Sunday, April 8, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS #28: "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO", "MY WEEK WITH MARILYN," '50/50", "MYSTERIES OF LISBON," "THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE", "KILLING BONO", "THE FIRST GRADER", "SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS," "X: NIGHT OF VENGEANCE" and MORE!

The last couple days have certainly been interesting here at "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews", and apparently, you all seem to either like trailers, or like having me talk about them. Just within the last couple days, I've had more hits than I've had in some months! I've gotten a new followers to the blog, a comment, and the numbers keep going up. It's strange, I thought the blog I did before my discussion of movie trailers would've gotten more attention, if not so much for the part about claiming that there's too much pot use on network television, I thought the part where I confessed to preferring to lose my penis over my brain cells would've gotten some people's attention. Oh well, I guess people seem to have less interested in my penis that even me. Alright, enough kidding aside, we've gotten a lot of hits to the blog recently, and I want to take a second to thank all of you for reading, it really is a treat, and whatever certainly stirred your interest in my last blog, I hope this and all my future blog entries will interest as many of you just as much as my last blog, if not moreso. So, seriously, thank you all, I say that a lot, but I do put a lot of work into this, and I'm glad that there are people out there reading.

Alright, now on to this week's latest batch of random weekly movie reviews!

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) Director: David Fincher

4 1/2 STARS

Not that it will come as any surprise to most of my loyal readers, but I've come into Fincher's remake of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," with a lot of biases attached. I adored and loved the first film, and the entire trilogy of Swedish films, and the three books. This may be about as familiar with a work going into a movie as any film I could've possibly seen, without something having words in it's title like "Hamlet", "MacBeth" or Juliet. Also another bias, while I admire David Fincher, despite my ranking of "The Social Network," being the best film from last year, I'm actually probably one of Fincher's biggest critics. I'm particularly harsh about "Se7en," and I don't think "Fight Club," or "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," work either. I don't quite know how it would be possible for me to come into this film with a fresh vantage point, at least for a few decades. Saying that though, for much of Fincher's version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," I accepted his interpretation. I liked his Lisbeth Salandar (Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara), and how he reinterpreted her enigmaticness. What I think he lost is the mysterious of the character, just a little for much of the film, but he especially did at the end. The story is familiar to most of us now, but the movie begins with the once-respected journalist Mikhael Blomvquist (Daniel Craig) suddenly caught in a major libel suit after publishing an article in his Millenium magazine. He's resigned from his position, annoying his sex partner/Editor Erika (Robin Wright), when he's suddenly sent on a strange mystery through time by Henrik Vangar (Christopher Plummer), a once-major Swedish business tycoon who's family is filled with the most despicable of creature, all of whom live on a remote Swedish island which is separated from the rest of the world by a bridge, which one day 40 years ago, saw a major crash that locked in the entire family, and suddenly, Henrik's beloved niece Harriet is missing, and presumed dead, and only members of the family could've killed her. If you stick with this story, essentially we're in an Agatha Christie story, but with the strange parallel appearance of Lisbeth Salandar, a hacker who's a ward of the state supposedly for insanity. She's dressed like a goth, does extra top secret research for a security company, and despite being, maybe 90 lbs soaking wet, she's more than capable of taking care of herself, and has a special interest in taking care of men who hate women. Okay, you all see what I just did there? I made a description mistake. I've described a character from preconcieved notions. Yes, they may be true, but it's hard to tell whether all of this, or how much of it David Fincher put in his interpretation of Lisbeth. Yeah, technically it's Mara's and she is quite good in this film, but she has some slight differences from the one I'm most familiar with. That's exciting, but it's also a little sad. Maybe if I didn't have the comparison, I might be even more enthusiastic about this film, but I can't help it. The film earned a second consecutive Editing Oscar for the team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, and there's more editing in this film than in the original. It's quicker and more kinetic for most of the film. Strangely, it in a way, the editing might have been better for one of the sequels. Here, it's still effective, and in certain moments is really exceptional. The ending of the movie, after the mystery has been solved, is done somewhat oddly though, and makes me think this Salandar has more emotions on her sleeve then she probably should. I can play the pick-and-choose game from both the original Swedish movies and the novels all day though. You will like and be entertained by David Fincher's version, and that's whether you come into the film with any biases or not. After that, I can't really help you much, I'm too bias an observer, other than to say that everyone should see both versions, and decide for themselves.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) Director: Simon Curtis

