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The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
Flatter than a squashed banana
This is a really strange movie. It's strange, because I remember that the original Banana Splits television show was very energetic and madcap. So with the promise that the characters of the show would in this movie be made to be ruthless killers, I expected the movie to be packed with energy. But strangely, it isn't. Through much of the movie (especially the first half), the movie just seems to be petering along with a real casual feeling to it. This is evident even when characters start to be bloodily killed. Speaking of the characters, I thought all of them (robots or humans) were pretty lazily written, having no real depth. That may explain why the performances for the most part are nothing to write home about. I feel I should add that the movie seems to be trying very hard to make some sort of statement about interracial relationships, but I have no idea what exactly that would be. To sum up, this is a slow and pretty passion-free exercise that will disappoint both fans of the original TV show and those who have a penchant for bloody slasher movies. This "banana" made these particular filmmakers really slip up.
Pretty feeble for the most part
This movie has apparently built an audience over the years, seeing how it got a re-release on DVD several years after its theatrical release, and has also spawned a few sequels. But I can't honestly see why. Don't get me wrong - I often love low budget horror movies. But the "horror" that is displayed in this movie is pretty weak. It's a really slow-moving affair, with a lot of padding that does nothing to build a creepy feeling. There's only one death in the first half of the movie, and not much more in the second half. And whether someone is getting killed or experiencing supposed terror, there is a tired "been there, done that" feeling. It doesn't help that there is a very low rent feeling to the entire enterprise, from the soft cinematography to the obvious soundstage sets. The only real spark in the movie is the fun performance of actress Kathleen Wilhoite, playing a punkish psychic medium, though unfortunately she's only in the movie for a few minutes. Apart from her, I was very "board" by this movie.
Shanghai Fortress (2019)
If only they put more work into the script...
I have found a number of Chinese movies and television shows to be entertaining, so I don't have an automatic prejudice against them, as apparently some other IMDb users have. This particular Chinese movie has some interest in that while it was officially based on a book, it's clear that it took a little inspiration from the American blockbuster "Independence Day". It aims to stand up well to its inspiration, and to a degree it does, having top notch cinematography, sets, and props. The CGI does look a little cartoony at times, but that didn't bother me too much, since it's often that way in American blockbusters.
What DID bother me, however, was the script. The scriptwriters definitely should have had some professional feedback to fine tune it before filming started. As it is, the movie first starts off with an almost incomprehensible opening, as if several pages of explanation had been written but were ripped out. A bigger problem is with the characters of the movie. There is no attempt to make the alien invaders anything more than a mindless robot-like foe. Also, there's little attempt to flesh out the human characters; they generally come across as stock characters you have seen in other movies before instead of having true and interesting personalities. Also, the story comes to a halt for long periods several times, resulting in some dull patches.
While this Chinese blockbuster is a better than the recent Chinese blockbuster "The Wandering Earth", it's not by much. I will end this review by saying what I said for that earlier film: If Chinese filmmakers really want their homegrown blockbusters to be embraced by a world audience, they really need to make sure the scripts are decent enough before filming starts. If that were to happen, Chinese movies would start being serious competition for Hollywood movies.
Bo chi tung wah (2008)
Serviceable remake of a serviceable original
When it comes to the idea of remaking foreign movies, most people on these shores tend to think of Hollywood studios remaking non-American movies. But in actual fact, sometimes it's foreign studios that remake Hollywood movies, and the Hong Kong movie "Connected" is a remake of the Hollywood movie "Cellular". I have seen the original "Cellular", and I remember it being okay. This foreign remake gets the same grade from me. Its strengths include there being a lot of exciting action and suspenseful moments, and also that there certainly aren't any boring sections. And the makers did not follow the original Hollywood movie down to the letter, giving this remake some fresh elements. However, the script does have some flaws, among them being that some twists are pretty predictable, and also the fact that the characters could have ended the conflict much earlier had they just used a little more intelligence. There are also some goofy comic relief touches that while may play well to an Asian audience, may seem strange and off-putting to western audiences. Also, while the movie never looks seriously cheap, it's obvious the budget was more limited than the Hollywood original, leading to some obvious corners being cut. So the movie is not a masterpiece... but it's also not bad. If you liked the original movie enough that the idea of seeing a foreign perspective of the same story sounds interesting, give this remake a look.
