Thursday, March 1, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS: EDITION 24: "HUGO", "THE IDES OF MARCH", "OUR IDIOT BROTHER", "BUCK", "HELENA FROM THE WEDDING", and MORE!

Well, it's been a few days, and I'm officially out of Oscar Hangover mode thankfully. Still lots of movies from last year I have to get through , but thankfully, most of them are heading to DVD shortly, if they aren't already there. So, that makes it a good time of year, to start keeping an eye on Netflix, Redbox, and , if you still have one, video stores for these films. Although, some of you might have noticed that many Watch Instantly titles on Netflix, suddenly not available, their deal with STARZ has broken down recently. I'm been ranting on Netflix's practices long enough though, so I'm gonna make a big deal out of it, but it's no skin off my bones anyway, just get DVDs. They're gonna survive this streaming fad anyway, and with Netflix screwing up deals like this, it's almost sure to.

Hope everybody had a good Oscars Weekend! Now it's time to get back to the movies! Here are this week's Movie Reviews!

HUGO (2011) Director: Martin Scorsese


5 STARS



Scorsese must’ve smiled when he first read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” the children’s book that “Hugo,” his latest and one of his best and certainly the most magical of his films, is based on. Probably the one thing he’s never done is make a film with, for and starring kids, and to top it all off, he’s shooting in 3-D, something a proper film historian and preserver, like Scorsese knows is a fad that’s never fully been mastered. Scorsese’s best films are undeniably his most personal films. In his youth, they included New York City, Rock’N’Roll music, religion, gangsters, alienation, obsessive personalities, and of course, movies. In recent years though, his priority interest has been film preservation. He himself has been critical in preserving hundreds of films, everything from Michael Powell's “The Red Shoes,” to Luis Bunuel's “Belle de Jour”. Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a Paris train station, constantly looking down from the clocktower towards the people of the station below. A few famous people seem to walk through the station, and there’s even a small little neighborhood of people filled with kiosks, cafes, even a local police. Hugo keeps the clocks running on schedule, a job he got from an Uncle (Ray Winstone) who took him in after his father (Jude Law) died in a workplace accident. His father was a clockmaker, and Hugo inherited his desire to fix machines, including a strange machine automaton that has some missing parts that they were still trying to fix when his father passed. There’s some colorful characters that occupy the train station, the most persistent is the local copper (Sacha Baron Cohen) who’s scours the station for thieves, most of whom are homeless children who he sends off to the orphanage. A stern man who run a toy shop named George Melies (Ben Kingsley) hires him on to work after Hugo had stolen a few of his tools. Film scholars who are reading this, know the name George Melies, and have just smiled (and now understand completely why Scorsese chose 3-D, which by the way, is quite good and well-used). Those who don’t are in for an amazing discovery, especially after George’s goddaughter Isabel (Chloe Grace Moretz) decides to help Hugo finish building the automaton, and hopefully find out George’s long-kept secret. It’s interesting to me that three of the year’s Oscar-nominated Best Pictures, “Hugo,” “The “Artist,” and “Midnight in Paris,” have a fascination with the ‘20s, but also invoke this era with magic, movie making magic, actual magic, and even magic that has no worldly explanation. “Hugo,” is the best of these films, and considering those films, that’s saying something. Scorsese was a sickly-child who spent most of his days either looking out the window of his Little Italy bedroom where he observed the local kids and hoods that inspired much of his early work, like the way Hugo looks down on the world of the station, or by watching movies. He’s made many a film capturing the reality he saw from his window. “Who’s That Knocking at My Door?”, “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas,”… now, he’s managed to capture his dream-like imagination that must have made movies a fascination for him as a child.

