Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'The Big Empty' is an apt title

The Big Empty (2003)
Starring: Jon Favreau, Rachael Leigh Cook, Joey Lauren Adams, Daryl Hannah, John Gries, Adam Beach, Bud Cort, Kelsey Grammer, and Sean Bean
Director: Steve Anderson
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A struggling actor (Favreau) is promised money to pay off his overwhelming debts if he go to a small town in the Mojave Desert and wait there with a blue suitcase and bowling ball bag until a man called Cowboy (Bean) comes to claim them. As he waits for his contact, he interacts with the odd inhabitants of a small truck stop... and eventually witnesses what may or may not be alien abductions.

"The Big Empty" is a film full of quirky and interesting characters, portrayed by a cast of talented and charismatic actors. It's got lots of great-looking cinematography that takes full advantage of the locations, perfect pacing, and a minimalist score that comes and goes at the absolute right moments.

Among the actors of particular note are Jon Favreau, as the Everyman drawn into a bizarre situation involving murders and space aliens; Daryl Hannah, John Gries, and Adam Beach are funny and at times more than a little sinister as the small-town folk who may have spent a little too much time in the desert sun; Rachael Leigh Cook is perfect as a teenager who may not just seem like she's some sort of alien but who actually might be one; and Kelsey Grammer and Sean Bean cut mysterious figures who may or may not be involved with aliens visiting Earth, if not actual aliens themselves. The interaction between all these characters is fun to watch, the dialogue is sharp and well-crafted, and you will become drawn into the mysterious swirling through the plot: Just what is in the blue suitcase and what exactly has our hero gotten himself involved in?

Unfortunately, for all the great characters, great writing, and great technical achievement that leads up to the climax of the film, writer/director Steve Anderson chooses to provide absolutely no hints whatsoever as to the ultimate point of the story. We are given some clues--the duster-wearing weirdo character played by Sean Bean identifies himself as someone who helps people "move on," the suitcases [because as the film heads to its climax, one suitcase multiplies into a dozen of them] contain "whatever you need"--the number 11 appears over and over--but Anderson chooses to not provide anything substantial to link these elements, and in the end viewers are left more annoyed than intrigued by the film's ending. As the end credits start to roll, the entire movie takes on a feeling so hollow that one wonders whether the title refers to the desert, the frustration of the main character's drab life, or the box holding Anderson's ideas for what his story meant.

And that's a shame, because the sequence in the desert that makes up the movie's climax is one of the weirdest and most fascinating bits of "aliens walk among us" bit of story telling I've ever seen on screen. However, Anderson's unwillingness to provide any sort of real conclusion ends up undermining everything he's created.

In fact, in some ways, the bonus features on the DVD are almost more interesting than the film itself. Anderson's alternative audio track film commentary is fascinating and interesting, both on the film and on the cut scenes among the bonus features. Particularly interesting are the cut scenes that would have made the desert climax less mysterious (so cutting them was the right thing do do), as well as an alternate ending that would have gone a long way to restoring the magic of that desert scene to the film's final moments (and which might even have made the lack of solid meaning more acceptable because it's so abstract. If you have any fascination whatsoever with the process of filmmaking--be it the creative, technical, or business part--this DVD is one that you want to check out, no matter how flawed the main attraction is.

'The Outlaw Josey Wales' is one of the greatest westerns

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1970)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sam Bottoms, Bill McKinney, John Vernon, and Sondra Locke
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

When his family is killed by renegade Union troops, simple farmer Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) signs up with a band of Confederate irregulars. When the Civil War ends, he refuses to surrender and ends up pursued the leader of the riders who killed his family (McKinney).

"The Outlaw Josey Wales" is one of those gritty 1970s westerns where the west is very wild and extremely savage and honorable (or even decent) people are virtually unheard of. However, in the character of Josey Wales, we have one of cinema's great reluctant heroes, a man whose compassion for his fellow human beings survived the destruction of everything he loved, war, and his own death wish.

Although some of the gunslinging scenes are a bit redundant, Josey's trek west after the end of the Civil War and the adventures he has encounters he has along the way (especially the way he keeps collecting company to ride along with him, whether he really wants to or not) will keep the viewers engaged.

The characters in the film are all interesting and engaging, especially Josey, who on the surface might seem like Eastwood's classic Sergio Leone hero revisited but who is actually so much more, and you'll not notice that this film is well over two hours long until it's over.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Irvin Kershner dead at 87

Director Irvin Kershner, probably the last man employed by George Lucas to ever dare to disagree with him, and who together with writer Leigh Brackett can probably be given much of the credit with making "The Empire Strikes Back" the great movie that it was, passed away on November 29 in his Los Angeles home after a long illness. He was 87.

Born in Philadelphia in 1923, Kershner trained as a musician and in photography before entering the film business in 1950. He first made documentaries about the Middle East, but turned to feature films in the 1960s. He directed a total of 17 movies--among them"The Empire Strikes Back", "Never Say Never Again", "Robocop II" and "The Eyes of Laura Mars"--and around a dozen episodes of television series before retiring in 1997.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen dead at 84

Leslie Nielsen, the handsome actor who started his screen career playing romantic leads and more serious-than-serious heroes, and ended as one of the most famous cinematic clowns, has died. He was 84.

