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All reviews - Movies (6) - TV Shows (1) - Books (1)

Cut Short

Posted : 13 years, 4 months ago on 20 May 2010 09:19 (A review of Nightmare Cafe)

I have a feeling that if this show was given a full season instead of a scant 6 episodes it may've come into its own and found an audience. I've found that with some shows (especially ones with more abstract premises) require a few episodes to feel itself out and find a formula that works. Kind of an extended version of "don't judge a show by its pilot." Unfortunately, Nightmare Cafe was cancelled just when it began to find itself.

A sort of Twilight Zone meets Quantum Leap meets Cheers(sort of), Nightmare Cafe is basically about two people (Frank and Fay) who get a second chance at life working in an otherworldly cafe that moves from place to place - seemingly anywhere where there are lost souls in need of help in life. Frank (Jack Coleman) and Fay's(Lindsay Frost) job is, aside from doing normal waitressing and cooking duties, to help these people in some aspect of their lives, not too dissimilar from Sam's job in Quantum Leap although without the time-travel and life-hopping. The cafe is run by the mysterious Blackie (Robert Englund), who claims to have been there "since the beginning" and is otherwise suggested to be something otherworldly himself.

It's an interesting premise and for the most part it executes it well. The first couples episodes are shaky at best, it seemed to me that the writers weren't entirely sure how much supernatural element they wanted in the show or how the cafe itself would act. As the show went on, the concept got progressively more solid and began to regulate the supernatural, horror, and humor elements to better support the stories. I particularly liked the last two episodes, "Sanctuary for a Child" and "Aliens Ate My Lunch", which were entirely different in tone but told their respective stories very well.

The acting is good, as the series progressed you could really see the actors getting a feel for their characters. This also includes the "character" of the cafe, which began to develop a sort of personality towards the end.
The stories had great potential, too. Since the cafe could move itself anywhere it desired, it could be anywhere the writers thought would make a good backdrop. Unfortunately, only a few episodes actually made noticeable changes in setting.
I have read that the creators envisioned the show as being a horror/supernatural anthology like the Twilight Zone, except with a steady cast connecting the stories. It did seem to be headed in that direction and if it was allowed to continue could've made for fantastic stories.

It's a real shame the show didn't go on longer because it was quite good and had the potential to be great. I may be bias, however, since its similar in concept to Quantum Leap, which is one of my all-time favorite TV shows ever. Unfortunately, Nightmare Cafe was squashed early and as such didn't have time to grow nor get much of an audience. I still hope for a DVD release at some point. If you wish to see Nightmare Cafe, I recommend watching the schedule for the cable channel Chiller, as it occasionally airs the show in marathon form (in fact, this is how I found the show). I highly recommend giving it a look.

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A world of used cars and singles bars...

Posted : 13 years, 4 months ago on 18 May 2010 01:48 (A review of All Dogs Go to Heaven)

This is one of my absolute favorite films from my childhood. I don't know why, but I adored it as a kid and, oddly, wasn't remotely scared by it. Set in 1930's New Orleans, All Dogs is, basically, about heaven and hell, and the repercussions of our actions. Seems rather dark for a "kid's film" but that's really because people mistake animation as "for kids" instead of for people and because people assume all media for kids should be candy-colored castrated tales.

The lead is Charlie, a selfish, greedy, gambling mutt high on life after he escapes from "death row" (I don't know if that's the same as human death row or simply what dogs would call a pound). His return does not please his former business partner, Carface, who has him bumped off. Charlie arrives in the afterlife where dogs get sent to heaven by rote because "unlike people, dogs are naturally good, loyal, and kind". Looking his gift horse in the mouth and not being content to stay in boring old heaven, Charlie breaks out despite warnings that "you can never come back". Now basically undead, Charlie sets out to get revenge on his killer, becoming side-tracked by a little girl named Anne-Marie. The rest you'll have to watch to find out.

It is a dark movie and its difficult to appreciate if you didn't grow up with it. Were it to come out now I'd take one look at the title and boggle at how a movie with such a subject could be made for kids. It is much better than it sounds and really not as dark and scary as you'd think. The death of animals is a heavy subject though and still gets me to this day. The subjects and heaven and hell aren't heavy handed and it does't feel pontificated or overly religious which I consider a plus but I could see it annoying some people. It's not a perfect movie, but it is a good movie and certainly worth watching.

To note, the presence of the sequels really sullies the integrity and message of this first film and I highly recommend avoiding the sequel and the TV series.

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Death at a Funeral review

Posted : 13 years, 4 months ago on 18 May 2010 12:49 (A review of Death at a Funeral)

A few years back this film was recommended to me by a random person at the Renaissance Fair but I had forgotten all about it until I saw the trailer for the remake earlier this year. It's a real shame I didn't make more of an effort to see it earlier because, besides the fact that it is a fairly entertaining film, the trailers for the American version pretty much spoiled all the pivotal scenes and primary jokes (the British trailer may as well, but because its older and foreign, I didn't have occasion to see it randomly in theaters). It's a real shame because I probably would've liked it much more if I didn't see everything coming.

That said, it was still a good movie. It's a very mild movie for the most part and thus enjoyable compared to a lot of comedies these days which basically scream at you to laugh at them. I reckon the funeral stuff is bound to be a drawing point for some, but its hard for me to judge that since my family works in the funeral business so such subjects no longer seem odd to me.
The acting is good, and I did find it neat that Alan Tudyk played the drugged boyfriend, partially because he was an American playing British, and partially because he's "that guy from Firefly".

In anycase its always nice to see a family more dysfunctional than yours, and if you like a nice dark comedy (and British humor) then you'll probably like this. I certainly think its worth seeing.

