Friday, August 30, 2013

WHY BINGE WATCHING TV SHOWS IS OVERRATED! A few thoughts before an unnerving cliffhanger ending, and a week wait until we continue.



A Variety article on the perils of binge viewing for Netflix caught my eye very recently. You can see the link below, but basically their business model, might be hindering their profits, as too many of their viewers are binge watching their original programming all at once, and afterwards, not watching much else, which means Netflix, will then have to spend more money to create original programming then they might actually have.

http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/netflix-may-need-to-fast-forward-its-spending-for-original-shows-1200585971/

Some may be surprised to find this out about me, but I'm actually not a big fan of binge watching TV series. Yes, to some extent, I and I think everyone participates in it in one way or another, with me, it's usually through DVDs nowadays, but most of the time, I'd rather not watch everything in one shot.  Now, that's not to say there aren't benefits from screening shows this way, convenience for instance, but oftentimes, I need about a week break from a series, just to ponder and consider the show/episode. You can really go a little crazy watching whole seasons of a show at once. Some shows can make you stupid watching them all at once too, but-eh, going crazy can be just as worrisome. God help anyone who came into it blind, and decided to give "24" a try on DVD. But, apart of what's good about television at it's best, s the one week, or even longer waits that builds us up. The tension, the anticipation, the time to think and discuss, "Wow! I can't believe that happened!" and "Holy shit, what's gonna what's gonna happen next?!" and other such questions. I mean, you'll never see me devote an entire blogpost just to recap and give my thought on the latest "Breaking Bad" or "The Newsroom" episode or something like that, but the fact that so many other bloggers do, should tell you just how much enjoyment we get out of a delayed reaction/gratification. We enjoy the water cooler talks, why can't we admit that anymore?

Now does that mean I'm advocating that everyone should stop binge watching "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black", because Netflix's stock is falling because there's too many people binge watching these shows too quickly? Hell no! Screw them. They decided on entire seasons released immediately, no commercials, and a flat monthly rate, let them hang by their own rope for all I care. It was I, some may remember who told Netflix and Hulu that they should start their own TV channels as a way to help distribute their original content and promote their websites, and despite everything, I'm still convinced that streaming is not the future, and this is partly why. You need to generate revenue in order to produce and distribute more original product, as well as have more outlets to advertise your original product, and get more people to watch. They'll learn eventually, or they won't, but I just don't think binge watching is the most productive way to watch most series.

At least  not at first. At least, not intentionally. You see, binge viewing, is hardly a new phenomenon, even in television, hell it predates DVDs even. TV networks, as they constantly struggle to find content to air 24 hours a day, occasionally air what used-to-be-called, marathons, of some of their more popular TV shows, or least popular in some instances, if they wanted to try to get a particularly show to succeed. Actually they still air marathons, and still call them that; I don't know why I said "use to"..., but it's the same thing. Sometimes it helps a TV show, "Scrubs" benefited greatly from a mini-marathon once, other-times, they're just good content fillers, and people watch them. I watch them. I'm partial to "Top Chef" and "Project Runway" marathons for instance, or other more classic show marathons that Nick at Nite and TV Land would used to air, usually on weekdays or weekends. ("Get Smart" marathons were a particular favorite of mine.) They're definitely helpful for catching up on a missed episode or two or some shows, however, they're most beneficial for other reasons. One's an obvious reason, they're good time-wasters. It's not just for the channel to do that, they're good for us. Something good on, but not until later, kill some time with a few Seinfeld reruns. It's always nice to know that there's something you know, is good on TV, that you can just put on and not have to think or worry about it. Which brings me to the other best circumstance to binge watch a show, because you've already seen it!

Exploring new shows, can be fun, but we watch shows over and over again, because we've already seen them and we know they're good. They're familiar to us; we don't have to think too much. Background music if you will. Nobody puts on background music that they've never heard before right, or worst yet, music they don't like, right? Same with TV shows. Now, the other side of that, which is where I most often come in, not always, some things are just brainlessly, enjoyable eye candy and frankly we need some of that too, but what I like about marathons of stuff I've already seen, is now I can analyze the show, and study it more thoroughly. When you know what's gonna happen, you can now catch some of the technical details and jokes & things that you might've missed before. This is particularly useful for the best of shows, like "Arrested Development" which includes lots of layering in their show and oftentimes the show gets even funnier on later viewings. I find this to be most impressive with the very best reality shows, believe it or not, where we do catch great editing and foreshadowings of what's coming ahead or sometimes, they allow us to be tricked and fooled completely by misdirection, and consider how they're creating this tension and drama, almost all of this air. When it's done well, on binge viewings, you can realize the artistry involved, even in reality shows.

That's when binge viewing can be used to it's fullest effect. Now, of course there's major exceptions to this, as there are all standards, and personal preferences. For me, it took one episode of "Girls", and I was immediately watching all the DVDs that second, twice (Okay, four time each, not counting commentaries) but generally, I find it best to pace oneself, even if you have to bingewatch, set a limit, like one DVD/day or X amount of episodes to stream, before switching to something else for a little while, and stick with it. Even if it ends on the kind of cliffhanger where the urge to find out what happens next is so strong, that it's practically a reflex to watch the next one, don't. Not right away at least. If everyone else can wait a week denying gratification, then so can you, and besides that, if it really is that good, then no matter how long it takes, it'll be worth the wait.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #72: "THE GATEKEEPERS", "SIDE EFFECTS", "KISS OF THE DAMNED", "DEAD MAN'S BURDEN", "RUST AND BONE", "THIS IS 40", "PROMISED LAND", "SAMSARA", "HYSTERIA", "THE OTHER DREAM TEAM", "FLYPAPER", "KABOOM", and MORE!

Before I forget anything else, I wanted to talk a bit about the short film I finished producing recently. It's not much, it's a half-hour commercial parody that's being entered in a contest, which is why I won't be posting the Vimeo link to the site, since I'm not 100% positive on the rules and eligibility requirements, but I wanted to thank all those involved with the project, and thankfully it's done now, because something I wrote is now actually completed. It wasn't easy, and this had been something of a long-running joke personally, because while most people seem to like my screenwriting, I've had a string of bad luck when it comes to my work getting filmed. This was like the 7th or 8th script of mine, that's been in some of production, pre and/or post that for some reason never got finished. So, as to my part, I'm happy that something of mine got finished, and I can actually show to people, and the fact that I produced it is a gravy. So thanks again to everyone for that.

As to other headlines, some may have noticed that I may have been the only movie blogger who hasn't weighed in an opinion on Ben Affleck's casting as Batman in the upcoming Superman movie. Well, there's a reason for that; it's not important. I don't know why everyone's insisting on geeking out over this, one way or the other, but 99.9% of casting, is relatively unimportant to begin with, at least before we actually see the movie, it's unimportant. I'll judge whether it was a good idea or not then, and it won't be a whole blogpost devoted to it, and frankly I don't understand why everyone else has an opinion one way or another. He isn't replacing Christian Bale, it's a new series that frankly, what most of the reviews I read of "Man of Steel", which I admit seen yet; I will at some point, but it's not an immediate priority because it's not as culturally essential that I watch it. I'm sure there's a few people out there going crazy over me just saying that, but it isn't. Just because it's Superman and Batman and whatever iconic characters and controversial castings;- (Blows raspberries) I don't get excited over movies that haven't been made yet, and besides that I make it a priority to rise above such fetish worship at this blog, and not explode over every little news item about future films, and I think others should do the same. I saw the news item and moved on, and frankly I think others should start having that perspective on such things, until the movie's been made and released.

Also, I wanted to briefly mention the death of Elmore Leonard, the great pulp novelist of our time. His work inspired many movies and TV shows, including "3:10 to Yuma", "Jackie Brown", "Out of Sight", "Get Shorty", among many others. His short story "Fire in the Hole" was also the inspiration for the TV show "Justified", rarely does somebody, who really is, the premiere of his genre pass away. Elmore Leonard is pulp to a lot of people, and that's a genre that's great for movies and television, and he will sorely be missed. A truly legendary figure.

Well, enough of me this week, time to get the the RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

THE GATEKEEPERS (2012) Director: Dror Moreh

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For, obvious reasons, as an American, it's simply been easier to do our best to ignore the modern history of the Middle East the best we can, particularly Israel, as much possible, although lord knows, certain images will never leave my mind. I remember when Yithzak Rabin was assassinated, not by a Palestinian, but by a far-right Israeli, who thought he attempts at peace with Arafat were wrong for Israel. I remember the image of Clinton, Netanyahu and Arafat, entering a building for peace talks, and neither one of them trusted the other to go through the front door first. We don't quite understand it all, even as I'm engrossed in it in "The Gatekeepers," the Oscar-nominated documentary that interviews the six leaders of Shin Bet, which is Israel's version of the CIA, or FBI is you prefer. The six interviews are the only known members of the group, trace the history of the group and of Israel from the Six Days War, to today, and often involves some decisions and actions that, you'd think more of them would regret. There's a lot of talk about "morality" by the interviewer, but they mention how they can't really consider it in their jobs. Yet, they also mention that dealing with politicians, they want everything to be black and white, and they instead work in the middle ground, nowadays, often working with Palestinian agents because they don't want continuous terrorist attacks either as they actually do strive closer and closer towards peace. (Besides that, terrorism works both ways there, as is pointed out rather often, "One man's terrorist is a another's freedom fighter." There's some technical situation they discussed that I found interesting, like how collateral damage fears played a part in a failed bombing of what would've been the entire leadership structure of Hamas, because they didn't use a strong enough bomb. They were all on the first floor, the bomb, was only on the second, everyone escaped. Frankly, I was not as intrigued with the film as others have been, not for any technical reason, it just wasn't as captivating a subject for me. The interviewee are all matter-of-fact and frank, and they have interesting perspective and stories, but it felt more like a new history lesson than a compelling tale of what it's really like working for Shin Bet. Others might find it more interesting, it's probably purposefully anti-climatic as the events they're covering are so well-known as dramatic enough. Overall I'm barely recommending it, but I don't think this was a particularly captivating documentary, for me. Now I can certainly captivated and intrigued by things that I would normally never give a damn about, even in documentaries, and I don't know if there was a better way to tell this story, then it's done here, but personally, this was a struggle for me to sit through, and when I think about other films with a similar motif, Errol Morris's "The Fog of War" comes to mind, I just don't rank it in that league. If you're not interested you'll learn something, but you won't be entertained, if you are intrigued by recent Israeli history, you'll probably like it more. So recommending, with reservations, that this film is better for some than others.


SIDE EFFECTS (2013) Director: Steven Soderbergh

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Soderbergh has long been talking about retirement from filmmaking. Currently, there's only one other project that he's officially working on, a TV miniseries called "The Knick", since his latest projects, the HBO film "Behind the Candelabra" and his latest and possibly last theatrical feature film, "Side Effects", and while if anybody a break it's him, having made more quality work in many different genres in the last 15 years or so, and an incredibly ambitious pace than damn near anybody else, except possibly Michael Winterbottom and Clint Eastwood, maybe he is serious about retirement. He's typically gone, one for him, one for the studios, and I'm not sure which one "Side Effects" falls into, but if it his is final film, I'm glad to say that he went out on a really good one. Emily Taylor's (Rooney Mara) husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is coming out of prison soon. He's been in jail for insider trading the last few years, and it was a stunning shock at the time, for her. She was in therapy briefly afterwards with Dr. Victoria Seibert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) at the time, but moved to New York City shortly afterwards for work. Now, her husbands getting out, and the stress and frustration with his previous lying about their lifestyle, and his insistence on getting back on top, has started making her severe depression come back. After slamming her car into a wall, she starts seeing Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) who begins writing prescriptions for her, particularly one for a pill called Ablixa, which begins to cause spells of sleepwalking, although it does clear her depression, and despite her husband's worries, she wants to stay on the pills. Then, she kills her husband in her sleep. It's clear that she did it, and was on the medication and she's arrested, but Dr. Banks is really the one in trouble, as now his practice is in jeopardy, especially after news of the story breaks. His wife and kid are worried, as she didn't get the high-paying job she thought she'd get, and Jonathan had been working multiple studies and hospital shifts doing overtime to make up for it, even having his patients participate in drug studies for which he was getting paid for, and that his patients were a little too eager to join. Now his partners are wondering about keeping him on. He still consults on the case, and Emily takes a plea deal on Not Guilty by reason of Insanity, and even Martin's mother (Ann Dowd) has forgiven her actions. Yet, something's not quite right and Jonathan begins investigating further, as suddenly, some inconsistencies in her story start to arise. This movie, seems like it's going one way, similar to one of Soderbergh's more recent films, "Contagion", which was exploitative in nature and took a look at the real possibilities of what would happen if a new deadly disease spread across the globe, and for a while, this films seems to be an indoctrination on the overuse of antidepressants in society, which their are, but the movie takes a sharp turn however, and becomes something far more Hitchcockian and I found joy in this sudden and surprising shift. Soderbergh sneaks it up on us, before we realize it, but it makes for a more entertaining mystery, and that's about all I can reveal about the film's second half I think. Well, here's to hoping that we'll still get more Steven Soderbergh over the next few years, but I'm fairly satisfied with this last film of his. The guy's been making films at a rigorous pace for a while now, so maybe he is becoming disillusioned but still, for a director who you never know what he's gonna do next, I'm gonna be sad if he's really done.