4 STARS

I don't think it's actually possible for anybody to have actually truly known Marilyn Monroe. I say this, with a lot of forethought and knowledge about her, and my own personal belief that she probably didn't particularly know herself. As a child, her single-mother was sent to an asylum when she was in her early teens, and just as she was of the age one usually starts to mature and develop, she was cursed with an undeniable beauty, and metriculated through her teens from one abusive household to another, until adulthood. This is how and why I think she developed this strange but natural screen persona that contained both, the innocence of a bright-eyed child, with this effortless sexuality that was both predatory and unassuming. I think this, more than even her beauty, her talent, her fame, her life, her affairs, and even her death, is what continues to keep us captivated about her, even now. What little we truly have of her, the images of her on screen in film, photos, the people who knew her, we try to accumilate and put together an entire person, through, these rare, few snapshots of her that we get. "My Week with Marilyn," is about one of these snapshots of Marilyn Monroe. This testimonial is from Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) a young 23-year old who insists his way into working for Lawrence Olivier (Oscar-nominee Kenneth Branagh). He's starting production, on what became "The Prince and the Showgirl", with him and Marilyn Monroe (Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams). Monroe's arrives in London, with much fanfare. She's newly married to Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), to play the part Olivier's wife, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormand) played on the London stage. She suspects it's Lawrence's way of hoping to be with Marilyn. If it was, that plan got abandoned as Monroe is constantly late to show for shoots, and has a few different handlers trying to control her, not the least of which being Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), who's teaching of the Method seems to do as much harm to Marilyn as it does good, and it more than gets on Olivier's nerves, whose vehemently oppose to the Method. Even though Colin is somewhat busy trying to seduce the costume designer's assistant, Lucy (Emma Watson), Colin and Marilyn start to have one of those brief encounters of two kindred spirits. It begins shyly, as it apparently does for many. Colin's warned about falling in love with her by numerous people who speak from experience, but for at least a little while, Colin does, and Marilyn begins...- hmm, I'm not sure of the right word here. I'm not sure Marilyn would know how to describe her own intentions and interest with Colin either, (I haven't read the memoir the film's based on, but I bet Colin wouldn't know either) but she trusts him. Originally, because he's a go-between who seems to be able to get Marilyn to work, Colin's actions are tolerated by everyone, especially Olivier. Even when Marilyn kidnaps Colin from the set, and heads off to hide in the country. I thought Michelle Williams should've won the Oscar last year for her work in "Blue Valentine," but I still didn't think she had this performance in her. She has a tough role here just getting an essence of a character who's essence is so complex and contradictory, and while I can't think of anybody else I'd want to play Olivier than Branagh, I don't think I would've thought of Williams, or many others to play Marilyn at all, and this is just one more amazing performance by someone, whose career might just surpass Katharine and Meryl when it's finally up. The whole cast is quite good, I especially want to note, what I hope isn't the last time we see Judi Dench onscreen. There's been note that she's been ill lately, she's quite good as Dame Sybil Thorndike. "My Week with Marilyn," is far from perfect. It is a somewhat idealized portrayal, and there's some voiceover narration that in hindsight seems unnecessary, but I wondered if the film could've ever been exceptional, and  I don't think it could've been. Few snapshots ever are.

