Monday, December 31, 2007

Footsteps In The Dark

I promised I’d start reviewing some old and classic films. Here is my first shot at it. For my first review of an oldies flick, I was going to do one of the dozens of great, campy SciFi B-movies from the ‘50s. But, I suddenly got the urge to do this seldom seen oldie instead.

FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (1941) is a classy comedy/mystery movie starring Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshal, Ralph Bellamy and Alan Hale. This movie is an out of the norm role for Flynn who we are all used to seeing as the swashbuckling hero in such classics as ROBIN HOOD, THE DAWN PATROL, THE SEA HAWK, and on and on. In this one, Flynn plays a high society executive, who has a secret hobby of writing murder mysteries and hanging out with the police attempting to solve cases. To do his investigations, he finds reasons so stay out late at night and sneaks in though the window while his wife (Brenda Marshal) is asleep, then lying about the time he came home. All at once, his book becomes popular, he gets involved in a murder case and his wife gets suspicious. You can guess the fun that follows.

The story is fun, has a good who-done-it to solve and the secondary plot line of how Flynn tries going to stay out of trouble keeps the interest up. It’s all great fun and Flynn does a surprisingly good job in the roll without swords and guns to back him up. Besides, it looks like he’s really having fun.

Alan Hale as the police chief adds to the spice. I just don’t think of a good Errol Flynn film without Alan Hale being in it; well, not many, anyway. (Yes, I'm a Alan Hale fan) All in all, this is a good 96 minutes of entertainment. I caught it on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). It’s also available to buy; or come over and watch it at my house!

I was toying with whether or not I should rate these, but since it's "my opinion" here (as the disclaimers states), why not. I give this a 7 out of 10.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

OK, I finally went to a new movie. There was quite a bit to choose from, but after the process of eliminating seeing this one because I don't like who is in it, and that one because it doesn't sound like it's worth spending the money on, and that one because it's to violent or too much bad language, I decided on seeing THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP. Good choice, Wes.

First let me say that the movie should just be titled THE WATER HORSE and leave it at that. These sub-titled extensions tend to be misleading and can turn one off to going to see the movie. In this case, it adds nothing to the story ... it actually left me wondering why they put it there. If you find out, let me know. LEGEND OF THE DEEP - phooey!!

Now to the story. I'll tell you up front I thought this film was very good. It had a good plot, good characters and good special effects. There wasn't any bad language (how nice is that!) and it's not too scary for small kids.

The story centers around an old man in present times telling a couple of tourists a story about the now famous fake picture of the Lock Ness Monster. The story goes back to 1942 Scotland and the situation there during WWII. Our hero, Angus MacMorrow (played by Alex Etel) is a young boy of about 12 or 13, living near the lake in northern Scotland with his mother and the hired help. They are rather well off, since they own a small estate (I assume they own it). Angus has a great fear of water and loves and misses his father dearly, who has been away in the Royal Navy for over a year.

Angus discovers a large strange "rock" by the lake and brings it home. Needless to say it hatches and our story begins. Angus calls it "Crusoe" after Robinson Crusoe, a book in his father's workshop. I don't feel that I'm spoiling anything here since this all happens very early in the story. But, at the same time Angus starts his "adventure", two things happen that change everyone's life. First, the Army sends an artillery company to bivouac on the estate to establish anti-submarine defenses around the Lock (which leads to the open sea), and a new hire, Lewis Mowbray (played by Ben Chaplin)is hired as a new handyman and moves into Angus's father's workshop which was Angus's sanctuary and where he is keeping his new "pet'. This is all traumatic to Angus who has to hide the "pet" from his mother, who refuses to let him have any kind of pet, and solicits the aid of his sister and later Lewis, to keep the secret.

I won't go into more plot details. I'll let you learn them for yourself. Suffice it to say there are adult situations and inferences that are done so well, that the adults watching have a good adult story and the kids will have their story unburdened with adult stuff. There are a lot of laughs and a lot of tense moments. A well written story.

I found this movie very entertaining with something for everyone, the kids, the adults, the criers and the laughers. The story was well written and well acted. The actors are not well know actors and, for this guy at least, made it all that more enjoyable and believable. I have to throw in one warning, though. Everyone talks with a Scottish brogue, so be prepared!

I have to throw in a special well done for the photography. The shots were stunning of the Lock and the mountains of the area (even though it was shot in New Zealand). I know it's early to say anything, but this deserves an award for it's beautiful photography.