Nielsen passed away Sunday, November 28, in a hospital near his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home surrounded by his wife and close friends. He had reportedly been hospitalized for nearly two weeks prior to his death.

From the mid-1950s through the late 1970s, Nielsen portrayed perfectly straight-laced he-man characters, even when he appeared in comedies. With comedic hits "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun", his career path took him nearly exclusively into the world of nonsense comedies and spoofs for three decades.

Enter to win a free copy of
150 Movies You [Should Die Before You] See

The folks at are giving away three free copies of my book via drawings. Enter by clicking on the link below. (The deadline for entries is December 5.)

Click to enter.

And if you win, please come by here and let me know whether you liked or hated the book. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas is approaching...

... and here's the perfect Christmas gift for that reformed IRA terrorist (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), Muslim extremist (if he's back from the training camp and doesn't feel like cutting your head off), or "anarchist" (if he isn't so stupid he'll pour boiling water in his lap) in your life.

This porcelain tea pot holds about six cups worth of hold water and comes complete with a black balaclava, so your terrorist/anarchist pal will be able to serve tea in a manner he feels comfortable with!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

I hope you all are having a wonderful day, enjoying the time with family and friends and considering how fortunate we are. Even when things are at their worst for us here in the United States, we are better off than many, many people around the world.

Here's a bit of fun by way of a Thanksgiving pageant with Wednesday Addams in the role of Pocahontas (from "Addams Family Values"):

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'The Big Empty' is a little bit of weirdness

The Big Empty (2005)
Starring: Selma Blair, Elias Koteas, Richard Kind, Gabriel Mann, and Hugh Laurie
Director: J. Lisa Chang
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When its discovered that Alice (Blair) has a vagina that serves as the gateway to a vast, frozen wasteland, the doctor who makes the discovery (Koteas) takes her on the lecture and talk show circuits, using her as his own ticket to fame and fortune. But an encounter with a caring young man (Mann) may finally alleviate the painful, cold aching inside her.

I'm not sure what to make of this 21-minute film. My first thought was that maybe it was the story of the pain a woman unable to have children might feel, but toward the end I thought it might be about the emptiness and heartache one feels living without love in one's life. Perhaps the message in this film is a Woman Thing, because I'm left scratching my head.

Despite my uncertainty of what the filmmakers are trying to say, I am impressed with the creativity (and touch of craziness) in the idea of this film, as well in its execution. The oddness of the film isn't restricted to its subject matter, but also to its costume and production design which is a mixture of modern-day and 1950sh sort of look that gives it a timeless, dreamlike quality. It's also impressive that, despite the sad tone that runs through the piece, the filmmakers bring on a high number of laughs as it unfolds, with the cameo appearance by Hugh "Dr. House" Laurie being funny just because of who he is. The concluding special effects shot is also jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

All in all, this is a film that's a fitting work product for all the movie heavy-weights involved, ranging from the well-known actors to executive producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh.

You can watch "The Big Empty" in its entirety via this very post. Just click on the arrow below. I hope you enjoy the film, and I hope you'll share your opinion of it.

(This is actually the first of two films titled "The Big Empty" that I'll be reviewing before November has run its course.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ingrid Pitt dead at 73

Ingrid Pitt, who in survived Nazi concentration camps and dodged East German secret police in her youth, and who went onto become an acclaimed actress appearing in films as diverse as "Where Eagles Dare" and "The House That Dripped Blood", has died. She was 73 years old.

According to the AP, Pitt's daugther, Steffanie Pitt, said that her mother collapsed while on her way to a birthday dinner to be held in her honor over the weekend. Pitt stated that her mother had been in poor health recently, but the cause of Tuesday's death hasn't yet been announced.

(Strangely, I had just yesterday slated Ingrid Pitt to be the Terror Titans Saturday Scream Queen selection for December 4. This isn't the sort of period I like putting at the end of those entries.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Numa-Numa covered by Alina

With a video that's almost as incoherent as the song itself, here's a cover of "Numa-Numa" titled "When You Leave." The performer is Alina Smith--who is mostly uncovered as she covers the song--and it was released in July of 2009.

I'm not sure what makes more sense. Some of the parody lyrics I've posted in the past, or this Alina song.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Satan strikes at Trinidad school?

There's a movie in this... the question is whether it's "The Exorcist V: The Trinidad Ritual", "Satan's School for Girls 2: Caribbean Demon Queen", or "All the Little Girls", a gritty, modern-day version of the Salem Witch Trials.

The Trinidad Guardian: Panic after ‘Devil attack’ at school

Click here for more by this artist
Whichever it is, maybe we can get Oprah to fund the picture in exchange for an executive producer credit?

Monday, November 15, 2010

''Watching the Detectives' not up to legacy

Watching the Detectives (2007)
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Lucy Liu, Michael Panes, and Jason Sudeikis
Director: Paul Soder
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Neil (Murphy), a self-professed film geek and owner of a small video store, has his life turned upside-down when he falls in love with a thrill-seeking woman who may actually be certifiable insane (Liu).

