Saturday, June 29, 2013



Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke based on the story and characters by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan

More happens in the final two words, of “Before Sunset,” than happens in most movies. The fact that this is done subtly and not obviously, reveals the greatness of Richard Linklater’s directing and storytelling in a film, that for all intensive purposes is just one long conversation between two people. The sequel to “Before Sunrise,” which I previously placed in the Canon, you can find the link to that below:

For that review, I had written on and told two personal stories of my own about chance encounters, a road not taken, and one that was. In the first film, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy, who both received Oscar nominations along with Linklater for this film’s screenplay) spent a dreamlike day and night in Vienna when they were 23, promising to meet at the Vienna train station in six months, despite neither knowing their addresses, phone numbers or last names. (Jesse’s we learn is Wallace) Jesse is now in Paris, doing an interview in a bookstore, where he has written a bestseller about that fateful night, and he looks up to see Celine, standing there, and soon after, their conversation begins all over again. 

We learn what happened to them, what actually happened that night they were supposed to meet in Vienna, and a little bit more about their private and personal lives that we or they never knew before, but the conversation is slightly more restrained. They have only a very little time to talk before Jesse must go to the airport, (the movie is only 77 minutes long) and back to the states, and Linklater’s directing makes the movie feels as though it’s one, non-stop continuous conversation, often having takes last as long as six or seven minutes. We learn that Jesse is married with a kid and Celine studied all over, including New York City, at a time when Jesse was living in New York. She now works for a non-profit organization, and lives with her cat, and like Jesse becoming a writer, she dabbles in the arts, singing and playing guitar. 

They talk about numerous other things, as they travel from the bookstore, through gardens and alleys, and to a local cafe, and onto a ferry to look over Paris, often times choosing their words very carefully with each other, like the ways adults do, making sure not to say the wrong thing and not to reveal too many emotions, but eventually things will start coming out, in ways that rings true to what we feel are their thoughts and desires, as both characters struggle to find out whether or not they were meant to be together or just meant to have long thoughtful conversations in exotic European cities, in warm climates, to quote Celine.

 Eventually, after much walking and talking, they make their way to Celine’s flat, where she plays an old Nina Simone CD and continues their conversation over tea, and music. The ending is considered a testament to the power of free will, and it is. The first movie was about a choice made in the beginning with a promise made at the end, here the characters are now too smart to promise anything to each other, but a choice is made at the end that will effect much more than maybe either character wants to realize. This is great writing, and great acting having to make scripted dialogue seem completely real and spontaneous. As I realize how truly rare it is to not only have friends or lovers, but people who I can connect with at all, the more I realize how masterful this film is. This ballad of Jesse and Celine, will hopefully continue nine years from now, and if it’s half as good as the first two, it will be a masterpiece.

Note: When I wrote this originally, a couple years ago, I was still only hoping it would continue. Now, nine years after this film, have passed, and it has, with the third film of the series, “Before Midnight”. And hopefully, nine years from now, we'll get a fourth film, and if it's half as good as these three are, it'll be a masterpiece. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


You know something, network TV sucks right now. I'm usually the one who's out there, defending television to the nth degree, even arguing in favor of some of the most brainless of TV programming. There are easy arguments of course, that could disprove that statement, like a random episode of "Parks and Recreation" for instance, and normally, I'm the first one to jump in, having to remind people that for every "Seinfeld", there was an "Inside Schwartz" on TV too, and despite the rise of reality television, it's not like "My Mother the Car", was so much more substantial than "The Bachelorette"... and so on and so forth, but you know what, for this piece, I'm not bothering with all this history and technicalities today. Network TV, it just sucks! I can spice it up if I wanted to, but you know what, I'm tired of doing that, and really, I shouldn't have to. It isn't just because of the availability of cable TV either. That's a bullshit excuse; there's just as much crap on cable as it is basic, but we forgive the, whatever reality dating show with some musician's glorified groupie VH1's putting on nowadays, because no matter how bad that is, you still have to pay to even be able to watch that, (Unless you're looking for it and find it on the internet, and frankly that's just depressing.) basic network TV is just-, is just...- I'll be honest, especially during summer, I'm not even really bothering right now. I want to, believe me, but- I just saw a wonderful opening segment to "So You Think You Can Dance" where the entire cast and staff did a live long-take Steadicam shot musical number, all through the production studio, to "Puttin' on the Ritz"; it was beautiful. Shortly after that though, I switched the channel to whatever was on Create, which has become my go-to channel when whatever's on PBS doesn't interest me enough, and frankly left the room shortly thereafter. The TV's still on, but I'm not watching.

