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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:


What Lies Beneath

Last Week: What Lies Beneath :

Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) is a moron; tried, convicted and executed. His wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) looks exactly like, well, Michelle Pfeiffer and she has a libedo akin to a satyr who has been locked away in solitary for 8 years in a Turkish Prison. How does this guy celebrate more good fortunes than a male could possibly hope to gather in this life? He has an affair with a student named Madison (Amber Valletta).

Look, if Amber Valletta came knocking at my door tonight with a "come hither and ravish me you dreamy stallion" look in her eyes, I'd not turn her out into the night. But I'm not married at all, let alone to a woman who looks like Pfeiffer and boinks like a mink in heat. Were that the reality of my existance, I'd be too tired to be playing around with Valletta. I'd treat her advances with the same enthusiasm I garner for begging Hare Krishnas.

In the movie What Lies Beneath, Norman's affair with Madison leads to her death, so she comes back to haunt him in revenge. This movie would have been a whole lot more entertaining, and satisfying if everyone who ever died had come back to haunt him, just for being and unspeakable imbicle. Imagine the comic possibilities: The two Arabian swordsman Ford cut down with a pistol in Raiders of the Lost Ark could reappear in his bedroom. As he tries to shoot them again, the bullets pass through, causing Ford to go pale and wet his pants. That would be entertainment.

I think a lot of people have been keenly anticipating this film, just because it looks so darn good on paper. You have Harrison Ford, who is one of Hollywood's most appealing leading men. Robert Zemakis is behind the camera directing, and he has been responsible for some fine films over the past couple of decades. Finally, you have Michelle Pfeiffer who remains one of Hollywood's most consistant attractions in spite of the fact that she has detonated more bombs than the Irish Republican Army. Put it all together, and this looks like a can't miss.

Unfortunately, movies are created on celluloid, not paper, and the production staff of this movie could have learned a valuable lesson if they had boned up on a little cinematic history: Think of the sad case of Rasputin And The Empress. Back in 1932, producer Bernard Hyman must have thought he struck some cinematic gold for the ages when he signed not one, not two, but all three Barrymores to appear in major roles in the film. It was the first and last time that John, Lionel and Ethel would appear in the same movie.

The result was a cinematic disaster of astonishing proportions. The silver screen might have been big enough for 3 Barrymore talents, but it could never possibly contain 3 Barrymore egos. Consequently, the film is plenty awful to watch, but still entertaining on a level we can appreciate at K.A.W. Watching the three Barrymore siblings battle scene after scene to blow each other off the screen is about as entertaining as you can get, even in the midst of a dreadful movie.

The problem with What Lies Beneath wasn't so much one of Ford and Pfeiffer battling it out on the screen. In fact, they both gave game performances. But I've seen better chemistry in 5th grade performances of Romeo and Juliet, and they were vainly struggling to save a dreadful script. Some of the dialog in this movie made me wonder if it were drifting over from the screening of Pokemon 2000 next door.

As one might expect, even Zemekis did the best job possible with a script that may well have been rejected by the producers of Rocky and Bullwinkle. There were some satisfyingly chilling moments in the movie, unfortunately they were far too few and far between. Too frequently the film deteriorated into a seriously tedious jabber festival between characters with nothing to say. This is one of those movies that is going to play a lot better on Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it will undoubtedly end up inside of a year.

Naturally, I was anticipating this film as much as anyone, being one of Michelle Pfeiffers most ardent fans. Who cares if all of her movies are bombs? She is Michelle Pfeiffer! But if we want to maintain any sort of integrity here, some sort of standard has to be established. The late Gene Siskell once said, "The measure of the quality of a movie is whether the movie is more interesting than an interview with the same group of actors." Okay, so the measure of a Michelle Pfeiffer movie can be whether or not it is more interesting than simply watching her read the script for two hours. Again in this case, I think I would have preferred the latter.

Ford and Pfeiffer were individually responsible for two of the lamest "relationship gone sour" movies of 1999, so now they have teamed up for what I hope will turn out to be the lamest genre movie of 2000. Undoubtedly, right about now both of them are, or should be, having very grave discussions with their agents.

