Author Archives: ochippie

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Movie Review – Charlotte’s Web

Category : Movie Review

Director: Charles A Nichols, Iwao Takamoto

Starring: Henry Gibson, Debbie Reynolds, Paul Lynde

Year: 1973

One of the classic childhood musicals of our time, Charlotte’s Web is, of course, also a classic book, but comes to life so well in this simple film that both can exist and be magnificent at the same time.  E.B. White’s story is animated for us in the most basic of fashions, but that’s hardly a critique; it was the 70s after all, and these are barnyard animals, nothing too complicated, so why push the boundaries, let the story speak for itself instead.  And that’s exactly what happens; the tale is loud and clear and will stick with you into your adulthood if you watched as a kid, and will delight whole new generations of children if you share its beauty with them.

Wilbur is a runty pig, but that doesn’t mean he’s not special.  In fact, he’s loved dearly by a farm girl named Fern, who takes care of him while he’s young & little, although she has to give him up when he gets older.  Wilbur isn’t such a little guy any more, and he’s going to be butchered for meat, just like all the other pigs on the farm, when cold weather sets in.  But he’s not ready to die, he has a great zeal for life under the barn, and his new friend Charlotte is going to help him stay alive.  She’s a spider whose web is in the corner of Wilbur’s doorway, and the messages she begins to write with her silk will bring hope to a desperate pig, and will inspire love in everyone who reads them.

What a delightful tale, and what a time capsule to watch this movie with my family and experience the joy all over again.  Just the narration at the beginning was enough to transport me back in time to when I used to watch this movie over & over again, and even that was 15-20 years after its release; I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who loved this story as a kid in the 70s to watch it now, how it would take them all the way back.  The book is great, obviously, and the musical version is very well done, very respectful of the novel, which is really important to me.  The songs, the characters, the animals, the simplicity of the timeline; it’s just very lovely.  Charlotte’s Web is one of those films that will bring a tear to anyone’s eye if you let it, and you might as well let it; you’ll feel better after, I promise.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Aladdin and the King of Thieves

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tad Stones

Starring: Scott Weinger, John Rhys-Davies, Robin Williams

Year: 1996

We can skip right over Return of Jafar, since it doesn’t have Robin Williams in it anyway, and go right to King of Thieves, because at least it feels like a Disney movie, if a sub-par, farmed-out sequel that you should lower your expectations before watching.  It’s no Aladdin, obviously, but at least it’s an attempt, and gives families (especially the younger members) something to experience in a free and easy manner, with enough quality to get by in a pinch.  The death of Robin Williams is one of the saddest events of cinematic history, but at least we get to hear his voice and enjoy his comedy in this film, and that’s almost reason enough to watch right there.

Jasmine and Aladdin are finally going to be together forever and get married, after all the adventures they’ve gone through as a couple new to love.  But their wedding is interrupted by the King of Thieves and his band of criminals, who are amassing the world’s largest treasure trove in a secret cave, and have their eye on one special magical item that will keep the King wealthy forever; the hand of Midas, which turns everything it touches into gold.  Aladdin finds himself in the mix when he learns that the King is his long lost father, a journeyman who has been searching for years for the means to make his family proud.  Now, father and son will have to work together to reach their goals, learning along the way that blood is more important than gold.

There are a lot of strong points about King of Thieves, but its ceiling was built so low from the beginning that there’s really no reaching any surprisingly strong level.  The true and legendary voice of the Genie is back, for one, and that makes all the difference.  His songs and jokes aren’t quite as crisp, but they’re still entertaining, because of course they are, Robin Williams was both a genius and a gem.  The music isn’t great, it’s patchy, and it feels second-rate, probably because that’s exactly what it is.  Even the animation takes a step back, but at least the characters are still cool, Jerry Orbach plays a good villain, there are some fun themes, we get to meet Aladdin’s dad, so it’s not all bad.  My kids had a good time watching, that means something, so it’s not all a loss, and at least it’s better than the live-action remake.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Matrix Reloaded

Category : Movie Review

Director: The Wachowski Brothers

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Year: 2003

If Equilibrium is what happened when someone watched The Matrix, copied it, and did a terrible job, Matrix Reloaded is what happened when the creators of Matrix watched Equilibrium, copied it, and did such a terrible job that it made all three films seem like complete jokes.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sequel follow the original so poorly, not even pedantic Disney volume twos & threes that were made by a completely different department.  At least those have music; Reloaded has absolutely nothing going for it and is so shockingly bad after the success of the first that you have to wonder what happened between the two films that caused the filmmakers to lose their minds.  I’ve never seen something this bizarrely stupid, especially when it had something incredible acting as its spring board, and it’s a cinematic travesty that this movie exists at all; we might need to bite the bullet and amputate that which is so obviously rotten.