While I was watching "Watching the Detectives", my mind kept flashing back to "Bringing Up Baby", a movie where a decent guy finds his life demolished by a crazed prankster but who finds himself in love with the girl and the excitement she brings to his days. The same dynamic is in effect here, but transplanted to modern-day and set a little bit further down the social latter.

Unfortunately, whenever "Bringing Up Baby" came to mind, this movie was found lacking. Now, it may not be entirely fair to compare anything to one of the greatest romantic comedies ever created, but almost everything that made that movie so great is what's missing in "Watching the Detectives".

"Bringing Up Baby" had a rapid-fire, never-stop-for-breath pace which made the craziness seem even crazier and even the calm moments seem like the characters were running a mile a minute. It was lean with not a second on the screen that was wasted. This movie is nowhere near as swift or trim, and it seems to be jogging from joke to joke rather than sprinting. The pacing of the film is far to languid for the kind of movie it wants to be, which is a modern screwball romantic comedy.

Another bigger problem with the film is that Lucy Liu is no Katherine Hepburn. While Liu is a fun and sexy actress who I've enjoyed even in parts that I felt were badly written (such has her role as the love interest in "Lucky Number Slevin"), she just doesn't have the charisma needed to pull off the sort of character she portrays in this film. She has more energy than a nuclear reactor, tons of sex appeal, and, like always, there seems to be a little bit of crazy lurking just below the surface, but without the charm and grace of a Hepburn, her character comes across as mean-spirited and vicious rather than just a little over-the-top and ultimately loveable. Heck, if Liu had been able to project innocence and naivety like Heather Angel in "Half an Angel" was able to do, she might have worked in the part... but that is even more remote a quality in Liu's bag of acting tricks. While Cillian Murphy is just about perfect in his role, his falling for Liu and tolerating her placing him in real danger just isn't believable, because she doesn't have the "right stuff" for her part.

It also doesn't help that the script never draws back the curtain on the mystery that is Lucy Liu's Violet. She remains as strange and distant to the audience at the end of the film as she was when she first appears in the video store. If the screenwriters had allowed Neil, and the viewers, to get a real glimpse into her world instead of always seeing the results of her lies and manipulations, the character would have seemed a bit more sympathetic and Neil's falling for her a bit more credible. As it stands, the fact Violet remains a cypher makes Liu's lack of charm all the more damaging to the film.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is that it's trying to modernize a type of film that simply can't be made today. The more films I watch, the more convinced I become that actors simply aren't trained in ways that allow them to effectively play the sort of characters found in the old Howard Hawkes-type comedies.

"Watching the Detectives" might be worth seeking out if you're a huge fan of Lucy Liu or Cillian Murphy, but if you are attracted to it, because of the promise of a modern-day screwball comedy, you're going to be disappointed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dino De Laurentiis dead at 91

Prolific Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis has passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 91. Entering the film business in 1941, he reportedly produced over 500 films, spanning almost every genre and budget level. Among his many movies are "Barbarella" and "Danger Diabolik"; the two Conan movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and the Stephen King adaptations "The Dead Zone", "Cat's Eye", "Silver Bullet", "Maximum Overdrive", and "Sometimes They Come Back".

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nine Days of the Ninja: After Action Report

"Nine Day of the Ninja" for 2010 has come and gone, and those mysterious masked assassins have faded back into the shadows. But you never know when they'll show up again at Watching the Detectives, or, more likely, at Movies You Should (Die Before You) See.

I will be doing this again next year. I tried to put my focus in a different place than what is usual for me, which meant staying away from the craptacular ninja movies from Hong Kong. As a result, I learned a few new things about the genre. Visitors and emailers helped broaden my horizons as well. Next year, I'll probably learn a few more Ancient Ninja Secrets, and perhaps this blogathon will even be more than just a one-man show!

But here's an overview of the Great Ninja Onslaught of 2010. Each review is listed on my usual 0-10 Star scale, with 5 and 6 representing films of average quality. A total of 15 films and 3 graphic novels were covered, with two funny YouTube music videos thrown in for good measure.

Day O: Posts Heralding the Coming of "Nine Days of the Ninja"
(Noteworthy mostly for the pictures)
N is for Ninja; that's good enough for me (August 25)
Coming Soon: Nine Days of the Ninja (September 27)
Rushing Toward "Nine Days of the Ninja" (October 29)
Starting Monday: Nine Days of the Ninja (October 29)
Be a Ninja in 30 Seconds of Less! (October 31)

Day One: Enter the Ninja!
The Nine Days of the Ninja are Upon Us!
Ninja the Protector, 1986 (Film Review: 3/10 Stars)
Street Angel, 2006 (Graphic Novel Review: 10/10 Stars)

Day Two: When Ninja Attack!
Cyber Ninja, 1988 (Film Review: 5/10 Stars)

Day Three: Where Ninja Dare!
The Ninja Rap (Music Video Spoof)
Ninjitsu, 1957 (Film Review: 5/10 Stars)

Day Four: Death of a Ninja!
Empowered, Vols 3 & 4, 2008 (Graphic Novel Review, 10/10 Stars)
Ninja Champion, 1980 (Film Review: 1/10 Stars)
Red Shadow, 2004 (Film Review: 7/10 Stars)