Most reality shows suck, every drama is a variation on a doctor/cop detective/mystery-of-the-week show, except they're no longer crusty yet benign detectives, they're hot fit young men, or sexy-, excuse the slang, cougar-like creatures in typically male-dominated roles, or supposedly male-dominated, or whatever. Network TV as a whole, is just a vacuous mess right now. A couple weeks ago, "NCIS" dethroned "Sunday Night Football", to become the number one show of 2013, by the way, that marks the first time, since '03, that a scripted series actually won the Top spot, and that was "CSI..." that year. I haven't watched a single episode all the way through of "NCIS", and can't really understand why anybody does. But, really what-the-hell else is there to watch? I've literally been able to count on one, maybe two hands what I watch on a regular basis, and maybe 2 or 3 more, that I can understand people watching, and the rest.... You know, I don't even bother with decent shows anymore. I raved about "The Voice" plenty of times last year, they made a stupid decision to let the audience vote have influence, something I've bitched about many times regarding reality TV, 'cause I think that's stupid, and now, I've quit watching it, entirely. They did it wrong, and now, as far as I'm concerned, the show's jumped the shark and I'm done with it, until they change it back. And you know something, why aren't even, the reality shows better than they are on Network? Except for "Shank Tank," and "The Amazing Race," they're all either unwatchable, or a pale imitation of a better show. Gordon Ramsey is a complete year presence, in my life now. All year long, Gordon Ramsey is on TV. I try to watch NBC, but I get more and more confused by their programming. If you find the connecting thread from "The Bigger Loser" to Amy Poehler to "Hannibal" let me know. It didn't used to be this, through-some-crap-on-there-and-they'll-watch-it attitude before; there used to be a pattern and a rhythm to a lineup, that would make, even shitty shows feel like it's in the right place. CBS, is the only channel that has that right. A rhythm and feel to their network, most of the shows are eh, but, and I talked about this before, they make sense together, and quite frankly, much of their product, even the bad, is relatively enjoyable.

Somebody posted, this article,, "20 Fascinating Nielsen Fact that'll Blow Out Your Brainhole", let me post the link, 'cause there's some good ones, and many of them show, just how little we're bothering to watch television nowadays, especially network television, and how little of it is really lasting.

The real thing it details though is that fewer and fewer people watching a show, are constituting it as a hit nowadays. It's not just that, more people are watching cable, it's also that there's nothing else on network. There's a reason the most exciting I've been to watch TV lately, was to watch "Project Runway" on, and "Arrested Development" on Netflix. (BTW, next year, Neilsen's are counting internet downloads. There aren't even summer reruns anymore, really.