KISS OF THE DAMNED (2013) Director: Xan Cassavettes

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The latest Cassavettes's daughter to make her way into directing, Xan's first theatrical feature "Kiss of the Damned" is a purposefully over-the-top throwback to the more erotic low-budget vampire tales from the '60s and '70s. Very over-the-top and very erotic. Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) is living in a house that an actress friend of hers, Xenia (Anna Mouglalis) isn't using while she's doing a play in town. (This film, based on the number of people in the industry seems to take place somewhere on the far outskirts of L.A., although there's talk of Phoenix in the film as well) She meets Paolo in a bar one night, and they fall in love, so she turns him into a vampire. Oh, right, Djuna's a vampire, I guess I should've mentioned that earlier, although she tells others that she has a rare skin condition that makes her have to avoid direct sunlight (Although she can stay inside with binoculars looking out over the world). I have a friend who actually has a condition like that, and no, she's not a vampire, but that is more common than people would believe. Anyway, she lives off dead animals, kinda like Brad Pitt in "Interview with the Vampire", without the 9-year-old Kirsten Dunst hanging around and all. Soon after, her more human-appetite sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) comes by unannounced between stops. It's about then that I lost all ability to understand what was going on in the movie. By the time Michael Rapaport's character shows up, I just thought, "Great!" someone I recognize in between all this soap opera over the top, "Eyes Wide Shut"-type feeling of over-indulgent over-erotic sexual films, this one just happens to have vampires and everybody seemingly having sex with everybody or trying to or talking about it, or acting like everybody's about to or just had sex with everybody else. You know, that salacious way some people tend to walk into a room, everybody walks around acting like that throughout the entire movie, and I'm fairly certain that's the only real point of the film at all. Not that I particularly mind that by the way. It's classic old school Eurotrash and there's something appealing about that, not enough for me to recommend it, but if you like good looking people, naked, having lots of sex and you have that erotic facination with vampires that I believe most people already have, then you'll probably enjoy "Kiss of the Damned", the kind of movie where, when somebody leaves a room, there's a cutaway soon to him/her having sex with at least one other person, and sometimes they're interrupted, other times they finish, which we don't always see, but, I don't think the audience will mind what we do.

DEAD MAN'S BURDEN (2013) Director: Jared Moshe

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Sometimes, I'm shocked at a rottemtomatoes score, and this score for this film shocked me. "Dead Man's Burden," might as well "Fucking Boring-Ass Generic Western". I know, that for some I guess, the fact that we're still making westerns at all might be enough of a novelty to acquire acclaim, but, why are they giving praise to this piece of junk? It's cliched; it's boring, it tells a story that's been told so often and so much better.... A letter arrives for Wade (Barlow Jacobs), from his father, shortly after word got out to him that he had died. They hadn't talked in decades, and the letters warns that if he were to die, that someone was scheming him out of his property. He goes back, years later to his sister Martha (Clare Bowen) and her husband Heck (David Call) are surprised to see him. Their father's land is in the process of being sold to a mining company, represented by E.J. Lane (Jospeh Lyle Taylor), who's your typical slimy Western lawyer in these kind of situations. The film takes place in the deserts of New Mexico, after the Civil War, which Wade went to fight in, and ever since then, they've been separated, and everybody's got long-held secrets and grudges against each other that boil up. Wade tries to pin E.J. for murder, (Oh, I forgot, Wade's current job is as a Deputy Marshall in Wyoming.) but the nearest courtroom is three days away. There's only so many characters, so there's only a few ways this story can end, and the rest of the movie is a lot of bad on-the-nose dialogue, no subtext of any real kind, no metaphor of any kind, something most good westerns usually have, and acting that's bad and forgettable, and ends in people dying and a shootout, because the filmmaker had no imagination what's-so-ever, except this film barely goes off the ranch, and now we're stuck with these characters and nothing to do other than play these stupid soap opera-ish games about everyone possibly trying to screw the other, and did I mention it's a load of garbage? This is just complete crap that should never have found it's way off the festival circuit. It's the first film made by writer/director Jared Moshe, he's mostly known as a producer previously, usually of documentaries; I hope it's his last, or that at least the next one is better. There's really nothing in this movie, no twist you couldn't figure out ten minutes ahead of time, no piece of dialogue that doesn't scream either cliche Western dialogue, or worst, just plain-old bad exposition,- this is one of those movies where I just feel depressed that I wasted a precious Netflix queue space on. I'm only allowed to have 500 films on my list max, so many other things that could've been in its place, for weeks or months before I got to this, it's just depressing the more I think about it.


RUST AND BONE (2012) Director: Jacques Audiard

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Perhaps the most emotionally powerful film I've seen this year, "Rust and Bone" could easily have been called "Water and Ice", as those motifs are used quite often in ways that determine the course of events for the main two characters. The first guy we meet is Alain (Matthias Schoenhaerts, you might remember him from last year's "Bullhead"), as him and his son Sam, (Armand Verdure) are traveling by train down to Cannes to meet up and live with his sister and her husband. He's a former boxer who wants to became an MMA fighter, but is right now splitting time between doing security/bouncing for a club while also installing surveillance cameras around town. He meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) at the club, she's just been punched by the latest guy she turned down, and Alain takes her home after he bruised up his hand beating him up. She lives with a nondescript boyfriend who's petty and jealous. She works at a water park training killer whales, when ones of the whales causes the stage to collapse. She wakes up in a hospital, having lost both of her legs. Surprisingly, I'm not tempted to keep discussing the events in the film as this doesn't become a simple tale of love and lost, but of two highly unlovable characters, who struggle through their own demons separately, coming together, for love or sex, although there's plenty of both particularly the latter, but most likely because neither one of them has anybody else in their lives. Sex to them, isn't passionate, it's a necessity; a way for each of them to feel they're alive, while both are in situations they're really not strong enough, at the moment to handle. I watched "Rust and Bone" twice, before writing about it, the first time through, I wasn't completely sure what I was watching. I knew it was good, but I way trying to figure out how good, as it doesn't have the normal plot arcs I was looking for. Oh they're there, but definitely not in the light or the way we expect, and when they come, they're far more traumatic then we would hope for. It might take a second viewing to recognize some of the details that go into the film. I mentioned water and ice, but there's subtle storytelling tricks as well, many we don't see offhand, because we've gotten so encrusted with the characters, and the fact that their journey isn't typical, has made us more intrigued. Cotillard and Schoenhaerts, give two spectacular performances, and if Cotillard's the one who got most of the acclaim and attention, it's because her character's slightly deeper and more complex, and not because Schoenhaerts's performance is lacking. The movie has a lot of turns and twists, many of them aren't feel good, despite some of the beauty and amazement. The film was directed by Jacques Audiard, it's the third film of his I've seen, after the popular "A Prophet", which got a Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination, and "Read My Lips", an erotic heist thriller about a girl who's deaf. I wasn't as big on "A Prophet" as others were, but this is the best film of his I've seen. It's not enjoyable in the way that most films about characters overcoming dramatic personal obstacles are, but in a way, that makes it feel more realistic and unpredictable.


THIS IS 40 (2012) Director: Judd Apatow

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I'm starting to get tired of Judd Apatow's improvisational style of filmmaking. Seriously, whatever happened to just writing a great comedy and having actors perform it. It's not that there isn't a good deal of that in "This is 40" his latest comedy dubbed a pseudo-sequel to "Knocked Up", because it's based on the same couple, Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) played in that film, although it might as well be different universes so I don't get mentioning that, really. However, it's now a thing though, where you can basically tell, every ten-to-twelve minutes, where Apatow just said "Just come up with a bunch of lines" to Melissa McCarthy or Charlene Yi, or some of the other supporting characters, and they're coming up with these, usually funny lines, but really have nothing to do with the rest of the film, tonally or even logically to some extent. Debbie and Pete's birthday's are the same week. Pete's struggling with his new record label, specializing in more season artists like Graham Parker, trying to reinvigorate their careers, which frustrates his co-workers and family as they wish he'd just sign some 15-year old. Debbie's missing $12,000 from her boutique, and with only two employees, best friends Desi and Jodi (Megan Fox and Yi), it's clear only one of them is stealing. Both of their kids, Sadie and Charlotte (Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow, yes they're Judd and Leslie's real-life daughters, and I'm sure they're proud of the scene where their Mom and Dad [Presuming Rudd's character is a stand-in for Apatow] get high on pot brownies while on vacation away from the kids.) There's also the struggles of their own parents, as Pete's dad, Larry (Albert Brooks) keeps borrowing money off of his son, and it's partially putting them into debt, while Debbie's dad Oliver (John Lithgow) has been absent for most of her life, and they struggle to even get the barest of true feelings for one another out, the few rare times they do get-together. The title is very accurate, both Pete and Debbie's birthdays fall within the same week, and the movie doesn't really have a plot of any kind of through-line, it's the random everyday bullshit that people who are 40 go through, especially as the strain continues to be placed on their marriage. Staying in shape, spying on the kids' facebook, dealing with their parents, dealing with their employees, the struggles of marriage, and yes, in these modern times, the unplanned late-in-life, what once-was-called a change-of-life unexpected pregnancy, those things do happen at the most inopportune time. The going-around behind the other's back to keep secrets, the seeking out of those secrets, those rare few minutes of pleasure behind a bathroom or bedroom door before the kids begin screaming, these are really of the film. It's also Cassavettes-like when you think about it. I just wish Apatow would be more trustworthy of his core material, and just presume that if he's got a great script and good comedic actors that they can just say the lines and make them funny as written, or poignant as written if need be, or whatever other emotion necessary. (Comic actors are the best ones out there, don't forget.) I'm starting to get a little tired of him, but as long as Apatow continually produces great characters and stories, he won't be making a truly bad film anytime soon, and "This is 40" is certainly strong, and worth recommending, but I hope he gets a stronger conviction with his work in the future.


PROMISED LAND (2012) Director: Gus Van Sant

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I've known a bit about fracking for awhile now; it's been running havoc up and down the East Coast's water supply for a few years, and if you want to learn more about it quickly, I'd recommend Josh Fox's Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary "Gasland", but basically it's when natural gas company dig deep underground, even deeper than for oil, where they break the shell of the natural gases that are under the Earth, and the idea is to extract the natural gas, to use, instead of oil. Of course, what happens is that the layers of dirt, as well as gasoline, chemicals and everything else they use to drill, contaminates water supplies, and if you ever want to find out if your house is contaminated, light a match under running water in your sink, and if it lights on fire, and yes, that's actually happening now, A. don't drink the water, and B. it's contaminated because of fracking. Of course Steve Butler (Matt Damon, who also co-wrote the script with co-star John Krasinski, his first screenwriting credit since his Oscar for Van Sant's "Good Will Hunting") has certainly heard and probably read about some of this, but as we all know, an ability for a worker to do harm requires the conscious effort to disbelieve that he is causing harm. He has just been promoted over at Global, the company he works for that goes from small midwestern town to small midwestern farming town, trying to get the owners of the land to sell them at a hefty markup (although lower than they should get) for their land, for them to start drilling. In this latest town him and his partner Sue (Frances McDormand) head to, it starts off well enough, until the townspeople get a little educated by a science professor, who's worked at some of those more destructive companies in the past, Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) who calls for a town vote, on whether to even allow Global presence in their town. The script requires added complications so this is when an environmental presence enters the town, Dustin Noble (Krasinski), and both Steven and Dustin have their eyes, not only on the vote, but on a local high school teacher, Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt). Steve isn't what you'd call a bad guy, he has good reasons for trusting that selling to Global is a good idea, and it is tough for farmers, or anybody to turn down 5,6 or even 7 figure checks when they've got next to nothing. The movie has multiple twists late, that give us an even deeper mistrust of large multi-billion-dollar companies, and the practices they engage in, or at least do in this movie, probably in real life as well. "Promised Land" is a strong film structurally, not nearly as impressive as "Good Will Hunting", but it's a good twist on an otherwise often-told tale, right up until the very end, when Damon's character gives, what I would refer to as an homage to Chaplin's speech at the end of "The Great Dictator", it's good, but probably not right for the character or the film. (Or at least, not the strongest choice the character could've made at that moment. That kinda, doesn't even work that well in "The Great Dictator", but that's was the purpose of that film, I think it was done here 'cause they were stuck on another way to come to a complete resolution. Still, that's a minor complaint, and at it's core, if you take away the politics of fracking "Promised Land" is a good movie about the ways that large companies do come in and piece by piece, start infiltrating and taking over a town, even in a short time-span. They make offers, they put on carnivals, they change their clothes and cars, hang out with them, support the local teams.... It would be a nice gesture if wasn't solely for a greater gain, which to me, is the difference between a corporation and a person. (Make with comment what subliminal messages you wish, they're there) "Promised Land" is probably not the smoking gun that'll end fracking, but it's a good warning, and a pretty good, well-acted movie.