Day Five: The Ninja Strikes Back!
The Ninja Glare (Music Video Spoof)
The Pacifier, 2005 (Film Review: 6/10 Stars)

Day Six: Saturday Night Ninja!
The Legend of Bigfoot, 1976 (Film Review: 1/10 Stars)
Ninja Hunt, 1964 (Film Review: 8/10 Stars)

Day Seven: The Passion of the Ninja!
The Machine Girl, 2007 (Film Review: 7/10 Stars)

Day Eight: The Ninja in Winter
Seventeen Ninja, 1962 (Film Review: 7/10 Stars)

Day Nine: The Ninja's Last Stand!
The Complete Street Fighter: Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, and The Street Fighter's Last Revenge, 1974-1979 (Film Reviews: 8/10, 6/10, 5/10)
Golden Ninja Invasion, 1987 (Film Review 3/10 Stars)
Ninja Wars, 1982 (Film Review: 7/10 Stars)

And here are some Ninja Statistics to consider as we wait for the 2011 Nine Days of the Ninja:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Complete Street Fighter

Although the word "ninja" never comes up in the "Street Fighter" series, the character played by Sonny Chiba, in the three movies that collectively make up his most famous effort internationally, sure seems like a ninja to me. So, on this, the final of the Nine Days of the Ninja, I bring you The Complete Street Fighter! Three movies of eye-gouging, penis-ripping glory in which Sonny Chiba takes the ancient art of making goofy faces while doing martial arts to heights that Bruce Lee could only have dreamed of!

If you want to see what REAL martial artists are capable of--what truly talented fighters can do without camera tricks and wire-harnesses--you need to check out these films.

The Street Fighter (1974)
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Waichi Yamada, Yutaka Nakajimam, Akira Shioji, and Tony Cetera
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

When a gruff, anti-social martial-artist-for-hire (Chiba) turns down a Yakuza contract to kidnap the heiress of an oil-based financial empire (Nakajimam), he discovers they'd rather kill him than risk him revealing their plans. So, he does the only sensible thing a human engine of death and destruction can do: He offers his services in protection of the heiress, and proceeds to tear through her enemies like so much tissue paper. However, a callous act of his past will come back to haunt him, complicating his fight against the foot-soldiers of the international crime cartel.

"The Street Fighter" may be a fairly low-tech and low-budget action film, but it shows that martial arts fights scenes don't need wires and CGI to be exciting... they just need actors who really know their stuff!

When it comes right down to it, the plot in this film is pretty nonsensical and so full of holes that it'll collapse if you try to give it even the slightest thought. But who cares? The fight scenes are extremely cool and horribly violent at times. (Is there any other film where the hero has ripped the gonads off a would-be rapist with his bare hand?)

Interestingly, despite the films title, the main character, martial arts mercenary Takuma "Terry" Tsurugi doesn't seem like much of a street fighter. He seems far more like a ninja, both in how he dresses and how he behaves. This is no more clear than in the film's climax where he singlehanded takes on a floating nest of bad guys on an oil tanker. (I also think that this, more than any other film, must have inspired the notion that the purpose of the ninja is to flip out and kill people. Lord knows Terry does some flipping out AND he kills a ton of people in this movie!)

Although "The Street Fighter" was rated X for its eye-gouging, throat-slitting, and penis-ripping graphic violence back when it was first released in 1974, I really didn't see any violence worse than the average slasher flick or "torture porn" movie that gets R-ratings these days. (And unless the censors were a little more artful with this film than usual, I think I viewed an uncut copy.)

"The Street Fighter" is a movie that fans of martial arts and action films need to see. It's a classic of the genre, weak script aside, its got great fight scenes, great soundtrack music (with a catchy theme)... and Sonny Chiba makes more goofy faces while fighting in this single movie than Bruce Lee did in his entire career!

Return of the Street Fighter (1975)
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Masafumi Suzuki, Yôko Ichiji, Masashi Ishibashi, and Hiroshi Tanaka
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Takuma "Terry" Tsurugi (Chiba) opens a new can of whup-ass when Otaguro (Tanaka), the master of a martial arts school that's serving as a money-laundering front for an international partnership forged by the Mafia and Yakuza, targets the incorruptible martial arts master Masaoka (Ishibashi) for death. But can even Terry's powerful Karate carry the day when female assistant (Suzuki) is plotting with Otaguro, and an old and deadly enemy returns from the grave to confront him?

"Return of the Street Fighter" has fight scenes as great as the ones in the first movie. Some are even better, like the Terry's mountain-top fight against a band of expert martial artists armed with traditional Japanese weapons, or his confrontation and battle with Jonju, whose pulse someone clearly should have thought to take as the end credits rolled on "The Street Fighter". Oh, and while Terry does about the same amount of skull-cracking, bone-breaking and internal organ crushing as in the first film, he doesn't make nearly the same amount of funny faces while doing it. (Those are reserved almost entirely for the climactic battle where Terry takes on a whole building full of gangsters.)

