* * * Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 16-18 (1967 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 16 - The Galileo 7: The Galileo Seven episode featured the first use of the Shuttle Craft by the Enterprise. We got a really good look at the Shuttle craft, both interior and exterior, as well as the hanger bay. The episode featured a crash landing on a planet inhabited by giant Neanderthal like giants. The inhabitants turn out to be hostile and some of the landing party are killed. Unfortunately Scotty has to use the phasers as an energy supply to get the shuttle back into orbit. In the meantime, Kirk is being hounded by some diplomat who keeps reminding him about their mission to provide supplies to stop a plague. In the end, Spock makes an 'Illogical' decision which results in the rescue of the away team at the last possible moment. Not one of the better episodes, the only redeeming part was Spock's use of 'instinct' to save the day. Episode 17 - Squire of Gothos: The squire includes an exceptional performance by William Campbell (as Trelane an alien child who appears to be much older than he is (a common theme in TOS)). This is a pretty good episode, it seems to set the stage for the 'Q' character of later Star Trek series. Episode 18 - Arena: Arena is easily one of my all time favorite Star Trek episodes. First it's got great music, second it pits Kirk against the 'Gorn'. The reptilian commander of an alien space ship. Kirk's first instinct is to kill the lizard man, and he builds a canon out of raw materials in order to carry out his blood-thirsty plan. I rate the first season a 5 out of 5.
* Resident Evil - Degeneration: (2008 - Animation, action, sci-fi, horror) An attempt to tell the Resident Evil story through animation. The plot involves three main characters fighting zombies, mutated boss monsters, corrupt officials and terrorists. Two different locations are featured a large airport and a bio-tech facility. The animation in this movie feels like cut scenes out of a video game, which is to say - they didn't spend much time/effort to make the animation better than the first generation of Resident Evil video games. This animation is flat, lacks fluidity, and the character motions are joy-stick jerky. The English voice-over/dialog lacks any conviction, emotion or context. I should have listened to the Japanese dialog. Despite the fact that the story was o.k., the poor animation detracted from the story and left me with no regard for the characters. A short movie (96 minutes) with deep story lines and complex conspiracies. Combining a complex plot with extreme brevity resulted in a movie with a lot of exposition, and that's something I don't like. The music was mixed. Good during the action scenes, but melodramatic and drawn out during the dramatic parts. The attempts at romance/character development were badly botched. The only redeeming parts were the action scenes. 2 out of 5.
* Kung Faux - Vol. 1: (2007 - Action, comedy, music) The Tommyboy label (a hip-hop record label; now film) has produced numerous hip-hop, dance, electronic bands/artists, and now they're making movies. Well, remixing movies. They've take a series of old-style (from the 70's) Kung-Fu movies (from different countries), edited them for length, added comic book styling, dubbed in a new sound-track and some alternate dialogue using various hip-hop artists/MCs. These re-edited movies are aired on cable television in a 30 minute show. With the success of the TV shows, the producers have decided to release the shows on DVD. This particular DVD (Vol 1) featured two such shows. The content of the shows is irrelevant, it's the graphics, music, dubtittled dialog and excellent editing that marks this video. Unfortunately, the 'movies' are interrupted by commercials. Seriously, the feature is interrupted at standard television breaks with commercial advertising. Ridiculous, distracting and especially annoying. If it hadn't been for those commercials, this movie would have received a higher rating. 2 out of 5.
* * * Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 19-21 (1967 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 19 - Tomorrow Is Yesterday: In Tomorrow is yesterday, the crew of the Enterprise inadvertently travels back to 1960's Earth, and must correct damage they caused to the timeline. It's another time travel episode. I sure liked the time travel episodes. Looking back on this episode now, it's something of a time travel movie itself. The 60's costumes, the Air Force uniforms, the jets, everything seems like a period movie. When it was made it was cutting edge present. The ridiculous circular logic presented as a consequence of time travel may have helped me formulate my 'No Time/No Motion' theory. Episode 20 - Court Martial : The Court Martial episode was a court room drama with a small fight sequence thrown in just to bare Kirk's chest for a minute or two. In this one Kirk is accused of negligence, and very nearly ends up loosing his command and going to prison. Luckily, Spock checks the computers capacity for error by playing against in a chess match. After he wins four times in a row, it becomes evident that someone has reprogrammed the computer. They then postulate that crew member that Kirk supposedly killed is behind it all. They manage to isolate his heart beat, and locate him in the engineering section. Bring on the fight music. This episode was another disappointment. No aliens, no sexy costumes, not much fighting. Episode 21 - Return of the Archons: In 'The return of the Archon's', the crew of the Enterprise encounters a world controlled by an unseen leader. The unseen leader turns out to be a machine, which Kirk and Spock destroy in order to 'liberate' the citizens from it's stable but stale control. I believe this episode may have been the first to mention the 'Prime Directive'. I rate the first season a 5 out of 5.
