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Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA)
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Abandoned Mine [Import]
Abandoned Mine [Import]
Price: CDN$ 21.09
20 used & new from CDN$ 7.96

2.0 out of 5 stars Very little in the way of horror or suspense, Oct. 31 2014
This review is from: Abandoned Mine [Import] (DVD)
I was looking for a movie to watch on Halloween night, and I somehow ended up in this Abandoned Mine. It’s about five young people going on a Halloween night adventure, so I figured I would just go with it. There were some warning signs early on. First, the opening credits reveal that the film was written, directed, and produced by one person (Jeff Chamberlain) – and that almost never leads to a good outcome. Then we’re hit with some quick snippets of bad things to come, long before the story premise even establishes itself. Why do filmmakers do this? It’s incredibly annoying. So we finally get the five main characters established, and it just doesn’t feel right. You have Brad (Reiley McClendon), his girlfriend Sharon (the very attractive Alexa Vega), Brad’s ex-girlfriend and Sharon’s good friend Laurie (Saige Thompson), Brad’s generic jock sidekick Jimmy (Adam Hendershott), and Laurie’s friend Ethan (Charan Prabhakar). From the start, I felt that there was just something off about Brad and Laurie, especially Laurie, whose sketchy backstory ends up being pretty much of no importance. Thank goodness for the India-born Ethan, as his personality serves to at least make the movie somewhat enjoyable. The other characters are just sort of there for the ride.

So the gang accompanies Brad to a haunted mine. For some reason, they all seem to think they’re going to some other haunted mine and not the locally infamous Jarvis Mine, where a man and his two daughters were supposedly buried alive (intentionally) a century ago – and where several people have gone missing over the years. Of course, despite all of their reluctance to actually enter a dangerous and supposedly haunted mine, they have few qualms about shimmying twenty feet down into it with a rope and – you guessed it – getting stuck down there. It’s pretty hard for me to care about anyone stupid enough to do that sort of thing,

The film does manage to drag out the answer as to whether or not the mine is actually haunted, but no real surprises await the viewer. Actually, things get a little silly toward the end, resulting in an ending that fails to impress. Nothing in this entire film really engaged me, not even the claustrophobic scenes of these young people crawling through tiny shafts. Writer/director/producer Jeff Chamberlain also fails to really tie the disparate aspects of his story together in any meaningful way. If you’re looking for something scary or unsettling to watch on Halloween night (or any other night of the year), Abandoned Mine really isn’t going to be your best choice.

Who Killed Lindbergh's Baby
Who Killed Lindbergh's Baby
Price: CDN$ 26.99
24 used & new from CDN$ 15.75

2.0 out of 5 stars Criminal profiling at its worst, Sept. 19 2014
This review is from: Who Killed Lindbergh's Baby (DVD)
You won’t find any answers to the question posed by the title in this NOVA production. In fact, you won’t even get an unbiased – and certainly not a comprehensive – look at all of the aspects of this case. I have to say I’ve lost a good bit of respect for John Douglas after watching his investigation of the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder case. Douglas, of course, is essentially the best-known criminal profiler in America. I’ve read and been impressed by several of his books; in fact, Douglas’ books had done much to improve my opinion on criminal profiling. This presentation of the Lindbergh investigation, though, has only reinforced my original opinion that criminal profiling has more than a few major bits of hokum associated with it. In this case, Hauptmann happens to match Douglas’ profile of someone capable of committing this crime, so he ignores any evidence that Hauptmann was innocent – and, unfortunately, this type of bias goes on to further undermine Douglas’ whole argument. Douglas isn’t looking for the Lindberg kidnapper(s) – he’s looking for suspects who fit his profile of the criminals.

