Tuesday, October 16, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS #45 PART 3: "IN DARKNESS", "MACHINE GUN PREACHER," and MORE!

Whew! Well, took me about a week and a half, but (deep breath) I have finally finished this week's Random Weekly Movie Reviews! It was not easy, btw. Lot of movies, way too many to even count, (plus, I'm too tired to count them anyway,) and it took, three or four computers. We're still holding out hope that mine can and will soon be repaired, but in the meantime, thank you Rent-a-Center. $25/week, and so far, it's worth it. Not that we can afford that, but it's either that, or no internet, and that, that, is almost as bad as no air or water. Well, no air. I could go without water, as long as there's diet soda around. Anyway, only a couple newer films on this batch, sorry about that. There'll be more newer ones next week.

Alright, now, for the last time, at least this week, here's the final part, of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

IN DARKNESS (2011) Director: Agnieszka Holland

3 STARS



Agnieszka Holland's "In Darkness," reminds us, once again, about the many stories that still haven't been told about the Holocaust. Well, I shouldn't be so flippant-sounding about it, and "In Darkness," is a pretty decent movie, but, this genre, well, let's face it, it can get tiresome. This one, a nominee last year for the Foreign Language Oscar, is very long, but done and is certainly made well enough. In Lvov, Poland, the Nazis have quickly occupied, and have already begun placing the Jews in the ghetto. Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), is an anti-semite sewer worker, the best sewer worker. "I knew the sewers better than I know my wife", he proudly proclaims. His wife, Wanda (Kinga Preis)would probably agree with him. However, as the death tolls begin piling up, and quickly, many of the Jews, most of them in fact, have begun hiding in the sewers. There's a $500 per/person bounty placed on them, and it seems like, at first, Leopold is the kind of person who would actually turn in some Jews for the money, and there's certainly plenty of them in the Sewers. Dozens in fact, and his homelife isn't exactly ideal. There's barely enough room for him and his wife to be intimate, without waking up their daughter Stefcia (Zofia Piercynska). However, he also makes mone y by selling food and clothes to the Jews, which he often used and exploited in his own work beforehand. Slowly but surely, he starts to hide them, to hide them. One of them, even gives birth in the sewers, and they start to take in the baby, claiming it to be their nephew. Naturally, there's lots of moments when they're almost caught, and there's lot of quick-thinking improvisation needed to help save their butts. I'm a little bit surprised that the film earned an Oscar-nomination myself. I think, it pales in comparison to other, similar movies that you can compare this film too, the most obvious of course being Spielberg's "Schindler's List". "In Darkness," isn't in that league. It is dark by the way. The Sewers are a rat-infested, dark, nightmare that, seem impossible for anybody, animal, vegetable or mineral, to be able to survive. It's also, often hard to see things, down there. I don't know, I'm torn on this film. It isn't exactly the kind of film, I'd tell people to start running to the theatre to see, on the other hand, it is very well-made, and it's a story that should probably be told. I guess I'm gonna recommend it, admittedly, with some reservations. Make sure after you watch it, make sure you find something light to watch after it, it can be a little heavy and heavy-handed, but it's worth a viewing.

