Tuesday, July 26, 2016

MOVIE REVIEWS # 121: "STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON", "A WAR", "YOUTH", "THE VISIT", "BLACKHAT", "QUEEN OF EARTH", "ACCIDENTAL LOVE", "A WOLF AT THE DOOR", "A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY", "TWINSTERS", "THE RAILWAY MAN", and MORE!

For those of you who pay attention to my Facebook pages and Twitter feed, you might've noticed that I've become slightly more political in some of the things I post. Well, A. I'm trying to post more things there anyway, especially on the blog's FB page, which is here:

https://www.facebook.com/David-Baruffis-Entertainment-Views-and-Reviews-602692689824035/?ref=bookmarks

but also, I'm starting to notice the Polls have suddenly gotten much closer than they should, and I'm not happy with that. Listen, I'm a liberal, progressive, radicalist, more importantly, I'm a Democrat, and yes, I voted for Sanders, or would've had I gone to my state's caucus this year, but does that mean I'm anti-Hillary? Hell, no! Abso-fucking-lutely not. I love Hillary Clinton, in fact I would've voted for her eight years ago, except I thought she was slightly more polarizing than Obama and that he could potentially win a state or two Hillary couldn't, turns out, Obama turned New Hampshire twice, Virginia twice, Nevada twice, Colorado twice, New Mexico twice, and North Carolina and Indiana once, so, I was right there. Other than that, I honestly didn't see much difference between them. I couldn't say that about her and Sanders; he was closer to my ideology, and he had a statistical shot, and even though he loss, fine, the election was skewered against him in more ways than one, but I remember nobody complaining about that when Obama was skewering Hillary votes and delegates eight years ago, so (Blows raspberries) you know what, it's not even a concern. So, she deleted top secret e-mails, (Which ironically, sounds exactly like the kind of e-mails that should be deleted now that I'm thinking about it. Yeah, sensitive information blah, blah, blah, if that's her worst problem and worst lie, I think we're okay people) yeah, yeah, Trump is egomanical asshole who's a lousy businessman and is obsessed with nothing but his own image, which by the way, isn't worth nearly as much as he says it is. He's a two-bit hack reality TV star, and those are the nice things I can say about him. He should never have been a Party's nominee, even the Republican Party, who let's face it, after two Bush's, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Dennis Hastert and about thirty or forty other embarrassments to the human race they've sprouted on the American people in recent years, they've lost all ability to be anything more than a menace to progress. Obama is the greatest President in my lifetime, Hillary is more-than-capable of topping him, but anybody who thinks, "Oh yeah, Trump can't win, the people will correct this eventually", well, I hope you're right, but fuck that, it's time to get angry and really prove and show how worthless he is, and time to make sure everybody knows it. I'm currently thinking about trying to think of a way to provoke him, so if you see any strange and uncharacteristic tweets from me, that are sent directly to @DonaldJTrump that's me, trying to prove just hope egomanical he is, by actually seeing if he, will respond to somebody as unimportant and meaningless as me. He probably won't, but I can't put it past him. Look, I'm keeping track of FiveThirtyEight.com's polls, so, please, please, don't vote third party or any crap like that, (And btw, third parties, if you actually want to be relevant, start trying to run for offices other than President, seriously, and actually start having a real influence, even Sanders, who was a Senator as a Socialist until he ran for President knows this) and vote for Hillary. Trust me, what you'll get is, basically as good, if not better than Obama, 'cause Hillary doesn't put up with bullshit as well as Obama does/has, so she might push through more stuff we need, like perhaps a Supreme Court Justice, maybe. So anyway, call out Trump's lies, all of them, and all the GOP's untruths, in fact beat them over the head with facts the same way they beat their constituents over their head with "Feelings" and whatever other Fox News bullshit the toss, and just remember to vote for Hillary. Vote early and vote often, and keep and eye on the polls, you'll start getting angry too if you see how unnervingly close it's become. And yeah, to answer your question, I'm angry.

And one more thing before I go onto more interesting and fun stuff, yeah, I'm not gonna pretend Hillary isn't a bit shady, she's a Clinton, they know all the angles and how to play them, and that's what I love about all of them, and yeah, I'm not crazy about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's behavior as DNC chair, and these e-mails are damning and yes, I'm glad she resigned and was kicked out of the DNC, she should've been, but here's the thing, Hillary won fair-and-square. She did. I mean you want to complain about the rules, fine, but they were the rules, and she played it well. And in theory at least, I agree with the system. I love the idea of superdelegates, people with experience, within the party, with respect and knowledge to have a vote that matters separate of just the popularity vote. With the popularity only vote, you get Donald Trump folks. I'm not gonna pretend they're always perfect, but remember they were the ones who put Obama over-the-top in 2008, and nobody complained then that he was stealing the election from Hillary, you shouldn't be complaining now. And even if we did change the system, there's no guarantee Sanders would've won, in fact, he probably would've only lost in a closer race, so what are we talking about here? Seriously, Hillary's amazing, and she wants the job, 'cause she damn well knows she can do it and do it well, and she's right about that. So let's cut this out Democrats, I'm tired of fighting within ourselves, that's not us, that's them and if we keep acting like this, then we get Trump in the White House, so time to shape up, and stop pretending that the few minor lies Hillary told, that most anybody would've told are in comparable to the 75,000 lies Trump says every fucking day, and do what Al Franken said, get to work and get her elected.

(Deep breath) Okay, let's get back to actual entertainment. Um, well, I'm focusing a lot more on television right now than movies, since the Emmys are coming up fast, I'll probably be posting more on that when I can. I did see a couple movies that I didn't get to review. One of them was an old film from 1992, called "Out on a Limb", it's directed by Francis Veber, he's the man who wrote "La Cage aux Folles" originally, and I'm generally not a fan of his work, like "The Dinner Game", which recently got remade as "Dinner for Schmucks", neither version is good, although in that case, I think I barely prefer the original, he also is responsible for "Father's Day", yeah that terrible one with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, he made "The Toy", the one where the little kid owned Richard Pryor, yeah,-, I don't see the point of him to be honest. I guess, "The Closet", was kinda funny on concept at least. "Out on a Limb" thankfully, is probably his most forgettable and pointless film. It's a mildly-interesting screwball comedy that's mostly remember now as the only film that reunited Matthew Broderick and Jeffrey Jones, he the guy that played the principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", among other amazing roles. The Emperor in "Amadeus" for instance, great actor. Also, he's a giant pedophile. No, not kidding, look it up. (Shrugs) Yeah, the more you know... Alright, maybe "giant pedophile", but he's on California sex offender registry and he's has a few incidents with underage boys, I don't know maybe it's a Brian Kinney with Justin kind of thing, so who knows. (Oh, yeah, I've finally gotten around to watching "Queer as Folk", and it's really damn good so far. Wish I had gotten to it sooner)

There's one other movie I want to talk about, it's a movie I was actually gonna write a review for, but it didn't get a theatrical release for some reason, it's called "Chinese Coffee". It was shot in 2000, but didn't get even a DVD release 'til 2007. It was directed by Al Pacino, one of his few directing attempts and was based on the Ira Lewis play, and it's a two-hander with Pacino and Jerry Orbach playing old-time Greenwich Village bohemians who are now in their older age, who's friendship comes apart one late night over a novel that one of them has written about their friendship. Um, it expands the play a bit from, uses a lot of flashbacks for instance, and shows a lot of the scenes that were originally just mentioned in the play, but overall, this was a wonderful film and I definitely hope people seek it out. I'm not exactly sure why it never got a theatrical release, I definitely, especially in 2000, I could see myself considering it to be one of the better films of that year; I enjoyed it immensely, and Pacino and Orbach gave some wonderful performances between them. It's a play, Pacino's done on stage numerous times over the years, and it's a passion project of his, and I can see why. One of those rare films that just fell through the cracks.

Anwyay, this has gone on long enough, let's get to this week's MOVIE REVIEWS! Starting with the Oscar-nominated films, "Straight Outta Compton", "A War" and "Youth"!


STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015) Director: F. Gary Gray

