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Be Cool (2005)
There's a line in Be Cool that sums up the whole film for me. Stephen Tyler shows up and, upon seeing Uma Thurman, says, "Look at how those legs come together and make an ass out of themselves!" It's a cringe worthy, groan inducing, forced line that tries to be hip and cool and clever. But it isn't, and neither is this movie. There are a number of little "aren't they clever?" lines and scenes and they all, without exception, flop.
When Travolta and Thurman get up and dance it's supposed to evoke the twist contest from Pulp Fiction, but it's nowhere near as stylish and evocative. Worse, it doesn't really add to the overall plot (of which there is very little). The Pulp Fiction scene was a crucial part of the story, full of tension and desire, but here it seems it's only done so the viewer will say, "Hey! That's just like the Pulp Fiction scene! Aren't they clever?"
I hate characters like Vince Vaughn's jive talking fool, and the other gangsters are just stupid. Worst of all is Travolta as he sleepwalks through this role, looking older than his character should be. He and Thurman display almost none of the chemistry they had in Pulp Fiction. When the two of them come together, they make an ass out of themselves.
Hey! Did you catch that last line? Isn't it cool and hip and clever? No, it's not, and neither is this film. Watch Get Shorty again if you want to see Travolta in an entertaining movie. Not this. It's definitely not cool.
À nos amours (1983)
Notable, yet overlooked piece of French cinema
For many, the lack of a defined storyline is maddening, often resulting in a less than satisfying experience. Almost stream-of-consciousness in its approach, Maurice Pialat's À Nos Amours does not appear to have much story structure, but the story is most definitely there and is related with a subtlety not often found in modern film.
Bonnaire's portrayal of Susanne is brilliant (as others have said), and her almost wistful sadness permeates the performance. In one scene, her father (played by Pialat) says, "You never smile anymore," indicating the transformation of Susanne from innocence to experience. The men in her life are shown only for the time she is with them. There is neither introduction upon their arrival nor explanation as to their departure. Pialat uses this method to show Susanne's lack of emotional investment in these temporary romances.
The only men who do return are her father, her brother, and Luc, her one real love. It is when she is with these men that she shows her true self, rather than the detached uncaring girl who sleeps around in an effort to replace them. The dialogue drives this film. There is little music, save the inspired use of Klaus Nomi's "The Cold Song". The sad wailing of Nomi's pseudo-operatic vocal against the opening credits of Susanne in the pulpit of a boat is a wonderful moment.
Long out of print, this film is now available on DVD. It is deserving of a look by the discerning cinephile who may have missed it 25 years ago.
Nancy Drew (2007)
I took my 10-year-old daughter to see Nancy Drew over the weekend and found myself thoroughly entertained. First off, it was clean, and I mean by my standards. The majority of kids' movies today are full of crude toilet humor and gross-out jokes to elicit cheap laughter from the pre-teen crowd. Nancy Drew is smarter than that, however, and the humor is subtle and clever.
The title role is played with a refreshing vivaciousness by Emma Roberts, who is perky and polite without ever becoming annoying. Unlike The Brady Bunch Movie, where the anachronistic characters are jeered and ridiculed, Nancy's style is treated with respect and dignity. It's a great moment when the LA "style-conscious" girls with their Paris Hilton streetwalker attire are dismissed by the boutique owner, while Nancy, in her penny loafers and homemade Butterick pattern dress, is embraced. This movie shuns the we-need-to-enlighten-this-wholesome-girl tack so many Hollywood movies take. Nancy remains true to herself and her values throughout.
The mystery is just tense enough at times to be engaging. There were several suspenseful moments where my daughter nervously grabbed my arm, but there were no gratuitous shock scenes. It's all based on tension and mood and is a lot of fun. The supporting cast is good, particularly Marshall Bell as the creepy caretaker. There are some great cameos by Eddie Jemison, Chris Kattan and Bruce Willis and many moments that will make adults smile.
This film deserves better ratings than some have given it. Not only was I glad not to be dragged to yet another computer animated film where talking animals burp and pass gas all over the place, but I was also very entertained. Had I been there without a child, I still would've enjoyed the movie. This is one DVD that will have my daughter's name on it under the Christmas tree.
