Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I passed the 3100 film mark on my list with these collections the movies this week. That's the first piece of news. Also, major news, we've been getting a lot of hits lately, and with this upcoming Oscar season starting to kick into full scene, as well, other major news stories across the entertainment spectrum, we here at David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews have a major announcement, that we are on TWITTER!

Actually, I've just been told that this apparently isn't that big a deal. It's sort of like Facebook, it was set up for free, but there will more immediate throughts from David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews, on twitter. According, to some people I have a tendency to ramble apparently, but I assure you 140 words is just more than enough to get some thought-, what do you mean it's not words? Characters! 140 CHARACTERS, like LETTERS! And spaces! Are you F***ing kidding me! That's barely a sentence! Who can say anything in that 140 G**d*** f***ing letters! This Twitter is a piece of s- (LOUD PROLONGUED BEEP)

Note: Portions of this blog have been edited out on the advice of council. Thank you. We will now return you to your regularly scheduled blog!

Follow us on twitter at DavidBaruffi_EV, and we will follow you as well. And now, onto this week's reviews!

UNKNOWN (2011) Director: Jaume Collet-Serra


Not that I'm complaining about it, but did I miss the meeting when we decided that Liam Neeson was to be the next action/thriller star? Like, I said, I'm not complaining, I'm just curious. He's one of the greatest actors alive; he's played Oskar Schindler, Alfred Kinsey, Michael Collins, and Jean Valjean, among others, and suddenly everytime I see him now, he's in some kind action or thriller movie. "Taken," "Clash of the Titans," "Batman Begins," and now, in "Unknown," playing a man who gets into an automobile accident, and awakes three days later to find that somebody else (Aiden Quinn) has seemingly taken his place. Even his wife (January Jones) doesn't recognize him. Is he suffering from temporary amnesia, or is everybody else just lying? In the beginning, we see him and his wife arrive at a Berlin hotel, for a biochemist conference. He doesn't go inside. He's left his bag at the airport, so he hails a cab, only to have the cab spinoff into a river. He's saved by the cab driver (Diane Kruger), an immigrant who he tries to track down, to show his appreciation, as well as ask her what happened. Just as he's convinced that he might not be Dr. Martin Harris, (Neeson) he tries to undergo tests, only to find people suddenly killing the nurse and everybody around him, except for him. If he isn't trying to find out who he is, or who is taking his place and why, people just seem to be trying to kill him. This sounds a little like "The Bourne Identity," and it is a bit. He ends up hiring a private eye, (Bruno Ganz) to try and look into his background, but he apparently might be involved in whatever coverup this is. It seems to involve at least one of the members of the conference, and just as we start to think we've solved this mystery, Frank Langella shows up, and gets us started up again. If you think back at "Unknown," you'll find more than a few holes in the logic, but this is still a fairly curious and intense thriller for much of the film. There's also some really good action sequences, including a particularly great one that takes place in an airport parking garage, that had a piece of action that I hadn't seen before. Also, there's some pretty good performances, from an all-together really strong cast. (I'm not sure there's a better actress working right now who's better at playing icy than January Jones) This is the first film by director Jaume Collet-Serra that I've seen; he directed the remake of "House of Wax," a few years ago with Paris Hilton; I somehow missed that one. This is a good little action movie, that, as long as you don't stop and think about it, you'll be relatively entertained. The very last scene, I'm not exactly sure helped, or was really needed, and there's something that's somewhat Blade Runner-ish about the explanation to me, but this a good little modern psychological-Hitchcockian-action film.

