Saturday, November 17, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS #48: " A CAT IN PARIS", "PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY", "POLISSE", "THE GREY", "NEWLYWEDS", "THE FLOWERS OF WAR", "ORANGES AND SUNSHINE", "KINYARWANDA", "SLEEPING BEAUTY", and MORE!

Well, I gotta say a couple words about the Kevin Clash controversy that's suddenly come up. Clash of course, is the puppeteer behind Elmo, who was earlier this week accuse of being a sexual relationship with a boy, who claimed he was underage at the time. This was startling, in light of last years documentary on Clash, "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey", which I reviewed on this site recently.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/08/movie-reviews-41-hunger-games-bullhead.html

Clash admitted to the affair, and to being gay, which is somewhat striking considering that Clash was married to a woman,  although he has been divorced since '03, and has a kid, . (Although if I'm being completely honest, I did suspect that he might be gay after watching the movie, but I don't particularly trust my gaydar, so I never brought it up in my review. [Besides that, I don't reveal stuff like that anyway]) Later the man retracted his statement about him being underage at the start of the affair, (He's 23 now)  however earlier today, TMZ reported that a settlement between the parties involved a retraction that apparently the victim has denied in private, despite his public retraction. I don't know quite what to make of that but, it does put the movie in a different light now. I still recommend it for what it is, but now there's the question of, what exactly is it now, a profile of a caring puppeteer, or a profile of a puppeteer, who may technically be a pedophile?

Oh, before I forget, I didn't write a review last week for the film "How to Die in Oregon," because it originally aired on HBO, and not in theatres after it's Sundance premiere. It's a powerful documentary about assisted-suicide, following the lives, or end of lives of many people in Oregon who suffer from terminal illnesses and have chosen to end there lives through physician-assisted suicide, which was first legal in Oregon. I highly recommend the film, granted, it's cerrtainly not the most entertaining of films, or the most enjoyable of subjects, but it's definitely worth watching.

Okay, that's all from me, on to this week's Random Weekly Movie Reviews!

A CAT IN PARIS (2011) Directors: Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol

4 STARS

At only 64 minutes in length, and that's including five minutes of credits at the end, "A Cat in Paris," has to be one of the shortest feature-length films to recieve an Oscar nomination. Definitely the shortest in the coveted Animated Feature category. The title cat is Dino, and he lives a double life. During the day, he live with Zoe, a little girl who's mother Jeanne, is a cop, who's determine to capture a notorious heartless gangster named Victor Costa, who killed Zoe's fatherearlier. Costa is currently preparing for an elaborate heist involving, involving a famous statue, and Jeanne and the entire police force is after him. Zoe's cat has become her only solace since her father's death. She's also become quiet, and rarely speaking, especially to the new housemaid Claudette, who wears a nauseting perfume. At night, Dino escapes through a window, walks along a dividing wall, and joins Nico, who's a local jewel thief. Dino works with Nico to pull off a few crimes. Even one time giving Dino a little jewel fish bracelet. Quickly all these elements will soon come together, especially in the last half-hour of the movie, which is basically elaborate chase and cat-and-mouse game between the gangsters, who've taken Zoe, the jewel thief, and Jeanne, the police chief, and in one amazing sequence, there's even a wonderful scene that takes place, in the dark, which is very unusual for an animated film, it's one of those scenes, where the lights have all gone out and a character is using the distraction to save another character, and the way they did they, it's not the difficult animated trick in the world, but it's really cool, and it does give this movie, which is basically a typical, kids crime film pretty much, but it did give it a nice twist here. "A Cat in Paris," isn't much, but what little it is, it's quite enjoyable. I think it's basically a long short film, as oppose to a feature, but it was fun. The animation, is handdrawn, and quite stylized and unique. Has some cool uses of Paris in it, so it's definitely a recommend. It's a little under-ambitious, but if that's all you need to make a good movie, than it shouldn't be any longer then, should it?

PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011) Directors: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

4 1/2 STARS



I've long heard about the West Memphis 3 in passing over the years, but I honestly never actually saw the two previous documentaries about their supposed crimes, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills," that originally aired on HBO, or the sequel "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations". 17 years after the murders, 11 years after the second film, and 15 after the first, we get "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," the first of the series to earn an Acadamy Award nomination for Best Documentary, is hopefully the final tale told of the West Memphis 3. Again, I'll reiterate that I haven't seen the first two documentaries, so I'm a little behind the eightball here; I did make attempts to try to watch them before I got around to this film, it just didn't work out that way unfortunately, but they do give us a couple good recaps on the stories so far. In 1994, three eight-year-old boys, were found brutally tied-up, naked and murdered, near a small creek in West Memphis, Arkansas. There were no apparent suspects at the time, but after a month, three teenagers, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley and Damien Echols were arrested for the crime. The reasons themselves for the arrest are strange and murky. A lot of it involved a confession by Jesse Misskelley, which was taken after 12 hours of interrogation, and even then, included numerous discrepancies originally, and blatent leading by the police. (Misskelley also has mild retardation, another reason to discredit the tale) A lot of the evidence focused primarily on the supposed satanic worship of the three men, in particular Damien Echols, who dressed in goth clothing, listened to heavy metal music, and often drew demonic symbols in his notebooks. I found it fascinating to learn that his jailhouse wedding with Lisa, a former architect, who moved to Little Rock to fight for their release, was a Buddhist ceremony. The neighborhood was deathly convinced of their guilt. One of the kids' stepfathers, John Mark Byers, even burned a mock effigy at the site of his son's death for them. When "Paradise Lose 2..." was released, he actually was becoming a major suspect, considering his behavior in that documentary, and some of the facts of the case, including him possessing a knife that he handed to the filmmakers, with the statement, "That could've killed my son". Even Echols at one time, accused him. Now, Byers has long-been cleared, and now, he's become their biggest advocate for the West Memphis 3's innocence, believe it or not. DNA evidence nearly completely left all doubt behind. Now a new suspect has emerged, in Terry Hobbs, another one of the kid's stepparents, who wasn't investigated originally. A small sample of his hair, has now been identified on one of the kids, not enough to be sure or be convincing, but more than enough for reasonable doubt. He divorced his wife, shortly after the murders, and he has a long history of violence, including domestic abuse, and gunfire. His alibi witnesses have never confirmed any of his statements, that he spent the entire day of the murders looking for his son. Then, in a bizarre twist to this case, Hobbs filed a defamation lawsuit, against Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks, after she said publicly said how she was convinced he was guilty of the murders. (Many celebrities and groups have worked to free the trio since the beginning of the story, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, being two of the first to jump aboard) This sounds funny, but what it ended up doing, was giving a rare and possibly one-time opportunity to have Hobbs give a deposition, of his account of the crime, and all of his criminal past. I couldn't claim that the evidence would convict Hobbs at trial, although I'm completely convinced he's guilty, as is a lot of people, including Byers, who made a posterboard comparing the evidences against the WM3, and Hobbs. Right before the movie was scheduled to be released, an Arkansas Supreme Court overtuned the judge's ruling on the trial (The same Judge, David Barnett, had until now presided over every aspect of the case, and had all his rulings upheld, despite some clear biasness on his part in the case.), and a new judge finally came in, as an evidentiary hearing was planned for the new DNA evidence, as well as jury tampering claims, among other evidence. A deal had been reached, where the West Memphis 3, were released, after pleading Guilty Alford pleas, where they proclaim their innocence, but must concede guilty verdicts anyway. Leave it to a case that began on satanic rumors and Salem-like atmospheres, to end in a way, that strange. Justice wasn't exactly done, but the West Memphis 3, after 17 years, are finally released. "Paradise Lost 3..." is going to make me look harder to search out the previous films. It belongs on this long list of documentaries, that started with Errol Morris's "The Thin Blue Line," that reveal how investigate journalistic efforts can not only make incredible movies, but also reverse such grave injustices of the law, at least as much as they can. In the meantime, those three little boys, must be in an eternal purgatory, as their killer still walks free. At least the three boys, falsely convicted of their deaths, have finally left their purgatory.

