Tuesday, December 23, 2014


There is no way that I can present a Christmas gift to each and every reader of this column. At this time of year I most often let you know about the best Christmas movie to watch. For me that remains constant with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. But rather than say that once again this year I thought I might pass along some information to each of you, a gift if you will, of something to do with your movie collection in the upcoming year.

For some time now I’ve looked at my movies as they arrived and seen the words ultraviolet and digital on them. The problem was that I never looked deeper into it than in reading those words or noticing the purple and white sheets contained in each DVD. That all changed a while back and now I want to share that with you.

You see we’re moving into a different world, a time when the word digital is becoming more prevalent. First it was music that went from tape to CD to mp3. Now movies are heading that same direction, from VHS to DVD and now to digital format. Like every new idea that comes along the change can be frightening to some. I’m hoping this makes it easy for all of you. If it helps, then my guess is many of you will be placing the DVDs you receive as gifts into your own digital accounts.

To begin with what is this digital world? Well simply put it’s a way for you to take the movies that you own and store them online in the cloud, the ever growing atmosphere of storage that means you can take various items you own and access them through different means. In the case of movies it means you can download the code for the movie you purchased and watch it without ever loading the disc into a machine. It also means you can have access to that movie anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet and a device to watch it on like a laptop, PC or tablet. And it’s easier to do than you think. Let me help.

To begin with all you have to do is create an account in your name. Start by going creating an ultraviolet account. Go to and do so. It takes just a few minutes and requires little more than an email account, creating a use name & password and a few bits of information. This creates an account to which you can download your digital films. On to the next step.

Log out of that account and you can move on to two different locations to manager your movies, Vudu and Flixster. For myself I prefer Vudu but either will work and both take about the same time and information to start an account. Again, use an email account and come up with a user name and password after supplying some basic information. Go to to start this. You’ll notice right away that it wants to offer you movies. That’s another benefit I’ll get into shortly.

Once you’ve gone through the registration of this account you can log in. Now you’ll notice that across the top of their page it says “Movies & TV”. If you click on that another offering says “My VUDU”. This will be where your movies and TV series are stored. When you purchase a new movies, let’s use GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as an example, included in the box the movie comes in is a purple and white sheet that has a code on it. This sheet usually tells you where to go to redeem this code. When you visit that web site it will ask what program to save it under. In my case I select Vudu (though it will be in all of my accounts when I link them together). The other option is to search Vudu for that title. In the case of this film it pops up and I click on it. When the information for the movie pops up you’ll see several options, once of which is “Redeem”. When you click on that it asks for the code on your sheet, you type it in and it adds that movie to your collection. You’re done.

This means that now you can watch this movie anywhere you have the access I mentioned earlier. Not only that you also have the option to share your collection with 5 other people anywhere. This means if you have kids in college and want to share your collection with them you can. Or maybe, as in my case, with your parents. And the sharing doesn’t cost a thing other than time to invite them via email and their creating their own account as well. The nice part is you keep your movies in house while sharing them at the same time.

In using this to store your movies you don’t have to take up shelf space and have easy access to them all. Many blu-ray players come with Vudu installed as do Roku and more. I know that Kindle doesn’t have Vudu but it does Flixster, the other storage program I talked about. All of these programs are user friendly and take little time to deal with. The most time you will spend (other than using it) is in putting all of your movies into it. One thing to note is the difference between TV and movie downloads. Make sure if your download doesn’t show for some reason in one that it isn’t in the other.

Lastly I mentioned that when Vudu opens you’ll see movies for sale. That’s because they also sell digital copies of movies too. For instance as I’m writing this I see A WALK AMONG TOMBSTONES and THE GUEST both available for purchase in advance of their being released on DVD. I don’t know for sure if they open now or the day of release but you can purchase these movie without leaving your home this way at about the same costs you would pay at the local store. The same holds true for select TV series as well. Want to own THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 1? It’s on sale there for $15.99 in HD or $10.99 in standard definition.
As I said in the beginning this is my Christmas gift to you all, a way to store your movies with easy access or to buy new releases without ever leaving your home. So don’t be afraid of new technology and embrace it instead. You’ll find that using ultraviolet isn’t as bad as you might think and might enjoy it. Above all else I would like to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Click here to go to ultraviolet

Click here to go to Vudu

Click here to go to Flixster


The past few years have been very good to movies based on comic books. While those based on DC comics have been slow out of the gate movies based on Marvel comics licenses have skyrocketed. Perhaps the most surprising of these was a movie based on a lesser known and not hugely popular comic that took the box office by storm. Not only was it a surprise hit it just might be the best of the Marvel movies released to date. That movie arrives on DVD this week and is called GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
The movie opens with a young boy confronted with the death of his mother to cancer. Running from the hospital he finds himself beamed aboard a UFO. Fast forward some years later and we see that boy now grown landing on a desolate planet devoid of human life forms. He steals an orb from a futuristic safe and is then set upon by minions of Ronan the Accuser out to take the orb for their leader. When he tells them his name is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) otherwise known as Star Lord they are less than impressed, not even recognizing it. That adds to their surprise when he takes back the orb and flees with them hot on his trail.

Quill is out to make some money by taking the orb he was sent to steal to a dealer and bypassing his leader, the head of the Ravagers known as Yondu (Michael Rooker). At the same time Ronan (Lee Pace) has set his own special warrior to retrieve the orb, Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The dealer cancels the deal when he learns of Ronan’s involvement and Gamora tries to take the orb. At that same moment an unlikely pair of fortune seekers reads that Yondu has put a price on Quills head. The pair is Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) who actually is a raccoon, and his partner Groot (Vin Diesel), a walking talking plant. As the four struggle for control of one another they are eventually captured by the space police known as the Nova Corp.

Sent to the worst prison in the universe the four make a deal to get the orb and take it to a buyer Gamora is aware of. It turns out she hates Ronan and is double crossing him. When they arrive at the prison she is set upon by a few inmates, specifically Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). When Drax learns that Gamora was not responsible for the murder of his family, he joins with the foursome to plan their escape so he can seek revenge.