50/50 (2011) Director: Jonathan Levine

5 STARS



There's something curious about "50/50". It's a little tricky to describe, but maybe that's a good thing. I think it begins with the casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of those actors who seems to get better and more amazing with every performance. In a way, the film falls apart if he's not as good an actor as he is. He plays Adam, a young and physically conscious, and nice NPR producer. He produces radio programs so boring that even his boss at NPR seems bored when Adam talks about them with him. He's only 27, and stunned to learn that he has a cancerous tumor along his spine, and about a 50/50 shot at survival, even with treatment. I think most films would've taken this jumping off point, and began a more life-aspiring epic journey for the hero. That's not what we get here, though, thank God. Instead, we get a much more complex film what actually happens to somebody who goes through such treatments. Not the clinical aspect, but the more social change and sudden awkwardnesses one suddenly finds themselves going through. Adam's girlfriend, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) tries at first, but isn't mentally capable of dealing with a sick Adam, a truth that I think is far more common than most of us would like to think. He has a worried mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston) who already deals with her Husband's (Serge Houde) Alzheimers. (And BTW, as a side note in this film, you might not noticed, but the Alzheimer's character is actually a believable portrayal of that disease) Adam spends the days as he struggles through chemo either alone, occasionaly being with his friend and co-worker Kyle (Seth Rogen), or going to his therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) once-a-week. Katherine's actually not a doctor yet, but she's working on a thesis at a student hospital. She so young that she doesn't get a "Doogie Howser..." joke about her. Kendrick gives one of the film's other key performances. She's in a tricky supporting role of someone who knows she has to keep her private life separate from her patients, but is aware of how little life experience she has, and that there's great benefit in reluctantly, breaking a few doctor/patient boundaries. (She might not have seen "Doogie Howser, M.D.," but I bet she knows "In Treatment") The movie is based on the autobiographical screenplay by Will Reiser, a close friend of Seth Rogen, who also spent much time helping him out throw his treatment. Rogen is reknowned for practically dethrowning Snoop Dogg, for the ultimate in pothead cool, but underneath that there's a great actor who boisterous persona shades an his emotional strengths. This is that rare movie that gets at an absolute truth. Not a glamorous or great truth, more like a, waitress goes to work in a diner-truth, being as true as somebody climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is a truth. Sure, it's only grazes the surface of the actual hell that is cancer, but it gets right an emotional, day-to-day truth of how one's life can change, and suddenly become, just a little clearer after such a shocking change-of-life moment. "50/50" is one of the smarter and most observant films I've seen in awhile on illness. It's also funny I should add, but more importantly, like everything else, the comedy is realistic and natural. Well, realistic in a sense that Seth Rogen is a good and caring friend of yours.

MYSTERIES OF LISBON (2011) Director: Raoul Ruiz

3 1/2 STARS

At over 4 1/2 hours long; it took me about a week to actually sit through "Mysteries of Lisbon" on Netflix Watch Instantly, and I'm recommending the film, but I'll be damned if I can explain what-the-hell happened in it. Much of it was good, much of it was confusing, the only real solace I have is that it seems that it was intended to be that way. It's one the last films by the legendary Chilean director Raul Ruiz, but it's the first one I've seen. I'm certainly intrigued enough to see more of his work, although I have no clue what to really make of "Mysteries of Lisbon". It's a long sprawling epic that takes places in a few different countries, and possibly times, as a priest tells a story to one of his young students about where he came from. After that, I can't begin to explain what happens, other than, some kind of Dickensian storytelling nature of constantly following and running into more and more intriguing and interesting characters. Sometimes, multiple characters are played by the same actor or actress. Ruiz, one of cinema's true poets, is often somebody who disagrees with the common idea of what he calls the "Central Conflict Theory" where everything that happens and occurs in a film has to be based around a central story or conflict. However you stand on that idea, he definitely believes film to be more free-flowing and ethereal, allowing for us to brush in and out of multiple stories and storylines. I think the problem with this, and "Mysteries of Lisbon," could be a good case study for this, is that eventually we just get to confused and bored as we never seen to keep focused on a single strand enough to ultimately care about it. I often think Claude Chabrol did this too often with his films, but he was purposeful in evading a central story just to toy with us. Ruiz is pretty straight-forward in his narrative approach in that, he wants us to see it this way, and that's how he's presenting it to us, and that allows us to then appreciate the beauty and richness his films can then bring. I have a feeling that Ruiz has made better films that "Mysteries of Lisbon," but despite it's ungainly length, it's worth watching for the experience. Is it worth watching more than once so we can master it? I don't think it is, but I bet some of his other films are.

THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE (2011) Director: Lee Tamahori

4 STARS

Had I seen "The Devil's Double" prior to Bush invading Iraq, and instead of going after Saddam Hussein, (and he didn't lie about why he was going to Iraq) and he said that he just wanted to go in and take out his son Uday, I would've told him to go right ahead. "The Devil's Double" follows Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper), an old childhood acquaintance of Uday Hussein (Cooper, in a dual role) who looks a little like him, enough so that Uday hires him to be his double. It's well-known that Saddam had numerous doubles that would stand-in and make appearances, usually staged for cameras for him, but he had some for most of his family. This involves Latif having to hang around the leacherous playboy, often at Uday's insistence. Uday was insanely rich, with Rolexes he could just toss away whimsically and women flown in to stay at his mansion. The closest girl he has is Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier). She's seemingly intrigued with Latif,  at first as a curiousity, but then sexually as well. Unbeknownst it seems to either of them, she has her own life outside of the Dubai parties and drugs and regular old erratic murderous behavior that brings to mind Joe Pesci's character in "Goodfellas". Strangely, Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast, who also plays a second character) comes off seemingly nice comparatively. He's raised a maniac for a son, knows it, but was probably also as unwise as he was at his age. We know all Uday was killed during the invasion, but I didn't realize, although not surprised that he was paralyzed years earlier after an assassination attempt. The movie shows it was by Latif, along with a few other, probably not-so-hard-to-convince conspirators. If that's true, he deserved it just for being an average everyday asshole. For what he did to others, he deserved a helluva lot worse. "The Devil's Double" was directed by the New Zealand director Lee Tamahori, I know the name from his masterful film "Once Were Warriors," which I contend might be the greatest film ever made about domestic violence. He's mostly become a Hollywood action director since, with credits like the James Bond film "Die Another Day," as well as "Along Came a Spider," most recently, "Next". "The Devil's Double," is the most interesting film he's made in a while actually, probably since the interesting, but unsuccessful film noir "Mulholland Falls". Cooper's quite good in this dual performance. Honestly, I would've thought their were two different actors for much of the film, and in particular, his portrayal of Uday Hussein is incredibly memorable. What the movie does best is give us an insight into this rarely-seen world of the inner sanctions of the Hussein household and a lifestyle that most Americans probably were blissfully unaware of.

KILLING BONO (2011) Director: Nick Hamm

4 STARS

This is the story of a few young lads from Dublin, who dreamed of one-day becoming a world-famous rock'n'roll band. No, not that one, but they went to school with them. This was a band started by Ivan and Neal McCormick. (Robert Sheehan and Ben Barnes) They start a band right around the same time as their classmate, who would later become Bono (Martin McCann) does. They even first asked Neal if his brother Ivan would want to be apart of the band, but Neal, whose own visions of stardom blinded him, rejects the offer without telling Ivan. This is the beginning of a long-career of trying to break into the music industry with multiple different bandmates and concepts and a few occasional close calls. Their careers are in constantl intertwining, as U2 becomes, well, U2 and the McCormick Brothers, just continually run into a bad combination of bad luck and Neal's hotheadedness continually screwing up opportunities for him, including multiple offers from Bono to help them out, including getting them a record contract, and even opening for them. When the McCormick Brothers do actually get a major gig, it's usually either on the same weekend as Live Aid, or the Pope's arrival, and that's if they don't break up first. There's some Spinal Tap moments, there's some other cliches going about in "Killing Bono," that we've seen before, but they're all fun here too. The film was directed by Nick Hamm, whose best work usually comes from British television. He's having a little fun here with some of the filmmaking. The look of the movie does seem to recall some of those '80s films. Neal McCormick eventually became a music critic, a job that he still seems reluctant to have. The end credits note that he still makes demo tapes in his garage. Still pissed off he never became a rock star, that's a natural quality for all critics. "Killing Bono," is an intriguing different take on the typical rock biopic, and it's a fun one. And now the McCormick brothers share that same spotlight of rock'n'roll infamy, right alongside Pete Best, there.