Neo has been revealed as The One, the man who can bring down the Matrix and free the human race from computer bondage.  It won’t be easy though; the system is now fully aware of his presence, they’ve classified him as an anomaly, and they’re hell bent on his destruction.  Meanwhile, Agent Smith isn’t really dead, he’s just been broken from the chains and rules of the program, so now he’s free to hunt Neo with a personal vengeance.  Also, the Matrix is sending their sentinels to Zion, the last human city in the real world, and it’s only a matter of time before they find and destroy it.  AND, Neo has visions that his beloved Trinity is going to die, so he’s got to break from the current trajectory that his team is on, which won’t be easy since Morpheus has become almost a religious zealot and a plethora of new enemies pops up wherever our heroes go.  Welcome to the real world, Neo; it sucks.

A typical complaint against this film is that it makes little sense, but I didn’t want to fall back on that flaw, which of course exists, so I made sure to pay extra attention to the details …and I still have no idea what the christ is going on.  I know the third movie is supposed to wrap things up nicely, but, even if that’s true, it’s not carte blanche to do a bad job with the second installment; it still needs to make some sort of coherent sense.  I can hardly believe Reloaded is so abysmal, since Matrix is so good; it’s like they decided to challenge themselves by throwing out everything that worked the first time around and trying something new and dangerous, like a drug that just couldn’t be denied.  The result is so dumb that it’s hard to watch, looks so bad that you’d swear you just jumped 20 years into the past instead of moving 4 years into the future.  Neo flying like Superman, CGI battles galore, idiotic fight scenes around every corner, conversations that finally reveal the acting talent of the cast; it’s not good.  In fact, it’s pathetic, we deserved better, and I hate this goddam movie.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Matrix

Category : Movie Review

Director: The Wachowski Brothers

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Year: 1999

The Matrix was, at the time, a groundbreaking sci-fi event, a milestone of the genre that marked the beginning of a new era in film.  It seems dramatic now, but at the time it felt dramatic, this movie that pushed limits and wasn’t afraid of taking chances.  Watching it back 20 years later, what strikes me is that it still holds the same awe that it did then, still challenges audiences in a similar way, even though we’ve seen better CGI and practical effects since.  That’s the sign of a true, good, solid flick, one that doesn’t really age, it just morphs, and one that can still pack one hell of a punch.  I’m prepping myself to watch #2 and #3 as well, which I’m not as hopeful about, but perhaps I’ll be proved wrong; the original sure works still.

Neo is a hacker by night and a programmer named Mr. Anderson by day; he’s on a quest to find the truth about something he can’t even describe, it’s just a feeling that something isn’t right.  He feels that a man named Morpheus, a criminal mastermind according to authorities, will hold the answers that Neo seeks, even though he still doesn’t really know what questions to ask.  And Morpheus does find Neo eventually, saving him from a group of special agents who are bent on destroying the network of hackers who threaten their control.  Now the truth is revealed; that the world we live in isn’t real, it’s a projection, and we are all the unknowing slaves of AI overlords who use us for energy in order to stay alive and dominant.  Neo now knows the truth, but how he fits in to the resistance is still a mystery, as is the potential of his own power over the constructs of the Matrix, the wool that’s been pulled over all of our eyes.

With a cool premise as a foundation and some kick-ass action as a reward for watching, The Matrix is a gift to audiences both in construction and in delivery, like a thing you expected to be great that actually kept its promise.  That’s the key; there’s an awesome story, it’s so interesting, but that’s not where the movie stops, its keeps going above & beyond, filling all the gaps with intense fight sequences that aren’t stupid because time was taken early to build a smart base.  The acting you don’t really notice one way or the other because the actors are so invested in this fictional world; you don’t even smell anything bad coming from Reeves’ way, and he’s one of the worst actors in the entire world.  The cast is really pretty excellent: Fishburne, Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano.  It might not seem as explosively game-changing when watching it now, because so much has happened in Hollywood in the last 20 years, but The Matrix was a huge deal, should still be respected, and even has the added bonus of aging well over the time period, never losing its awesome atmosphere, and ending with a Rage bang that can’t be denied and will never be forgotten.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Housesitter

