Saturday, October 26, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #75: PART 1: "AMOUR", "KON-TIKI", "MUD", "GINGER & ROSA", "SPRING BREAKERS", "WHAT MAISIE KNEW", "SOMETHING IN THE AIR", "DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY", "GRACELAND", and "EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE"!

Well, I was hoping to have more reviews finished before I posted this, but, I recognize that I have to get around to posting these. I've been vague about the circumstances that have kept me from posting at my regular speed for awhile now, so I figured I owe some piece of explanation to all of you, so to be a little less vague, my family, got in a fight with our old landlord. I'm not gonna go into all the details, because it's been continually devolving, but they basically were determined to kick us out of the house, and while eventually we did, the case is currently going through the courts. In the meantime, we didn't have a place to stay, nor did we have much money, so for about a week or so, we stayed at multiple hotels, until finally, we started moving into another place. I say we, but I was stuck at the (m/h)otels during most of this time, watching my autistic brother, and unable to get online regularly. Speaking of getting online regularly, we had both a Netgear to get on the internet with, which wasn't perfect, but certainly very good, and we also had an internet hookup as well. The internet hookup however, was lost in the move, because, and I won't go into too deeply about this, but basically, the person who originally bought the internet hookup, in a separate situation, he took the internet back. Unfortunately, where we moved, there wasn't any public internet hookups at our new location, and we're considerably broke right now, but we're trying to pay our bills, and buy a new internet service. We tried one that seemed to work, and we liked, but the deal we realized too late, cost us too much money. So, while I was able to get online at a more regular pace recently, we're now back to square one. In case some of you are wondering, the other internet service we had was Clear, and I loved it. It was relatively cheap, plus it worked. Unfortunately, in one of dozens of signs of Mercury being in retrograde this week, and screwing us over every chance we get, Clear was recently bought by Sprint, so we can't get the deal we used to. (If you have a current Clear contract, I highly recommend you guys keep it btw.) So, we're back at square one. I still have a second batch, and possibly too batch of movie reviews I have to write on (Hey, it was all I could really do during this time) so this won't be the greatest written of reviews probably, but I decided that I have to post something. So, this is what I finished in time to post today; I still have about another dozen films to go. Hopefully they'll be posted soon than later, and I may be posting other blogs that I've been wanting to post ASAIC.

So, again, sorry or all the friggin' delays, believe me, nobody's more frustrated about them as I am. Anyway, here's the first batch of my latest edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS! Hope you all enjoy them!

AMOUR (2012) Director: Michael Haneke

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Shortly before I started writing this review, I changed my autistic brother's diaper for the, however-many-nth time today, 3rd or 4th I guess. I give it, 5-1 odds that I'll have to change him again before I finish writing this review. That's not a subject I normally care to discuss, especially during a movie review as, I'm a firm believer that the power and importance of how entertainment can help us transcend our lives cannot be undervalued or overappreciated, but it certainly was something that crossed my mind, many times, while watching "Amour", the latest from director Michael Hanake. Hanake's known, for never making the same movie twice, purposefully switching genre, look, storytelling structure, and style with each film. His previous film was "The White Ribbon", a black and white film about Germany post-WWI, showing the way the seeds of Nazism were planted in the country, after destruction and blame for the war. His film "Cache", about a celebrity who's been stalked with hidden cameras that are spying on him, is often regarded as one of the best films of the last decade, but my favorite film of his is "The Piano Teacher", about a sexually repressed older woman, who tries to instigate an S&M relationship with a teenage student of hers. "Amour" won the Foreign Language Oscar, and became the first Foreign film to earn a Best Picture nomination since "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," in 2000. "Amour", of course is French for love, and the film is aptly titled, although it'll seem ironically so to some. The movie begins with a long shot reminiscent of the famous last scene in "Cache", with a long shot of an audience at a classical music performance. We soon meet former music teachers and still relevent socialites Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Oscar-Nominee Emmanuelle Riva [You might remember him as the old judge in Kieslowski's "Red" and her from "Hiroshima Mon Amour"]. Right now, as old as they are, they're relatively modern, but then, very suddenly, Anne has a stroke, and then a surgery goes wrong, and is paralyzed on one side of her body. Georges now has to watch and look over her, day and night. Helping her on and off the toilet and the wheelchair, help exercise her legs and get her spirits up as she recovers, and for awhile, it seems like she is. Old successful students come to visit, as does their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), but Anne's physical, and worse, her mental decline, begin to take their toll. I've always felt that there's nothing worse than losing your personality and sense of humor, and strokes really do that to people, of all ages. "Amour" is about the love that two people have for each other, and how that "For better or worse" getting put to the test, is really the standard of a relationship. I'm certainly recommending it, for the great acting and directing and Hanake, he got an Oscar Nomination for Directing as well, and there is spectacular precision to his work. I don't think it's his best film, but it's certainly powerful. It's strange to think, how it effected the audiences however, and got the Oscar nominations, 'cause I don't think it's the most entertaining film, but also, there's other films like this before, and hindsight, I don't know if I'd rank it as high as some people have. That said, with Hanake's films, there always a taste distinction involved, because he's switching genres so radically, and I think it's hard to pin which of his films are the most special; he's one of the few directors, who I think favorites do determine which are his best films for some. I guess part of this criticism is that the movie doesn't feel like a new story or a telling of it, to me, but it's a very good telling of it though. So, as technical masterpiece, I think it's excellant, and I certainly was effected by much of "Amour", but if I'm completely honest, there is something holding me back from completely embracing it, and after careful thought, I think it has to do, with the ending, as well as the opening sequences that tell us the ending essentially at the beginning. The very beginning and the very end of the film, don't quite work for me, but it's on a very high of level of criticism that I have discrepancies about it, so other than that though, this is a great film.