EVERYTHING MUST GO (2011) Director: Dan Rush


Will Ferrell was recently awarded the Mark Twain Prize by the Kennedy Center, the highest comedic honor that given out in America. Will Ferrell can be the funniest guy in the room, in any room he's in, at any time. What makes him a great actor, like every actor/comedian, is that he knows how and when not to be funny, but he also knows how to be only a certain amount of funny. In "Everything Must Go," he plays an alcoholic named Nick Halsey. He's been fired from his job after drinking on a business trip, and a female co-worker has accused him of some kind of inappropriate sexual conduct. He comes home, to find his wife has changed all the locks and codes on the house, and has thrown everything on his front lawn. His wife has put a hold on their joint-bank account, and he begins to sleep on a recliner on his front lawn. The film, the first by writer/director Dan Rush, is based on a Raymond Carver short story, and if you've never read at least one of his short stories, you should. I read "Cathedral," years ago for a class, and it's still stuck in my head. You could also rent Robert Altman's great film "Short Cuts," which combines dozens of his stories into one film. There's comedy, but mostly, we see a flawed man going through a personal crisis. He goes to the liquor store on a daily basis, and his neighbors start complaining. His sponsor happens to be a detective (Michael Pena), and he gets him a yard sale license to buy him a few days. He reluctantly starts to sell some of the items, with the help of Kenny (Christopher C.J. Wallace, he played his real-life father Biggy Smalls in the biopic "Notorious"), a young teenager who rides his bike around the neighborhood while his mother is a nurse for another neighbor. Nick is an excellant salesman, and he begins teaching him the rules of salesmanship, mostly from some of his books on salesmanship that are lying around the front lawn with the rest of his junk. He also befriends a new neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall). She's a pregnant photography teacher, who's come out to Tucson from New York to get the house ready while her husband finishes up loose ends back east. I'm making this movie sound far more depressing than it actually is. The movie is actually quite funny. Ferrell really plays this character well, he's a good-natured guy, but he's a drunk, he's not sure where his life went wrong, and he's trying to figure out where to go from here. There's a strange scene where he reconnects with an high school classmate of his (Laura Dern), that doesn't quite go anywhere, but it also doesn't go where you think it will. There's actually a lot here that doesn't go where you might think it would. This awkward friendship he has with Samantha is handled in a surprisingly adult manner. This is the kind of film where a character changes, a very little bit, but just enough. Most movies make the mistake of having sudden circumstances drastically change a character, here, Nick is a fuck-up with his life falling apart, and at end, he's starting anew, but he's still a fuck-up, his life still isn't great, in a few ways it actually got worse, but he's just a little better than before. That's the way most people change in real life, and it's not always easy to show that in a film, especially an American film. This is a very strong debut for Dan Rush, and I'm very interested in seeing his next film, and as for Ferrell, I hope he does a lot more roles like this. We know how amazingly funny he can be, we don't get to see this Ferrell enough, really showing how well he can embody a character. He does it in all his films, I grant you, but it's these roles that really make you appreciate just how good an actor he is in those comedies.



The appeal of Morgan Spurlock isn't so much the substance of his documentaries as it is the nature with which he injects himself into his projects. You'll remember him from his Oscar-nominated documentary "Super Size Me," where he ate nothing but McDonald's for thirty days, risking his own life as it turned out. That film convinced McDonald's to eliminate the super-size option to their value menus and since then, McDonald's has made attempts to be more health-conscious (well, they sorta have. Subway, on the other hand has been very health-conscious for years now and with many 6-inch sub options that are less than 500 calories, and those that have eaten them for days on end, have loss considerable amounts of weight, ain't that right Jared? Jared: Subway, eat fresh!) Note: I wasn't paid to advertise for Subway in this review, although I wouldn't have a problem per se if they did, and in fact a lot of movies and tv shows are constantly paid to have specific products in their shows, and shown in a positive light. Most people know the phrase, "product placement," and generally, experienced filmviewers and tv watchers can catch product placement when it's blatantly obvious. Spurlock talks with some filmmakers who've had both good and bad experiences with product placement. It's funny to hear Tarantino complain that he couldn't shoot the opening scene of "Pulp Fiction," at Denny's, even though he wrote it into the script. Spurlock, decides to become the ultimate product placement whore by analyzing product placement and advertising, while making the entire movie by using only money from product placement. Even the title of the movie, "Pom Wonderful Presents; The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," was sold to Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice,  and they seemed very excited about it. Spurlock goes so far as to wear a suit with all his sponsors names on it like a Nascar driver when going on TV to promote the movie. (His car a mini-cooper, who also sponsored the film, is also covered with branding like a stockcar.) He does two things in this movie that are both very interesting. One, he shows how this lesser-known process of product placement actually works. He meets the people who set up the meetings with these companies, and we see inside the meetings themselves. Some of the business are more competent than others surprisingly. When he asks the people at Ban deodorant, what words would they use to describe their product, they were surprisingly stumped. Usually that's something every company would know an answer too. We also get to see the entire behind-the-scenes of the advertising of a film. The making of the trailers, the posters, the poster designs, where they go and find the advertising space, etc. Hey goes both to Broward County School District, where the school district wishes products could advertise everywhere from the stadiums to the inside of the school buses so they earn money, although parents don't want certain companies in the school, and then he goes to Sao Paolo, Brazil, where outdoor advertising has been banned from the city. No company logos on any building, bus stops, even the cabs are completely blank of advertising. I'll be honest, there's not a whole lot in the movie that I didn't particularly know, but that's okay. Sometimes documentary are too serious, and it's nice to see something light, but he isn't really trying to shed any light either. Sure, he interviews some anti-advertising skeptics inside the JetBlue (Another one of his sponsors) terminal while drinking Pom Wonderful, but  we do get to see the inside look at product placement and the entire advertising process of a movie in ways that I don't think we often get to see, and maybe it's a little inside baseball, but I found it to be quite an interesting process that I hadn't really seen before on film. And I like Morgan Spurlock, doing what he does best, and inserting himself completely into his project, in many ways, at the risk of completely his own image and branding up until now. Granted, this is more performance art than film, but it's still really good.

THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER (2011) Director: Bertrand Tavnier

2 1/2 STARS

I wish I could say something that would make "The Princess of Montpensier," seems like anything other than a costume melodrama, but that's really all it is, and I'm a little surprised at some of the positive reviews the film has gotten. Betrand Tavnier is a good director, and this film starts off promising, as it begins with a really good and elaborate action sequence and a description of a time when the Catholics and the Hugeonots are in constant conflict with each other. After that, the movie turns into a typical love triangle between a liberal-thinking-for-her-time women (Melanie Thierry) and a couple different suitors, with some typical backroom manipulation of royalty and others in powers. Marie, (Thierry) is in love with her cousin Henri (Gaspard Ulliel), but is forced into marriage with the Prince of Montpensier (Gregore Leprince-Reguet). The Prince soon heads off to battle, as they always seem to do. (I wonder what Kate Middleton thinks about that.) In the meantime, she's placed under the care of Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson). I'm pretty sure you can predict what happens from her, the Comte and the Princess, start to have an affair, although more interestingly, he introduces to the sexual aspects of the court politics, and soon, she's playing politics with everybody else. There's something odd to me about some of these recent Eurorpean and European-set films about royalty and the control for power (And TV shows, I never did care for "The Tudors.") and how they focus so much on these very shadowy characters in the background that apparently did change history by how they convinced these royals and pope and other such people to go to war and take land, and try to have a first-born son as well. Maybe I like modern politics better, but it's frustrated me lately to some extent, and this movie, while it does have an interesting change to it, it still didn't completely work enough for me.

INCENDIES (2010) Director: Denis Villaneuve


"Incendies," was nominated for an Oscar as Canada's entry in the foreign language category; it got a U.S. theatrical release earlier this year, and it's really a special one. The film begins with two twins Jeanne and Simon (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette, respectively) as they are given unusual instructions in their mother's (Lubna Azabal) will, to travel to the Middle East (the country seem to either be Lebanon or Israel, it's a little undefined) and for one twin to deliver a letter to their father, who they both thought was dead, and the other to deliver a letter to their older brother, who they never knew they had. Simon is reluctant and still holding ill-will towards his mother, but Jeanne begins taking up the trail. As she finds certain things out, we also get flashbacks of the mother and her experiences. They're often scattered, and we they're not always shown in any linear order, and many times they give us more questions then answers, but there's a long journey to travel, including to a former jail for political prisoners, as well a meeting with a wanted warlord, that has a very strong memory. Most of the trip is surprisingly frustrating for Jeanne, a lot of people who, if they even remember their mother must've been glad that she left. We find out she was pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was a very young, and taken away from her from birth. She swears to one day reunite with him, with the only information she has is three tattoos given to him after his birth on the back of his ankle. The final resolution to this movie I will not reveal, and it will haunt most of you and will probably start an interesting discussion itself. The ending of the mystery is the ending of the mystery, and all like good mysteries, it's the journey of solving the mystery that's far more interesting and important, than it's outcome. This movie is an incredible journey of two very trouble young adults finding out the troubling beginnings of where they actually came from. While there is the obvious problem of why didn't the mother just tell them what she knew when she was alive, or at least wrote it in their will inside of making them go on this journey, I'd argue that considering the result, it probably is best that they found it out the hard way. This is a spectacular film, one of the best from last year.

