Duel Review

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It’s time for an old thriller with a truck as the main villain. We’ve done the evil car trick a few times in the past, but this film is fairly old so it might have been one of the first times we’ve seen it in cinema. Level up the car to a truck and you’ve got yourself a good thriller that’s ready to go. The film does fumble the ball a little in the second half and the main character doesn’t always make the right moves, but it’s an enjoyable film. I do like the lead’s name.

David is a struggling 9-5 worker. He gets the job done, but at home there is a lot of stress and drama over something that we never quite learn about. That’s not too important. What’s important is that David has to be home in time or it’s going to get tricky. He sets off on the road, but a giant truck starts honking at him. David pulls out the sweet moves and slows down enough for the truck to pass him. The problem? Now the truck has slowed down just enough so that he will miss a big meeting. David passes him but the truck takes it personally and decides to murder him. Can the hero get out of this?

The whole film centers around the fact that this truck is trying to murder the hero. However, he is limited by a set of rules. One, he’ll only go after the main character if he is in his car and ahead of the vehicle or if he drives backwards. David is safe if he stays parked. Next, the truck will attack if he tries to get help from other drivers or alert the cops. Finally, the truck is faster than David’s car so he can’t be out driven. Those are the basics of the situation so you can see how it’s tough for the main character. It doesn’t help that his detective skills aren’t really on point.

David could be rather annoying at times though. After being passed by the truck 2-3 times and finally passing it again, he lets go of his lead so he can go fill up on gas at the nearest station. Big mistake since the truck just follows him. We learn by the end that the truck is super fast so it probably would have passed him anyway, but it wasn’t a great move. Then he considers stopping at a cafe later although the truck doesn’t give him a chance. Once in the restaurant, David gets a little too eager and attacks the wrong guy. I had actually thought it was a misdirect and the driver was the lady in red who appeared out of nowhere, but it was apparently someone who got out when the main character wasn’t looking near the beginning or there’s a back exit.

David started making some decent moves by the end since there wasn’t much he could do at that point. It was a little late though and he cracked several times so I wouldn’t say that he took the situation particularly well. He wasn’t exactly Tom Cruise. The driver of the truck really liked messing with David though as he even saved a school bus just to show off. At the very least that was a nice thing to do even if it was just a PR stunt.

The first half of the film is pretty tense as a result. At first it seems like the driver is just in a hurry or maybe he had some kind of reason for slowing down after that. Gradually it becomes apparent that this guy is crazy and just wants to murder the guy. It’s pretty nice and atmospheric. The occasional change in scenery like the cafe was also pretty good. I liked the scenes in there for sure as we got some nice suspects even if they may have all been red herrings.

My problem with the film is that the second half just feels like a rehash of the first. He gets back on the road and into the exact same situation that he was in the first time. I feel like the film may have limited its options a little too much with the plot so they were forced to just keep on going with the same plan. They should have changed things up a bit in the second half. As a result, the film did drag on a little as the pacing completely died. If you watched the first 15 minutes of the film and the last 15, the bulk of those scenes would look very similar. David is driving away from the enemy car. It was a little repetitive and even if you cut out a big chunk of the film, it would have still worked out quite well. The film’s plot is very direct and there really isn’t much of a cast so it didn’t need a full film’s length to tell the story. What it could have done was add some extra characters or a new sub plot. Maybe add that extra climax at the end where a driver steps out to have a fight with David.

There really weren’t any subplots which I was fine with. No need for random filler plots, but it is a way to pad out the story. On the other hand, I’m glad we didn’t see more animals. As it is, it was iffy when the trick attacked a place with a bunch of bugs and a dog. Fortunately they seemed to make it out all right. It was a pretty intense scene since it showed that the truck was finally getting serious. I was also glad because it confirmed that the whole thing wasn’t fake. For a little while there, I was worried that the truck was going to be a figment of his imagination or something. The film would have very quickly dropped down quite a bit if that had been the case. Fortunately the film took the high road.

Overall, This film is definitely more of a slow burner than Jaws or Godzilla. It’s also a fair bit more repetitive so find something to focus on in the film or you may get bored watching the same roads over and over again. With the effects being rather limited back in the old days, I suppose the movie may not have had a very many options. I’d recommend checking it out if you want to see a good ole speed race. The stakes are high here so they definitely have to go as fast as they can. The lesson to learn here is that if you’re going to race, make sure that you’re ready to win!

Overall 7/10

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Speed Racer Review

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I saw this film a long time ago so it was time for a revisit. I remember watching some of the old Speed Racer cartoon back in the day. It was definitely pretty fun as the show balanced out the races and the anime stakes pretty well. I can’t think of another racing anime where the main character had to take on armed assailants off the track. This film does a pretty reasonable job of adapting the show, but relies a lot on exposition rather than showing us what’s happening. The races are hype, but end up carrying the film.

Speed Racer is determined to be the best racer of all time. That is actually his name by the way so he has a lot to live up too. His brother died in an unfortunate accident a while back after he had slowly been turning to the underworld. His reputation is tainted and Speed Racer’s family has been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. Speed decides to let his brother keep the local racing record, but he still wants the championship. The problem is that corporate business is making a lot of money off of this and they plan to rig the championships. Speed is either in with them on the deal or they’ll destroy him. Can he prove that races are about heart and effort or will greed and money save the day?

First I want to give the film some credit for the world they built around the characters. It really looks like something out of a cartoon with how bright and colorful it is. The backgrounds are obviously fake of course, but whether it’s a set or CGI, it works really well. It doesn’t clash or anything and I’d like to see more films go with this approach. Imagine Dragon Ball Evolution actually having a Capsule City background? I can imagine this approach may not be too popular with critics if it’s over done, but embracing the cartoon route is always a good move if you ask me. Especially since this film dials the effects up to 11 when it comes to the racing and action.