THE IDES OF MARCH (2011) Director: George Clooney

3 1/2 STARS

I worry about those who enter the world of politics without an idealistic view of the world. Unfortunately, there's too many who do. Saying that though, I don't think any idealist who enters the political spectrum, will ever leave that way. It is this sad-but-true premise that essentially is the core of "The Ides of March", George Clooney's latest directorial effort. He's made three films up 'til now, the Chuck Barris, eh, "biopic", for lack of a better word "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," a very good film, the great film "Good Night, and Good Luck." about the battle between Edward R. Murrow and Sen. McCarthy, and the comedy "Leatherheads," that film was not particularly great. "The Ides of March," is somewhere in between. Similar to JC Chandor's "Margin Call," a film that along with this film earned Oscar nominations for their screenplays, include great, mostly recognizable actors, in high-powered business worlds, (with "Margin Call", it was a Wall Street investment firm, here, a Primary Presidential campaign) basically acting out a glorified play about the battle/struggle for power. "Margin Call" was a near masterpiece, "The Ides of March," suffers from the fact that, we've seen this world before, seen the problems that arise in this world before, and unfortunately, we've also seen it done better. It's the Ohio Democratic Primary in a very tight Presidential race, and Steven Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is a young but up-and-coming political operative who specializes in media analyst for the Gov. Morris (Clooney) campaign. Morris is smart, quick-witted, difficult to debate, and a great speaker still speaks of idealistic ideas as though they are possible. Meyers is ruthless and loyal to a fault, and will go to the ends of the Earth for Morris. He holds pesky reporters at bay, well one in particular (Marisa Tomei), while simultaneously using her and practically everyone and everything else if he has to, to get Morris into the White House, and that's what Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) Morris's chief political consultant and the head of his campaign, likes about him. They're a good combo. He starts an affair with an intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) while campaigning in Cincinnati, while Zara goes to South Carolina in an effort to convince Sen. Thompson (A well-casted Jeffrey Wright) to endorse Morris, and recieve his delegate vote total, which would entail, for all-intensive purposes, make Morris the nominee. He however, is talking with Morris's opponent, Senator Pullman's team, lead by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), and has offered him Secretary of State, and is waiting out for Morris's bid, something Morris swore he wouldn't do on this campaign. Unfortunately for him, the race in Ohio is close, and worse yet, it's an open primary, and the Republicans are organizing an "Operation Chaos", to go to the polls and vote for Pullman, thinking, probably correctly that he'll be easier to beat in the general. All this, while Meyers must rid Morris of a possible career-ending scandal, while fending off recruitment offers from Duffy to join Pullman's team. "The Ides of March," is well-directed and well-made across the board, and yet, I watched the movie, unispired. It's unfortunate, but we've been bombarded with politics in our real life and in our fiction more than at any other point in history, and frankly none-of-this, including the scandal, came off as shocking, or even worse, none of it seemed new. We can start filling in a few real-life names and personalities to these ficticious political players, (Co-writer Beau Willimon, who wrote the play that Clooney and his writing partner Grant Heslov adapted the film for, was a political aide and operative on many campaigns, including Howard Dean's 2004 Presidential run) but that almost seems like the problem. At it's core, Clooney achieved what he was going for, a realistic portrayal of, "how the sausages are made," as some politicos might say, and how politics is a corrupting force that idealists not only get sucked into, but they must learn to master in order to get anything done. It's a good movie, but maybe 20 years this would've felt fresher and more relevant. Now it's old news, and frankly, Aaron Sorkin wrote the original article better.

OUR IDIOT BROTHER (2011) Director: Jesse Peretz

1 1/2 STARS

I almost have to ask, was this supposed to be a comedy? If it was, the movie didn't seem to know that, or didn't understand it. There's some interesting parts of "Our Idiot Brother," it doesn't explore them well, and ultimately, the movie was just flat. The idiot brother is Ned (Paul Rudd), a laid-back guy who too often relies on the kindness of strangers. A little too much in fact. He ends up selling pot to a police officer, but gets out of jail early for good behavior to find his girlfriend living with another guy, and insists on keeping his beloved dog Willie Nelson. He then spends the movie metriculating between his three sisters. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), is a magazine writer who's neighbor Jeremy (Adam Scott) is clearly a little too involved with her life. Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a mother-of-two, whose husband (Steve Coogan) is a documentary filmmaker who gets a little too close to his subjects. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is a flake who tries to be a stand-up comedian, but has some of the worse timing ever. While she's somewhat oversexual, she's currently living with a lawyer, Cindy (Rashida Jones) who she loves, but that might not be enough for Natalie. One-by-one, Ned enters their lives, and his unabashed honesty ends up ruining their lives. Not that their lives are much to begin with. Not that this movie is much to begin with. The movie is thin and flat, and predictable. Yeah, Ned's a little bit of an idiot, who takes people at their word way too often, and will inevitably get him in trouble with everyone, but it hardly seems like a movie. It's strange that there's so many good and funny actors are in a movie with so few laughs. I seriously started wondering if this movie was intended to be funny after a while, 'cause if played like anything at all, it played better as a drama..Even then, I could barely muster up the energy to care about any of these characters, and it didn't even seem like the movie even tried to get me interested. How can I care about a movie, when the movie doesn't even seem to care about itself? It's uneven, it's characters are thin, and it can't decide between comedy and melodrama, and it didn't do either particularly well.