Escape they do and from there the adventure moves forward with alarming speed. Moving from one part of the universe to another, pursued by Ronan who is working for a cosmic bad guy named Thanos (Josh Brolin) and wanted by the Nova Corp, the five misfits join forces to do what it right. Eventually that comes down to facing off against Ronan after he has taken the orb and utilized it to his advantage. By the third act the now called Guardians of the Galaxy have united with the Nova Corp and try to save a world from being obliterated.

I have to say that words cannot begin to describe how much I enjoyed this movie, so much so that watching it on DVD was my third viewing. I can tell you that it holds up to multiple viewings and is one that I’ll probably watch every few months, enjoying it each and every time. This movie offers the near perfect combination of action, humor, worlds of wonder and space opera unlike any seen before. Watching this movie brought back memories of the first time I saw STAR WARS. It is that good.
The driving force that brought this about was director James Gunn, a man who labored under some truly bad movies for Troma but who has grown into an accomplished director who knows how to do it right. Once you include some amazing performances by all around and in particular Pratt who brings Quill to life, you have a great flick. That is just added to by the eye popping special effects on scene here from the basic aliens done with make up to the state of the art CGI effects that bring Rocket and Groot to life.

While these things combine to make it look great, the story itself takes it over the top. This is a tale of misfits, a group of people who don’t quite fit in anywhere, who band together to form something good. In the process they begin to become friends and to care for one another. At times they frustrate one another and at others they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to save their group as well as the Universe. In so doing these criminals become the greatest of heroes.

This year I’ve seen more movies than usual not just on DVD but in theaters. I can say now without a doubt that this was by far my favorite film of the year. My guess is that due to its popularity and the fact it is comic book based it won’t be nominated for any major awards with the exception of effects. That’s too bad because for me this was the best movie of the year. Add it to your collection today.
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There have been a number of movies based on true life tales that involve football. All of them are inspirational in their own way. It seems as movie goers we must love these tales because each one has done well at the box office, some becoming movie favorites that last forever in the hearts of those who view them. Just added to that list is WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL. Does it deserve to be on that list? Indeed it does.
The movie is based around the De La Selle High School Spartans, a team that held an incredible winning streak of 151 games undefeated. No other football team, pro or high school, has held a streak to match. And yet the soul of the team is what makes it special. Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) does want to have a winning team but for him the most important thing is the team itself, the men that these young boys will one day become. It striving for that goal the winning team follows suit.

The film begins with the team on their winning streak and a new season about to start soon. It offers us a glimpse into how the team comes together to form a bonding unit rather than single stars. At the same time we get a glimpse of how a rising star can fall short of the goals the coach sets out to achieve. It’s not about that single player but about the team as a whole.
And then two crushing blows come to the team. The first is a heart attack suffered by the coach. Secret cigarette smoking has led him to this and it nearly costs him his life. It’s a set back for the team as he works to recover from his illness while his backup coach puts them through the paces that summer as they prepare for next season.

Things go from bad to worse when one of their best players, a young man who has a bright future ahead of him is gunned down. The shooting is the result of his bragging attitude on a basketball court, a gunman who wants to show him he’s not all that he thinks he is. The death of this player affects his best friend most, a player who feels that people are dying all around him and he doesn’t deserve a chance at a better life. The pair had played together since grade school and been in line to start the next year at Oregon University. But the death also takes its toll on the rest of the team as well.
The coach recovers and takes control of the team once again prior to the new season. But something has happened to them in the meantime. The events of the past few months have become a burden on the team. Coupled with the extra burden of carrying on the tradition of no losses it becomes too much and the team is beaten in their first game. Distraught and disillusioned with the game, they now face a dilemma. Can they regain the glory they once had or are they doomed to failure? More importantly has it all boiled down to making records, to being victorious or is it about brotherhood, bonding together and becoming the men that the coach intended them to be from the start?

Fans of football will love this movie. There is more on field action here than in most movies I’ve seen in this genre. At the same time there are the stories of those involved with the team. The coach who has put his family on the back burner for years while getting close with his teams. The son who only wants to have his father in his life as his coach. The young man who feels the weight of having no one left in his life but his little brother and now has the opportunity to move forward. The father who lives so vicariously through his son’s achievements that he places more value on the prizes than he does the affections of his child. These characters and their stories make this movie more than just a football film.
Caviezel does a fine job in the lead, showing a maturity that has come with age and is on display in all his moves. Laura Dern as his loving and supportive wife who longs for more time with him is equal to his performance. Michael Chiklis as his right hand man and fellow coach comes through in a pinch when needed. Clancy Brown as the glory seeking father living through his son’s achievements is the heel of the film and does it gloriously. And each of the young men playing the team members act as a team as much as the characters they portray. They don’t stand out alone but work together to bring the story to life.

The movie is an inspiration as opposed to a look at how football is played. As I said, it’s about the team and the boys who make up that team on their way to manhood. Knowing that someone like coach Ladouceur was out there helping to form these boys this way gives you hope for the future. What more could you ask for?
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Movies that predict what our future will be like have always shown a world where something is just not quite right. They’ve veered from the fatalistic showing us a barbaric world with marauding hordes to pristine worlds that had no hope. But on occasion those worlds differ from what we’ve been offered before and we get a glimpse of what could be as well as what we could become.

THE GIVER takes us to a future more in line with that second category. In this future, everyone is content and has their job to do. There is no war, no illness, no suffering. While no one is sad and expressions of happiness are limited, they exist and do well for themselves, living in the Community. Everyone lives in a clean home with a generic family. Young people grow knowing that one day they will be chosen for the job they’ve been destined to do, one they are suited for. But the price paid for this seeming utopia is high. With nothing bad how can anything good be recognized?

The story focuses around Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young man about to turn 18 and face his focus in life. But therein lies the problem. While others have known what they were suited for, Jonas has never felt comfortable in any choice. He sees the world differently than most and can’t explain it.

The annual ceremony is held where the elderly are sent to elsewhere and where 18 year olds are given their positions. When Jonas’ turn arrives he is skipped over. This is not because he isn’t suited for a position but because, as they all discover, he is chosen for the most exalted position, that of the future Giver.