As mentioned earlier the races are quite good. It’s like watching a live action F-Zero as they race down the neon tracks and dodge all manor of attacks. Missiles and other crazy gadgets are attached to the cars. (Quick shoutout to the video game. It perfectly captured every aspect of the movie’s races) You’re at the edge of your seat here and I’ll take this kind of fantastic car battle over the more realistic Fast and the Furious shots any day. The Mach 5 really feels like an ultimate car and gets the respect it deserves. If the whole film was packed with races it would have been really cool.

Unfortunately there are many times where you feel like there aren’t enough race scenes in the movie. The whole first half of the film is essentially speech after speech after speech. The characters just never stop talking and at times this can get old really fast. The film’s writing is certainly not its strongest suit and I think the movie worried too much about trying to paint a picture for the audience. The plot isn’t exactly complex so it should be explained rather quickly. Dragging it out like this just makes me wonder if the writers were confused.

The humor also wasn’t that good here. Spritle and the chimp really didn’t need to be in the film. It’s not as if they added anything to the story and that is unfortunately the problem with most comic relief characters. They just aren’t funny. The more the film tries to make them funny by adding joke after joke, the more forced it all becomes and that makes it backfire.

As far as the cast is concerned, it isn’t bad. Speed makes for a decent lead as he stands up for what’s right and adapts to the cheating competition. I don’t agree with him holding back on the first race though. If anything, Rex would be proud of Speed surpassing him without having to resort to the dark side. I suppose it’s a nice thing to do though so I won’t fault him for that. Speed should probably suspect Racer X’s true identity, but since it was plastic surgery, that makes it all a lot more convincing than it would have been otherwise. (Although to be honest, he looked the same to me and I wouldn’t have guessed there was any plastic surgery) Speed can also fight when necessary even if he isn’t quite strong enough to handle the ninja.

As expected, Racer X is a great character and the best by a longshot. At first you do have to wonder how they can possibly justify Racer X mowing everyone down during the races, but since they were all paid off by the main villain, it makes sense. It’s not as if he’s destroying them either since defeated racers float away in a jello bar. His fight scene with the ninja is one of the stand out moments of the film since the fight scene is actually impressive and played straight. That’s definitely the kind of battle you’d like to see here since the cartoon did have some action as I mentioned earlier.

Trixie is a good main heroine. It’s always nice to see someone standing up to the bullies right from the start. The romance between her and Speed isn’t handled well as expected, but it could certainly be worse. At least she is a likable character so that puts her ahead of some of the others. I thought Sparky got the shaft here since his role was incredibly small and he wasn’t likable at all. I don’t remember what his personality was in the TV show, but I’m inclined to think that he was a lot better there. Here…he just didn’t serve much of a purpose.

The main villain, we may as well call him Mr. Corporate, was okay. He basically checked off all the boxes on how an evil CEO should act. It was interesting to see him try to rig the races, but you can see why it’s such a dangerous game. If even one racer goes too fast or too slow, all of the money he invested is pointless now. Once Speed was in the game, I would have tried to get a refund instantly. He’s just too much of a wild card. The other antagonists like the Chinese CEO and his racer didn’t really serve much of a point. I do think the heroes didn’t do a good job with the plan since it was so easy for them to be portrayed as well. I suppose they’ll be better prepared for the next time though and the villains were inspired by Speed’s race so it all worked out in the end. I’d be game for a sequel if it could work out the negatives.

Overall, Speed Racer succeeds at the main thing it was trying to do, having good races. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on that to carry the whole film forward if the dialogue and story get just as much of a focus. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it just could have been a lot better. It’s a striking contrast between the dynamic racing scenes and the talking moments. It can be goofy in a fun way at times like the corporate villain coming in for pancakes or just in an obnoxious way like with the monkey. The film couldn’t find that perfect balance which drops it down a star, but is still an entertaining film if you want to watch Speed Racer on the big screen. A sequel or at this point reboot since that’s more likely, just needs to keep up with the races. They don’t need to change anything about that. For the human scenes, they either need to cut down on the exposition since it really hurt the film’s pacing at times, or they just need to get some all star writers on board. Take out the extra humor as well and you’ve got a quality movie. Nintendo should take the plunge and make an F-Zero movie to show these guys how it’s done.

Overall 6/10

The Truman Show Review

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What would you do if someone was going to record the rest of your life? I’ve always wondered that as I forgot to save my latest replay in Super Smash. If someone had been filming me, then they would have been able to see it and I could have rewatched it through the video on demand feature. I’ve won so many good matches and had many epic gaming moments that I feel should be preserved in the video game hall of fame. Naturally not every part of this would be glamorous and overall I’m glad that I’m not part of a reality show.

Truman doesn’t actually know that he’s on a show though. He grew up in this world and just enjoys leading a rather ordinary life. Every day he goes to his job and works to get more clients to buy things from him. He had a good time in school and made a lot of friends. Truman is even married. Truman starts to feel like something is weird when his dead father shows up out of nowhere and is quickly kidnapped by the proper authorities. He also notices people following him and even talking about him on the radio. The whole town seems to be trying to keep him from leaving the city as well. Is it all some conspiracy? Truman doesn’t know what to think, but he needs to get out of this town before it’s too late.

It’s definitely a pretty interesting concept. I do think it’s a little tricky in the sense that I just don’t see how it would work all that well with the amount of crazy variables at play. They’ve essentially hired everyone in the town as an actor. They all actually live there and to an extent it is their life. They can probably leave for a while under the context of it being a vacation, but I feel like a bunch of them would spill the beans at some point or cause some complications. The film briefly shows people breaking in to warn Truman, but fortunately for the studio the lead character is extremely slow on the uptake. We’ll suspend some disbelief though as the film did a fairly good job at taking the premise as far as it could go.

The other main part that could be a little tricky was Truman’s big escape plan at the end. How did he figure out exactly where the cameras were? Furthermore, he was able to move at an angle where nobody could see what he was doing at all? I had to suspend a little too much belief here as even when he was running to the boats nobody saw him. Surely there were a bunch of cameras in that area so it should not have been possible to escape them for any longer than a minute or two. Still, at least Truman kept trying even if it took him a while to get there.