KON-TIKI (2012) Director: Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandburg

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Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, "Kon-Tiki", from Norweigan Directors Ronning & Sandburg, did manage to surprise me, as one of the more entertaining films I've seen in a while. It's a classic story, and it's told in a classical way. Very classical, the story was actually depicted in the Oscar-winning documentary of the same title back in '51, and is about Thor Heyerdarhl (Pal Sverre Hagen), who had a daring scientific theory that Polynesia was populated by the Ancient Incas, and not, as most people believed then, (and now) by Asians. In order to prove this theory, after years of being unable to get published, decided to prove his theory by sailing from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft, using only the techniques used back in the 5th Century, a journey of over 5,000 miles. He teams with a engineer-turned-refrigerator salesman Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) to team up, and finally gets financial backing from the President of Peru, with his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen) and kids at home, the movie turns into one of those, man against nature epic journey films, and it's a good one. Technically, the movie looks incredible, this has some of the most underrated cinematography of the year. The film takes place, nearly entirely on the raft, yes, similar to "Life of Pi," and there's a lot of the same kind of wonder, the electric fish, the flying fish, plenty of near-misses with bloodthirsty sharks, and of course, the fragility of the raft, as well as the struggles of shooting film out there, 'cause if you think that's hard now to shoot footage from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, imagine then. Despite knowing the ending, the skill level of this film, and the fact that it's just a good story to begin with, really transformed this movie, and from a deconstructionist perspective, it's a great piece of classic entertainment. I imagine the documentary is probably more impressive, I'm gonna definitely look into after watching the film, but I gotta say, overall, I wasn't expecting to like "Kon-Tiki", so much as I was watching it, and I have surprised at just how much I really did get into the film, so a big recommendation for me. Also, Hagen's single-minded performance as Heyerdahl, is also quite special impressive, and overlooked. Some of the parts might be better than the whole, but it's still a lot of good parts in "Kon-Tiki", and it's very clear to see why it got the Foreign Language Oscar nomination.