When he shows for his assignment at a house on the edge of the Community, he meets the current Giver (Jeff Bridges). He is slowly developed by the Giver to receive information. It has been passed down this way for generations. All that once was is transferred from the old to the new, everything from emotions to history. Jonas is suddenly aware of all that he has never experienced and at first wants more. When he sees pain and war he hesitates though.

With each passing day Jonas feels more alive than ever. In a bland world of black and white he suddenly sees a world of color (they’ve even chosen to forgo colors because it might lead to confrontation). In his joyous state he begins sharing some of these things with Fiona (Odeya Rush), a friend and girl he’s felt something for without ever having been able to recognize that emotion…until now. When he convinces her to stop her morning injections (the entire world has them) she begins to see and feel too.

Under the watchful eye of the government and its main leader the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), Jonas’ indiscretion is caught. His trying to share things with both Fiona and his family are not taken lightly. His own mother (Katie Holmes), a chief enforcement agent, turns on him and tries to stop him. But with the door open to a new way of living, with the possibilities that are out there, Jonas wants to share this new world and give people the chance at true freedom. When he learns what elsewhere truly means, how it not only does the unexpected with the elderly but with newborns as well, his mind is made up.

With the help of the Giver, Jonas intends to change his world forever. But the entire Community is told he has gone rogue. A land of passivity wants nothing to do with freedom nor the possibilities it holds. The leaders will do everything in their power to stop Jonas. Only he holds the key to the future.

So much of this tale is told in the trailers that were seen before the movie was released. Many already knew the story having read the best seller. What is fun to watch here is the world and its beauty laid out for Jonas to see as his eyes are literally opened. It’s a look at a world that many of us currently take for granted and one that people in his world have no knowledge of.

Everything about the production of this film ranks high. The photography, acting, story and effects combine to make a mystical tale of what could be. What happens in the end, if Jonas can succeed or not, holds you in a tight grip. You’re not sure if he will win the day or be stopped. In today’s films that sometimes happens. But the journey to discover what will occur is one that you will enjoy. Another movie to add to the collection on the shelf.

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I’m often surprised by critics who find cause to ridicule action films. They decry the lack of a deep plot, find the acting to be wooden at best and in general discuss how unbelievable the movie is. What they miss is that these are the exact things that fans of those films love about them. This is why little was heard about THE EXPENDABLES 3. Then again it seems they love to pound on star/writer Sylvester Stallone anytime he makes a movie these days.

As most already know the series of films revolve around a group of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Stallone). Unlike most merc groups this one seems to have a heart and doesn’t take on jobs that they don’t approve of; they’re not a do anything for a buck type group. They’re also very loyal to one another and consider honor something worth dying for.

As the film opens up the team is on and rescue mission, saving a prisoner from a moving train named Doc (Wesley Snipes). The usual hair raising, death defying, explosion filled moments come and go but it isn’t until things settle that we discover this was personal. Snipes was one of their own they just now were able to rescue. In need of his skills for a new mission they set out to get started.

That new mission begins fine with everything moving along as smoothly as possible. Things begin to go badly when the leader of the group of arms dealers they’ve been sent in to stop is revealed. His name is Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) and he’s an ex-member of the group thought to be dead, killed at the hands of Barney Ross. Knowing just how unscrupulous and deadly he can be, the team ends up trying to complete the mission and get out as fast as possible alive.

The team crawls home, wounded with one man out of commission. Barney begins to think perhaps it’s time to move on. Realizing that the men he’s come to love as brothers are in harms way, maybe even more so since Stonebanks knows them in and out, he decides it’s time to bring in new blood to face this threat to the existence of the Expendables. After receiving a threat from Stonebanks, he turns lose the old crew and begins recruiting a new one. Once gathered he leads them on a mission to take out the bad guy.

But things go wrong and the new team ends up in trouble, some captured and filmed by Stonebanks who taunts Barney into coming after him before he takes out “the kids”. When all else seems to be going wrong who but Barney’s original team can back him up to save the day and the new group?

Some have slammed the film asking why Barney would recruit new blood rather than his dependable team. For me this was simple, he was trying to protect them from being killed by someone he thought had the knowledge to do so. Sure it was probably also done to bring in some younger faces which would result in younger audience members. But it might also be a way of giving the series of films longevity with new recruits and eventually a new leader.

The gathering of action stars young and old is a perfect fit for this series, the new faces doing a commendable job. Harrison Ford taking over in the position Bruce Willis once had does a fine job though his days of leaping from vehicles, machine gun in hand may be long behind him. Snipes does a perfect performance here and shows he still has what it takes if only he could get a decent script in front of him. The stand out though is Antonio Banderas who steals the movie from the rest. His character becomes so annoying and yet loveable at the same time that you want to see more of him. Gibson has shown he can portray a fantastic bad guy and continues with this film. The rest of the new faces do an equally admirable job and are fun to watch.

Watching THE EXPENDABLES 3 will not save the world. It will not help push forward a cure for disease. It will not feed the hungry. What it will do is entertain. For 126 minutes you will forget about your day to day problems escape into a world of pure action fueled fantasy. You’ll have fun, you’ll laugh and you’ll wish well for the heroes of the film. For me that’s enough. I’ll add this film to the collection on the shelf and have fun with it more than once. I suggest you do the same.

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If you’ve read my reviews for some time then you know I’m not a fan of what is known as “found footage” films. For me it usually involves jumpy camera shots that add nothing to the suspense being filmed and just makes me nauseous. That being said on occasion a truly good movie in this genre comes along, but not often. That can’t be said of THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, one of the scariest and disturbing movies I’ve seen in some time.

The basis for the film revolves around a grad student named Mia (Michelle Ang) who is shooting her thesis around the life of a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, Deborah Logan (Jill Larson). Mia has contacted Deborah through her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsey), dedicated to her mother but dealing with problems of her own. One of those problems is finances which will improve with the money Mia is paying her to film Deborah’s story.

Mia and her team set the house up with cameras so they can monitor Deborah in every area of the house as the disease takes its toll on her. When they begin those effects will be long term and take some time to manifest as Deborah is in the early stages. But things aren’t always what they seem.