The special effects were good, but once Crusoe grows up, the CGI looks too much like CGI as opposed to the scenes when it was a small thing where it was a lot better in appearance.

After all is said, I feel this deserves a 8 out of 10 from this humble reviewer.


Sorry I've been away and not keeping up with this. But, for those who know me, it's been a very busy fall. Besides that I haven't seen many movies. I promise to be more attentive in the future. I'm not going to limit this sit to just new movies, but I'll start reviewing oldies and classics and even some B SciFi stuff from the 50's. So keep tuned.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wild Hogs

A good description of this might be Brando’s “The Wild One” meets The Three Stooges during mid-life crisis. This story is about four suburban middle-aged middle class bikers, who call themselves the “Wild Hogs”, deciding to get away from it all and take a road trip from Cincinnati to the Pacific. Taking their bikes, the "Wild Hogs", Doug (Tim Allen), Woody (John Travolta), Bobby (Martin Lawrence) and Dudley (William H. Macy), putz up the road and eventually stop in New Mexico for a drink in a biker bar that belongs to the "Del Fuegos", a mean biker gang like the kind that give mean biker gangs that kind of reputation (a nice way of saying stereotyped). The leader of the gang, Jack (Ray Liotta), steals Dudley’s bike. Woody takes matters into his own hands and steals it back which starts a predictable chain of events.
Even though the plot is predictable, there are still a lot of fun parts to make this a pretty good flick, probably more so for bikers who see a lot more of the humor in these characters than non-bikers. My only complaint is that I feel that John Travolta was strained in this roll and seemed to be over-acting to me, while the others seemed to be taking it all in stride. There was also a lot of use of the “s” word (why they do this is beyond me. It adds nothing to the story at all, especially in a Disney film), but other than that there wasn’t anything offensive in it. I especially liked the scenes during the end credits. This is a no-surprises comedy that I rate as 7 out of 10.

The Farmer Astronaut

This is a story about dreams and fulfilling them. Charles Farmer is a former Air Force astronaut wannabe, astrophysicist and engineer (not stated, but implied by his talents), who left the Air Force in order to save the family ranch after his father’s death. But, his dream of going into space has never died to the point of obsession. He lives and breaths outer space. He has indoctrinated his entire family into his dream and they are all part of it. He has even built a real rocket, based on an Atlas rocket and built out of spares and scrap, in his barn, that he intends to use to shoot himself into space. The locals in the town all laugh behind his back. They just think he is a bit of a kook and don’t really take him seriously. The down side to all of this is that he has gone into debt, big time, and has not told anyone (his wife especially) about it, and they are about to foreclose on the family ranch. On top of that, government has been made aware of his rocket when he inquired about the large quantity of fuel he wanted to purchase for his launch, and in this post 9/11 world they have put the FBI to watch his every move, and the FAA tries to slow roll him so that the bank can foreclose before his launch date. Charlie feels his dream slipping away and throws caution to the wind and decides to launch using a less than perfect fuel source.

Like I said, this is a movie about dreams. It is a good family movie with nothing offensive in it at all. The performances are good with Billy Bob Thornton as our dreamer, Virginia Madsen as his “too good to believe in supporting all this” wife, a small part by Bruce Dern (he’s getting old) and an uncredited roll by Bruce Willis. The problems I had with it are it is a bit slow moving. Some people like this pace, but I needed it to move a bit faster. There were also numerous flaws, both technical and non-technical that tended to bother me, but it is still a good story with some life implications thrown in. All things considered, I give it a 7 out of 10 rating.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


It was another rental weekend. I wouldn't have rented this one except it came with a recommendation, so I gave it a try.

Shooter is another "one man hero against the system" story in the Rambo vain. Our hero, Bob Lee Swagger, played by Mark Wahlberg (what is this obsession on three word names?) is an ex-marine sniper, and obviously, the best in the business (gee, I'm surprised). The story opens with our hero and his observer showing there stuff in an operation in Ethiopia, where his observer gets killed and he is abandoned by the "good guys". Next scene is 3 years later at his mountain home living with his beer fetching dawg, now retired Swagger is approached by retired Col. Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) and his troop who convince Swagger that there will be an attempt on the life of the president by a sniper a a one mile range and only he can help them stop this before it happens. I mean, come on guys, this has fall guy written all over it! But, for the sake of a story, our hero falls for it and agrees to help.

