic-Con and a 2.5 hour docu on making the film is more time than I was willing to invest. The movie itself is rendered to the top notch visually and sonically. Fine detail of Hellboy's skin graphics and subtleties of texture was apparent everywhere, with very clear dialog and heavy duty LFE effects kept your senses involved even if your mind was baffled by the story. The 3 disc DVD set gets an 8/10 for the comic book completists.

They Live
They Live(1988)
½

Some may consider They Live corroborating evidence that George Bush is a robot. They'd be wrong, because he's really an alien along with most of the other elite in the world. You can tell once you get some special glasses. I was close I thought they were all pod people.

The recurring theme of a secret and invisible alien invasion gets the John Carpenter treatment in They Live. In his usual disjointed way of scene transitions that are as subtle as Polish Foot Stomping, Carpenter also mixes in some good cinema. It just takes a while. The B & W world of subliminal messages and aliens among us is quite effective. Another scene or two about aliens are the movie highlights, but not the shootout scenes where they fight like dummies.

The lead is a bit weak; Roddy Piper is believeable as an out-of-luck wanderer, but a stronger actor would've notched up the drama. Piper's big moment comes in the long fight with Keith David, which is fun to watch but becomes too much of a digression. Meg Foster's eyes make her look alien in a cool way.

The DVD is very basic. The video and audio are useable but not spectacular. Nothing else is on the DVD. It gets a 6/10.

Kingdom of Heaven
½

Ridley Scott has directed some of my favorite movies. His opulent visual style and texturing of landscapes with human artifacts is a bit like what Yimou Zhang does. Loads of flags, battalions of stratified soldiers and the biggest set and battle since the 60's epics are stuff I like. It helps me ignore some less than perfect elements of Kingdom...

The Crusades are difficult movie material. Scott manages to have a scene or two where the twisted logic of religious fanatics is eerily identical to current zealots.

Acting is good to excellent. Neeson is great as always and has become an expert at death scenes, but the movie is at its best when Irons, Norton, Gleeson and Thewlis are front and center. Bloom does a workmanlike job on lead but still is an apprentice by comparison, and I thought his character should've been older. Eva Green looks great in colorful flowing silks. Taking nothing away from the excellent portrayal of Saladin by Ghassan Massoud, the role is fairly small, so its a good thing that the spectacular siege of Jerusalem occupies the screen after the best actors have departed. As usual, Hollywood battles are much shorter than real life, but in that time there's more medieval carnage taking place than you can shake a stick at. The keeling-over siege towers was especially good.

DVD Video and audio are outstanding. An anamorphic format and DTS audio is about the best combo you can get! The 2nd disc has some exceptional material, including lots of stuff on castle building and the decision-making on some of the ahistorical factoids about the movie, including all the fireballs and fire arrows ("Hollywood loves fire!"). What they would've more likely used as a topping to the usual rocks would not have looked so good on screen. Kingdom... has CGI for effects and the 200,000-man army, but it also has huge sets. It had to help actors get in their role being immersed in full scale mockups. The DVDs also get a 9/10.

Highlander
Highlander(1986)

"There can be only one!"

The quote is probably what people remember most about Highlander. There's some good action, with a Scottish clan battle and sword fights of course, a little bit of sex and bondage round out the activities. Christopher Lambert is an undervalued actor.

Clancy Brown as the Kurgan is one of the most entertaining parts of the flick. Already nasty, he evolves into a nasty 80's punk. But you never really hate him, he's so demented. He also has a cool breakdown sword. It always seemed to me that the Sean Connery character should not have died. The fact that he appeared in the dismal sequel validates my position.

The reel floating around in cable stations is pretty awful. Its grainy, dirty and has some color problems that pop up now and then. Nonetheless, all the Queen songs elevate the soundtrack to well above average and fit Highlander perfectly. This 1st Highlander is worth a restoration, and they should pretend the sequels were never made.

Ginger Snaps
Ginger Snaps(2001)

Ginger Snaps surprised me. I expected it to be dripping with uncomfortable and difficult teen angst. It is, but its also dripping with loads of bloody goo and the perverse humor wins out. After struggling a bit in the beginning with the sisters' dramatized-suicide-pact way of coping, the flick comes into its own. Ginger's hormones get a double jolt of puberty and lycanthropy, exploding into a female pulchritude, complete with a nice tail, confirming that high school teacher would've been a bad career choice for me. Meanwhile they start slipping some makeup onto her loyal but downcast sister who continues to look dorkified. It must be the big shoes. The story moves along in its bloody way to a bloody messy ending, but its all in good fun. There's lots of inventive little things happening in this movie that lift it considerably above the typical schlock teen horror film, and a good supporting cast helps. Mimi Rogers gets the award for Most out-of-touch Mother in a Supporting Role.

The low budget werewolf is Ginger Snaps' low point. Its so bad they should've made a movie about being turned into Gumby. They could've made a believable Gumby with the $9.34 they had to make the werewolf with.

The DVD has nothing else but the trailer. Ginger Snaps probably wouldn't benefit a whole lot from a restoration, though. Its best left looking like the low budget cult film that it is. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)
½

This is no kiddie cartoon. Very adult story and theme, with numerous subplots and 256 shades of grey characters. Excellent English voiceovers add to the strangely similar but different approach to animation. Its a beautiful movie, feeling more like live action than the cel animation with a sprinkling of CGI that it is.

I tried to watch Mononoke a couple of weeks ago, but the stupid DVD that I had crapped out about 2/3 of the way through. Very annoying! The replacement came in a plastic case that was broken almost in half during shipping, but the DVD was OK. I put it in the case that had the defective DVD so now I have one good copy. The DVD looks and sounds great; notably good audio surround and LFE action. Some extras include a reverential featurette on [color=black]Hayao Miyazaki, the man behind quite a lot of the Japanese approach to animation. It gets an 8/10.[/color]

Blade
Blade(1998)

I used Blade to have something onscreen while I was upgrading my home theater. Blade dialog is run-of-the-mill, but Blade has some very memorable action segments. The opening vampire rave/blood shower including Tracie Lords/the intro to Blade the badass is a favorite of mine. Pearl the Flatulent Human blob of Crisco. The final exploding vampires scene. But a fair amount of Blade is the sort of stuff you skip through after the first viewing. You might skip it the first time if you knew where the boring parts are.

I got Blade to look pretty damn good onscreen and it has a good 5.1 audio track. The music sometimes sounded a bit dated or just too much of a computer generated bunch of mush. The extras are nominal, and mine is packaged in the cardboard click/close cheapo case. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Excalibur
Excalibur(1981)
½

"Anál nathrach, orth' bhais's bethad, do chel denmha "

Merlin's charm of making slides off the tongue a lot easier than it looks. That first 'A' is a soft a and it has nothing to do with constipation. I could never get it to work for me, but in the movie Merlin can invoke all kinds of special effects with it.

Set back in mythical days of knights in armor and women riding sidesaddle, Excalibur starts strong, gets a little muddled in the middle and wraps up with a bloody battle where Camelot passes into legend. The movie is entertaining in most ways and the stirring music of Wagner matches the epic events on the screen and makes you want to ride out and do something heroic.

Nicol Williamson as Merlin is the most enjoyable character and gets the best lines, while Nigel Terry as Arthur only gets to solemnly reflect on how he is the stuff of legend. Excalibur has quite a few well-known actors in their younger years.

There's a few famous gaffes, mostly concerning the crew showing up in reflections and color lighting. Its the kind of stuff that adds character to an older film like this, but at the time SCA dweebs and their ilk just couldn't get over them.

The DVD is old school, as much as a DVD can be old school. It has hardly anything extra and isn't even anamorphic, boxed in one of those cardboard jobs with a snap cover. The transfer was pretty clean and the audio has some surround LFE going on, but overall it just gets an 7/10. This movie deserves better.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

"I don't have to show you any stinking badges"

An immortal line of cinema, at least in my book, uttered by the Mexican bandido in ....Sierra Madre. Alfonso Bedoya, the bandido, was the picture on the joke Mexifornia Driver's License that got around the Internet.

Its a good sign when I stare wide-eyed at the screen well into a movie before I think of anything like food or bathroom. I was into .... Sierra Madre a good hour before any of that. One of Bogart's best roles, he plays the paranoid better than anyone I've seen. He starts out a mild man, just trying to get by, someone who really needs a lot of buttons pushed to get nasty. Excellent writing helps, but he evolves into a crazy-eyed psycho that contorts all arguments so that they all point to 'you're trying to get me!' with unmatched vindicative certitude. Someone, typically a formerly trusted friend (such as Curtin here) pays a price when the Bogart character goes totally nuts. Bogie was a great actor.

Holt and Huston back up Bogart to the hilt. The entire cast is excellent, and includes some sneaky little cameos that the studios used to get away with for the fun of it before the audience could press 'pause' and see just who the hell it was.

The 2 disc DVD set has a good transfer of the black and white film, with a serviceable mono audio typical of the times. The extras are extensive, with a luxurious docu on the studio manueverings and making of the movie, a bio on John Huston (who directed quite a few of my favorite old movies), and other stuff, presented in an attractive case. The DVDs also get a 10/10.

Short Circuit

An 80's fast food burger of a movie with extra cheese and topped with fresh tomato social commentary and a pinch of salty military industrial complex. Yes its got all that stuff on a sesame seed bun filled with a 1/3 pound Johnny 5 robot burger of witticisms and impressions. A side order of french fries full of twisted English phrases by the Indian sidekick must serve as the reference for current offshore technical support as I swear I've heard it spoken just like that. Short Circuit rolls off the plate loaded with saturated fat, amazingly very tasty, most of the time. You can alleviate your guilt with the sugar-free diet cola of no extras on the disk, and you'll feel good about yourself.

Never write about movies when you're hungry.

The Bride With White Hair

This one is pretty far out there. Evil male/female Siamese twins connected at the back have the rest of the clans on their heels. They employ Wolf Girl (later the Bride) as a killing machine, while they themselves have extraordinary psychokinetic powers. Wolf Girl and the young clan leader fall in love and have a doomed romance. Some but not all is made right in a spectacular ending where the male Siamese finally gets her off his back :eek:

Brigitte Lin, as Wolf Girl, is a Chinese superstar, at least back then and is the standout in the cast, with her lover Leslie Cheung somewhat laid back, partly in character. Tons of action and not the usual kung fuin' stuff either. I enjoyed watching it, usually, altho some of the whys and whats didn't quite register. The story could've been the victim of dumbass dubbing but overall the voiceovers were at least bearable and seemed to fit.

The DVD is definitely a foreign press. I thought it was defective at first until I did a finger dance on the remote and found some non-standard button controls to navigate around. The video and audio are just adequate. There is a making of but all the Chinese talky-talk wasn't doing a lot for me so I skipped through it. The DVD gets a 5/10 but this movie deserves better.

RoboCop
RoboCop(1987)
½

Robocop came near the end of the 80's craze for all things cybernetic. CGI hadn't quite come along yet so effects were modern but still done the old fashioned way. The fair-to-middlin' story of a cop getting killed and 'volunteered' to be the first Robocop picks up quite a bit about when he says 'Come quietly or there will be trouble' soon after he goes into action in crime-ridden Detroit. Robocop has plenty of good lines delivered as only a monotone cyborg can to best effect, Such as 'Your move, creep', or 'Madame, you have suffered an emotional shock. I will notify a rape crisis center' (She didn't really). Weller suffered greatly wearing the Robocop outfit and should've gotten the Best Actor in Painful Makeup award. Weller also teaches Ancient History which is a damned unusual combination. The bad guys are exceptionally good at being bad, if a little too giddy. Ronnie Cox and Kurtwood Smith are exceptional slimeballs. Lots of the ultraviolence interspersed with corruption and cynical decadence in pursuit of the ultimate dreamcar of the Robocop world, the 6000 SUX, make Robocop hold up pretty well.

The DVD video looks fine. At first the movie starts with a fake newscast which looked like crap, but that mustv'e been on purpsose, as it clears up nicely. While the Robocop music is by Basil Poledouris, it is uneven and pretty soso overall, and probably has something to do with why the trailer has the Terminator theme tacked onto it. This was about the last gasp of Orion Studios and that's the kind of thing you do if you have no money. Sound effects were remastered to 5.1 but there's not much surround or LFE action. The DVD just has a few trailers for extras. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Kung Fu Hustle
½

Kung Fu Hustle isn't any one genre of movie, but about half a dozen tossed in a salad bowl and coming out tasty with just the right amount of season and dressing. Its got kung fu naturally, or pretty unnaturally, but also slapstick comedy, Looney Tunes, gritty western, sci fi and probably others. Its a considerable step up from Shaolin Soccer and Stephen Chow is right up there with Tarantino and Rodriguez in crunching genres into new and exciting creations. The fight scenes are as mythical as they can get. Who would've thought all of those kung fu masters were hangin' at Pig Sty, and I remain amazed at all the inventive ways they come up with to fight.

I was impressed with the quality of the DVD. Video was mastered in HD and it shows great clarity. The audio not only has all channels active, but someone actually took the time to use surround and back surround for pinpointing character location. Any number of movies will pan a sound of say a jet going left to right and all, but Hustle was exceptional at making the movie an auditory delight. Extras include a sort of Making of (turn on the subtitles), deleted scenes, bloopers, trailers and previews. Its great to get so much that looks and sounds good on one DVD, and it gets a 9/10.

Steamboy
Steamboy(2005)

Steamboy begins very hopefully. I'm no anime expert but I was taken by the detailed mix of mostly cel animation blended with a bit of 3D. They spent a lot of time on appearances and it shows. The story as well gets off to a good start with palpable tension. You can almost imagine the scenes really taking place.

The monstrous machine that becomes the center of attention is a sight to behold. It reminded me of heavily geared contraptions of that era which fascinate with movements as complicated as a Swiss watch. You can't really see it all at once its too damn big. The kid in the title role (voiced actually by Anna Paquin) sort of reminded me of a junior Rocketeer. The voice acting is generally quality work and includes Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina.

By the last act, however, Steamboy runs out of, you know, steam. A fairly thin plot at the start becomes a very loud and repetitive series of crashes, groaning metal, popped rivets, screams and yells. Almost all the adults wind up bad guys to one degree or another. Up til then it was in 9/10 range but limps home with a soso 8/10.

The DVD has excellent video and audio. The 5.1 soundtrack has plenty of effects to keep your attention. Extras are fairly basic with interviews of the voice actors and some of the crew. The DVD also gets an 8/10.

Barton Fink
Barton Fink(1991)

A suddenly popular writer/screenwriter has the world's worst case of writer's block and invents characters and plot elements in his desperate bid to come up something to write with. The Jewish Fink is the vehicle for the Jewish Coens to comment on the movie industry and their experience with it. Hollywood is Hell on Earth, and no doubt they've come upon very similarly unsavory types that are in Barton Fink. In that way Barton Fink is a very clever movie. How much of it is just in Barton's head?

Unfortunately its just a little too dreary and dull in the beginning to keep you hooked. I can tell because when I pause a movie and go do a few things it means it hasn't really turned my head.

Most of the screentime has Turturro with strong support from Goodman. Both are excellent with Goodman especially so.

The DVD gets the job done. The video appears to be deliberately heavy on the browns, especially at the Hotel. Audio is good enough for dialog. Extras include a few trailers and deleted scenes. The DVD gets a 7/10.

AVP - Alien Vs. Predator

As one reviewer said, this kind of movie isn't about great cinema. Compare it to stuff like Godzilla vs. Rodan or Destroy All Monsters and then you've got the right idea (I always thought that the guys in the Godzilla suits got stiffed for never getting credits). You'll be disappointed if you expect the story to make sense.

No, this is more like those old Crocodile vs. Shark or Black Widow vs Scorpion matchups they've been resurrecting, but with a better soundtrack and a bigger budget (Nature just isn't enough like the NFL so they've got to arrange these battles). Taken like that, AVP isn't so bad. Its good to watch while you have some nachos & cheese, as long as green blood and slimy yellow molecular acid don't bother you. The worst thing about it is some of the not-so-great actors talk too much.

The crocodile and the black widow won.

Waterloo
Waterloo(1970)

Waterloo, besides having the best large-scale battle in filmdom, using 20,000 Russian troops as extras with no CGI, also spends more than a little time on the character of Napoleon, a bit less on Wellington his opponent at Waterloo. Steiger as the "Thief of Europe" and Plummer as Wellington are well cast. Costuming was done in great detail, and is especially noticeable at the Allies, Dance/Ball on an evening before the battle.

Its difficult to flesh out the characters, because in the end the battle is the thing. Russian director Bondarchuk found a similar piece of ground and made the Waterloo area to such accuracy that he even had underground water lines put in to recreate the muddy terrain the battle was fought on. From the opening cannon volley to the last square of the defeated French there's a great sense that the actual battle went very much like what you're watching. Just add another 100,000 or so men. But Bondarchuk plays what he has to great effect.

The DVD is as bare as it can be. The menu consists of 'Play'. Video is a bit grainy but passable. A surround audio mix for Waterloo would be awesome but alas its just in stereo you any surrounds you can get are gonna by synthetic. The DVD gets a 7/10 mostly for just being available.

The Big Red One
½

This vintage WWII movie has been reconstructed to something approaching what the director Sam Fuller intended. In that sense its a bit like a couple of Sam Peckinpah movies in that its taken 20-30 years for the 'Director's Cut' to appear. Basically it tracks a rifle squad and their sergeant thru the European theater, from Vichy-held Algeria and into Czechoslovakia. It is very much an anti-war movie, as the scenarios and dialog make it unmistakeable what a rotten thing war is.

The cast does really well. Lee Marvin was perfect for the role of the old sergeant. Good chemistry among the main characters gives an edge to the dogfaces' struggle to survive the war. There are no extant WWII German tanks to speak of so vintage US tanks were substituted. Some of the filming was done in what was then a more peaceful Palestine.

The flow of this extended cut is better. Its about 45 minutes longer, pushing 3 hours. The DVD looks great, but even more of a surprise is the remastering of the audio. Big Red... always had a flat, dull soundtrack, but the 5.1 remaster uses all the drivers with LFE to boot. Many older movies get a audio remaster that amounts to some patching here and there, but Big Red One got the real deal, and it sounds much better than it ever did. I watched some of the 2nd DVD of reasonable interesting extras. the DVDs get a 9/10.

Team America: World Police
½

A movie can't be all bad if it makes me laugh. Marionettes going around cursing like sailors, blowing up France, bickering about relationships while in combat, and pissing off the world made me laugh a few times. 'America, fuck yea!' might make a good national anthem. At least its more up to date.

Team America insults everybody, but the Left gets the worst of it since kitties posing as leopards bite their little puppet heads off. Marionette sex was OK until it got to golden showers and scat where I thought 'just because they can doesn't mean they should'.

The DVD I watched was PG-13 but it seemed Not Rated, and came from Asia (maybe from North Korea hehe). So its not the usual cut in the Wal Mart bin that Aunt Ethel would pick up. That's OK though since they skimped on the extras and put a DTS soundtrack on it. The DVD gets an 8/10.

The Innocents

If movies reflect the times that they're made in then the 60's were slower-paced than the 00's. 30 second soundbite/short attention span types will have trouble sticking with The Innocents. It has a slow, deliberate pace to develop character and plot and nothing spooky happens for a while. In fact they may think there's something wrong with the DVD since it takes a while for anything but a blank screen to appear while some eerie and melancholy humming goes on.

This is definitely a mood movie, meaning you have to be in the mood to suck it in and watch it. There aren't any modern audio/visual things going on to make you jerk your head up from your pepperoni pizza; you've gotta pay attention! There's definitely mysterious things happening at the nominally idyllic, remote English mansion. It becomes suitably creepy soon enough at night, and eventually all the time as the story plays out.

Deborah Kerr is great as the governess, but I wondered as I watched whether I would react as she did. I think I would've been more like the uncle, as I thought the kids were kind of bratty, needful of love or not. I would definitely be creeped out by ghosts, since I don't think they exist and it would set off explosions in my brain. That was my reaction to The Innocents. I didn't think it was much at all like The Others.

The DVD is a flipper and has both Full and Widescreen. The black and white movie looks real good, while the audio is the typical stuff from a bygone era. But the sound is appropriate for the movie and revs you up for those peak moments of spookiness. The DVD gets an 8/10 as well.

Crash
Crash(2004)

Just another day in wonderful LA. Crash reminded me a bit of Falling Down and Training Day in the way it depicted the LA megapolis. Stressed out people dealing with problems that they can't solve, and how it spills over into their other interactions with the rest of the world.

Its very coincidental the way all the players from very different worlds become intertwined; you just have to accept the improbabilities. The movie gets right into racial tensions and all the hostility stereotyping can create. For all the bad feelings it seemed like there was a little too much attitude adjustment at the end. By comparison, however, Crash does actually have a decent ending in a world where formula crap endings are getting routinely tacked on, and the acting is very good.

The DVD from Best Buy had a bonus disc that was barely worth shoving onto the tray. The extras on the movie DVD were soso, and included a boatload of trailers. Audio and video were good enough, probably grainy on purpose at times. The DVD also gets an 8/10

The Band Wagon
½

This is one of those '50's movies that give everyone the impression that that decade was all sweetness and good feelings. The biggest problem any of the characters had was getting their lines right. The dances are why you watch. Mr. Dance himself was enjoying a 2nd wind to his career. Visually I was impressed Cyd Charisse, shown here in a pic that highlights her biggest asset. I was first impressed with her legs in Singin' in the Rain when she stuck a leg out to Gene Kelly. I don't know why I remember stuff like that, but there it is. Maybe I was wishing that such a leg would be stuck in my face :p



[img]http://legs.free.fr/Images/Wallpapers/sombrero01b800.jpg[/img]

Sahara
Sahara(2005)
½

This is a pretty movie in many ways. It's cinematography is pretty, and its pretty natural in that there's very little if any CGI. The cast gets along pretty well and everyone clearly was trying hard. But its a pretty dumb story with some pretty dumb segments. William Macy was wasted in his role. I managed to ignore short bursts of nonsense at the outset, but it pretty much lost me when the boys converted an old crashed plane into a windsurfer, hooting and hollering as if they really weren't dying of thirst after plodding across the desert. Everything that followed was about as credible.

Of the 2 major plots, the plague was at least interesting, while the Confederate ironclad in Africa was preposterous. Those heavy old boats could barely stay afloat in calm waters, let alone cross the Atlantic. Really, though, hardly anything made sense, and Sahara diminishes further the more I think about it.

The disc extras are OK, but the cast and crew spend way too much time congratulating themselves on a great movie, a sure sign that they've lost contact with reality. Video and audio are up to snuff. It gets an 8/10.

Sunset Boulevard
½

Partly inspired by RT forum posts, I dusted off the remote buttons and got on Turner Classic Movies to watch some film noir. My first impression that Sunset Boulevard was gonna be a moldy oldie gradually changed. I've seen Holden in several films and his acid cynicism and self-deprecating wit is in top form, concealing his mostly decent true motives with insult and verbal abuse. Gloria Swanson couldn't have played the washed-up movie star any better, and gets a ton of great lines. Alternating between delusions of grandeur with suicidal depresssion, it makes you want to kiss her and make it all better. Well no not really and Holden never gets touchy-feely with her, himself alternately disgusted with her, himself and pitying both. When she finally goes completely off her nut and utters her immortal line,

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"

even the mad dog press gets a little dewy-eyed at the fall of a former great star. Sunset Boulevard has held up well over the past 55 years and the story it tells is still worth watching :fresh:

National Treasure

Easy to watch but harder to buy the story it tells, National Treasure is strictly a good popcorn movie. Just watch, enjoy and don't think about whether it makes sense. Its got lots of well-done action sequences and some good set design, mostly likeable good guys and smarmy bad guys.

If you must consider the storyline, you'd wonder how a new relatively poor country like the 18th century USA came to acquire mankind's richest treasure trove and expend great effort to do nothing with it besides hide it away. Or, why would astute giants of history such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington hide destructible clues all over the Eastern Seaboard? There's more to why you don't want to think about it, but that'll do. This is a rental grade movie.

The DVD looks and sounds good like a modern release should. Extras are soso with a making of, a couple of deleted scenes and an alternate ending. The DVD gets a 8/10.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)
½

My first exposure to Frank Miller was '300'. I've never read any Sin City comics. This movie succeeds where Sky Captain... fell a little short in adapting a comic book story and graphics to the big screen. In that way it is very stylish and deserving praise for its creativity. It really does look like a dark comic put on the screen. So dark I think they paid off the MPAA to get an R rating, as black or white or no this movie is very violent and centers around sex crimes that are as sick as they get.

Bruce Willis as the poor sap/cop/hero Hartigan might well question the career choice of the little-girl-grown-up that he saved from a sadistic rapist years earlier. But then we wouldn't get to see Jessica Alba as that grownup girl in action. She's best when she has no lines, whereas some of the other ladies such as Dawson, Gugino and King burn up the screen whether they got things to say or things to do. Especially Dawson.

There's 3 story lines with Marv's (Mickey Rourke) being the most compelling to watch. He too is matched against a perv. Marv is a little bit Hulk, a little bit Thing and rumbles around a lot like them but is really just a bulked out uglified dude. The whole movie has comic book action style where it can be damned hard to kill anybody, such as Marv, but best exemplified by Toro's bad cop Rafferty character.
Any Frodo fan will get a different slant on Elijah Wood's range after Sin City. Its a waaay different sort that he plays here :eek:

I liked Sin City and could deal with the high level of violence, but I'm not convinced sexual psychopaths are good movie material.

The DVD has crystal clear audio and video, but not much in the way of extras besides a little making of.. documentary. There's sure to be a Special Collector's Ultimate Reference version in the future. This one gets an 8/10.

Star Trek - The Complete First Season
½

Stardate 3289.8. Is that days, weeks, months, or bijongas? I've never come across an explanation, if there is one. That is the date for the Captain's Log entry for the final episode in season one, Operation Annihilate. Not the best entry of the series, it highlights the Spock character and his struggles with maintaining control through logic. Other episodes explore Spock, the most popular of the TOS characters. He was especially popular with teenagers, who could relate to his torment about identity.

Week after week, the Enterprise and its crew would fly around the galaxy, saving humanity from one grim situation after another. They were good at it, despite a budget that would barely pay for a current TV series catering service. The character development and interaction remains one of TOS highlights. While the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad occupied the center of the typical episode, other characters got the spotlight. The series attracted some good guest stars, such as Ricardo Montalban as Khan in Space Seed and Joan Collins in the City on the Edge of Forever.

The Guardian of Forever, from City on the Edge of Forever
Kirk and Spock ponder their chances of going back in time.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/CityOnEdge.jpg[/img]

The best episode of Season One, and maybe the whole series, came the week before; The City on the Edge of Forever. This Hugo Award-winning story is science fiction and Star Trek at its best. The Menagerie, the original Star Trek pilot, is another Hugo Award winner, and is framed around the only two part Star Trek episode, The Cage. Its available in its original form in another Season package.

Talosians from The Cage (their head blood vessels nicely pulsated)

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Talosians.jpg[/img]

The first episode, the Man Trap, Stardate 1514 somethingorother, had a saltsucker creature that could shapeshift, killing off Enterprise crewman. The studio had a Creature from the Black Lagoon mentality about sci fi, and it took a while for Roddenberry to get to stories that he wanted to tell.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/Saltsucker.jpg[/img]


"The engines canna take much more or they'll buckle!"
The good thing about Scotty's accent was that they didn't have to put him onscreen to get his personality in the dialog. He'd just yell on the intercom about how the engines are overheating/about to explode/overloaded and you knew the Enterprise was on the verge of a matter/antimatter crisis.

Audiences got they're first look at Romulans and Klingons ('Klinguns' as Kirk turns it into a slur). The Klingons didn't get the big budget facials that they'd get later in the movies and are just humans with a green-black greasy complexion. They hadn't invented photon torpedoes yet, but they did have photon torpedo visual effects, which they called phasers. It didn't seem to bother anyone that phasers already had their own visual effect. So when they fired phasers you might get beams of light, or bullets of light.

The DVDs looks and sound quite good considering that this is an old TV show. They took the trouble to clean them up and give it a 5.1 audio. Not that there's a helluva lot of LFE or back channel audio; there is an occasional flurry back there or a rumble from the sub. They weren't able to clean up the video in segments that had photographic effects, and some of those are pretty dirty. Extras include comments from surviving cast members, including a few guest stars. The DVDs get a 9/10 as well.

Anyone mildly interested in the Star Trek universe should pick this up. Its where it all started. It doesn't compete technically with modern sci fi and special effects, but the stories are as good as they get.