THE FIRST GRADER (2011) Director: Justin Chadwick

1 1/2 STARS

"The First Grader" tells the story of Kimano N'gan'ga Maruge (Oliver Litondo), who when the Kenyan government introduced a free education for all who could supply a birth certificate, he set the world record by becoming the oldest person to attend primary school. He was a former freedom fighter, a member of the Mau Mau tribe, and was held and tortured as a prisoner of the British during the tribal wars all throughout the fifities. I believe there was some ambivalence and challenges he had to overcome before being welcomed as a classmate, by school official local and national. Yet, even if the film is completely accurate as to how much resistance he had to overcome, I couldn't believe it in this film for very long. I tried, I really did, but sometimes the film just became way too manipulative. Consider a scene where Teacher Jane (Naomie Harris) is transferred from the local school because of her support of Maruge's desire to go to school. The replacement teacher hasn't arrived yet, but the students, all of whom aren't much older that 6 or 7, pull off a coupe where they lock the school administrators outside, and begin tossing rocks and such at them as the new teacher arrives, only to be scared off. That scene doesn't play believably in an American kids movie with the cast of "Little Giants," or something equally stupid, but it's supposed to work as inspirational here. This is the problem with the film, it plays too much for contrivance and inspirationalness. Some of this worked to an extent, like the way even in a post-tribal Kenya, old grudges and prejudice between former tribe members continue. There's some good material in that, but it almost felt like it was from another movie, when it should seemed paramount in this film. Maruge who passed away in 2009, was an inspirational figure. He even got to speak on the value of education in front of the United Nations, and for his part Litondo is quite good playing him. The film was produced by National Geographic Entertainment, and I have a feeling that had as big an effect of the tone and structure of the movie than director Justin Chadwick did. Chadwick's an accomplished British television director, who made "The Other Bolyen Girl" recently, which I didn't like either, but it certainly wasn't such a manipulative film as "The First Grader" is. I think there could've been a decent movie on Maruge. I think a Documentary short on him would've been very interesting, but "The First Grader," is just too preachy and manipulative for me to take seriously. I will say that it makes Kenya look nice and interesting. At least National Geographic can still do that.

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS (2011) Director: Mark Ruffalo

3 STARS

Mark Ruffalo has been a good actor for years now, with memorable performances in films as varied as "You Can Count on Me,' "Zodiac," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and his Oscar-nominated work couple years ago in "The Kids Are All Right", to name a few, this is his first foray into directing, and it's an intriguing choice. "Sympathy for Delicious" is about Delicious D (Christopher Thornton, who also wrote the film's screenplay) a paralyzed man named Dean O'Dwyer who at one time was a major up-and-coming DJ until his accident. (Thornton is actually a paralyzed actor) He tries to get himself into a few bands, but is often not given a chance, and spends much of his time working with a priest, Father Joe (Ruffalo), or with other parapalegics, one of whom, Rene (Noah Emmerich) is convince that one day, he will heal himself and walk again. Despite his illness, for some reason, he begins to have an ability to heal others. He certainly doesn't want the power, but once word goes out, he begins to get exploited. First by the Priest, who insists on putting all the money he makes on this through the church, but eventually, he starts to exploit himself when he joins a rock band with free-spirit Ariel (Juliette Lewis) and egomaniac The Stain (Orlando Bloom) and they begin inserting his faith-healing into their live shows, at the behest of their manager Nina (Laura Linney). I won't go into too much detail on how exactly "Sympathy for Delicious" plays out, but there's a lot of different elements going on as it does, and I especially like how some of the ways the characters act in certain situations in surprising, and intriguing. This is one of those films that has more inner conflict in the supporting roles then we may have at first thought. I don't normally go for these stories that use faith as a storytelling device, and "Sympathy for Delicious," isn't so much that. It takes a skeptical view of it, but also forges on and thoughtfully wonders the "what if" of someone having a power like healing, that he himself probably wishes he didn't have. The movie is smart to not explain it. Ruffalo's directing is intriguing. It's gritty and handheld, definitely low-budget filmmaking. Reminded me of a few of Ruffalo's lesser-known films he's acted in, "XX/XY," for instance. I don't quite know if all of it works. It one of those Indy's that sort of obsessing about itself, and I don't quite understand the very end of this film. Maybe that's the sympathy part, but I find "Sympathy for Delicious" just interesting enough for me to recommend.