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Exactly What It Says

Posted : 13 years, 4 months ago on 18 May 2010 12:25 (A review of Babies)

This isn't really what I consider a movie, which in my mind usually requires a plot or otherwise some considerable information fictional or otherwise being presented on screen. However, I don't usually watch documentaries so maybe this is par for the course. Babies has no plot, very little dialog (and even less in English), no subtitles, and no information outright presented. It is exactly what the title says, its just a bunch of footage about babies (4 specific babies to be exact) roughly spanning and year in their lives. I've heard that the director wanted to just present the footage with no opinions or any strings attached to leave the opinion-making up to the audience and it really does seem that way.

Just because its not a movie doesn't mean its bad, its a very honest movie and delivers purely what it says it is. It's just a bunch of babies being cute and baby-like. A lot of movies exist solely on the "babies are cute" principal but they usually have a horrible plot thrown in that completely distracts you so this movie is certainly preferable.

So, yeah, it was a cute movie. Not really my cup of tea (I really only saw it because my mother wanted to), but it was cute nonetheless and its not a torturous hour and a half at all. It's just babies.

Note: If you're prudish or the kind of person who freaked out at the infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, know that there's a fair bit of bare breasts/breastfeeding in this. If that's going to bother you then it might be a good idea to steer clear.

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Thoroughly Unique

Posted : 14 years, 4 months ago on 11 May 2009 05:02 (A review of The Welkin Weasels: Thunder Oak)

I admit, I have a big soft spot for animal fiction (specifically when the animal is the protagonist). I was introduced to the genre quite predictably by the Redwall series and as such I tend to consider the style/conventions of the Redwall series as the 'norm' for the genre. I was drawn to Thunder Oak because it starred weasels as good guys instead of villains (which is what they usually are). Since weasels are my favorite animal, well, this appealed to me. Needless to say, I had no idea what I was walking into.

Thunder Oak is the first book in the Welkin Weasels series. The plot is basically that humans mysteriously left the island of Welkin generations back and in that time the animals have become more human-like, taking on human values and such. Each species has its own unique customs and different extents to which they mirror humanity. Weasels and stoats are centered on in the story as weasels have essentially become oppressed by the more powerful stoats. A weasel named Sylver and his band of outlaws set out on a quest to find clues to find the humans and bring them back.

Pretty much all books with anthropomorphic characters are considered "Fantasy" but this is one of the first ones I've read that really takes advantage of that label. You go in expecting a sort of Robin Hood-esque story in a mirror of old England. Then you suddenly reach a paragraph that explains that in human's absense, statues have taken on life and wander the countryside. The world of Welkin is very magical, but not in the typical ways which makes it unpredictable and thus a great read. Highly recommended, especially for anyone who likes animal fiction.

Two words of warning - The books have unfortunately never been published in the US, so if you're American like me the book is a little more difficult to obtain and may be a little difficult to read at first since its written a wee bit differently than American books (all dialog is in 'single quotes' instead of "double quotes"). It isn't that hard to adjust to, though.
Secondly, its important to know that Thunder Oak does NOT answer all the mysteries it sets up - the next two books, Castle Storm and Windjammer Run, are directly connected and you need to read all three to finish the mystery of the missing humans and such.

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Posted : 14 years, 4 months ago on 7 May 2009 06:46 (A review of Seven)

This movie is a classic and I constantly recommend it to people. A fantastically interesting crime movie following two detectives as they try to track and catch a serial killer. The quirk is that this killer chooses his victims based upon the seven deadly sins - Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy, and Wrath.

Its difficult to describe why I love this movie. Its just so engaging and interesting, I've yet to meet anyone who isn't interested in watching it to its end. Indeed, whenever its on TV I feel compelled to watch it (despite having seen in dozens of times and owning the DVD). One of the absolute best in the "detectives track serial killer" genre (up there with Silence of the Lambs!). A real must-see with a killer ending (no, that's not a pun).

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Love or Hate

Posted : 14 years, 5 months ago on 28 April 2009 02:39 (A review of Stay)

This movie is for artists. At least, that's been my experience. The people who love it tend to be artists while it tends to completely lose the people who are not at all involved in the arts. I don't know if there's a correlation there, but it should give you some idea of what you'll think going in. It is VERY artistic, both in storytelling and visually. This is a very beautiful movie that keeps you baffled up until the end (then it becomes clear as crystal. Trust me). Its very inclusive and symbolic - almost everything in the movie means something and for a hyperanalytical movie-goer like me it can provide a lot of rewatch value just to investigate them.
Don't be fooled by the trailer, it's not a horror movie. Or, at least, not a conventional horror movie. One could call it a psychological horror, as it does have a lot in common with movies like [Link removed - login to see], albiet with less scare factor. Watch it to think, I warn against watching this passively.

This is hands down my favorite movie, its simply beautiful and fantastically told. But its not for everyone and some people will be confused by it. Want my advice? Watch it twice, then decide. Its a very different movie the second time around.

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Its Party Time!

Posted : 14 years, 5 months ago on 27 April 2009 11:04 (A review of Titanic: The Animated Movie)

Don't let the rating fool you, if you want a movie that's an absolute trainwreck, you must see this film.

Considering the plot of the movie is a "family friendly" version of the Titanic, its pretty clear that there was pretty much no way for this movie to not be horrible. Add to that ridiculous songs, poor animation, and rip-offs galore, you have the makings of an awful movie. The laundry list of animated movies blatantly stolen from here is long and can be a fun game when working through watching this thing.

The highlight is, of course, the rapping dog Fritz. The Party Time sequence is a must-see.

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