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I also write for Influx Magazine--where many of my opinions and reviews are also posted.
Corner Gas (2004)
An exceptionally fun and funny series....now available in the States as well.
"Corner Gas" is an unusual show. While it was very popular on Canadian TV, most Americans never heard of it and never have seen the show. Fortunately, Amazon Prime recently bought rights to the show and you can see it there.
The series is in many ways like comedies such as "Green Acres", "Newhart" and "The Vicar of Dibley" in that it's a comedy set in a very small town where just about everyone seems incredibly stupid. In this case, it's in a fictional town in Saskatchewan, Canada. And, like these shows, it's hilarious, very well written and has characters that you come to love and enjoy seeing each episode. While I have only seen the live-action show, there also is a movie as well as a more recent animated series. Overall, a memorable show...well worth seeing and very intelligently made.
Men in Black II (2002)
An enjoyable time-passer.
I enjoyed "Men in Black" and, like most films I enjoy, I did not look forward to any sequels. I just don't like most sequels and my expectations were very low for "Men in Black II". Fortunately, I was wrong. While the film was far from a must-see...it was a decent and enjoyable time-passer.
When the film began, I was a bit confused. At the end of the original film, Jay's new partner was apparently Laurel (Linda Fiorentino)....but here Jay (Will Smith) is partner-less as he keeps firing partners. It's obvious he would love Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) to return to the MIB force....and soon, it' becomes necessary as an evil alien has taken over the joint and threatens to destroy or rule the Earth. What's next? See the film.
The bottom line is that the film is fun. Not 100% original, that's for sure...but fun. The actors do their best and the story is fine....not great but fine.
Lighting Bill (1934)
Lightning or Lighting...it still stinks.
Jay Wilsey was renamed 'Buffalo Bill Jr.' by Action Pictures....though he was in no way related to the famous showman, Buffalo Bill. This strange fact if about the only interesting thing I can think of about Wilsey or the film "Lightning Bill". The only other mildly interesting thing is that the film was accidentally titled "Lighting Bill"....and they omitted the n! It was clearly a mistake but the film was so cheap that they didn't bother correcting it!
The story itself is a mess...a boring mess. Bill and his incredibly dull sidekick wander into town looking for food and work. They meet an old guy who is nearly broke but he hires them and promises all he can give them is food. Soon, jerks show up on the old guy's ranch...insisting he pay off gambling debts or they'll take his ranch. Naturally, Bill ends up coming to the rescue.
So why did I dislike this film so much? The biggest reason is that it was incredibly bland....bland characters, a bland story and very indifferent writing and direction. With a bazillion other B-westerns...why watch one that has nothing to recommend it in any way?!
Gigolettes of Paris (1933)
Decent...but hard to love.
"Gigolettes of Paris" is a film about a couple people (Madge Bellamy and Gilbert Roland) who essentially are parasites....folks who kiss up to rich folks and live off the gifts these men and women give them. The film unrealistically portrays the relationships as more fraternal and non-sexual...something I had a hard time believing. Additionally, the characters (particularly Bellamy) really are NOT nice people....and it made enjoying the movie quite difficult. So, while the acting was fine and it was technically competent, it was also a bit tedious as a result of the strange plot and characters.
Wise Girls (1929)
Aside from, perhaps, Roland Young, you'll probably not recognize any of the folks in this one.
J.C. Nugent stars as a father whose life is annoying due to his grown daughters who live with him and the missus. They spend his money like he's some sort of millionaire and instead of out having lives of their own, they sponge off him.
Then, one of the daughters marries a man she knew less than five minutes...and she expected to live at her parents' home with her new hubby!
You wonder how long this will continue until Dad explodes...or loses his mind! I know I sure would!
While I enjoyed Nugent's realistic performances, this is his first film...at age 61! Sadly, despite doing well, he only made a few more pictures after this one and you wonder why, as he was very good and easy to like.
So it any good? Well, yes...but it's certainly a different sort of film. It's very quiet and slow-paced...but not bad. Much of the quietness is because in 1929 studios still didn't know how to use incidental music and accompaniment literally meant having an orchestra just out of camera range playing the music live! Not surprisingly, few films at the time used this klunky method. Overall, well written and entertaining...but not the sort of film most folks would choose to watch in the first place.
Oh, Daddy! (1935)
"I promise to reform and never be good again"
When the story begins, Lord Pye and his friend, Rupert Boddy, are at a meeting of the local Purity League...an organization that is basically against anything that smacks of fun. The pair are appointed to go to a big meeting of the League...but instead of attending the conference, the pair run amok having a great time in London. Pye, in particular, has fun drinking and carousing with a lovely young cabaret singer...and he needs to be careful, since he is a married man. What's to come of all this? See the film.
