Gabriel Arthur P.'s Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

The Void
The Void(2001)

This is an excellent film. The kind of b-grade movie that deserves to be given a-grade accolades, or what I call a "b-plus movie". These are the best kind of movies, actually, because the technical aspects not only of writing but also filming and effects all show an enormous amount of love and willpower on behalf of the entire crew and cast. There is a great deal of dedication on display, here, and thunderous applause is more than well-deserved. One of the sweetest, goofiest, finely detailed, well-executed joyrides I've ever sat through, "The Void", Starring @McDowellMalc. Bravo!

The Revenant
The Revenant(2015)
½

I feel sort of torn about this film. It's definitely a must-see, even for the squeamish - it'll put hair on your chest. But I haven't yet had the urge to watch it a second time and can't imagine what I would get out of watching it again. It just leaves such a strong impression that you're not likely to forget much of it any time soon. And the tale falls kind of flat at the end. Knowing there's that disappointing ending ahead doesn't exactly lend magnetism to the idea of sitting through it again, the entire (very long) thing, especially once all the surprises are gone. I dunno. I mean there's really not much bad to say about a film when the worst you can say about it is really just all the primordial, generic complaints about really great stories in general. I guess that's it. It's a really, really great story. It's superbly shot, choreographed, made up, costumed, everything. It's all just about perfect. But in the end the movie itself doesn't captivate me too well. However, if I held more of an avid interest in vast, snowy, American wildernesses or the time period of the 1820's (or Hugh Glass as a historical figure) perhaps this movie would be like a godsend. I mean it really is a breathtaking film. So I have to take into consideration that maybe it wasn't meant for me. And if I was the sort of person this film was meant for, "hoo doggie". And I honestly have a lot of respect for all of the choices that went into making this film. So, I have to give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The missing half star is because it just doesn't strike me as particularly re-watchable.

Jabberwocky
Jabberwocky(1977)
½

Ah, this is great. It's a bit beyond hilarious. Problem is, the whole movie's one long running gag about how tiresome and awful life was in the middle ages. If you can get along with that, you won't be disappointed by the end, you'll be doubled over and screaming with laughter.

Ladyhawke
Ladyhawke(1985)

This is the most qualified review I could ever possibly write. After having watched 1000s of other films across 30 years since I first watched this movie something like 100 times, I can say: Ladyhawke IS. THE. best film... ever made.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc)

"The Passion of Jehanne of Arc" is perhaps the greatest film I've ever watched. It's very close in technique and quality to the finest films ever made (I've seen several of these) but unlike any of those, I have watched or listened to (in the background, the silent film backed by Rickert Einhorne's inspired composition "Vox de Lumine") "The Passion" now some dozen times in the last two days. It is not just a triumph of cinema, it is so good that it is more like a mark of finish, where watching it is like breaking a tape at the end of an endless marathon, being done, and knowing that a struggle of importance is now over and that some spectacle of taste has gone behind.

The emission of faces from the lens seems endless at first, and is striking because it is so uncomfortable to be so close to so many subjects under such conditions, where the situation is both so tense and so pathetic at once. But you get used to being close to these endless faces because it is worthwhile seeing them. I cannot understand what autism or other mental fracture caused this film's contemporary critics to shout down the profound use of close-up shots, but I can comprehend that they probably lacked something in the mind that allows one to deal with the unexpected. Perhaps they should have never been born to become reviewers, because to me such condemnations resemble the person who enjoys the habit of spilling beans because they are better at picking them up than carrying them and as a side they more enjoy counting things than being useful. The over-intracted, puppet-like film critic who is out to suckle the teats of the professors at film school must really revel in a film such as this because it breaks so much convention but without falling from grace. If the film breaks convention and is miserable and not worth watching, it's not worth commenting on and it is not worth breaking your neck over spinning about how awful it was directed. But if the film breaks convention and is powerful and magnetizing such as "The Passion" is, then the ardently trained and quiet-minded film school stalwart has endless fodder to smirch the film with at equal proportion to the energy they have not spent on their own imagination.

It is not enough to call a film like this "ahead of its time" or even more aptly "ahead of the time" (meaning, "ahead of this time".) For a film like this it could even be said, and honestly, that "it should not have been made", and the statement need not even require clarification as to whether life and cinema would be better or worse in the film's absence. Both are directly implied and only a person of sufficient imagination can appreciate that level of criticism, can see the possibilities and understand the rapport. It is with such open-mindedness and such acceptance of both the good and bad in life that a simple observation can influence the lives of many people and yet remain nothing more than its original, simple roots all the while, and that is what this film is exactly.

Robots
Robots(2005)

This borrows heavily from "Metropolis" and "Toy Story" and it sucks. It dangles the possibility in front of you that you might be watching one of those cartoons that makes you feel good but then it doesn't do that for you. It just keeps dangling and you keep watching because the highly technical digital animation is sort of astounding. But the story has zero surprises. There's no reason to watch this movie all the way to the end. You can pick almost any moment in the story, while it's playing, and hit "stop" and just pretend that's where the producer decided to end it, and it won't make any damn difference. 2/5

You're Next
You're Next(2013)

Heh, this was a riot. Characters' actions rarely make sense, the kind of stuff where you yell at the screen going "why didn't you just--" and "why would they do that when they could always just--" but that's the stuff that screams are made of, right? Really badly written horror always relies on really stupid characters to screw themselves up. And this is some pretty well badly written horror. However, don't worry. This movie is a diamond not in the rough, but a diamond that you dug out of the bottom of a toilet full of somebody else's poops. And you clean all the poops off and there you go, it's a diamond. And the shiny, diamond part of this movie is the female main character or heroine. The movie laughs and stumbles over its own stupidity and she runs along tripping and fumbling in an attempt to help keep the movie on its feet the entire time. It's definitely worth watching at least one time. 4/5

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

This was funny and everything I expected it to be from the trailers. There aren't really many surprises in this film, even a very short trailer would quickly and easily ruin all the premises for you, so if you haven't seen a trailer for this in awhile (or ever) do yourself a favor and watch the film. Just funny enough to watch the whole thing and laugh several times. 4/5

A Scanner Darkly

This was both really interesting and really disappointing. I had heard a million great things about this movie, none of which made any sense, and still I didn't watch it. I hate watching any movie that everybody in the country is talking about because I hate watching any movie that I don't get to watch completely fresh and unprepared. So "A Scanner Darkly" got to sit around for, I dunno, a decade or so until I couldn't remember the last time somebody had mentioned it. I knew the basic premise: Keanu Reeves and some other actors get rotoscoped into some weird futuristic dystopia, hooray. It sounded pretty boring, actually. But in the intervening years I've grown to respect Keanu Reeves, and now I felt I could watch this movie with an even temperament. The film itself is one of those drug house movies. You know the ones, where there's a bunch of people doing drugs trying to live together. That's a genre, right? "Drug house movie"? Any ways, it's not too boring. It has a drop-off ending but you know what, it's Philip K. Dick and it's heart-touching in its sincerity. 4/5

Collateral
Collateral(2004)

This was an interesting Tom Cruise vehicle. It's just cerebral enough to hold my attention. It's just believable enough to keep me from hitting the "stop" button. All the action was filmed very well, all the driving was filmed just right as well. Everything was filmed just right. The production is really high quality of course, exactly what you expect from a film starring Tom Cruise, but also the camerawork was not shoddy. And shoddy camerawork can happen to anyone's film. What drags this film down is the cliches. Everything that happens is cliche. Not entirely formulaic, but enough that the cliches are all seated nicely in their rows in the theatre of formula and that it really gets very boring really quick. You watch because it's fascinating, not because it's entertaining. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion. 3/5

Signs
Signs(2002)

I think Shyamalan was going for a sort of stilted, stalky, wooden representation of 1950's film and 1950's rural American culture. Shyamalan's very tight lines and stark signals are almost Bauhaus compared to his earlier, far more organic Sixth Sense. Shyamalan would go on to try this mood again in "The Happening", but where Happening is a dark comedy Signs is just a meditation piece. It's a meditation on the imagery and the society of a certain time period in American history. It's really not that amazing, but it's very obvious and transparent as to its own nature. Also, when it's not awkward, it's just boring. If you don't find some deeper meaning in it, it's not very entertaining. 2/5