POLISSE (2012) Director: Maiwenn

3 1/2 STARS

"Polisse" seems a little bit like those occasional rare, anomaly episodes of "Law & Order," where instead of one case, we get to see about five or six in a particular episode, and see the day-to-day goings on of the police station, except here, it's the Paris CPU, Child Protection Unit, where instead of random murders, or even just run-of-the-mill robberies, they're dealing with a long line of child molesters, usually family members, who so casually discuss their behavior as though it was in some way justified and understandable, and numerous underage girls with webcams and photos posted everywhere, and 14-year-old prostitutes, ones who are being forced into it, and others who hook because they can. There's raids occasionally, and set-ups, as well as some powerful scenes where it's amazing that people can actually do such a job, and do it so continuously, without losing faith in all of humanity. There's a light moment near the end of the film, where all the police come in as a young girl explains that she was giving blowjobs to a bunch of kids, because they had stolen her phone, and finally, all the cops begin laughing uncontrollably. The girl replies, "It was a smartphone", like it's justification, and they laugh again. "Polisse" (Which is simply a child's incorrect spelling of Police) is best when it plays like this never-ending episodic series of events, all dealing with some of the nightmare kids scenarios we've all heard and known about. It's a little disenchanting that so much of this takes place in Paris. A couple of the police are married, and occasionally we get a look into their private lives. You know, the more I think about the movie, the less-impressed I am with it. It's quite powerful as you're watching it, but much of this is stuff we've seen numerous times before. The smallest of twists to the story involves Melissa (the director, Maiwenn) who plays a photographer for the Ministy of Interior, who is documenting their work. At a certain point, she ends up having an affair with one of the cops. There's also several scenes showing the comraderie of the cops. They have affairs themselves, and go on, several cases. One follows a cop named Iris (Marina Fois) who watches as a teenager who has a miscarriage. After, the take the baby, who's so small, they put her in a plastic ziplock, to test her DNA to find out the guy who raped the girl. Another scene, involves a sting operation at the shopping mall, where kids are being transferred, that ends in a shootout. These scenes continue happening one after another, however there isn't anything more than that. "Polisse", won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, it didn't get a theatrical release until earlier this year, but it does come off as a strangely monotomous and empty choice. It's the fourth film directed by Maiwenn, who was supposedly the inspiration for the Natalie Portman character in Luc Besson's film "Leon (aka The Professional)". That alone is an intriguing. Also peculiar is that she had a child with Besson, when she was only 16, something that makes the subject matter for the film particularly curious. There's a note that all the incidents portrayed in the movie are from actual cases they deal with, on a regular basis. Unfortunately, if they didn't tell me that, I would've guessed it. As for a movie, "Police," is a well-made, well-executed portrait of a police house, and unfortunately, despite everything, that's all it really is. I have to recommend the movie, because of it's skillfulness however, but after watching it, you'll come out entertained, but wondering why we've become numb to such atrocious people and behaviors. Bad enough that the cops have, why have we?

THE GREY (2012) Director: Joe Carnahan

2 STARS

I don't quite know how to describe the emotions I had while watching "The Grey," because, well, I didn't have any real emotions watching "The Grey". I barely remember watching it at all. It was at the local library, which for reasons no sane person can understand, the city of Henderson, Nevada voted not to fund last week, because they didn't want to raise a tax to do that, which, is dumb on so many levels, and I'd rather talk about how dumb that was than I would talk about "The Grey". It's kinda like if "Alive" meets, wolves, and they all got killed by them. (Oops, sorry, I meant to write "SPOILER ALERT" but I forgot.) Liam Neeson plays Ottway, who's the only character that seems to somehow know how to survive in the thundering cold Alaskan wilderness where the plane went down, because, he's being played by Liam Neeson. These are a bunch of oilworkers why fly up to work most every morning, and this time their plane crashes, but even worse, there's a bunch of wolves, who have apparently made it their life's mission to play "Ten Little Indians" with the survivors. I don't know what these oilmen did to these wolves beforehand to make them so bloodthirsty now, from most of what I've heard about wolves, it isn't in their nature to be so aggressive, but it is fucking cold out there, and everybody else seems to be going a little bit crazy, so why not the wolves? Some try to survive, others don't, and no one cares, either way. There's a beginning sequence at the oilrig the day before that insinuates that Ottway might have been a little suicidal the day before, but what that has to do with anything, other than possibly the ending, but, other than that- (Ah, dammit, I did it again "SPOILER ALERT", sorry.) This movie was a void to me. Some movies, I watch, I can soak them in, even bad movies, I can sit through and experience, and have real effects on me, and this movie had almost no effect on me at all. Instead of watching "The Grey," I could've gone about my day, and not noticed anything different. Oh, there was one character who was cocky and stupid, and talked a lot of wanting to survive, but was against every survival technique that Ottway was trying, I remember that. I think I remember that. It's a fairly good assumption that there was a character like that, there always is in these kind of movies. The director was Joe Carnahan, who made a really strong feature film a decade ago called "Narc," but since then has made one forgettable Hollywood action crime/thriller blockbuster after another, and this film is no different. I don't know why I'm giving it 2 STARS, now that I'm thinking about, maybe I happen to watch this empty vacuum of a movie, while I was in a good mood that day. It's also competently made, I guess.