This is an old fashioned film that manages to still entertain. Not a brilliant film but a fun one.
Captain Marvel (2019)
You cannot trust the reviews....see it for yourself and decide for yourself.
As a long-time IMDB reviewer, I have noticed that often films which haven't even been released have received a lot of reviews on this site. In a few cases, it's because folks saw the films at pre-screenings (such as at film festivatls), but for most it's more insidious. Some films appear to have many fake reviews--either fake positive ones (often, I assume, posted by the production companies or actors in the films) and some fake negative (such as when a fan group decides to attack a movie for some perceived slight). In the case of "Captain Marvel" the fake negative attacks were so many that Rotten Tomatoes decided for the first time, to not allow reviews of the film before its release. It seems a lot of fan guys objected to the perceived political correctness of the movie....and they were posting without even having seen the movie. I notice there are ALSO a lot of angry reviews here on IMDB as well...and many appear to have been posted before the film was released. Because of this, it must be very frustrating for you trying to determine whether or not it's a film worth seeing. I could say "trust me....I am objective"....but without knowing me, I, too, could be one of these folks posting a false negative or false positive review! So, I guess you'll need to see it for yourself.
For the most part, I tired of watching superhero films long ago....mostly because after a while they all seem the same. But my daughter is visiting now and she wanted to see "Captain Marvel" and "Shazam!", so I broke my resolve and went along to see these comic book-based films.
I enjoyed "Captain Marvel" very much because it did not feel like all the other DC and Marvel films. It had a few distinctive touches which made it more exciting and worth my time. Much of it takes place in outer space and apart from bits of "Thor" and the "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchises, which also take place in space, it sets the film apart. It also sets itself apart by having a female lead. And, like "Wonder Woman", a ton of trolls hated on the film before it was released because it had the nerve to actually have a woman in the lead! This is sad, as Brie Larson was fine in the lead and did a nice job. Ditto for the writing, as the plot had a few very nice surprises and the film kept my interest throughout. Well worth seeing and quite the adventure.
Boring and brimming with misinformation.
"Jacaré" is a bad documentary for quite a few reasons. It's dull, it has no dialog...just bad and ofen silly narration, and it's too often factually incorrect.
The story is supposed to be about an expedition to the Brazilian jungle to gather specimins for various zoos. However, occasionally they feature animals that simply are NOT from South America--such as the alligator and the buffalo. What's also terrible is that the narration isn't the least bit scientific and is meant to scare audiences instead of informing. Often the narration is also just plain dumb, such as when it says of one creature "these little creatures don't like anyone...even themselves!". Overall, dull and crammed with misinformation...enough to make biologists have heart palpitations!!
By the way, among the many 'facts' you hear about is that the black jaguar is '1 in 10,000'. Actually, the black version make up about 6% of all jaguars...1 in about 16-17 jaguars.
Dishonour Bright (1936)
A bit slow, but well worth your time.
I think "Dishonour Bright" would play better to British audiences than American ones....mostly because the picture IS British and is about British morality. Still, it is enjoyable regardless and worth seeing.
The story begins with Stephen Champion (Tom Walls) being excoriated in court by a zealous prosecutor, Vincent Crane (Cecil Parker). In this case, Champion has been named a co-respondant...a man whose meddling has ruined a marriage. Champion seems amused by all this and readily admits loving the woman.
Later, Champion meets Mrs. Crane (Betty Stockfield) and they hit it off very well. But when Mr. Crane discovers this, he assumes the worst....and Champion agrees never to see the lady again.
Some time passes. Champion has just gotten married and on his honeymoon he once again is reunited with Mrs. Crane. It seems some blackmailers are trying to get money out of her...though she's completely innocent of any wrongdoing. They imply that she's having an affair...and Champion steps in to save her honor. What's next? And, what will happen if Mr. Crane learns that Champion and his wife are seeing each other?
This is an excellent comedy of manners. The only shortcomings are that the film is a tad slow at times and Walls seems oddly cast as a macho sort of hero. Still, it's well worth your time and is well made.
By the way, although the American actor Eugene Pallette received second billing, he is NOT that prominent in the film and probably should have received fifth billing. I assume this is because he was a relatively famous actor and the studio was hoping his being featured would help ticket sales.
The Burglar (1957)
For a movie about crime...this is amazingly dull.