The Hidden
The Hidden(1987)
½

Invisible at the box office and classified as strictly B grade, The Hidden will surprise you with a good story, pacing and acting. Possibly underrated because it is sci fi, its got good tension and a sense of humor that pops up at unexpected times; even the alien's proclivities have a dark humor to them. This is aided substantially by some quality acting by Nouri and MacLachlan, the latter doing an excellent job of understating his true nature.

I registered a bit of shock seeing Claudia Christian playing a stripper/alien. Shet's not exactly a major star, but my perception of her as 2nd in command at Babylon 5 will forever be altered by pasties and pole-rubbing. Luckily, she's got the bod for it.

The DVD gets the job done. It has both widescreen and 4:3 format on the same side of the disc, along with a few extras. The picture was good considering that there must've been no small amount of compression to squeeze 2 versions on one side. The audio is merely adequate. Extras are a trailer, filmographies and a little FX short. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)
½

There are obvious qualities to Raging Bull. I don't think I've ever seen an actor more immersed in a role than DeNiro is playing Jake LaMotta. He's totally convincing at all levels. The supporting cast is top notch. This may be Joe Pesci's best role, and who could believe that Cathy Moriarty is barely past being a teenager as she plays a woman aged from 15 to 30. What an angel to look at. The fight scenes are done with brutal artistry. You might never think that you'd enjoy watching men smashing each other's faces to bloody pulps, but you're compelled watch Raging Bull's short but powerful fight scenes. Filming in black and white is genius at work; this is the perfect subject for it.

This isn't a feel good movie. It's hard to really enjoy Raging Bull, since the main character is so unlikeable. Ultra jealous, possesive and brutal, he winds up alienating everyone.

The DVDs are well done. The movie itself has a powerful soundtrack. You can almost feel the punches. Video is remarkable as well. The 2nd disc has the real Jake LaMotta in some featurettes, along with some footage of his actual fights. His comment on his behavior during that time is that he was worse than what the movie shows. Since the movie paints him a total jerkoff I don't have a word for what he must've been. The DVDs get a 9/10.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

I might've liked this move more if they didn't steal so many of their scenes from other movies. Jurassic Park, 28 Days Later, Buffy, Escape from New York City, and probably others. There were no indications of tributes, just lifts. Even thats OK if they do it even better, but here they're not as good.

The best parts are with Alice and Jill blasting zombies, while the worst parts are when just about anybody opens their mouths and attempts dialog. You have no idea why the Nemesis is able to take 1000's of bullets and not be shredded. Is he a Terminator with an advanced alloy skeleton? Who the hell knows, and he seems to get hurt bad on a single metal spear later on. Even Alice takes enough punishment to peel open an M1 tank and she is barely scratched for most of the movie. The basic premise of this being a zombie movie is pretty thin. Its a movie that has zombies.

The movie looks and sounds great on DVD. The 2nd disc is full of extras, including some forgettable self-congrats stuff but also some reasonable good featurettes, if you take the trouble to sift through them. It gets an 8/10.

Shaun of the Dead
½

Ya gotta give the filmmakers credit for putting together a zombie spoof movie that doesn't dwindle into the stupid-silly category. There's only the one moment when Shaun shoots someone that gave me pause to consider that they wandered too far from the tongue-in-cheek. They didn't have to do that. It worked for me most of the time, however, intermingling the oblivious-to-mortal danger and pursuit of the trivial mundane with hairy battles for survival. No gratuitous breasts or sex of any kind that I noticed were tossed in - it mostly stayed in the bounds of semi-normal Brits trying to make their way through a zombie-infested world. I would say the humor is dry but there's too much alcohol and blood flowing, along with some moments of High Anxiety. Not great, but not bad.

The film looked and sounded good on DVD, having an occasional surround sound moment to surprise you with, and outtakes that proved that the cast and crew had a lot of fun making this movie. the DVD gets a 7/10

My Name Is Nobody (Il mio nome è Nessuno)
½

The biggest part of the budget for this movie had to be staging 150 men on horses to ride around without anyone getting hurt. While I was watching this movie I was wondering where I'd want to be in that pack of riders. If you're up front you damn well better stay on the horse or its trampling time. You eat everyone's dust in the back, so I figured the best place would be on the side near the front.

Between scenes of those guys, aka The Wild Bunch, riding around, Terence Hill and Henry Fonda do some good work. There's a false antagonism between them for most of the show, as they singly or together face a load of unlikely situations, usually revolving around Hill, that are comedy relief to the otherwise typical Western hokum. Its not quite a parody of westerns, but it has no reservations about making fun of an old genre. This was also Fonda's last western.

Like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, there's lots of imagery with a very economical use of dialog. Leone's influence is obvious. As some Leone movies are a tribute to numerous earlier westens.You could almost say that this whole movie is a tribute to Leone, Morricone's music is a bit less compelling than the earlier movies it accompanied, and some of the riffs are close to lifts from those.

I saw this a while ago on an inferior DVD release. The new release is much cleaner, sharper, and widescreen. The audio remains a harsh mono, and about all you can do with it is turn it down. There isn't so much as a Trailer or a filmography for extras, however. The movie is all you get. I give the DVD a 7/10 for its improved video.

The Night of the Hunter

Its difficult to judge an older film with recent Americana as a backdrop. If a movie is set in antiquity or in medieval times you accept that their whole way of life was different, but the characters will retain some familiar humanity. Night of the Hunter is set in the USA at a time immediately preceding ours, yet what is on the screen is almost completely outside my experience.

That said, I think this film has been a bit overrated. Reviews go on and on about Mitchum's performance as the psychopath preacher, but I thought he worked that type of character much better in Cape Fear. In Cape Fear he really was a badass and could back up his BS, whereas this character is really more of just a slimeball, killer though he may be. I didn't buy Shelley Winters' too easy conversion to the Mitchum preacher's twisted version of faith. I was most impressed with Lillian Gish, who turned out to be the heroic figure of the story. The movie improves with the appearance of Gish.

Black and white film has so much potential as an artform, and that is the greatest strength of Night of the Hunter. It is almost surrealistic at times, probably intentionally for the most part. There are a few shots that would never work as well in color, such as the underwater scene.

The DVD has nothing extra besides the trailer. Video is pretty good although it could use some work on the lines and dirt that show up once in a while. Audio is really just mono although they claim it to be 'Super Stereo', whatever that is. It gets a 6/10.

The Day After Tomorrow
½

This disaster movie starts out with a lot of promise. Aside from the unnecessary political diatribes, The Day After.... has an edge to it. The atmosphere is ominous and very bad things are about to happen. It continues to be engaging with some fairly good effects, such as the 50 foot wall of water that engulfs Manhatten. The space station shots were a nice touch.

It doesn't last, though. Once again Hollywood has half a movie's worth of ideas, and they fill up the rest of the time with survival tactics and a rescue mission by the one scientist that really shouldn't be going off on his own, since he's the only one who knows what the hell is going on with Planet Earth. Very melodramatic and surely the main reason why the film had no legs in the theaters.

The acting, which is secondary to the visual effects, is just OK. There aren't many really bad lines or stupid dialog. Its just mostly boring once it gets past the worldwide disaster.

It's worth watching on a big screen with a good audio setup. It would be a lot less compelling on Aunt Mabel's 25" TV.

The Prophecy
The Prophecy(1995)

Angels and the Devil have been reinvented in The Prophecy. Walken plays angel Gabriel, formerly God's primary dispenser of his wrath, but now an ignored and disgruntled former employee. He's not happy about the 'monkeys' (humans) taking center stage in God's eye, so he means to put things back the way they used to be.

The filmmakers decided that angels, having some aspects of birds, such as wings, should perch whenever possible. So a dead giveaway that whoever's onscreen is an angel is if they're perching. They stand too but thats after they must've gotten tired of perching.

Walken is good as always, and as this movie is about 10 years old, he wasn't paunchy yet. A surprise is Viggo Mortensen, doing respectable work as a profoundly evil Lucifer, who for his own devilish reasons helps the humans combat Gabriel. Madsen is the best 'monkey'/human. She has a good screen presence.

The DVD has almost no extras. It looks good and has a decent if pedestrian sound track. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Shaolin Soccer

This is a goofy movie. Sort of a Bad News Bears with grownups, its got some Seven Samurai and huge amounts of parody in the mix. These guys can virtually fly and hit soccer balls with apocalyptic force, melting goalies clothes right off with balls going at bullet speed, ripping the ground up with the shockwave. Like the Seven Samurai, or other 'Seven' movies, each of the seven main characters brings a unique talent to the story.

Some of my favorite moments are when they break into song and/or dance. It stylizes the knucklehead approach to getting kung fu on the screen. The main characters are engaging. I realized later that Vicki Zhao was familiar because I saw her in So Close. They did a good job of giving her a pizza face and a bizarre look after she got her faced 'fixed'.

I never saw the original Asian version but its clear that this version has been edited. Some of the scenes seemed a bit disjointed, probably because something got chopped out. Even so, Shaolin Soccer is a hoot. The DVD is very basic and has no extras. It gets a 7/10.

Big Fish
Big Fish(2003)
½

Just in case I've said bad things about Tim Burton, I take them all back. This is great storytelling, about a teller of tall tales with just enough truth in them to make it all seem possible. Here in Big Fish, Burton returns to the fascinating, surreal worlds that he's so good at getting on the screen.

The acting is outstanding. Macgregor, Finney et al are at the top of their game, with Finney especially capable, ready to wind up and deliver one yarn after another. Crudup as his son is a little weak, but he has the most difficult and unappealing role of doubting good 'ol Dad. There's some choice cuts of juicy movie in Big Fish and its' worthy of a replay.

Clash of the Titans

The final movie with Harryhausen effects. The Medusa segment is the best staged Harryhausen sequence of his career, with Medusa one of his best creations. It also has Calibos acted by a human for closeups and stop motion for full body movement. I don't think this was pulled off all that well as there was quite a difference in appearances between the two. Other than that the creatures such as the Kraken and Pegasus looked pretty good.

The story is a decent one, an adaptation of various Greek myths. Laurence Olivier plays Zeus in one of his last movies. It was said in the extras that he was sick at the time, but I didn't notice except that he seemed to have a stiff gait.

The video looked very good, while the audio continues the tradition of the Harryhausen movies of being pretty basic, although it has a nice musical score and some effort at front audio staging. Extras include a monolog by Harryhausen. The DVD comes in one of those cheap cardboard snap cases and loses 0.5 points so it gets a 7.5/10.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger
½

How can I give a fairly cheesy movie an 7/10? Its easy. Its got Harryhausen effects, a semi-nude young Jane Seymour and Taryn Power, Sinbad's red shirt ship crew that are mostly doomed to die, and some decent supporting cast.

It doesn't help its case that it was released about the same time as the original Star Wars and Close Encounters; by then film audiences could expect a bit more than whats on the plate here. Wayne is the weakest of the 3 Sinbads from the Harryhausen filmography. It does have the highest production values of that group. Although the music is weak, they do manage to keep Sinbad in pretty much the same cool looking miniature boat and there's some decent fx now and then beyond the expected stop motion work.

The DVD is anamorphic and it has sharp colors and good definition, with just a bit of dirt noticeable in some light backgrounds. Even so, the mono audio dates the movie more than anything else so you have to use a DSP mode to get it off the center channel. Modern rock-em sock-em audio tracks like Underworld or Blue Crush get elevated ratings simply because they sound so bitchin', and an old mono track like this is a letdown; its like piping the sound to $0.30 TV speakers. I can give the DVD an 8/10 because of the good video transfer and the documentary on Harryhausen narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

One of the later movies with Harryhausen effects, The Golden Voyage has lots of creatures but comes up a bit short of the magic found in 7th Voyage and Jason and the Argonauts.

It does have what I consider the coolest single creature of the Harryhausen portfolio, the Kali. It reminds me of the Naga from Heroes of Might and Magic, except they had snake torsos. Harryhausen improved the process of transferring his creatures onto the same screen as the actors, and now called it Dynarama.

[img]http://lavender.fortunecity.com/judidench/584/golden/images6/618.jpg[/img]


The acting is uneven, leaning more towards the dippy sort common in low budget fantasy films. Law does OK as Sinbad, as does Baker as the evil wizard, but after that its pretty skimpy. The green-colored cavemen almost blow the whole thing completely, being just a little too silly.

This DVD looks OK and is anamorphic no less, but once again the soundtrack borders on awful as they just didn't spend any time on it to get rid of the harshness. It must've gotten heavily compressed somewhere along the line. Extras are minimal. The DVD gets a 7/10 for a decent video transfer.

Jason and the Argonauts
½

Jason.. is usually considered the best Harryhausen effects movie and if it isn't its #2. His technique is improved from the 1st Sinbad movie and he's able to get more going on the screen. I like all his concoctions; Talos, the Hydra, the Children of the Hydra's Teeth (skeletons). Greek mythology is loaded with fantastical creatures so its a rich area for Harryhausen to mine.

The acting is above average for a fantasy movie. Besides the heroic group, Honor Blackman plays a credible Hera not long before playing in Goldfinger as Pussy Galore. I was attracted to Kovack(Medea) but I don't think she can act. I must've found something attractive about her. She does have an exceptionally large yet fine... well nevermind. You can actually stand to listen to dialog, and there was some attempt at authenticity creating the Greek ship. Less convincing are a few goofs like healing Jason's arm that has a vaccination scar, a couple of shots of a very toylike Greek ship at the Crashing Rocks, and the Golden Fleece looking a bit like a Rit dyed shag rug once they get the splashy light effects off of it.

In between this and Sinbad I watched the 3 Worlds of Gulliver, which I'm not going to comment on other than I fell asleep at some point and woke up at another point. Its cute at times but it is also a stretch to call it a Harryhausen movie in the manner of its effects, of which there was little Dynamation. It is one of the 5 movies in that Harryhausen Fantasy pack.

This film definitely deserves better than the DVD they're currently selling. The picture wanders from fairly good to grainy and dirty while the sound is harsh monotone, so the DVD is a 5/10. There's a short extra with David Lynch interviewing Ray Harryhausen. Everyone seems to have a story about the kid they once were being a big fan of these movies back in the day.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
½

This is classic Ray Harryhausen. If it didn't have his Dynamation effects, it would've been long forgotten. As it is, most think its his 2nd best effects movie. Its my personal favorite because it has the best monsters. Not necessarily the best-looking monsters, but who can't like one-eyed cyclops, fire-breathing dragons, with a boy genie thrown in to the mix?

[img]http://lavender.fortunecity.com/judidench/584/7thvoyage/images/00000089.jpg[/img]

Its loosely based on stories from 1001 Nights, with Sinbad off on one of his adventures, rescuing/restoring his fiance princess. The principal acting is actually pretty good for a film that was made for less than 1,000,000 in 1958, definitely better than some later flicks with Harryhausen effects. Kerwin Matthews, Kathryn Grant and Torin Thatcher all give good performances.

Watching it now in the era of rampant, sometimes overdone CGI, you might think it looks quaint. Perhaps it does sometimes. The snake lady is too rubbery (He did a better job of that type later with Medusa in Clash of the Titans), and the baby Roc is pretty goofy. But this is the first movie that has a swordfight with a skeleton, presaging the much larger fight in Jason and the Argonauts.

I bought this as part of the The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen DVD set. Its exactly the same DVD as the one sold separately. It claims to be remastered although it must've been really bad for this to be an improvement. The video is very blurry sometimes, and while some of the blurriness may be intentional when the monsters are prominent on the screen, its just plain blurry often in all kinds of scenes. The audio is mono (yuk). The DVD is a plain 6/10, this high only because of some decent extras.

Full Metal Jacket
½

"Inside every gook there's an American, trying to get out".

Such was the thinking of the mucky-mucks that were calling the shots during the Vietnam era. There's enough of the common soldier's attitude about the war for the viewer to know that there wasn't any real sense of a mission, outside of getting out in one piece.

"Me so horny. Me love you long time"

What a love story :p This is the romantic element of the show as a Da Nang hooker rubs against Private Joker (Modine). There's a little more romance later on when a drive up pimp and hooker offer the whole platoon some action. Kubrick doesn't spend a lot of time in town, but he gives you a taste of the treacherous situation.

The best part of the show, however, is the 1st part, when Vincent D'Onofrio and the rest are going through Marine boot camp. D'Onofrio is really good at going psycho, and his uniquely hellish experience sends him over the edge.

I don't know that this is the best movie about Vietnam, but its the best at capturing what fairly typical grunts went through from boot camp right into the middle of the shit; partly a study of how the ability to deal out death affects people in very different ways, from deeply moved to crazy with power. Its not Kubrick's best but required viewing for any Kubrick fan.

The Duellists

On style and location shots alone this movie would be a 10. By appearances it looks a lot like Barry Lyndon: though a smaller movie, the period, the era the film was made and the cinematography march to the same drummer. Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel have a series of duels through the Napoleonic period, instigated on the most trivial grounds. Carradine as a fairly civilized D'Hubert is forced by a militaristic culture to duel with Feraud (Keitel), a man with no fuse at all.

Whether you like the occasional man skewered on your screen or the sometimes tedious dialog, there's no getting around the glorious settings and period costuming of the day. This was Ridley Scott's first movie and its a wonder to see.

The DVD has a remastered DD 5.1 soundtrack that actually sent some sounds around here and there in a sensible way, although little action was scene by the subwoofer. The video is wonderful. Extras include a couple of commentaries and a fascinating Boy and Bicycle B&W short story by Scott, set in a dreary town on the English coast. The DVD gets a 9/10 and its about as good as it can be.

American Beauty
½

This isn't the usual escapism I have on my watch list. Its odd how you can watch a movie one time, then watch it years later and realize how much you didn't remember or maybe didn't notice the first time. I did remember the floating plastic bag and how it can so strangely take on a metaphorical role in the movie.

There's a little bit of Lester in me. Enough to know exactly how he, so skillfully played by Kevin Spacey, reacts or is going to react to his wife, the cheerleader he fantasizes about, and work. Anyone with just a little experience with realtors can recognize what a great role Benning played.

The characters are what makes American Beauty such a well done movie. That and a bit of the surreal added to the mix results in a drama that is sometimes a cringingly realistic view of the way things are in suburbia. This is a great snapshot of a mostly detached and cold lifestyle that comes with living in boxes, driving smaller boxes and obsessing over money.

Blade: Trinity

I usually watch the extras disc when there's a two disc DVD package for a movie. While I was watching Blade Trinity's 2nd disc I was thinking the movie ought to be pretty good. Even though most people said it sucked, I can still find some good in suckiness.

I was wrong, though. Blade Trinity does have all the parts that could've made a much better movie. Its got cool weapons, vampires that vaporize like blazing fast sparklers, the good guys wear sunglasses at night, a wise-cracking sidekick, and some decent action. Unfortunately it also has Wesley Snipes delivering his few lines like he's getting his teeth pulled, a 6000 year old vampire that looks like a German nightclub bouncer (with zero screen presence), improbable rescues, Yukon SUVs, too many vaporizing vampires, and familiars occupying so many positions of power I'm surprised there was any normal humans left. OK, a Yukon SUV isn't so bad. But between some bad casting and a director that should've stuck to writing, Blade Trinity is the weakest of the 3 Blade movies.

The DVD set is technically superior to the movie it was made for and gets an 8/10. It has a Dolby digital 6.1 soundtrack and an excellent soundtrack.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Expectations were very high when this movie came out. For the most part, people were entertained but not really happy about the 1st Star Wars prequel. Jar Jar Binks was a popular target of contempt. My biggest problem with him is you can't understand what the hell he's saying. Natalie Portman has gotten mixed reviews for her role in the trilogy. Her character is strongest in this movie and she gets to wear some great costumes.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/NataliePortmanBlack.jpg[/img]


Anakin had no father? I missed this the first time I saw Phantom Menace, but Shmi Skywalker says it with a straight face. It reminded me of a joke about a welfare applicant answer to 'who's the daddy?' In Star Wars, the midichlorians did it!

Yoda looked a little silly, like he needed to get his head powdered or something, and his lips jut out like a chimpanzee. Well who knows what he is? I never saw any other Yodoids in the movies.

I liked the way the robot army was carted around and rolled out for action. Very sci-fi although they're too brittle and die like flies. The main redeeming features of Phantom Menace are the pod race and what is likely the best swordfight in the movies. Ray Park is a world class Kung fu master, looks suitably evil as Darth Maul, and makes the fight with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon awesome.

This is the first movie completely shot with digital cameras, and the visuals are top notch. The THX EX sound spreads itself on a 7.1 as well as any soundtrack I've heard. The DVD gets a 9/10.

Iron Monkey
Iron Monkey(2001)
½

How can any self-respecting action fan resist a movie called Iron Monkey? Unless its about some kind of kinky wok cuisine, you know Iron Monkey is gonna have some serious kick booty in its contents.

I was not disappointed. The kung fu sequences are as good as any, without tons of wire fu, and predate the current crop of the resurgent genre. The various fighters comment on their opponents style while they duel. "Oh you are using the Crane", or "That is Shaolin Kung Fu, where did you learn it?" Then they'll say "Well its nothing special and you're dead" or some such taunt. Its great stuff! I also like the way they make it a family movie by getting the kids and women into the kung fuin' and getting a few licks in before getting their asses kicked. Jean Wang is fetching as Miss Orchid, so its good she doesn't get whupped too bad.

The story is OK, along the lines of Robin Hood, and like Robin has historical references, although completely fictional itself. Its about a doctor fighting against corrupt government officials. In a movie like Iron Monkey, however, the short respites of dialog, including some pretty lame humor, are a perfect time to get a snack or let the cat out while the movie winds up and delivers another round of nutritious combat. This is probably a movie for the fans, as it lacks the cachet that movies like Hero or CTHD bring to the screen.

There's some nice extras, including interviews with Tarantino and Donnie Yen on the DVD. You should buy, rent, or at least see Iron Monkey if you like movies with large amounts of high quality whupass :D

X2: X-Men United

There's a class structure to the X-Men. Some of them have supersuits with capes, some without, and some have no supersuits at all. The ones without include Xavier, who's so super he doesn't even need a suit, and the young X-Men. I guess they only get one suit have to wait until they grow up to get one.

This is a better movie than the 1st, notwithstanding the silliness that continues unabated. It would be nice if stories could be written that can progress without characters making dumbass moves, or the most sophisticated plane in the world incapable of getting a newswire.

Even so, its exciting to see the mutants express themselves. I especially enjoyed Pyro's demo on, or at the Boston Police, cut short though it was by Rogue, there's nothing like Wolverine's Adamantium blades plunging through 20 or so of the covert ops team, and Mystique is the most fun of all, helped along by being one of the 'bad guys' on temporary good guy duty. This movie also sparked my interest in the Mazda RX8, but that's another story. This is a good popcorn movie, fun to watch. Just don't ask a lot of questions.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

[b]NOTICE:[/b]

[b]To all current and former Star Wars fans who wonder if Lucas knows WTF he's doing anymore.[/b]

Don't pay any attention to the dweebs who knock this movie. I'm not a fanatic; I didn't like Attack of the Clones. Return of the Jedi was feeble. But Lucas got it right with Revenge of the Sith. I could watch 3 more Star Wars movies like this one. Sure there's still some crap dialog, and some puzzling problems with the Jedi who are capable of being incredibly oblivious to whats right in front of their collective nose. That's why I rate it 9.5 instead of a straight 10.

With all due respect to other recent movies that I've watched and love, nothing tops the visuals in this, apparently the last Lucas Star Wars movie. From the opening space/ship battles to the climactic duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin/Darth Vader, there's so much ultra coolness happening on the screen you could see a different movie every time you watch it. Like Anakin/Darth, I cannot resist and bow to this cinematic magnum opus.

This may be the last Star Wars movie that George Lucas makes, but I bet its not the last Star Wars. How could they resist making 500 million in a few weeks, a billion more with the DVD/HD release?


[img]http://www.darthrage.com/starwars/pictures/3/sw_40b.jpg[/img]

Step Into Liquid
½

Whoa! Dude! Great movie about the best surfers in the world and some of the awesome surfing locations. Mostly a documentary but a little bit of a promotion, its forgiveable for its evangelical element since everyone involved are total surfer fans. Like one of them says, its like joining the mob; once you join you can never get out. You have to be a True Believer to surf in the icy Irish Sea or take a boat out 100 miles west of San Diego to surf 65 foot waves knowing there's big fish there that would like to eat you :eek:

...Liquid does an excellent job of capturing the power of the huge waves and has the best underwater shots of waves rolling in that I've seen. It lags behind Blue Crush in the audio, but there's still occasional rumbles signalling a huge swell is on the move.

The 2 disc DVD pack also has a Windows HD wmv version, that coincidentally helped me solve a sound problem I've been having with my analog output. Video and audio are both excellent, much of the movie was filmed in HD. Plenty of extras as well. This is the movie to get for anyone who wants to see airing, laybacks, hanging ten, hydrofoil surfboards, lots of pipeline and locked in surfers along the way. No one got killed as far as I know. The DVD gets an 8/10.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain...., for the 5 people in the world who still don't know, is a film that is done almost completely on a computer with live actors on blue screen sets. For that it gets credit for advancing film tech to its logical end; this won't be the last film made that way. I was more entertained than I thought I might be; the story is very much a homage to the cliffhanger serials that were popular in the 30's and 40's, more or less the film's era. Its an alternate reality as things seem both familiar and strange all at once, adding heavy doses of 40's style sci fi to the mix.

The acting is secondary to the visuals that border on overload, but it was better than I expected and makes the movie more appealing. You can't completely dump the human element, computers or not. Paltrow and Law are a good team and their banter added a little fun to the show. This is the first time I've seen Paltrow in a movie. She does fill up her wardrobe in the right places and her complexion seems ideal for this kind of B&W/Sepia/muted color computerized film. She looked almost too good, but she can throw a real good simulated punch.

The music is very redundant and ultimately boring. This is a good example of why they ought to put music and sounds on separate tracks, like many video games, so you can turn the stuff off and still get dialog and sound effects.

Extras on the DVD include lengthy narratives by Conran and other crew, cast members Law and Paltrow and a smidgen of Jolie. It goes deep into the computers and the computer horsepower they needed to make this film and loads of computer staff of one sort or another. The DVD looks great and sounds just as good. 8/10

North by Northwest

This is good vintage Hollywood. Everyone should see at least one Hitchcock movie, and one Cary Grant movie, so you can do both with this one. Hitchcock directed quite a few movies and I've only seen a few. He likes to center very much on the characters' reactions to events and he'll give you lots of closeups and rotations around the main characters. At least that is my impression. Once you hear Cary Grant you'll understand why his voice was a staple for impressionists who were popular in those times. He's strong on the screen and quick enough for comedy, of which he did several.

I'm not quite as impressed with North by Northwest as I suppose I should be. While Grant, Eva Marie Saint and the others are easy to watch, I thought some of the logic was a bit flawed and the story just kind of landed here and there. There's a couple of major goofs that made it into the final cut, but they're good sports and point them out in the featurette. The film has lots of bit players that were in tons of 50's and 60's movies.

Most ordinary people now know Hitchcock for Psycho, which he directed right after North by Northwest as he went back to Black and White. Perhaps he did that to explore the B&W possibilities for his TV show that ran during that time.

Bernard Herrmann wrote the music. I knew it reminded me of the music from the 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and sure enough he wrote that too, which was released a year earlier. Some of the passages are virtually the same. I like it, but its hard to call it an original composition.

This was the 2000 DVD release. There is a more recent release although I don't know what improvement it may have. The newer one doesn't list all the goodies this one has at Amazon. The video looks good, if a little brittle, and they make a game attempt at occasionally using a surround soundfield created from the original mono soundtrack. I mentioned the Making Of featurette which is hosted by Eva Marie Saint and is worth watching just to get a glimpe of what a character Hitchcock was. The DVD is 8/10.

Planet of the Apes
½

Lots of science fiction movies owes at least a little to the original Planet of the Apes. It was one of the 1st sci fi movies to get nominated and actually get an Oscar (2001 got one in the same year), and has one of the best climactic payoffs in moviedom. Its not the 1st sci fi movie to have an underlying political commentary, but it was so cleverly concealed the studio didn't even notice it. They found some great locations in the Southwest to do some of the filming and came up with very creative ape cultures.

Acting can help keep an older movie from falling into obscurity, and it surely helps this cult classic. The dialog and debate amongst Heston, McDowell, Evans and Hunter get the movie past the standard fare that winds up in 3AM time slots.