Okay, put this in perspective the highest rating syndicated show right now, is "The Big Bang Theory", a great show, truly great, and it's reruns in syndication, are getting higher ratings on a regular basis than CW and NBC, the entire networks, okay. We get two, maybe four episodes of that, before the primetime lineups start at eight, and look at what we get! Same old TV dramas, a few are good, most aren't, bad reality television, that doesn't end, and a few decent sitcoms- I mean, you become disappointed. You know, when I think back on things like old reruns of "I Dream of Jeannie" for instance, I mean it was dumb, but you always felt like, they were trying to create the best show possible. That's why the show's lasted so long in reruns. Now, it's not create the best show, it's create the show the demographic likes or wants to see, and frankly, I'm starting to believe that TV, has left me. Network TV-, it can't possibly be good for anybody, to watch nothing but the primetime network lineups anymore. I have literally, started just stopped watching it. Even the stuff that's good, and even admirable, like a "So You Think You Can Dance", I can only take so much of it. A very few, beacon of lights are on Network TV, a decent amount of dwarf stars that still shine without realizing they've already blown up, and the rest is unwatchable crap, that's makes me feel dumber as I watch it.

Frankly, if anybody out there, still just sits in front of the TV and watches nothing but network shows, what are you doing? If "NCIS", is really the best they can do anymore to capture the masses, why are you watching? Isn't life short enough? Do you realize how hard it is, to get yourself up, to watch television, only to be disappointed, and to do that, again and again and again. And I want to sit through the crap, and hopefully find that good show, at least before they cancel it, even if it isn't a hit. Television is an art form, and a medium that can flourish, and it should be treated as one, by really going out of your way, to put on the best product possible. I don't care what genre it is, put on "Candid Camera," or "America's Funniest Home Videos", but put it on, leave it on, if it's good, and get people to watch it. This damn specializing of TV series for a specific audience is annoying as hell. Good is good, no matter what age or demographic you are, and there's gotta be better out there. I'd say that it can get much worse, but I'm afraid I'd be wrong.

You know what, it's time to revamp network TV. I wasn't gonna write this, but you know what, the more I think about it.... Let's reinvent Network television, and start using the British model of TV. Fewer episodes of every show, let's start right there. 22 episodes a year, is now, an option. The other options should be 6, 9, and 13. And instead of regular year-long season, air the shows, in rotation, the way cable does it. a season of "Dexter", then a season of "Weeds", then a season of "Homeland,"... let's do that with Network TV now. If you want to create a show like "Fawlty Towers" and have it only be 12 episodes, total, do it. You wanna take, a season off like "Louie", or "Curb Your Enthusiasm" once in a while, then do it. Make it more pressing to actually watch the TV shows. To many of them, are already serialized to the point where you can't miss an episode anymore, let's narrow the episodes, and air them in runs. Then, re-air them, for people to catch up if they want. Cable does it, British TV has always done it, telenovellas do it on the Spanish stations, let's do it, now. It'll be jump start to creating better TV, 'cause it'll make the product better and more intimate. A Spanish soap opera is like that. One season, like a miniseries, and then another. It's working on PBS, "Upstairs, Downstairs", "Downtown Abbey," "Call the Midwife", "Mr. Selfridge", they've got it. I don't even like half the shows on PBS, but dammit, they are more interesting than the rest of the channels. They can re-air whenever they need to, they can build up a new season, for months.... There's no anticipation to watch anything on network TV, it's just on right now. Whatever inspiration it began with, even the popular and semi-watchable reality shows, has been beaten out of most of those shows at this point, what better way to get it back. The first network, that dares try to completely reinvent the structure, it gonna come out bloody, but it's gonna be for the good. It's gonna force us to air quality television, or get off the air. It's gonna force us to watch it it. If it's working that well for cable, why can't it work for network TV? It's already all screwy, by not airing reruns, and one extra reality shows, after another.

They're going through two reality shows per cycle/per year. Why? Couldn't they just rerun the last cycle to begin with? It's not like everybody caught it the first time, and the best reality shows tell great full stories that do deserve to be seen multiple times, to get the full story. (That's why they're so popular in marathon reruns on cable.)