MACHINE GUN PREACHER (2011) Director: Marc Forster

3 STARS

If I had just seen the title, I would've thought "Machine Gun Preacher," was some wild idea from some Tarantino/Rodriguez/Roth-wannabe that seemed like a fake trailer that didn't make the final cut of "Grindhouse," not that I wouldn't want to see that movie, but no, that's not this. Instead, "Machine Gun Preacher," is based on the real life story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) and frankly, it's about as strange and bizarre and unrealistic as "Grindhouse" was. Childers is released from prison, from where he seems like he was the tough guy in there. He arrives to his trailer home to find that his wife, Lynn (Michele Monaghan, and boy is this a useless role for her) is no longer stripping, or getting high. He seems more pissed off that she isn't stripping than she is clean. Soon however, after one bad night of going out with those old drug buddies at his biker gang, he gets baptized and devotes his life to God, and gets a job working construction, eventually, he even begins owning his own successful construction business. Soon, he starts to go overseas to the Sudan to do some charity work. At first, it seems fine, they're building stuff in the warzone, but he starts making conversation with some of the local freedom fighters, especially Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane), and instead of heading down south with the gang, he goes up north to see the, for lack of a better term, M*A*S*H units, where little girls come in with their lips torn off by Joseph Kony's LRA members. Childs begins plotting to start building a church, and then an orphanage. He begins making back-and-forth trips from his new Western Pennsylvania home to the Sudan, where he starts getting called "The Preacher". He preaches at home too occasionally, but he really starts becoming a major figure in the battle for peace in the Sudan. John Garang (Fana Mokoena) even visits him and asks him to come to the peace talks, before his untimely death, which comes at the time when his daughter, Paige (Madeleine Carroll) is about to go to her Junior Prom, and there's now two mortgages on his house, and rich people throwing barbeques where the salsa cost more than how much to build school near Darfur. His old friend Donnie (Michael Shannon) has slowly become the man of the house, although he never ends up with Lynn, but she's losing faith in Sam. I first became aware of "Machine Gun Preacher" after the movie earned Chris Cornell a Golden Globe nomination for Best Song last year, and that was the only award the movie got nominated for. It was directed by that great go-to director Marc Forster, who's filmography runs the gambit from psychological horror like "Stay," to historical fantasy like "Finding Neverland," to racial love story in "Monster's Ball", to his best film, the mindbending dramedy "Stranger than Fiction". This is his first feature-length film since the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace", and he's shown quality in being able to basically tell a good, but by-the-books emotional biopic. Plus, this one seems so strange that it almost doesn't seem believable, if we didn't get stock footage of the real-life guy at the end. Butler's more convincing to me, as the out-of-prison addict in the beginning than he is, the redeemed social worker preacher/Rambo at the end. It's a little too long, has too many good actors, barely used, I didn't even mention Kathy Baker, who plays, either Lynn or Sam's mother, I'm not even sure. "Machine Gun Preacher," is a nice tale, and well-made enough, just barely to recommend, but it could've been about thirty minutes shorter, and could've used some better editing and selectivity in their biopic cliches.

LA HAINE (1995) Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

5 STARS

It the day after a riot with police, that involved many of the local neighborhood teenagers. The riot, was apparently over race, the neighborhood is filled with people from many different cultural and ethnics background, and it's a fairly poor area of town. In the middle of that riot, one of the cops, lost his gun. A teenager picked it up, and has been carrying it ever since. A friend of that teenager, also in the riot, is in critical condition at a local hospital. This was all last night. Now, guess where this movie takes place? If you didn't look up at the French title, you might have though, Los Angeles, possibly after the Rodney King riots, or New York, maybe somewhere in the South, possibly Washington D.C., all of which would've been good guesses. Mathieu Kossovitz's "La Haine," which means, "Hate", takes place in suburbs of Paris, France. Shot in black and white, the three teenagers from the housing projects, are Vinz (Vincent Cassel) a Jew, Said (Said Taghmaoui) an Arab, and Hubert (Hubert Kounde), a Black African. Last night, they rioted. Today, they wander around aimlessly. They talk about a lot of things, occasionally things that are important. One of them swears that if their friend Abel dies, they're killing a cop. Other than that, they don't have much motivation or abilities. They don't go to college, they have no jobs, they don't have much skills, except for Hubert who is a boxer, who's gym was burned during the riots. They go there, to find much of it in shambles, but still, he, and a couple others train on the lone remaining heavy bag. One kid they run into, talks about a TV show he watched last night, some sort of "Candid Camera,"-type show. There's a rooftop hangout some cops try to get the kids off of, even though it seems they have long taken it over. It even had a hot dog stand. The characters, particularly Vinz and Said, have enveloped American culture. They at least act like they would've fit right in, in the neighborhoods of "Boyz N the Hood" or "Do the Right Thing". During one amazing shot, where a camera seems to go inside a mirror, Vinz reenact De Niro's "You Talkin' to Me" speech from "Taxi Driver". There posters on the bedroom walls, their demeanor, their clothes, everything about them seems to be quintessentially American. Possibly because they don't want to be French; maybe because they like it. The "Hate" is more of a state-of-the world they live in. They seem to only really hate the cops, who are just figureheads for an entire system that they feel alienated from. The cops aren't all bad, but they aren't all good either. They do see these kids from the projects, and simply dismiss them as punks and troublemakers, and nothing more. There's no future for these kids, and they believe it's because the world sees no future for them. The movie begins with a line, about a man who jumps off a skyscraper, passing each floor, saying to himself, "So far so good", until finally, he crashes. That metaphor can be interpreted many ways depending on one's view of "La Haine". This was the second feature-length film from Kassovitz, who's actually more well-known as an actor. His first was the Spike Lee inspired "Cafe au Lait", also about this inner-city world, but that was more of a comedic reinterpretation of "She's Gotta Have It". "La Haine," is a drastic portrait of a world, that many of us, couldn't imagine exists in a place like Paris, France. Near the end of the movie, they're looking out onto the Eiffel Tower, one of them trying to predict exactly the moment when the lights of the tower turn off. He misses it, and the other says, "That only happens in the movies." Maybe the only possible hope for these kids is that, they do seem to be dreamers.

