Ryanburg's Short Film Reviews

October SkyB+High quality movie about four high school students in a West Virginia coal mining town inspired to build rockets by Sputnik in 1957. Based on the autobiography Rocket Boys by NASA space engineer Homer Hickem (could you possibly have a more redneck name). Good film with beautiful cinematography but predictable in that the kid's coal miner father wants him to put this rocket nonsense out of his head and become a miner like him, as well as the disapproval of the school principal and cops. Otherwise this was a film that should have kept the original name of the book, then people would have known what the movie was about and gone to see it.
The HauntingB A psychologist gathers four subjects in an old and presumably haunted house to study their reactions to fear. However, it turns out that the house really is haunted.

When I originally saw the The Haunting of Hill House on late night television when I was a little kid, the breathing door sequence scared the shit out of me. This is a remake utilizing far more sophisticated special effects while staying generally to the original storyline. The result is merely an OK movie but there is very little of the tension that was generated by the original.

Eyes Wide ShutB+ A successfuldoctor and his wife ponder the meaning of fidelity in the modern world. After the wife confesses that she had once been totally infatuated with a Navy officer she glimpsed for only a moment the doctor crashes a secretive sex party that chatters to the elite. However, he is discovered and unmasked. He finds that he is followed and fears for his safety. He discovers the truth about the organization and how true his suspicions are.

After 12 long years I finally got to see a new Stanley Kubrik film. There will never be another as he died in March, 1999. This film simply does not rank with his others, including 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket and Dr. Strangelove, and will be religated as one of his lesser works. Not that this is a bad film. It is extraordinarly moody and revolves around the bizzare. Although sex is a very significant element of the film, it does not necessarily center around it. However, it does not grip you as his previous works have been known to do. The last film that did this for me was last year's Dark City. Quite frankly, the ending was terrible and anticlimatic. Some critics have likened this film to his Barry Lyndon as the level of this work although I would say that this was slightly below it. Kubrik is my favorite director and I was very disappointed in the result. As there is no longer any chance of enjoying additional films, this one leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

American PieA-I saw this film because the line outside the theater to see The Blair Witch Project was around the courner. This movie is adolescent in its subject matter, revolving around a vow made by four high school seniors to get laid by the end of the school year. This is the stuff of which films in early 1980s were released by the score. All of them, with the exception of Porky's, were horribly bad. This movie, like Porky's, is the exception. It was hilarious. I laughed my head off. It is hilarious and gives you a good time. The success of the film will undoubtedly result in the release of scores of similar films, all of which will be horrible.
C.S.S HunleyB+A TNT movie. The story of the world's first combat submarine built by the Confederacy during the American Civil War and successfully sinks a Union ship in the blockade of Charleston. Great movie for history buffs (who know how the story ends)as well as a good drama with great action scenes for your nonhistory buff film goer. Featuring yankee New Yorker Armand Assante and Canadian Donald Sutherland with southern accents. A video store employee once told me that people actually got upset at him and said that he ruined the movie for them when, as they rented Titanic,/i>, he said, "the boat sinks." - - Guess what? The boat sinks.
Children of the RevolutionA-Australian. This is the story of a fanatical communist Australian woman who travels to Moscow in 1952, accidently screws Stalin to death and then has his child. See Stalin Sing! See Berria, Khrushchev and Malinkov tap dance! This is a hilarious and surreal satire with a suprisingly large number of well known actors - F. Murray Abraham as Stalin, Judy Davis and Sam Neill
HomegrownC-This is an entirely unfunny comedy about marijuana growers in Northern California. Not worth the effort to watch.
Lethal Weapon 4FThis movie sucks in every possible way and is going on my list of the worst films of 1998. Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Joe Pesci should be ashamed of themselves.
Summer of SamA-This is Spike Lee's first movie about white people. Naturally, he chooses lower-class yankee New York Italians (otherwise described as "Guidoes"). The story revolves around the panic of the New York white population during the summer David Burkowitz went around shooting couples parked in isolated areas. The story follows a group of guys in the one Italian neighborhood. Everyone is so afraid of the Son of Sam that they, as well as the neighborhood mafia, starts looking at loners and oddballs and drawing up lists of who could be the "Son of Sam" as the killer called himself in letters to police and the newpapers.

Suprisingly, David Berkowitz compromises only a small bit player as he scurries about his dirty apartment and screams at the walls. The film has a sense of style with eye-catching direction and a very good script. Considering the subject matter, the film is also filled with great humor, especially when Berkowitz is suprised in his apartment by his neighbor's dog who, with his lips moving, tells Berkowitz to go out and kill. One of the main problems with this film is the lack of continuity. The film has the habit of jumping forward the characters' situation without resolving the previous circumstance. Otherwise this is an excellent film.

