Saturday, May 5, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS #31: "CARS 2", "PROJECT NIM", "THE DEBT", "TYRANNOSAUR", "CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH", "MIRAL", "MOZART'S SISTER", "DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS" and MORE!

Another week, another batch of movies to review. Last month was our biggest month yet for this blog, over 1,800 hits! In fact, my last two editions of my Random Weekly Movie Reviews, have been the most popular blogs so far, even have been viewed over 100 times! Strangely, I haven't had many people post any comments so far. You'd think somebody would say something, but nope, nobody has. Well, I think that's a little odd, personally, so I just wanted to remind everybody that I leave all comments, except for spam, on the website if anyone wishes to leave one, and yes, I read all of them, not that there's been a lot. I've had a few fans contact me through twitter and even facebook, so that's an option as well, if you wish. Had an interesting discussion with a follower on twitter over the ending of "Take Shelter" after the last Movie Review blog. Well, to another great, and hopefully better month on the blog.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, and Kentucky Derby Day, here's this week's Movie Reviews!

CARS 2 (2011) Directors: John Lasseter and Brad Lewis


2 1/2 STARS

There's definitely great care taken by John Lasseter with "Cars 2". He hasn't directed much since the landmark masterpiece "Toy Story," remaining in a Producing and overseer role over his Pixar Empire, but clearly the "Cars" series represents something special to him. He's listed as a director to even the TV series short "Mater's Tall Tales," on imdb.com. I thought the first "Cars" was overrated, but I liked it, but I had a hard time really the Capraesque world of Radiator Springs that the main character, young up-and-coming stockcar driver Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) found himself detoured at. Of course, I have a hard time with a lot of Capra and Capraesque storytelling techniques like that, and I liked the racing scenes, so it was much of a problem. On that note, it's kinda strange that they've gone about as far away from that as you possibly could with "Cars 2", which actually follows a more slick James Bond style spy story, complete with British cars who are supersecret MI-6 agents. (Well, maybe they're just secret agents. I don't know if it matters) It's been a few years since the first "Cars," and Lightning has won the Piston Cup title now four times. There's a touching tribute to Paul Newman's character Doc Hudson. "Cars," was appropriately Newman's final movie. This movie focus mainly on Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) the rusty old, simple tow truck that's Lightning's best friend, although he's a little unsophistocated. He's gotten Lightning involved in a major three-city race where an eccentric billionaire ex-oil executive, Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) is holding to showcase his newly developed alternative-energy fuel, with all the great racecars from all walks of racing, with the main competitor to Lightning being an Italian open-wheeled racer, Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro). Mater, accidentally gets involved with some British secret agents Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell (Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer), who are trying to disrupt a plan by numerous famous lemon cars, who've bought most of the world's oil reserves, from disrupting the race by staging accidents that seem to be caused by the new fuel. The British Agents mistake him for a very well-disguised American one. I guess the appeal of these movies are mainly for people who love cars. Well, kids too, but mainly car people. I've never been particularly fascinated by them myself, but I've seen people who are, who are willing to sit through any kind of crap movie just because it has cars in it they like. (I swear to God, I've seen grown men, have movie marathons of all the "Herbie" movies.) Nothing against cars themselves, or "Cars" the movie franchise, which is certainly a better movie franchise about cars than "Herbie", but it's not of particular interest to me. The animation is equally great here as the first, and it does matter to me that Lasseter and Lewis went through a lot of trouble recreating to the slightest details all of the cars in this movie, including and especially, the classic clunkers that portray the villians in "Cars 2". I can appreciate the craftsmenship and care involved, but it's not as good as the first film, and storywise, it seems like they were phoning this one in, with a slight message about liking people for who they are, and not what they aren't. It hard for me to recommend it when I found the short subjects bonuses on the DVD, especially a cute "Toy Story" short called "Hawaiian Vacation," better than the movie itself.