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You know what actually kinda gets me about the N.W.A. story, why Easy E? (Jason Mitchell) I mean, why was he the one that Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) singled out? I never got that, Like, Dr. Dre, (Corey Hawkins) he's the producer, that would've made sense for him to be singled out by Jerry, so would Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Ice Cube's son [Yeah, his real name is O'Shea Jackson. That seems like a good enough stage name, although I can see changing it.]) or perhaps MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) because they were both main writers/lyricists in the group, but he singled out Easy E for some reason, as the-eh, I guess, focus of the group. The star? The major voice of the group? Eh, I don't know, with all due respect, I just never saw Easy E that way, and kinda was confused by Heller's actions. I mean, yeah, him being both incredibly supportive and protective of the group he signed, to the point of fighting police when they're about to be arrested, and actually caring about the success and well-being or the group, and yet still, screwing them over on royalties, yeah, that I buy, but, why center the focus on Easy E? I guess, one could argue that the former drug dealer was perhaps the most logical person to have some shady business arrangements with but maybe it's also because he was only a small-time drug dealer and only barely an artist who at first only bankrolled the groups' recording sessions but then became a lead rapper/vocalist practically on the fly. Although oddly, the movie offers another strange possibility that Heller just saw Easy E on their first single, "Boyx N the Hood" which was their first single, and presumed he was the main part of the group and for some reason, nobody corrected or even insinuated differently, even after their were posters that had Easy E's name above N.W.A.. I guess it's just an observation I've always had and "Straight Outta Compton" the biopic about the group, doesn't really answer this question, although we don't get Heller's perspective. The movie was produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, and MC Ren and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.) were producers so there's definitely some bias to the film, although that said, I think they did a pretty good job in trying to tell the story as accurate as possible, and that's probably why there's no clear explanation for Heller's, not just actions, but preferences and we have to speculate. I focus on him, because him and Easy E's relationship is the most interesting aspect of the film. The rest, while good is basically a rehash of the fairly well-known history of the group. For those unfamiliar, Niggerz With Attitude, shortened to N.W.A. for obvious reasons were the major underground hip hop act that basically invented gangsta rap as we know it, by simply telling about life as young African-American men in Compton, California, circa, late '80s and early '90s, and yes, this caused a lot of controversy at the time, in particular for their angst against the police force, with songs like "Fuck Tha Police" which they attacked for over-abusing their authority, particular with their racist treatment they receive from them, up to and including graphic and violent abuses of their powers. (Write your own "Black Lives Matter" reference to how shockingly topical this subject is at the moment.) Now, I've never been too appreciative of rap music, in the past; I've often joked about how I'm the last person who's still waiting for this rap trend to die, and a lot of that is a callback to my original feelings on the genre, particularly around this era, and they often started and in many times incited some of the more, just absurdly moronic parts of the genre, not to mention Death Row records and that beyond idiotic West Coast/East Coast war that started in the hip hop magazines and ended with at minimum, two talented young men getting killed. Suge Knight's (R. Marcos Taylor) also shown in the movie and we get a sense of his presence, and some of his more notorious behavior as Dr. Dre tries to strike out on his own by creating the infamous record company. That said, looking back, N.W.A.'s music is definitely one of the shining lights of that era and when you really listen back, the music isn't nearly as, militaristic and anti-authority that people claimed at the time, and then claimed as prophetic after the whole Rodney King/L.A. Riots incidents afterwards. The movie does a really good job in setting, the movie reflects and looks quite similar to era, not only in costumes and dress, but it gets that sense of the uneasy L.A. and the world that N.W.A. came onto the scene with as well as the scene that evolved out of N.W.A. one that seemed destined to confront the world, but not-so-shockingly in hindsight, led to everyone involved becoming far more calmed down and richer than they ever imagined. It seems strange that a crazy mutherfucker like Ice Cube, would one day have a family in a nice place while writing a stoner comedy about, people doing nothing all day. That said, "Straight Outta Compton" feels oddly formulaic and even, dare I say, average.  I mean, it's a good movie, and I guess technically a good music biopic, but I-, I have some concerns over whether it's a great one. Reading Wesley Morris's negative review of the film, I realized he picked up on something I hadn't which was just thrown together some of the exposition in the film was, like a mention of a MTV Wet n' Wild Party that, honestly, if they didn't actually mention that it was that specific party, I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between that party and any other party the group seemed to have/be involved with. We're told a lot more about N.W.A. than maybe we're shown, and I mean that in a very, by the numbers point of view. The story pretty much just goes in the order of, "This happened first and this came next, this was here, the Detroit concert was here, than Easy E and Jerry eating lobster was here in Miami, it's-, maybe it's because N.W.A.'s run is so short that their isn't as much to actually focus on; it's like trying to make a movie about the history of the Sex Pistols, only Sid & Nancy didn't die. Okay, Easy E, of course did pass away, but, yeah, it was years after and he passed away of AIDS, not because of the culture of their personalities within the world of the music they transformed the way Biggie and Tupac did. I'm not begrudging Easy E for not getting killed, don't get me wrong, but yeah, comparatively, their impact musically is probably more relevant and profound then the story of their creation, existence and ultimate end. Still though, there's plenty to recommend with "Straight Outta Compton",  the great performances, the music, and of course, the history does need to be documented whether it's as compelling as they would probably wish it were or not. I wish the movie was actually a bit more aggressive itself to match the aggression that the group come out with.  


A WAR (2015) Director: Tobias Lindholm

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Danish director Tobias Lindholm in a few short years and films has carved out a nice niche for him making some memorable slice-of-life dramas, that feel utterly realistic. He's more known as a writer at the moment for "The Hunt" and "Submarino", but his 2012 breakthrough as a director, "A Hijacking", about a cargo ship that was boarded by Somali pirates was fascinating, in how it was basically a movie about a hostage negotiation, and spend as much, if not more time in the business and government buildings of Denmark as it did on the actual ship. Now, a similarly-titled film "A War", also seems to be taking the bare bones approach to it's subject. And "A War" is about as bare bones as a film can with a subject as simple as "A War". Hell, until they actually bring up Afghanistan, I wasn't actually sure this was any war in particular. The movie takes place, again like "A Hijacking" the movie takes place half on the battlefield, and half in Denmark, this time, mostly based at the home of the Company Commander Claus M. Pederson (Pilou Asbaek) who by all accounts seems like a reasonable and sensible commanding officer and quite a good soldier at that. At home, his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) watches over his kids, and not much else. Then, something happens out on one of the patrols, and Claus orders an attack that might maybe he shouldn't have and the results, purportedly is that innocent civilians, including children, were killed. The rest of the movie, is that he goes home, and that's one good thing, but he's got a trial looming, and the possibility of a prolonged prison sentence is looming. The best part of the movie is the actual trial, and I won't give anything away, but it's a really well-done trial and that's the main reason I'm recommending it. It's actually so well-done, and I won't give away the result, but if I had been a judge or jury on the court, I might not have voted the way they did at the end, but that's not a bad thing, it just shows how dire and difficult the numerous different aspects and timings were at play as the dogs of war are all around. The movie earned a foreign language Oscar nomination and I can see why. It's subtle and at times unnervingly slow, but I get the method and the pacing. It's taking the extreme and placing it in the everyday and treating it realistically, brutally so at that. "A War", might be about a specific war, but it hypothetically could've been about any war, and I think that's a benefit of the film. It's not a complex film in it's story, but a complex film emotionally and it's nearly flawlessly executed and the fact that there's not much else to say about the movie is a feature, not a flaw.


YOUTH (2015) Director: Paolo Sorrentino


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Paolo Sorrentino's "Youth" is a beautiful lyrical movie about two aging artistic geniuses who are both struggling to find desire both in their work and in their lives. Director Paolo Sorrentino has done these very meditative pieces before, there's definitely some Fellini in him, especially here in "Youth", which is, maybe not his but somebody's ideal version of "8 1/2" I presume. I've been more hit-and-miss on him, for instance, I really didn't care for his international breakthrough "Il Divo", that much, but I deeply admired the Oscar-winning, "The Great Beauty" and even moreso, the stranger, wilder and more surreal "This Must be the Place" which is also focused on an aging musician struggling to deal with the past. That one had Sean Penn as a washed-up rock star but here, we get Michael Caine, as a beloved classical conductor, who's long retired, figuratively and literally. In fact, the movie takes place, in one of those vacation resorts that basically exists only for the uber-wealthy and in particular, the uber-famous to get away from the world for awhile, this one's in Switzerland, and Fred Ballinger (Caine) is partially vacationing, partially living at this resort, along with his film director best friend, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel). Mick is working on a new screenplay with a group of young film school grads, a movie he's calling his "Testament". Meanwhile, Fred is in line to be knighted by the Queen of England, but he continues to refuse the request to come out of retirement to perform his famous "Simple Songs", even though she's basically offering the best in the world for him to come back, he continues to refuse. Also at the resort is Fred daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who is her father's business manager, however she just got dumped by Mick's son Julian (Ed Stoppard) who out-of-nowhere announced that he's divorcing her to marry a pop star, Paloma F-, wait really, Paloma Faith (Paloma Faith, playing herself essentially) Oh, wow, I love her music, that's a nice surprise, and she's now lounging around, along with numerous other side characters all around the screen, probably most notably an actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) who's out hiding and researching a role by, mostly observing life around him, mainly with Mick and Fred, although he meets a couple other people. I've describing plot and story, but the movie doesn't really have one, or it doesn't rely on it anyway. It's a meditative on life and death, and the simple random thoughts these characters have, or actually, it's a movie about what they talk about and to who they talk about it. There's one couple, who actually doesn't talk in fact. Helmut Fornbacher and Heidi Maria Glossner are credited simply as "Silent Husband" and "Silent Wife" and each day, Mick and Fred make a bet at dinner, over whether or not one of the two will ever talk to the other. I'm not sure what they represent, although I've always liked the idea of a couple who love each other and have been together for long enough that they're capable of simply enjoying the silence between them, as they ultimately have said everything they needed to say to each other. That's probably my youthful dreaming however. That's another parallel, the constant conflicting of the young and the old at this resort. It's supposedly a resort paradise that attracts the young and famous but much of the clientele is way past their prime and the ones that aren't are really just hiding from everybody else 'cause nobody young goes there. (Thing of it like Palm Springs is now) The only person who seems to be there who's young and for the joy and the glamour of it all, is the latest Miss Universe winner (Madelina Diana Ghenea, and no, for those wondering, she's just an actress, despite their being more a couple people in the movie playing themselves here) who won the trip as apart of her prize package. I should also point out there's five minute scene or so, where Jane Fonda plays a famous actress who's worked with Mick for most of his career, it's a stunning part for, what is essentially a prolonged cameo. I saw her name show up on more than a few Supporting Actress awards, 'cause she was that good, although I think Caine and Keitel's performances in particular are some of their very best in years. The movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, for "Simple Song #3" which is an aria that gets played at the end of the movie during a concert performance that's sung by legendary soprano Sumi Jo, playing herself also, and it's quite beautiful, although I myself, not that I'm that overly a lover of classical music, but I was a little surprised and stunned by that song's nomination. It is an important song in the movie and it does it's job, but there's quite a bit I would've nominated about the movie before I got to the Song. It's maybe a bit long, but there's a lot to like here, and many different layers and subplots and sub-stories; this is one of those movies that's not afraid to drift away from the main characters for a bit and showcase someone else, or something different, or even show us the characters' dreams, but then it can dive into some great tragi-monologues, Rachel Weisz in particular has a great monologue early in the film, she's playing kind of an interesting role here for her, one that plays to a lot of her strengths now that I think about it. There is a lot going on, there's always something interesting on the screen, and it's one of those movies you can just sit back and relax and sorta drift away into your thoughts and this majestic little temporary vacation of a world, which is kinda what a movie is to begin with. I greatly admire "Youth", I'd definitely say it's Sorrentino's best film yet.