SAMSARA (2012) Director: Ron Fricke

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"Samsara" is the kind of movie I enjoy putting on and watching as I'm falling asleep. That is not an insult, far from it, it's one of the best films of the year, a transcendent, meditative and beautiful experience. Shot in 25 countries over the last five years on 70mm camera, there's no plot or story;  yet in some ways, it's filmmaking at its purest form, the combing of images editing together. Describing the film, would basically be describing the images, one by one, and that's not really gonna help you guys to completely understand, but I couple of the images I recalled most were the sandpainters that opened and closed the movie, along with Indonesian dancers, and numerous other images, but the sandpainters stuck in my head. If you've never seen it, it's what it sound like, people who use different colored grains of sand to create beautiful painting, on tables. It's a time-consuming and painstaking process that takes weeks or months to finish one painting, and then, when they've completed it, the sand is soon wiped away. I read this, in terms of the film, as that we are all grains of sand, on this planet, and that while we can be placed together in an effort for a common goal, like working in a chicken factory for instance, one of the many other images in the film, and more particularly nauseating ones, we still are only here for a short amount of time. "Samsara" means a few different thing in Eastern religions, in Buddhism, it's the coming into experience of mortal creatures, the process of achieving nirvana, while in Hinduism, it's the endless series of births, deaths and rebirths, both of which are good descriptions of the film, but I prefer the Sanskrit origin of the word, which simply, "Running together". The film, is nothing more than the running together of these numerous, seemingly random images, mixed with music. Sometimes, the images are sped up, usually when there are a lot of people to show the ways the constant traffic and busyness of people, but many times, the camera seems to slow down and focus, and let's just remain in awe of the natural wonder and beauty of the world. The soundtrack feels like one of those Mood piece compilation albums that are meant to calm us down so much that there's usually a warning label on the CD case, telling us not to listen to the album while driving. "Samsara" is a movie that brings us to peace with ourselves, while transporting us to an epic, beautiful and amazingly grand world. This stunning and awe-inspiring experience is the second film directed by Jeff Fricke, a man who's made a career out of simply photographing the world and turning the random images into film. His last feature film was twenty years ago, "Baraka" which I'm definitely gonna try to seek out, is also just a collection of random images, although that one leans on religious ceremonies all over the world, and  he worked as a writer years ago. His first project was as a writer on the Gregory Reggio documentary "Koyaanisqatsi", another film that's formatted this way. This is his way of documenting the world, this fiercely rich, vibrant, beautiful world, that we are all mere grains of sand upon.


HYSTERIA (2012) Director: Tanya Wexler

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I must confess that going into the film, "Hysteria" I was excited to see it, because I thought this was a film adaptation of the Tony-nominated play, "In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)". It seemed similar when I heard the early descriptions of the film and the play they similar so similar I thought there as a connection, but apparently not. Anyway, "Hysteria", was the catch-all condition given to women who acted anything unlike June Cleaver, for hundreds of years. You know, emotional, independent, horny, everything that'd describe what Gloria Steinem fights for. The movie takes place in London in the 1880s, which was a particularly pioneering time for medical advancements, although getting his bosses to understand why clean bandages make people healthier and that germs are real and that bloodletting and that Beecham's Pills don't cure much of anything, and in fact kill many, has left Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) out of a job and staying at his friend Edmund St. John-Smythe's (Rupert Everett) place as the eccentric heir works on patenting new inventions, when he gets a job for Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) London's leading private doctor on hysteria, who's found a treatment involving massaging the inner clitoral muscle, which soon eliminates womens' more alluring and regrettable thoughts at least temporarily. He's very popular, needs an assistant, and it doesn't hurt that he has two attractive daughters. Emily (Felicity Jones), the quieter artistic one who studies phrenology, the astrological-like study of the bumps on people's heads. Then there's Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) the emotional, college-educated daughter who runs a young school for the less fortunate kids, and constantly yells and screams and occasionally insults police officer who try to get in her way when her school's short on funds or she needs to get a prostitute a job. Mortimer falls first for Emily, but eventually, he becomes more in-tuned to Charlotte, especially after he gets fired for be unable to completely finish with a patient. This is when he gets the idea, after playing with his roommate's electric featherduster to invent what would become the "personal massager." Believe it or not, that part is actually based on a true story. The rest is a little more iffy and simple. It's a fairly light movie, on a very light subject, although one that probably should be studied more as it's an invention that radically altered all lives. Maggie Gyllenhaal's casting is odd here, I'm normally a fan of hers, and I usually think she's a good fit for a bunch period era pieces, specially as ambitious young women trying to buck societal trends, but she never came off here more than as an estrogen-induced force that enters a scene and storms out. I think the part was a little underwritten, and much of her dialogue is fairly weak exposition as well, especially during a critical scene in the middle that could've made the flirtation with Mortimer and Charlotte more interesting. I guess I don't mind it too much, 'cause the whole film itself is rather light as a feather, and I guess it can't be much more than that given the material at hand, but since I've seen her be so much stronger in numerous other roles, it's a little disappointing. Still, recommending "Hysteria" as a cute but minor little movie one of the most important of modern inventions.


THE OTHER DREAM TEAM (2012) Director: Markus A. Markevicius

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In case anybody actually wonders about these sort of things, and if you do than you have less of a life than I do, but this is the first review I'm writing for this latest batch of reviews. Why, you may ask? Well, just like a couple weeks ago when I forgot to write my review of "Beyond the Mat", it took a day, but I soon realized that I hadn't written my review of "The Other Dream Team", the documentary about the famous '92 Lithuanian Men's Basketball team, that took home the Bronze Medal at the Barcelona Olympics. Honest to god, it was an error. I simply had it written in my head, and thought I had actually written it down, when instead, who knows, I was probably playing Candy Crush Saga or something. It's been a long busy week, and frankly I knew a lot about the team going in. Hell, I still remember the '92 Olympics, and the Lithuanian team. I was seven at the time, but you remember seeing Grateful Dead tye-dye on an Olympic medal podium. The Dead, after reading an article about the team's financial struggles, adopted the team and helped pay for their finances which the state wasn't able to provide them. They even sent them custom-made tye-dye, which the newly-free country wore proudly. Lithuania was the first country to break from the Soviet Union, and they had been itching to for years. Remember the Olympics occurred right in the middle of this, so there were new countries being made up, and not all of them had an Olympic committee. The USSR was the defending Gold Medalists at basketball, but four of their starters, were from the tiny Balkan country of Lithuania. Actually, the area has a very rich basketball tradition, dating back decades, predating the Soviet Union in fact, and outside of the Olympics, local team battle with Russia teams had been major nationalism battles, and symbols of Lithuania's struggle to succeed. The four players on the '88 team, would quickly help form a Lithuania team, just in time to qualify for the '92 Olympics, while most of the rest of the Soviet Union, would compete under the Unified Team banner, until they can for Olympic committees in the next coming years, but while the rest of the World was watching America's Dream Team, and there was no real chance of them losing, (Even Lithuanian players took pictures of the team, during their semi-final game against them.) but they would take Bronze by defeating the Russian Unified Team, a medal that the oppressed Lithuanian foursome of Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Rimas Kirtinaitias and Valdemaras Chromicius, would cherish way more than the Soviet Gold Medal that won four years earlier. "The Other Dream Team" is a nice look back for me, and well as an interesting look at the collapse of the Soviet Union through a different perspective. You could argue that if Marciulionis hadn't been allowed to play in the NBA in '89 for instance, and declare himself Lithuanian before the Sports press, the Baltic states might not have broke through. They were talented players this team, and surprisingly I do remember most of this, so it's more of a look back for me than a pure history lesson, but it's good to realize just how complicated it was living in a Soviet Union that they never to be apart of to begin with.

FLYPAPER (2011) Director: Rob Minkoff

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Director Rob Minkoff has been working at Disney for most of his career, probably most notably, directing the "Stuart Little" films as well as a co-director credit on "The Lion King". "Flypaper", which premiered on Video On Demand, marks his first real feature film attempt to break out of that Disney mold, director a script from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writing team behind "The Hangover". This film, actually feels more in the classical screwball comedy mold, it even has a main character who talks and thinks very fast in a high-pressure situation, Tripp (Patrick Dempsey), although this unusually quick deductive reasoning skills are explained as him being off his meds of a condition that's never named or explained, I have a different theory that he probably is just slightly OCD, and is probably a former cop who got kicked off the force once his obsessive-compulsive disorder was too troublesome to handle. Wait, no that's "Monk" isn't it. Okay, I don't have a decent explanation then. Yes, you don't need a detective-type character to be a cop, but the way he solves and figures out what's going on, it's a little too logical for someone without law enforcement practice of some kind. Anyway, he's in a bank, changing his hundred-dollar bill, inexplicably into change, (and by change, I mean coins, lots of them.) while flirting with the cute, engaged bank teller Kaitlin (Ashley Judd, who really should be in more movies than she is) when the bank gets under attack by two groups of robbers. Yes, two, just like what happens in the "Take the Money and Run", that great scene, here there's a more professional gang, all of whom rank in the Top 20 on at least one of the FBI's Most Wanted lists, two of them in bank robbery, Darrien and Weinstein (Mekhi Phifer and John Ventimiglia) along with a Top 10 cyber thief, Gates (Matt Ryan) and top, not-so-well-respected villains, two close yokels who call themselves Peanut Butter and Jelly (Tim Blake Nelson and Pruitt Taylor Vince). PB&J want the ATMs, while the other three work on the vault, and meanwhile there's a collective group of hostages, including Tripp and Kaitlin, as well as one dead body, which is very suspicious, especially since, all the hostages are still alive. If you're gonna kill one guy, then why not kill everybody and not leave witnesses? Pretty soon, Tripp suspects that something's going on, that's strange even for a bank robbery, and as both attempted robberies run into some unexpected pitfalls and more dead bodies start piling up. Jeffrey Tambor and Octavia Spencer are some of the more well-known names playing hostages, in this strange little twist on a Ten Little Indians type comedy. Frankly it's very old fashioned, it almost could be a play actually, sped up a bit like "Arsenic and Old Lace" for instance. Most everything takes place in the same location, there's surprises, and characters that seem so varied and quirky they could've come out of any random decent farce. It's a funny and good attempt by the filmmakers at a solid little classically-structure comedy, and I think overall it worked. Could've possibly been done, a little sharper but all-in-all, the movie breezes by fairly quickly, so you're not looking for it to make, too much sense, especially considered the absurd premise, so I'm recommending it; I thought it was fun. I'm not sure Patrick Dempsey is ever my first choice for a role, but he had an underwritten character and he did the best with it. Nothing extraordinary, but considering the laziness of other recent comedies, this one had a good new premise, and while it's not a laugh-out-loud farce, it's as good an effort at farce I've seen in a while, and considering that's the toughest of genres, they did a very good job at pulling this one off.

KABOOM (2011) Director: Gregg Araki

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"Kaboom" is one strange film. I was trying to think of a poetic opener for this but there's no real poetic way to go about discussing the aptly, "Kaboom". It's just an explosion of weird stuff that Gregg Araki is known for. I met Araki once at a film festival, and his masterpiece "Mysterious Skin", will prompt me to check out his other work, no matter how good or bad they may be. (His "The Doom Generation" would've gotten a ZERO STARS rating from me.) He's lately switched into more off-the-wall comedies starting with his stoner comedy "Smiley Face" with Anna Faris, which was cute. Nice to see a female stoner as a lead going through typical stoner movie stupidity, but it wasn't great. "Kaboom" though, is so off-the-wall. It's part college sex comedy, part supernatural thriller, part murder-mystery, and part about three other things too. This is the kind of movie, where one character's bad acting is almost a charm of the movie. I'll get to that later, most of the acting is good though. The film follows 18-year-old college freshman Smith (Thomas Dekker), who's been having strange dreams involving women he's never seen before, and a dumpster. Smith is gay-ish. He's definitely meandering on the Kinsey scale, but he's desperately attracted to his roommate Thor (Chris Zelka) a dumb surfer-type who's always got women over, when he's not doing things that make Smith suggest/hope that he is secretly gay. His best friend Stella (Hayley Bennett) is one of those great sarcastic girl best friends to trade spars with over lunch and studying and ditching for when a cute little nymphomaniac witch shows some interest, like Lorelai (Roxane Mesquida). She's gay-ish as well. He likes to say that he doesn't particularly like to identify with such labels as gay, or straight or bi, which is code for being gay, but being 18 and in college, and large amounts of alcohol present, when a frizzy little thing asks to have sex with her at a party, like London (Juno Temple, who I must admit, I'm liking more and more with each performance) he'll say yes, and eventually just become her fuck buddy/booty call whenever needed. Also at this party, a redhead (Nicole LaLibete) vomited on his shoe, and later, she's missing and he was hallucinated about her being kidnapped by mysterious guys in animal masks. Meanwhile, Smith's mother (Kelly Lynch, not good here btw, and Gregg Araki needs to come up with a better way to shoot people talking on the phone) is happy to be screwing her physical therapist between traveling the world for her job, but she's rather mysterious about Smith's late father. After this, weird things start happening, lots of weird things. Some of them rather typical like Smith having a one-night- or I should say one-day-stand on a nude beach with, what turns out to be a married guy, to Lorelai having a fatal attraction like obsession with Stella, which is especially troublesome considering her bewitching powers with voodoo dolls and other supernatural skills, plus her strange Wizard of Oz like, reaction to water. Plus, these dreams of Smith keep expanding, and apparently the local pothead, the Messiah (James Duval) might know more than he lets on. This movie makes little sense, it's schizophrenic, it's anachronistic, it double-backs and reverses on itself multiple times, and the ending explanations for all of the happening are a little too big and overwhelming for this insular little comedy, and there's a lot of unnecessary sex and nudity, and I rather enjoyed it. I've had fun with this movie. It's so over-the-top, ridiculous and breezy and R-rated, it just worked on me. There are easy ways to bash this, there are definitely certain acting issues and whatnot, and some of the directing and dialogue is a little on-the-nose, but mostly I was entertained, it was funny, and it took chances with sex that I haven't seen from a lot of comedies lately. It's a hodgepodge of a lot of different things, it feels a little like every idea Gregg Araki has ever had got thrown into the script, but enough of it work on me, and even when it failed, it's missteps were interesting. I'm recommending it, and "Kaboom" could be a fun midnight movie cult-experience somewhere down the line, this was fun.


THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994) Director: John Dahl

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I guess if I learned anything from watching "The Last Seduction", I learned never trust woman that balance herself forwards, climbing on a chain link fence, while wearing high heels. Yes, that scene of Linda Fiorentio, forcing herself onto a guy (which I can't believe I couldn't find a single decent image of on google images!), has become apart of feminist folklore in certain circles, as it probably should be. "The Last Seduction" had a similar fate to that of director John Dahl's first film, another noirish black comedy "Red Rock West", which played with the genre and included characters so over-the-top that they were fun. That movie was not shown in theaters originally, instead first airing on cable, until a theater starting airing it to sellout audiences once word of mouth spread. Same here with "The Last Seduction", probably 'cause of the way it portrays a strong female adult character who's in complete control of her sexuality. Oh, this film, has a femme fatale unlike any other in Bridget Gregory (Fiorentio) although she often uses an alias or two. She has a strange skill where she can write backwards so that when she leaves a note, usually after stealing something or just screwing a guy, you need a few extra seconds to read it, while she's running off. The movie begins with her getting smacked by her husband, Clay (Bill Pullman) after he returns from a drug deal. She then takes the money, and runs off, takes the identity Wendy Kroy, and heads to a small town in the middle of nowhere. She's decided,- well, the word "decided" indicates a change in her behavior from beforehand, and frankly, I don't think that happened here, but she's now trolling a local bar, searching for an occasional guy to fuck and leave, or leave him hanging. She treats men like sex objects, or like women treat men. Frankly, I'm amazed there was never a poster of her shown in any of Samantha Jones's houses/offices in "Sex and the City", although that scene of the chain link fence, is mentioned in the pilot of that show. She does find a sucker eventually, Mike Swale (Peter Berg) who coming off a bad quick marriage, and falls desperately in love with her, despite her evil, manipulative ways, and every possible warning sign imaginable, that this is one girl you shouldn't be falling in love with. But, he's from a small town, doesn't know any better, and  is taken with her, while she's really only taken with him, in the sense that she can use him, to perhaps set up murder plots. Not just against her husband, but against some of the men who's life insurance he sells. Men who have, multiple apartments under their name perhaps, and other suspicious monies that their spouses can't get to. When she's in trouble, like when the mob or her husband's private eye, finds her, she's able to manipulate the situation to her advantage, and even when she doesn't need to seduce the guy to get out of a situation, she does it. (It's interesting that she studies pop psychology, too, in the weird ways that comes up.) "The Last Seduction" is a fun and funny erotic thriller. I think it really is a dark comedy at heart, and yet. It plays with the genre that films like "Double Indemnity" and "Body Heat" touched, but there's an ironic twist to every little detail of it, most of which involve the complete switching o gender roles. I like "The Last Seduction" the more I think about it, not the least of which because of the great and deliciously evil Bridget Gregory, you don't get female characters like this anymore.  

SING A SONG OF SEX (1967) Director: Nagisa Oshima

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The only other film I had seen previously to "Sing a Song of Sex" was the erotic and explicitly sexual "In the Realm of the Senses", which was based on a true story about a couple who was literally so sexually in love with her husband, to the point of extreme nymphomania that he cut off his penis, and led him bleed to death, just so it can always be with her, and he, in the thrills of passion, let her do it. That probably should've been some kind of warning in regards to the dreadful "Sing a Song of Sex", but I actually like the previous film, so I continue onto this one. On some level Oshima must've found this to be some kind of perverted dark comedy, I hope he did anyway. The film starts with, what a believe is a college, although college in Japan, might be high school age in some instances, and the students are mostly going about their days, stressing over some test that's coming up. Nakumara and Udeu (Ichiro Araki and Koji Iwabuchi) occasionally leer at pretty co-eds as well, one in particular, who sits in class seat #469 catches Nakumara's eye and follow her signing an anti-Vietnam petition. Then there's a party with a good portion of students, and a professor, Mr. Otake (Juzo Itama), which is where the discussion of sex gets brought up more explicitly. Then the professor suddenly dies at the party. The rest of the movie, the boys, now joined by their friends Hiroi and Maruyama (Hiroshi Sato) spend the rest of the movie, singing lewd songs about sex, usually parodies of other songs, often American folk, and going from girl to girl, insult, fantasizes, possibly even raping. It's hard to tell as it becomes more Kafkaesque and nightmarish. I think the main point of the movie, is how teenagers minds can go from the intellectual pursuits to the more carnal ones so suddenly and how they seem to be able to abandon everything else for, well, pussy, I guess. I don't think this is a particularly deep thought or revelation into the mind of teenage boys for that matter, and frankly, the movie was slow and drool, and filled with main characters who we just the epitome of shallow. I don't really want to know about the thoughts of people so simpleminded, even dumb teenagers are usually more interesting these. "Sing a Song of Sex", aka "A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs" (A direct Japanese Translation) is surprisingly uninteresting and dull, and that's about the one thing movies about sex, or at least have sex in the title, shouldn't be.

AMERICAN GUN (2002) Director: Alan Jacobs

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"American Gun" caught my eye years ago, but I never got around to it until now. It ended up becoming James Coburn's final film before his passing, and the idea intrigued me from the trailers. Shortly before Christmas, Martin's (Coburn) daughter Penny (Virginia Madsen) is a victim of robbery and is murdered. His wife Anne (Barbara Bain) is trying to get over the loss by finding projects, but Martin's determined to find the killer. The case was left unsolved, and he gets a request to have the gun used at the crime released to him, and he decides to track the history of the gun, starting from where it was made, to the shops that carried it, to other owners and the harrowing experiences they had. The movie kinda reminded me of the great Anthony Mann western "Winchester '73", which is does the opposite as it follows a gun from person-to-person and place-to-place, trying to track down his killer. Also, he's working on finding his granddaughter Mia (Alexandra Holden) who ran away years ago, and has only sporadically had contact with him, behind his wife and daughter's back, now he has to tell her the sad news. It's a good premise and an interesting film, despite what some might consider a cheat ending, it isn't but, I wondered at first if there was a need for the twist ending, but as I thought back, that probably was actually the only possible way to end the film. James Coburn was always one of the great presences of cinema. Big and bold, great at playing over-the-top villains, with his brooding quiet calm grin and demeanor. Here, a more subtle and quiet role. A show of unusual range for him. I recommend "American Gun", despite some of it's flaws, as a good haunting last word from a memorably great actor, and the creative plot device, even if it's a little unrealistic in the long run, it works just enough for a good little film like this one.

GOODNIGHT, WE LOVE YOU: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF PHYLLIS DILLER (2004) Director: Gregg Barson

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While I do study stand-up comedy as much as possible, I was actually always a little weak regarding Phyllis Diller. I knew of her importance, a groundbreaking female comedienne. I knew her distinctive laugh, and some of her material, which is a little bit traditional. Stupid husband, which she called "Fang" in her routine, mother-in-law jokes, jokes about her appearance, the big wigs and all that, but I really hadn't seen too much of her. She passed away last year, "Goodnight, We Love You", which was sadly never released theatrically, was made to celebrate her work, as well as feature her farewell concert in Vegas. She meant it to, while she'd make an occasional appearance once in a while, she never performed stand-up again. Her talents were wide-ranging actually. She was a classically-trained pianist, even played with a couple orchestras who were shocked to learn that she wanted to play piano at first, and is a highly-regarded painter. She's had more personal assistants than Murphy Brown's had secretaries, and they all seem to have form their own support group as well. She holds the Guiness record for telling the most jokes in a minute. The film's is a fairly traditional biopic, and there really wasn't too many hardships with Diller's life unless you count be friends with Don Rickles a hardship. Him and numerous others discuss her work and influence over the course of the film. Actually, the movie is quite a banal biopic. The most interesting stuff is seeing Diller's closet of outfit, wigs and gloves, her home, and watching her on the road touring, even at her age, at the time 87 when the film was made. Frankly, I preferred the special feature where we get the entirety of her final concert, which she performed just for the movie, as oppose to cutting in and out between the concert and the biopic in the film. Like I said, I wasn't as familiar with her material as I wished I was before the film, and it was good to see a major documentation of it. She's certainly a pioneer, the movie is a nice gentle puff, worth a recommendation if you ever happen to come across it, but it's probably more interesting to most just to find some old stand-up performances of hers; I know it would be for me, but it's still a nice little film.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

CANON OF FILM: "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY"

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke


One of the things that most people don’t realize about the best of the Star Trek series, particularly the original and “..The Next Generation,” is that they aren’t about space travel, what they are about is what can happen when one expands the human limits of the mind. The capabilities of the structure, and trying to find the most faraway point within us; what Roddenberry did were use the metaphor of traveling through space to illustrate this thought. This is a strange way to begin discussing Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but in it’s own magical way, this movie is about the same concept, only here Kubrick dares to illustrates one more radical thought, that the human race as it were is about to evolve and be reborn into and enter a new level of the expansion of the mind, once unseen, or for that matter, unthought-of. Actually, it’s a very radical thought, which long after the year in the title has come and gone, and long after the boundaries of space, and well after the increase in familiarity with special effects has waned our ability to be amazed by them, “2001…”  still manages to enthrall us with it’s visual beauty and amazement.

Of Kubrick’s 13 Oscar nominations, he only won one, and it was for this film’s special effects, which along with Douglas Trumbell, who was the brainchild of the effects (though he didn’t share the Oscar with Kubrick), he worked on the film in secrecy for years before releasing it to an unsuspecting 1960s audience. The movie begins at the beginning of time with apes walking on Earth, until they discover an object that transfixes them. The same object will appear eons later buried on the moon. The way to read this is that the apes realized that the object was made, and also placed on the earth, and this enlightens them to kill and control and build, and eventually become modern humans (or human of the future, technically, but still modern humans). The humans, who find the object on the moon, come to the same conclusion. These findings eventually lead to the Jupiter Mission, where 5 astronauts, and the HAL 9000 computer (voiced by Douglas Rain) begin their voyage to Jupiter to find what they hope is the source of the object.

The scenes on the spaceship are really the most memorable. For once, for being a year older than the moonlanding, it’s scary to see just how much like some of NASA’s actual footage they are, but they’re not showy, in fact the banality of them is quite a contrast to most portrayals of space travel. There’s a few astronauts, most of them are in a deep sleep for the long journey and only two, Dave and Frank (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, Kubrick purposefully casting actors who were unknown and nondescript) are the only ones awake on the ship. One of them jogs, another plays computer chess with HAL or eats dinner. These are images of striking beauty, and the score, renown for using only classical music, including Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” as the great opening as well as well as Johann Strauss’s “The Blue Danube” during the famous scenes of the ship getting ready, songs that are now cliché to use for similar effect in movies and shows now, but it’s use here is still breathtaking. Then of course, the machine, the manmade object, will eventually attempt to overtake its creators, in the movies most famous sequences. What one astronaut eventually will find, and the journey to get there, I will leave for you to find out, and you can interpret the ending anyway you want. I don’t even know completely what it means, but you will be exhilarated.

The movie recently ranked #6 by the Critics and #2 by Directors on “Sight & Sound” magazines Greatest Movie polls, strange considering how the reaction was mixed originally, and panned by many. It was definitely an anomaly in its time. A film that asked us to think and consider, and didn’t lay out the story in the ordinary language of film, yet used the language to convey ideas and thoughts, perhaps better than any film up ‘til that point. The movie is separated into two parts, and barely has more than, maybe at most a couple thousand words of dialogue, and I’m being generous.  This movie is a unique work, technically, years ahead of its time; yet, there’s nothing like it then or now, and is still one of the most amazing experiences cinema’s ever done.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NBC/CNN vs. GOP!? THE HILLARY CLINTON BIOPIC STUPIDITY!



You know, I really do try to stay away from politics when it comes to this blog. My political views are no secret to anyone of course, but frankly as entertaining as politics can be sometimes, for better, and often for worse I don't really care to deal with it, but sometimes politics forces it's hand into my world, which they should know by now not to do by now, but they still insist, on being they're petty little selves.

So, there's a Hillary Clinton miniseries "in development" at NBC; this was announced by Bob Greenblatt, the Entertainment Chairman at NBC-Universal at the latest TCA Press Tour. By the way, he's not the only one, with a Hillary Clinton biopic project, "in development". There's one by South Korean director Young Il Kim "in development", another by "The Spectacular Now" director James Ponsoldt "in development", and CNN's preparing a documentary that "in development", and I'm pretty sure if I looked a little further I'd find about seven or eight other filmmakers or studios with similar Hillary Clinton projects "in development". "In development", means, basically what it sounds like, they're developing it. It's not even at the script level actually, this is basically the "I have an idea" level, and the idea has been bought by NBC, or in this case, it seems to have been NBC's idea so they already own it, but either way, they got "Frozen River" writer/director Courtney Hunt to work on the script and Diane Lane has agreed to star in it, which considering it's years away, both of those talented women may easily be replaced by the time this ever gets made, if it ever does.