I'm guessing that What Lies Beneath will do very well in its opening weekend. Parents will probably drop the kids of to see Pokemon, and head in to catch this film. Unfortunately, the question that is going to get asked is betrayed in the title itself: What Lies Beneath? and the answer is, not much. You'd be better off going out and renting John Irvin's Ghost Story, which is a much better "dead lady in the lake looks for revenge" movie. Its not that I'd rather spend a couple hours looking at John Housman, Doug Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astaire than Michelle Pfieffer, but fair is fair; its a better flick.

After a good first weekend, look for What Lies Beneath to sink like a Chevy in Lake Champlain. Unfortunately, its putrid decaying corpse is apt to hang around haunting the careers of Pfeiffer and Ford for years to come.

Last Week: Jeepers Creepers:

This movie scared the crap out of me. No, the content wasn't frightening enough to get the old adrenaline rushing; quite the contrary. What really scared me about this movie was the realization that it is going to inspire about 48 progressively more retarded sequels if it does squat at the box office. That's enough to stir terror in anyone who has to review films, be it as a hobby or profession. My readers can safely assume I won't touch any of them.

This was all pretty typical of the contemporary fluff that passes in the horror genre. It was pretty low budget and frankly boring, most of the way through. In fact, it was one of those movies that can make you seriously ponder hucking a few juju bees at bikers down in the fifth row just to stir up a little genuine fear.

The premise of the movie was a brother and sister, Darryl (Justin Long) and his sister Trish (Gina Phillips) are driving home for spring break. We wile away the initial 10 minutes of the film watching them bicker and argue their way across one of those flat states with lots of trees and grass.

After that rather slow and unpromising start, we spend the next ten minutes of the film watching them bicker and argue their way further across the same state, and by this point we are desperately hoping to hear a little banjo music and see the results of the kind of inbreeding regularly associated with places like that. At least it would have been interesting. Unfortunately, we are doomed to watch the pair argue and bicker for about another 20 minutes before anything finally happens.

At that point, the duo are accosted by an ancient truck that looks like a WWII armored troop carrier from hell. We are so thoroughly sick of listening to Darry and Trish bickering that we are hoping the thing is heavily armed, and it will quickly dispatch them to the great battling sibling afterlife, but he have no such luck. Instead, they escape the truck and drive on, picking at each other a little more.

A ways up the road, 600 miles or so it seemed, they run across the truck next to an old abandoned church and the driver is dumping what looks like bodies wrapped in sheets down a pipe. After the pair is attacked by the truck a second time, Darryl gets the brilliant idea to go back and see what the mysterious driver was dropping down the pipe. In essence, this turns into yet another horror movie in which the characters are morons. Then again, I guess if the two had just driven on, we would have had to sit through another full hour of their arguing before the film ended. I suspect the only way to have extracted ourselves from this one would have been to witness their arrival home, greeted by parents blasting their asses into powder with shotguns. They had to be even more tired of the two than we were.

So, Darry slides down the pipe and discovers bodies...what a surprise. It turns out that the two have run across some sort of monster that emerges every 23 years and feeds for 23 days. Why the number 23? Maybe because the writer is a moron? Who knows. The significance was never explained, not that the word significance will ever again be attached to this film.

The film's monster is apparently Darth Maul's twin brother. Whatever part of a particular human he eats becomes part of him. Thus when Darry and Trish run him over about 10 times and cut off his foot, he is requried to eat someone elses foot...entertaining stuff.

Eventually the two run across a psychic who is trying to explain the danger to them. Unfortunately, she is such a talented psychic, and her dreams are never wrong. Darth Maul's twin wants Darry's eyes, and successfully carries him off and eats them. The film ends with the monster peering out at the audience through the eyeslits of Darry's now empty head. Yup, this was the feel good ending of the summer.

This film was directed by Victor Salva, who is of late a director of cheesy horror films, but spent 15 months in 1988-1989 in prison on charges of child molestation. Considering that his filmography includes such gems as Powder, Rites of Passage and Clownhouse I'd personally be in favor of putting him away again on charges of crimes against humanity. Or maybe we could just bar the guy from getting near a camera again. I would hope before anyone can scratch up funding for Jeepers Creepers II But what is even more frightening is that Francis Ford Coppola was executive producer of this mess, one of 15 films he has contracted to produce for United Artists: As if they aren't in enough financial trouble. I'm guessing he isn't taking the matter too seriously.

Last Week: Signs:

Swing away Kex!

Okay, that might be a little funny once you see the movie, not that I am advising it. But But before we get to this week's review, I want to talk about something else.

