Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie review: The Postman

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The PostmanReview by Duryea Edwards

I’ll give a good recommendation ( * * * + ) to “THE POSTMAN”.

I know that a lot of critics blasted it. Most of them attempted to call it “Waterworld Part II” and this is very unfair because the two stories have almost nothing in common. Waterworld is about a place where the world is quite hostile to the people who are attempting to stay alive and keep a society going. The Postman is about a world where there was a war (it appears to have been non-nuclear) and society fell and most of the major cities were destroyed but the planet, on the whole, is still in very good shape.

The year is 2013. There was a massive economic and political collapse as the millennium changed. There were major wars, and then smaller civil wars, and the bombing and burning that caused the destruction of most major and even mid-sized cities left the air fairly clogged with soot and there were three years of “dirty rain”.

A large number of people are still left alive but they are divided up into little communities that usually don’t communicate with each other. This started off as a way to prevent disease from spreading but now it has become a way of life.

In and around what was the Rocky Mountain States there is a self serving Military organization ( The Army of the Holeness ) which thrives on the fact that none of the little communities is strong enough to stand up to it. Its leader (General Bethlehem) makes it a point to discourage the small towns and villages from communicating with each other. This means that ( as military might and the ability to blackmail goes ) Bethlehem has the only game in town.

Then a strange thing happens. A postman arrives in one small town. He says that he is a representative of the “Restored United States of America” and that he (and others like him) are in the process of passing out old mail which has sat idle for more than a decade. He is also authorized to pick up any new mail that anyone might have and make an attempt at delivering it.

Some people think he’s a fraud but other people want to believe him. Yesterday everyone was just hoping that their little community could continue to survive and thrive and that they could somehow find a way to keep the Holeness Army from ruining what they were trying to rebuild. But today some people are hoping that there are actually other people in other communities who are willing to share information. And they find themselves hoping that there is a new government out there that just might be able to challenge General Bethlehem and his men.

My only major complaint concerning the story is that its a little bit too long … 2 hours and 50 minutes. It should have been about 2 and 30. There is this really long segment ( about thirty minutes ) which takes place before the Postman arrives at the gates of the village. The movie should have started with the Postman arriving and then done a series of flashbacks from there. What was thirty minutes at the beginning could have been reduced to about fifteen minutes that was shown during the movie in small dream segments and storytelling segments.

But it was a very good movie. And I would recommend it to almost anyone.

Movie review: Planet of the Apes (2001)

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Reviewed by Duryea Edwards

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Significantly closer in theme and style to the novel (Monkey Planet) than the 1968 production was. I would most certainly not call this a remake. It is a completely different interpretation of the original source material.

Both versions are very good. Each has done a very nice job of focusing on some of the underlying social and political concerns of the decade it was made in.

Movie review: The Ninth Gate

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Review by Duryea Edwards

The dark and foreboding advertisements had lead me to wrongly believe that The Ninth Gate was going to be something of a “Horror Thriller” and I wasn’t really interested in seeing that type of movie. A friend sort of twisted my arm and got me to go and after the first 20 to 30 minutes I was pleased to discover that what I was actually seeing was a juicy little suspense mystery with supernatural undercurrents. So I adjusted my train of thought and allowed myself to enjoy it as it unfolded.

I think that most of the critics who have panned the movie have done this because it is not living up to their expectations. In my opinion, the fault for this sits squarely in the lap of the distribution company’s marketing department. They are aware of the fact that horror will generally sell so this is what they are trying to pass it off as. In doing this, they are chasing away the segment of the audience that would love a good mystery and ripping off the people who are looking for a well made horror film.

The detective in this mystery is a man, of somewhat gray principles, by the name of Corso (Johnny Depp) who is a dealer in rare collectibles. Corso is hired by a Mr. Balkan (Frank Langella) to research the nature of a book called “The Ninth Gate” which is very old and was once suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. Only three copies of the book are known to exist.