NEWLYWEDS (2012) Director: Edward Burns

4 STARS

Edward Burns's "Newlyweds," is a little like Woody Allen meets the Duplass Brothers. Burns shot the movie on a $9,000 budget, and apparently shot it in a hurry so as to make it's debut at last year's Tribeca Film Festival. Believe it or not, it's actually the 11th film he's directed, although outside of a few notable triumphs, like his wonderful debut film "The Brothers McMullen", they've been fairly mediocre romantic comedies. "Newlyweds," is one of his better films, and probably more interesting because of what he was doing with the budget restrictions. Using the popular 1st person narration, similar to sitcoms like "The Office," and "Modern Family," where a character is almost always photographed, and aware of it, while occasionally being interviewed, the movie begins with one of those dinner that couples go to, where they talk about their relationships with each other, knowing that these couples relationships are soon heading towards disaster. The "Newlyweds" are Buzzy and Katie (Burns and Caitlin Fitzgerald). It's their second marriage for each of them, and they're claim for a successful marriage is that their work schedules are such that they actually rarely see each other, so, ironically, they never get sick of each other. Marsha and Max (Marsha Deitlein and Max Baker) are the older couple, who've been married for 18 years. Max is a music producer who's trained by Buzzy. (Buzzy's a personal trainer), and Marsha is Katie's annoying older sister. They got married because Marsha was pregnant, and now that their kid has gone off to college, their isn't much reason for them to be together. Meanwhile, Max's flighty younger sister Linda (Kerry Bishe) has arrived very unexpectedly, and has practically invited herself over to stay with Buzzy and Katie. She's a California girl, who's trip was so sudden, and her focus so single-minded, she showed up to New York in the winter, without a coat, (or much clothes at all for that matter) and finds nothing particularly wrong, with going out on her first night in town, and coming home to have sex with a random guy, on the kitchen table. Her brother's kitchen table. That's the beginning with her, although her real purpose for coming is to run into Miles (Johnny Solo), who she broke up with almost a year ago, but now wants him back, after finding out that not only has he moved on, he's getting married soon. He still is in love, to some extent with Linda, but he's definitely become conscious that her erratic behavior is more of a warning flag than a personality quirk. Meanwhile, she quickly begins to get on both Buzzy and Katie's nerves. Starting with her, losing Katie's coat that she "borrowed," and it gets on from there, but Buzzy is reluctant to completely put out Katie, because he's much older than her, and kinda wants to know his sister better, and on top of that, at her age, he was a bit of a wildman. Meanwhile, Marsha and Max's marriage, dissolves, suddenly, although not unexpectedly, over another one of the couples' dinners, and now Marsha, is also insisting on moving in with Buzzy and Katie, just as their marriage, is starting to hit a road block, over Linda's appearance. You know, on other days, I might just dismiss "Newlyweds," as just another unsuccessful Edward Burns movie, but I think I appreciate the movie enough, especially considering the budget, and the way it was shot. Yeah, it could be more refined, and possibly the story could've been a little more thoughtout, this movie looks, feels and was in fact, really rushed to be made, but maybe all of this helped out a lot, and I think it's one of his strongest films. Sure, it basically a throwback to Woody Allen films, ("Husbands & Wives," could be the complete unedited script for this film) but it's a totally different aesthetic for Burns, and frankly, I was impressed and enjoyed the change. I also want to note Kerry Bishe's performance, really critical to the film, and she's quite good; she was the star of the last season of "Scrubs," that "Med School," season, of which, I am literally the only person who not only watched that season, but loved that season, and I think more people should know about her, not only from that, but in general, so I'm a little bias, but I'm glad she got a fairly cool role, that shows some range from her and she hits quite a few good notes here.

