Saturday, December 28, 2002

Review – Conspiracy

Here’s an interesting subject for a made-for-cable movie: the Wansee Conference. It’s interesting to watch the Final Solution – the extermination of millions of Jewish people in concentration camp gas chambers – discussed by Third Reich bureaucrats as if they were pondering a somewhat thorny accounting problem. The petty bickering between representatives of the various branches of the Nazi state seems trivial in light of the decisions being made, and their discussions are all the more chilling for the contrast. Some of the casting is a bit odd, particularly the choice of Stanley Tucci as Eichman. But beyond that this is a fascinating viewing experience, particularly the text at the end indicating just how few of the participants were punished in any meaningful way at the end of the war. Worth seeing

Review – Exorcist 2: The Heretic

I can practically hear the sad lament of the movie studio brass on this one. “Where did we go wrong? We got the same cast. We even got some really good new actors, including James Earl Jones. We didn’t get William Friedken back, but surely John Boorman is on par with him (for better or worse). We even used the same demon. So why did this turn out to be a tragically comic follow-up to one of the best horror movies of all time?” Okay, first things first: just because the ancient Babylonians were terrified of an evil being named Pazuzu doesn’t mean the word is going to strike fear – or in fact do anything besides provoke laughter and derision – in modern American audiences. It didn’t help matters to have the creature of ultimate darkness frequently manifest itself as a big grasshopper. Further, little Linda Blair did just fine when her only real role was to lie around under a coat of latex devil makeup, but when she’s actually required to act she comes up a bit short. And don’t even get me started on Richard Burton. Then there’s the script, jam-packed with some of the most ridiculous plot devices and awful dialogue ever preserved on film. So if you’re in the mood for some of the most unintentionally funny moments in Hollywood history, you’ve come to the right place. Otherwise the only reason I can think of to spend much time with this stinker is the need to complete the Exorcist triple feature (or quintuple, in light of later developments). See if desperate

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Review – Communion

I’m glad this still shows on cable every once in awhile, because I expect as source novel author, screenwriter and model for the protagonist Whitley Strieber still gets a little money every time it runs. And I’ll bet he can use the money, because the treatments for whatever the hell is wrong with him are probably expensive. Benefits to the creator aside, the big reason to sit through this stinker is that it’s one of the all-time most unintentionally funny movies of all time. I suppose it’s wrong to derive amusement from the mental illness of others, but by the time Strieber (played to an uncanny tee by Christopher Walken, who actually bears a fairly strong resemblance to the author) ends up doing an awkward little dance number with the Phantasm-looking aliens who anal probed him, it’s impossible to do much of anything besides laugh. I’ve seen this movie three times now, and each time (even the first, which was in a movie theater) I sort of lost interest in it after the first 45 minutes or so. Perhaps that’s in part because it’s hard to stay interested in a bunch of disjointed, meandering crap about unpleasant encounters with space aliens. See if desperate

Sunday, December 1, 2002

Review – Don't Say a Word

I’m tempted to follow the title recommendation, at least in the spirit of Thumper Rabbit’s mother’s famous advice. But no, my duty is to the movie-watching public, and thus I must sound the alarm about this second-rate mystery flick. Michael Douglas plays a child psychiatrist whose daughter is kidnapped by goons who need information locked in the mind of one of the good doctor’s deeply ill patients. The premise had promise, but the execution manages nothing more than another parade of uninteresting twists and turns designed to do little more than keep the action limping along. I admit to a fair measure of natural hostility to the whole kids-in-jeopardy thing, so that might have been part of why I found this outing so completely charmless. See if desperate

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Review – Eight-Legged Freaks

Wow. A horror comedy that turns out to be neither scary nor funny. That’s a shock. Honestly, the most entertaining moment in the entire movie is when the sinister soundtrack picks up the melody from “The Eensy Weensy Spider.” Otherwise this is a tedious parade of clichés brandished at the audience with nary a trace of genuine irony. The picture depends primarily on the digital spider effects for its appeal, which would have worked a lot better if the quality had been a bit more consistent or the giant arachnids had been employed for chills rather than comic relief. Wish I’d skipped it