Category : Movie Review

Director: Frank Oz

Starring: Goldie Hawn, Steve Martin, Dana Delaney

Year: 1992

Housesitter is basically What About Bob 2, but how could that possibly be a bad thing?  What About Bob is one of the (if not the) greatest comedies of all time, so bringing that style back to the big screen is a smart idea no matter how you slice it, as long as you have the cast and the idea to cover your butt.  Frank Oz, almost the exact same music, a big New England house with a round drive, a small town, a kooky catastrophe; the similarities are pretty striking when you watch them unfold, but, again, that’s not a bad thing really, since they didn’t try to make a sequel (which would have failed), they just took the concept and rewrote it, presenting it to us in a different form because they knew we loved it so much the first time around.

Newton Davis is an architect in Boston who recently built a house for a girlfriend, asked her to marry him, and was dumped in turn.  She just wasn’t ready, he’s too much of a nut, but now he doesn’t know what to do; he’s going broke, going nowhere, out of ideas, and slowly spiraling downward.  When he meets the mysterious Gwen, they hit it off right away; she’s smart, funny, weird, a free spirit, and is likely to do anything, including using the information she gets from Davis to go ahead and move into his empty dream home, pretending to be his wife when the townsfolk ask.  It’s a con game that can’t last too long, but when Davis finds out the pair strike a deal; Gwen can keep up the charade if she also helps Davis win back Becky, the girl he can’t forget, the one who broke his heart, but perhaps the woman he’s destined to be with.

If you’re gonna replace Bull Murray and Richard Dreyfuss in an oddball comedy that follows the same path, there probably aren’t two better prospective actors than Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin, geniuses each.  And Hawn really steps up, because she’s not the ditzy blonde this time, she’s the swiftly lying con artist who has everyone right where she wants them, until she starts to fall for Steve Martin, who plays the lovable idiot so very, very well.  The plot is silly, obviously, but man is it funny, with these two leading the charge as the game goes off the deep end and all we can do is watch the main scheme fall apart.  It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s iconic; this movie is simply pure entertainment, from beginning to end.  It’s not quite a perfect performative classic, but it’s a film that holds up all these years later and can definitely highlight a random evening in.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Swan Princess

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Rich

Starring: Michelle Nicastro, Howard McGillin, Jack Palance

Year: 1994

In the 90s, my dad, who is a career salesman, worked for Nest Family Entertainment, selling and advertising their series of animated bible stories and also their collection of animated American hero tales.  He would travel to trade shows and expos, play the movies on TV stands, and try to sell sets to churches, schools, families, what have you.  Nest was owned by Richard Rich, a former director for Disney, who followed others like Don Bluth in creating his own animation studio when Disney started going south in the early 90s, before their Renaissance.  Nest would produce, along with Pillsbury and Turner Hone Entertainment, their first feature in 1994, and that film was The Swan Princess.  That’s how I first watched it, I always felt a special connection to it, and now I’ve passed that relationship on to my own kids, who understand that it’s no Little Mermaid, but that it’s also worth seeing.

Heirs to neighboring kingdoms, Odette and Derek were destined to be wedded.  Their parents planned it from the moment the little boy met the baby girl, it just made too much sense not to agree to, the two nations becoming one, united forever by the bond of love.  One small problem though; Derek and Odette hated each other.  They were forced to spend the summers together, forced to fall for one another, but that only drove them further apart, until the year they both grew up, saw each other properly, and finally felt a real connection.  But just as all the pieces seemed to be falling into place, the evil Rothbart attacked, killing the King and taking Odette as a prisoner.  He turned her into a swan with his dark magic, and with an eye toward obtaining her kingdom, but Derek vowed to find her some day, if he had to spend his whole life searching for the girl he grew to love.

The story is based on Swan Lake, with some clever Disney-style plot lines thrown in for originality, and the entire thing feels like a real, old-fashioned tale, not some second-rate animated clunker.  Very few saw this film, but it’s better than some Disney flops, and at least holds its own with some of the Disney Princess musicals.  Speaking of the music, that might be the best part, with memorable songs that are stronger than you’d think: This is My Idea, Practice Practice Practice, Far Longer than Forever (the big number), No Fear.  A couple of the songs are dumb, but most are solid, and the overall score is pretty great too.  The voice talent is a roller coaster, mostly filled with no-names, but with a few celebrity cameos: Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright, Sandy Duncan.  The animation is on par with others from the 90s, the climaxes are intense, the animals are fun, there’s humor blended with fantasy, it’s quite a nice little package, and it’s too bad it didn’t get more attention, because it’s worth your notice.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Sorceress

