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Old August 10 2011, 05:35 PM   #631
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
Al's story is about his issues with his bank (and, by extension, class differences between him and other soldiers), not about alcohol. I do agree that on watching it I wondered whether March could really be considered the film's lead actor, though (even if he was, I don't think he should won Best Actor over Jimmy Stewart's tour de force in It's A Wonderful Life).
This is true. The film does a good job dealing with class issues in the aftermath of World War II (with Al and Fred changing places, going from being a lowly Sgt. and a Captain to a lowly soda-jerk and a banker). Still, all three characters deal with post-war trauma, but at least Fred and Homer have it dealt with seriously.

120. Sunset Blvd. (A)
121. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (B-)


Sunset Blvd.: Watching this, I had to wonder how a movie with so many inside references to Hollywood of the silent era (Cecil B. Demille, Buster Keaton, and many other giants of the silent period play themselves) could have been made, but somehow it was. Whatever the decision-making that led to its production, Sunset Blvd. is a terrific film noir and a fascinating look at Hollywood in the early 50s. Everyone in the cast is great (faded silent star Gloria Swanson as faded silent star Norma Desmond is the obvious stand-out, but William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim, and the rest are equally good) and the script and direction are terrific. I can't think of anything negative to say about it, except that it hasn't been released on Blu-Ray yet.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes: The first sequel to Planet of the Apes isn't a bad movie, but it falls short in a number of areas. For one thing, it begins with a giant ret-con. In the original movie, Heston and co. traveled to the far future by approaching the speed of light and spending time in stasis. In the revised version here, the astronauts (there's a new one, Brett, since Heston only agreed to play a supporting role) get to the far future by travelling through some sort of temporal anomaly. Since the astronauts can now return to their own time, Brett appears on a rescue mission after Taylor. Played by James Franciscus, Brett is a perfectly adequate replacement for Taylor, but he plays so many of the same beats Heston did in the last movie you have to wonder why he was necessary.

There are other ret-cons, too. In the last one, Cornelius and Zira were going to be charged with heresy. Here, they're just in hot water with Dr. Zaius. These aren't the film's biggest problem, though. That would be the general lack of production value (the budget was slashed in half just before shooting). Outside of the principles, most of the apes in this one just wear awful one-piece masks. Whereas the original shot on location, the sequel makes only nominal use of exteriors, opting for matte paintings, sets, and not-very-good rear projection.

Still, a lot of things in the sequel work. For one thing, we get a closer look at Ape culture, which comes with a heavy-handed allusion to anti-war protests of the time, but the Apes films are best when they argue a social message, so I'll take it. General Ursus is a character that makes sense in the Ape world, and he's well played by James Gregory. When he does appear, Heston is great, and Linda Harrison manages to do more with Nova in the sequel than in the original. And the revelation that advanced humans have survived, albeit mutated and underground, is played well. Finally, there's the ending, which is tremendously downbeat for a Hollywood production. Brett and Nova are brutally murdered, and Taylor is mortally wounded. He reaches out to Dr. Zaius, but is refused, and out of spite decides to set off a doomsday bomb wiping out the entirety of the Earth. Over black, an emotionally distant voice-over explains that an insignificant planet is now dead. Roll credits.

Yes, there's three more sequels (two of them, according to my memory, are decent) and a television series (I haven't seen it). How they managed to work that out is either impressive or ridiculous, but I'll get to that when I rate the third movie (and beyond).
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Old August 11 2011, 12:29 AM   #632
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


100. Bonnie and Clyde (A-)
101. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (B+)
102. Elmer Gantry (B+)
103. Sanjuro (A-)

After the success of Yojimbo, Kurosawa was urged by the studio to rewrite one of his scripts to make a sequel; commercial imposition, but in a few years Kurosawa couldn't get arrested in [Japanese Hollywood; I was going to type "Jollywood", but that sounds like a condom brand], so that's hardly something to complain about. We follow our masterless samurai into yet another town in need of his help; it follows basically the same narrative structure as the first film (Sanjuro effortlessly walks over people for most of the film, one mistake leads him into trouble, then the day is saved; in this case, his victory is accomplished more through guile, though). I've seen this described as a comedy in contrast to the more serious first film, and while it's lighter in tone, I'm not really sure I'd call it a comedy, because it's really not that funny. I didn't think the quality level was noticeably different from the first one. I also find that whereas we tend to think of older Hollywood films as a golden age of choreographed swordplay, these old samurai films are markedly less impressive than the Asian martial arts films produced today; you basically just have Mifune waving his sword around and killing everyone (with markedly little blood, up until the Tarantino-level final slaying). There's some good characterization for Sanjuro, particularly at the end, which is arguably bleaker than anything in Yojimbo.

