Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Okay, here's the deal. I'm losing readers. I don't know why, I'm not sure how, but after two months of over 1800 hits, I'm going to be lucky to crack 1000 hits this month. And I don't know why? Honest to God. I don't know why I was getting so many hits to begin with, and now that they've slowed down, I don't know why I'm getting less. I constantly invite you, the readers, to leave comment for me either on Twitter, on Facebook, or on this blog, and NOBODY EVER DOES!. And I mean, nobody! I've deleted four comments that were SPAM which had links from somebody trying to sell computer supplies or something like that. The rest of the comments, not including my own, there are 10 OF THEM! Total, and I know for a fact that and half of them are from one of my close friends. I strive for a certain quality of content, and I am as tough a critic on myself as I am to any filmmaker, believe me. But, I am the only person who has criticized my blog, positively or negatively. I've asked this numerous times before, but now I'm begging, PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS! Seriously, I won't delete any comment, whether it's constructive or not, as long as it's not SPAM! I'm willing to read them, and consider what you guys think. So far, I can only view my statistics, and even then, I don't know how to interpret them, without anybody leaving comments. My most popular blogs have had apx. 200 hits, but not one comments on them. I'm happy you're reading, but...- I can't stress this enough, I need to know why you read my blog, what you like about, what you hate about, and any thoughts at all that you might have on it! I implore all of you to leave me as much feedback, any way that you can. Whether you like something, whether you hate it... Frankly I'll take negative criticisms and thoughts over this silence, any day of the week, so please give me your thoughts, on how I'm doing and whether or not you like what I read. Thank you.

Now, before we begin with the reviews, I want to also point out very briefly, we lost Nora Ephron yesterday. She's written in many genres, starting out as a journalist, she's an accomplished novelist, but mostly she's known for being one of the most successful, and one of the first female writer/directors in Hollywood. She script doctored a lot of films early in her career, and she wrote the Oscar-nominated "Silkwood," with Meryl Streep. She's also written or directed "Sleepless in Seattle," "When Harry Met Sally...", "Mixed Nuts," "You've Got Mail," "Michael, and most recently "Julie & Julia". She's even appeared in cameos as herself in two Woody Allen movies, as she was a much a fixture on the New York intellectual scene as she was a member of the Hollywood elite. My favorite story involves her, apparently I can't confirm, but I've read that she was in the room with Steve Wynn, when he accidentally poked a hole in a Picasso, right after he had sold it. I don't particularly know why she was there, but it's strange and funny that she was. She passed away from leukemia, age 71. She didn't look 71 by the way. This was kind of a surprising death in the Entertainment world, at large. I've actually, as many have, have been critical of some of her work, as much, if not moreso than praising it, but she really one of the first women to really breakthrough and create her own path, in the Hollywood system, her work is very stylized and recognizable. She was a good writer, very popular, very well-liked. A big figure in the movie industry Nora Ephron, us here at David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews, are thoughts are with her, her family and everybody who know her.

And now, onto the reviews!

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (2011) Director: Tomas Alfredson