Saturday, November 2, 2002

Review – The Brotherhood of the Wolf

Somewhere between the atmospheric horror movies of Cocteau and Polanski and the frantic action flicks of Luc Besson lies this odd tale of an 18th century French village terrorized by a ravening Beast. As a mystery movie it doesn’t work at all, but fortunately the film-makers appear to recognize this shortcoming and compensate by throwing in a fair measure of sex and gore. Production values are solid, and this might have been a better picture (with a slightly better rating) were it not for the decision to include racism of a sort even Hollywood has started to move past, sexism that wasn’t even consistent with the plot, and oh way far too much animal suffering. See if desperate

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Review – The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Yet again Hollywood drags out the count and gives him a fresh flogging. Plenty of swordfights. Plenty of intrigue. Plenty of frantic overacting. Plenty of frilly costumes. Production values and high, making this a reasonably good retelling of a long-familiar story of love, betrayal and ice-cold revenge. Mildly amusing

Saturday, October 5, 2002

Review – Blade 2

At least it wasn’t as boring as the first one, due for the most part to the wise decision to crank up the action and turn down the plot. The story – to the extent that there is one – has something to do with our intrepid swordsman hero joining forces with his sworn enemies the vampires in order to defeat a legion of some kind of super-vampire creatures. A lot of the comic book elements creep in at awkward moments, such as the presence of a vampire SWAT team where each member has their own weapon of choice and nerdy nickname. But let’s be honest. If you’re going to rent a movie like this, you’re doing it for the creepy bloodsuckers and the flying fists of kung fu death. And you get both of those in abundance. Mildly amusing

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Review – Anima

There are all kinds of different movies about Nazis. The two sub-genres that concern us here are Spooky Nazis and Sentimental Holocaust Nazis. With promises of mummies, evil taxidermy and the like, the box made this one sound like a member of the former group. Instead, it’s even more firmly anchored in the latter than the likes of The Music Box. Our protagonists are a couple of postwar refugees trying to live out their remaining years in quiet, rural seclusion. Unfortunately for their quaint, blissful lives, a video producer discovers that the old man is either a Nazi war criminal, an expert in a lost form of taxidermy, or both. Once I figured out what I was getting, it was easier to meet the film-makers on their own terms and enjoy their efforts as best I could. However, when I watched it I really wasn’t in the mood for an extended parade of artifice, go-nowhere subplots, bathos, bathos and more bathos. Maybe on another night I’d have formed a higher opinion of it. Mildly amusing

Review – Death to Smoochy

Though this Danny DeVito production isn’t quite as clever as it wants to be, it’s still an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. Edward Norton plays a do-gooding, guitar-strumming crusader in a pink rhino suit who gets hired by a kid-oriented TV network to host a Barney-ish variety show (wow, is that enough hyphens in one sentence?). Though the execs hire him specifically because he lacks the legal, ethical and moral woes of his predecessor (Robin Williams), our hero’s efforts to do the right thing at every turn soon put him at odds with the money men and a Mafia-esque charitable organization. With the mob and the disgruntled ex-host trying to do him in, our hero muddles on to save the day and get the girl. Clever allusions to other classic movies include the distinct flavor of Comfort and Joy in a couple of scenes and a sequence toward the end that must be a conscious tribute to The Manchurian Candidate. The only drawback here is that sometimes the film-makers strive so hard for quirkiness and irony that all they end up with is silliness. However, such moments are relatively few and concentrated mostly toward the end. Worth seeing

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Review – Campfire Stories

Okay, campers. Once again. What’s the worst crime a horror movie can ever commit? That’s right: boring. And this one’s guilty beyond reasonable doubt of boring in the first degree. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure that this is going to be a compilation of three short stories of the teen-oriented slasher variety (obnoxious jocks killed by janitor, obnoxious hoodlums done in by stereotypical Indian, game of Truth or Dare takes a turn for the deadly). But then again, it didn’t take much imagination to write the script for this stinker. Nor was it a big mental leap to get something this cliché-ridden onto the screen. Indeed, the only thing I can’t quite imagine is why David Johansen needs money badly enough to play host to this crap. See if desperate