MUD (2013) Director: Jeff Nichols

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Jeff Nichols's has quietly and suddenly taken David Gordon Green's place as the master of southern gothic filmmaking as Green's gone off to work under Judd Apatow & Friends. I've been more technically impressed with his work than personally since his debut "Shotgun Stories", as well as his last film the quixotic and mystical "Take Shelter". All his films have a similar feel to them, but strangely when I look back, all the of them are quite different. "Mud" feels like it could've been directed by someone like Robert Mulligan after he made "To Kill a Mockingbird", and also feels like it could've taken place anytime before or since that book was written. It also seems to arken back to everything from mid-'80s kid dramas like "Stand By Me," to the early work of Terrence Malick, even so far back as "Tom Sawyer". The two kids in the film are Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland). Ellis is a little bit older and wiser, and has started to notice girls, but still scours the nearby woods, where the two kids came across a boat, in a tree. Up high in a tree. That image surreal and strange enough, until they realize someone is living there. The someone is simply named Mud (Matthew McConaughey), and he's some kind of ex-local rogue figure that makes a deal with the kids to help him out occasionally, in return, they can have the boat as their secret hiding place when he leaves. It's hard to describe Mud completely, although I think it helps to learn that Nichols wrote the role especially for McConaughey, and he seems to fit this part more naturally than other recent ones of his. Soon enough, the forces that are coming after Mud start swarming, from town and from out-of-town, and his past starts getting slowly revealed, but all of it surrounds another local girl who's come back to town, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon, in her best role in years) who he's been chased, and led Mud on and/or fallen in love with him for years now, and is essentially the cause for all Mud's problems, or at least the catalyst, but she's in town now, shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and staying at a motel, waiting for word from Mud, which eventually makes Neckbone and Ellis the go-between for them, which helsp keeps others off the trail. "Mud", is very well-acted and really good at letting us into this world. There's some great quiet supporting works from people like Sam Shepherd, Sarah Paulsen, Ray McKinnon and Michael Shannon. The film is intense and seems to exist in that world of classic American mythology, and honestly, that's always what's held me back a bit from truly embracing Nichols as a truly great young filmmaker. He's very good at telling great stories, but I think he struggles when it comes to putting them in a greater context and sparks of originality; similar directors like a Ramin Bahrani for example, seem to tell stories that I haven't seen before, and with characters I haven't seen. "Mud" is a little too classical for me personally. Oh, I'm definitely recommending it, it's a really standout film, especially for the hour and a half or so, although I think it lost a way a bit at the end, by going with a more, legend-filled ending, but the talents cannot be underestimated. He may not tell stories perfectly, but you're watching and paying attention every step of the way. So, I didn't like a twist or turn here or there; I was interested enough to get to the twist and turns, and that's what Nichols is great at.

GINGER & ROSA (2013) Director: Sally Potter

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As I struggle to write some of these reviews this week, reviews of many films that I saw, a little earlier than I would've prefered to have watched then I'd normally prefer to start writing about movies, I start looking through other movie reviews of some of these films, to refresh a few memories of some of these films, usually particular plotpoints to help refresh my memory. (Hey, I watch a lot of movies, even when I'm not weeks behind on my blog, and they aren't all "Gone with the Wind", some of them you have to think back on.) That said, occasionally sometimes I find out something or realize something later about a movie that makes me think about it in a different way. I'm a huge fan of Sally Potter's work to begin with, her last film "Yes", which was written and acted in Shakespearean iambic verse about a modern-day affair between an British politician's wife and an exiled Lebanese doctor, is a masterpiece. Yet, while I greatly admired and appreciated her latest film "Ginger & Rosa", after reading the late Roger Ebert's review of the film, I noticed a piece of information that completed startled me about the film. That information, was Elle Fanning's age when she made the film. She plays 17 and older in the film, and I frankly just presumed that,- well, I had lost track of how old the younger Fanning is, and figured she's grown up quickly. No, she's 13. If you would've told me she was thirty and playing younger I would've bought it, and that's a compliment about her talent, btw. Fanning is Ginger, and her and her best friend Rosa (Alice Englert) are close. It's the early '60s in England, and the threat of nuclear war is very real and emminent. Ginger's father Roland (Alessandro Nivolo) is an adament philosopher, against nuclear war, as well as much of the traditional ways of the '50s world, much to the chagrin of his wife Natalie (Christina Hendricks). She's a stay-at-home Mom, who has little outside world knowledge, so their divorce is particularly disheartening. Rosa's father left years ago and she disregards her mother Anhoushka (Jodhi May) and is far more wilder both personality and experiencewise than Ginger, more independent as well. Roland goes off into his liberal circle of friends and elites and Ginger gets caught up in the anti-nuclear annihilation protests, obsessively so in fact. Rosa, gets closer and closer to Roland and his movement. Ginger also begins struggling to remain on good terms with her mother, and her political obsession and belief in the near end of the Earth, begin to blind her about events that are really going on, and an act of betrayal sends her spiraling. "Ginger & Rosa", is essentially another one of those films about the friendship between two teenage girls, but there's so much more to the film, much more than even it lets on at times. There's strong supporting work from Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, and especially Timothy Spall as leftist friends of the family, and there's a lot of other things going on, and this coming of age film is as much about the age as it is th echaracters, but the spectacular acting and script, really propels the film. Especially Fanning's performance, who most of the film's character is seen through, and it's the more amazing considering her age. It's almost scary how talented that family is, this could be award-winning performance if people took up and noticed, especially considering, how tricky it is to take on a Sally Potter project, you need great actors even in small roles to take on her projects. That said, this is Alice Englert's first acting role; she's Jane Campion's daughter, and that's an impressive debut as well, even if it's not as thorough her counterpart, but still, this film, keeps growing on me, the farther away I get from it, and it remains powerful. The last shot, a long-take two-shot, of Ginger and Roland, it has some voiceover, and very little dialogue, but it's an absolutely perfect shot and ending for this film. There's a lot of really impressive work in "Ginger & Rosa" at work here.