So let’s start with Hauptmann. Whatever the truth of his story as to how some of the ransom money came into his possession, it should at least be heard – but you won’t hear it here. You also won’t hear anything about how Lindbergh himself and the mysterious Dr. Condon (Lindbergh’s go-between with the alleged kidnappers) suddenly changed their testimony at the trial to directly implicate Hauptmann as “Cemetery John,” the man who took the ransom money from Condon. Personally, I don’t think you can believe anything Condon ever said, but we know that Lindbergh lied on the stand about the man whom he heard say just two words. In his grand jury testimony, Lindbergh said he barely heard “Cemetery John” whisper the words “Hey, doctor” to Dr. Condon (which makes sense, given that Lindberg was sitting in a closed car some three hundred feet away), yet he positively identified hearing the voice of Hauptmann at the trial (just as Condon identified Hauptmann as “Cemetery John,” despite have failed to pick him out of a lineup following his arrest). You won’t hear a word about how Hauptmann’s attorney Ed Reilly was basically in cahoots with the prosecutors to ensure Hauptmann was convicted; his defense of his client (whom he barely even met before the trial) was basically no defense at all. You certainly won’t hear any mention of the discoveries made about the trial over the years – pressured and perjured witnesses, planted evidence, police corruption, political shenanigans, etc. Anyone who knows anything about this circus of a trial knows that it was a total farce – except John Douglas, apparently. He even argues that Hauptmann’s refusal to confess or name co-conspirators, even when offered either money or his own life, came down to an attempt to lessen the stain on the family name in the interests of his son.

Instead of addressing the dubious facts of the case, Douglas spends much of his time going off on tangents. He keeps going back to a man named John Knowles, based solely on one man’s report of his father’s reported memory of hearing Knowles mention the word Englewood (Lindbergh’s wife’s family estate) in discussion with two other men, one of whom was named Bruno. Bruno Richard Hauptmann never even went by the name of Bruno, and computer forensic analysis shows that neither Knowles nor Hauptmann wrote the ransom letters, yet a complete lack of evidence doesn’t stop Douglas from trying as hard as he can to make Knowles a co-conspirator with Hauptmann.

The part of the documentary that will really bother many viewers is the suggestion that Lindbergh himself was involved in the kidnapping. Douglas speaks to Rutgers historian Lloyd C. Gardner about his theory that Lindbergh’s strong commitment to eugenics led him to have his son (who may have suffered from a mild case of rickets) done away with). This theory has virtually no legs to stand on – although I actually do believe there is reason to at least be suspicious of Lindbergh given some of the strange actions he took in the wake of the kidnapping. As for Douglas, convinced as he is that someone inside the house had to have colluded with the kidnappers, he falls back on the tried-and-true fingering of Lindberg maid Violet Sharpe (once again, with no evidence to support the charge).

Who Killed Lindbergh's Baby? represents criminal profiling at its worst, with the investigator ignoring any evidence that gets in the way of making his profile fit the purported criminal. No one should accept Douglas’ conclusions without taking a much more extensive look at the actual evidence for and against Bruno Richard Hauptman’s guilt.

Gargantua
Gargantua
VHS
4 used & new from CDN$ 49.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the kind of monster film you might be expecting, Aug. 22 2014
This review is from: Gargantua (VHS Tape)
Gargantua was a 1998 TV movie that aired the very night that the American Godzilla film of that year first hit advance theaters. If nothing else, the film certainly had good timing – capitalizing on the hoopla and buildup of Godzilla before anyone had a chance to see the blockbuster film and be disappointed. Gargantua himself is, at best, a cousin to Godzilla – he’s basically a salamander that got totally juiced on huge amounts of pesticides some company dumped into the ocean. Gargantua does walk on two legs, but he doesn’t breathe fire, rampage all over man and his creations just for the heck of it, or go looking for a fight. The whole Gargantua family was just minding its own business, totally out of sight of man, until some seismic activity opened up a trench between its home and the nearby island of Malau.

Marine biologist Jack Ellway (Adam Baldwin) and his son have come to Malau to study the effects of recent earthquakes on local marine life. The last thing Ellway expected to find was a nine-foot lizard emerging from the sea and scaring everyone on the island. While he and another scientist attempt to study this magnificent creature, Ellway’s son Brandon (Emile Hirsch) finds and befriends an incredibly cute baby Gargantua. Brandon keeps the little guy a secret, fearing that the adults (especially a local jerk hoping to get rich and – of course – the military) would hurt and probably kill him. Of course, it’s hard to keep a baby dinosaur a secret when increasingly humongous relatives come looking for him.

This is not a “monster terrorizing the island” movie. I’m not saying a few innocent humans don’t get killed, but no Gargantua really ever attacks anyone. The same cannot be said for the humans, though, leading to one particularly sad moment in the film. I could go on a rant about who the real monster is, but I won’t (the answer is man, by the way). The movie would probably get higher ratings if it had the monster stomping and smashing his way through everything in its way, but Gargantua isn’t just some hulking menace hell-bent on destruction. Personally, I thought the movie was pretty good, especially for a TV movie, and I especially liked how it painted the “monster” as both a victim and a magnificent animal deserving a chance to survive on this earth.