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Review – The Brood

Our buddy Frank has trouble. His wife is crazy. She’s been institutionalized in the clutches of a cult psychotherapist, played to a smarmy T by Oliver Reed. His daughter has been abused, probably by his wife. If that was the sum of his worries, he’d probably make it through. Unfortunately for him, the mad doctor has figured out how to make his wife’s irrational rage externalize and become homicidal little creatures that vaguely resemble his kid (particularly when they’re stuffed into snow suits). As one might expect from a David Cronenberg movie (especially one from the eerie, atmospheric period early in his career), things go downhill from there. The concept’s cool enough to place this a cut above your average slasher flick, and particularly later in the movie there’s some good gore and a couple of solid scares. Mildly amusing

Review – The Dunwich Horror (1969)

Somehow I suspect a considerably better movie might be made from the source story. Of course, it isn’t too hard to imagine a considerably better movie being made from just about any source story, let alone one of H.P. Lovecraft’s more widely-admired works. The nicest thing I have to say about this production is that the supporting cast isn’t too terrible. The leads, on the other hand … well, let’s just say Sandra Dee is the love interest and Dean Stockwell (sporting a coif and moustache that make him look like Long John Holmes) plays sinister anti-hero Wilbur Whately. The whole production is so thoroughly infected with American International Pictures circa 1970 day-glo sexuality that it’s hard to tell if Stockwell is following the original scheme of summoning elder gods from beyond the stars or merely doing it all for the nookie. Then there’s the climax, which is a strong contender for most unintentionally funny moment ever included in a horror movie. Maybe I should just be grateful I’m not sitting through Die, Monster, Die! again. See if desperate

Review – Blade Runner

I can’t review this movie. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and the emotional ties run too deep for me to give you anything even vaguely resembling an objective opinion about it. So suffice it to say that this is one of the greatest triumphs the art direction department ever had in the world of cinema. Some of the acting’s a little stiff, but if you seek out the director’s cut you can at least avoid the hackneyed, pseudo-noir voice-overs. Though you may have an entirely different experience from mine when you watch this one, I still highly recommend that you at least give it a try. Buy the disc

Friday, August 9, 2002

Review – The Attic Expeditions

Unless you’re a big fan of nothing-is-real-everything-is-insane crap spectacles (or you find Satanic ritual nudity especially amusing), you’re unlikely to take much pleasure from this particular expedition. The most entertainment I managed to derive from this muddled mess was the challenge of remembering where I’d seen the actors before; the ensemble was mostly veterans of other horror flicks ranging from The Re-Animator to Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 to Helter Skelter. Other than that this is a lot of boring nonsense about a lunatic who may or may not possess the secrets of evil magic sought by the mad psychiatrist who is torturing him. See if desperate

Thursday, August 8, 2002

Review – Dagon

In many ways this is as close as anyone’s ever come to producing a feature-length movie that’s really, genuinely based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. Of course the story in question is “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” rather than “Dagon,” and there are still a fair number of liberties taken with the tale. As usual with Stuart Gordon productions, the plot’s pretty hard on the female characters. That notwithstanding, it does my heart good to see someone (even Gordon) make a serious attempt to adapt Lovecraft for the screen. Some of it even manages to border on genuinely unsettling (particularly the noises made by the zombie-fish-esque townspeople, not to mention the skinning-alive sequence). Worth seeing

Review – Dark Descent

This isn’t a low-budget, empty-headed, underwater rip-off of Outland. Nah. This is a low-budget, empty-headed, underwater homage to Outland. And the “homage” is close, really close. Federal marshal. Mining operation. Illegal, work-stimulating drugs that produce psychotic behavior. Killers coming on the next ship to kill our intrepid hero. The closest this movie ever comes to actual entertainment value is if one chooses to follow it closely enough to note when it manages to “borrow” even more closely from High Noon than its sci fi predecessor did. Wish I’d skipped it

