Category Archives: 3 pirate flags

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau (2011): United States – directed by George Nolfi

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some mild violent content, slightly mature themes, mild language

The Adjustment Bureau is not a standard sci-fi romantic thriller, as there is an interesting philosophical undercurrent that runs through much of the action.  And while it rarely rises to greatness, a good number of casual discussions will be started by a viewing.  Hard-core movie-goers will perhaps shy away from the simplicity of the themes, but casual seekers of entertainment will find something more to appreciate in the film.

Adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, The Adjustment Bureau has just the right amount of plot to keep an audience engaged without becoming a science fiction epic.  David Norris (Matt Damon) is an up-and-coming politician.  The film opens as he runs for U.S. Senate, representing the state of New York.  His rough upbringing in Brooklyn has the masses cheering for him, but a slightly indiscreet photo ruins his chances of being elected.  But on the night of the election he runs into a young lady named Elise (Emily Blunt), and a tragic romance begins.

Continue reading

Rango

Rango (2011): United States – directed by Gore Verbinski

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains violent content, dark themes, some mild language and rude humor

Some American audiences feel that all animated films fall into one of two camps; either the disrespectful, slightly adult comedy of Dreamworks Animation (How to Train Your Dragon [review here] being an exception) or the heartfelt mastery of Pixar films.  But Rango is enjoyable precisely because it aims for something totally different, and ends up feeling like neither type of film.  Rango’s young adult flavor, mixing some violence with dark themes and quirky, offbeat humor, may not be for the younger kids but is a refreshing addition to the genre.

And what animation: Rango may be the most detailed, gorgeous animated film I have ever seen.  There are moments that are pure bliss, with such an atmosphere as few other animated films have ever managed.  The film is essentially a Western mixed with Chinatown that manages to discuss Eastern mysticism mixed with classic American movie tropes.  Add in a blend of Johnny Depp/Gore Verbinski quirkiness and comedy, and the result proves rather enjoyable.

Continue reading

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008): United States – directed by Kurt Kuenne

Not rated by the MPAA – contains strong language, incredibly difficult subject matter

There are few movies as emotionally devastating as Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.  The fact that it is a documentary makes the story even sadder, and the possibility for hope more bittersweet.  To make the film even more challenging, the director is so close to the subject matter that it becomes almost impossible to separate the craft from the story.  Perhaps this is for the better.

Director Kurt Kuenne was best friends with Andrew Bagby growing up.  They played together, and Andrew always starred in Kurt’s home movies.  Andrew went to medical school, made more friends, influenced more people’s lives.  The film starts as a letter, as the title states, to Andrew’s son Zachary.  But Zachary doesn’t come into the film until about halfway through.  The less a viewer knows about this film, the better.  It is most certainly worth watching.

Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010): United Kingdom – directed by David Yates

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some scary sequences, some violence and disturbing material, some sensuality

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 picks up in exactly the same manner as the seventh book in the Harry Potter series, dropping the audience into the middle of the action without any digressive exposition.  The Death Eaters are gaining power, the Order of the Phoenix continues their underground struggle to combat Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) are in constant danger.  Or at least Harry is, being the most wanted man in the magical world, and Hermione and Ron are stuck with him.

Viewers not familiar with the book series, and those who haven’t seen the films recently, may be confused.  The film suggests enough for viewers to be reminded of past events and characters.  And, as the first of two movies chronicling the final book, it primarily serves to set up all that will transpire in the final chapter.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its charm or excitement.

Continue reading

Tangled

Tangled (2010): United States – directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some action

The story might be familiar, but there’s never been a fairy tale told quite like this before.  In a fashion reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction [review here], directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have taken bits and pieces of a wide assortment of popular media and assembled them into something contemporary and exciting. Granted, some of the tinkering smacks of Disney’s familiar marketing team, but the results are still fabulously entertaining.

The film opens with some back story, as it’s described how a king and queen have a princess with the help of a magical flower.  The flower blossomed from a spot of ground where a drop of sunlight had alit centuries ago.  The flower holds magical properties, as Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) well knows.  She’s used it for years to maintain her youth.

Continue reading

The Prowler

The Prowler (1981): United States – directed by Joseph Zito

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, sex, nudity, language

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Some might not be appropriate for all audiences.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 11/9/08)

This film  revolves around a young GI, who, coming home from WWII gets mad or something because his girl couldn’t wait, so stabs her and her new beau with a pitchfork. At the same time. While they’re making out. Fast forward 35 years, and the college is putting on another graduation dance, which they banned since that last one. So, of course, something bad happens and a dude dressed up like a Nazi stormtrooper goes around pitchforking and slicing people.

Tom Savini did the makeup, and that’s the best compliment the film can get. It’s not really that bad, it’s just that nothing stands out as noteworthy other than his gore effects. There’s the double pitchforking mentioned above, as well as a chick in the shower pitchforked and stuck up.