Although the story is full of logical lapses and incomprehensible actions on the part of the characters, the story is a bit stronger, because it draws the lines between the good guys and bad guys a bit more clearly. Terry may be even more amoral and money-grubbing than he was in the first film, as he starts this film in the employ of the gangsters as an assassin. However, his change-of-heart to join the side of the good guys appears to be motivated by a sense of justice... or at least a desire for revenge, because the employers he turns against here make the international gangsters from "The Street Fighter" look like a bunch of Mormon missionaries.

With a slightly stronger storyline, more evil bad guys and lots of cool martial arts scenes (which include a little Wire-Fulooooooong flashbacks that consist of clips taken from "The Street Fighter". Some 10-15 minutes of the film's 83-minute running time is included for no reason other than to make the film longer.

(Interestingly, the filmmakers almost entirely avoided the one bit of recycling I wish they had engaged in--the reusing of the "Street Fighter Theme" from the original film. I think we only hear it once in this film.)

It's a shame the director or producers couldn't be content with a 70 or 75 minute film. Just losing the bulk of the padding would have made this a far superior movie (and would have earned it a 7-rating in my eyes). It's still entertaining, and if you enjoy martial arts films I think you'll get a kick out of Terry Tsurugi second round against international organized crime.

The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (1979)
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Reiko Ike, Koji Wada, Tatsuo Endo, Akira Shiojo, Sue Shihomi, and the Voice of George Takai
Director: Shigehiro Ozawa
Steve's Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Mercenary martial arts expert (read ninja!) Takuma "Terry" Tsurugi (Chiba) is hired by a criminal syndicate to secure the secret formula for a synthetic type of heroin that can be manufactured for virtually nothing. Instead of paying Terry the agreed-upon-sum, the gangster try to cheat and kill him--will they never learn?--which causes Terry to kick much ass and steal part of the formula to hold it until he is paid. When a corrupt district attorney (Wada) and an exceptionally slutty vamp (Ike) get in on the action, even more ass is kicked, and much crossing and double-crossing takes place. Will Terry EVER get paid?!

"The Street Fighter's Last Revenge" is the second and final sequel to "Street Fighter". It has a few improvements over "Return of the Street Fighter", but, overall, it's another step downward quality-wise.

On the upside, the film is as fast-paced as the original "Street Fighter", perhaps even moreso, because it is virtually padding-free. There are no long, nearly pointless sequences of students practicing martial arts (as we had in the original film) nor are there reels worth of repeated footage (as we had in "Return of the Street Fighter"). In fact, there is hardly a quiet moment in the entire film--even a semi-romantic/comic interlude ends up presenting some action.

On the downside, the film has a rushed quality to it. The foley work is downright pathetic, with the same sound being used for a ribcage being crushed as for a punch in the face, and the same same gun sound for a shotgun or a revolver. The fight scenes are not nearly as impressive or well-choreographed as in the first two films, and there is more one instance where even the camera placement is off to the point where it's evident that blows aren't actually connecting.

Even more disappointing is the change that has been made to the character of Terry Tsurugi; in this film, his in-your-face brutality has been dialed back a couple of notches and his apartment has sprouted secret compartments and he has developed disguise skills that rivals those of the agents from "Mission Impossible". He's even making fewer funny faces while channeling his chi and breaking people's bones. (He still has his moments of extreme brutality, such as when he tosses a foe into an oven in a crematorium and turns on the fire, but, overall, he comes across as if he was James Bond with a smaller operating budget and no social graces.)

For the dubbed English language version, there are the additional problems of what I am certain amounts to bad translations that end up making it hard to identify who the various factions in the film are, the fact that most of the voice actors are so bad that shouldn't even be allowed to do computer game voices, and that it's very distracting to hear George Takai doing one of the film's villains. Someone with such a distinctive voice shouldn't really be doing live-action dubbing once their face is famous.

Although fast-paced and entertaining, "The Street Fighter's Last Revenge" is a disappointing close to the series. While the finale of the film involves an explosion, it still closes the book on the Street Fighter not with a bang but with a whimper. (Come to think of it, even Terry's final lines have a bit of a whiny, whimpering quality to them. Of course, if I was looking at the terrible sight he was gazing upon, I'd feel a bit whiny too.)

Click here for information

Monday, November 8, 2010

John Nolte: Where's Hollywood's Love for BHO?

Columnist and movie critic Jim Nolte has written an amusing commentary about how the celebretards are turning their backs on The One.

"Poor Barack, in Hollywood today he doesn’t even rate above a child rapist."

Click on the link to read his column. Is he right?

Personally, I think he may be counting the Hollywood Obammunists out a little too soon. I'm anticipating a rising level of nonsense and continued Obama idolatry from them, with the floodgates of stupidity and hysteria to be destroyed around June 2012. The cries of "vote for Obama, you stupid-heads or I'm gonna leave your stupid country because you're all stupid stupid stupid-heads" (like Alec Baldwin and Johnny Depp did when Bush was running for re-election) and threats to commit suicide if Obama isn't elected (like Tina Fey did, during the 2008 election) will get so bad that it'll make Randy Quaid's claims of being hunted by the Hollywood Star Whackers seem well-balanced and sane.

Because while, as Notle says, Hollywood celebretards can't stand the appearance of failure, most of them also do whatever they're told. And the Democrat party is going to continue to tell them to support Obama.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' on TMC tonight!

