Keyser Corleone's Movie Memoirs

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Seventh Son (2014) - DIrected by Sergei Bodrov

"Live your own life. Your destiny."

My whole family went to see this years ago. My mother literally only wanted to see this movie because of CGI dragons. But it wasn't fun, it wasn't interesting, and I think I would have more fun with the live-action Dungeons & Dragons film. Seventh Son is a dull dragon movie literally there to capitalize off of the Hobbit trilogy hype.

This loose adaptation of a book (which I don't doubt is a lot better) follows a teenage boy as he's called upon by an old-man who tells him as a Seventh Son, he's meant for greatness (and there's your whole explanation). Now this young man's going on a jounrey to fight a powerful and evil witch bent on taking over the world. Yeah, that's it.

OK, sometimes the direction was good. You got to see what was going on all of the time which is the first's sole strong point. But almost everything else about the movie fails pretty badly.

While the dialogue was fine and the casting choices were better than expected, the roles were all so typical and dull that I was wondering when the Gollum rip-off was going to enter the scene. Typical teenage boy is dragged away on an adventure he wants nothing to do with, and finally embraces it at the end of the movie. There's your entire character development for the entire movie other than "he's a seventh son" which gets no real or in-depth explanation. Or if it did, I forgot like five minutes afterwards because it just flies past you and they don't bother reiterating it. And the plot twist at the end which probably qualifies as more development is so cheesy and typical that it disgusted me. I was ready to toss my popcorn.

Every character in this movie is typical to the point the good casting choices hardly qualify as saving them, especially since the characters are so underwritten that they rely on it. You get the independent girl who's fighting the evil but works alone, you've got the evil witch who's just an evil witch, a dead mother who's only there for spiritual purposes, and a Gandalf rip-off who doesn't use magic. And a CGI dragon.

Not only that, the story was so lame! It was literally a rehash of the most typical and basic things 80% of high fantasy stories have! Because of this the movie was practically predictable throughout the whole thing and I was bored at multiple times. I think anyone n can write a better story. Anyone.

Seventh Son isn't an absolute disaster because it had good casting choices and well-done direction, especially during the action. But overall it was an extremely typical borefest with no surprises or originality. In fact the movie relies on the lack of creativity to the point where I wouldn't wish this movie upon anyone even if it has a good cast featuring Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore.

"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

Surprise Review!

Michael Jackson's Thriller (1983) - Directed by John Landis

"This is THRILLER! Thriller night!"

I'm a classic Michael Jackson fan. Believe it or not, I did not "grow up" with him until I was a teenager, and Michael Jackson helped me regain an appreciation for straight-up pop music in a time when pop's been done to death... no Thriller pun intended. So because of the horror marathon I recently went on, I decided to review the 13 minute music video for one of the greatest pop songs ever.

So the 13-minute music video for Michael Jackson's biggest hit tells a simple story about a couple going to see a werewolf movie. When the girl gets too scared of the film and leaves the theater, Jackson tries to show her the glory of horror movies, but end up ambushed by a zombie horde, revealing Jackson is one of them.

Of Michael Jackson's short films, this is the most entertaining because there's more room for the music and dancing as opposed to telling an actual story, which isn't the purpose of a music video. But I'm not gonna judge it for a simple horror movie story because the idea of the movie is to show off Michael Jackson and how he is evolving into more than just a cheesy pop song singer. Now he's here singing about horror movies of all things, and he can get away with it at this point. It's a shame we didn't actually get to see Vincent Price, but some of Michael Jackson's best dancing is in that movie. It takes real skill to adopt the ways in which monsters movie into a dance that doesn't feel as cheesy as the monster make-up, which had the proper cheese.

John Landis of all people directed this one so you can tell where this is going to go if your a Landis fan. He's got a lot of classic material ranging from comedies to horrors to dramas under his belt, but whatever he does you can expect clever camera placement and movement, a good level of humor, and likely something iconic. Classics like Animal House, AN American Werewolf in London and Trading Places are all worth watching but this short film puts those movies to shame in some ways. I'd like to see Eddie Murphy dance like that.

Thriller is both one of the greatest pop songs ever and one of the most worth-while music videos to watch. Michael Jackson could do anything he wanted then, and he wanted to expand his horizons and help the world in many ways. Honestly, if we're to get a Michael Jackson biopic one day, I would also like to see a feature-length adaptaion of this video, cheesy monster effects and all.

Keyser Corleone's First-Timers Superheros Week, Review 6

Green Lantern (2011) - Directed by Martin Campbell

"In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight."

I typically have faith in Martin Campbell to make a good movie. His James Bond films are two of the best James Bond films, especially Casino Royale. But he occasionally needs help in other areas, and he has no idea what he's doing with Green Lantern.

After discovering a dying alien who crashlanded to Earth, test pilot Hal Jordan takes his powerful ring and becomes the newest entry in the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force bent on defending the universe's peace. The Green Lantern energy is powered by the strength of the will, but a new energy of fear is discovered in the form of a powerful entity known as Parallax, who was imprisoned thousands of years ago by the same alien who gave Jordan the ring! Not only that, a scientist has been exposed to the energy of fear and is now a new threat to the Green Lantern Corps.

In one sentence, THIS MOVIE FITS EVERY SUPERHERO CLICHE STARTED BY RICHARD DONNER'S SUPERMAN. I don't want to put any more emphasis on it in fear of looking like I'm infuriated, but the truth is the truth. There is no originality or character development.

