Sunday, August 30, 2015

Capsule Reviews Volume VI

Addicted to Murder 2: Tainted Blood
Written and directed by Kevin Lindenmuth, Cast: Sasha Graham, Mike McCleery, Sarah K. Lippmann, Ted Grayson
(1998) feature film (*) out of five stars
This sloppy production may bathe everyone in green "X Files" inspired light, but sheds no light on its impossible to comprehend plot. Some guy is traveling across country to NYC, where some girl vampires are sending hunters after each other while they gore up the city. It does not help matters that all the women here look the same, so you never quite know who is who. The gore here consists mostly of fake blood, and there is no nudity. This makes for a very tedious and very boring eighty minutes. Do not taint your VCR with this shot on video wannabe horror flick. This is unrated and contains physical violence, gore, and profanity.

Along Came a Spider
Directed by Lee Tamahori, Screenplay by Marc Moss based on the novel by James Patterson, Cast: Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Dylan Baker
(2001) feature film (* *) out of five stars
Morgan Freeman returns as Det. Alex Cross and teams with Secret Service agent Monica Potter to find a senator's kidnapped daughter. Hollywood churns out yet another safe adaptation of a blockbuster best seller. The plot lurches along, introducing characters and abandoning them (Jay O. Sanders), and wrapping itself up with a tidy conclusion. Freeman is outstanding, as always, but the rest of the cast cannot back him up. Tamahori's direction is fine, except for a terrible CGI car crash in the opening minutes. The surprise ending is okay, but I read the novel and knew what would happen. No vision, no suspense, no repeat viewings. The little girl is filmdom's smartest kidnap victim, but Michael Moriarty and Penelope Ann Miller are utterly wasted.

Angel of Fury
Directed by Ackyl Anwari, Written by Christopher Mitchum and Deddy Armand, Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Chris Barnes, Peter O'Brian, Zainal Abidin
(1992) feature film (*) out of five stars
Horribly dubbed film has Rothrock trying to stop a terrorist from stealing a super computer. Some good action scenes are negated by sloppy editing and too much violence- including a child's murder. Even the normally reliable Rothrock cannot save this.

Angel on Fire
Written and Directed by Phillip Ko, Cast: Cynthia Khan, Ronnie Ricketts, Pan Pan Yeung, Melanie Marquez
(1995) feature film (* * *) out of five stars
Some exciting action set pieces help weak story of a female Interpol agent who is trying to find a supermodel/thief who is on the run from her own problems. Padded, with dopey Filipino cab driver sidekicks, but good enough action to recommend.

Angelfist
Directed by Cirio H. Santiago, Written by Anthony L. Greene, Cast: Catya Sassoon, Melissa Moore, Michael Shaner, Denise Buick
(1993) feature film (*) out of five stars
Awful actioner has Cat Sassoon entering a Filipino martial arts tournament to investigate the death of her sister and discovering a plot to assassinate a U.S. ambassador. The fight scenes are poorly choreographed, Sassoon scowls through the whole film, and our male "hero" is a doofus. There are, count 'em, three different shower scenes to up the sex factor. Really bad.

Blue's Big Musical Movie
Directed by Todd Kessler, Cast: Steve Burns, Ray Charles, Traci Paige Johnson, Jonathan Press
(2000) feature film (* * * *) out of five stars
Better than banana cookies, I rented this for my toddler expecting to dislike it, but the songs are infinitely hummable and enough is going on to put this one step ahead of the normal TV episode. Plus, my three year old loved it.

Breaking the Waves
Directed by Lars von Trier, Written by Lars von Trier and Peter Asmussen, Cast: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr
(1996) feature film (*) out of five stars
First off, this film is about an hour too long. It also could not make up its mind as to whether it wanted to be a long dull romance like "The English Patient," or something softcore they show on Cinemax. I found Watson's character so annoying, I breathed a sigh of relief when she was not onscreen, which was not often. Von Trier's documentary approach is not interesting, just stomach churning...and you thought "The Blair Witch Project" was jumpy?

Buck Privates
Directed by Arthur Lubin, Written by Arthur T. Horman, Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lee Bowman, Jane Frazee
(1941) feature film (* * * *) out of five stars
In order to avoid arrest, Abbott and Costello enlist in the army and get tangled in a romantic subplot involving a millionaire, his former valet, and a camp hostess. Silly fun takes place on the eve of World War II, with Abbott and Costello scoring laughs and the Andrews Sisters singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Apple Blossom Time." Funny, despite the silly romance.

Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms
Directed by Andrew Johnston, Written by Robert Sinclair, Cast: John James Evanson, James Faulkner, Eve Matheson, David Tate
(1995) television movie (* * * *) out of five stars
This video tells the story of Winston Churchill and how he ran the British Empire from some basement war rooms in London during World War II. Not a regular documentary, this film uses excellent recreations in the actual war rooms, resulting in a new take on oft told events.

End of Days
Directed by Peter Hyams, Written by Andrew W. Marlowe, Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak
(1999) feature film (*) out of five stars
Absolutely terrible film. Hyams is normally a great director, but he should have seen the stink of this ugly film a mile away. Schwarzenegger's efforts to act border on the comical, and the rest of the cast has nothing to do but stand around and either die or make deals with Satan. I hope no one's soul is in jeopardy after this junk.

Escape from L.A.
Directed by John Carpenter, Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill & Kurt Russell, Cast: Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Cliff Robertson
(1996) feature film (*) out of five stars
John Carpenter used to be my favorite director. The very mention of "Halloween," "The Thing," "Escape from New York," or even "The Fog" and "Memoirs of an Invisible Man" would send chills up my spine. Even when he would stumble a bit ("Prince of Darkness," "In the Mouth of Madness," "They Live"), it was still a little entertaining...until his latest losing streak involving "Village of the Damned," "Vampires," and this awful mess. Don't cut corners out of respect for him, this movie was an insult to the original. I wish Hollywood would declare a moratorium on lousy computer generated effects. The original was very cheap and understated, but here some of the scenes moved so badly, or a character was so poorly written, I had to avert my eyes. I saw the ending coming a mile away. I was so disappointed in this, and so should any Carpenter fan.

High Art
Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, Cast: Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patricia Clarkson, Gabriel Mann
(1998) feature film (* *) out of five stars
First off, Mitchell and Sheedy gave incredible performances. Both were so natural (Sheedy was always my favorite Brat Packer) and I never doubted for an instant these were real people, not just stock junkie lesbian characters. My problem was with the screenplay. I could almost feel the director's elbow in my ribs, poking me at every "shocking" scene. Everyone wallows in the excess, and it eventually brings the entire film down. I finally did not care about these people, and the final twist ending was more expected than new.

Home Alone
Directed by Chris Columbus, Written by John Hughes, Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Candy
(1990) feature film (* *) out of five stars
I never bought into the Culkin hype. Here, he is cute, but not a good actor. His line readings are flat, and I sometimes had a hard time understanding what he was saying. The movie's much ballyhooed violence is indeed extreme. The Three Stooges did the same kind of thing with finesse, just funny slapstick that did not leave a mark and you knew was done in jest. Here, Pesci and Stern go through so much I felt myself getting numbed to the consequences. This is just Hollywood fodder wrapped up for the masses; the kind of movie you can turn your brain off and the VCR on. The best scenes here were the ones involving O'Hara and Candy. Rest in peace, John.

Into Nazi Germany WWII: Liberation of Europe
(????) feature film (* *) out of five stars
Department of War films are collected together detailing the First and Ninth Armies' march toward Germany. Interesting documentaries are not packaged together well, as the viewer is overwhelmed with names, dates, and duplicate footage.

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