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DVD ~ Noomi Rapace
Price: $4.99
108 used & new from $0.92

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visually Stunning, But Sorely Lacking..., November 18, 2012
This review is from: Prometheus (DVD)
Sometimes I walk into a movie with high hopes and I'm profoundly disappointed (Green Lantern) and sometimes I walk into movies with low expectations and am pleasantly surprised (X-Men: First Class), but every so often, I walk into a movie knowing exactly what to expect and the film delivers exactly that. Prometheus is one of those movies, but not in a good way. As a Ridley Scott fan, I expected this movie to have stunning visuals and in that, the film does not disappoint. The man is clearly a visual storyteller and all of his films (whether they be his duds or his best work) are always visually compelling. As an Alien franchise fan, I expected any continuation of the series (whether it's the original series, the AvP films or this tangent of a film) to subscribe to the law of diminishing returns and in that, this film meets that expectation fully. As a person who's learned to become wary of any project Damon Lindelof is involved in, this movie certainly proves its point as to why it's wise to check the fine print in the credits...

It's easy to find faults with the film (as several reviewers have already pointed out), but I feel like the most disappointing aspect of the film is that it portends to be a return to a classic sci-fi film that explores the bigger mysteries of life cocooned inside a thrilling space adventure. However, the film ultimately resigns itself to bringing up larger concepts and then never really exploring them. This is a film content to revel in quasi-philosophical wonderings without any real sort of point of view and, once again, we plumb the depths of the basic gist of Chariots of the Gods? without adding anything even remotely new to the concept (which is even sadder when you realize that they've even already explored this concept in the colossally dumb first AvP movie.) This is a movie trying very hard to be serious, but ending up as hokey as any other sci-fi film that takes itself way too seriously. As a result, this is a film that has style to spare, but barely any substance to speak of.

On this, I would point the finger at Lindelof. He did the same thing with the TV series Lost (bringing up questions without any answers and then casually trying to cop out by claiming the questions are bigger than the answers) and this is a 2-hour film version of that screenwriting conundrum with a lot of visual flair and an unsatisfying reason to exist. I didn't find the characters to be especially fleshed-out and I found the main plot points to be a little ham-handed. Some elements of the script feel like they were written by first-year philosophy students and other elements are simply winking at the Alien franchise. Ultimately, there's only one thing I found interesting in this movie and it's something that isn't even addressed in this film, but seems to be held over for a sequel (SPOILER ALERT - I thought it would be interesting to follow Noomi Rapace's character to the Engineer homeworld, but it looks like that won't happen until a sequel.) To me, it seems like this movie wants to be so much more than it is and it's frustrating to watch it struggle at the seams.

Of course, many reviewers have already pointed out the nonsensical antics of most of the characters: Yes, several characters in this movie do not make sense - whether doing things that do not make sense, existing for no apparent reason or vaguely being an archetype for a whole host of sci-fi cliches (never trust a robot... unless it's R2-D2... because he'll save your ass every time you do something idiotic.) A large number of these characters' motivations seem unbelievable, a few characters are incredibly unlikable, but most are played by actors and actresses you like in other things. I like Michael Fassbender, I like Charlize Theron, I like Idris Elba and I even like Noomi Rapace, but most of these talents are seriously wasted. Seriously, Idris Elba is more interesting in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and have you seen that film? That film's a wreck, but at least he's entertaining in it. Here... well, he's in it, but that's about all I can say. Same thing for Charlize Theron - you keep waiting for her character to pay off eventually, but it never does, so it begs the question: why is the character there? Some of the other characters are pointless, too, but you know that they're alien fodder, so they don't really matter. It's a shame that most of the main cast don't really matter either.

Like people who are fans of this film, I was fascinated by the Engineers themselves and wanted to know more about them, but the film isn't interested in exploring them for any length of time and, from what information we do get of them, they're mostly a parallel to humans themselves in other entries of this series (in that they fool around with things they couldn't possibly hope to understand and usually destroy themselves doing it.) Maybe this is the central conceit of the film: we're the Engineers, the Engineers are us... man, that's boring. It's one of the oldest chestnuts in the bag of sci-fi cliche - make up an alien race that's pretty much a mirror image of us and point out the irony in the dumb things that we do. I get it. It's been done. It's been done a lot. It gets old after awhile, but not as old as these other cliche chestnuts that Prometheus explores: 1.) Humans are so dumb, they couldn't have possibly evolved without the help of alien interference; 2.) Although they helped to create us, we will never really be on the same level as our alien benefactors, so whenever we try to reach towards the heavens, they will destroy us...; 3.) ...which is kind of a religious allegory that calls into question the very nature of faith itself. Are we all part of some sort of divine plan (alien or otherwise) or are we just fooling ourselves into thinking that we're more than the sum of our parts? These are heavy concepts, to be sure, but like I've said previously, they're concepts the film delights in bringing up, but never fully exploring (in fact, it reminds me slightly of Star Trek V, which tried to explore similar territory, but then suddenly remembered it was a Star Trek movie halfway through and threw in a bunch of Klingons and an alien pretending to be God to skirt around the issue.)

The bottom line is this: the Alien films seem to work best when they're either a straight-up horror-type film like the original Alien or a balls-to-the-wall action film like Aliens. Whenever it strays too far from either of these genres, it seems to fall flat and be mediocre at best. Prometheus might work better if it were removed from the Alien franchise and stood alone as its own work (which is something the film seems like it wants to do, but knows it'll gain an audience if you relate it to something audiences already liked, which really just results in a film without a coherent identity.) At the end of the day, it's more enjoyable than some of the entries into the franchise, but it won't be one that you'll necessarily return to as often (for me, I'm always down for watching Alien and Aliens, I'll reluctantly watch Alien 3 and pass over Alien: Resurrection without comment. AvP is its own thing and I don't know that I can ever fully integrate it into the Alien franchise as a whole.) Prometheus is a movie that I might get talked into watching again solely because the visuals are so stunning, so even though I don't care much for what is happening on screen, it sure looks beautiful. As for the casual viewer, I can only recommend it if you go in with the right amount of expectations. If you aren't expecting much, you will find it watchable. If you're expecting a lot, forget it, because you won't find it here.

It's interesting to note that in Greek mythology, Prometheus played a trick on Zeus, offering up two different sacrifices: one was a selection of beef hidden inside an ox's stomach (nourishment hidden inside a displeasing exterior), and the bull's bones wrapped completely in "glistening fat" (something inedible hidden inside a pleasing exterior). Zeus chose the latter and, like this movie, that's what we, as audiences, got: something inedible hidden inside a pleasing exterior...

The Black Hole
The Black Hole
DVD ~ Maximilian Schell
Price: $8.95
65 used & new from $3.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Sci-Fi Offset By Bad Execution, February 19, 2012
This review is from: The Black Hole (DVD)
While The Black Hole seems to endlessly be compared to Star Wars (an unfair comparison placed upon the film solely because The Black Hole is a sci-fi film released within the wake of the insanely popular Star Wars), its roots tend to reach back towards the more cerebral sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Certainly, The Black Hole never reaches the same heights in either popularity or ambition as those other two films; however, there is still something about it that will make you think of it long after you've looked past the film's obvious shortcomings.

The central plot of the film is one that's intriguing and rife with possibility and wonder and it's this set-up that is one of the film's only strong points. The basic premise concerns the exploratory spaceship USS Palomino returning from a deep space voyage, only to be diverted to a nearby black hole. There they find the derelict ship USS Cygnus seemingly defying the gravitational pull of the black hole, but the Cygnus has long been reported lost and the crew of the Palomino decide to investigate. Once aboard the Cygnus, the Palomino crew finds only Dr. Hans Reinhardt (the captain of the Cygnus) and a crew of humanoid, faceless robots operating the ghost ship. Reinhardt is determined (or is that obsessed) with unraveling the secrets of the scientific phenomena known as a black hole and the movie unfolds as his genius begins to border on madness...