THE FLOWERS OF WAR (2011) Director: Zhang Yimou
2 1/2 STARS
Legendary Chinese Director Zhang Yimou chose "The Flowers of War," to be his first movie that's at least, half-spoken in English, and an elaborate well-made film about the Rape of Nanking, back in '37-'38. It's got good acting, amazing special effects, way he's able to recreate the scenes of violence and destruction left after Japan came in, is quite startling. They came in and murdered over 30,000 civilians, including most of the women, who they systematically raped, before killing. So why can't I recommend it? There are a few reasons, one is that, it actually doesn't need to be in English, but really, it just gives us such a gigantic and broad-stroked perspective, that frankly, it had very little effect. It's one of those almost David Lean-esque sprawling war epics, but it's certainly not in the "Lawrence of Arabia," model, it's unfortunately closer to the overrated "Doctor Zhivago", a bunch of random sound and noise, without a real connecting thread. In fact, to a certain extent, this movie, might have been told, if you actually took out the entire war, and it might have actually worked a little better. That's a strange thing to say, but listen for a second, the movie follows John Miller (Christian Bale) a rogue American, who seemed to find himself drunk and passed out at the wrong place at the wrong. He ends up in a church, in the middle of Japan's attack, and wakes up to find himself dress as a priest, which he then disguises himself as, so he can go from place-to-place without causing to much attention. That it of itself, is actually kinda interesting. It also ends up, being a good from during this whole thing, to hide a school of young girls, as well as a brothel, full of prostitutes. How these two ended up together, I couldn't begin to explain, but somehow, with Japan pillaging everything, they're now, for all intensive purposes, trapped inside the church, and now, the visiting drunk, has to save them by being a priest. I swear to God, there's a Marx Brothers movie, somewhere in this concept. I'm making the movie sound like a comedy, but it's quite a serious epic, with some graphic violence. Miller is help by a squirmy little guy named George (Huang Tianyuan), who also seems so innocuous that the Japanese find him relatively harmless. This story, in case you're wondering is entirely fictional by the way, which gives credence to my theory that this story might well have taken place, almost anywhere. WWII would've been interesting. I'm not even sure, you need a war, just hiding prostitutes and little girls in a church, alone would be a tough undertaking, anywhere. Basically, as well-made as the film is, I just couldn't take it seriously. Also, there is no real reason for Bale's character to be an American. Usually in movies like this, which are usually made in America, a lone white protagonist is used to infiltrate the world, so as to make it easier for us as an audience, to have someone we can look up to. Some cases, really good films can be made from this formula, like "Glory" or "Dances With Wolves", but there something odd a Chinese director doing it, in a Chinese film, especially. I wonder if this was just an exercise for Zhang, to see if he could actually make an American-style film if he wanted to. I think he can, but not this one. Admittedly, it's kind of an interesting mess, but it's still a mess. I expect more from Zhang Yimou.
ORANGES AND SUNSHINE (2011) Director: Jim Loach
4 1/2 STARS
I've spent the last five or ten minutes trying to start this review. "Oranges and Sunshine," is not an easy film to talk about. The main purpose of filmmaking, first and foremost, is to entertain. I was entertained by "Oranges and Sunshine". The second goal, if possible, is to teach. I already long knew that to some extent, it's been tradition in England to send their undesireables to Australia. There's an old joke about how British TV stars, go to Australia when they aren't successful in Britain, so even today, this practice is still occurring, albeit more symbolically than ever before, and that's a good thing. For decades, a secret deal was reached between the countries, for England to send their orphans to Australia. Except, they weren't always orphans, and they weren't always given up for adoption by their parents, who they all were told were dead, before being suddenly rushed onto a boat, and sent to live in some church-run boot camp. After seeing "The Magdalene Sisters," recently I already know about some of the abuses of the Catholic church done in that part of the world, but this whole thing, which by the way, the practice only ended within the last forty years or so. Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) was the first person to begin such a practice. She was a social worker who dealt mainly with people who were adoptive, and looking for their original families, and suddenly, many people were telling the same story about being sent away to Australia on a boat, often at ages as young as 5. The title "Oranges and Sunshine," refers to what was promised to at least one of the kids, Jack (Hugo Weaving), when he suddenly found himself on the boat to Australia, being informed that his parents had died, which they hadn't. A sister he was separated from at the time, later found him. There were dozens of others, in Australia, with the same story, and many had nightmare stories of working as slave labor for a church, who swore that they had owed them money for them taking care of them all those years. As she continually pursues the endeavor, she naturally gets more persistance resistance from people, mostly the governments, organizations and especially the Catholic Church, for the claims that some of the children, now mostly grown men are making. She even begins getting legitimate death threats, and breakins to her room, at the foundation she finds, to help reunite the children with their families. This is where the movie begins to run into the typical cliches of the one solemn voice of reason, fighting back against the big, giant, wrong governtments, and organization, who simply want this part of their despicable past to be forgotten, and swept under the rug, under claims like "You have to understand, at the time...". There's no real way to get around that, and frankly, it probably did happen like that. In 2008, both Australia, and Great Britain formally apologized to everyone for the forced migration of children. The movie starts by the way, in 1986. It's hard to judge on an entertainment level, but on the same token, as something that I'm happy to have seen, and "Oranges and Sunshine," is quite powerful. I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen, and one story and atrocity came after another. Emily Watson, one of our most underrated actresses gives a wonderful performance, here. I guess the older you get, the less things can shock you, but this one, this did shock that such a thing could, and did happen, and happened, this recently. Maybe it shouldn't have, but it did, and even if I did know going in, I'd still highly recommend "Oranges and Sunshine".
KINYARWANDA (2011) Director: Alrick Brown