* East Of Eden: (1955 - Drama) Directed by Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, A Face in the Crowd), this movie stars James Dean in a drama set in Salinas Valley California. Based in and around WWI, the movie is a stage for James Dean, who's acting in this movie was outstanding. Dean stars as Cal Trask, a conflicted, unhappy young man. The black sheep of a moderately wealthy farming family. Cal is a rebel striving to find himself while simultaneously pleasing his father. The ending is tragic, dramatic, and powerful. 4 out of 5.
* * * Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 22-24 (1967 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 22 - Space Seed: Space seed was one of my all-time favorite original series episodes. With Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, this episode was about the 'Eugenics Wars'. Khan and his crew are awakened from cryogenic sleep aboard the Botany Bay (named after a penal colony in Australia). The crew and it's leader immediately set out to conquer the Enterprise and implement their plans to reestablish a world dominating empire. Kirk will have none of it, defeats Khan, and banishes him and his crew to a remote planet as punishment. These characters are revisited several times in Star Trek history, and every episode tied to this one has been a smashing success. Episode 23 - A Taste of Armageddon: A taste of armageddon must have been the 'incident' that convinced the UFP to establish a 'Prime Directive'. Kirk is at his arrogant best. He comes to this planet - on a diplomatic mission to open peaceful relations with the inhabitants of this star system - He beams down to the surface despite the inhabitants insistence that they don't want them there, and proceeds to intentionally instigate a nuclear powered shooting war which will likely result in the total annihilation of the inhabitants, their culture, and the end of their civilization. Episode 24 - A Taste of Paradise: This side of paradise had Spock kissing a woman, exhibiting 'Happiness' and generally acting like a Human. A space-borne plant sprayed the planets colonists with 'spores' which healed them and made them docile. Another episode about stagnation of imagination and the Human drive to achieve, create, explore and dominate their surroundings. In this episode we also learn that Vulcans have more than one name. According to Spock, the second name is typically unpronounceable by humans. I rate the first season a 5 out of 5.
* Hellboy II - The Golden Army: (2008 - Action, adventure, fantasy) Guillermo del Toro wrote the story, screenplay and directed this sequel to the original Hellboy movie. While I enjoyed the movie, I didn't find it to be as good as the original. Ron Perlman's performance wasn't the best, and the overuse of cgi was a disappointment. Ron Perlman was heavily digitized at times, and some scenes seemed 'Pinocchio' like. Acting is definitely not a strong point in this movie, but the story suffered as well. While I enjoyed the story, I found it's setting in a Hellboy sequel to be a bit of a disappointment. I think it would have been better free of the Hellboy franchise. This unnecessary tendency to perpetuate a series, just because it did well the first time is stifling some excellent storytelling opportunities. The story in this movie is an obvious juxtaposition of the 'Men In Black' ethic of Hellboy, and a Guillermo del Toro alternative fairy tale. An evil elf declares war on humans when he senses the impending doom of his race. Intent in his mission, he strives to activate the 'Golden Army' in order to wreck havoc on the unsuspecting humans of our world. Standing between him and the destruction of humanity is Hellboy and his mutant cohorts. The fantastic vision created by the primary plot is inventive, visually stunning and captivating. The creatures were great, the action outstanding. Complicating the fantasy plot of an evil elf and his vindictive quest are a couple of ridiculous romance sub-plots and an extremely weak 'Save the Earth' subplot. Guillermo del Toro's talent is squandered in this typical Hollywood sequel. 3 out of 5.
* * * Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 25-27 (1967 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 25 - The Devil in the Dark: The devil in the dark was one of my favorite 'Alien' episodes. Miners on Janus VI have a deadly encounter with a silicon based life form who only wants to coexist peacefully with the humans. The human miners want the monstrous rock-thing destroyed. Spock mind melds with the creature and Bones patches up it's wounds with concrete! Episode 26 - Errand of Mercy: Errand of mercy finds Kirk and Spock alone on a planet of pacifists when a war with the Klingons breaks out. As the Klingons invade the planet, Kirk and Spock go underground to 'convince' the planet's inhabitants that the Klingons are here to do them harm. Despite their arrogant assurances and superior attitudes, both sides (Federation & Klingon) in this dispute soon learn that the pacifist inhabitant's have a lesson for the warring parties. Episode 27 - The Alternative Factor: The alternative factor features some classic over the top acting by Robert Brown, and very cheesy special effects. The story isn't all that good, and I count this as one of the worst original series episodes. Of note: I'm fairly certain the 'simultaneously coexisting universes' explored in this episode must have been an influence in my 'No Time/No Motion' theory. Also of note in this episode, Janet MacLachlan played Lieutenant Charlene Masters, a member of the Enterprise crew with responsibilities in the engineering section. Her acting in this episode was excellent. She went on to star in over a hundred movies/television shows since the 60s. I rate the first season a 5 out of 5.
* The Ref: (1994 - Comedy, crime, drama) Starring Denis Leary, Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey and others. The story in this crime comedy is a preposterous Christmas eve caper, wherein one crook botches a heist in a high class neighborhood. Abandoned by his partner, the cat burglar seeks refuge and a way out of the cops closing cordon. In his attempt to escape the scene of the crime, he ends up kidnapping a quarrelling couple. He forces them to give him refuge in their home, but he soon regrets his decision. The bickering couple's blackmailing son, and insufferable in-laws soon make him wish he'd given himself up to the police. While he does his best to referee this dysfunctional family, the audience is left wondering - Why? That's my question. What exactly was the point of this movie? While the dialog was witty and well constructed, it was delivered in a non-stop stream of soliloquies - It felt staged, artificial and a bit too polished for my tastes. The performances were good, but the characters were caustic archetypes - examples of a caustic extreme. The writing was lacking, and the ending a bit of a let down. 2 out of 5.
* You Don't Mess with the Zohan: (2008 - Comedy, drama, action) Starring Adam Sandler, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Rob Schneider and others. Even includes a few cameos - Henry Winkler and Mariah Carey. The story - A super-human Israeli soldier (Zohan Dvir - played by Adam Sandler) tires of the perpetual war between Israelis and Arabs. He decides its time to get out of the counter terrorism business and start a new business. He moves to America in order achieve his dream - to be a hairdresser? That particular plot is fine on paper, and the movie contained plenty of gags to make you laugh. Unfortunately, the writing also includes some serious social commentary on relations between Arabs, Jews, Palestinians, etc. I'll admit that there were a few funny moments in this movie, but the disconcerting attempts to make serious social statements, while simultaneously offering up juvenile crotch jokes and constant shots of Sandler's ass just didn't sit well with me. The story itself, totally falls apart after you try to add in any sort of serious social commentary. 2 out of 5.
* The Laughing Policeman: (1973 - Crime, drama, thriller) Directed by Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker, The Amityville Horror (original), The Pope of Greenwich Village) and starring Walter Matthau, Bruce Dern, Louis Gossett Jr. and others. It's a thrilling crime drama with a dark story and good acting. The story starts with a machine gun massacre onboard a city bus. One of the dead passengers is an off-duty cop, Walter Matthau's partner. Why was he on that bus? What case has he been working on? Or, was he just an innocent bystander - In the wrong place at the wrong time? As Matthau and his new partner begin to dig into this mystery, we get the feeling that something buried is about to be revealed. When the dead victims lead to a series of dead ends, the cops start to push the prime suspect in an attempt to make him react. A thrilling mystery with good acting, excellent pacing, and superb lighting. The writing/screenplay contained some very sophisticated dialog with numerous overlapping exchanges. While the ending is dramatic, it leaves many questions unanswered, and it felt like there was something missing in the closing segments. 3 out of 5.