From a story standpoint, this concept is intriguing and echoes certain elements of classic literature like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Moby Dick, only set in outer space. While the story is intriguing, its execution leaves something to be desired and I think that's where most people have a problem with the film. Rather than a straightforward sci-fi mystery/exploration, there's a certain amount of Disney-ification to steer the film away from its more heady subject matter and instead focus on the family-friendly aspects like goofy floating robots and fairly unnecessary laser battles. I suppose these scenes were emphasized because no kid was going to sit still long enough while the adult characters wax philosophical about what might happen should someone attempt to enter a black hole, but for the adults, V.I.N.CENT and company get pretty old pretty quickly. Sure, V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B figure out a few plot elements, but it could have just as easily been the human characters. Unfortunately, the robot characters are clearly the target of the critics who view this film as a Star Wars rip-off - V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. do look pretty similar to R2-D2 and the laser fights they engage in are a less exciting version of what you saw in Star Wars.

Ironically, the action scenes in this film are probably the most tedious part of watching the film. The scenes are pretty devoid of any kind of excitement, seem to ignore some basic rules of science (there's a point where the ship depressurizes, but this seems to have no effect on anybody - they just kind of float passively for a few seconds and that's about it. In actuality, they would be blown out into space and be dead) and they even try to wring out some pathos from the robots. Oddly enough, for me, the more interesting parts of the movie are when the characters are talking about the theories of the black hole (which is almost always seen just outside of the ship through windows, viewscreens, etc., thereby giving the impression that this phenomena is always looming over the characters and should impose a feeling of dread or anticipation) while the rest is just padding nonsense.

There's also another aspect of the story that goes largely ignored and seems to just fit the purpose of being a convenient plot device and that is Kate's ESP with the rest of the crew, including V.I.N.CENT. I have no idea what that's all about and no one really attempts to explain it - it seems to exist solely so Dr. Reinhardt can't monitor all communications between the Palomino crew. I know it may seem silly to pick apart this one minor plot detail (given that there's so many other areas to pick apart), but I guess I just didn't get it. It's one more fantastical element introduced for no other reason than it serves as a deus ex machina. Also, they make a point of mentioning that Kate's father served on the Cygnus, but that story thread never really goes anywhere either. In fact, Kate as a whole doesn't really go anywhere as a character either - it seems like she's set-up to be a central element to the story, but she mostly just devolves into "token girl astronaut".

The ending of the film is probably what will remind you most of 2001, since it basically reappropriates the starchild sequence from the end of 2001. The ending is largely dialogue-free and doesn't really go out of its way to explain what it is you're seeing exactly. Generally, I like this type of ambiguity because we can't say for certain what would happen should one enter into a black hole, but there's a definite implication of metaphysical properties within this particular black hole and it's all pretty heavy for a Disney film. The ending will probably go right over the kiddies' heads, but the adults will do a double-take and wonder if they really saw what they just saw. When I first saw this film as a kid, I totally didn't get the end. Seeing it as an adult, it makes more sense now and while I can't say it's a completely satisfying ending, it does leave you wondering. It also leaves you thinking that maybe this film was trying to bite off more than it could chew, but the ending fits with the more philosophical side of the film. From what I've read online, it seems as though there were a few different endings to the film: in the novelization, the Palomino crew is basically atomized once they enter the black hole and it's only Kate's ESP that sort of binds their conscious' together, allowing them to survive (in a fashion) - this ending would lend justification and be the payoff to Kate's ESP story thread that I had a problem with earlier. In the comic book adaptation, the Palomino crew survives the trip through the black hole and emerges in an alternate universe with alternate versions of Captain Reinhardt, B.O.B. and Maximilian. Another comic adaptation has the crew emerge in another galaxy (which seems to confirm Reinhardt's theory) and the read-along book has the Cygnus crushed in the black hole while the Palomino crew emerges safely on the other side of it. The DVD special features allude to yet another alternate ending that ends in an even more metaphysical allegory that involves Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Given all these options, I don't really know if one ending works better than another, but given the one that we got, it works within the context that I think the film was initially trying to strive for, and that is: a more cerebral sci-fi fantasy.

Bottom line: there's a reason that this film isn't more well-known than it is; it's got a lot of faults and it certainly isn't a movie for everybody, but I believe the central idea to be intriguing enough to get you wondering. A lot of people are wondering when this film will get remade and, to be honest, I hope it doesn't. Not that it wouldn't benefit from updated special effects, but I feel that today's generation will emphasize all the wrong aspects of this movie and ignore the more interesting parts. The black hole will exist simply because it's the name of the movie, but the bizarre majesty of it will be downplayed and I can just see a film full of ridiculous robots and lots more pointless action. I can also see this film being injected with a lot more humor and starring someone who can't carry a film; someone like Marky Mark or something. Should that god-awful version ever come to be, perhaps it would have the side-effect of making people reevaluate the original and promote it to "classic" status.

Personally, I hope this alternate universe with a remake of The Black Hole doesn't exist. If it does, then I'm staying on this side of the black hole and the rest of you can venture in and get crushed by the unrelenting mediocrity.

Just be sure to take V.I.N.CENT with you... I won't miss him at all.

Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek
Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek
by Olivia Munn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.00
32 used & new from $1.62

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Unintentional Fascinating Psychological Study..., December 28, 2011
To be honest, I didn't give two figs about Olivia Munn either way when I sat down and read this book. Sure, I was aware of her co-hosting "Attack of the Show", she was on some sitcom for awhile (until it was cancelled) and I think I saw her on The Daily Show once or twice. Why would I read this book if my knowledge of her was so limited? Well, basically, it's because I get a guilty pleasure out of reading books written by celebrities (or ghost-written by other people with celebrities or vaguely looked at before a celebrity slaps their name on it) and, usually, the more useless a celebrity, the more unintentionally amusing the book. This book seemed like a prime candidate because it seemed like it would fit this last category so well. Olivia is a celebrity that is celebrated by geek culture, but for reasons that completely baffle me (maybe it's because I'm older and cool - which is not the target demographic for "Attack of the Show" and, ostensibly, Munn herself.)

From the first sentence of the introduction ("Yeah, so, I wrote a book.") to the closing line of the introduction ("f--- everybody who was ever mean to me"), I knew I was in for a treat because this was going to be a book with absolutely nothing to say for the next 288 pages. I got excited... and maybe even peed a little. Essentially, the book is broken up into three types of chapters: ones that are little anecdotes from Olivia's life, ones that pander to the geek crowd and ones that are total BS designed to waste paper. It would seem to me that most people would be interested in the first type, mildly amused by the second and totally baffled by the third. I guess the inclusion of the second and third type of chapters was to remind people why they liked Munn as they read through her increasingly uninteresting first type of chapters.

The two central premises explored in the anecdote chapters seem to revolve around Olivia's "ugly duckling" delusion and her desperate (bordering on pathetic/psychotic) need to fit in. On the former, while she claims to think she's not particularly pretty, she devotes whole chapters to playing sexy dress-up and there's an entire full color gallery in the middle of the book devoted to pictures of her (there's even a flip book in the corner so you can make sexy Olivia dance.) This whole "I'm not pretty" facet of the book seems to ring false and is probably more attributable to extreme self-absorption rather than an outcast mentality. This is also evidenced in the several chapters where she meets famous Hollywood scum who are all continually trying to have sex with her. Maybe these stories are true, maybe they aren't, but they sure as hell get boring after the second or third one.

More telling is Olivia's obsessive need to fit in. This starts from the very first anecdote and culminates in my personal favorite chapter about why she would date only geeks. This chapter about dating geeks talks about how Olivia didn't fit in with the popular crowd at schools, so she naturally gravitated towards the geeks and found that the attention they paid her was more rewarding than anything she would get from the popular cliques. What I gathered from this chapter is that Olivia is pretty and has been pretty since she was young and she didn't want to be just another pretty face easy to overlook in the popular group because this is a group made up entirely of pretty faces. Instead, she took her prettiness to a group of people that would fawn all over her and she could be the big fish in the little pond. She doesn't seem to necessarily enjoy the things that geeks tend to obsess over, she just enjoys that they'll pay that much meticulous attention to her. This chapter, more than any other, is most telling of Munn for it's a wave that she's seemingly ridden all the way throughout her career. She has a pretty face, she pretends to give a crap about nerdish things, therefore nerds adore her and, with the power of the internet and endless disposable income, they crown her Queen for the Day. It's a tactic that works and seems to have served her well in her career (and the fact that most people are only now realizing it, seems to be the origin of the hate spewed her way.) For further proof of Olivia's jealousy/acceptance behavior, read the FAQ at the end of the book. When she's asked what she would do if an exact clone of herself was wandering around, Olivia immediately responds that she would kill it because, sooner or later, it would grow jealous of her and try to kill her. Apparently, Olivia has a pot/kettle moment that nobody calls her on.