GRAND CANYON (1991) Director: Lawrence Kasdan

5 STARS

It never ceases to amaze me just how many great stories can be told, essentially about one city, Los Angeles, and how wonderful and rich some films can be made from it. Lawrence Kasdan's "Grand Canyon," occasionally gets grouped together with films like "Short Cuts," "Magnolia," or "Crash," as one of films about L.A. with interweaving storylines that seem to connect people across numerous backgrounds, culture and socioeconomic position. I guess in a way it is, but the interweaving stories aren't as interesting as the characters as they each go through personal changes. The movie begins at a Lakers game. Davis (Steve Martin) a Hollywood producer of violent action films, and Mack (Kevin Kline), an accountant in the industry, has tagged along to his courtside seats with Davis's family. On the way home, Mack's car stops in the wrong side of Inglewood (The Lakers used to play home games at the Forum, in the predominantly lower-class African-America suburbs of Inglewood, before the Staples Center was built), and sure enough, he gets spotted by a bunch of hoods, who are trying to gang up on him, probably steal, either his watch or car, or whatever. He's saved when the AAA guy, Simon (Danny Glover) arrives, and convinces the kid with the gun to back off. Mack is very greatful for Simon's help, and decides that it's his job to repay him somehow for getting him out of the situation. Mack's wife, Claire (Mary McDonnell), is saddened by her son Roberto (Jeremy Sisto) going off to camp for the summer, and well, growing up, in general. Out running, she stumbles upon a crying baby, that was abandoned in some shrubbery in the neighborhood. She takes him home, and begins caring for him, including pulling out Roberto's old crib. After they finally report the incident to the Police, she begins adoption proceedings. Mack doesn't seem quite what to make of it at first. He's having trouble at work, and is still dealing with, what we later learn, was a second life-saving event of his recent life. Meanwhile, his secretary Dee (Mary-Louise Parker) is in love with Mack. They slept together once. He didn't want it to happen, and he still loves his wife, but it did, and he wants to simply move on from that. She confides in her friend Deborah (Tina Lifford) a single Mom in a poor neighborhood who's had bad luck with men, and basically lives through Dee's lovelife, which, as her real life, begins spiraling out of control, because she knows she's in love with someone, who will never choose her over his wife. Another character, Simon's sister Jane (Alfree Woodard) is dealing with a son, Otis (Patrick Malone), who's riding head-first into gangs. One night, after he heads out to another night of doing God knows what, Jane's house gets shot at by dozens of bullets, with her, and her youngest kid, Kelley (Destinee DeWalt) inside. Shortly after that, she gets an even more unexpected visitor as an insurance man tries to sell her life insurance, for her daughter. That scene, if we play the film back in it's entirety, probably adds little to the plot or story in of itself, but I can't imagine leaving it on the cutting room floor. The metaphor of the "Grand Canyon," comes up multiple times, as a comparison to Los Angeles. The way the divide is so wide, and continual reshaping itself, constantly. It might be a metaphor for race relations, the timing of the movie, is coincidental enough, but really it's a divide and a struggle for all people to come together, and get to know and appreciate each other, and not simply races, even if it's just for a glimpse moment. While, this is all going on, I didn't mention what happened to Mack's friend Davis. He was also nearly mugged at one point, which landed him, shot in the leg. He recovered, and has his own life-altering epiphany, claiming that he doesn't want to ever make a violent action film again. Both friends mugged, to different outcomes, but both survived to move on with their life. Davis, decides to not make that moment go unnoticed, and make sure it leads to something long-lasting, or at least, he must try. Months later, Davis, walking with a limp and a cane, talks to Mack at the studio, where they're driving around, and that change-of-life feeling that Davis had, is mysteriously gone. He's not meaner, he's not any less greatful, but he's seeing the event in a completely different light now, and has picked up where his life left off, and we get the strange feeling, that maybe both of these friends, made the right decisions regarding how to approach their lives. There's a hopefulness and a beauty in "Grand Canyon," that appears in the stunningly truthful dialogue, which is masked by the coldness of the Los Angeles. That's the thing I most took from "Grand Canyon," it's a positive film that doesn't just show the world of Los Angeles, but gives us the hope the humankind will eventually win out, and help when others need help, and others will be greatful to others, for all their problems whether self-made, or fallen into their laps.