Of course it is a set-up; of course they try to kill our hero; of course he gets wounded; of course he gets away; and of course our hero wants to uncover the plot and seek revenge. Standard plot mechanics, nothing new or original here. And because of his "super-hero" abilities, you know he will succeed showing off all his skills and waving the American flag all the way. If that's what you are looking for in this movie, you won't be disappointed, because that's what it is. A few original plot twists in the end and a lot of stupid moves on the part of our hero leaving you asking at the end of the movie "Why would he do that?", and then you realize that it is the excuse to have the action scenes, because if he "did the right things" (knowing what our hero knows all along, but they don't let us know until the end) there wouldn't be a story. So much for super-heroes.

On the positive side, Mark Wahlberg puts in a good performance and plays our hero straight and true. There is a decent supporting cast except I find Danny Glover unbelievable in his roll of a top guy, it just doesn't come off for me. I did like the small part veteran actor Ned Beatty played as Senator Meachum. He played the true arrogance of a man in his position.

So, if you want to see a Rambo style action film, this is it. If you want to see a plot twister that makes you think, you'd probably do better elsewhere. This movie is rated R. It has a bit of bad language, no sex other than Kate Mara in her underwear, no romance (other than maybe implied), and some blood, mostly due to the long range "head shots" that the sniper makes (this is the way they tell the audience that it's a kill). I was also disturbed by the sound quality. I had a lot of trouble understanding what was being said in a lot of instances and had to turn on the subtitles, but that might just be my audio setup. I give this movie a 7 out of 10.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Casino Royale

There wasn't anything I wanted to see in the theaters this weekend that I had to see, so I rented Casino Royale, the latest James Bond movie released last year staring Daniel Craig as the latest Bond figure. The reason I didn't see it in the theaters was my predetermination that this was just another JB film with all the gadgets and nonsense that has turned me off to these films since the Timothy Dalton days. I was just tired of the same old thing. The few I did see was because John Cleese played Q.

My idea of a good James Bond movie was like From Russia With Love, my all time favorite Bond film because the plot was believable and the gadgets were believable. Goldfinger was good, but they went steadily downhill after that. But, I guess my taste in movies matured also.

The first thing that was noticed about the film was "where is the James Bond Theme music?" But, after all, it was a new Bond and this was really supposed to be the initial episode in James' career, but still I was pleasantly surprised at Casino Royale. It tried to stay true to the Ian Flemming story and got back to the basics of a good spy story without the need for all the extra gadgets. There was more action in this film without the gadgets than most films had with them. I especially liked the chase scene in the beginning of the movie that was all done on foot and totally believable except that no one could have that much energy!! But, it was great! Daniel Criag makes a good Bond, a little stiff for a Bond, but, after all, this was an immature Bond: Bond, The Early days!

I also liked the fun the writers had with the little "flash-aheads" and jokes pertaining to future Bond events, like the Aston Martin DB5 and an obvious joke to Moneypenny. The overall story was well written and the plot kept you guessing, even when you knew the outcome, you still had to figure out who, how and why. I don't want to give away any of the plot. Enjoyit yourself. This one is worth seeing a second time. I give it a 8 out of 10.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Bourne Ultimatum is the third in the Bourne series of movies written by Robert Ludlum. I saw the first movie in the series, The Bourne Identity, but was not impressed. Therefore, I didn't bother with the second movie in the series, The Bourne Supremacy.

This third entry doesn't need the other two to make any sense. Ultimatum stands quite nicely alone. The only knowledge you need to know is that our hero has had a memory loss. All the rest is supplied in the movie.

Matt Damon reprises his part as Jason Bourne, the good guy who was made to do bad things by other good guys who are really bad guys, you know, the standard anti-government-agency-exceed-your-authority making you the bad guy plot. Nothing terribly new in the plot lines except in it's execution and timing, which make this a non-stop action film with plenty of story to keep you interested and plenty of action to back it up.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is being hunted by the people who made him what he is. He has only one objective, that is to go back to the beginning and find out the who, what and whys of who he was and is. He starts in Moscow, then Paris, London, Madrid and then to Tangier and New York City as he picks up clues and tries to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, er, good guys, aah, good guys who are actually bad guys ... you know what I mean. The tricks and maneuvers are first rate and more on the believable side than a Bond movie. The action is pretty much non-stop up there on a par with a Die Hard movie, only believable, like I said. But, like I have mentioned before, the jerky camera movement during all the action scenes I find very annoying, and there is plenty of jerky movement here. They call it "artistic", I say, "who needs it!"