Of course, we need to divert attention away from all this, so other chapters of the book are filled with geek-pandering. There's chapters with her talking candidly about sex, a "Lord of the Rings" reference here, a "Dungeons and Dragons" reference there and some BS about what she would do if (no, not "if", but "when") robots take over the Earth. It's almost like she took out a geek ledger and was systematically checking off references to everything that the general public thinks geeks care about (Star Wars, zombies, robots, etc.) I'm not saying geeks don't talk about these things; it's just not all they talk about.

Also, there are some BS chapters like what it would be like if Princess Leia had a Twitter account while the events of "A New Hope" were unfolding. Really? No, really? Really, this idea was committed to paper. Trees died so that this could be printed. Somebody thought: can I write a chapter about a fictional character having an awful piece of technology at their hands and what it would be like if said fictional character was just as vapid and stupid as any teenage girl at the mall? Yes, somebody thought this, but nobody bothered to ask: what would be the point of that? I guess this answers the question (that nobody asked) of just how stupid a book can get before you really start to lose your audience.

When all is said and done, these chapters are supposed to exemplify the supposed charm of Olivia and help explain why she's so revered. For me personally, I just don't get it. No part of this book was endearing or charming except for one funny story about Olivia taking a test back in grade school where she had to pee really, really bad and thought that maybe if she let just a little bit out, it would be okay. This one story is actually funny and touches on that universal feeling of embarrassment and the total logic-lacking fibs that we'd tell as a child. If the rest of this book were more like this one story, it'd be a far better book. I'm not saying she has to tell stories of embarrassment or ridicule, but stories that are actually interesting, amusing and maybe even capable of emotionally investing a reader. However, this one story is just one odd little artifact in a sea of awful, no-focus writing. I don't expect Pulitzer Prize winning material from these types of books, but I do expect to be, at least, mildly entertained. One good story out of nearly 300 pages of incoherent babbling just doesn't cut it for me.

At the end of the day, I guess this book did prove my theory correct: the more seemingly pointless a celebrity, the more mind-bogglingly inane a book is produced. On that front, this book succeeds. As a funny, engaging, insider-y memoir, the book fails. If you're not a fan of Munn, this book won't convert you. If you are a fan of Munn, it's hard to tell what exactly would draw you to this book. If you just want more pictures of her, isn't that what the internet is for? Ultimately, I would say this book has a certain unexpected purpose: it should be required reading for any Psych 101 student. I would love to see a professional analyze the crap out of this book from a psychological standpoint. If you've ever wondered what goes through the head of a self-absorbed beauty queen pathologically trying to fit in, there is no better textbook than this one.

Final Ratings:

As a traditional book, I would rate this a 1 out of 5. It has all the distinctive characteristics of being a book (it's made of paper, it has words on that paper, it has sequentially numbered pages) without actually being a book (in that it is emotionally, mentally, physically valuable.)

A 3 out of 5 for its unintentional disclosure of the otherwise socially irredeemable traits of its subject. A fascinating study for Psych students (with sexy pictures.)

A 2 out of 5. Recommended only for the aforementioned Psych students. May also be recommended for use as a level for rickety, uneven furniture.

Tales from the Darkside: Season 1
Tales from the Darkside: Season 1
DVD ~ Paul Sparer
Price: $14.86
45 used & new from $5.62

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A (Dark) Trip Down Memory Lane..., December 26, 2011
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If you were glued to the 'tube like I was when I was a wee lad, you couldn't miss happening across "Tales from the Darkside" somewhere on television. "Darkside" was a show that every kid I knew had seen at least one episode of, regardless of whether or not they particularly liked or followed the show. With its low-grade production values and sometimes incomprehensible/illogical storylines, "Darkside" came to be quite well-known in a whole subgenre of low-budget-tales-of-cheap-horror that were so prevalent from the mid-80's to the early 90's (alongside its compatriots "The Hitchhiker"; "Freddy's Nightmares"; the higher-budgeted, but still hit-or-miss "Amazing Stories"; and even Darkside's own spin-off "Monsters".) However, it's my opinion that the low budget and sometimes shoddy writing was a part of Darkside's charm. If you fondly remember spending a rainy Saturday afternoon watching this show, then it's worth it for you to pick up this set because it is an instant time machine back to when syndicated shows seemed to rule the airwaves.

Like any anthology show, the episodes are really hit-or-miss and sometimes more of one than the other. For every episode on this set that still works ("The Odds"), there's an episode that's howlingly bad ("Mookie and Pookie"). Though it should be said that even the terrible episodes are not without their appeal - in example, "Mookie and Pookie", although laughably bad, weaves a story about computers at a time when computers were these completely foreign objects capable of seemingly magical things. Taken in context with today's technology, "Mookie and Pookie" is almost quaint with its scenes of dot-matrix printers and voice synthesizers which provided me with an unforeseen level of amusement. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ripping on the show for it being a product of its era, I'm just saying that I enjoyed this particular trip down memory lane that I wasn't expecting from a DVD collection of old horror stories. Plus, where else but "Darkside" am I going to get an episode that teams up Tippi Hedren and Justine Bateman in the same scene?

Yes, "Darkside" is awesome for featuring well-known (at the time) character actors and some celebrities of the day. You may not remember their names, but their faces are awfully familiar and, again, it's all a part of this series' charm. While the acting certainly goes from passable to bad to worse per episode, it's not all that distracting in the good tales and it may be the only thing making you morbidly continue to watch the bad tales. It's also important to note that not all of these tales are necessarily "dark" per se; in fact, some are far from it, but it's this mix of variety that keeps the show from becoming a little too formulaic (though I agree that some tales have an ending that you can see coming a mile away).

Now, some reviewers have noted that this set does not contain all the original music for each episode of the show and, honestly, who cares? I really can't believe there's this many reviews on here going on and on about the music. Now I'm not one that believes a studio should butcher a movie or a show just to get it out into the market, but arguing about the music cues in this series is ridiculous. First of all, to the casual viewer or fan, you would never even notice that the music's been substituted. The music is so unremarkable, that it doesn't even matter. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), it's not like "Darkside" was ever a show that was particularly well-known for its music, so it's not a big deal that some of it got replaced. It doesn't appear to affect any of the episodes and I'm not a big enough aficionado of "Darkside" to be able to tell the difference. So, if the fact that the music got replaced is what's keeping you from picking up this series - knock it off. I don't think "Darkside" was ever a big enough moneymaker for either CBS or Paramount to go crazy and get the rights for every single solitary piece of music that ever appeared in an episode. In fact, we're probably lucky this series showed up on DVD at all, let alone got released as a whole and in logical order (Remember those series I mentioned earlier? "Hitchhiker" was released, but in a random "best of" order; "Freddy's Nightmares" has no official release; "Amazing Stories" got one season released and the other is in limbo - pretty "amazing" considering it was only a two season show and "Monsters" hasn't seen an official release either).

The other complaint I hear about this release is that the episodes weren't remastered or reformatted. Okay, look, it's a low-budget series from the mid-80's that has a decent, but not overly-zealous, fanbase around it... They're not going to remaster the series for HD snobs who think everything needs to be in 1080p with 7.1 surround sound. They're not going to reformat a fullscreen show into widescreen. The picture is fine and I think I rather prefer it this way because it reminds me of how I used to watch it on TV all the time. I haven't had any problems with the sound and I can hear everything perfectly (even that substituted music that has some people's underwear in a bunch). Arguing about this sort of thing is like arguing about the special effects in the episodes... What? You mean Paramount didn't go back and punch up all the special effects for "Darkside" like they did with the original series of "Star Trek"? Those monsters! And they expect me to pay between $15-$20 for this garbage? Arrrrggghhhhh! To the internet with my crazy complaints because someone at Paramount will actually read my one-star review on Amazon and fix everything!