Why would NBC want to make a Hillary Clinton biopic? Well, why not? She's an important, popular yet polarizing figure in our modern time, and NBC's fourth in the ratings, and a push towards event TV, especially considering how well competition like PBS, HBO, Showtime, History, and other channels have been successful at movies and miniseries this past couple years, it's logical for NBC to get back on the bandwagon. I'm not gonna pretend it would've been my idea, but hell, anything that might take "The Biggest Loser" off the air for a week that, you know, isn't dumber than "The Biggest Loser", being on NBC, I'm not exactly gonna complain, nor care that much. Frankly, I couldn't care less about a Hillary biopic and I wasn't going to until the GOP lost what little was left of their minds over it.

For those of you who haven't heard, the leaders of the RNC had a meeting in Boston (Yes, they got together, and had a meeting over this! Over this!), regarding NBC's project, as well as CNN's documentary project, directed by Oscar-winner Charles Ferguson, (CNN, btw, probably a coincidence, is currently headed by Jeff Zucker, the former Programming Chief at NBC) were the leadership voted unanimously that NBC and CNN be barred from promoting or preparing the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary debates, with cooperation from the FNC, three friggin' years away, if they go forward with the programs. Which is moronic, 'cause if there's anything networks would love to counter-program it's when every other network is covering something political and they can put on sheep dancing in pigtails and practically win the night, so on that note it's not a punishment Or if I was NBC, I'd just finish the movie, and air it during the primary debates. BTW, they aren't exactly stopping them from covering the debates, they're basically restricting their ability to put on a debate during Primary season. So, FOX and CBS and ABC, and probably something stupid like, HLN, will host GOP Primary debates that are officially sanctioned by the FNC but NBC and CNN won't, which since there's about thirty other networks and news sources NBC can use, and the possibility that candidates could ignore the ban as well, this is basically like throwing a dart hoping it'll kill an ocean. They can't ban them from covering them, but it basically means they won't be covering things first, or hosting a Republican Primary debate or have a direct impact on the debates. Hopefully they'll come to their senses, 'cause the one thing you don't need, is less of an audience to convey your message to, so it's not a good time to piss off the Cable News Network, nor NBC-Universal. (BTW, Fox Television Entertainment, who is in talks with NBC to produce the project, isn't apart of this ban, so it's clearly political, or else, they would've banned Fox News and all of Newscorp as well) This is all over a project, that probably might not have gotten made to begin with. This famed Hillary Clinton biopic has been tossed around, all over Hollywood for years, there's dozens of them supposedly; it's becomes another Nicolas Tesla project. (Tesla, was Edison's chief competition in his day, and he's a pretty interesting fellow, so many people have supposedly been wanting to make a film about him all the time, it never comes about, it's often code for a supposed project that being abandoned or never gets out of development, every studio has a few of them.) Hillary has basically been the latest of these projects, which again, by the way, they don't know exactly what/how they're going to portray Hillary Clinton, especially the CNN one directed by Ferguson, who isn't known for puff-pieces; he did the Oscar-winning documentary "Inside Job" about Wall Street and "No End in Sight" about Iraq remember.

Besides that, what they're basically saying is that, there message and policies are so weak that, if NBC spends four hours showing a movie about a supposed Democratic Presidential frontrunner, that- What? Again something we don't know yet,- (Ugh!) It's just so stupid. I mean, this is what they care about? Really? This doesn't even make my give-a-shit list, this makes theirs?! Now I have to watch it when it gets made; I was hoping to avoid it like I avoid most TV movies, so thanks RNC, you've made NBC "Must See TV" again. The only Democrat that frankly give a damn about the project is Hillary herself, who isn't involved in any of these projects, and doesn't want to be, 'cause of the many negative ways she can be portrayed at possibly, the worst possible times for her, and basically, despite objections from NBC News itself, NBC's probably gonna go through with the damn project now, 'cause now there's interest you've created! Now we have to see the damn thing 'cause of the attention it's getting.

In preparation for this blogpost, I went to look up any controversy on similar political television movies that that Democrats would be critical about to see their reactions, or took action and/or threatened to take action against. The first one that came to mind was Showtime's film "The Reagans", starring James Brolin as the conservative icon. I thought, maybe Democrats complained about it, but it turns out; the complaints were from the Republicans. In fact, it became a Showtime movie, after their complaints scrapped the original plan to air it on CBS. Oh, and the person who made that decision at CBS/Viacom, was Robert Greenblatt, who's now developing the Hillary Clinton bio, and btw, it was a pretty big hit for Showtime and earned a bunch of Emmy Award nominations. They thought they'd paint Reagan in too negative a light. You see, this isn't about Hillary or Reagan, this is about their paranoia. That's really what this is about. I mean, seriously, how much damage to them can a movie about Hillary cause? What do they think is gonna happen? Most people who don't like Hillary aren't gonna have their minds changed, and that's if they see it and people who do, probably won't either, and again, if they even bother seeing, if it even gets made. I predict it will, it's more likely to now 'cause of the shit, but right now, "in development", so who knows. If HBO had a news division, you think they would've complained about "Game Change" too? It seems like they would've. If they were to actually take a second and realize how petty and absurd it is to even bother in any way, they'd see how ridiculous it is to even bother caring about a supposed biopic that isn't even made yet. (I hope they would anyway) This isn't counting your chickens before they hatch, this is frying the eggs before buying the farm.

I don't think I have to explain the dozens of other ways the GOP have proven themselves to be completely out of touch they are with seemingly everything in the modern world over the past,- I don't even have to go that far into the past actually, but like I said before, this isn't a political blog, and somebody more qualified than me has probably provided that list somewhere else on the internet, but that said, this is what they do, they find something that may remotely have something political apart from their message, and they attack, not even bothering or caring to realize it's relevancy, or lack thereof. It's nothing new, they attack everything including movies and TV shows, from Hearst attacking Orson Welles to Dan Quayle attacking Murphy Brown. I don't remember them actually trying to ban the networks from being apart of their debates before, although I'm sure this isn't the first time they at least considered it, although it's certainly the earliest that they've taken such useless anticipatory actions. (It's also about the only kind of restriction they could've done) If I was NBC right now, I'd do what Greenblatt did with "The Reagans", get it done quickly, and air it immediately. If not on NBC, then on USA or Bravo or whatever-the-hell other channel they own. Put it on Telemundo if they want, it doesn't matter, 'cause now people are gonna watch it for sure. I mean, if you're a member of a political party that's afraid of a stupid TV movie, to the point that they'll make a move as trivial as barring networks from  putting on officially sanction GOP Primary debates, three years from now,- I mean seriously, this doesn't come to the level of boycotting something, this is just acting like a crybaby 'cause your best friend got a bike and you didn't, even though you didn't want one anyway, and it I was a Republican I'd be ashamed right now. Whatever your political views there's more important things in the world than what's on television, and frankly they're the people who are supposed  to do something about that. I'm here, I'll take care of television, believe me. In the meantime, it's another piece of selective time wasting for the GOP, and now it's caused me to waste time on writing this blogpost, so there you go.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

POLL UPDATE! "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!": DOWN THE STRETCH WE GO, LET'S MAKE THIS MY LAST "UPDATE"!



We're getting there. We only had a few new ballots sent in, and now, we don't need too many to reach out goal. We're getting there, and hopefully sooner than later. In fact, I want to hopefully make this the last time I post an Update, in an effort to get more of you, my readers, to participate in our "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!" POLL! I want to, but I need you guys' cooperation. We've had over 300 TV shows get at least one vote, and over 90 ballots come in; we're this close to reaching our goal of 100, this should be the time. So, to those who've participated, tell your friends and family, and random strangers on the street if you have too, get them to make of the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!", and make sure I get it, and those who haven't done it themselves yet, now's the time!

I'll explain in more detail why what you're doing and why I decided to have you all do this in a minute, but let's go to the latest ballots, including one from Casey Chong of "Casey's Movie Mania", thanks very much fellow blogger for your participation, especially.

CASEY CHONG (http://caseymoviemania.blogspot.com/)
The Sopranos
The X-Files
Alias
Desperate Housewives
Dexter
NYPD Blue
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Twin Peaks
The Walking Dead
Nip/Tuck

JOHN VENHOUSE
Married...with Children
CSI: Crime Scene Investigators
Star Trek ('66)
M*A*S*H
Gunsmoke
True Blood
Game of Thrones
Dragonball Z
Cheers ('82)
The Munsters

MELISSA DUMONT
Mr. Bean
Planet Sheen
Undercover Boss ('10)
Everybody Loves Raymond
Keeping Up Appearances
The Nanny ('93)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends
Inside the Gangsters Code
Globe Trekker

Those are the newest ballots, and as you can see, I post all of them as they come, and I will repost every one of them when we finally reach our goal, and yes, no anonymous ballots. Doesn't matter what you call yourself, you must have a name. This is essentially, your choices for the best of an art form; it's apart of you. It a judgment, it's an opinion, it's a declaration, of all of television, these are the greatest in the art form! So, any declaration of that nature, I say, sign your name to it. You should be proud of your list. Anyway, as to results, there's no new entries in the top ten, although "The Walking Dead"'s vote jumped them back into the Top Ten, and more importantly, with the latest vote for "M*A*S*H", they've jumped ahead of "Seinfeld", for #1 on the list, for the first time in months by the way, there's a new leader, but not by much, and it can change, depending on how these last ballots turn out. 

So, you (those who who haven't participated) all know that we're making Top Ten Lists of the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!" This is in an effort to create an equivalent list to "Sight & Sound"'s list they do once-a-decade for movies, only for television, so I'm using their format for the poll. Now, they reach out and ask critics and filmmakers for their opinions, and I'd like to do that, but since I'm not "Sight & Sound" magazine, I've chosen to open it up to everybody. All you have to do, is make a ballot, and get it to me. The best ways are to Comment of this blogpost on the bottom, and just write your ballot that way, or you can get ahold of me on Facebook, and either post on one of my dozens of links to this blog you'll find that I've posted all over the internet, and on my page, or you can message it to me on FB, or you can even tweet me your ballot at @DavidBaruffi_EV. Basically, however you can get ahold of me to give me your ballot, just do it. You know, short of stalking, or anything else illegal, but essentially, just get it to me.

Now there are a couple rules, but they'e pretty simple:

RULE #1: As long as it originated on television, it's eligible for the poll, regardless of genre.
That basically means, you van vote for any show(s) you want. Sitcom, drama, talk show, reality show, reality-competition show, soap opera, news magazine, children's show, animated shows, instructional shows, miniseries, TV movies, network shows,... etc. as long as it originally aired on television, it's eligible. (ie. You can't vote for "M*A*S*H," the original movie, because that was first shown in movie theatres, but you can vote for "M*A*S*H" the TV series, 'cause that aired on TV). 

RULE #2: You MUST, select 10, and ONLY 10 SHOWS. No picking more, no picking less, just 10!  

There's been a few issues with both rules, but if there is a problem, I'll let you know. (Another reason why I require a name, and a way to contact people.) Just remember to be as specific as possible, especially if for instance, a title has been used on multiple occasions on TV shows. So, keep mindfulness of that. We've been doing this poll for awhile, and we're finally excited that it's coming close to reaching out goal, we're not gonna be totally satisfied until it's finally completed. So thanks again, to all those who've already participated, the rest of you, what are you waiting for!? I'm planning on this being your last chances, so now is the time! What do you consider the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!"? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #71: "NO", "MY AMITYVILLE HORROR", "HYDE PARK ON HUDSON", "DETACHMENT", "BARRYMORE", "BUTTER", "THE BAY", "KLOWN", "FIRST POSITION", "LARRY CROWNE", and MORE!

Whew! I've never streamed more movies in my life, than I've had to stream these last couple weeks. Too many films actually, now I'm way behind on my library films, so it's time to catch up on those now. A lot of new releases, and I've been behind on my Netflix, hence the streaming, and frankly I've just been a little too busy with the home as well, so believe it or not, the most disappointing thing about this set of reviews is that, I didn't get to as many films as I wanted to, or at least most of the films I really wanted to review.

I wish there was a whole lot more happening to discuss in the entertainment world. One of "The Bachelor" committed suicide today, that's the lead. Movie premiere dates moved, Oscar considerations, a few shows being bought or sold. So, I thought I'd focus on Sheila Nevins, who today won an Emmy as an Executive Producer of Alex Gibney's documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God". For those of you who don't know who she is, she's the head of HBO Documentary Films, and is probably one of the most powerful and prolific women in Hollywood. This Emmy win is her 24th! You read that right, 24th, career Emmy, which is the record btw. This among so many others awards she's won that I've heard stories that she just has a bunch of them lying on the floor in her office, 'cause she doesn't have room in her home for them. The reasons she wins those Emmys and Peabodys and everything is because of her constant and continuous actions to put out some of the best, most compelling and most important work on HBO, that includes films like the "Paradise Lost" documentaries, Spike Lee's "4 Little Girls", and "Taxicab Confessions" a few of the more famous credits among the hundreds of projects she's worked on. Hundreds, with and S, btw. She's involved in a lot of quality work, and should probably be looked at more as a role model for other aspiring filmmakers, especially women filmmakers, particularly if they want to produce. I've known people who've worked with her and talked about how passionate she is, and it's a shame that her name probably isn't a household name, even in the film circles, so if nothing else, I hope people noticed that little blurb about her winning another Emmy today, btw, she's still nominated for like, 3 or 4 others this year, so it could be more when all this is through, and take a moment and look her up.