The Young Stranger (1957)
Rebel Without A Cause meets Leave It To Beaver
Imagine a version of Rebel Without A Cause written by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher with Tony Dow in the lead role. That's about what you get in this tale of teenage angst set in Beverly Hills. James MacArthur is Hal Ditmar, a high schooler with a crew cut, a letter jacket and a jalopy. His father (James Daly) is a movie producer and his mother (Kim Hunter) makes dinner in pearls and a stylish dress a la June Cleaver. But Hal isn't happy, so he goes to the movies and puts his feet on the seat in front of him. When he gets thrown out, a minor scuffle ensues and he pops the theater manager (Whit Bissell) in the mouth.
Police Sgt. Shipley (James Gregory) takes Hal to the station where he resists in the most benign fashion. This "hooliganism" (as Shipley refers to it) is the focus of the tension in this film. Not that punching an adult is nothing, but it's hardly the weighty societal crisis that this film portrays it to be, particularly given the antiseptic Hal, whose rebellion consists of driving too slowly in traffic and not eating his milk and cookies, yet still coming to the family dinner table in a coat and tie. His language even gets a bit coarse as he complains that the police will probably send him to the "crummy gas chamber." Golly gee whiz, Beave!
Good performances by Bissell and the ever-engaging Gregory give the film some weight, but it's still pretty tame, almost flirting with melodrama at times. It would be nice if this were the extent of all juvenile delinquency, but even by Eisenhower-era standards this is hardly worthy of the turmoil it causes. It almost comes off as hyper-propaganda...like a Reefer Madness for delinquency ("Ah, reckless youth, with your fast roadsters and your rumble seats!") It may have been hard hitting and relevant in 1957, but it's merely anachronistic and just a tad quaint in the 21st century.
Tanner on Tanner (2004)
A cult classic in the creators own minds
Altman is very proud of the fact that people in his movies talk over each other, because, he says, people do that in life. Well, people also cough, burp, go off on tangents, etc. The point is that just because people actually do something doesn't make it compelling cinema. That's one issue.
The bigger issue is that this just isn't a very clever or direct or hitting or relevant satire, in 1988 or 2004. Garry Trudeau is still living in the 1960s and thinks everyone except a small core of Republican elected officials is a 60s-style hippie liberal. I mean the guy still trots out Zonker in his strip - a character that is a complete anachronism, yet Trudeau still employs him as if he is representative of a large stripe of American youth.
Don't get me wrong. I am a conservative, but I'm not saying that this is bad because it's got a liberal bent. It could take a liberal tack and be funny and relevant, but it's not. It is mainly a vanity piece with a bunch of prominent celebrity liberals (including the odious, repellent Ron Reagan, Jr.). At times it feels unscripted, and the rest of the time it has a snarky air of self-importance and "aren't we oh-so-clever?"-ness.
Someone said that this show insists it has a cult following. I think its cult status is more wished-for than actual. I'm certain there are two or three people out there who taped all the original episodes in 1988 and still have them, but if that is the standard, then every show ever aired is a cult classic to some degree. If Tanner didn't have the names Altman and Trudeau attached, it would be another forgotten HBO production from the 1980s. Instead, it's presented as hard-hitting, incisive political commentary from guys who are at the top of their game. The reality, however, is about as far from that as possible. Pat Paulsen's presidential satire is more relevant than Tanner ever was, and he's been dead for a decade.
Staying Alive (1983)
If John Rambo were a ballerina...
It's not without a bit of irony that the Broadway production in this movie is described as, "a journey through Hell." Certainly many members of the audience had a profound sense of such a journey merely by watching this film.
Has any actor in recent memory had more distinct highs and lows than John Travolta? Compare Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy, Grease and Pulp Fiction with Perfect, Battlefield Earth, Moment by Moment and Two of a Kind. Staying Alive definitely belongs in the latter group. It really does a disservice to the original film.