4 1/2 STARS

I must say that, there was a point where I was questioning the critical acclaim and popularity of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," for about the film's first hour. iwas confused about all the players, and it was a little slow storywise, and I couldn't completely keep up, and I wasn't even particularly sure what I was supposed to be looking for. I think part of it may have been that somebody gave away a clue to the movie's ending to me earlier, so I was waiting around for the finish. However, after a while, I found myself completely fascinated by the filmm, and I forgot and didn't care about whodunit, as any good mystery author knows, the "who," doesn't matter as much as the journey the detective takes to get there. (Something Rex Reed, still needs to learn, and that my friend's is my Rex Reed Criticism of the Week!) There's an attempted hit in Budapest, that MI-5 blows, and badly. It's clear that somebody, at the very top of this secret organization called, a group called "The Circus," led by a man known only as "Control" (John Hurt, and boy I had trouble not thinking of "Get Smart" references when I heard his name) is a Russian spy. One of them has recently reitred, a quiet man named George Smiley (Oscar-nominee Gary Oldman), and since all this happened after he left, he's the perfect, and possibly only candidate to figure out who the spy is, and how he's been contacting Moscow. The title, refers to some of the men's nicknames, (which happen to have a chess correlation) and the movie is based on a very popular John Le Carre novel, which was actually made into a BBC miniseries, back in the '70s. I have a small feeling I might enjoy that slightly better as I would probably have more time and a fuller grasp of all the details.... Well, why should I have a grasp of all the details though. This is a secret organization with top secret files on people who perform top secret tasks, all throughout Europe... maybe the fact that I come into it a little blind is helpful. I think where Gary Oldman's part really comes in handy. Normally, we think of a detective character as an outsider, to represent the audience who's looking in and learning the world that he happens to Chandleresquely stumble his way into, but in "Tinker...", he's not an outsider, really. He's actually kind of an insider, and is able to process more than I think the audience even realizes. It from this information as to how he devises the plan to catch the spy, in the act. There's a lot of very good actors and performances here; I've only mentioned a couple and I should also point out Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others. Oldman got a somewhat surprising Oscar-nomination for his part, although some might say that the surprising part was that he had never been nominated before (I think both facts were surprising.), and this is an interesting role for him. His character is very deliberate with his words, and is also, listening a lot. His roles, often chew the scenery up a bit, especially when he's playing bad guys, and this is a good role for him, 'cause it's as much a performance of presence that he's ever done, and the more I think about it, the more I like his performance. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," has been called by some one of the best spy films of all-time; that might be stretching it a bit, but it's a really good one, and it has, absolutely no unnecessary violence or action. It has a little that's critical to the story, but just enough and not more, and considering what spy movies have tended to be in recent years, that was quite refreshing.

PUSS IN BOOTS (2011) Director: Chris Miller


Well, I can't really claim that I wanted to see a Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) movie, or some kind of origin story of him. I actually only kinda, half-way grew to like his character in the last three Shrek films. I always thought the animation of his character was certainly the most realistic however. The close-ups, especially when he's giving that sad, helpless look, and when he's flying through the air, it really seems like a cat much of the time. This "Shrek," franchise is really getting old and tiresome, but they were able to scrounge out one more film out of the bunch with "Puss In Boots," which believe it or not, is actually the second Disney movie ever made with this title. We learn that Puss, was an orphan is the Spanish town of San Ricardo (Not sure how far away Spain is from Far Far Away in this universe, but I don't really want to look to closely at a map to find out). He was raised in an orphanage where he befriended Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifanakis), who were the local troublemaking kids, that seemed doomed to go to jail, but one of them got away, cleaned his life up and became a priest, while the other became a notorious outlaw- wait, that's "Angels with Dirty Faces," sorry, I got confused there. Humpty was obsessed with finding the mythical magic beans and one day getting the Golden Goose that laid the golden eggs, and now, years later, he thinks he's finally found them. He must get them away from the master criminals, Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). Puss, is reluctant, but with the help of an enchanted and beautiful pickpocket catburglar named, Pussy Galore! No, she isn't, but wouldn't that have been cool? ...Named Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), he eventually get talked into it, so he can repay his old hometown of all the damage he and Humpty helped cause, longago. "Puss In Boots," earned an Oscar nomination in the Animated Feature category last year, in what's really seeming like a busy but, mostly weak year in this category, and the Pixar film was there almost as a default placeholder. I'm recommending it, with some reservations. I think the movie, is a little short on story, and despite only being about, eighty some-odd minutes, it felt a little long and boring at time, especially during the second half of the film, and I think some of the jokes, the more adult, wink at the audience jokes, really felt out of place in this film. Was there a need for a catnip joke about how it helps Puss's glaucoma? I'll admit it was funny, but that, and a few of the other jokes, really seemed added on as though adult's couldn't get into this movie without them (They might be right about that but still...). It's harmless though. Kids will like it, it's better than "Shrek the Third," although few films aren't, not better than any of the others, however. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but I think there's room for a series of personal Puss In Boots adventures, better ones than this film even. It's a mixed bag, but I think it does achieve what it was trying to achieve, so I'll give it credit for that.