Truman definitely got a lot of warnings even if he didn’t listen to them. Whether it was the ramblings of his school friend who told him it was all an illusion or seeing his father again, you’d want him to get a little suspicious. Then actually seeing first hand that everyone was performing the same actions every day and that they were following him was odd. The signs everywhere telling him not to leave the city…I just don’t see how he didn’t connect the dots sooner. The twist about his plan certainly helped him salvage some of his dignity though as it opens up the door on when he really found out. Perhaps it was a lot sooner then we expected.

The best scenes in the film were probably the early middle ones where Truman was trying to prove that he was in a show. Driving around town and outsmarting the NPCs was definitely fun and breaking into their base for a moment was pretty good as well. It would have been nice if he had kept on doing that. An interesting part of the dynamic is for once, the show isn’t evil. It’s not like they’ll murder him if he keeps on trying as they’re still paid actors who want their salaries. The country has probably lost some of their ethics by letting this go on and allowing a corporation to own someone in the first place, but there is probably still some humanity left. The final boat scene may disagree to an extent, but the show would probably be sued.

The people watching the show were definitely suspect though. Personally I’m not sure how it would be such a hit. People like watching others as you can tell from Twitch, but I do think they wouild grow bored after a while. Especially if the show is always on 24/7. You’ll want to watch something else after a while. Still, I guess Truman can at least he satisfied with the fact that he’s the star of the highest rated show in Earth’s history.

The main villain was pretty good. He definitely embodies the corporate image and is always a quick thinker. He doesn’t care about the ethics, just his check. He wants to keep making money and doesn’t want the show to stop. Of course, the show must end at some point and even he is forced to acknowledge this truth. The rest of the characters were okay I suppose. Truman’s wife was pretty iffy, but she was paid to keep getting in the way. Truman’s beer buddy was equally annoying for the same reasons. I do wonder what the show would have done if Truman had accepted the offer to move away in a few months. Would they have been able to create a set that massive to simulate the city? I think they actually would have written themselves into a dangerous situation there and would need to fake an accident or something.

Overall, The Truman show is a pretty enjoyable film. Truman himself may go overboard with the facial expressions, but the show probably influenced him to act like that right from the start. It may be a tough premise to really buy into, but it was still fun to watch. It would certainly be interesting if your life turned out to be a show. I always treat life as if I’m the main character of my story anyway so it wouldn’t really change much. I may try a little harder in eating competitions though for style points if I was on a show. I’d recommend checking this film out. It’s certainly pretty unique.

Overall 7/10

Phoenix Forgotten Review

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Uh oh, it’s time for a found footage film. Honestly this is one of the worst genres out there. I already don’t like horror films, but found footage films tend to be even lower on the totem pole. The two genres do like to blend together as well although I think this would be considered more of a thriller than a horror. The film moves incredibly slow and by the end all you’ll be thinking is…”If I’m buying 4 slices and a drink from Little Caesars for 5, maybe I’m better off going to Little Italy and getting 2 slices but the infinite refills with it”

The story follows a reporter who is going around trying to find intel on 3 teenagers who went missing. Their names as Josh, Mark, and Ashley. The reporter has an interest in the case since Josh was her big brother. The problem is that the government keeps stiffing her and since this disappearance happened years ago, all of the trails have gone cold. Fortunately, Sophie is told that the school found a camcorder at a secluded facility in the middle of nowhere that actually still works. Sophie pops it in and finally learns the truth behind the mystery. She is stunned at the results!

So, that’s effectively the subplot as it takes place in the present, but most of the film is in the past. Since Sophie is making a documentary, naturally all of her scenes are filmed as if they’re found footage as well. We jump to the past where Josh decides that he wants to find some aliens. After all, he saw some strange lights a while back that seemed like UFOs. Mark and Ashley join him and the three decide to run through a bunch of mountains. They do this for a while and then get lost once it’s late. They do what any other mainstream teenager would do, they break open the beers and start panicking. Before long the aliens show up and take them down.

There are so many problems with this film that it’s quite tragic. For starters, we have the token animal violence. Why is there animal violence in this film? Well, apparently the aliens are still working on their tractor beams as they tend to burn the targets up instead of sending them into space. It’s also awfully fast since they burn parts of the animals but then leave them on the ground. The scenes are utterly pointless much like the film itself and you’ll wonder just how low this film will stoop before it finally ends.

The writing is terrible as you’d expect. All of the characters are really annoying and since the camera work is terrible on purpose, you’ll find yourself cringing the whole time. I don’t use the word lightly, but this is another reason why I don’t like the found footage genre. The zoom ins on all of the characters are much too close and the ametuer style in which they’re filmed is just not entertaining to look at. Honestly, I’m not even a big fan of the old family videos everyone made back when it was trendy but at least I was starring in those so it made them a little more fun. I don’t want to watch a video of strangers just hanging out and drinking beer. It’s just not cool.

The aliens don’t actually do anything for the first 60 minutes so that time is just the heroes chatting about nothing really and trying to be as unlikable as possible. The film never even tried to make them good characters if you ask me, but there were none in the whole film. Even the government turned out to be evil and corrupt as always. It’s sad that the government is almost always either incompetent or evil. It’s rare to find movies where they are portrayed as capable heroes but I’m always glad when I see that happen.

The film’s plot is also just barely held together. See, the writers needed the whole story to be filmed on camera, but this wasn’t even possible without plot holes. Towards the end of the film we see Josh taken up by the aliens as he drops his camera and it gets thrown around in the twister. Then….Josh somehow fights his way through the alien ship in a matter of seconds, escapes through the hatch, makes his way back and grabs the camera, runs to a bathroom…and is then kidnapped again. Then the camera is sucked up again, survives a vicious crash, and then someone mails it to the school. The whole thing was super convenient and also unbelievable. I don’t see how Josh could have gotten out of the tractor beam when nobody else could have. I don’t see how nobody would notice the aliens this time when they’re so bright and loud. People would definitely notice that kind of thing. I just couldn’t get past this ending.