Bottom line is this: if you've never seen an episode of "Darkside" but are mildly curious about the show, rent it first. Get a taste of what you're in for and then decide from there whether you want to own it or not. If you remember this show fondly and want to rewatch some of your favorite episodes over and over again (or show it to someone else for the first time), pick it up. It's a decent return on investment for your money. I picked up this season on sale for $15 and it's been entertaining for me in one way or another as I made my way through each episode. Some episodes I remembered well, some were a first-time treat and some were just ironically enjoyable. If you can be satisfied with that sort of reaction from a mid-80's television series, then click on "add to cart" now. Meanwhile, I'll be making my way through season two...

Horrible Bosses
Horrible Bosses
DVD ~ Jason Bateman
Price: $4.75
174 used & new from $0.01

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Horrible Bosses = Bob Saget: Funny for a moment, but ultimately, just tedious..., November 22, 2011
This review is from: Horrible Bosses (DVD)
Horrible Bosses takes a darkly comic premise and pretty much plays it safe at every possible turn, which eventually results in a movie that thinks its funnier than it really is. It's a shame because the actors in the film are well cast in their respective roles, but the movie quickly devolves into the sort of sophomoric humor that passes for funny nowadays. Easily the best part of the movie are the bosses themselves played by Kevin Spacey (who's great at playing severe a-holes), Jennifer Aniston (in a nice bit of stunt casting that's a refreshing difference from her usual Rachel-centric roles) and Colin Farrell (who excels at playing the King of the Douchebags). It's strange, given that their characters are so one-dimensional, but the energy and malevolence they put into their roles goes a long way towards working in the movie's favor. Unfortunately, they only have about 20 minutes of screentime total throughout the movie and then we're stuck watching the sometimes tedious shenanigans of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as the oft put-upon underlings who have to deal with an elitist jerk, a crazy nympho and a complete tool. Bateman, Day and Sudeikis do what they can with their roles, but they're really just not as engaging a character as their horrible bosses. As a result, the movie loses steam severely in its second half when it focuses more on these guys and their dumb attempts to off their employers.

Part of the problem is that the Day/Aniston conflict just never rings true as a really horrible situation (a fact that several characters in the film even admit to not really being a problem), so the story has to go to implausible lengths to present the situation as undesirable, much to the detriment of the central plot of the film. Sure, it's easy to hate the other two bosses, but I think most people will just wonder why Aniston's oversexed antics warrant her being killed. The sad part is that the movie seems to realize this, so this particular conflict is the least addressed in the film. Instead of making Aniston's character older or more undesirable (read: less attractive), the movie might've gotten more mileage out of the situation. But then, you'd probably have people criticizing the movie because it infers that older or less gorgeous is not sexy and this movie can't afford to alienate anybody, so they play it safe instead.

Our three leads also never actually kill any of their bosses (at least, not directly), so the movie wimps out on that sticky plot point as well. Instead you have three guys presented as seemingly smart and capable in their professions act like total f'ing morons for the last hour of the movie. It's boring, it's tired and you've seen this kind of comedic flailing around several times before. There's also the weird notion where the film tries to present Sudeikis as some kind of irresistible lothario who not only hooks up with Aniston, but Julie Bowen as well. This notion, like the movie, just seems like some sort of juvenile wish-fulfillment presented as a "hilarious" movie.

Ultimately, if you have no awareness of comedies pre-2000, you'll love this film. If you've enjoyed the work of the Zucker brothers, Mel Brooks or even Chevy Chase, you probably won't like this. It starts off strong and sets up a great idea, but then just completely misses the mark by channeling a Hangover type of comedy that never really does the central plot any justice. This movie is the comedic equivalent to a horror film that cuts out all the gore and grue in order to get a PG rating. While this movie is rated R, it's only because of the f-bomb and some racy dialogue, which is a hallmark of lazy comedy. Think of it like Bob Saget - sure, it was funny for a moment after Full House got cancelled and he just said the foulest things he could think of because he was on a family friendly show for so long... but then the novelty wears off and you're left with a not particularly funny comedian. That's what this movie is: one big Bob Saget. It was funny for a minute, but then ultimately just became tedious.

3 stars for a promising first half and 1 star for a disappointing second half. As a whole, Horrible Bosses gets 2 stars. Worth a look if you want to see Jennifer Aniston not be Rachel for awhile and to see Kevin Spacey return to the a-hole roles he does so well, but you probably won't watch it again.

Halloween II (Unrated Director's Cut)
Halloween II (Unrated Director's Cut)
DVD ~ Scout Taylor-Compton
Price: $9.99
98 used & new from $2.19

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Zombie Continues To Deliver... Absolutely Nothing., August 7, 2011
The title says "Halloween II" and it pretty much is more of the same from writer/director Rob Zombie... unfortunately, all Zombie can seem to manage is angry white trash yelling at each other and dropping f-bombs every other word, so if that's your cup of tea, then this movie's for you. In all honesty, this film does seem to be a step up from Zombie's previous entry, but that's not really saying much as almost any goofball with a camcorder could probably whip up a more decent movie than Zombie can with tons of money at his disposal. At any rate, Zombie seems to tone down the psychological mumbo-jumbo that permeated throughout his first film, which would be a good thing if he didn't replace it with just as heavy-handed spiritual mumbo-jumbo that has something to do with Michael reforming his family at any cost.

To this end, you get a lot of shots of Sheri Moon Zombie walking around in a flowing white dress like some sort of celestial being and toting a white horse that has some sort of ham-handed link to Michael's state of mind. Even with an opening quote that sort-of explains the whole 'white horse' schtick, that whole plot point really just serves the dual purpose of allowing Zombie to try some artsy-fartsy film composition and to shoehorn his wife into the film yet again. She mostly goes around muttering cryptic lines that are supposed to mean something, but I'm pretty sure these scenes are there so Rob can get some sort of fantasy Ridley Scott aspirations out of his system.

So, with that counting as the motivation for Michael (more or less), it's on to a film filled with just as many unlikable characters as the first one. Returning as Laurie Strode is Scout-Taylor Compton, who manages the rare feat of being even more annoying than in the first film. Obviously, she didn't take any acting lessons in between the two films and here she is, yet again, to force the audience to not even remotely like the film's central protagonist. There's no two ways around it - she's terrible, terrible, terrible. Need convincing? Watch the scene where she finds out she's Michael's sister and then runs to her work pals to party it up because she's tired of being the good girl. At one point, she exclaims: "I want to party! I mean, f--- it, guys..." in one of cinema's all-time worst line readings. It's so embarassing, it physically hurts. I mean, my friends and I made our own backyard films and we knew our acting was terrible, but this here... this right here... is supposedly a major motion picture and this is what we get for our lead? This girl needs to stop, take a breath, and reconsider her choice of profession. Sure, I'm being hard on her, but it's the truth. Here you have a character who was made sympathetic and likable in the previous incarnation by Jamie Lee Curtis (and it was the role that effectively launched her career) and I'm not saying Compton has to do the same thing, but just some sort of attempt at acting would be appreciated. Not this flailing around, screaming nonsense. Have you ever seen a kid in a department store completely lose it and start going into a fit because they don't want to be in the store anymore? That's kind of what Compton's acting is like and it's just as annoying. The average filmgoer will also have the same reaction that the average shopper would have upon seeing this: "please remove this screaming child from my sight. Please leave it at home before subjecting the general public to this menace." If there were ever a more distinct vision that would endorse birth control, I have yet to find it.

Anyways, she's useless and is just as grating as the last film. Also returning is Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett - one of only two likable characters in the film (the other being her dad Sheriff Brackett, played by Brad Dourif). She's a little more toned down in this film and a heckuva lot more likable. Unfortunately, she doesn't get to do much besides be a doormat for Laurie's drama. Ultimately, her fate is sealed and it looks like she won't be back for the next installment, which is sad because this series needed more Danielle Harris (once again, I'm left wondering how much better this film would be if Harris had played Laurie Strode. Then again, I also wonder how much better this series would be if they'd stop letting Rob Zombie wander on set to direct things.)