A lot of the characters whether they're members of the Green Lantern core or Parallax himself are more there to boast special effects when the truth of the matter is that characters like the fish-bird thing Tomar-Re and the pig-faced Ben Grimm known as Kilowog are not very well designed. And none of the cast members get to fully utilize their skills, especially those who are only voice acting like Geoffery Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan, the voices of the two aliens I mentioned. Mark Strong hardly got to show us a worthy Sinestro that the fans wanted, and in the end no one got to see him acting as the true villain of Green Lantern comics that he's known for. While the performances were all good, they were not utilized very well. Ryan Reynolds was literally the only one to show any real character, being the great actor he is, bringing a much needed level of character and love we can all expect from Reynolds.

And another thing, you're hardly going to find a movie more hellbent on boasting special effects and forgetting to make a good story than Green Lantern. You can tell that with their over-glistened suits alone. There was a lot of potential for a very good superhero franchise and they squandered each and every opportunity. Sure, the action was very cool and even thrilling at times. But that feels like the only real reason to watch this movie. There were times where they tried to write to good story, but the plot points that were different from other superhero movies were only there to differentiate enough because it was a Green Lantern movie and not a Batman movie. Otherwise, the plot points were very basic for the genre. The love story between Jordan and Ferris had no oomph.

I'll admit, I've seen far worse superhero movies than this, but where it wasn't interesting or exciting it was dull and boring. It's an OK movie with a couple of very strong points, like casting, action, dialogue and direction, but everything else was almost entirely forgotten when first developing it. I can only hope that the DCEU film Green Lantern Corps will do a lot better, and I hope Martin Campbell doesn't direct it because he clearly just wanted to get a superhero movie out that no one had seen before, but took too much storywriting influence from RIchard Donner's Superman.

Before Sunrise (1995) - Directed by Richard Linklater

“It's like our time together is just ours."

After watching so many horror movies, I needed some downtime and relaxation. So for the first time in my life I am in a romance mood. I started with romantic comedies like Trouble in Paradise and decided to stick with the light-hearted stuff for a while. One of the early decisions was a movie that's been on my to-do list for ages but I never got around to because I'm not into the genre of romance: Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise.

Not your typical romance movie, Before Sunrise is about the 24 hours spent in one vacationing day in Vienna by an American guy and a French girl who meet on a train, need to catch a new train the next day, and roam around Vienna exchanging philosophies of life, love and philosophy. Eventually they realize that they have a lot in common and enjoy each other's company a lot, but will they ever see each other again after this one day?

What stuck out like a really pretty sore thumb was how the movie bases itself on the polar opposite of the typical romance structure that makes so many of them fail: cheesiness, love at first sight, a random sex scene to secure their relationship, yadda-yadda whoop-dee-doo. This movie is one where you could easily say nothing's happening. It's literally 90 minutes of a guy and a girl talking with each other. However, these conversations are not only realistic, but meaningful. There are a lot of strong points about love and life spoken between these two characters, and it makes you think more than some of those psychological rt movies like Tarkovsky's Nostalghia. What is real love? Where does sex play out? Does philosophy have a lot to do with it? Is love a righteous thing or a selfish thing? These are serious questions being asked in a way that never gets too artsy-fartsy for the typical audience but are still the many chunks that form the structure and basis of the story.

It really helps that the charisma and love shown between the main two actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, is so real that I would go as far as to say that this is one of the most realistic films I've ever seen. That's a rare trait for romance movies because most of the ones I've seen go straight to the cheesy basis for "romance" which is really just sex and first-sightedness. But with this film, when the sex scene was being built up the two characters were discussing whether or not they should because it should not be the ending of a great night but it could also be a symbol of how they really did fall in love based on their time together. And the sex scene cuts off before anything really happens, anyway.

Before Sunrise is by no means a movie made for a great adventure or over-the-top drama. It's about a slice of life everybody goes through at some point, but this kind of day is often ignored for the rest of our lives because it's a one-time thing and we end up taking something that could be so meaningful for granted. Before Sunrise proves to us it is not something to be taken for granted. One may say the film isn't ambitious because "nothing happens," but to make such a realistic film where philosophy is so heavy in a role for character development, isn't the courage to undertake such a unique film and make it so good a form of ambition? Since the movie is so different from the typical romance movie but far more heartfelt and realistic in part due to the simple behavior, I will say "yes." Besides, Richard Linklater filmed a coming-of-age movie over the course of 12 years as the main cast aged. I can't believe Linklater isn't ambitious. It spawned two critically-lauded sequels, so there's something to consider.

OK, number 7 is upon us. Now, I have a question for anyone who's been following me: out of the 6 that were already reviewed, which movie was your favorite and which review was your favorite?

Keyser Corleone's First-Timers Superheros Week, Review 7

Doctor Strange (2016) - Directed by Scott Derrickson

"The language of the mystic arts is as old as civilization."

I've mentioned before that Marvel has gotten to be the hottest topic in this modern world's culture, so unelievably huge that the executives at Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios know that now they can take lesser-known and even obscure heroes and make movies that will top the box office for a time being since the Marvel Cinematic Universe being a gradual story. Well, the time came for a new hero to join the fray and be brought to life by the modern Sherlock himself: Benedict Cumberbatch. This movie was one of Marvel's most innovative, meaningful and visually-stunning movies: Doctor Strange.

This entry of the MCU focuses on a surgeon named Stephen Strange who gets in a car accident that paralyzes his hands. With his job endangered, he travels the world looking for a proper solution, and comes across a school of magic in Kathmandu and learns how to open up portals to other realities and other places in the world. With a former powerful student attempting to gain control of a stone that can manipulate time, Doctor Strange as his school's newest prodigy must use what knowledge of magic he has before the rebels open a gateway to another dimension and free a powerful entity that could eradicate the universe before the clocks stoke another second.

Doctor Strange is one of the best entries in the MCU. I'm still not sure whether or not I consider the film perfect. Currently, my MCU stands at Avengers, Iron Man and Doctor Strange as the top three MCU films.