SNF was a great story of a young, dead-end kid escaping not only his surroundings, but also his restrictive attitudes. By the end of that film, Tony was a dramatically different person. It's a shame to think that this is where he ended up.
There is no real catharsis in Staying Alive. Tony is an unsympathetic prick throughout the film and actually gets REWARDED for such behavior by becoming the toast of Broadway. OK, he does start acting a bit more human to Cynthia Rhodes' character, but only because he got smacked down by Finola Hughes. He's still very self-centered and completely without redemption. Honestly, he's like a refined version of the original disco punk Tony Manero rather than the maturing adult we saw at the end of Saturday Night Fever.
Where are all of the important characters from the original film, particularly Stephanie? There's an obligatory shot of the 2001 Odyssey disco and a quick visit to the old house, but this film mostly discards the original movie in lieu of a slick 80s cheeseball full of Flashdance inspired images and a Rambo-ish makeover for Travolta. To Stallone, subtlety is a dirty word.
Speaking of Stallone, he needs to stay away from directing, particularly anything that deals with tender emotion. There are some outright flubs that made it into the final cut, including one where Travolta and Hughes are walking up a set of stairs before hailing a carriage. It is so obvious that they were standing on a mark prior to the scene, making it look stilted and fake, just like the rest of the movie.
The only good performance is from Cynthia Rhodes who does a wonderful job as Manero's oft-jilted girlfriend. There's a scene where Tony is trying to patch up their relationship and a single tear falls from Rhodes' eye. It's a brilliant moment in a crap film.
Oh, and look for Kurtwood Smith during the opening credits as the director of the show for which Tony's auditioning. It's kind of cool to see him in an early bit part.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Yet Another Attempt to Deconstruct Western Civilization
The more I think about Kingdom of Heaven, the more I dislike it. There's plenty of short-term annoyance here, but the deeper, subtle message is truly offensive.
First of all is the leading man. Edward Norton plays a king who wears a mask for the entire film, and even he has more varied expression than Orlando Bloom. I swear, Bloom has ONE facial expression, whether he's in heavy combat or wooing the Queen of Jerusalem or wandering through the desert...his face NEVER changes. Keanu Reeves has more range than this guy!
Bloom plays Balian, a nominal Christian who spouts secular humanist dogma and is more opposed to Christians than Muslims. He starts as a blacksmith, but after less than five minutes with his estranged noble father (Liam Neeson in little more than a cameo), he is able to defeat multiple trained soldiers. Why are the soldiers after him? Well, he murdered a priest, but that's OK, because he was an evil priest...one of many in this film. There's also the young scribe who screams, "Killing an infidel is not murder, it's the path to heaven!" and the priest in Jerusalem who doesn't give a damn about the people (their impending death is "God's Will") and is ready to immediately convert to Islam when faced with his own death.
In fact most Christians in this movie are shown as evil, money-grubbing warmongers who have no concern for others. There is not one, NOT ONE Muslim portrayed as anything but noble. The only Christians who ARE shown in a positive light are Bloom, Jeremy Irons, and others who espouse the notion that one "follow the heart" rather than the teachings of the Saviour. This movie is meant to appeal to the deconstructionists out there who see white western Christians as the root of all evil in the world.
As for the much-ballyhooed siege warfare scene, it's not all that interesting. The battle scenes in Lord of the Rings were far more visceral and exciting, and that was a FANTASY MOVIE! And how many more times do we have to see hand-to-hand combat in slow motion while a somber track with a wailing female vocal drowns out the sounds of battle. It's already a cliché.
The poor Queen of Jerusalem, Sibylla, has almost no role other than to seduce Balian, but there is no chemistry there and Bloom still maintains his thousand yard stare. Once they have their night, all she does is sit in her chamber, brooding and staring out at the city. There are at least six cuts to her sitting there, saying nothing, looking out her window. It's impossible to care for her or to hope that she and Bloom wind up together.
The only character worth remembering in the whole mess is Saladin, played with great aplomb by Ghassan Massoud. It's a shame that an equally engaging actor wasn't chosen for Balian, but since Ridley Scott's apparent motive was to lionize the Muslims and demonize the Christians, he obviously chose correctly.
