Friday, July 30, 2010

Review – Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock

Of all the Star Trek movies – at least the ones featuring the original cast – this is the worst. It sits on a fulcrum point between the first two (and number six), which remain reasonably faithful to the spirit and quality level of the original series, and the next two, which are so laughably bad that their ineptitude makes them entertaining. Part of the problem is that this is a lengthy apology for the finale of number two. Test audiences for The Wrath of Khan preferred the ending in which Spock died, but the overall fan base was less enthusiastic. So this turns into an hour and 40 minutes worth of “no, it’s okay, he isn’t really dead.” Even the Klingons are a cup of Coke that’s mostly ice. If you’re trying for the complete set then sooner or later you’re going to have to sit through this one (especially if number four left you wondering why our heroes were cruising around in a Klingon ship), but otherwise don’t feel obliged to endure it. See if desperate

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review – Beverly Hills Chihuahua

The title alone tells you most of what you need to know about this: a wealthy woman’s pampered pet (voiced by Drew Barrymore) gets kidnapped and dragged off to Mexico, where she has various adventures with lower class dogs while trying to make her way home. Bad comedy and creepy talking animal effects aside, this is an unintentionally interesting exploration of racism. Though the picture tries to say something about American class structures and anti-Hispanic discrimination, it exploits so many uncomfortable stereotypes that it seems to miss the very point it’s trying to make. Multiculturalism doesn’t have to be all serious business, but it should at least be less empty headed than this. Still, at least its wee doggie heart was in the right place. Mildly amusing

Review – Elvis

Though neither Kurt Russell nor John Carpenter is a name one would automatically associate with Elvis Presley, they actually do a reasonably good job with the singer’s biography. This is also the first movie the pair worked on together, and they went on to make several more successful collaborations such as The Thing and Escape from New York. The picture follows Elvis from his days as a youth in rural Mississippi through his early career and up to his Las Vegas shows in the 1970s. We get a fan’s perspective, acknowledging his problems without dwelling on them. Indeed, aside from obsessive rumination about his dead brother and a couple of odd gay innuendoes, this is as straightforward and upbeat a bio as any celebrity could ever expect. Mildly amusing

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review – Corky Romano

I hated this more than I should have because it led off with a “joke” about euthanizing a cat. This might have been a “too soon” problem for me, though I’m not convinced any amount of distance from the passing of a beloved pet would transform this into something humorous. So this stupid comedy got off on the wrong foot and stayed there. Chris Kattan plays the manically-cheerful dork outcast brother of a Mafia family bedeviled by the FBI. Though technically this isn’t a Lorne-Michaels-produced flop attempt to cash in on an old SNL skit, the humor is on par with productions such as The Ladies Man and The Coneheads. The result is one of those movies where everyone involved looks ready to murder their agents. I’ll give it one point, but that’s based entirely on the concern that the cat thing might have skewed my perception. See if desperate

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Abandoned – Room 33

Though I'll sometimes sit through a stupid slasher movie, this one featured roller derby trend characters that rendered it unwatchable.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review – Berserk

Given the allegations about her family life, perhaps Joan Crawford deserved to end her career making movies like this. Here she plays the owner of a circus plagued by a series of deadly accidents. Most of the screen time is devoted to soap-opera-worthy shenanigans, many involving an awkward romance between our heroine and a substantially younger performer. The scheming occasionally takes a time out and we get some footage of a circus act here and there. The production also serves up one of the worst musical numbers I’ve ever seen. For the most part, however, this is just melodramatic and dull. See if desperate

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review – Black Legion

Humphrey Bogart takes on the Klan. Or to be more precise, his character joins a Klan-like organization in this ahead-of-its-time anti-racism piece from 1937. Bogart plays a machine shop worker who gets passed over for a promotion, which sends him into a hate spiral directed at the ethnically-different guy who got the job. The hate mongering is cartoonish, not quite Reefer Madness bad but in the same ballpark. Still, it’s fun to see such a pedantic cautionary tale told about the loathsome likes of pointy-headed bigots. Mildly amusing