As most of my readers have probably gathered, I am spending a few weeks in Southern California, and I'm not entirely enthusiastic about it. There is something I sort of like about SoCal though. In fairness, I think I should spend a moment discussing it.

Earlier in the week I spent a little spare time over on Newport Beach, just sitting in the warm sand and watching the ocean. Okay, okay. I was also teasing the seagulls. But I did NOT, repeat did NOT bring any Alka Seltzer along with me. But just as I walked onto the beach, the first thing I noted was a large flock of gulls standing together on the sand. I think one of the elders was probably advising the younger members of the flock, "Uh oh, this guy's back again. If he tosses something white and round to you, don't eat it." Incidentally, I've NEVER actually done that. But moving along...

After spending some time watching the ocean, (and making life miserable for the gulls) I visited some of the beachside shops. I noticed that there is definitely an inverse relationship between the amount of fabric used to make women's bathing suits, and the cost thereof. I have also noticed that the costlier the bathing suits, the more enthusiastic young women down here seem to be about buying them and wearing them in public, if you get my drift. Is this a great country or what?

One thing I don't like much down here is that in the Sunday paper, on the weather page, they print a map showing all the local fault lines, and where the week's quakes occurred and what magnitude they were. Apparently something close to 3 months have passed since the most recent event of magnitude 4 or greater. I gather that it constitutes some sort of local record. You have no idea how much better I'll sleep the next 3 weeks knowing we are grossly overdue.

Anyway, on my way to the movie theater today I saw one of those computerized highway signs that read, "No local abductions since noon yesterday." I sort of figured that the alien variety was not calculated into the estimation. I'm inclined to the notion that a lot of the locals think they probably have been abducted recently, not factoring in the fact that aliens would have long since given up on earth if a lot of that kind of activity were going on in this corner of the planet.

I mention that as an introduction into the movie Signs which is based on the notion that the mystery of crop circles is somehow alien related. I guess people who believe things like that have never considered that an extraterrestrial civilization that traveled a kijillion miles to get here are probably technologically savy enough to figure out a means of communicating with us somewhat superior to drawing pictures in cereal grains. In this film, the aliens need the circles to map out locations for their invasion. Apparently they have never hit on an idea resembling G.P.S. either.

People who believe in crop circles also question how it can be a world wide phenomenon. I think that is actually painfully obvious, if you have an I.Q. above room temperature. One of the previously most popular exports from England was Beatles music. I can buy one of their C.D.s in pretty much any record store in America, and I could do the same with one of their record albums 30 years ago. I don't know it for a fact, but I'm pretty sure I can or could have pulled off the feat similarly in Bangladesh, Australia or South Africa. As well. Further, what goes on in one place has been pretty commonly reported around the world for the last 5 decades or so. I don't think any effort has ever been made anywhere to keep crop circles a state secret.

Some also note curious mathematical relationships in their structure. I hate to burst anyone's bubble (okay, I love too, but give me a Gumby doll, a ruler, and a few days to measure and write and I can list mathematical relationships that would make Einstein wet his pants. Its not that their is a remarkable, mysterious synthesis in crop circle construction, its just that their are a lot of obscure by neat relationships in mathematics.

Mel Gibson stars in this retarded donkey ride to hell as a minister turned farmer who has lost his faith in God because his wife died horribly in an auto accident. I guess it never occured to him to ask questions on the basis of God's lack of enthusiasm for intervening in horrors like World War I, World War II, Chernoybl, 9-11, or whatever. It took a more personal blow to drive a wedge in his faith. Incidentally, he never once seemed to question why God couldn't have stopped the alien invasion in the first place either. I guess you could say he had some pretty heavy blinders on.

Joaquin Phoenix is Merle Hess, brother of Morgan, the ex-preacher. Merle used to be a minor league baseball player who hit the longest homerun in the teams history, but also set some sort of record for striking out. I think we were supposed to assume that that made him a bad player on the balance. But just F.Y.I., Hank Aaron currently holds the career record for homeruns and strikeouts.

The aliens apparently want to harvest humans for some purpose that was never made clear. I sort of doubt that they wanted us as food, because its unlikely we would have been tasty to them. The aliens could be severly injured by water, and since humans are mostly comprised of water, it seemed evident that we would probably give them a really nasty case of heartburn.