AN AMERICAN AFFAIR (2009) Director: William Olsson

4 STARS

Gretchen Mol is one of the most underrated actresses alive. She can play almost anything, but she doesn't get the roles she should because she is one of those rare actresses who looks like an old-time, classic movie star. She can play modern women like in "Rounders," or the great Neil Labute film "The Shape of Things," but her acting and beauty is shown best in period pieces, the best of these was the lead in "The Notorious Bettie Page," a role as perfect for her as you can create, except possibly her role in this film. "An American Affair," takes place in Washington, in the early sixties. Young Adam Stafford (James Rebhorn), is 13-years old. He goes to a liberal but prestigious Catholic school. His parents, Mike (Noah Wyle) and Adrienne (Perrey Reeves) are conservative, and Mike's profession seems vague and mysterious, but it seems to involve some travel. Adam's attention has suddenly turned to Catherine Caswell (Mol), a beautiful worldly woman who's newly moved in next door, and seems to have a mysterious stranger stay at her place periodically, who's presence requires secrecy and even some people standing nonchalantly outside her front door, although, she drapes are relatively open. Adam begins an infatuation with her, although her parents, who seem to know more about her than they probably shoud, are afraid of her being near their son, and are not crazy about her. They relent though, and Adam begins working odd chores and such with Catherine. They start becoming close, and intimate, while Catherine's feeling pressure from Lucien Carver (James Rebhorn), who uses her relationship with Kennedy for some reasons that the CIA General, doesn't particularly explain, however, Kennedy has begun cutting Catherine off. "An American Affair," shows a DC middle and elite, that seems to be surprisingly knowledgeable of each other. It also gives some credence to some of those JFK conspiracy theories, when the presence of Catherine's diary, suddenly becomes a critical MaGuffin, that even people we don't expect, are after, for reasons, that are all too vague for Adam, who's either in, way over his head, or has simply stumbled upon something he shouldn't have any part of, at any age. Mol really makes this movie. I can't imagine any other actress playing this part, and seeming so natural in it. Catherine Caswell is a complicated character, that needs to be a lot of things. She has to be beautiful, she has to be smart, she needs to be conniving, and believable in even the most absurd scenarios, to always be hiding something, especially if it's her emotions, even if those emotions might be a spiritual connection with a kid. "An American Affair," is a unique and good independent film, about that age that change everything. The arc is familiar, but the players involved, and the situation are distinctly unique. I add the claim the film wouldn't be as good as it is, without Gretchen Mol. I might be wrong, but if that's the case, than I wouldn't want to be right.

