Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MOVIE REVIEWS #86: "I'M SO EXCITED!", "THE BIG PICTURE", "ALPS" and MORE!

Some of you noticed that I delayed posting my regularly schedule reviews this week by a post. Well, it's frustrating lately, and I wish I was simply behind, but I still haven't gotten my Netflix back, so I've been scouring Roku and everywhere else just to find things to knock off my Netflix, and frankly, most of the films I'm reviewing this week, well, they aren't the newest of releases. I'm already fairly handicapped in regards to my ability to get out to the movies as it is, (I mean, obviously if I can't afford Netflix...) so, let's just say this has not been my favorite batch of RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS this week, and frankly, I didn't want to put out an inferior product. I alright thought the last batch was weak, and I'm so far behind on last year, much less, this year, that not watching enough from last year,- well, I don't like it how it looked.

So, that was already in my mind, and then, there were a couple more bruises to my ego. A couple people on FB complained/made light of the way I use CAPITAL LETTERS selectively, when I post my blogposts on Facebook (And here occasionally), and one person called it ugly, and then blocked me completely, for reasons I will never understand, and after I explained the significance of it. For those who don't know, it's two-fold, part one, it's advertising, so you need to stick out in some ways, and people notice capitalized words better than lowercase, and B, the way I use them, is to imitate the look of a screenplay. Most of you know I'm a screenwriter by trade, but if you never read script, capital letters are used quite often in script, including in the action passages, although most likely, scene locations and characters names are where it's used most, and this varies from screenwriter to screenwriter, but a lot of them, also capitalize important moments of actions or emotions and tones, things that they believe are particular crucial elements to the scene, either for the filmmakers or the actors or whatever, so to me, it's a representation of who I am, to post my blog descriptions like that. I know it's not UGLY, as one condescending person wrote, so that pissed me the fuck off. And as much as I work at this, for some to be, so damn... I don't know.  I also asked my audience, and posted in a few of the more active FB film groups to ask questions to me for a question-and-answer blog, and nobody asked me anything, so that idea went out the window. There's other things going on too, most of it beyond my control, although frankly it's effecting me; so on top of not watching what I want to watch/write about, and the fact that most of the movies I could find elsewhere sucked, and there was a reason they were at the bottom of my Netflix queue and...- (frustrated sigh) I'm rambling. I'm sorry about that.

Listen, my problems are my problems, I just wish it wouldn't effect me so much here, but sometimes I have to vent, 'cause when you have times like these, that make you feel like throwing it all away and quitting, it's great to have an outlet. I know, it gets better; I know that's cliche, but it does, and frankly, good movies will always change my outlook, so here's to a better next week. And I did watch some decent stuff, so here we go, this week's edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


I'M SO EXCITED! (2013) Director: Pedro Almodovar

✰✰1/2



I think sometimes, Pedro Almodovar likes to simply dive into film history and make his unique take on a genre. "I'm So Excited!" is somewhere between a sex farce meets "Airplane!". Well, maybe not "Airplane!", probably "The High and the Mighty" or "Airport", without the real drama of whether or not the plane will go down. We're pretty certain most of the way, that the stewardess and pilots and business class passengers wouldn't be talking so much about blow jobs if they were all gonna die. The plane is supposed to go from Madrid to Mexico City, but due to an unforeseen situation on the ground, involving some great Almodovar cameos, the flight's landing gear was properly stored or put away, and it can't come out. So, they circle Toledo, Spain for awhile, while they drug the economy class passengers and try to entertain the sparse but intriguing and often difficult crew. The title comes from the Pointer Sisters song, that at one point, they start the three gay flight attendants, Joserra, Fajas and Ulloa (Javier Camarra, Raul Arevado and Carlos Areces) perform, music video style in the aisles (and the music video is probably Foo Fighters "Learn to Fly") and seats of business class, hoping to calm the passengers. There's numerous storylines to sorta keep track of, like a high-class prostitute Norma Bass (Cecilia Roth), who's afraid that the plane going down might be apart of a conspiracy to kill her because of some of the people on client list and the 600+ clients she has among the elite of society. Meanwhile, there's another passenger who's fleeing the country 'cause of his banking fraud that's about to go down, while there's another who feels this will be an important flight, and will include her losing her virginity, the odds become more likely that'll happen, after they're all drugged with a relaxant that makes them all horny as well, and this leads to one of the strangest orgy scenes in recent history. "I'm So Excited!" is not one of Almodovar's special works, it's really almost a throwaway experiment than anything else. It's got a few good jokes and scenes, but everything thrown together for no real reason, other than to have this little party of stereotypes, and it always seems to back away from really going at it. It's not a bad film, but since we more-than-know what Almodovar is capable of, while it's nice to see him tackle a straight-up fun comedy, he could've gone so much further. I think he might fell in love too much with the characters actually, and instead of the door-slamming farce (Or, curtain-pulling is probably more accurate for a plane ride) instead, we kinda get, glimpses of what the film could've been. It could've been "Noises Off..." on a plane, and instead it's kinda just, Almodovar playing with the idea of a farce and an airplane movie, and in neither case, should the characters be that lovable.