104. The Help (B+)

After seeing only four 2011 movies in the first six months of the year, I've seen seven since the beginning of July. This is an adaptation of a "chick-lit" (which I find an overly dismissive term) bestseller that I have not read, but two visiting aunts and a cousin have, and they all liked it. The book appeared to be in the 400-500 page range, which can cause problems in adaptations, but this was for the most part effective (I thought Minny's domestic situation was a little underwritten, but I don't know if more time is spent on that in the book). This deals with race relations, so, par for the course, it attracts a bunch of controversy about how everyone is portrayed. For my two cents, I think it does a good job of telling the story of its two main black characters in addition to the one white one, and gives them motivations and validation that has nothing to do with her. The main reason to see it is the ensemble of strong female performances; for people who want more movies with more than one or two female characters, in a wider range of roles, this is the most prominent entry so far this year. If the film does well, I imagine awards bodies will focus mainly on past nominee Viola Davis, who is indeed powerful here. The increasingly prominent Emma Stone is very good as Skeeter. Also of note is Jessica Chastain, whose name I feel I've been hearing about forever without actually seeing any of her movies, since they keep getting pushed back (The Tree of Life arrives here on Friday as well; when it rains...); she's very affecting as a rich man's wife who is rejected by other society women for being born white trash. On the demerit side, I think the tone is a bit uneven (sometimes really serious, but there are bits of wacky comedy interspersed, including the recurring pie bit), and there's a lone dangling plot (with a super-minor character) that seems out of place.
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Old August 13 2011, 03:10 AM   #633
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


100. Bonnie and Clyde (A-)
101. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (B+)
102. Elmer Gantry (B+)
103. Sanjuro (A-)
104. The Help (B+)
105. Dark Passage (B+)

The third of four Bogart/Bacall collaborations, and the least famous of them by far (which extends to the crew; whereas the others were directed by big names Howark Hawks and John Huston, this is directed by Delmer Daves, one of the journeymen writer-directors of the studio system in the 1940s and 1950s). However, I would rank this second of the four, behind only The Big Sleep. The interactions between the stars are great. The plot is simultaneously well-done (particularly with regard to the resolution) and in places rather contrived, which holds it back a bit, but I enjoyed it a lot. I'd also maybe have ended with Bogart on the bus, rather than the next scene, but that's a minor thing.
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Old August 15 2011, 03:55 AM   #634
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


70. Rocky II: C+
71. Rocky III: B+
72. Rocky IV: A
73. Cowboys & Aliens: B
74. Wonder Woman (DC Animated): B+


Rocky II, is a tale of two movies. The first part is rushed and really bad with the film cramming all of Rocky's success with commercials and marriage into the first act. The second act drags a bit but gets the film back on track and it does end well in the final act.

Rocky III, is darn near close to matching the other series entries as damn near perfect. Hulk Hogan & Mr.T in the same movie while building on Rocky's character and growth in a much more organic way than Rocky II showed.

Rocky IV, this is the quintessential Rocky film, or was. I must say that although I'm not going to review it it's possible that the last in the series, Rocky Balboa now holds the high mark for me. Still this film that shows how Apollo Creed and Rocky have really grown as friends then his death. The training montage in the Russian winter, one of the best.

Cowboys & Aliens, it's a damn shame that too many people will or have listened to Rottentomatoes or Megacritic and chose not to see this film. It's a fun movie with a straight forward and engaging plot. There are good character arcs for nearly every main character in the movie. If you were on the fence I say check this out, it's a good theater movie. Several good "big screen" sequences.

Wonder Woman, this recent DC animated film with Keri Russell as Diana, Rosario Dawson as Artemis and Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor this is a really good film. Very impressed by this film.