BUCK (2011) Director: Cindy Meehl

4 STARS

It strange that I could get so swept up by "Buck", a documentary about Buck Buchanan, a former child rodeo star who became famous for being the inspiration behind the Robert Redford film "The Horse Whisperer". I haven't seen that film, although like seemingly else, it's somewhere down on my netflix. "Buck" travels with Buchanan as we see him going from town-to-town giving clinics and lessons on horse training some of the most difficult and tempermental horses. It's actually startling how he's able to seemingly..., I don't know how to describe it actually, but he seems to just have an instinctual ability to calm horses down. He's like a walking, breathing, horse sedative. I've never been the biggest horse aficiando myself, unless I happen to have money on the race, but they are probably the most magnificient of creatures. Buck has been around them all his lives. His father taught him and his brother to be master rodeo ropers when they were in grade school. They were minor celebrities, back then, appearing on "What's My Line?", and they even had a Life cereal commercial. He saw horses that were trained through abuse for most of his life. He was also trained through abuse by his father. Beneath the veneer of this calm-talking man, lies somebody who's childhood was unspeakably cruel. After the torture was found out, he went to live with some foster parents. How he grew up and how he is today are intricately linked to each other. He's still a master trick roper, and can rodeo with the best of them, and we see, but his real skill is how he's able to keep his disgruntled and anger down, almost to the point where it doesn't exist anymore. He's chosen to be this way, and because of that choice, he's become a horse zen-master. Why horses? Background maybe. I imagine that he would've become this way whether he stayed with horses or not, but he's just found a use for his skills. We see one horse near the end of the movie, a stud that was abused by it's previous owners who can't be tamed. We see him nearly kick the head off one of its owners. He's too far gone to be tamed, and the only solution is to have him destroyed.  Buck concludes that as well, but only Buck can get into the paddock with him, and somehow tame him enough to go into the wagon without any help. Some can survive such harsh upbringing, and others just can't get over it. Now that I think back, he had an older brother who he used to rope with, but he wasn't in this film other than those old clips, and they don't tell us much about him.

HELENA FROM THE WEDDING (2010) Director: Joseph Infantoliano

2 STARS

I always worry about movies about characters getting together for some celebratory (or in some cases, not-so-celebratory) reason, and we just watch and see what happens. Sometimes this formula works, and works incredibly well. ("The Big Chill", probably the quintessential example), but other times, we end up with something like "Helena from the Wedding". It's New Years, and Alex and Alice (Lee Turgeson and Melanie Lynsky) have invited some of their friends to celebrate in their cabin in the woods for a few days. Alex and Alice are newlyweds, although it's already starting to seem like a marriage that's on the downslide. Eventually, assorted couples start arriving, and even a single friend of their as well. This is one of those movies where a lot is said, but it's what's not being said that's really important. Helena (Gillian Jacobs) comes in late in the movie. She was a bridesmaids at Alex and Alice's wedding, but that everyone remembers, but not everybody particularly knows. Other than that, I really can't tell you much about this film. Nothing much happens, and even when it does, like a hunting trip the men go on to talk privately and occasionally complain a bit about their wives, doesn't lead to much. Even those subliminal lines of dialogue underneath the real dialogue that I mentioned, that's not even particularly after a while. I recognized and new some of the actors, like Corey Stoll and Jessica Hecht, and that was somewhat beneficial in that I could distinguish them from some of the other members of this party, but that was about it. I was wondering why did they even throw this party. There's some good actors here, but there isn't much for them to do, even after Helena arrives, she barely registers as a catalyst, which seems strange for what a part, that is essential meant to be a catalyst. There's too kinds of standards one has for these films, do I want to attend this party, and would I like to have beenn a fly on the wall at the party? I said no to both answers.