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review – The Devil's Curse

At around a half an hour in this movie suddenly turned interesting. But then I realized that Chiller had gone to an ad break and was showing an ad for another movie. Actually, in all fairness this isn’t the worst young-people-trapped-with-a-demon-in-an-abandoned-building movie I’ve ever seen. At least it managed to remain fairly logical and consistent, if not exactly inspiring. Mildly amusing

Review – Dracula 3: Legacy

The sins of number two are repeated here. This time our heroes have tracked the ol’ guy (Rutger Hauer) to Eastern Europe, where his minions conceal their crimes amid the chaos of social unrest. I expect the main attraction for most audience members of the appropriate sexual orientation and level of emotional maturity will be the big pit o’ nekkid vampire women that crops up toward the end. If that doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would float your boat, feel free to give this one a miss. Wish I’d skipped it

Review – Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo

I’m actually sort of in awe of this movie’s tenacious refusal to be entertaining in any way. As even someone who’d never heard of this sequel or its predecessor might guess just from the title, opportunities to include genuine wit are few and far between. Still, it manages to deftly avoid all of them. It doesn’t even feature much of the unattractive-women-have-feelings-too that served as a minor redeeming factor in the original. Instead, our long-suffering dimwit “hero” ends up in Amsterdam trying to thwart a plot by a serial killer to slay all the “man whores” in Europe. Wish I’d skipped it

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review – Dragon Fighter

Usually a movie with a name like this would turn out to be a collection of aspiring actors led by an out-of-work veteran doing battle with bad effects monsters in Medieval Europe. However, this turns out to be a collection of aspiring actors led by an out-of-work veteran doing battle with bad effects monsters in a 21st century cloning lab. Thank goodness for thespians of Dean Cain’s ilk. Otherwise who would deliver dialogue this bad? See if desperate

Friday, July 9, 2010

Review – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

This movie bets heavily on the proposition that its audience is composed largely of Trek fans who’ve been pining for new entries in the saga since the series was cancelled more than a decade earlier. As such, it’s reasonably successful. It features the original cast playing familiar characters with their well-established strengths and weaknesses. It has long, loving shots of the new-yet-familiar Enterprise. It even sports a plot that seems eerily familiar. However, for anyone who isn’t jonesing for fresh Trek (and in the age of full series DVDs, why would anyone be desperate for a fix?) this picture wastes a lot of time on empty nostalgia. It also relies heavily on long effects shots, stuff that might have been impressive back in the days of models and mattes but now just serves to grind the story to a screeching halt. Fortunately after they got some of this out of their system they came back and made a better sequel. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review – All Through the Night

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Weekend Update sketch on Saturday Night Live featured a joke about members of organized crime stealing scrap metal from the World Trade Center site. “Hey,” Tina Fey delivered the line in her best Mafia mook voice, “the mayor told everyone to go back to work.” This movie reminded me a lot of that gag. Humphrey Bogart stars as the leader of a gang of wise-cracking mobsters joining the war effort by taking on a cabal of Nazi agents in New York City. Bogart is great as usual, but overall the movie’s subject is too serious to work well as fodder for screwball comedy, yet it’s too silly to work as a spy story. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review – Child's Play 3

Chucky goes to military school. His hapless pal Andy (Justin Whalin, replacing Alex Vincent from one and two) is a teenager at this point, and his troubled past gets him sent to an academy for a more disciplined life. Unfortunately, the heartless corporation that makes the Good Guy dolls restarts the line. Somehow this allows the blown up and melted Chucky to return to life. He mails himself to Andy’s school, and things go from there. By this point in the series the original shtick has worn out, and this production doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the mix. See if desperate

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review – Batman (1966)

This brought back some pleasant childhood memories of the kids in the neighborhood gathering around a TV set and watching the old Adam West / Burt Ward Batman series. Nostalgia aside, however, this is almost pure camp. If you’ve seen some of the recent Batman movies but not this outing, imagine the polar opposite of The Dark Knight and you’ve got a clear picture. This is goofy, corny, cute, harmless, completely safe for kids, basically everything 21st century Batman isn’t. I expect any adult who doesn’t remember this stuff fondly will lose patience with it fairly quickly, but I got a kick out of watching it again. Mildly amusing