Friday, November 28, 2008

Review – Conspiracy (2008)

Val Kilmer’s bloated corpse stars in this cheap First Blood reheat. A one-legged hero from Gulf War One shows up in a small border town in search of an old Army buddy. The townfolk turn out to be downright hostile, due at least in part to the fact that they’re caught up in some kind of suspicious land deal by day and murder undocumented workers by night. Unfortunately for them, the protagonist’s buddy and his family were among the victims, the crime implausibly captured and preserved on videotape. After a considerable amount of getting kicked around, our hero goes nuts enough to start fighting back. From there on out it’s pure Rambo. See if desperate

Review – Baby Mama

This had a good 22.5 minutes’ worth of humor, which might have made it a solid episode of 30 Rock. Unfortunately this is more than three times longer than a slice of sitcom, and there isn’t enough here to make it stretch. Tina Fey stars as an executive who can’t get pregnant, so she hires a lower-class woman (fellow SNL alum Amy Pohler) to be a surrogate. High jinks ensue. Despite occasional funny gags, overall this is an all-too-conventional take on American women’s obsessions with reproduction. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review – British Intelligence

Despite the oxymoronic title, this is actually fairly clever for a spy movie from 1940. Unlike many of its contemporaries, this picture actually features some elaborate twisting, turning and double-crossing. It also helps to have Boris Karloff play the bad guy (or is he?). Mildly amusing

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Review – Capricorn One

Conspiracy theories and O.J. Simpson? The fun never stops. The premise here is that NASA needs to fake a voyage to Mars, a thinly-veiled presentation of the old faked-moon-landing stuff. Fortunately for our three brave astronaut-heroes-turned-sound-stage-actors, the evil government decides not to kill them right away even after announcing to the world that they’ve been killed in a re-entry accident. The desert chase sequences that ensue are spectacularly dull. This picture gets at least a B for its premise, but the execution is a C- at best. Mildly amusing

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Review – Espionage Agent

Like Confessions of a Nazi Spy, this was a 1939 attempt by Warner Studios to get the United States jazzed about taking a more active role in the war in Europe. Our hero is all set to begin an illustrious career in the State Department when it turns out his new bride is actually a Nazi agent. However, because she loves her husband more than she loves Der Fuhrer, she helps him crack a German spy ring and restore hubby’s credibility. Though this is mostly a typical action movie from the late 30s, there’s a disturbing undercurrent in here as well. Several times throughout the picture characters mention that Nazi spies would be much easier to fight if Congress would just change the law to restore some of the war powers lost after the conclusion of World War One. Though I’d like to play along – anything that’s bad for Nazis is okay by me – this just sounds far too much like the Bush administration begging for a renewal of the USA Patriot Act. That element notwithstanding, this was a fun piece of propaganda and not much else. Mildly amusing

Friday, November 21, 2008

Review – Constantine's Sword

This documentary seems to be an uneven combination of two different scripts. One thread is author James Carroll’s discomfort with the Roman Catholic church’s anti-Semitism, particularly Pope Pius XII’s complicity in the Holocaust. The other is a criticism of mega-churches’ efforts to evangelize in the U.S. military in general and the Air Force Academy in particular. To be sure, the two stories have some common elements, such as the use of the blood libel. But there’s a qualitative as well as quantitative difference between continuing a centuries-old practice of persecution by aiding and abetting Hitler and being a garden-variety right-wing bigot. Further, Carroll’s point that God doesn’t sanction violence – however accurate – isn’t really directly demonstrated by either of the beefs he raises. The result of this lack of focus is a meandering movie that does a poor job of proving a rather obvious point. See if desperate

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review – Confessions of a Nazi Spy

This picture bears an uncanny resemblance to the likes of Reefer Madness, only with less pot and more Nazis. Even prior to the start of U.S. involvement in World War Two, the threat posed by Hitler and his minions was obvious to FDR and his buddies at Warner Brothers. Hence this piece of ham-handed propaganda pitting the FBI – headed by Edward G. Robinson – against the jack-booted menace from abroad. The portrayal of “social clubs” like the German-American Bund as hotbeds of treason was controversial at the time, but of course history vindicated the Warners. The production is entertaining simply because it’s fun to watch this sort of jingoistic fear-mongering directed at someone who actually has it coming. Mildly amusing

Monday, November 17, 2008

Review – Darklight

The scariest thing about this production is that it appears to have been designed to breed a series or at least a sequel. A young woman has forgotten that she was once Lilith, the mythological first wife of Adam. Fortunately for humanity, when she forgot who she was she also forgot that she was evil. So when some CGI thing called a “demonicus” threatens to destroy civilization with a rapidly-spreading disease called the Red Plague, Lilith turns out to be our only defense against it. Script, acting and production values are all unfortunately the equal of this lame plot. Mildly amusing

Monday, November 10, 2008

Review – Becket

Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole star in this historical drama about the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas a Becket. The period pageantry is fun, and both lead actors are at their scenery-chewing finest. But like Single White Female, this is a dishonest treatment of homosexuality. Though of course the movie isn’t free to openly acknowledge it, the lead characters are portrayed as obviously gay. So when Becket abandons the King in favor of God, Henry’s reaction is pure jilted lover. His psychotic rages and eventual death sentence for his ex-friend are the product of his perverted sexuality, though again this is implied rather than explicitly stated. If that aspect of the drama had been downplayed – or better yet eliminated altogether – this would have been a more enjoyable movie. Mildly amusing

Review – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of My Last Goddamn Nerve by the Cretins Who Made This Movie is more like it. This is like some satanic combination of the forced artiness of the dreary westerns my dad used to love back in the 70s and the political consciousness of a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Brad Pitt turns in a mugging-intensive performance as the white supremacist terrorist “hero” James, and his killer comes across as an obsessed fan. Honestly, I had to watch this in chunks just to keep it from becoming so annoying that I stopped watching it altogether. Wish I’d skipped it

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Review – Bedknobs and Broomsticks

This is a relic from the not-really-trying age of Disney live-action-and-animation combos. And that’s a shame, because the source story might have been turned into a better picture. In the early days of World War Two, a spinster (Angela Lansbury) living in the English countryside attempts to master magic via mail-order lessons in order to aid the war effort. Her practice is disrupted when three kids evacuated from London are dropped into her care. High jinks ensue. The strictly live action parts of the picture are okay despite an excess of musical numbers. But around midway through the production is marred by the inclusion of an animated section of the cheapest quality. Cut that out and this would have been a better experience. Mildly amusing