Friday, December 31, 2010

Review – Eye of the Needle

The set-up in this spy thriller is actually quite good. A Nazi secret agent (Donald Sutherland) discovers that an “army” under Patton’s command is actually an elaborate ruse intended to draw German forces away from the real location of the impending D-Day invasion. For awhile the story stays interesting as the anti-hero evades capture and tries to sneak photos of the fake invasion force out of England. But eventually he ends up hiding out in the isolated home of a disabled RAF veteran (Christopher Cazenove) and his lonely wife (Kate Nelligan). Creepy love triangle gives way to a relentless game of cat and mouse, an unfortunate, non-thrilling end to a picture that was reasonably entertaining up until then. Mildly amusing

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review – The Duellists

So is there a law or regulation somewhere that requires all movies about the Napoleonic era to be deadly dull? Director Ridley Scott starts with a source story by Joseph Conrad, but everything in the movie except the duels themselves are as boring as Kubrick’s adaptation of Thackery. Two French officers (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) get crossways of one another and duel on several occasions as Napoleon seizes and then loses Europe in the background. Like Kubrick’s failure, this too is a visually stunning but otherwise unrewarding production. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review – Alone in the Dark 2

At least it isn't quite as terrible as the first one. That's due in part to the absence of Uwe Boll in the director's chair (though he's a producer). But more than that, it's easier to swallow because it doesn't take itself so seriously. This is a crappy cheese fest and it knows it. The plot has something to do with a magic knife and the vengeful spirit of an evil witch, but as usual the plot really isn't the point. Though if your next question is "Okay, what is the point?" well, um ... see if desperate

Review – Circle of Eight

A new woman moves into an apartment building that appears to be a blend of movie set and insane asylum. All her fellow tenants seem to have three things in common: they're all at least a little off somehow, they've all mastered the inappropriate share, and they're all creepily obsessed with the protagonist. Is she nuts? Is she the sane victim of a complicated plot to drive her insane? Could the truth be something even less interesting? Only 90 minutes' worth of patience with some highly mediocre filmmaking will uncover the answer. See if desperate

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review - The Final Countdown

The title of this production is a puzzlement, as the picture lacks a countdown of any kind, final or otherwise. So really the only purpose the title serves is to dig up an earwig from Europe. The story, on the other hand, is an odd little tale about an 80s era aircraft carrier sucked through an unexplained time warp and deposited between Pearl Harbor and the Japanese fleet on December 7, 1941. Should they let history run its course, or should they use their vastly superior firepower to intervene and stop the attack? From the summary alone you can already tell that this plays out like a Twilight Zone episode that goes on five times longer than it needs to. Mildly amusing

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review – A Christmas Carol (2009)

I liked this better than I thought I would, due in no small part to a surprisingly close correlation between the script and Dickens’s classic tale. Indeed, the only serious departure from the original text is an interminable hearse chase that serves no function other than prolonging the fourth chapter. Doing the whole production as a high-dollar computer animation also allowed the production to more faithfully recreate Dickens’s vision, particularly for the amorphous Spirit of Christmas Past. On the minus side, there’s the voice work for Scrooge (Jim Carrey) and the Spirits of Christmas Past (Jim Carrey) and Present (Jim Carrey). Overall I still like the Sim version better, but this has some good things going for it as well. Mildly amusing

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Abandoned – The Uninvited

Approximately 20 minutes in I determined two unwelcome facts: first, this was a really boring indie movie about a woman who suffers from a really boring mental disorder, and second, IFC is now showing ads during movies. Boo to both.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Review – Arctic Predator

As the title implies, this is a SyFy dumb blend of themes “borrowed” from The Thing and Predator. An arctic squad of researchers and military support staff unearth an invisible alien monster. The picture is completely devoid of clever twists, interesting characters or anything else that might have redeemed it. See if desperate

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review – The Boston Strangler

Two things stand out about this telling of the tale of Albert DeSalvo, accused of raping and strangling 13 women in the Boston area in the early 1960s. On the positive side, director Richard Fleischer’s use of split screen editing – while visually jarring – works better than such gimmicks usually do. On the other hand, the production doesn’t stick as closely to the truth as most true crime stories at least attempt to. I don’t necessarily need a thorough examination of every aspect of the investigation, though at least a mention of the questions about DeSalvo’s guilt might have been nice. But the storytellers here make some details up out of whole cloth, such as the notion that the killer suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder. Tony Curtis as the strangler and Henry Fonda as the chief of the task force convened to catch him both bring plenty of talent to the table. But the section that should have been tailor-made for them to shine – an extended dialogue between the two that takes up most of act three – instead falls victim to lackluster writing. Mildly amusing

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Abandoned – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

After only eight minutes I was ready to punch everyone involved.

Abandoned – Quintet

Any soft-focus, post-apocalyptic borefest is bound to evoke Zardoz. And without the giant floating head ... 33 minutes.