Where most Alzheimer’s patients deal with things like memory loss or short term forgetfulness Deborah has symptoms unlike most patients. She is prone to rages that result in battles with those trying to help her. Eventually as the movie progresses she also begins to do things like have a rash appear on her body which in turn causes her to pull strips of skin from her body. As these symptoms become more alarming she’s taken to the hospital rather than allowed to stay home. Those days have her under observation but she eventually returns to the home she loves.

While we watch the deterioration of Deborah we also get a glimpse into the life of Sarah at the same time. We learn about her personal life, about her hopes to one day sell the house and return to her own place. While she continues to drink throughout the film it’s never quite to the point that it affects her taking care of her mother. But there is something that’s always there beneath the surface that we’re not privy to at first.

Back in her home Deborah begins to show more signs of being not quite there. Footage shot with stationary cameras show her moving faster than seems possible with the time stamp on display. Sleepwalking leads to her doing incredibly strange things like hammering nails into the window panes to nail the windows shut, windows that are later flung open as if the nails were not there. She begins walking the grounds of the property in the middle of the night seeking something but never quite saying what. When Sarah begins to understand what she might be looking for the movie takes a turn into a whole different plane. At that time we begin to wonder is Deborah truly dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or is something more deadly, more sinister at work here. Trust me when I say you don’t want to know the answer but will watch anyway to find out.

The movie works because of one simple thing, it seems real. Rather than have the non-stop jumping camera work seen in so many we fluctuate between that and the surveillance cameras that are picking up what is happening. The combination of the two along with most scenes being shot in a darkened room with nothing more than the light on the camera for illumination makes for some truly skin crawling sequences.

As the film moves into the final chapter it truly becomes frightening in a way that can’t be described without revealing far too much of the story. The camerawork here combined with some fantastic effects make for images that will stick with you long after the DVD is taken out of the player. Add with that performances from all involved that make you feel this is real and not just a movie and you have a disturbing movie that qualifies as true horror.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. For me, it is rare that I find a movie that will make me jump at times and make me feel uneasy. I’ve seen tons of horror films over the years and few of them have that effect on me. This one made my skin crawl at times, made me jump more than once and has left images in my brain that will remain there for some time. The thing is that’s all meant in a good way. To be affected like that by a movie doesn’t happen often and it does that from start to finish. There is no doubt this is one that will stay on my shelf to be watched when I need a good scare or when I need to scare someone else. I dare you to watch it with the lights off.

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If you’re wondering what I mean by “real” animation I’m speaking of the classic style of animation, drawn for the most part, as opposed to the CGI animation most movies are made from these days. This is not to discredit those films, they’re wonderful as well. But there are times when you just long to see that classic Disney style of animation from the past. So it was a wonderful welcome when I put in NOCTURNA and pushed play. I was taken not just to a time when that form of animation was the standard but to a wonderful world and story that’s great for all ages.

Made in 2007 the movie makes its way to DVD now. The story revolves around a young orphan named Tim, a boy who dreams of a much bigger world and who is obsessed with the stars. That’s in part because he has a fear of the dark. Each night when the lights go out he pushes his bunk bed to the window and unlocks the shutters so he can look at the stars in the sky, in particular one he calls his own.

When his secret handle is stolen so he can’t open the shutters, Tim goes to the roof to look at the stars and notices that they’re beginning to disappear, starting with his star. As he worries about this he notices a large number of cats on the roof followed by a huge person who identifies himself as the cat Shepherd. The cat Shepherd is part of an unseen world to humans, people who control the night and sleep of children around the world. Each cat is supposed to make sure his human child is asleep. Tim’s cat is more prone to sleep on the job rather than help Tim sleep. When Tim tells the cat Shepherd what is going on he receives a deaf ear. When he threatens to stay awake until he sees the man in charge the cat Shepherd takes him to headquarters.

Rather than be taken to this ruler as he wished, Tim is forced to sneak in to see him. At that time he is given a quest to help solve the problem of the missing stars. The journey takes him to various parts of the city at night, eventually landing at a light house where he may or may not find the answer that he seeks. Along the way he bonds with the cat Shepherd and faces dangers that many in this land of night might not survive from if he isn’t successful in his task.

The movie is not only a joy for the eyes with old style animation that glows on the screen but offers a nice story as well. Tim is the hero that children will root for, one of them, a young boy who is afraid of the dark and unwilling to admit it at first. As the story progresses he must face his own fears if he is to save the world as we or they know it. It’s a story of heroism in the face of danger but not a danger that might seem actually life threatening to a child.

The movie holds your attention from start to finish with what has been described as a Tim Burtonesque style of city. I can see the comparison a bit but not near as much as most. There are similarities but not enough that this movie doesn’t offer its own world for us to enjoy. The characters we are treated to are at times odd, at times humorous and always interesting. Tim’s acceptance of each of them displays the innocence of a child who doesn’t see the differences in the rest of the world.

The movie offers a great story, great animation and a lesson that all children can benefit from by the last panel. It offers something rare to find these days, entertainment that the entire family can enjoy without adults being bored and that children will be delighted to watch. For some just looking at the visual treat will be enough. I’d suggest that you take it all in though and enjoy every bit of it. Not one to rent but one to put in your collection, even if you don’t have children.

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If you’ve never taken a trip to Sin City then you’ve missed a location rife with grief, drama, crime and death. It’s not a location most would choose, but the characters in author/artist Frank Miller’s highly acclaimed adult comic book series have no choice. Their lives and loves fit the city and all if offers. It’s a black and white world where there are few good guys and even those end up tainted before long. When word came out that the series was being turned into a film fans went wild.

That first movie came out nine years ago and did amazingly well. Directors Robert Rodriguez and Miller brought the page to life by shooting the entire movie using the green screen process where everything is shot on a soundstage before a green screen with all backgrounds and some props inserted by computer. It worked well. Images from the page were literally the exact same on screen. The crispness of the high contrast images was stunning. Sadly it took 9 years for the sequel to come out, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. Unfortunately the magic just doesn’t quite feel the same.