There are two ways to recapture the greatness of primetime network television. One is to make/air better television. If they ain't gonna do that on their own with this structure, then it's time to change the structure completely. I know we can do better, and that television, is still the special and amazing artform it's always been, but if they don't start changing on their own, we gotta make 'em. This proposed change, is just the first one, but it will make a vast difference. Newer shows, will get stronger and better, and even older shows, will become better, if they choose to adapt. And I say, that when I can't even bother to sit through "good" network TV, then I say, enough is enough. It's time for a change.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


One of my earliest blogposts, whose link you can find below, was about my experiences with comic books, what little there was. It may seem unbelievable to some, but until I was in 11th or 12th grade, I didn't realize they actually existed. Comic books that is, it sounds bizarre I know, and it was even stranger when I was got a rare acting job, playing a comic book fan who worked in a comic book store. A lot of this, is documented in the link below, I know most of you probably haven't read it:

Also discussed in that piece is a lot what I'm talking about now too, this over-saturation of the film market with these giant comic book movies, particularly superhero movies. I was getting tired of it then. And you know, despite everything, a part of me, is still dumbfounded by their ever-increasing popularity. I guess that, to some accept that I'm in the minority on this, seems unfathomable to me. I had a friend of mine, FB about her experiences being at the local Comic-Con the other day. I couldn't believe there was a local one; I thought it was only in San Diego, and apparently there's another one later this year. Well, not a Comic-Con, but essentially, another kind of comic book convention of some form. I'm sorry, it's disconcerting. And very strange to me. I understand certain appeals of comic books. The art for instance, in certain cases the stories and some of the characters, but on some level, I just don't understand.

I started thinking about this again, after recent article from "The Guardian", about how Hollywood, perhaps need saving from superheroes; I appreciated it, because the author, tended to take the same kind of perspective I take on superheroes, which is one, well-, I'm just gonna say, I really don't get the appeal of them. Here's the article below:

I think the writer is wrong about Michael Keaton, and a few other things, but there's actually a lot of the comic book culture, that's overtaken the film industry lately, and I just don't get it, frankly. I get some of the fantasy aspects of the superhero genre, and even some of the appeal of being a lover of comic books, but, even if I was a superfan, but I don't think I'd go to a convention to celebrate it, or admire it. I also don't tend to flock to the movie theaters for every film that's based on some Marvel, or any character, really. (Granted, I look for good reviews first, before I check out any film, but still...) I guess an obsession or two with something is okay, some of my friends would probably argue, that while I lack, whatever joys and wisdom they get out of comic books, that I probably found something else to replace it, a different film/TV genre perhaps, or even complete separate outside activities, which they probably missed out on, in favor of comic books, but when an obsession takes over a population, and spills over so heavily into, all aspects of entertainment.... It just seems odd to me. When I choose to make film my life's work, I thought their would be, more people with the sensibilities and interests that I had, and that the people who like these, cult-ish fantasies, wouldn't be so prevalent, and it would be more of the people, who may still admire and adore a Kevin Smith, but from the same high-brow perspective that makes me admire the Aaron Sorkin's and Edward Albee's and David Mamet's...- Alright, I'll be blunt and put it another way, I thought going into film, meant that there'd be less "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans, and instead, they're a bunch more of them than I could ever have imagine, and they're all my friends now. (That's the one who's popularity always annoyed the hell out of me, you can insert your own, into that sentence. "Star Wars", "Star Trek", Stan Lee, zombie movie fans, whomever/whatever one fits for you best.) I guess, shame on me, I should've thought, that since, the people that make those things are making film, that they'd probably be in film school/world that I was jumping into, but keep in mind my perspective, someone apparently blind to this for so many years, I hear people racing to  "Iron Man" or "World War Z" or J.J. Abrams, latest "Star Trek" bastardization, and I'm wondering "Where the hell did all these people come from, and how did there become so many of them, that Hollywood, can basically cater to them, because they'll know it'll make a profit?