SPRING BREAKERS (2013) Director: Harmony Korine

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I never went to Spring Break, for any of my eight years of college, (I know, [sigh]) and oddly, I didn't know too many who did actually. The few who did, came in two varieties, the kind who can do anything and get straight A's without worries, and the kind who were doomed to dropout, and you wonder how they ever got through high school. Either way, Spring Break has become a far bigger and more- I was about to say "glamourized", but that doesn't sound like the right word. Exploited, it's become more exploitive over the recent decades, probably since MTV first started taking it over, eh, who-the-hell-knows when. Eh, I remember Joey Lawrence was still on "Blossom," so at least 20 years ago and, it's really become a quintessential part of the pop culture, and some people, yes, they take it a little more literally and to heart than others; that it's more than just a brief vacation before Easter. "Spring Breakers", the latest film from Harmony Korine, who famously wrote "Kids" when he was a teenager, is about that "Spring Broke" delusion of Spring Break, that we see before, during and after the Girls Gone Wild cameraman wake up and go home. The four girls at the core of this movie, are Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), and they're a little short on cash, and transportation to get to Spring Break. They're college students who spend their time in college, getting laid, or thinking about getting laid, or doing strange girls things in what will generously be called "sleeping wear" that''s patently erotic in the same way a baby voice from an adult woman is, or some people think it is. Well, one of them, Faith is religious, and consults her youth pastor (Pro wrestler Jeff Jarrett, and is it just me, or is there more strange pro wrestlers cast in movies than ever before?) before getting coerced into joining her sisters on the trip down to Florida. A trip that was financed by a little robbery and grand theft auto. (Actual auto theft, not the video game. [The things I feel the need to clarify nowadays]) At first, it's an amazing experience. A spiritual and orgasmic,- whatever that they seem to see or think they see, in this experience of everlasting parties, boozing, drugs and sex. The images reflected upon me, the well known photography series "Spring Broke" by Nathaniel Welch, Steve Appleford and Evan Wright, which depicted Spring Break is a much more realistic light. It might be natural for me to see things that way, given my more third person perspective on parties, even when I'm in the middle of them, but I think in this case, I have the correct perception. So does Korine I think, and that leads to the second half of the film, which is practically an entire different film,beginning with the four girls getting arrested after a motel party got raided. Surprisingly a gangster/rapper named Alien (James Franco, under all those dreadlocks and gold teeth) bails them out, and promises them an experience if they stick around, and a religious-like belief that the Utopia/Caligula of Spring Break, can really exist, forever. That sentence had a lot of big words, but basically, after enough footage of tits, beers and beer being poured onto tits, "Spring Breakers" become a gangster movie as rival gangsters head towards a shootout, and things get very real in that week. Faith, leaves early, suspecting the worse. A second only leaves after she gets caught up in crossfire, and the other two.... Well, I can't give the whole thing away, but watch it and make with it what you wish. I'm not sure what Korine's saying with this, other than, unfortunately doing what he does best, for the first half of the film, depicting the real behavior of teenagers and young people, or at least this drastic behavior that's seriously disturbing. I don't know what to make of the second half, I suspect that he simply needed to add a story so this deus ex machima of Alien was created. For what it's worth though, Franco's performance is mesmerizing in the role, possibly Oscar-worthy. What to make of "Spring Breakers"? It's certainly is provocative enough to insist on making us confront the question of this hedonistic ritual that you can find fairly equivalent events occurring every other day in Vegas if you know where to look or go. (Maybe another reason I'm more underwhelmed by Spring Break than others) I just don't have an answer. Korine's points are well-made and his vision is certainly uncompromising and memorable, as always. I am tempted to separate the movie into two halves the spring break half, and the gangster half, because judging this film in its entirety is somewhat more difficult. Whatever it is "Spring Breakers" has to be seen, whether documentary, warning, expose, or just another out-of-control vacation disguised as a new lifestyle choice, that's really just an old one that failed many many times before, "Spring Breakers" refuses to let you be a passive viewer. I'll recommend it for that, although I don't know what that amounts to. I'm not sure what these coeds think it amounts to either, but it whatever they think it is, it's less.