I guess the only other possible purpose they could have had in mind was some sort of chatel slavery, but again, we are supposedly dealing with an advanced technology. You'd think that they probably would have already found adequate methods for picking the crops and stuffing cotton balls into asprin bottles without a significant need of cheap labor.

Incidentally, there was some discussion in this film about how aliens would go about invading the earth if they decided to do it. I'm not sure, but I am pretty sure that if things came to that, the few thousand of us that survived the 10 minute battle would find ourselves running casinos on a reservation pretty quick.

So the bottom line is, what the hell was this movie really all about? I'm not sure really. I guess it had something to do with how a man can restore his lost spiritual faith if only aliens could invade, and we could convienently dispose of them in the same fashion as Dorothy wiped out the evil witch in Wizard of Oz. Damn, Hollywood is on a creative roll these days.

And before I sign off for another week, I want to mention something about Century Theaters. Yes, I found the local branch to view this weeks movie. Its set up a lot like the one in the Denver area, complete with a two-sided island refreshment stand. You guessed it folks, the only side that was open was the one exactly opposite of where the theater was I actually had to go into. Forget about dumb mysteries like crop circles. How is it that Century can pull that off EVERY time I go to the movies there, in two different states?

Last Week: Freaky Friday:

At least there is a little bit of good news. This is a movie that has the word "Friday" in the title, but Ice Cube doesn't make a single appearance. That is almost enough to make any experience worthwhile, but things run downhill from there.

Freaky Friday is a dead-on remake of the 1976 Disney movie which starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris. I guess the folks at Disney have decided to start recycling their trash now. But realistically, the world needed a remake of that film like the Democrats need another candidate with no charisma, guts or ideas.

In fact, this plotline has been driven so far into the ground you can hear Chinese coversations filtering through the bottom of the hole. I really can't believe that Hollywood is this desperate for new film ideas these days. Then again, maybe they are.

This new version of Freaky Friday isn't different than the original in any significant way. You have mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is an overstressed professional woman trying to raise a family. My impression was that she mostly needed a vacation, a vibrator, and several packs of batteries; at least something to jettison a little stress.

Then you have the music obsessed daughter (Lindsay Lohan) who seems to think the whole world has it in for her. I figured a few weeks at one of those teen bootcamps wouldn't be entirely out of order. It sure couldn't have made anything worse for either of them.

Jamie Lee is widowed, and about to get married to a new guy, portrayed by Mark Harmon. Its been awhile since we've seen old Mark, because the major networks aren't investing in crappy mini-series very often anymore. Consequently he has had about as much luck finding work as Dubya has of finding WMDs in Iraq.

Mark doesn't really seem to be the answer to any of Jamie Lee's problems. In fact, he doesn't seem to be the answer to anybody's problems in the film. Especially since Lindsay still misses her real father. Curiously there isn't a picture of him anywhere in the house, despite the family's claims of how much they miss him.

Jamie Lee is trying to get ready for the wedding, but Lindsay's various manifestations of teen angst are adding to the already overwhelming stresses in her life. But things go from bad to worse when they pay a visit to a Chinese restaurant, where eating a fortune cookie causes them to change bodies. Mayhem ensues, as they try to get by leading each others lives for a day.

Naturally they gain a wonderful new perspective of each other, and the family comes together. Lindsay is even able to accept Mark now, although I still am not sure he is going to improve matters around the household. Maybe now that everyone knows he is still alive, he'll find a meaningful job.

Jamie Lee Curtis is moderately entertaining as a teen trapped in her uptight mom's body. Lindsay Lohan does a much better job in the considerably tougher role of mom in teen's body. What we didn't get to see was the extremely terrified reaction the teen would have had in mom's shell when she discovered both sets of plumbing. Okay, that isn't fair. Those rumors have persisted about Jamie Lee for quite awhile now, and they remain unproven.

Incidentally, the last time we saw Lohan was in 1998, when she starred as identical twins in the remake of The Parent Trap. I'm a little worried about her for a couple of reasons: First of all, the kinds of roles her agent is casting her in are apt to lead to and erruption of schitzophrenia. Second, a career based on remakes of old Disney films might well end up being pretty lucrative. But it sure isn't going to get your career body of work featured on AMC.