Yes, I watched a number of films but I had plenty of laundry to fold this weekend!! Had to have something on to help me through that domestic chore.
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Old August 15 2011, 03:57 AM   #635
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Cowboys & Aliens, it's a damn shame that too many people will or have listened to Rottentomatoes or Megacritic and chose not to see this film.
The film was tracking poorly well before any reviews came out, and it has poor word of mouth; you can't blame critics for that. I don't know where this idea that audiences follow critics like lemmings comes from; if that were the case, Michael Bay would have been run out of Hollywood years ago.
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Old August 15 2011, 09:48 AM   #636
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122. On the Waterfront (B)

This film has a great scene that is often quoted ("I could have been a contender"), but overall I don't think it's nearly as good as its reputation suggests. Leonard Bernstein's score is at times overblown to the point of being melodramatic, and so are many of the performances (and I use the term in the pejorative sense, rather than to describe any coherent sense of style). It isn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but is merely good.
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Old August 15 2011, 10:24 AM   #637
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


Killers - Netflix Instant
Push - DVD rental
Ron White: Behavioral Problems - DVD rental
All*Star Superman - DVD rental
Captain America: The First Avenger - midnight screenin'
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night - DVD rental
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One - DVD
The King's Speech - DVD rental
Get Low - DVD rental
Dan in Real Life - DVD
Thor: Tales of Asgard - DVD rental
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights - DVD rental
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths - DVD
Planet Hulk - DVD rental
Alien vs Predator: Requium - Unrated - DVD rental

Stayin' at my friend D's place the last few days, I found Crisis on Two Earths in a stack of unopened DVDs. She said I could open it, so I did. Watched it, found out I liked it, and she said I could keep it, so I thanked her.

I thought it was a pretty good movie, and especially liked James Woods as the voice of Owl Man.

Went to the Blockbuster in Hammond, LA, and took advantage of the 99 cent daily rentals to watch Planet Hulk. I didn't care for it much while I was watchin', and it took me awhile to figure out why...in the movie, the Hulk is always the Hulk. Sedated, sleepin', not fightin', smoochin', whatever he's doin' that isn't smashin', he's still the Hulk. Bruce Banner is not seen a single time in the film, and that bugged me. Also, the Hulk talked, a lot, which didn't seem right to me.

When I rented Planet Hulk, I got a coupon for a free 99 cent rental on my next visit, so I used it to get AvP: Requiem - Unrated, since its something I've never seen and really didn't feel like payin' to watch, ever.

And AvP: Requiem was a gawd awful movie...its like they asked themselves, "What's darker than a sewer? Night! How can we make the night darker? Power failure! Nope, we can still see with flashlights...I know! Let's make it rain, too! And then set the whole bulk of the action outside, at night, in the rain durin' a power failure!!!"

Weird thing - when I used my free rental coupon, they gave me another coupon for a free rental. If I had stayed for another day, I'd have used it...

I've got passes to see two different movies this week, now that I'm back in Texas, but both screenings are on Tuesday night. Not sure if I'll go see 50/50 or Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.
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Old August 15 2011, 12:29 PM   #638
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
Captain Craig wrote: View Post
Cowboys & Aliens, it's a damn shame that too many people will or have listened to Rottentomatoes or Megacritic and chose not to see this film.
The film was tracking poorly well before any reviews came out, and it has poor word of mouth; you can't blame critics for that. I don't know where this idea that audiences follow critics like lemmings comes from; if that were the case, Michael Bay would have been run out of Hollywood years ago.
Maybe it's a case by case basis but I know several people at work and elsewhere who do use that. I'm that "movie guy" that most social circles have and I've heard the line used, "Well I saw/heard it's getting bad reviews so I was wondering if you'd seen it yet and what you thought". So yeah, in my case I do know a few lemmings.

Michael Bay isn't really bad, Uwe Boll is and he's basically been run out of the industry.
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Old August 15 2011, 09:35 PM   #639
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


100. Bonnie and Clyde (A-)
101. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (A-)
102. Elmer Gantry (B+)
103. Sanjuro (A-)
104. The Help (B+)
105. Dark Passage (B+)
106. Easy A (B)

Emma Stone having starred in two successful films in the last week or two, I decided to finally get around to watching her big break from last fall, which I didn't see at the time despite its strong reviews. I first saw Stone in Superbad back in 2007, where I thought she was very good, and she's continued to impress since; this definitely has the feel of a starmaking turn, even though I don't think the movie itself is quite on that level. It's extremely funny, and has a lot of enjoyable supporting performances, particularly from the adults (including Thomas Haden Church, who had that resurgence with Sideways but has hardly done anything since). The more serious dramatic parts don't hold up as well; there are a few too many characters floating around and it doesn't come together at the end particularly well. But a great performance, to be sure.
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Old August 15 2011, 10:43 PM   #640
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes / Project Nim

At one point in the documentary Project Nim, an example of a headline story regarding public interest in the case of Nim is titled 'Message from the Planet of the Apes.' And frankly after seeing this film it seems very obvious that the latest installment in the ape franchise was very strongly influenced by Nim's case, with the future ape revolutionary and the documentary subject both being apes raised by human scientists and taught sign language.