PROJECT NIM (2011) Director: James Marsh

4 1/2 STARS



"Project Nim" could be subtitled, "The Real Story behind 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'". The documentary details in the life of Nim, a chimp who was born in a research laboratory, before he was violently taken from his mother and headed off to New York to Columbia University where a professor was doing research on whether chimps can learn human language, and exactly how human they could be. The Professor, Dr. Herbert Terrace, has one of his loyal research assistant take him Nim into her home, with the instructions of treating your raising a human. The assistant is Stephanie, and she's one of many people who ended having contact with Nim over the years. Many took him into their home. Stephanie breastfeed Nim even. Others came in and taught him sign language and have other human experience with him. A few of his owners, he played with, a few he serious injured when he got too big. It seemed they learned the hard way that chimps can't be treated as humans for long, or they'll eventually get too big, and too aggressive. Marijuana helped Nim with the aggression most of the time. Yes, the monkey smoked pot. He was later taken to numerous sanctuary and laboratories, which started treating him more-or-less the way humans treat apes. Some where more cruel than others, some were unintentionally cruel.  He got out of being tested for diseases after some publicity and a major lawyer got involved. Nim is the first chimpanzee to have a writ of habeus corpus written for him to appear in court. He ended up living on an equine ranch of all things. They were trying to be humane, but they weren't exactly trained or equipped in handling a chimp at the time, but they got better at it. After seeing "Jane's Journey" a few weeks back, I think her approach of study animals in their own habitat is probably the best possible way to learn about them, and ourselves, and that trying to get them to evolve might not be the best way either. They are our closest relative after all. Although seeing "Contagion," I can certainly understand we it is a necessary evil to test on monkeys to help protect humans against diseases and help prevent vaccines. They are our closest relatives after all. "Project Nim," was directed by James Marsh, he made the great Oscar-winning documentary "Man on Wire," which is one of the absolute best documentaries made in recent years; it made my ten best list the year it came out. "Project Nim," uses lot of documentary footage, that was shot of Nim over the years with his many overseers, much of it unseen until now. The case of Nim, forces us to consider a lot of questions about the nature of both man and chimp, and whether or not their worlds should meet, and if so, exactly how. I can't completely answer that question, but I'm fairly convinced that the approach that was taken with Nim is not the answer.

THE DEBT (2011) Director: John Madden

3 STARS

There's an ending to "The Debt," that's really wrong, in a lot of intriguing ways. I'm still recommending the film, because what happened before was mostly interesting, especially in the first, hour or so of the film, but...- You know what, I'm gonna start with the beginning, where Stephen Gold (Tom Wilkinson) and Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) are being honored at a banquet. They were two of the three young Mossad agents, who decades earlier, tracked down and killed the Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christiansen) one of Hitler's doctors who performed, shall we say, morally questionable experimental procedures on many of the Jews in concentration camps. The third person who helped them, David Peretz (Ciaran Hinds) recently committed suicide. Stephen and Rachel's daughter Sara (Romi Aboulafia) has written a book detailing their mission, which originated as a simple kidnapping and arrest to take him to Israel to be put on trial. What happened instead, is shown in flashbacks, as the three young agents (Played in flashbacks by Martin Csoskas, Jessica Chastain, and Sam Worthington) begin first, getting to know about each other, and start living as their secret identities, and then, begin the plan to take the surgeon, now going by the name, Dr. Bernhardt, and working as a respected gynecologist. I've stopped writing this review for a few minutes, while I checked other movie reviews of "The Debt," to see how they discuss, or if they discussed some of the plot developments. Most of them use some vague language to end around discussing it, so I'm not gonna reveal it, other than to say that, the result of the mission that the three agents claimed is a lie, and now, there's some possible new information has come up, that which threatens to reveal the truth about what happened. Up to this point, the movie is good and engrossing, particularly the flashback scenes of these three young Mossad agents, who are well-trained, but still prone to youthful mistakes. The ending is just done wrong. Their are a lot of ways to do it, but this wasn't one of them. It's one of those endings that you see, and then, you start doing some math in your head, wondering exactly how old these characters are. It takes us completely out of the movie. In fact, I'm pretty tempted to give it a negative review overall because of it, but I can't do that. There's too much good that I'd be overlooking. I'd be overlooking another great performance by Jessica Chastain, who was in everything last year, and is really proving just how many different roles she can be great in. I'd be ignoring some good scenes with Mirren and Wilkenson as they discuss some possibly life-altering decisions they're making. Plus, Director John Madden, who's at times directed some amazing films like "Shakespeare in Love," and the underrated "Proof", is quite good here, at directing quite a few different kind of scenes to full tension-filled effect. He not normally someone I think of as a thriller director, but he does the job here. This is a heavily mixed review, but ultimately, there's enough very good worth seeing. It's just a shame that it's undercut by a very bad ending.