4 STARS

We known about the Rwandan genocide in '94, right? We sorta do.We've heard about it, we've even seen some good movies revolve around. I thought Don Cheadle should've won an Oscar for his work in "Hotel Rwanda," the famous film documenting the genocide, but even that film looks at it through a magnifying glass, giving us one story out of many. I came out of "Kinyarwanda," the first film reportedly made in Rwanda, and starring Rwandans, believing that many more movies should be made, and many more books should be written on the subject. You can't learn anything about the Holocause, by simply watching "Schindler's List," and nothing else, and the same should go for the Rwandan genocide. Jamaican Director Alrick Brown, tells multiple tales about Rwanda, taking place before, during, and after the travesty. All of them, are to some degree powerful, some more than others, but the cumulative effect, is to get as wide-reaching a view of the genocide as possible, which they accomplished magnificiently. The movie begins, in a re-education camp, where former Tutsi soldiers, are now, years later, being asked to discuss the crimes they committed, and to relearn how to get together with the Hutu. Many of them, when asked how many Hutu's they killed, have lost count. Others tell gripping stories of their actions. I think the best comparison to this scene would be to think of it, as having members of a suicide cult, being retaught the ways of the modern world. Other scenes include a Priest, Father Pierre (Mazimpaka Kennedy) and the Mufti of Rwanda, the head of the nation's Muslims (Mutsari Jean) trying to help each out other, by hiding a group of refugees, while struggling with their own faiths in both the lord, and his people. Until now, I never thought much about the religious aspects of the battle, all I ever knew was that there were the Hutus, and the Tutsis. Actually, there's some question of whether or not their are two groups of people. While there have always been two tribes, it wasn't until Belgain Colonial Ethnic Scientists came around, did they start believing that their were minor differences between them, naming one the Tutsi, ruling class, and Hutu, servant class. The title, "Kinyarwanda," is the language that both tribes share. They also speak a lot of English in the film, and in reality. Another story follows Ugandan peacekeeping group, led by Lt. Rose (Cassandra Freeman), a Rwandan who left for Uganda years ago, to escape the bloodshed, and now, she's returned to begin orchestrated the peace. Other tales range from sweet, like the story of the two young lovers from different tribes, to disasterous and violent. One story, even has a brief piece of animation, as a young kid dreams of being a big futbol star. "Kinyarwanda" is about a country that's confronting it's past, and coming together to try to overcome it together, and this film, as well as hopefully many others, are the first steps in that process. If was only eighteen years ago this happened, and the country is still trying to piece itself together.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011) Director: Julia Leigh