The aliens also don’t really show up. We see a claw or a foot for a split second and that’s it. Clearly this film didn’t have much of a special effects budget so this turned into an alien film without the aliens. That’s just peachy. Back to the humans not being likable, the film maybe tries to hint that the aliens mess with your mind. I’m not too sure about that and prefer to just think that the humans are terrible. Mark constantly panics and drinks. He refuses to talk with the others even though it would make the whole process quicker and is the main reason everyone was talking in circles for a while. They could have stayed in the car where it was semi safe, but he wanted to run the 15 miles to the nearest gas station. Even then he got distracted within seconds. Ashley also panics at everything and keeps forcing the group to stop so she can tie her shoes or panic about her hair falling out. The only guy I almost felt sorry for was Josh because he would have escaped the aliens if he didn’t have to stop for the other two every 5 seconds. Clearly he should have gone on by himself. He wasn’t a cool character either though so I was cool with the aliens claiming the win here. They just need to take on the rest of the town n ext.

The film is super dramatic and tries to be emotional constantly. We have a divorce subplot and they really try to forcefeed you the “You have to be sad now” memo as we see the parents cry about the teens being gone and everyone assuming the worst. The home cam videos are supposed to really reinforce this. All it does is stretch the film out even more and completely destroy whatever pacing the film could have had. This film could have been shortened to 30 minutes and you wouldn’t have missed a thing.

Also, why was Sophie’s camera man never really shown until the end? I thought the film was gearing up for some kind of big twist like he was Josh or something and that’s why everyone kept looking at Sophie like she was crazy. The twist would have been terrible but at least it would have been something. Otherwise, the camera man is just another empty character whose existence is only to hold the camera so Sophie can get a good shot.

Overall, As you can guess I really didn’t like the film. It’s basically just 90 minutes of nothing happening. The alien “jump scare” scenes are pitifully bad and wouldn’t scare a kid. The repetition is annoying and since the aliens keep taunting the main characters instead of doing something to them, I have to assume that they’re just petty. They don’t seem to have any actual goals so I’ll assume that they are mindless as well. There’s really only negative things to say about the film so as you can tell I really didn’t like it. I’d say that Cloverfield was a better found footage film and even Paranormal Activity which by all accounts should be worse as it’s a full horror plus this genre, but was actually far superior. Next time you secretly want to make a film about teens just running around and just acting like terrible people with no extra plot…don’t. Instead of this film I recommend watching something a little more intense like the first Jumanji.

Overall 1/10

The Running Man Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would likely be more negative.
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I wasn’t too familiar with The Running Man, but the plot definitely sounded like a lot of fun. A corrupt dystopian world has come up with a reality show where assassins chase convicts around. Seems messed up enough for this future. Then throwing in Arnold Schwarzenegger into the picture just makes the whole thing that much more epic. I can safely say that the film was pretty fun and is one that you won’t want to miss.

Ben used to work for the government, but when he defied their orders to murder a bunch of innocents, he was sent to prison. He helps some other convicts escape and decides that instead of trying to beat the system, he’ll simply find a way to survive it. He breaks into his friend’s home, but it is now owned by a lady named Amber. She doesn’t take kindly to being threatened so she gets the cops to lock Ben up. He is now going to be forced to be in The Running Man, where he will have to outrun several hunters who are each armed with deadly weapons. His two expendable “friends” (They aren’t, but the show thinks that they are so why not let them believe that right?) have also been thrown in though along with Amber. Can Ben take these guys down and figure out a way to shut the show down or is it simply too late for any last second heroics?

One thing you’ll notice about the film right away is that the soundtrack is on point. There are quite a lot of fun themes that play during the film and it certainly amplifies the experience. A good film gets that much better with a dynamic soundtrack and they really make the action scenes come alive. The visuals also look pretty good. Considering how old the film is, the effects have aged pretty well and I like how they envisioned 2017 to be. The city looks realistic enough even if it’s not quite so run down. I imagine that this film must have gotten a pretty decent budget back in the day.

The characters are also solid. Ben makes for a great lead. He’s heroic and dependable. Sure, he’s not quite willing to risk his life to join the rebellion at the beginning, but he doesn’t turn his back on others once he is forced into the game. He also doesn’t murder the villains once they are unarmed. If it’s the fastest way then he won’t hesitate to do so, but he won’t go out of his way just for revenge….for the most part. Ben’s a strong fighter and the heroes would have been doomed without his military expertise. I have to say that he pulled off the role quite perfectly as few actors can be as convincing.

The main villain, Killian is also pretty good. He knows how to work the crowd and does a good job of building up the suspense. He doesn’t even let Ben get to him as he knows that this will bring the ratings up. He talks a good game to everyone and while he is a ruthless boss, you’ll be okay as long as you stay on his good side. Mop the floors at your own peril since it can certainly get you into heaps of trouble. The sub villains were all right as well. The only bad one is Dynamo as he fulfills every overweight villain cliche in the book. He’s awful petty and also isn’t much of a fighter. Once you get past the suit, he’s the kind of villain who begs for mercy. The others at least had more dignity than that. Chainsaw put up a good fight before going down and I also liked Sub Zero. It was an interesting take on the guy compared to the Mortal Kombat version. Not as deadly, but fun all the same. The Fire villain was also pretty good since he got quite a bit of foreshadowing and hype. He probably should have moved a bit quicker though. Captain Freedom probably had the most personality from the minions and I like how he simply refused to get into the ring. Nobody was about to talk back to him.

Amber isn’t the best of heroines. She spends most of the film running and panicking. You have to give her some credit for getting away from Ben though. If you put yourself in her shoes, she totally did the right thing. Kidnappers always tell you stuff like “Don’t try to escape” and make a bunch of threats to keep you in line. She took a big risk by making a break for it and yelling and it paid off. While it didn’t work out well for Ben, at least she made a move. Too bad she couldn’t keep up that confidence for the rest of the film right.