First, I will start with the special effects. The movie had the most unbelievable and clever usage of "modern" special effects I've seen since Dark City, or maybe even 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie was occasionally a cinematic Viewmaster of kaleidoscope patterns that acted as the SETTINGS FOR FIGHT SCENES. How the hell do you even do that? From the start of the movie, this mind-warping aspect of the film kicks off. I'm reminded of the novel Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, a sci-fi romance novel that took place above a moon with strange astral and energy activity. This is a novel where the scenery helps to tell the story, which is phenomenal for writing and something Andrey Tarkovsky could not complete with his 1972 movie adaptation. Doctor Strange accomplished that.

*Side note: both Doctor Strange and Solaris are very equal in quality.

But the special effects aren't the only real standout thing, even though we get some amazing scens where portals are opened to other places and a couple of ghostly/astral bodies flying. What we have here is a BRILLIANT cast with several actors that stand among some of the MCU's best casting choices. Benedict Cumberbatch, a genius British actor, plays a very American surgeon like it was nothing, and Tilda Swinton plays her role as the Grandmaster all too well, and thankfully her role is properly and perfectly utilized as a major character unlike her well-acted but under-filmed role in Constantine. Seeing the debates on magic and schooling between these two arrogant intellectuals brought a life and color to the movie the special effects could not.

And for a movie with a lot of special effects to boast what with the cinematography perfectly matching the necessities of these effects by bringing out the best of them where they couldn't, there was an interesting story with a fairly well-developed villain and side-plots that actually had something to do with the movie. To help the story comes occasional discussions on life-philosophies and time as well as how time works. There's a lot more to this SFX romp than your typical Transformers film, and the story fits in as its standalone entry to the MCU perfectly well and does not rely on anything that past movies already covered.

Doctor Strange is undoubtedly one of the finest entries in the MCU not just for it's "magical" special effects, but it's acting and story. Scott Derrickson, the director, usually does horror movies so imagine how crazy it felt the first time I saw it and this superhero-wizard movie has little to none of it. The MCU knows what they're doing with choosing directors, and I hope to see more of Dr. Stephen Strange/Benedict Cumberbatch in the MCU series VERY SOON and see more direction from Scott Derrickson.

Now for the official rankings:

1. Doctor Strange

2. Hellboy

3. Ant-Man

4. Aquaman

5. Hulk

6. Green Lantern

67. Catwoman

Dark Blue (2002) - Directed by Ron Shelton

"I was raised up to be a gunfighter by a family of gunfighters."

There are several actors which a film buff needs to get through plenty of films featuring the actor/actress simply based on film-buff merit and despite the quality of the films. For guys, these include Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, and more. Kurt Russell is one of the more obvious ones, and I'm familiar with a lot of his movies. And one of the most OK movies I've seen features him: Dark Blue.

Days before the Rodney King trial, a police sergeant who helps fabricate evidence for crimes by order of his superior officer is about to be promoted. After a recent convenient store robbery resulting in several deaths, the boss tells Sergeant Perry to find two fall guys. But a nervous killing of an innocent man leaves Perry's partner traumatized and Perry begins to wonder if what he's doing is right or if he should stand for true justice.

Well, I guess the movie wasn't all totally predictable. The ending was a pleasant twist. But whatever twists and turns there were in the movie just felt so dull because director Don Shelton didn't feel like he was in the spirit of the movie. The movie got boring on several occasions, even in a couple of fight scenes. And while the story is mostly pretty well-written, whatever happened to the Rodney King connection at the beginning of the movie and why is it there? Was it there to shed some light on the racial tensions at the time? To be fair, it didn't feel like a very racially aware movie.

To be fair, the movie had a good sense of stressfulness that comes between cop and criminal, showing off the bridge between both fairly well. This sort of makes up for the fact that the movie wasn't as focused on racial tension as it could have been. I'm heavily against racism and I wanted more of a comment on that. Let me point out that one of my favorite novels is The Light in the Forest, a novel describing the racial tensions between Native Americans and white men around the time of the Civil War, and the novel avoided picking sides. I wanted something like this in Dark Blue but I didn't get it. In spite of that, the movie acted as a good comment on police corruption which was also quite satisfactory.

Kurt Russell's acting did a lot to help the overall message come across well. I was never really sure whether or not I liked Russell's character as a person until the end because the role was very well done and tailor-made for a serious actor like Russell. But the other cast members, while good, didn't get to really see the other actors at their full potential. Two of the cops were played by Brendan Gleeson of Braveheart and Ving Rhames of Pulp Fiction and they didn't really have that much to do with the movie except for what was absolutely necessary to keep the basic story flowing. Otherwise, they were just there. In fact they weren't even there for that!

Dark Blue isn't bad, but I'm knocking a decent chunk off it's rating for being a bit dull and under-written. I'm a neo-noir fan but there's not a lot to save this movie and make it stand with other neo-noir classics like L.A. Confidential. It makes for a good comment on society at times and fails at that racially. It tries to be racially sensitive at first but just allows the characters to be there without a lot of connection and humanity. It was OK.

I think I'll use this thread to talk about my movie time as well as the reviews.

I realized a couple days ago that the best movie from 1970 I've seen is The Aristocats, and that needs to change. I'm looking for Le Cercle Rouge in English but I'm having a bad time finding that. I had to stick with Patton, which was wonderful. But I still feel like Le Cercle Rouge is a must-see but I'm not paying five bucks for a movie I may never watch again. I only buy movies I know I'll watch again.

Patton (1970) - Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

"We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose!"

In recent time I realized I had to remedy a situation no moviegoer like myself should make: having seen so little movies from a year that my current number one is a questionable choice. In this case, the year was 1970 and the movie was The Aristocats. Desiring to change that, I had a hard time finding classics like the heist film Le Cercle Rouge and the Italian film The Conformist in ENglish, I stuck with the war film Patton. I wasn't sure it would be the "perfect movie of the year 1970" I was looking for, but now I can safely say I am sure.