THE BIG PICTURE (2012) Director: Eric Lartigau

✰✰1/2



I know why some people have been continually comparing Eric Lartigau's "The Big Picture" to "The Talented Mr. Ripley", but, boy that really is the wrong comparison for this film. Both are about people who switch identities and commit murder but that's about where it ended for me. Tom Ripley was a sociopath, whose actions were based on a primal fascination with human nature, and his taking of other peoples' personalities was apart his lone anthropological-like interest, which made him fascinating, because he was an inhuman character, anthropologically fascinated with humanity. This movie, the main character, Paul Exban (Romain Duris) has a fairly ordinary upper class existence as a lawyer, with a wife Sarah (Marina Fois) and some kids, but he's relatively bored with his life. He then finds out that his wife is having an affair with the neighbor Gregoire. (Eric Ruf) He then accidentally kills the guy. He's a professional war photographer, and he then takes over his life, so as to hide the murder, but what he really wants is to be able to reinvent himself, and while, there's a lot of blowing up, and more murdering and nearly getting killed, it's a lot more exciting life for him. Good for him, it wasn't for us. And that's really the problem, this guy isn't interesting enough of a protagonist. The movie this film, should've been borrowing from was Michelangelo Antonioni's great film "The Passenger" with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider where Nicholson, on a random whim, switches identities with a recently deceased man, and his friends think he's passed, and he's exploring his freedom. This guy, back into the identity switching situation, which he ironically knew way too many people to readily help him with to begin with, like the mysterious Catherine Deneuve character, who's almost a female version of the secret agency contact character in "La Femme Nikita", and not that interesting a version either, she mostly sits at a restaurant, eats with Paul, and then says exposition. And then, the ending is rather clumsily an attempt to reverse all this that Paul's done and reunite him with his family. It is rather clumsy in general, but it's well-made enough, that I could've recommend it, had the protagonist, been the least bit compelling to begin with. "The Big Picture" isn't really that big.


ALPS (2012) Director: Giorgos Lanthimos

✰✰✰




A lot has been written about the absurd nature of Giorgos Lanthimos's "Alps", and it certainly is, although strangely, certain parts of the film, actually did work on me. I was already somewhat prepared for the theater of the absurd, as this is the same filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated "Dogtooth", which was about a family that purposefully insulated their kids from the outside world, and then trained them,- yes, trained is the right word, as oppose to raise, train purposefully, incorrectly on the ways of the outside world, like the wrong definition of words for instance. "Alps" isn't nearly that-, that- Um,...- (Hmm. I'm gonna have to work on that adjective for awhile), although it can be disorienting, and when you think back on it,- well, if you can think back on.... The film begins with rhythmic gymnast (Ariane Lebed, her, and most of the characters in the film, aren't given names.) who's performing beautifully, but is arguing with her coach (Johnny Vekris), because she wants to perform to a pop song, as oppose to the more traditional and overbearing classical number. When Coach says that he'll beat her over the head and brake her arms and legs for talking back to him, and the next shot takes place inside an ambulance on a close-up of a bloody, head-bandaged victim, we fear that he might literally done it. It was a tennis pro, who was involved in a car accident instead. However, she gets involved through the Nurse (Aggelika Papoulia) with an underground program called "Alps", which is a meaningless title. The group's main objective is to work essentially as surrogates for recently deceased relatives of people and families, in order to help them grieve. We see them in rehearse, and then in practice, as apparently, they're given numerous lines and situation to repeat from the deceased, memories, reimagined in script form, and in many occasions, they occasionally involve other people, and other, they're darker moments. Sometimes, very dark, mentally and physically. Believe it or not, there were two things this actually reminded me of, and strangely they both involve people in the sex industry. One, is sex surrogates, like the one Helen Hunt played marvelously recently in "The Sessions". The other would be dominatrices. A dominatrix will usually meet with a client, who has a prepared list of wants from them, fantasy fulfillments essentially, and like the Alps, their work often involves a script too, and generally don't have sex with their clients; they're just playing a part. (What? I learned about it watching the first couple seasons of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl", it's a really good show, you should watch it. Billie Piper's good in it. I hear she was in some other shows now, but it's that one was really interesting and informative. Besides, I live in Vegas, I have a few friends who...- Nevermind)  The Alps are basically a cross between these two jobs, and switched from arousal to grief, being the-eh, catalysts emotion that the surrogate are there to help cure, so in some ways, while the ideas of the film are certainly in the surreal, it's not as surreal as it looks. In some ways that's disappointing considering the more powerful "Dogtooth", and a lot of it's doesn't really connect, but it's an interesting little film.


DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988) Director: Stephen Frears

✰✰✰1/2



No matter how many versions I seem to watch of "Dangerous Liaisons", and I think this one, by far the most famous version, it never totally works on me. It's a good movie, and I think finally know why it doesn't particularly work on me. This version, directed by Stephen Frears was an Oscar-winning adaptation from Christopher Hampton's stage play, and I think the material, does work better on stage, than it does on screen. If this were all, in the intimate setting of a theater, where we really get to see the performers, performing this material and all their actions and nuances, in very close proximity, we would have a much more visceral approach to the events, than we do here, where we get very good performance, but they're edited with close-up and long takes and angles and shadowing. It deflates from their actions and what they're really doing. Instead of the intricacies of why these character are playing these disturbing sexual games. The Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Oscar-nominee Glenn Close) has hired her ex and close confidant Vicomte (John Malkovich) to seduce Cecile (Uma Thurman) a young virgin who's seduce her latest ex-boyfriend, Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny (Keanu Reeves)  because of her virtuousness. They've played and toyed with people for years with such liaisons like this, although this one is a particular challenge, even for the notorious Vicomte. While, he's working on the seduction, he happens to fall for Madame de Tourval (Oscar-nominee Michelle Pfeiffer) another rival of Isabelle, and she happens to be married and also wants to be faithful to her husband. That doesn't stop him, but eventually, something surprising to everyone happens, and that he falls for Madame de Tourval, and truly wants to be with her. These are two characters that barely have any human decency, much less emotions, they're conquerors who rape and pillage, and instead of land, it's other people. So this is a huge disturbance, although Isabelle has always been in love with Vicomte, but refuses to remarry 'cause she loves the power she has over other people more. I always seem to have trouble with a lot of these aristocratic period pieces about how the people behind the thrones are maneuvering the powerful. I think I've always despised most anything involving Henry VIII over the years, and to some extent this is no exception, and I understand that these sort of things did happen, and happen now even, that's why they were so easily able to adapt this story, in any time frame and with any world. "Cruel Intentions" was a remake of this story in high school, and the sad part was that it wasn't that unbelievable. It just feels so petty, that we have a really hard time, especially on film, 'cause I must stress that these kinds of characters work better on stage, caring about any of the characters. Our two leads are disgusting people, and the rest of the cast and small and shallow enough to buy into their actions. I think Uma Thurman gave the best performance of the group; her character was probably the toughest, and she found the right notes for that part, almost like she was the French version of a Tennessee Williams heroine. (Which btw, if anybody's gonna remake this story again, that world would be an interesting location.) It's a well-made film, and it's exquisitely-made, and most of the reservations I have personally are with the story itself, and the trickiness involved in adapting it to film, so I'm gonna recommend it.


EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987) Director: Steven Spielberg

✰✰✰



While it has it's fans and defenders, despite six Oscar nominations, "Empire of the Sun" has kinda been forgotten in the Spielberg canon,  and it probably should stay forgotten. It's not a bad film, in fact, in many ways, it's classic Spielberg, but, it pales to his far more compelling films. "Empire of the Sun" takes place during the Japanese-China war in 1941 Shanghai. Young Jim (Christian Bale) is the son of British aristocrats who live in China and have brought over their traditions and culture, which is a stiff upper lip, a mansion, masquerade parties, and lots of servants. Jim has a fascination with airplanes, and plays with a toy one often. He finds a crash airplane in a field at one point, and is just as fascinated and awestruck by the planes as they come roaring over bombarding the town. In traditional Spielberg fashion, he gets left behind, and loses his parents in a crowd, as eventually, the Japanese start rounding up the locals, and even take his home. Eventually, he ends up in a P.O.W. camp, with the help of Basie (John Malkovich) a rather Fagan-like character who's a slick schemer and manages to use his many skills to survive through the war, while promising to get Jim back to his parents. It takes a while though, and at one point, when he confesses that he doesn't remember what his parents look like anymore, we reflect that, we really don't remember either. That's a sad state on the traditional studies in the child caring skills among the aristocracy as it is a sad tale of war. Oddly, the Spielberg film I was surprised this most resembled to me was "A.I. Artificial Intelligence", which is also about a kid trying to get back home. Ironically, that film was so effective, perhaps too effective, because, while the kid in that film, was an artificial lifeform, the family focused and cared for the child and he actually had a family life that, when he lost it, was actually crushing to him, and to us. Jim, is just as interested in the objects of his possible escape from his household, the airplanes, as he is his family, if not moreso. "Empire of the Sun", also had the misfortune of coming out the same year as a truly great film about China and Chinese culture clashing with the growing Western influence, "The Last Emperor", and that film still holds up well. "Empire..." is an interesting curiosity, it was one of the first really ambition Hollywood epics that Spielberg made, but it's uneven and unfocused. It probably made for a better book than a film, as it's a decent episodic story, but trying to focus in on it is painful. I think Spielberg was just as confused by the lack of a through-line story, and I don't blame him; this probably was a stronger book than it could ever have been a film, and Spielberg probably did the best anybody could've. And you know, something else that bothered me, and this is really gonna sound mean, and I'm glad that he's become what he's becomes, and he's one of my favorite actors, but I don't think Christian Bale was all that good in the film. I know that's a weird and somewhat mean thing to say about a kid actor, and thankfully he did become Christian Bale, but he always seems to just, have his a little over-the-top when I think if he was more understated during many crucial scenes, it would've been a stronger performance.


LA RONDE (1951) Director: Max Ophuls

✰✰✰



Max Ophuls's "La Ronde" moved up on my watchlist a little earlier than I originally intended awhile back, after I had seen two films in relatively succession of each other. In fact, they were in such succession, that when I reviewed both films, Daniel Meirelles's "360" and Ken Kwapis's "Sexual Life", they both ended up on the same Random Weekly Movie Review blog. The one below in fact.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/12/movie-reviews-51-life-of-pi-brave.html

Both films were direct remakes of "La Ronde". Well, direct remakes is a little bit deceptive, because while there are similar elements to each version, like the conflicts between sex lives and class statuses, but the main seminal aspect of the film, as well as the original groundbreaking play by Arnold Schnitzler was the hyperlink storytelling structure, in the way the film is basically a loose assemblage of short stories, that are all interconnected through characters. So, we'd meet one character, and see what he/she was up to, and then from their, we'd eventually meet another character and get a glimpse at their current experiences, and then another and another and so on, eventually, like the merry-go-round that our narrator, Raconteur (Anton Walbrook, an addition narrative character not in the original theatrical production) stands on as he introduces one story to another. Like all collections, essentially of shorts, only about half the stories really intrigued me, so, for that reason, I'm only partially recommending it, and I also had trouble with the choice of a stageset for the film, as well as this occasional 4th wall breaking and the meta nature of how they occasionally pointed out that we're watching stories, and a movie once in a while. That was probably, not-so-much groundbreaking, but it was certainly unusual for the time, but it doesn't really hold up well on film. When we're watching a play, we can be transformed into other worlds from the acting as well as the sets, so to blatantly set up a theatrical stage, as your theater stage, it takes us a bit out of the experience. Of the versions of this story I've seen, and there are actually more direct remakes, I think Meirelles's "360" was the best accomplishment, not just because of the stories and the hyperlinking, but also because, with that added twist, of location-changing for each story, and all around the world as well, leaves the movie somewhat with a more intriguing metaphor and actually, it's an improvement from the 1800's Vienna that the tales originally took place in. Don't get me wrong, some films with this structure, are great at narrowing their world purview to, cities, like some of Robert Altman's best films like "Nashville" and "Short Cuts" for instance, but this felt like too many layers to me. Which is a shame considering how Ophuls, one of the great romantics of cinema, like his best film, the masterful "Earrings of Madame De...", "La Ronde" really does in their short snippets carry some wonderful little pieces that confront many of our notions of love. "La Ronde" means simple "The Round" in English, and like the ways our emotions and our passions can circulate, so can the world around us, and even us around the world. "La Ronde" is an important film, although it's somewhat problematic, it's still good and still worth watching for the ways it's influenced other, better films.