WHAT MAISIE KNEW (2013) Directors: Scott McGehee and David Seigel

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A reinterpretation of the Henry James novel, "What Maisie Knew", is one of the better movies I've seen about divorce and separation, especially from the kid's perspective. And it sticks with that kid's perspective, as the title indicates, the main character is Maisie (Onata Aprile, in her feature-film debut) the seven-year-old daughter of Susanna and Beale (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan). He's some sort of music executive who's job requires constant overseas travel, and Susanna is a rock'n'roll singer, and before I go any further there's a few things I have to praise about this film. First, the script, is spectacular. The way this scripts write the dialogue of the characters, and the way and moments when the Maisie character, hears these outpouring of anger and random flippant-ness and, just the tone of, those moments when a kid first realizes that the parents talk and treat you differently, then maybe they actually are or behave, is really spot-on. This begins with the script, moves secondly into the directing for knowing the ways to shoot some of these scenes. The directing team of McGehee & Seigel, aren't the most well-known household names; it's only the second film of there's I've seen after "Bee Season", from a few years ago, a movie I did like that was also about a child's perspective on a family that's in crisis, a very different film but that seems to be a common theme for them. The third thing, is the acting of the film, and there are four great performances in this film, by the main supporting characters. Beale, quickly marries the family's nanny, Margo (Joanna Vanderham) a move that Susanna isn't even aware of until Maisie goes to Beale's house for the week, and she's living there, and they're talking about a cruise honeymoon. In a quick response to Beale marrying a trophy wife, Susanna marries Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), a nice bartender, who was hanging out at one of those parties adults try to throw when the kids are supposedly in bed. I don't know whether to give too much away going forward here, but essentially what's happening to Maisie is that, there's two parents who do love her, but for really aren't capable of taking care of her, despite their best efforts. Beale travels too much to even take care of his new wife, much less a kid, and Susanna's preparing a new tour. What I really liked about how good the film is that, Maisie isn't used as a pawn here. The parents are in fact, fighting each other, and sabotaging each other if possible, but Maisie's merely a witness, who doesn't fully understand what's going on, and the two parents are trying to do what's best, but failing badly, and Maisie can only understand so much of these developments, between these four characters. And they are characters, everybody gets moments to shine as actors here, yet they are all supporting, and the way the movie does has certain character seem prevalent, then leave the movie, and brings new ones in...- There's a lot going on, and it's a great film! Coogan has a great scene at a restaurant, Julianne Moore is always great of course, this is a spectacular performance of hers, and she's got great scenes, and Skarsgard and Vanderham, they seem like the less juicy roles, and the less well-known actors (Skarsgard plays Eric on "True Blood", and this is my introduction to Vanderham's work) but they're very critical parts that have to be played very well, for us to care as much about them as we do. It's also one of those movies, where, you're constantly worried about certain possible cliched and/or bad plot developments, or having them done poorly or undercutting the film entirely if possible. I mean, you're counting it down and you're worried, "Don't do this, don't do this, here...." I won't give away my thoughts, but they don't do the things that could've that others films might've done. Really, across the board, I was incredibly impressed with "What Maisie Knew", this is a special film. Very highly recommending it.