THE VISIT (2015) Director: M. Night Shyamalan

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Well, I did hear that this was the first decent Shyamalan film in years, and yeah, I guess technically. I thought it was a pain to sit through, but yeah, sure, I'll give it a pass anyway. M. Night Shyamalan has become notorious in most film circles, it's not necessarily all his own fault, but I-eh, I definitely suspect that he may have convinced himself that his own skills and abilities were slightly greater than they probably were, and that has led to some, um, let's call it questionable films and film choices in recent years. It's interesting that he's rebuilt himself with a straight-up horror movie, I mean, this is, without a doubt a horror film; it even uses the conceit of foun-, well, I about to say found footage, but without giving anything, the footage is not lost in the movie, it's still a first person film though, shot from the perspective of two teenage siblings, Becca and Tyler (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), but here's the weird thing though, he became famous for the horror/thriller genre, with his breakthrough film "The Sixth Sense" and then his two best films, "Unbreakable" and "Signs" (Yeah, "The Sixth Sense" is overrated, and "Signs" is his masterpiece, Yeah, go ahead with your comments on this one, but you're all wrong, "Signs" is easily his best, arguably the version of "War of the Worlds" ever put on film!) and he's since stayed on that track and mostly has made, not only flop after flop, but really bad film after really bad film. But here's the thing, is he a horror filmmaker? I'm not sure, and I wonder if him being pigeonholed into that genre has hurt him. In fact, one thing I kinda remember liking about Shymalan was how distinctly different his films were, genre-wise. "The Sixth Sense" wasn't horror, it was a psychological thriller, ghost story. "Unbreakable", basically a comic book origin story, and again a psychological thriller. "Signs", like I said, his take on an alien invasion story, it certainly wasn't a usual horror. But, somewhere along the line. He wasn't even beholden to his notorious twist endings, "Signs" didn't have one, many of his other films didn't. Maybe they should've but,...- and here's the thing, he didn't start in horror. In fact, his first two feature films, "Praying with Anger" and "Wide Awake", they're not horror films at all. In fact, they're films about, character finding themselves, they're both about pilgrimages basically, and they had obvious religious undertones to them as well, they were character pieces. That's probably why his best films hold up as well as they do, 'cause they are at some level about characters discovering/finding their old/true selves. Finding out you're a ghost, finding out you're Superman, finding your faith again after following painful grief, that's not in the movies where the characters and running from, Wind, and um, well, I guess "After Earth", was supposed to be about that, but um, yeah, let's just forget that exists. Even "The Village" wasn't about the people finding out they're living out of modern time, it's about us finding out they're living in modern time, which is precisely why that movie is a piece of crap; he lost the character in favor of the narratives or worst, he lost the character angle for the plot twists. So, he's famous for a genre that he only fell into, and then, when he tried to replicate the genre, instead of sticking to his own original themes, he became the laughing stock that he's been ever since, and part of that is the publicity he got, and it wasn't entirely undeserved, but yeah, we jumped the gun on him.

So, what about "The Visit"? Well, like I said, the movie is shot from the perspective of teenagers, the girl, Becca, in particular is one of those young girls who apparently knew right away that she was going to be a film director all her life, and already seems to have learn from a few books what took me, six-digits in student loans to learn,- (Again, I am tired of this trope of teenagers making movies in movies) Anyway, she's out to document a week-long visit her and her brother have to their grandparents' house. Now, they haven't seen/met their Grandparents yet. They're mother, (Kathryn Hahn, who is sadly underused) left them years earlier on bad terms and hasn't had contact with them since. and while their Mother is spending the week on a cruise with her latest boyfriend, Becca hopes this video will help her mother who's time was supposed to heal her, but she hasn't done much healing. (Oh, there's a running bad joke about how Tyler decides to curse using female singers name, Shaymalan, for making half my CD collection curse words, Adele You!) Anyway, they finally meet Nana and Pop Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) who, seem like mostly normal old people, but they do exhibit some surprisingly strange behaviors, especially at night. They do work as consulers at a nearby hospital, but they do seem to be suffering from severe symptoms of old age. Incontinence, sundowner's syndrome, etc., and this worries the kids, but soon they wonder if there's more going on with them, and naturally with this being a horror, of course there fucking is. I won't go into what, but let's just say, that for a straight horror-film, I think it works. I wouldn't call it a thriller, I wouldn't call it psychological, but yeah, there's enough character-growth mixed with some of the motifs of the horror genre that I think it combined together well enough to recommend. As to major directors diving into the first-person horror subgenre, I probably personally prefer Barry Levinson's "The Bay", which wasn't a good movie, but was probably a more interesting failure to be entertained by, but I can't say this is a bad film. We've seen Shaymalan at his best and we've seen him at his worst. This is a compromise of somewhere in-between that I can live with.


BLACKHAT (2015) Director: Michael Mann

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Oh yeah, I watched this didn't I? Well, "Blackhat" is an interesting name, at least film-wise, and much of the movie takes place in the Far East, so that kinda makes sense. For some film theory 101, the terms "White Hat" and "Black Hat" of course, come from American Westerns where typically the good guys wore white hats, and the bad guys wore black hats, because most of the Western worlds associate those colors with good and evil, respectively, but in the Far East, particularly China, the symbolism of those colors are actually reversed typically and the joke was always that Chinese would watch American Westerns and constantly wondered why the bad guys always won. Anyway, old joke, and not really, but still, nice symbolic name, does that have anything to do with the movie?

NO.

Okay, so that went nowhere. Instead, let's talk about Michael Mann. Mann, despite a really inconsistent filmography, I'd say ten years ago, you would hear his name at least come up when discussing the best filmmakers working today, but I rarely hear his name brought up anymore. Which is actually quite unfair, he's done more than enough good projects. "Thief", "Manhunter", his masterpiece "Heat", "The Insider", he also created the TV show "Vegas$" and was a major force behind "Miami Vice" the TV series, and eventually he directed the movie adaptation of that film. "Blackhat" is actually fairly similar to a lot of his films, most of which are mysteries and story about cops and criminals, this one in particular deals with hackers and cyberterrorism that turns into real terrorism. Hackers are, basically blowing up the world, starting with Hong Kong, and seemingly mostly focused in the Far East, but he's also gone after Chicago, for, um, reasons. The government's of the U.S. and China, represented the majority of the time by Carol and Chen Dawai (Viola Davis and Leehom Wang), unable to combat him, gets the world's best hacker, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) out of prison, in order to defeat them. Also along, is Chen's sister Chen Lien (Wei Tang) who spends most of the time either sleeping with Nick or being on the run with Nick after shit hits the fans and they're running around Jakarta searching for Blackhat, which is the name of the terrorist hacker they're after. There are parts of this movie that are quite amazing to look at, like there's some really well-composed scenes, shots and sequences, especially near the end, but the movie is just instantly forgettable even as you're watching it. It's shockingly boring and by the numbers, there's just barely any emotional interest in any of the characters, or for that matter catching whoever's behind the acts. Maybe it's because they're fighting a computer essentially for most of the film, but it's not compelling when humans are onscreen either. It's actually not that different from Mann's "Miami Vice" film, also a movie that was also about a white guy who's moral behavior was questionable, and ended with him threatening to leave with his Asian girlfriend to live off-the-grid somewhere. I live "Miami Vice" actually, but only so much in that it actually felt like a modern-day take on the series, "Blackhat" doesn't even have familiarity going for it, and yet it feels like every other movie I've ever seen. I'm sure Michael Mann will come back to his best form someday, but this definitely wasn't it.


QUEEN OF EARTH (2015) Director: Alex Ross Perry

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(Confused breathy sigh) Alex Ross Perry. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure what to make of him yet. I first became aware of him last year with his feature "Listen Up Philip" which I barely recommended, in fact until I looked it up, I thought I had actually panned the film outright in my mind. That movie, felt more like a Post-Mumblecore Woody Allen-esque story that, really didn't work that well, mainly 'cause the main character was too whiny, needy, pretentious, and-, I don't know it just, kinda worked, 'cause it felt believable. Well, "Queen of Earth", is, well, I was probably right about the Woody Allen thing, but this film is definitely more reminiscent of Allen's biggest influence, Ingmar Bergman. Very obviously Bergman. In fact, very obviously "Persona"-era Bergman, which is definitely my favorite Bergman. In particular, he seems to have taken one very particular lesson from Bergman, and that is, that the closeup of the human face is the one fascination object the video camera can lay eyes on. Which is true enough, as two films in, I guess the biggest and most common motif of Alex Ross Perry that I can find is that nothing fascinates him more than Elisabeth Moss's face. I can't say that he's wrong to fascinate so much on her, but I can't say that it isn't somewhat jarring that he's almost always in such closeups, there's rarely room for his characters to breathe. Anyway, also similar to "Listen Up Philip" the movie plays fast and loose with time, and in fact, it often flashes back to the year before when Catherine (Moss) was visiting her friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) at this beach house her family outside of New York, and the movie cuts between, her current visit, after her father passed away and after she found out that her longtime boyfriend James (Kentucker Audley) had been cheating on her. Her father was a famous New York artist and she's also an artist, but after some scandal that's not particularly, overtly expressed, but it involves money, and the screwing people out of it and it led to his suicide. Or, maybe that's the friend's family problems, 'cause it's often insinuate that Virginia's parents weren't on the up-and-up and that some of the neighbors aren't exactly keen on them living near them. Either way, the one thing that's abundantly clear is that Catherine is quickly losing her sense of perspective, and/or her mind. She's particularly worried about a neighbor, Rich (Patrick Fugit) who comes along and that Ginny, which is something Virginia only lets good friends call her, is hanging around and appears to be in a relationship with her friend, which she reads as competing for attention. I think the biggest issue I have with Perry is that, I rarely understand or know why and where his stories lead to, or why they lead where they lead. I guess they don't have to go anywhere and this film is just a profile of somebody going crazy and losing her barrings but if that's the case, then-eh, why all time jumping and why the mess of everything. For instance, a movie that I would compare this film to might be Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia" which also focused on two events at the same location with the same cast of characters, and how they were dealing with certain events and psychoses that they were fighting with, but not only did that movie make it more clear what everybody's issues were, that movie also split the two periods of time, so that we saw one after the other, and I think that would've made this film more effective. Seeing, more of who they were might make us more interested in how they got here, and instead it kinda just seems like he's just confusing the audience by periodically jumping back out of nowhere. It's almost like, he wrote that the character does this and acts like this, and then when he wrote why, he wrote the whole scenes out to explain it and kinda clumsily shoved them in there hoping there's some connection. There is some connection, but much of that is just Perry's style of shooting a movie. He is talented, and I think there's a great movie somewhere in here, I just can't figure out where exactly. Maybe he's kinda like how I panned all of Xavier Dolan's movies until he made "Mommy", 'cause I knew he still had a great movie in him, but, for now, I'm cautiously interesting in Perry's work. I will, he does get some amazing performances out of his actors.