Review – American Psycho 2

Wow. Who would ever have thought that it would be physically possible to make a movie even dumber than American Psycho? There’s a minor touch of novelty here in that the serial killer is a teenage girl rather than a slayer of teenage girls. Otherwise this is just another witless slasher flick, lacking even the pseudo-intellectual stamp of connection to Bret Easton Ellis (unless you count the weak tie to Patrick Bateman’s crimes from the original; our cute little killer is supposedly the only person who ever survived a Bateman attack). I confess this movie lost most of my good will early on when psycho-babe put a cat in a microwave, and it didn’t do much past then to worm its way back into my good graces. Extra added bonus: William Shatner. Wish I’d skipped it

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Review – Best Defense

Okay, start with the premise that there’s a defense contractor somewhere that’s pressed for cash and laying people off just because the company can’t make a working product. If only implausibility was this movie’s worst problem. Instead – as is typical with Dudley Moore movies – the worst problem here is Dudley Moore. He plays a loathsome little engineer (who was probably supposed to have come across as cute and endearing) whose job is on the line until he steals tank part plans and passes them off as his own designs. Uninteresting intrigue ensues. The high point of the picture are the brief flash-forward scenes in which a hapless tank driver (Eddie Murphy) struggles with the final product. Even there, racism makes it a little hard to enjoy the comedy (not to mention that the notion of Iraq invading Kuwait several years before it actually happened seems a little eerie in retrospect). See if desperate

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Review – A Beautiful Mind

Actor Russell Crowe and director Ron Howard make a transparent run for the Academy Awards with this lengthy drama about schizophrenic genius John Nash. Hey, it paid off for Howard. Nash’s life makes for interesting cinema, starting with his days as a grad student at Princeton and following him through his career as a professor, his descent into madness, and his eventual rehabilitation (assisted of course by his beautiful wife, played by Jennifer Connolly in another successful Oscar bid). Though Crowe’s performance does a good job of demonstrating his range as an actor, somewhere around the middle of the movie it acquires the distinct flavor of Dustin Hoffman’s appearance in Rain Man (or other similar portrayals of the mentally differently abled). It’s a slick production. It’s a touching tale. Mildly amusing

Friday, June 28, 2002

Review – The Creature Walks Among Us

Jeez, what a bummer of a movie. The first half or so of this picture is a so-so follow-up to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. As in the original, this part features some impressive (well, impressive for black and white) underwater cinematography, not to mention a really fun monster. Some of the pacing is off, though that was true of the first one as well. But then around 40 minutes or so in, the whole movie falls apart in almost every imaginable way. The captured creature requires a tracheotomy, which somehow manages to activate his latent human traits (inside every monster must be an American trying to get out). The change transforms him into a lumpy, Frankenstein’s-monster-esque hulk, which the “scientists” take ashore and pen up in a corral full of goats. In the meantime, the fully-human characters have gotten caught up in a ridiculous soap opera surrounding a … oh, who cares? If the point here is that the long-suffering monster emerges as the best example of the flattery we treat ourselves to when we use the word “human,” then at least that’s a valid argument. But it swiftly gets swamped in dull melodrama. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Review – Blood Moon

When you’re looking at a straight-to-video horror movie starring Tim Curry, Grace Jones and Leslie Ann Warren, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to be some cheap, exploitative crap. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when – in addition to the cheap, exploitative crap – the flick also featured a plot, characters and – wonder of wonders – a point. Sure, the theme here is familiar: the denizens of a traveling freak show square off against the “normals” (Todd Browning, anyone?). But there’s more to it than that. The protagonist’s genes have left her fur-covered, and thus she headlines the show as the Wolf Girl. Tormented by some of the locals who come to see the show, she befriends a loner from town who just happens to have an experimental depilatory drug he’d like to test. Trouble is, the more our heroine looks like everyone else, the more savage she becomes. Stir that in with the show’s exploration of sexual deviance and the plot’s eventual uncovering of the normals’ secret freakishness, and this tale’s a lot more thought-provoking than it appeared at first blush. I could have done without the animal research subplot (particularly the scene where the test rabbit gnaws itself to death), but the rest of it’s as entertaining as your average low-budget horror movie while at the same time going a lot farther toward keeping things interesting. Mildly amusing