The 2 disc 35th Anniversary DVD set has anything a primate lover could wish for (if you were married to it, this is the Emerald year :p ). In my case it was more than I needed. 3 separate commentaries is 3 more than I listened to. The best of the extras are the Making Of and Roddy McDowell's home movies of behind-the-scenes. The Making Of goes on and on and runs through all the sequels, although I hit the menu button after the 1st sequel, and it wasn't made for this DVD release as host McDowell died in 1998. Nonetheless there's plenty of interesting material to be had there, including a little makeup test that had Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius, and McDowell's little movie is an alternate perspective the filming. Its gotta mean something that when in makeup the chimps, gorillas and orangutan players segregated themselves by the ape they were! Gorillas ate lunch here, the chimps there, etc.. The film itself is pristine; a new anamorphic-enhanced picture, graced with both DD and DTS soundtracks. My surrounds, however, didn't get much to do. All in all a good package for any Planet of the Apes fan, and gets a 9/10.

Babylon 5 - The Complete Fourth Season

Babylon 5 Season 4

The year is 2261. This is the year where all the major threads of the past 3 years are resolved. The creators didn't know if there was going to be a 5th season (a hazard of the industry) so they wrapped up. This created serious problems for Season 5, which while it had some good episodes was not really the same show. People were doing different things, different people, etc.. For instance they killed off Marcus while nobly saving Ivanova(Claudia Christian)late in Season 4, but the creator Straczynski admits that he wouldn't done that if he'd known that Claudia Christian wasn't going to come back for the 5th season. They lost 2 main characters that were never adequately replaced. For these reasons B5 Season 4 is where I stop buying B5 Season packs (unless I can get 5 real cheap :D ).

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/cap003.jpg[/img]
And its a helluva season! The Death and Resurrection of the hero, casting out the Devil, Ultimate Sacrifice, The Battle between the Light and the Dark, cats and dogs living together, etc... Seriously, it's got all the Big Questions and some of its own answers. Episode 6 has perhaps the greatest all time TV space battle. Its very impressive although there's so much going on it may not be quite as intense as a couple of battles from Season 3. Episode 6 has more ships, a huge variety of ships and weaponry and a definite a feast for the senses. The Narn/Centauri struggles are resolved in this episode as well, and it is a pivot point in the series. I'm surprised they didn't do a commentary for it. As I watch this show again, it becomes more clear that the Minbari have been modelled a bit on the Vulcans from Star Trek. They don't devote themselves to logic or disavow their emotions but there's a similar mystic to them. The Minbari (aka Boneheads to the less enchanted) and how they connect with humans are pivotal to the whole show. The weakest episodes of the season follow this (They must've blown their budget), the main thread being former Security Chief Garibaldi assuming the role of main PITA. Later on his shithead behavior makes perfect sense but initially it was annoying. There's a number of other good space battles in later episodes, and some great fleet action shots. You can tell that the CGI has improved over the life of the series. While some shots are still bit clunky, many are now very believeable at least in the B5 universe.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/cap005.jpg[/img]
B5 has an ensemble cast thats capable of rich subtext and layering their characters. As always the strength of the acting makes or breaks a show no matter how spiffy the scnenery and FX may be. B5's characters make it easy watch these great episodes again. All of them are capable of drawing you in with exposition and developed great depth for their characters. If you browse IMDB you'll see that there's many familiar actors, and many notable guest stars over the years, and one of the few series which has a unique orchestral score for every episode.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/cap007.jpg[/img]
The DVD video is generally excellent and has been remastered to a widescreen format, a big plus. Not such a big plus is the picture is sometimes soft, even blurry. It happens when the background is artificial/CGI. There must be limitations remastering the computer graphics and they just can't convert to another resolution like they can in the real world. Sound is 5.1 DD, excellent for a TV show.

The Thing
The Thing(1982)

The Thing

The latest movies, with all their spiffy CGI, still need a wild imagination to pull it off. The Thing is the wildest horror sci fi of them all, not yet surpassed, and so supreme as a gel and goo Fest its not likely to be in these days of computer FX.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap003.jpg[/img]


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap005.jpg[/img]

From the sci fi story 'Who Goes There', The Thing is about a shape shifting alien that's been buried for eons after the ship carrying it crashes in Antarctica. Pulled out of the ice and thawed, it rewards its rescuers with completely taking over their physical beings, assimilating them in grossly delectable ways that Connoisseurs of blobby, sinewy ick can appreciate.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap010.jpg[/img]

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap011.jpg[/img]

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap013.jpg[/img]

From the opening ominous tune by the matchless Ennio Morricone that accompanies the pursuit of a truly spooky wolflike husky by a Norwegian helicopter across the vast snowpack (actually British Columbia) to the end credits, The Thing is a manly movie about men, some of them in hats, being eliminated one by one by the nastiest alien in moviedom. No guys in suits running around posing as extraterrestials, but a wild concoction of rubber, gel and whoknowswhatelse arranged in all kinds of ghastly ways. But the most disturbing thing is the rampant paranoia that takes over the base, as no one
knows who to trust anymore.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap017.jpg[/img]


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap015.jpg[/img]

The cast is very good and has a lot to do with why this movie still works. Kurt Russell plays the reluctant leader thats got some nasty work to do. Others include Wilford Brimley who went on to such high points as nutrition ads, for things like oats. Really, they're pretty good.

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Thing/cap025.jpg[/img]

The extras on the DVD are worth the updated version alone, with long talks with Carpenter and the major cast and crew. The anamorphic display is improved from the previous barebones release, and there's a 5.1 DD audio, even if most of the audio is upfront. This is pretty good stuff for a 20+ year old movie. I'd give the DVD a solid 8/10.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
½

I'm not sure what market this movie is going after. I've never read the books, but they must be better than this. The story onscreen is a strong dose of Dickens and Addams overlaid with a bit of fantasy, and pretty dark for young children. What you see onscreen is, as many have already said, what the Nightmare Before Christmas would look like if it had been filmed live, and most of the points I give the movie are for what it looks like, including the characters.

Carrey can be a very funny guy in small doses. While Count Olaf was a perfect fit for him, Carrey's not funny most of the time being Count Olaf, or Count Olaf posing as anyone else, playing over the top, low and away or straight down the middle of the plate. Uncle Monty(Connolly) and Aunt Josephine(Streep) are more interesting. The kids are just OK; Violet(Browning) does the best. I lost interest in the story about when it became clear that no one else in the entire world except the kids would ever recognize Count Olaf being one impostor after the next.

What kept me watching was the amazing set design and effects, CGI, etc..., the notion reinforced by the fact that I liked the movie credits as much as the movie. That they can successfully blend live action with an almost total confection of a world is amazing. I don't know if they mucked up the story but if they can get a better story to go along with the visual package they'll have a hella good show.

The single disc DVD version puts out a good video and audio signal; very clear and the dialog is never lost. I didn't find the extras very interesting, but they include deleted scenes, some behind the scenes stuff and bloopers. The DVD gets an 8/10.

House of Flying Daggers

This is a dazzling movie. My favorite part is at the Peony Pavilion, a place I'd like to get drunk at :D and where Zhang does her incredible dancing. The bamboo forest battle is another great scene, almost a staple for this sort of movie, albeit with some worn out wire fu. Yimou uses color better than anyone else I've seen; even the mundane and ordinary seem to have an uptick on the color.

The acting is all excellent. For some reason Kaneshiro reminded me of Keanu Reeves, not in appearance but in manner. That's not a bad thing. Lau is also good, but this is really Ziyi Zhang's movie. The role is perfect for her and she shows some real acting chops, getting everything out of her character's feelings with nuance and meaningful/happy/sad expressions.

The weakest part of the movie is the end. There was unfinished business between the Flying Daggers and the 'General', and I didn't feel very satisfied with the resolution of the conflict between the main characters.

The DVD put out a video that was just as pretty as it can be, with good sound to go with it. There's a pretty good 'making of' on the DVD, subtitled of course, a music video, galleries, etc... They managed to squeeze quite bit onto one DVD and still get a good-looking movie onscreen. The DVD gets a 9/10.

I, Robot
I, Robot(2004)

This is a summer action flick that borrows heavily from the Asimov short stories and novels. While Will Smith's Spooner is strictly a movie character, Calvin, Lanning and Robertson were in some of the I, Robot short stories as founders/developers of USR and the robots it sells. They also get the 3 Laws of Robotics down pretty good (Asimov later made it 4 Laws). But the story is not anything Asimov would write, or probably anyone else that takes such great care in creating a world loaded with nonviolent robots and thrash it with loads of robots that violate ALL the laws, ending up at a variation of 'Unplug the berserk main computer that we stupidly gave total control over everything!' ala 2001, The Forbin Project, War Games and several Star Trek episodes, the one 'thoughtful' robot Sonny posing like Caesar in Conquest of Planet of the Apes, with the human heroics performed by a smart aleck homicide detective that fits in the year 2035 as well as his 'advertised' Converse high tops. He could've been investigating a 30's gangster execution and use the same lines (Hey it is the 30's! The 2030's). Asimov's novels were much better than this. The director admits his difficulty of getting Asimov's world onto the screen; he should've read more of his books.

So how the hell can I give this a decent rating? Well, they're my ratings and I can do anything I want. More rationally I can rate it up on the excellent technical merits of the movie. They flub up making Asimov's world but do create a world with some interesting things like cool cars, demolition robots, nannites and cyborg prosthetics. Smith's arm got into the story slowly and I wish I had one of those :eek: The acting was OK. Sonny the robot interacted a bit like HAL from 2001. The DVD looks and sounds great with a DTS sound track. Extras are a bit sparse and merely OK. The DVD gets an 8/10.


[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/AsimovRobotsSml.jpg[/img]

Willow
Willow(1988)

Willow is a fun movie to watch. Sort of LOTR Lite; less filling, tastes.....This was made during George Lucas' Little Guys phase. He couldn't get enough of the Ewoks, so he lifted some fantasy here and grabbed some story there and came up with Hobbit-like Nelwyns portrayed mostly by Little People and Brownies which are teeny and must be Tinkerbell rejects. Queen Bavmorda looked like she was modelled after Disney's evil queen in Snow White, and actually brings some strength to this show that borders on the spongy-mushy . Val Kilmer is fun to watch and the sparks were evident between him and soon-to-be-wife Joanne Whalley. They must've had the little baby plopped in front of a camera for hours to get some of the expressions it has. I shudder to think that they were feeding it something to get those looks :eek:

The THX DVD is anamorphic and the video is excellent. Audio is 5.1 and gets the job done. The extras I watched were video in source and were inferior to the movie by quite a bit. That's what you'll get if you want to see Lucas and Howard on the set filming. I give the DVD an 8/10.

Miller's Crossing

I enjoyed Miller's Crossing, but not as much as I'd hoped. Gabriel Byrne hit me as flat-footed through most of the movie, and he gets punched enough to be black and blue over 50% of his body, but barely shows it, either the pain of getting socked or the after effects. Thompson machine guns don't have 500 rounds of ammo, they have 50. This stuff took me off the 'edge of the seat'.

I did like most everyone else, and generally the story itself. Verna (Marcia Harden) is dynamite onscreen and about the only thing that animates the abovementioned Byrne. Turturro, Polito and Freeman all bring their best game, and the film has some of those odd moments that the Coens' must really savor. That's OK I like those odd moments too its part of what makes their films interesting. O Brother Where art Thou is still their best with Fargo 2nd.

The DVD has very nice video, heavy on the earth tones and generally gloomy enough so colors aren't prominent even on interior shots, and very fitting for the period. Dialog, being the main audio about Miller's Crossing, was very clear. There's a nice extra with Sonnenfield chatting about working with the Coens. It gets an 8/10.

Zulu
Zulu(1964)
½

This is a classic war movie that despite the inevitable inaccuracies is a gripping account of the battle at Rorke's Drift in 1879. It is also the first movie of its sort that I know which depicts boths sides with some attempt at accuracy. I thought the Zulus were great and the psychological warfare they carried on with the chanting and smacking their shields with their spears and sounding like a runaway freight train would've scared the bejesus out of me if I was in their path. There's a bit of a stiff-lipped British Empire attitude and a National Geographic feel to the battle's prelude but even so it builds up nicely to the short but fierce confrontation of 4000 Zulus vs. the 100 odd British soldiers and various indigents at Rorke's, bravely led by the characters played by Stanley Baker and Michael Caine in his 1st major role.

There's a newer DVD release than this one which can only improve the experience as the picture looked a lot like a VHS transfer made in the bilge of a Chinese Junk. An occasional clean film moment is interspersed in the mostly grainy and blurry video, and the audio is strictly mono. Even a 5/10 DVD does not dissuade my high opinion of this old classic.

Collateral
Collateral(2004)

Tom Cruise is not my favorite actor, but after watching Collateral I have an appreciation for him. Playing a villain suits him perfectly. Like Henry Fonda or Kirk Douglas, he puts on the black hat and oozes malice while trampling on anyone in the way, Cruise is a stone cold killer, and as a dead shot at the top of his game he can run through a squad of cops and bodyguards to get the target. He even has a prescient little story about death. Jamie Fox plays a character I've run into several times. They're a taxi driver/waiter/professional student who's just doing what they're doing temporarily, for 10 or 15 years. When Max(Jamie) picks up Vincent(Cruise) the thriller melds with a character study and has more dimension than typical.

The DVDs are excellent, and the video is a good test of your equipment's black level handling. There's a DTS soundtrack (hooray!). Collateral isn't an audio tour de force but dialog was crystal clear and the gun battles raged in 5.1 glory, brief that they are. The second DVD has some decent but not great material including a making of, a deleted scene commentary and an FX expose. It also gets a solid 8/10.

24 - Season 3
½

[b]4/9/05[/b]
So this fellow at work, actually Fearless Leader, offers me this DVD pack to watch. Since I didn't use the last 3 basketball tickets he gave me I figured I better do at least a little mindmeld with him and catch onto the 24 rollercoaster. I never watched 24 at all before.

After 4 episodes its both good and sucky, almost at the same time. They do a really good job making everything tense. Time is always running out. It sucks when they diverge into melodrama and linger on one of the multitude of love affairs. They'll put the future of the world in the balance and switch into some pukey little interpersonal interaction about hurt feelings or sucking face. Blech. :rolleyes: It could easily be an 8/10 if they'd dump all or most of the formula romance. I'll give another 4 episodes to see if it recovers from Dumbass TV.


[b]4/11/05[/b]

OK I watched 8 more episodes just to be sure that 24 was going to continue to feed me slices of wholesome counter-terrorism with a big side order of greasy sweet melodrama. Kim needs to be 'retired' as she is the source of 90% of my nausea while watching. The series doesn't need a Clorox blond, and I really want to slap her silly. Do the creators really think she's a hot ticket?? Its not really her fault; they just give her most of the ridiculous petty dialog. Sometimes they reward other characters with imbecilic behavior to even things out. The banality can almost make you forget the dire peril the world faces if Jack Bauer doesn't battle and BS his way out of another doubletalking doublecross.

I figure I can watch another batch of 4 episodes tomorrow....

[b]A few days later.....[/b]

The following happened between 11:00 PM and 12:00 AM

DataRush: Jack, what are you doing?

Jack Bauer: You don't have clearance to know.

Rush: Do too. I just got my temporary CTU Covert Ops License (shows to Jack)

Jack: It takes more than that, wannabe! Put your head on this glass (does a brainscan)

Rush: Yes, its true. I do have a brain. It was required to have one to be your next partner.

Jack: Shutup. OK you're clear. Your mind is blank. My partner?!

Rush: I'm relieved. Yes, partner. Remember your last one? Were you trained in the surgical uses of fire axes?

Jack: I don't want a partner. Bad things happen to my partners.

Rush: I noticed. Are you going to remodel CTU headquarters?

Jack: Whaddya mean remodel headquarters? I've got my own mezzanine office with ultra hi tech window blackouts, so I can do things like give myself a fix in privacy.

Rush: Oh that reminds me. Congratulations on beating your heroin addiction in a matter of a few hours. Its gotta be a record!

Jack: Thanks. Everyone was on pins and needles over that.

Rush: About remodelling. You have to stop marching the most dangerous terrorists in the world through tech sections filled with unarmed analysts. Look at what happened with Saunders!

Jack: The fun never stops at CTU.

Rush: So, what are you doing Jack?

Jack: Getting some new ringtones for my phone. Mine are so boring!

Rush: And you're always on that phone, Jack! Get any good ones?

Jack: You don't understand. They're using ringtones to signal sleeper cells to complete their missions. We just found out that 'Cows with Guns' give an order to blow up cheese factories.

Rush: Oh the evil of it all!

Jack: And who knows what that Aflac duck ringtone triggers. We're guessing its something about feathers. Gotta run! Coming?

Rush: Hell yes! I wouldn't miss Jack Bauer in action. Lets get down!

Wild At Heart

And now for something completely different. Who used to say that? Its a good lead-in for just about any David Lynch movie. Wild at Heart seems a little less obscure than some other Lynch movies, being centered on Sailor and Lula who have the eternal hots for each other. Still it has elements of a multilevel mindfuck, what with Lula's crazy mother played by Laura Dern's real mother, a certifiable nutcase onscreen who nonetheless still can hook men into doing her dirty work, a string of extras and bit players that look like runaways from the crazy farm and an odd squad of hit persons that get off on point blank murder. "I'm making my lunch" takes on a new meaning when spoken by a Crispin Glover character who is from beyond the beyond.

Still the story centers on a comparatively normal couple of Sailor (Cage) and Lula (Dern). Cage does a down and dirty Elvis sort of fellow pretty good, capable of carrying a tune in Elvisish. I've never given much thought of Dern being a steaming hot babe, but in this movie she's hotter than Georgia asphalt, as they say. Sailor's in an out of routine trouble while Lula hasn't done anything worse than stink up a room with puke, so ya compared to just about everyone else in the movie they're your next door neighbors, even as they both reveal some skeletons in their closets as they wistfully seek the Land of Oz. There's some violence and gore that approximates gratituitous, but is also fairly cartoonish and wouldn't disturb most movie veterans. It gets just a little slow at the end and for that it suffers being less than a 9.

The DVD looks and sounds good. Best of all there's the Lynch himself talking about Wild at Heart and a nice making of. The DVD is a solid 8/10.

The Incredibles
½

I'd like to get one of those supersuits. Without a cape.

This is great animation. They're getting closer and closer to an alternate reality with computer graphics. I mean I felt oddly attracted to Elastigirl, an animated female thats got some Can Do going. Even Jessica Rabbit didn't do anything for me [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/smilies/eek.gif[/img]

Another odd thing is I liked the supporting characters more than the Incredibles, character-wise. The family is OK, just that I liked Frozone and Edna E mode, and Jack Jack. Jack Jack is a baby they're different, like little aliens even when they're not super.

There's plenty of 60's and James Bond stuff, especially when Mr. Incredible is starting up again on his own. Some of the music is close to a lift from one of those old 007 movies, and Edna 'E' is a chip off the old Q block. I didn't laugh as much at the Incredibles as at some other recent animations, but this is animation that wants to be live action, so maybe it wasn't that funny. After a little slow startup the action is fast and furious with great series of battles at the end. Brad Bird can write his own ticket; after an Incredible box office and DVD sales there will be more Incredibles.

The DVDs were excellent with a dazzling picture and a seriously multichannel Dolby Digital track. Extras are extensive and some are even worth watching. The DVDs get a 9/10 as well.

'Woman, where did you put my supersuit?!'

Spartan
Spartan(2004)
½

I enjoyed the 1st half of this movie better than the last 1/3. That doesn't add up to one, so it must be that the 4th 1/6 was transitional from good to not so good. It gets very generic just about when the 'where's the girl?' girl shows up. It's not all her fault, but the movie gets boring, going places that covert/dark ops movies have been to many times, with double and triple crosses going on all the way up to the top.

The 1st half is much better, simply because it was more straightforward action cleanly done with a sprinkle of Mission Impossible and a dash of 'Bourne' stuff mixed in the stew. Val Kilmer does well. He's never quite made it to the 'A' list, and will probably reside in the same grade of movies Richard Gere has made a career of. The acting is generally cardboard, thin and yet stiff. There is one scene that involves a broken arm that stands out, and its too bad there wasn't more of that going on it, as it would've been more fun.

HBOHD is generally disappointing for the large amount of crap that's been on it but for once something viewable got played. Spartan was decent.

History of the World---Part I
½

This ridiculous spoof zips through prehistory and the old testament in about 5 minutes and zooms in for more leisurely spoofests in Imperial Rome, the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution. I give Mel Brooks credit for being irreverent to any human institution and religious practice that he could squeeze in. He also enjoys boobs tightly squeezed into low cut dresses and kissing them, especially as the 'its good being the king' of France. He does that often in his movies :p

Just about every player thats ever been in a Brooks movie is in this one at least a little, and the ending is as silly as the rest of them, with Gregory Hines showing up in a chariot just in time before the movie dies of exhaustion. The gags don't always work but they go a mile a minute and one does land now and then, with the best cluster during the French Revolution. History of the World tries real hard and is better than all but a couple of Brooks' movie spoofs.

The Iron Giant

Before the Incredibles there was the Iron Giant, at least in director Brad Bird's world. The story is a throwback to the 1950's paranoid sci-fi space aliens/giant insects/lizards movie era where horrible aliens/monsters routinely threatened civilization as we know it. Except once in a while the horrible aliens/monsters weren't nearly as bad as our or our gov't reaction to it. Iron Giant fits in that last category, and there's not a thing wrong with being reminiscent of a classic like The Day the Earth Stood Still in the overall story arc. Western civ was still recovering from the shell shock of WWII, new weapons of global destruction, and such movies were a way of dealing with it.

Iron Giant didn't have to deal with all that psychic load but just grab some of the era's stereotypes and add a contemporary one or two, including another generations' ideas of mechs, transformers and a laid back personality or two to make a movie thats fun to watch today. The plot made sure that everyone looked forward to the Giant finally going into kickass mode and I wasn't disappointed when it did. The animation was good enough, tending to be a high quality TV grade with occasional ramp ups for effects. The ending is a bit of childish fantasy but did allay my fears of ultimate sacrifice which has been done way too much. What the hell he was from another world it coulda happened that way. Iron Giant is almost a 9/10 but loses a little in the unlikely way that some characters interact.

The DVD has some decent goodies in it and you see that with some more $$$ Bird could've done even better. Video is good but modern animation really defaults to good its just question of how much framerate they paid for. Audio does occasionally work out all channels. The DVD is an 8/10.

Dawn of the Dead

To get yourself in a Zombie frame of mind I recommend eating a nice rare steak or a juicy burger while you watch Dawn....so you too will crave flesh...muahhaah [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

This gorefest wastes no time getting right to the 'meat' of the story. The pretty nurse (Polley) gets hints right from the beginning that something weird is happening, but its not until a former friend/now preteen zombie rips her life new one that she wakes up to a new reality of a worldwide zombie epidemic. After her awakening and on her way to whoknowswhere she meets up with Kenneth (Rhames) and the others in a detour to find safety in a mall. Dawn.. has a better than usual cast for a movie that could've been called "BloodBucket, BrainBits and FleshChunk" (easily replacing the nondescript character names) and it definitely helps the movie get past a few slow and dull parts. Its not scary but sometimes shocking, and you'll get to see things like Zombie bondage, a Zombie baby, and Zombies that, unlike their slowass Undead Brethren in other movies, can run like hell.

Things I learned from Dawn of the Dead:

1. Lock your doors stupid!

2. Mall Security guards don't care if you're fleeing the undead, and will shoot you for shoplifting

3. Never operate a chainsaw in a moving vehicle.

4. If one little zombie bite turns you into a zombie, wear something heavier than a T shirt, like steel-belted radials.

Dawn... DVD has some of the more interesting extras I've watched lately. They spent a lot of time and money creating just the right effects for headshots, and the blood splatters and skull explosions show a great deal of care and concern to deliver only the finest grade gore to connoisseurs of bloodbaths. Pretending to be a zombie is a very popular, and they had no problem at all getting all the extras they needed, even though the makeup got real hot. There's also a nice little video on Andy's private struggle for survival holed up in his gun store. The DVD is 8/10.

The Princess Bride

This movie is such a hoot. Its also a movie where virtually no critic, no one has the nerve to give it a rotten tomato. Not that I see how they could, but usually there's someone.

This is one of the few movies with strong leanings to comedy that I can watch again and still enjoy. Maybe its because its actually a fairy tale/action/adventure/love story/comedy. Anyway I can still howl when Buttercup and Farm Boy roll down the hill (anyone notice the stunt man's bald spot?) and the Giant's silly rhymes, with plenty of grinning too at several other clips. It also has a pretty good sword fight, cheesy rat-monsters, and actors all playing it tongue-in-cheek up to their eyebrows.

I don't know if the planets were in perfect conjunction, a surge in galactic Big Bang dark energy or all the actors had magic costumes but Princess Bride occupies a fairly unique niche in moviedom, one in which just about everything is 'as you wish'. It looks glorious in HD.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)
½

South of the Equator, around Rio de Janeiro there exists hundreds of favelas, or slums as we call them. I don't think the USA has anything that matches the wretched conditions of these favelas, and the City of God is the slum where this movie plays out its drama. Lives tend to be short, violent and crime-ridden in the City of God. Druglords are the real power, and they rule by drug addiction and guns, lots of guns. Kids barely past potty training learn street life of robbery, rape and mayhem, fighting running battles with cops and each other. The main character, Rocket, is a photographer wannabe and chronicles this tale. He is one of the slumdwellers that manage to skirt around and duck being dragged into a life of crime. Others aren't so lucky. Even people just trying to live a decent life can't avoid dealing with the rampant crime at some level. The film starts in the 60's when the City of God was first being built, complete with rampaging hoodlums right at the start, and things just get worse as the favelas get bigger and uglier.

If you've watched gangster movies you may notice some common elements present in the City of God, not the least of which is a psychotic druglord that runs most of the town, crooked cops, doublecrosses and executions. It just comes with the territory. Lots of handheld camera work, starting with the chicken chase (she deserved to live). This movie is difficult to watch at times. Kids and subadults running around killing each other with abandon is liable to make anyone cringe, with the saving grace that most of the worst violence is offscreen, in the shadows or just heard. Sometimes thats plenty.

The short "News From a Personal War" documentary was almost as interesting as the movie. If anyone has trouble believing that such a hellish place as City of God exists this will convince you. Besides being grateful I'm nowhere near, it makes you wonder just what humanity has created for itself, with multitudes living without hope. The DVD has a good, purposely slanted to red-orange video. Dialog was clear throughout, even if I subsisted on subtitles. There's no English or other dub so if you don't know Brazilian Portuguese you'll be reading along too. Gunshots were frequent and well-placed in the soundfield. Not much LFE going on. The DVD gets an 8/10.

Spartacus
Spartacus(1960)

"I am Spartacus!"

This has become a gag line, first put into play by Billy Crystal doing an Awards show or something. Now its even in advertising. But it started out as a meaningful moment in Spartacus, as the defeated but defiant slaves all claim to be Spartacus and cover for him, sealing their fate to die by crucifixion.

The story on the screen only vaguely resembles what actually went on. The slave army defeated several smallish Roman armies on its way up to the Alps, and could've marched right out of Italy. Instead it headed back south and got trapped in Italy's toe, escaped, but then fragmented and was defeated in detail by Rome, with the survivors crucified along the Appian Way. So the stuff onscreen about marching to Brundusium and sailing away is a confection from the Fast novel. Apart from being gladiators and great fighters, nobody knows diddly about Spartacus or Crixus the Gaul leader, or any of the others, and who knows if they had wives and babies.

Its nothing new for facts to get Hollywoodized, and Spartacus remains one of the great swords and sandals epics. Although he didn't write the screenplay as he did for most or all of his other movies, its my favorite Kubrick movie. The scale is huge, the staging magnificent, the acting powerful and emotional. Tension is expertly built up and played out during some pretty realistic combat. An entire division of the Spanish army were extras in the final battle. Spartacus elevates itself above standard epic fare with some real character depth and human struggle. Its only occasionally hokey.

The music includes some of the most gripping made for a movie, but if there is one thing that hasn't aged well, it is the musical passages that could have just as easily been used for a Western. Its a sign of the times it was made in.

Spartacus was restored in the late 80's. Overall it looks pretty good but compared to recent HD digital restorations that they can do now there's still a fair amount of dirt and blurriness occasionally on the screen. The remastered audio sounds quite good but almost nothing in the way of LFE. Extras are a bit sparse. I think this 2002 DVD is already out of print but it gets an 8/10.