If I had a minor nitpick for the film, it’s that the costume in the poster doesn’t really match the one in the film. At the very least I don’t recall the spikes being quite so big. It’s not really a negative just something that I noticed. The film’s camera work is pretty good. Sometimes it can be a little tough to see what’s going on in the background with the low lighting, but I feel like that was made to capture that CSI Miami kind of atmosphere as everything is a little grittier and more life like. Fortunately it was just in the camera work as the actual film isn’t really gritty at all. Some characters get stabbed and such, but at least in the version that I saw it wasn’t explicit or anything.

There is some unfortunate fanservice as we get a really long dance sequence. I suppose it’s a parody to the fact that if society did go downhill we’d be seeing that in every show. It’s fortunately not a huge deal though. The ending to the film is also pretty funny. I was personally expecting it to go down a slightly different path as the guy in the tube lands safely but then sees Captain Freedom and has to try and escape from him. How it was handled worked well enough as well though.

The writing is pretty solid with classic lines like “I’ll be back” and more than a few one liners from Ben. I love puns and one liners as you may know from my comic reviews and the film pulls it off well. It’s just another drop in the bucket to help this film reach “great” status. The climax is also pretty great even aside from the ending. The banter between Ben and Killian was really good and I liked seeing the heroes finally infiltrate the TV station. They were pretty well organized and it added some extra action and excitement to the ending. Even Amber got to win a fight on her own. The film carefully balanced the epic and funny moments with the serious atmosphere.

Overall, The Running Man is just a fun film. It really breezes by to be honest and the pacing was on point. It never dragged on and still managed to bring in a lot of content. We got to see Ben before the game, during it, and even become a resistance fighter afterwards. None of the pieces felt rushed either and it shows that you can still pull off quite a lot in under 2 hours. I certainly recommend watching this film. It’s not quite as well known as it could have been. It has all of the elements that you could want in a big action film.

Overall 8/10

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Review

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It’s time for one of Disney’s most iconic films of all time. Snow White is a tale that everyone knows about and I dare say that they are aware of the general plot as well. It’s always fun to see the original adaption because the specifics will still be different than you may recall. For example, I didn’t remember the intro being so long in this film. The actual action doesn’t start until you’ve made a lot of progress in the film already. It’s a pretty fun film. Parts of it have aged better than others, but the pacing is good and it’s over rather quickly.

The film starts off the Queen worrying about who the fairest lady in all the land could be. The mirror hints that Snow White has surpassed her so the Queen forces her to be a maid/slave. This works for a while, but Snow White’s beauty continues to level up with each passing year. The Queen hires a Huntsman to take Snow White down for the count, but he too gets captivated and warns her to escape. The Queen decides that she’ll have to get involved personally. Meanwhile, Snow White befriends a bunch of dwarves and is fairly safe in theory. What can an old queen hope to do against these powerful miners? Not much, not much at all!

Fortunately for her they are away for most of the day. The Queen isn’t one of Disney’s more interesting villains as she doesn’t actually have a lot of personality. She’s just very vain and wants to be as beautiful as she can be. She took the title by force and I wonder how many people she’d had to bump off to reach the top. I imagine it must have been a lot. Her poison apple is certainly a useful tactic even if it wouldn’t work on most main characters. If she had only brought her lightning shield with her, the ending could have been very different.

As for Snow White, she’s a nice lead I suppose. She is very naive which is a problem in these tricky times. That being said, she knows how to make a good first impression and is easy to get along with. She may have less personality than some of the other Disney princesses, but she has heart. There’s nothing wrong with her as she’s basically a perfect heroine. Of course, to be truly perfect she will need to learn how to fight. The Prince has even less personality and is basically just trying to find a princess. He comes through when it counts in the end, but it’s hard to say whether this makes him a great character or his goal just coincided with her path to being alive again.

The characters that I didn’t like are the Dwarves. Their exaggerated personalities ensure that they are all annoying, just in different ways. It’s hard to like them at all as characters and since they couldn’t even protect Snow White in the end…what was the point of them? I wouldn’t have minded if we had gotten 3 Bears instead. If you understand that reference then you’re already ahead of the curve. I think it would be hard to make them good characters due in large part to the very concept behind them. You would have to completely change the characters.

The animation is pretty good. As with just about all of Disney’s classic animations, it looks very smooth. You can see how effort was put into all of the frames and it is quite telling that it looks better than some modern shows. Th animation is bright and you can always see what is happening. The designs have become iconic over the years and I can see why since they work well. Surprisingly, I wouldn’t say that this film has an exceptional soundtrack though. None of the music/song tracks are all that memorable and I can’t say that I remember any at the moment. Perhaps I need to give it a revisit, but some films are memorable from the start. I’d use Let It Go from Frozen as an example…but I just did in this sentence.

Disney’s been remaking a bunch of their old films lately so I can definitely see this one showing up as well at some point. There would definitely need to be a bunch of changes, but that’s part of the fun with the remakes. Seeing how they modernize the story without actually changing it. For example, I doubt they’d play it straight with the poison apple since that’s basically a meme at this point. I also like to think that the Prince’s role will either be changed or he’ll have more screen time before the pivotal moment. No matter what they do though, I’m sure Disney will do the film justice. It’s the kind of film that you certainly don’t want to take lightly since it’s so well known. I’d like to see the film expand a little more on Snow White’s ability to communicate with all of the animals. After all, if Universal can create a Dark Universe and make all of their old monster films supernatural, why can’t Disney give all of its iconic princesses cool super powers? I think that would actually be pretty neat. (So long as Snow White doesn’t send the animals off into battle)

Overall, Snow White is a fun film. From the Disney Princess films, I dare say that it has the lightest plot though. At least half of the film is basically just Snow White hanging out with her animal buddies and teaching them how to keep the house neat. The evil queen doesn’t appear as much as you’d expect and the Prince’s total screen time is probably under 5 minutes. The film’s very short, which helps for pacing, but I fear that it worked against the film when it comes to the story. Everything had to be rushed through which makes the events appear to speed along. That being said, it did get legendary for a reason. It’s still solid overall and I’d recommend checking it out. After all, how can you call yourself a film fan if you haven’t watched this classic?