Malcolm McDowell is back as well, but it's such a thankless role that it really doesn't seem to matter whether he's here or not. It's interesting to see the character of Sam Loomis pull away from being the ultimate force of good and turn into the ultimate force of douche, but I guess I just don't get the purpose of it. Typically, Loomis is the yin to Michael's yang and it's a bit like having a Sherlock Holmes with no Moriarty the way Zombie presents him here. To be honest, I don't mind screwing with the formula, but there's no one here who really provides any sort of a threat to Michael and I guess it just seems to make the confrontations all the more meaningless because whatever's going on with Michael is going on inside of his head (which is filled with white ponies and Sheri Moon Zombie uttering bizarre fortune cookie dialogue.)

Like the first film, it's fun to pick out the random cameos from faces that may or may not be familiar - hey, Margot Kidder! Is that Dauber from "Coach"? Oh, Frogurt from "Lost"... nice to see you... and there you go through a car windshield... Bye! Other than these little moments, there's not much else in the way of casting that's anything to comment on. So, on to the film itself...

The film picks up from where the last film left off and it sort of jumps over major plot points without too much to-do about it. Laurie shot Michael in the face at the end of the last movie, but here he is walking around like some sort of ersatz Unabomber. He's mostly just hanging out in a shack somewheres, biding his time until next Halloween (actually two Halloweens from the previous Halloween - guess he took a year off to travel... or eat dogs... or whatever...) Though everyone makes a big deal about Michael's body disappearing, nobody seems to have gone looking for it and while I'm not sure how far away he is from Haddonfield in this movie, it sure seems like the cops gave up pretty quickly on finding him. Or maybe they never even looked for him in the first place - I dunno; cops in these types of films never seem to bother with procedure or with basic police work, so I guess it's okay. Laurie's still bothered by her previous encounter with Michael - so much so, that she has a 20 minute dream sequence involving a hospital after her initial attack from the first film (I guess this is a bit of an homage to the original Halloween II, but Zombie wisely chose not to restrict his sequel just to this one setting.) She's living with the Brackett's and, in general, just being kind of a pain in the ass (there's one scene where she hangs out with her new work friends and they rock out to "Kick Out the Jams" - which blew my mind that these kids would even know of that song, but I guess this is one aspect of teenage life that Zombie got right, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I'm not a music snob by any means, but I always found it funny when teenagers start to discover music that was made before today. They always seem to ignore any sort of context in which the song came about and instead choose to just rock out - kind of like listening to a 60's era protest song, but being completely ignorant about anything having to do with Vietnam. It's a moment that's just kind of humorous, exciting and sad all at once.)

Sorry about that tangent... so, Halloween comes around and Michael makes his way to Haddonfield and kills pretty much anything that gets in between him and his sister. There's a lot of Michael just walking into situations where he kills everything in sight and it sort of makes you wish for the way they did things in the old "Halloween" films where Michael would just drive to wherever he was going. There was no screwing around with random rednecks, strip joint a-holes or little kids who never learned not to talk to strangers. As funny as the thought of Michael Meyers driving around town was to me in the old films, I do kind of miss that as it gave the films a weird sort of charm that was lacking in your typical slasher film of the era. At any rate, Michael eventually gets to his sister and there's a lot of blah-blah-blah about being a family again, but Loomis finally shows up and everyone fires a lot of rounds of bullets into the Big Double M and he supposedly dies (then again, he was shot in the face in the first film, so why anyone thinks this is going to work this time is beyond me... then again, we've already mentioned that these cops aren't firing on all cylinders here, so whatever.) Then the movie ends with a completely ridiculous ending that tries to be arty-farty and just downright retarded all at the same time. I don't really know what Zombie's going for here at the end and, honestly, I don't care. I hate Laurie in this film, so anything having to do with her just goes over my head because I can't work up enough investment in the character. In fact, I just found myself thinking of other things whenever Laurie was on screen. Things such as the following:

1.) What era does this movie take place in? I asked this in the last film as well and this film seems to not conform to any specific timeline either. It's clearly a post-2000 era, but all that's ever on TV is old-ass cartoons and The Moody Blues (singing "Nights in White Satin" - presumably because Sheri Moon Zombie wanders around in white satin... subtlety doesn't seem to be Rob Zombie's strong point.)

2.) Though Michael killed a lot of people in the last film, the residents of Haddonfield don't seem concerned that his body was never found. No one moves away and no one seems to let this fact impair their enjoyment of the holiday. The parents even let their kids trick or treat on Halloween with no adult supervision. Worst. Parents. Ever.

3.) Why does everyone have a Halloween costume that's way more elaborate than anything you're ever likely to see ever? You see a lot of that in the Halloween party sequence. Speaking of... how old are these characters? In the last film, Laurie and company were still in high school, so at best, they were seniors and probably 18, but though it's only 2 years later, they attend a monster blowout that features lots of alcohol and rampant nudity and none of the cops seem to mind that this happens. They just all seem to hang out at the police station. Um, if cops knew there was some huge party going down that would probably be serving alcohol to minors, they would be camped outside that party all evening long busting everybody. Yet, like the parents of Haddonfield, the cops seem to have no clue. What's going on in this town?

4.) How come the town strip joint is empty all night? It's not even midnight yet and there's no one there. Most strip joints are open till 2 or 3 in the morning and, even at closing time, there's still a ton of people there. Wouldn't a strip joint that advertises being the home of Michael Meyers' mom be jumping the night before Halloween? Where is everybody in this town? Why did that one guy have to take out the garbage at the strip joint? Who made that garbage? There's no one there to produce any garbage. Why does this scene exist?

5.) So, Laurie survives an attack by a serial killer in the first film and is pretty screwed up because of it, but for some reason, she decorates her room with a giant poster of Charles Manson, one of the most well-known serial killers of all time? WTF?

6.) The entire Meyers family has some sort of psychic link.... oooookay.... So, this only kicks in if Michael is eating a dog and Laurie is eating vegetarian pizza at the same time? Where was this in the last movie? Suddenly, the Meyers' are psychics now? If only she had cool Firestarter powers like Drew Barrymore... or maybe she could have fought Michael with her psychic ninja powers like that one chick did against Jason Voorhees in that one Friday the 13th movie... That might've been better than what I'm watching now.

7.) How come Michael wears his mask sometimes, but not all the time? In the last movie, it was a big deal that Michael wore the mask because he was no longer Michael Meyers the sweet little kid and he just sort of regressed into his mask which was a way to deal with his being a killer. Now it just sort of appears and disappears at will. I guess no one wins on this because, frankly, he looked dumb with this mask on and he looked dumb without it on, so whatever.

All in all, this is a pretty lackluster film that doesn't deliver a whole lot. On the plus side, it has a ton of gore for the hardcore fans and it does have one scene that was nicely done and created a great amount of tension: when Annie is attacked and she slowly looks up to see Michael standing off to the side, the film then jumps to slow-motion and Zombie finally delivers the sense of dread he's been trying to get for two films now. For me, this was the one standout scene of the film and it showed just a touch of the right effect at the right time in an effort to truly play off the absolute dread that should exist in that scene. Wonderfully done, but not enough to redeem the entire movie. However, I will give Rob the credit on that one - if more of the movie were like this scene, it would be much easier to recommend this film.