The Hunt for Red October (Special Collector's Edition)
The Hunt for Red October (Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Sean Connery
Price: CDN$ 9.97
14 used & new from CDN$ 2.47

5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual thriller of the highest caliber, Aug. 2 2014
While I usually try to avoid all things Baldwin, this film is just way too good to miss. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling storyline, which centers on a preeminent Soviet submarine captain going rogue with the shiniest new toy in the Soviet arsenal – the Red October, a new Typhoon class submarine designed for the purpose of sneaking past US defenses and delivering a devastating first strike in any war between the two Cold War adversaries. No one knows what this captain is going to do – not the Soviets and not the Americans. Obviously, the greatest and most likely outcome is an attack on the eastern US that would initiate World War III. At the same time, however, there is also the possibility that Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) might be trying to defect. Neither outcome is palatable to the Soviet regime, so they send the bulk of their fleet toward the North Atlantic to find and destroy the Red October. For the Americans, though, it’s not so simple. Only one thing is clear – they have to find the sub before it penetrates America’s coastal defenses and figure out what Captain Ramius is planning to do. That’s where CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) comes in.

The film’s cinematography is excellent – well, apart from what appears to me to be a rather poor green screen shot in the final scene. It can’t be easy to film the bulk of a movie within the close quarters of a submarine – granted, the Red October is pretty freakin’ huge for a sub, but it’s still a sub. Director John McTiernan may be known for blowing up everything in sight in Die Hard, but there really are no extravagant special effects in this movie. This is an intellectual thriller, where subtle hints and exercises in logic drive the story, and when all is said and done you can easily come to believe that everything you’ve seen might really have happened. Tom Clancy really was a master storyteller who took care that no loose strings were left behind.

I'm not going to compare this to other movies featuring Jack Ryan, largely because the only other one I’ve seen is The Sum of All Fears, which features another actor I don’t care for. I will say that Alec Baldwin was good in this movie. Sean Connery, of course, steals the show. His Russian accent won’t win any awards, but the stoicism and inscrutability with which he plays his character really maintains the suspense and keeps you guessing what he’s really up to for most of the movie. He’s equally believable as both a defector and a madman determined to start World War III. The supporting cast, boasting the likes of James Earl Jones, Sam Neill, Tim Curry, and Fred Thompson is top-notch, as well. And, with a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes, you truly get your money’s worth from The Hunt for Red October.

A Year with the Hoopers
A Year with the Hoopers
Price: CDN$ 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A unique window into modern family life, July 5 2014
I daresay you’ve never read a work of fiction like James Hoby’s A Year With the Hoopers; I know I certainly haven’t. For one thing, the book does not have a plot, certainly not in the traditional sense. In fact, there is no main character, no issue to be addressed, no real questions to be answered, and no climactic moment toward the end. Rather, what we have here are the detritus of a family, shredded, boxed up, and – for reasons unknown – hurled out of a van onto the front lawn of the “author.” Having recently acquired some decode-anything software, said “author” hired a couple of teenagers to scan all of the shredded documents into his computer and then let the software put all of the pieces together. The result: an eclectic mix of letters, memos, greeting cards, notes, school essays, etc.

While A Year With the Hoopers is a satirical – and quite funny – look at contemporary American life, it also raises questions about the interpretation of history and what kind of legacy we will leave behind for future individuals or even whole generations. After all, to some degree the very discipline of history revolves around assembling, piecing together, and attempted interpretation of the scattered, sometimes even discarded remains, left behind by a person, group, or culture. One person’s trash has often become a later historian’s treasure. In the case of this novel, Hoby leaves the task of interpretation up to the reader, but the various bits of data assembled herein are the result of a pseudo-historical process of assembling scattered pieces of data which are seemingly meaningless and unintelligible in their original, shredded state and painstakingly (albeit by computer processing) piecing together and organizing them into distinct documents which can be translated and interpreted by others. To some, it’s all discarded trash that means absolutely nothing; others may find it interesting but view it as insufficient information on which to draw a picture of the subjects in question. For a few, though, it may offer remarkable insight into a group of people – and perhaps, vicariously, even themselves –we would otherwise know nothing about.