X: NIGHT OF VENGEANCE (2011) Director: Jon Hewitt

2 STARS

Every once in a while, I watch a movie where after it's over, I think back, and ask myself out loud, "What the hell was the point of that?" I don't like asking that question; there's no point or reason for any movie other than to exist and maybe to entertain, but occasionally you have to ask that question. "X", whose full title is apparently "X: Night of Vengeance" (Both titles suck) is one of those movies I watched, was intrigue by, and even entertained for much of it, and yet, at the end, I couldn't figure out not only why I had watched the film at all, I couldn't understand why it was ever made to begin with. The film takes place in one night, the last night of hooking for Holly (Viva Bianca), who's moving to France to start a new life. She however needs a brunette to go with her for a job with two women, but her normal partner slips in the shower, and is probably dead. She finds on the street Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) a runaway who's out on her first night as a prostitute. (Seriously, the old retiring pro gets paired up with the young rookie, in the hooker business, even?) Shay's underage, but will work in a bind and can probably use the experience. At the hotel room of their client, an unexpected visitor arrives and kills their client as they hide in the bathroom. They escape barely, and with his suitcase full of cash,  but now the uber-violent killer named Bennett (Stephen Phillips) is scouring the night in search of them. Oh, and of course Bennett is a violent misogynist who's only character trait is that he hates, and wants to beat up women. Admittedly, while I was watching "X", I was intrigued. The movie is shot well, the violence is graphic, although how the girls, especially Holly can continue to take such a punch and barely get so much as a bruise seems unrealistic. As a chase and escape film, the movie essentially works, if all you're looking for is somebody to chase after a couple of women, and have the women escape, possibly. There isn't a supporting character in "X" that isn't anything more than the plot device they play. There's nudity yes, not a lot of eroticism though, unless you enjoy women being beaten and thrown around, and breaking their neck while naked. (Seriously, does the partner have to slip and die, in order for this story to move forward? She couldn't just be, out-of-town, stuck in prison, taking a cooking class that night, something else other than dropping dead?) Actually, I could begin about ten sentences with this movie with the word "Seriously..." like that. It's actually insulting to me, that the movie is actually relatively entertaining for a bit. That means there's somebody talented working on it, in this case Director Jon Hewitt, who also co-wrote the screenplay, believe it or not, with a woman! I'm almost in shock a woman had a part in writing this. This is not his first film, although I haven't seen his others, they all seem to be about the darker side of love. I don't mind the "darker side" part, but if "X", in any represents his interpretation on "Love", he's should then not be making love stories, or whatever the hell "X" was.

SLEEPING DOGS LIE (2006) Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

2 1/2 STARS

The first line of dialogue in "Sleeping Dogs Lie" is a voiceover narration that proclaims, "That's right, in college I blew my dog." If you've read that and you're still with me, than this movie might be for you. For those who aren't, I understand, but hell, if its okay for Edward Albee to write about beastiality, than I say it's alright for Bobcat Goldthwait. (And that may be the only time I ever use Edward Albee and Bobcat Goldthwait's names in the same sentence again, at least I hope so.) It was a one-time, spur of the moment thing, thank God for Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton); she's never told anybody about it, but it's certainly haunted her ever since. Now, she's a schoolteacher with a nice boyfriend, John (Bryce Johnson) who asks questions about Amy's past, and particularly any kind of sexual adventures she might've had, but she's running out of lies, yet she believes that if they're to have a future, she should be honest. Oh, and they're going to see her parents for the weekend, where John plans to ask her father (Geoff Pierson) to marry Amy. Amy, meanwhile, tries to find the right advice from her Mom (Bonita Friededicy) who, despite her salt-of-the-Earth "American Gothic" look of her, reveals a story about Elvis and Roy Orbison that would be a gamechanging sexual encounter in most movies. Naturally, there's only so long that one can bend the rules of farce before something must break, and with the unwanted help of her nosy brother Dougie (Jack Plotnick), it comes out, and everybody finds out. For a while, I was with this film. It's certainly funny, and daring, and it actually asks a few interesting questions about whether or not we need to know, everything, about somebody in order to love them. Bobcat Goldthwait is certainly a funny comedian, and may actually be a better filmmaker when all's said and done. I haven't seen his famous cult comedy "Shakes the Clown," but it's long-lasting appeal is certainly noteworthy, and I enjoyed immensely his latest film "World's Greatest Dad", where Robin Williams played the father of the world's worst son, and decides to make him more depthful after he accidentally chokes himself to death while masturbating. A lot of people thought he sort of backed out of that film, and gave the movie a happy ending. I disagree with that, but I think he might have done that with "Sleeping Dogs Lie", especially with the last half-hour or so of the film, after a character suddenly dies, he kinda backed out of taking the premise as far as he could go, and got sidetracked with a more sweet story. There's validity to this ending, but I think it's a little bit of a cop out, when I think there was room to push further. It's a bit of a tough call for me, there's definitely a lot of good in this movie, but it went downhill when it should've still been going up. I won't say don't go see it, but I can't quite recommend it, 'cause I know Bobcat can do better.