Friday, June 21, 2002

Review – The Bourne Identity

Ever wonder what an espionage intrigue movie would be like if they didn’t use the same old formula to churn it out? Well, don’t expect to have that particular curiosity satisfied by this outing. This is standard fare from beginning to end, complete with everything from exotic European locales to expensive car chases right down to cliché dialogue like “we’ve got a black ops agent off the reservation.” Matt Damon is a little too aw-shucks goofy to play an assassin, even one who’s got amnesia and can’t remember who he is or what he’s done. But the production quality is good, the action sequences are entertaining (except for the extended car chase, which is as boring and predictable as most car chases), and the plot keeps moving. And that’s the real beauty of formula-based film-making: you know what you’re getting, and generally you get what you pay for. Mildly amusing

Monday, May 20, 2002

Review – The Body

What if a body turned up in a tomb in Jerusalem, and what if all the evidence strongly suggested that it was the distinctly un-resurrected corpse of Jesus Christ? The concept alone is worth the rental price. To get much beyond the premise, however, you have to be willing to buy Antonio Banderas as a priest. Yeah, no kidding. I enjoyed the archaeology-driven parts of the plot, but I felt the filmmakers’ attempt to keep things going with a lot of West Asian intrigue fell more than a little flat. The end also left me cold, but perhaps that was just because I was in an especially cynical mood when I saw it and thus was almost completely unreceptive to the movie’s touchy-feely conclusion. Mildly amusing

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Review – Apocalypse Now

At the outset I have to admit that this is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I can’t really give you an objective, critical analysis of it. It would probably suffice to say that Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and the Vietnam War make an astonishingly good combo. On top of that, Francis Ford Coppola manages to escape his normally-prosaic directing style and create a visually poetic movie. Be forewarned, however, that even for those of us who like it this is a long and somewhat emotionally draining production. Further, I recommend seeking out the “Redux” version. It’s even longer and more emotionally draining than the original theatrical release, but it contains some genuine enhancements (rather than just crap that belonged on the cutting room floor). In particular, the protagonist has a slightly less monomaniacal personality in the re-edited version. The disc doesn’t include much by way of special features (and with a movie this long that’s to be expected), but the picture clarity is worth going ahead and getting the DVD. Buy it

Saturday, May 4, 2002

Review – Ali

I admit that before I sat down to watch this movie my assumption was that the low point of the production (with the obvious exception of Mario Van Peebles as Malcolm X) would be Will Smith’s effort to portray the title character. But I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised by Smith’s performance. Yes folks, the scrawny little Fresh Prince actually does a good job as one of the great legends of sports history. Sadly, his work goes largely to waste. The plot is so jumpy and the script so stiff that more often than not our hero comes across as a spectator in his own life. Once the movie abandons its Spike Lee aspirations and settles down to the task of telling its tale, it’s entertaining enough. I just can’t fight the feeling that with a little more support from the writers and director Smith might have been able to make a better film out of this concept. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 3, 2002

Review – Bones

Oddly enough, for a Snoop Dogg movie this actually isn’t too terrible. Sure, it’s a handful of visuals wrapped in a thick blanket of hip hop false consciousness and grossly stereotypical (however sympathetic) portrayals of women and minorities. The story – a tale of a reanimated drug dealer who exacts effects-intensive revenge on his slayers – is nothing short of stupid. The dialogue is laughable. It’s clearly aimed at empty-headed teens. Despite all that, the production values are high enough, the gore clever enough (however fake looking), and the action constant enough to keep things at least somewhat interesting. Though clearly not a Palme d’Or candidate, this flick’s entertaining enough for a Friday night at the end of a long week. Mildly amusing