SOMETHING IN THE AIR (2013) Director: Olivier Assayas

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(Defeated breath) I know I'm overloaded with films this week, and for the immediate future as well, and certain things are gonna slip through the cracks of my mind, and go in one ear, and right out the other. That said, filmmaking and a filmmaker's job should be to make sure that that doesn't happen as best as he can. Olivier Assayas's film "Something in the Air", yeah, it's not the worst movie by any means, I'm sure there's stuff I liked about it while watching it. He's made decent movies in the past, like "Summer Hours", but boy, (Swoosh, hand flies over my head) I mean, to make the '60s this forgettable? In Paris? Like everywhere else, there was a thought a revolution was in the air, and the movie follow a group of students and youngsters who were apart of the protests and strikes that riddled the country as Charles de Gaulle's government and officials, were caught in the crossfire, fighting both the trade union and the students. The after-effects were certainly memorable, but the movie is more about the waifing and disorientation of these students who struggle to find their paths and continue the revolution. That's the thing, why the movie is completely forgettable, the characters themselves are too distracted and barely present. The movie is aptly titled, "Something in the Air". That's a common refrain from the era, but like the movie, it isn't clear what or even why. Maybe that was the disillusionment of the time, but the characters should still have a more profound purpose, and the era, should just be setting, and not the point of the film to document it. It may document it well, but I couldn't care, and I'm not sure anybody else could either. Director Olivier Assayas, is a decent director; I enjoyed his film "Summer Hours", which had as much talking and meandering, but it made sense in the film, had a reason, and wasn't what the film was about. "Something in the Air," is incredibly well made, but has absolutely none of that. If someone asks me about "Something in the Air" in the future, I'll probably respond, "Is there"? or "Really, what is?" or "What do you mean?".

DON'T STOP BELIEVIN': EVERYMAN'S JOURNEY (2013) Director: Ramona S. Diaz

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Arnel Pineda realizes just what kind of strange and bizarre luck he's had. Back in 2008, after a previous failed singing career in Hong Kong, the Filipino cover song singer in Manilla was seen on Youtube, by one of the members of Journey. They flew him in from Manilla, and had him tryout, and sure enough, after a few sessions, he became their unlikely new lead singer for their latest tour and albums. I won't name names here, but I know a guy, who's a member of a band, that's- let's just say very professional in the way they go about music, and the business of music. I run into him occasionally and talk shop, and last time, he talked about replacing their band's lead singer, and how they had already picked the guy, jetted him out to Hawaii for a few weeks, while gigs and contracts with the current singer were exorcised, and gave him more legal paperwork to sort through than you can imagine. Anyway, he talked about the misperception of the importance of a lead singer in a rock band. It's a common misbelief that the singer is the core and essence of a bad, when in reality, they're fairly replaceable, as dozens of examples through history can be assured. That said, some lead singers are harder to replace than others. Steve Perry is a good example, and Journey replaced him multiple times now. They're in a bit of a bigger bind than most bands, because Perry's voice was so popular and distinctive that replicating it is a challenge, and if they have to go halfway around the world to find a voice that can, well- apparently they'll do it. "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey", is the story of Pineda, who came out for his first performance like a Jagger/Bruce Lee/Steve Perry firework in Chile in front of 20,000 people, and then slowly found his niche and spot in the legendary rock band. It's also another behind-the-scenes of a major tour-type films, and it's a good one. Pineda's story is one of the most interesting in recent rock history, and seeing this nobody-turned-folk hero to millions, frankly a good story, a good guy, it's enough for a good movie. The music and his singing doesn't hurt. It's a nice, feel-good story. I'm fond of the part where Arnel meets the guy who replaced Chicago's lead singer backstage, and they start swapping tales about joining world-famous rock bands, and replacing legendary members. Pineda might be an unlikely rock star, but he's a rock star now, and good for him. He's talented, he deserves it. Amazing what youtube can do these days.

GRACELAND (2013) Director: Ron Morales

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When I read the description of "Graceland", on netflix.com, which states, "When criminals accidentally abduct the daughter of chauffeur Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes), instead of the daughter of his longtime boss Manuel Chango (Menggie Cobarrubias), a corrupt Filipino politician, Marlon finds himself caught up in a nightmare of deception and betrayal." I figured, "Hmm, worst case scenario, it's a remake of Kurosawa's "High and Low", so it can't be that bad. Well, it's not exactly a remake of "High and Low", but it's certainly not bad. When the kidnappping happens, Manuel's daughter Sophie (Patricia Gayod) is killed during the kidnapping, as the kidnappers thought they were killing Marlon's daughter. There's some quick thinking however, once they realize their mistake and convince Marlon to keep quiet about Sophie's death, or his daughter Elvie (Ella Guevara) will be killed. So, he now, in order to save his daughter's life, has to make it seem like Maniel's daughter is the one alive, and that his is killed, at least until the ransom is paid. The movie isn't about the whodunit, or the howyacatchem, but the personal struggle for Marlon, who's actually devoted to his boss, but can't jeopardize his or his family's future, but he's put in multiple no win situations that have to play out. There's more to the film, like the actions of Manuel, and how he inspired the kidnappers to go to such violent and drastic lengths. Still, if you took a lot of this away, the style of the movie feels more action-influenced than psychological after awhile, and I think that's a misstep from Director Ron Morales; it's his second film as a director, and yes, he is Filipino, despite the Spanish-sounding name. (Spain once occupied the islands many years ago, they have an unusual amount of influence in the coutnry.) There isn't too much else to say about the film. It eventually becomes little more than a good bu typical film, but for most of it, it's edge-on-your-seat excitement, so I'm definitely recommending it. Good film by a good young filmmaker, but not much more than that.