* * Star Trek - The original series - season 1 (Episodes 28-29 (1967 - Sci-fi, adventure)) I've started viewing episodes of the original Star Trek series, I'm watching them in the originally aired order. In 2007, Paramount studios completed a project to remaster, restore, and digitally enhanced the original series. Those remastered episodes are now available for viewing (Or purchase - that would make a great gift - hint, hint...), and I'm enjoying these remastered shows now. Streaming the shows from NetFlix is incredibly easy and convenient, now that I've got a Roku Player. I watched it as a kid when I was growing up (Yow! that makes me... old?), and I loved it back then. You know what? I still love it. My friends and I used to pretend to be members of the 'Starship Enterprise'. The acting was stage like and corny, but the stories grabbed you by the hand phaser and applied the Vulcan nerve pinch. Episode 28 - The City on the Edge of Forever: The city on the edge of forever is another one of those time travel episodes that I love so much. Here McCoy rushes headlong through a time portal on an abandoned planet. Kirk and Spock have no option but to follow. Soon all three are embroiled in a complex time travel paradox which will lead to the death of an innocent, or the destruction of a civilization. Excellent writing.. Episode 29 - Operation Annihilate!: Episode 29 is one of my all-time favorite Star Trek episodes. Featuring 'Flying Vomit' as a menacing pain inducing alien; mind-controlled colonists; and a determined crew. Kirk and Spock never relent in this episode. Some great (campy) dialog keeps the edge off. Kirk shouts "Spread out, follow-me", and everyone follows him in a relatively straight line (in order to stay in the shot). In one classic shot, Kirk beams down to the planet and the camera shot was set up with an extremely low camera angle, looking up at Kirk. Kirk stands for a moment, fists on hips, legs apart - The classic "I am Kirk - I am a God" stance. I rate the first season a 5 out of 5.
* The Night of the Iguana: (1964 - Drama, thriller) Directed by John Huston (Actor, writer, director, producer: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Asphalt Jungle (original), African Queen, Moulin Rouge (original), Moby Dick (w/Gregory Peck), Annie, Chinatown) and starring a great cast - Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and others. Here's a fantastic drama torn from the pages of a Tennessee Williams play. A complex, rich and uncompromising vision. A fantastic human drama played out on film. The sun drenched Mexican location alone is worth the price of admission. Take a tour bus down the dusty back roads of Baja Mexico. Stay at the seaside inn of last resort. A place where desire, ambition, and resignation compete for the souls of these desperate characters. One defrocked, broken down minister. A hopelessly promiscuous young girl on the verge of hormonal explosion. A poet of the ages, resigned to his death bed. The supportive good daughter, about to embark on her on journey. A widower with nowhere left to turn. The characters are rich, well developed and excellently acted. Outstanding movie. 4 out of 5.
* The Lavender Hill Mob: (1951 - Comedy, Crime / UK) Starring Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, Alfie Bass and others. It's a bank heist movie with comedic overtones. The caper is pulled off by a less than threatening gang of unassuming characters. Mr. Holland has supervised the bullion run for several years. This tweed wearing, bespectacled accountant has decided to make off with his own retirement. With the assistance of a souvenir maker and a couple of second string burglars, they hatch a foolproof plan to make off with a van full of gold. The story is excellent. Well written, and executed with style. Some of the camera work was excellent, and the acting was great. 3 of 5.
* * Dilbert - Season 1: (Episodes 7-8 (2000 Animation, comedy) From the comic strip by Scott Adams, here is a feature length version of a favorite comic character. I like the comic, I identify with the characters and situations. Here Dilbert and his co-workers come to life with the voices of some semi-talented actors. The television show follows the comic strip in a fantasized office life. These cubicle dwellers do their best to survive the soul-sucking corporate policies of the place where they work. At times the show is comedic, sarcastic, cynical and reflective of our society. So far I give it a 3 out of 5.
* JSA - Joint Security Area: (2000 - Drama, War, Thriller / Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA - South Korea) Directed Chan-wook Park (Oldboy). A fantastic, fatalistic story full of thrills, bullets and forbidden secrets. The story takes place in the DMZ. A tense no-man's land separating the two Koreas. A place where humanity holds no sway - an armed fuse waiting for a powder keg. When an 'Incident' threatens the fragile truce, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission sends in a team of investigators. Charged with uncovering the cover ups and ferreting out the truth, the story takes an unexpected but pleasant turn as the simple but tragic truth is revealed. The pacing was a bit fast, and I didn't care for the camera work. Does anyone really like that '360, 360, 360, 360, 360, 360' technique? Just because you can, doesn't mean you should - or at least not seventeen times in a row! Fortunately, the story and acting are top notch. So much so that I couldn't tear myself away. 4 out of 5.