4 STARS

"Sleeping Beauty" is one of the most peculiar profiles of a prostitute I've ever seen, and that's saying something. The prostitute is Lucy, (Emily Browning) and she works at a few different places actually. At an office, she's a temp who gets unwanted calls from her mother, and lays flat on the floor while she's making copies. At a restaurant, she stomps the chairs onto the table after dining hours are done. At a laboratory, she participate in strange experiments, including one that involves a large tube being swallowed down her throat for an inordinate amount of time. At the apartment she rents, she berated by the boyfriend of her sister/landlord because she never pays any rent. At a nightclub, she finds a classmate, (She takes a college course on, something involving that game they played in 'A Beautiful Mind,' with the black and white things,- I don't know what it's called.) and they do some coke in the bathroom. When they come out, a guy mentions how they're talking about who's gonna fuck her, and she suggest flipping a coin. This game gets going for a little while, and sure enough, she's serious about the sex. She occasionally spends time with Thomas (Eden Falk) who's some kind of drug-addict who knows he's about ready to OD any day now. She then answers a strange ad from Clara (Rachael Blake) a quiet madam who's business, I wouldn't say brothel, but business, take place at some out-of-the-way large mansions that has it's own private drivers, and probably holds maybe strange nights and parties that seem similar to the ones in "Eyes Wide Shut". (The second party in that movie, not the first). At first, she works as a waitress at a lavish party, where all the waitress dress in their, what I'm gently calling, underwear; she's the only one who wears white. Then, she becomes a sleeping beauty, which is such a strange form of prostitution that I'm actually doubting that it actually exists. I'd look up it's actual existance myself, if I wasn't at a public library right now, but Lucy takes a drink that makes her remain unconscious for hours, and during that sleep, the johns come in and do,- well, I don't want to say anything, they aren't allowed to penetrate her. Based on the plot, I thought the movie was French, it's actually an American film. It's the first film by written and directed by novelist Julia Leigh. It's a strange profile of a girl, and Emily Browning is certainly a brave actress for this part. According to imdb, she's 24, although she looks suspiciously young in this part, like a teenage Julie Delpy. especially with the flowing reddish brown hair. "Sleeping Beauty" is a certainly a unique and intrigued first film. It's ends suddenly, without any explanation, and the character is set-up too well as a mysterious character, who's passive and selfish in nature, that when she actually does take action, it comes off as strange. Still, quite an unusual film, especially for an American film.

LIKE DANDELION DUST (2010) Director: Jon Gunn

2 1/2 STARS

Somehow, I have a feeling that a reasonable person can adequately guess the way "Like Dandelion Dust," is going to end, maybe even figure out almost all of the plot points that I would leave out of the descriptions that I would make. "Like Dandelion Dust," begins with Rip Porter (Barry Pepper) getting arrested for hitting his wife Wendy (Mira Sorvino). She's got a wrapped hand in this scene. We flash forward seven years later, when Rip is released from prison. Sober and clean, he seems rehabilitated. It's then that Wendy informs Rip that she was pregnant when he wen to jail, and that she gave up her child for adoption. Rip's signature was forged however, and now that he's out, they have a loophole to get their son back, who's been adopted by a well-to-do family, the Campbells, Jack and Molly (Cole Hauser and Kate Levering). Joey (Maxwell Perry Cotton) doesn't know that he's adopted, and overall, his life's been fairly blessed, and is confused by why he suddenly has to travel to Ohio for a week, to stay with these people who he's never known. The transition is supposed to be over three visits. Meanwhile, Jack and Molly begin considering a plan to get Joey back. First, they trying buying off Rip, but after that doesn't work, they begin hatching a last chacne plan to head off to Haiti on a church trip their friends Bill and Beth (Kirk B.R. Woller and Abby Brammell), especially after one of the visits, doesn't go as well as it should. "Like Dandelion Dust", is a fairly ordinary story, that tries to stretch it's inevitability as much as possible through mood, but can only go so long, before you're just waiting for the movie to end. It's sad, 'cause there was a good story here, but somehow, the movie doesn't hold up. It's a well-acted film, although most of these actors can basically play these roles in their sleep, especially Pepper and Sorvino, adequately shot independent film, that's a little bit Lifetime movie of the week. There's nothing particularly special about it, nor is there anything bad about it. Well, other than the title, what-the-hell is "like dandelion dust," and what-the-hell does that even mean?