As it stands, there's not a lot here to recommend. If you were a fan of Zombie's first film, then you'll probably carry on liking this one. If you weren't a fan of his previous film, then there's not much here that'll change your mind about Zombie as a filmmaker. Overall, I would say that this film was better than the first, but not by much. A good scene here, a really brutal gore scene there and the rest is just filler. Zombie doesn't really leave much to go on at the end of this one so it remains to be seen when and if another sequel will take place. For my money, I'd still be interested to see him just do his own riff on "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" and I think it'd be hilarious if both part 3's of both series had nothing to do with Michael Meyers, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Maybe Zombie did what no other person could do... maybe he effectively killed off Michael Meyers for good.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2011 2:27 PM PDT

Halloween (Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition)
Halloween (Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Tyler Mane
Price: $4.25
184 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Guy Who Made Two Prior Pieces of Crap Couldn't Make A Competent "Halloween" Film... Go Figure., July 24, 2011
Once upon a time, someone decided it would be a great idea to let Rob Zombie make a movie: the result was a piece of crap known as "House of 1000 Corpses". Oddly enough, someone gave him money again and he came up with an even worse piece of crap: "The Devil's Rejects". Though showing no real talent nor any real distinct vision, someone decided to give ol' Rob the reigns on a "Halloween" remake and he delivered... yet another piece of crap. Only this piece of crap is destined to be compared to a rather simple, yet effective modern horror classic and what many consider to be the springboard for the modern slasher film.

People will say it's unfair to compare this remake with the original film that inspired it, but then those are probably the same un-thinking clowns who thought this whole enterprise would be a good idea anyways. Look, it's a film called "Halloween" with a storyline that mirrors a previous film called "Halloween" - how do you not compare the two? More importantly, this remake is so inept that you really can't help but think of the original and what it did (or didn't do) more effectively. If you were doing a remake of a small foreign film that no one ever heard of, you could probably get away without much comparison, but when you remake a film this well-known, you're pretty much asking for it... and crying foul when people do so seems a little ridiculous on your part.

Side Note: that particular criticism never makes any sense because the basic argument is that you should be open-minded enough to accept a new interpretation on an old idea, but the argument really works both ways. If you tell someone the remake sucked and the original was better, they often counter with how the original sucked and the remake was better. Aren't the people who champion the remake just as guilty of being closed-minded as those who deride it? Talk about a pot/kettle moment.

With that being said, Zombie gives us almost an hour of unnecessary backstory before propelling us into the by-the-numbers slasher plot that most viewers are accustomed to. Here it is in a nutshell: Michael Myers is a pudgy demented kid who has an equally annoying family and is taunted by even more annoying bullies. One day he snaps because this is pre-Jerry Springer so he can't go on television to get it all out of his system. After an hour of this, it's more-or-less Carpenter's original film as Michael, now a human tank, hacks and slashes his way back to Haddonfield in order to do... um... something. Zombie's script combines elements of the original "Halloween" and elements from "Halloween II" and tries to make you more sympathetic to Michael's mental imbalance. There's a lot of psychological mumbo-jumbo that doesn't really go anywhere and there's lots of ambiguity concerning what Michael's ultimate goal really was.

In the meantime, you get plenty of bad acting, multiple amounts of T&A (sans Mrs. Zombie - sometimes it pays to be married to the director) and no real scares. To say it's all rather unnecessary is putting it mildly. The only real fun to be had is by hardcore horror buffs who can make a game out of spotting-the-C-list celebrity (is that Mickey Dolenz? Hey, Ken Foree! Oh, it's Dee Wallace!) This is the only cheap thrill that the film seems to muster and aside from some clever casting, the movie really doesn't have much going for it. Since it's clear that the main focus of this film is Michael Myers, all the other characters are largely ancillary. Scout Taylor-Compton proves she's totally incapable of playing a convincing teenager (hired because Zombie felt she "wasn't too actor-y" - truer words were never said), though it's not entirely her fault since Zombie feels more at home writing scenes that feature the worst of cussing white trash than scenes of actual believable people. Laurie's friends are largely forgettable, but it is fun to see Danielle Harris (particularly if you remember her from previous sequels to the original "Halloween"). Here, she's mostly unnecessary and you sort of wish she was playing Laurie, though that would just send the fans of the original "Halloween" films into a mental geekgasm tailspin.

It's always fun to see Malcolm McDowell and Danny Trejo in nearly anything, but here they don't serve much purpose. Donald Pleasance may have only served the purpose to spout a lot of jargon about the nature of evil in the original films, but he chewed the scenery quite nicely and he's sorely missed here. Michael's nemesis, Sam Loomis, is largely underdeveloped here - so much so, that he's practically unnecessary, which is a shame because there's only so much you can do with a film centered around a walking slaughterhouse who's mute. Speaking of, there's Daeg Faerch, who plays young Michael Myers and he's horrible. Some people praised his performance, but I'm not sure they saw the same kid I did. He's unpleasant to look at (which you think would help when playing Michael Myers) and he's unconvincing. Apparently, he filmed scenes for Zombie's "Halloween II" but was cut because he was too tall, so they got another kid. This automatically makes "Halloween II" a better movie, but that's a whole other review all together.

Also, since this is a Rob Zombie film, Sherri Moon Zombie is in this and plays Michael's mother in the rather-lengthy backstory. Strangely, she's the only seemingly likable character in the whole film and seems to be the only character somewhat fleshed out (pun intended, cuz see... Michael's mother is a stripper in this film. However, paradoxically, Sherri seems to be one of the few female cast members who isn't nude in this film. Go figure.) The rest of the cast isn't of particular interest, so there's no real point in talking about them.

So, aside from some bad acting, what else makes the film seem so shoddy? Well, it's crystal clear that Zombie has an obvious affinity for late 70's horror films reminiscent of Wes Craven or Tobe Hooper, however, most horror fans won't admit that most of the horror films of that particular era just weren't very good, so it seems a somewhat odd choice of era to emulate with a film that's trying to appeal to today's youth. At any rate, there Zombie goes and succeeds in making us not like a single character on the screen. Quite a feat, really. Unfortunately, by doing this, we have no one to really sympathize with (sorry, I don't sympathize with Michael Myers either. Yeah, he had a bad childhood, but he seems just as likely to end up as Marilyn Manson as Michael Myers - the unstoppable killing machine.) With no one to sympathize with, it doesn't really matter what happens in the rest of the movie and, quite frankly, this film doesn't try really hard to generate any suspense. In that sense, I guess Zombie did succeed in emulating the likes of something like Wes Craven's original "The Last House on the Left": things just sort of happen and they film it, but it's not like you care about it too much.

There are also several other issues you seem to think about while watching this movie that cause you to not really care for it. For me, it was the following:

1.) What timeframe do the two halves of the movie take place in? The first half seems like the late 70's/early 80's, but the second half - supposedly taking place only 15 years later, has a clear post-2000 vibe.

2.) What is with the long hair? Nearly everyone in this film has annoying long hair (even Malcolm McDowell for quite awhile)... and it usually hangs in front of their face. WTF? This isn't scary, just annoying.

3.) If I have to watch one more horror film that features Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper", I will spend my own savings to buy the rights to that song just so I can not license it to anybody and I don't have to hear that song in another horror film ever again.

4.) How come Michael emphatically kills some people, but lets others live for no discernable reason? Zombie establishes earlier that Michael has no boundaries (seemingly, the reason why Danny Trejo is killed), but then he lets Danielle Harris survive and Sam Loomis is only incapacitated. Guess you can't kill fan favorites in case there's a sequel.

5.) What's Michael's plan? He kills one of Laurie's friends and places the Myers tombstone above her and then abducts Laurie and shoves a picture at her that she has no idea how to interpret. Is his plan to kill her or just resume being a family again? Sure, things are just as ambiguous in the original, but here, they went through all the effort to explain Michael, yet his motivations are still entirely unclear.

6.) In both this film and the original, how come kids (and teenagers) running down a suburban street yelling "Help! Help!" never elicit any response from any neighbors... ever?

7.) When Laurie called 911 to help her friend Annie (Danielle Harris), the cops show up at the house Laurie runs back to though she called to get to help at the house that Annie was in. Later, Loomis and the sherriff (as well as an ambulance) show up at the house Annie is in and seem to ignore the patrol car (with lights flashing) at the other residence that Laurie went back to. How does the emergency crew know to show up at different houses?

8.) That "Trick or Treat" title card... really? What was that for?