About once a year, I have a moment when I wonder if my long-standing choice of not having cable TV is in my best interest. For 2010, that moment is now.

On Sunday, November 7 at 8pm (tonight!), Turner Classic Movies is playing the television premiere of the newly restored version of "Metropolis" starring Brigitte Helm. The version being aired will feature 24 minutes that reportedly haven't been seen by the public in half a century or more.

"Metropolis" is the coolest silent sci-fi flick of them all, and, without question, one of the coolest sci-fi flicks ever. It's the story of a futuristic society threatened with destruction when a pair of young idealists attempt to bring equality and justice to its workers... and the city's leader tries to prevent change through some shocking means. If you're not like me, and you have cable television, I recommend watching it. Meanwhile, here are some pictures to whet your appetite.

For my take on some slient movies, click here to visit Shades of Gray.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bigfoot: The World's Greatest Ninja?

If there's one creature who is more elusive than a Master Ninja, it's Bigfoot. He goes where he wants, when he wants, and no one is ever really able to see him. And this despite the fact that some "Bigfoot scholars" believe he's a migratory animal who moves up and down the northwest coast, passing unseen through some pretty well-inhabited areas.

Movie critic and political commentator Michael Medved believes in Bigfoot, so who am I to question? I wonder if the film I'm reviewing today convinced him. It's probably one of the finest pieces of Bigfoot scholarship, even if they don't address the theory that Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) are big hairy Ninja the likes of which exist nowhere in the world but my home of the American Northwest.

(Although I don't quite get how Bigfoot can be so stealthy when he apparently stinks worse than a Venezuelan garbage dumb in July.)

The Legend of Bigfoot (1976)
Starring: Ivan Marx and Peggy Marx
Director: Harry Winer
Rating: One of Ten Stars

This film is supposedly a documentary that chronicles a ten-year quest by a professional tracker to determine the migratory habits of Bigfoot and to acquire irrefutable film documentation of their existence. It's actually a collection of nature photography that wasn't quite good enough to make it into the PBS and Mutual of Omaha programs, intermingled with out-of-focus shots of guys in fur-suits and rubber feet.

"The Legend of Bigfoot" is crushingly dull unless you're really REALLY into Bigfoot and nature films. And even if you're really REALLY into nature films, you're going to find yourself wishing that Marx would get to some point, or that Bigfoot would rear up and eat him. At the very least, I suspect you're going to find yourself reaching for the remote so you can scan past the boring bits. What do wild pigs have to do with Bigfoot? What do Caribou hunters have to do with Bigfoot? What do "ground squirrels in love" have to do with Bigfoot? While the ground squirrels are damn cute, they have NOTHING do to with Bigfoot, yet we are treated to scenes of all the above that seem as long as the ten years Marx supposedly hunted Bigfoot. (Oh... and what self-respecting tracker drives a red VW Bug, even if it was the Seventies? And drives it into the remote central Washington back country in the middle of winter?)

Will the film make you believe in Bigfoot? Only if you can believe that someone and/or his camera crew is capable of getting crystal clear film of any living animals except the mysterious, stinky Bigfoot. As hoaxes/mocumentaries go, this is very badly done. It's far more likely that, if the film doesn't put you to sleep, it will motivate you to change the station the next time they're discussing the critter on "Coast-to-Coast AM". The theories featured in "Legend" are almost as stupid as the ones they aspouse on that show--Bigfoot as an extra-dimensional visitor is actually almost more believable than Bigfoot as migratory animal that literally moves as fast on the ground as Canada Geese fly through the air.

Supposedly, Ivan Marx--the tracker whose quest is documented in this film, and who supposedly took the blurry images of Bigfoot--was a leader in the field of Bigfoot research. I am definitely in the wrong line of work. The bar for being taken seriously in the field of Bigfoot scholarship must be seriously low, perhaps even lower than that in the field of studying scantily clad women to prove they cause earthquakes.

The people who take Bigfoot research seriously must also be very stupid, if "The Legend of Bigfoot" is the sort of material they consider valid. (Although this essay at explains exactly what sort of documentarian Marx is. In brief, he's a fraud who makes Michael Moore look like Ken Burns. If "serious Bigfoot scholars" do web searches, they probably know what a piece of trash this film is.)

Why this film was included in the "Chilling Classics" DVD multipack--which is where I came across it--I'll never know. Perhaps someone mistook it for the Bill Rebane film known as "The Legend of Big Foot" (note the space), but never bothered to actually watch it before doing the digital transfer. Or maybe they got so bored they figured it HAD to be a Bill Rebane film. (And I apologize to Mr. Rebane for dumping on him while not even reviewing one of his movies. After all, I plenty of that here.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Ninja Glare

More Ninja Music. I wonder if Ninjas are into rap, or if they prefer classic Motown.

In observance of Guy Fawkes Night...

V for Vendetta (2006)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, and John Hurt
Director: James McTeigue
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

In the chaotic world of the near future, Great Britain is ruled by a facist government led by the charismatic Adam Sutler (Hurt). Sutler's government controls everything from top to bottom--the schools, all media outlets, the police, everything--but when a radical, flamboyant terrorist known only as "V" (Weaving) starts a one-man war against the government, Sutler senses the danger and unleashes the might of the government against him. But "V" outsmarts the authorities at every turn, including the loyal civil servant Chief Inspector Finch (Rea). But as Finch investigates "V", he uncovers such dire implications about his government that he finds himself wondering if "V" may not be in the right.