THE INTERRUPTERS (2011) Director: Steve James

4 1/2 STARS

Acclaimed by a majority of critics as the best documentary of 2011, "The Interrupters," to their dismay didn't make last year's Academy Awards shortlist in the Best Documentary category, along with several other films from prominent filmmakers such as Werner Herzog and Morgan Spurlock. This must've seemed like deja vu for Director Steve James, who's "Hoop Dreams," which was similarly snubbed by the committee in '94, despite being considered one of the greatest of all documentaries, forced a complete revamp of the category's judging procedure, and it's rules, and now, there's been more calls for a look into it. In "The Interrupters," James spends a year in a violence-ladened Chicago neighborhood, where it's becoming all too common for people to suddenly end up shot and killed, especially teenagers. He follows a group of ex-cons known as the Violence Interrupters, who's job it is to break up the violence, before it happens. When, I say ex-cons, there are people here who were once at the height of the Chicago gang world. One of them, is the daughter of Jeff Fort, who's referred to as Chicago's most famous gangster, other than Al Capone. She fought her way into the family business at one point. Others seemed to have grown up around this culture. "There's a couple hundred years of prison-time in this room, that's a lot of wisdom," as it was once told during a meeting of CeaseFire, the group the Violence Interrupters are associated with. Their job is to be about the neighborhood, and when they here of some possible confrontation about to happen, or something that might bring about one, their job is to go and stop the people from escalating it. It's a dangerous job, really. This can involve getting into between two rival gangs as they're about to fight. Keeping people at bay, babysitting them for days and weeks or months on end if possible, until they calm down enough to not use violence as an answer. Their motivation, other than their experience in the neighborhood crime scene, and in prison? Just turn on the news, or go to the local cemetary, where if their isn't a funeral going on, relatives, usually parents of the dead, are still looking over their kids, even in death, consumed  with grief, and their other kids who want revenge. One kid, an honor student was walking home from his high school when he was beaten in the head with a 2x4, killing him. That one was caught on youtube, and broadcasted throughout the country. The girls are off screaming to hit him. What "The Interrupters," shows, and shows well is a culture of violence. A neighborhood where the immediated response to something is with deadly force. I was struck by how I didn't to my eyes, see one person in the movie, who I would've thought by looking at them, that they are likely to kill somebody any second. CeaseFire stresses education, especially when mentoring it's most angry teenagers. Education, work, being apart of something useful. Frustration runs throughout the ghettos of America, CeaseFire tries to stop it. Some, they're successful. I was amazed when I saw one guy, who, if he angry, he was high, suddenly at the end of the movie, working as a tolltaker. He looked like a new man, happy, hard-working, enjoying himself. Some they can't save. Words, now matter who says them, words can't always be heard when the person they're pointed towards just wants to hit somebody.

THE WAY (2011) Director: Emilio Estevez

3 1/2 STARS

"The Way," is one of those movies that you're either gonna buy into, or you're not, and there really isn't any other way around it. It's a movie that spiritual and emotional, and heavy-handed, and basically you're either gonna accept it, let it wash over you, and enjoy it, or you're gonna tune out right away, and make fun of it as much as you can. I chose the former; I always try to, although sometimes, they really just don't allow me to. I thought the same way with Emilio Estevez's last directorial effort, "Bobby," which I gave 4 1/2 STARS to, even though many critics lambasted it. He's definitely aiming for an emotional hold on the audience, much more than he is plot-invested ones. I think it's a conscious choice, and it's done not to manipulate the audience's reaction, but because he actually feels this way, as a person and about the projects he selects. He's all but given up acting othe than an occasional cameo appearance, as he does in this film, but he's become quite a sure writer/director in recent years, and it's clearly his film passion. "The Way," begins with Tom (Martin Sheen, Emilio's real-life father, as we all know), an eye doctor, finding out suddenly that his son Daniel (Estevez) has died suddenly in France. Naturally they haven't been close, but mostly out of different paths, and not out of any secret of demons of the past. Missed opportunities to get to know each other better more than anything else. Daniel died after beginning a pilgrimage through the Pyranees known as the "El Camino de Santiago" a famous journey than many people come worldwide to travel, for many reasons. Daniel's bags are still there, and on a whim, Tom begins the trek. The movie becomes one of those films where he ends up from town-to-town, running into and befriending some colorful characters, while he battles on his own with his own grief. He determination comes off as misanthropic, but you can't always choose your traveling companions. Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) is a Dutchman, who talks a lot and always has a joint nearby. There's Sarah, (Deborah Kara Unger) a Canadian who's also self-hating, and hides deep pains from her youth. Eventually they meet an eccentric British writer, Jack (James Nesbitt) who's got writer's block for his novel, but produces for his travel magazine. "The Way," is exactly how I described it earlier, emotional, heavy-handed, spiritual... but it's good anyway. Great acting all around, a little long, but it's a pretty long journey.