However, while the fictional Rise depicts questionable experiments on animals, one's left with a much greater faith in the moral probity and scientific method of these movie researchers then then real-life researchers into Nim.

Almost everyone in the first stretch of that film repeats the refrain that they are doing good science, but their approaches are by turns feckless (pawing off the ape on a psychological grad student who's more interested in the ape's supposed oedipal complex then the stated research premise of teaching him sign language) or frankly amoral (when confronted with the fact the ape had torn a gash in someone's face, Professor Terrance only concerns are if she would sue or if it would become public.

It's compelling viewing, and the best documentary I've seen in a while. It's entertaining in a very Errol Morris way, some slick visual presentation to make the talking heads business not seem so terribly dull (with some nice graphics and indeed graphs revolving around words), some recreations of events interspersed with an impressive amount of actual footage of Nim... and letting the subjects hoist themselves with their own petards, letting them tell their various stories where conflicting and sublimating any judgements the filmmakers themselves might have on the subject, these expressed no doubt in how they edit the narrative together. I'm not going to say it's Thin Blue Line or anything, but man, it was fun.

...okay Errol Morris is also on my mind because damn it I want Tabloid and I want it yesterday. That can't come to cinemas over here soon enough.

Oh yes, and that Planet of the Apes movie is basically the first film since 1968 to be any good. It's loosely based on Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, although I do think it owes as much to the case of Nim as it does to the previous Ape film about a revolutionary called Caesar. It's very well paced, the special effects are extraordinary, Andy Serkis is stellar as Caesar, and it's just a lot of fun from beginning to end. Quintessential blockbuster entertainment, and beginning by exploiting the scientific forays into the grey area between ape and man is an inspired conceit (though, of course, with the liberties of science fiction we cross over this boundary much more easily).
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Old August 15 2011, 11:31 PM   #641
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

I Am Cuba, from 1964, a Soviet-Cuban coproduction. Yevgeny Yevtushenko cowrote the screenplay. This is one movie that has very long stretches without dialogue, so it is much more a cinematographer's/director's movie than most I think.

The film is B&W, but the cinematography is gorgeous. There are some apparently white plants in sections of the movie, which is baffling, but it is beautiful to look. The movie is divided into four sections. The first shows Cuba as tourist resort, where a Cuban woman prostitutes herself with a tourist. The second shows Cuba as sugar plantation, where a Cuban sugar worker loses his farm, sets it on fire and dies. The third shows a student who can't bring himself to assassinate a police chief, but is then assassinated by the man during a demonstration as it is violently repressed. The last shows barbudos in the Sierra Maestra.

The takes are long, but unlike the usual arthouse cliche the camera moves. Mostly it glides like a swan, and any cuts are hidden for an even more smooth pace. When it is static, it is usually tilted. Yet, when there is action the camera swerves and swoops. At one point, it whirls around 180 degrees. As the camera swims through the stories, there are reveals of social context.

For example, the camera starts with a parade of women. The camera moves and you see they are carrying number placards. They are beauty contestants. The camera keeps moving and the POV slowly tumbles down the side of the building. The beauty contest turns out to be atop a towering hotel and the camera is descending into the earth of the more common masses.

There is a rippling effect to signal flashbacks and a death experience that is rather different from any I ever recall seeing. The foreign visuals are rather interesting. There is a repetition in different forms of jagged lines of light in one form another crazed across the screen, suggesting the conflict within society (I think.)

Each section is introduced by a poem. Some dialogue is repeated aloud in Russian with the English subtitled in the version I saw. (Netflix) Songs incidental are also highly significant in the film, with repetition and distortion emphasizing the symbolism.

Obviously any preconceptions about drab realism, socialist or otherwise, should be thrown out.

It was a remarkable viewing experience.
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Old August 16 2011, 12:15 AM   #642
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123. Rear Window (A-)
124. Captain America: The First Avenger (B)


Rear Window: One of the classic Alfred Hitchcock films, although I would rank Psycho and North by Northwest slightly higher. Really, the only problem with the movie is the relationship between Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart. It's difficult suspending my disbelief that a 46 year old Jimmy Stewart would be of any interest to a 24 year old Grace Kelly, especially considering the way he demeans her throughout the movie. This ends up being only a minor complaint, though. It's still quite a good movie, at times both funny and suspenseful.