I was hoping for a fair treatment of the Crusades. What I got was the liberal complement to older movies that treated all Muslims as evil and all Christians as saints. There were good and bad guys on both sides, but Scott is trying to right the scale by going severely left rather than present an historically accurate film. In doing so, he fails. All he did was blow millions on a big budget piece of political correctness. The director of Blade Runner and Alien should be ashamed.
Chasing Holden (2003)
Both Boring AND Sanctimonious!
If I had a dime for every adolescent who thinks of his/her reading of The Catcher in the Rye as the cathartic experience that gave him/her a true sense of introspection, I could buy every existing copy of this movie and burn the batch in a nice bonfire. This movie smacks of the pseudo-intelligent ramblings of a third year English major who is convinced that the angst he feels is unique.
Movies like this have been done to death. From the brilliant, misunderstood youth to the rich and powerful unfeeling parent to the smart and tough, yet sensitive and understanding authority figure, this movie is a mishmash of clichéd characters and tired plot lines. Even the northeastern prep school where the boys all wear blazers with crests and the girls all wear plaid skirts and kneesocks is hackneyed. It's all old news.
The worst part about this film is the overwhelming superciliousness that permeates the production. It's as if the writer and director have discovered this obscure, brilliant manuscript that has so affected them, and they feel the need to enlighten the world. Even the title comes across with a kind of smug exclusivity, as if to say, "only the truly illuminated, those who know the name Holden Caulfield, will understand and appreciate what we are conveying here!"
This film is neither intelligent nor edgy nor insightful. It's got a fanboy quality - a sycophantic tone - so much so that it almost seems the people behind it are trying to do something more than tell a story...like make a "serious" film about youthful angst that indie film geeks will coo over in the local alternative newspaper. Guys, you can have it.
If any show needs a DVD release, this is it
It's a testament to the strength of the writing on this show that 5 years later people still bemoan its cancellation. This was the next to last show I watched regularly on network television (the last was Freaks & Geeks which has finally been released on DVD, thank God!).
This was a brilliant show. I tried to explain it to a friend and failed. The stars had an abundance of chemistry and the show was a great balance of comedy, romance and drama. I was hoping Bravo would show it on "Brilliant but Canceled" or Lifetime would show a marathon or something, but to no avail. Now I'm hoping for a DVD release.
Maybe Cupid fans should petition Rob Thomas.
Just One of the Guys (1985)
I never miss a Clayton Rohner movie!
I don't want to ruin this brilliant movie for anyone who hasn't seen it on Comedy Central (where it runs daily), nor do I wish to be put on the imdb blacklist, so there may be spoilers ahead that could obliterate any enjoyment you may glean from this fine example of American comedic cinema. You have been warned.
When you watch an 18 year old movie and you realize that the only cast member who went on to make a name for herself is Sherilyn Fenn, then you know you're at the shallow end of the talent pool. Shot in the filmmaking mecca of Scottsdale, Arizona, "Just One of the Guys" is about a self-proclaimed hottie who is convinced that no one takes her journalistic pursuits seriously because she's a beautiful girl. Therefore, Terri (who, fortunately, has one of those androgynous names) becomes Terry and goes to a different high school (while her parents are, fortunately, out of town for two weeks).
The scene where her brother teaches her `how guys act' is one of the most embarassing moments captured on recent film, but it doesn't hold a candle to whitebread Rick Morehouse's spiel about how much he loves James Brown. It's enough to make you want to run into the next room!
Rick is played by Clayton Rohner, he of "E.A.R.T.H. Force" fame ("We're murdering the sky!"), and he is a dweeb. This is one of those movies where a change of clothes moves you from geek to ultra-cool, but Rick is such a nozzle that a Christian Dior wardrobe and a new Ferrari wouldn't get him the girl in real life. Never mind that, because once this guy dons a pair of Levis and some Chams, he gains oodles of popularity AND grows a pair of church bells.