"The Burglar" is a film that sat on the shelf for two years before they released it. This is an indication that the film was poor and the studio had no faith in it. So why did they finally release it? Most likely because in the interim....the co-star, Jayne Mansfield, hit it big...and that made the film more marketable. Take a look at Mansfield in the picture...she is a much plainer and less platinum lady in "The Burglar" as her nw familiar image hadn't yet been created.
The story is a noir thriller...with essentially no thrills. While you'd normally think a lot of energy and time in the movie would be about the burglarly, it wasn't. The crime seems too easy...almost anticlimactic. Instead, the film is about what happens after...and most of it is incredibly dull. Perhaps realistic at times...but dull.
You would think with the plot and cast the film would have had a lot of exciting moments...well, this isn't so. Sadly....not so.
Frustrating, as the film is enjoyable BUT could have been better.
"Shazam!" is a frustrating film to watch. On one hand, the film tries to be more a kids' superhero movie...and excellent idea since this would help the film to stand apart from the bazillion other superhero films. But, on the other, the film has some rather adult content...making it not especially appropriate to younger viewers! So, it seems like the case of a film where the filmmakers weren't exactly sure what direction to take with the project.
Billy Batson is a troubled orphan who has run away from foster home after foster home after foster home. Inexplicably, he's bestowed the superpowers that enable him to become Shazam*.....a seemingly odd choice. At first, Billy uses the power to make money and is a bit of a jerk....my favorite parts of the movie actually. Later, however, when a supervillain attacks, it's time for Billy to grow up and accept responsibility for his actions.
As I mentioned above, although the film is about a kid superhero and his young companions, it also features a lot of cursing, inapproriate contenxt AND a cursing/vile Santa Claus! I honestly think the film project must have changed the focus of the film and it really seems that it's like two movies in one...and should have been one. Still, it is entertaining and, at times, quite magical...though at others it is less stellar and needed a bit of an editing.
Making a minor discovery seem like it will blow our minds...for shame, "Secrets of the Dead"!
I enjoy the PBS series "Secrets of the Dead". However, I must acknowledge that sometimes the show was less scientific and educational...choosing to be salacious in order to gain viewers. This is certainly the case with "Ben Franklin's Bones"...a show that throws about all sorts of crazy notions instead of simply reporting the facts.
The story begins in the 1990s. There is a grisly discovery in the basement of a London flat...it's filled with thousands of human bones. Coincidentally, for a brief time, Benjamin Franklin was one of many residents of the apartments. So, instead of looking at the mystery, the narrator tosses out all sorts of crazy notions...including 'could Franklin have been a serial killer'!!! It's all complete hogwash...especially because the answer to this perplexing problme ISN'T particularly surprising or unusual! So, be prepred...you'll hear a lot of stupid tie-ins with Franklin that simply are not appropriate and the show SHOULD have been simpler, less salacious and more entertaining in the long run had they just told the truth.
Nova: Bird Brain (2017)
Fascinating...and well worth your time.
I have seen many documentaries about the intelligence of birds. While this probably sounds awfully dull to you, they really are not and do a lot to challenge conventional wisdom about avians. And, of all the films and TV shows I've seen about this topic, "Bird Brain" is among the best.
The main subjects of the film are the New Zealand parrot, the Kea, as well as the New Caladonian crow. The reason they were picked is that they are among the smartest of the birds...able to use basic tools and figure out puzzles amazingly quickly.
An excellent film because it not only is very educational but exciting to watch....especially when you see that these birds are often smarter than some children! Well made and never dull.
Nova: The Last B-24 (2018)
Enjoyable...particularly for aviation fans and scuba fans.
"The Last B-24" is a great episode of "Nova"...especially if you are an aviation buff, WWII buff or love scuba. That is because the show is about a sunken WWII bomber that was lost off the Croatian coast...and efforts to unearth the bodies held within the plane or around it. Certainly this is not to everyone's taste...but if it is something you might like, see it...it is very well made and interesting throughout.
Nature: Super Hummingbirds (2016)
A delightful look at hummingbirds.
This installment of "Nature" is about the hummingbird. With advances in technology, researchers are able to use high speed cinematography to slow down these diminutive birds...making it exciting to watch, as hummingbirds in the wild are hard to see because they are so small and fast. Among the topics covered is the distribution of the birds, the high metabolism, the sex life as well as how they survive and thrive in extreme situations--such as high altitudes.
Overall, very informative, fascinating and worth your time.
BoJack Horseman (2014)
Often offensive...but clever
If you decide to watch "BoJack Horseman", just be sure NOT to watch it along with your kids. That's because unlike most cartoons, it's a rather adult one at times and is not intended for younger audiences.