Rambo (Rambo IV)
½

I pulled this out of my brother's collection expecting to see the original First Blood sequel. I was disappointed to find that not only had somebody decided to revisit Rambo, but that they decided to do so fairly recently. But it was okay. Sylvester Stallone was basically as big as a house. I have no idea if that was prosthetics or if he actually pumped iron and engulfed calories on a daily basis to get to that size. The film wastes very little time. It's all done very closely in the spirit of the old trilogy. Some things make very little sense, which sucks because the old Rambo films had some decent-enough premise. The choices made by the characters in this newer film just beg for suspension of disbelief. But there's very little to do for that -- some missionaries want to go deep into a very hostile jungle in Myanmar. They claim to be prepared for the worst, and that they've done this half a dozen times. None of this actually seems to be true, so why would they make the claim? The film goes on to get pretty well tawdry and gory, but we expect that out of a film that's fighting hard to live up to the "glory" of the single most iconic and recognizable 80's action movie. Ultimately, Rambo doesn't disappoint. 3.5/5

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump(1994)

I can't believe I went back and actually attempted to watch this decrepit piece of shit. People must have been so extremely head in the clouds pie in the sky high off their asses during the 90's that something this stilted, creepy, and retarded could march past to such acclaim. It pains my heart when I hear "Gumpisms" quoted from this movie. And it deeply saddens me that something as wonderful as a wounded veteran's support organization could be somehow premised upon this movie or any character within it. I wish any wounded veteran would watch any other movie that covers that topic of wounded veterans but this one. I know there aren't a hell of a lot of choices out there, but for crying out loud, people, everybody, all Americans, just stop watching Forrest Gump. It's that shit the robots pump into your brain inside the Matrix. And stop watching The Matrix, too. Just, leave those fossils behind. Stop revisiting them and resetting your brain's developmental levels back to the 90's. Your hormones can't keep up so stop punishing yourself, stop punishing all of us by proxy, and move on. I'm all too happy to give this movie the fewest stars possible just because it deserves it. Get out of my face, Forrest Gump. Never come back. Half of a star out of five.

The Ring Two
The Ring Two(2005)
½

As a fan of the first film, I was really interested in seeing the sequel. I never got around to it because any time any one tried to explain it to me, I'd get too confused to remember to even look it up. That's because when I say "the original" most people think I'm referring to "The Ring" and not "Ringu". And people are stupid. Any ways, I was glad that with every scene, we're given re-treatments of the first film's premises shown through with the same quality photography and the same straightforward acting. It's almost -- almost -- as good as the first. It's weird in its own weird way. I don't think it's really worth watching if you didn't deeply enjoy the first film. In that sense, it's a traditional sequel. Not a "Star Trek" kind of sequel where it stands on its own, or a "Halloween" kind of sequel where it fails miserably. It's definitely in the goldilocks zone where all good sequels exist. 3.5/5

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)
½

I can't believe I went back and watched this thing like twenty years later. This is the only movie that can do bullet-time, full-circle stop-motion, or vertical lines of fading green text without being an overt reference to "The Matrix", because it actually is "The Matrix". When you watch it, you'll feel like you've been sucked into some really cheap cliche but that's because here it is, every innovation in the last twenty years of action filmmaking in one little capsule. It's like finding out that eggs and ham isn't really a traditional breakfast, or that diamonds aren't really traditional engagement ring stones, that somebody made that shit up so recently it's barely had time to collect social security. Well "The Matrix" isn't even old enough to legally drink, yet. 2.5/5

Adaptation
Adaptation(2002)

I went in thinking this was going to be one of those movies where an author writes things and the things they write come true. Like Simon, the chalk drawing boy but shedding hair into a typewriter. You have to forgive me, but the blurb printed on the back of the movie's case is very misleading in that respect. It's not about an omniscient author, it's nothing but a very long thought piece on nebbishism. It's almost comedic in some spots. The first third starts off and stays very boring, and then it suddenly dawns on you that the movie is either going to end abruptly or it's going to go on for a very long time. You almost feel a second wind coming on, as your brain fires up trying to figure out and predict how exactly the author expects to save this sinking ship of boredom in an interesting way. The author does not manage to do so. The film just gets cheaper and cheaper as the ship sails further out into the harbor. It comes across as overdeveloped and yet completely unfulfilled. It tries to say profound things but chokes on a glass of its own piss. You start off feeling like maybe you've finally got the actor Nicholas Cage figured out -- maybe there is some method to his choices of what to act in, and maybe there is some tow line that drags all those movies safely back to harbor -- but by the end of the film you're just wondering why the movie was even made to begin with. 3/5

Saw
Saw(2004)

This movie has an interesting start, a really confused middle, and a cliche crap ending. I guess it was worthy of spawning an entire franchise, considering what most people will take for entertainment these days. I haven't seen the other Saw films but I get the feeling that people who are into Saw would probably find their time equally well spent in strangling puppies. 2/5

This Is the End
½

"This is" really more of a movie for people who are obsessed with comedians. And for a group of comedians to make a film specifically for people who are obsessed with them in which those comedians play their own selves takes a lot of narcissistic bravery. It's one part Tenacious D, one part the Beastie Boys music-video-short for Hot Sauce Committee, one part pop culture references, and zero parts imagination, or humanity, or Jack Black. Don't get me wrong, it's fun enough -- if you know enough about the comedians and care enough about their feelings to take seriously their efforts to act, to write, or to improvise. 2.5/5

Funny Games
Funny Games(2008)

Maybe you'd like to see Naomi Watts in her underwear. Maybe you'd like several really good reasons to scream "give me the last thirty seconds of my life back" at a screen in terror. Whatever your reason, it must be a really good one to compel you to write anything positive about this film. The movie's DVD case is covered in blurbs promising one hell of a scary ride. The people who wrote those blurbs were either paid to lie or the scariest thing they've ever heard of is one time some person took a ride in an ice cream truck. Either way they watched this movie and lied about it. It's not scary, it's absolutely fucking boring and it's a waste of film. Cheap writing, cheap fourth-wall-breaking tricks, cheap thrills, and not a single character does anything to make you care about them. I'm really, really pissed that I wasted an early morning watching this. 1/5

The Cell
The Cell(2000)

When I first saw this movie, about half a year after it was released on DVD, I was in the middle of a pretty exciting time in my life in terms of film digestion. I had just recently absorbed "The Holy Mountain", "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", "Le Nain Rouge", and maybe a dozen other films that are known for not only being very unique but also very unusual. I was obtaining more and more obscure films to watch and had come to expect a lot from anything I put in my player.

My first impression after I was done watching The Cell was that it was cheap and cliche, that it had borrowed from many sources but did not prove to be much of a source of entertainment on its own. I felt like the ending was very unfulfilling and that the story was too predictable. It struck me as existing strictly in the horror genre and relying too heavily on flashy special effects to shock and wow the audience into submission so that they would not pay any attention to the hollow story and the terrible acting.

At the time, I did not have any sort of feelings one way or the other toward Vincent D'Onofrio as an actor. I had not yet seen D'Onofrio in "Law & Order" and so had not yet developed a disdain for what I would come to refer to as his "pinnochio-like acting".

Over time I came to begrudge having to ever see Vincent D'Onofrio in anything. Every time I saw him acting all I saw was 2x4's and tree stumps. For me, D'Onofrio came to epitomize "wooden". I likened him to a cactus and a wooden puppet in various reviews.

Now we fast-forward fifteen or so years, to early 2016. An entertainment fan-girl who made her way to a celebrity status of her own mentioned her love of this movie and D'Onofrio on Twitter, and I balked. How can someone with such great taste enjoy this movie, and more importantly how can she admire D'Onofrio so much? But Comic Book Girl 19 insisted to me that if I were to re-watch the film with an eye for D'Onofrio's performance, not only would I come away with a complete re-evaluation of this movie I would also come away doing a complete 180-degree turn on my stance on D'Onofrio.

So, I promised her that I would watch the movie and that if I did, indeed, change my mind about either the film or D'Onofrio then I would come back here and write a better review.

Well, I did watch it and honestly I was quite shocked. Actually ,Vincent D'Onofrio's performance is key to this film's entertainment value. Not only that, but evaluating his performance here gives insight into his performance in later TV and pictures.

The Cell is rich with a huge assortment of both practical and digital effects, blended very nearly seamlessly. As it turns out -- as I learned from one of the several production commentary tracks on the DVD -- every bit of information about every shot was recorded in a database. Time of day, light quality, height, zoom, pan, tilt, motion, filters, and much more were all recorded assiduously into a database that could be referred back to if a shot needed something more added to it either through the camera or through rendering. And this attention to detail, along with the director's personality and approach to film making, allowed the talent of numerous individuals to shine rather thoroughly.