I think that William Zabka played the same guy in every film during the 80's. Compare his bully character here to his bully character in "The Karate Kid" or his bully character in "Back to School." When he and Rick duke it out, you know who's gonna win, because Rick's got a new hairdo, which equals fists of iron and buckets of fortitude.
The only good thing in this film is Buddy, Terri's little brother, especially when he plays off Terri's disco cheese college boyfriend. Joyce Hyser is totally unconvincing as a man. It is obvious she is a girl in drag. When she tries to convince Rick that she is a girl, he says, "Right, and I'm Cyndi Lauper!" (with the au in Lauper pronounced like the ou in ouch...what a tool!), so she rips open her shirt to show off a pair of D-cup bongos. Now, you're telling me that in a high school full of hormone crazed teenagers, not ONE boy noticed this guy was sporting a huge pair of knockers? Give me a break!
I only wish they had shown Rick dancing like James Brown, the way he claimed he had to act when he heard Mr. Dynamite. THAT would've been funny!
Rent this one only if you want to see Joyce Hyser's assets. Otherwise, wait for it to show up on Comedy Central. Again.
Christmas Rush (2002)
Definitely worth a look
I have to say that I enjoyed this movie, mainly because I like Eric Roberts.
Once again Eric transcends the material he is given. His sister may be more famous, but Eric is definitely more talented. I keep waiting for him to land the role that will showcase his talent to a mass audience. If you want to see him at his best, watch "Star 80."
It was refreshing to see Erika Eleniak play a Christian who didn't apologize for nor tiptoe around her faith. Neither was she an in-your-face fanatic. She was much like most Christians - faithful and trusting. The movie gets high marks from me for this alone. After decades of seeing caricatures of Christians in movies, it's nice to see a regular person who just happens to be a believer.
I have to agree that the bit with the go karts in the sewer was hokey, especially since they seemed to move about 10mph. Why Dean Cain chose to chase in the 3rd go kart rather than just run them down on foot is beyond me. This has to be the slowest chase scene since "The Jerk" when Steve Martin tried to escape from M. Emmett Walsh in a car with no wheels. If the ending hadn't been what it was, the go kart scene might have been too much, but "Christmas Rush" redeemed itself in the climax where Roberts' character was forced to make a tough decision. Roberts brings a human side to his character that seals the movie very well.
No, it's not a classic and, yes, it is "Die Hard in a mall" (just like "Air Force One" is "Die Hard on a plane"), but for a quick seasonal action film to watch on basic cable on a weeknight, you could do worse. I mean, you could be paying seven bucks to go see Rob Schneider in "The Hot Chick." That ought put it heavily into perspective.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
I thought it was a comedy
No joke, I spent more time laughing at this movie than anything else. When Josh is crying and going, "Why was it messing with my stuff?" or something, I was rolling! Scary? Nah.
I know that we're talking about three suburban slackers who have led such pampered lives (they're going to film school, i.e. they don't want to work for a living) that they don't know their collective asses from a hole in the ground, but anyone with a GRAIN of sense who is lost in the woods might decide to FOLLOW THE RIVER, especially since they walked in a circle one day. B-DUUUUHHHH!
Heather Donohue is one of the worst actresses in recent memory and rivals Tony Montana and Vincent Vega for most uses of a certain expletive within a 90 minute span. I'm sure her mother is quite proud that her vocabulary is so broad. And you can't blame this on a scriptwriter, because there apparently wasn't one.
This movie is a laugh riot! It's really funny to see three doofi (plural of doofus) get turned around in the woods and yell at each other because there are no more cigarettes, but it ain't scary...not by a long shot.
Red Dragon (2002)
Bigger Stars Do Not Mean A Better Picture
It is no secret that this picture was made before. Manhunter was a wonderful film with a marginal box office performance. In Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins brought star power and a chilling edge to Hannibal the Cannibal, so it is not surprising that an effort was made to capitalize on his popularity as the evil Dr. Lecter. However, Hopkins is not the only name in Red Dragon. This movie is loaded with first rate stars at every turn, including Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes and Harvey Keitel.