The story is about a loser ex-TV star, BoJack Horseman. Like many characters in this cartoon, the is an anthropomorphic animal--in this case a horse with a human body and voice. Most of the schtick is about how terrible BoJack is as a person(?) and how although he might appear to be growing in awareness and personality, he's still essentially a big, rich jerk.
The show's biggest strength is that the plots are all very unusual and very easy to like. It's also rather clever and worth seeing...providing you don't mind the crude references as well as a leading character you really CAN'T like.
Dance Flick (2009)
Odd....a Bottom 100 film that parodies another Bottom 100 film!
If you look at IMDB's infamous Bottom 100 list, you might notice that there are a lot of parody films on the list...all made during the last decade or two. It seems that a lot of lazy filmmakers have found that such movies are popular...althought they are extremely stupid and poorly made. An unusual parody film is "Dance Flick"....because it parodies another Bottom 100 film, 2004's "You Got Served" (#75)...though there is precident, as the "50 Shades" and its parody are both also on this list.
Like the other parody movies, "Dance Flick" ostensibly parodies one particular film or style of film but its jokes are very broad and they attempt to parody a variety of films and pop culture. Like these films, the misses outnumber the funny jokes. And, many of the misses are generally crude and disgusting.
"Dance Flick" is a Wayons project, with seven members of this acting family appearing in the movie or in behind the camera. This isn't so surprising, as a few of the Wayons' other films have been on this list over the years. What is surprising is that like "You Got Served", the movie isn't that bad and probably should not be on the Bottom 100 List.
The story, oddly, is a hip-hop film whose star is a very white girl, Megan, who moves to the inner city and finds friends among the local teens. She is an orphan and ex-dancer who soon falls for Thomas...a guy who loves hip-hop and introduces her to the culture.
On the plus side, although the film has many misses and many of the jokes are crude, there also many hits...genuinely funny skits that made me laugh...such as the scene involving the leg, the "Fame" song as well as the bizarro ballet Thomas takes Megan to see. Along the way, you see them parody a variety of films...some of which must have gone over the heads of the audience, as they were references to 1980s films....and most folks who like these parody films are teens and young adults who likely never saw films like "Fame" and "Flashdance". On the negative side, I am sure the script would offend many, as it tends to reinforce some negative black and gay stereotypes...so politically correct folks should think twice about seeing this one. It also is a crude and stupid film nearly as often as a clever one...so it's not like I am heartily endorsing the picture...just pointing out that it's watchable and not especially terrible...as its inclusion on the Bottom 100 would seem to indicate.
Cults and Extreme Belief (2018)
Not bad...but not a good introduction to these various movements.
If you are looking for a good overview of some of the various cults in America today, there are certainly better ways to learn than from this mini-series. This is because the films do not present a logical and systematic look at these groups. An academic overview, these episodes are not. Instead, the stories of one or two specific ex-members are given and you learn about them and their specific negative experiences....and what in particular prompted them to leave the groups. And so, what might not be important to them might be extremely important to another. It's often just too specific to have much value to the casual viewer who just wants to know what these groups believe.
American Experience: Sealab (2019)
These men are mostly unsung heroes.
"Sealab" is an installment of "American Experience" that is about a part of relatively recent history that few know about or have heard of...saturation diving experiments performed by the US Navy. It seems that back in the 1960s, many of the diving rules we've learned over the years were yet unknown....particularly in regard to deep scuba dives and prolonged deep dives. The film is about a group of brave (and perhaps crazy) men who risked, and in one case, died, in order to make such diving safe. The show follows several Sealab missions...and I was surprised that one of the driving forces in this was Scott Carpenter...the guy who was previously an astronaut. He apparently left the space program for this risky program. Well worth seeing...and well made from start to finish.
Nature: Snow Bears (2018)
Not QUITE what you think you are seeing.
While I generally enjoy "Nature", "Snow Bears" left me a bit cold. After all, after spending the entire episode following one female polar bear and her two cubs, a blurb appears on the screen briefly...saying that they actually pieced together footage of multiple females and their cubs to make the film! Huh?! I think a lot of this was due to the tendency of many nature films to anthropomorphize the animals...to ascribe human feelings to them in order to get you to care about the animals. I care about watching polar bears period....and don't want a story created around them...particularly a fake one. Aside from this serious error, the footage is nice and the film reasonably enjoyable...but there are better polar bear films out there, and I've see a few myself.
Not great...not bad....in fact, it's the epitome of mediocrity.