Balkan has recently purchased one of the copies of “The Ninth Gate” and he wants Corso to compare his copy against the other two. Balkan states that he has reason to believe that only one of the books is genuine and that the other two are either very good forgeries of an original or outright fakes which may contain seriously erroneous information. Balkan says that he wants to make sure that he winds up owning the only genuine copy and he is willing to pay any price necessary to bring this about.

The previous owner of Balkan’s book was rumored to be a member of a group of “True Believers” who worship a deity which they call “Blessed Master”. It is their assertion that this book is his holy message to them. The text of the book is said to contain his plan for bringing them ultimate power.

The book was banned by the Catholic Church several centuries ago because its leaders believed that this “Blessed Master” is nothing more than a thinly veiled incarnation of the Devil. The author was executed and every copy that could be located was burned.

Corso must tread on thin ice as he attempts to locate the other two copies and compare them to the one in his possession. Although it is no longer “illegal” to own them, there are individuals and groups which would destroy the books and possibly cause harm to the owners if they had the chance.

The Ninth Gate is a well made examination of religious superstition on both sides of the fence. Those who seek to stamp out what they see as evil are clashing with those who wish to achieve power through supernatural means while Corso is merely attempting to discover a few simple truths …

  • What is real?
  • What is a fake?
  • Who can be trusted?

I sincerely recommend this motion picture. I do wish to add that is should not be seen by young people unless a well educated adult is there to discuss it with them.

A Second Opinion

Review by Terri Barger

I also enjoyed The Ninth Gate, but was a little disappointed. I read The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez (the book the movie is based on) last year. All the changes that were made to fit a very complex plot into a two hour movie were reasonable, but, I think, took away a good bit of the suspense and some of the sense of discovery as you follow the main character toward his revelations. It was still entertaining, well acted, and the setting was fabulous.

Movie review: The Mummy

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The MummyReviewed by R’ykandar Korra’ti

I saw The Mummy last Friday, the late showing at the local [Seattle WA] lameass multiplex. (“The Metro.” Which frankly kinda sucks. It’d be OK if the screens were better, which is, of course, completely missing the point of building a “theatre.” This is also as opposed to the not-as-local not-so-lameass multiplex that we’d have had to drive to reach, or the other walkable theatres which aren’t multiplexes but weren’t showing the film. They appear to be rennovating, which would be good if they fix their screens, but I bet they won’t. We’ll see.)

Anyway. Hm. It wasn’t a good film and I wouldn’t recommend it, yet… possibly because I went in with such low expectations… I really had a pretty good time. It’s a light, silly horror/monster film with very little feel of horror about it, except for a few incidents involving beatles which may and may not affect people in general as strongly as it affected me. The first half of the movie is honestly somewhat charming, and the opening is really visually gorgeous; the second half of the film has more funny lines, but while they were trying, a fair percentage of them we’ve heard before, and – more importantly from a film standpoint – they really broke the sense of period that they’d halfway managed to set up in the first half. (If you’ve heard anything about how big a set of twits Egypotologists tend to be, you’ll find that clicks very well with their handling in this movie. Part of what made the first half charming, I think.) The dialogue was, for the most part, generally too modern after the first hour.

The critical failure, though, is in the handling of the title creature, the mummy himself. He never evoked horror. His supporting minions did, once or twice, but he was just not making it happen. He was less threatening than, well… doofy – but in a somewhat dangerous sort of way. The actor also kept reminding me of… someone else. I can’t remember who. Someone soft and pudgy that would never, ever play a villian – particularly a supposedly major-league villian – like the mummy, except perhaps in a parody. So bad casting there, made worse by coincidence of memory. I have an assortment of garden-variety plot problems too, but I won’t mention them here because 1) hello, Universal Pictures Monster Horror Flick, Duh, and 2) spoilers. I’ll simply say that the mummy/heroine interaction was handled inconsistently enough that, even in a movie of the sort, it kept bothering me. It felt like the screenwriters were of differing minds about how it should be done (“it took three people to write this?”), and compromised – badly.