* * Kolchak - The Night Stalker: (Episodes 5-6 (1974 - Horror, mystery, thriller)) Darren McGavin stars in the original 'X-Files'. Fighting zombies, aliens, all sorts of supernatural creatures. Episode 5 - The Werewolf: A horrible episode. The werewolf wore a leisure suit! The make-up was terrible, and the acting was terrible. The story, what? There was a story? Oh yeah, the story... Werewolf lose on cruise ship - Who wrote this episode?! Episode 6 - Firefall: Despite the terrible title, this one was much better. Featuring spontaneous human combustion and a Doppelganger. Kolchak sure has his hands full in this episode. Running from scorched body to charred victim, he eventually figures out how to end this 'curse', and cure the conductor. 4 of 5.
* Invaders from Mars: (1953 - Horror, sci-fi, drama, action) One stormy night, David MacLean spots a spaceship landing just over the ridge. When he tells his parents, they calm him down and go back to bed. Later, David's dad goes out to investigate. What returns is a oddly hostile stranger. When the police come to investigate, they too are affected by the alien influence in the sand pit. Soon it's a race to stop an alien invasion. Filled bad acting; bug-eyed, green, mu-tants; remotely controlled victims; and the golden tentacled alien. Can the U.S. Army fend off this ever spreading threat? The story lacks character motivations and a solid plot, but it's a great 50's nuclear sci-fi thriller. Full of low budget effects, sets and costumes. By far the best part of this movie was the music - The original score by Mort Glickman (uncredited) was excellent. In his 30 plus years, he contributed an outstanding body of work to the motion picture and television industry of America. 3 of 5.
* Ice Station Zebra: (1968 - Action, drama, thriller) Directed by John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape), starring Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown and others. When a Soviet film canister deorbits at the north pole, it's a race to get their before the Russian's do. This all star cast sets sail in a submarine, beneath the arctic ice of the cold-war. Two parts to this movie, an undersea adventure aboard a nuclear powered sub and thrilling showdown on a devastated ice station. The acting was mixed (good - Patrick McGoohan, Rock Hudson - bad Ernest Borgnine), and the story bogged down in the endgame, but it was thrilling throughout. 4 out of 5.
* Absence of Malice: ( 1981 - Drama, romance) Directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Paul Newman and Sally Field. A great drama about truth, integrity and justice. When a reporter is intentionally exposed to 'insider' information, she does what any good reporter does, she runs with it. Publishing a speculative article based on 'knowledgeable sources'. The result is political pressure, a renewed investigation, and concern on the part of the organized crime. Sally Field plays a novice reporter on a miami paper. When she compromises her journalistic ethics, she ends up as a pawn in this tense crime drama. The acting is top notch, the story and directing worthy of attention. 4 out of 5.
* The Harder They Come: (1972 - Action, crime, drama, music / Jamaica) Ivan Martin (played by real Reggae artist Jimmy Cliff) moves to the city after his mother dies. At first Ivan hopes to move in with his grandmother, but she'll have none of that. Ivan is left to fend for himself, and he soon becomes a bad boy anti-hero living in the slums of Kingston Jamaica. After he tries to make it big in the music industry, the man does his best to keep him down. When Ivan insists on a bigger slice of the pie, he's shut down by the money grubbing exec that controls the Jamaican music industry. Turning to crime to pay the bills, Ivan soon starts selling marijuana to get by. When he tries to hold out on the corrupt cops, he finds himself at odds with everyone in charge of keeping down the little man. Bullets fly, cops dies, and Ivan soon becomes a folk hero. Living day to day in the underground, Ivan has become the scourge of authority and a symbol of defiance in a world where money equals power and the oppressed masses do what they must to survive the squalor of Jamaica's Trenchtown. Despite the poor production value and sound quality, the shooting locations were awesome, and the music was excellent. Based on a true story, this movie really has great visuals and an authentic feel unlike most hollywood productions. 4 out of 5.