Patton is a biopic chronicling the command of General George S. Patton as his often infuriating behavior and strict guidelines eventually lead his armies into victories of World War II, and land him in trouble with his peers and international allies. But will he change for his fellow man, or restrain himself long enough to get back to doing just what he believes is right: kicking Nazi ass?

Patton is phenomenal. The first and most notable strength of the film is George C. Scott's performance as George S. Patton, the titular subject matter. Scott was born for a role like this the same way Patton himself was built for wartime command. Throughout the movie, Scott's Patton emanates order and desire for manhood and dominance the exact same way a man from his time would hold his American standards true. He also made a convincing racist at times as his beliefs had occasionally been seen to be against the Russian army. But the rest of the cast as able to keep up with him even though their roles were considerably smaller. The entire cast felt so real! These parts when compared to Patton were like specks in his milk and they could even perform entirely convincingly. Wonderful.

Since the movie is a biopic, I'll forgive the lack of character development on other parties. But the development of Patton as part war-hero part flawed old man is a treasure to behold, not only proving that no man is perfect but that it takes something special to be a real man and not just a war hero. Patton's comments get him into trouble several times throughout the film, and throughout the movie I felt as though I just had to keep watching as I was holding onto a rope on a cliff. When I started the movie I was half-paying attention for 25 minutes, but when I started I wanted to restart... but Patton's charisma and the way the movie played out kept me from that until 20 minutes later.

The war direction was phenomenal. War direction is something I demand from these kinds of movies unless they're special like the tearjerker Schindler's List, and the whole movie has incredible uses of lighting pairing wonderfully with the camera's positions. Instead of focusing on fancy movements, the cameraman is exactly where he needs to be for every second of the movie. And the war scenes were quite epic, not relying on blood and guts or the screams of soldiers but relying on that fact that war violence is a terror in its own and the camera's strict behavior proves it with its content.

Finally, I'm going to comment on how the German scenes did not have subtitles. Didn't need them. Every so often an English word would be heard in their speech like a couple of names and you would be left to wonder what their plans are and how they affect Patton. The music and the scenery in these scenes are what drive them to be just as necessary as every other scene in the movie.

Patton is a must-see for any war fan. I understand some people say the second half is where the film gets slower, but the second half is actually where the more personal and action-driven moments take place. Every scene in the last fifteen minutes was worth it. I love Patton and I would be quick to watch it again.

Avengers: Endgame (2019) - Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

"Whatever it takes."

Like a lot of people, I've been watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception. I remember going to see Iron Man in theaters without actually being a fan, and I came out completely satisfied. Superhero filmsare up my alley, and for a while I thought The Avengers, released in 2012 was the greatest superhero movie I had ever seen due to the film getting very easily into the spirit of a superhero film. But a different movie gave me a unique experience that I had never felt watching a movie before, one of heart-wrenching pain, pure satisfaction, and trembling at how the ending would go: Avengers: Endgame

To end this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Avengers are mostly disbanded, and many of them were killed at the snap of a finger by Thanos, the intergalactic tyrant. Five years have passed and the people who disappeared are still gone. However, a glimmer of hope returns in the form of Scott Lang / Ant-Man, who survived the whole ideal. Now that the possibility of resurrecting the dead has been awoken after five years, the Captain calls on Tony Stark and the remaining Avengers to find the Infinity Stones again and undo what Thanos had done, and defeat him once and for all.

This movie is three-hours long (as I should have expected), so I expected some of it to be slow. None of it was. For a three-hour movie, Every scene was so vital that actually standing up to go to the bathroom halfway through the movie hurt for two reasons: I held it as long as I could, and everything was playing out to perfectly for me to ever want to miss anything about the movie. Even the fight-scenes were vital. Believe it or not, I was getting a little tired during Infinity War, which left the souls and hearts of people around the world with a large and empty hole that people wanted filled like a gut that had no food for a week. I didn't get tired at all during this one. That's special, if you ask me.

Believe it or not, the movie is not exclusively fight-scenes. In fact, for a three-hour flick with no intermission and a large cast, there was plenty of room for character development, and the film as packed with it. Having to see how the Avengers were living after failing so long ago was a part of the heartache. One of the opening scenes begins with two polar opposites: another heart-wrenching plot point, and a moment where we all get satisfied for even a few seconds. Put the two together, you've got a reason to hang on to a dramatic movie for three hours at a time.

The movie does incorporate time travel, and has moments involving major characters from other MCU films. While they're on screen for only a couple of minutes, they are put to the best usage the movie can incorporate. Mild spoiler: Tilda Swinton's character as the Ancient One can be seen in this film. The moments involving the Ancient One from Doctor Strange was one of the best scenes the MCU had filmed and featured an amazing acting role from Tilda Swinton, as expected.

The action sequences were nothing short of incredible. The ending fight scene with Thanos (I don't really think I'm spoiling anything by saying this since anyone with half-a-brain and a shred of previous MCU knowledge would figure that part out) was one of the greatest fights in the entire series, and the way that the entire scene ended the fight was absolutely perfect. Both in terms of what the story was delivering and how the film succeeded or suffered from it, I think the only person who could have thought of a better way to end that scene would be GOD. The scene took into account several previous plot points from earlier on in the film and turned them into huge twists which defined everything. And the characters are all where they should be in the end, for the most part.

There is an expected flaw with the movie, but it doesn't hurt the quality at all believe it or not. For one thing, like, say, The End of Evangelion, you'd be asking for a very confusing experience if you decided to start with this movie. You must watch some of the MCU movies here to get what's going on. It's not a standalone movie at all, but everyone knew it wouldn't be so I won't criticize that.