Van Helsing
Van Helsing(2004)

This is the most ridiculous amalgamation of horror movie creatures imagineable. Cutting and pasting Dracula & Brides, Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster into a movie is what they're supposed to do when they've run out of ideas after making 3 or 4 movies into a series and just make tossed salad, even adding a really odd take on the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Here they've cut out the first 3 or 4 good movies and start right out with a preposterous one where Dracula schemes on the monster to keep his icky offspring alive and controls the Wolfman to do his dirty work. All the while Jackman and Beckinsale exchange mostly dialog for idiots.

The movie does play for humor a little, and I would've liked it better as a spoof. Wenham plays a dorky friar in a merge of James Bond's Q & Indiana Jones' Marcus Brody, Dracula's brides are like smarty pants Ray Harryhausen harpies, and what else can you do with Beckinsale's crazy-bad Transylvanian accent besides laugh? They must've been cracking up while they made this nutty thing. I think Van Helsing is contemporary Mystery Science Theater 3000 material and it deserves a 6/10 just because raises the bar for High Quality BS.

The single DVD appears clean with a pretty if mostly dark palette that would be a good black level test for your micro display TV or just to keep you convinced like me that CRT still looks the best for less. The soundtrack unloads a thunderous rumbling in many action scenes. There's some decent extras. The DVD gets an 8/10.

Walking Tall
Walking Tall(2004)

This is very much a formula flick. Good guy comes home after long absence. The old town sucks/is corrupted/run by crooks/sheriff is on the take. Good guy kicks ass but gets ass kicked worse. Good guy recovers and nurtures. Good guy kicks a little ass. Bad guys try to rub out good guy. Good guy kicks all Bad Guys collective ass at least once and everyone else lives happily ever after. Moviedom is replete with movies that follow a similar rail of a plot.

Walking Tall is a bit better than most similar movies, but only because The Rock is a professional ass kicker, and not a movie star buffed up to look like one. Rock swings the 4x4 around with bone-crushing authority and even gets a customized 4x4 complete with a taped handle, in the gun, er, club rack, ready to bash something. The supporting cast is just OK, with enough other big guys that look like they could kick your ass but not The Rock's. His female source for sentimental hygiene is a bit too slutty for my tastes and the chem is about as strong as what you might get from a ho leaning into your car and blowing in your ear. The toughest thing to swallow was Rock's recovery from getting his chest ripped to shreds with a boxcutter. Situps after that? Ya right. Worth watching for the well-staged beat-em-ups but not much else.

The DVD is merely adequate. Good but not breathtaking audio/video and no obvious problems. Its best extra is a featurette on the stunts. It gets a 7/10.

Conan the Barbarian
½

This is the sort of movie that people either like a lot or not much at all. I'm in the first group and still get a lift from the Basil Poledouris' heavy soundtrack. When the Anvil of Crom starts rumbling I feel an urge to go bash heads, or get a big sword and ride around on a horse. I get over it though and bash heads vicariously through Arnold and his badass little troupe in what is still a pretty bloody and violent movie.

Robert E. Howard was a crazy mutha and invented the Conan character in a paranoid delusional state. As near as anyone can figure Conan represented both his protector and the society that he was convinced was out to get him, since 'Conan' told him to sit down and write or he'd bash his head. Conan is a pretty good hero at that, but not invincible and often needs help to get out of tight spots. Frank Frazetta took the Conan character and created the stunning standalone and comic book visuals that most people know of as Conan. Schwarzenegger is a perfect match for the fantasy Conan.

Film[font=Verdana, Arial, MS sans Serif, Tahoma, sans-serif][size=2][font=Verdana, Arial, MS sans Serif, Tahoma, sans-serif][size=2] connoisseurs often think Conan is junk and bikers, CRPG players and action film fans think Conan is movie goodness. I think it definitely can be with decent material to work with. Conan the Barbarian is Conan's beginnings and has some really excellent scenes. Conan/Arnold llifting his head as he pushes around the Wheel of Pain can get cheers, and what self-respecting fantasy-action fan doesn't thrill to Conan, Valeria and Subotai in warpaint crashing the Orgy Pit and making a big mess? It can get a little pretentious, but not enough that you can't ignore it and enjoy a few gratuitous female breasts and giant snake decapitations.
[/size][/font][/size][/font]
Although this is the first big role for Arnold and got recognition for him, it was the Terminator that propelled him to superstar status. It didn't help that the followup Conan the Destroyer was a much weaker movie. There's been some agreement by Arnold and Milius to film a final Conan movie, when Conan becomes a king by his own hand. Probably not while he's the Governator, but it'd be good to see Conan swing his sword around one more time.

I still have the 2000 release DVD with just a 2.0 soundtrack because there isn't anything better in Region 1. I put my system on DP II to squeeze a little simulated surround out of it. The video is OK but has some dirty print segments. Extras include a nice making of. The DVD is a 7/10.

Ride With the Devil

Another movie that gets the old reliable 8/10. I didn't have any expectations about Ride with the Devil. I knew it was about the Civil War in Kansas/Missouri, a particularly nasty and vengeance-filled episode, but thats about it.

The story is a little flat and ponderous at times, and I felt that the movie was longer than the story it had to tell. It is fortunately not a formula movie where the audience is spoonfed atrocities so they'll hate and lust for vengeance on the evildoers, but instead gets into the war on a personal level, just as it was personal for the common folk who fought it or tried to duck out of its way. The slow attrition of civilians and comrades-in-arms over the course of the war were framed as poignant or horrific moments very well. This was the 2nd or 3rd major role for Tobey Maguire and there is already a strength to him. Cinematography is excellent with some lush settings for backdrops.

The DVD is pretty barebones, and I noticed some blurring of the image in closeups. It wasn't awful but it reminded me of how some TV series look when transferred to DVD. Maybe my player didn't like the DVD. I could've tried it on another drive but what the hell. It gets a 6/10.

Speed
Speed(1994)

This is classic popcorn and Pepsi entertainment. The action is almost nonstop as LA Swat team members try to foil a greedy mad bomber, going from nailbiting situation to another, rescuing people off elevators, busses and subways. Only the dead won't be kept glued to a first time viewing of Speed. This is the 3rd or 4th run for me and I still enjoy it.

Keanu Reeves heads up the cast, and his attraction is his presence. He's all there onscreen, whatever all of him may be. Dennis Hopper plays the bad guy with a method to his madness, the sort of role he's carved into a specialty. Bullock is a pert bus rider-cum-driver and brings a lot of spunk to the role. The cinematography is excellent as you might think from a director with such a background.

The 5 Star Collection DVD set has excellent video and audio, including a DTS soundtrack. There's several Making of... sorts of shorts on the 2nd disc, as well as a fairly rare group of solo interviews with cast members about the movie, cast, etc... Keanu was in 'whoa!' mode and I had to laugh at his incoherence. Dennis Hopper was best at it. There's also a bitchin' Billy Idol video of the 'Speed' song that I watched a couple of times. This is the Speed DVD set to get. It gets a 9/10

Children of Dune (MINI-SERIES)
½

This is an excellent followup to Sci Fi's Dune miniseries. It is based on the stories found in both Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

Some new characters appear and some characters have new actors, often better than the original cast. Alice Krige is particularly effective as Jessica, with Daniela Amavi doing good work as Alia, while McAvoy and Brooks capture the essence of the twins. But it is Newman as Paul/the Prophet/Muad 'dib that really comes into his own in this sequel. There's some shades of Shakespeare going on here; the story leans heavily towards tragedy as almost nothing good happens to anyone.

The movie was shot in HD and looks it. Very upscale for a TV movie as is the sound. Not much extras just a sort of recap on the VFX as they put it, getting all the big shots to look believable. The DVD gets an 8/10.

The Hunger
The Hunger(1983)

The opening scene with Bauhaus playing "Bela Lugosi is Dead". The 80's fashion style. Lesbian sex and mostly female nudity. "The Hunger" has all these things, but it gets most of its rating from the cool, almost smoky style of its sets and Deneuve's effortless blending into her role as the ageless vampire. She promises her human companions life without end, but always forgets to mention where they all wind up, living without end. But she cries and does it with feeling as she moves on to another companion after they're used up.

There isn't much of the usual vampire world; no crosses, wooden stakes, garlic, etc... They do prefer the dark but don't burn up in sunlight, and use their ankhs to draw blood. It isn't until later that you catch them with sucked blood drooling out of their mouths.

The end of the movie is puzzling. There must be additional vampire lore that only the filmmakers know about for it to turn out as it did. The Hunger is a bit chilly overall but it was visually very attractive to me.

The DVD looks fine but its too bad they didn't put any effort into spiffing up the audio track as it was almost harsh at times. Not many extras. The DVD gets a 7/10.

Dune (MINI-SERIES)

I enjoyed this expanded TV version. The first half of the first part is a bit tedious and slow, but once the Harkonnen make their move and Paul and Jessica must join the Fremen it gets better. Alec Newman had difficulty being a petulant unappealing son of Duke Leto, which is partly why the 1st part isn't so good. He's only slightly less awful than Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones. He is much better as Muad'Dib growing into the Kwisatz Haderach.

The supporting cast is quite good for the most part, notably Julie Cox as Princess Irulan in an expanded role that was tiny in the book. Occasionally there were some extras who looked like they just got off the 4:20 Shai'Hulud. Speaking of which the worms don't look bad at all, and the sets are aesthetically interesting. There were obvious compromises made in the special effects department. This version was limited by budget but told a good story, while the earlier Lynch movie had the better imagery but a very muddled storyline. As a fan I can appreciate both.

The DVDs are remastered for widescreen and look and sound very good. Most of the extras are forgettable. The DVDs also get an 8/10.

Band of Brothers (MINI-SERIES)

This is the 2nd time I've watched this miniseries and it is as good a Cable/TV show as you'll find. It accurately depicts modern warfare as horrifying and without glory. As the title indicates it is only the fellowship that keeps everyone sane, and even then the brutality and losses can be too much for a mind to handle.

You couldn't ask for more in the way of story with well-developed characters that sadly sometimes don't survive the war. Characters including Americans can be either nasty or dippy, and as in real life dealing with the difficult types is one of the struggles the men have to get through. The Greatest Generation as they're called is mostly gone now and this is an excellent testament to their times.

It was shot in the same sort of grainy stock with muted colors as Saving Private Ryan. There's both DD and DTS 5.1 audio tracks that deliver a lot of punch in the combat scenes. There's commentary from surviving 101st Airborne Easy Company members before each episode and a whole disc of extras. The 6 disc DVD set gets a 10/10.

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)

The first is definitely the best, as I caught this on HBOHD last night. Compared to the more pretentious and/or vapid sequels, depending on your slant, The Matrix added new twists to the 'our world is all in our minds' science fiction premise with a fascinating story and fun hooks to Alice, the White Rabbit and Through the Looking Glass. The Wachowski's created a believeable world that gave us segments like the hotel lobby and the helicopter rescue that live on as demos, computer hardware tests, screen savers and reference points for movie coolness.

The characters are the best developed of the Matrix group. The developing relationships between Neo, Trinity and Morpheus, the conflicts and denials in Neo's mind make a good lead-in to the final action-packed segments. I had forgotten some of the fiction of the Matrix which affected my opinions of the sequels. They make more sense now, although not enough to wander around like they do, especially Reloaded. The Matrix still works for me, even as a late night movie!

Hidalgo
Hidalgo(2004)
½

This is a mildly entertaining film that is mostly fantasy despite the references to actual characters. The 1st 15 minutes or so were depressing and the next 30 minutes were buildup for the big race which was as exciting to watch as the middle miles of a 50 mile walk, with an occasional break for gratuitous violence and rescuing a damsel in distress. It was very much a formula movie and its easy to figure out how just about everything would play out once they're in Arabia.

Despite the samo-samo story elements, I remained entertained by the movie most of the time. Character interaction is satisfying, even up to the Arabs ridiculing the 'cowboy'. Viggo does need to speak up more, and they overplayed the wounded horse's courage and ability. It was good to see Omar Sharif in action again, like an older version of his role in Lawrence of Arabia.

The DVD looks good and has a DTS soundtrack! A modicum of extras including a making of lets me rate the DVD an 8/10.

Amélie
Amélie(2001)
½

I knew that if I kept watching French films I'd get to one I like. The smallish lives of the quirky characters fits perfectly in their small but fascinating homes and apartments. I especially liked the little things that Amelie did to influence other people, leading up to the thunderous boinking by her coworker and regular stalker/customer in the restroom, and driving the nasty produce man crazy. Tatou ought to have a great career in movies; she has a presence that goes beyond her cute-as-a-bug looks. Jeunet is a detail sort of director and as in other films of his I've seen, sets up his shots with a lot of care. He remains especially attached to pallets of red/orange and green with a dash of this or that. In Amelie's case, the colors are just fine.

The movie on DVD looks spot on, and the 5.1 soundtrack did what was demanded by mostly dialog, which is in French with English subtitles. The 2 disc set has some points of interest besides the movie; the extras I watched were mostly in English. It also has the fancier type of sleeved case, and gets a 9/10.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)

I expected to like this movie more than I did. Probably all the positive "best superhero movie ever" reviews, cranked up my expectations. It is good, but not a magnitude better than the 1st Spiderman.

The biggest problem I had with it is the propulsion of Mary Jane from a waitress to superstar who's about to marry an astronaut with nothing in between and no explanation of how that happened, unless the DVD skipped a chapter. This has a lot to do with the torment Parker experiences in Spiderman 2 and the main reason Parker trashes Spiderman. Yes it is comic book material, but its too contrived and takes up too much time.

On the other hand, I liked Doc Ock as a good-guy-gone-wrong villain with his intelligent and murderous new arms, the duels between him and Spidey, the noisy and comical newspaper editor J. Jonah, and the hassles of ordinary life that Parker has to deal with. I like the destitute Parker character who sacrifices a lot to be a superhero, has superpowers that can stop working, and struggles with relationships. He does need to save up to get a police scanner so he doesn't have to suit up every damn time he hears a siren. The revelations near the end of the movie felt good, except Mary Jane should've said 'Spidey' instead of 'Tiger' [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/smilies/eek.gif[/img] and you wonder if that won't make 'them' a little boring the next time.

The 2 disc DVD set has sparkling video and audio, with good extras and even a little narrative by Babylon 5's J. Michael Straczynski who I didn't see anywhere on the credits but must've done some writing. The DVDs also get an 8/10.

Spider-Man
Spider-Man(2002)

Watching Spiderman again after a couple of years was a fresh enough experience to latch on to my gut reactions to segments of the film. The 1st half is more fun than the 2nd, with Parker discovering his Spidey self, the high school bully smackdown, a B. Campbell cameo, Spidey kicking common criminal ass, Mary Jane's wet T shirt moment, etc.. Maybe that takes it past the halfway point, it is entertaining if also a well-known formula. Anyway it is less interesting once it becomes Spidey vs Gobbie and what follows.

Maguire and Dunst were good choices for the parts. Dafoe does the best he can but he needed more space to make a schizoid personality get in the groove. The remaining characters are fairly interchangeable, but overall its a good beginning to a movies series. It is one of the better comic book movies up to now.

The DVD looks and sounds great. There's an extra DVD with some mildly interesting extras. They also get an 8/10.

Rammstein - Lichtspielhaus

This group gets the Thorsten Vieblein Award for Pyrotechnics and are the still-reigning champions of European Industrial Metal Headbanging, if not the world. Now regrouped after a chill out, this DVD has all their major videos and excerpts from concerts prior to the trial separation.

I didn't bother me that I don't know most of the Rammstein German song lyrics, such as they are, as I don't know what the hell a lot of rock groups are screaming about in English either. Rammstein appeals to me the way they crank up the volume with slamming beats. Not for everyday use, but its a perfect remedy once in a while.

Some of the videos are so-so, while I liked a couple enough to replay, like Links 2-3-4. I liked watching ants get their groove on for some reason. Mutter is a unique take on the Snow White fantasy, as only a demented rock group could do. The concert shorts have 1-2 songs and the crowds would definitely be banging their heads if only they had something to bang them on. This is fun and loud stuff to annoy your neighbors with, but as Rammstein openly admits, its made to piss off parents.

There's quite a bit on the reasonably priced DVD, looks quite good and the audio is LOUD. 8/10

Man of Aran
Man of Aran(1934)
½

This is to the people of Aran what Nanook of the North is to the Eskimos. The same filmmaker created both. It is more or less a recreation of the daily lives of the people of Aran, encapsulated in a nuclear family. There is a little fiction involved as it wasn't actually a nuclear family (they were all from Aran) and they weren't hunting the big whale sharks by then either. Even so, their lives must've been very hard, hauling kelp around in wicker baskets and scrounging for dirt to make potato gardens, all the while getting regularly sloshed around by the cold Atlantic. The real star of the B&W documentary is the incredibly strong seas that thrash the high rocky coastlines. Humans are insignificant compared to its power. If you watch a few shows like this it might seem really petty the next time you're hanging and whining about your soft life while sipping on a Frappuccino.

The DVD has some followup material on cast and crew, made in the 60's and 70's when some were still alive, and not very exciting. The most interesting thing is seeing how natives of Aran reacted to a movie about their recent ancestors. The DVD has everything and does everything you would expect for a 70 year old movie. 7/10

The Chronicles of Riddick

Chronicles.. gets the old reliable 8 overall rating, mostly because I'm a sci-fi fan and appreciate the visual style that they were going for. Visually Chronicles... is splendiforous with only an occasional CGI goof.

There were some problems with hard facts, not the least of which being Crematoria would not have had a breathable atmosphere with it rotating thru 1000 degree temperature changes, or the shifting vulnerabilities of the Necromongers. A movie like this is going to live or die in the sci fi niche and has to have a plausible core to satisfy its fanbase and Chronicles came up a bit short. The moral is "Don't bullshit the bullshitters".

The Elemental should've been explored more. It did seem that they opened up several cans of worms but then never did anything with them.

It doesn't take long to realize that Riddick is superhuman and except for the end segment any tension a fight scene may have hinges on how Riddick is going to kill them.The very end reminded me of the Conan fantasy although in Riddick's case he arrived at his status coincidentally. Chronicles... may eventually break even in costs/revenues so its pretty iffy whether another Riddick movie will get made.

This was the Director's Cut DVD with about 15 minutes of added scenes. They give you a visual clue where a scene was added/extended and while I did notice those I wasn't noting them mentally, and not ever seeing the theatrical release I can't say whether this version is much improved. My biased impression was more favorable than most critics who gave Chronicles... a :rotten:

The DVD looked and sounded great. The best part of Chronicles... is the visuals and the audio kept up pretty good. Extras are merely OK. The DVD is 7/10.

Starship Troopers

This may be the ickiest movie ever made. There's so much gore and bug goo spraying and splatting around, everyone on the set probably wore hardhats. If you can handle that, you watch a movie like this for the action and effects, because the story is difficult to swallow. The characters go in the military right after high school and within a year or so are colonels, battalion leaders and in command of starships; right from rah rah school games to leading the world on bug hunts. Ya sure. It was good to see Doogie Howser back in action tho :D

Any resemblance to Heinlein's novel is coincidental. The filmmakers lifted the premise of an interstellar war vs. insectoids and character names, and ran with it. Per the novel, the central govt. wasn't fascist, officer training included questioning stupid authoritarianism, etc...Heinlein wrote much more intelligently than this. Granted that a fight for survival of the species may lead to a militaristic society, and its no surprise that ignorant young adults are the targets for recruiting, the filmmakers went overboard and the screaming jingoism is best taken as tongue-deeply-in-cheek.

Even with all that, a bit more tension and onscreen buildup could've brought some of the action segments, that are merely good, to a razor's edge of cinematic grandeur. There's two or three scenes that are classic sci fi material and if they'd only backed off the semi-hysterical militancy they'd be making sequels instead of reminiscing on what mighta been.

This was the Superbit DVD, with no extras, but stunning video and audio. The Tristar lead-in was really dirty but the movie was clean. DTS audio was excellent. 8/10

Hero
Hero(2004)

This movie should convince the 2 or 3 people that still don't know that China/Hong Kong is capable of making outstanding movies. This is a work of art, using colors, wind and water in ways Western filmmakers never even think about.

Hero is a serious story about revenge and uniting the warring provinces under Qin, the first emperor. The same Qin who had 1000's of terra cotta army men buried near his huge tomb around 2-300 BCE, which remains unexcavated. The army onscreen is modelled to look like those figures. The ancient army moves with dark precision, prepares and unleashes hell with stunning realism. The king's palace looks like it was built modelling the Emperor's palace in Beijing.

Qin has many enemies including Jet Li's Nameless, whose village was destroyed by Qin 20 years previously. He's trained for years to acquire the skill to kill the Emperor, but must be allowed to approach him. He concocts a complicated plan that involves Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Sky, masters of martial arts themselves. The tale, and all its variations, is mostly brought out in a engaging way by Qin as he interviews Nameless, working out the actual train of events. Its an excellent story, a tragedy that from my own cultural perspective could've been rooted in Shakespeare.

There are many great action segments. The rain-splattered duel and the forest duel are standouts. Wirework isn't high on my list but I can excuse Hero because its done with such fine style. The excellent music includes Itzhak Perlman on violin and Kodo on drums.

Hero misses a straight up 10/10 only because the story is a bit muddled at times.

The DVD has some Making of shorts and an interview of Jet Li by Quentin Tarentino. The video is spectacular and there's a DTS as well as DD audio track. I watched Hero with subtitles but it apparently does have a dubbed voiceover option. It rates a 9/10.

Cirque du Soleil - Varekai
½

This isn't the first circus with a story I've seen, but its the best. No animal acts, clowns in minicars or individual stand alone performances, this sort of circus is highly stylized with a usually vague story, singing and music to blend one act after another.

Some of the performers come from long lines of family acts, but there's also a fair number of Olympic caliber athletes looking to work their talent outside of competition. The acts are not all great, but are at least good and a few are exceptional. I thought it was pretty amazing that they are all done flawlessly in front of a live audience: Not one dropped prop, clumsy trip, dorky fall or wardrobe malfunction :eek:

I'm not often drawn to the artsy/pouffy sort of humor. It tends to be too French for me, and it just doesn't appeal. Not all things French, just their humor. Any sound effects resembling gastrointestinal activity are apparently the ultimate comedy. The least appealing parts of Varekai involved that same French humor, and knocks the score down a little. I enjoyed the other comic acts in the show, whether they were French or not.

You can't beat a live circus show, but there are some advantages with watching this one on a widescreen. It was shot in HD format so it naturally takes in wider shots, and there's many angle shots, overheads and closeups that the live audience would never see. Colors are almost oversaturated but thats because so much of the circus is in bright primary colors. Varekai even has a DTS soundtrack and employs all the 5.1 system to good effect. The 2nd disc has some bio info on the performers and a short on getting selected and training for a live performance. The DVD set comes in a foldout box within a box, and gets an 8/10.

Touch of Evil
½

Whether it was actually Welles detailing camera shots or his inspiration, the camera work is easily the strength of this movie. If I really wanted to do some seriously artistic film, black and white would be the way to go. People and props can be so dramatically altered by shadow and angle, shooting in B&W it is almost an alternate universe; it has an eeriness that just punches through the screen at times. Welles and crew had B&W down to a science, starting right off with crane work that took the audience in, over and around the opening scene and has you timing the explosion.

Orson Welles is the best actor in this movie, and I'm not bothered about Charleton Heston playing a Mexican, or other apparent miscasting such as Marlene Dietriech, who looks even less like a Gypsy. The story, however, is not credible. Starting with Heston, as a major player in Mexico's drug enforcement, dropping off his wife Janet Leigh here and there with careless abandon. That's made even more stupid once you realize that she is one of the most naive people on earth, always winding up in crappy hotels wearing skimpy outfits, as if she knew what her role was going to be in Psycho. You don't even get to see what those bad boys do to her in the motel :mad: That along with some clumsy ways of moving the story along make me think that Touch of Evil is one of those old chestnuts that gets better ratings than it should.

The DVD is merely adequate. Its nice and clean on the screen, and 2.0 mono is about all the audio you can expect from a 50's movie. Very sparse extras. 7/10

King of New York

I'm struggling about whether King of... is merely a watchable movie about New York drug traffic wars or something more than that. At the moment I think it is mostly a good vehicle for Christopher Walken to show yet again why he plays the best crime boss of the modern era, as well as some earlier work by Laurence Fishbourne and Wesley Snipes.

The movie looks and feels older than it really is. This is my first look at a Ferrara movie, so I'm guessing he deliberately gave everything a cheap feel. It could just be shot with cheap film. Criminals and even cops die by the truckload, and Snipes/Fishbourne collectively engage in one the noisiest in-your-face death scenes that predates the knife fight in Saving Private Ryan, with weirded-out Caruso putting in his two cents. For all the bloodletting, there's not huge amounts of gore. The shock value is in the sudden lethal gunfire from a totally ruthless bunch.

This is the 2-disc Special Edition DVD, and I offer it as proof that the studios are whipping out so-so rereleases, adding a few extras that hardly anyone will watch, and giving DVD collectors severe feelings of inadequacy for not owning the latest 'anamorphic' remaster. Luckily, I don't care enough about this movie to have an older version. The main thing that takes up both discs is the movie, in widescreen and pan & scan, but I guess they felt too guilty to stuff it all on a two-sided disc. It looks about as good as it probably can, considering it wasnt' shot with beauty in mind, and the 5.1 soundtrack operates on all thrusters. the DVDs are 6/10 for being less than they appear.

Troy
Troy(2004)

I can live with artistic license in portraying legend and fable. No one really knows what went on at Troy. No one knows if the Trojan war lasted for years, or if it was really several wars. Homer's Iliad was an oral tradition for centuries before it was written down. There might not have ever been a 'Homer'. Its fair to say the Olympic gods didn't intervene, and the story does generally track along with the Homer. I was relieved to see some attempt at authentic gear and not an army of Greek hoplites from the 5th Century BC standing in for Late Bronze age Mycenaen troops. The excavated Troy is quite a bit smaller than the movie Troy, the scale of such a possible conflict was all wrong, and it would've lasted for more than a few days, but what the hell.

What did bother me is what in the world did the Greeks think they were gonna do when they got to Troy without any siege engines. Run around the walls and throw rocks? If you lay siege then you build walls and isolate the city. If you attack then you gotta have machines. The old movie Helen of Troy at least got that part right. As it was the Trojans needn't have done a thing besides shoot arrows and wait for the huge Greek army to run out of food. The military confrontations were supposedly forced by King Priam's dumbass decisions to attack. What a king!? Better that Hector would've forced Priam into early retirement. I'm not sure battles would've suddenly stopped to watch the principal warriors fight, and then call off the whole battle after one of them dies, like recess is over. Another thing: Filmmakers can't resist having legendary figures remark on how legendary they're gonna be, and Troy has plenty of legends to make remarks.

Now that I'm over that, the battles were fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing actors from LOTR and Braveheart swinging swords again. Eric Bana played a good Hector, and he was the most sympathetic character. While Orlando Bloom showed that he could play a coward with some sense of his cowardice, he needs a broader pallette of emotions besides scared shitless, elfish cuteness and reflection. He could start with wincing pain as a big gash in his leg is being stitched without painkillers. Sean Bean should've gotten more screen time instead. The female cast is pretty weak; nothing better than adequate.

What surprised me was Brad Pitt. He was the main reason why I thought I wouldn't like this movie, and he's actually a pretty good Achilles. I can't imagine who would better play the role of a demigod, which doesn't mean there isn't somebody, but I can't imagine who it is. Everyone worked hard to make the film work, and at many levels they succeeded. Filmmakers do need to give the audience more credit for having brains though.

The DVD is excellent as it should be for a new movie release. Video is sumptuous and the clash and clang of antiquities' weaponry is all around. Extras are OK. DVD is 8/10.

Bound
Bound(1996)
½

Bound is a tightly wrapped bundle of a movie that kept me strapped to my seat as I watched Jennifer Tilly's and Gina Gershon's tight little lover's plot unravel and get all tied up trying to make ends meet.

Pun and simile aside, I could almost give Bound a solid 9 but I had to take away a little for some things like licking fingers after they've been in the kitchen drain, cop shoes not tracking blood after they've been soaked in it, and just a little too much convenience in the way events take place. Those are pretty minor quibbles in a tense story that you'd have to be dead, drunk or both not to appreciate.

The literal 'Bound' part of 'Bound' is a fairly unimportant part of the story, although I wouldn't mind having Tilly in such a situation, or probably any situation at all for that matter. While she's gone on to play roles in such giant films as Haunted Mansion and Seed of Chucky, she's quite good here, the perfect mobster's moll with more brains than she lets her 'work' know. Gershon does well also, gets knocked around a lot and is more the rescued than rescuer, but who's to say that just because she drives the trucks that she's the...well probably not. I would merely suggest that she doesn't need to do the upturned lip so much.