Overall 6/10

The Ten Commandments

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I don’t watch 3 hour+ films often, but when I do I usually watch quality ones. The Ten Commandments is a legendary film and the poster is quite iconic at this point. The Bible is huge and as a result, most of it has not yet been adapted to the big screen. This film did a great job of essentially adapting the full story of Moses and adding in as many details as it can. Throwing in extra backstory is always a tricky process since you want to be careful not to deviate from what happened, but the film does a good job of it. It certainly is very long, but it’s an informative movie and a must watch for all viewers.

In case you aren’t familiar with this part of the Bible, here’s the situation. The Pharaoh decreed that all male Hebrew babies were to be slaughtered in an effort to prevent the deliverer from arising and freeing them from slavery. Fortunately for Moses, his mother sent him away in a basket to the Egyptians where he was raised up as a prince. Nobody knew about his true origin and he slowly grew to power. However, before he could become King, Moses found out the truth and decided he’d rather live as a slave with his people then rule under a false pretense. As a result, he lost everything and nearly died, but God was not finished with him. Moses was going to be the deliverer of the Hebrews after all.

Since the film is so long, it’s able to give a lot of time to each act. The first act is naturally about Moses growing up and then learning the truth. On one hand, you may think Moses could have helped the Hebrews right away if he had become King and then done away with slavery. On the other hand, living with the deception may not feel just. It’s one of those tough calls where it’s hard to know what you’d do. You have to have a lot of will power to trade fame, power, and a comfortable lifestyle over being a slave to do the right thing. Moses also lose his future wife and made an enemy out of everyone in power. It was certainly not an easy choice to make.

The second act covers when Moses returns to Egypt and God delivers many plagues as the Pharaoh continues to deny his people freedom. Once the final plague occurs and his son is killed, the Moses is finally able to lead his people out. Even then the Pharaoh decided to try one last attempt to slay them, which leads to the famous moment of the river parting and all of the soldiers being annihilated. The scene was handled very well and the film spared no expense on the effects. It would certainly be pretty amazing to see such a sight in person.

Finally, the last segment is about Moses obtaining the Ten Commandments from God. While he is on the mountain the Hebrews begin to worship fallen idols and regress almost entirely to how the Egyptians acted. Moses breaks the Commandments and has to get them a second time as a result. The film ends on a rather sad note though as Moses is not allowed to go on to the Promised Land because of how he hit the rock for water when he wasn’t supposed too. The scene is not in the movie though so if you only know this story through the film you may not understand why he wasn’t allowed inside. The film doesn’t really explain it and part of why the scene is so tragic is because it was such a small mistake. I think scholars have theorized that he struck the rock to show off his own power and had developed hubris over the years or something. There are quite a few theories out there, but sometimes there is no deep reason. Perhaps he just had a bad day and his patience was thin which led to him striking the rock. Whatever the reason, while the ending was tragic, Moses accomplished great things. Through God, Moses saved thousands of lives and brought everyone out of slavery.

The Ten Commandments is certainly an uplifting movie. It’s great to see the story of Moses in movie format and also great to see how well known and legendary it became. It goes to show that if the quality of the story is good then you can certainly have a film over 3 hours. The intermission was appreciated as well since it gave me time to grab a snack and then continue on. The visuals and soundtrack were on point throughout as well.

Overall, The Ten Commandments is a movie that you do not want to miss out on. It’s not everyday that we get a Christian film which gets this mainstream and is handled well. If I had anything I’d change with the film, I’d reduce a large part of the first section where we get a subplot of the carpenter and the servant who can’t be together because of a rich slave owner. That plot was extremely dark and I don’t see how it really contributed. Beyond that, the rest of the adaption was completely on point. While the film can be dark and somewhat brutal at times, it’s still something that you really should see. I avoid sad/tragic tales myself, but since this is real life and stuff that you can’t avoid, it’s worth checking out. The Bible can be rather violent as well, but it’s still something that you’ve got to read at some point. You can appreciate the sacrifices that our predecessors made even more when you understand their tribulations. As the saying goes, Light is always brightest after the darkness. Don’t think that the film is constantly dark either though, there’s a good balance throughout.

Tombstone

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It’s time for another historical film based on true events. This one deals with the good ole Wild West and has some famous shoot outs like the one at O.K. Corral. There’s quite a bit of action in this film since it’s fairly long with a large cast to boot. I’ll be covering another Wild West film that’s even longer with a bigger cast, but this one is a solid step ahead. It definitely has more hype for each of the battles since they’re set up well.

The main part of the plot takes place in Tombstone. A group of outlaws known as Cowboys have been terrorizing the place. They murder and steal all the time without fear of retribution because they outnumber the cops and are pretty quick on the trigger. The situation changes when a retired cop named Wyatt enters town along with his pal Doc Holliday. Now that the sides are more even, the new sheriff, Virgil decides that it’s time to take the Cowboys down once and for all. The two sides have a big fight with the cops emerging victorious. The criminals aren’t done yet though and decide to go for low blows by targeting their wives and innocent bystanders all around. Wyatt has had enough by this point and after sending the injured away, decides to destroy all of the Cowboys.

The climax has a lot of action as a result as there were many Cowboys. I didn’t realize quite how many until this sequence as the massacre took a while and the heroes had to go to many different areas. Wyatt is pretty skilled and good at dodging enemy fire, but he was still a little outmatched against the main bandit. Fortunately for him, Doc Holliday managed to get to the villain first and won in their big gunfight. Wyatt wouldn’t have lived through the experience without his friend and Doc Holliday did steal the show on quite a few occasions.