I think there is more than humour to be gleaned from these pages. Young Jenny Hooper’s essays about her relationship with her parents and the problems of dealing with her old and infirm aunt offer insight into the teenaged psyche, and only a fool could fail to read a great deal between the lines of the constantly changing last wills and testaments emerging from the nursing home where Trudy Greathouse now finds herself contemplating her final days. Less informative, perhaps, but not to be missed are the increasingly fantastical letters written by one Xenophon Munny to Helen Hooper concerning a traffic accident he could not possibly have witnessed.

If nothing else, A Year With the Hoopers is a quick and quite comical read, so even those who find no point whatsoever for the novel’s existence should at least be entertained to some degree. For some, though, the discarded history of this fictional modern family may hold surprising revelations.

Airplane 2: The Sequel (Widescreen) [Import]
Airplane 2: The Sequel (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Robert Hays
Price: CDN$ 11.99
28 used & new from CDN$ 2.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as funny -- and quotable -- as the original, July 1 2014
Pretty much everyone has seen Airplane, but this sequel often seems to be overlooked, lost in the deep shadows cast by its hilarious predecessor. Only a tiny minority could possibly argue that Airplane II is as good as the first one – how could it be when it recycles a lot of the same jokes and gags? – but this film gets better and better as it goes along. Strange as it may sound, what makes Airplane II so funny is ultimately the fact that it does follow the original story and approach to comedy as closely as it does. Apart from moving the endangered flight into outer space this time around, this sequel is largely a carbon copy of the original. Unfortunately, several scenes seem to be missing from the DVD and Blu-Ray releases, for reasons I certainly cannot fathom.

I had my doubts during the first quarter of the film. The same jokes that seemed so funny in the original just weren’t connecting very strongly this second time around. In retrospect, I think this had a lot to do with the characters delivering those one-liners. Apart from Striker (Robert Hays) and Elaine (Julie Hagerty), these were mostly new characters. (I also have to admit that I found this second dose of Elaine quite annoying.) More familiar faces began to come in over time, though, and the tide really turned with the return of McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges). Everything just fell into place after that, and the appearance of William Shatner toward the end raised the bar of comedy up another notch.

As for the story, it takes place a little while after the events of the first film. It seems that Striker and Elaine did not find mutual happiness after all. She became a computer specialist helping design a state-of-the-art flight computer, while he landed a job as the test pilot for the world’s first passenger spacecraft designed to take people to and from a new lunar colony on the moon. After telling the company that the space plan was basically a poorly designed death trap and then crashing it in one of his tests, the company blamed everything on poor Striker and had him put away in a mental institution. Elaine got engaged to a total jerk, and now the two of them are taking part in the Mayflower’s maiden voyage to the moon. Obviously, Striker breaks out of the hospital and straight for the plane before it can be launched.

There’s no Leslie Nielsen or Robert Stack this time around, but returning characters include Striker, Elaine, McCroskey, Captain Oveur (Peter Graves), Jacobs (that nutty little guy prancing around the control tower), and the main jive-talking passenger. Shatner pretty much steals the show toward the end, but he’s only one of several great new characters, such as Chuck Connors as Sarge, Rip Torn, Jim Noble (the governor from Benson) and Sonny Bono. Those making cameos include Raymond Burr, Herve Villechaize, and even a young Pat Sajak. It’s always great fun to see who will turn up in these films.

In the end, I actually enjoyed Airplane II almost as much as I enjoyed the original. Just the scenes with Lloyd Bridges and William Shatner alone make the film well worth seeing. If you enjoyed the comedy of Airplane, you’ll enjoy this sequel, as well, as it was truly cast in the same mold as its predecessor, providing one eminently quotable line after another. It’s utterly shameless comedy at its best. Some of the same old jokes may not be quite as funny the second time around, but this film still made me laugh on numerous occasions.

EUROPE'S  ROSWELL  UFO crash in Aberystwyth
EUROPE'S ROSWELL UFO crash in Aberystwyth
DVD ~ Mark Olly
Offered by Round3CA
Price: CDN$ 8.31
26 used & new from CDN$ 8.28

1.0 out of 5 stars Evidence? Who needs evidence?, June 28 2014
If more UFO documentaries were as bad as this one, there would be no need for government disinformation. Even if there were a real story here, we’re given almost no evidence for any of it – yet Mark Olly would have us believe that a UFO unquestionably exploded over some remote Wales countryside in 1983. It all starts with a national news article from 1983 describing the discovery of metallic debris across four fields near the Welsh community of Abersytwyth. No one – including the farmer who owned the land – heard or saw anything unusual on the night the debris-scattering incident occurred. The police were called, as well as the RAF, and then the Ministry of Defense arrived and cleaned up the site. That’s pretty much the whole story.