TYRANNOSAUR (2011) Director: Paddy Considine

4 STARS

British Writer/Director Paddy Considine is better known as an actor, most notably, he was the father in Jim Sheridan's wonderful immigrant family drama "In America," a while back, and he was the lead in the second film in the great "Red Riding Trilogy" of films about police corruption in the northern England, during the time when the Yorkshire Ripper was at large. This is his feature film debut as a director, and "Tyrannosaur" is a good one about two trouble characters, who meet and come together to help out the other, just as one of them is starting to lose faith in God, while the other is finally at a point where he's willing to at least consider it. It's strange how faith works that way sometimes, isn't it? You'd think that once some sudden change in oneself either enlightens or shatters their own beliefs, that it would ultimately remain that way, but it often doesn't. Sometimes, it flows with the waves of life. Joseph (Peter Mullan) has long lost any sort of faith. His wife recently passed away, his violent and rage-filled, against people and animals, and he's a drunk who can't help but to get himself in more and more trouble with his fists, and sometimes his mouth. After one such person who pissed him off comes after him, he hides in a charity shop, run by Hannah (Olivia Coleman), who's taken to religion years earlier, after learning that she can't have children. She's married to James (Eddie Marsan) an erratic and abusive husband, who she refuses to sleep with anymore, and for good reason. Despite initial reluctance, Joseph and Hannah start hanging out with each other. Hannah, finally having someone to confide in over her husband's act, while Joseph looks out for a neighbor kid, who's family has a dog that not only does the parent care more about than the kid, but the dog has violent tendency that Joseph finds all too familiar. Considine won a BAFTA Award for Best Debut film, and I can understand why. It's a sparce, there isn't any extra scenes that are exaggerated upon that seem to trouble most actor-turned-directors, but he also creates two very troubled characters, who have a lot more in common than it first seems. It's a well-done device here of putting these strangers together, to change each other, and in this case, it works surprisingly well. It's a strong debut, and I'm looking forward to his next one; I have a feeling he might have a pretty good career behind-the-camera, as well as in front of it.

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH (2011) Director: Chaun Lu

4 STARS

The ambitious and controversial Chinese film "City of Life and Death" was originally released three years ago in China, and much of the world, it didn't hit American theatres, outside of a few film festivals, until last year however. Shot, originally in color film stock, interestingly enough, which was then desaturated to black-and-white, the film has one simple objective, and that is to show the ruthless rapes and murders, committed by the Japanese, during the invasion of Nanjing, the then-capital of China. The event was long ago dramatized in the novel "The Rape of Nanking", and has been the subject of much lore over what actually happened, and to just how many people. Whatever the discrepancies, one thing is clear, the Japanese came in, and treated the citizen deplorably. They discriminately killed and raped, a lot of people, and including many refugees who tried to find safety in the International Security Zone. There's very little attempts to learn or get close to any of the characters on either side of the conflict, and even when they start, their seems to be some new atrocity about to happen. There's some notable similarities to "Schindler's List",  including the black and white photography, and the undaunted violence, but this isn't a story of a man, or a people, but an attempt to document as accurately as possible, what happened. Some of the scenes, are recreations of known documentary footage that was taken at the time, that aired in the U.S. years later. The film has been controversial, even in China, where the movie was stripped of many Award nominations it had recieved, and the movie was pulled out of the Palm Springs Film Festival at the last second, after they reportedly intended to also screened a movie about the Free Tibet movement at the festival. This is the first film I've seen of director Chaun Lu, but he's quickly gaining a reputation with his films. He's quite unconpromising, and ambitious; this film took four years for him to make ultimately. It's a tough watch, but ultimately, it's worth it. Be forewarn, this is really a film with plot. There's confusion, there's a lot of characters that come in and out, almost randomly, I honestly couldn't name you one character from the film with much detail, even the ones that speak English, it really is a portrayal, from what I can tell, an accurate portrayal of a very shocking and disturbing event in recent world history, and it's certainly a seminal moment in China/Japan relationship history, that, to this day, still has wounds that aren't close to healing, for either side. It's a tough film, but it's a good one, and an important one.