He was always eager for a fight and had the skills to back it up. He was the only figure that the villains were openly afraid of and they all ducked their fights with him throughout the movie. They never had a problem facing off with Wyatt and the others, but when Holliday would show up they’d make some excuses and get out of there. He felt like a good anime character in that respect as you rarely see characters so confident and battle hungry in films. It was a nice change of pace. The rest of the heroes were pretty good as well though. Wyatt stuck up for justice as well and could hold his own in a fight. Virgil helped spur the heroes on as well in the initial battles. While he may have lost by the end, he lasted a while.

The film was good at switching up the tempo as well. The rainstorm near the end where the characters were trapped in the tavern and being picked off one by one was pretty atmospheric. It was easy to forget that the characters were even in the desert at that point as it just felt like a completely different movie. One of the positives of being a long film is that you can dramatically change the tone and have enough content on both sides where the adventure feels even longer. The villains definitely had a powerful counter attack at this point.

While the film was pretty happy for most of it, it also got pretty dark during other moments. The scene where they have to operate on one of the characters was pretty violent as well. This definitely was the wild west as the heroes couldn’t rely on anyone else for help. They had to do everything by themselves and had no protection from the enemy as a result. It was pretty tense throughout with everyone being in trouble. The film has a happy ending, but it was difficult to get there.

The writing for this film is pretty solid as there are quite a lot of memorable lines. You’ll remember them well even after the film is over. Writing can certainly help to make a difference in a film like this. The villains are all rather unlikable, in particular the one who is always drunk. The writing does a good job of keeping him as a threat though without making him silly or incompetent. You want the villains to at least be a reasonable threat the whole time. It was also nice to see some of them defect and join the heroes as well so they weren’t all soulless yes men who eagerly went down the dark path.

On a side note, the bar tenders must have had nerves of steel back in these days. It seems like fights always break out over there and everyone had guns back in those days. I really would not have wanted that job since it seems so dangerous. I’m sure a lot of bandits and outlaws would not pay their tab and it was probably hard to enforce that. I imagine the average lifespan of a bartender was quite short, but then again, it probably was for any occupation. I can’t think of a single safe one in this environment. They were all rather lethal.

Overall, I’m still not really a fan of westerns in general. It’s not my favorite locale and I just prefer the cleaner city kind of atmosphere where the characters are constantly in air conditioned environments and you can forget that the great outdoors even exists. That being said, Tombstone is probably the best one that you can expect to find. It’ll be hard for a Western to topple it and this one is also educational at the same time as you’ll learn a bit about history in the process. Doc Holliday would certainly be proud of his portrayal in this film if he was still alive since he was given a lot of props and respect throughout. It’s an intense film and a lot certainly happens. Especially if you do like westerns, you should check this film out ASAP.

Hero

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It’s time for a Chinese film which depicts the assassination attempt on Qin’s King from way back when. I definitely don’t know much about this time period so it’s pretty neat to learn more about it. We also get a lot of fight scenes along the way and it’s pretty stylized which is fun. I also haven’t watched a lot of subbed live action films either so that was certainly different. It’s a pretty fun film and the movie did a good job of making each character feel like a threat.

The film starts off with our nameless protagonist being ushered into the throne room of the King. He never gets a name which should remind you of the classic video game protagonists. The King asks him how the cop ended up defeating the world’s 3 greatest assassins who has even conquered the army and eluded all attempts to defeat them. This leads to the protagonist giving 3 stories where he explains how he foiled each one. The first story has him go up against Long Sky. Long Sky’s gimmick is that he’s the world’s greatest swordsman and simply cannot be defeated. The hero was able to defeat him through pure technique as music played in the background. The King is skeptical, but listens further.

The second story had him go to the final 2 assassins, Flying Snow and Broken Sword. He brought up past romances and controversy to psyche them out so he could defeat them with ease. It was a foolproof strategy apparently and everything went perfectly. The stories were all pretty realistic, but the film has a big plot twist as the King debunks all of the stories and explains that the 3 assassins were actually in cahoots about murdering him. The main character confirms this and then decides not to murder the King because the story has also moved him. The King vows to help unite the country even if he has to be evil to do so. It’s a very mixed message and I wasn’t thrilled about the ending. Of course, it’s not as if there is much the film can do about the ending since it’s based on a true story.

So, I definitely didn’t like the ending. Let me just put that out there. The other assassins let the main character murder them so he could get close to the King through their convoluted plan and it was successful. They gave their lives so the country could be saved by the dictator and then the guy decided not to go through with it. It’s rather tragic if you ask me. That wasn’t satisfying.

On the positives side, the fight scenes were pretty good. Maybe there were too many moments of the characters just flying around and ignoring physics as I preferred the actual swordplay more. The first fight is the best example of how grounded swordsmanship is the best. At least in this movie it was the most engaging. Still, the aerial fights will remind you of Naruto as the characters fly with each jump and still manage to fight. The battle of heroines was interesting with this even if the fight was very lopsided. In general, the film just had a lot of action and that was fun to see.

The romance wasn’t handled quite as well. Of course, this was fake in the end as it was part of the fake story, but it was still pretty rough on the characters. Rebounding just to make others jealous is always a rather petty strategy and didn’t make any of the characters look good. Since it’s fake though, it won’t count against them. The cast was actually pretty solid with all of the characters being rather likable. Even the King was pretty solid as he was apparently quite intelligent since he saw through the plan. It’s good to see a king who is competent for once, even if he noticed a little too late to save himself. That’s how it goes sometimes.

The film had fun with the visuals and they were handled well. There were subtle changes in the attire for the characters based on who was telling the story and where they were. The film took advantage of the cherry blossoms at different moments to have the characters blend in with them. Sometimes everything would be the same color which was interesting. It was nice to see and you can tell that it was important to the film to get all of the colors on point. There wasn’t much of a soundtrack to go alongside it at least for me, but I’m sure they also put effort into that part. The visuals were just more impressive since I’m not really into soft music.