* Sleeper: (1973 - Comedy, sci-fi) Written in part, directed by, and starring Woody Allen. This movie is considered by some to be Woody Allen's funniest. If that's the case then I won't be watching many more Woody Allen comedies. Woody Allen stars in this sci-fi movie as a sexually frustrated citizen from the early 70's. When he goes under for routine surgery, something goes wrong and he ends up cryogenically frozen. Fast forward 200 years and we find a group of rogue scientists unthawing Woody because he's untraceable in the current society. Woody teams up with an unwitting accomplice (played by Dianne Keaton) and soon becomes involved in a plot to overthrow the creativity crushing authoritarian police state of this idyllic future society. The movie contains a lot of physical humor. Slapstick in the tradition of the Stooges and Charlie Chaplin. Unfortunately, the dialog (in my opinion) ruined the show. Woody Allen seems to play a perpetually unhappy antagonist who won't shut up about his anxieties and shortcomings. His insufferable complaining really moved me into the 'I hope they crush his character' category, and ruined the movie for me. As for funny, I found myself chuckling on occasion, but nothing made me laugh out loud. I give it a 2 out of 5.
* Man on Wire: (2008 - Documentary, crime / US, UK) A great documentary about Philippe Petit. A little known celebrity who captured the world's attention by walking on a wire - between the world trade center towers. Philippe accomplished this feat back in 1974, and this documentary reveals the obsessive quest that came to define this young man. Making use of home movies, archival footage, and video taken during daring daylight raids into the twin towers. Just after the towers were officially opened, the top floors were still under construction. Philippe and his band of co-conspirators snuck into the building, slipped past security and managed to string cable before authorities arrived on the scene. It's a wonderful story; illustrating the intricate planning, amazing luck and shear courage necessary to pull off an audacious high wire walk between the worlds tallest buildings. 4 out of 5.
* * Twilight Zone - Season 1, the Original Series: (Episodes 3-5 (1959 - Crime, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller) With narration by Rod Serling, I'm watching the first season of this original show which aired in the late 50's. A time when science was a scintillating discovery of the furthest reaches of the galaxy and the subatomic levels of the atom. Here is a television series that inspired, thrilled and intrigued the minds of millions of young scientists. A blending of fantasy and science that left one filled with a sense of wonder and awe. Great acting, short stories, and original content. Despite some technical problems with this 'Watch Instantly' series, I am enjoying the shows. So far I give the show a 4 out of 5.
* Exiled: (2006 - Action, crime, thriller / Fong Juk - Hong Kong/China) Directed by Johnny To, this movie featured some pretty good action in a highly stylized crime, action, thriller catastrophe. A great premise in setting. Macao in 1998. Just before the Portuguese colony is turned over to Chinese rule. As the balance of power shifts, gangsters, mobsters and every sort of organized crime boss struggle to see who will survive the tumultuous times to come. As the gangs vie against each other, their hit men are placed in the middle as pawns. Sent to kill each other, they band together to fight for themselves instead of the corrupt bosses they've served in the past. The film contains stylish flourishes of camera work, an homage to classic western shoot out films, but in the end the bullets, botched plot, and over dramatic posing failed to convinced me. This movie seemed to be one extended shoot out. More time should have been spent on story, and less time on staring each other down. Filled with cliches and plot holes, the viewer must completely set aside any sort of logic or social context when watching this overly violent stylish runway show. 2 out of 5.
* The Desert Fox - The Story of Rommel: (1951 - Action, biography, drama, history, war) A biopic with some narrative in the opening segment. Henry Hathaway (Kiss of Death, How the West Was Won, True Grit) directs, and James Mason stars as Rommel in this incredibly well acted movie. Beginning with the campaign in North Africa, this movie follows the career of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel after his battles in the Afrika Korps. It chronicles his life, his military career, his family life, his involvement in a plot to kill hitler, and ultimately his lonely departure from this stage of life. The acting was excellent. Not overly dramatic. Extremely well paced and directed, the movie contained a bit too much stock footage, but it was an outstanding biopic. If you're a WWII buff, it's a must see. A rare glimpse into the other side of that horrific contest. 4 out of 5.
* Walk Hard - The Dewey Cox Story: (2007 - Comedy, music) Co-writen by Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow, this movie is directed by Jake Kasdan. Starring John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox. It's a spoof on 'Walk The Line' (see my review), but it was hard to keep that in mind while watching this movie. At times this mock documentary/spoof took itself too seriously to be a spoof, and in the end I think that's what ruined it for me. The comedy was decidedly subtle, mockingly underplayed. They story - John C. Reilly stars as a fictional pop star - Dewey Cox in an up, down, up, down, rags to riches story. His musical venue changes as the times change, he sleeps with a gazillion women, has so many kids he can't remember their names, is addicted to - then kicks - every drug he comes across. In the end he finally marries his long time love, becomes a national hero and icon in the Rock'N Roll hall of fame, and fades out of memory. The story isn't all that compelling, and I don't really care for spoofs. I remember chuckling on occasion, just not laughing out loud. Wasn't this supposed to be a comedy? 2 out of 5.