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jack Hill

Starring: Leigh Harris, Lynette Harris, Roberto Nelson

Year: 1982

There’s fun-bad and then there’s plain-bad, and Sorceress is so far gone into the dark pit that is the latter category that it almost ceases to be a movie anymore, becoming pure torture instead.  I know I’ve said before that we want a little silly from our 80s fantasy, that we want a little wrong and messy and goofy and fun, but that can be taken too far, and this film can be taken as an example.  Everything that something like Beastmaster or Conan or Red Sonja does right, Sorceress does wrong, showing that you really do need a little talent to pull off a b-movie, that you can’t just shovel ideas into a hopper and hope sparks catch.  This is a cool idea gone wrong if ever there was one, and you should stay far, far away.

Twins Mira and Mara don’t know who their parents are and don’t even know that they are girls; they’ve been supremely sheltered all their lives in order to keep them safe.  Their mother was killed by their father when he attempted to learn which of the twins was first born so he could sacrifice her, and they’ve been living in secret ever since.  Now he’s back and wants to gain ultimate power through dark magic, so he’ll need his daughters again, which the light side can’t let happen, or all will fall evil’s way.  The girls team up with an unlikely band of misfits, but a group who are true and brave, and who vow to keep them safe no matter the cost.

I’m a fan of the silly 80s fantasy genre, but this is going too far.  You have to see it to believe it; the voices that seem like dubbing, the acting that’s as good as a middle school play, the story that must have been made up one night when everyone involved was high as a kite.  It’s a movie that makes absolutely no sense and is so stupid you feel insulted that it actually exists.  And what’s more, it’s really sexual, but like a soft core porn that wasn’t even brave enough to go far enough to get on Cinemax.  I guess that should have been entertaining, but it wasn’t, it was just creepy, because you get the sense that no one knows how far they’re supposed to be going, what buttons they’re supposed to be pressing.  It’s a disaster from beginning to end, stocked with the pieces that we think we would want, but delivered in such a way that all of them feel kinda funky and basically gross.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Dragonslayer

Category : Movie Review

Director: Matthew Robbins

Starring: Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke

Year: 1981

Dragonslayer is more Ladyhawke than Beastmaster, and that makes all the difference.  It was released in 1981, so it’s a frontrunner of the cheesy fantasy genre than dominated the decade, and which I happen to love, but it also missed several marks, in part perhaps because it didn’t have many others to draw from.  Or perhaps, looking back, the sillier movies of that style work better than the ones that took themselves too seriously; watching now, what we really want are spells, warriors, biceps, boobs, and all the trashy content that b-movies can deliver so well and so wonderfully.  This film isn’t exactly “b”; it’s more an attempt at something that it was never going to achieve, and therefore becomes one of the genre that you can definitely miss.

Galen is a young wizarding apprentice learning from an aged master, and there’s a real chance he’ll turn into a great magician in the future, if he continues to study.  One day, a band of men come from a nearby kingdom to request the wizard’s aid in defeating a dragon.  Their land has been the dragon’s territory for years, and their king has decided to sacrifice a virgin girl to the monster twice a year, for which the dragon remains pacified.  But when the wizard sets out on the journey to help the villagers, he dies, leaving Galen to take up the quest.  He’ll have to use his wits as well as his magic, and he’ll need the aid of the brave Valerian, if he’s to destroy the threat before he is destroyed himself.

If they had just made Dragonslayer more of a comedy I think it might have worked; as it is the entire thing fails miserably.  It’s not funny or even slightly over-the-top, it’s not that fun romp that we’ve come to expect, that enjoyable experience that’s silly but so entertaining.  This was one of the first, it didn’t have that formula perhaps, and maybe it was better at the time, I don’t know, I was -2, but watching it back it simply doesn’t carry the same weight as some that have the unique quality to become cult classics.  I expected MacNicol to be better, or at least a little goofier, since that became his persona; I guess he wasn’t there yet.  He just can’t lead the cast, the plot is stupid, not enough really happens, and there’s nothing to really hold on to or hold up, to declare a success, not even the smallest pieces.  I do see a little Lord of the Rings in it, so maybe it borrowed from Tolkien, and maybe Peter Jackson borrowed from it, but even that connection didn’t make a difference; this film can go ahead and be forgotten.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – The Beastmaster

Category : Movie Review

Director: Don Coscarelli

Starring: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn

Year: 1982

Fantasy movies made in the 80s featuring heroes and heroines in loin cloths and fur is a spectacularly entertaining genre of film, and one of my personal favorites.  I am by no means an expert, especially since I was only born in 1983, so missed experiencing them immediately and first hand, but I’ve tried to make up for lost time, and I’ve tried to seek out both the best & the baddest the style has to offer.  There are few better than Beastmaster, a recipe for others to follow if what they’re trying to make is pure sword-swinging fun, clad in as little clothing as decently possible.  This movie is solid gold, b-level enjoyment, and it helped set the stage for many more to follow, so bravo to Beastmaster.