So while 15 years ago it was very easy to watch The Cell with an eye jaded by the constant and growing deluge of digitally rendered effects films, and to dismiss it as just another CG-heavy attempt at selling something that isn't all that exciting on its own, watching it now I see just how different it is from many other CG films. Not just in terms of vision but in terms of execution. The digital effects here are mostly meant to accomplish the impossible, wherever the practical effects fall short of the laws of physics. But the practical effects are just absolutely remarkable. Watching The Cell as "another CG movie" does a huge, huge disservice to the practical effects work done therein and shows a profound lack of appreciation for practical effects, for makeup, for costuming, and most importantly of all a complete lack of any interest whatsoever in interpretive dance.

I'm not sure if many people have given much mention of D'Onofrio's dancing in The Cell. I haven't read many reviews of the film. But it is sort of one of the best qualities of his performance. Sure, his real-world character is unhinged but he's also kind of deadened and boring. And sure, his fantasy-world character is covered in amazing making and wearing amazing costumes, but he also moves with litheness and strength reminiscent of ballet interpretation.

When I saw that, and when I saw the vulnerability D'Onofrio puts into his villain sociopath, I realized that D'Onofrio is far from wooden. But I didn't know what I was seeing that made me think that. I wanted to get back here and write this review but I had to figure out what had misled me for so long about D'Onofrio. I had a suspicion, though, and talking with another critic confirmed for me that my suspicion was correct. It's not D'Onofrio, it's the writing.

People have come to seek out D'Onofrio for characters that are best when done stiff, unreadable and anti-social. And it's not entirely the writers who are to blame. People don't always write for a specific actor. Instead, I have to blame D'Onofrio's agent. Just because people remember D'Onofrio most as an autistic, suicidal army private or a grumpy detective with obvious social issues, doesn't mean that those two roles show his best qualities.

I'm looking up, now at the "Critics Consensus" here at Rotten Tomatoes. "Disturbing, stunning eye candy... a weak and shallow plotline that offers nothing new."

That's what I felt, too, fifteen years ago. I agreed with that assessment 100%. But it's easy to overlook the things that make this film great. In my experience, it doesn't matter what film you're watching -- if you are not enjoying it for whatever reason, you will tear it down in criticism. You don't like the kitchen so you tear out the entire first floor. You never even notice that sure the cabinetry in the kitchen kind of sucked but you totally missed that the countertop was solid marble and the floor was tile. But it doesn't matter if those details would completely change your assessment of the kitchen -- you missed those details, and now the it's time for the first floor to go. By burning the entire thing down, preferably.

Comic Book Girl 19's challenge to me to re-watch this film and to pay special attention to D'Onofrio has definitely made me open my eyes and to second-guess my own respect for films. I kind of already enjoy looking through b-grade movies and picking out what was done right, what made it good enough to be b-grade, instead of picking out what was done wrong that kept it from being considered "better". I already consider myself somebody who gives things second chances. But I also have my tendencies, my grudges or whatever, and definitely enough jadedness to go around. I'm certain, now, that I reserve some biases that potentially cloud my judgment and result in a lack of thorough appreciation.

The story in "The Cell" is by no means entirely new or original in each of its individual elements. But you have to admit, it is the first time those elements are put together in this specific way to create this specific path. You can analyze literature in a similar fashion, by starting with folk tales, analyzing their constituent elements and carrying through a compounding of elements into modern literature. But this also does little in the way of maintaining the objective for the sake of the audience. It actually offers a million tiny things to be jaded about, to take for granted, and to fail to appreciate. Even the hollow plot comes across as a good attempt at re-using a lot of established fiction. And that even kind of makes for a good effort to get the audience to suspend disbelief: if they had come up with ideas that were completely far-out, things that nobody had done before, it would be just that much harder to accept as a potential reality. There wouldn't be a division between a real-life and a fantasy-world in the movie because the audience would just see fantasy-world and crazy-ass-fantasy-world. The film borrows so much that is already beloved in the world of fiction that its premise of the real world is just believable enough. So you see, it would be really hard to pick up on that little detail if you were jaded about the over-use of all those myriad components and just dismissed them all out of hand.

I guess I should go back and re-write my reviews that call D'Onofrio's acting wooden when it's actually just that he's not getting parts that really let him shine.

Any ways, you should watch this movie. And my advice is to do what the director obviously and transparently intended for you to do: to pay attention to D'Onofrio's character. Don't just go "ho-hum, it's a really elaborate and flashy bad guy, wow, anybody can do that". Because not everybody can pull off the flashy villain role as well as D'Onofrio does in The Cell. And his performance definitely pulls the entire movie together and makes all of its details worth watching.

Definitely a 5/5 movie.

Population: 2

A dystopian version of Lifetime Television brings you liberal art-school voyeurism at its best. A schizoid, psuedo-political film where the misanthropic nothing that happens will tempt you to watch it at x1.5 speed. Features the dilapidated housing of the Pacific northwest. If you like your uncomfortable abortion discussion shoehorned into railing against environmentally destructive corporate interests, this is your emotionally patronizing film. Sold at Wal-Mart in a package titled "The Road Fury Collection: 5 Movies". Well, you'll be Furious that the gas-masked buzzcut girl is given little more to do than endlessly pulling a little red wagon through a rain-soaked, abandoned subdivision. Her character is less the sort of endearing, awe-inspiring woman of the post apocalypse that the DVD's packaging was hoping to conjure up, and more of a vessel to be used for the producer's political agenda. Sort of anti-feminist if you ask me, but I get the impression that everyone who worked on this film thought they were delivering a one-two punch of woman power camp modern art. Do topics like abortion and industrial waste have a place in science fiction? Absolutely: no topic is unwelcome in science fiction. Do the two discussions lead necessarily one into the other? Yes, it was called the 1990's. And no, the movie does nothing to justify the segue except to hand them both to you and say "pleased to meet you, I'm modern art. I exist." My response is, "wow, great urban haut bourgeoisie cocktail party for the dispossessed children of the dispossessed 'Reality Bites' generation, except on the cover of the box we're promised 'road fury'. As in action." I get the further feeling that in some households this is the only thing the kids are allowed to watch, like some kind of guilt-tripping method of subordination. "I could have had you all killed, you know. You should all be thankful I brought you into this world." The really weird part is that the movie has its own built-in commercial interruptions, so that could actually work. Dystopian Lifetime. It gets half a star for existing.

Defcon 2012
Defcon 2012(2010)

Prepare -- to be confused! The opening scene features some voice-overs by actual PC speech bots. Could they not afford to speak into a mic? We see some computer graphics apparently filmed two inches from a computer monitor. Could they not afford rendering to digital output? Do they even own the graphics they use? Skipping directly to the end credits to find out what HALO mod they were filming, you can discover attributions to "Donut Acquisition Specialist", "Coffee Addiction Specialist", and the mysterious "Rotosoping" [sic]. You also find out that the soundtrack is a playlist of obscure cybergoth EBM. Jumping back to see if maybe such an uber-cool musical accompaniment is justified, WONDER OUT LOUD why the live action sequences -- which resemble fancy Shadowrun or Rifts LARP taking place in an abandoned shopping mall doubling as a Laser Tag gym -- were also filmed the same two inches from a computer monitor, often through monochrome filters. I honestly think this film has some merits: if there's a satellite channel targeted at a stoned teenage graver audience, this is prime time. Until that future day comes (sometime near the end of the world, presumably), you can be content to purchase this at Wal-Mart in a package titled "The Road Fury Collection: 5 Movies". Let's... hit the road!

Cyber Vengeance
½

This film is at least based on the premise that it will largely resemble some kind of a LARP. So it successfully pre-empts one of the major hurdles of poorly executed B-grade films, but also takes the entire hurdle course like a track star. Teenage bonus for the rosy-nippled nudity in the first scene. And the second. And the third. It's not all Skinemax, though: they take a break from sexuality until the repeated attempted and implied rape of the female supporting actress from about the time she's introduced an hour in. The real showcase of this film is the stage production quality. Quality period sets and costumes, a wide variety of effects, stage and technical props, stunt and fight choreography abound. There's also great camerawork and framing, image quality and use of lighting. It's a fairly cerebral story about a history scholar who works as a lackey medical examiner slash guard in a virtual prison overseeing the detention and execution of comatose criminals jacked-in from slabs in a basement. The detention involves medically tending to the naked, intubed bodies of the prisoners while the execution involves the prisoners being hunted in virtual gunfight scenarios from various time periods: this is the colonial/vietnam/WWI/roaring 20's/old west/WWII/futuristic hacker movie you've been waiting for. The main character's humanity is pitted against a strange plot brewing in the belly of the prison beast headed by Crowley, who is played by the actor who played "Jake Fratelli" (The Goonies). There are some big surprises such as aerial photography and stunts, pyrotechnics, a few laughs and a MIDI score that's fairly rousing for being so cheap (the digitally sampled "instruments" clip at the end of one scene). You can find this gem in the Wal-Mart bargain bin under the collection "Road Fury: 5 Movies".