LIFE DURING WARTIME  (2010) Director: Todd Solondz


I have more than a few filmmaker friends that are big fans of Todd Solondz, but those who might not be as familiar with his work, I'd strongly advise not seeing "Life During Wartime," until seeing his masterpiece "Happiness," first. "Life During Wartime," is a quasi-sequel (his words) to "Happiness." It has the same characters as before, the movie's set ten years later than the first film, it takes place in Florida instead of the New Jersey suburbs, and he recasted the movie with different actors than before, in one case even changing the original race of one of his characters. Solondz has done similar experiments before, his film "Palindromes," had one character, a teenage girl who's in a hurry to get pregnant, was played by eight different actresses, and one actor, each of all different ages, intelligents levels, and races. Also, "Palindromes," takes place in the same universe as his best film "Welcome to the Dollhouse"; similar to Kevin Smith's Viewaskewniverse," Solondz films also seem to exist in the same world at times, or in this case, he's creating a whole new universe for his old characters to exist in. The original film followed three sisters, and they're back, although this film follows primarily Joy (Shirley Henderson), who's just gone through a deja vu moment with Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams) who she ended up with at the end of "Happiness," when he would dial her sister Helen (Ally Sheedy) with sexually offensive phone call. Joy used to be with her fellow co-worker Andy (Paul Reubens, yes, that Paul Reubens), before she broke up with him, and he subsequently killed himself. She's seems him now in dream sequences. Taking a break from Allen, she's visiting her sister Trish (Allison Janney), who's got three kids, one in college, and as the youngest is about to celebrate his bar mitzah, he finds out both that his father (Ciaran Hinds) is alive, he is also a pedophile, who's just been released from prison for sodomizing a young boy. Trish, is also madly in love with her new boyfriend Harvey (Michael Lerner), and let's just say, I wouldn't want to walk into that house where collateral damage seems imminent and ready to blindside somebody. While there's some great performances, and the typical Solondz dialogue that and style that makes it hard to tell whether he's sympathizing with his characters or he's making fun of him, or,- I don't know exactly, but there's always an artificial a tension with his characters, and it's always tough to tell what he exactly means by it. However, this is not one of his best films, by a mile I'd say. I'm recommending barely, 'cause it did keep my interest, but there's some strange curiousities with the film too. The Ally Sheedy character for instance, who was a poet, and now has become a Hollywood screenwriter that lives with some mysterious movie star named "Keanu", her part is drastically unimportant compared to the way her character was in "Happiness,"; in that film, I thought she was the most interesting character in that film. I'm interested in a lot of movies, actually making sequels like this, where we get to meet back up with characters years after we first meet them, and see what they're doing now, (Sequels like this are more common with foreign films) but "Happiness," was probably not one I ever thought about seeing the characters again, and I'm a little disappointed at the results. It's also time that somebody tell Solondz that there are parents who actually answer a kid's question with the correct answer, no matter how disturbing and traumatic it can be, it's probably going to makes those kids' lives better in the long run.