The DVD is about as basic as it gets with just a trailer and a commentary track. Audio and video are plenty good for this drama. It gets a 7/10

The Transporter
½

You watch a movie like this for the action sequences. There's not much acting or dialog, and the plot is perforated. There are some decent vehicle chase scenes. When they get to the Kung fu'in, it reminded me of Jackie Chan's improvising style more than anything, which isn't bad. Jason Statham kicks, elbows, whacks and shoots his way through more bad guys than you can shake a stick at, and after the first dozen or so schmucks get the boot its clear that this is fantasy combat. Mild bondage but no one gets naked unless it went by so quick I didn't notice. After a crummy day at work brainless fun like The Transporter is just about right :fresh:

The Bourne Supremacy

This sequel could've gotten a higher score if -

1 - they didn't rub out Franka Potente in the 1st 10 minutes. I mean she did look nice playing dead floating underwater but really, just give her a flesh wound or something.

2 - Karl Urban and Damon should've gotten into a fight at the end of which Urban looks like he did in the car accident, but from fighting instead. He deserved more than a quick death for killing Potente (see 1 above).

These things make both the beginning and the end a bit weak, but in between there's some film time worth a bag of microwaved popcorn. Bourne is one slick sonamabeech and manages to elude about half of the police in Europe and crack CIA operatives, all at once :cool: , and the few that do catch up get their ass kicked. So its literally fun escapist material that you might want to imitate the next time you consider ramming cars to make a path in the gridlock.

The DVD looks and sounds good, with a DTS soundtrack that is always welcome. Extras are nonexistent except for trailers so its a sure thing they'll have a Super Ultimate Collector's Series 10 disc release for the two Bourne movies. This DVD release gets an 8/10 just because I like DTS.

Babylon 5 - The Complete Third Season

"a self-contained world five miles long located in neutral territory, a place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and aliens, a shining beacon in space, all alone in the night...." Actually this was the lead-in for the 2nd season but its the best one.

The 3rd season of B5 is generally considered the best, as all the threads of the first two years fully develop and the scope of the story encompasses half the galaxy. This was the 2nd year in a row that B5 got the Hugo award. This same Hugo Dramatic Presentation award has been owned by the LOTR trilogy for the last 3 years. This time for the 'Severed Dreams' episode, in which the human drama peaked at the same time as an extremely well done and huge space battle takes place for the control of the Babylon 5 station. Its the best space battle I've ever seen, except perhaps for another one or two in other B5 episodes. I'll update this when I finish watching about 1100 minutes of B5 material :eek:

Demetrius and the Gladiators
½

This oldie is a decent swords and sandals action flick from the 50's, and it still has some play even today. Susan Hayward is just about the perfect woman, in my eyes anyway. Sort of a weak derivative story punctuated by some reasonably good single combat. The sets are nice since they used the same ones from bigger budget The Robe. Caligula is a one dimension character but suitably nutty. The DVD is minimal it has decent video, with the audio plain old mono and gets a 5/10 for being 2 steps better than watching it on VHS or network TV.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Expecto Patronum! I have to get a wand and try that out! Its the spell in the Prisoner of Azkaban to drive away soul-suckers, and I know there's some around here. I thought the first two Harry Potter movies were mostly kid stuff; cute with occasional bits of interesting creative magic and settings. Prisoner of Azkaban speeds up the intro section; Harry's stint with the hugely small-minded guardians is short and he gets on his way to Hogwarts pretty quickly. Once there things have evolved beyond class competitions. Still it was only mildly interesting with the Hippogriff providing the most interesting early moment, reminding me of a Ray Harryhausen creation. The film became more engaging just about when Oldman first gets onscreen, and after a confusion of who did what is quickly resolved Harry's father's ally is now his. The Hippogriff continues to fascinate and naturally bonds with Harry, who through Hermione's magic finds himself to be a powerful wizard after all. I wasn't so impressed with the soul-sucking Dementors, they would've worked better as a floating Ringwraiths type but instead are all mediocre CGI.

Stalwarts from the earlier films have smaller roles. Malfoy is now just an irritant for Hermione or Harry to swat away, and Hogwarts faculty generally don't do much, except Hagrid. Hogwarts is a fascinating place. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson do much better in Azkaban; between getting older and a new director their abilities onscreen have improved. If they ever get these movies started like this one finishes then they'll really be making film classics. Prisoner of Azkaban is a definite improvement.

The film looks and sounds great. 2.40 anamorphic widescreen with lots of dark, moody but beautiful shots of a very wet Scotland, a perfect location for Hogwarts, are a contrast to more colorful interior shots. The audio was rumbling good enough to scare the cat. The 2nd DVD is a mixed bag. Too many of the options became pop quizzes. I don't want to take a test to navigate additional material, goddamit. Its salvation comes in interviews with cast and crew including J.K. Rowling, who confirms that looks are deceiving. Who woulda thought she was a cupcake? There's also some goodies about the mechanical Hippogriff and the morphing characters. The DVD set gets an 8/10.

The Searchers

A story set in Texas, Monument Valley substitutes for the less dramatic Texan landscape. Only Hollywood would think that log cabins would make sense in a vast scrubby area with almost no trees, water or land you can actually make a living on. This is what popped into my mind when I saw the 1st scene. Its a fantastic photogenic country, but it ain't Texas. Fortunately you can learn to live with the substitution after a while.

John Wayne made plenty of standard gung-ho movies and even a few comedies, The movie is full of stereotypes. Murdering savage Indians on the warpath, stealing women and generally being a pain in the ass. Brave frontiersmen charge into an Indian village and shoot at anyone, moving or not. Feuds that last a lifetime. Classic Western music marking it as a product of WWII era. Etc... You could sign it off as almost a caricature of a Western. Racism, senseless slaughter of man and beast, brutality, etc.. , but what they miss is John Ford knew it was there when he made the film. When Wayne's character starts firing madly at the buffalo herd, when he shoots people in the back or determines to kill the girl that "The'Searchers' have been looking for because she's 'been living with a buck', you have to make the leap that he's playing an unlikeable bigoted murderous man by intent, and that this isn't a standard John Wayne role. His experience in the Civil War, warfare with Commanche and seeing his womenfolk raped and murdered has made its mark. John Ford telegraphs the message over and over again in dialog and scenes that a lot of bad things are happening, and even though some of the characters don't seem to know it and act like dumb bumpkins, the killing-that-begat-more-killing also gives the Commanche plenty of reasons to want to murder white settlers. Only near the end does Wayne soften a bit, apparently finally moved by the undying loyalty of the other 'Searcher' had for finding and protecting his 'sister', regardless of the life that was imposed on her or that she really wasn't his sister. This is difficult material in the PC days we now live in and except for some revisionist tripe it doesn't get touched with a 10 foot pole. Jeffrey Hunter plays the other Searcher. He was almost the Captain of the Enterprise in original Star Trek Series, playing it in the series pilot. There's several other notable actors.

Even though it has a higher purpose than one might first think, I can't give this movie a top score as there's just too much hokey stuff in it. The music just isn't my type. There's also a disjointed staging of scenes sometimes; characters are here one moment, then without any segue or sense of continuity, a new scene just starts and they're somewhere else. John Ford's strength is in capturing stunning landscapes, camera placement and framing a shot. In that he's been much admired and imitated.

The DVD looks good and with 1.85 anamorphic data gets about as much on a 16:9 screen as a DVD can. The sound is a bit simpler with just a 2.0 Mono. My subwoofer only thought it was getting something to do. A few extras amazingly include some location shots. WB still uses that crummy cardboard snap case. 7/10

The City of Lost Children (La Cité des Enfants Perdus)
½

I ponder whether the French eat too much fatty sausage as I chew on my Slim Jim, after which they fantasize in a pukey palette of orange/yellow/green/red, coming up with something like the City of Lost Children. They at least love big fat sausages as a film prop, and like to punctuate moments with 'kid burps after eating sausage', so its possible.

My interest was drawn to this movie because of the overlap of cast and crew to David Lynch movies and others, like Alien Resurrection. It also turns out to have some seasonal ties as it begins and ends with snowmen, presents and a funky Santa Claus. I finished it feeling that I more easily relate to Hong Kong Kung Fu movies and documentaries on Tasmania. I think you either have to be French to get what some of it is about, or watch it several times. My 12.5% French blood was insufficient; Je ne comprends pas. Oh on the surface I suppose I got the gist of it. An evil scientist has been cursed, cannot dream and is aging quickly, so he's hired a bunch called the Cyclops that look like Borg Collective rejects to kidnap kids so that he can steal their dreams. But clearly there's more going on than what's obvious, unless there isn't.

There is entertainment in the movie. Perlman is always fun to watch, Pinon is adept at multiple roles and the street urchins are cute, especially Judith Vittete, who sadly appears to have dropped out of acting. There's a few series of interconnecting events that are about as whimsical as possible, one of which includes 2 exposed pairs of French whore breasts. I made sure there were just four total breasts because they played a crucial role and wanted to know if four made a difference. All of the important events included fleas and/or rodents so perhaps the director was fascinated by things that crunch when you step on them, or is reminiscing of an earlier time. In the end I think the movie is a little too cute, a little too obvious when it winks and nods at the audience.

The DVD is barebones. It has both widescreen in full screen on flip sides, some filmography and not much else. 6/10.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

[img]http://lotsabytes.com/Misc/SamAndShelob.jpg[/img]


I had trouble with ROTK in the theatrical release, and once again the DVD Extended Edition soothes my irritation with additional footage. In this case about 50 minutes of added footage, so you're looking at 250 minute commitment of time just for the movie, and if you want to see significant chunks of the extras, you'd better call in sick or forget the ball game, and order pizza. Its worth it, and if you pay attention you'll see Peter Jackson take an arrow from Legolas. It may play longer but a smoother flowing movie seems like a faster movie. Just don't pay attention to the clock.

The EE doesn't fix the problem with the big battle at Pelennor Fields aka Siege of Gondor. As soon as the ghost army arrives everyone else may as well take up making mayonnaise, because the ghosts spank the bad guys' collective ass. They should've figured out something else to keep the battle edgy. Up to that point it was exciting to see the Riders of Rohan charge and a realistically terrified Eowyn stick it to the Witch King.

The Frodo/Sam/Gollum segment is the strongest half of ROTK. If Frodo had any Spidey Sense it would've been tingling around about Chapter 38, but he was not himself anymore. Lugging The One Ring around has taken its toll. Sam is the hero and Middle Earth's Last Best Hope is saved by a gardener, which is better odds than being saved by a politician. Sam would've dived into a dragon's throat to rescue Frodo, and he does something just as hard and much ickier. The film doesn't quite get it across that Shelob is sentient, but it scores high on making her big, smelly and icky, although I was slightly disappointed that she didn't bleed very much green or yellow goo.

There's also a lot of finality in the 2 extra discs from the ROTK extended edition. End of Principle Photography, End of Pickup shooting, Last Oscar party, etc... They finished the movies almost 4 years ago and did some touchup pickup shots for it in the summer of 2003. There's more CGI in ROTK than in the previous 2 films combined. The WETA workshop must've wound up with a helluva server farm for all that rendering. It was nice that some of the actors bought the horses they rode on in the films, and there were some other touching 'end of' things happening.

This is the best group of movies ever made IMHO. If they never do anything else, the cast and crew have already done enough. Years from now, when they're old or gone, The Lord of the Rings will remain on the short list of serious movie fans, a point of reference to what great movies are. I've imagined lots of stories they could tell with the remaining Hobbits, and Legolas and Gimli were supposedly inseparable so they could've gone on to more adventures, like leading a bunch of dwarves into Moria. One movie a year would be good :fresh:

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

[img]http://www.warofthering.net/gallery/galleries/albums/tttents/images/twotowerst306.jpg[/img]


Tolkien purists have the most trouble with The Two Towers. You can go on and on about this was different and that wasn't in the book. The only one that really bothered me was when Treebeard and the rest of the Ents had their charming Entmoot and decided not to go to war. Tolkien had a special affection for trees so I thought this adjustment was pretty 'hasty'. Treebeard already knew Fangorn down to acorn and root, what had to be done and didn't need Merry and Pippin leading him by his wooden nose to see the devastated forest at Isengard. I suppose it gave Merry and Pippin a reason to be there besides hitchhiking on Treebeard, who along with the rest of the Ents do finally go to war and get good and 'hasty'.

Barring that fairly minor quibble, I like what they did with the Two Towers, usually. Most of the characters sensibly get horses or an Ent to ride on so they don't have to march around the entire continent on foot. Who can complain about the added visualization of Gandalf vs. the Balrog, which is a great way to start things off, and most will suck it up and get a good morale boost when a battalion of Elves shows up to help out at Helm's Deep. Add other fillings to the story on the DVD extended Edition and you're watching a better picture than what was in the theaters, as long as you have 4 hours or so to do it.

The real star of Two Towers is Gollum. Not only did they get a believable creature onscreen, but they captured his mostly tortured but sometimes comical nature, carrying on debates with himself, childishly wishing his evil Gollum side to go away, and generally stealing every scene that he's in.
There's tons more CGI, miniatures, bigatures and sundry other FX in Two Towers than in FOTR, as the story goes deep into Middle Earth lore and legend. Acting remains solid and the added characters breath life into the story.

Discs 3 & 4 continue the exhaustive treatment begun in the FOTR EE. They spend time explaining the difficulty they had with the Two Towers and bringing it to screen. There's quite a bit more 'making of' type material, showing how they did this and that. A whole section is devoted to the amazing Gollum. Treebeard. and an amusing segment on how they make sound effects. More Tolkien bio, this time on how he went about writing the story in a very unconventional way. I watched these before the movie and I could pick up some things, such as Rhys-Davies getting puffy eyed from his makeup and Mortensen breaking his toes when he punted the Orc head.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

[img]http://www.compleatseanbean.com/lotr-15.jpg[/img]




It was long long ago that a movie grabbed hold of me like Fellowship of the Ring did 3 years ago on its theatrical release. After sitting through a 3 hour movie I was ready right then and there for the Two Towers! Despite not having read the trilogy in some time and still being vaguely aware of significant variations from Tolkien, I nonetheless bought into the screenplay completely.

The FOTR Extended Edition is even better than the theatrical release. It doesn't fix the major muff in the screenplay, i.e. Gandalf riding off, leaving Frodo and Sam alone on the road, but it couldn't have. It also didn't adjust the timeline so that per Tolkien, Frodo was 50ish when he began his quest, that 17 years passed between Bilbo's 111th Birthday party and Frodo's escape from the Shire instead of 2-3 weeks, or that Tom Bombadil wasn't in the story at all so the Numenorian Blades that the Hobbits got from the barrows were instead shovelled to them by Strider without fanfare, or for that matter the Old Man Willow didn't almost swallow the Hobbits up and cut the story short, or that Frodo was a much tougher sort and was on that horse all by himself at the river crossing to Rivendell. Besides that, it ran fairly true. They did so many things right. That there are significant differences between the movies and the books is part of what I marvel at; a coherent story that retains the essence of Tolkien was kept intact in the screenplay that didn't run for 5-6 hours. The mainstream audience wouldn't sit through such a long movie, Frodo and his fellow hobbits didn't act 50ish in the book, as hobbits tend to be playful, and who would've gone to the movies to see some crusty runts run around Middle Earth? That also explains the speedup at the beginning, as Frodo stays younger. I did kind of miss Tom Bombadil and Goldberry though.

The Mines of Moria, a fairly short episode of the quest, is the inspiration for countless CRPGs. One of the very first mainframe games written in (gasp) FORTRAN that mostly college students wasted tons of CPU cycles on in the 70's, later became a DOS PC ASCII game, while many modern dungeon crawls can trace their roots right back to the Tolkien. There's no doubt that the set shot of Aragorn and Legolas with bows, Boromir with shield and sword in front, Gimli with axe in hand on the tomb, Gandalf at the rear with the hobbits is a tribute to the standard battle positions their classes have in RPG. My palms get sweaty watching them cross those crumbling bridges and stairs in Moria!

The wizard battle between Gandalf and Saruman reminded me of the witch battle in the movie Willow. They had the same thing going on with their wands that these two had with their staffs; whoever had them had the power. Isengard's defoliation and fissuring earth was suitably evil, Lothlorien was magical just like it ought to be as Cate Blanchett literally glows with regal elfishness, and the final battle and dissolution of the Fellowship was well done, a fitting end to the movie, showcasing some excellent swordplay by Mortensen and combat by the cast in general. For the unititated, this is the most accessible movie of the three; character-driven and more personal. Its a great beginning to the saga. After this it gets harder to figure out without reading the books, the grandaddy of modern fantasy and a great read.

The discs in the extended edition are top notch. There's really nothing more you could ask for in audio or video quality until they come out in HD. The Balrog scene is a great replay item! The movie is spread out over 2 double layer discs and if not Superbit it looks as good with no apparent compromises from compression. It looks and sounds superb.

Discs 3 and 4 have exhaustive extras on everything from concept to film and sound editing. Its way more than I can watch at one time without burnout, but it really is all very interesting. I especially liked the short bio on Tolkien, and the actual shooting the movie stuff. One thing that they carefully avoid mentioning is that Stuart Townsend was originally cast as Aragorn and spent two months at the job before they decided that he was too young. I can't picture anyone else besides Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn now. DVD set is 10/10.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

TGTBTU is a work of art. It took an Italian director to get the Old West right, at least onscreen, dumping the hokey musical scores and make believe good guy/bad guy cowboys and indians hokum that killed a lot of Hollywood westerns, while retaining the epic scope that the vast landscapes evoke (even if it was really Spain). This 3rd movie centering on the Man with No Name (not exactly true, but its catchy) was the 1st that Leone got the inimitable Ennio Morricone to score from the outset, and that score has such an impact there's no doubt it has a lot to do with TGTBTU's attraction through almost 40 years. It really sticks with you! This Ultimate Spaghetti Western was also elevated by a bigger budget and much stronger screen presence of its principal characters. Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef are true screen legends, competing any which way they can for the stolen bags of gold, culminating in the most famous gunfight in moviedom.

I also rate Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West a 10. It is a less revered movie than TGTBTU but in some ways is Leone at his absolute peak.

The 2 DVD pack is an absolute must for anyone with even a mild interest in film. The remaster is a wonder of restoration technology and looks glorious. It now has a 5.1 DD audio soundtrack that remains mostly at the front, with an ocassional surround explosion or gunfire that surprises you. They've added 18 minutes to the film, essentially the initial release of the film seen in Rome, and if you're a Leone fan you can pick out at least some of the added footage. The additions were good overall; for the most part the story flowed better but there was some unnecessary fluff. The 2nd disc has some good featurettes that include some modern commentary by Eastwood and Wallach, a little documentary on the Civil War backdrop, trailers, and even a couple of deleted scenes! The DVD gets a 9.7/10, losing a bit because it is in a non standard case that has no reason to be higher and wider than usual.

The Fifth Element
½

There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek in The Fifth Element, exactly how most sci fi ought to be played unless its a really good, tight heavy story. I like all the silly ass stuff going in Willis' tiny apartment and all the so-called conveniences that have taken over the world. I mean the mostly-filter cigarettes, the rubber suited Mangalore, the deeply odd crossdressing Chris Tucker, aliens that look like armored ducks and a reborn fully grown female Supreme Being Jovovich are what spoofs are made of. Add to that the demented Oldman, goofy Holm and the always good late Brion James and its all set for Willis to play badass cum-love interest of the Supreme Being, in bright garish colors including the melodious alien diva. This is great stuff!

The Superbit DVD looks fantastic. Its almost too good as I could see some makeup transitions and a little globbiness in effects that probably looked good enough in lesser prints. Otherwise the colors and detail are spectacular and the DTS soundtrack is superb. No extras, typical for a Superbit. The DVD is 8/10

21 Grams
21 Grams(2003)

I got a cold feeling watching 21 Grams. It could've been deliberate, as the losses the main characters suffer were really cold, or it could've been everyone was wearing coats and it looked cold. Probably both and the cold scenes just made their lives seem even colder as the warmth gets torn away from them.

It could've moved along faster. A movie is too long if I'm thinking its about time when the final scene gets played out, and that's what I was thinking. Each characters' reality and their response to the cards life dealt them is carefully brought out, and thats a good thing, but there's some extraneous stuff that didn't add to the story and ate up time.

The director played DJ moving the reel back and forth so segments are out of order. Flash backs and Look aheads are OK but I don't see the point of almost a complete movie done that way. I wouldn't say its a gimmick, as some of the out of sync segments do segue together in a clever way. Innaritu is fairly fresh on the scene so I imagine his techniques will improve.

The main characters are all very well done. I sympathized with Watts' character, and her pain seemed very real, but I could not imagine myself spending any more time in that house. I couldn't quite grasp the feelings of Penn or Del Toro. Although Del Toro's total guilt and anguish at his deed were palpable, his character had too many other issues that I didn't connect with. The recurring thought I had with Penn's character was 'what the hell is he doing smoking?!'

The DVD is pretty basic, containing just the movie and almost nothing else. It looked and sounded pretty much like you would expect a movie as somber as this one would. DVD is 6/10.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
½

This movie will seem as dumb as a bag of hammers to anyone unappreciative of hayseed as an art form. Being carefully trained since childhood to detect all the nuance and subtlety that cornpone offers, I know a knee-slappin' bunch of hokum when I see it, even if it is getting passed off as the tale of Ulysses. No, I don't think so. Doesn't need to. Some of the best portrayals of dumbass ever put on the screen are right here in one movie. The Coens go for laughs most of the time and just a smattering of their dark side peeks out here and there. Even the Sirens get some heehaws since their job of mesmerizing the boys was so easy; assholes and elbows day after day with hammer and pick, they'd get horny in a mild breeze and their jaws drop at first sight of the Sirens, Why Pete even picked out their melodious call and shrieked with glee! Great tunes get woven right into the story, especially Alison Krause and of course the Soggy Bottom Boys. WoooHee! That was mighty fine pickin' and singin'!

The DVD is a worthy member of any collection and in addition to carrying the mostly simple soundtrack and deliberately muted color palette, has some some worthwhile if limited extras. 8/10.

Whale Rider
Whale Rider(2003)

I don't even know how this got into my stack of movies. Its not my usual fare. I must've been in an anthropological mood when I picked it up, or someone planted it. Its definitely worth a look, however it winds up on your shelf. Castle-Hughes is a real find, her biggest weakness is her hyphenated name. Filmmakers really have to get her in more good roles. The film itself is low budget, small scale-perfect attributes for this drama. It was perfect fare for a Sunday, with the story taking place in quiet and beautiful oceanfront settings. My only nitpick is the Koro character was just a little too blind about what was right in front of his nose, and I wanted to slap him silly.

The DVD looked and sounded great, and has some nice extras, with some chat by Castle-Hughes and other cast and crew, revelations on the few tricks they used for the whales and the whale props, and a short about the cool war canoe that was so symbolic for the Maori. 8/10

Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines

This is the Temple of Doom of the Terminator movies. It has all the key elements that highlight the series coming at you like an elephant stampede. It is action with interludes of dialog, sometimes short interludes. Action junkies will replay the huge vehicle chase, Skynet segment and the ending, while those looking for a clue about why there's a 3rd Terminator movie or the meaning of life will fall asleep.

If Ahnuld does get around to another Terminator movie, they'll have to invent some technobabble about how his organic tissue ages and he's one of the 1st Terminators, blah blah. He got dissed a bit for his poor treatment of women in this film. Actually it was T-X that won their fight, but she let him survive and messed with his programming. I mean so what if he slams her head in the toilet and shoves an overloading power cell in her mouth. They play rough, and her full name is Terminatrix after all. I liked Loken as the T-X she must've attended the Cyborg 101 class as she got the lack of expression just right, with just a little machine anger showing now and then since her program mission was always getting foiled. Stahl was OK but it would've been cool to see Furlong in the movie even though he's not much taller than he was in 1991. Danes needed something else for her role, I'm not sure what.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is best thought of as maintenance sex for the core fans and generally sci-fi/action fans. Its not going to be in many top 10 lists, but you get a mild rush and can reset the clock and hope for a thrill to write home about the next time. So-called fans that diss T3 are just a bunch of girly-men ;)

The two DVDs are as clean as a whistle with excellent audio/video. There's some catchy background music. The movie is heavily laden with visual and audio but not the craptastical variety or overdone CGI that is suffocating some new flicks. The extras are decent. Watch the Sgt. Candy segment. They were too chicken to put it in the movie but its hilarious 8/10.

The Station Agent

This is a cute smallish movie centered on the quiet life of a dwarf (Dinklage). A sudden death and an inheritance is the change of circumstance that puts Dinklage in an abandoned train station, intending to retire to a life of solitude.

You can understand why he's quiet and retiring after a few glimpses of the everyday 'freak' treatment he gets from young jerks and adult idiots. That along with his fundamental inability to deal with adverse assholes physically, and you'd just want to be alone too. But thats not to be, at least in this story. A few others, that just see him as a person, enjoy his quiet ways and interests, and can just be away from their own problems while living in his world. The humor is even quiet in Station Agent. Thats OK; its a good movie to watch in a reflective mood. Acting is all well done. If I had to single out one I'd choose Clarkson for the distracted emotional wreck that she is but wants to put behind her. You don't need to be a psychoanalyst to see the message of her paintings.

The DVD is basic. It gets the job done; it looks nice, the dialog is clear and a few trains make some noise. Just some trailers and deleted scenes make up the extras. 7/10

So Close
So Close(2003)

This is my Foreign Film Diversity Choice for the month, edging out Dirty Pretty Things (which was British anyway, not much diversity). With cutting edge combat (pun intended) it can play with the big boys in the action sequences. They are very good, with the final showdown damned edgy. Its compared favorably to the Charlie's Angels' movies, which does So Close no favors since they are ridiculous. Come to think of it, the code for the 1st string female bandit was 'Angel'. Hong Kong has some excellent Kung Fu'in females besides Michelle Yeoh. Some sequences are not original, as T2 was shooting the bad guys in the legs before this and Die Hard's endplay was staged like So Close. What the hell, its fun to watch.

Its just too bad the story is at a lower level, otherwise I coulda given it a high 8 instead. About a 1/3 of the way through the dubbing was killing my brain so I tried subtitles, and at least hear the people onscreen talk. Its not exactly dialog heavy anyway, and it helped; the dub was making it more stupid than it was. Stupidity was not eliminated though as some of the reasoning for this or that story element was goofy. I did make a note to try the hot water bottle manuever if I ever get the hots for an Asian woman. BTW, Hong Kong keeps filming even if the main actors have cold sores on their lips. Gotta keep it on time and in budget!! Its a somewhat comforting to hear that USofA expletives, techtalk and radio codes have been adopted verbatim in HK, and thats no Shit!

The DVD is pretty basic with just some trailers. Audio/video are good though, with all my drivers getting driven, and minute epidermal flaws were detected on all those nominally pretty Asian ladies, but they just add character ;) The DVD almost an 8, but just a 7/10 since they should've let the ladies talk about what they do.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2(2004)

Shrek 2 was a level or so lower than the original, which I put at about the same group as Monsters, Inc., i.e., good but not great. There are a few laugh out loud moments, but not as many as the original. Variations of the story have been done about a million times. Puss in Boots is cute but he's mostly a lift of Didymus from the Labyrinth movie, with the addition of soulful eyes. There's too many gags about other movies; after about 20 its a sure sign that they're running out of ideas. Interest does perk up a bit later in the movie, generally, with Puss In Boots and Donkey getting it going. It tries too hard, as some have said. In the realm of recent animated movies, the Toy Storys and Finding Nemo still rule in my book.

The DVD commits the most egregious act with advertising that you cannot bypass. You can speed it up but my menu button didn't work for about the 1st 5 minutes. Fuck that. Are you listening, Mr. Spielberg? Well no, but if you were you'd get the lecture. I'm surprised Shrek didn't wear a Pepsi jacket or the coaches didn't have Valvoline and Marlboro on the side. Gah! The studios seem to mostly run that drill with family movies The DVD is a 5/10.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Except for the 4 or 5 people who found fault with this movie, the rest of humanity recognizes it for the technical breakthrough it was. This along with a gripping, tense story, make it one of the top ten sci-fi flicks of all time, with many ranking it numero uno. I deduct a measly 0.2 from the perfect ultimate 10 simply because the T800 Model 101 (Ahnuld) gets just a little too human near the end. Its a tough line to draw though, and most of the time everyone and everything plays perfectly from the opening human/cyborg battle to the dark winding road at the end. The biker segment is so Bad to the Bone!