Southpark: Bigger, Longer and UncutB+This motion picture version of the TV series lets you hear all the vulgar language that you didn't get to hear on MTV. It is extraordinarily funny. The "Fuck you, Uncle Fucker" song had me laughing with tears streaming down my face. It is the funniest sceen I've seen since the There Something About Mary zipper sceen. However, the movie is basically a musical with the characters constantly breaking into song. That is this movie's primary problem. Many of the songs are not funny and sometimes you can't even understand the words. Had they stuck to more conventional dialog as in the TV series, the film would have been even funnier.
HurlyburlyB This is the story of two men (Kevin Spacey, Sean Penn)who share a house over the course of a week and their interactions with women, friends, whores and drugs. This is a "dialog" movie where the storyline revolves around the conversations of the film's main and secondary characters and the situations revolving around them. One thing I found unbelievable is the fact that two men who work in the film industry and are very well off share a house and are straight. This simply does not occur in the real world. Quite frankly, although it was an ambitious attempt to create a film which would entertain without the need of any particular storyline, it fails. After a while, you just want the characters to shut up and do something already. It is tedious and is composed of entirely unsympathetic characters.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged MeB+ Superspy Austin Powers is back and is forced to travel back to swinging sixies London to track down Dr. Evil and get back his mojo. Although it has more adolescent dick jokes than your average premier Hollywood film, it was entertaining and genuinely funny. I suggest more movies exclusively about Dr. Evil. This character (as well as mini-me) was by far the best thing in the film.
Lawn DogsBAn independent film about a ten-year old girl who's new to a gated neighborhood and befriends the white trash lawn guy. Interesting concept on a modern class conflict storyline but fails to deliver in the end.
The Passion of Ayn RandB-A Showtime movie and biography of the legendary writer and philospher Ayn Rand. Typically, a Hollywood film that deals with Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy only incidentally, and makes much of her affair with one of her pupils. When produced by the Hollywood loony left, it predictably tries to discredit her and her works.
The Thirteenth FloorB-A man creates and entire artifical computer generated world set in the 1930's and can be entered and interacted with virtual reality. In the end, he discovers that it is our world that is the artifical world. Although it utilizes the concept that our relatity is merely some other's creation, which in new to film, but old in science fiction, the movie was dull and the ending predictable.
Home FriesB Two sons try to scare their philadering father with their National Guard helicopter. However, they manage to kill him with a heart attack instead. They are overheard by a pregnant burger joint hamburger flipper on her takeout order window headset. To determine if she knows anything, one brother gets a job at the restraunt and eventually falls in love with her. Merely an ok movie, but I didn't believe the premise for a minute.
The Water BoyC+A retarded water boy is fired by the college football team he works for. On applying to a rival team, they discover that he is a great football player. This movie was more stupid than funny. It was primarily so popular because no other movies were released that weekend.
A Simple PlanB+Two brothers discover a crashed plan with a half million dollars in it. They take the money, leading to multiple murder. Very clever, but again, not as great as everyone proclaimed.
PeckerB-Pecker is called Pecker because he 'pecks' at his food. He is also a natural photographer and is soon 'discovered' by a New York artworld. This leads to the distruction of his relationships with his girl and his family. John Waters latest film is nothing to boast about. It is severely disjointed. Then again, I have never been a Waters fan.
Oscar and LucindaA-A great movie about a english clergyman (Ralph Fiennes) and an Australian female Glassworks owner (Cate Blanchett -- Elizabeth) who are both compulsive and obsessive gamblers. The story tells their beginning, meeting and end. Ralph Fiennes delivers a remarkable performance as a compulsive gambler and religious figure riddled with neurosis.
Saving Private RyanA+Best Movie of 1998. This is one of the greatest war movies ever made and will be remembered long after Shakespear in Love is forgotten.
RushmoreA-This is a good movie that virtually no one has seen. It deserved a better release date and wider distribution.
Life is BeautifulB+The movie spends the first hour on the romance and only moves to the concentration camp afterward. Good, but not nearly as "great" as everyone has portrayed it to be. Roberto Beligni plays the same character that he has played in all his other films.
AntzA-Excellent animated film with great computer generated visual effects. Excellent storyline and voices.
A Bugs LifeB+Pretty good animated film without being too children oriented. Not as good as Antz either in the writing or the computer animation.
ElizabethA-An excellent historical film that is extraordinarily well acted, written and directed (believe it or not, by an Indian, not a Brit). Borrows heavily from The Godfather.
Enemy of the StateBThis is a combination of The Fugative and The Conversation. An OK little action flix good for viewing once. Borrows extremely heavily from The Conversation including Gene Hackman, his warehouse office with chainlink enclosure and even his character's photograph from the original film. Rent The Conversation.
The Thin Red LineC+THE MOST OVERRATED MOVIE OF THE YEAR. What would have been a great war movie was irrevocably ruined by the useless baggage director Terrance Malik saddled on this film. The battle scenes were great as was the performance of Nick Nolte. However, there is an additional useless third hour after the battle is won and the narrator has a really fake southern accent. The result is a boring movie that hasn't made a dime. This is an example of why you should not listen to professional film critics. It is important to remember that Malik's last film, Days of Heaven, destroyed the United Artists studio, and this is the first film he's directed in the 20 years since then. Perhaps no one would give him the opportunity to ruin them for the last 20 years. After this film, it will probably be another 20 years before he gets another chance to direct.
Capitaine ConanBFrench with english subtitles. A World War One film depicting the actions of a special forces unit before and after the German surrender. The hero finds himself under the gun after a fellow officer prosecutes his men for murders committed at a Hungarian bar. Conan argues that the government who trained them are culpable. The French have the great ability to ruin a perfectly good film by making it boring, despite its great subject matter.
RoninA-A thinking man's action movie. Directed by the great John Frankenheimer and with Robert De Niro. This film uses the classic hidden "McGuffin" as several groups of former east and west spies pursue a mysterious box. Great chase scenes.
PleasantvilleC-What could have been a good comedy was ruined by its attempt to lecture and preach. See my American History X review.
Apt PupilB-The third movie to be made from Stephen King's Different Seasons anthology (Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption). This was by far the best story in the book but this is the worst adaptation from it. Tells the story of a suburban boy who discovers his elderly neighbor is a Nazi war criminal. The script needed punching up and they changed the ending.

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