Overall, Avengers: Endgame not only delivered every promise the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films made for it, but many of the promises were delivered in very unexpected ways that kept the movie exciting, heart-breaking, and somehow very satisfying. Every character felt in place with this film, the plot twists were not at all hamfisted or typical MCU formula, and the end result is only going to make me want to see every future MCU movie in theaters now, even though a glorious era has ended with this film. Avengers, you were the best thing to happen to the world of cinema since Luke Skywalker. You will always be with us, no matter where you are.

Gremlins (1984) - Directed by Joe Dante

"Yum yum!"

There were many horror movies I went through to prepare for a top horror movies list. One that I assumed would be a given for someone with my estranged taste would be Steven Spielberg's Gremlins. In the end, I thought it was overrated like many Spielberg movies from the 80's, like Back to the Future which bothered me for being so liberal with the rules of time travel, and Goonies since it wasn't really one of Donner's most artistic efforts. However, none of the movies I have mentioned in this review are bad by any definition, and this just might mean I need to look at those other movies again sometime soon since now I have another Spielberg-produced classic to compare it to.

The world's cutest horror movie is about an old and failing inventor who "purchases" a weird but cute-looking guy at an old antiques shop, giving it to his banker son, Billy. This creature, known as a "mogwai," needs a lot of care, and there are special rules about taking care of the new mogwai named Gizmo. But when all three are broken, the most unexpected thing happens to the town of Kingston Falls: the mogwai multiplies into many evil, destructive and even murderous little green creatures called Gremlins who wreak havoc on the town, and on Christmas! But Billy knows there one weakness, and is willing to use it to save the town from their reign on disgusting terror!

OK, this 80's classic is diagnosed as a "horror-comedy," and while I have no complaint about such a tag since I believe it describes a lot of movies, I'm afraid I didn't find myself laughing very often at this one. But when I wasn't laughing, I was either fawning over the cuteness of Gizmo or I was amused at the disgusting behavior (or many different kinds of disgusting behavior) coming from the evil Gremlins. The Gremlins were the most entertaining thing about the movie for these reasons, and because their puppetry was not only exceptional when need be, but the obviously fake moments were a part of that "kid's movie" charm like a live-action cartoon. Garbage Pail Kids could learn a thing or two from this movie.

The disgusting moments that infuriated parents nationwide and brought Spielberg to creating the PG-13 rating were actually a bit charming for me. I don't like excessive violence unless it's obviously ridiculous, Sin City / Braindead style, but the way they exaggerated the kid's movie behavior of the violence in my opinion was actually clever filmmaking on Dante's part. The thing is, I was never really impressed with Joe Dante. I'll admit he knows how to make an iconic movie, but not an amazing movie. This was a lot better that most of his movies because it was a horror movie that embraced the fact it was geared towards children and as such it should be treated like a children's movie. That's where most of the heart and comedy come in.

My real problem with the movie comes from the fact that a couple of moments were very predictable. For example, why would any movie tell you exactly how to kill the bad guy at the very beginning? I was hoping the ending scene would provide some sort of fancy twist, like the weakness of Gremlins would be overcome in their monster forms. Nope! And not every scare was original. However, most of the horror was used for progressing the story in both serious and kid-friendly manners, so I'll forgive some of that.

Gremlins isn't the most artsy movie ever made or anything, but it certainly stands out among the crowd for being a cute horror movie, a rare breed of monster. Gremlins influenced a lot of horror in the future, and despite its gross-out behavior in a few instances it remains fun for most kids. It doesn't come close to my top 25 horror movies, but it's certainly a more unique horror movie.

Ben-Hur (1959) - Directed by William Wyler

"Rome is an affront to God. Rome is strangling my people and my country and the whole earth, but not forever."

So a few weeks before writing this, Passover had come about. I decided to treat myself to a long-needed reviewing of The Prince of Egypt, which is one of the last great traditionally-animated movies before the age of computer-animation took over and Dreamworks succumbed to the success of Shrek. In some ways, I admire The Prince of Egypt over Shrek, but it wasn't really the Christian movie every Christian needs. And to be fair, while I love Charlton Heston's epic film The Ten Commandments, it wasn't perfect. It was corny in a couple of places. So I decided to check out Charlton Heston's Ben-Hur for the first time, not realizing beforehand that it was more popular and more well received than Heston's previous Christian epic, The Ten Commandments. I knew at least this: Christian movies get a lot of slack for either being under-adapted or being loaded with fanatic propaganda. So was this the perfect Christian movie?

The 1900's Christian fiction takes place during the time of Jesus Christ, but recounts the fall and rise of Prince Judah Ben-Hur of Judea. When the prince reunites with a childhood friend, Masella, who was just promoted tribune of the Roman army which plans on ruling over the Jews, tensions rise between the two friends. When an accident nearly hurts the governor of Rome, Masella takes the opportunity to frame his friend for an assassination attempt. Swearing revenge, Ben-Hur is taken to be a slave, but his good deeds and strong will allow him to rise through the ranks until one day, he can see his family again.

Ben-Hur has a lot of strong points, so it's hard to pick which one to start with. But since it's a Charton Heston movie, I will start by pointing out the acting. Everyone fit right in with their roles. Charlton Heston was a shoe-in for a wonderful lead role. He put almost as much effort into this role as he did with Moses three years before, and his emotions and his desire for vengeance for his family felt so real. The hate that drove Ben-Hur was the fuel for Heston's performance. Then we have Jack Hawkins (Warden of The Bridge on the River Kwai) as the villain, Tribune Marsella, who's love for Rome and hatred for those who "betray" him or outshine him are delivered perfectly with Hawkins' ability to make a self-centered attitude look like the absolute basics of acting. To go on about the others would be to deliver the same compliments and no insults, so I'll continue the review elsewhere.