As any fan will know there isn’t a single story involved in these movies. Here we have a lead in story featuring fan fave Mickey Rourke as Marv, the ham fisted, violence prone, hard drinking, scarred boogey man of the city, someone to walk around when seen if not across the street. Marv’s story of finding well to do college kids lighting homeless men on fire and taking vengeance sets the tone for the movie. As the title moves from the screen, the next story begins.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Johnny, an amazingly lucky gambler who’s come to Sin City to make his mark and to take down the evil and corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). One should never pull a tiger by the tail and the eventual outcome of this confrontation will not be pretty. Josh Brolin takes over the role of Dwight from Clive Owen, here trying to stay above the fray but drawn back in by the one woman able to seduce him to do her bidding, Ava (Eva Green). Now the wife of another man she draws Dwight back in only to inflict damage on him both physically and mentally. Lastly Jessica Alba returns as Nancy, haunted by images of her defender the deceased Hartigan (Bruce Willis) as she seeks vengeance against the same Roark Johnny set his sights on earlier. Aided by Marv the end result won’t be pretty.

This combination of tales from the pages of the comics should play out well on screen, equaling those of the first film. But something just doesn’t quite feel right here. The look of the film is done well but perhaps too well. Or maybe it’s been too long since I watched the first film. Here it feels overused and at times far too stylized for its own good. It’s still amazing to see and offers some great moments.

I’ve watching it through twice now, once in the theater and now on DVD. This time felt better than the first but still, different from the original. Two reasons seem to stand out in my mind looking back at both viewings. One was the over use of film noir narration, a raspy whisper that comes from almost every character on screen. It’s as if one person were telling each story but using a different voice that always sounded similar. Eventually it becomes monotonous.

The second was the fact that it felt like much more attention as paid to sexuality here than in the first film. It did exist in the first but the amount of screen time spent on sexual escapades feels over done here. I’ve begun to wonder if Eva Green can be involved in any film that doesn’t require her to disrobe every so often. She can be a talented actress but with this film she seems as interested in taking off her clothes as she does at delivering lines. It doesn’t enhance her character but actually becomes boring.

On the whole the movie does deliver a couple of good stories, some much better than others and unfortunately the worst taking up most of the screen time. The actors involved all turn in solid performances and while Rourke as Marv is seen in two of those stories you still find yourself wishing he had more time. Brolin’s take on Dwight doesn’t quite equal Owen’s but he still shows he’s become a great actor.

Well done, well made and well acted, the movie is better than some and worse than others, one I can recommend to fans of the first. This is one trip to a bad town that will be more fun for some than others but in the end it’s like a trip anywhere; it’s never quite the same once you’ve already been there.

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The first thing that horror fans will assume when watching this movie is that it was a Hammer production. It’s not but you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Even more so when you discover that the director was Freddie Francis who was behind a number of the films made by Amicus, a studio that was often mistaken for Hammer.

The basis for the film lies in the tale of Burke and Hare, filmed many times and in many versions. In the mid 1800s in Edinburgh, William Burke and William Hare were low lives who specialized in robbing graves for bodies they would supply to Dr. Robert Knox for use in instructing anatomy students. They turned to murder to supply fresher bodies. What happened to them I’ll not reveal on the chance you want to watch here.

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS pretty much follows this story from start to finish, adding a few touches here and there and bringing all of the characters to life on the screen. Timothy Dalton stars as the arrogant Dr. Thomas Rock, an anatomy instructor who pays grave robbers for freshly dug cadavers to use in his classroom. The biggest problem he has is the condition of the corpses being brought in.

Robert Fallon (Jonathan Pryce) and Timothy Broom (Stephen Rea) are two drunks seeking free drinks at the local tavern when they hear a group talking about how much they make from the bodies they take to Dr. Rock. Seeing a chance to make some money they follow the group to the local cemetery and steal the latest cadaver they’ve dug up, taking it to Dr. Rock and pocketing the money. In short term wealth they drink their profits up and make a trip to the local brothel as well. In no time flat it’s time to find another body.

As all of this is taking place Dr. Rock’s assistant, Dr. Murray (Julian Sands) is frequenting the same brothel where he finds himself drawn to Jennie Bailey (Twiggy). As he begins to feel affection for her he wants to take her away from this way of life. But at the same time Fallon is also drawn to Jennie, wanting her for his own. Eventually you know this will lead to complications one would rather not think about.

Through it all Dr. Rock remains aloof, not caring where his cadavers come from, intent on pursuing his personal goal of intellectual pursuit in the knowledge of anatomy. Where his sister worries about his reputation in the social circles, Rock will have none of it. He’d much rather spend time with his wife or in the lab than mingling with the upper crust of the social sphere.

The three stories intersect with one another throughout, that of Dr. Rock and his attitude, his assistant and his love life and the two murderous alcoholics who don’t care about the sanctity of life, just another pint and a warm woman to lie with. Just what happens to them and how they get there makes up the movie you see before you here. Is it a good movie? Yes and no at the same time.

The movie offers a great look at what life was like at that time, with details to period rarely seen in movies like this. Part of that may be due to the fact that the sets used and a number of the people involved all came from leftovers of the film THE ELEPHANT MAN which was also made by this same production company, Brooksfilms. Sets were re-used for those seen here and many of the behind the scenes people also worked on the film beginning with Francis who was that films cinematographer. An extra on the blu-ray here features a discussion between Brooksfilm head Mel Brooks (yes that Mel Brooks) and two of the producers of both films.

The acting on display is better than expected, especially from Twiggy who most recall simply as a pretty faced model from the sixties. Why she never took her acting career further is hard to say. Both Pryce and Rea turn in particularly disgusting portraits of the pair of serial killers the story revolves around, which is actually a good thing. Dalton does a fine job of portraying the snobbish Dr. Rock. The weakest of the group would be Sands but his turn here is suitable enough to get by.

On the whole the movie does offer an interesting look at the times and what went on in history, even though names have been changed for some reason to protect the innocent and guilty. The pacing is a bit slow but that could simply be because as viewers we’ve become acquainted with a fast paced film that tosses everything at us quickly rather than letting things unwind. In the end we have an entertaining film that takes its time to reveal the entire story. It’s a movie definitely worth watching at least once and for some one to add to the shelf.

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With the world opening up its borders one of the benefits has been the involvement of foreign film directors into the world market as opposed to just their country of origin. Such is the case with Korean director Joon-ho Bong. Some may be familiar with his giant monster hit THE HOST (if not seek it out). Now he presents his latest film SNOWPIERCER.

