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Port Djema (1997)
Port Djema Takes You to a Different World
I watched a subtitled version of Port Djema on YouTube a few weeks ago and found it to be a thought-provoking and sympathy-inducing film. The plot moves slowly at first, but it allows the audience to get a feel for the mood it is trying to convey, and once it is set into motion, it really gets going and culminates in an unexpected ending. The acting and the script are good, but what really sells it is the soundtrack by Sanjay Mishra (for which he won the Lifetime Vision Award at the Steven Spielberg-chaired Hamptons International Film Festival) combined with the cinematography by Yorgos Arvanitis. I felt drawn deeper and deeper into the heat of the desert and the despair of the people suffering in Eritrea in the eyes of the French protagonist, an outsider. I highly recommend this film.
Not a fan.
Who even thought this was a good idea? Was there really someone who thought that My Little Pony would be better if it were humans in a high school? I feel kind of weird criticizing a cartoon for little girls, but I'm not sure if this was made for little girls. The TV show knows what it wants to be: a well-made animated series for children and their parents. This movie could just as easily be made for teenagers, or bronies, or to attract new fans. Since it can't choose its audience, it fails to appeal to any of them. Don't get me wrong, I can see why some people would like this, but I wasn't personally a fan. The characters still seemed to be keep in character with the show
while making horrible decisions. The animation was amazing during the pony segments
but was awkward in the human world. Meanwhile, the villain was bland, the romance was forced and never went anywhere, and the entire movie just felt like a mess. At least they somewhat improved it in the sequels, but I'll get to those at another time.
Critics in the 1980s were crazy.
Yeah, apparently at the time a lot of people hated Labyrinth. Both Siskel and Ebert panned the movie, other critics bashed David Bowie's performance, and it bombed at the box office, but somehow it's still remembered to this day in a positive light, and that's mainly because Labyrinth isn't bad. Labyrinth is awesome. I own a VHS of this movie and I used to watch it endlessly when I was a kid. It was my first real exposure to David Bowie. I had probably heard some of his songs before then, but it wasn't until this movie when I connected the voice with the person, and when I first saw him, I said to myself, "I wanna be like that guy when I grow up." Anyway, enough nostalgia. Back to critiquing this movie. The effects and Muppetry are amazing for the most part, the characters are likable, the songs are catchy, and David Bowie brings a lot of presence to his performance. I think that the only criticisms I can think of are that the story doesn't always stay focused and that the "Chilly Down" scene doesn't age well at all. Also, Jennifer Connelly's acting needed some work, but to be fair, it was her first movie and we couldn't expect her to be Oscar-winning quality just yet. Overall, it's a great movie that I think everybody should watch at least once.
One More Time!
First thing first: I'm not an anime fan. At all. So I was skeptical when I first heard about this movie. But Daft Punk's Interstella 5555 turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. With that said, the movie isn't perfect by far. There are a few plot holes and the villain's motives aren't really clear, but to be fair they do a great job considering that there's no dialogue in it. I guess you could say that this is less of a movie and more of a series of animated music videos that happen to tell a story, but whatever it is, it's done very well. The characters are great, the animation is stellar, no pun intended, the plot has a nice undertone about the modern music industry, and do I even need to mention that Daft Punk's soundtrack rocks? It's just a lot of fun, so if you like anime or if you like Daft Punk, I'd recommend checking this one out. And let me tell you, if they ever make a sequel to this, I'd be first in line to watch it.
(And no, I don't count Daft Punk's followup movie, Electroma, though believe me, I'll be reviewing that soon enough.)
Ooh, I didn't like this one.
You know what Daft Punk's Electroma felt like? It felt like Daft Punk were making a music video, but wound up with too much footage and instead turned it into a movie.
Actually, that's exactly what happened. This movie started out as a music video for Daft Punk's song, "Human After All," but they got a little too ambitious and made it into a movie, and there are some things about it that work. The filming is very artistic; the message is nice, taking a spin on the classic Pinocchio moral of wanting to be human and mixing it with undertones about plastic surgery; the music—when there is any—is nice; and the acting is fairly decent, getting the message through despite the fact that we can't see anyone's face or hear what they're saying. The problem is that when you take a five-minute music video and expand its plot to a feature-length movie, you have to pad it out with extended shots, bizarre editing, and incredibly slow pacing. It definitely would have worked better as a music video, or even as a longer music video at ten minutes. But it's not a complete waste. Thanks to the Internet, fans have made several alternate cuts of Electroma. Many switch out the soundtrack with Daft Punk music to fill in the blank spaces, and there are even some fan visions of what the movie would have looked like in its intended form as a music video for Human After All. If you're going to check out any version of Electroma, watch those versions. I don't know how much of this is bias on my part, seeing how amazing their earlier film Interstella 5555 was and how underwhelming this was as a followup, but I would only recommend this movie if you're a huge fan of art films.
High School Musical (2006)
Not the worst movie I've ever seen, but still not very good.
What the hell was this movie? Who was it supposed to appeal to? It must have appealed to someone, as it became one of the most popular Disney Channel movies of all time, receiving 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast, and despite mixed critical reviews became a hit franchise with a popular soundtrack, two sequels, one sort-of sequel, and several foreign language spinoffs. It made its main stars famous and whether I like it or not, it did have a huge impact on the musical movie subgenre, with many musicals after it attempting to cash in on the high school setting. But nowadays, most people don't seem to remember it too fondly and many see it as the embodiment of everything wrong with Disney at the time, so I don't think I'm going to break anyone's heart when I say that this movie was pretty bad. The characters are all stereotypes, the writing succumbs to a lot of the typical Disney clichés, the stakes are the lowest I've ever seen in a movie I've reviewed, and the acting ranges from ridiculously over-the-top to weak monotone. Honestly, though, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I feared that watching it was going to be one of the most painful experiences I ever willingly subjected myself to, but it was more just bland and boring, and with the movies I've seen, the standards are set so low that just being bland and boring still counts for something.