The latest T2: Extreme DVD has quite a bit of extra footage added to the movie, so it runs about 2.5 hours. Its been a while since I saw the theatrical release but I'm sure I spotted segments that were added, like the extra shots in the old gas station and at Enrique's. It all blended very well just as if it was meant to be that way. You couldn't ask for better audio/video from a DVD; it looks great and all the stuff in a 5.1 speaker system gets to make noise. There's a complete Windows media HD grade version of T2 on the 2nd disk, as well as a short Making Of and a longer Tech Talk sort of short that is a little too self-involved. Even the insert has more stuff to look at. And who can resist a DVD package that comes in a tin sheath? 10/10.

Léon: The Professional
½

This one got by me and only by coincidence did I see it even now. It has some familiar hooks such as the lonely badass hooking up with an abandoned waif, paying the ultimate price to protect them, etc.. but its done very well and not many movies center on that relationship. Reno is perfect for the role as the cold-blooded, socially naive hit man, and Portman surprised the hell out of me, since I didn't realize she was one step past being a big kid in the 1st Star Wars prequel. Duh! She can actually act if she has some decent dialog. Oldman is acting in another movie but he is sufficiently evil to deserve death. I suppose his character's drug addiction is the reason for some of his weirdness. Some good action segments will find you pulling for Leon even though you know what is almost certain to happen, and there is some sweetness to the end. Worth a 2nd look another time.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
½

Movies have changed in many ways since this was made. The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of just a few oldies that I can watch. Errol Flynn was the best of the old swashbucklers, at least by the time the movies had a soundtrack, and there's some great buckling of the swashes in several chapters, leading up to the big swordfight between Flynn and Rathbone. The dialog isn't too corny, and the action moves along so your thoughts don't linger on a silly line here and there.

The casting, costuming and sets are all incredible. Its a good thing that this was one of the first movies shot in Technicolor, as that process holds up really well as you can see in the new ca 2003 DVD release, unlike Eastman color films that have all gone to hell. Fantastic greens, purples etc.. make the movie come alive again. Great action and swordplay along with real chemistry between deHavilland and Flynn makes it easy to see why this is a classic.

The DVD has some good extras, including a surprising amount of set footage that Rathbone took to amuse everyone while the film was getting made. The DVD is a solid 8/10.

Lost In Translation

What is the message of showing Johansson's nicely rounded ass in panties right off the bat? Was the short segment in the table/lap dancer bar put there to underline the latent sexual interest in each other the pair had, or just to get an R rating? Just how long does jet lag last? I never had it for a week. Is this all just psychobabble? Probably, but I'm not sure. I was happy that the two bored fish-out-of-water got together in such a wholesome kind of way, so this is a Happy Movie, as my daughter would say.

Bill Murray makes this movie tick, but does get a good assist from Johansson. It is well done in other ways, such as the camera angles and many of the little chapter segments, and the nighttime shots of Tokyo. Lost in... is a quiet movie, filled with introspection and reflection, interspersed with some good deadpan work by Murray. I loved how he muddled through conversations where he didn't know a damm thing they were saying, and the night visit by the 'masseuse' was hilarious. I don't know Jack about Japanese culture, but I do notice how much more homogenous it is compared to the USA. I'm so used to the mixed race demographic here that seeing scenes of large numbers of just one type of human is almost shocking. Tokyo was depicted as a safe place to walk around in at night, which you can't say for a lot of USA cities. They seem most elegant expressing their own roots, like the wedding party Johannson observes.

I can still see the crushed look on Murray's face when he didn't get the Oscar for his work here. I would've voted for him.

The DVD is good, with a very clear picture output and doggone if it doesn't have a DTS soundtrack, always a good point. The extras are pretty decent, with deleted scenes, a Making Of, etc.. I didn't watch them all though. I'd give an 8/10.

The Matrix Revolutions
½

Most people don't understand what's going on in the Matrix movies. They liked the dynamics, 'bullet time' slomo and cool style of the first one, more or less grounded in our world, then were disappointed greatly by Reloaded, and ignored Revolutions in droves.

I didn't like Reloaded much either, but thats another movie. Revolutions, on the other hand, is more my cup of java. They had a difficult casting problem with the death of the Oracle (Gloria Foster), and they managed an adequate 'patch' to their program. The Matrix is quite a bit like a computer program all the way through. In Revolutions, the final battle pits Neo against Smith (again) in the ultimate superhero-style battle. Any comic book fan should enjoy the fight sequence between them, but most people miss that that particular Agent Smith was really the Smith/Oracle, who at the critical moment does an interrupt of Smith's program and gives Neo the way in, so that main computer can delete the Agent Smith program (at the end of the fight in the crater). That is why Neo had to go to the machine city, so he could get plugged into the matrix at its mainfrome core, or bus as it were, so the mainframe would get hooked directly into Agent Smith. Some of that stuff reminds me of the old movie Tron.

I'm a pretty crappy Mech game player but I really like the whole Mech thing, so the huge Siege battle with the Mech 'APU's lined up and fighting the losing fight against the hordes of Sentinels warmed my Target Lock and HUD display. A truly awesome display of combining multiple technologies to get something believeable and lots of it on the screen.

I don't quite get the meaning of the 'Den of BDSM' and why the Merovingian hangs out there, unless the old file server just likes all his porn and it was an excuse to get Bellucci in a revealing red leather/latex outfit, and local BDSM shops had sales that week so it was an economical thing to do. Or it could be that being French says it all about the Merovingian and that was really decadent digital hell, as the mythical Persephone/Belluci would indeed spend half her time there. Her only line was on perceiving Trinity's love for Neo, and thus underlined her own deal with the devil.

Of course there's lots of wirework in this movie. All the actors clearly worked hard, as it is a very physical movie. The acting is so-so. Hugo Weaving aka Elrond as Agent Smith is my favorite. The Matrix trilogy is deeper than most give it credit for.

The DVD presents the movie very well. You can see the actors pits, pores and goobles in great detail, and the audio works out all the speakers. There's a Making Of that I would've liked a lot more if the crew didn't spend so much time pimping their work. The DVD gets a high 8/10:fresh:

Kill Bill: Volume 2
½

The Kill Bills really need to be watched one after the other for the best effect. I saw #1 a while back and was less favorable to it than after seeing them together.

I knew there were tributes to Asian martial arts movies in #1, but I'm not a big follower of those, so it wasn't until I saw #2 that I realized that there must have been quite a lot of references, because #2 is filled with Western tributes, mostly Spaghetti Western tributes. #2 has Leone written all over it, with even a dash of Peckinpah and Eastwood in the way scenes are staged, and you can hear Morricone's haunting epic music a mile away. I love catching on to references like that and Tarantino has gotten real good at it.

#2 is probably the better half. There's much more dialog, the sort of dialog that Tarantino does so well. and enough action to keep things going, including another Battle of the Badass Bitches with Thurman vs. Hannah, as well as a claustrophobic segment that I didn't know about that also worked as a good tie-in to Uma's martial arts training. #1 has some classic scenes besides just fights, though, that entertained me. The whole big scene leading up to the Crazy 88s battle has all kinds of things going on that you don't see the 1st time.

Both DVDs have extras, but #2 has the best with a Making Of and some premiere night music. I'm tempted to buy a movie just because it has a DTS soundtrack so the fact that both of these do is icing on the cake. Thus the DVDs also get a 9/10 but perhaps a bit weaker 9. You can see a combined Ultimate Special Edition coming with this duo as there must be more stuff they're holding back on, milking the DVD buyers with multiple releases:( I'm happy with these so it would have to be really something to tempt me.

I read some of the comments so-called professional critics made panning these movies. They just don't get it. Most of the discouraging words are about the blood and guts, but I thought segments like the Crazy 88s were cartoonish, just like the wirework in that segment, and was deliberate overkill to keep it from looking real. How can you take those blood sprays seriously? At least I think thats what Tarantino was up to, but I didn't ask him. Maybe he just likes to gross out wimpy movie critics. I mean so what if Lucy Liu gets a real deep buzzcut :eek: Some dissed him for lifting characters from old movies which is really a dumbass comment since he did it on purpose.

Kill Bill: Volume 1
½

The Kill Bills really need to be watched one after the other for the best effect. I saw #1 a while back and was less favorable to it than after seeing them together.

I knew there were tributes to Asian martial arts movies in #1, but I'm not a big follower of those, so it wasn't until I saw #2 that I realized that there must have been quite a lot of references, because #2 is filled with Western tributes, mostly Spaghetti Western tributes. #2 has Leone written all over it, with even a dash of Peckinpah and Eastwood in the way scenes are staged, and you can hear Morricone's haunting epic music a mile away. I love catching on to references like that and Tarantino has gotten real good at it.

#2 is probably the better half. There's much more dialog, the sort of dialog that Tarantino does so well. and enough action to keep things going, including another Battle of the Badass Bitches with Thurman vs. Hannah, as well as a claustrophobic segment that I didn't know about that also worked as a good tie-in to Uma's martial arts training. #1 has some classic scenes besides just fights, though, that entertained me. The whole big scene leading up to the Crazy 88s battle has all kinds of things going on that you don't see the 1st time.

Both DVDs have extras, but #2 has the best with a Making Of and some premiere night music. I'm tempted to buy a movie just because it has a DTS soundtrack so the fact that both of these do is icing on the cake. Thus the DVDs also get a 9/10 but perhaps a bit weaker 9. You can see a combined Ultimate Special Edition coming with this duo as there must be more stuff they're holding back on, milking the DVD buyers with multiple releases:( I'm happy with these so it would have to be really something to tempt me.

I read some of the comments so-called professional critics made panning these movies. They just don't get it. Most of the discouraging words are about the blood and guts, but I thought segments like the Crazy 88s were cartoonish, just like the wirework in that segment, and was deliberate overkill to keep it from looking real. How can you take those blood sprays seriously? At least I think thats what Tarantino was up to, but I didn't ask him. Maybe he just likes to gross out wimpy movie critics. I mean so what if Lucy Liu gets a real deep buzzcut :eek: Some dissed him for lifting characters from old movies which is really a dumbass comment since he did it on purpose.

Spartacus
Spartacus(2004)

There's some confusion about this Spartacus miniseries and the 1960 epic movie Spartacus. The stories are very similar because they both use the Howard Fast novel as a basis. The Kirk Douglas movie had another mission though as it was one of a group of movies made to regain the public's interest in the cinema with lavish spectacle. The scale of its production is much higher than the miniseries. What the miniseries has going for it is more historical accuracy; the gladiator/rebel army marched up Italy, got to the Alps and changed its mind (very puzzling), marched down to Italy's toe hoping to escape by boat but was foiled and was trapped for a time. They broke out only to quarrel amongst themselves and break up into at least two groups. This proved their undoing as the Romans first massacred the smaller group of Gauls and then defeated Spartacus in turn. Spartacus' body was never identified, but many were crucified along the road all the way to Rome. Spartacus and his army made the Romans pay in much blood and defeat leading up to his and their ultimate defeat, though, requiring 15 or 16 legions to chase them down. Spartacus is a favorite hero of the Communists, BTW, being the working stiff rising up against the ruling class, etc...

The 1960 epic is short on accuracy, instead showing the rebel army defeating the garrison of Rome and another legion or 3 along the way to Brundusium, only to turn back and get overwhelmed by multiple Roman armies. It was a closer match to the actual scale of events, as the rebels numbered around 90-100,000. But they both have the same love story tacked on along with treachery in the Roman Senate by ahistorical Roman Senators, and a Crassus obsessed with possessing the strength of Spartacus by possesing his woman.

The 1960 remains my favorite version simply because its a well-done big movie (I wouldn't want to be the one to reprise Olivier's Crassus!), including some of the very best music, and hell its Kubrick! It was good to see a more accurate portrayal of the course of events shown in the miniseries. The acting was pretty good, with Spartacus' Visnjic a good choice for the title role.

Fat Man and Little Boy
½

I like all the actors in this movie, but I also know a thing or two about Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, etc.. and this was at best a docu-drama about development of The Gadget aka The Bomb. Sticking love interests into it was so unnecessary; there's plenty of info for what could've been a tense movie about geniuses that didn't start out with much more than 2 sticks to rub together and wind up with a thermonuclear device. They certainly did have misgivings about their creation, but the melodrama in the movie just didn't happen, at least not in the sequence or at that time.

Dwight Schultz, who I know mostly as Barkley from Star Trek:TNG, plays a genius OK as Oppenheimer, considering that acting like the real Oppenheimer would not have been so great to watch. Oppenheimer wasn't so kinetic; his brilliance showed in his eyes and he could chat on equal terms with Einstein, Bohr and Fermi; the latter two BTW were crucial to the project and hardly in the movie.

In the end I'm not sure what the point was to make this movie the way it was made. It just happened to be starting on HDNet so I watched it.

Underworld
Underworld(2003)

This movie has good points and bad points

Good points
- good style, with Kate Beckinsale playing a superhero-grade vampire strutting around in a seriously black leather outfit. Other cast members get cool things to wear too but hers is best, or perhaps more accurately she wears hers the best:fresh:

-huge sound effects. Never have I heard my subwoofer lay out LFE with such a continuous ferociousness. Man, it brings tears to my eyes and flutters my eardrums to know that I spent my doubloons wisely on that big belching mutha sitting in the corner:fresh:

-this movie demonstrates that Hollywood has detailed files on how people physically transform into werewolves, and they show that werewolves are shy, so its almost always done in the dark where you only get the silhouette. Maybe this isn't such a good point, unless this is really the way.

-pretty much nonstop action. Even when you don't know why there is any, its going on. Our lady Kate is equipped with machine pistols that look like and fire like regular handguns but cooler and have way cooler effects in that they go rat-tat-tat everytime she presses the trigger, which she does often. Squads of opponents with mere automatic weapons have no chance against her special pistols, whatever the hell they are. This last good thing is what the movie delivers best, and does help cover up some the

Bad points
-the story, the plot, some of the dialog. The vampire and werewolf groups of monsters are supposed to be keeping themselves secret from us puny humans. They say so right in the beginning. So right in the beginning they have a big shootout in the crowded subway. A shootout that would've pre-empted an erupting volcano in St. Louis on the news. And we'd never notice black leathered dudes leaping like grasshoppers and jumping off skyscrapers, or guys suddenly erupting with huge canines?! The story about vampires and werewolves isn't such a bad confection but there's no depth to it. Its more like the stuff they invent to make WWE wrestlers hate each other right before a match. Werewolves seem to die pretty damn easy, and they're weren't any female werewolves. How do those guys get any love? Finally, they didn't show any vampire boobs at all. That's just part of the deal. If they don't show vampire boobs, then they gotta show some victims' boobs to make up for it, and they didn't do that either:rotten:

I'm more of an action junkie so I can forgive some of this and just enjoy the audio/visual sensations, which there are plenty of. I can understand why people who want meaning and sense in a movie wouldn't like Underworld much. In that respect its like Resident Evil.

The DVD is good-looking and sounds GREAT! The extras are fairly ordinary. It gets an 8/10 mostly just because it made a lot of noise.

The Terminator

The first time I saw this was on VHS and my eyes were rivetted to the screen from the opening scene to the end credits. Some of the best films I've ever seen have been directed by unproven newbies on small budgets but with big ideas. This was John Cameron's big idea and of course the whole movie production was tense and always pressed for money, but the end result was one the best ever Sci Fi movies. 20 years later and its still fun to watch. I still say "I'll be back" sometimes in my deepest voice when I'm leaving the office.

Today I just saw it in glorious commercial-free HD from HDNet. It looked exquisite of course but I've been reading about remastering, compression and digitizing movies so I always wonder just what it is I'm seeing. Was it a digital transfer like the new Star Wars remasters? Probably not. It looked pretty good but I'm betting that Dish does some compression on HD signals, especially when they're on the Basic HD package list like HDNet is. Even so, it'd be hard to watch that smeary old VHS Terminator tape after seeing Ahnuld et al in High Definition!

Dirty Pretty Things

This smallish British drama is a nice change from the typical Hollywood fare. The story's underpinnings, the dark side of living as an illegal/probationary alien in London has a ring of truth to it although there's no claims to a true story. Stuff like this probably does go on. Aliens aka Hispanics do most of the work that Californians don't want to do so its no stretch for me to believe that immigrants from India, the Middle East and East Europe do the dirty work for the British. Dirty work in London includes everything including various sex acts and donating organs in exchange for doped up citizenship documents.

The acting is all quite good. Ejiofor and Tautou are excellent as intelligent but helpless victims of their alien status. Ejiofor as Okwe is perhaps a little too pure and squeaky clean morally but you could say thats what helps him keep his sanity, whereas Tautou as Senay is a bit unbelievable as being a Turkish immigrant. I pretended that she was from some northern Turkish province where Turks don't look or sound Turkish. Well she does have dark hair and eyes at least. I also had a problem understanding Okwe's discovery that starts up the major storyline, as in why the hell would anyone have done that? Once you can wrap yourself around these little problems the movie is engaging and you find yourself cheering for them to pull off their escape plans.

The DVD is good but not great, having only a short Making Of and some previews. Audio and video are good enough for what is definitely a dialog-driven movie. It gets a 7/10.

The Rundown
The Rundown(2003)

Its a stretch to give this movie an 8, even in my self-imposed 'don't-rate-any-junky-less-than-7-movies', but it did some things that got my attention that a 7 movie wouldn't. The opening sequence is done really well. I just love watching one guy kicking a bunch of other guys' asses, and he was so nice and polite about it, trying to avoid hurting 'the team'. The supporting actors were all good or better. The Rock has talent and screen presence. Good effects. So its an 8. Its barely an 8 because the plot is mostly formula, there's no wild baboons in South America and Native South Americans don't have a unique indigenous highly developed martial arts style. So let's say its an 8-rated action movie because its fun to watch. You know the hero is indestructible and just like in 'WWF' will get up and dust himself off after being half-beaten to death or falling off a cliff.

The DVD has some good stuff on it. The crew had fun making the movie and there was a lot of joking around in the featurettes rather than a bunch of self-congratulations. The Rock has a double that could be his twin. Audio and video are adequate without being exceptional. The DVD is a 7.5/10.

Alice in Wonderland

[indent]Yes, this is the one. Little snippets from 'Alice' have actually been incorporated into my persona over the years. When I write notes to coworkers I sometimes draw the Cheshire Cat face on the note. The bureaucracy I work in sometimes reminds me of Wonderland. I don't have mushrooms that make me big on one side and small on the other, however. Alice's bizarre dream world has always appealed to me at a more adult level than most of the other old Disney classics, no matter what you may have heard what really happened with Snow White in the dwarf residence :eek: Alice is interested in everything rather than just romance and ponders situations in a way that I find engaging.


The animation is just as elaborate as any Disney had made up to that point. Generally cheerful solid and pastel colors, it has been remastered with the same TLC that Snow White and Cinderella were. You have your choice of the original mono sound track or the remastered 5.1 track. I listened to the 5.1 and can't say that there was a lot of action on my surrounds or subwoofer. I sounded fine, just not very 5.1. I give the movie an 8.5/10.

The 2 DVD set has a bunch of extras. Included is the Mickey Mouse short that went along with 'Alice', titled 'Thru the Mirror' and the 1st Walt Disney TV broadcast, which featured 'Alice' and several Disney cartoons. At the dawn of TV they were still working out exactly what to do on screen, and this 1st Disney show was a get-together. The sponsor, Coca-Cola was served at the party in its old 8 oz bottles while the narrator blabbed about how refreshing it was. Actually that's not as bad as the barrage of disjointed sound bites commercial TV has now (and why I watch very little of it). Also included are trailers, a making of, some kiddie stuff, etc.. Overall a nice package and it rates a 9/10.

[/indent]

Star Wars Trilogy

Taken as a whole its the best group of movies I own in one package. The 4th disc has lots of goodies on the making of all 3 movies, with comments from all the major cast and crew. George Lucas really did look like he was gonna cry on the Star Wars set. The man is a genius, though, to work through and break out of the major studios and shape moviemaking and other technologies.

There's also a tantalizing look at Episode III. Its not saying much that it must be better than Attack of the Clones, but Darth Vader sure as hell better get some good material for his grand entry!

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
½

The last installment of the Holy Trilogy. I remember being pretty disappointed by it in the theater, and never bothered with any previous releases. It does slip off the top of the heap compared to the other two, but its not as bad as I remembered. The Ewoks really bothered me then, but not so much now. Maybe I'm just warmer and fuzzier myself? Nah, its most likely I didn't have mountainous expectations, so I wasn't let down. There is good stuff here. Jabba the Hut segments are fun, although Leia strangling him is pretty ridiculous. Bubba Fett died too easily. They would've scored higher with that kind of movie on the screen longer. The whole Endor segment is the weakest link, The speeders are the only cool thing going on there. The dialog is the silliest of the trilogy, with Solo being just a boob sometimes instead of his former and more fitting role as resident smart ass. The Darth Vader/Emperor/Luke segment does work pretty good though. They changed and added some final shots which helped a bit. I know Darth Vader didn't look like that in the alternate universe in the original version, and there's some CGI cityscapes that were appealling eye candy.

The DVD audio/video is top notch just like the other two, although there's no DTS soundtrack :( The Death Star is exquisitely detailed and the forest planet Endor is lush. 10/10

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

This is rated a scoutch lower than the 1st Star Wars flick, although it is right behind Aliens and slightly ahead of T2 as the best sequel ever. It loses 0.3 because of the disjointed forced emotions of Han and Leia, who have great repartee but romance is just not there. I didn't buy it anyway.

Other than that the movie is great. It still has some of the best action sequences around and numerous video games have lifted elements of it for combat and light saber duels. The CGI enhancements added in the 90's are less obvious and less intrusive than those in Star Wars, and really add or subtract little if anything. The epic scope of the power of the empire and the considerable abilities of the resistance are shown to great effect in ultra large scale space panoramas, and are breathtaking if you allow yourself to be taken in by it all.

The large scale gets a big help with a large screen. I think a lot would be lost watching this on a 27" TV. The DVD is part of the the Star Wars trilogy pack. The audio is even better than Star Wars, with even more LFE and surround action. This has to be the best remastering of film audio I've ever heard. The video is no less impressive, with nary a blotch or smear to be seen anywhere. Darth Vader looks like he's been cleaned and pressed just for this DVD release! This is as good as it gets 10/10.

Schindler's List

It gets a rare 10/10 from me although it is not on my Top 10 List, mostly because it isn't a movie that anyone really enjoys watching as much as one that needs to be watched. In any case I sure can't be in a laid back mindset ready to watch an action flick and substitute Schindler's List at the last second; I gotta be ready for it.

I've watched it 3-4 times, the first time in a theater with my sister who was dying of cancer and wanted to see it. I remember one of her sons theorized that the Holocaust never happened and it was a way to justify the destruction of the Nazi regime, or some other BS, that I've heard variations of before. They just don't have any grounding in history. Even the Nazis who were hung for it didn't deny it; they were just following orders.

Its quite a movie with all the talent both on and off the screen doing some of their best work ever. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes really should've won Oscars, but it won so many others I suppose they wanted to spread them around a little.

The fairly recently released DVD package is a bit of a throwback with an odd case and a single double-sided DVD. If there's some special reason for it I don't know what it is. It has a DTS soundtrack :) but the B&W video was quite harsh on my screen with very bright interior lighting sometimes bombing details to smithereens. I had to adjust my screen to watch it. I don't recall that on the old laserdisc or anywhere else. It gets quite a bit lower 7/10 rating.

House of Wax
House of Wax(1953)

This is one of those oldies that is still fun to watch. Hell it even has full-body nude waxplay in bondage and corset training going on for all the latent kinksters out there hehehe. Of course the nudity is assumed as at the critical moment of rescue they thoughtlessly cover her up. You don't even get to see one lousy breast. Even so Vincent Price was the best at these kind of 'sensitive mentally tortured bizarro maniac' roles, and the supporting cast is interesting. Charles 'Buchinsky' Bronson supports as the similarly bizarro maniac Igor. Yes its Igor, the standard handle for the right hand man of B movie evil villains. This Igor is a deaf mute who looks like he's been doing some weight training, and never gets a line except 'MMMmm!' or 'arghhh!' He probably didn't speak English real well at the time.

The DVD is pretty basic, as is the audio and video. Just adequate; a bit soft on the video and totallly mono audio. Extras include a little Premiere featurette which is just a bunch of people standing around, of whom only a few are familiar faces, including Ronald Reagan. He must've known about the waxplay!! The trailer has absolutely no cuts from the film. It came out as 3D so that probably caused issues at the time. The back has the 1933 film 'The Mystery of the Wax Museum' which I haven't seen yet. The DVD case is that old cheap cardboard type, so the DVD barely gets a 6.8/10.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

If you don't know all about Star Wars by now you've been seriously Sensory Deprived. I will say that it appeared that the gimmicky FX that they added to the 90's rereleases seem improved, or at least they left a better impression on me this time. I would've liked to have seen pristine original theatrical releases in the set too but the added FX and scene or two are OK.

The 5.1 soundtrack is really good for a 1977 movie. Clearly they spent a lot of time remastering to a true 5.1 rather than a matrix surround.

The most amazing thing I noticed that after all these years is the sci fi tech still looked good. A bit of primitive computer-as-blinking-lights cheese was about the worst fault in an otherwise stellar bunch of set design work.

How did this great stuff turn into the wincingly painful-to-listen-to Attack of the Clones?? Gah!

Alien Resurrection

Resurrection brings back the series a bit from the pit that it was dropped into in Alien 3. I'm not sure why the critics mostly dump on it, as I think there are some pretty good moments in it. It does not match up to the first two but for a 3rd sequel its pretty good. There is a plot hole or three, not the least of which is why all the military runs away when trouble starts, but what the hell. Other movies have killed off the male leaders like this one does to clear the way for a female, but wouldn't she bubble up to the top regardless? Maybe its a courtesy to our fragile egos? Nah, its just Hollywood logic.

S. Weaver carries most of the load as usual. Weaver really did get nothing but net on that shot from behind the back! Everyone was so surprised, including herself, it almost ruined the best take of the whole movie. She does get more help this time out from an improved cast including Perlman and Ryder. Playing a badass crewperson is a stretch for the petite Wynona, however, and they should've fit her in some more unique way, and Perlman does a 30 second reprise of his old apeman role from Quest for Fire which was pretty nervy, or maybe its just natural for him!?

The most interesting thing in all the featurettes is Wynona talking about stealing things off the set whenever she had the chance. Oops! There's also good stuff on the underwater sequence, which was amazingly difficult to make but they make it look easy in the movie.

The 2 DVDs are part of the Alien Quadrilogy and have the same high quality as the rest, with a whole disc of extras. Alien Quadrilogy gets a 10/10. It would satisfy any completist, Alien fanatic or anyone who has 40 hours or so to kill.

They should make one more Alien movie where we find their homeworld. It must be quite a place!

Aliens
Aliens(1986)

Aliens gets a rare 10/10 from me for being one of the best if not the best sci-fi movie ever made. From the opening sequence where Ripley's drifting ship is picked up to the last shot of her back in suspended animation it's as tight a movie as you'll see, packing every second with things that matter. By the end Ripley has gotten back in the saddle and kicked serious alien butt, the Space Marines get theirs kicked in spite of Paxton's one-liners and their massive weaponry. Unless you've assumed room temperature you'll have trouble breaking away until the end credits. I've seen Aliens several times so I can do that, knowing exactly which two minutes of the movie can be skipped. Its not a horror/sci-fi film like Alien, with blood spraying around. This is an Action/sci-fi film, or maybe a combat/sci-fi film, and not nearly as bloody. Tense with terror rather than cringing with horror is how you might feel.

As part of the Alien Quadrilogy group (I might've just bought Alien and Aliens separately, but what the hell) it occupies disks 3 and 4. 3 has the both the original theatrical release and the director's cut. You might think that both versions occupying the same DVD that there would be picture quality issues, but it looks as good as I've ever seen it. Perhaps because it is such a dark film there is less info to compress. In any case the Director's Cut is virtually the same as that in the OOP Alien Legacy, with maybe a snip snip here and snip snip there to clean it up a bit. It is the only version to watch as the added scenes fill out the story. I didn't watch the Theatrical release. Aliens demonstrates that a mid-80's movie can have excellent surround sound.