So why did I enjoy myself? Hm. Well, it’s pretty. In fact, it’s very pretty. In the second half, a couple of the people get very pretty too, which doesn’t hurt anything either. (No, not the mummy, you freaks. I mean, ew.) It’s not dull. It moves briskly along the whole way; while you may know what’s coming, it doesn’t waste film getting you there, so you don’t have much time to get impatient with it. It has a reasonable number of funny lines with a good works/clunks ratio. And it’s not too shy about killing people along the way, and having the intelligence to do it in occasionally very-old-fashioned off-screen/out-of-view ways. (Really, given the body count, I’m stunned at how little gore flew in this movie.) Further, I quite liked the heroine and her twit brother, and the hero wasn’t so bad either. So I guess I was wrong up top; I would recommend it, as long as you’re prepared for what you’re going to see, don’t expect too much, and go to the matinee showing on a Saturday. Which is really when it wants to be seen.

Movie review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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A Midsummer Night's DreamReviewed by Sylvia Wendell

I saw “William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” recently, and it is wonderful. This version is written and directed by Michael Hoffman, to whom much credit. His touch is deft, charming, and as sunny as his Italian scenery, with just a hint of darkness for contrast. I was particularly impressed by his vision of the fairy kingdom at the center of this comedy. Nothing cutsie here. These creatures are powerful and inhuman, beautiful or grotesque, and they amuse themselves by toying with humans. (They are fascinated by such recent inventions as bicycles, record players, and operatic arias).

The acting is uniformly excellent. Kevin Kline’s performance as Bottom has been widely and justly praised. But Michelle Pfeiffer is every bit as good as Queen Titania. It’s a role that requires a drop-dead gorgeous woman, but she shows she can really act, too.

In fact, I loved everything about the film except that title. Four stars.

Movie review: Men in Black

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MiBReview by Ted Begley

Have you ever gone to a movie knowing that you would like it because of the stars that were in it, or the director it had, or even the person who did the music. Well MiB (Men in Black, for those who haven’t seen the commercials) had all of those things going for it. You can image my surprise when it wasn’t any thing like what I was expecting…. it’s better.

The story follows two “men in black”. “K” portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones (Black Moon RisingBatman Forever) and “J” portrayed by Will Smith (ID-4: Independence DayThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). K finds himself without a partner and needs a new recruit. J is a New York City cop that, in an impressive display of physical action, chases down a Class 4 cephlapoid on foot. After going through orientation with the finest that the military system can produce J becomes the newest man in black.

What follows is a story that weaves a comic web of action, galactic politics, and pest control. The film does have a few minor drawbacks, especially where the obvious is concerned. J is so busy noticing the very attractive coroner that he completely misses several things. On the whole though, the film works exceedingly well.

If you’ve seen it before then borrow one of J’s flashy things and see it again for the very first time.

Movie review: The Matrix

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Matrix

“The Matrix”
Virtual Reality & You

review by Laura Begley

I knew from the first preview that I wanted to see this movie. It had Keanu Reeves, cool special effects, lots of sleek black leather, and an intriguing premise, any one of which was enough of a reason to go see this movie. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the results.

“The Matrix” is a wonderful, action-packed, Sci-Fi/Fantasy movie written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski (“Bound”) which stars Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, aka “Neo,” as a late 20th-century computer programmer by day, hacker by night. As “Neo,” Reeves begins to suspect that there is something he doesn’t quite understand about his world, something that he is destined to take part in. As the movie progresses, Neo finally meets the elusive Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) and the almost androgynous yet oddly gorgeous Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, who is probably better known for her part in F/X: The Series), whose job it is to clue Neo in to The Matrix and his role as “The One.”

According to the dictionary, one definition for a matrix is “a material in which something is enclosed or embedded (as for protection or study),” while another meaning is “an array of circuit elements (as diodes and transistors) for performing a specific function as interconnected.” Both of these definitions are right on the money for this movie, which is as deeply philosophical as it is widely appealing.