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) Director: John Ford

2 1/2 STARS

I can already here the disapproval from one of my film professors with this one. (German accent) "How could you give 'My Darling Clementine,' or for that matter, any John Ford movie, a negative review?" Sorry Prof. Wegner, but I think John ford missed with this one. I don't blame him for it though. I'm not sure their really is a great film version of Wyatt Earp's story. This is the third one I've actually seen, it should've probably been first, but.... "Tombstone," is the best, and I like that film, but I think I appreciate the over-the-top acting the movie has more than anything else. Lawrence Kasdan's biopic "Wyatt Earp," with Kevin Costner, was just completely godawful. That one was long and boring and pointless. "My Darling Clementine," was better than that, and it starts out well, but it meanders, and not that interestingly. I've had that problem with John Ford before, some of his films can be really erratic. I think that's one of the reasons "The Searchers," is overrated. Great film, classic I admit, but why is there 20 minutes devoted to this couple arguing about marriage, or some throwaway jokes that seem out of a Jack Benny TV skit or something like that? Here, after Wyatt (Henry Fonda) takes over as Sheriff of Tombstone, involves a great deal with, of all things, a Shakespearean actor, Granville Thorndyke (Alan Mowbry) who's in town performance at the theatre. I'm thinking, there was a theatre in Tombstone, Arizona? I guess if I really wanted to I could drive down from Vegas and go check it out, but seems like an odd thing. The Clementine is Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) who's come searching for Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), his old girlfriend from before his Wild West days, of course, he's with someone else now, and this love triangle gets more complicated once Wyatt begins pining over Clementine from afar. Ford was always good at getting subtext into characters with just a glance or a pondering thought out-loud, that meant more than is probably on the page. We know, eventually this will lead to the famous shoot-out at the Ok Corral, with the Clanton gang, led by their Pa (Walter Brennan) who of course, stole the Earps' cattle and killed Wyatt's brother. There's actually quite a lot to Wyatt Earp's tales. He lived to be in his '90s and into the 20th Century, the last relic of this era essentially, but it all seems to be based around this story, and I think the problem is that, you have the beginning of the fued, you got Doc Holliday, create that friendship, and then, you got the gunfight at the end, and the key is to come up with an interesting anecdotal story, in the middle, to get from the beginning to the end, and without it, all three of these things could almost seem like separate unrelated incidents. It's harder than it sounds, because the West was a lot more slow-moving and paceful back then. We tend to think of story in terms of action, and frankly there wasn't as much in the West, just a lot of waiting for more of it to occur, and being ready in case the famous outlaws come into town. In that sense, I did not get attached enough to the story in "My Darling Clementine." It might be closer to what really happened than the other Wyatt Earp films, but is that really as compelling the story can be? I say in this case, no.