Well that's all on my thoughts for the week. Time to get to this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


NO (2012) Director: Pablo Lorrain

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I once mentioned in a movie review awhile back about how I seem to lack a lot of South American history, including history, but I do know a few things about Pinochet. For one thing, we put him in charge, a decision we should've regretted a lot sooner than we actually did. The first feature film representing the nation of Chile to receive a Foreign Language Film Oscar Nomination, "No", shows how the Dictator was eventually overthrown, through a referendum election he was forced to accept under international pressure. Naturally, most half-expected the election to be fixed. The year is 1988, and the No campaign, has hired a youngish Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) to run the campaign. He works in advertising, and in fact his boss, Lucha Guzman (Alfredo Castro) is the head of the Si Campaign. At first, the obvious approach is to take, the precious 15 minutes a night they're finally allowed on Chilean TV to promote their perspective, to showcase all of Pinochet's atrocities, but they soon realize that going negative makes the voters numb and disheartened, and they don't got to the polls, and since this is a possibly fixed election, they need every vote they can get. Rene decides to go with a positive campaign. Very positive. Using techniques from the Cola Wars and other aspects of American pop commercialism from the MTV generation, which catches the Si team offguard, as all they do are typical displays about the greatness of the Chilean government, and pomposity at first. Soon, they get with the message and start to attack the No campaign's tactics, but No, decides to continue their happiness assault. They adopt a rainbow as a symbols, they get famous artists together to record a theme song a la, "We Are the World" style, combining pointed but observatent political discourse with sharply-written comedic bit, and random images of dancing mimes, they start pulling into the hearts and minds of the people. The film often shows the actual ads, from their original tapes, and they are definitely a reminder of how strange the time was, and how film has advanced so much since those days. This is a story that I haven't seen before and didn't know about. Another reminder that, positiveness and thinking outside-the-box can start a revolution, and as strange as the dancing mime is, it started a revolution. Bernal is one of the world's best actors, and he plays his role very quietly. Out of curiosity I check his age, he's only 35, but can and play ten or fifteen years younger if he wanted. He's young, with a scrappy beard and skateboards to work. He's rich in the world, and actually, he's probably campaigning against his own interests, but he has an ex-wife and a eight-year-old, who seem much more happy than he ever does. "No," is the first film I've seen from Director Pablo Lorrain, although he's recently produced Abel Ferrera's "4:44 Last Day on Earth", and he's quickly becoming one of South America's best director. I happen to watch "No" at around the same time I watch the HBO TV Movie, "Game Change", and in some ways, they're two sides of the same coin. Both are about making risky moves to win a campaign and how one works perfectly, while the completely implodes upon themselves. "No," it works perfectly, and shows how well the right theme song and the right packaging can be used to overthrow a dictator. It's definitely a story that I'm glad to have finally heard. A very entertaining film, and it grows on you the more you think about it.


MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (2013) Director: Eric Walter

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Whenever I think about "The Amityville Horror", I always think about the Women's Studies building on the UNLV campus, across from the architecture lab. I spent a fun night at Spectrum Club Halloween party there once, dressed as, well, technically it was Fonzi, but really it wasn't much different than my normal everyday outfit once upon a time, but anyway, the building had a dark and creepy feel to it, and many people said it looked like "The Amityville Horror" house. It didn't really, but that's become the most famous haunted house story around. I actually haven't the seen the film in its entirety yet; I think I've tried once in a while, but something always stopped me. "My Amityville Horror" is the latest documentary on the infamous Long Island house, that time, the son, Daniel Lutz, the son of Kathleen and stepson of George Lutz, the infamous residents for which the books and numerous movies were based on, is finally telling his side of the story, which includes of course, the infamous past of the haunted house, and the nightmare that the family had being there. He's all grown up now, works at UPS, and never got to tell about the events he witnessed. His stepfather's intrigued in the occult, the beating he gave, the slight personality changes everyone had, and he has certainly suffered from these nightmarish experiences, but did he actually have them? This becomes the subject, as we hear his plights and stories about killing hundreds of flies in the attic. The film continually interviews Daniel, and then, a lot of the stories keep getting, not necessarily debunked, but later explained through some kind of psychological issues that he's clearly got. That said, this was surprisingly boring after a while. It starting out interesting, as though we were finally gonna get some facts about what happened or at least a theory, but it kinda fell apart as the movie went along, and starting diving into the famous house. The house is still there, and no other family who's lived there since has seen any paranormal activity. The house was the famous scene of a family murder before the Lutz's went in, but the key to movies like these is really whether or not the subject is interesting for us to care about. Frankly Daniel Lutz, when the movie really had to be about him, it stopped being interesting, and frankly I couldn't care less after awhile about Daniel Lutz. I mean, I feel sorry for whatever supposedly happened to him, if it actually happened to him or he's mis-remembering or possibly making the entire thing up for publicity. I don't think he is, but his refusal to take a polygraph is disturbing for it's lack of making any logical sense.


HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012) Director: Roger Michell

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Anybody else think it's interesting that "Hyde Park on Hudson," is the third major film in three years to feature King George V as a major character? Of course, Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" two years ago, won the Oscar, but last year with Madonna's "W.E.", about Wallis Sampson, and now, King George and Queen Elizabeth (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) are coming to America, and God help them, they may have to eat a hot dog at a picnic. "Hyde Park on Hudson", is a delightful little film about this famous first visit by the British Royal family in America since the Revolution, which is officially just a social visit to FDR's (Bill Murray) mother's summer retreat in Springwood, near Hyde Park, NY, but it's before World War II, and while America, is surely but surely climbing out of the Great Depression, the Britain needs to get their support for the upcoming war with Germany, something most Americans aren't in favor of at the time. (People forget that, but half the country were German sympathizers at the time). At the house, FDR asks his sixth Cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to join him one day. She lives a couple towns away and takes care of her aunt. The film is seen from her point of view, and was based on the relationship she had with FDR, which was only found out in papers after she died, at age 100. She wasn't alone of course, FDR had many mistresses, and Eleanor (Olivia Williams) was long aware of it at this point, as she had begun working with those women carpenters making furniture. She's merely our entry into this world, and we get some glimpses of her life, helping take care of FDR, who's full of spirits, but paralyzed by polio. He takes Daisy on car rides to very out-of-the-way fields, in his car that's special-made to be driven with only his hands. The best part of the film is really the tension between the visiting Brits and the nervous Americans, Roosevelt's mother, (Elizabeth Wilson) looking for spare plates wherever she can, and everyone getting ready, nervous about how each other will accept the other. Curtsying and bowing. Some interesting breaking of royal protocol, like when the King pushes FDR's wheelchair, and he asks for a cocktail instead of tea. The best scenes are of course, the picnic at the end, where Eleanor's choice of hot dogs as a lunch has both of them nervous, especially the Queen, and the late night meeting between the King and the President, The King battling with his stutter, the President frustrated with his polio. "Hyde Park on Hudson," is a quiet and charming film about a slight but memorable moment in American history. Bill Murray's very good here as FDR, maybe not the immediate first choice of casting, but he's very convincing as this sly and cheerful FDR, who's a petulant child surrounded by boss women, but you can also that he's realizing the gravity of the situation more than anybody, and despite his urges, he's five steps ahead of everybody, and sees things that we aren't seeing. Unfortunately, the Laura Linney Daisy character, is such a bore that it's a bit of a shame that the film, is partly through her point of view, and she is our entrance into this world, but she's just a fly on the wall it seems like. The best way to have improved this material would've been to focus on FDR and King George primarily, as they get ready and the nervous tensions of the visit play out, but it's still delightful. There's nothing truly deep about the moment, other than the fact that it did help win WWII in the long run, but in the second, it's nice how it's simply a story of very important guests are coming to the house. That would've been the very best way in. The director was Roger Michell, and he directs the film nicely; he's always a bit erratic and very purposefully, likes to be without style, and just let the story be told, he does a decent job of that here. I think I would've liked to have seen a bit more style from him, but the showcase is Murray's performance, it's quite good and special, and nearly all performances are, so it could've been something more, but still, very enjoyable.


DETACHMENT (2012) Director: Tony Kaye

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Originally airings on VOD before getting a theatrical release, Tony Kaye's "Detachment" is a troubling look at the lives of teachers and their struggle to get through the day, and get through to kids who've made it their single-minded obsession not to learn, as well as the parents who simply don't care. Oh, and let's not forget a government that's either ignored them, or done everything to make it impossible for them to meet whatever artificial test standards that have been set for them. Henry (Adrien Brody) is a substitute who's working at this particular high school for the next month, where the Principal (Marcia Gay Harden) is quickly being pushed out of her office, which she lies in a fetal position on the floor of giving announcements. Henry's a good teacher, partly because nothing gets to him. He was troubled once, angry as he points out to one student who walks up like he's about to kill, all because he told the class to write and he didn't have a piece of paper. Another teacher, who got spit on by another student, Sarah (Christina Hendricks) and seeming surprisingly strong-willed after that assault, tries to befriend Henry. He talks occasionally to a never-shown psychiatrist-like character supposedly. Might be a cop, might be a priest the way he's confessing. He's really just talking to us as we hear his thoughts and regrets. Outside of school, he visits his grandfather, who's dying in a convalescent home, one that is constantly ignoring his grandfather. When after one late-night emergency visit, where they ignored him and he locked himself in the bathroom, he nearly obliterates the nightwatch nurse, much the same way that student did earlier. Oh yeah, he wasn't lying about his anger, but he knows where to place it to where it's most useful. The film is fragmented and skips from one scene to the next, and constantly introduces us to new teachers, and other staff and their other behaviors. James Caan is a dean that sees the absurdity and comedy in his student threats and slang. Lucy Liu is a guidance counselor, who explodes on a student one day. He soon befriends a teenage prostitute that's near his building, Erica. (Sami Gayle) She's very young, and lord knows what hell's she's had in her life, but when he invites her up to his apartment, she's still bleeding from a rape. He doesn't sleep with her, in fact he's rather tender with her. He does however get an overweight classmate, Meredith (Betty Kaye) who's constantly berated by other students, and by her father who can't understand why she doesn't draw or take pictures of something sweet and nice, to fall in love with him. All he does is treat her nice, and for someone who's never seen it from a guy, she's takes things all out of proportion. I once read a theory that since teachers aren't allowed to sleep with their students, or otherwise get close to them on a personal level, that they don't get have the connection to students like they used to. Of course, they referred to the old cliche of college girls sleeping with professors, not high schools, but even a teacher hugging a crying student who falls into his arm is immediately misinterpreted by the most observant and smartest of teachers. "Detachment" is hard to get ahold of personally. The director Tony Kaye, had a similar disjointed feel to his "American History X", that's the only other film of his I've seen, and despite the lack of a real driving plot, "Detachment" is effective at creating a mood and a mindset, and we can feel the world that they teachers live in, different and distinct and at times, just as troubled and stressful as the teenagers they're trying to warn about life, and how it's gonna kick them in the teeth. There's nothing better than a good teacher, and I had plenty; I was very lucky, but that said, few jobs are disheartening on the soul. The ones that survive are amazing, whether that's good for them that they do....?


BARRYMORE (2012) Director: Erik Canuel

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There's two family businesses for the Barrymores, acting and drinking, and has been for generations. John Barrymore, was the middle child of Lionel and Ethel, but he is widely regarded as the greatest actor of the three, and his stage performances of Hamlet and Richard III are remain legendary. Near the end of his life though, he was a drunkard and couldn't remember any of his lines, which he didn't bother memorizing to begin with. In "Barrymore", which is for all intensive purposes, a filmed one-man show with 84-year old Christopher Plummer, performs as John near the end of his life. (A good 20+ years older than John Barrymore was when he died) He's set up a one-night only performance and the movie begins with him, performing to an audience, and talking and telling stories, being smart and funny. Soon though, the audience disappears, and he's constantly going in and out of his lines from "Hamlet" and "Richard...", mostof which he forgets, and keeps asking Frank (John Plumpis) the gay stagehand who's never seen outside of shadow but is almost always right offstage. John needs the show to go well, to restart his stalled career. He's broke and has numerous ex-wives to pay for. There isn't much else to the movie. It's based on the play by William Luce, and occasionally has shots of silence like of John in the bathroom, or seeing his father in the mirror. Plummer still seems adept for this kind of rigorous performance, even at his age, although at times, the film has way too many cuts, but other times, it's quite impressive seeing Plummer, just showing us how great an actor this screen legend is, taking on one of the greatest of all acting legends. There really isn't anything else to the film, and that's what so special and appealing to it. If anything, I would've preferred the film just record a one-man show as opposed to this, more theatrical portrayal, although that alone is special. The last film I saw of this nature was the great TV movie, "Thurgood," which was a simply that, a recording of Lawrence Fishburne's amazing one-man show on Broadway in "Thurgood", which earned him a Tony nomination and won him an Emmy. Plummer probably would've gotten an Emmy nomination had this film been shown on TV; he certainly should've gotten an Oscar nomination for this incredible work here. It's one of the best and most memorable performances of the year, and that's really all the film and the show is, so I highly recommend it. If you don't know John Barrymore life and career well, first you should look him u, but then catch this amazing one-man piece of acting, and it's a shame that it didn't get more noticed last year.