STEALTH (2005) Director: Rob Cohen

ZERO STARS



Believe it or not, despite being one of the biggest Hollywood bombs in recent years, "Stealth" actually did make money, earning back its cost in overseas business, eventually. It's become a point of reference when the business side of film in many film classes, and was a constant discussion point in many of my old classes. With a 9-digit budget, that originated as a film version of the video game "Star Fox", "Stealth" deserved to bomb. It had the terrible timing of Jamie Foxx having won an Oscar by the time the film got released, so the American advertising for the film, positioned him as though he was the star, when in fact, not only is he not the star, he's play the worst kind of African-American stereotypes in film, the nice, the black friend/co-worker who dies early. And that's maybe the fourth or fifth worst thing about "Stealth". The film is about the Navy's three best tactical fighter pilots, these guys jobs is to everyday, risk life, limb, and getting exposed by other governments, swarm in, blow things up real good in places like Myanmar and Tajikistan, under the cover of stealth planes, which means that, their planes don't get picked up by radars. There's something offensive about naming those two places btw. "Myanmar" is locked in by it's crazy leader, but they're not stockpiling threatening weapons, and Tajikistan, is pretty secluded and while there's a few crazed ones there, again, nothing the would insinuate military action be needed, but the movie thinks the audience is basically too stupid to know that. The pilot crew is Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Lt. Henry Purcell (Foxx). Kara is the star, and she and Ben are a couple. And now, a new member of their crew is an automated self-contained, self-learning drone plane, who soon begins to have a mind of it's own. At one point, this plane kills thousands, and puts all three pilots lives in danger, basically acting as a combination of Hal 9000, and Joshua from "WarGames". I just run down the list now. The two stars are boring and uninteresting. The special effects are terrible, I've seen "Thunderbirds" episode with better-looking effects. The modern rock music is just way-the-fuck the wrong decision for this movie. Couldn't have picked worst music for this film if they went with-, no they picked the worst possible music for this film. The explosions are even boring. The planes and the flying don't look realistic at all. It's a bunch of bad cliches, and the way everybody treats Henry's death afterwards, never rings true. Foxx is so little in this movie, that his character isn't established really. He's there essentially to be there and then die, and everybody, including the bad guy, is sad about his death, and they don't even really explain why he's worth mourning over. Oh, and he talks about prime numbers being lucky numbers. (Somebody tell that to 13, but what the fuck, that was dumb.) Oh, and the dialogue sucked, everyone's dialogue! Nothing in this rang remotely believable enough to even care. Sam Shepherd's the bad guy, who's putting his career on the line with the EDI, the out-of-control drone plane, even he's the most layered character, and basically his demise, occur in such a way, that, they basically ran out of things for him to do, so they pushed him to the side. This movie doesn't even do the Randy Feldman "Kill the bad guys in ascending order of baddest" rule particularly well. I don't even know why I'm giving this film 1/2 a STAR. You know, I'm not, screw it. I've only given 4 or 5 of these, but I'm changing it to zero. I mean, what was here to defend? It's no even so, it's entertaining. It's nothing. It's title is perfect, that's it really. It's stealth, it comes into your airspace, and you don't even notice it. I wish it stayed that way for me.