Delirium
Delirium(2007)
½

A pointedly b-grade horror film, "Delirium" is kind of witty in that it will make you laugh at things that aren't right to laugh at. It seems like it was written, cast, and directed entirely on campus during semester. And since it is about a group of college students going on break, the acting is more or less convincing. The characters, a Lucky Charms bunch of stereotypically larger-than-life American college kids, is held together pretty well by the cast playing out the all-too-familiar scenario of technologically adapted Americans not knowing simple wilderness survival skills. The dialogue is pretty funny, including plenty of well-delivered strong cursing. However, the "moral of the story" voiceover at the end seems really misplaced with its suggestion that school shooters are really just nice people. And there's no way to tell if the misanthropic message is sincere and this movie is some angst-driven psychotic's unintentionally hilarious manifesto of hate, or if the humour in the film is genuine and the crazy bit at the end is typical drunk college student conversation material (which it is) that was meant as a finishing touch. The camera work is more than competent and the editing is pretty straight, even if it sometimes looks like "Easy Rider" got time-warped to 1997. You can catch this break in the Wal-Mart bargain bin collection, "Road Fury: 5 Movies". 2.5 / 5.

Steel Frontier

"In the tradition of Max Max"? More like Burning Man meets a redneck car-crash derby, all gone horribly wrong and borrowing heavily from the first national bank of "Water World". Suffice it to say, if this Christlike hero was eating radioactive rodent and breathing fallout on a regular basis he'd be crapping his intestines out while his face sloughs away, not riding all pretty around on a motorcycle. But, I'm sure it'll scare and excite the living hell out of the American breadbasket and bible belt. At least there's none of the hints at coming race war I've come to expect from made-for-CMTV. All that said, there are some pretty good car stunts and pyrotechnics. And the story actually is kind of what you might expect would be happening in the United States around the same time as the "Road Warrior" sequel, however that style could be cramped by the Star Trek-like technology. The acting, dialogue and delivery aren't shabby at all with the best deliveries of the film scripted for the villain Ackett, played with star quality by Bo Svenson. Everyone down to the bit and background role puts in their own special touches, with Adolfo Quinones signing a cross with his thumb and kissing it in silence during someone else's lines. A scene where the hero stares at a photo so degraded you can't see what's on it and proceeds to play "My Country Tis Of Thee" on harmonica is especially poignant. The fight choreography and stuntwork is well done. Everything from effects, props and costumes, camera and lighting to editing and sound production are top of the curve B-grade. And the scenario of the old-west style shootouts and duels are incarnated in every possible context, so if you like that kind of thing you'll get your belly's full. It could have stopped at the first ending an hour in but it kept pace for an hour and forty and the second ending is somewhat more satisfying within the standards of the "Mad Max"-like genre. It's worthwhile viewing even if it feels like watching a pastor-approved version of "Mad Max" in a basement slash post-dispensationalist pentaholocaust prepper sanctuary as a special break from mandatory viewings of Chuck Norris sequelitis. You can find this modern marvel in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart under the title "Road Fury Collection: 5 Movies". Four out of five stars.

Trancers
Trancers(1985)

This IS a classic. This film did not necessarily tread new territory in B-grade films, however, it DID set a new standard -- or "throw down the gauntlet" as it's said. You'd be missing out on film history if you chose not to watch it. It's genuinely one of those B-grade films that deserves an A-grade status. Do yourself a favor -- go back in time and watch this film. 5/5

The Fear Chamber
½

This is a dull, plodding cop drama about a cop who's having psychic visions of victims. The script is kind of muddy -- are his visions of already dead girls, or girls who are about to be dead, or both? Either way it doesn't really help the cop do much, so that plot element doesn't really pay off the way you'd expect it to. The same things sort of happen over and over without really going anywhere, and then near the end there's an unintentionally funny moment with a deranged lunatic killer. It doesn't really fulfill its own potential. Great camera work and framing, gory special effects and lighting, but the tension is just too light. Instead of a slowly building sustained tension there's sporadic little moments of tension that close too predictably. Plenty of chronically overused B-tropes and cliches, if you like that sort of thing.

Deadfall Trail

It's man on man on man vs. nature in the great outdoors. A duo of class act trail survivors take a young guy on an strictly back-to-nature expedition and proceed to make a bunch of dumb decisions resulting in a bad time. The acting isn't too bad but then again the characters are all two-dimensional. You can't really say the young man learns and grows much beyond picking up a few survival tricks. You'd think the group would have brought more water with them on the trip. If anything, let it be a precautionary tale: if you're going to go hiking in hundreds of miles of wilderness, bring smart things like a magnifying glass, flare gun, medical kit, radio, food and water. And don't go if one of the people you're going with seems like an unhinged maniac. 2/5.

Haunted From Within

Oh man, prepare to be creeped out by the sound of laughing children and twinkly piano as you search for meaning in the psycho-spiritual rambling of the main character. While subjects like remote viewing and telepathy make for great story fodder, it seems like it would be a more entertaining if we weren't being beat over the head with it. I couldn't watch the whole thing. The dialogue, acting, lighting and film quality are horrible. It's like a montage of really boring interactions delivered with completely wooden performance. Half a star.

Frozen in Fear

A very boring made-for-Lifetime-TV bodice ripper where Eric Roberts gets away with not having any dialogue until the end. Seriously, that's all that it is. There's a weird, morbid set piece at the end that seems to become the center of attention as several needless scenes bring it back into the camera (where it spends ample time as the only thing in frame) rather than ending the movie dramatically. Kudos to the crew who designed and built the piece since it ends up stealing the show. One star.

The Triangle
The Triangle(2001)

Some rich doofuses decide to go marlin fishing on a decrepid boat in the Bermuda triangle. What could possibly go wrong? The story is kind of murky and things aren't so smooth on the technical side, either. The characters are on a boat without any locomotive power or electricity -- so how are the interior wall lamps lit? What's running the elevator? The actor playing "Captain Morgan" puts in a really strong performance. The others, including Luke Perry, do a fair-to-middling job. But the Captain character was actually written with some dimension, the rest being resigned to flat reluctance and insanity. One star.

Stephen King's 'Storm of the Century'

Typical made-for-TV Stephen King adaptation replete with Stephen King cameo and written morbid humour, powerful acting and strong (for TV) production with a surreal kind of Spielberg quality to it. You can find this 3-part, 230-minute miniseries spearheading a 2-disc collection of B-grade and made-for-TV thrillers at the Wal-Mart bargain bin for $3.74 (while supplies last?) Four stars.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)
½

Not much can be said about this that hasn't already been said, which is mostly bad. I first (and last) saw it the year it hit video and I saw the last forty minutes of it again a few hours later, just to confirm for myself that I had truly wasted my time. Now I'm watching it again to verify that it's as horrible as I remember. I'll try to sell it as good as I can: here's a genuinely well thought-out attempt to bring you "King Kong" as if it were filmed prior to 1930 but with all the advances in "film techniques" that were developed since then. (There!) It's just not well executed. Included in this period-realistic criticism is that Jack Black wouldn't have been born, yet. The worst decision was to give the most profound lines, and the feature's most extrovert character (besides Kong) they were written for, to none other than Jack Black -- effectively destroying any chance of the audience taking ANY of it seriously. It's not just that Black is a comedian, it's that Black has made his career on making fun of the profound by making it seem absurd. If Jackson was hoping to seem hip with this ironic twist of casting, then what a tragic loss. Anything else I could write would be about second-worst, third-worst decisions, forever. Notably horrible: introspective, "oh wow" score replete with solo angelic vocal during the gratuitous bug-smashing sequence; King Kong follies on ice all weekend long; the hundred or so moments when the girl would have died while being carried by King Kong; action stopping periodically so the lead actress can do follies and juggling tricks; (ad infinitum). Some counter-points: the bug-smashing sequence seems ad-libbed, with the bugs being added later to almost comical effect; and I think at some point Jackson realized the girl was on her 90th or so life and when asking himself, "how does she survive all this being flung around and smashed?" came up with the idea that she's a follies girl, "hey folks, she does this all week!" It's stupid. It's a stupid, stupid film and after writing this I don't have any further reason to go back and watch it ever again. But that doesn't mean I have to give it a zero review. It gets half a star for some fairly interesting computer generated imagery despite some embarassing mistakes in depth perception (or do the actors sometimes seem like they're standing in front of a movie screen on purpose, to immerse us in the filmed-prior-to-1930 sensation,) half a star for some really tense moments despite an utter lack of suspense, and one star for the few brief moments that it genuinely tries to look and feel like something that was filmed during the Great Depression. I'm especially depressed that this was in a stack of really narrow-audience DVDs including "Planet of the Apes" that my black neighbor gave me when he was moving out, but: half a star for having a "cult following". 2 1/2 out of 5.