AMERICAN ME (1992) Director: Edward James Olmos

4 STARS
Some of you know that I will eventually watch any movie that someone asks me too, and I'll write a review for it. About four or five years ago, I was riding on a bus, with a Mexican guy. He was tall, and walked with a limp, and some crutches. He told stories of being shot in the past, and being in jail. The current injury he was dealing with, I believe was from a car accident. At some point, we started talking about movies, and he told me to watch a film I had never heard of called "American Me". I looked the film up, and have tried multiple times to get ahold of it over the years. I borrowed a copy from the library once, but the copy was so scratched up, it was unwatchable. I placed it on my Netflix, somewhere, but it finally came up, and I must say that, I'm glad I've finally gotten around to it. A rare directorial effore by the great Edward James Olmos, the movie begins in the forties, where the parents of Montoya Santana (Olmos as an old man, Panchito Gomez, young) are assaulted during the Zoot Suit Riots in East L.A. Montoya will spend the majority of his life in prison, where he become the local kingpin in the yard. Able to transfer drugs and anything else inside. Life in prison isn't glamourous, but it is successful. There's a note at the beginning of the film, that the movie depicts things that actually occur on a daily basis. I believe the things he was referring to is some of the graphic albeit ingenius ways in which prisoners are able to get outside items suchs as drugs and cigarettes, and how they manage to trade them with the guards not noticing.(Actually Santana runs a major drug operation on the outside, from inside) Outside of jail, once he gets there, he tries to make a play on some of the gang's larger territories, in and outside of prison walls. He also begins falling in love for the first time, with Yolanda (Dyana Ortelli). As he grows older, and stops being the hotheaded youth who killed while in Juvi, he starts to grow weary of the crimelife. The movie is told through his narration, and from prison, where he has once again ended up, shortly after starting a war with the Italians, and Don Antonio (Tony Giorgio), which has drastic unintended consequences, like a batch of pure heroin getting sold in East L.A., which ends up killing dozens one night, all Mexicans, which turned it into a race war, as opposed to a drug war, and before they can reset the war to those standards, the Blacks get into it. It's hard to see what could've happened to Montoya, had things been different. Late in the movie, after his mother Esperanza (Vira Montes) had died, his father tells him about that riot which unfortunately correlated with around the same time his wife got pregnant, and how he was terrified that not only wasn't he his father, but that it was one of the sailors who rape her that night. It seems that only as we soon approach death, as we begin to understand our life. "American Me," is quite a powerful film. I preferred the sequences in the prison, and how they were run, over the scenes on the outside, because that basically was typical gangster movie stories that we had heard many times before, but it was still powerful, all the way through. Olmos, as always is good here, although I'm not sure directing himself helped him out as much as it could've. He's a solemn and quiet actor, who says only as many words as needed most of the time (Not always, but most), and I wonder if that didn't hurt us as much as help us. Sometimes presence isn't all that's needed to convey power, there were a couple times here, where I wondered if it actually did. Still that's a relatively minor quibble. "American Me," is aptly-titled. Yes, it deals with mainly Mexican-Americans in the East L.A. area, but the movie is only about Mexicans-Americans as much as "The Godfather" happens to be about "Italian-Americans". It's a tale that criticizes society as a whole, where gang warfare seems only to be controlled anymore, by those who do the most killing, not for turf, but for the power of killing someone else. I took away from "American Me," that this story, while based on a true tale, could happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of how they're brought up, but that's either way, the worst thing about ganglife, is that the next generation who lives in that world, believes not only that it's an ideal living situation, but that it's the only way out of that run-down neighborhood. There were no Tre or Furious characters in this L.A. neighborhood.

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