MIRAL (2011) Director: Julian Schnabel

2 1/2 STARS

Julian Schnabel is one of those strange artists that tends to constantly switch art forms all the times. He's actually probably most famous for his paintings than his filmmaking, which has been inconsistent at times. His previous film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," was certainly a masterpiece though, I think partly because of the innovativeness of the filmmaking, but also because he kept the movie focused intently on it's subject. "Miral," ultimately fails because he attempts to do too much. You know you're in trouble when the movie says my story begins before I was born. ("Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story" being the exception to that rule) Miral (played as an adult by Frieda Pinto), grows up in a Palestinian orphanage run by Hind Husseini, (Hiam Abbass) a courageous woman who takes in hundreds of diasfranchised Palestinians orphaned girls. Her character would've been a more interesting movie oddly enough. Miral grows up there, and works there at some point. It takes a long for the movie to even introduce Miral as a character actually. It keeps getting caught up in other characters and storylines, including Miral's mother and father, Miral's affair with a PLO officer, and yes, the orphange and everyone's lives constantly coincide intimately with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I watched the film, and found good things in it, sporadically. Nothing ever hung around long enough for me to really get invested in any of the characters, including and maybe especially Miral. I swear, I watched this film, maybe a week ago, wrote down three stars, on my list, and now, I'm struggling to piece together what the hell happened in the movie. This isn't the fault of too little happening, it's the fault of too much happening, happening quickly, and then, moving on to something else, or some other time, or some other thing, that I wasn't able to hold onto any of it. I know what happened, Schnabel, got so bogged into trying to put everything into this movie, that he possibly could, that eventually, you take a step back, and there's too much that you can focus or care about anything. Strangely, this actually works in painting, where you can take the time, throw everything you want to show/say into a painting, elaborate ones, and more you stare at it, the more you see, and it becomes an everevolving experience to look at the painting. Poetry works in much the same way. However, films is edited frames together, so we're constantly moving to the next thing, so in essence, taking this approach to film, most of the time doesn't work. It doesn't work here at least. There's a lot going on in "Miral", but it's all rage and fury, and I don't know what it signifiying, but it didn't signify anything to me.

MOZART'S SISTER (2011) Director: Rene Feret

3 STARS

Wolfgang wasn't the only musical prodigy in the Mozart family. In fact, he wasn't even the first. Hist older sister Maria Anna, nicknames Nannerl (Marie Feret) was still touring Europe long before her younger brother Wolfgang (David Moreau) started doing the same. It wasn't typically expected that women be composers or even musicians to some extent back then. Her father Leopold (Marc Berbe) kept telling her to switch instruments if one wasn't appropriate for her. She learned to play a few, the violin, the piano, and eventually the harp, and she sung. We all know how her father influence her brother's life from history, accounts, his own work, and anyone who's seen "Amadeus".  It's impossible to ever know exactly how talented she was, but in "Mozart's Sister," they imagine that she could've easily been at least an equal to her brother if things possibly happened differently, or maybe if she lived during another time. Her brother, for the rest of his life would become the greatest composer to ever live, while the novelty of Nannerl eventually kept wearing off. As a young little girl, being able to play music on the level of adults who've been studying their whole lives, the appeal wasn't so much that she was talented, but that she could do it at all. Wolfgang was allowed to mature into the great artist. She eventually married into royalty in fact, and after her brother's young death, long after she had retired from music herself, she spend the rest of her life preserveing her brother's music and legacy. Strange, the fact about her are somewhat more interesting that the movie is. The movie actually kinda labors on rather slowly. Some wonderful music, some intriguing glimpses into her and her brother's life, but not much more actually.  It certainly doesn't help that the movie will naturally get compared to "Amadeus," the great film about Mozart, through the eyes of his arch-rival Salieri. Still, I think there's enough interesting and new information about Mozart and his family to recommend here. Yes, it's a fictionalized account of history, but it's a believable and at times, a compelling one. It's a mixed review, I don't think we get as deeply as I would've prefered, but that might be a lot to ask.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (2010) Director: Jay Roach