CON ARTIST (2009) Director: Michael Sladek

3 1/2 STARS

You could argue that to some extent, this fame-obsessed world we live in could have been invented by Mark Kostabi. Kostabi was one of the post-pop New York artists in the '80s, like Basquait and Warhol, who envelope pop culture into their art. Kostabi, went a little further than the rest of them though. He went to great lengths to satirize the fame that the art world generated, even to the point of satirizing and making fun of those who bought his paintings. His paintings, by the way, while some of his early work is quite interesting, most of them now, aren't painted by him. He started a workshop where other artists work for him to paint his ideas which, if any part of them are his at all, come from bare drawings and concepts he pitches at meetings with his staff, and then he signs them, and they're sold as Kostabi originals. That's not as strange a practice as it sounds, many painters actually apprenticed and worked under other painters all throughout history, but to manufacturing process extent that Kostabi does, it is remarkably odd. In the '80s, he was infamous around the art world for his fame and his mockery of fame. He once got punched on an episode of Morton Downey Jr. (Which was an old-old predecessor talk show to some the Jerry Springer and Bill O'Reilly shows that came later) Now, he is rejected from basically everybody in the upper crust of the art community, but this search for fame and control of his fame continues. He currently hosts a public access "game show", and I use that word somewhat loosely, where pseudo-celebrities and art collectors/dealers get the chance to title and bid on the paintings. The paintings that he signs but rarely paints, although it does seem that he was intricately involved in the statue that was commissioned by Pope Benedict. (He lives part of the time in Rome) Kostabi is a fascination creature. He craves fame more than anything else. "Fame is love", he says. He has a few close friends around him. Even filmmaker Michel Godfrey makes an appearance, as a drummer in the band on his TV show. (A TV show which local bands and artists are instructed to stay away from since it might end their career being on it) He seems to be closer to them than they are to him, and yet, we constantly wonder if it's an act. Kostabi is a fascinating contradiction, one that might have been understood better now than in his prime. He's now a forcibly-forgotten remnant of the last great American art scene, who's still fueled by delusions of grandeur to keep searching for fame. It's unfortunate he went into art, other mediums might have been a better spot for him, although he probably would've alienated himself there too.

DRUGSTORE COWBOY (1989) Director: Gus Van Sant Jr.

5 STARS

"Most people don't know how they're gonna feel from one moment to the next. But a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you gotta do is look at the labels of the little bottles."

That line is said by Bob, (Matt Dillon) in "Drugstore Cowboy", and until I heard him say it, I don't think I fully understood the mind of a drug addict. People are erratic, and have surprising little control over their own emotions. Drug addict can't deal with that, so they search for ways to control the emotions. "Drugstore Cowboy," was one of Gus Van Sant's first films, the second feature-length film he did after "Mala Noche", and was widely praised by most critics when it came out. Van Sant is the most interesting of directors. He occasionally gets hired by Hollywood, but he chooses his projects very selectively. His studio work includes "Good Will Hunting," and "Milk," which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Director. His more personal low-budget Indy projects are far more interesting however. They're not always as good, in fact, some of them are downright terrible, but they're always intriguing creative projects. Usually they involve confused youths and young adults who are in over their heads. "Drugstore Cowboy," is one of the best of these. Bob, is the leader of a small gang of perscription drug addicts who go from town-to-town robbing drugstores. The gang includes his wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch), his protege Rick (James LeGros), and his ditzy girlfriend Nadine (Heather Graham). Bob's not the greatest criminal, he and Dianne have been caught, and spent time in jail, and the cops usually turn up at his door, practically at the first sign of any drugstore robbery. When they're not preparing they're next heist, or dividing up what they stole, there lives are essentially a continuous stream of getting high, and traveling to the next town. It's hotel room-to-hotel room, practically, occasionally stopping by his mother's house (Grace Zabriskie) for clothes. He has to practically break-in to his mother's house, who's long locked him out since marrying Dianne. It is strange that there's a true love story in the middle of this life, but their is. Bob's leadership skills are interesting. He's the one who breaks into most places to steal the drugs, while the rest of the gang works on a distraction of some kind. He realizes the dangerous spots his addiction puts him in, and among things, he's become superstitious about certain things. This annoys Nadine, the groups newest member, and this conflict is the beginning of the end of the group. After Nadine OD's, and after a particularly bad bust, he heads to a methadone clinic and begins to get clean. One of the most noted junkies he runs into is an old priest played by William S. Burroughs of all people, the famous beat poet and writer. He's been a junkie longer than anyone else Bob knows alive, and while he still uses, he takes in and helps those out trying to become clean. This is almost a quintessential slice-of-life. There's no particular plot, things just kinda happen, and then other things happen, and sometimes nothing happens. While users can try to control how they feels, life continues to have erratic twists and turns thrust upon them. The consistent factor is drugs, even when they're not using, even when they've quit, it's a constant, that is invoked every waking minute of their lives.