Ultimatum is a decent movie with no profanities (that I recall) and no sex, but plenty of violence, but no bloody. The supporting cast is good with you routing for the "good" guys and wanting the "bad" guys to get there due. There is plenty in the story that is predictable and a few "gotchas" that take you by surprise. A decent 2 hours entertainment if you like this sort of thing. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lady In The Water

Lady In The Water is the latest film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who also did The Sixth Sense (great movie, I are this a 10!), The Village (so-so movie, rate a 6)), Signs (I didn't see), and Unbreakable (not too bad movie, rate a 7).

I didn't know what to expect with this movie, I had no preconceptions other than it was something of a fantasy.

Cleveland Heep is an apartment superintendent who one night rescues what he thinks is a young woman, named Story, from the pool at the apartment complex. He discovers that she is actually a bedtime story character who is trying to get back to her home. Cleveland, who knows nothing of this bedtime story, manages to piece together what is needed to try to help Story to get home. He involves all his tenants in trying to figure out what has to be done in order for Story to get home.

I was pleasantly surprised at this movie. It was not only a fantasy, but also a puzzle in the Hitchcock fashion, maybe The Never Ending Story, or like a game of Clue where you have to figure out who is needed to do what to come up with the right ending.

No one really stands out much in the acting. Paul Giamatti is good as Cleveland. Bryce Dallas Howard is OK as Story, it's not a very strong part anyway, but I have a little trouble adjusting to Opie having a daughter (she looks very much like her father). The rest of the characters just play supporting rolls.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie, but the "bad guy" being worked over by the "good guys" at the end of the movie ruined it for me. Still, I give it a 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I have to confess, I gave in to all the nasty media pressure and did not go to see this movie in the theaters when it was out. I should have known that this was all sour grapes provided by a jealous industry that puts down anyone who doesn't play their game or are new comers (I have first hand experience there).

The media said that this was overly violent and extremely bloody. To a point, they were right. But, what they didn't say is that this was a good story, great photography and well acted. What more do you need for entertainment?

The story revolves around a small tribe of South American Indians who are attacked and captured by the, now in decline, Mayan Indians who intend on using the men for human sacrifices. The story is centered on Jaguar Paw, who is captured along with his family and whose focus is on getting back to save his wife and child who he managed to hide during the attack.

This film has humor, pathos, yes it is violent, yes it is bloody, but, not unnecessarily so. Certainly not near as bad as some of the horror flicks of late. The story quickly endears the viewer to the subject tribe and it's people. The bad guys are real BAD GUYS and there are no grey areas. I found the ending very satisfying.

If you can stand a little violence, this movie is a good rental. I give it 8 out of 10.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Children of Men

This is another movie I waited to see on DVD, but after seeing it I almost wish I never bothered. This is a future story of the world in 2027 in total disarray due to war and terrorism, which have ravaged the world to the point that the UK is the only viable country left. Consequently, they have a huge immigration problem and have camps and golags for illegal immigrants. But, the biggest problem is that there have been no new births in over 18 years. No one knows why.

Our hero, Theo (Clive Owen), a former activist, agrees to transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea where scientists may be able to help save the future on mankind. The plot is slow, dull and I had to turn on the sub-titles in order to understand a lot of what they were saying. The film also has an almost non-ending which leaves you saying ... "so what? ... is that all?"

I should have known this would be bad because the film company was called Hit and Run Films!! I give it 3 out of 10. Miss it if you can.

Letters From Iwo Jima

I've started to review films I see on DVD also, since I am reluctant to pay the outrageous prices at the box office for something I am not sure is worth it.

My first film is Letters From Iwo Jima. This is a fine film, directed by Clint Eastwood. It's the story of the Japanese soldiers preparing for and then engaging the American invasion of Iwo Jima during WWII. This movie is largely based on facts taken from letters of soldiers stationed there and a few survivors. This story tells of the great divide within the Japanese military as a whole as well as the differences between the officer and common ranks. It shows the futility of war and the sides of war we just don't want to admit are there. Nicely photographed and well acted by the Japanese cast. All spoken in Japanese with subtitles. I rate it 8 out of 10.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Ok, so my son came for a visit from Colordo Springs and we saw some movies. Today we saw the latest in the Die Hard series, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. My background with the Die Hard movies is mixed. I thought the Original Die Hard (1988) was a great movie except for the tremendous amount of bad language and too much gore. The cast was good (Alan Rickman always plays such a good bad-guy) and the plot was well thought out. The next two entries (Die Hard 2 - 1990 and Die Hard With A Vengeance - 1995) were just copies of the same formula with way to much foul language for me. Like all the Die Hards, this is crammed with Special effects, some of which are pretty poor by todays standards.