The 4th disc has enough supplementary material in the way of featurettes, photos, sketches, etc... to satisfy any Alien fanatic. Just be sure to get up once in a while to stretch. I did watch all the featurettes, skipping the photos and film treatment. Its enough material for a Master's thesis on Filmology. All the significant cast members have comments. Weaver is definitely the Alien Grand Dame but Paxton, Biehn and the rest all have humorous insights. I'd really like to know which actor was replaced by Biehn. They don't mention his name, but there's an early trailer with him in it, and I don't recognize him. The DVDs get a 10/10 and are available in a single release besides the Quadrilogy.

Gladiator
Gladiator(2000)
½

This is a retelling of the same story that the old movie Fall of the Roman Empire told, with its own bunch of fiction added to take the story into new areas. The story is 90% fiction; even the historical characters are fictionalized. The most accurate thing on the screen and one of the most fascinating was the computer graphics of Rome and especially the Colosseum. They did a very good job and clearly consulted experts on its construction.

Once you get past wondering why with 700 years worth of Western Roman history to draw from they had to recycle a fictional one, its good entertainment. The opening battle is a wonder to watch. Who cares if Romans fought exactly like that? They did fight kind of like that, with the war machines, skirmishers and heavy infantry and auxilliary archers. Cavalry flanking moves in heavy forest is pushing it, however. They had to get Russell Crowe on a horse leading a charge somehow.

The gladiator segments in the Colosseum are the movie's highpoints. I replayed the Carthaginian battle it was too cool. The emperor's digs are appropriately sumptuous and the screen convinces you that it goes on and on just like the computerized graphics of Imperial Rome.

The movie weakens a bit near the end, the so-so story getting its logic strained to the breaking point. Maximus is finally avenged and there is so much finality to the story even the most determined sequel writers would have a hell of a time. The critics didn't like Gladiator too much and probably all puked when it got Best Picture. It just shows that they follow each other's lead into Dumbassdom at least once in a while. I'd be all for a few more epics about the period, and I'd probably pass out if they did a Hollywoodized true story.

Ridley Scott has directed several movies on my short lists, inc. Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and several other movies worth watching like Matchstick Men and Thelma & Louise. I don't know any that I would call a dud.

The 2 DVD has excellent video and a DTS soundtrack option, as well as all kinds of extras that are worth watching. 9/10

Evil Under the Sun
½

Whodunits are usually fun to watch at least once, and Evil Under the Sun is a good Agatha Christie. Peter Ustinov revisits the Hercule Poirot character as he would do several more times, and he is who I picture the borderline preposterous Poirot to be; a normally persnickity, slightly goofy continental with a steel trap for a brain. Very little escapes his observations once murder is committed and he's put on the case.

In this case the setting is a small Mediterranean island which would be a spectacular backdrop except the film is kind of washed out, so it is merely nice-looking. Per the usual Christie buildup a group of mostly snobbish upper class types are brought together with interlocking motives, and all have sufficient motive to do the deed. In the meantime a bit of character development takes place and the plot moves on. Once the deed is done Hercule is commissioned to unravel the mystery, going about acquiring this factoid or that tidbit. In the end all are gathered to listen to his narrative on exactly how and whodunit.

It works that way exactly here except I could tell whodunit without Hercule pointing it out. I don't know if that's a screenwriter or Christie mistake, but it was there if you pay attention to who's preparing an alibi. Nonetheless I wasn't 100% sure and it remained fun to watch the brain of Hercule apply itself to the task.

This was good but another Christie book-into-movie, Death on the Nile, remains my favorite whodunit. It doesn't seem to matter that these are not exactly new releases since they're set in the 30's anyway.

The RT info for this flick comes up with other whodunits, including Who Framed Roger Rabbit?! Come to think of it, I never really categorized ...Roger Rabbit as a whodunit but it is!

There's a grainy trailer and making of on the DVD as well as a film bio for most of the actors. The film itself is nonamorphic and less grainy, still looking every bit its 20+ years. The DVD is about a 7.2/10 only because it did have a reasonably good making of for an older movie.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
½

Some say that this flick hasn't held up, the aliens look fake, blah blah blah. You can tell what's wrong with a lot of new Sci fi movies after you watch this one. There's a story, with characters that you care about. Maybe the moviemakers think that everyone has ADD now and can't/won't follow a story for 2 or 3 hours. I think some of the moviemakers have ADD and don't know how to carry a story through.

Close Encounters still works for me. It isn't important that they could do the SFX better now; its good enough. Much of the effect is mental anyway, and its done so well that a bunch of effects aren't needed. I was drawn in by the fixation they had with the image they felt compelled to sculpt/draw/scribble, not knowing what it was that got burned into their brains.

This movie is close to a 10 but gets a few nitpiks for a somewhat vague ending. I think the 3 should've all gotten in the ship. The whole poison gas diversion would've met with a lot more skepticism by the locals. At least they didn't have the military try to blow everything up it sees as they probably would now if they did a remake.

The DVD version of the movie is well worth the purchase price. I was very surprised about the scenes that were deleted. Usually deleted scenes are fairly unimportant, but most of these made the whole subplot about the Dreyfuss character make a lot more sense. They filled big chunks of what his situation was at work, what about the other people that saw the UFOs, etc... It really sets him up as being on his own with no one to back him up. The DVD is also a 9.3/10

Alien
Alien(1979)
½

Alien came out following on the heels of Star Wars after the studio realized that people would eat up Sci Fi if given something good to chew on. While Star Wars developed a loyal following, Alien generated a lot of chatter about the gutbuster scene. It disturbed a lot of people, especially women, since it was in a real way a birth scene, and it probably still does (bother a lot of people).

It was innovative in several ways. Ian (Bilbo Baggins) Holm's synthetic gone bad was the 1st of its kind and its comeuppance ranked up with the gutbuster scene for making viewers cringe. Giger's art work was so out there it still looks as alien as it did back then.

As Alien is really a sci fi horror movie, its got the pacing, the tension and the suspense about what's just around the corner. You don't actually see the Alien that much, just enough so you don't want to see it anywhere close to you. The last 15-20 minutes is all Ripley and no dialog at all, except when she screams or yells at the ship's computer, and it works! Just when you think she's home free.....

This DVD is the 1st of eight in the Alien Quadrilogy pack. Video is great for such a venerable flick. Audio is either DD or DTS and almost all in the front. You can watch the original theatrical release or the Director's cut. Ridley Scott comes right out and says the Director's Cut was done just to have one and he thinks the theater release is the best. So naturally I watched the Director's cut. There's not really a lot added on. I started to watch the movie with commentary but they were boring me to death. The 2nd disk is loaded with detailed commentary, including most of the cast. A little dull at first, it picks up after introductions and tongues loosen. It includes exacting detail on how they pulled off some of the visuals, including the gutbuster of course, and a fair amount of time on how Giger's work got into the movie against the wishes of the wimpy studio. Some of the Deleted scenes were interesting. Its mostly worth watching altho I did skip through a bit. The DVDs get a 9/10 just because there's so much and the movie looked quite good. This has to be on any film fan's short list of things to watch if they haven't already.

Jurassic Park
½

Jurassic Park knocked everyone's socks off in 1993. We went to see it 2-3 times and it is a great movie to see with a full house (of attentive viewers). The real stars of the show are the CGI dinosaurs, although I give more credit to the acting than some, and there's some great lines in the movie, Malcolm getting most of them.. The movie follows the book fairly well although I remember little fox-sized dinosaurs doing the Hammond character in, more of the fake science and a juvenile T Rex.

The first T Rex segment is one of moviedom's magic moments and makes up for any trivial shortcomings all by itself, with the kids/Raptors-in-the-kitchen segment close behind. You shouldn't watch movies if you don't think this is great stuff.

The movie would get a 10 from me if there weren't a moment or three that are obvious commercial breaks to sell Jurassic Park spinoff products, as well as front and center product branding. Its right up there with video ads on a DVD that you can't skip through.

I don't get the references to 'Jaws' some reviewers make. The only similarity is the monsters have teeth. One reviewer makes a remark and others copy it I guess.

I finally realized that my DTS version of Jurassic Park is one of the first releases and LFE is very weak. The test is running the Dolby Digital sound track which rumbles a lot better. There's been no confession from the studio about this and all they did was modify the back of the DVD box on corrected releases with a different color grid. Shame on them. Now that I know my JP DVD is inadequate I can't give it more than a 7/10, even though the video is excellent and Dolby Digital is a good soundtrack.

The 300 Spartans

"Go, stranger, and tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their laws." This is on the simple memorial at Thermopylae, marking the location of the battle that served as a great motivator for the Greeks during the Persian invasion in 480 BCE. This is a fairly simple movie too, with a modest budget. Some of the distance shots look like tourist photos. They didn't spend much money on historical research either, or for that matter whether everything going on the screen made sense. There's a number of gaffes in the stuntwork, including stubbed fingers and javelins that look like they were thrown by Aunt Martha when her arthritis was flaring up, and general scuffling instead of organized combat. A few more blunders and it could've been 'The 300 Spartans Starring Goofy'.

Greek hoplites didn't fight like rugby players in a scrum, but they did get the look basically correct, with just the main characters somewhat out of Spartan dress for visibility. A phalanx was nowhere to be seen; they could've at least acknowledged the core Greek combat formation with the Spartans practicing it or something. Ya it's a B movie.

You may think that I don't like this movie, but in that case you think wrong. In spite of the blunders and all the marching around to take up screen time, I think the flick captures the essence of the battle. The actors were enthusiastic, with Richard Egan very kingly and churning out one immortal line after another, and Ralph Richardson getting extra-bases hits as the strategizing Themistocles. One-on-one swordplay was pretty good. They did seem to read ahead in the script, though, as they sometimes talked as if they knew how they were going to fit into the history books.

Its a good swords and sandals flick. A remake of sorts may get done if they ever actually film 'Gates of Fire'; that would be a rivetting movie with a better script.

The DVD just has some trailers. Video and Audio are quite good considering the movie's age. Audio is stereo/mono The DVD gets 7.5/10 for a good restoration job.

Gormenghast
Gormenghast(2000)

This BBC mini-series is actually a combination of the books Titus Groan and Gormenghast. In 4 - 1 hour parts, being from the BBC they're really close to a whole hour as opposed to the usual 45 minute network episodes.

Gormenghast is an ancient kingdom that must be located somewhere in Europe, since it is populated with Europeans. More specifically, it is populated with really odd Europeans, which sounds more like Great Britain. In fact it is a fictional location in which Mervyn Peake has created an extremely ossified culture, technologically stagnant, that indulges itself in numerous obscure rituals that cover almost all routine events, written down in huge books and applied as if their lives depended on it.

The story centers around the Groans, who's male heirs rule as Earls. Titus is set to become the 77th Earl of Groan, and as he matures he sees it as his doom rather than his destiny, and comes to despise Gormenghast.

At first, however, he's just a baby and the story centers on his father and the odd ducks that are his family and servants. Into this mix is added Steerpike, a kitchen boy of huge ambition that finds ways to ingratiate, titillate and extort his way to a much higher position, hardly killing anyone at all to get there. The Groans and Gormenghast in general are so dense and caught up in the minutiae of their lives it takes them years to realize that there's a racoon in the chicken house, so there's plenty of story to take up a 4 hour mini-series.

I read these two books once upon a time and hardly remember them. I believe the BBC series plays Steerpike a bit more sympathetic than the books did. The trilogy has been compared to LOTR and the Thomas Covenant trilogy, both of which I liked more than Gormenghast. Gormenghast is fiction not fantasy, there are no dragons, orcs or hobbits. The kingdom appears to be mostly medieval with some touches of modernity here and there. The closest thing to monsters are the huge Death Owls.

What makes the mini-series work is a very talented cast that bring their characters to life. They make it a pleasure to watch, if only once.

The 2 DVD set has a Making Of, Cast interviews, a few unrelated trailers. It is all shot in a peculiar not-quite 4:3 or 16:9 format, at least that's the way my hardware decoded it to the screen. Video and audio are strictly TV quality, with video colorful if a bit smeared and audio all upfront mono as far as I could tell. The DVDs get a 6/10 for getting it on my screen but not much else.

Once upon a Time in Mexico
½

Billed as the final installment of the El Mariachi trilogy, maybe that is for the best. The movie still has the key element of the series; explosive, bodies-flying violence. And it has more A list actors with Depp and Dafoe added to the mix. It was OK with me that they managed to find roles for actors that got killed in Desperado, they were allright (Trech and Marin). Salma Hayek looks as good as ever, although she has a smaller role. I haven't seen Mickey Rourke in a long time. I don't know his story but he looks like he's had tissue damage on his face.

The movie is very disjointed. The actors are rarely on screen together, as if they all had conflicting schedules and were doing this flick more like an extended cameo shot. In fact there are several scenes where doubles are used and somewhat concealed and the voices dubbed in later. I suppose this is just an extension of the 'movie on the cheap' approach that started with the el cheapo supremo El Mariachi. The movie also leaps around with character interaction without explanation of why they betray each other so easily.

The movie is watchable, but has little replay value unless you're a total fan of Banderas or Depp. Their performances are OK, although Depp could've played his role with his eyes literally closed. He wore cool T shirts. Banderas finishes up as a Mexican patriot which acceptably closes out the series, so they say.

The DVD has trailers, commentary, and a 'making of' featurette which I didn't have time to watch. I have to like a movie more than this to spend time on stuff like that, but it is there if you want it. Video is sharp I didn't notice any glaring flaws and the audio put out some LFE and surround sound. I'd give the DVD 8/10.

Stalingrad
Stalingrad(1995)

That's roughly the fatality score in the nastiest battle of WWII. Russia won and cracked the Wehrmacht in more ways than one at this turning point. Russia always had a higher body count, at least until near war's end, because they used their infantry as cannon fodder, and civilians added to the count. Russia could keep throwing bodies at the Germans, but the Germans couldn't sustain such a loss as the Russians finally pulled off a pincer movement of their own.

Although the battle includes entire armies, it is small unit action that is on the screen. Platoons and companies, sometimes a battalion. Except for a few recurring characters, largely anonymous actors come and go on the screen. This has been criticized but that is what large scale war is; an anonymous action of brutal firepower where combatants are routinely blown up, ripped apart and smashed. Survivors keep their sanity by a crude apathy about their fate, only occasionally breaking down when a foxhole buddy, a long-lived survivor finally gets eliminated. Such a loss is hard for them to take.

Stalingrad is not the goriest war movie I've ever seen but there's enough. The segment through the sewers was more disturbing for me to watch. Gah! I also think the horrible winter conditions were done well. All in all I'm very glad I've never had to suffer all the extreme hardships almost everyone there had to.

Almost everyone except the elite, of course. The movie just dances around that fact a bit, but the truth is even under the worst conditions the leadership managed to keep themselves relatively well cared for. General Paulus did not have to walk to Siberia; he became a showpiece for Stalin, and to his dying day cursed Hitler for not allowing him to retreat and save his men. Its a big What-if in history as how that might have changed the course of the war. As it was, only about 6,000 of the German POWs made it back alive after the war from this battle.

The movie has a detached feel to it which I think is deliberate, to give the sense of what war is like. But as a result, you don't feel engaged with the actors on the screen. I don't think Stalingrad has a high replay value. You get a taste of what such a bitter battle might be like, but who wants such a bitter experience more than once? It's a good movie to see once.

The DVD has both original German and English dub audio. I watched the subtitles because I wanted to hear the actors on the screen even if I didn't know what the hell they actually all said. My subwoofer was silent and if anything came out of the surrounds I didn't notice. Almost no extras. The DVD is 6.8/10

The Fly
The Fly(1986)
½

The younger Goldblum and Davis are really the only reasons to watch this, with Goldblum looking like he was practicing some fly moves right from the start, like the darting eyes and weird tongue thing. After the experiment went wrong they used gobs of sugary goo to recreate Goldblum's metamorphosis, until eventually he was just one big gob of goo so they could blow off his gooey head. Pretty much over the top. Geena Davis is appropriately semi-hysterical from mid-movie on, then close to completely out of her mind when she's pregnant with HIS child. Well it wouldn't set well with most folks to have THAT fermenting inside of them either, so it works. I wouldn't eat watching this movie. Even though you know its fake the imagery is not mouth-watering, unless you eat like a fly.

There's reasonably good chemistry between Goldblum and Davis which engages you in the sad side story of the destruction of Them as he literally falls apart.

This is the movie they watched when they picked Goldblum to play Malcolm in Jurassic Park. He rattles off the jargon as good as they come and should get the Award for Best Technobabble if they ever start up that category.

This movie was too yucky for me to enjoy a lot. Even though you can actually chuckle at him losing body parts the overall effect is not endearing. It gets a 7.5/10 mostly because I liked the actors.

The Fly II is also on the same DVD but I'm not going to watch it, a semi-stupid sequel I've seen pieces of before. It was just the way to buy The Fly. There's just a few trailers as extras on the Fly side of the disk. The video is OK and the audio isn't bad at all; I actually heard something from the surrounds now and then which is more than you can say for some older movies that claim a 5.1 mix. The DVD gets a 7.5/10 also only because there's another movie on it otherwise its a 7/10. If the other movie would've interested me it'd be an 8/10.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
½

I saw this ages ago on TV, probably on the 'Saturday Night at the Movies' that was so popular back in the day. It is a very intelligent sci-fi film/morality play, and it still works today, although the message to 'unite the earth, avoid annihilation', aimed at then new United Nations, doesn't quite hit it today. Top notch acting from all players and a unique musical score elevate it past most sci-fi movies. The military is, collectively, definitely the heavy in this flick and did not cooperate in its' making.

The most interesting element of the movie is the perspective that the alien (Michael Rennie) has of earth culture. Over and over again he nails the stupidity of what we fight and fret about as being petty and unimportant. Sent here to evaluate our behavior after his 'Space Federation' observed our nuclear explosions, we often come up short. That's bad because in that case we will be elminated rather than allowed to continue and eventually threaten interstellar peace. Still the alien looks for a reason to avoid a negative conclusion and looks for good and decency, finding it here and there, especially in a mother and her son.

In the end we really try to have ourselves obliterated, but the aliens must've come up against our kind of idiocy before, and we are given a reprieve to mend our ways, or face annihilation. More high-minded than most science fiction, this is a movie with a message. 9.1/10

The 2003 DVD release has a featurette with surviving cast and filmmakers reminiscing on interesting factoids. This is the only movie with Gort, the apparently invincible robot capable of destroying planets. Special effects and props were quite a bit more primitive than now but for what was available it doesn't come off badly at all. Considering its age it looks quite good. Audio is very basic mono. DVD is 8/10.

Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run(1999)
½

Lola Rennt is an exciting film filled with editing trickery that draws the audience into the film as though they are following the lead actress in a video game. The film begins when Lola (Franka Potente) receives a desperate phone call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). Manni has rather stupidly lost a bag of money which he's suppose to deliver and tells Lola that she has 20 minutes to help him or the local crime boss will make him a grease spot on the road. He's so desperate he considers robbing a nearby store. Instant panic strikes Lola as she knows his panic will do him in. Lola immediately bursts into a video game analog down the stairs and then races through the streets in a full out sprint. Its here where the movie begins the branching linearity of a video game shown through Lola's dead runs. Each of the 3 runs has different results for everybody, including characters both closely and incidentally tied to Lola. Just slight changes in an interaction can wreak huge changes in a person's life, so the movie says, and it is fascinating to see the quick sequences of those lives after contact with Lola. Lola does have comic book character superpowers. Her Screech breaks glass, drives people nuts, and makes roulette balls drop on her number slot! Another power she has is to stop a heart and then make it beat again. But Lola is just a fairly ordinary if attractive young woman and doesn't come equipped with the standard issue tights and cape. Her only unique physical feature is her wild red hair. She's fun to watch on her runs, and by the 3rd one you wonder how many there are. Her runs keep having bad endings until eventually a sequence of events leads to a good conclusion for everybody.

Some try to make this film into far more of a study of women's empowerment than it could've possibly been intended to, and they think in the end Lola doesn't have any power, Manni didn't need her, blah blah blah. They notice the video game element but then forget about it. The flying phone is like a Reset Button, and you just keep playing and playing until you win, which is what Lola does in the end. She got to use her Super Screech to get a bag of cash, which is free and clear once Manni recovers his own lost bag of money due to an incidental interaction that Lola had in her run. The whole message about saving the bank guard in the ambulance is about her power to both take and give his life, and Manni ranting in bed how Lola wouldn't miss him is hilarious, showing who's got the real power in their relationship. That's not the smirk of a Loser on her face at the end. She had it all and she knew it.

This is a fun dynamic movie with good music and its worth a 9/10. The DVD is pretty barebones. It was after all pretty low budget and looks all shot with a handheld. But for a movie like this that's fine. Jostling and bobbing figures give it a raw power that independents can do and big budget flicks can't.

Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2(1999)
½

Like other great sequels, Toy Story 2 gives us a completely new universe where the film is set but populated with the same characters that we love. The opening sequence is different and fun to watch. The filmmakers are intelligent enough to give us situations that seem similar enough to events in the original to provide us with a thematic link, but are then twisted enough to become something original in itself. An simple example occurs when the gang set off to find Woody. In the original Woody had to leave his friends behind to rescue Buzz after he mistakenly knocked him out of a window. This time it's Buzz who has to lead the rescue, but he has all his friends working alongside him, which leads to necessary (and comical) support from Slinky, Rex, Mr Potato Head and Hamm. Another example found later in the film is having effectively two different Buzz's, one of which is still stuck in Space Ranger mode, and our own, now wiser Buzz who just looks on with embarrassed detachment.

The movie has a fast pace. After the stunning opening Buzz Lightyear sequence, Woody is soon stolen by a nasty little toy collector known as Al. Once Buzz and the rest of the troops discover where he is, they lead a search and rescue expedition to Al's Toy Barn. Meanwhile Woody is being primed to be sold as part of a collection to a toy museum in Japan, and it's here Woody realises that he has roots stretching far beyond his little textile legs. As leader of the Round-Up Gang, Woody was one of THE original classic toys of yesteryear with enough merchandise to make Barbie blush. He even had his own TV show before Sputnik launched and space toys then found their way into the hands of children. Completing Woody's Gang are Jesse the cowgirl, Stinky Pete the prospector and Bullseye his horse. His cohorts are overjoyed to see their long missing centrepiece until they realise he actually likes the idea of being played with merely as a toy, while they've been in storage for years and want to be museum pieces.

Back with Buzz and the rest they make it to the Toy Barn, and among other discoveries which include Barbie so she can get onboard is a whole aisle worth of Buzz Lightyear's, one of which manages to escape and cause much consternation for our hero. I really love the symmetry that they play with in this film. The original had Buzz discovering his roots via a TV commercial and realising that although he wasn't as important as he thought, being simply a child's plaything and not an Intergalactic Space Ranger, his purpose was for a much greater good in being a companion for not only Andy, but also for Woody. This time around it's Woody who discovers his ?real' past, also via television. But while he is already happy in the knowledge that Andy is his main occupation and that Buzz is his equal in the toybox, when he realises he's a hugely popular toy, he's forced to make a choice.

They actually have the character of a toy making a serious philosophical decision as to whether it's better to be in contentment or to risk it all by venturing into the unknown! The unknown brilliantly depicted by a long empty elevator shaft. The fact that he chooses the most unlikely option, but then decides he can have it all anyway. It's the way that Pixar manage to incorporate both of Woody's choices; his past (Bullseye) and his present (Buzz) in order for him to effectively save the day.

Rather than just concentrate on Woody and Buzz, some of the other characters have also been well fleshed out. Rex has his own sub-plot involving Zurg which is well paid off throughout the film. Mr Potato Head gets to adopt a family with Mrs Potato Head! Even Zurg gets his own mysterious past and a wholly unexpected family reunion. There are a number of humorous hooks to other movies BTW. And Pixar gets brave enough to show kids that one day they will forget about their toys, and that they will turn into something as horrible and cynical as an adult. Even Woody and Buzz ruminate on what it will be like when Andy forgets about them and provides for me, what I think is the perfect end to the Toy Story saga. Buzz turns to Woody and asks if he's worried about what will happen when Andy grows up and Woody replies that he isn't worried as long as he has old Buzz Lightyear to keep him company, To Infinity And Beyond. This is great stuff!

The DVD rates as high as the movie in the audio and video categories. The roughly 4 years gap between the two movies is noticeable. The animation quality, which was already good, is even better. I have fond memories of cel animation, but after this kind of 3D animation, how can you go back to it?! Its a pleasure to watch, and my sound system got a pretty good workout with the movie's lively audio. The DVD is a 9/10, but don't expect many extras unless you get the 3 disc Toy Story saga.

Toy Story
Toy Story(1995)
½

I put this computer animated movie just on the cusp of being great. You can ignore the breakthrough aspect of the graphics and it remains a fun story with some very witty dialog. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen do great voice work as the lead toys, with Cowboy Bob's jealousy of new toy Buzz Lightyear providing the fuel for most of the story. They're both hilarious as Bob plays the brains, and hatches schemes for this and that, including spooking the evil kid next door who tortures and blows up toys for fun. Buzz is mostly on the job thinking he really is a Space Ranger, loses his self identity when he finds out he is just a toy, winding up as a tea time doll for a little girl. In the end, though, they come together and save the day and themselves just in time...8.7/10
This DVD is part of the Toy Story 2 Pack, but I believe the actual movie transfers are the same in all the retail packages. Quality animation always looks good on the big screen and this looks wonderful. This is a Buy and Hold to flesh out your collection to include 'Happy Movies' as my daughter puts it. The DVD is a solid 9/10

Resident Evil

[indent]The soundtrack is the most attractive element of the movie. It fits the screenplay very well. Jovovich is easy on the eyes and she has an expressive face that keeps you interested in her. They manage to get her 'naked with sheets' twice in the movie. She does after all have a nice complexion, even though they damage it with bruises and needle sticks. The rest of the cast is OK. I didn't notice any real bad acting anyway. Some settings are appropriately creepy. It does run down into a 'kill all zombies' movie, the plot could've used a few more minutes developing the mostly fictional science, and there were some lack of continuity in the scene transitions. Still Resident Evil worth watching if you don't mind blood and guts. When I play a PC game it is usually an FPS of the Resident Evil genre so I may have enjoyed the movie more for that reason. I also learned things, such as you should never stick your head out of a stuck elevator. 2 or 3 subtley exposed breasts, not much flesh otherwise, unless you count bloody bit-off /blown-off chunks as sexy 7.8/10



That's the movie. The other part of the story is the DVD. Resident Evil was my test pickle to see whether a Superbit is better technically than a standard DVD release. We first watched the Superbit movie, then swapped it for the standard presentation on the Special Edition and watched segments of it. We watched segments on two different DVD players of at least reasonable quality. We also listened to both the DD and DTS soundtracks. The result is that there are differences, but it is not a matter of miles. We all thought that while the standard edition was usually good it was usually softer and some of the colors were blotchy, while the Superbit had a definite fine appearance throughout the movie. The fine detail of Jovavich's face and flesh that we saw on the Superbit was coarser on the Standard edition. The DTS soundtrack is as usual more expansive than the Dolby Digital soundtrack. DTS does employ a higher sampling rate so its no revelation that typically they give you a more room-filling sound. Its a plus for a shoot-em-up movie to have good sound! If you don't care much about DVD extras, or at least this film's DVD extras then the Superbit is your choice. If you like the in depth contact you'll have with the film's making of... then get the Special Edition. I put either DVD at 8/10 for different reasons.



[/indent]

Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country

That comment is one the priceless moments in this the last movie of the Original crew. It could be the best of the bunch, or at least close to the Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. Its got a good story and upscale 'guest' casting. Even Christian Slater sneaks in for a cameo. The story was intended to mirror the Cold War tensions and eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union. It works, sort of. The crew gets around pretty good but if they'd done another movie some of them would be in wheel chairs. As Sulu says, 'it was good to see you in action one more time', and a reminder that Shatner and Nimoy really did do Star Trek before they started advertising for Priceline.

I saw this on the Special Edition DVD. I didn't see and don't know of anything that indicates that the film is any different than the earlier single disc release. Possibly there was less compression since the movie was on a disc pretty much all by itself. There's quite a few extras on the 2nd disc. I didn't watch them all but did see most of the individual cast member's thoughts about the movie and Star Trek phenomena. Some thought that there would be another original crew movie. I also watched the tribute to DeForest Kelley who had a lot to do with what made the original cast work so well, and also uttered this review's summary line to Kirk after he was smooching with the female changeling. The extras are nice but I didn't find a 'making of' anywhere which would've been nicer than just more armchair reminiscing and blabbing. Its worth it for the Kelley tribute and cast interviews. I'm not so sure I'd get any more 'Special Edition' Star Trek DVDs, however, since I already had the full set. 8.2/10

Duck, You Sucker (Giù la testa)

This movie is easily recognizable as a Leone movie, although I think its a notch or two off his best work.