VANISHING OF THE BEES (2010) Directors: George Langworthy and Maryan Henein


It's called Colony-Collapse Disorder, and I never heard of it either, and it didn't exist until recently, but all over the U.S. and the world, beekeepers are finding entire hives and in extreme cases, the entire colony of bees has left it's hive, or in some cases, many hives, there one day, and the next, gone. "Vanishing of the Bees," is an interesting documentary highlighted this disorder, from the first accounts of it in America, and the entire beekeeping industry to find possible reasons, and maybe ways to end this disturbing trend. I should tell you now, that personally, I am scared shitless of bees. I don't fear most bugs, I don't like ones that fly, and bees, can sting you, and frankly, that's always scared me. I know consciously, that bees are good for the environment, and I have seen "Bee Movie" recently, so I don't need a refresher course in what happens when bees stop, doing what they do, but yeah, my first instinct when I hear bees are disappearing "Well, good." My second instinct is, "They're not going after me are they?" That bias aside, it's seems clear that whatever is causing the syndrome, most seem to agree that it's one of many signs that there's a far bigger problem with the environment, and it seems to be linked to one company use of a chemical that bees are taking back with them to their hives, that in small quantities is not harmful immediately, but continued use over generations, seems to be in some ways, screwing with some of the bees genetic traits, causing this sudden suicidal mass migration. France seems to have known about this before, and they really know how to protest and change things. This was happening a few years ago there, and beekeepers across France charged Paris with demonstrations, that includes setting fire to abandoned beehives and they dressed in full beekeeper suit bregalia. Soon, the chemicals that were simply being sampled in that country's ecosystem, were banned. In America, they the EPA doesn't just send out trials, they push the products immediately all over the country, based off of research done by the company's paid scientists. Not the first time I've heard this complaint about the EPA, probably won't be the last time until somebody burns it down and rebuilds it, with more Ralph Nader types running it, but circumstantial evidence seems to be pointing there. The documentary itself, is more informative that entertaining, and Ellen Page seems like an odd choice for the voiceover narration, but I also don't want to piss off any bees, so, it's an easy recommendation.

PICNIC (1955) Director: Joshua Logan

1 1/2 STARS

Before I start to review "Picnic," I want to talk a little bit about one of my practices. Before I watch films, I have usually read others reviews of movies. I watch "At the Movies," religiously, I generally check for all his reviews, I read reviews in the Las Vegas CityLife, and the Las Vegas Weekly, I occasionally check Richard Roeper's website, and a few others, and I get frequent messages from on my facebook informing me of the overall reviews of the critics. Sometime I don't always read the reviews, I usually just check a star rating they give a movie, so as not to be too swung one way or another beforehand, but I generally like to know the consensus before going into a film. "Picnic," is a movie that made one of those AFI's Hundred Greatest Something-or-other, lists a while back, and I remember it because it the one movie that I had never heard of. It's one thing for me to have not seen a movie that maybe I should've seen, but it's very unusual for me to have not heard of a movie that makes one of those lists. It apparently won two Oscars for art design and editing, and was nominated for Best Picture. It was also based on a William Inge play, so I don't know what I was expecting exactly but, after watching the movie, I was still kinda baffled by it. I was going to give 3 stars, basically for having seen it, and before then, with kill time at the local library on the computer, I then looked up "Picnic," on, surprised to find that he had written a review of the film. (I usually only check his site for films made after 1967, which is when he first began writing as a full-time critic for the Chicago Tribune.) It was written for a rereleased of the film a couple years ago, and to my it was a scathing review. He even goes out of his way to call Joshua Logan on of the worst directors of all-time. He makes particular pointed notes about how the film doesn't seem even realize some of the story's ironies. The movie begins with a strange scene where we meet Hal Carter (William Holden), a former classmate of somebody in the nearby small town (let me look it up on real quick) Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson) and a former college football star, who's since become a felon, and is looking for work. It's Labor Day, and there's a town picnic that's apparently very important. He ends up living with the Owens, a mother and two daughter, one that's younger, smarter and far more interesting (Susan Strasberg), and another that's tall and beautiful and everybody wants to marry (Kim Novak). She's also a shoe-in to be named Miss Neewalloh, which is Halloween spelled backwards, an, I guess an important title to be awarded if you're young and beautiful in a small town like this one. Hal spends much of the movie without his shirt and being objectified for his looks and not being smart, so he falls for Madge (Novak) who is also not very smart and is being objectified for her looks. Most of these points, and many others are better outlined in Roger Ebert's review, many of them I agree with, but the real reason I'm giving this film a particularly bad review is that, it's boring as fucking hell! I watched it on my computer while doing some other computer errands, checking my blog statistics, checking my facebook, writing a few of these reviews actually, and waited for something to ever happen, and hardly anything did. I at first thought that the play must have a lot more intricacy to it, although Joshua Logan got a Tony nomination for directing the play before he did the movie, so I threw that theory out. Not that I've ever actually had much desire to get on a picnic, but the one in the movie with crying babies, and alcoholic mothers that are blathering idiots doesn't make me want to go to this one, and really what is the movie about? Apparently it was hailed as the one of the sexiest movies made up to that point, and I guess that means that William Holden had his shirt off for most of the movie. (Yeah, I thought either Paul Walker, Larry Clarke or Robert Pattinson invented that, but nope.) There's barely a romance to care about, there's barely a character worth caring about, and the one that is, nobody notices. It's almost like the devotion that the Cybill Shephard character got in "The Last Picture Show," from all the guys. (Although in that movie she was both the best-looking girl around, and the most interesting.) The only thing I really wanted to do with this movie is go hang with Millie (Strasberg) the younger sister behind the house, where we can both sneak a few cigarettes while pretending to read poetry. It would've been a better experience than watching "Picnic".