Land of the Dead

It's got jumps! You either like this sort of thing and want to watch it, or you don't and don't ... or you don't and do ... or you do, but ... don't? Considering the director's reputation with most of the population of the developed world, I dunno who would actually be reading this. A film geek? Somebody who figures these reviews will reveal some particular insight, or, somebody who can't afford to get their hands on the movie? Well, at least I can say it's typical George A. Romero. It's Romero on a nice fat budget. From the "Uncut" DVD commentary: there are cameos from Shaun of the Dead, a lead by the daughter of Dario Argento, a bit part by Romero's daughter, the second unit director and stunt coordinator (same person) appearing "in every reel" (Romero's words) and other cheaply attained campy bits. 3/5.

Equilibrium
Equilibrium(2002)

This was found several years ago in the Wal-Mart bargain bin, part of a collection of films. If this is B-grade, then it's one of those A-grade, A-list films that's been pigeonholed for some odd reason. There are some real gems, here. I don't know well enough to say whether the invention first appears here or in Hong Kong gangster cinema (the most likely earlier source) but the concept of a formalized martial art discipline called "Gun Kata" is pretty remarkable. That said, the movie's full of astounding fight work, nearly always mixed up with gun fighting (and involving swords when not.) The story is really intriguing and the world created to tell it is very convincing -- mostly by virtue of being very dull, with a palette of grey, black, blue-grey, white and metal, interrupted by washes of Van-Gogh yellows and outrages of red. The story involves a population sedated into perfect subordination by two factors: the mandatory daily injection of an emotion-suppressing pharmaceutical (in beautiful little yellow ampules), and the wholesale destruction of all works of art of every kind (wait til you see what they do to the Mona Lisa.) There are some damn fine digital effects, top quality costumes and props, amazing interiors (counterpart to perfectly dull sets), great camera and sound work, some amazing bits of dialogue with all-around stellar performances, and truly, truly poignant moments intensified by the emotionlessness of the world they occur in. I'm really not sure why this film ended up in a bargain-bin collection, as it really deserves to be a much more valuable property. Though I might be crucified for saying it, this is truly a post-modern classic. 5/5 stars.

Impostor
Impostor(2002)

This film kind of drags, but it's worth watching once. The problem is that once you see the ending, it doesn't have anywhere near the same suspense or impact the second time because you already know the trick. There are some neat effects, decent enough acting, good camera work and other technical aspects. But I had to include the acting in "technical aspects" because between Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe and for crying out loud Vincent D'Onofrio, I don't think there's a non-wooden performance between them. I consider all three of them to be fairly unreadable actors (and D'Onofrio to be particularly annoying to boot) and I can only imagine the decision making behind putting such a trifecta together. Maybe it had something to do with making sure there was no way the actors could possibly telegraph the movie's magic trick secret to the audience. I give it three out of five stars, because even a one-trick pony can look good. Now, the story takes place in 2079 and is about a weapons designer and his wife fighting to regain their sanity In A World where red-scare-like paranoia keeps security measures solid -- despite errors. A detective thinks he knows what's really going on, but we're given ample reasons to believe the detective is just being measurably paranoid. Since D'Onofrio (the detective) is exceptionally gifted at being grating and impersonable, the audience is left to their own glitch-fed devices. Epileptics be warned, the high-contrast two-frame flashbacks come fast and furious and guerrilla camerawork often blends with spot-lit black interiors mixed with MTV-style fast-cut angles. This film actually hurts the eyes. I take it back: two out of five.

Rock Star
Rock Star(2001)

This is fast, fun, funny and campy. For good-enough films I normally rate down from a perfect for various flaws but there's no reason to rate this film down. It does what it comes to do, which is obviously to "rock". If I tried to rate it from the bottom up for its virtues like a not-good-enough film, it wouldn't get that great of a score but that's because I'm not a metal head and this isn't something I'd normally watch. I got lucky, I guess, and got it as a gift from a neighbor who was moving back to Detroit. The costumers, makeup artists, and sound technicians definitely had a field day with this one. The movie has a fun premise: a rock and roll tribute band (basically a cover band that goes all the way, with dress-up and voice stylings) has its troubles until the lead singer gets the real gig as the lead singer of the band he loves so much. Jennifer Aniston and Mark Wahlberg don't over-draw or over-exert themselves, and put in a pretty genuine performance. The self-deprecating humour millennials expect is delivered subtly by everyone involved and doesn't screw up the beat. And we find out that the original lead singer is being pushed out of the band because he's lazy -- but there's a direct insinuation that it's because he's gay. Well, the casting of Mark Wahlberg for the part of the rags-to-riches dream boy was well placed, because Wahlberg is a proven natural vocal talent. Well, the movie moves on to dealing with issues of flagrant sexuality which is an everlasting hallmark of rock music, and wanton lust is a hit or miss subject for any writer. Lucky for the viewer, there are few proposed complications and the sheer megalomania is allowed to continue unabated. The movie doesn't do anything to give itself hiccoughs and that's the important part. It does lag a little, though. Around the time any kind of dramatic dilemma is introduced, I felt like the film should have about an hour left to it but there was only half an hour left to go. And it's really endearing how the climax touches the heart with the simple conundrum of honesty. Well, it's obvious that everyone involved with every aspect of the production did everything they could to send across a completely hollow feeling whenever it was needed, which is really, really important to rock music. And in the end, the film lends a note to what really makes rock music important to its fans to begin with. I think there's an ending to this film that was set up in an earlier scene and for some reason it got wrote out, but, I'm actually glad I watched it and since I feel like it should have gone on longer, I give it 5/5. The only bad thing I can say about it is that if it were a film about a Yes tribute band, I would have watched it the day it showed.

The Red Dwarf

This is one of the most surprising and entertaining films ever made.

Ravenous
Ravenous(1999)

This might be the first film I've seen that legitimately glorifies cannibalism. I've seen plenty of cannibal films: "Alive" explored the tragedy of cannibalism; "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Hannibal" exotified cannibalism for shock value; and that's what you usually find. It obviously takes an unusual mind to explore the mythos of cannibalism as a form of enlightenment, and apparently such a mind was present here. "Hannibal" doesn't quite approach the same feat, as the audience is carefully instructed to dismiss Dr. Lecter as an insane person. Here in this film we simply have animals being animals, and it's very strange to behold. Now for technical: everything's great. Even in the dark scenes, the lighting was well done. The acting seems natural. And the music is hideous and beautiful -- it was the score's reputation that drove me to watch the film, and I have to admit that it's very engaging.

Jupiter Ascending
½

The critics here often seem to be trying to efficiently register every film into its correct place on the spectrum between Ishtar and Citizen Kane. Jupiter Rising is non-stop action, intrigue and special effects. It has the potential to be become something on a larger scale like Dune meets Hunger Games.

Chappie
Chappie(2015)

As the robot-turned-human shtick goes, this isn't a bad shot. It borrows heavily from Robocop but you'd expect it to since it's a story about police robots. It's quite comical at times. The action is so-so. About the most exciting thing is seeing Die Antwoord putting in surprisingly good performances. The props, sets, and effects were wonderful. The story is actually a little bit touching but the ending is just over the top transhumanism and a little disappointing, actually.

Maps to the Stars
½

If you liked Wild Palms, take note: Bruce Wagner started writing this around the same time he wrote Wild Palms, and this film appears to be a series of things that were clipped out of that larger story. Now as for this film, Mia Wasikowska has some bright moments. John Cusack and Julianna Moore are consistently offensive. Olivia Williams looks great and comes unhinged fairly well. But the star of the film is definitely Evan Bird, who plays the bad-boy child actor believably. However, all of the characters are completely one-dimensional. They simply have things about them that are hidden that get revealed later on, but that puts this firmly in "mystery" genre writing. And it doesn't have a mystery tale to tell, which means it kind of falls short. But it works great as a thriller, it's bursting with energy and there are several seriously cringe-worthy moments. Also, the fashion is worth looking over.

Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher(2014)

Wow, three nominations? Was one of them for "boring", one for "too long", and one for "homoerotic"? Because if not, then I don't understand the Academy. This was tripe. This getting nominated is the equivalent of somebody wearing Groucho glasses walking out on stage, staring at the audience for twenty minutes and then suddenly smacking their own ass, walking off stage and receiving a standing ovation. The only good thing I can say about it is that Mark Ruffalo is completely unrecognizable. I had no idea that was Mark Ruffalo standing around, wooden as a puppet and silent as a cactus. Wow, who would have guessed that was Mark Ruffalo. This film was complete garbage and a waste of time.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
½

Compared to the first film, this was really awful. Yay costumes, yay makeup, yay special effects -- all of which were of a noticeable poorer quality than in the first film. It's almost like they rushed and penny-pinched their way through this one. For example, this time around the makeup really DOES look like it was put on by a baker -- it looks like cake frosting. The acting was horrible and the camera work has that shaky, post-MTV quality that seems geared for the distracted generation. I suppose a young adult who enjoyed the novels might look past all that or not even notice it, being totally engrossed in pinning down the differences between the movie and the book. If you're mostly just hoping to see the sequel to The Hunger Games, just accept that this is a disappointing sequel and move on. Having not seen the movie that comes after this myself (Mockingjay Part I) I can't tell you whether it's a ride worth getting back on again. But honestly this film was so awful that I felt like giving up entirely on the Hunger Games series.

As far as the political slant goes, we had everybody from Katie Couric to ... to god knows who, pumping us up for the struggle of the lone girl against the evil nanny state. But to tell you the truth, I was mostly concerned with how horribly unhealthy Philip Seymour Hoffman looked. The guy was barely trying to stay awake let alone act. Everybody in the movie seemed collectively bummed out and tired. The political story seems like something delivered in after thought behind them just trying to force themselves to act their way through this garish, weirdly-lit melodrama.

Evasive Action

If you enjoy Roy Scheider in a physically and technically difficult stunt film of decent quality, here you go. A couple of amateur performances don't manage to ruin what is actually a better train-bound thriller than Seagal's attempt. The camera work is perfect, by the way, albeit dull. But you'll probably notice the hairdresser's work far more than the costumer's. The set is, of course, a cramped train interior. The seven or so leads and main supports do well enough. Scheider plays villain, and Dorian Harewood is the unlikely but totally believable every man hero in this prison escape thriller. If the early on direct allusion to "Con Air" embarrasses you, then you better ignore Clint Howard's character who inappropriately parrots famous movie lines whenever he's on screen. There's plenty here to embarrass but also plenty more to entertain and even to impress the technical critic. I wouldn't pass this up, especially if you've been disappointed by other train-bound thrillers and want one that really delivers. "Evasive Action", 4/5.

The Chaos Factor

The opening scene seems promising. The next thing you know you're trying to see some cramped location and interior with a hand cam shakier than a thrash metal music video. The whole movie thereafter is a mess. It's confusing not because the story is complex but because the story is never properly delivered. It's just a montage of depressing scenes full of tragedy, mayhem and murder. It fails to ever produce anything coherent. All the qualities of camera work, pyrotechnics, aviation, props, costumes, and delivery are wasted by the simple fact that none of it coalesces.

Road of No Return

The costumes and hairstyles are some real pieces of work. But the characters are racial caricatures. The first introduction between the main characters is an entirely racially charged and prejudiced stand-off. Given such a stupid, humble beginning, you wouldn't expect good things to come to fruition, but they try to. Somewhat, when the creep-factor doesn't smother them. The low-brow thread is maintained in bits and pieces of comic relief central to the bigoted "Whitey" hit man, while the real story dealing with disillusionment and loss of innocence mostly revolves around the two main villains (one of whom is David Carradine) and the two hit men known as "Foreigner" and "Blackie". So you almost have two movies, one with junk dialogue against one with philosophical quandaries, one with cheeseball delivery caricatures against one with wooden performances depicting creeps. The creepier subject matter constantly detracts from the movie's better qualities. The camera work is minimal, but the framing is quality.

Transcendence
½

This is an almost-fully CG movie with a weak sci-fi premise that gets thrown out halfway through the film, to make way for a really stupid love story. The only thing going for it is that it isn't incoherent or blurry. It's just stupid and full of itself.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

This was nonsensical from beginning to end. You like laughs? Hope you like Home Improvement. You like fast driving? Hope you like Nascar. You like movies? Hope you like a blurry piece of loud and noisy trash.

John Wick
John Wick(2014)

Really bad lighting and worse acting. Totally bologna plot resulting in nonsensical set ups with only one pay-off: a high rate of murdering being done at higher than normal human speed. Disappointing and stupid macho-time dialogue, story, and ending. Here's a drinking game: take a drink every time the words "John Wick", "My Son", "Just a F*ing", "Code", "Rules", or "Coin" are said, and pass out before this movie gets anywhere. You know, something has to be said about it, John Wick has one thing going for it: it's easy to write a hero story when the hero is totally pre-formed as an unstoppable bad-ass and all of the bad guys already know it and are already afraid. Two thirds of the dialogue of the film is spent on people telling each other how bad ass the main character is. It's a complete waste of time, zero brains. The only thing "fresh" about it is that the writer had the balls to be that freaking lazy with a big-budget film.

The Expendables 3

A bunch of gobbledy-gook notable only due to the fact that it has so many action movie stars and features a rare occurrence of Mel Gibson playing a villain. Otherwise totally a waste of celluloid and of my time.

Predestination
½

A really creepy premise that delivers not one or two but three creepy plot twists. Really questionable sci-fi premise that is entirely a vehicle about social gender roles, albeit done smartly. It's refreshing for science fiction to actually be about some social issue rather than simply pure entertainment or pulp sentimentality. However, the gender role issue is not presented or approached in any way that could lead the viewer to any meaningful conclusions about the issue or about what the director or the author feel about the issue. The approach is more like whack-you-over-the-head so you can meditate on the issue but not with any grounding in reality. Honestly, I felt like my time was completely wasted by the end of the film, but I did enjoy watching it a second time to see my room-mate's reaction to the succession of twists. I don't consider it to be that great of a story. The acting was, all around, almost entirely wooden. Sarah Snook's performance manages to inject some livelihood onto the screen but it's always in such awkward situations that you can't help but feel it's forced. The makeup and costumes were phenomenal, but that might be easy to pull off when you're doing period pieces. Some pretty dull futuristic minimalist sets that are mostly lights shining through semi transparent panels. An interesting alternate-history look at the 50's plays back story. The special effects, props, camera work and period sets take the cake. Just too bad that there's no emotional pay-off because the creepy factor kills it.

National Treasure
½

It's a fun way to imagine that US history and Freemasonry are way more than they really are. Polished production and great lead acting. But the supporting cast were out to lunch. Has a weird, preachy kind of tone.

Moon over Parador

A film for people who love acting. Julie and Dreyfuss have enormous fun. The politically-conscious subplot feels weird, but genuine. It's a mildly funny, very energetic film.

The Legend of Red Dragon (Sekiryű no onna)
½

"The Legend of the Red Dragon" is an action rom-com featuring great, cheeseball slapstick in delightful parody of Japanese underworld stories. The sword play and fighting aren't especially skilled, but it is very entertaining stage-fighting and it's achieved without harnesses or special effects. The makeup, props, music and locations are worth giving some attention.

Prey of the Jaguar
½

Seemingly what you would get if you gave seasoned professionals the task of making an 10-year old, action-film-watching child's fantasy into a real movie fashioned after 1980's b-grade action, "Prey of the Jaguar" is quirky, fun, and intentionally hilarious. There's a tepid martial arts quality to the fight scenes. The acting seems deliberately cheesy from beginning to end, with the exception of a tender father-son scene that's too realistic and too irreverent of being on camera to be good Hollywood dialogue. If you're looking for strong camera work, get in line: the camera man is stationary the entire film, so get in the mood for lots of zoom, with plenty of pan, tilt, and some pretty wacky rotation thrown in. There are some funny, larger-than-life supporting characters that provide decent comic relief. The director's skill starts to really show in the scenes depicting the mental breakdown and re-invention of the main character as The Jaguar, after which out come some high quality sets and props, some decent special effects and colorful lighting, and one memorable costume. The clean body, clean mind, "regular hero" theme ties in well with the Tai Chi Kung Fu master-lineage story channeled by John Fujioka in a bit role.