In case you haven't guessed, I hate all the bad language used in films. It distracts from the story and usually has no reason for being other than to get an R rating (I don't do R rated any more either). I was very pleased to see they rated this one PG-13 and I only remember hearing one profanity (although I'm sure there were others), this was certainly nice to hear, or not to hear, depending on how you look at it.

This entry has the same action formula (John McClain survives all, gets well beaten up, knocks off the bad guys one at a time, etc, etc). But, this time he has Justin long as a co-star playing a computer geek and the pair come off very well together. The plot, though totally unbelievable (as they usually are), was still fun even though predictable. Even so, I found this another good 2+ hours of entertainment. So, if you're a die hard Bruce Willis fan (pun intended) you'll like this one. I rate it 7 out of 10.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


I broke out of my movie boycott slump, since there wasn't anything much out there I thought worthy of my hard earned money, and saw the TRANSFORMERS. I must admit I have never been a Transformers "groupie", never read the comics and never watched the cartoons. I just knew enough to have a general knowledge of what it was about. So, no preconceptions on my part.

I must admit that I was very impressed with the translation from a cartoon to the "big screen". The special effects were superb, especially Optimus Prime who they did an awesome job on special effects with. The story was not bogged down with unnecessary plot or boring conversations which made it pure entertainment. It was 2 1/2 hours of pretty much non-stop action, a plot that made sense and just the right amount of comedy to make it real entertainment, which is so hard to find nowadays, IMHO.

The only negative I have is my usual pet peeve about te jerky camera action in the action scenes with the special effects. I'm convinced that this is done to cover up flaws or just make the SPX cheaper to do since the viewer really can't tell what is happening. This really dives me crazy. But, the almighty dollar dives the film industry probably more than the rest of the corporate world, so I have to live with it. But, I'll rate this as 8 out of 10. Go see it if you want to just get away from it all and have a good time.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End

Just got back from the latest Cap'n Jack movie. First I have to say, I loved the first one and thought the second one was pretty poor. This one, in my opinion falls in between the first two, but leans more toward the "wait for the rental" side.

Another long movie at 2 hours and 33 minutes, the special effects are up to standard, although there were some that were pretty poor by todays standards. The plot is long and drawn out and at times plain old boring. Don't get me wrong, there were quite a few good laughs, but some were predictable ... which I guess takes away from the humor.

I had real trouble understanding the dialog Naomie Harris presented with her heavy Caribbean accent, and Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley added nothing new. On the other hand, best actor should go to Geoffrey Rush for a wonderful job as Barbossa and best supporting actor should go to the monkey! As usual, they left the door open for more of these, but I won't be going unless they can find the formula they had with "The Curse of the Black Pearl". I give it a 7 out of 10.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shrek the Third

Saw this one today. It was ok ... not very long and bogged down with too much philosophical dialog. The jokes were all aimed at people from our generation, so kids won't get most of the jokes. Some good moments ... not as good as the last one ... rate it 6 out of 10.

Spiderman 3

Saw this the first day out. I was pleased with the way the plot moved, it was a good story, well written. It's a bit long at 140 minutes, but the time flies. Special effects are good, as expected. I only find 3 flaws with the movie (personal opinions here). The first is Kirsten Dunst, sorry, I don't like her, she isn't a good actress, her character is shallow and flawed, and for the life of me I don't know what our hero sees in her. Second, the special effects in the initial fight scene with James Franco; everything moves so fast you can't make out what is happening most of the time. This was remedied in the rest of the movie. Lastly, I'm quite tired of seeing Spiderman's outfit getting ripped to shreds all the time, it never happened in the comic book! When does he have time to make new ones? Kirsten sure isn't going to make him one ... I can see it now! "Spidey honey, make your own damn costume!"

I'd still give it a 98out of 10.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Well, here we are. Let's talk about movies. As you can see from the list below, I have a fair sized collection. I wouldn't say I'm a fanatic, but I do enjoy a well done movie and even some not well done movies. For instance, I love the Science Fiction B- movies from the '50's with all that paranoia and low budget special effects. I could have been another Elvira or, as we had in the Boston area back then, FEEP on Fantasmic Features (he was the same guy of played Major Mudd for those who remember). The movies in the past 30 years, I feel, are geared to the corruption of us all for the sake of making a buck. Not too much good in the movies in the 70's through 90's. They are starting to get back to some good "family" entertainment now, but they are still few and far between.