I want to end on one brief note. I think its about time to jump on the bandwagon and get in that California governor's race. All you need is 65 signatures and a posting fee of $3500. True, I don't live in the Golden State anymore, but I used to, so I can probably get around the residency requirement somehow. I'm not even sure there is one, so that may not be a problem afterall.

I can get the 65 signatures easily enough. Heck, in California, Sadam Hussein could get 65 signatures. (Note to Shrub: Might as well look there too. You can't find him, you can't find Osama, and you can't find those WMD's. Then again, Shrubby, I doubt that you could find your own butt with both hands in clear weather.) The $3500 is a little tougher, since I don't personally want to put up the cash. But I figure if all of my readers would pledge a buck, I'd have the money plus a bit for the campaign. A little would go a long way too, because I can't imagine it would take a whole lot of scratch to pull more votes than Gary Coleman or Larry Flint. So send in those pledges to my email addy today!

Previously: Danny Deckchair:

Its a really good thing that it takes more than a week to make movies. With releases like Baby Geniouses 2, Anaconda 2 and Suspect Zero, the last week of August, 2004 might well have gone down in history otherwise as the week the cinematic artform died. Who in their right minds could have really watched Baby Geniouses or Anaconda and really thought to themselves, "Wow! We need a sequel!"

No we don't. Not unless the big ass snakes eat the smart-ass babies. Then maybe we'd have something worth watching. The only other new release this weekend was some piece of crap martial arts trash starring Jet Li. Apparently gens X and Y have some drooling fascination for watching that kind of cinematic manure, but I got bored with it 3 decades ago when David Carradine was doing it on TV.

So the only other possible choice this week was the U.S. release of an Australian flick called Danny Deckchair. There are a grand total of 6 people on the planet named Rhys. Astonishingly enough, two of them appeared in this film. The other amazing thing is that the number of people watching this film with us in the theater was exactly equal to the number of men named Rhys who appeared in the film. What a coincidence.

If our screening was any indication, and there is no particular reason to believe it won't be reasonably typical, this movie won't make enough money in the U.S. to pay for shipping the prints across the Pacific. Hell, it may not gross enough to pay for a large sized tub of popcorn if things don't pick up somewhat. You definitely don't have to dress up to go to a screening of this movie. You may not even have to dress, period.

Its not really like this film is all that terrible either. But Americans don't have short memories about everything. Just the dumb stuff that always gets us into trouble. But when it comes to movies, I don't think the film going public has ever forgotten, or forgiven Australia for that whole Yahoo Serious thing. Not that I can really blame anyone, but it has been most of two decades since they pulled that one on us. Maybe its time to forgive them. Afterall, we did unleash that awful Kangaroo Jack business much more recently.

There may be an element here of Americans being pissed about the Aussies stealing our urban legends for their film fodder as well. This film is apparently inspired by the story of a Los Angeles man named Larry Waters, who once got a weird idea while entertaining friends at a backyard barbeque. He tied 42 weather balloons to a lawn chair and, armed with a six pack of beer and a pellet gun, instructed his friends to cut the tethers that held him to the ground. You see, the whole idea of The Beverly Hillbillies isn't entirely without foundation.

Waters thought he would float gently into the air a few hundred feet, but instead shot up unexpectedly fast, to a reported altitude of about 35,000 feet. As the story goes, he dropped the gun after shooting out a couple of balloons, and eventually came back down after being tracked by FAA radar.

I've looked into this story in the past, and have never been able to confirm much of it. I suspect that there may be an element of truth to it, but I suspect much of it is highly exaggerated. Its highly unlikely that someone accustomed to sea level elevations could have reached anything close to the reported altitude without blacking out and falling to his death. But even before that happened, turbulence most likely would have thrown him out of the chair.

I'm guessing that he probably actually did get airborn, but didn't make it much higher than the altitude of power wires or treetops before he got entangled and reached the ground safely. Alas, Waters isn't around to clarify or further cloud the matter. He committed suicide a few years after his adventure. Some guys just can't handle fame, I guess.

Danny Deckchair is the story of an Aussie misfit named Danny Morgan (Rhys Ifans). He is living with his attractive girlfriend Trudy (Justine Clarke) who is a real estate agent with a bright future. She is starting to think that Danny is kind of a clueless loser (she is absolutely correct) and she plans on dumping him, hoping to take up with a famous sports reporter, Sandy Upman (Rhys Muldoon).