Maybe I'm too meticulous in my nitpicking, but with a boring movie, you tend to think of these things. All in all, there's nothing to recommend this movie and you're not missing much if you never see it. I would recommend picking up the original. Though it's definitely dated, it's far more effective and really utilizes the theme of the holiday (the original film used traditional Halloween lore and activities far more extensively thus making the title appropriate. In the remake, it really doesn't matter if it's Halloween or not - these events seem like they could have taken place whenever.) In the end, I'm amazed this remake got made, but then again, Zombie made two previous films before this one and I'm really amazed that those got made, so I guess this shouldn't have been too much of a surprise.

If you're a fan of Rob Zombie, you'll love this film. If you're a fan of John Carpenter, you'll definitely hate it. If you like angry rednecks yelling and swearing at each other every five seconds, you'll love this. If you like fleshed-out characters and actual acting, you'll hate this. If you enjoy gratuitous nudity and incomprehensible story plotting, you'll love this. If you enjoy competent filmmaking and a script worth being filmed, you'll hate this.

Maybe Zombie will remake "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" next because that... well, that... I'd be curious to see...

"Five more days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Five more days till Halloween... Silver Shamrock!"
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2011 1:38 PM PDT

A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street
DVD ~ Jackie Earle Haley
70 used & new from $1.63

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Watching This Boring Film Is Enough of a "Nightmare", May 8, 2011
This review is from: A Nightmare on Elm Street (DVD)
When all is said and done, this film is essentially for people who never heard of the original or find any film pre-2000 as passe or quaint. This remake (let's forget that the word "reimagining" ever existed) is a basic by-the-numbers retread of territory the previous entries have all explored and doesn't add anything new to the overall world of "Nightmare". Therein lies the problem - if you have nothing new to add to the series, then your entry becomes extraneous by default. And that's what this film is: just one big extraneous effort by nearly everyone involved. There's no reason to make this film and it shows in just about every decision made regarding it.

Sure, it's easy to harp on the fact that Jackie Earle Haley is no Robert Englund, but it's a comparison that's just inevitable. Englund played Freddy throughout all the previous films and is largely responsible for making the character the icon that he is today. As great an actor as Haley is, there's no need for fans of Englund to fear that Englund will be usurped any time soon because Haley's version is just a washed-out, non-frightening remake of the film's major star. Haley is intense and does try hard, but the film doesn't try nearly as hard so it's all kind of a pointless effort in the long run. They do try to return Freddy to his more-frightening-than-funny roots, but the whole reason Freddy became his own one-man-wisecracking-slasher type was because the scariness of Freddy was already starting to wear thin by the third film. I agree that Freddy is best presented when he's presented as scary, but there is something to be said for Englund's obvious maniacal glee in performing what the character became in later years. All in all, Englund's character actor instincts wins out over the serious Academy Award nominated actor hands down. Who knew?

So, without an interesting Freddy, what's left? Not much, apparently, as this film just retreads the best bits from previous films all to no real avail. There's an updated spinning-room effect (although they seemed to prefer actress-on-wires over room-on-gimble here), body bags in the school hallways make a reappearance and there's a few recycled lines from the original movie. There's so much unoriginality going on in here that it's hard to build up any sort of suspense whatsoever - it's all just a matter of counting the minutes before someone finally gets killed and, even then, it's a let-down because the hallmark of the series is also missing...

Yes, we already discussed it's not an adequate Freddy on this go 'round, but the other thing missing is the surrealistic (sometimes disturbing, sometimes sickeningly clever) nightmares. The franchise became known for it's imagination regarding the eventual offing of its young cast, but this film avoids any sort of creativity and instead just gives you a few bad CGI moments and cliched camera tricks and - presto - that counts as a nightmare. Even on a shoestring budget, New Line was able to come up with some pretty crazy and highly imaginative set-pieces for its past nightmares and it seems to show the utter lack of interest that this film has in that it can't even muster up enough desire to show some sort of ingenuity in the nightmare department. If anything, today's technology should be able to help indulge in even the craziest of ideas, but sadly, it's all lacking here. It serves as a bit of interesting irony that even with the greatest of tools at their disposal to unleash the most insane corners of one's imagination, this film is dead-set on being as lethargic as possible. I guess "reimagining" is a bit of a misnomer since it appears everyone's imagination on this film is atrophied.

Speaking of atrophied, how about the rest of that cast, huh? While I'm always glad to see Clancy Brown in just about anything, we see that he's no John Saxon here (a sentence I never thought I'd type). Clancy Brown is an awesome actor who can bring just as much intensity to a role as Haley, but here he's wasted as the town sherriff who seems to not have much to do besides chase his own kid all over town. Then there's Kyle Gallner as Quentin Smith - Kyle's pretty much a requisite standard on almost any modern day horror film, so his appearance here is not much of a surprise. Then there's Katie Cassidy as Kris - admittedly, she's very pretty to look at and her character dominates the beginning of the film, but since she's marginally interesting and such an improvement over Rooney Mara as Nancy, of course the filmmakers kill her off pretty quickly. And that leads us to Rooney Mara - our Nancy of this installment...

What a letdown. Apparently, reimagining Nancy consists of making her uninteresting, unnecessary and really just sort of peripheral in the whole film. She's Freddy's favorite, but it's anyone's guess as to why. Mostly she just mopes through the film, draws some "tortured" art and seems to mumble a lot of her dialogue. You don't much really care for her and you don't have much invested in her, so you could really care less if she lives or dies throughout the whole venture. While there was so much debate over the casting of Freddy in this film, I guess there wasn't as much effort put towards figuring out why Heather Langenkamp's portrayal of Nancy worked in the original. In the original film, you don't really suspect Nancy to become a major player in the film, but she is there from nearly the beginning and once our attention turns towards her, we're with her till the end. This is a credit as much to Langenkamp's original portrayal as much as it is to Craven's deliberately subtle introduction of her. However, subtlety is also not allowed on this film, so instead we get a mumbling, doesn't-need-to-be-here character and that makes this film all the more frustrating to watch.

I know, I know... At this point, you're going to complain and say I'm a fanboy and that if I don't like the remake, then I should just not watch it. To that I say: you're right. I enjoyed the original films and I have enough of a radar to know when I'm just not going to enjoy something, but I guess it just irritates/fascinates me that with all the input that goes into making a movie, you can still end up with one as seemingly DOA as this one is. You know how it is: if you see a good movie, you may tell one person; if you see a bad movie, you know you'll tell at least ten people. My hope is that this remake won't throw off people who were unimpressed by this movie and subsequently write-off the whole franchise. Sure, the original franchise made its own mistakes along the way as well, but there are some really creative sequences to be had and some really interesting ideas going on in the original films. The bottom line is: don't let the diluted nature of this remake sour your opinion on the whole idea. Even if you have to laugh at the overt 1984 nature of the original movie, I still guarantee you'll find a moment or two that's more distrubing than virtually everything you've seen in this movie.

In the meantime, let's just say that if you haven't seen the original "Nightmare on Elm Street", don't worry... You're in good company because the people who made this film haven't seen it either...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 29, 2014 12:32 PM PDT

Ice Spiders
Ice Spiders
DVD ~ Patrick Muldoon
16 used & new from $5.95

2.0 out of 5 stars America's Newest WMD: Giant F'ing Spiders..., April 11, 2011
This review is from: Ice Spiders (DVD)
This film stars Vanessa Williams, but not THAT Vanessa Williams. It stars someone else named Vanessa Williams and not the one who sang the "Colors of the Wind" song and was on "Ugly Betty". That little nugget of information aside, "Ice Spiders" concerns the goings-on at a ski resort that also happens to share property with a secret government facility that is trying to genetically engineer giant spiders for use in military applications (apparently, as many a bad sci-fi film will attest to, we have learned that the government is constantly spending money on trying to make giant versions of otherwise normal animals. The military doesn't spend money on lasers, bullets, missiles, tanks, planes or helicopters anymore - no, it's giant spiders, scorpions, snakes, alligators, sharks or octopi.) For reasons best known only to the highest brass in military intelligence, these giant mutations are guarded by the very worst the military has to offer and the biggie-sized creatures promptly escape and proceed to go on a rampage, thereby providing us with a movie full of inept reactions to giant CG critters.