Overall, Hero was a good film. I don’t know how accurate it was to the real life events. I suspect it was a little exaggerated, but I could certainly see the general plot running pretty close to it. Maybe the characters didn’t dodge thousands of arrows with ease or block them all with 1 sword, but I could see 3 assassins deciding to die on purpose so that a cop could get inside and take out the King. Whether the assassin decided to fail on purpose or he was foiled is another story entirely. Still, I’d recommend checking this film out. It maybe takes itself a little too seriously at times like when the characters live the whole battle in their heads before fighting or listen to the music first to get in the mood, but the exaggeration may be the point. It’s a pretty good way to learn about the past without going to a complete documentary. Don’t get me wrong, Documentaries can actually be quite interesting and engaging, but watching a film version can typically be even more so. It depends on your preference I suppose and there can be bad movie adaptions and bad documentaries. It’s a case by case basis.

Gargoyles Review

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It’s time to look at a really obscure horror film. This one’s fairly low budget and at times you’ll wonder when it’s supposed to actually get scary. Well, the good news is that while it lacks in scares, it is a fairly short film. It’s all over in a little above an hour. You won’t feel a whole lot of heart during that time and the film mainly goes through the motions, but it’s not that bad. It just needed a few scenes with a bit more of a kick to take it to the next level. This didn’t happen though so the film just puttered out in the end.

The film follows a guy named Mercer who writes books about the supernatural. He doesn’t believe any of them, but they sell very well. One day he gets a letter from a guy out in the middle of nowhere who claims to have some valuable intel for Mercer. Our confident main character doesn’t believe him, but free beer is offered so he decides to give the guy a chance. It wasn’t much of one though as Mercer basically mocks him during the entire visit and really gives the guy a hard time of it. The guy even shows Mercer a skeleton that he found, but Mercer says it’s fake. At that moment, a Gargoyle drops the house on them and the old man dies. Mercer and his daughter Diana escape and decide not to tell the cops what happened. They report the dead body, but act as if it was a natural disaster or something. The cops are one step ahead of them though and decide to pin it on a group of teenagers who are known for stealing around these parts. Can Diana save the kids from the life of a prisoner and can she escape the Gargoyles?

From the start it’s hard to really like any of the characters. Mercer comes across as a total fake who mocks what he writes about. I understand writing purely for the money, but the guy’s attitude was never great. The whole intro scene where he’s mocking this old guy was just mean and only staying for the beer was kind of petty. He’s also a little inconsiderate as he keeps on playing the tape with Diana screaming when the monster comes back. How many times does he have to play that thing? He goes through it about 5 times and never learns anything new. There’s no secret piece of the puzzle that’s suddenly going to show up there.

As for Diana, she likes taking pot shots about Mercer and implying that he let the teenagers get framed for money. As he pointed out, the cops would never believe them about Gargoyles invading the city and starting World War III so he needs proof first. They’d have a similar reaction to the skeleton. I suppose it’s good that she went to exonerate the teens, but she didn’t do a good job about it. She also didn’t do a great job of resisting the demons although I suppose there wasn’t much she could do. I think making a break for it would have helped though.

The Gargoyles make for pretty bad villains. The intro to the film talks about how they’ve been at war with humanity for centuries and lose every time. Luckily, there is always one that escapes and she hatches a bunch of others and they start all over again. Well, that’s the case here and this time they decide to lie low for a while while the eggs hatch. This plan would have worked…but they decided to burn a house down and get people interested again. The plan made no sense and they would have destroyed the world if not for this. I suppose they couldn’t help themselves as they wanted to kidnap Diana and steal a demon book, but both of these things were ultimately pointless to them. If they had waited and attacked with their army, things could have gone a little differently.

Still, this film isn’t exactly known for its masterful writing now is it? To an extent I suppose it’s to be expected that some things wouldn’t add up and this was likely not thought out a whole lot by the writers. They just needed to churn a film out ASAP. One big moment where you’ll notice this is when Mercer goes back to get reinforcements and takes his time, but still catches up to the leader by the cave. I guess they were moving in slow mo considering how long Mercer was gone. The stale mate at the end was also anticlimactic as the demon basically just yelled “I’ll be back in 100 years” and flew away. There was no final fight or anything like that, just more posturing and bewilderment from the people in the audience.

The teenagers never got likable either and the cops weren’t great either since they were quick to pin the blame without any proof. None of the cast was likable and that includes the really random owner of the motel who was flirting around and accusing the main characters of various stuff the whole time. There was no reason for her inclusion except possibly for humor (Which failed if so) or just to give us a quirky character. Films don’t need quirky characters, but it seems like they are always added anyway. The Gargoyles get a few fatalities along the way so the film had some stakes, but it still felt like this horror was just going through the motions.

Going back to plot holes or at least leaps in logic, there was another iffy scene. After Diana goes to the police station on her own and walks back, it seems like it’s a very long trek. This kind of makes sense since the heroes had to drive in a car for a while to get there. The Gargoyles then attack her while she is in the middle of nowhere and you think that hope is lost for her. Fortunately, this isn’t the case as Mercer appears and takes her back to the motel…which is only 5 steps away. Wait a moment, the place was deserted for miles a second ago and Diana was looking around as if she was lost. Did she not see the cabin? It was a scene that didn’t make any sense. The brief “fight” scene after that was interesting as the Gargoyles just broke in and messed everyone up. The suits weren’t half bad I suppose, but they don’t look as intimidating when they’re walking around like that.

Overall, There’s not much to the Gargoyles film. The enemies are fairly bland and generic while the main heroes are unlikable and not very sympathetic. The film doesn’t have a lot of direction. It’s a shame because it didn’t really make many mistakes. The film isn’t violent, there isn’t any real language, and there’s no animal violence. However, not making mistakes doesn’t make up for not getting anything right. The film still isn’t very interesting anyway and there’s no real reason to recommend it to anyone. If you want a really scary film, check out Madoka Magica: Rebellion. The ending in particular is truly frightening!

Overall 4/10