I was most impressed after seeing the movie to learn that the four main actors (Reeves, Fishburne, Moss, and Hugo Weaving) trained together for four months before filming to learn martial arts, which has a rather large part in the movie’s fight scenes. Yes, the actors really *are* doing their own fighting, although some movie “magic” (aka harnesses) are required to help them drive each other up the walls and leap from rooftop to rooftop in a single bound. (‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s….Keanu Reeves?”)

This is, in my opinion, a wonderfully entertaining, visually stunning motion picture, marred only by a few minor slow spots and “well, duh!” moments. My rating (on a scale of 0 to 4 stars): 3.75

Movie review: The Legend of Bagger Vance

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

The Legend of Bagger Vance

review by Duryea Edwards

Will Smith’s Bagger Vance has that special gift. He doesn’t just look at you, he looks into you. As he flashes that “Aw shucks, I’m just a good ole negro boy” polite smile he looks directly through you, and he knows where the pain is and what it is hiding behind.

Then comes the hard part. Bagger has to be patient. He has to hover on the periphery of your life while he waits for you to come to him for advice. As much as he knows what needs to be done, he can’t force you to do it. He can’t make you do what is best for you. You have to realize on your own that you need his help.

Matt Damon’s Rannulph Junuh is a decidedly difficult task for Bagger. He is a man adrift after the emotional trauma he encountered during the First World War. He drinks too much. He gambles too much. He exists and he takes up space, but he does not really live.

Having been given the chance to pick up his old career as a golfer, Junuh is somewhat grateful for the opportunity but is also uncomfortable because of the pressure to do well. There are those who expect him to just pick up a set of clubs and walk out to the course and act as though the war never happened.

The Legend of Bagger Vance is a solid example of the fact that fantasy does not have to involve swords, dragons, monsters or other such things … That it can unwind quite well in a world of regular people with regular lives. It is also a solid example of the fact that motion pictures do not necessarily need large budget special effects to present fantasy … That a strong script and good acting can help the audience to suspend disbelief and follow the flow of things.

Damon does a masterful job of being the man who finally comes to the conclusion that he needs to find himself, but then has no idea of where to look. It pains him greatly to admit that Bagger Vance might have answers that could help his life.

Smith’s acting is wonderfully understated as he breaks away from the types of characters he had played in movies such as Men in Black and Wild Wild West. The intensity that had previously been played out in a strutting walk and a sharp voice is now held inside. As it barely peeks out in the flash of a smile or the emphasis of a word, it takes on a truly impressive quality.

I strongly recommend this movie.

Movie review: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

reviewed by Terri Barger

I went to the sneak preview this weekend. It’s hilarious if you’ve seen (and liked) Clerks, Mall Rats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma because it’s one big inside joke. If you haven’t seen the others, this is not the place to start. There are plenty of send-ups of movies (especially Star Wars and Planet of the Apes) and lots of Hollywood insider jokes that are really good. (Several stars play themselves.)

Some of it is raunchy. There are some subtle jokes, but most of the gags are the in-your-face type. Jay, as anyone who’s seen the other flicks knows, is an intolerant little bastard, so he says some pretty offensive things. I really can’t say much more without giving away some of the better one-liners, and there are a lot of them.

I’d recommend going with a group of Kevin Smith fans—it’s not a date movie.

Movie review: Highlander: Endgame

Webmaster’s note 1/17/2016: This is an old review from the previous version of the site, which we’re bringing in as a post so that it’ll be searchable in the reviews categories with newer content.

Highlander: Endgame

review by Duryea Edwards

In The End, There Can Be Only One …

Timeline, that is.

Producers Peter S. Davis and William Panzer have wisely jettisoned the cumbersome and conflicting mythologies that had been caused by contradictions between the original motion picture and its two sequels. Highlander II: The Quickening completely rewrote almost every maxim that had been set up in the original movie. Highlander: The Final Dimension (which totally ignored the existence of H II) tried to remain faithful to the end of the first movie, but still find a way to explain the existence of at least one more immortal on this planet after Connor MacLeod had supposedly defeated his last challenger ten years earlier to claim the prize of mortality and infinite knowledge of the universe.