EDUCATING RITA (1983) Director: Lewis Gilbert

2 STARS

"Educating Rita earned three Oscars nominations for it's stars and it's screenplay when it was released, and I'm not entirely sure why, especially so of the screenplay. There should be a good movie here, hell, the story is basically a slight twist on "My Fair Lady", but it lacks complete characters, even in it's leads to some extent. Well, that's not really true of the lead roles, but seems to try to make them less depthful strangely enough. Take Rita (Julie Walters, nominated for Supporting Actress when she's in a lead role but...) for instance, she's a little little cockneyed hairdresser, who wants to speak properly about everybody from William Shakespeare to William Blake, and that's fine, but they don't really explain the reasons behind this desire well. They show her unsupportive husband, who's unsupportive because..., well, the screenplay tells him to be since it would be too easy for a woman to just want and then get and education. She also has parents that wonder when she's gonna start a family, and seemingly nothing else, which is a little more believable than the husband, but still too unrealistic and manipulative. Despite this, she gets lessons from Dr. Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) who's a poet who hasn't written in years and in between forces his way through teaches Literature courses and drinking, he begins teaching Rita. He doesn't want to teach her actually, and really thinks her views on Brecht and Forster are far more interesting than all the academics he's bored stiff of hanging around with. They're bored stiff with him actually. His girlfriend and closest friend (Not best) have an affair with each other, and frankly I agreed with the affair. I've seen great movies about the power of literature and how it can be inspirational for some who've never really encountered it and some spirited debates about the minutia of details of things like, why did Robert Frost repeat the line "And miles to go before I sleep", and other nonsense. This movie seems to be name-dropping more than discussing them, as though knowing who Somerset Maughan means your intellectual. Apparently, the original play had just Rita and the Professor, and everything else was made up for the film. While, certainly sometimes opening a play up can help, I don't think was a good example of one. It's filled with made-up obstacles and cliches that lesser actors probably wouldn't be able to pull off. As I watched the movie on the DVd on my computer, I tweeted that if I mute the movie, with the subtitles, and played old clips of Kathy Griffin's stand up over it, the movie got a little better. I stand by that, and that's the problem. I was bored enough with it, to actually find that out.

SHELTER ME (2008) Director: Marco S. Puccioni

2 STARS

There's an interesting premise that begins "Shelter Me," but for some reason, the movie seemed determine to strand as far away from that as possible. Not that where it went wasn't interesting, it was, but.... The movie begins with an Italian couple vacationing in Morocco and begin heading home. The couple are Anna (Maria de Medeiros, American audiences might remember her as Bruce Willis's girlfriend in "Pulp Fiction," or as Anais Nin in "Henry & June"), and Mara (Antonia Liskova), and they head home and load their car onto the boat, Anna realizes something that Mara doesn't at first. When they get home, we find out that they've taken a stowaway across the border, who was hiding in one of their boxes. The border-crosser is Anis (Mounir Ouadi). He's a teenager, who's come to work, and he snuck into the girl's car, and until they can find something else to do, they take him in with them. Anna is the spoiled daughter of a rich family, that doesn't approve of her relationship, although they tolerate it with avoidance. Mara works for the family's factory on the floor, and her job is clearly in line to be cut, even though she beds with one of the Board of Directors. The movie seems really intent on focusing on this aspect, the relationship that fluxuates between private peril and public enchantment a little too easily, and the boy almost seems to an extra part. This is a movie about how a third person enters a relationship and how that relationship can be altered, but I don't think it's done well. They find him a low-level job in the factory, despite him being an illegal, and he occasionally asks questions to the two girls about their family. He doesn't understand their relationship at first, and he also doesn't particularly approve. He claims he doesn't have parents or relatives to send money to, but he certainly has a more conventional view of a household that he got from somewhere. Yet, the bigger obstacle in Anna and Mara's love seems to keep coming back to the economic and class differences, as though that's the bigger problem between the two. I guess there's a few different scenarios how these characters and this story could've been told, but the manner in which they went about it is troubling. It's almost like they wanted to tell two stories, the lesbian relationship in crises, and the immigrant coming across the border, and thought that they could combine them in the beginning, and possibly tell separate stories, without them being particularly connected, after the first coincidence. They could've just made two movies instead of this one if that was the case. "Shelter Me," went for too much, and because of that, nothing got me as involved as I should've been.
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