The Sweeper
The Sweeper(1996)

If "stunt" was its own separate genre of film, "The Sweeper" (1996) would be canon. Maybe in the distant future when everybody is in virtual reality all the time and life is just a computer-generated fantasy, they'll look back at stunt work and call it barbaric savagery. Until then, we'll be allowed to enjoy films like this one. This b-grade is top-notch, 11/10, and it's quite obviously a labour of love. Not only are the stunts quite memorable, and the pyrotechnics and other practical effects rather stunning, the camera work is phenomenal. Amazing dolly shots, crane shots, trailer shots, and even aerial shots, punctuated with truly smooth hand held shots like nobody does any more. Great lighting, great outdoors filming, amazing work. A really interesting score and all the sound is beautifully equalized and mixed. The acting is really good, too. The dialogue and story are just slightly better than what I expect from "a-grade" action fare, and the actors and actresses deliver their lines with relish. It's also really pleasant to see so many powerful female characters, and several women on the top of the credits.

The Number 23

Surprisingly low score for this actually very claustrophobia-inducing, paranoid schizophrenic rompisode. Carrey is believably unhinged and full of tics. The story is bizarre. The film is like a cross between 1998's "Pi" and 2006's "Bug", but I found it more entertaining than both.

Alien
Alien(1979)
½

One of those game-changing films you should have to watch in film school. Tense, but not nearly at master-of-tension levels. Instead, what little tension there is gets broken by interjections of pure horror. Definitely in the horror genre. The undertones are all about naughty sex. If you've been dying to see Sigorney Weaver in a tiny t-shirt and barely fitting panties, here you go.

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)
½

A hopeful attempt to squash non-canon and establish roots. Essentially the first film all over again. Surprisingly goes a long way toward taking some of the head-scratching out of understanding what went on in the first film. Sadly involves a writer associated with "Lost". Trust me: the things most people gripe about are either answered on the cutting room floor or are obvious non-issues to hard core sci-fi fans. Better things to gripe about: too many stars, bad lighting and sound. High points: effects and Alien universe establishment. Good for the Alien fans. Bad for those who want the full story because you need to purchase 3 different special editions to get it all. Still, I love the franchise's core films (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3) and this one sits comfortable at the bar next to the others.

Oculus
Oculus(2014)
½

A true tragedy from beginning to end. Frightening as hell, actually. Made me squirm without relying on any of the teenage sex comedy we've come to expect from horror. The actors believably become unhinged as the ghosts convincingly leer and screw with you. It's predictable, and yet it's completely unpredictable. Comes complete with a dark sense of humor. I already don't like mirror ghost stories as it is, so I'm not watching this again any time soon.

Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer(2014)
½

Shaky premise. Everything felt targeted to teen agers except for the Korean roles.Amazing storytelling within the stilted world. Fine enough acting. Great special effects, sets, and costumes. A true tragedy from beginning to end. Can't say I will watch it a second time, but pretty much enjoyed it. Basically had my socks blown off but still shaking my head.

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

Refreshingly powerful Joan of Arc arc, yet unlikeable female lead performance wastes the preciously rare Jean D'Arc role. Amazing special effects. Writing's tone is self-consciously less Groundhog Day than Groundhog Day was. Groundhog Day with no meritable character growth except Cruise becoming a jaded badass. Head-scratcher premise even by sci-fi standards. Weak, barely-there ragtag band element. Stupid surprise ending of the sort that some sci fi magazines list as a reason your story got thrown out instead of printed.

Oblivion
Oblivion(2013)
½

Pulp throwback main character is all sci fi tropes. Sci fi tropes all the way down. Incoherent deus ex machina plot twist. Bad surprise ending. Great effects.

Pleasantville
½

For some reason, I couldn't give this 20 minutes of my time ten years ago. So maybe it's not a great film for some 20-somethings. But seeing it again in 2014, I was floored. My only familiarity with Reese Witherspoon is via my favorite rom com of all time, "Just Like Heaven", and to see her in this slyly sexy, coming of age role was a real treat. The gimmick (let's call it what it is) of black and white versus color loses its sci-fi flair and becomes thematically important very quickly, and is the basis of a profoundly touching scene about a woman trying to cover up who she really is. The film can be interpreted many different ways and I recommend it to any student of things like post-modern criticism, rock and roll, or modern American history. Don't get hung up on the "nineties" cultural basis. The little things that make the main characters property of the nineties are lost and gone in the first twenty minutes of the film. And knowing that you're seeing things through the eyes of the nineties helps to propel you into the fifties in true style.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)

Don't watch it. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea how any serious film watcher could have been duped into saying one positive thing about this film besides that the special effects were top notch. Nice special effects, interesting premise. But so, so many things are wrong with this film including plot, acting, voicing, and general douche-baggy tone. Too bad! The special effects and basic idea could have gone places, but right off the bat you know that's too much to ask for. The strangely sardonic tone in the introductory voice-over will make any mature person cringe and wish they had chosen anything else. And yes, the hubris never lets up and in fact continues unabated and apparently runs completely free of any self-consciousness. The characters quickly become caricatures, over-the-top tragedies tailored for the Melrose Place demographic. Every performance is dripping with smug self satisfaction. Was there even a director on the set? One character, annoyingly enough, is never quite shown on screen without the camera being shaken idiotically. What's worse, any aspirations to Science Fiction are completely cornholed by the series of not only absolutely nonsensical emotional responses on the part of the characters, but the stupidly flawed decision making as well. The worst part (let me ruin it for you, you'll thank me): nobody would have built this space ship to require manually tilting the reflective shields every time you change the trajectory. In fact, nothing about this film stands on its own legs besides the special effects. Somebody please remember to turn off the hype machine on the way out.

Primer
Primer(2004)
½

The premise and plot devices are so complex that I can't honestly say whether watching this twice will do anything to clear it up. Nevertheless, the sense that you're watching something that depicts something that actually happened is unshakable. One problem that comes along with that is a very realistic "home video" level of acting that stumbles all over the technical parts of the film. But, since the technical details grow more sparse as the film goes on, this is mostly a hurdle you'll have to get through in the first twenty minutes. The writing during that opening is also stunted. For anybody in engineering or business, be prepared for your bullshit meter to go off as the writer tries to deliver convincing mumbo-jumbo and boardroom speak, and as the actors try to deliver the lines without having any possibility of understanding what they're talking about -- again, on the "home-video" level. After those twenty minutes are up, good luck. This is one of those films that seems so realistic that you might feel a twinge of mortal fear. That sense of suspense and "could this really happen", the producer did get right.

Minority Report
½

In writing, a few lines of dialogue are emotionally amiss. Otherwise stellar performances crawl all over this polished gem of a film. Gorgeous special effects, but the claustrophobic sets and framing kill the chance for many moments of amazing photography. Any head-scratching questions about the kooky premise get brutally sidelined by the complexity of the story and the intriguing mystery plot. It's actually worth watching a few times.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

Not just some old-timey black and white. This film is so spectacular, so bizarre and amazing, after you see it you'll have no questions as to why everyone says it's the Greatest Film of All Time. It's so good that if you watch it a second time, you'll be surprised it was in black and white the whole time. Seriously, if you haven't seen this, don't put it off!

World War Z
World War Z(2013)
½

Super-polished. The premise is sound and it doesn't get screwed up by any mindless plot twists. Pitt is in Tired Brad Pitt mode. Everybody else is excellent. Daniella Kertesz plays the supporting role convincingly. It's a very jumpy, tense ride. You'll probably get that feeling like you don't want to watch the next part. The mark of a good horror film!

Fargo
Fargo(1996)

It's not a game-changing film by any means, but ... it sort of doesn't get much better than this. If you heard of this film, you heard it's good. So what are you doing here? Go watch it, already! And though this is in a class with Citizen Kane in terms of the ending preceeding the film's reputation (and for other reasons), try not to give away the ending to anybody else who hasn't seen it.

Outland
Outland(1981)
½

It's not high-concept science fiction. A cop tracks down a drug ring, it could easily be a western. But the minimalist sets are pretty amazing and if you like seeing people explode, this is a must-see. The acting is more A- than B+, all around. It's actually pretty intense. Worth seeing once.

The Village
The Village(2004)

Shyamalan's horribly under-rated film delivers all kind of creepiness, chills, and unexpected twists. Academically, it's a modern fairy-tale or odyssey. When the backstory is revealed, the interstitial scenes feel like they're beating it to death, but they do serve to maintain a level of suspense.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
½

Good, goofy lead acting. Dismal supporting cast. The story seems to have been re-written partway through. All the set-up, which is brilliant, gets absolutely zero pay-off. It deserves a pretty good score for what it DOES do right.