The interesting thing is that each of these individuals turns in a wonderful performance, but the movie as a whole is too polished and slick. Rewatching Manhunter shows the edginess and tension that permeated William Petersen's performance as Will Graham. Whether it was a director's decision or just the way he approached the role, Norton pays little attention to the mental hatchet job Lecter did on Graham. Petersen's Graham is a much more tortured soul and, although we don't see Lecter attack Graham in Manhunter, we see the lingering effect much more clearly.
Tom Noonan's portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde is more believable, simply because Fiennes is too good looking to be taken seriously as a "disfigured" man. Noonan is a very good character actor with an unusual look who fit the role better than leading man Fiennes. Although Fiennes is very good here, Noonan nailed the role in the earlier picture and is a tough act to follow.
Lecter has a much smaller role in Manhunter, but Brian Cox shows why he is one of Hollywood's most respected character actors. Hopkins reprises his portrayal of Lecter in Red Dragon and the good Doctor takes a more central role, but one would be pressed to say he was "better" than Cox.
Also, there is one absolutely atrocious performance in Red Dragon, that of Mary-Louise Parker in the role of Molly Graham. Her community theater-grade skills are exposed when surrounded by Norton and Keitel. She was a horrible casting decision.
Red Dragon is a good film, but it has been done before and done better. I would suggest the renting Manhunter and deciding for yourself. Even if you pick Red Dragon, you won't be disappointed with the earlier and, in my opinion, superior film.
One big gimmick
As I write this, Memento is listed as number 10 on IMDb's top 250. It is ahead of Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dr. Strangelove, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Lawrence of Arabia, The Graduate, Raging Bull, The Sting, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wizard of Oz, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Deer Hunter, Gone With the Wind, every Hitchcock movie, every Woody Allen movie, and every Kurosawa movie, except Seven Samurai, just to name a few.
To hear the people on this board tell it, Memento is the 21st century's Godfather or Citizen Kane. I rented this film because of all the high praise it received. What I was treated to was an average film with only one outstanding performance (Joe Pantoliano), enough plot holes to drive a Jaguar through, and a gigantic gimmick that is as essential to the film as the shark is to Jaws.
The movie is chopped into a number of scenes and shown in reverse. If one were to re-edit the film and show it front to back, it would be devoid of suspense. All the "cerebral puzzles" etc. would be gone. Even in its weird order, it's not all that deep. The director uses the sequencing and the protagonists's disorder to keep the viewer guessing. It's all a big trick, and by the end, the viewer is just relieved that it is over.
There may be real people who suffer from this inability to create new memories, but I highly doubt they are able to function effectively as Pearce's character did. Nor do they have a network of friends who help them function and fail to get them professional help, especially when they are on a homicidal vendetta.
Do not waste your time here. This movie has been rated highly by a bunch of people who mistake directorial sleight of hand for real movie magic. Rent any of the films I mentioned in the first paragraph. They actually deserve their praise.
The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
Helen Slater and her trailer park buddies travel all over south Texas after she accidentally shoots a local bully. In the process, every teenage girl in the area cuts her hair to look like Billie Jean. I walked into a truck stop in Alabama that had SIX copies of this in the movie rental section. A terrible movie, but it HAS to be seen! Buy a sixer of Old Mil and rent this movie along with Road House for a white trash double feature. PAAAAAARRRRRTTTTYYYYY!
Not much more than CGI pyrotechnics
I am convinced that George Lucas could film 2 1/2 hours of his dog running around Skywalker Ranch, title it "STAR WARS: Fido's Sunny Day," and a cadre of pasty faced adolescents of all ages would waste weeks of their lives lined up to see it.
The names "Star Wars" and "George Lucas" combined equal box office gold, no matter how rancid the actual film may be (See "The Phantom Menace" for a prime example), so don't let high ticket sales fool you. Neither should you be swayed by the high ratings on IMDB, a ballot box which the Star Wars faithful readily stuff. The bottom line is that this is not a terrible movie, but it doesn't even touch "Return of the Jedi," let alone the other superior Star Wars movies.