KURONEKO (1971) Director: Kaneto Shindo

4 1/2 STARS

"Kuroneko" is the first film I've seen by legendary Japanese Director Kaneto Shindo. His imdb profile is long, over 150 writing credits on top of forty+ films he's directed, and at age 99, his latest film "Postcard," was Japan's entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar category this year. "Kuroneko", or "Black Cat," which is the Japanese translation of the title, is a wonderfully creepy little ghostly horror film. The country is at Civil War. Two women, Yone (Nobuku Otowa) and her daughter-in-law Shige (Kiwago Taichi) are looking over the house while Shige's husband is fighting up in the North, when their house is attacked, and they're savagely raped and pillaged by fighters. Then the women turn up and greet Samurai to their homes, unaware that they are now vicious vampires, who disguise as cats to sneak up on their victims. After numerous attacks and dead bodies are reported, one of the few survivors of the war, a Samurai named Hachi (Not 100% sure of the actor, but I believe it's Rokko Toura [Imdb.com is being a little vague here]) is hired to rid the land of the women, only to discover that they are in fact his mother and wife, who had been waiting patiently for his return, but have now made promises to this supernatural world they must oblige. "Kuroneko," is one of those creepy horror films, which some great sudden special effects, that are really thing that's aged the film at all. This would be a pretty good film to do a modern remake actually. One of Kaneto Shindo's films "Hachi" has been remade in America, about a dog who continually awaits his loyal owner's return even after he's killed in a train accident. This moody conflict is damn-near Oedipal, and is really creepy. It's hard enough killing two people who are already dead. I would like to see more of Kaneto Shindo's work; I don't think this one movie is a good single example of him to use to generalize, but I'd certainly love to see more, and I hope he's as good at creative other kinds of moods as he is here. But, there's so few good ghost stories, that maybe a few more of those would be nice as well.

THE DINNER GAME (1999) Director: Francis Veber

2 STARS

The core base idea of "The Dinner Game," isn't particularly new. It's stupid, insulting, and not funny, but it's been done before (And even recently). The fact that it won 3 Cesar Awards, (The French equivalent to the Oscars) well..., there's a reason we make fun of them for liking Jerry Lewis way more than we do. Although if Jerry Lewis was young enough, he actually would've probably improved this movie. The basis of the dinner is that a bunch of adults who have low tastes for humor, and even lower tastes when it comes to human decency, once a week, get together and bring a guest to a lavish dinner party. The guests, are unaware that the reason they've been invited is because they're idiots, and the game is to be the person who brings the biggest idiot to that week's game. Pierre Bronchant (Thierry Llermitte) has found what he considers to be the absolute biggest of idiots yet, in a tax office worker named Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret) who makes models of landmarks out of matchsticks in his spare time. Unfortunately for Pierre, while he's got the idiot in his home, his wife (Alexandra Vandernoot), who's appalled at the game all of a sudden has left him, and he is stuck at home with a bad back, and instructions to stay in bed, and now he's got an idiot in his house, who's only too happy to try anything to help out his new friend, but he will inevitably make the situation worse and worse as all farces have to become. If this sounds somewhat familiar, it was actually remade in America under the title "Dinner with Schmucks," recently, and frankly, the reason I'm getting around to watching the original now, is because of se recently-released remake. (Note to Self: Lay-off alliterations for awhile.) The film was written and directed by Francis Veber, who's known for such comedies, most famously, he earned an Oscar nomination for writing the original "La Cage aux Folles", a film that was also remade in America, and it was a very good remake actually, "The Birdcage". "The Dinner Game," I'll admit, is sometimes funny, and actually the acting is quite impressive, but this is a film that was doomed from the concept. It's good without saying-, oh screw that, it's just downright predictable how the night will inevitably end up; how the idiot will show that Pierre is the real idiot, and kinda realize how dumb and insensitive he is, and if it didn't, it wouldn't have made much difference, we still wouldn't be able to like these characters enough, even to laugh at them for 80 minutes. I give credit for even attempting farce; I believe wholeheartedly it is the single most-difficult genre for any writer, (and probably actor) to work in, but there's a reason it's hard, and most of them don't work.