Danny, realizing that he is about to be dumped, dreams up the lawnchair adventure at a backyard barbeque, but ends up going higher and further than he expected. He drifts from Sydney all the way to Clarence. They are in the midst of their macadamia festival, and Danny ends up getting shot down by fireworks.

He falls into the backyard of the town wallflower, a parking cop named Glenda (Miranda Otto). If she represents the low scale of women in Australia in terms of attractiveness, this film might well spark of mass migration of young American men to the land down under. Perhaps fortunately for the future of the U.S.A, it doesn't look like anybody is going to see this film.

Danny's mysterious arrival in Clarence sparks a sensation, as all of the local women find him curiously attractive. Personally, I thought the guy looked like he needed to be vacuumed, but it didn't appear that the women of Clarence had much basis for comparison. Yet another reason for young American males to consider seeking their future in Oz; apparently there are hoards of sex starved young women, and not much young male companionship.

Once Danny tumbles out of his chair into Glenda's backyard, this film more or less deteriorates into a tedious and gooey chickflick. Right there we can understand why this film is going to flop on this continent harder than unmotivated, millionaire NBA superstars in Olympic competition. Rhys Ifans isn't exactly leading man handsome, which means women aren't going to flock to see it, and men aren't going to want anything to do with a film that reeks of chick flick. So who, exactly, is going to be the American audience?

The answer, quite obviously, is empty seats. This film will tend to lose the audience fairly early anyway. There is a scene early on in which Danny is blowing up a big ass balloon. When he is surprised by his girlfriend walking in, he lets it go, and the balloon begins to slowly deflate. I half expected that we were going to spend the next 20 minutes watching that damned balloon slowly release its air, and in truth, we didn't miss it by far. That kind of scene doesn't exactly define rapid pacing. On the other hand, it still beats hell out of watching computer animated, giant snakes. The working title of this movie was Larry Lawnchair. Oh well, at least they didn't end up calling it Chevy Chaise.

Last Week: A Sound of Thunder:

This is the story of a group of people who travel back into time to see dinosaurs, but accidentally change the past. When they return to the future, they find themselves in a different America ruled by an incompetent moron. No, wait. That isn't the movie. That is my life.

Actually, this is a movie based on a pretty good Ray Bradbury story. Unfortunately, Hollywood can't seem to translate a good sci-fi story onto the screen. By changing certain of Bradbury's plotpoints in a story written a couple of decades ago, they change the future, and, voila, I end up watching a bad movie. That is chaos theory demonstrated to a fine point.

There is a defining moment in this story when the main character, Ray (Edward Burns) sums up the problems facing the group of main characters by saying, "We have to make sure this never happens again." I hope that he was referring to making movies like this. A Sound of Thunder is a cornicopia of bad acting, bad CGI effects and terrible writing. I've seen more realistic graphics on 80's vintage Atari games.

This film was scheduled for release last spring. Then it was postponed to redo some of the special effects. At one point, rumors circulated that it would be buried in international release, and never play in American theaters. Then the people who made it decided that they should try to cut their losses somehow, and release it during the movie graveyard Labor Day weekend.

If the screening of this film we saw was any indication, the strategy to give this film an unadvertised domestic release isn't going to be lucrative enough to pay to light the little bulbs that frame the seating aisles. A grand total of 3 other people were in the theater with us. One of those left after the trailers. I didn't notice whether or not he ever came back.

This movie was preceded by trailers for just about every other film coming out for the rest of the year. That was a pretty serious mistake. After seeing scenes for upcoming films that might actually be good, it only serves to underscore just how awful everything in this movie was. The little "please turn off your cellphones clip" that preceded this film had better production qualities.

The basic story involves a group of scientists who have developed a means to travel back in time. They use the technology to lead rich people back in time to hunt dinosaurs. But they always go back to the same place and time, hunting one particular dinosaur who is about to die anyway. That way, there is no danger of changing the future.

Unfortunately during one of the expeditions, one of the guns malfunctions, and a crisis ensues. One of the adventures ends up stepping on a butterfly, which causes waves of temporal distortions to sweep over the world of the present once they return. So the group has to figure out how to return to the past prior to the arrival of the expedition that went awry, and change things back. In essence, they have to prevent the butterfly from being stepped on.