EVOCATEUR: THE MORTON DOWNEY JR. MOVIE (2013) Directors: Seth Miller, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newburger

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(Sly smile, chuckle under breath) Well, well. One of those reminders that, there really isn't anything that's truly new in television. I will be dating myself a bit here, but I actually do remember Morton Downey Jr. Not so much the original and most fascination incarnation of his groundbreaking talk show, but some of the later and less remember attempted rebirths of them in the early nineties. Morton Downey Jr. was Glenn Beck, long before there was a Glenn Beck, or a Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity at the time. His talk show, and you gotta remember the times here, this was late eighties, and this when talk shows truly ruled television. "Donahue", "Sally Jesse Raphael," "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was just starting, many many others at that time. People don't realize, not like today, there were dozens. If you account for how few channels, regular and basic there was at the time, there was about as many talk show on TV everybody as there regularly is, reality TV now. That's a good equivalent. Morton Downey, Jr., was the really first confrontation talk show host of the era however. There had been others previous, like Joe Pyne, who was known for belittling and slinging accusations and yelling at his guests, but Morton was a character. I wouldn't call him on the complete Rush Limbaugh bandwagon of the era, although he was-eh, what you'd consider a libertarian although he'd go after both sides more often than his spawns do now. Famous confrontation with the likes of Al Sharpton and others occurred on his shows. Fight, nudity, a screaming cult-like audience that one critic called "A talk show with a hockey audience", that originated in Secaucus, New Jersey, and was the perfect forum for the hormonal angry teenagers to let off their pent-up sexual frustrations with. Downey was the first to dance the line between portraying a character as a talk show host or being real, and created this exploitative slanted television that we see now in things like Fox News. He portrayed the people's pent-up frustrations and stood up for the little guy, but oddly he wasn't like that at all. He was a musician/songwriter of folk rock, and his father a famous nightclub singer who would hang with the Kennedys. Morton was in the room when Ted Kennedy won his '68 reelection to the Senate. He could sing too, but not as good as his father. but somehow he found himself at the very beginning of the AM Talk radio movement, which evolved into his grimy and obsessive talk show, which started as a more confrontation Donahue, but would devolve into the early influence of Jerry Springer by the end. He's bump his guests with his stomach, and blow smoke in their face, and insult his audience and guests. What little I remember of him, was memorable, and "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie" relieves these moments and his life from the beginning of his show, to his lung cancer surgeries and deaths later in life. His death very ironic, considering his signature smoking and blowing the cigarette smoke into guests faces he didn't like. When I saw him doing anti-smoking commercials, years after being forgotten, it was surreal, yet unsurprising. If people had heard about his death, and not that many were paying attention at the time, there'd be an easy-to-understand majority of people who were probably smirking at the prospect. (Myself included) This documentary brings up back to that era, talks to some of his most famous guests and some of the audience members, and others. It uses lots of kinds of filmmaking and editing, including animation at a few points, which is accurate considering the cartoon he had become. His last real headline before his death, was his show's cancellation amid speculation, and eventually admitting that he faked a supposed attack on him by skinheads in a public bathroom. (Which was faked, we find out officially here) This was after he went after the famous girl who lied about white cops having raped her in New York City back in the '80s. Whether you liked him or hated him at the time or now (And I'm in the latter on both), he was an important name in the evolution (or de-evolution) of modern television, and his influence is everywhere, and it should be more well-known. "Evocateur..." is a very good reminder of him and his work, and it's definitely worth seeing. A good TV history lesson.



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