When this film was first released, I saw many people refer to it as an instant classic. I didn't believe that to be the case then--even setting aside the fundamental stupidity of the statement--and I believe it even less now. The movie adaptation has the same problem the graphic novel upon which it is based had... too much of both are ham-fisted screeds against political trends of the moment (the graphic novel railed in a nearly hysterical fashion against British politics of the 1980s, and the movie goes out of its way to take juvenile and simpleminded jabs at American politics of the early 2000s) with too little timeless commentaries on the issues of government vs. personal freedoms and what is right and wrong in politics and society.

(That said, the world of the movie does feel as if it's a tiny bit closer now, at least as far as the absolutely worthless media goes, especially here in the United States. Never have so many journalists been so eager to do the bidding of the politicians.)

Having recently "V for Vendetta", though, I remain confused about why Alan Moore (the writer of the graphic novel) hated it so much. The film captured the essense of the original book just fine. Is it because the filmmakers fleshed out the character of Evey (Portman) with a somewhat overly melodramatic backstory? Is it because the movie was so faithful to the core of the graphic novel that they turned out an adaptation as dated as the original book is, thus showing that the Emperor wasn't wearing much in the way clothing? (Don't get me wrong... "V for Vendetta" is well-written, and I enjoyed reading it, but it's no different than the "Captain Marvel Jr." comics of the 1940s as far as the relevance it's going to have to future readers. Heck, it might even have less, because David Lloyd is no Mac Raboy.)

At any rate, the film features some nice performances--Portman and Rea are particularly excellent in their parts--and its few action scenes are well done as well. Unfortunately, the film exposes a difficulty in translating a comic book character to the screen... what looks cool on a printed page can come across as lifeless or silly when its set in motion. This is the case with "V", the vengeful terrorist at the center of the story. The Guy Fawkes mask and pilgrim get-up was spooky in the comic, but it borders on goofy here.

This isn't a bad film, but it's going to be embarrasingly dated in just a few years. (Come to think of it, the movie will be even more dated than the graphic novel because it's even more ham-fisted and simpleminded in its criticism of increasingly distant blip in history.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Something I failed to post, because I've been busy....

The blogs have been running mostly on auto-pilot the past week or so--the magic of pre-scheduling posts mean that I can be away and still post snarky elections comments and get the Nine Days of the Ninja started!--but this post at Who Wants Taters? reminded me that I wanted to put up this video:

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

I agree with every sentiment that Stewart expresses in his closing remarks to his "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear." However, I question the sincerity of his overall effort. I didn't have time to watch the entire broadcast, but I can't help but wonder where the mockery of left-wing nutburgers were. We had Colbert doing his usual satire of right-wingers, but where was the same skewering of the left-wing freaks, like Code Pink and several of the regular columnists at the Huffington Post. (Of course, maybe Stewart was unable to take shots as them, since they were kicking in contributions to make the rally happen.)

It's possible that the lefties had spears lobbed at them when I wasn't looking. Like I missed most of this bit in the next clip, a "debate" between Stewart and Colbert.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon and Stephen - Formidable Opponent
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

(And I guess in this skit, Colbert is channeling nutters from all walks of American society.)

'Red Shadow' brings sharp objects and ninja laughs

Red Shadow (2004)
Starring: Masanobu Ando, Megumi Okina, Jun Murakamim and Kumiko Aso
Director: Hiroyuki Nakano
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Three young Ninjas (Ando, Aso and Morakamim) of a clan devoted to keeping peace among the many warring nobles of 16th century Japan inadvertantly find themselves at odds with a completing Ninja cland and in the middle of a plot to overthrow Princess Koto (Okina) by powerhungry and bloodthirsty members of her court.

"Red Shadow" is a fast-moving action-comedy with cool and honorable (if occassionally clumsy) Ninjas, sinister and treacherous Samurai that presents just the right mix of action, humor, drama and over-the-top Ninja action to make it a fun viewing experience from beginning to end. Good acting and a neat pop-rock, guitar-driven soundtrack also adds greatly to the both the fun and the excitement.

With great looking sets and costumes, virtually no blood and no sex or nudity, this is a Ninja film that the entire family can enjoy together. The story is a bit disjointed at times, but the exceptional quality in all other departments make up for this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great election news!

Oklahoma passed a measure that restricts courts from considering foreign laws when ruling. Including the barbaric excesses of Sharia law.

Oklahoma voters ban shariah law - Hindustan Times

An article by the AP quoted anonymous "members of the Muslim community" as stating that this law is "an attack on Islam" and that "they are prepared to file a lawsuit challenging the measure."

Good for them. That is how the American system works.

Although one wonders why they are in the United States if they want to live under a system where rape victims get stoned to death for being raped, where thieves get their hands cut off, and anyone who speaks out against the prevailing majority or some crackpot cleric can be put to death.