ACCIDENTAL LOVE (2015) Director: Stephen Greene




Wait, wait-a-minute, I'm not reviewing this film, this movie is too old, and I don't have the time or need to devote to-. What?! 2015, no that can't possibly be right, this movie looks like it was made a decade ago! Wait, David O. Russell directed this?! I-eh-um, okay, it does sorta seem like one of his lesser works that failed comedically, but-eh, that's-, no this isn't, give me a second, I gotta look this up. This isn't adding up.

(Searching internet)

Hmm, huh, Richard Roeper's review, what's he got to...
The Story behind "Accidental Love" is weirder and definitely more interesting than the movie itself. Based on a novel by Kristin Gore (Al's daughter) titled "Sammy's Hill," the production was titled "Nailed" when director David O. Russell and the cast assembled for filming in 2008. Production was shut down more than a dozen times when the financial backers failed to make payments on time. cast member James Caan quit the film early on (Russell has a history of run-ins with actors from George Clooney to Lily Tomlin to Jude Law). Russell finally walked away and successfully lobbied to have his name removed from the credits. The patched-together "finished" product was released on VOD earlier this year, and it' s getting a one-show-only showcase at Facets Cinematheque on Friday.

Oh-kay, well, that explains it. And for the record by the way, this happens way more often than people realize, even with some established actors and directors. (Stephen Greene is Russell's "Alan Smithee" alias) Hell, Pacino's "Chinese Coffee" didn't even get a theatrical release. And, yeah that explains pretty much everything wrong with the movie as well. And yes, until I actually checked the release date I was actually just gonna skip reviewing this movie, because, well, to quote Roeper's review again:

As for the movie, it's an unmitigated disaster, not even worth a spin as a curiosity piece.

(Shrugs) Um, yeah. Yeah, there's really not much here. I mean, it's clearly supposed to be one of those old-time screwball comedies, sorta like if Preston Sturgess tried to make "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" but, that's... (Shrugs). It begins with a rollerskating-waitress, Alice (Jessica Biel) who's about to marry the man of her dreams, a local cop named Scott (James Marsdan) until a nail is accidentally shot into her head. Because of this, she's got a shortened life span and for reasons that have since become mostly irrelevant since Obamacare came along, she decides to head to Washington and try to convince her Congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal) to stand up for her and others who come along and help them get healthcare for reasonable things, like a nail stuck in your head. Needless to say, the most sensible thing in the movie is the fact that she then has sex with him, as the nail in her head triggered her, um-slut reflex. "I'm a nail slut", she utters in the movie's only memorably funny line. How this eventually involves, girl scouts and the Majority Whip's (Catherine Keener) plan for a military base on the Moon, no, not kidding, and-, eh, I don't remember, 27 other ridiculous things that might sound funny in a decent Upright Citizen's Brigade sketch or something, but yeah, this is a mindless mess of a barely-a-movie, that probably wouldn't have been funny eight years ago. I get the sense there probably was a decent satirical idea here at one point, the era of it's satire has passed, and even if it was around the time, it really isn't executed that well, and I know this is a tough genre to pull off and I admire the attempt, but obviously this was a doomed attempt to begin with.


A WOLF AT THE DOOR (2015) Director: Fernando Colmbra

✰✰✰✰



"A Wolf at the Door" begins with a mother, Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento) picking up her daughter, only to find that, somebody's already picked her up who she doesn't know. First scene. My natural instinct would be, a long investigation going into, who took the little girl, and why and there is an investigation, but no, this movie goes somewhere else. You see, there's a couple different kinds of mysteries, most famously the "Whodunit", where the story is about the investigation into who did the crime, this is the most traditional one, the second more non-traditional one is called the "Howcatchem" where we know who did the crime right from the beginning and the mystery is about how the detective character eventually catches the person who committed it; think "Columbo" as a "howcatchem" mystery. "A Wolf at the Door" is, neither of those, although it seems like it could be both at certain points. No, what it actually is, is a "Whydidit". a mystery about, why somebody committed the crime. This is remarkably difficult to pull off. Now, it's not difficult to come up with a motive, but a "WhyDidIt' is where the main focus of the mystery, is about seeking out the reason why the culprit committed the crime. In this case, the culprit, and it doesn't take that long to find out who it is, is Rosa (Leandra Leal) a young woman who was a friend of Sylvia, but more importantly, was a mistress to her husband Bernardo (Milhelm Cortaz). No of the rest of the film is in flashback, although it's often seen from different points of view and which perspective is more accurate and truthful is not necessarily apparent until well into the film. It's a bit of a "Rashomon" tale actually, although, and since I happen to be watching it at the same time, it actually felt and reminded me for most of the movie of the Showtime series "The Affair". (Which, I'm only starting to watch, but anybody have thoughts on that show, 'cause I'm only beginning and I'm not 100% sure so far on it, but anyway.) The movie is the debut feature from Fernando Colmbra and despite a very limited U.S. theatrical run, he got a DGA nomination for Best First Feature, and it's quite a unique and skilled first feature. Not perfect by any means, there's some stylistic ideas that I'm not 100% sure worked, there's a lot of closeup of focused shots, closeup mostly of characters who seem to be behind something attuned to prison bars and the movie gets pulled into, what seems like a story about the romance between Rosa and Bernardo, but that's only on the surface. I will not give away the more shocking parts of the movie that make things much clearer about why Rosa kidnapped their daughter and what happened to her, not that justify what happened, but they do help you understand why she did it. Leandra Leal by the way, gives a very powerful performance in this role, and so does Milhelm Cortaz, but Leal, is probably more the lead character although only slowly does the movie reveal to us that fact. "A Wolf at the Door" reminds us that, all actions have consequences, and only the arrogant think otherwise until it's too late, and also that a mystery film can still surprise you, even when you know there's only a few possible suspects and ways that this story can end and that's because not of the execution of the storytelling, but the way the story was told. It legitimately kept me guessing, until the brutal truth was revealed. Between this and "The Second Mother", their foreign language Oscar submission, Brazil had a quite good year for films in 2015 it seems.


A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY (2015) Director: Sarah Bordo

✰✰✰



I'm, honestly, not really sure where to start with this one. I mean, I can take the direction of most of the critics' party line and bring up the vivacious good-hearted nature of the focus of the documentary, 'cause the movie, basically just focuses in on that, and I can't blame the movie entirely, but, this is another one of those documentary films where I wonder if it wouldn't have been better perhaps as a short. "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story", showcases, Lizzie Velasquez. Who is she? Well, currently she's a famed motivational speaker and Youtube creator, who still keeps up her Youtube page, the link is below and it's still extremely popular, some of her biggest videos :

https://www.youtube.com/user/lizzitachickita

and she's one of the biggest anti-bullying advocates out there. She's also famously been called, on an infamous Youtube video, the Ugliest Woman in the World. Is she? (Long pause) Uh-um, I-eh, (sigh) um, I-, yeah, there's no getting away from this, she's not easy to look at. Now, of course, she's beautiful on the inside, way more, than, say I am, but-, I wouldn't call her ugly, I would however wonder, what the problem was, and yes, she has problems, and even worst for most of her life she didn't know what her problems were. She was born, essentially early, and with too much skin to her body, which they thought she might able to grow into, but here's the thing, she isn't capable of gaining weight. According to her wikipedia page, she weighs 64 pounds, at her biggest, and has all her life, and yes, that is the most disturbing thing about her appearance. I've posted a photo from the movie of her face, but yeah the scariest part about her appearance honestly is how thin and tiny she is, my most natural inclination when I see her is to shove a Baskin-Robbins store or two of ice cream down her throat. She's spent most of her life, getting tests and being in and out of hospitals trying to someone figure out a diagnosis for her condition. The most probably diagnosis, and I'm checking Wikipedia to make sure I get this right, they suspect is a form of something called Neonatal Progeroid System which, well Progeria or Progeroid System is, and I'm simplifying greatly is an aging genetic disorder that mimics physiological aging. Her condition, on top of the extra skin she had at birth, caused her to be blind in her right eye and her left eye is heavily vision-impaired as well. I'm not sure where or how the severe overbite came from, but she's also suffered numerous injuries over the years. At one point they had to break her toes, so they could be extended, and they inserted nails in to stretch them out, and then remove the nails after they healed and grown out, and I think she mentioned that her heels are also full of nails now. The amazing thing is that she's overcome so much of it, and purportedly as long as she's relatively healthy and watches her heart, yeah, her heart's got some problems also affected by the syndrome, she should be fine and live a full life, and she's also done a great job overcoming most of her deficiencies and achieved many of her career goals. She was actually popular in high school after some early tough times where she was bullied and picked up. but once the students were able to understand her condition, they took to her warmly. She was even a teenager. And then, the video surfaced of her on Youtube. She never found out exactly who posted it, and I tried to find if the original video was still on Youtube and it might be, but I didn't find it, at least not in the first few searches for "Ugliest Woman in the World Lizzie Velasquez" and mostly I found, clips of her or other Youtubers talking about her and how wonderful she is. Occasionally she shows up on a few strange oddities list, but nothing harmful, although I didn't check any of the comment sections. Thankfully nobody's said anything as harmful to me in any of my comment sections, at least none that I can remember. We do see a glimpse of her life, her going to her TED talk, her campaigning on the Hill for an Anti-Bullying Bill, that amazingly hasn't been passed yet, she's worked with, numerous celebrities and charities, including Hillary Clinton. As for the film, I wasn't as enthralled with the more inspirational aspects of the film, although I did appreciate the few insights into her that we had, including a scene late with her and her family, finally getting a diagnosis. I guess, there's no harm in the film, so I'm recommending it, I just wonder, as amazing a person as Lizzie Velasquez is, whether or not she was enough for there to be a complete documentary, that's what I wonder most. I think this would've been better as a short doc, but for what it is, it's worth watching.