SITA SINGS THE BLUES (2009) Director: Nina Paley

✰✰✰✰✰



Few movies I remember Roger Ebert writing about more than "Sita Sings the Blues", the independent animated film from Nina Paley. It ran around the Awards circuit for a full year, and actually was released on DVD before hitting New York theaters, and getting nominated for the "Someone to Watch" Spirit Award, and it's the most unique animated films I've ever seen. It was caught up in some controversy over the copyright usage of some of the songs, and it a musical. There's three parts of the movie. The first is the story of Sita (Reena Shah) from the Ramayana, which I think I read at some point, but it's a study much more ingrained in Indian culture, although even among the narrators (Aseem Chhabra, Bhavana Nagulapally, and Manish Acharya) there's debate and discussion, and a struggle to recall all of the exact details of the epic. It's a tale of how Sita continues to stay loyal to her husband despite numerous temptations and troubles, but her husband, despite numerous degrading and humiliating tests, he never believed her, and continually treated her more and more coldly. The narration, seems improvised completely, and I'd be shocked if I found out that it wasn't; it feels like it was a long and funny discussion that got animated later. The second part is the animation and is quite special. It's 2-Dimensional, but it done unusually. The cityscapes are different, even the two cats that appear in the film are of two different techniques. The narrator's are shadow puppets that seems like they were animated from Terry Gilliam, and the strange technique of Sita, almost looking like an older wind-up toy, that has exaggerated features that it dance, in a rhythm like it's run on a metronome. And Sita sings and dances. The songs that break up each new part of the story are songs from Annette Hanshaw, an old jazz singer from the '20s and '30s. The film is a musical; it's got as much music as a Bollywood movie, and like those film, despite it's short, short, length, it has an intermission, and it's one of the few intermissions I've seen in a film. The third part of the story, is the autobiographical part where Nina Paley herself, goes through a bad breakup, when her husband, living in San Francisco moves to India for a temporary job. After a few months, she goes to visit and live with him, but he's cold to her, and when she has a work trip to Brooklyn for a few weeks, she e-mails her to not come back. She's heartbroken and depressed, calling desperately to India begging to be taken back. Eventually, she gets on her feet, by reading up on Sita and numerous interpretations and analysis on "The Ramayana", which she obviously feels a deep connection to, relating her personal tragedies to Sita. You think Alanis Morissette would've taught people this lesson by now, but never piss off an artist, it will not end well. "Sita Sings the Blues" is truly a special film, one of the most fun, unique and even personal animated movies I've ever seen. I can see where Roger Ebert was coming from here; I wish I had gotten to "Sita Sings the Blues" earlier, but I didn't have too. The movie was a pioneer in streaming on the internet, and was one of the first films to make it's filmmaker money by being available on as many outlets as possible at once. So, I took my time. I once said that a good movie will be good no matter when you see it, and while I did jump on it earlier, that's because of how good it is.


LA BAMBA (1987) Director: Luis Valdez

✰✰✰



Some people think that, music superstars who are high school age, began with Britney Spears, but that's not true, however the saddest example is also one of rock'n'roll's earliest. I remember watching the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony back in '01, when they inducted Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Ricky Martin went on and performed three songs of his, "Come On, Let's Go", "Donna" and of course, his most famous song "La Bamba", and then Martin inducted Valens, and his surviving family members accepted the award, and the real sad part was that, Martin,  had pretty much sang almost his entire catalog of songs in six-seven minutes right there. Michael Jackson's technically the youngest inductee ever, but Valens only lived to be 17, before dying infamously in the same plane crash that took that took out Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, outside Clear Lake, Iowa, immortalized as "The Day The Music Died". Valens's real name was Richard Valenzuela; he was a Mexican-American from Southern California by the orange groves which he occasionally got work picking, and in some ways, according to the film, he was doomed to die in an airplane. One of his friends from school died on a basketball court when, he happened to be at his grandfather's funeral when two plane collided over the court and he died from fallen debris. He's afraid to fly, although he loves to drive fast. He adores his older brother, Bob (Esai Morales) partly 'cause he drives a fast motorcycle, but at this point, he's become disillusioned with his drinking, and his abusive ways towards his pregnant wife Rosie (Elizabeth Pena). It's probably not the greatest move to focus on the flying for a man who's life was cut so short, but, it was a short life too. We do meet the love of his life, Donna (Danielle von Zerneck), who he wrote the legendary ballad for. She was a middle-class white girl from school, who's father (Sam Anderson) doesn't approve of Ritchie. He begins performing, originally as apart of a band, and mostly for his guitar playing, before proving himself as a singer. He was a self-taught musician, who untrained vocals were innovative, and his guitar playing in some ways was way ahead of its time. (If you ever hear his instrument "Fast Freight", recorded originally under a difference alias, Arvee Allens, it's quite amazing considering when it was made, and his age.) Hey made few performances, although a couple were on television. He conquered his fear of flying for "American Bandstand" a couple times, and performed for an Alan Freed showcase. (There's also a good cameo by Brian Setzer, playing another doomed teenage rock star who died too young, the great Eddie Cochran.) Los Lobos, famously did the music for the movie, and it's their voice heard during the film. His most famous hit "La Bamba", was originally a Mexican folk song he heard on his one trip to Tijuana, although ironically, he sang it in Spanish, but he didn't speak the language and learned it phonetically. I don't blame the filmmakers; I think this was about as good a film that could be made about Valens, but I think I learned about as much as I knew ahead of time going into the film. They don't mention that he was the star on the rise during the Winter Dance Tour that ultimately killed him, and was actually the big headliner as Holly's career, while bigger at one time, was on the decline at that moment. (They still haven't made "The Big Bopper Story" btw. Just saying, I like "Chantilly Lace"; it'd be nice if someone made it.) That's  In one of his early performances in the film, Valens actually sings Holly's "Oh Boy". I don't know if that was true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. "La Bamba" is a good, albeit not a great film. There's some good acting though, although Phillips is very green in this film, his first starring and one of his very earliest film roles; I think he's one of our most underrated actors, but you can see him struggling occasionally, but he's still amazing. I wish I saw him more often in films, but I can say that about a lot of the cast.