2 STARS

Out of curiousity, after watching "Dinner for Schmucks," I checked online to find out if anybody actually does take dead mice, which they then stuff and use to make art our of them, like the Steve Carell character does is in this film. For some reason, this seemed unbelievable to me, although when the character in "The Dinner Game," the original French movie this one is based on, said that he made art out of matchsticks, I completely accepted it. Sure enougn, after searching "Dead Mice Art" on google, I found an interview with Jeanie M. aka "Mouse Girl," who does exactly that, so I guess that answers my main question about the film. I gave a negative review to "The Dinner Game," (the french title is "Un Diner de Cons) a little while back, although admittedly, I've thought a great deal about how good the performances in the film were since, not enough for me to change my opinion, but I have more admiration for it now. I like some of the touches with "Dinner for Schmucks," which is a compromise title I'm presuming, cause the dinner in the movie is always referred to the dinner for idiots. For instance, they actually make it to the dinner this time. Also new, the guy doing the inviting is more reluctant and conflicted about it. That man is Tim (Paul Rudd), who works, not as a stockbroker, but as something that's so complicated to explain that it's easier to call him a stockbroker, as one character notes correctly, is trying to get a promotion to the 7th floor of his office, and thinks he's got a lock on it after bringing in a major client, but he must first participate in the tradition his boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) and some of the other upper-level employees do, the dinner of extraordinary people, where they each invite an idiot to dinner for an idiot contest. If Tim can bring the biggest idiot, he can get the promotion. His girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) thinks it's a bad idea, although she's been preoccupied with her job as a gallery curator, who's working with an eccentric artist of her own, Kieran (Jemaine Clement). This is when Tim, accidentally hits Barry (Carell) a divorced man, who takes dead mice, stuffs them, and sets up displays where they take the place of humans in very famous paintings, in diarama form, when he's not working at the IRS. He is kind of a helpless idiot, but his work is actually talented, but more importantly, he seems to have fallen into Tim's hand, right for the dinner party, if he doesn't completely destroy Tim's life first. (Or if he does). I didn't particularly laugh at this film, or the original that much. Some of the differences are interesting in an auteur theory analysis way, although director Jay Roach should really know better. He creates some amazing films for HBO ("Recount," and "Game Change" most recently), but he seems to get stuck in these rather dull and mildly interesting comedies when he does features. ("Meet the Parents," the "Austin Powers" films...) I don't know, maybe if you liked the original French version, it's interesting to see what they did with the remake. Other than that, it's completely forgettable, except for the mice.