TWINSTERS (2015) Directors: Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto

✰✰✰✰1/2



Okay, you see this film, this is how you take a fairly slight or possibly unsubstantial-enough-for-a-full-documentary subject, and then turn it into a full, complete and entertaining documentary. I mean, I know there are people who wonder when I give lukewarm or even straight-up negative reviews to documentaries because I argue that there's not a deep or rich enough subject matter to maintain a full documentary, even if that subject matter is, for all-intensive purposes someone or some thing that's so angelic and/or inspirational that I almost feel guilty or shameful for not recommending a movie about them, even though, for all-intensive purposes, I wasn't entertained by the film. I did it last review with my barely passing review of "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story", and I've done it multiple times over the years, even long before I was writing blogs regularly. I mean, I get it, some people are actually that saintly, that you really basically have to cover and portray them as though they were living, breathing saints, I know there's people like that out there, but that doesn't make a film about them compelling; hell it almost automatically makes the movie uninteresting, because, well, they're so goddamn saintly there's nothing interesting or fulfilling about them. Let's face it, the sinners are much more fun and only the good die young. (Why, do I keep quoting songs lately? God, that's like three times in my last two batches of reviews,-, I really am not intending to be doing that) Meanwhile, here's "Twinsters" a movie that, based on the logline alone, I might've thought, "Yes, this might be a fun little short, but is it enough to engage me for a feature film?", but yes, this movie is strikingly rich and engaging. Also, ironically, just like "A Brave Heart..." the movie has a great deal to do with the internet and even more specifically, Youtube. The movie begins with a beautiful young actress, Samantha Futerman, who also co-directs the movie. She was born in South Korea, and was adopted by a family in America as has been performing in some way for much of her life. Checking her IMDB page, I find that I've actually been watching much of her since the beginning of her film career, when she made her feature film debut in a delightful little independent film called "The Motel", almost ten years ago, and since then, you might have seen her in several television shows, most recently "Kroll Show" or in featured roles in stuff like "Memoirs of a Geisha", "Going the Distance", "21 & Over", "Man Up"..., a few other things. She's also done some short films here and there that have been shown online, including a particularly noteworthy one where her character is shown constantly punching guys in the dick. It was pretty funny, and she started getting Facebook messages and emails from France, who claimed she looked exactly like a friend of there's. Normally, she probably intended to dismiss the claims, but then she looked up the girl, and the resemblance was startling. She also, had the same birthdate as she did, and was born in South Korea, and was adopted shortly after her birth. Her name is Anais Bordier, and she's a fashion designer from France who was currently working/going to school in London. They soon start talking and become fast friends over Skype, and each others friends and families, have trouble believing what they're seeing. Now, I have known identical twins who look quite a bit like each other, I have an Uncle for instance who's a twin, but for some reason I've always been able to tell them apart personally, but-uh, yeah, imagine you didn't grow up with a twin and suddenly somebody shows up who looks, pretty much exactly like you. That's basically what these two twinsters begin to deal with. First they have to make sure they're twins, so they send off their DNA to confirm it, which they send to the scientists who do the major studies on twins, who are naturally very interested in them and their story, and yes, they confirm their DNA, despite some inconsistencies in their birthing records, they are indeed identical twins, who were separated at birth and found themselves living on separate continents. The movie is rather unique as well, as it's actually shot, pretty much as the events are taking place. They detail online the connections, they, (Although mostly Samantha) record the Skype interviews, along with her friend, who's recording as they record on Skype and then they travel and have their first nervous meeting between two sisters who never knew they the other existed, and then they reconnect later in the States..., it's actually surprisingly heart-warming, seeing these two souls finding out about each other, and seeing how similar and how strikingly different they are. While they're both in creative fields, Samantha for instance grew up in a fairly loving neighborhood and family that including two siblings, and is more expressive, while Anais, was an only child and in France, was slightly more ostracized for being a Korean adoptee and always felt a slight shame about her heritage and is far more introverted. They both finally make their way to Korea, to look up their records and whatever else they can find about their birth mother, who they're told is not interested in meeting up with them. They're actually big news as word of this social media story had broke and the story of two daughters of South Korea returning home made headlines. They do find the foster mother they both lived with at one point, who can remember their life when they were barely toddlers. It's unclear how or why they were inevitably separated, we can probably imagine the scenarios better than the facts would help us anyway. This is a movie about two interesting people who find each other and eventually learn about each other's, and through their learning, we learn about them, and it takes a subject that could've just barely been an interesting segment on a bad talk show for fifteen minutes, and makes it a fun, human and entertaining special interest story, one of those few special interest stories that are actually special. I really had fun watching "Twinsters" and seeing these two girls; I can't wait to see what happens to them, both career-wise and personally. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing new movies about them every couple years to see where they're at in life and how well they've connected or if they remain connected, stuff like that. Inventive filmmaking plus a subject that's actually able to grow and expand and filmmakers that are willing to put themselves out there and alone the story to evolve naturally and grow, that's the stuff of wonderful documentaries, even ones that are rather small and insignificant like this one is, at least on the surface.


THE RAILWAY MAN
 (2014) Director: Jonathan Teplitzsky

✰✰1/2



Okay, "The Railway Man", um, I get what they were trying to do, but...-, okay so the story begins with our main character, Eric (Colin Firth), who's a railway enthusiast, which is different from a train enthusiast, somehow, and he's pontificating about a recent meet cute he had while having to take an irregular train detour due to some cancellations. The meet cute, is Patti (Nicole Kidman) and he says that he believes he's in love with her, and decides to meet her up at the next station she knows she'll be at, and soon, they're awkward but touching little romance starts. Then at around the ten minute mark of the movie, Eric begins having severe traumatic flashbacks from thirty-plus years earlier, and suddenly this little romance turned into a war movie and I feel like I've been baited-and-switched. I mean, I know what they're trying to do, but boy does it not work. Basically, they're trying to-, well, they're trying to speed up the romance, to the point where we see their first meeting or two and then, happily ever after, so they can get right to the-, well, usually this happens in horrors or thrillers, here the horrifying part is flashback to WWII. You see, this idea can work, where you just introduce the romance and then they're in love, "Gaslight", "Spellbound" comes to mind, but those are movies where the dynamic of the film is based around the romance that's established, this seems established because...-, um, because...-, well, because they had to establish it. The movie is instead about the trials that Eric suffered while a POW at a War Camp in Burma after the fall of Singapore. As a soldier, (Jeremy Irvine) he's put through some particularly gruesome tortures, many of them by a Japanese soldier, Takeshi Nagase (Tanroh Ishida), and it's haunted him all his life. Even his fellow POW, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) even warns that his experiences are worst than normal. This leads Patti to do something to help her new lover get over these horrors, and she finds out that Takeshi is still alive, (Hiroyuki Sanada), and he doesn't live too far away, and this leads to, well, I think that's what the movie is really about, so I won't go into it, but it could've been an interesting story between them if they framed it that way. Instead, the movie is really this chaotic mix of flashbacks and flash forwards, and flipping back and forth between them. This is the other really probably with the way the story begins, I mean, other than the fact that Nicole Kidman is really wasted in this barely a part, is that it doesn't really establish the main character to begin with, other than, he meets the girl, has a train/railway fascination, and then, he starts having PTSD. There's no character there to care about to begin with. I mean, even if they focused, like thirty minutes developing the character, this movie might've worked, but we're supposed to care about these characters so fast that there's no way to get a connection. This is the second film from Director Jonathan Teplitzky that I've seen since his debt feature "Better than Sex" which is strange, 'cause that film was literally only about it's two main characters and us getting to know them. Of course he wrote that one, this one is based on a novel and a true story, which to me, either means the novel only also, glances over the relationship with his wife, or the screenwriters just thought to skip over it 'cause they thought it wasn't interesting, or something like that. I haven't read the book, but I'd guess it's the latter, and there's like, five chapters or something of a longer tale that's only the first ten minutes of this movie, that's what it feels like, especially with Nicole Kidman in such a prominent role that's barely there, that really makes little sense, so I bet there's a lot of this movie on the cutting room floor.


TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970) Directors: Richard Fleischer; Japanese Footage: Kinji Fukusaky and Toshio Musada

✰✰✰1/2



I gotta confess that I'm been avoiding this film to some extent over the years. I don't normally do that, but I've been sort of evading this film consciously and unconsciously over the years. I've missed TV screening, I've had copies of it, but haven't watched it, I've struggled to get copies of the film in recent years to watch it, and even as I was putting the film in, I was partially dreading it. Not only because it's a feature film that's about the attack on "Pearl Harbor', which is a subject that doesn't necessarily have a great recent track record when it comes to film. Also though, it's a long Hollywood military epic, which in of itself isn't a real problem, those sprawling David Lean-style monstrosities of epics, I don't hate those necessarily, many of the greatest movies of all-time are like that, but there's a reason you rarely hear "Tora! Tora! Tora!" listed among them. For one thing, this movie was made in 1970, there's a certain point, and I can't quite tell exactly when it is, but that classical Hollywood style of filmmaking, after a certain date when it's still being shot in that style where I think it's difficult to believe a film looking and seeming like that. "The Great Escape", is probably the last great one on the borderline, and that was '63, I believe, I guess there's something like "The Man Who Would Be King" after both these films that's technically still a real good film, but that came out the same year as "Taxi Driver", and yeah, when you look it's contemporaries, I definitely believe there are certain film that were made in different eras that look totally out of place. You don't see it that often now, 'cause everything from film to digital is available to use and the way we shoot even subgenres like war movies has evolved so much that you don't really see them shot this way anymore, and 1970 is one of those years where the transition from the old Hollwood glamour big budget intermission extravaganza were just on the borderline of becoming extinct in favor of the more gritty '70s style of film making favored by the Film School Generation of filmmakers. 1970 was also the year of "M*A*S*H" and the movie that won the Best Picture Oscar that year, "Patton". "Patton", is one of those transitional movies where it does kinda fit, although you should note that that's probably because it's writer was Francis Ford Coppola and two years later he'd make "The Godfather", but anyway, every time, I've tried to get into "Tora! Tora! Tora!" as much as there is some great skillful film-making, including some great practical and visuals effects, it's one of those movies I watch, and mostly spend half the movies looking at how it's always 100% clear that every indoor scene is shot on a soundstage somewhere. (I get the same feeling every time I try to sit through Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments", the popular one they air every Easter, that movie,- I'm really amazed people sit through that every year and I don't get why. For one thing, DeMille already made a better "The Ten Commandments" in the silent era and that one actually looks like it takes place in Egypt, [And doesn't take 40 days and nights to watch the fucking thing]) Anway, so how does, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" hold up in that mindset, a impressive film with an out-of-date style and conceit and a subject matter that's again, important historically but not actually that interesting or compelling when it comes to a story worthy of a film? Actually, it holds up okay. I'll recommend it, it's got enough to keep me interested. It's definitely second-second tier of these kind of movies, and I'd probably only recommend it if you've seen most of the others before. (Although you can skip "Doctor Zhivago", that one's overrated as all hell.) That said, it's actually quite a well-done movie. Purportedly, everything that happens in the movie is completely true to the events preceding and on December 7th, 1941, and probably the true saving grace of the film is two-fold, one, it gets into the really minute details of the attack, especially on the Washington side, who had people ignore confirmations, had telegram warnings sent that were delayed, and at one point, President Roosevelt wasn't even allowed by his Generals to hear/read reports of translated orders from Japan as they made their way up and down the South China Sea, and also, the movie shows the Japanese perspective. The movie listed three directors, Fleischer, who directed the American footage, and two Japanese directors to direct the Japanese footage, most notably Kinji Fukusaku, who's probably most known in America for "Battle Royale" (Ironically another film that strangely looked like it was made ten years before it actually was, although that was the least of the problems with that film.) I can buy that the history is accurate and for the most part, while it is a bit of a slow frustrating watch as it heads towards, well, the inevitable, for all it was trying to, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" probably succeeded way better than it should've. It's well-acted all-around, and yeah, I think I probably would've appreciated the film more if it was made, maybe even ten years earlier, but it did get made, and it goes into every aspect of the Pearl Harbor attack on both sides that you probably reasonably could've. Perhaps, I could see somebody telling this story again, with a more modern eye for cinema, maybe Terence Malick or Clint Eastwood especially, I bet he could do that, Hell, he kinda already did with his "Flags from Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima" films, and I thought quite a bit about "Letters..." while watching "Tora!...", so there's definitely ways this can work better, but overall this is pretty good for the time.






Saturday, July 23, 2016

CANON OF FILM: "BULL DURHAM"

BULL DURHAM (1988)

Director/Screenplay: Ron Shelton



I once saw a poll in Sports Illustrated where athletes voted on the 50 best sports movies of all-time based on the criteria not only of how good a film, but also based on the realism of the film. They didn’t pick “Rocky,” they didn’t pick “Hoosiers,” they didn’t even pick “Raging Bull,” or “Hoop Dreams.” Instead there number one choice was “Bull Durham,” which is interesting to me because I seem to have kind of a hard time imagining a real life person like the Susan Sarandon character from the film. She plays Annie Savoy, who looks at baseball as her own personal church, and in turn, it’s her job to do her part to help the local minor league team, the Class A Durham Bulls. (Actually, the more I think about her role, the less and less realistic it seems, although I guess some version of her has to exist somewhere) Including in this role that she’s apparently self-appointed herself to, is to be the personal, uh, hmm, how would I describe this… lets call her a personal psychological & physical “trainer,” to one of the players on the team, which will inevitably be the best player because most minor league players rarely stay on a team for long, or they usually get released or sent up, and Annie gets the best. Her two choices include the team’s young blue-chip pitcher, Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins) who’s got a fast but extremely wild arm, and his newly appointed catcher, career Minor Leaguer Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) who’s contract was bought out so he can mentor the kid. Now tension comes in this film as the two opposing teachers help Nuke become a better pitcher, while the movie also gives a rarely seen eye-view of what it’s like living and playing in the Minor Leagues, with long road trips, cheap motels, long bus rides to travel. There’s a poignant moment when Crash reveals that he spent 3 weeks in the pros, and all the other players listen as he tells his tale. He also wins a bet in a wonderful scene where he orchestrates a Rainout in the middle of a long heat wave. His style of teaching and playing is from professional experience, while Annie, is from, well, experience, in more ways than one, although I still have absolutely no idea what she means when she says to breath through your eyelids.

Tension starts to occur when Nuke goes on a winning streak after Annie withholds sex from him, and Crash instructs to never fuck with a losing streak. What truly differentiates this film from all other sports movie is it’s complete lack of sports clich├ęs. There’s no big game at the end, in fact it hardly seems to matter much whether the team wins or not (As it shouldn't it's only the Minor Leagues), there’s very little in terms of overcoming exceptional personal triumph, and instead the sport feels more like what everybody’s job is as opposed to anything particularly grander or holier than thou. Not only does everybody recognize that Nuke is destined for the pros, but they all also realize that most of the others will probably never make it, and are really just filling up slots on a roster, praying they can keep their jobs just a little longer, and keep that dream alive. There’s a fair share of odd characters, but nothing supremely outlandish like in “Major League.” Somehow, a romantic-comedy comes out of this film, which works both on the romantic and on the comedy, but I think this film remains as highly regarded despite that. At it’s core it’s a document on the day-to-day life of the lowest level of professional sports, and doesn’t remind us of the million-dollar a day salaries/lifestyles of players now. Writer/Director Ron Shelton, whose script got an Oscar Nomination, based the film on his own Minor League experiences as a Shortstop for the Orioles farm team, so yeah, there's a good reason the film holds a particular relevance to athletes, but it also holds up for everybody else as a great sports movie and a surprising realistic and great romantic-comedy. He's done other sports films since, some really good ones like "White Men Can't Jump", "Cobb", "Tin Cup", also with Kevin Costner, he even wrote the script for William Freidkin's underrated "Blue Chips", and all those films were at their best because they felt like real characters, in real situations, and didn't focus on the great grand moments of athletic prowess, which was the problem with his worst sports films, "The Best of Times" and "Play It to the Bone". Lately, however, he's expanded to a few more cop dramas, most notably "Dark Blue" and "Hollywood Homicide", and honestly they seem far more uninspired from him. It's so rare to find a good filmmaker who specializes in sports films and they're actually unique and good, I wish he'd focus more on that. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

YOUTUBE GAMERS BOUGHT BY WB FOR POSITIVE REVIEWS!? IS THIS PAYOLA, OR ARE YOUTUBE INFLUENCERS ALLOWED TO ENDORSE/PARTICIPATE IN PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL! (Oh dear F***ing Christ, now I got to actually talk about video games! F***!)

(Days earlier; David scrolls through articles, stops. Clicks on article that reads)

YOUTUBERS TOOK MONEY FROM WARNER BROTHERS FOR POSITIVE GAME REVIEWS

http://www.theverge.com/2016/7/12/12157310/pewdiepie-youtubers-sponsored-videos-ftc-warner-bros

Oh, FUCK!



No, no, no, NO! NO, I don't want to write about-, AGHHHH! GRRR. Okay, I- I've-, (Annoyed sigh) I guess I've avoided this shit long enough. (Sigh, deep breath) Alright, let's talk video games.

God, I'd do anything to not talk about this, but goddamn, Warner Brothers, what the hell!? Paying video game critics, no, no, what's the word they used, "Social Media "Influencers""?! They paid, social media influencers to give positive reviews to their game, "Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor", which I'm assuming has something to do with "Lord of the Rings", but who cares, but-, ugh-, Okay, I have to tackle this subject, 'cause this-, this is an important thing, and it involves, my profession, I'm a reviewer, a critic, and it involves major players, in the entertainment industry trying to gain influence through the use of reviewers, or "Influencers", in social media for their products. This is essentially buying publicity, through not critics, "Influencers", so I guess I'm an "Influencer" now, technically, although if I was really influential, there'd be a helluva a lot less superhero and comic book movies and TV shows out there, but fine, my more successful competition, they're called influences, and apparently some of them, take money to do promotional videos from the likes of Warner Brothers. So, I have to talk about this, there's,- this is arguably the most egregious misuse of the critical media by a major Hollywood production studio since Sony and Columbia Pictures invented the film critic, David Manning, to give positive review to their films such as "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal". (Remember that, anyone?)