Johnny Oro (1966)
Mainly for die hard fans of spaghetti westerns
Despite being directed by the legendary Sergio Corbucci, who worked on some classic spaghetti westerns like "Companeros" and "The Great Silence", this particular foreign oater is one of his lesser efforts. It's not really a bad movie, since it's never boring, but all the same it generally feels low key and not a real grabber. The background scenery isn't all that spectacular, there isn't a lot of action (though the climatic action sequence is exciting and spectacular), and there is far too much routine and predicable talk and plot turns. The worst thing about it is the depiction of the hero, who comes across for the most part as really smug and arrogant. Still, the movie doesn't manage to overstay its welcome in part due to a fairly lean running time. So in the end, the movie is kind of a mixed bag. People who dislike westerns (spaghetti or not) will probably despise it. Those who enjoy westerns (particularly in the spaghetti style) will find it more tolerable, but even they will probably admit that it's not a movie to actively seek out.
Snowball Express (1972)
Typical '70s Disney slapstick
While this style of Disney slapstick had brought in a considerable amount of box office gold in the 1960s when Walt Disney was still alive, by the time this film rolled by (several years after Disney's death), it was starting to give the studio a bad name. Even for 1972, this movie must have seemed extremely familiar and predictable for audiences at the time; I was able to guess pretty much how the movie would unfold long before it actually unfolded in front of me. The screenwriter and director seemingly made no effort to punch things up to make the comedy and story more lively and unpredictable. As for the cast, while Harry Morgan and Keenan Wynn do add a little life in their scenes, central star Dean Jones can't do much. He does put in some of his trademark likability, but he is saddled with such a stupidly written character that even child viewers will become frustrated watching him. The winter scenery looks nice, and some of the ski and snowmobile stunt work does add a little life, but it's little compensation for such an overall tired formula executed in such a tiring manner.
Starred Up (2013)
An authentic feeling prison movie
Normally, British dramas hold little appeal to me, so I am not sure why I decided to watch this particular one when it was suggested to me by Netflix. But I am really glad that I gave the movie a chance, because it is definitely an above average effort in the prison drama genre. It feels a lot more realistic than many other prison dramas; you can feel the cold and filth, as well as the relentless grim atmosphere. It's also interesting in the fact that the main character - a youth who has just been transferred into the adult prison - is not a very likable or sympathetic character. Though rather than be repulsed by him, I found that he was interesting to observe, warts and all. I wondered how he got the way that he was, how he would adjust to his new environment, and if there was any chance he could be reformed. The script doesn't offer any easy answers, but it does make you think. Also refreshingly, the prison staff (for the most part) are not portrayed as brutal thugs, but mostly as people in an unenvious situation that forces them to be tough to prisoners. I feel I should point out that the movie more plays out like a series of vignettes than one strong storyline, but every vignette is interesting and not boring at all. Also, there are a few plot threads left hanging and not resolved in a totally satisfying way when the movie reaches its end. I also feel I should strongly recommend that if you are not from the UK, you watch this movie with English subtitles and an online dictionary ready on your smartphone, since the accents and the slang might be confusing at times. But even then, I highly recommend this movie.
An Affair to Die For (2019)
Passes the time, but a bad ending dulls its impact
A lot of IMDb users here have deeply slammed this thriller, which I don't think is quite deserved... though I do agree that the movie could have been much better done. I will admit that there is not one boring moment in the movie, which is more than you can say for some other movies. And the movie has a good number of twists, turns, and suspenseful moments. However, the eventual payoff is very disappointing, because it doesn't really make all that much sense. Everything in the final few moments is quite rushed, and the more you think about it, you'll realize there are a number of unexplained plot holes. While this bad portion of the movie is only a few minutes long, the fact that it's the way the movie ends will leave you frustrated and make you feel you spent about 80 minutes watching the story only to be cheated. If the screenwriter had spent more time polishing the final few minutes, I really think we would have a sleeper of a thriller. But as it is, it's a failure, albeit one that does have some good moments.