The thing that's easiest to point out about Ben-Hur is the magnificent scale. While many of the more "epic" scenes don't have the same scenic focus as films like Lawrence of Arabia, we still find some magnificent views from the world out there, loaded with beautiful architecture and wonderful open fields. And William Wyler's direction never wastes a moment to be right where the camera needs to be.

What really stands out from the direction is the chariot race that was directed by several people. To make a race like this without CGi is a feat at least two decades ahead of its time. The cinematography is so advance during the race that it feels like something from the average 2000's action-blockbuster. And the stunts that were pulled of seem to dangerous to try even for today's standards. That one epic race in a movie that was not of the action genre had some of the most thrilling action I had ever seen, especially for the 1950's.

The soul-searching at the end of the film right after the race brought a lot of humanity back to Judah Ben-Hur, who's only goal in life was revenge until beginning his journey to find purpose. Witnessing some of those things almost brought me to tears. And the storm scene at the end has some of the finest direction of the 1950's, and turns what could have been a potentially campy ending plot-twist into something heartwarming and relieving. I'd easily go back and watch the whole movie again just for the chariot race and the ending, knowing that skipping the rest would dilute the message. It is a Christian movie, and the search for true inner peace is something that all of us, Christian or athiest, can relate to and accept in the end.

So, Ben-Hur this the perfect Christian movie? I'd say so. It boasts wonderful cinematography and direction, has some of the finest acting of the 1950's, and stays true and strong towards its message of inner peace vs. revenge without sinking to the depths of religious propaganda or boastful 1950's special effects. Ben-Hur may not be a true story, but it gives everyone a taste of the cruelties that life has to offer and how one's struggles can often lead to a peaceful existence in the end. This is one of the finest epic dramas ever.

Rush Hour (1998( - Directed by Brett Ratner

" Man you sound like a Karate movie, y'all!"

I was always a fan of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Maybe I'm not the most devout of fans, but if you paired these two in a movie, I'd "rush" right to it. Well, that happened three times. I saw Rush Hour a couple of times as a kid, but I didn't remember it enough to review it. Now I remember enough of it, and I gotta say I'm still pleased with the end result.

Rush Hour is a unique buddy cop about two detectives from far off worlds: a fist-fighting martial arts master from China, and a sarcasm-spewing LAPD cop who always goes solo. When he's called in as a "reward" for his destructive behavior to "help" find a Chinese ambassador's kidnapped girl, he's paired with our old pal Jackie Chan who has the complete trust in the ambassador, but none in the jealous FBI. And for every time one of these party's screw up, it's always our two new buddies who are blamed!

Everybody knows Rush Hour. Brett Ratner might not be the most clever director (his real biggest deal just might be producing Prison Break), but he's got a good duo on the front lines to keep this action comedy going. And seeing the awkward behavior of both worlds colliding, especially Jackie Chan having no clue about African-American etiquette, sets up some real riots. At first, one may think, Jackie's all the action and Chris is all the comedy, but they both share some of the glory with each other, which keeps the film energetic. And there are several instances throughout the movie where the two are married perfectly. The genres, not the buddies.

The story sometimes plays out as a typical buddy cop film, but to see Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker going at it with either each other or the bad guys sets up new ways to go with the story on occasion. I would say that the film accidentally feeds off of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker's charisma in more ways than one, because when the story lets things go very bad for our duo, I really want them to come out on top. This is not out of good will, but because both are good guys I'd wanna go get noodles with.

Rush Hour may be a "simple" film, but it's a good buddy cop movie worth a good deal of replay value. There really isn't a lot to be said about it except that if you want a good Jackie Chan or Chris Tucker movie, you get plenty of their charisma. There's a lot of love to find in this one despite its shortcomings as a movie.

An American Tail (1986) - Directed by Don Bluth

"In America, there are no cats!"

Going through Netflix and looking for a lot of random crap to watch is a good way to pass the time, especially if you're practicing to be a critic. Due to my age, I find myself watching a lot of "rated-R" movies like the big boy I am because they have interesting plotlines and no singing (usually). But every now and then you just wanna lay back with a piece of nostalgia. For me, a big part of that nostalgia is the childhood classic An American Tail.

Don Bluth's second mouse-related movie follows a young Russian immigrant named Fievel Mouskewitz who's home was burned down during an attack involving Cossacks, and cats, which are way worse than Cossacks! On the move to America, where the Statue of Liberty is being built and there are supposedly no cats, he gets caught in a storm when he sneaks to the top deck, and finds himself separated from his family! Now on Manhattan Island, Fievel finds that AMerica indeed does have cats and must dodge them at every chance he gets to find his family again.

Ol' Don Bluth has a way with sentiment, doesn't he? It doesn't matter how hard it is for the other parts of the movie to hold up, DOn Bluth's child-parent sentiment is at some of its most touching in this flick. Pair that with James Horner's soundtrack and you've got the closest thing to a child's tearjerker you can think of. If you think about it, he's got some serious crap in his movies that puts Mufasa's death to shame. We don't get a lot of that in An American Tail, but we do get a lot of scary scenes like the giant waves of a storm coming to life and attacking Fievel for no reason other than to be a raging dick to a ship. We also get a demonic robot during the climax.


It's staring into your soul and it wants to eat your dick. This reminds me of a recent Bugs Bunny quote: "Are you trying to SCARE the children?" Apparently so. At least we don't go through any surreal death-visuals like in Watership Down.

And since this is a mouse movie, there's obviously gonna be some cute. What separates An American Tail from other "cute" movies is the fact that the cute doesn't often get in the way of the movie itself. This is perfect for adults who want to sit and watch a movie with their children.