So, yeah, this is a subject I talk about; it's right in my wheelhouse; it's a piece of the entertainment culture that's worthy of analysis and criticism. But-, it's about the world of video games. You may have noticed that 600+ blogposts or so on this page, and I've rarely if ever made that many video game references. Well, yeah, I have avoided this, and no, I'm not really a video game guy. Or a "Gamer" as they have taken to calling themselves. Now, that's not to say, that I'm not familiar with video games, I've played more than my fair share, plenty of arcades growing up and I had my first Nintendo, back in, I don't know 1990, I guess, maybe it was earlier. I had many NES systems before I eventually got a Sega Genesis, but then I took a long break and didn't start playing games again until I got a Playstation one day, like in 2003 or 4 or something, and I played with that for awhile, but eventually I ending up pawning it and the few games I had, and honestly I haven't played anything since, other than a few small games online, usually on Facebook. And I think I have a Monopoly game in my CD drive right now. I did have a few computer games as well, and I do love games, in all forms. I'm a game enthusiast. I've talked about sports and the sportsworld on more than one occasion here, I've talked extensively about game shows, which is definitely genre/parts of television, and I'm quite extensively knowledgeable on that subject. I also and born-and-raised in Las Vegas, so I happen to have quite an extensive knowledge about gambling and casinos. In fact, one of my pet peeves about video gaming, is that, people too often say that they're "Into 'Gaming'"; now anywhere else in the country, you can probably get away with that, but in Vegas, "Gaming" usually means, gaming in the casino, and has terms like "Gaming revenue" or "Gaming industry" or "Gaming Commission" associated with them; when someone tells me their "into gaming" I immediately think things, "How much money did we make at the baccarat tables last month, not "Halo". So, if you don't mind, I call it "Video Gaming", which is a more apt name anyway.

Now, where do I go from here. (Long pause, deep breath) Okay, one of my very earliest blogs was a post I wrote about Comic Books, where I detail my lack of connection with the medium, to the point I literally didn't realize they existed for a disturbingly long period of my life, like, until college, I thought comic books weren't real. Here's that old article:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/08/comic-books-actually-exists-and-other.html

It's not my favorite article by any means, but I bring it up, 'cause one of the reasons I wrote that was, not to only establish my perspective on the genre/medium, which was, and is, overly popular and influential, but also because there were aspects of the comic book subculture that legitimately intrigued me. Not necessarily all positively, but you know, I felt there were definitely aspects about the genre and about the culture that's surrounded and associated with them, they had aspects that I thought were worth bringing up and discussing, and I did in many, many cases in the future, and probably will bring up other aspects of that culture at some point as well. This article, and the aforementioned scandal is basically, my long, long delayed video game version of that article, and to be fair, the same way that I've spent much of the recent years trying to learn about comic book culture, I have also been looking into many aspects of video gaming and where that culture has gone, but that said, to be completely honest, I find a lot less interesting aspects to it than I do comic books subculture.

Well, that's-, that's not exactly right, I'm trying to use the correct phrasing, but, what I tend to think of and gravitate towards, when I think of video games, is by most accounts that I can tell, are not the same aspects that people in the Video Gaming Community tend towards, and it's-, while comic books, I can kinda come in looking at them with a fresh-eyed outsider perspective, video games, I gotta be honest, this feels like a medium, that maybe one time I was apart of, or thought I was apart but it's passed me by. Maybe I was never apart of it to begin with,

Like, let me give you a few examples here, um, I don't normally like to namedrop, but one of my college professors was Amy Green, and she's a wonderful person and a great teacher, I took her world literature class at UNLV, which she is a scholar at, but I reconnected with her recently, and to my surprise what I didn't know about her was that she is one of the foremost experts in analyzing video game storytelling; basically she's one of the most scholarly people out there who has written, promoted and she's even teaching, video games, as pieces of literature to be studied. She's actually working on an experimental program and classes at UNLV, which includes video games in the syllabus, for study. Here's her, well, she'd want me to share with you her TED talk on the subject, so here she is, doing her TED talk on video games storytelling and analyzing games as literature, it's actually quite fascinating:



Yes, if you're interested in a literature class where you can play video games, she's the girl you're looking for.

So, it's really fascinating, and is a very forward-thinking approach to both video gaming and literature. However, if I'm being completely honest, my initial reaction to this was, "Wait, video games have stories?!"

And to be honest, I'm still kinda befuddled at this concept right at the beginning, 'cause, like-, on some level this just doesn't compute with me, the idea that people play video games, in order to have a story told through them. That's-, I mean, yes, I guess after I thought about it, many video games have stories, even some of my favorites, "Super Mario Bros." has a story technically, but that's not-at-all something I ever consciously thought about. I mean, "Okay, Princess captured, save princess, got it," and everything else to me, was nothing more than, "The shit in the way", which, is basically all it is. Like, I don't know, what the hell a goomba, is, all I know is step on them, or avoid them, or else they can kill me. I never look at video games that way, to me, like I said, I focused on the "game", aspect, like what's my objective, how do I beat it, how do I achieve it? Right now, as I'm writing, I'm playing Candy Crush Saga, or trying to, it's loading really slowly on Facebook. Yes, there's an ongoing story technically going on, and it's totally fucking stupid. Yes, I keep going up levels, but I don't care about the story, I care about, trying to get the damn candies in a row, that's the fascinating aspect to me. It's a puzzle, it's something you solve, I get that. I don't get, "Doom".

No, seriously, I never cared for "Doom" or "Wolfenstein", like I remember when I first saw those games on my Uncle's computer, and to be honest, I didn't get them, even at the time. They seem really violent and way too elaborate. Yes, I was a kid who hated violent video games, so that's another aspects. Like, I liked "Street Fighter", hated "Mortal Kombat". Did not get why that was popular. "What the hell, we have a fighting, game, it's much more focused on the fighting aspects, a lot less magical moves and shit, plus it's not even full of blood, why would I play the other game?!" I'm serious, that's my seven-year-old or 15-year-old, however old I was, thinking. And it wasn't an anti-violence in video games thing, it just seemed to pointless to me. I got it, if it made sense, or was necessary to the game, but you know there were plenty of games that were just as violent that you didn't need all that extra gore at the time, so I gravitated more towards those games. And, mostly puzzle games and sports games; I'm still trying to win at Tecmo Basketball, that's where I'm at. And those few games I owned when I had a Playstation, sports games, all of them. I don't play the games that other gamers play(ed). It's not that, I couldn't see the appeal, but they certainly didn't appeal to me, and if I'm quite frank, I wasn't particularly enthralled with the people who were fascinated by those games. I mean, I'm not Jack Thompson or anything, but yeah, a lot of those supposed cool games, they were played by people who I thought were much more disturbed personality-wise at the time, and to some extent still do.

It's an aspect to it, personalities certainly does influences what aspects of a culture you gravitate towards and I really didn't like to see those violent long, elaborate games that, were a little complex. Hell, I don't like the fact that there's anything more complex than "Keep going right" to be honest, and many of those were violent, and a lot of those later games, I seem to be walking around with nothing happening and nowhere to go whenever I tried to play them, so that pissed me off. But, yeah, I can't imagine obsessively playing games for hours or days on end like that, especially ones with such violent and elaborate stories. Now, that said, part of the reason for that, is probably because, I'm probably a video game addict.

Yeah, that's-, addicted isn't the right-, but, look it wasn't by accident that's I've often stayed away from video games, there's a reason I'm actively outside of this medium, and it's because once I'm in it, I really don't get out easily, or comfortably I should say. If I didn't get into film or something or did this blog, and basically had the same options I do now, but a working video game system and a Madden game or something like that, there's a distinct chance that I wouldn't get anything else done. Which, is fine for that, a bit obsessive, fine, but to do that, with some of those other games, um... yeah. I mean, I wouldn't shoot up a school or anything, at least not without careful planning, an escape route, a way to frame one of my arch-rivals, and a loads of planning making sure only to attack the specific people who deserve to be killed....- anyway, I wouldn't do that, but I'm a solitary guy to begin with, and there's already a few triggers of mine that I can't avoid, and the wrong kind of video game, for me, could at some wrong points in my life, have triggered a lot more of them, and honestly I don't like myself when I'm in that state of mind, so, I usually have found it best to not have video games as accessible to me as they could've been. That's me, I don't begrudge others who are like that and find it encouraging, I don't particularly, but.... (Sigh)

So, I don't have a healthy relationship or appreciation with video games, don't really have much of an appreciation for the same games/aspects of games that other games do and I am probably more prone to addiction to them than others. Also, most controversially of all to gamers, Roger Ebert was completely right about games. I know, the stories of video games have become more elaborate, but I fail to see how anybody does not take his side in that argument. It's not a greater art because you can participate, it's a lesser art than movies and television and painting and novels and other similar arts, because you can participate. Even if I was a gamer, I would easily have to agree with him on that. Sure there's art to video games, some of it is even high art, but the fact that we as players are able to participate and alter as we journey through them, makes it is a lesser art. First of all, if we're going through the game correctly, then it's definitely the creator's who allowed us to go through the game, so it's his vision, not ours, and if we're changing the game in some way, now we're altering somebody's art, and even if that's built into the game, I find things wrong with that too, (not the least of which, is if we have to change it, then it probably that great to begin with)  if we did that with any other art form it's be graffiti-ing and/or ruining a piece of art, and even if that's true, you're telling me that, even on the players, all aspects of how the player views and experiences the game are and equal part of the art itself? BULLSHIT! That'd be like if the guy playing Mario Bros, who just runs right into the first goomba every time and dying, and he saying, "But that's how I play the game, it's my vision, my artistic statement!" Bullshit! Not even in the most dadaist description is that art. It's not like it's performance art, where it's about the reaction that we get from what the artists is doing and it's therefore our experience of the art, that's just trying to extend one's own place in the world.  (Mocking voice) "We're the player of the game, and we have our own way of expressing ourselves, through your game, and each one is unique and different." Yeah, I'll put up with a lot of modern art naval gazing, but ab-so-fucking-lutely NOT! You want to talk about the fact that you participate in the way by being a player, eh, yeah, that's like, saying you participated in the Presidential Election by voting on election day, it might be true, but so did a few other millions of people, it's not that special. Yeah, some video games are probably great pieces of literature and deserve to be studied as such as Ms. Green has shown, but yeah, the idea of arbitrarily putting it up on an equal or higher level as more established art forms, because the viewer of that art, can interact with that art, yeah, to me that makes it a less viable art than a complete expression of art from a particular exact vision, and it baffles me that people think otherwise. (Also of note: I've panned every movie I've ever seen that has, what I call a "Video Game Plot Structure", where the movie's story is basically something that's lifted straight from a video game, and all of those movies I've panned, have been criticized by others, including my hatred of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World", both "The Raid" movies and that, eh, oh that piece-of-shit Zach Snyder did, what was that called? Um, oh, "Sucker Punch", ugh, horrible.)