Olly’s colleague consulted local and national newspapers but found no other article associated with the incident. They speak to the reporter, who has no memory of the story’s source, as well as the farmer – both of whom we are assured are more than happy to talk. Of course, we get to hear from neither of the men ourselves. Come to think of it, we’re never actually shown video or pictures of the site in question, either – despite Olly’s visit there to try and recover any debris the MOD had missed. That would be the end of the story – but Olly locates another researcher who claims to have visited the site days after the MOD left and located several pieces of debris in the adjoining woods. Finally – after several viewings of Olly’s “UFO explosion” recreation and personal stories of Olly’s own UFO sightings – we’re allowed to actually see the pieces for ourselves. They seem quite terrestrial-looking to me – but we’re told that metallurgists say they’re an unusually strong example of the type of metal used on fighter aircraft. Apparently, the green color on one side of the material is not aerodynamic, though – which is certainly odd, as I can see no reason whatsoever how the color of a material can possibly affect its aerodynamics.

In the end, Olly would have us believe that an alien UFO exploded in mid-air, crashed to the ground, and then zoomed back up in the sky to continue on its way without anyone nearby hearing a thing, leaving a bunch of metallic debris in its wake, offering us in terms of evidence only a cursory look at four pieces of “debris” that can’t be definitively tied to the alleged UFO. Somehow, I’m not quite convinced.

Fantastic Voyage (Bilingual Special Edition)
Fantastic Voyage (Bilingual Special Edition)
DVD ~ Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur Kennedy, Stephen Boyd
Price: CDN$ 6.99
6 used & new from CDN$ 6.67

5.0 out of 5 stars An inspired melding of science and imagination, June 28 2014
Here you have a true science fiction classic, the first film to take viewers inside the human body. Yes, by today’s standards the special effects are cheesy, with the use of green screens blatantly obvious more than a few times, and many may find the idea of miniaturizing a manned submarine to the microscopic level and injecting it into a human body laughable, but this was the mid-1960s, man. We were eradicating virulent diseases, making gigantic computers that could make complex calculations quickly, had shot men into space – heck, we were working to put man on the moon. Science fiction really mattered back then – it still matters today, but not like it did back then, when the futuristic imaginings of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and others were providing the blueprints and inspiration of the scientific facts of tomorrow. Anything and everything suddenly seemed possible, so why not miniaturization?

So here’s the deal. Both the US and the Russkies have miniaturization technology – but neither can extend the period of miniaturization past one hour. One scientist – Jan Benes – knows how to do it. The Soviets want him, but we just rescued him and got him to America. Unfortunately, the bad guys managed to injure him before he could talk. Now he lies in a coma, an inoperable blood clot deep within his brain. Clearly, there’s only one thing to do: put the country’s best brain surgeon in a nuclear-powered submarine, shrink it to microscopic proportions, and inject it into Benes’ bloodstream so the doctor can perform the necessary laser surgery from within. Most fortunately for at least half of the viewing population, Dr. Duval (Arthur Kennedy) insists on bring his assistant Cora (Raquel Welch) along. Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasance), the nominal head of the whole operation, is also there to help guide the captain through the various bodily systems on the way to the brain, as is security expert Grant (Stephen Boyd) because no one can be trusted implicitly during the Cold War.

Thanks to a series of unexpected problems during this fantastic voyage, the special effects and visual arts departments faced the daunting task of visually representing numerous aspects of the human body’s most amazing processes – the makeup of the circulatory, limbic, and nervous systems; the rhythmic wonders of the human heart and lungs; the martial prowess of antibodies and white blood cells attacking foreign bodies with Borg-like precision; and the wonders of the unknown universe that is the human mind. The film’s Oscar awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction were well-earned, no matter how cheesy it all looks today. For some reason, though, the image that sticks out the most in my mind is that of Grant and the two doctors groping all over Raquel Welch’s chest for the better part of a minute during one of the film’s pivotal scenes. Well, that and the scissors thing.