THE GRIFTERS (1990) Director: Stephen Frears


I've had some opportunities to dive into "The Grifters," before. I had heard about the film, and read some critical praise beforehand. It earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Stephen Frears, that amazing and most versatle of directors, who can really put a wonderful spin on any genre, but those previous attempts of mine, never really fanned out for me. I thought most likely I was missing something, or the movie was just very overrated, and finally I got a chance to watch it properly and pay attention, and it's the former, I was missing something. Most likely, stuff that was probably censored on the TV viewings, as well as scenes that might have been cut completely out. It's a strange story that at first, seems like a heist movie, but actually is more of a modern film noir, almost a comedic one in fact, in the wrong hands it really would've been comedic, but in Frears hands and of these actors, this really becomes a sly little movie. Notice the "The," in "The Grifters," instead of 'Grifters', like it's a family and not so much their professions. It is their professions. Roy (John Cusack) is a short con artist. Everything from palming money to magnetized dice rackets, and he saves the money up. His girlfriend, Myra (Oscar-nominee Annette Bening, wonderful performance) is also a con artist, but Roy at first doesn't know that. When not being the loving couple with Roy, she cons her way through life, using her body as pretty much legal tender. She also, apparently once worked on a long-con crew back in the southwest, able to pawn off down-on-their-luck oilmen to invest in the stock market, using a variation of the wire. (The famous con from "The Sting") Roy's mother, Lilly (Oscar-nominee Anjelica Huston) works for the mob, in a strange job, where she goes to all the racetracks and bets big money on the longshots in order to drive down the odds. (The more money bet on a horse, the more the odds for that horse fall, sometimes as much as 30-40 points depending on it's original odds, as a way to pawn off their money in case it actually wins. [Hey, I'm from Vegas, they taught these things to us in 2nd grade.]) Her sudden arrival, after Roy's is hospitalized briefly after one short con didn't work, shakes up the dynamic. There's noticeable similarities in both Myra and Lilly. In fact, they're probably closer in age than either would want to admit. (Lilly had Roy at 14, or at least that what she says) The maternal bond in this movie, certainly is strange, and the film unique, but what makes it special is that, it really is one of those movies that you think you know what's gonna happen next, but then, the movie doesn't do that. These are conmen, but they aren't idiots. Chance and coincidence and luck come into play, but we learn pretty quickly to be on our toes, and to learn to stop guessing because we've seen other films in these genres. Frears has consistently made good and sometimes great movies, in pretty much every genre. "Tamara Drewe," "Cheri," "The Queen," "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Dirty Pretty Things," "High Fidelity," "Dangerous Liasons," "My Beautiful Laundrette" to name a few, and 'The Grifters," is in that upper, upper tier of his films, actually it might be arguably his best, definitely one of his most entertaining films. Really glad I finally took the time, to watch it properly.

CELEBRITY (1998) Director: Woody Allen


I know it seems like I'm going through all of Woody Allen one film at a time. I'm not, but it does seem that way some times. "Celebrity," was one that kinda slipped under the cracks when it originally came out. It's one of his more experimental films. Shot in black and white, the movie's got two main stories essentially, involving how celebrity effects a husband and wife after they're soon divorced. The husband, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) plays a failed novelist, who's begun writing movie scripts, but really just does some interview articles of celebrities for some magazine. The casting of Kenneth Branagh, of all people in what, logically seems like the Woody Allen role in this film, at first seems weird (and that includes the strange American accent coming from Branagh's mouth), but as he goes on journeys with one celebrity to another, starting with movie star Nicole Oliver's (Melanie Griffith) childhood home, the casting clearly is meant to invoke Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita". I never noticed, but they actually do look alike, and his sudden journeys to Atlantic City with young superstar kids like Brandon Darrow (Leonardo DiCaprio, satirizing himself a bit here) or on Kafkaesque tours through NYC nightclubs with Supermodel (Charlize Theron), he wonders about the worthiness of being apart of the culture, as opposed to looking at it from afar. His ex-wife Robin (Judy Davis) a English schoolteacher, who's distraught by her divorce. At a plastic surgeon's office, where a news story's being done on the surgeon to the stars, Dr. Lupus (Michael Lerner), she meets a TV producer, Tony Gardella (Joe Mantegna) who's the nicest guy, and makes entertainment talk show, where the Skinheads and the rabbis share the same green room, and complain that the overweight acrobats ate all the bagels. The scene with Davis and Bebe Neuwirth, a hooker who she goes to for advice on sex, is one of Allen's funniest sequences, and worth watching the film, for that alone. Robin is so unwilling to believe in herself, that she keeps waiting for some big secret Tony has that shows him as not the nice Italian guy, with the big loving family that he is. At one time, she goes to a Psychic (Aida Turtorro), and even the Psychic tells her what others already have, is that she needs a psychiatrist. I loved all the segments of "Celebrity," separately, but I'm not quite they all really come together to say something in a bigger picture sort of sense. Warhol's proclamation of everybody getting their fifteen minutes seems truer now than ever, and it's certainly true here. There's about as many cameos in this film as their is in "The Player," although many are cameos because the actors became more famous later, but it's a good film nonetheless. I still found myself with questions as to what exactly does Allen think of about celebrity though. Maybe I shouldn't expect an answer from somebody who keeps his life so private, but it would've been nice to know.