I mean, when I was six, I liked the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" too, when I was six, and that's only including the original TV series, but certainly not enough for, one, two, and soon-to-be, three generations of trying to adapt it to film? (Which they really should stop, it's barely worked as a Sunday morning cartoon, and besides, I could never figure out how to get past level three on the old Nintendo game.) The point is though, that they've taken over, and frankly, I'm a little annoyed by it. I mean, is this what I have to look forward to, every 5-10 years, a new "Superman" or "Spider-Man" franchise begins? Oh and btw, that's odd, the multiple universes and versions of stories that comic books are filled with. I mean, it's not exactly original, I get that. Even Jesus's death got four different versions in the Bible. And, yes, we're all influence by certain stories, and we pick, grab and borrow, most of us, from other literature, and try to make it our own. Even Hamlet, was probably a remake of a Ben Johnson play, that frankly, wasn't as good, so it's not worth mentioning, (Might not have been Ben Johnson, but some other playwright of the era.) but what is there, dozens of different versions for practically every superhero, or at least the really big ones, most of them done by different people, but all basically telling the same story? Yes, we adapt stories to film all the time, and we often change things from original stories, but, these multi-verses, where else in literature, does that happen? Seriously, there's like a dozen different Spider-Man, eh-I don't know what they're called, "universes", maybe? Twelve different Spider-Man universes, can you imagine if there was like, a dozen different versions of "Oliver Twist" like that? I mean really, people read Dickens, got inspired, and then, soon, bookstores would be flocked with ten or twelve diiferent versions of "Oliver Twist"? Some beginning with him as an orphan, some showing him a wronged man, out for vengeance on those who took his parents away, some where he has special powers, some where Fagan adopts him.... In the strictest sense of the word, literary, meaning, "That which is to be read," this isn't in any other,  literary format? That doesn't even make sense, does it? I mean, you like a character so much, but you insist on changing it, so that you'd like it more; if you actually really liked it, why would you change it? I mean, fan fiction, especially for like, a serial piece like "Star Trek" or something, I kinda get that. 'Cause if you like something so much, you'd want to inevitably, put yourself into the universe of that world in some way, while still having the world remain as it is, that I get. Doing these multi-verses, whether they're better or worse than the original, it's basically saying, "This thing kinda sucked, so I'm gonna make it better, or the way it should be." I guess it's not done with that conscious pretense, they're probably done out of admiration, but still.... Godard often quoted by saying, "The best way to critique a movie, is to make another movie," and in that sense, I would've just created my own characters and superheroes and world. I guess there's a lot of that being done too, but quantum physics aside, that troubles me. I can see the argument for it; I can make the argument for it as well, but it's peculiar.

Don't get me wrong, a good movie is a good movie, and to me that has nothing to do with genre, and there's certainly been plenty of good or even great films based on comic books, and/or about superheroes. Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy, alone, all them of them are great. "Watchmen" made my Ten Best list a few years back. "Thor" was damn-near great, a lot of others are good, this is kind of the golden age for these films, I'll give you that. Yet, basically, if we, just simply keep going through comics again and again, and the same comics at that, we're just gonna be watching the same things all over again. The graphic novel adaptation I tend to like most, aren't the superheroes, they're ones that, don't even feel like they started as graphic novels, like "From Hell", "A History of Violence", "Ghost World", "American Splendor" for instance, the ones that seem to be the opposite of the mythological superheroes and sci-fi/fantasy comics that oversaturate the tentpole movie release schedules. But mostly, it's the same structure, mostly the same stories, half-the-time now, it's the same characters, and I go to films to see a lot more variety. Fantasy is part of that, but it's infuriating to see the same films, over and over again. Blockbusters aren't really that enjoyable, you know, especially if that's all you see or seek out. Superheroes, saving the day; that can get tiresome, and boring. The Guardian's right, there's too many of them, and frankly, with Spielberg's recent predictions about the movie industry, being two or three flops away to becoming a Broadway-style, attraction, in terms of price and availability, especially from a Hollywood, where even, the Spielberg's, have to now fight to get their films into theaters, instead of on HBO it's not that far off; it's not great for the film industry, to be so reliant on such a cult-ish demographic, even a popular one like comic book adaptations, and frankly, for the people who aren't so devoted to the genre, they're giving us less of a choice. There's a reason I call my Movie Review blogs, "Random Weekly Movie Reviews", the films are "random", and I'm willing to watch almost anything, and frankly, I want a mix of movies, and not just the same ones all the time. (I do prefer that they're all "good" films, but lacking that, I'll settle for a bunch of different films) I don't think Spielberg is right about the direness of Hollywood, after the hypothetical multiple-flops fiasco which he claims will happen, as I think cinema will adapt, and start funding and promoting more adventurous and challenging films as the superhero and sequel hangover vehemently approaches. Maybe we're both wrong, and this new massive ComicCon audience, will keep going and basically fund Hollywood forever, as they await anxiously for their favorite characters to come to life on the big screen, and fill them with joy. Or anger, which some of them seem to prefer, as they seem to enjoy criticizing and over-analyzing them to death, as they compare the comics to the movie, and what they kept and didn't and etc. etc.