Rod Steiger, with an ridiculously false Mexican accent, picks up where Tuco left off in Good,Bad,Ugly. We see the film through his dumb eyes, and there are some standout scenes, especially the sparring between him and Coburn which is great to watch. The opening sequence where the aristocrats are robbed and the female aristocrat getting personal attention was classic Leone. You just loved to see them humiliated.

Coburn's role is a little more difficult to get and some segments dealing with his past are the clunkiest parts of the movie. Fortunately they don't last long and he comes to an appropo end point.

Morricone's music is played down and much less of a presence in Duck You Sucker. The first thing I noticed was the lack of some edgy/catchy music at or near the beginning. Except for a brief spurt here and there, its mostly much more incidental in Duck You Sucker.

Other set-pieces - Steiger speech about revolutions, the bridge massacre, Steiger's discovery of his dead family, the shocking mass graves, and Coburn's nitro glycerine antics (literally a walking bomb) are among Leone's best work.

There is alot of humour and fun in the first half, which gives way to pathos and scenes of brutality in the second as Steiger's character finds himself a reluctant hero of the bloody Mexican revolution. This movie is sometimes disjointed at times, however. As I watched some scenes I wondered how we got to the moment that I was watching.

I saw this on HDNet Movies, which could be a great way to see widescreen movies at a higher res than DVDs. Unfortunately I've yet to watch a movie on it that doesn't have an occasional blockiness, even though my signal is as good as I can make it (upper 80s or better transponder ping). I suspect they've cut down on HD signal bandwidth, which would make the phenom more likely to happen. Since that requires more data compression I bet its not a full strength HD signal at any time. 7.9/10 for the movie. 6.5/10 for the DISH signal.

Patton
Patton(1970)
½

Note to anyone that doesn't know this factoid about WWII movies; virtually all German made tanks were destroyed during or near war's end, so typically USA/English/Russian tanks are substituted, depending on who's making the film. Also, in WW1, Patton commanded the first ever American tank battalion, and was severely wounded in battle, yet kept fighting until he just about passed out from loss of blood. Whatever you may think of his treatment of cowards, he got into the thick of battle himself. Finally, Patton and Bradley were not buddies. That was just movie stuff for dialog's sake.

George C. Scott's portrayal was spot-on. Patton's speech in the beginning of the movie was edited for content. Patton talked like a sailor who's been on an extended sea duty, or a contractor that built on the property line hehe. In any case, anything you hear him say in the movie was probably toned down.

Patton was right about WWII strategy, and it would've ended sooner if they listened to him. Montgomery usurped needed gas and supplies from Patton in September of '44 for his disastrous "Market Garden" attack Thanks to Monty, the war went on much longer than it probably would have if Patton had been allowed to drive into Germany. Patton had the Germans reeling in the fall of 1944, and, as the movie pointed out, had the army in just the right place at the right time to end it. Unfortunately, he was ignored. Even back then, Politically Correct BS got in the way of common sense.

The movie battles are well staged, but their prominence is a bit faded compared to some recent war movies...I've seen better. This movie runs on the energy that George C. Scott brought to the Patton character, and although he'll turn in his grave, its the best role of his life. Scott, however, was so personally opposed to the character he portrayed that he refused the Oscar, certainly damaging his career as a result.

The DVD has a few extras like trailers and filmographies, but I couldn't get Patton's historical timeline to work. Stupid media:( It does have a 5.1 audio but my sub didn't have much to do, and there was little going on in the surrounds either. The video is anamorphic and not bad, not great. The big USA flag at the beginning had nice deep reds, and the skies were blue. What else could you want?

Once Upon a Time in the West

[indent]After many years, I recently saw this movie again on the fantastic DVD they've released. There are very few westerns, few movies of any kind that can match the artistry of this picture. From the opening sequence to the climactic ending it has a gliding, almost still-life pace that might throw a contemporary viewer off. In stark contrast to the action-junkie flicks so common today, the contemplative approach to the sweeping vistas and powerful but short-lived violence elevates this ultimate spaghetti western to an opera. Dialog is as terse as it comes. As they say in one of the commentaries, the actors sing with their eyes.


All the acting is good if not great; the cast seems to be perfect for the mostly laconic personalities they portray. Even the bit parts flesh out the fairly simple plot. The magnificent setting and scenery play up the timeless human struggle.

I knew that this movie has tributes to previous westerns, but until you watch the movie with commentary I don't think anyone except true movie western fanatics would know just how many westerns have had a little of their imagery and plot entwined with Once Upon a Time in the West. Howard Hawks would've been especially pleased, but it is a long list of scenes and situations that is remarkable that they fit in coherently. If you like this movie, get the DVD and you'll be amazed how well it still works today. Any movie fan has to see it.




[/indent]

Swimming Pool

I'll start at the end at work to the beginning, I think. For me, I prefer to believe that both daughters are equally real. Julia is John's acknowledged daughter, while Julie is the product of an illicit affair, an outcast to whom he offers the use of his villa but not his name. At one point Sarah tells Julie that because of her father's "blood, sex and money" she has a beautiful house to live in. Julie just stares incredulously. Julie is a burden to John, Sarah's publisher, whom he probably wished didn't exist.

At the beginning of the film John probably thinks that Julie is working in another city (she says at one point that she just quit her job), so he doesn't warn Sarah of her impending arrival. Later he scolds Julie over the phone, warning her to leave Sarah alone. But Director Ozon doesn't allow Sarah to speak to John about Julie (John apparently hangs up or goes out). He doesn't want us to know too much at this stage of the film about Julie's exact relationship to John.

The key figure, of course, is Marcel. Julie is very familiar and playful with him (taking off his hat, for instance) that indicates they are much more than just acquaintances. When she is standing by the pool with Marcel and Bernard, she tells Bernard that Marcel is her father. Marcel quickly and nervously tells her to stop joking. Later, Marcel's dwarf daughter shrinks back in horror at the mention of Julie's mother and claims that she is dead, the victim of an accident. John the Publisher must have had an affair with Marcel's wife long ago, an affair that resulted in the birth of Julie. Marcel looks over John's estate now as a payback of sorts.

Reading the film this way makes the sequence between Sarah and Marcel late in the film (the seduction) more coherent. At this point, Sarah has gone from curious voyeur to concerned mother-figure to the actual incarnation of Julie's mother. She adopts the rejected daughter, protects her from prosecution after the murder, and later appropriates the contents of the book which are seemingly Julie's one tangible link with her biological mother. Then she has sex with Marcel, with whom she once shared her bed before the affair with John, which also distracts Marcel from the grave that you could say takes on a aura of the dead love of Marcel and his former wife. Hmmm. Its easy to see that Julie killing Frank had to represent her anger at the deep pain of rejection that her father John the publisher had inflicted on her, and all the freewheeling sex with just about any man is an attempt to please daddy subconsciously and NOT BE REJECTED, which Frank did and she couldn't handle it.

One thing that isn't clear is whether Julie's mother is dead or alive, and if dead what the manner of her death was.

There wasn't any reason throughout the movie to think that the major character interactions were just a dream. As much as it is tempting to see some David Lynch stuff going on here, I don't think so. I think the director was having a lot of fun, overlaying his straightforward detective yarn with various and sundry psychobabble symbols and female identity issues.

I haven't seen Charlotte Rampling in a movie in ages, but evidently she's just been kicking along just fine without my knowledge. She does a great stiff-lipped sexually frustrated youngish senior citizen. At the beginning she mostly has something that looks like a smirk on her face but Julie wakes her up. And Luduvine--she is great too. Plenty of breasts (mostly Luduvine's), some frontal nudity. This one may be awkward to watch with subadults and probably your religious advisor for that matter.

This is one of those small movies that has more content than lots of the Hollywood crapola coming out these days. I believe all the parts are spoken by the original actors in both French and English. The DVD has DD and DTS 5.1 but my subwoofer slept through the whole movie except for some previews. There's some deleted scenes that are run through without comment, and a trailer. Stick with the slow start. It gets better. 8.2/10

Brazil
Brazil(1985)
½

There is a lot of imagery in this film that relates to the bureaucratic experience. I think it helps a lot to either work in a bureaucracy or to have some interaction with a large bureau to appreciate this movie. There are LMAO moments, some of the ridiculous burueacratic logic is so close to the Way They Really Are. Individually, bureaucrats typically aren't bad people, but the end result of their workings is often evil. Society can and does evolve to accept evil acts as a routine part of the bureaucratic world. That's about the darkest part of the flick. Most of it is much lighter, sometimes silly. Jonathan Pryce is perfect for the lead role. The only thing that keeps me from giving this movie a 10 is the music, which I found mostly annoying.

Showgirls
Showgirls(1995)
½

I started this movie expecting a piece of crap, and at the beginning it was meeting my expectations. Hitchhikers are almost nonexistent in these parts, and there weren't any in 1995 either, when this film got made. It just doesn't happen that a female built like a brick shithouse has her thumb out, if it ever did. Already I was groaning.

It didn't get much better in the first 1/3 of the movie. Very derivative lightweight bullshit populated with paperthin characters as a backdrop to display some admittedly very fine T&A. I almost gave up, and did skip parts of a couple of chapters. Later on, there is an over-the-top pool sex scene which is silly.

Somehow it got better. Gershon and MacLachan arrived on the scene, that musta been it. They provided some much needed depth. Even when MacLachan is playing a vacuous Vegas type he's got some depth, and Gershon has depths still yet to be plumbed, so far as I know. Let me start with her lips.... no we'll skip that. I don't know that she's a great actress but she chews up the scenery when she's around.

Elizabeth Berkley, little Miss Saved By the Bell, seems to grow with the role, and does a little 'Monster' herself at the end, which I liked a lot. Actually she is a bit of the Monster all along. Lots of anger in those pelvic lifts :p Seriously, she gets better with the movie.

I think this movie got a bad rap from the sexually repressed, and those that couldn't swallow the previously Goody Two Shoes Berkley playing a hard core role. I can understand a sense of miscasting; it hugely effects your perception of a movie. There must be a lot of repression, considering its low ratings. If unromanticized sex and heavy nudity -- literally, in the case of one character -- make you uncomfortable, Showgirls probably not for you. Most people give up on the movie because it does start out pretty lame.

Near Dark
Near Dark(1987)
½

I've been trying to decide what to think about this movie. Although I generally like Paxton and Henriksen I didn't really think it was that good. I should use my own behavior as a guide. If I start pausing to do stuff that means I wasn't really into the movie, and I was pausing to do stuff.

This was a pretty low budget road show. Tha'ts not necessarily a bad thing, and like many movies there are at least a few interesting scenes. Some of these vampires have feelings, which is a bit of a twist on the standard vampire. Who knows, maybe they do. I've known a few bloodsucking types and they've always been as cold as a witch's tit, so my personal experience is of no use here. I didn't buy the hero's conscious decision not to suck blood. All vampire movies have documented the irresistible need of a Vampire to suck blood, so it must be true.

There are several members of the Aliens cast in the movie and I wonderered if they didn't just slum right over to do this one. I also recognized the main Biker Dude from the T2 bar scene, and he gets his ass kicked again, or in this case, more or less eaten.

I don't remember seeing even one breast in the whole dang movie. Well it was a female director, and come to think of it there was more male flesh exposed than female, although not a lot of any kind. Figures.

This doesn't rate high in the Vampire Movie list. In the middle of the pack at best. I'd go for John Carpenter's Vampires for a low rent Vampire movie over Near Dark, and Coppola's hammy but intense B.S. Dracula position as #1 Vampire movie is not threatened by this. Barely a 7/10.

Malena
Malena(2000)

View of life from a 12 year old in WW2 Sicily..

People tend to take this movie seriously. There is indeed serious content. Malena defines 'Beauty is a Curse'. She drives all the men wild with lust, while the other women (mostly pretty doggy) are consumed with undisguised jealousy. These forces put Malena on a nasty little path in which she has almost no choice. The town women ultimately have their day, and are very cruel. While as a man I can see why she would drive you nuts, it is the boy that makes it all work. I LMAO sometimes at his little antics and responses to the nastiness that he spied going on around Malena, his fantasy love. Also his fantasies with her are great, probably like some of the silly stuff I imagined when I was a kid. Its worth watching even with subtitles. After a while you can almost follow the story without them. This, the standard version is very close to a 9/10, and I would probably give the unrated version a 9/10 if I could find it :p

Babylon 5 - The Complete Second Season
½

The biggest change from the 1st season was the entry of the John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) character to take command of B5. I liked the old commander (Michael O'Hare) and was happy at first. Boxleitner was Captain Happy for the 1st half dozen episodes, like he thought he was in a situation comedy and was expecting punchlines. Eventually the storyline kicks his virtual ass, he tightens up his jaw and plays the Main Guy with much better authority. Turns out they kinda wanted him to do that for more effect, so you can see his transition. But it was touch and go for a while.

This year and the next had Hugo Award winning episodes, meaning that the folks that vote at Worldcon thought it was the best sci fi on the big or little screen all year (1996). Hugo winners are basically the short list for any sci fi fan, the very best. That episode was about the main story thread, the coming battle between the Light and the Dark. This season all the main characters had their roles established for the next 2 seasons, with some extensions into the 5th year.

B5 has it all; story, story twists, characters, action, music, effects. The effects were almost all CGI which was still pretty new at the time, Jurassic Park being pretty much the starting point. In my opinion the space battles still look damn good. There are very few throwaway episodes of B5.

Babylon 5 - The Complete First Season
½

What a treat to see this series again, the 1st year on DVD, in a version mastered properly for the widescreen with surround sound to boot. I remember enough from the series to know that the 1st season was both unique and uneven in more ways than the other 4 years, and yet it lets out all the plot threads that play out over the ensuing years. I, for one, liked M. O'hare and it was too bad he couldn't have had a recurring role in subsequent seasons. Even so, this is a great series, IMHO the best ever Sci Fi TV series. CGI was employed for the 1st time ever, at least on TV, and was initially programmed on Amiga computers :cool: . Multiple engaging plot threads, good acting, writing, etc... it goes on and on. Its too bad that they've never figured out a good way to resurrect the B5 fictional world. I'd love to see another good series like this. If you haven't seen it lately or not at all, catch a few when it reruns to remember how good it was or to discover it for yourself. If you've never seen it then you don't know what you're missing. I am actually moved from time to time while watching it. It's a bummer that the good doctor (Richard Biggs) died unexpectedly in 2004. He was a stalwart fellow throughout the epic.The DVD set is about 20 hours of home theater time with all the extras and commentaries. The seasons improve but this one is already better than a 9/10.

Cold Mountain
½

I didn't know what to expect with this flick or know much about the storyline. Some elements are very formula, such as the bad guys in control of the town and abusing their power, the would-be lovers remaining true through all the years. Personally I would've had a lot of trouble remaining true if I slept next to Natalie Portman's character and not having gotten any for years, if ever. So Inman (Jude Law), displayed something near a superpower at this point. You would have thought the Portman character might've noticed that the one good Union soldier had actually bundled up her baby like she begged for and not blown him away. I didn't know she was in the movie so I was pleased with myself for figuring out who the hell that familiar face was. I also liked most of the characters, they mostly did well although I could've faked a Southern accent better than a couple I heard. It is a stretch to put 30-somethings like Law and Kidman in roles that are definitely early 20's. Zellweger probably did the best but not by a lot. Some good LFE effects on the DTS soundtrack although this movie is not a sound effect extravaganza. Good music. Beautiful locations/camera work. It's slightly better than an 7/10, but I doubt that I would watch it again.

Quills
Quills(2000)

This movie can probably be taken at many levels. I wasn't in a particularly deep mindset when I saw this and read it as a tale about hypocrisy and sexual suppression/repression centered around a kinky French aristocrat, who eventually goes crazy himself from accelerating sensory deprivation as a punishment for being officially designated as being crazy already and resisting authority. 18th century Europe power centers just weren't ready for sexual fantasies out in the open and really weren't ready for anyone to write about them. Quills itself is more of a fantasy than historical fiction as it takes a lot of liberties with de Sade's life but I give it a good mark for bringing him out of the closet ;) . G. Rush is great as the twisted but mostly not yet crazy de Sade.

Secretary
Secretary(2002)

This is the 1st kinkster movie I've seen that wasn't some stupid soft porn piece of crap. It is actually quite thoughtful in the details as to how such a relationship may evolve between similarly inclined but opposite personalities. It didn't take itself that seriously and had humor which makes almost any movie better. Some of the characters are pathetically similar to real people. Spader and Gyllenhaal (I had to look up that spelling!) are both good, but Gyllenhaal should've been nominated for Best Kinky Actress or something. You can really believe she's what she portrays onscreen.

Bad Santa
Bad Santa(2003)

Its not exactly the season for this but I got it dropped on my desk so what the hell. I don't think alcoholism is funny once you've been around it, its just the opposite, so I would've liked this movie a lot more if they'd played the Thornton character different. They also aren't worth diddly for sex either, which was another stupid premise in the movie. Now that the movies' been debunked, there are some disgustingly funny scenes, and the fat kid played it straight through the movie. I also liked the scam they were playing, hitting the fat store safes on Christmas. I doubt if I'd watch it again even during Christmas.

Hard Target
Hard Target(1993)

Critics be damned I liked this movie. Saw it again while I was playing with a DVD recorder, checking my work and wound up watching the whole flick again. Its the best movie I've seen Van Damme in (not seen that many) and The Woo puts his mark on the film with well done action and pyrotechnics. The supporting cast is also good especially the two main bad guys. Most of the action isn't so far over the top like movies today have way too much of, i.e., it's at least mostly plausible. Its a solid 8 in a narrowed-down rating system.

Desperado
Desperado(1995)
½

Multiple automatic weapons firing at the hero at close range; enough firepower to make an assault on a dug-in battalion, but the man comes through with barely a scratch. He only gets hurt when the gun isn't pointed at him, or someone throws knives. I wish I had those powers; I could really kick some butt too, or in this case, ratchet up the body count.

If you admit to it being totally fiction, its kind of fun to watch. Some notable actors make an appearance, and Salma Hayek is worth looking at. Banderas has a lot of energy and there are some good duels, explosions and flying bodies. All in all a fun if bloody movie to kill an evening with. I'll give an official 8 only because I liked the casting but its really a 7.5

El Mariachi
El Mariachi(1993)
½

I fell asleep during this movie but it isn't all that bad. Rodriguez's 10 Minute Film School is the most interesting thing on the DVD. I liked the interplay of the mariachi and the woman. The rest of it was pretty amateur of course, for the purported $7,000 film budget what else would it be. Still it is no worse than some of the big budget crap Hollywood does. I was pretty ignorant about it I thought A. Banderas was in it :o

Brotherhood of the Wolf
½

Really, I swear the opening scene reminded me of Jaws. I don't think the resemblance was coincidental. Then throughout the movie I saw similarities in the plot. There are martial arts overlays also, with a little Punk thrown in for good measure, all in the guise of a costume drama. It does have its moments, including at least one beautiful naked woman (I didn't count the number of exposed female breasts), and some glorious landscapes. The plot drifts into the realm of the ridiculous, and I felt sorry for the monster, it was so pathetic. The movie can't be taken seriously, so its too bad that there is almost no humor, which would've made it more fun to watch. There's some good ideas in this flick, so perhaps the director will put them together better in the future. In the #.# world its more like a 6.8 rather than a 7.

Blue Crush
Blue Crush(2002)

I won't dispute the weakness in the story and some so-so acting. In this particular case I rate this movie highly for its video and especially audio quality. For any home theater fanatic looking for top notch sound this is one of the best. When they're out in the water laying pipe, etc... its about as good a sound track as I've heard. You can almost feel the water getting in your ears. The video isn't far behind but that was easier for the filmmakers since the Hawaiian coast is so beautiful. I found the story to be passable, but there are a couple of segments that are dumb and I skip over on repeat viewings. Some of the extra features on the DVD are also good. If you have a good HT audio setup this needs to be in your collection!

The Bourne Identity

Overall one of the better movies that I've seen recently. Great location shooting may have helped I was in the mood for being somewhere else. Matt Damon does well and its good that Franka Potente is getting major roles she was good in Run Lola Run. Good chase scene and fights altho the multi-floor drop at the end was not believeable. I would have drove him from Calif. to Paris for a $20,000 fare.

Star Trek - Nemesis
½

[indent]This apparently final flick of the TNG crew went unnoticed in the theaters, and I don't think Paramount invested heavily in either the movie itself or its promotion. Despite the many scathing reviews I found some quality in the movie. Many of what have been interpreted as ripoffs of previous scripts were in fact tributes to the series' high points, and if it wasn't clear enough the many cameo appearances should have given the hypercritical some pause. Many of the sets and scenes were well done, and Tom Hardy and the bad guys did good. The weakest part of the movie is that there should have been more sense of the crews' closeness, principally through better dialog. Even Data doesn't have many good lines. The Riker/Troi union doesn't do a thing for the movie; they never had the chemistry of lovers. Maybe they shoulda brought back Wesley Crusher and have her marry him or some other weirdness. It just doesn't have much of an edge to it. It is not the worst Star Trek. I think they had one more movie in mind for the TNG crew, so its too bad that that this one wasn't snappy enough to save the series. It's really a 7.5 not an 8 but its Star Trek so it has an 0.5 handicap.[/indent]

Mystic River
Mystic River(2003)
½

The trouble with 1-10 scale on movies is that its too coarse of a scale. I have a pretty good idea whether I'll like a movie before it starts, and if one does suck its off the screen. So I hardly ever see anything I'd rate less than a 7. So I got 7,8,9,10. That's not much wiggle room.

So this one, Mystic River, is more like an 7.9, or an 79. Better than an 7, but not a 8. I didn't like it enough to give it a 8. Life is hell sometimes.

There were some very good things in Mystic River and some not so good things. All the acting was good or better. Good mood music. Very clean picture. I was very annoyed from the beginning with the role of Dave's wife, Celeste. Very deliberately and with purely circumstantial evidence she is deeply suspicious of her husband at the outset, and the message is telegraphed to anyone in the audience that isn't sleeping that she's gonna wind up ratting him out to Markum, even though she doesn't really know a thing about what really happened. So you watch it wondering when that's gonna happen, knowing that it'll be near the end because the s*%! is gonna hit the fan when she does. Also, near the end Markum's wife has some weird lines that sounded like total BS to me, and Lawrence Fishbourne's skeptical character is suddenly MIA. This all must've made sense on some late night brainstorming session when they were trying to figure out how to move the story along, but it didn't make sense to me. Other than that, it was fine. I don't think anything in it was good enough to make it worth watching again. Sean Penn does do fine work here tho. A lot of dissing for a 7.9 movie but it does have good acting.

The Ten Commandments

Just about every American family that had a TV in the 60's up to now, has had a dose of Cecil B. Demille's biblical interpretation. The new DVD set is illuminating because it reveals the mindset of the times and especially of the movie crew. They really felt they were doing an important movie and with a Hollywood flair for the dramatic tried to be accurate. Even so, the solemnity of some of the narrative and dialogue gets laugh-out-loud reactions from a modern audience. There are moments when situations seem almost cartoonish, probably because cartoon writers saw the same silly moments that you did and wrote them into cartoons. The movie is old enough for that to make some sense!

The acting is generally good, the scenes and the sets are very elaborate. Some of the wardrobe, especially the Pharoah's outfits, are really fantastic. The cobra crowns, the armor, the robes are top quality Pharoah gear.

The effects naturally aren't up to current standards, but on the other hand some current CGI work isn't all that good. Some of this movies' effects look fine to me. The Angel of Death effect is still a cool, even if maybe a simple screen effect, and its still fun to watch the Parting of the Red Sea.

The trick to sitting through this movie is to admire it as an elaborate costume drama, a period piece both for the period its about and the period in which it was made. Within those bounds it is top notch. It is what people of the 50's made out of the Story of Moses and the Exodus. If you uproot it from that context and scrutinize it for Political Correctness, Racism, etc.. it would take another miracle for it to get a high rating.

Hamlet
Hamlet(1990)
½

Most people don't rate this version that high, but it is the most watchable Hamlet I've seen. although I admit to not having seen the Branagh production. The other Hamlets are always so sadly confused and melancholy, not to say long, this is probably the shortest cut of the Bard's most famous play, and that appeals to me. I think Gibson did an excellent job, and the rest of the cast is 1st rate.

Dragonheart
Dragonheart(1996)

I'll give this flick a good score because it's 'heart' is in the right place. The DVD has some good extras. The flipside is 'A New Beginning', but as soon as it began and I saw the cutesy dragon they used that was it for me.

Bubba Ho-Tep
Bubba Ho-Tep(2003)

Bruce Campbell is telling the truth when he says Bubba Ho-tep is the oddest movie script hes ever read. It is the oddest movie I've ever watched. I mean, I mummy that sucks souls out the asses of old people, and scribbles hieroglyphics on bathroom walls?! Inconceivable! You never get to actually see this happen, just the lead up and then the camera cuts away hehehe. It gets an 8 just for being so bizarre, and it does manage to cough up some dark comedy here and there before the old folks shuffle off their mortal coil. Campbell and Davis are great.

Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko(2001)

Just being different doesn't make a movie good, but Donnie Darko is a good movie that is definitely different. My own interpretation is that the way it turned out at the end is the way it really happened in the beginning, but we just saw how bad things would've turned out if hadn't happened that way. In other words, if the sky is falling it'll just makes things worse if you try to get out of the way, . That's about as clear as I can get about Donnie Darko. Along the way of making this important point, there was lots of good acting, situation comedy of the darker kind and shameless hypocrisy. Being a 'mature' fellow, I ID'd with the adults in the movie rather than the teenagers. I can tell you that that both the stereotype creepazoids and good people really do exist, I've seen them all myself at one time or another. Some interesting segments are in the 'deleted scenes' on the DVD. The DVD was not the best ever pressed as the video was often grainy and smeary but there are a few interesting extras that you'd never see on a cable/satellite broadcast. With some better pacing this coulda been a 9/10 'Twilight Zone Style Classic' rather than an 8/10.

I really enjoyed watching Identity. It kept my attention the entire way. The whole movie is a twist with a twist on the twist at the end. The psychopath/schizoid/crazy theme itself is getting a little old, but this one was well done, and that fella they had strapped to the chair at the Hearing really did look like a crazy mutha. A genuine nailbiter with lots of good acting. You could tell that everyone on the screen was really into the story and giving it their best. The extras on the DVD are good. 8.5/10.

Winged Migration

Two very different movies. Winged Migration is the better of the two. Even if you don't like birds you will find this fascinating. The Making of is as good as the movie itself, testifying to the incredible effort that went into making a movie with birds literally within reach while in flight. I wondered what happened to the little groups of birds that had been imprinted with humans as their mothers; I suppose they became one with their species although they never say. 8/10

28 Days Later more than anything reminded me of the old movie Omega Man. The actors do convince you that they think they're among the last people on Earth (or at least England). Possibly the most interesting thing that happens is right at the beginning when the eco-terrorists unwittingly and rather stupidly release the epidemic onto themselves and thus humanity. It has its moments that raise it above the level of schlock, but there's a sense of been there, done that about it all. 6.5/10

Edward Scissorhands

Scissorhands is the type of movie Tim Burton does best. There's a lot of whimsical flare and cardboard cartoonish characters to laugh at. Suburbia is a hoot, and of course Edward is totally out of place there. I mean, the women wear dresses that have fruit patterns, like apples and watermelons. The relationship between Edward and the teenage Winona Ryder seemed familiar, but the ending and narrative had originality. Depp must love these oddball roles and working with Burton, for one of his earlier efforts his talent shows. 8/10

Big Lebowski was probably a little too off the wall for me. I didn't particularly care for the stoner-loser Lebowski character, although Bridges played it to the hilt. It has its moments, including some titillating sexuality, but the Coen brothers have done better movies. 7/10

The Last Samurai

I tend to watch a couple movies a week. Lately its been one recent movie DVD release and one older/old movie.

Last Samurai has an unlikely plot that is entertaining nonetheless. At least they weren't leaping over buildings in a single bound as in so many other recent movies. Plausible weapons and tactics with a dash of historical accuracy and plenty of Hollywood. Watanabe is excellent and Cruise plays his best role in years outside of Minority Report. 7.5/10.

Empire of the Sun is an earlier Spielberg effort. Some good and not so good. The teenage male lead is done well while many of the other characters are paper thin, and I didn't feel much sympathy for most of them. No one seems to notice let alone mention in these PC days that the Japanese put American/European civilians in camps exactly like the USA did with the Japanese. Excellent cinematography of exotic locations. 7/10.