TIME BANDITS (1981) Director: Terry Gilliam

2 1/2 STARS

As my mom happen to look through the collection of DVDs that I get from the library and Netflix one day, piled near the entertainment center in the living room, she called me in to say. "You rented "Time Bandits? That's the worst movie I've ever seen! Seriously, David, that, th- I walked out on that film, it was terrible...." Anyway, I  watched it soonafter, and later, I noted that A, it wasn't the worst movie ever, and B. At 8:00pm on Saturday Night, there were five movies on my TV, all of them I swear to God, were way worse than "Time Bandits". (And I don't have cable, so the five movies, were all the movies playing on basic channels, of which, we have like, I don't know 20, + Spanish, and the religious channels. [They won't let people say "fuck" on TV, but they let Pat Robertson have an entire channel?]) Anyway, "Time Bandits," isn't the worst movie ever made. I can't say it's a good movie either, and I can't recommend it, but it's not that bad. It's got some decent ideas. They were done better in movies like "Bill and Ted's Excellant Adventure" and "The Princess Bride," and a few other films, but they're done okay, and I guess, first here. "Time Bandits," takes place in some kind of future that seems ready for M. Hulot to come around and destroy everything. Gilliam loves the uselessness of technology, that's for sure. Young Kevin (Craig Warnock) loves to escape into books, imagination, and especially his dreams, while they're parents sit around the TV every night watching a game show called "Your Money or Your Life". One night, Kevin gets taken away by some dwarfs who've stolen a map from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson). A map, to the various wormholes through time through which they travel in order to steal from famous people throughout history like Napoleon (Ian Holm) and Robin Hood (John Cleese) and other such people. All the historical characters are comical cliches representations of them, nothing really intended to be believable, although I say the jokes about Napoleon being annoyed at being short, and never taking his hand out of his front pocket, go on a little too long. Gilliam clearly has a clear and distinctive vision, much of the time I wonder if it's a good vision though. Sometimes the look of the movie feels like, a slightly better looking old "Dr. Who" episode. I don't think "Time Bandits" really goes anywhere, and that's the movie's big problem really. Other than that, it's got a cute kid, a lot of dwarfs. The celebrities showing up as historical characters was a little too "Mother Goose Rock 'n Rhyme". (How the hell do I remember this obscrure Disney Channel-from-20-years-ago-crap off the top of my head!?) What can I say, it really was better than the five movies on my TV last Saturday night.

MEDEA (1969) Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

1 STAR

Some things should never be adapted from stage to screen. I don't know if "Medea," is one of them, but it was certainly adapted badly here. I'm not exactly an expert at the play I'll admit. We tended to focus on "Oedipus Rex," and "Antigone," a lot more when I was in school, but I'm pretty sure there wasn't a lot of landscapes in it. Every scene seems to have long, full views of the Italian desert, which is weird in of itself, 'cause there are no deserts in Italy, but minutes go by between scenes where people are talking and anything is happening. I get expanding the play, but this is ridiculous. This is the first film I've seen in Pasolini's "Mythical Cycle" series of films, so maybe I need to see it in that context, but I don't know if I want to now. Maria Callas is a pretty convincing Medea. Nobody else is particularly memorable, including Jason (Giuseppe Gentile) the leader of the Argonauts, and the man who will one day have a very disturbing dinner with his wife. I think the long establish scenes of baron landscape are supposed to represent passages of time. Jason has to go and get that fleece, and have the two kids, and all that, but what it does it take a rather personal and intimate story, that yes, may be about kings and Barbarian princess, but "Medea," works best as a personal tale of the characters, and allowing us to get inside their own head, and not the deleted scenes from "Lawrence of Arabia," oh, and so many of them. You'd think a movie about a woman who falls in love, gives up her own invincible powers, burns people, stabs her children, and every other crazy Alex Forrest from "Fatal Attraction" thing that she does would be a helluva lot more interesting. This movie seemed intent on making sure all that was as boring as humanly possible. You wanna know how boring this movie was? About an hour into the movie, I paused the DVD, went online, and started reading the play online, instead of watching the movie version of it. That is how boring the movie is.

STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK (2009) Director: James DeMonaco