That said, after all that, I'm really trying. I am, I honestly am. I don't have the money or desire to buy a game system or games at the moment, but I am trying. No, I'm not putting video games as a higher art form, but I'm still trying to understand it as an art form, and more than that, I am trying to understand the culture of the Gaming community and some of the tendencies of gamers and what really to look at when analyzing a video game. And yes, I will concede, that despite the fact that video games are basically, toys more than anything else, and yeah, that's basically how most of the game manufacturers began, in the toy world, that they've evolved into some really elaborate and thoughtful pieces of art and the community of gamers has heavily evolved to the point where, well, they basically run Youtube and most streaming sites. Hell, there's a streaming site just for Gamers, Twitch, and I'm sure there's other streaming sites just for them. Yes, much of the internet, is devoted to people playing video games, and wow, does this not make any sense to me. Yeah, this, trend, I don't get it. This is the lowest of the lowest, watching others play video games. I know there's "Let's Play", and I-, I kinda understand stuff like this if you're using them as a tutorial or to look something up, but yeah, this is stupid. Either, A. It's a boring game and somebody else is playing it, so I'm annoyed for two reasons, or B. It's a good game, and I want to play, but somebody else is playing it, so I'm annoyed. How is this popular?! Maybe in the right setting, like a major tournament to determine the best player, or something along those lines, okay, but for fun, regulary, watching this? What the hell is wrong with some of you?

Like I said, I'm trying, but god you're not making it easy. And then, the above story broke last week. And you know, it's not even the aspect that some of these star Youtubers are being paid,-, actually it completely is, but it's what represents. It's basically gives validity to, online reviewers and Youtubers. They are influencers now, and the fact is, that the studios have noticed and for years now have been paying these influencers to use their influence to peddle their games. I mean, this is payola, basically only it's the first time it's been brought into the world of Gaming, at least that I know of. The first major time anyway. So, what about this? Well, that word is "Influencer", is, it's definitely, creative, 'cause I guess you can make an argument that what they're doing isn't actually criticism. Now the most famous name that showed up on that list was this guy I've heard of before named, PewDiePie, Pew, as in church pews, Die, which is pronounce, de, and Pie. so I guess it's pronounced, Pe-yoo-ty Pie? Putty Pie, I fell like it's supposed to be the name that Grannie from Looney Tunes called Tweety Bird, but it doesn't look or sound like that. I've heard about this guy, and I knew eventually I would have to sit through one or his things; like I've said, I've tried to watch some of these online gaming things, there was a time a while back I watched a bunch of clips from one of the "Grand Theft Auto", 'cause I was looking into Lindsay Lohan's case where she was suing them for using her image, supposedly; honestly I thought she had an argument, but most disagreed with me, but I watched some of her character in question, where I could find them, for research; I thought I might've had a potential blog there, but it didn't lead anywhere, but yeah, I- I can't understand watching this for fun? I mean, I've got one of PewDiePie's clips on now as I write, I guess he's a little funny, but, yeah, I definitely prefer somebody like the Angry Video Game Nerd and people who are a little more elaborate than simply people who talk over their footage as their playing a video game. (I did like Nostalgia Critic's "Let's Play" of "Bart's Nightmare", but yeah, that was a parody of the genre, and I can see why it's worth parodying.

Anyway, PewDiePie, by most standards is the most of popular of these Youtube Video Gamers, his videos, constantly get millions of hits and he has for years, and he's big enough in pop culture than he sometimes shows up on Facebook news thread when he says or does something outside of the norm, so he's big, and because he's the biggest name that's shown up on this list of Youtubers that Warner Brothers paid off, and he's come under fire. Now-, the internet and Youtube in particular, they've really reinterpreted what we think of as entertainment and also what we think of as a review and in many ways this is just another sign that this is becoming a very legitimate different approach to analysis and criticisms. There was another one very recently when "Honest Trailers" got an Emmy nomination in the Short-Form Variety Series category; I'm honestly not that big on "Honest Trailers" but essentially, they're another, satirical admittedly, but a visual and edited form of a critical review, and you can hypothetically argue that someone like PewDiePie, by placing himself in the position he is, is essentially also a reviewer. This is why this subject gets tricky, 'cause even though he's not saying, "Go Play This" or "Don't Go Play This" or something along those lines, I can see why this is a thin line that, probably both sides are at fault for blurring. Now that said, he's claimed that he's being used as clickbait for the article and that, he, if you go on his Youtube page for the review in question, which is the first video clip I posted above, he'll note that he, in fact did mention that he was paid for the video, in the notes underneath the video, which he did, although what he doesn't point out, is that according to the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, that's not enough, just a simple disclosure in the Youtube description. In his, defense, and I'll post his defense video below here, but he says that the video was in 2014, he's the only one of the Youtuber who disclosed they were paid, others did not, and that the guidelines weren't set until 2015, and since then, he usually discloses in the video when he is paid to make, essentially a promotional video.



Anyway, from what I can tell, from what few videos of his I've seen now, I don't think I'd call him a critic or a reviewer, but he is essentially putting himself in that position, and his material is in competition for your views with those who are actually criticizing and/or reviewing games, so I can't particularly tell if the show fits or not, but I'd definitely say it's close to fitting if nothing else. I do know that I often have to review things where there's a likely possibility that I may know somebody directly or tangentially that might've been involved in the film I'm reviewing, and I try to admit any Conflict of Interests before hand, and it's certainly never tainted my personal reviews themselves; I even gave a negative review to a film that was directed by a former professor of mine, in which many people who worked on the film are friends of mine, and/or friends of friends of mine, or something along those lines. (There's others but basically any movie that might've at some point shot in Las Vegas, it's pretty likely I'm six Kevin Bacon degrees from somebody working on the set, in fact, I know I know some people who worked on that latest "Jason Bourne" film for instance, but, it's not gonna effect any future review, and I think for the most part, most everybody is aware that, that's my job and not to take any review or any criticism I say personally)

So what are we talking about now, is this more like, paying off a disreputable critic, or is this, more like getting a major celebrity to be in a commercial for a product? Yes, this is why I wanted to bring this up, and this blurry line, is centered around Youtube Video Gamers. It's really a microcosm of the entertainment media as a whole and our relationship with the industry. Now, I've never been asked or paid for a review, and I can't say for certain I'd say "No", if asked, either for a review or a promotional piece, which I've also never done. I have advertising on my blog, which you should all click so I make some change on this, please, so I'm okay with advertising, but, yeah, this screams of attempted misleadings all around however, and I don't rightly know how I feel about that, or how prevalent it's going on around Youtube, or the Internet in general. Gaming is, not fully considered an above-the-line art, yet, by all, so this story is a bit underground and squashed, but if this a movie studio asking a movie reviewer, to write a positive review, we'd all pretty much flip. Now, what would happen if it was a movie reviewer asked to do a promotional piece about a movie, well, that I'm not 100% sure of, although I do seem to remember "At the Movies" during the Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons era, making a huge buzz showing and reviewing a trailer for the independent film "Wendy and Lucy" weeks before it opened in theaters, but if I also remember that correctly, they both eventually panned the film despite, across the board promotion of it, not even during the commercials for the show, but woven into the show via a trailer review. (And if you remember my stance on trailers in general, you definitely know I was not in favor of that kind of focus on it during the movie critique show)

Is this a legitimizing of streaming critics, a de-legitimizing of them, a legitimizing of online video gaming critics, or a scolding of Youtube Video Gaming critic, or players, or influencers, or just PewDiePie? I don't know; for all I know, it's nothing more than a changing sign of the modern era of the entertainment world, and that world include video games as a prolific enough art form that celebrities within the journalistic/critical sphere are now susceptible to, being paid to promote or even review games by the studios. I'll say that, one more thing that proves film is a higher art form than video games, they had to makeup a reviewer for positive reviews, 'cause they couldn't pay one off.

Still though, video games are a young art form, and criticism of it is a much younger one than that and with new media like Youtube, the guidelines are all new if they're not all over the place. This is, basically a transition era; in the relationship between Video Games and the video game media. You know, it's constantly mentioned on "Angry Video Game Nerd" how, there weren't critical reviews or analysis of video games back in the old days and video gamers had to actually rent/buy the games in order to find out if they were any good, and yeah, he's right about that, even I did that a lot, and the worst part being a kid was that, you didn't know about glitches or, well I didn't know about codes, 'cause again, most of the games other played I didn't care about, or stuff like that, and if it was a bad game, half the time you just figured that you weren't good enough to play it well. I think that's probably the role that all these Video Gamers actually play, confirmation about the games and whether or not they're, any good, and in that sense, yeah, I think PewDiePie, and many of these other Let's Play people and whatnot, they are essentially critics, and yeah, I'm not crazy about how that can be compromised to some extent like this, even if it's under the guise of a promotion. They may be watching or promoting something other than the game they're playing, often it's usually themselves, which I get, I promote myself all the time, but you're still getting a review and analysis, and essentially a play-through of a game most of the time, so we really get a sense of the game by watching them play it and comment on it, it's-, it's essentially a review, and it's giving us information about the gameplay itself, so it's also essentially journalism. I'm not saying they shouldn't be bought to do a promotional video once in a while, but they might not realize the power and influence that Youtube Video Gamers might have and quite what it means to be in that position. Don't be too hard on them at the time though, like I said, it's a young art form their reviewing and there's not that many books about video game reviewing, so, it's all new. Well see where they're at in a few years after this, and then we'll see.

Okay, now, to finally figure out how to get out of Marble Zone. Yeah, I suck at the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" game, I never got out of Marble Zone; I don't know why, I just kept getting stuck. I'm really good at "Sonic the Hedgehog 2", I-, (Shrugs) I don't get it either.