Monster Mash (2000)
An unenjoyable, forgettable piece of crap.
I'd say this was the worst Halloween special ever made, except nobody ever saw it, and if they did, it was so forgettable that they probably didn't remember seeing it. The animation is low quality, often re-using animation. The songs are terrible, with the only one that was bearable being the titular song, and they do admittedly try to add a new touch to it by remixing it as a dance song, but it has no connection with the story itself. The characters have no character, especially the main family. The big running joke with them is that they're fat (hyuk, hyuk!) and all their personalities are stereotypes. Meanwhile, it sucks away all the dignity of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman, while completely misunderstanding the original stories (Frankenstein didn't WANT to scare people; it's like they've never even seen the original movie). The only characters that were likable were the villains, based on the Alien from Alien, Chucky from Child's Play, and one who was a combination of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees; only problem is, they never get any development in it. The slapstick isn't funny, with its sloppy movement and predictable and corny jokes and gags making me believe that its creators need to take a lesson from Tom and Jerry. The voice acting is hilariously bad, taking talented voice actors such as Scott McNeil and Tabitha St. Germain and forcing them to read such bad dialogue with silly voices. But the worst part is the script, which at the end decides to deliver a heavy-handed message about how the old movie monsters are better and scarier than the new ones. No, after delivering such juvenile entertainment, you do not have the right to put a message like that. And it's a contrived one, too; the old monsters aren't better, they were scary for their time but then became less so, and then they were replaced but then those monsters became less scary, and then they were replaced afterwards, etc. By the year it was released (2000), the characters who the villains were based on had already decayed, so this movie was obsolete even at the time it was released. It's quite forgettable, and I think DIC Entertainment wants the audience to forget they ever saw it. They shoved it on the same DVD as two much more entertaining Halloween specials (from Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Archie), and it's quite short, just barely over an hour long. I guess it was intended for really little kids, but all I can say is, I feel sorry for the parents who have to watch it with them.
Eat Me: A Zombie Musical (2009)
An enjoyable watch
Eat Me: A Zombie Musical is not referred to as such in the movie's opening titles. Rather, it was called "Eat Me: The Musical," which I would like to suggest as the more official title for the movie. It is also more appropriate because, minor spoilers, zombies don't appear until 3/4 of the way through the movie, so if you're only buying Eat Me for the zombies, then you might be disappointed. Otherwise, you might find it to be an enjoyable watch.
Eat Me: The Musical has become somewhat of a cult classic, most recently spotlighted by horror host Count Gore De Vol, and won the Fright Night Film Festival award for Best Soundtrack in 2009. In many ways, Eat Me reminds of other band movies like the Monkees' Head or Frank Zappa's 200 Motels. It has a great soundtrack and there are a lot of legitimately funny moments, but it's best to turn off your brain when watching it and try not to think too deeply about it. It's confusing and doesn't seem to follow any sort of distinct plot, so if you're not a fan of movies like that, then this movie probably isn't for you. Still, Eat Me did with a low budget and a lot of time what other big budget band movies wish they could do.
I rate it eight out of ten.
Rock of Ages (2012)
Just silly enough to be a guilty pleasure.
Rock of Ages is one of the big musical bombs, to the point where Motley Crue wouldn't even let their music be used for it, but is it really as bad as everyone says it is? Well, let's look at the bad parts of this movie. The characters are clichéd, the storyline is predictable, the pacing is slow, and there are numerous unresolved subplots. But if you look past all that, I found it to be actually a lot of fun. I think most of that is owed to its great soundtrack, where every singer in the movie sings some surprisingly impressive renditions of '80s classics. Also, Tom Cruise seems to be having a lot of fun with his performance. It's a guilty pleasure to say the least. Or most. Take whatever you want from that.
One Direction: This Is Us (2013)
This wasn't a documentary. This was an hour and a half long infomercial.
First of all, I know I'm not in the target demographic for this movie, but I feel like an interesting and informative documentary can be made about something no matter what its subject matter is. And this movie... ugh. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say that One Direction: This Is Us is the worst movie I've ever seen, because then someone could bring a different one to my attention that's even worse, but I will say that it's definitely the worst concert documentary I've ever seen. And even that feels really wrong, because at the end of the day, this was just propaganda. As a movie, nothing happens in it. As a documentary, it relies on the audience already knowing everything about this band. And as something called "This Is Us," I don't even leave it knowing all their names, much less anything else about them. There's no plot that it builds up to, there's no conflict or resolution, and this seems to be a common problem in the era when any schmuck pop star can get a theatrical movie made about them (such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and the Jones Brothers). And for a 3D movie, there isn't even anything interesting to look at apart from the five guys in the band going around and pointing at things. I actually lost a lot of respect for its director Morgan Spurlock when I saw this movie. It felt like he wanted to make a better movie that wasn't just a huge commercial, but was held back by someone--probably the record company--and instead made this. I'm glad to see that even some of the band's own fans are seeing through this quick grab for cash and are leaving negative reviews. Movies like this are created with zero effort and are only made to steal fans' money, because the people who make these movies know that some people will buy anything as long as it has a popular band's name attached.