JAPANESE STORY (2003) Director: Sue Brooks

4 STARS

It's tempting to discuss the story in "Japanese Story", especially after a first viewing, but when one ponders and thinks about the film later, it becomes clear that the part that should be discussed first are it's characters. The main character is Sandy Edwards (Toni Collette). She's a geologist for a major company, but right now, she's given the unfortunate task of babysitter to the son of one of the Japanese owners of the company. As she takes him, Hiromitsu Tashibana (Gotaro Tsunashima) from one of the company's locations to another, checking on his family's investment, and taking in Australian Outback. They don't speak any of the other's languages, and their trip begin uncomfortably. She doesn't want to be there, he can't understand why she keeps yelling at him when he insists on heading out deeper into the Outback. Finally, at one point, their truck gets stuck on an obscure sandy-soft road (And the word "road" is stretching it), and Hiromitsu, knowing that it's his fault they're stuck, refuses to let Sandy call her friend on his cell, and continues against all odds, trying to dig the truck out of the sand, out of embarassment and shame that he put themselves in such a life-threatening situation. Now you know the main characters. The story...? That I will not reveal, other than to say that over-the-course of this adventure, these people intricately linked to each other in many ways, some that neither one of them could have ever imagined (Nor should they have). This film is about two people who start off as strangers, and become much more, only to suddenly realize how little they new of each other. The movie is about how Sandy reacts to this, and how she evolves through this. I never forget how great an actress Toni Collette is, (How many characters did she play on "The United States of Tara", 9 maybe, by my count?) but we don't always recognize how emotionally deep she can be, or become in a role. She's usually limited in supporting roles, but here, we get everything she can do in this movie, and become the conflicting, emotional pull that we have fight out way through, the same way she does.

THE SCARLET EMPRESS (1934) Director: Josef Von Sturnberg

1 1/2 STARS

Von Sturnberg's "The Scarlet Empress," was apparently based on Catherine II's own diaries, and according to him, every set piece and costume was historically accurate. It's not that I doubt him, although I do, but if they were, maybe he should've decided against that. Catherine begins as Princess Sophia of Germany (Marlene Dietrich), when she's taken to be the husband of Count Alexie, (John Lodge) the heir to the Russian throne. She heard he was young and handsome. He was neither, and she's treated badly by practically everyone including the Empress (Louise Dresser), who's unrelentlessly insistant on Catherine having her 1st-born be a son, in spite the fact that her son has little interest in Catherine. The movie was panned internationally among release, and really never feels like a full story, or that's there any realism to the characters, all of which seem like cliched cardboard cut-outs. Even when Catherine begins forming an Army to take over Russian from Alexei, it feels more out of necessity of the plot than actually what she would've done. The whole is a mess. The costumes and props are just too outrageous to be taken, and not comic enough to be taken as a joke. Maybe Von Sturnberg's idea, and he was going for a more surrealistic perspective on the Russian Empire, but it's really hard to draw that conclusion. (Even though at times, it feels like a deleted scene from "History of the World Part I".) Von Sturnberg's made half a dozen films with Marlene Dietrich, and this might be the worst of those films. Usually his films have some wonderful-written female characters who have difficult choices to make in a world where women aren't given multiple choices yet. "Blonde Venus," with Dietrich, is a good example of one. "The Scarlet Empress", however, is just an overblown disaster.

MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD (2008) Director: Daniele Luchetti

2 1/2 STARS

"My Brother is an Only Child," is just sprawling enough that I can't quite recommend it, but it certainly starts with an interesting premise. In the Benassi family, there's two brother, one who's the good brother, and one who's the bad brother. (Alright, not exactly the newest place to begin but...) Manricco (Riccardo Scarmacio) narrates the story about growing up during the tumulotuous '60s and '70s in a Politically-charged Italy. He saw his father, Massimo (Ettore Benassi) work hard most of his life, and envisioned himself trying to make a difference, and make life easier for people like his father. He becomes a Communist leader, and start organizing rallies and protests, becoming a major figure. His brother Accio (Elio Germano), is the family outcast. They call him Bully, because his initial instinct is to fight anything and everyone. Looking for someone to blame, he becomes a Fascist. He organizes protest and rallies to, but he gets scolded for them by his parents. He thinks his protests will eventually lead to a revolution, and can't understand what the difference is between him and his brother's actions. They both end up in close relationships with a girl, Francesca. (Diane Fleri) She's attractive to both of them. Inevitably, politics and Francesca comes between them as their paths separate. They meet up one last time at the end, with rather predictable outcomes to their lives for anybody who's ever seen, any of a hundred or so brother versus brother, saint vs. sinner stories. "Angels with Dirty Faces," came to mind surprisingly at the end. Amazing how to people's live can be so intertwined and yet, they can be such different people. Like I said, there's isn't really a lot new here, and I think waiting for the inevitable just became tiresome after awhile. "My Brother is an Only Child," has it's moments, but ultimately, it falls short compared to the best of these family epics. It might be a little difference key, but it's the same-old tune.
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