Captain America: The First Avenger: This is a good superhero movie, but it's also one that never manages (nor tries) to transcend the rather conservative conventions that govern the genre. It is helped along by a strong cast, with Stanley Tucci being the standout (the movie isn't as good once his character is killed), but Tommy Lee Jones does good supporting work and Chris Evans is perfectly good in the title role. The premise, of course, is a bit silly (Whether he's in his fancy costume or not, Captain America would be dead meat in those bright colors, shield or otherwise), but this was never going to be serious drama.

What I'm not especially fond of (and this has been discussed to death in the grading thread) is the film's insane momentum towards getting Steve Rogers to the present day. I'm not convinced a WWII-era sequel would have much to offer that wasn't a retread of this film, but the quick montage of action scenes and the sudden turn of events at the end of the movie seem more like the momentum of marketing (and The Avengers) than natural narrative progression. I also find the racially integrated unit that Rogers rescues/assembles to be a bit hard to swallow given the historical context of WWII, but they hardly have a chance to be in the movie before it's over, so, whatever.

I've seen 135 movies this year. Slowly but surely catching up...
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Old August 16 2011, 12:18 AM   #643
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

^^

Rear Window is very possibly my favorite film ever. Yeah, the relationship is a bit of a stretch but not so much to detract from the otherwise masterful film it is a part of. (I figure, if I'm going to be an apologist, I might as well be so for Hitchcock!)
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Old August 16 2011, 02:49 AM   #644
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

Harvey wrote: View Post
This is a good superhero movie, but it's also one that never manages (nor tries) to transcend the rather conservative conventions that govern the genre.
What I liked about Cap was its embrace of the conventional superhero in a way that most recent films haven't; no irony or cynicism, things that wouldn't be appropriate to Steve (they would be appropriate in other characters, as with Iron Man). They took his straightforward character and made it work, a more serious version of Johnston's The Rocketeer.

As to Rear Window, that was the first Hitchcock film I ever watched, some years ago. I found it very dull; I've since watched a couple of his other movies and liked them a lot more.


100. Bonnie and Clyde (A-)
101. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (A-)
102. Elmer Gantry (B+)
103. Sanjuro (A-)
104. The Help (B+)
105. Dark Passage (B+)
106. Easy A (B)
107. Rob Roy (B+)

Braveheart's overlooked younger brother, loosely adapted from a novel by Sir Walter Scott that was itself a fairly loose telling of the story. Some lovely scenery (they make great use of the mists), and some great action (I knew going in that the final duel has been held up as one of the best, and having seen it I would agree). A bit more balanced in its portrayal of the English and the Scots than was Braveheart. The main villains are a depraved lot, as the movie wastes no opportunity to show us, though I like the more reserved portrayal of the Marquess of Montrose by contrast. The main strengths are Liam Neeson (who projects nobility in the same way Gregory Peck did, but Neeson is much better at adding shadings and character than Peck was) and Tim Roth - this was one of the roles that led to him being typecast as a villain.
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Old August 16 2011, 07:46 AM   #645
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Rear Window is many things, but I don't think I could ever call it dull. It definitely sounds like something you might enjoy revisiting.

As far as The Rocketeer goes, I sure wish that movie was available on Blu-Ray (or even a half-decent DVD). It's terrific, fun, and quite a bit better than Captain America: The First Avenger in my estimation -- probably because it doesn't have to serve the monster that is the Marvel Universe.

125. The Godfather (A-)
126. After Last Season (F)


The Godfather: What more can be said about Coppola's classic gangster movie? I waffle between liking it and The Godfather Part II more -- this time I felt the pendelum shifting to the sequel -- but it's still quite a good movie. The performances are, from beginning to end, quite excellent, as are the music, writing, direction -- you name it. Kay is such a thankless part, though, especially in the first movie. And Brando's part has been so parodied over the years that -- through no fault of the movie -- it is hard to take him seriously.

After Last Season: Perhaps the worst movie I've ever seen to have a trailer hosted on itunes, it has the production values of a high school video project and writing and acting to match. And when I say high school video project, I'm serious -- the "sets" are nothing more than an abandoned building with plain white butcher paper and cardboard pasted on the walls. I saw it with friends during our semi-regular "bad movie night." We expected something so bad it was good -- like The Room -- but ended up seeing something so bad it was just...awful. An unwatchable movie.
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