Highlander: Endgame exists totally within the parallel time stream that had been created for the syndicated television series. We are handed a somewhat different Connor MacLeod, a man who experienced his first violent death at a point where he was about ten to fifteen years older than the character in the first movie. This has caused him to begin his journey through the centuries as a wiser but more jaded character.

Duncan MacLeod is about seventy-five years younger than Connor. His official date and place of birth are 1592 in the Highlands of Scotland. After being accidentally killed in a battle against the English, and totally recovering from his injuries, Duncan was banished from the MacLeod Clan and went off to join whatever battle he could find against the forces of England. As he was recovering from his most recent death, Duncan was found by Connor, who began to teach him what it was to be an immortal and how the game between them is played.

The legend has been handed down among the immortals that they are meant to battle each other to the death. In the end only one will be left, and he or she will inherit a prize that consists of incredible knowledge and the power to rule the world. There have been those who have tried to avoid the battle, but from time to time some mystical force has caused what is called a “Gathering”. At these points in time, bunches of them are drawn together and even the dearest of friends find themselves compelled to take arms against each other.

Director Douglas Aarniokoski has done a very good job of delicately balancing action and character development so that neither overshadows the other. The story begins with a flurry of confusing and seemingly contradictory story lines which finally begin to fall into place after about forty-five minutes. Once this has happened and the motives of Duncan, Connor, and the evil Kell are brought clearly into view, the action and intensity steadily builds into a reasonably satisfying climax.

I want to seriously praise Aarniokoski for not falling into the trap of having the “Ending That Would Not Die”. During the last thirty minutes of The Man In The Iron Mask, I found that I had begun to mentally scream at the director, “Will you just end the damn thing?” I had been afraid that Highlander: Endgame might be headed in the same direction because it is the type of motion picture that is ripe for that sort of mistake. Thankfully, my fears were did not pan out.

At the same time, I must seriously fault the director and the producers for not properly developing a background relationship between Kell and Faith. It is quickly made clear that the two have joined forces to bring down Connor and Duncan — and Faith even tells Duncan why she is working with the man — but the viewer is never given even the slightest glimpse of how he wooed her and brought her into his fold. The fact that all of Kell’s associates are simply there, having no real background to show why they are under his control, eventually causes this entire “Unholy Alliance” to come off as nothing more than a necessary plot contrivance. The master villain never really reaches his full potential, and this eventually causes the story to become something slightly less than what it could have been.

My major gripe is the serious underuse of the characters of Dawson and Methos. The company should have edited out five minutes of redundant action, and then added in about fifteen additional minutes which featured these two filling out their proper roles of supporting / advising / chastising Duncan MacLeod. Dawson and Methos tend to be the Doctor McCoy and Mister Spock of Duncan MacLeod’s life. Dawson helps to bring to light Duncan’s emotional reasons for what is going on, and Methos gives a solid focus to the cold and calculating manner that Immortals must often employ in order to survive. Bringing in the two as little more than window dressing somewhat crippled the serious character development that would have made this a truly excellent motion picture.

Taken as a whole, the story is exciting and mostly satisfying. There are a few too many little loose ends for my taste. Some are obviously there by necessity, to give the production company a good set up for the next installment of the series, but others appear to be a serious lack of good storytelling.

I’ll give Highlander: Endgame three stars for being good action and adventure and only two for character and plot development. This balances out to a respectable 2.5 and puts it way ahead of the two sequels to the original Highlander.

One final note … Music. The producers really should have bitten the bullet and put out the time, effort and money to secure the rights to use “Princes Of The Universe” and “Who Wants To Live Forever”. There are certain places in the film that are literally screaming for the inclusion of one or the other. The Celtic background score is basically good, but something just comes up missing without the gut-wrenching, soul-searching qualities of the original music.