But the waves of time change make things extremely difficult for the group in the present. Each new wave brings terrifying modifications of evolution, unleashing horrifying new and dangerous creatures. They include carnivorous flying bats, carnivorous, pack hunting mandrils, and a pretty wicked eel which inhabits the flooded subway system. One temporal wave knocks out their time travel machinery, so the group has to venture across the collapsing city to a local university to use a particle accelerator as a substitute.

Stephen Spielberg brought realistic looking dinosaurs to the silver screen more than a decade ago, so the cheesy allosaur that is central to the early portion of this film provides us a clue early on that we are in for a supremely bad movie. Things don't get much better with the choppy CGI mandrils that appear later on.

Unfortunately, these bad computer effects are masterpieces when set alongside the wooden performances turned in by most of the actors in this film. Ben Kingsley has a small supporting role (for the life of me I can't figure out what possessed him to appear in this stinker) sporting the worst white wig seen in a sci-fi movie since This Island Earth. After seeing this film, the only sound of thunder anyone will want to hear would be associated with an explosion destroying all the prints.

Last Week: Flicka:

It sort of seems to me that if you are going to make a movie called Flicka, in which the title character refers to a horse, you just might want to actually include a horse as a prominent character in the film. You wouldn't make a film called Titanic, and set it in the middle of Nebraska, where the closest anyone is going to get to a large ocean cruiser is a picture in a book.

Ostensibly, this is another in a long series of "girl and her horse" movies. In fact, this is another in a long series of "girl and her horse" movies specifically based on the novel My Friend Flicka. This one did have something of a unique approach, however, as you may have already gathered. This time around, Flicka was more or less of a no-show in her own movie.

It's entirely possible that the people who decided to make this movie figured out that they really weren't competent to make a movie about horses, at least one that actually had horses in it. That may have dawned upon them about the second time a horse died in the process of filming. Oh, sure, they were absolved from any wrong doing by two different investigations. But one of those was conducted by the American Humane Association, which is supposed to oversee animal welfare in the movie industry. The problem is, that almost all of their funding comes from the studios, consequently, they probably aren't all that anxious to bite the and that feeds them.

The other investigation was conducted by an animal rights organization that is centered in Los Angeles. But again, considering the enormous clout the movie industry has in and around Los Angeles, I'm guessing that the investigation just might have been something less than intense. Even so, the AHA did not certify this film with a Monitored Outstanding rating, permiting the film makers to use the "No Animals were harmed during filming" disclaimer in the end credits. This film only ended up with a Monitored Special Circumstances rating, although a few advocates lobbied for something worse. To learn more about AHA ratings, go HERE

Maybe it all would have been better if the people who made this film would have just acknowledged that they not only weren't qualified to make a movie about horses, but they probably weren't qualified to make a movie at all. Who in their right mind puts some Tim McGraw tunes in their DVD player while driving along, and suddenly decides, "Wow! I'll bet this guy would be great in a movie!"

The bet here is that it's probably the same guy who tried to launch Neil Diamond into motion picture fame, and we ended up with The Jazz Singer. That was about a step away from a crimes against humanity trial. And all that the world has accomplished since has been an endless string of films featuring rap "artists" that haven't been shot yet, or at least not fatally. There is an important memo to Hollywood here: Just because a guy looks marginally photogenic in a music video and can actually carry a tune doesn't mean he can carry a motion picture.

This is the story of Katy McLaughlin (Allison Lohman) who lives on a ranch in Wyoming with her stick-up-the-ass father (Tim McGraw) and a reasonably likable mother and brother. Unfortunately, she doesn't spend much time with any of them, because they pack her off to the only boarding school in Wyoming most of the time. It comes as news to the rest of the world that there actually IS a boarding school in Wyoming.

She has some notion in her head that wild horses are a kind of dwindling symbol of what was great about the old west. Curiously, the first time that she actually encounters a wild horse after returning home from school, she decides she wants to catch it and tie it up behind a milk wagon or something. There was a measure of hypocrisy there somewhere, but I wasn't interested enough to try to figure it out.

Her dad doesn't want her to catch the horse, but she does anyway. Then he doesn't want her to try to train it, so she promptly does that too. When he ultimately decides it would be in everyone's best interest just to sell the horse, she rebels against that too, and suddenly we start to figure out why that pack this miserable little brat off to boarding school every year. I started thinking maybe Dad would have been better off keeping the horse and selling Katy into white slavery.