It strange enough that Hollywood, basically controls my viewing choices to some extent to begin with, by pushing and promoting, whatever "Fast and Furious" they're onto, or whatever tentpole films they're shoving down the public's throat, but now I feel like, those aren't even being control by Hollywood. Now, I feel like my film choices are being controlled by peoples' fetishes. They're not even my fetishes either, so I gotta pretend, and just to get into it the best I can't. Sometimes I can't though, and frankly I just end up looking over at everyone else, all excited, and like any fetish that isn't your own, everybody else's just seems weird and odd, and worse-of-all, funny, and not in the intentional and self-conscious way either, funny in the "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh, you're penis is fine" way. It's a formula, it's just a genre, it's just another way of telling a story. Some are great, some are shit, some are something in-between, and everything else is somewhere between them, like all the other genres. They shouldn't be looked upon as though they're as special as they are, especially by their fans. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Well, another week, and another bunch of underwhelming films to reviews. Ugh. I'm gonna be a bit honest here, I'm getting cranky. I mean, the best things I've watched this week were "Manhattan" which I rewatched to do some editing of my Canon of Film review, "Life of Pi", which I was screening for others who hadn't seen it, and the 5th season of "Top Chef" on DVD. That's about it. Frankly, I've been trying to get through as many films as possible, but when they're coming to your doorstep, and you're getting less and less inspired, it painful and torturing, and frankly, especially as I continue through last year's film, overall it's been really underwhelming. I know Harvey Weinstein said that 2012, was the best film year since '39, well, my ass. I don't know what he's been seeing, but he hasn't seen the movies I've been seeing. It's not just the bad films, even, the film that are good, are just average or mediocre lately, and it's frustrating. I don't know about you, and maybe I've just been watching too much Tom Colicchio, decent is not good enough. A dozen or so movie a week, critics like me, watch a lot, and it's one thing when something's really bad and you can smash it to smithereens in your review, but when everything in the middle, it's frustrating as hell, and there's nothing to care about, and they're impossible to write. So, I hope this trend changes as I start my next batch of films, 'cause I'm starting to go a little stir crazy with all this mediocrity I have to sit through.

Alright, other than that, I do want to touch a bit on James Gandolfini's sad and sudden passing. I read about it, right as most everybody else was, on top of it, as it happened on Facebook, and yeah, I thought it was a joke at first, it so shocking. I'm not the #1 Sopranos fan, but still, great show, and that is such a big loss. I was just skipping channels one day, and seeing a scene of him in "Fallen", which I didn't realize he was even in. He was great in "A Civil Action", and "The Man Who Wasn't There," and I even remember him very well in the Showtime remake of "12 Angry Men" a few years ago. I was talking about the original of that film recently, but that remake was great, and he was really good in it. I gave 5 STARS to one of, what's now, one of his last films, "Welcome to the Rileys", where he ends up caring for a teenage runaway prostitute played by Kristen Stewart, a wonderful and very overlooked film. He's gonna sorely missed, and just a sad and sudden loss.