* Chaplin: (1992 - Biography, drama) Directed by Richard Attenborough (The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles, A Bridge Too Far, Cry Freedom, Jurasic Park), based biographies by Charles Chaplin and David Robinson. Starring Robert Downey Jr. (as Charlie Chaplin), Anthony Hopkins (fictional editor George Hayden), Kevin Kline (as Douglas Fairbanks), and many others. Told through flashbacks, comedic devices and a fictional editors narration/guidance. This movie tells the story of Charlie Chaplin's life. We follow this cinematic genius on his journey through Hollywood Land. More than a silly physical comedy comic, Charlie Chaplin was an amazing talent. Producer, director, writer, actor and Studio manager - There's nothing he couldn't do - Except heal his mother and his disjointed relationships with women. Robert Downey Jr's performance was truly outstanding. He should have captured an Oscar with this role. Surprising revelations regarding his political views and love life were well covered. I like all his films, and this movie brought me a wealth of information about the man behind that silly little moustache. 5 out of 5.
* Joyride: (1996 - Drama, suspense, crime) There are a lot of movies named 'Joyride' or 'Joy Ride' in the IMDB database. As a matter of fact, I own a 'Joy Ride' from 2004. That one stars Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, and others. I gave that one a 5 out of 5. Unfortunately, with this one, I picked a stinker. Written and directed by Quinton Peeples. this movie starred Tobey Maguire, Amy Hathaway, Wilson Cruz and others. The scene of the crime in this movie was a washed out little town, with a run down motel, and a cast of two time losers. A pair of just graduated characters are dreaming of escape and Tanya - the flirtatious hooker in room number 12. That's when the drop dead gorgeous assassin arrives in a big black convertible. When Tanya and the boys hijack the assassins wheels, they wish they hadn't. She sets them up for a dead end and things couldn't get worse. The acting was terrible, the dialogue and script were atrocious. Bad editing, poor camera work, terrible direction (makes me glad that there are no other Peeples titles in the NetFlix inventory). Low budget, High school talent doing a Tarantino film. The only thing that could have saved this film would - Nudity. Unfortunately, no one in the cast gets topless. 2 out of 5.
* A Bucket of Blood: (1959 - Comedy, horror, thriller) Directed by one of my favorites B-Movie directors (Roger Corman - Writer, director, producer, actor, with hundreds of credits spanning a career of 50+ years), this short feature (66 minutes) features a cast of relative unknowns in an odd horror story with comedic elements and a thrilling sense of suspense. Dick Miller plays a shy busboy at the local beat poet coffee house. While he strives to be accepted by the aloof patrons, undercover cops are trying to bust a narcotics ring. When Walter decides to try his hand at sculpture, his 'dead cat' creation captures the imagination of his new found friends. As he continues his work, things get more and more morbid - 'Murdered Man' and 'Strangled Model' are just the beginning in this twisted artists repertoire. The editing was great, the cast fantastic, and the experimental jazz music was wonderful. While some plot elements fall apart towards the end, it plays out like a very good 'Twilight Zone' episode, and it's a great example of black comedy - Roger Corman style. 4 out of 5.
* Prisoner of the Mountains: (1996 - Drama, war / Russia, Kazakhstan - Kavkazskiy plennik) This Russian movie was directed by Sergei Bodrov (Mongol - 2007). Based upon a short story by Leo Tolstoy. The movie opens when Russian soldiers are ambushed in the mountains of Chechnya. Two Russians survive, and they're taken prisoner by a Muslin villager. He takes them prisoner in the hopes of trading them for his son; a prisoner in a nearby Russian prison. The characters are authentic, original and well developed. One Russian soldier is a veteran unable to break free from the bonds of war. The other is young and idealistic. When the two hostages begin to develop relationships with their captors the film moves into an interesting and dramatic direction. Excellent story, fantastic locations, excellent acting and a wonderful anti-war film. The ending is bittersweet / tragic. 4 out of 5.