Eventually Katy and her brother hatch a plan to get the horse back which amounts to horse theft, a crime that I believe is still punishable by hanging in Wyoming. But the plan backfires in a way that very nearly gets Katy and the horse killed, although a noose wasn't ultimately involved. But both end up surviving, and Katy and Dad make amends, and the film ends without us having to endure Tim McGraw's acting AND singing. Sometimes you take your victories where you get them after you've been doing reviews for 8 years.

As family fare, Flicka isn't a particularly bad film, but originality isn't exactly it's longsuit. Take any of the couple dozen or so horse movies made in the past decade, take out most of the scenes involving horses, and you have Flicka. About the only original thing that can be said about this movie is that some of it was actually filmed in Wyoming, which, based upon the characters, did little more than suggest that you have to be sort of crazy to live there. That part was accurate.

Previously: Cloverfield:

Would SOMEONE please explain to me why horror/monster movies are always stocked full of the stupidest people on the planet? Okay, I guess I sort of know the answer. If the people in the story weren't complete morons, the movies would be incredibly short. Think about it: How long could the movie possibly be if any of the characters used even a tiny bit of common sense:

Teenage Girl: Oh honey, don't go in that spooky old house alone at night. Six people have gone in there and mysteriously disappeared!

Her Boyfriend: Ok dear. Let's go get a pizza instead.


Cloverfield is no different. A group of young people are throwing a going away/celebration bash for their friend who has just accepted a promotion that will send him off to Japan. I think that is some the sort of inside joke that passes for shrewd wit in Hollywood these days. As we all know, Tokyo is stomped flat by some cinematic terror just about every other week.

Anyway, as the party is starting to go strong, strange events start occuring in downtown New York City, which signficantly disrupts the party. It turns out that a gigantic monster is taking a nasty bite out of the Big Apple. It doesn't take us too long to realize what complete imbeciles the characters in this story are.

How do you get out of the way of a giant monster the size of a skyscrapper? Uh, gee, maybe see which direction it is going, and head the other way? It isn't like it would be difficult to keep track of the whereabouts of a creature that size, although the principle characters in this movie seem to have an amazingly difficult time staying out of the behemoth's way. In fact, they seem to move directly into its path no matter where they go. This may be a bit of a plot spoiler too, but if you have a chance to save your own life and sacrifice your video camera, wouldn't you probably do it instead of trying to keep it? I think most of us know the answer to that one.

Matters are complicated by the fact that the monster is infested with parasites the size of German Shepherds. They like to attack humans too, with nasty results. Judging by the numbers of them suddenly running around, the poor monster must have been absolutely covered with them when it came ashore. Maybe that is why it has such a nasty attitude problem.

I saw an interview with one of the principle creators of this film in which he discussed how it came to be made. He said that he took his kids on a trip to Japan, and he was impressed by the fact that Godzilla toys could still be purchased in just about every toystore. Evidently he hasn't spent a whole lot of time in American toystores lately, because you can buy Godzilla toys here too at just about all of them.

So, the idea struck him that we don't really have a unique "American" monster....except, as he noted, King Kong. Evidently, big monkeys don't count. Or the monster from Alien, or Predator, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon or a couple dozen others. We Americans are actually pretty monster rich.

So, what is all the fuss about with Cloverfield? Well, for one thing, it is kind of a throwback. Instead of everything being laid out for the viewer in graphic detail, a lot is left to the imagination, as in older movies. We don't even get a particularly clear view of the monster until near the end of the film. I'm not even sure where the title comes from.

There is also the presentation of the film from sort of a video camera perspective, much like The Blair Witch Project. Personally, I thought that was the film's weakest feature. I'd have much rather seen this filmed from a more conventional perspective, with the throwback style perspectives intact.

Back in the 50's of the previous century, all sorts of monster movies were made which reflected our national paranoia regarding the perceived creeping terror of communism, the unstoppable monster. As it turned out, that was a pretty toothless threat. Now we have a new monster living in the closet, our fear of it is being shamelessly fueled by our national leadership. Perhaps it's no real surprise that a movie like Cloverfield results.

But unlike the unbeatable threat in Cloverfield, our present national nightmares are probably a whole lot more manageable. All we need to do is rid ourselves of the people presently telling us our bedtime stories. Then maybe we'll all wake up to the fact that we have more urgent problems than anything we are battling on foreign shores.

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