BUTTER (2012) Director: Jim Field Smith

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I guess there's nothing technically wrong with "Butter". It's a solid premise, a decent script, good actors in the main roles, it's funny at times..., it's got surprises..., I guess, since I really can't find someone terribly or so terribly wrong, that I guess I'll recommend it, but, it is underwhelming somehow. Somewhere it doesn't quite go right, and it makes a potentially memorable comedy, fairly innocuous and comme ci, comme ca, I guess. For those of you who are foreigners to the U.S. who may not know, yes, butter carving, is a real thing, in certain parts of the country here, Iowa especially. Iowa is also the opening battleground state for Presidential primaries, so yes, it's fairly believable that a longtime butter sculpturist like Bob (Ty Burrell) would have a politically ambitious wife like Laura (Jennifer Garner) who'd get way more frustrated at her husband's forced retirement, and possibly take over butter sculpturing herself, as a way to stay on top of the minds and hearts of Iowans. Determine to butter carve her way to the top, her only real competition becomes a stripper/prostitute named Brooke (Olivia Wilde) who her husband slept with one night, a night which Laura sideswiped Bob's car with them in the act, and is pissed off for him not having paid her $600, and is determined to take down Laura until he does, and an 11-year-old orphan, conveniently named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who's equally ambitious privately as Laura, but has a more natural artistic gift for butter carving, and is heavily encouraged by her foster parents (Rob Cordrey and Alicia Silverstone) to fulfill her artistic endeavors. She originally wins a local contest to participate in state, but Laura uses an old high school boyfriend-turned-car dealership owner Boyd Bolton (Hugh Jackman, in a surprising and very funny cameo, arguably the best part of the movie honestly) to get a rematch at the state fair. The movie, is heavily inspired by some of the Christopher Guest films structurally, not-so-much the mockumentary parts, but the meeting of characters, and then the meeting of all the characters at the end at some major event. I'm not quite the movie really gets as satirical or as sharp as it could've. Maybe part of the reason is because butter sculpturing is really impressive, and frankly really artistic. These aren't just community theater people with delusions of grandeur, sculpturing, of any kind to the degree it is here is quite impressive. You know, there was this, terrible movie I had to sit through once about, a mockumentary about a chef who lost his sense of taste called "Jordan Saffron: Taste This!", where the chef had to regain his old status as the big celebrity chef, by winning a Spam-cooking contest. The joke of course being that Spam is such a unrefined ingredient that it would be funny that a big chef has to cook Spam, of course, if you actually know anything about food, Spam is actually quite an important delicacy in Hawaiian cooking. Now, "Butter" isn't anywhere near that inept or bad as that, but in the end, I actually didn't want to laugh at such artistic masterpieces as a butter Last Supper; I kinda wanted to admire them, and the skill it takes to make them, no matter how unconventional they are. I mean, what it is an artist, other than unconventional after all? In one way, I think the technical skill is there of "Butter" and for that I recommend it, but it doesn't really have the soul that it needs to really be special.


THE BAY (2012) Director: Barry Levinson

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There was a revolution in some country; I want to say in South America but I don't recall where exactly, but there was a coupe that overthrew the government, and they took over the TV stations, claiming that the former leader vacated the throne to this group, as allowed by this new constitution and whatnot, I think there was a documentary about it but I haven't seen it yet, but anyway, the plan backfired completely and most of the country wasn't fooled and began organizing, eventually overthrowing them. You see, they took the national TV and radio stations, but the rest of the country was watching CNN. I bring up this point to explain the problems with Barry Levinson's horror film, "The Bay". (And BTW, the "Barry Levinson" and "horror film" in the same sentence, kinda odd.) The whole bit of the found footage film, is of course, the footage was lost, and is now found, revealing what we previously hadn't known, but in this case, the film depicts an incident that happened on the 4th of July in a small Maryland town on the Chesapeake, that wasn't reported when it happened three years ago, because the government covered it up by taking all the camera footage that was shot and shut down cell phones, the internet and blogs. You see, if you can't buy the premise, you really can't buy the movie all the way, despite much of the film being quite good. Well, expertly crafted is a better way of saying it. This is one of those movie Tarantino was talking about when he says that movies should have the freedom that books have with structure, and an ability to just jump around from plot and point and timeline from chapter-to-chapter, 'cause while there are a few character and story arcs, the movie's strength is that it does jump from one scene to the next and one camera's footage to the next and a different perspectives, without feeling a need to connect them or bring them together. The movie is narrated by Donna Thompson (Kether Donahue) who was on her first gig reporting a news story for a local news station. She's apparently, survived whatever this is that starts destroying the town, and has tracked down and brought together what footage the government took, in order to publish them. (BTW, thinking back, was there actually a decent reason for the government to withhold this footage/story? In hindsight, I'm not even sure it hit that marker) She's reporting on a local 4th of July gathering, which is where the outbreak is first noticed as people began throwing us blood and boils and legions start all over their body, and many peoples tongues start rotting away. Whatever it is, it's flesh-eating, and while it's spreading to epidemic proportions, it doesn't appear to be airborne or in any other disease related, at least regarding known diseases. Two oceanographers who were studying fish from the bay which were contaminated with some kind of unusual larvae and creatures were the first victims weeks earlier, but their injuries appeared to be the result of a shark attack at first. Doctors are skyping disease control centers, people out on boats swimming in the water, and of course, the chickenshit which is pushed into the bay from a thriving chickenfarm that's the town's Mayor (Frank Deal) was very proud to have put up, all of which are combining factors, of course, and you can make whatever political inferences you can make out of them. "The Bay", is strong in terms how it's playing with this genre, and it's creative use of the first person genre of filmmaking. It's not really a typical horror film, there's no real good scares for instance, it's more of an investigative piece. Even thinks that were scary at the time, are laughed at here by Donna Thompson, as she looks over and comments one the footage as it comes up. It's really unfortunate that "The Bay" is more interesting to talk about then to see, 'cause there isn't a lot of built-in drama, partly because of the structure, but you could tell, that they were stretching to try to get this movie to 84 minutes. Maybe it was just an experimental piece for Levinson, ("Rain Man", "Good Morning, Vietnam", "Bugsy", "You Don't Know Jack", "Wag the Dog",  "The Natural", and those are just the ones I've seen and liked) to see if he can do horror and try and tackle this found footage concept, a filmmaking exercise for him. If it is, I guess he did okay, but overall I can't recommend it, but you know, this is one of those movies that's so interesting in what it's doing and how it's doing, it might be worth watching, just to talk about it afterwards, 'cause there will be differing views on how successful it was. I'm in the middle, but this is one of the more interesting failures I've seen in a while, maybe since "Act of Valor".

 
KLOWN (2012) Director: Mikkel Norgaard

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I guess in a lot of American comedies, one of the main characters is often a male, selfish, single-mindedly sex-obsessed prick who's entire existence seems to consist of nothing but getting laid, even in the most inappropriate of times, but usually in foreign comedies, these men are middle aged, and in American films they're usually teenagers or college kids. "Klown", aka "Klown: The Movie" is a Danish where one of the main characters, Casper (Casper Christensen) is such a prick. He's planning a canoeing trip with Frank (Frank Hvam) as an attempt to score. Frank, seems to just be willing to go along with Casper, not so much as a need for pussy, but 'cause of his latency, I guess. Earlier, in the film, we see Casper influence on Frank, as he convinces him to give his girlfriend a pearl necklace when she wakes up in the morning. The other kind of pearl necklace, and all I'll say about that scene is, he misses. Based on a Danish television comedy show, "Klown" is a disgusting and crude comedy about these two idiots trying to get laid. Well, one idiot. Frank, has to take care of his nephew, Bo (Marcus Jess Peterson) and because the unexpected babysitting comes at the same time as this canoeing trip to find hiking camps full of teenage girls, he's coming along. Frank tries to make sure the kid is okay, while Casper, makes it clear that every borderline decision, goes towards pussy. P before B he says, or it might have been F for fatherhood, I don't remember. The kid himself is weird. Much is made of how he doesn't pee standing up and the size of his penis. Keep in mind, this is a 12-year old, who I thought was younger, and a lot of this is disturbing. Frankly, I didn't laugh much during the beginnings of this film, because at some level, you really do have to care about the characters in order to feel their pain and enjoy the comedy that's inflicted upon. Or at least like them, these two characters are scumbag and scumbag-gi-er. Maybe in the context of their TV show, which btw, I've very curious what else gets played on Danish TV after watching this, content-wise they got away with a lot here; I might finally check out that Danish version of "Kingdom Hospital" they got at my local library now, but anyway, without a context ahead of time, this comes off two idiots doing something for very selfish reasons, and putting a child's welfare at risk to do it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. That said, eventually, the movie did start working on me. It was after the trio escape from the camp from which they've been thrown out of, and find their way to a house and Casper is having sex with the girl who gave them the clean clothes and food and such, and Casper keeps trying to convince Frank, who is trying to sleep in the bed as the other two, to join int. That set of jokes, actually kinda worked on me, and the movie does have a Wallyworld-type ending involving a collection of bottlecaps the kid collected and a truck that he wants. I'm actually a little torn. Part of me wonders if I would actually enjoy this film, on a second viewing, but another part of me, wonders why did they go to such an extreme for these crude jokes, when they could've easily been just as vulgar and be fun about it, as well as funny. (Scoffs) I'm torn, maybe I'd prefer a second adventure, knowing the score now of what to expect but as an introduction to "Klown", I won't stop anybody from watching it, but I can't quite make myself recommend it.


FIRST POSITION (2012) Director: Bess Kargman

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"First Position" is a ninety minute movie that took me two days to finally, physically sit down and finish streaming, and that was with a headache. Now, that's not exactly the movie's fault by any means, I've been distracted and I've had to stream movies, way more than I normally do this week, and but it was a struggle to keep me interested in the film, and that's disappointing. Especially since, well- I'm not gonna completely pretend I'm a ballet enthusiast, but there's been plenty of great films about the ballet in recent years, and the struggles involved in trying to succeed in this, most rigorous, painful and unnatural of dance forms. "Black Swan" most recently and of course, classics like "The Red Shoes", although I have a great affection for one of Robert Altman's last films, "The Company". "First Position" travels the world to follow young ballet dancers as they try to make it to the Youth America Grand Prix, which is a competition for ballet, but more importantly, it's actually a major showcase for all of the major ballet troupes in the world, and many jobs and scholarships are given out to those who do well in this, briefest of performances. A few of the kids are interesting, I particularly enjoyed the young girl who was adopted in America after escaping the Sierra Leone civil war. Her mother has to hand-dye her outfits in order to have them match her skin color, as the normal flesh-toned colors we normally see, are too see through for her. Most of the families make their outfits actually, as regular proper tutus can range up to a couple thousand dollars. Another kid's family went to Italy, not solely to train, also because his father was going to Kuwait, for six months to make sure his son stayed in ballet, and it was less travel for the military family to stay there. We see one brother and sister ballet team, where the older sister is clearly destined to be a ballerina, but her younger brother only does it for fun, and it pains the mother, who so desperately loves seeing her children dance, both of them. "First Position" is a nice look-in to the ultra-competitive world of ballet, where an injury can not only cost a job, but a career. Still, I have to put this in context with other documentaries with similar structures of following a group of people as they head towards an event. "Spellbound" comes to mind as one of the best ones involving kids; the stakes are actually a little higher here, but overall it just wasn't as intriguing a film as it could've been, and that's why I couldn't stay as focused on it as I prefer. A good movie should captivate you, this one, just didn't captivate me, continuously, and for that, I might be being harsh here, but at a certain point, you have to be relatively entertained.


LARRY CROWNE (2011) Director: Tom Hanks

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"Larry Crowne" might be a good movie to show to a film criticism class, and give them the homework assignment of "Where did this film go wrong?" I mean, when you really think about it, it's Tom Hanks, he's going back to college, and Julia Roberts is the professor. Good premise, good casting, fun, little tale,... let's just face it though, for all intensive purposes, this film should've been better than it was. This is the 2nd feature that Hanks has written and directed, the first being the delightful "That Thing You Do", about a fictional one-hit wonder band in the '60s, and he made that back in the '90s. This time around, he teams with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" screenwriter Nia Vardalos, a film which he and his wife Rita Wilson produced to co-write the film, and she's been practically the definition of a one-hit wonder. All of her projects since have been considerable flops. So, is she the reason it goes wrong? Hard to say, but it goes wrong in a few places. Take a look for instance, while the film is inherently light and charming, it doesn't make you laugh. There's plenty of jokes, but they all mostly fall flat. Larry (Hanks) is already going through a divorce when the recession hits badly, and he loses his job at a local K-Mart-type store, because of a downsizing spree. He was a casualty because he didn't go to college. He was a cook in the Navy after high school, and with his house underwater after his divorce, he decides to go back to take classes at a local college. It's here that things start turning around for him. He takes an economics class that teaches him what to do with the bank's abrasive tactics (A well-cast George Takei as his teacher helps too), he joins a local scooter gang, after one of his classmates find him cool, and like all rough and tumble scooter gangs, they give him a haircut and feng shui his house. Okay, I don't know any scooter gangs, much less ones that do that, although it would be cool. He also has a speech class, where his professor is a drunk, Ms. Mercedes Tainot (Julia Roberts). She's frustrated with their constantly being the bare minimum of students attending her classes, and her husband Dean (Bryan Cranston), being a failed novelist/blogger who searches the internet for porn most of the day. It's almost like, with her. Her role here, is one that is almost mystifying. First of all, I'm not mentioning characters traits regarding her homelife, that is her homelife, and eventually what leads to her inevitable divorce and falling into Larry's arms, so Roberts, on one hand, is doing nothing, unless mixing drinks and coming to class hungover with sunglasses is a thing, and being bored and depressed, for what could honestly be the most trivial reasons of all-time. I've have convinced her husband is a so-called porn addict, simply for a joke about how Julia Roberts breasts are too small. I'm defending her; I know Roberts doesn't make too many peoples list of the best actresses in Hollywood (Popularity, a different story of course) but she is talented, and you know, when she has something to do. Her finally caring at the end of the movie, and leading a class in arms circles and a round of "Red leather, yellow leather" is arguably the only glimpse of her having a second layer to her character, at all. This movie is just so light as a feather. It's either underwritten or too simplistic, and frankly even the best supporting characters are never used completely well, and there's some good supporting work here like from Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson as married neighbors that run a regular yard sale where Larry trades his TV for that scooter. There's no real tension, there's barely any conflict, and still I damn-near recommend it because it's Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. It should've been better.