DEAR FRANKIE (2005) Director: Shona Auerbach


I have some mixed feeling about "Dear Frankie". I think it hits it's notes well, but on the other hand, I'm not quite sure those notes were the ones they should've hit, especially at the end. Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) is a single-mother whose 9-year-old son Frankie (Jack McElhorne) is deaf. He's a master lipreader, but he can't talk himself. He pretty smart though, but him and his Mom are constantly on the move. Frankie writes letters to his Dad, who's apparently away on a ship, traveling the world, or at least, that's what he thinks. In reality, the P.O. Box he sends the letters to, go to his Mom, and she writes back. The secret behind Frankie's real Dad, I'm gonna purposefully leave out of this. In the meantime, Frankie gets informed that the ship is coming into port right where they are, and now Lizzie's in a bind. Through a friend, she finds a man, who's character is referred to in the credits as "The Stranger" (Gerard Butler), but will be called Davey, Frankie's father's name, as he now has to act, for a day or two, as Frankie's Dad, and have a small little adventure or two, make an appearance at Frankie's futbol game, and possibly an extra day, to hang out with his mother. Lizzie isn't sure about that last part at first, but he has a day before he has to go back, and also, he should be at least able to discuss old wounds, or new flirtations. In one sense, this arrangement, ends rather predictably. In another sense, there's a deeper connection to some of what happens, and why Lizzie has continued with charade as long as she has, might have a different motive at play then we may first think, one that's, more touching and heartbreaking. On the other hand, though, it's got some moments that in hindsight, I wondered if they were red herrings, that didn't make a whole lot of sense. I'm torn on this one, but I'm recommending it, for the mother-son relationship, and for the intriguing dynamics in that alone, that even without the sidestory, might have been particularly interesting in of itself, and I think that is the strongest part of the film.

A FRENCH GIGALO (2008) Director: Josiane Balasko

2 1/2 STARS

"A French Gigalo," or "Cliente," as it's also known as, has some of the elements that could've made a pretty good comedy, even a farce. It's starts off interestingly enough. Judith (Nathalie Baye), a high-powered TV personality, meets a guy in a bar. The guy, Patrick (Eric Caravaca) is a male prostitute that she pays to be with, and they've both kinda fallen in love with each other. Or at least, they each think the other has fallen in love. Patrick however, who's real name is Marco, has a wife, Fanny (Isabelle Carre) and a family of his own. So far so good, and then, the movie just starts to care as much about the character's inner thoughts and their voiceover which just add to us, getting to know these characters. Believe me, I'm for character development, and normally that's one of the things I love European, and especially French films for, but these aren't interesting characters, and the voiceover just elaborates on that. The one really interesting character is Fanny, who once she finds out, begins infiltrating Judith's world, and they each begin playing their own little mind games with Marco/Patrick, and with each other. If there was ever a film where all the elements are there for an amazingly funny farce, this was it. Instead, we get the exact opposite, a film with a bunch of uninteresting characters, with uninteresting voiceovers playing childish games with each other. It was ultimately frustrating. Right parts, in the wrong genre.

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