The movie takes place in the future. In 2014 in an attempt to save the world from global warming, a world wide decision was made to release a certain element into the atmosphere to bring down the world’s temperature. Unfortunately it worked too well and we were plunged into a new ice age. The only survivors now live aboard a specialized train that circles the northern hemisphere in a pattern that takes them on a year long loop.

The train has its own hierarchy. Those who live neat the engine are at the top of the list, those in the tail the low lifes. Among the back enders is Curtis (Chris Evans), a strong willed young man who wants more for the people who live around him. With the help of long term survivor Gilliam (John Hurt), Curtis has been communicating with someone from the front end of the train. They’ve directed him to a passenger further down the line of cars named Namgoong (Kang-ho Song) who knows how to open the doors of each compartment down the line.

After showing how bad things are for those in the back, we witness the revolution as it begins. Plans long made are brought to fruition and the march forward begins. With each new car more is learned of what has been going on up front. Battles are fought and losses mount with each car. What lies at the end is a mystery to all. But more mysterious is the reason that drives Curtis to continue forward.

The movie is incredibly interesting from start to finish. While we’ve been presented with end of the world movies before they’ve almost all been set in desert wastelands among rag wearing combatants. This time while the low level class may wear rags, the location is much more sterile and cold, a white snow covered world where the only sign of life is the bullet train that moves along fast enough to plow through massive ice blocks and remain on the rails.

The train itself as it unfolds is a fascinating thing to behold. The set designer on this film needs recognition like no other. Each car has a purpose, steadily increasing from basic needs to class comforts. The revelation at the last car, the engine, who is behind it and the purpose of his creating the train is enough to make the light hearted gasp. The same for the final reveal for Curtis.

Evans does a fantastic job here as the leader of the rag tag group in search of a better life. It would be easy to portray Curtis as nothing more than an inflated chest thrusting hero. Instead Evans portrays him as a flawed character, one who doesn’t want to lead but finds himself thrust into that position. With that decision comes the weight of responsibility and a call to make choices that have results. An actor without chops would falter in this role. Evans brings it to life.

SNOWPIERCER didn’t receive a wide release when it came out, at least not in this area. I can only imagine how great it looked on a big screen. The quality of the film is solid from the grease covered back end rail cars to the posh front. The entire look of the film captures your attention at all times. At no time do you find yourself wondering how long till it ends. Instead you find yourself at the credits asking if it’s really over. What it made me do is long to see the next film from director Joon-ho Bong. I have little doubt that I’ll be watching this one again. It’s worth repeat viewings.

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There was a time when my favorite genre of film was horror. I loved nearly every horror movie I saw. But that changed over the past several years. Perhaps it was the glut of horror films that have come out and not always good ones. But occasionally a good one does come out and when that happens horror fans need to know. Such is the case with DELIVER US FROM EVIL from director Scott Derrickson, the director behind the equally chilling SINISTER.

The story revolves around police detective Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana), a member of a select squad that targets specialized crime in the Bronx. Alongside his partner Butler (Joel McHale), Ralph occasionally gets what Butler calls radar about crimes, a sense that something is about to happen. Nothing can prepare Ralph for the crimes that are about to come into their world though.

It begins with a domestic disturbance call where they find a man who beats his wife and acts incredibly strange. Their next case takes them to the Bronx Zoo at night where a woman has tossed her 2 year old child into the pit around the lion’s den. The child is fine but they haven’t found the woman who took off afterwards and search for her. They do find her eventually as well as a mysterious figure in the lion’s den itself, a worker who was there earlier in the day to pain the walls there is finishing his job. When Ralph attempts to arrest him, he lets lose the lions that nearly make a meal of Ralph. In the meantime this man disappears. A third case involves a home where they keep hearing noises in the basement. Searching the basement Ralph finds a decomposing body along with a scrawling on the walls, an odd language he doesn’t recognize combined with English.

How do these cases connect? When the film opened we were witness to 3 soldiers in Afghanistan entering a cave while chasing enemy combatants. Before we had a chance to see what was in the cave the camera gave out and all we heard were screams. It turns out that members of these 3 cases were the 3 men in that video.

The woman who attempted to kill her child continues to act strangely. When a priest shows to talk to her and to ask questions of Ralph about the case they at first brush him off. But as things change Ralph eventually talks to the priest. He learns that the man is not just an ordinary priest but an exorcist who has been trying to help the woman for some time now. A lapsed Catholic Ralph doesn’t believe in what the priest has to offer. But as all the cases progress he begins to wonder if this is truly what is happening.

The movie hinges on several things to make it more thrilling and scary to boot. The first is the fact that it is based on a real story. There is indeed a Ralph Sarchie who has become a demonologist since the time of this and other cases he worked on since retiring from the NYPD with distinction. This is not some random person who takes on evil but someone who is recognized as a solid policeman.

The next is the viewer’s belief in real evil in this world. Do demons exist? If you believe that they do, which I do, then the movie takes on a different perspective than for those who think of it in cinematic terms only. Either way it makes for some scary moments but believing makes them even more so.

The quality of film making here is quality to say the least. Everything from cinematography to direction to set designs culminates to bring about a terrifying film. The performance of Bana in the lead is superb. He truly makes the character and the things he confronts seem real. An actor who rarely gets the praise he deserves, Bana makes you believe he is Ralph Sarchie. And Ralph’s story can make you think the movie is either entertaining or terrifying on a real life basis. Which ever way you choose this is one movie that will offer some scares just in time for Halloween. It’s also one that I’ll add to my collection of horror films worth watching again.

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If you’re like me when you think of spy films the first thing that pops into your head is James Bond. You think of the gadgets, the girls and the suave, sophisticated agent doing his all to save the world. Rarely does someone think of characters like George Smiley, the docile looking bureaucrat from the John Le Carre novels that looked more like a banker than the spies we were used to. But chances are in the real world that’s what spies really look like. And Le Carre has made a career of writing about spies like that.