FACES (1968) Director: John Cassavetes

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"Faces" must have seemed so unusual to certain audiences in the sixties who hadn't been following the French New Wave. American independent basically begins with John Cassavetes, although it isn't just the outside-of-Hollywood renegade techniques he used, it's also, maybe more importantly the kind of movies he made, and the naturalistic style he made them with, telling stories- well, not-so-much stories, just perceptive and realistic portrayals of average middle-America life. Perfect timing for such material too, since the era of striving for that '50s perfect suburban fantasy has started giving away to the hippie love generation.  "Faces" for instance,is about a loveless marriage in a consumer world, and what the couple in that marriage, Richard and Maria Frost (John Marley and Oscar-nominee Lynn Carlin, in her first acting role of any kind) do when, they finally confront each other about this reality. Richard has just come home from work-, actually, let me backtrack a second 'cause that's not where he came from. After work, him and his friend, Fred Draper (Freddie Draper) spent a night at a bar getting drunk, and hitting on women. They're at the house of a hooker, Jeannie Rapp (Oscar-nominee Gena Rowlands) where all they entertain each other with wine and dancing, until it becomes clear that Fred is a third wheel, and tries to insult Jeannie but, she's not as emotional as most way like to think most women are. Eventually, Richard comes home to his empty life with Maria, and after a long discussion on sex and love, he tells her he wants a divorce, calls Jeannie and heads over to her place. Maria soon stars having an affair of her own with Chet (Oscar-nominee Seymour Cassel) after going out with the rest her girlfriends, and they have franks talk about the troubles in their marriages too. They also seem to have fun like adults, which is basically like grown-up teenagers, or how adults wish they could act when kids aren't around. It's not particularly difficult to figure out what's other events are going to, or are likely to happen in the film, but the way they're done is what makes them so intrinsically interesting. The looking into a world that's not on soundstage or a set, or feels soft, romantic, or otherwise unreal. These are American adults. They've got a good job that they hate, a marriage that's long over, and frustrations they can't complain about because they're consumerism life makes them seem crazy for having them, and the outlets are affairs and drinking, and it feels like it can take place in any random living room across the country, and probably has, or at least the people have probably wanted to. 40 years before "American Beauty" "Faces" and Cassavetes was peeling back and unmasking the real emotions behind the illusions of beloved domesticity, and taking a closer look at how we really are. How eccentric, how erratic, how fragile we are.


THE LOST BOYS (1987) Director: Joel Schumacher




Okay, while I am a film scholar/buff/historian/whatever-you-want-to-call-me, I have often made it a personal habit of mine, to not only study films, but numerous other subjects as well, one of them being pop culture in general. Seriously, ask anybody, I have an usually high amount of obscure references in my speech and mind at any given time, and more often than not, I'll make a reference and soon have to explain to people what I'm referencing, which unfortunately ruins whatever joke I had just told, but, I am quite skilled at obtaining and recalling obscure useless information. (I wonder if Dennis Miller has that problem) Anyway, I happen to know a great deal about pop culture, especially from the '80s, thanks VH-1, although you're not the only source, but saying that, somehow, I completely missed The Two Coreys phenomenon. I don't know how, apparently it was a big deal and relatively major but, one day I thought I knew it all, and there's footage of screaming girls yelling for two actors I never heard of until then. I'm sure somewhere along the line, somebody in passing had mentioned a movie called "The Lost Boys", but it wasn't on any essential, much-watch priority list of mine for years, and, well, I'll just be honest, not knowing the plot of the film, I probably just assumed whoever was talking about it, was talking about Peter Pan. What? That's my "The Lost Boys" reference, what's yours? Apparently this film I guess, although why, especially after seeing it, I have no idea why it's so popular, unless it goes with my theory about vampire fetishists, who will simply adore and buy anything regarding vampires whether it's any good or not. "The Lost Boys" is shot in entirely the wrong tone. Actually it might just be a bad movie anyway, but...- The movie first establishes itself, quite nicely as a gothic, creepy little film about an unassuming family who's moving to the Murder Capital of the World. The family, led by the single mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) is moving back in with her eccentric father (Bernard Hughes, although I was sure it was Jason Robards before I looked it up.) who lives in one of the weird places with no TV and lots of antlers. Lucy's two kids, the teenage Michael (Jason Patric) and the pre-teen Sam (Corey Haim) aren't looking forward to the prospects of the move, but soon, Michael starts having an interesting adventure when the Lost Boys come finding him. The Lost Boys are the group of teenage vampires who haunt and stalk the Boardwalk at night, before choosing their prey to kill. Michael falls for the one girl in the group, Star (Jami Gertz) while the leader, David (Keifer Sutherland) tries to turn him into a vampire, which he eventually becomes. This is when the movie starts to completely shift tones; up until now, we've learned about these disturbed groups of kids, vampires and the lives they lead. It's mysterious, dark, gory, beautiful, and when you really think about it, tragic. To have grown up so fast and now forced to live forever with an incomplete childhood, but instead the movie begins to have such lines as "My own brother, a goddamn shit-sucking vampire. You wait 'til Mom finds out Buddy." Then the movie, really kinda devolves from there, into an us against them battle and they try and find out how to eradicate Michael's turning. Sam brings along the Frog brothers, Edgar and Alan (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) who, because they live in a comic book store, have the special Van Helsing-like knowledge about these vampires. (Although you'd think more locals would've come to the conclusion about vampires being in their town, but....) Meanwhile, all this is happening while Lucy is trying to start going out with an electronics store owner, Max (Edward Herrmann), while they're dates keep getting interrupted by vampire stuff. I was really unimpressed with "The Lost Boys", and it's another of Joel Shumacher's style over substance misfires. He's a good filmmaker, and occasionally can make a good movie like "St. Elmo's Fire", "Tigerland" and "Phone Booth", but he's very inconsistent, like his high-profile "Batman Returns" and "Batman & Robin", or recent smaller films like "The Number 23", "Twelve" or "The Phantom of the Opera", (Although the latter I don't completely blame him) that just don't work at all. He seems to be at home, focusing on stories of teenagers or young 20somethings, who are in over their heads, but his biggest flaws involve focusing more on the look and style of a film rather than the story, or actually it's more, him picking the style, without considering whether it's right for the story. This film should either been a much lighter, more comedic film, or the exact opposite a much darker, broodier film, that actually took a look at what it means to be a lost boy, teenage vampire. Obviously, I would've preferred he made the latter, I can't fully hide my enthusiasm for such a concept, but he should've picked one, instead of doing both and hoping the two styles would make sense. They don't and the film doesn't work, and-eh, I don't know. If anybody can explain "The 2 Coreys" phenomenon, or actually lived, I guess I'd still like to learn what that was all about, and if you were apart of it, what the hell were you thinking?


CLOCKERS (1995) Director: Spike Lee

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In the opening of "Clockers", after the credits sequence includes numerous images of murder young black men, in an urban New York Housing Project where nothing of interest was happening, police come raging in, and begins stopping, frisking, and publicly strip-searching people, under the rouse of some claim that there's a gun around. This was made years before such an obtrusive practice was actually made legal in New York post 9/11, and was recently declared unconstitutional by a New York court. If I were to pick one filmmaker with whom I would want to watch a random marathon of his work, Spike Lee would probably be at the top of my list. Even in his bad movies are more interesting than most people's good movies. Surprisingly, as much as he makes us confront certain images, taboos and problems with society, his filmmaking style is more classical in nature. Patiently telling his stories, allowing room for commentary and asides, by having his protagonist, basically see all points of views and opinions as they often have to make a tough choice. In a way, he outside world of the visual to give us a peak inside the minds of his characters. In "Clockers", the Strike (Mekhi Phifer) works in the project, selling crack in the local neighborhood. He works for a longtime drug dealer Rodney Little (Delroy Lindo, interesting character name choice, combining Rodney King and Malcolm X's names) who runs legitimate businesses in the neighborhood. Think of him as a local version of Gustavo Fring. Strike is a decent kid, who suffers from an ongoing ulcer and drinks milk much of the day to deal with it, and play with train sets at home. He's ordered to take out a manager at a fast food restaurant, Darryl (Steve White) who's banned clockers from being in his restaurant. Clockers are round-the-clock drug dealers who are position somewhere like a park or a restaurant to sell, like Strike is. He tells his married and somewhat successful brother, and soon Darryl's dead. His brother turns himself in, but Det. Klein (Harvey Keitel) doesn't but it, and keeps pressure on Strike, which means Strike grabs more of the attention from Rodney. There's other characters involved, as it become increasing less believable that Strike's brother killed Darryl, the movie structurally turns into a police procedural, but the film's main focus is how Black on Black crime, seems to come about in a neighborhood that's pushed with drugs, guns, and a constant intrusive police presence. There's another major death in the movie, where involving a character I've left out describing, and we see how the crime was both inevitable and yet could've been easily prevented had just a few things had happened differently. "Clockers" believe it or not, is really structurally a police procedural, but it really hidden in these complex questions of right and wrong, for all the main characters, and takes a look, not just at the real situation of drugs in the inner cities, but really looks at  moral dilemmas and complications of it's protagonists, as they try to navigate this treacherous terrain. Definitely a powerful, and memorable one from Spike Lee.


THE CLOSET (2001) Director: Francis Veber

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Francis Veber's comedies have led to great inspiration in Hollywood and beyond. His most famous work, the screenplay for "La Cage aux Folles", was a hit in America, multiple times if you include it's remake, "The Birdcage", and it's multiple runs as a musical on Broadway, and his very popular "The Dinner Game" was also remade recently as "Dinner for Schmucks". There's a quality to his work that is quite deep, but to get to that, you often have to sit through a long list of, only half-funny situations, because they're usually all based around the shallowness of certain characters, and either confronting or appeasing them. "The Dinner Game", I found annoying because of the premise of people bringing over idiots for dinner, honoring them as they don't realize they're idiots. There's of course the late change-of-heart for the main protagonists involved, but it really is layered on pretty thick before we get to that. The premise of "The Closet" also gets a little heavy-handed for it's comedy. At a rubber company, an accountant, Francois Pignon (Daniel Auteuil) is about to get fired. There's layoffs on the way to cut costs, but the real reason is that he's boring and no one likes him. His co-workers make fun of him when he's not around and both his ex-wife and kid won't even answer the phone when he calls. He gives milk to a small cat on his porch, and the cat's owner, a new neighbor Belone (Michel Aumont) notices that he's more lonely and depressed than the cat, and decides to help him keep his job. The plan to make him more interesting, begins with a photoshopped picture being mailed to the office, of Francois is assless chaps at a gay nightclub with Belone. This soon gets passed around as Francois begins pretending he's gay, in order to keep his job. It starts to work, originally because the company president Kopel (Jean Rochefort) doesn't want the bad publicity, but in other ways, everybody starts liking and becoming more interested in Jean. His superior Mlle. Bertrand (Michele Laroque) who thought he was a dull before, not finds him sexy, and begins scheming to prove that he's actually straight, by trying to be with him. Also, a rugby-playing, gaybashing employee Felix (Gerard Depardieu), a real man's-man type, is encourage to hang out and befriend Francois. Originally just to please others, but eventually, he starts sending him birthday gifts and chocolates, even though Felix isn't gay, but the "relationship" he's developing with Felix is better than the divorce he's currently going through with his wife. Eventually, by pretending to be gay, he actually becomes more interesting as a person, but it takes a while to get to that, and I'm not completely sure enough of the middle truly worked. The most interesting gag involves him, being the exhibit for the company's gay pride today float, wearing a hat that's makes him look like a condom. Veber's work is always clever and well thought out. This film was popular for having so many of France's leading and most famous actors in non-traditional roles for them. (Although in Auteuil's case, I think it's perfect casting.) It's got some cute moments, but they were a little too few and far between for me, so I can't quite recommend it, but some may appreciate more than others for some of the subtlety in the writing and the good acting, but the movie really stretches the premise just for jokes, instead of pushing a story forward with more bang and zeal. I guess if the jokes were more consistently funny, I guess I wouldn't have minded so much, but they were only brief smirks and occasional chuckles more than out-and-out laughter. Can't quite recommend it.