No matter how many decades pass, this film will always stand as a glowing example of the power of man’s imagination and the infinite wonders and possibilities of science. And who’s to say the “preposterous” science of this story couldn’t come true someday – if mankind ever stops devoting all of his resources to fighting and killing and once again looks to science for ways to actually improve the human condition.

Scorcher [Import]
Scorcher [Import]
Offered by BIGe
Price: CDN$ 23.30
5 used & new from CDN$ 23.30

2.0 out of 5 stars Don't blame me if you get burnt by this one, June 19 2014
This review is from: Scorcher [Import] (DVD)
As if we needed yet another way in which nuclear weapons could destroy life on Earth, along comes Scorcher. Thanks to China detonating a few underground nuclear bombs, the planet’s tectonics are all screwed up, giving rise to earthquakes, volcanic explosions, and even lava spewing up in the Arctic – and that’s not even the bad news. That worrisome Pacific plate has begun moving too far too quickly, and the end result will be a fiery global catastrophe in just three days. Now the fate of mankind rests on the shoulders of two estranged father & daughter scientists, a smart aleck corporal who once had the audacity to hit on the First Lady, and a team of oddball soldiers.

At least we can all be thankful to have a disaster film that doesn’t reunite a divorced couple in the effort to save the world, although we do have the equally clichéd situation of Colonel Beckett (Mark Dacascos) trying to find his estranged daughter while also pulling off a bold and risky mission. And of course you have the bickering father and daughter team of Dr. Matthew Sallin (John Rhys-Davies) and Julie McGrath (Tamara Davies) just happening to be the world’s leading experts on this type of global disaster. Throw in an insane religious nut trying to do his part to purge the earth of sinners and a special agent willing to let life on the planet be exterminated in order to settle a personal grudge, and you’ve got Scorcher.

Needless to say, Scorcher is a most forgettable disaster movie that leaves you asking Why? on far too many occasions. As far as special effects go, it looks just like the low-budget made-for-cable movie that it is. Sure, there is some entertainment value at watching a poorly written disaster flick play out, but Scorcher never even begins to approach “so bad it’s good” status. Unless you’re like me and feel compelled to watch every disaster movie you can get your hands on, just give this one a pass.

Contagio [Import]
Contagio [Import]
DVD ~ Isabelle Stephen
Price: CDN$ 21.23
10 used & new from CDN$ 13.63

1.0 out of 5 stars Torturously slow and underdeveloped, May 30 2014
This review is from: Contagio [Import] (DVD)
You know how some movies start out really slowly and then grab you by the throat at some point? Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those movies. Contagio starts with a whole lot of nothing happening and retains its torturously slow pace throughout 93 of the longest minutes you will ever spend in your life. I was amazed to learn that the filming took place in Mississippi (six days of shooting in all) – not only does this have the look and feel of a bad foreign horror film, the two stars of the show cannot possibly speak English as their first language, routinely emphasizing the wrong syllables of words. Oh, but the fight scenes, such as they are, are a real sight to behold. It’s as if the filmmakers wanted to film the fight scenes in slow motion but couldn’t afford the equipment to do so – so they just told the actors to pretend to perform in slow motion. Apparently, they couldn’t afford a fight choreographer, either, because the lead actress also serves in that role.

If you get off on watching people walk aimlessly through the woods, this is your movie. All we learn about the main characters is that they are a couple who have embarked on a camping vacation in some nameless national forest. After far too much walking, they finally pitch a tent, do what young couples alone in the woods tend to do, and then shuffle off the next morning to meet their destiny. That involves a hole, a crashed satellite, a dark cloud of something that does very bad things to the human body, and government goons in Hazmat suits who arrive on scene to make sure the truth about what has happened never has a chance to get out.

I love blood and gore as much as any horror fan on Earth, but I’m not overly fond of using excessive gore as a crutch to make up for bad writing, bad acting, bad cinematography, etc. There aren’t that many gory scenes in Contagio, but every one of them is excessively gory – usually in a pretty obviously fake way. OK, I’ll admit I did enjoy watching what has to be the longest scene in cinema history of some poor bloke trying to keep his insides from falling out, but the rest of it really didn’t do it for me – largely because I knew the filmmakers were relying on the gore just to sell the film. Mind-numbingly boring with scattered moments of excessive gore – that’s Contagio in a nutshell.

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