Alright, let's get to this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012) Director: Robert Lorenz

2 1/2 STARS

Clint Eastwood gave up the lead directing role on "Trouble with the Curve", making this a very rare film appearance he makes in a film he isn't directing these days, but I think I wish he was behind the camera more. The film has the look, and the feel of a film of his; that's partly because Director Robert Lorenz worked as Eastwood first assistant director for many of his films, as well as a producer on most of them, but this film could've used, one really good rewrite, and Eastwood's sense of pacing, and storytelling. Seriously, I could just imagine, thinking how Eastwood would directed certain scenes, how he would've taken a line or two out, let the actors change one or two to make them sound better. In some ways, the movie is basically a rebuttal to "Moneyball", as it's centerpiece is a debate over whether to use computer statistic tracking or old-fashioned scouting to determine a good ballplayer or not. On the other hand, it's the old story of the old pro, trying to survive in a world where he's being replaced by new technology. Gus (Eastwood) is a longtime scout for the Atlanta Braves, he works the Carolina region, and is sent to scout a potential #1 draft pick, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), a cocky and full-of-himself power hitter on his high school team, who's already charging for autographs. Gus is a typical tough-as-nails old bastard that Eastwood been playin' forever. His daughter Mickey, (Amy Adams) who's currently a lawyer, close to being made partner at her firm, (A firm where naturally she's the only female lawyer around.) but after some convincing by Gus's longtime friend Pete (John Goodman) the team's head of scouting, who's watching Gus's job being fazed out in the meetings, where the Billy Beane wannabe, Philip (Matthew Lillard, in what is now becoming the new prototypical Matthew Lillard role, [which is considerably better than the old one]) keeps gaining more influence with the GM, Mickey makes an unwanted trip to be with her day, on this latest scouting mission of his. This is where they run into one of his old athletes, Johnny, (Justin Timberlake) who was an up-and-coming pitcher in the minor that Gus found, but a trade to Boston, led to him blowing his arm out, and now he's a scout too. Naturally Johnny and Mickey have sexual tension and chemistry, although Mickey's been building up long-lasting anger at her father, for having her sent away after her mother died, twice. She's a bigger whiz at baseball than anybody, but she's still working on... I don't know, some major client at the lawfirm... I don't know, something from the damn cliched screenplay factory; I've gotten tired explaining it now. Those added little things that keep on supposedly raise the stakes, even though, we pretty know the ending, and pretty every possibly scenario of how this story could and does play out. The only other thing I want to mention is how amazing it is that Amy Adams manages to both, look like she belongs anywhere, no matter where the film takes place in, and yet, she stills feels almost angelically above the world that she's in. Nobody is better at playing a character that way-too-beautiful for her surroundings, and yet still manage to fit perfectly into them. That said, "Trouble with the Curve" is too slow, and not written well-enough to hold up. It might work on one viewing, but I can't imagine too many people, wanting to see it more than that. It's one of those stories where everything ends up a little-too-perfect. Couldn't one thing have happened that was really bad for these people at the end? I don't wanna sound too sadistic, but sometimes things shouldn't be so wrapped up like candy for us. Oh well. Oh, did I mention that Gus is starting to go blind, and that's why he's having trouble scouting, I might've forgotten that. I did, damn. Yeah, that too, but it doesn't hurt him as much as you'd think. Nothing hurts as much as it seems like it should in this film, actually. Could've been so much better, it's a shame. I hope Clint goes back to directing, that's where we really need him most.