But, this is not a five-star movie. It might be a classic, but there are obvious problems. The water-monster scene felt a little thrown in their for the sake of children's movie drama and fantasy. And no, it wasn't a visual representation of Fievel's imagination. This isn't Richard Donner's Superman. There was a scene where a giant rain cloud just poured a bucket over the ship (and nothing else) and then started raining like a normal little storm should do. There are a lot of things in this movie that are just pulled out of a kid's TV cartoon hat to the point where that becomes more of a focus than a deep plot.

Secondly, the music is a bit underwhelming. Fievel's voice during "Somewhere Out There" is just horrid, like if a little boy was practicing for his Bon Scott Halloween costume. And songs like "There Are No Cats In America" feel too depressing for a movie like An American Tail. There might be a couple of standouts for fans of the franchise, but not much to offer in quality like The Little Mermaid.

An American Tail is an iconic mouse movie that deserves some of its hype, but is an overrated kids movie nonetheless. It's clear Don Bluth and Gary Goldman weren't giving it there all after The Secret of Nimh like they should have done, having worked with Disney in the past. But it has some definite merits and is one of the most touching kids movies I've ever seen. "Love it or hate it" is the best way to describe this movie, since there are blunt pros and cons for both child and adult audiences.

Maniac (1934) - Directed by Dwain Esper

"The gleam!"

Thanks to James Whale's Frankenstein, horror was becoming a huge hit during the 1930's. Hits like Dracula and more Universal monsters would become staples for Hollywood. But the problem with horror is that it's so hard to come up with any original scares, and they same is true for early horror films like Maniac.

In this apparently "so-bad-it's-good" horror film, a show impersonator is blackmailed into working with a mad scientist / psychiatrist who wants to resurrect the dead. When told to shoot himself for the experiment, impersonator Don Maxwell shoots the doctor instead and impersonates him. The charade leads him into a quick descent into madness.

I didn't get a "so-bad-it's-good" vibe from this movie at all. It had a couple of promising story elements at the beginning, but the problem with those story elements is that they're forgotten for the sake of showing off how insane Don Maxwell is getting. This leads to some loose ends such as the man who went insane when he was shot with "super-adrenaline." I was hoping to see more of that stuff in action during the film. Instead, we get random scenes which really don't mean much, such as the scene where showgirls are chatting with each other and changing clothes when it's obvious the scene was just there for the sake of appealing to hormonal men and barely got away with it.

There wasn't much to offer in the way of horror of plot, either. The plot is really just a man going insane while impersonating a mad scientist, and there's not much depth in that plotline at all. There were a couple of more promising scenes, usually involving cats (one of which was kind of disgusting and surprisingly released during the 1930's), and one involving a plot twist at the end of the movie that resolves... well, it's an ending.

The acting was exaggerated. Was everyone who auditioned for this movie actually a failed Shakespearean actor? The mutating scene (if you want to call it that) was more focused on poetry and growling teeth than it was one the rape that the alternate title of the movie, Sex Maniac, suggested. By the way, there's no sex. You get a split-second shot of half-a-nipple, but no real rape or anything like that. I never thought I'd criticize a movie for having no sex, but that was just pointless on marketing and very misleading. Basically, all this leads up to is a previous point I made: the subplot went absolutely nowhere. And why was the main character talking to himself all the time, and with such hammy dialogue? People don't do that, and I don't need to be the world's greatest peeping tom to know that people don't do that.

And finally, the editing was just horrible. Throughout the entire movie, characters will end up in separate places in split-seconds, different cats are used during the same scenes for "stunts" and it's blatantly obvious they're different, and the movie's loaded with pauses where different mental disabilities and psychoses are described for no reason. These scenes are played to non-horrific piano music which cuts out immediately when the pause ends as opposed to the normal fading out.

Maniac sucked, and not in a so-bad-it's-good way. It's just bad. I was hoping to find some serious enjoyment out of this, but I didn't. I love so-bad-it's-good movies and this just wasn't that kind of movie. I'd rather watch a twelve-hour documentary on how Marcel Proust wrote the first ten pages of In Search of Lost Time, the longest novel written.

Rush Hour 2 (2001) - DIrected by Brett Ratner

"You think they scare me? I'm from Los Angeles, man. We invented gangs!"

Rush Hour is one of those late-childhood series for me that helped turn me into a fan of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. They're a pair that can hardly be matched when you want a buddy cop movie, and are probably more screen-capable than Mel Gibson and Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon. Unlike Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour was more carefully treated. It didn't have sequel after sequel coming out and a TV adaptation. Instead, it was careful about the sequels. The first of two sequels for the Rush Hour series is almost as good as the original, which proves there was care taken.

While on vacation after the events in the first film, James Carter and Inspector Lee finds themselves in the middle of another case when two US Customs agents are killed by a gang lead by Ricky Tang, the man suspected of killing Lee's father. After botching an arrest attempt, Carter and Lee go to L.A. and team up with a secret service agent to continue the case and bring down anyone in L.A. who may be working with Tang, notably a white billionaire who was seen on RIcky's yacht.

The movie had much of the same heart and soul of the first movie, so there's really not much to complain about except that the movie had a "my father is dead" subplot which didn't really do anything for the movie except add a little extra drama. The drama worked well enough in the first movie, but in this one it was a little hamfisted. There are many ways to go with a sequel, but Rush Hour 2 seemed to start contracting a small case of "sequelitis."

Despite this, the movie had much of the same humor, where Chan and Tucker mock each other's races again, Chris Tucker's proud flaunting of modern African-American culture (usually through dance), and Jackie's serious but comedic persona drives many of his action scenes. And one thing I thought this film did better than its predecessor was mix the action and the comedy to a more effective approach. This way, we got the best of both worlds almost constantly, which is something a lot of buddy cop movies fail at or just don't bother to do.

Well, I know this review was relatively short, but that's all that can really be said about Rush Hour 2. It should prove good enough for most fans of the first and it keeps itself on track a lot. Sure, it feels like a sequel sometimes. But at least it's about as good as the first movie.