And it's not "Islamophobia" to pass such laws. All one has to do is look at Great Britain, Denmark, and Michigan (okay... not just yet in that last place) to see what happens if Muslims aren't forced to live under the laws of the civilized nations they immigrate to.

In other news, "Isabellathecrusader" celebrated the passage of the Oklahoma measure with song:

O-O-OKLAHOMA, Where officials seem to have some brains,
Where Islamaphobes, Don't wear no robes,
And where girls don't die from being blamed!

Oklahoma, cancelled Sharia before it spread,
Where it's fine to talk, and people balk,
If you tell them do this or you're dead!

We know Muslims don't belong here,
Cuz we ain't gonna give up our beer!
And when we say
Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!
We're only sayin'
You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma O.K.

The Ninja Rap

Too bad Godfrey Ho isn't making ninja movies anymore. He'd undoubtedly want to snatch this up and use it somehow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's November 2nd... get out and vote!

If you can vote in the current election in the United States and haven't, get going! It's important to vote. Just ask Lady Godiva. She's got a reason you should vote whether you favor Republicans or Democrats. Highlight the text to see what they are.

If you support the Democrats, please vote because the Republican prudes want to outlaw naked horseback riding.

If you support the Republicans, please vote because the Democrats will use your tax dollars to buy clothes for me so I don't cause global warming by making men hot and bothered while riding my horse naked.

'Cyber Ninja' has it all except the kitchen sink

Cyber Ninja (1988)
Starring: Hanbei Kawai, Hiroki Ida, Shôhei Yamamoto, Eri Morishita, Makoto Yokoyama, and Masaaki Emori
Director: Keita Amemiya
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

In the far future, the Suwabeh Clan is locked in a final desperate battle against a society of techno-demons who are turning human warriors into cybernetic ninjas while preparing for when the Stars Are Right to unleash their demon god upon the world. At the eleventh hour, they receive surprise assistance from one of the cyber ninjas, who is on a quest to reunite his soul with his body.

"Cyber Ninja" is probably some sort of mile stone in cross-genre craziness. The film covers the fantasy aspect with sorcery and echoes of ancient Japan feudal culture with its princesses, house retainers, ninja, ronin, and samurai, and it hits the sci-fi genre with giant battle-mechs--that mirror the fantasy aspect by looking like pagodas--and armies of robot ninja vs. cybernetically enhanced samurai, and it brings in horror with some fairly dastardly demons and the uber-demon they are about to summon to ravish the world.

Unfortunately, it's not an achievement in story-telling, and all those various elements just sort of swirl around and bump into each other in a chaotic mess that makes very little sense. However, I think this is one of those movies that 10 year old boys will get a huge kick out of. They will be so enamoured with the robot ninjas, waving swords and giant battle-mechs they won't notice the complete lack of logic to much of the activities by both the good guys and the bad guys, nor will they notice that the battle-mechs look more like a row of outhouses than the mechanized castles they're supposed to be. Kids might not even notice how absolutely rediculous some of the voice acting in the dubbed version is. (The Dark Bishop would have been laughed out of Evil College with a voice like that.)

Trivia: Director/co-writer Keita Amemiya created several genre-mixing movies and anime series during the 1980s and 1990s, the most famous of them being the "Zeram" movies and cartoons. He was also the main creative force behind the sci-fi/fantasy film hybrid "Moon Over Tao".

The deadliest of blogathons....

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Case of the Fake Sienna

For the past many weeks, the Saturday Scream Queens profile of "Resident Evil"-star Sienna Guillory has been sporting the picture immediately below. Although I think that looks like Sienna Guillory, I have been misleading literally tens of thousands of Googlers.

That is not, in fact, a picture of Sienna Guillory. It's underwear model Alessandra Ambrosio. She isn't even an actress, but is quite literally an underwear model. I think I must have mislabled the photo while searching for suitable subjects for the Tectonic Tuesdays series. (And they don't come much more suitable than Ms. Ambrosio. We'll be seeing more of her in 2011, I'm certain.)

The photo to the right is one of Sienna Guillory. The two ladies look somewhat similar, so I'm not as embarrassed by the mistake as I might otherwise have been. But I do feel bad for all those wrong Google hits. (On the other hand, it gave me another excuse to post photos of beautiful women, so it's not all bad. And maybe Guillory will also have to be the subject of a Tectonic Tuesday profile when they start up again.)

The Nine Days of the Ninja are Upon Us!

For the next nine days, Ninjas will be popping up all over my blogs--and perhaps elsewhere if someone has decided to take part in the Blogathon, and I hope that you'll email me your links to be posted here f you do--but they have been lurking in the shadows all along...

This post provides a listing of previous Ninja incursions at Cinema Steve. I will update post additional indexes as I think they are necessary, probably every two or three days if I don't get any outside links.

At any rate, I, and the Ninja, thank you for your attention! (They may try to pretend they're all secretive and mysterious, but Ninja are attention whores when it comes right down to it. That's why they dress in black masks and black footie pajamas everywhere they go.)

Reviews of the Ninja! (Movie and Graphic Novel Reviews)

Picture Perfect Ninja!

Only Ninja with valid Union Cards can take part in Nine Days of the Ninja
(Cinema Steve is proudly NAG [Ninja & Assassins Guild] compliant. )