Continue reading

Over-sexed Rugsuckers from Mars

Over-sexed Rugsuckers from Mars (1989): United States – directed by Michael Paul Girard

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, sex, nudity, general weirdness, language

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Some might not be appropriate for all audiences.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 1/2/09)

And now for something totally different. This is the first film by the guy who did Bikini Med School and Body Parts. I’ve never heard of him either. (And yes, it looks like most stuff he’s done is soft core porn.) But whatever.

Unfortunately, the film is not as good as its title. But, you have to admit that the title is one of the greatest ever. It looks like someone filmed it wherever and whenever he could, with money stolen from homeless people. The quality is dreadful, the script is abominable, the acting pathetic, the special effects barely even laughable.

However, it’s a film of a lot of firsts. And for this reason it’s almost worth watching.

Continue reading

Two Thousand Maniacs!

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964): United States – directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis

Not rated by the MPAA – contains ridiculous violence and blood

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 12/14/08)

This is one of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s gore flicks, along with classics(?) like Blood Feast and A Taste of Blood. It’s much the same as Blood Feast: a terrible plot tied together with an awful script, some very poor acting, continuity problems, and a bunch of excuses to chop women up. Therefore, it’s a classic.

This one involves a town in the south that got mutilated and destroyed by Yankee soldiers, and now, 100 years later, people in the town lure some northerners to participate in their centennial celebration, which pretty much involves a horse race (quartering someone), a barrel role, with extra nails, and a drop-the-stone-on-the-person game.

Continue reading

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007): Canada – directed by Jon Knautz

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence, gore, language

Note: As I will be out of the country for a period of time, I have decided to inflict upon anyone who reads these reviews a sampling of my earlier work.  These will be shorter, less formal, poorly written, and generally crappy.  They will lack stills and links, and I will apologize in advance for their poor quality.  They have received minor edits to (very slightly) improve readability.  Enjoy.

(review originally published 10/26/08)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Jack Brooks is done by the same couple guys who made Still Life, a very nice short film.  I remember watching it a while back and quite enjoying it.  Nice and violent for a short, too.  That must have been how I heard about Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer.  It’s not a bad thing that I did, either, as it’s a rather enjoyable low-budget horror.  Now, I say low budget, but that comes more because the movie doesn’t try to overreach itself, not because the effects are bad.  In fact, the effects (which according to IMDb use no CGI) are quite good.  They did things the old fashioned way: latex and plenty of colored corn syrup.  While the movie wasn’t quite what I expected, if you go in expecting something closer to what it is you might enjoy it more.

The title makes it sound like there’s a guy who goes around killing monsters.  Not exactly the case.  The film opens with a couple monster scenes, the second of which involves a young boy witnessing his family getting torn to shreds by a forest troll.  We learn his name is Jack Brooks, and now that he’s all grown up he has an anger problem.  Fact is, he punches out just about everyone that pisses him off. And he gets pissed off quickly.  So he goes about life as a plumber (yes, Jack the Plumber), has a crappy college girlfriend, and pops in on his shrink occasionally, mostly to yell at him.  Now it may seem that Jack is an obnoxious prat, but he’s played well enough by Trevor Matthews that he remains rather likeable.

His girlfriend has made him go to an evening chemistry class, so he does.  The professor is a nerdy Robert Englund, who one day has plumbing issues out at his old house on the hill.  To sum up the remainder of the movie briefly (in order to avoid too many spoilers), there’s an evil Japanese demon heart that the professor finds that threatens to unleash evil in the chemistry class and on toward the end of the movie Jack discovers the reason the movie is called Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer.

So, keep in mind that this isn’t Evil Dead reborn.  Nor is it like the graphic novel series Hack/Slash, where the duo slices and dices serial killers.  It is more like an origin story of this monster slayer, which means that the first hour of the film is relatively boring, keeping mostly to his ordinary life.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It’s quite enjoyable, actually.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but doesn’t try too hard to be witty or self-absorbed, either.  There are a couple annoying characters who have difficulty acting at the same level as the rest of the cast . Englund is fun in his small but important role.  And the violence is fun, even though it sometimes veers into made-for-Sci-Fi channel territory.  Overall, not a bad way to spend 85 minutes watching some gore fly with some friends.

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes (1968): United States – directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Rated G by the MPAA – contains violence, some language

Planet of the Apes is often considerd seminal science fiction, a landmark in both the genre and popular culture.  All it takes is a quick look and listen at either “Futurama’s” Calculon or “The Simpsons'” Troy McClure to see the enduring legacy of Charlton Heston’s Colonel Taylor.  Regardless of its impact on culture, Planet of the Apes works markedly better as a broad allegory and insightful dissection of society than a scientifically correct film.

The film begins with a small crew of spacemen aboard a flight some 320 light years from Earth.  The year is 3978, though none of the men (the sole woman dies before she has a chance to understand her plight) aboard realize this until it’s too late.  A systems malfunction has sent them off course, and failed to awake crew members in proper order.  There is a planet nearby, one that seems hospitable, and the crew crash lands in a lake.

Continue reading