Hard to imagine it appealing to anyone today
When it comes to movies, you occasionally come across someone saying something along the lines of, "They don't make 'em like they used to." That is certainly true to a large degree, but in the case of the movie "Futz", one can be thankful they don't make 'em like they used to! The movie is almost indescribable, one reason being that it seems to often be an attempt to replicate the stage origins of this story on the silver screen. That may not sound too difficult, but with this story, the narrative jumps way all over the place from start to end. As a result, the story is often incoherent, and I only got the basic idea of what was going on - a man in love with a pig. Yeah, I wonder how that premise would fly over with audiences today, though it was apparently somewhat popular on the off-Broadway stage. Anyway, the movie today is a real chore to sit through, and its only worth may be that it is a cinematic document of the stage play. Though even if you are into experimental and avant-garde movies or stage plays, you'll likely find this to be a headache to endure from start to end.
The Slayer (1982)
I had wanted to see this movie for many years, but for a long time it was all but impossible to see, especially in an uncut version. A few years ago it was released intact on Blu-ray, but its high price kept it unavailable to me. Fortunately, someone was considerate enough to upload a fairly high quality print of the movie on YouTube, and that's where I finally got to see it. My thoughts? Well, it wasn't as great as some people had made it out to be... but it's also not a bad movie. First, the negatives. The main problem with the movie is even at 89 minutes, the story is quite thin and is very obviously stretched out. This story would have played a lot better had it been cut down by fifteen or twenty minutes. However, there would still have been a problem with the ending, which is unclear on certain details, and leaves the audience kind of hanging. On the positive side, the movie is very well made on a very low budget, with good lighting and photography, and also some very well chosen locations. And I will admit that as slow as the movie was, it did have some atmosphere and chills, as well as some decent gore effects. While I am not enthusiastic about the movie, I could see it appealing to some people, especially people into independent horror movies or people who are planning to make their own horror movies. Those latter people would easily see what works - and doesn't work - with a horror movie.
SEVEN production companies thought this was a good script?
Well... I will first give credit where credit is due. I will admit that despite the many flaws to be found, I was never bored once during my viewing experience. And I will also admit that Halle Berry gives it her all, and certainly deserves an "A" for her great effort. Unfortunately, Berry is often required to spout dialogue (when no one else is around) that feels quite contrived and makes you think that the filmmakers thought the audience would be too stupid to figure out what her character was thinking and feeling if she was silent. A bigger problem is that there many moments where her character does some really stupid things that just extend the situation instead of finishing things much sooner had her character had some basic smartness. For that matter, the bad guys (and also some other characters) do their part to act stupid enough so that they stretch out the narrative as well. Had the movie's characters been of reasonable intelligence, we might possibly have had something here. But as it is, the movie is not that much better than silently watching a blank wall for 95 minutes.
The Warriors Gate (2016)
Keep this gate closed
It's pretty obvious that the makers of this French-Chinese co-production were really trying hard to make this movie appealing to major Hollywood studios, what with most of the dialogue being in English, the casting of David Bautista in a key role, and the hero being an American youth. However, no Hollywood studio was apparently willing to release the end results to American theaters, and it's pretty clear why. Quite often the enterprise doesn't have the "oomph" of a major Hollywood studio production; it's not seriously cheap-looking, but all the same it's missing something many times. I could have overlooked that fact had the movie compensated in other areas, but the movie falls short in some key areas. The whole "American kid transported to a fantasy land" angle has already been done to death, and this telling doesn't really have many new ideas to add some freshness. It's more humorous this time around, though quite frankly I found most of the humor to be juvenile and embarrassing. The main problem with the movie, however, is that its storytelling style is often not very clear. The script seems to be missing key explanations in several areas, and also the direction/editing in other places makes it hard to follow what is happening. Kids may be more forgiving towards this movie than their parents, but why subject them (and yourself) to this movie when there are plenty of superior family movies that will entertain both kids and adults?
Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980)
Dated and unfunny Cannon comedy
Given that this movie was a production of the Cannon film company (one of my favorite studios), I searched for a way to find this movie for many years, but I couldn't find it anywhere. The recent news that the movie was getting a Blu-Ray release thrilled me until I found out that I would have to pay an arm and a leg for a copy of the limited release. But I decided to see if it was on YouTube, and I found it there... and I'm really glad that I didn't pay ANY money to see it! There are many ways the movie goes wrong, but the main reasons are due to its script. The central narrative is sometimes very rambling, as if the writers were making things up as they went along. A bigger problem, however, is that except for a couple of chuckles, the comedy simply isn't funny at all. The movie often seems afraid of going after really big laughs, and instead tries to be mildly "cute" most of the time in a manner that seems out of a movie made 20 or 30 years earlier. Actor Oliver Reed tries his best, but even he seems to be befuddled by the lame material and the half-hearted direction. By the way, while the movie got an "R" rating at the time, by today's standards it is quite tame, and would get a "PG-13" rating at most today.
The Mummy (2017)
Best kept under wraps by all concerned
When this movie first came out on DVD and Blu-Ray, Universal Pictures did their best to try and urge people to buy it, saying, "Won't be on Netflix for years!" Well, I just watched this on Netflix, but I estimate about 24 or so months had passed since the announcement, so technically "years" have passed. Anyway, I thought this attempt by the studio to start their announced "Dark Universe" movie genre was an inauspicious start, to put it mildly. I guess some of the special effects are passable, and there are a few short bursts of okay action. But the movie's few merits are bogged down by its many shortcomings. One big problem I had with the movie is that there is far too much comic relief. Some comic relief would have been okay, but the movie not only goes overboard with it, it's not particularly funny to begin with. This overabundance of humor may be why a badly miscast Tom Cruise seems befuddled and unsure of what tone to play his character. Not only that, he and the rest of the cast are burdened with a script that simply does not make any of their characters interesting or worth caring about. In the end, the movie makes the Brendan Fraser "Mummy" movies seem like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in comparison, and it's no surprise that Universal has apparently put the Dark Universe franchise on hold.
Sam sap chue lam (1984)
A very silly but kind of likable Hong Kong comedy
I think to really appreciate this Hong Kong comedy, you have to be aware of the sense of humor that Hong Kong people often have. "Mr. Virgin" is a very slapstick affair, with a lot of knockabout humor and a very goofy tone. This isn't always what I want with a comedy, but the movie does have its charms. Although the movie is extremely silly, the humor for the most part comes across as being likable all the same. And the actors are very game and are also just as likable as the gags they are made to go through. I will admit that often the movie does seem to be spinning its wheels as far as plot goes, and in the last quarter of the movie, there are numerous jokes about rape that may not go well with a number of viewers regardless of what culture they come from. This is not a great example of comedy from Hong Kong, but for those who have a lot of previous experience with Hong Kong comedies and don't mind seeing another example, it goes down pleasantly enough.
I confess that I am always up to a good home invasion-style thriller, because these movies always have me asking while watching what I would do if I were in that particular situation. Though I must confess that I have seen so many of these home invasion-style thrillers that it takes a lot nowadays for me to consider a new entry in this genre to be good. Fortunately, "Money" manages to work pretty well. Its opening is kind of deceitful, almost promising that the movie will be some sort of comedy, but eventually it turns into a suspenseful story that had me guessing throughout how everything would be wrapped up. While not given a high budget, the movie looks decent enough, and the movie's other features such as the convincing acting and characters on top of the suspense factors make up for any of the minor shortcomings. While I wouldn't say this is a classic of its genre - for one thing, there are no real "big" scenes that will really sear into your brain and make you unable to forget about them - the movie does its job well enough to be both entertaining and suspenseful.
1st Summoning (2018)
Not much new or interesting here
It seems a little odd that 19 years after "The Blair Witch Project" was released to theaters, the independent filmmakers of "1st Summoning" would decide to jump on the bandwagon despite the bandwagon having long gone out of style. Actually, had they managed to put some freshness and good scares into their imitation, I wouldn't have minded them reusing the same basic idea as the original film. Unfortunately, this rehash simply isn't that memorable. Although just 93 minutes long, it feels very long and slow, devoting too much time to the characters in the movie bickering and talking. When the horror does eventually rear its head, there is nothing particularly remarkable about it, having a strong "been there, done that" feeling to it. Also, there are a number of questions that come up that are simply not answered; I know some mystery can be effective, but in this case the lack of answers comes across as lazy for the most part. I admit that I was never bored while watching the movie despite it being long and slow, but at the end I still wish that I watched another (and better) movie, and I wouldn't recommend it even to fans of indie horror movies.