As a child, Dar was magical ripped away from his mother before his birth, in an attempt to assassinate the heir to the kingdom that he would someday rule.  The plan failed partially when Dar was saved from death at the last moment by a villager, who raised the boy as his own with no knowledge of his heritage.  Years later, when his community is destroyed by an evil, pillaging people, Dar seeks his vengeance, only to find his bloody past wrapped up in the kingdom’s troubled present.  The twisted Maax still wishes to rule all the world, it was he who tried to eliminate our hero, and it is he who will fall to Dar when the prodigal son returns to claim what is rightfully his.

Deathstalker, Barbarian Queen, Red Sonja, Conan, Sorceress, Hundra; you know what you’re getting into if you dive into this genre, it’s one hell of a ridiculous good time, but worth every minute.  The movies are short, fantasy-based, larger than life, there are boobs and bloodbaths and myths and monsters and shirtless heroes; it’s a romp that you don’t want to end.  Beastmaster is the cream of the crop as far as I’m concerned, an insanely enjoyable joke of a flick that somehow works because it never takes itself seriously.  And, what’s more, there are pieces that actually work, namely the first half, which is filled with smart, gruesome, and downright scary moments, so good sometimes that you forget what era you’re in.  By the end the story has gone to hell in a hand basket, but it hardly matters then; you’ve already met Dar’s animal companions and you love every one of those guys.  Beastmaster is just awesome, not perfect, so don’t judge it too harshly, but respect it for the doors that it helped open and the thrills it can still give willing audiences.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – 365 Days

Category : Movie Review

Director: Barbara Bialowas, Tomasz Mandes

Starring: Anna Maria Sieklucka, Michele Morrene

Year: 2020

Until now, we might have used Fifty Shades as an insult to other movies, to mean that they were sexy but stupid, appealed to bored housewives maybe but didn’t have a cinematic bone in their bloated bodies.  Well, we now have a new movie to use as an insult, and it’s so much worse than any moronic romantic flick that has come before that we’re going to have to create a new category that it can inhabit all on its own, just to signify how bad it really is.  365 Days is not a film, it’s also not porn, it’s not even fiction; there’s not a word in the English language that would describe it, which is probably a good thing, because that word would immediately be outlawed.  Just when 2020 couldn’t get any more terrible, along came this, a film that will go down as perhaps the single worst feature that anyone has ever willingly watched.

Massimo is the hunky head of a Sicilian Mafia family, after his father is killed and he takes over the business.  He is ruthless, angry, dominating, and forceful, always getting what he wants in the business world or in the bedroom.  Laura is a Polish businesswoman, young and successful, beautiful and determined.  When the pair happen to catch each other’s eye at an airport, their fates become linked, and only time stands in the way of being together.  But the road there is bumpy, to say the least; Massimo kidnaps Laura, making her his slave, vowing not to take her until she is ready, but promising that they will eventually fall in love.  As the nights heat up, she becomes less a prisoner and more a trophy, and he her loving master.

After you read this review destroy it as soon as you can, cancel all record that you ever heard of this movie, and run far, far away, before you become curious enough to watch it.  I was weak, I heard it mentioned enough times that I was intrigued, and hey I wanted to see hot people doing it Fifty Shades style, nothing wrong with that.  But 365 Days isn’t a film, it just isn’t, it’s something much worse than that, like a skit with money or a mad scientist with bad taste and a government grant.  It’s so much worse that you can imagine; no plot, no acting, no talent, no shits given, it’s just one giant mess masquerading as a steamy thriller.  I mean, it’s sexy in a certain way, but also repugnant at the same time, and you won’t get what you want out of it; just go watch some porn instead, it’s better quality and at least you’ll get some money shots.  It’s almost as if something was lost in translation, like instructions for an Asian toy that make no sense when changed over into English; someone should have left this terrible idea alone where they found it and spared us all this misery.

My rating: ☆