3 STARS

It took over two years for "Staten Island, New York," to make it to DVD, after it's initial, brief theatrical run, and it's also had a few different titles in that time. The main title on imdb.com is "Little New York," you can also find the movie under the title "Staten Island". The DVD box I had calls it "Staten Island, New York"; I would've called it "Staten Island Stories," which is a better and far more accurate title to the film. Anyway, it's another film that borrows the "Pulp Fiction," structure, and tells three stories that are interconnected, but the characters aren't particularly aware of how, exactly. The first story involves a mobster, Parmie (Vincent D'Onofrio), a local lead mobster who secretly tries during his off-hours to set the world record for staying underwater the longest without breathing (Or dying, I guess). Recently, his mother (Rosemary De Angelis) was shot and nearly killed when somebody robbed his house. She's fine now, and he takes good care of his mother. However, after he decides to make a play at knocking out all his competition on the Island, someone turns on him, and tries to kill him. They fail, but he has some kind of apiffany and decides to climb a tree, and stay there. The second story involves man who works at clearing septic tanks. Sully (Ethan Hawke) is married, with a baby on the way. He's not real intelligent, but he learns of a new procedure that can help make an unborn child smarter than normal. He decides to rob the mobster's house to get the money, and have his wife, Mary (Julianne Nicholson) get the procedure. The third story involves a deaf,mute butcher named Jasper (Seymour Cassel) He loves hearing his loyal customers talk, but he also works sometimes at cutting up and getting rid of bodies for the Mob. He bets the horses the during his free time, and one times, he hits a trifecta, but suddenly realizes that he doesn't know what to do with the money, and that the ways he spends his days aren't particularly enjoyable for him. Of the stories separately, the gangster's one is the most interesting, they come together best with the butcher's story. There's nothing particularly special, about the film, although it's good to see D'Onofrio in an interesting character again. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" has overloaded him a little too much for me in the recent past. Other than, the fact that I didn't buy the medical procedure bit, nothing in the movie made me hate it either. Maybe it's just been a bad week for films, so this one looks better than it probably is, but I enjoyed it as I watched it, so I'm recommending it.

SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE (2006) Director: Ed Blum

1/2 STAR

There are certain things that one might expect from a movie called "Scenes of a Sexual Nature," like maybe, scenes of a sexual nature, perhaps. Well, not even that is needed necessarily, maybe scenes of a lustful nature perhaps, or even scenes about love, and lost or how about intimacy even. Or how about scenes? There's no scenes in this movie! It's like, half-scenes, at best, long conversations maybe is the word to describe them. Their not even conversations really, they're like, half-thoughts that you might have overheard somebody mumbling while walking through the park. Actually, everything in the movie takes place in such a park. Why the park, exactly? I'm not particularly sure, other than to get all the characters within the same space. (although that wasn't even needed) Actually, for some of the conversations, I could think of about twenty or thirty better locations for them to have taken place, but that would giving this movie more time and thought than the film gave itself. I lost count of how many couples their are in the film, but it doesn't matter, none of them are remotely interesting enough to discuss. Well, they might have been at some point, but over-the-course of the film, they just became less and less interesting as it went along. Most of the conversations follow a basic structure of, we follow a couple, we think they're talking about something, and then eventually we find out some twist to who they actually are, like, she's a prostitute he's paying, or they're divorced, or it's a blind date, or something along those lines. I usually like to seek out some of these anthology films, that have a bunch of snippets of quick shorts. They're films equivalent to a book of short stories essentially, and like a book of short stories, some will be better than others, but either way, you usually get an interesting mixed bag. The "I Love You" series of movies, "Paris Je T'Aime," and "New York, I Love You," are good examples of recent films like that. The stories in "Scenes of a Sexual Nature," don't rise anywhere near the levels of those films. I think the only characters that stick around long enough to get an interesting arc is the old couple, Eddie and Iris (Benjamin Withlow and Eileen Atkins) who've come to the park for years now, but on different days of the week until now, as they realize that they were young and in love many, many years before. They actually do something the couple, they try to climb a hill to get to a different bench and see the view from that higher bench. That's about all they could do. Everybody else is pretty lazy, at minimum. They barely have actual conversations really. It's annoying and insipid, it's a bunch of people, vaguely talking about... something kinda like love and sex, but they aren't even talking about that. It's a shame, there's some really good actors in this too. Tom Hardy, Catherine Tate, Sophie Okonedo, Ewan MacGregor even. The most interesting thing that happens to a character is the Adrian Lester character, can't find a private place to take a piss. I wish that was a bad joke; it's not.
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