WOMEN IN TROUBLE  (2009) Director Sebastien Gutierrez




Sebastien Gutierrez gives us all the look of great lipstick pop pulp imagery made famous by the likes of Tarantino and a few others, but he has none of the ability to make us care about his, "characters". I put that in quotes, 'cause this is the second film of his I've seen after the dreadful "Girl Walks Into a Bar", and both films have numerous caricatures, which, if we're lucky, on the very rare occasion have something interesting happen with/about/by them. They're montage movies, somewhat Altmanesque, or "La Ronde"-esque, where they move from one story and one character to another and another, usually with an unnecessary interconnected web between them. And it's scary to me that he directs these kinds of films, considering he clearly does have the ability to tell a full story straight if he wanted to.This one, was popular, probably because of it's availability on the internet, it's sexy cover and title, and the fact that some of the events revolve around the porn industry. The fact that, one character, a porn star named Electra Luxx (Carla Gugino) would spin off into her own movie from Gutierrez makes me even more convinced that he's actually filming, scripts that, probably weren't meant to be filmed. That seems weird, but occasionally a script like that gets written on purpose; the idea of these scripts is to be a sample or showcase of the multiple talents of the writer/writers. So they, almost surely have multiple narratives threads that interconnected decent enough, show beginning middle and ends, are less than 100 pages, hopefully shorter, and part of the script is dramatic, part of it is romantic, part of it is comedy, part of it is a different kind of comedy, etc. etc. I've seen some myself that range from romance drama to stoner comedies in the same script. They're meant to get the writers jobs or commissions to write other scripts, or possibly for script doctoring on other films. This tells me that, he should've just decided to develop the Electra Luxx character into a feature-length film all along, instead of being, one of numerous side characters in this film. Here, she finds out she's pregnant with her rock star boyfriend, Nick Chapel's (Josh Brolin) kid. He ends up dropping dead mid-orgasm in an airplane while in the bathroom with stewardess Cora (Marley Shelton). She ends up stuck in an elevator with a masseuse, Doris (Connie Britton). There's also another porn star, a younger airhead one, Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki) who's kinda like if Rollergirl was inspired to get into porn because she watched porn, and is now having trouble at the prospects of working with idol, while also balancing a side-career as a part-time hooker. There's also a therapist named Addy (Caitlin Keats) who catches her husband, having an affair with a patience's mother. All of these, hypothetically, could've sounded somewhat interesting but they're not. They're moderately entertaining on the page, certainly not on the screen. So much so, that the only truly memorable part of the movie, isn't even apart of the movie. The only quote on the film's imdb.com page, occurs after the credits, during an parody interview segment feature Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as the reporter of some porno news website. When the best scene in the movie is after the credits....



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