GIULIA DOESN'T DATE AT NIGHT (2009) Director: Guiseppe Piccioni


The first thing I thought when I saw the title of the Italian film "Giulia Doesn't Date at Night," on the New Releases page a few months back was "Wow, how is that not the title of a Rolling Stones song?" I can hear Keith Richards guitar riff in my head, I mean, "Daddy's in the garage, Momma guards the front door, and Giulia doesn't date at night", I can easily imagine Mick Jagger rocking out to something like that, can't you? Anyway, the movie is nothing like that. It's not as interesting as that idea to me, but it's got some interesting things in it though. The movie is about Guido (Valerio Mastandrea), a novelist and short story writer who's begins taking swimming lessons from Giulia (Valeria Golino) after his wife and daughter leave them. She was giving lessons to their daughter, and he begins to fall for her. We also get to see some of his short stories come to life in his imagination, and surprisingly I think I would've like to actually read some of them. It's actually quite interesting what's happening in his mind, it's often more interesting than what's happening with Giulia in real life, who seems somewhat interested in Guido, but she-, well, look at the title again. His daughter seems relatively unaffected by everything, and she's actually busy trying to handle a crush of her own. His wife, wants to hold out hope for reconciliation, but it's kinda hard when you're writing stories about where Giulia plays a reclusive stripper in a story that seems almost like the fourth verse of Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue." There's a lot more good idea in the film then there are actually thinking through of the ideas, if was enough for me. There's the lost souls in the real world, or what he thinks are lost souls in his stories, and generally I like how the movie explores the interesting connection between how somebody can alter his own real experiences and create really interesting fiction out of them. That's always a little challenging in film, so it's nice to see it actually attempted here, even if the results are mixed, I've seen it done a lot worse.

OUT OF SIGHT (2006) Director: Daniel Syrkin

4 1/2 STARS

Let me begin by saying that this isn't the Steven Soderbergh romantic-comedy caper-thriller from the '90s starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. This "Out of Sight," is an Israeli film Tali Sharon as Yaara, a soon-to-be Ph. D. in Mathematics at Princeton, who's returning to Israel after the sudden suicide of her cousin. She was, she thought a trusted confident of her cousin, knowing certain details about her that much of her family didn't. However, a friend outside the family points out to her a strange bloodstain on her dress in an old photograph of the two of them. Yaara had fallen down the stairs that day, and she didn't remember bleeding. Blindness in movies is always a little tricky. Film is the art form based on sight, and blindness is the lack of it. Here though it works, cause the movie is not about her blindness, but how others have used it to manipulate or trick her into getting there own way. One of the flashbacks involves a longago moment at a pool where her cousing Talia (Hadas Yaron) cons her into having sex with a guy in the bathroom. She doesn't realize the con, until she is read Talia's diary entries. There's other revelations coming from a tape recording that had more on it then she first thought. I think anybody could've thought throught the movie's revelation of why Talia killed herself from the beginning, but that doesn't make the journey of Yaara putting the pieces together any less interesting. There's a lot of pieces, and there's a very disturbing reaction by one character to her discovery. It's an intense mystery, told very well, at times frighteningly so. Director Daniel Syrkin won the Israeli Oscar for Best Driector for this film, and I can see why. The movie is darkly fascinating, and really gives us a really scary view on just what people will do when they know/think they can hide something from someone, when they can't see. A very memorable film.

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