Night Moves (2013)
Definitely not for all viewers... but I liked it
While the plot description on Netflix lead me to believe that this would be a more hard-hitting movie with a lot of action, that isn't what I got. I suspect that many other viewers were probably expecting what I was expecting, resulting in the many negative user reviews here on the IMDb. But while I didn't get what I was expecting, I did find enough to enjoy about the movie to make me glad that I watched it. It is certainly far from a perfect movie. The characters don't have all that much depth that really explains why they decide to pull off the deadly plan they have carefully planned. Also, the last 15 or so minutes has a couple of "huh?" moments that don't make it clear as to what happened... or will happen. And the movie IS very slow - this is definitely not a movie to see when you are in the mood for mindless entertainment. But all the same, I was pretty captivated by the events of the movie. It feels more realistic than a lot of other movies dealing with the same basic subject matter. And while the movie is slow, its peeling of one layer off of another made me eager to find out what would happen next. The movie is also competently made in other areas despite a low budget, from the cinematography to the acting. Not a great movie, not a movie for everybody, and not for watching at any moment... but if you are in the proper mood at the right time, you'll probably enjoy it as much as I did.
Kidnapping Stella (2019)
Okay, but not up to the original
When I came across this movie on Netflix, I said to myself upon reading its description, "Hey, this sounds familiar." In the first two minutes of watching the movie, my suspicions were confirmed - this German movie is a remake of the 2009 British movie "The Disappearance of Alice Creed", which I had seen years earlier and remembered enjoying. I was not sure if this remake was authorized or not, but I was interested all the same to seeing an interpretation of the original story by filmmakers of another country. This remake does mostly follow what happened in the original, though it does throw in some new twists, as well as eliminate a few plot points. On its own terms, the movie is okay, being not boring, and acceptably acted. Yet I remember the original movie being more rawer and gritty than this remake, partially due to its lower budget. Because of that I found the original movie to be a lot more compelling than this somewhat more glossy and slicker remake. So far, the other user reviews of this remake have largely been very negative. While I don't think this remake is deserving of such harsh reviews, at the same time it is definitely a few notches below the original. So if you have a choice between seeing either movie, I would say watch the original.
Ha-Balash Ha'Amitz Shvartz (1973)
I throw this "Gus" under the bus!
In his memoirs, Troma Films' president Lloud Kaufman said that this movie (known as "Big Gus, What's The Fuss?" in some versions) was, "The biggest failure, monetarily and artistically, of my entire life." Reading his lamentations about the movie made me, of course, want to see it, but for years it was seemingly impossible to see. But thanks to the Internet, the movie is now available on YouTube for anyone to see if they want to... though after seeing it, I don't think anyone would be able to find anything to enjoy about the movie. The movie is certainly severely damaged by its slipshod production values and being full of extremely simple-minded gags that wouldn't even amuse a three year old child. But what really makes the movie a failure is the extremely low energy of the entire enterprise. It quickly becomes clear that nobody in the movie seems to be very enthusiastic about being here, from the uninspired performances of the actors to the lazy and flat direction from the director. The whole package ends up being an utter bore that also insults your intelligence. Not as bad as the Troma movie "Curse of the Cannibal Confederates", but it's very close.
Close, but no cigar
It's always a little frustrating when you see a movie that had some good resources and some good effort put into it here and there, but in the end not enough was done to make the movie a real grabber. That is what unfortunately happened with the making of "Tracers". On the surface, the movie seems to have something going for it. While not a big budget enterprise, the movie all the same looks fairly slick and without any shabbiness. And while the parkour action does eventually start to look alike, some of it is pretty well done by the director and the participants (the latter many times being done by the actors themselves and not stunt professionals.) However, the first hour of the movie often really drags by. The main character's predicament seems to be that of being mildly inconvenienced. As a result of that (plus a really slowly moving story concerning his dealings with the other characters), there isn't enough dramatic tension or reason to get really involved with the characters and what they do. In the last 30 or so minutes of the movie, things do start to move in a more dramatic and tense manner, but it ends up being a bit too little, too late. Also, the movie ends on a note where it seems that the remaining main characters are refusing to come fully with terms as to what has just happened to them and the people they know. The whole package isn't awful to watch, but it's too flat and too uninvolving to make it worth going out of your way for.