What we have here is a hastily written script that must conform to a pre-defined story line. Take this exact script, change the names and the references so that it falls outside the realm of Star Wars, and you have a straight-to-video release that the Sci Fi network wouldn't even show. But Lucas gave up on storylines long ago, figuring that one part Star Wars legacy plus two parts marketing hype plus three parts ILM wizardry equals one great movie. Wrong.
We have all these, of course. We have Anakin and Obi Wan and Yoda and C3PO and R2D2 (who is becoming less cute and more annoying with each picture), each of whom is clumsily shoved into his role. We have TV commercials and web sites and Happy Meals and enough toys, games, clothes, cups, etc to fill the Death Star three times over. And we have Computer Generated Images. We have CGI galore! We have spaceships and explosions and robotic armies and alien beings, all constructed solely from ILM pixels, out the wazoo. But the whole is an empty product. A soulless mess that looks more like a highly polished ripoff of other movies.
For example, the first part of the movie contains a high speed chase through the hover traffic of Coruscant. It looks as though Lucas lifted the traffic from "The Fifth Element" and the cityscape from "Blade Runner" (the cars are even referred to as "spinners," a direct reference to BR). There is one of the most lackluster, uninspired love stories ever filmed that could have been lifted from a hundred different movies. And the final scene (the only redeeming scene in the whole movie) smacks of "Gladiator." Maybe this is Lucas' tip of the hat to Ridley Scott, or maybe it's just lazy filmmaking by a director who knows he's going to make his money back 3 times over. I tend to side with the latter.
Something else that Lucas just doesn't seem to realize is that special effects are there to accentuate a movie, not to substitute for the traditional conventions of plot, dialogue, and well-rounded characters. There is a reason that fireworks displays rarely go more than a few minutes. They are beautiful and exciting and awe-inspiring in short doses, but after an hour of floral shells, they all begin to look the same and your neck begins to hurt from craning skyward and you start to think about going home and hitting the sack. The same can be said for movies. The computer generated effects begin to wear thin, especially when there is anything but an interesting story behind it. Lucas expects us to look at his handiwork and go, "Ooooh! Cool!" but we've seen a lot of this before, and after two hours it just ain't that cool anymore.
One last thing, there is one more movie left before "Star Wars" is supposed to take place, but there are enough plot holes left to be filled by three more movies, which does not bode well for the next film. I imagine 3/4 of the last Star Wars movie will be spent bridging gaping chasms between "Attack of the Clones" and "A New Hope" with awkward plotting and cheap devices. A perfect example is this: Anakin finds C3PO working on a moisture farm, the same farm that Luke is raised on. In fact, Owen and Beru are there as well. So how is it that 3PO doesn't recognize the farm when he and Artoo are sold in the original movie? Better yet, how come Owen doesn't recognize 3PO when the jawas bring him by to be sold? I'll bet 10 to 1 the droids get their memory erased or something equally cheap.
The bottom line is this is a better film than "The Phantom Menace," but that's no great feat, not by a long shot.
U2: Rattle and Hum (1988)
Much more professionally shot than the Red Rocks concert video (in which the inept cameramen kept shooting at a 45 degree angle and burned the camera lenses by aiming directly at the spotlights), but lacks the energy that made that one so much fun. Instead, we have a pompous group of Irish twits whose energy and ideals have been replaced with arrogance and obnoxiety. The only enjoyable part is when Larry Mullen talks about why he liked Elvis movies. The lowest point in the film has to be an insufferable scene where Bono reads his ham-handed blues song to BB King and King feels obliged to tell a self-proud Bono and the rolling cameras that "those sure are some heavy lyrics." Also look for Bono's on-stage rant about the Irish revolution. Bleah. Concert sequences are well filmed, but are typical arena rock fare. U2's performance of "Bad" at Live Aid beats the snot out of anything here. For die hard fans only.
How to damage a great movie
Great movies often make for disappointing sequels. No matter how wonderfully conceived a sequel is, the original tends to overshadow it, ultimately harming the second film. However, here we have a sequel that does the opposite - the sequel is so bad and does such a hatchet job on the original idea that it actually does damage to its predecessor! No small feat, that!