Monday, March 18, 2002

Review – Crimson Tide

Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman square off in this movie about a bright, young executive officer aboard a missile sub captained by a crabby, old-school skipper (I expect you can figure out who played whom). Unrest in the former Soviet Union takes the world to the brink of nuclear war, and our heroes end up pitted against each other when a garbled message creates confusion about whether or not the sub has been ordered to launch an attack against a Russian base. Though I admit to being a big fan of sub movies, this one pushed the limit of the good will I automatically extend to representatives of the genre. The macho posturing was excessive, even for a war movie. The bickering back and forth between the two leads – which eventually devolves into mutinies, counter-mutinies and the like – simply takes up too much screen time, leaving little room for action sequences or character development that might have helped make this a better movie. Verdict: mildly amusing

Sunday, March 10, 2002

Review – Star Trek: Generations

This movie’s the transition point between the original series and the Next Generation (though of course the latter had existed as a TV series for some time before the film came out). Sadly, the emphasis is fairly heavily on the new crew, with William Shatner proving to be the only character from the old cast who spends more than a minute or two on screen. Malcolm McDowell puts in a guest appearance as a mad scientist willing to sacrifice an entire solar system (including a planet with millions of inhabitants) in order to propel himself into some kind of nirvana dimension. Fans of the shows (especially the new one) will probably enjoy this outing, inasmuch as it plays like a longer version of your average episode. See if desperate

Saturday, March 9, 2002

Review – The Creeping Flesh

For the most part this is pretty much what you’d expect from an old Christopher Lee / Peter Cushing horror flick. Cushing plays a scientist who ends up with a skeleton of some sort of monster. Inconveniently enough for him, the skeleton turns out to be 1. evil incarnate and 2. not completely dead. Apparently a blood mixture restores the title substance to the old bones, turning them into a big, lumbering lump of oatmeal-esque demon. At the very beginning of the movie our hero is painting a picture of the monster that actually seems like it might be scary. Sadly, the promise goes unfulfilled. Mildly amusing

Review - The Family Man

I love watching actors who make seven digits per picture pretend that people who have to work for a living are actually much happier than their wealthy counterparts. Nicolas Cage stars as a successful Wall Street deal-maker who has no idea how unhappy he really is until Clarence-the-Angel-redone-as-a-homeless-black-guy magically transforms him into a tire salesman with a wife – his old college girlfriend – and two kids. Though things are naturally awkward at first, our hero eventually comes to understand the merits of simple domesticity over high finance. I’m not quite cynical enough to disbelieve the basic thesis, and I concede that the story features a few amusing scenes and even a touching moment or two. It’s just a little hard to swallow a multi-million dollar product about how the best things in life are free. Mildly amusing

Review – Dungeons and Dragons

Here’s today’s zen koan: does computer-generated scenery have a flavor? If so, journeyman ham Jeremy Irons should be able to fill us in on the taste sensation. Honestly, what does this guy do? Does he call his agent and demand progressively more and more humiliating roles? If so, his poor rep must really have been beating the bushes after booking Irons into Adrian Slime’s version of Lolita. But this one might actually do the trick. D&D players should feel right at home with the characters, situations and story. Thus I guess they’ve done a solid job appealing to the most obvious target audience. Beyond that, however, this production offers little to the non-fan beyond some entertaining effects work and some so-inept-it’s-entertaining film-making. See if desperate

Friday, February 22, 2002

Review – Die, Monster, Die!

Whom are we to pity more, erstwhile if decrepit star Boris Karloff or source story author H.P. Lovecraft? On the one hand, Lovecraft died years before they made this stinker, so at least he didn’t have to suffer through what became of his work. On the other hand, perhaps he was done the greater injustice. After all, Karloff could at least have declined the role; arguably he thus deserved what he got. Perhaps if this had been based on one of the author’s lesser stories this awful gothic mishmash mightn’t have been so bad. But “The Colour Out of Space” (or “The Color of Outer Space” if you prefer the AMC intro speech) is one of his best. To watch the elusive yet overpowering horror of the story turned into a cheap pageant of rubber monsters with run-of-the-mill, scientific explanations was almost too much to bear. Die, movie, die! See if desperate