BEAT THE DEVIL (1954) Director: John Huston

3 STARS

I love the description of John Huston's "Beat the Devil," on imdb.com. It reads as follows: "On their way to Africa are a group of rogues hoping to get rich there, and a seemingly innocent British couple. They meet and things happen...." That's it. Not only is that the entire description, but it's also probably the best way I could describe the film. It sounds like it should be relatively more impressive than that. Huston, Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollibrigida, even the screenplay has top notch treatment, with Truman Capote sharing credit with Huston, yet, I was somewhat baffled by it. Maybe I took it too seriously. I just read Roger Ebert "Great Movie" review of the film, and he has an entirely different take on the film, where he claims it's the first "Camp" movie ever made. Essentially, a movie that everyone knows is kind of off, so everybody playing the movie up a bit, winking at the camera possibly. I didn't see it as camp, I saw it as strange, and a little confusing, but, come to think of it, there is a lot of logic problems with this film, and some odd wit and exaggerated characters. A scene at an Italian Villa that Billy Dannreuther (Humphrey Bogart) used to own, with Gwendolyn (Jones) explaining all the ways she's suddenly fallen for Billy is remarkably odd. She's there with her husband after all. Everybody's stuck at an Italian seaport. There's a bunch of suspicious looking characters, played by people like Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, and other great character actors, all claiming that they're heading for Africa to, sell vacuum cleaners, or something like that, but what they really want to do is buy some land that they suspect is high in uranium. Bogart is among these guys, although he's not nearly as enthusiatic about the whole venture. He's there with his British wife Maria. (Gina Lollibrigida, which is about as strange a choice to play a British actress you could make at that time. That's like choosing Sofia Vergara to play British, in today's terms.) They're killing time for most of the movie, on the Italian coast, as their ship's been delayed, we're told, not because of the captain being drunk, although the captain is constantly drunk were reminding. Naturally, the ship, once they do arrive, sinks, and it just so happens that all the particulars of the story survive, and are stranded on some African coast, looking suspiciously like a bunch of criminals. This is definitely a film with comic undertones, especially the more I think about it. Maybe I need a second viewing of "Beat the Devil," to really watch it again. Once, without being in on the joke, doesn't seem adequate. Even though it took me a little while to realize what's going on, I actually still like "Beat the Devil," as one of those old movies where everybody seems to be playing their given role, and playing them too much, kinda like how "Laura," is about how everybody acts like they're the murderer.

SPIDER LILIES (2007) Director: Zero Chou

3 1/2 STARS

Jade (Rainie Yang) is a rather flirtatious and shallow, young
webcam girl. She lives with her grandmother, who doesn't really understand, (or wants to understand) what she does in her bedroom, when the door it closed. She's making some money, but is interested in getting a tattoo, thinking it would help her earn more money. She goes to a tattoo store, run by Takeko (Isabella Leong), and she wants to get a spider lily tattoo. Takeko is strangely reluctant, however. Not released theatrically in the U.S., the Taiwanese film, "Spider Lilies," is one of those movies where you're either gonna appreciate the mood of the movie, or you're going to dismiss completely. The story itself seems too simple. Wh is Takeko so concerned about giving this tattoo to someone, especially to Jade? She believe the tattoo to be somewhat evil, and it embarks her on a trip down memory lane, she would rather not go, then again, she is attracted to Jane. I don't know whether Jane is a lesbian or not, I think she simply uses her skills to get what she wants. One of Jade's webcam viewers, is an undercover cop, Adong (Jay Shih), who's supposed to be watching her to compile evidence against her, for having the webcam. He's also friends with Takeko, who, when not at the tattoo shop, watches a younger, mentally-challenged brother, Ching (John Shen). It's certainly a story, mainly about emotions. Takeko's conflicting emotions mainly. There's certainly conflicting thoughts for Adong, as he starts falling for Jade, but the story is really about Takeko, trying to figure out what to do, about this girl from her past, asking for this tattoo, that has more meaning than Jade could ever understand, but she's falling for her too. It's sounds simplistic written down, but the way it's shot, the mood that Director Zero Chou, makes the movie far more exotic and enchanting. The world of these characters, is what's attractive to me, and the viewers. You buy into the world, you'll buy into the film. I bought in, so I'm recommending it. Others may not though, so fair warning on "Spider Lilies".

THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE (2001) Director: Charles Shyer

1 STAR

There is probably a somewhat interesting story, somewhere in "The Affair of the Necklace," but I really couldn't find it. Well, actually, it might have been there, but I just couldn't find myself interesting enough of a film to look for it. "The Affair of a Necklace," is a predominately forgotten film, except for it being, the first lead role Hilary Swank had, after winning her Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry," and for famously being criticized by Richard Roeper, a sbeing a movie that was about the pretty hats, or something to that effect. Basically, he criticized the movie for being about the costumes everybody was wearing, and not much else. (In its defense, the movie's sole Oscar-nomination, was indeed for Costume Design) Based on a true, and somewhat forgotten precursor to the French Revolution, Swank plays Jeanne St. Remy de Valois, a woman who's father was stripped of his title, supposedly for being a spy, or some other kind of, supposed crime against the throne, I think he only criticizing them, actually. She was some left homeless, going from orphanage to orphange, but now she's avenged to get her good name back. She begins by trying to become friends with Queen Marie Antoinette (Joely Richardson). That doesn't work out too well, but she soon gets the reluctant trust of Cardinal Louis de Rohan (Jonathan Pryce). He's somewhat close to the French family, and likes to boast about it. Oh, as to this necklace, well, this is a very luxurious and expensive necklace, that was commissioned by King Louis XVI (Simon Shackleton), but originally was for his mistress, who, by the time it was finished, he had lost favor with. It was offered to the Queen, but she didn't want to wear it, because of it's tainted past. Jeanne has a convenient marriage to Count Nicolas de la Motte (Adrien Brody), but she uses the Cardinal to buy the necklace, which Jeanne uses to buy herself back into authority, thinking Marie Antoinette might not notice the necklace. It was somewhat scandalous for it's time, giving credence to Marie Antoinette's "Let Them Eat Cake," comment, which actually, according to most historians, was probably only a rumor. The movie has many problems. The pacing is terrible, the casting choice is questionable. I reviewed Swank in "The Black Dahlia," and talked about how she's not great casting for period pieces, of any kind. I don't begrudge her this part, I think she's actually good in this part, but she is definitely not the kind of person who should be in this part, that's for sure. We're supposed to sympathize with her, but we really can't grasp it too well. I think the real blame though, is the director, Charles Shyer, who might just be the last Hollywood director I'd think of for this kind of period piece, and for good reason. He's a somewhat talented hack, and I say that with respect, but his most famous movies, are basically remakes of other famous movies, usually romantic-comedies, like "Father of the Bride," or "Alfie," his last feature-length film. (Alright, calling "Alfie" a rom-com, is a little misleading, I'll grant you that) He's also done, "Irreconcilable Differences," and "Baby Boom," some decent films, but man in this film, not in his wheelhouse. He's got talent as a writer, like with "Private Benjamin," and "Smokey and the Bandit," but if he wasn't a producer on this film, I couldn't even imagine the conversation where his name would even come up, to direct this tale. I hate to be this mean, but sometimes bad casting, isn't just in front of the camera, and this was a bad choice of directors for this material. You can feel how everything is going wrong in "The Affair of the Necklace." Even Christopher Walken's appearance as some kind of evil psychic, can't help this one.

THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF (2008) Director: Udayan Prassad

3 1/2 STARS

Note to screenwriters, do not be afraid to be very specific about place. If your setting something in New York, tell me about which streets the characters are on, and make it accurate. Don't have these character meet somewhere generic, nobody will care. You know the place, you know the people in the place, and therefore, you know the characters, and the characters become, and seem more real, because they are. "The Yellow Handkerchief," is one of those movies, that absolutely knows the place its in, and that's the best reason why it works. It takes place, in Louisiana. Brett Hanson (William Hurt) has just gotten out of jail. He's been in jail, sporadically for much of his life. We see him go to a train station, and in the nearby diner. He's hoping to get the next train down south; hopefully to get back a job he once had working on an oil rig, or, at least that's what he claims to be hoping for when he gets there. The train doesn't come, but Martine (Kristen Stewart) and Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) a couple of teenagers, offer him a ride across the river, via ferry. They're heading that way anyway. He agrees. Martine, has been around a bit more. Gordy is shy, a little slow, he has a crush on Martine, but doesn't really know how to go about it. They cross the river, but the weather changes, and they can't go back across. They all decide to stay the night, and the kids will leave in the morning. Obviously, they don't. Instead, they're on their way South. Martine going to get away. Gordy going, because he wants to be with Martine. Both of them begin feeling affection towards Brett, who slowly begins telling them his story, about his wife May (Maria Bello), who was the one that finally got him to go straight. They were in love, although they did fight at some points, sometimes badly. She's left since he was in jail, but he thinks she might have a boat on the coast. "The Yellow Handkerchief," probably should be yellow sail, which he looks for like a Prodigal son, as he silently wonders whether or not she's even still interested in talking to him, much less take him back. Seen in flashbacks, May is always associated with yellow. (Colors people, learn how to use them) The movie is based on a short story be Pete Hamill, and is directed by Udayan Prassad, it's the first film of his I've seen, and it's quite a good one. A strange group of misfits on an unexpected road trip, great premise, sets the place perfectly, good storytelling and parallels too, as Martine and Gordy's relationship, slowly and somewhat painfully starts developing into something more than just, Martine using Gordy because he's nice and has a car, and will help out for awhile. "The Yellow Handkerchief," it's a good story, well-acted, well-directed..., it's a solid independent film. That's all it wants to be, that's all it tries to be, and it succeeds.

THE POPE'S TOILET (2009) Director: Cesar Charlone, Enrique Fernandez

2 STARS

It's hard to remember, but in many parts of the world, when the Pope visits, it's a big deal. Especially in poorer, more forgotten parts of the world, which Pope John Paul II, tried to make a point to go to. Back in 1988, he made a brief, very brief trip to Uruguay, and everybody's gearing up for it. Vendors are getting ready to sell the crowds of people, everything, as almost everybody who can make it, will surely be making the trek, to see the Pope. Beto (Cesar Troncoso), lives is Melo, where the Pope will be, and he decides, that, he could make money by having a toilet. Seems somewhat reasonable, but he does need to build a toilet, but he hopes that it will be enough to buy a motorbike. He's normally a smuggler though traveling across the border to bring in small items from Brazil, and is otherwise untrustworthy except to other former criminals, and most of them don't think highly of him. He's got to get the money to build the toilet, and then build it, and have it functional in time for the Pope's visit. His wife Carmen (Virginia Mendez) is supportive, but reluctantly. She's at home with their daughter, Silvia (Virginia Ruiz). The movie is well-meaning, but it doesn't really work on me, but it was a nice idea, and a nice effort. The movie was Uruguay's entry in the Foreign Language Oscar category in 2008, and it was co-written and co-directed by Cinematographer Cesar Charlone, he did the lighting for "City of God", and there's definitely some talent here. The film just dragged on a bit too much. This would've probably been a better short film than a feature. Instead, a little bit too much build-up, for this story. I liked parts of it, but not enough to really get behind it. It just was too much, and too long.
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