The Princess and the Frog (2009) - Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

"The evening star is shinin' bright. So make a wish and hold on tight. There's magic in the air tonight, and anything can happen."

A return to form is always appreciated when you've got a famous format that hasn't been used in a while. Disney's return to the format of Disney Renaissance films took place in a re-invention of The Frog Prince, but it wasn't the typical rewriting where the whole story is told just like a fairy tale but with a different ending that still ends up happily ever after. This went the whole distance by putting the classic fairy tale in modern-American New Orleans.

In this modern classic, a New Orleans woman has been working two jobs to raise money to buy an old house and turn it into the restaurant she and her father dreamed about. But if it's not one thing it's another. If it's not someone outbid her on the land, it's that a prince cut off from his family's riches was turned into a frog by a witch doctor. And at a costume party, the prince tries to kiss our hero who's dressed up as a princess to change back, but that makes it even worse.

I actually saw this twice. The first time, I wasn't impressed, so I'll get the complaints out of the way first. In a previous review for Disney's Robin Hood, I pointed out how the only "new" thing they did was make all the characters animals and that was it. With this, they made it American and modern. Now that's both a pro and a con. While I don't have any complaints about a black Disney princess because it doesn't really matter if there was a political agenda since the movie worked out in that way, I don't really think modernizing a classic fairy tale is anything new. It's been done before, not by Disney but by plenty of people. Remember that old 90's movie based on A Midsummer Night's Dream? That's a good example.

As far as other complaints go, it's really just simple things that are taken into account when the movie is compared to other classic Disney films and have no real interesting things to say. The songs aren't as good, the characters aren't as loveable as say Genie or Rafiki, yak yak yak.

Now for the pros. It was a really good idea to get John Musker and Ron Clements back for this movie because they helped define the Disney revival. Despite the movie having a fairly typical formula, there were several good surprises here and there that worked out for their scenes and the whole of the movie. Surprises aren't something that the usual modern Disney movie is known for, so it was really nice to see happen.

The direction of the film was quite extravagant, and is something that was really missing from Disney movies ever since Atlantis: the Lost Empire. The musical numbers have some of the best visual spectacle and direction Disney ever had. The Clements / Musker combo meal satisfies again. Seriously, there's more than one king of magic during the "Friends On the Other Side" number, but the sad truth is that the music can't hold up to the visuals. And the best song lasts like a minute and a half, the bayou song.

I also felt it was a wise decision to bring out the quirkiness of New Orleans through the movements of the characters. While the development needed a little more strength between characters, the way they were animated bring some real energy and power out. Pair that with the music number you have something special.

My final paragraph centers around a pro and a con: the moral content. The movie had a lot of good things to say about life and love, especially on how it's important to work hard but how it's also important to let yourself rest. And the movie also had a lot to say about the importance of family and how your dreams are still important but not at the same level. As far as the con goes, it's the decision to marry like with every fairy tale. Remember Before Sunrise? The characters decided to get into a relationship after one day of walking around a city. I can see that happening. But even after a great adventure, the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone seems too rare to really put into a movie and feel right. On the plus side, some great moments happened during the last five minutes because of it.

The Princess and the Frog isn't the best Disney movie, but there are a lot of good reasons to watch it and it has its replay value. Flashy characters, wonderfully directed musical numbers and real morals all help this revive the Disney we grew up with in theaters. So if Disney's real goal was a return to form, I'd say it succeed because this movie worked pretty well and would have fit well within the Disney Renaissance. However, it might've been the second worst movie in the renaissance, with Pocahontas being the worst.

Invisible Ghost (1941) - Directed by Joseph H. Lewis

"I'm afraid to come home, he'd kill me, he'd kill anybody."

I am not as experienced in movies before the 60's as I think I should be. I think the only 1941 movie I've seen is Citizen Kane, so I'm remedying the situation with some movies I think are essential whether or not they fit the five-star bill. One good example is a forgotten Bela Lugosi movie known as Invisible Ghost, a murder-mystery with a lot of creep-factor but not enough story.

This oldie tells the story of a rich man living in the middle of a murder-infested town and he refuses to leave due to the memories of his wife who disappeared after a car crash. But the truth is that his gardener has been keeping her alive and secret for a long time. When she escapes, she is seen by the rich man through her window, and as he blacks out, murders take place.

I'm a huge fan of psychological films, and I almost always find some way to enjoy them even if they're pretty bad. Invisible Ghost is a very good example of this because Bela Lugosi (who plays the rich man) played the murder scenes with good attention to movement. It felt a little bit corny considering Lugosi previously played Dracula, but he still played the part well.

The movie is typically loaded with things that can be a pro and a con. For example, the story does a good job building things up, but interesting plot elements are founded on unexplained elements that don't do the movie any favors. Why was the gardener keeping the wife a secret? Was it because of her brain damage and the gardener didn't want her husband to see her like that? And how come she kept appearing outside when escaping but never going into the house? The movie raises a lot of questions they don't bother answering. However, this does make it a good movie to theorize about, which is unique for me since I typically hate the abundance of Disney fan-theory movies on Youtube.

Despite the lack of substance which cannot match the perfectly creepy approach, the events building up to the end were quite interesting and made my heart pound when the big climax came. However, the soft and lightly bouncy score during the scene killed that buzz quickly, so I didn't enjoy the end as much as anticipated. And my final complaint is that the characters are pretty flat. They all play their parts well and some of the characters look like you'd like to get to know them. But they have no development thanks to the substance problem.

There were a lot of good ideas in Invisible Ghost that either weren't given the chance to shine or were founded upon underwritten elements. But the acting was fine and the movie is pretty creep, especially for psychological film fans like me. I'd recommend it for a one-time watch, if not just to get a forgotten dose of Bela Lugosi.