A MOST WANTED MAN gives us another spy of sorts from the real world in the person of Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Gunther is the head of an elite group in the German government in charge of seeking out possible terrorists and preventing them from attacks like those witnessed on 9/11. But the problems that occurred prior to that date continue in this country where various organizations fail to work together, each one wanting to take credit for the capture or killing of anyone deemed dangerous. Gunther is more in line to try and put the person he’s after to use where as his counterpart sees termination as the best possible solution.

Most of the movie revolves around Gunther’s team trying to find and handle a young man named Issa, an illegal immigrant who has come to Germany to collect an inheritance his father left him years ago. Where they first suspect him of being dangerous the more they find out about him the less they believe him to be a threat. Instead Gunther wants to use him to reach the people he’s talking to, a banker and another man believed to be the main man in Germany funneling funds to terrorists. Gunther wants to use this man as a means to an end. His counterpart just wants to take him down immediately so he can take credit for one man eliminated from the list; he has no concept of the long term goals that can be achieved.

The story offers a back and forth on two levels. The first is the day to day handling of Issa and the people around him. How the team convinces others to work with them, making promises they might not be able to keep while influencing people with no known contacts with terrorists, make for an interesting topic in the film. The second level is between Gunther and the lead of his opposing team. Gunther wants to do the best work possible and prevent any attacks in the long run, his opponent just wants praise for taking someone out now.

While these stories are interesting in the long run they make for a very dry movie. There is almost no action involved in this film. There is plenty of discussion between characters and groups involved in the story as well as with participants dragged into the skullduggery involved in spying. It’s more of a wordy film than one might expect when the word spies is used. If you know going in that the film moves at a slow pace then you will enjoy it. If Bond is what you’re seeking then avoid it.

Many are flocking to this film and praising it solely because it is considered the last starring role for Hoffman who died of a drug overdose last year. Hoffman had a long career that had some great roles and others that in my observations didn’t deserve the praise they received. Here he turns in an admirable performance as the chain smoking tired looking government bureaucrat trying to do his best and finding opponents on his side as well as those against his country.

In the end I can’t recommend this movie for everyone but fans of Le Carre will want to check it out. Fans of Hoffman will want to see the movie as well. It isn’t a bad movie but you have to know what to expect walking in. If you do you’ll find an entertaining evening here.

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If you weren’t aware penny dreadfuls were cheaply made British weekly magazines made at the turn of the century that depicted lurid tales of adventure and sensationalized fiction that sold for a penny, thus the name. The stories were more in tune with the readers of the time as low cost examples of fiction they could enjoy but never care too much about. The same could be said of this series.

I truly wanted to love this series. It had such a great look to it right from the start. Timothy Dalton is Sir Malcolm Murray, an aristocratic adventurer in Victorian London who is searching for someone we later learn is his daughter. Helping him in this task is Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), a woman in tune with the supernatural, a good thing since the evil beings that have absconded with his daughter are almost all supernatural in one form or another. As the show opens the two of them recruit an American gunslinger named Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) from a Wild West show to be the muscle and weapon expert they need in certain circumstances.

As the series progresses we’re introduced to a number of characters taken straight from the pages of gothic horror novels that took place during this time period. It’s difficult to explain the series any further without revealing who these characters are but I’ll do my best to work around that problem. One is a doctor whose past comes to haunt him as the show moves forward. Another is a man whose debauchery seems to know no bounds. And the evil that haunts the world of Sir Murray is an evil that has seen his portrayal on screen done for decades now. Their stories intertwine with that of the search for Murray’s daughter as well as events that take place in the lives of the three main characters.

Dalton does well with his role here, offering the once mighty warrior in his prime now older and wiser, using every means at his command to rescue the one thing that means the most to him. Green plays the mysterious woman well but as with anything involving her eventually resorts to removing her clothing. I’m beginning to think she insists on this in her contracts. Hartnett is perhaps the weakest of the three doing little more than shooting his six guns now and then and bedding down a local prostitute he falls in love with.

I’m sure I’m in the minority here but this series does what nearly every pay channel series does these days. It feels the need to push front and center nudity and sex scenes that involve nearly everything imaginable. It’s as if they feel the need to insert this to make sure that people know they can’t get this on regular TV. For me this gets boring. I will commend this program though for not diving in only seconds from the main credits but waiting at least a few minutes before we get a glimpse of Hartnett’s posterior as he slams into a young fan up against a wagon in broad daylight. I’ve always felt that if your story was solid enough you don’t have to resort to this repetitively. Apparently the makers of this show don’t think they can hold you week after week without tossing it in.

While being a show that takes place in a time when horror fiction was at its peak and involving some of the greatest creations of that time, it rarely if ever feels terrifying or even surprising. A few good special effects sequences are well done and when the story is actually there involving the battle between good and evil it is to be commended. If those in charge would get rid of the time wasting material and stick with the story perhaps this could be a great show. As it stands it is only a decent one. I wouldn’t say it isn’t worth watching because of the good parts but know going in what you have to sit through to get to those moments. If Victorian filled horror is your cup of tea then this is for you…as long as your morals aren’t along the Victorian era type.

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I’m a sucker for trailer compilations. If you don’t know what the term trailer refers to those are the previews for upcoming attractions seen before your movie starts. There are at least 2 companies devoted to trailers it seems. One is Synapse with their 42nd Street collections. The other is Cheezy Flicks. If you’ve not heard of Cheezy Flicks then you need to start looking into them. They seem to be devoted to capturing some of the classic drive in/grind house movies that are out there and offering them at minimal prices. To do so they don’t overdo the movies by including tons of extras or trying to reconstruct each movie with the highest tech available. They just present the movies as they were when released, scratches and all in some cases.

So back to these two titles. Both are compilations of some of the biggest horror drive in titles ever released. Included are such gems as BLACULA, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, EATEN ALIVE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE and more. The trailers play one after the other and as I said are filled with the true scratches directors trying to pay homage to these films use as effects with their movies today. Does it matter that they look this way? Yes but in a positive sense.

If, like myself, the drive in was a big part of your movie going experience while growing up then this will offer you a sense of nostalgia that borders on giddiness. While watching I kept seeing the names of old companies that put forth so much product back in the day that just seeing these brought back memories. Jack Harris Productions, Crown International, American International and more all made a business of creating films for the drive in circuit. They might not have been Oscar material but they offered something that many current Oscar contenders don’t which is entertainment. Watching these trailers like this brought back memories of summer nights under the stars, small window attached speakers offering tin sounding tracks and movies that we thrilled to or riffed at all night long.