Highlander was a great film with an extremely tight screenplay. The movie wraps itself up neatly and leaves almost no opening for a sequel, so when the filmmakers were charged with a follow-up, they had a difficult task. What they did was chew up the first movie, defecate it into a film can, and thread it through a projector. What they got was Highlander II.
The immortals are not mystical earthly creatures, they're SPACEMEN! Connor McLeod looks 137 years old until some other spacemen visit him and then he's young and immortal again! And forget about dying if your head gets chopped off, because Sean Connery materializes! Never mind that he died in the 1300s in the first movie.
I tend to view Highlander as a single film. I discount the TV show and the sequels, especially this chunk of excrement. The mantra of the film is, "There can be only one!" Well, in my book, that one is Highlander. The others should have their heads removed.
Soup or Sonic (1980)
Chuck Jones at his WORST
This cartoon is amateurish in every sense of the word. Many people give it high marks because the Coyote finally "catches" the Road Runner, but the whole production is the work of a novice animation team (Jones notwithstanding). There is no continuity in this short. Granted, C/RR shorts all consist of a collection of 15 - 30 second vignettes, but they maintain a loose confederacy. In this one, there is no such feel.
The aminators took short cuts and it shows. For example, in one scene the Coyote STRADDLES a red rocket and lights it to chase the Road Runner, the rocket shoots away leaving just a collapsed shell and Wile E. plummets to the desert floor sitting SIDE SADDLE on the shell - a highly noticeable continuity error that one would NEVER see in earlier WB shorts. To compound it, in a later scene Wile E. again goes off a cliff and the SAME falling sequence (Wile E. side saddle on the rocket shell) is used. The problem is, there was no rocket when the Coyote went over the edge the second time.
The facial expressions are not genuine. The reactions to events and actions do not ring with the truth or the sardonic bite of earlier cartoons. Timing is non-existent. The orchestrations are not well sequenced with the on-screen action. There are so many problems here that space prohibits naming them all.
The C/RR cartoons are some of the greatest bits of comedic animation in cinematic history, but this one is terrible, and not just in relation to the earlier superior cartoons. Currently produced amination like Spongebob Squarepants and Johnny Bravo put this cartoon to shame. Jones would probably like to forget this one.
Too much FX, not enough story
As the Star Wars saga continues, each succeeding film has gotten more and more overblown with special effects and less and less concerned with plot and storytelling. One need only compare the far superior alien creatures in the original Star Wars cantina to the muppets that sang in Jabba's lair or the cutesy wutesy Ewoks in ROTJ to see a prime example of how Lucas has altered his saga to cash in on certain focus groups.
Now it's the end of the 20th century, and CGI is all the rage. I don't know how much Lucas spent on the computer animation for The Phantom Menace, but he's DAMN sure proud of it. Look at the setting shots of the city planet...four scenes of computer generated hover traffic. Look at Jar Jar Binks, a creature created totally out of CGI and concocted specifically to give 8 year olds a favorite play toy (it didn't work, BTW) See all the battle droids, marching in perfect CGI lockstep, signifying nothing.
By the time Lucas is through, Darth Vader will have a pet Fengojuli which looks remarkably like Hello Kitty and speaks like Bubbles of the Powerpuff Girls. Obi Wan will retreat to Tatooine, only to be taken in by the lovable CGI-created Winksnoozie tribe, a race of 3 foot high mini-kangaroo type people.
George Lucas has proven that his ego is too much, and that is why Peter Jackson has smoked him with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While Lucas was rewriting his latest chapter in the Star Wars marketing saga to appeal more to 14 year old N'Sync fans, Jackson was creating a solid trilogy of movies.
It is an insult to his earlier work to call this excuse for a movie "the beginning." More like, "the result."
Beach Babes from Beyond (1993)
Famous people's RELATIVES!
Patrick Swayze's BROTHER??? Charlie Sheen's UNCLE??? Sylvester Stallone's MOTHER??? John Travolta's BROTHER??? Batman's SIDEKICK??? What's not to love? All we need is Clint Howard, LaToya Jackson, and Ron Reagan to make it perfect.