Donald Cook plays an FBI agent who is furious following the death of his friend, a fellow agent. His goal is to find out who is responsible...and this means going undercover at a local numbers racket. Along the way, he meets a pretty lady (Evalyn Knapp) and a nice but dopey racketeer (Warren Hymer). Can he manage to untangle all this and keep his new friends from danger?
There are few surprises in this one. The acting is competent, the same with the direction. But there also is little to distinguish this cheap B-movie as well...making it a time-passer and not much more.
Early Man (2018)
Aardman surprised me with this one...and not in a good way!
"Early Man" is a film that simply makes no sense...and you'd best NOT try to think too much when you watch. The story is about a group of cavemen who, inexplicably, are displaced from their land by Bronze Age Frenchmen! How can they get their land back, you ask? By defeating the Frenchies in a football (soccer) match! See...I told you it wouldn't make much sense!!
So how do the cavemen manage to learn about football? Well, Dug the caveman is eager....and his ladyfriend, Goona, knows all about the sport and she wants to teach them.
So is it any good? Not especially...but it is pleasant and undemanding entertainment....sort of like third tier Aardman. I wouldn't place this among their best work (such as "Wallace and Grommet") or even among their most modiocre work (such as "Shawn the Sheep")....no, it's clearly not as good...mostly because it's not all that funny and the plot is nonsensical to say the least! Additionally, the characters are mostly forgettable or silly and lack the charm of Aardman's best. In this case, the studio created a film that is hard to love...but not entirely bad either if you set your expectations low...quite low.
By the way, I assume that British audiences would generally like this one more than us Americans. The football-based plot and inside gags about FIFA and the like will likely resonate better with these football-loving folks...and would be totally lost on others.
Slender Man (2018)
Derivative and predictable...but certainly NOT Bottom 100 worthy.
Currently, "Slender Man" has the distinction of being on IMDB's infamous Bottom 100 List...the 100 worst rated major release films. While I certainly didn't enjoy the film, it seems odd that this one made the list when there are so many worse modern horror films which somehow avoided the list. I just can't see this as the 50th worst film....let alone 500th.
The idea of the film is taken from a pre-existing story of a 'Slender Man' who will kill or make folks crazy who are dumb enough to call upon him. In many ways, the film is a very derivative project--using the existing notions as well as infusing it with ample parts "The Ring" as well as the "Bloody Mary" story that's been floating around for decades. With "Bloody Mary", a person supposedly calls the name out repeatedly until some murderous other worldly thing appears.
The story begins with four very dumb high school girls having a sleepover. They find some info on the internet about a Slender Man and despite being warned, they summon the creature...and the rest of the film is about them each disappearing or going mad one after the other.
The movie has a scary style to it, with its pulsing music and bass....though after a while it does become annoying instead of scary. The story itself is nothing new...consisting of lots of ideas from other stories, urban legends and films. The acting and direction are fair. My only serious complaint is that I wish it HAD been awful...that would have made it a lot more interesting.
Egyptian Melodies (1931)
When you watch old cartoons, you need to understand the context of the times in order to appreciate them and make allowances for these films. For example, during most of the 1930s, cartoons were not nearly as enjoyable as they would be in the 1940s. Much of it is because many of the 30s cartoons were black & white but the differences are far greater than just color. The 30s had a ton of cartoons which were essentially sappy....filled with singing and dancing and cutesy characters. But they also rarely had a lot of humor or edginess to them. And, the artwork was often a bit suspect.
One company that bucked this cutesy and cheap trend was Disney. Their characters were often quite funny and have held up very well over the years...such as with Goofy and Donald Duck. Even with Disney's line of musical shorts, their 'Silly Symphonies', they generally had more to them than the competition...such as with "Egyptian Melodies". While it is a musical, the characters are not saccharinely sweet nor cute and their isn't any singing...just dancing. And, most importantly, the animation was tops for 1931.
The plot to "Egyptian Melodies" is scant. A spider-like creature climbs into a vault where there are dancing mummies and the like. There really is nothing more to the plot. But, as I mentioned above, the animation was lovely and you can't help but enjoy the film even if the plot is practically non-existent.
Caught in a Ham (2019)
Pretty weird...and worth seeing.
"Caught in a Ham" is a special feature included with the DVDs for "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse". The film is only 4 minutes long but is well worth seeing. It's because for the non-comicbook fan watching "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" they've never been exposed to Peter Porker, also known as Spider-Ham. He's only in the film a bit here and there...and the short allows you to see the sort of world this Looney Tunes-like character lives in and where he's a hero. Overall, funny, well made and a must see if you get the DVD for the feature film.