Inglourious Basterds
½

The cinematography is surprising. Several scenes will seem familiar or cliche, and yet you'll notice an unconventional angle was chosen and appreciate that it was the best angle for that scene, or some unconventional pan that conveys perfectly the scene?s direction and momentum. The camera and choreography were refreshing. It's a knee-jerk reaction these days that "the unconventional camera work was overdone, false ambition". That doesn't apply, here. Tarantino seems to use the camera to carve beautiful, curling lines through the cinema space.

The color scheme is based on the Nazi flag. It's cheaply and effortlessly presented, out front, that no shame was felt in being so obvious. That's a sense you get through the whole movie, a shrugging "so what" from the director, "I know, how cheap, just watch this next part". It's shameless and efficient, and the director's attitude justifies the title.

The movie is about the megalomania of war entertainment. How else to phrase that: "war-based entertainment" is superlative; "war movies" doesn't quite capture all of it; "glorification of war" is the impetus, not the form. The movie does actually present a message that "war is anything but glorious", but it is so quick and unapparent that it barely counts as the point of the movie. The rest of the movie is purely about glorifying war, on purpose. The movie's entire plot is about the use of the recording and recounting of war as a glorious pursuit for the sake of manipulating public consensus, or for the sake of turning a dollar, or for the sake of continuing a tradition, upbringing, or pastime. The ironies involve what you could say is a "film-maker's guilt": that inevitably, like all of modern technology, much of the advances in film we rely on today were made under the auspices of war propaganda, and that ultimately war propaganda is about instant gratification and megalomaniacal pursuits. The reason such propaganda and films in general are useful is because they are effective, effective because the film maker knows how to engage the audience, who are engaged because they relate so well they become immersed in the film to some extent. It becomes "realistic" to them as they watch it. This was not quite understood before World War Two; it is well understood, today, and perhaps was the entire expression of the "New Wave" in cinema. Today we have immersive, interactive environments where a person can fulfill their megalomaniacal desires and destroy hundreds of simulated human targets in a short period of time; this is called "realistic", "battle simulator", and so on, and not just by way of marketing. "Inglourious Basterds" symbolises the advent of the wholesale destruction of human lives as a pair of characters, one representing the half that is the real mechanism of war, and the other representing the portrayal of that for whatever purpose -- entertainment, propaganda and disinformation, training and briefing, conditioning, pre-conditioning, conditioned response sublimation, post-hypnotic immersive deprogramming, career choice, and so on.

All of that aside, the movie addresses the issue of racial stereotyping being bolstered by cinema. Obviously, people form stereotypes primarily based on direct experience and to a lesser extent information from others. In a state such as that, a person can be expected to have their stereotypes removed by further experience, or to have them reinforced by the same. Granted, you can use film as that form of "information from others" to lend suggestions of stereotypes to someone, but they may be just as easily rejected by the audience. Now, consider a film industry that is notoriously typecasting, where you only see people of certain "racial" heritage in certain roles. Russians, Slavs, and African descendants all complain of this occuring overmuch in hollywood. The movie doesn't appear to address the issue of how Russians and Slavs are typecast as mobsters, vampires, bad guys, and so on, but it at least addresses the problems that African-Americans have faced historically in the film industry, in as quickly, directly, and obviously as it addresses "war isn't glorious". A person who is being informed by film is going to have a source of information that not only tries to present stereotypes, it tries to ensure that those stereotypes appear to be true in the world as far as film allows the world to be presented. "Slavs are all Dracula? Thanks, Hollywood! Blacks all have to die right away or they're going to escape and tear up the Empire? Thanks, Hollywood! Russians are all American-hating mobsters? Thanks, Hollywood!" Obviously such stereotypes are not true in the real world, but try and admonish Hollywood about it and get them to stop making that impression. Tarantino gives just that a shot.

Tarantino also expresses what I would say is probably a profound dislike for Nazis in general, and I would guess probably by way of the fundamentals they tried to stand for. If anything, you can say the movie is Tarantino's self-validation of his morals. "I'm a good person -- look what my fantasies are."

Besides all of the artsy "message" content, or "what this means about the director" and so on, it's just a terrible comedy. I can't even say it's "action" -- there are all of two action scenes, and one is barely "action". The rest is just a bunch of violence. It's a bloody, gory, horrifying comedy.

From Paris with Love
½

Under-rated and fun. Artfully keeps you questioning the sanity of Travolta's character. Free of implausible twists, a nice solid story. Great pay-off.

The Wicker Man
½

Weird but not sub-par. Certainly not inept enough to be so hated. However, definitely a self-conscious film with self-conscious acting. Cage hams it up and verges on making it a spoof. If you haven't seen the original, it's clever suspense and odd rituals all the way.

Léon: The Professional
½

Pulpy, even cartoonish characters and deliveries, almost like a graphic novel. Outstanding over-the-top performances. A personal favorite. The complete version is the only way to watch it.

Memento
Memento(2000)

A real head-scratcher that's hard to forget. Expertly draws you into the mind of the main character. It will make you uncomfortable and not let up the whole film.

Just Like Heaven

It's a metaphysical exploration. Beautiful and floaty rom-com. Lighthearted despite the dark subject. The score is to die for. Trust me: it has nothing to do with the film "Ghost". A glaring flub made the cut.

Sneakers
Sneakers(1992)
½

Made back when it was diagnosable schizophrenic behaviour to say that the NSA was spying on you. Soft sci-fi premise with cool and believable characters. Lots of laughs. Upbeat. Great camera work and score.

Brainstorm
Brainstorm(1983)

As electroencephalogram technology comes into more use, this film's premise becomes more potentially "hard" sci-fi. Amazing sets for any computer nostalgia geek. Dip switches galore. Realistic, ahead-of-the-time technology. Breathtaking score.

Encounters at the End of the World

The only documentary I've played at parties to acclaim. Seriously, if you go to the sort of crowded parties that have a movie running, try this one. Herzog brilliantly exposes the brain matter of the sort of scientist who goes to Antarctica. Haunting, chilling, breathtaking, exciting, mind-numbing, shocking, embarrassing -- just about every adjective has a scene to apply it to.

Idiocracy
Idiocracy(2006)
½

It's the perfect context for all your favorite butt jokes. The caricature of American trash culture will have you saying "that's just like that scene in Idiocracy" for awhile. A pretty solid premise: society really is getting stupider. Mildly humorous. Will blow the minds of your whooping and hollaring hillbilly and gangsta friends, and possibly directly offend their sensibilities.

Freddy Got Fingered

Well-polished gem. Tom Green will successfully embarrass the hell out of you every second of the way. You will wonder what this world is coming to. Camera work, acting, and production are all really excellent. It's just a really, humanly embarrassing film. Hilarious, though.

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas(2012)

Fails to speak coherently. Nevertheless expresses really grand, beautiful visions. Typical action camera-work, lighting, and effects. Some fairly wooden performances. It succeeds in delivering a subtextual reflection on (or celebration of) Thespianism and film-making as potential vessels of knowledge and spirit. Great correspondence between two directing powers.

Looper
Looper(2012)
½

This movie self-consciously has fun with the time-travel genre. Pulpy, cartoonish characters. Questionable motives but strong deliveries. Really tight camera work makes it feel too much like a graphic novel, though. Great effects. A few haunting scenes. Bummer ending.

Being There
Being There(1979)
½

A memorable classic. Funny how people fall over themselves to mean what they say when what they're saying is just an attempt to stand for who they think they are. The tone of the film doesn't change throughout. Instead, you are treated to a variety of levels of society making asses of themselves while one guy just steadily, quietly chugs on through it all. Especially funny for any trained gardener.

Empire of the Sun
½

This was much more profound when I watched it as a young boy. So I recommend it as a family film for families who seriously like serious cinema. Some pretty memorable performances. Some really great cinematography. Definitely carries the Spielberg touch. Just feels a bit forced. Will raise lots of questions from the kids.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

Slow-paced, dark and brooding. Soft sci-fi premise that smartly takes advantage of its own improbability. A gem for Nikola Tesla enthusiasts. Emotionally disturbing. Reveals some of the more disturbing plot points a bit too early for them to pay off successfully. Subtle performances, easily fit for quiet and sullen characters. Bummer film.

Ran
Ran(1985)

Truly haunting. A very long film but every minute has an obvious and welcome justification. Well worth the needed popcorn break -- should be shown with an intermission. The film is actually good enough to weigh on your heart afterward. You don't need to be familiar with King Lear to be floored by the story, the production, or the acting. Superb.