No need to fear, though... When the military fails to reign in their wacky science projects, the resistance movement to the giant "Ice Spider" invasion is led by none other than Not-That-Vanessa-Williams (who does not get naked) and our other lead character: `Dash' Dashiel. Yesh, hish name ish `Dash' Dashiel. `Dash' is a former Olympic-caliber skier who, due to a knee injury, now teaches skiing at the resort (presumably, a fate shared by most has-beens and never-weres from the Olympics.) As is expected, his chance at redemption comes later in the film when he has to out-ski various renegade spiders that are out to make a meal of random resort-goers. Honestly, there's not much that happens in this film besides various resort-goers being terrorized by giant spiders that pick them off as they come down the slopes (apparently, no one seems too fazed by giant spiders on the ski slopes - judging by the amount of skiers that happen to just ski right into the maw of a giant spider.) Oh, and it's probably a good time to mention that this film features barely passable CG, so a good amount of laughter comes from seeing horribly rendered giant spiders jump on entirely clueless skiers.

Anyways, the hapless/hopeless army guys of this film proceed to not really control the problem despite superior firepower and it's up to the ski team - led by `Dash' - to save the day in a highly unlikely fashion. This little underdog moment could be the film's comment that sheer ingenuity and guts will win out over adversity as opposed to superior firepower and the full support of the U.S. military and science community, but that's assuming this film has some sort of purpose other than showcasing crappy computer animation. Mostly, I think this sociological comment is an accidental side effect from the writers spending only about 20 minutes crapping out this screenplay (after all, they say that enough monkeys locked in a room with typewriters will eventually type out the complete works of William Shakespeare. Personally, I don't really care for a monkey's regurgitation of the Bard - however, I am interested in viewing a simian's take on "Ice Spiders"! Maybe some Giant Apes will show up and wreck shop on a few Ice Spiders... Maybe the Giant Apes win the war against the Ice Spiders by hurling feces, eating bananas and wearing cute little diapers that make them look a little more human... Who knows? I'm just saying it'd probably be more interesting than what they did end up going with.)

This film features a highly-annoying kid who attends the ski resort to practice for the Olympics. He's cocky and a real jerk, however, he is never eaten by spiders - which makes the movie kind of a wash, as these kind of characters only exist solely to be eaten by ice spiders. To have this type of character survive is a giant middle finger to the audience, but again, it's a movie about ice spiders. What kind of payoff can you expect that asks you to believe that a giant military research facility is right next door to a highly popular ski resort? It's like building an amusement park right in the middle of a former nuclear test site - sure, it's primo land and you can get it for a song, but having the bulk of your park attendance go home with radiation poisoning is probably PR suicide.... But I digress...

The ice spiders are eventually caught and/or destroyed, but not before several secondary characters get killed by them. The movie ends with no real logical explanation of what the spiders would be used for (according to the movie, they would be deployed in Iraq... but that's about as far as it goes towards an explanation. Adapting the spiders to the cold seems unnecessary considering the abundant lack of ice, snow and heavily-occupied ski resorts in Iraq. Really, it makes me wonder how much research the military does before blowing gobs of taxpayer money on ridiculous defense measures.) Also unclear is how the spiders escaped the military installation in the first place as well as exactly how they survive the immense cold. The movie also makes a big deal about a giant frost warning, but most of the characters run around in ski pants and t-shirts... except for the military dudes - they run around bare-chested in bulletproof vests (sort of like refugees from bad mid-80's power rock bands), so really, no one seems too worried about the bitter cold and it doesn't really seem to matter. The movie ends with some odd flirting between 'Dash' and Not-That-Vanessa-Williams and, even though more than half of the resort was eaten, everyone's in a good mood and our two main characters plan a romantic date. Many laughs ensue and the filmmakers wrongfully assume that there's a desire for an "Ice Spiders" sequel.

The End.

Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates
Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates
by Martin Caidin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.99
129 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Amazing Ford Trimotor Airplane... oh, and Indiana Jones... sort of..., April 7, 2011
If you ever wanted to read a flight manual for a Ford Trimotor, here's your chance. In fact, this book shouldn't be called "Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates", it should be called "The Amazing Ford Trimotor and the People Who Fly It" because it's a sad state of affairs when Indy is only guest-starring in his own book and is playing second fiddle to an airplane.

Caidin takes over from McGregor in the continuing literary adventures of Indiana Jones and manages to poop out two of the least-interesting adventures of the series (this and "The White Witch"). In fact, this particular book reads like it was already written before Caidin got the assignment from Lucasfilm to write an Indy novel and he just decided to polish this turd and throw in Indy here and there so it could become a part of the series. It's an honest observation, considering Indy doesn't act anything like Indy throughout the whole story (Caidin depicts Indy as more an ersatz espionage agent as well as some kind of amateur aviation engineer genius who is prone to anger and seems to be five steps ahead of everybody so there's really no suspense.)

The whole archeological angle of the book is disregarded fairly early on (seriously, Caidin tosses out the ancient cube subplot near the beginning of the book - which begs the question: why does the rest of this story even need an archaeologist?) The first 200 pages of this 300 page story is devoted to describing airplanes and aviation and when the author isn't describing these two things, then he's having the characters stand around and discuss those two things in long-winded exposition. There's a lot of standing around and talking in this book... like, a lot-a lot... like, way too much... All the action seems to happen somewhere else and then the characters just get together and describe what just happened (sort of like when a film doesn't have the budget to show you an epic battle, so they just have the characters on-screen describe it instead. However, this is a book and not a film, so why Caidin can't describe some interesting action scenes is anybody's guess.)

After brief allusions to action, it's straight back to talking about more airplanes and aviation. Supposedly, there's a villain in this story, but it's not like you'll care because the author doesn't seem to care either. Caidin describes the entire motivation for the "Sky Pirates" in one throwaway chapter in very boring detail, but then wraps it up quickly so we can get back to reading more about an f'ing airplane. If I ever see a Ford Trimotor in real life, I will punch it in its face because of this book. The villain's motivations don't really matter much in this story because the chapter that describes it seems so out-of-place that it's like the author was forced to explain it without really wanting to. So, put together a boring villain, an Indy-that's-not-Indy and a technical breakdown of an airplane with every single inch and component of which described in lovingly agonizing detail - BOOM - you've got "Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates" (the title of which is the only interesting thing about this book.)

At the end of the day, this book has an interesting concept and it's infuriating that nothing really comes of it. Perhaps if Rob McGregor or Max McCoy (McGregor authored the Indy series before Caidin while McCoy authored the books after Caidin) had a crack at writing an Indy novel with this concept, we may have seen something worthwhile. As it stands (although both Caidin entries rate at the bottom of the series), "Sky Pirates" is actually the absolute bottom of the barrel considering that it's so far removed from the source material (that is: an Indiana Jones adventure). Like many other readers, you may be wondering why exactly Indy is even in this story - there's little to no archaeology, there's barely any action and there's no semblance of the character we've come to know over the course of four films and McGregor's previous six novels. He just doesn't need to be here and, in my opinion, this makes for a bad Indy adventure.

Look, here's the deal: the Indy novels are not profound, but they are a fun escape and (generally) a quick read. McGregor's novels had interesting concepts and he kept a smooth pace throughout most of his novels while keeping a nice balance between archaeology and action sequences. Caidin's novels (particularly "Sky Pirates") require almost Herculean effort to sit down and read. Suddenly, your easy-breezy summer read just became a chore and that's not what these books should feel like. To be quite honest, you could skip Caidin's entries in the series and move straight from Rob McGregor's novels to Max McCoy's novels without missing much....

...unless you have some totally unnatural obsession with a Ford Trimotor like Martin Caidin does...

Final Ratings:

0 out of 5. This isn't a book, it's a flight manual. All it needs are some schematics and I could pretty much build and operate a Ford Trimotor in my backyard. I don't want to, but with all the information imprinted in my memory by reading this flight manual, I could do it in my sleep.

A 1 out of 5. There are brief moments where Indiana Jones is mentioned and I get excited... then there's more blah-blah-blah about the airplane and my excitement is dead and buried.

Another 1 out of 5. The only thing I recommend about this book is throwing it into the spinning propellers of a Ford Trimotor.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2012 4:59 PM PDT

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