La Leyenda Del Diamante (2017)
This treasure is complete fool's gold
Before watching "La Leyenda Del Diamante", I had seen a few other examples of modern day Mexican cinema, and what I saw didn't impress me, to put it mildly. This particular modern day Mexican movie does nothing to break the trend. In fact, it's one of the worst movies I have seen from *any* country for a long, long time. Where does it go wrong? Everywhere! The movie is technically shoddy, for one thing, with bad cinematography (especially in night scenes) that looks like it was photographed by a cell phone camera. The production values are virtually non-existent, with what seems to have been made with what farmland and old ruins the filmmakers could get their hands on, as well as what unconvincing costumes they could rent for a few pesos. The screenplay is a mess, taking a long time to (sort of) explain who is who and what is going on, and unfolding at an agonizingly slow pace. As for action, there is hardly any of it, and what little there is is executed in a feeble manner that has no impact or excitement. Believe it or not, this movie makes all those Mexican masked wrestler movies from the 1960s look lavish and exciting in comparison.
Emil and the Detectives (1964)
Mediocre at its best, sluggish at its worst
During his lifetime, Walt Disney helped to make some great family films (both animated and live action) that are well know to this day. But there were also some films that fell through the cracks and are pretty much unknown today. "Emil and the Detectives" is one such movie, and upon watching it, it's pretty clear why the movie has been forgotten - it's not very good at all. I have not read the classic children's book the movie is based on, but it has to be a lot better and engaging than this movie plays out. The movie is often too goofy for its own good, from the strident narration to the unsubtle performances, becoming annoying when a more gentle approach would have been better. Also, the movie often moves at a really slow pace, and really lacks energy when mystery or suspense would be appropriate. The only real interest the movie has is when it showcases the shot in Berlin backdrop. I suspect kids as well as adults won't be very forgiving towards the movie, so there's no sense in tracking this down unless you are a true Disney fan.
The Omen (2006)
Yet another unnecessary remake
I didn't think that the original "The Omen" movie from the 1970s was all that hot, and I think that the majority of remakes are inferior to the original. So why did I watch this remake of "The Omen"? Well, I was intrigued by the fact that this is one of the rare times when the writer of an original film (in this case, screenwriter David Seltzer) also is responsible for writing the remake. I though maybe that Seltzer might have thought of some improvements to his story in the decades that had passed. But the end results prove disappointing for the most part. Sure, the movie is technically stronger than the original, looking slick and expensive. And I admit that Mia Farrow does good work with her few scenes as the evil nanny. But the screenplay is responsible for most of the movie's failure. It is almost entirely a scene for scene remake of the original, just changing the dialogue slightly. There's almost no room for new ideas or new direction for the story to go for. And under John Moore's direction, the movie plods along at a really slow pace, with the relatively few horror scenes packing pretty much no punch. If you've seen the original movie, there's no reason to see this remake. Come to think of it, even if you haven't seen the original, there's not much in this update to make for entertaining or compelling viewing.
I know the many obstacles and pitfalls independent filmmakers have to face when making movies, especially when the filmmakers are Canadian. But even when you take that into consideration, there is no reason why this indie film had to be so unbelievably bad. I know the filmmakers were working with an extremely low budget, but even then they should have known to include things such as establishing shots and linking footage. As a result of missing essentials such as those, the movie sometimes has some bewildering moments. Actually, the bewildering moments momentarily woke me up from my near slumber, because the story plods along at a really slow pace, even though the running time is just a mere 72 minutes. Also what woke me up were the unbelievably amateurish performances by a no-name cast, though the dialogue is often written to be so awkward and unnatural that even an Oscar-worthy cast wouldn't be able to deliver them with firm conviction. The confusing and seemingly unfinished ending is the icing on the cake. Why on earth did Netflix think this utter weakling of a movie was worth picking up?