Friday, February 8, 2002

Review – Collateral Damage

Not since the conflux of The China Syndrome and Three Mile Island has Hollywood found such serendipity between real-life awfulness and tinsel town tragedy. In retrospect, it’s almost hard to believe that this movie was slated to come out just as the Sept. 11 attack took place and was yanked off the tracks due to the similarity of theme if not of detail. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a fireman whose wife and son are bystander casualties of a terrorist bombing. When the well-meaning but flummoxed FBI and the creepy CIA prove to be of little help, our hero takes matters into his own hands and ventures to Colombia to find El Lobo (yeah, no kidding), his family’s slayer. At a couple of points the story dips ever so briefly into an honest examination of the geopolitical economics of drug-related terrorism. But fear not, it always snaps back in short order to the far simpler world of Arnold versus the Forces of Evil. A couple of good action sequences are pretty much all this movie has going for it. See if desperate

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Review – Autumn in New York

Take a romance between a high-40s aging lothario and a ditzy low-20-something. Add the plot twist that she’s dying of Tragic Beautiful Actress Syndrome (the same thing that got Ali McGraw in Love Story). Then dump on a heapin’ helpin’ of some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard, et voila! The offense is further aggravated by Wynona Ryder playing a role she could barely have pulled off ten years ago (this woman’s my age for crying out loud, and I assure you I ain’t 20). Then of course there’s the constant presence of Richard Gere. The final icing on the cake is the almost constant reliance on clichés, particularly the male lead’s simpering, empty-headed self-deprecation. Even the most devoted fan of the chick flick may have trouble choking this one down. Wish I’d skipped it

Saturday, January 26, 2002

REview – The Blind Swordsman's Vengeance

Our sightless hero Master Zatoichi is once again up to his old tricks, drawn against his will into defending helpless villagers from yakuza gangsters. This is your typical mix of swordplay, philosophical musings and other genre clichés. Nearly the only novel twist this time around is the bad guys’ attempt to flummox the protagonist by attacking him while playing extra-loud thunder drums so he won’t be able to hear them coming for him. Of course it doesn’t work, but it’s the thought that counts. Mildly amusing

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Review – Double Jeopardy

Ready for yet another run-of-the-mill, Hitchcock wannabe thriller? Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones star in this mediocre pot-boiler about a woman (Judd) who does prison time for killing her husband only to discover that 1. the guy’s still alive and 2. he framed her so he could walk away with their kid and a whole lot of money. So when she’s paroled she goes after the louse and is herself pursued by an ex-lawyer-turned-parole-officer (Jones). Eventually all parties end up in New Orleans, where ... if you want to know what happens, sit through it yourself. I had to. Why shouldn’t you? However, be warned that the surprise twists fall more than a little short of surprising. Even the title – a reference to the flawed theory that the double jeopardy rule would prevent our heroine from being tried for murder a second time after she kills her treacherous hubby – falls flat. See if desperate

Friday, January 18, 2002

Review – Dark Days

Before I sat down and watched this movie, I have to admit I was skeptical about the chances anyone could make a documentary that said anything new about the plight of the homeless. However, this production managed to impress me. Cameras show us the hidden lives of the homeless folk who live the bulk of their lives beneath the streets of New York. It suffers from some of the problems endemic to films of this ilk (slight preachiness, black and white art posing) and a couple of new ones (believe it or not, it has a happy ending). Further, the lighting I suppose was necessary for filming purposes appears to distort some of the scenes. But the power of stories told and the lives depicted is more than enough to make up for the movie’s shortcomings. Worth seeing

Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Review – Bruiser

What happened to George Romero? At one point he was at the cutting edge of the horror movie business. Now he seems content to work only occasionally, and if this outing is any indication of what we can expect from him in the future then he might want to consider staying retired on a more permanent basis (sorry George, but Dawn of the Dead is apparently far behind you). This is the ham-handed allegorical tale of a white, middle-class guy who wakes up one morning to find that his face is gone. Thus liberated from his identity, he goes on a killing spree that plays like an arty version of Falling Down. Despite a nod or two to Poe in the end (and a cameo by the Misfits), this outing’s a pale shadow of Romero’s former brilliance. See if desperate