Some may think that the just under 60 minute running time is bad but for me it’s just right. You want to get a feeling of what the trailers offered but not go overboard. As a collector of trailers the hour long program seemed just right. Add in the extras, because these do have extras, and it makes for just over that. Those extras include previews of titles that Cheezy Flicks carries, information on the company and intermission trailers as well. All combined they help the drive in memories move forward as well.

There are a few trailers that carry over on both discs but not so much that you’ll notice or feel short changed by. One even has two trailers for the same movie. But if you love trailers that won’t matter. Just sit back and enjoy what you see on your TV and travel back in time.

At $7.95 on and $2.99 on Cheezy Flicks own web page you can’t go wrong with these compilations. While at the Cheezy site you can see the other trailer compilations they carry as well including Exploitation, Science Fiction, Action and Fantasy.

Make an event of discs like these. Have some friends over and make a drive in night of it. Pop some popcorn, pour some sodas, make a pizza burger or two or perhaps some Castleberry pit cooked barbecue and pick up some boxed candy. Pop in one of these discs and then find a classic drive in flick in your collection to follow. Maybe DEATH RACE 2000 or FROM HELL IT CAME. Who knows, it might become a monthly event. Give it a chance and have some fun remembering.

Here is what you'll find on Volume 1 :
  1. Curse of the Undead
  2. Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde
  3. Equinox
  4. Berserk
  5. Horror Hotel
  6. Leech Woman
  7. Humanoids from the Deep
  8. Abby
  9. Horrors of the Black Museum
  10. Seizure
  11. The Sinful Dwarf
  12. Eaten Alive
  13. Fearless Vampire Killers
  14. House on Haunted Hill
  15. Dr.Phibes
  16. The Children
  17. Werewolf VS. Vampire Woman
  18. Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride
  19. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  20. Old Dark House
  21. Werewolf
  22. Premature Burial
  23. Chosen
  24. Man Without a Body
  25. Tales from the Crypt
  26. House of Fright
  27. Cyclops
  28. Terror in the Wax Museum
  29. Blacula
  30. Sugar Hill
  31. My Bloody Valentine
  32. Terror
  33. Friday the 13th
And on Volume 2:

  1. Return of Dracula
  2. Curse of the Demon
  3. Indestructible Man
  4. Black Zoo
  5. Fright
  6. Giant from the Unknown
  7. Tingler
  8. Axe
  9. Count Dracula and his Vampire Bride
  10. Something is Out There
  11. Tales from the Crypt
  12. Raw Meat
  13. The Exorcist
  14. Circus of Horrors
  15. Horror of Dracula
  16. The Werewolf VS The Vampire Women
  17. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
  18. Dracula Prince of Darkness
  19. The Legend of Hell House
  20. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  21. The House Where Death Lives
  22. Sugar Hill
  23. My Bloody Valentine
  24. The Woman Eater
  25. Tales of Terror
  26. The House of the Damned
  27. Night Creatures
  28. Captain Kronos : Vampire Hunter
  29. The Sinful Dwarf
  30. Eaten Alive
  31. Blacula
  32. Friday the 13th
  33. Terror
  34. The Velvet Vampire
  35. Scream of the Demon Lover
  36. Rabid
  37. The Chosen
  38. Dr.Phibes Rises Again

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Click here to order Vol. 2


There are many who hold to the theory that a sequel to any hit movie is bound to be bad. It never quite captures the same magic that the first film had, just doesn’t quite hit the right notes here and there. Of course there have been some exceptions to the rule and many great second films in various series. Unfortunately 22 JUMP STREET isn’t one of those. This is not to say there aren’t any laughs in this film but with the expectations set by the first movie there should be more.

Undercover officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have remained on the job but have had little success since their high school case. In an effort to duplicate their success the police department assigns them once again to the Jump Street program, now moved across the street to the 22 address. With a bigger budget thanks to their earlier success Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) has a better office, better equipment and better men. Now he has these two again.

To recreate that earlier success they’re going back to school again, this time to college. The case involves a new drug on the market that has claimed the life of one young female college student. It’s up to Schmidt and Jenko to find out who is dealing this new drug and get it off the market before it becomes wide spread.

The other students immediately notice the age difference of the two with the rest of the students. Why they notice more now than in the first film is anyone’s guess. As the duo dig deeper into college life they take two different paths. Schmidt begins dating an attractive young woman who lived across the hall from the drug’s first victim. This sets up one of the funniest jokes involving a reaction from Jenko, but a joke that is readily apparent to most making it lose the humor involved.

Jenko goes another route much like the first film, enjoying the college lifestyle and becoming friends with a quarterback on the football team when he tries out. The two hit is off as if they were separated at birth and their combined efforts make the team a winning one. Brought into his fraternity Jenko begrudgingly continues to investigate them as suspects but overlooks what should be clues based on his all too growing friendship. At the same time his partnership with Schmidt dwindles to almost nothing and the two part ways to do their own investigations.

Obviously this parting of the ways will be solved, the team will get back together and the bad guy will be found and apprehended. What made the first movie works was the ease with which the two leads played off of one another. That happens here but not near as often. On top of that many jokes that are bad here have a tendency to play out far too long, as if no one was there to say enough already. That’s become a major problem with comedies these days, especially from successful actors riding a wave from a previous hit. They suddenly become untouchable and no one dares tell the emperor that he’s not wearing any clothes. NEIGHBORS was the same way.

Tighter writing and direction might have saved this one but as it stands it’s only a decent comedy rather than a great one. Instead we get a lame story with far too many of those moments, jokes that play out and take up too much time where better jokes could have been. While the parting of the two leads may have worked for the story it doesn’t as far as the end result for the movie goes. I doubt that this film will crash the careers of anyone involved. There are at least 4 good laughs in it but that’s about it in my opinion. But with the popularity of the first film I’m sure it will do great rentals and with the Christmas season near solid sales as well. I also think you’ll see plenty of copies turn up at the local used DVD store come January.

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