THE THREE STOOGES (2012) Directors: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly

2 1/2 STARS

I'll start by admitting that I did laugh occasionally at "The Three Stooges". I'm not gonna pretend that I don't feel a little shame for that admission, but The Three Stooges, in the right context, and in the right mindset can be pretty funny. Well, the original Stooges, definitely had their moments, even if, by some accounts, an entire gender disagrees with that. They weren't exactly at the top of my comedy idols chart, they were probably one notch below the bottom actually, but the Farrelly Brothers, who've already been recycling the comedies of the past in recent films, like their remake of "The Heartbreak Kid", seemed to be constantly looking in the past for their latest inspiration. Possibly a sign, that they really have become partially void of good ideas of their own recently. I'm sure I'm not the first to say that, but they haven't had a really good movie since "Fever Pitch" (Which come-to-think-of-it, was also a remake), and it's starting to become noticeable. Maybe they should be trying to evolve from their gross-out physical comedy roots? Maybe that's what they're trying to do by digging into the past and pulling out new things to be inspired by. The classic Three Stooges, of course, Larry, Moe and Curly (Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Will Sasso) are modernized here, (Sorry Shemp fans, [like myself]) are the centerpiece here, as they're left one day as babies at a Catholic orphanage, run by Mother Superior (Jane Lynch). From day 2, they're a pain in the ass, constantly getting into trouble and bumbling the simplistic of tasks, often accidentally involving the mean-spirited tough-old nun, Sister Mary Mengale (Larry David, in an interesting piece of casting). Also playing high-profile nuns are Kate Upton and Jennifer Hudson, for some reason. (You know it's weird, when the presence of the "Jersey Shore" cast in a film, makes more sense, and is funnier, than the Oscar-winner's presence in it. I certainly hope people know that that's weird. Anyway...) Well, years go by, and despite a close call with Moe, the three never do get adopted, and have basically resorted to being janitors at the orphanage now, and naturally, not good ones. The insurance premiums are sky high, and if they don't come up with the $830,000, the orphanage will close. So, it's off to the city, to try and find some suckers work. They get spotted by a conniving couple, Mac (Craig Bierko) and Lydia (Sofia Vergara), who are trying to have Lydia's rich husband, Teddy (Kirby Heyborne) killed, in order for her to get all his money. They try hiring the Stooges as hitmen, but they end up accidentally almost kill Mac, a bunch of times, actually. This is when they find out that Teddy was one of the former kids they lived with at the adoption agency many years ago, but Moe chooses to refuse to ask him for help, which causes a split between the three. BTW, there's an inconsistency with how Moe got that job on "Jersey Shore" with the way they later found out about his friends, that bothersome. I guess part of me, actually like "The Three Stooges", the movie, although at times, their humor doesn't work on me. Especially when it involves food for instance. That seemed too gross for me, and I was just waiting for the skit to end at those points. I like some touches, like the old music, and the exit and intros to supposedly, new "Three Stooges" shorts, but they're underutilized, and there was a few references to some of their more memorable and classic shorts. I actually do like the idea that, if the Stooges actually did exist today, they'd somehow become stars on their own reality shows, I can understand some of that humor, but a lot, especially in the beginning, falls flat. We're constantly that, while I believe the three actors are giving it their all, that we're fully aware that these three aren't the original Stooges who honed their craft on vaudeville and performed in hundreds of shorts over decades. The Farrelly's did get right the use of sound effects, the Stooges really did thrive, in a large part because of the great sound effects, many of which were invented, specifically for them, although the best use of the sound effects, actually belongs to Mac and Lydia and she's trying to help Mac climb over a wall, and let's just say, something on Sofia Vergara honked. (I'll give her credit, I think she was doing her best with this part) Also the Farrelly's so-called cameos at the end, where they were played by, clearly better-looking people than the Farrelly's actually are, warning kids not to imitate the Stooges, was a nice touch. Still, this was more hit-and-miss, and when it was missing, you started wondering, why they even doing it to begin with. I guess it was a good tribute, and maybe, late night on cable, you can kind of enjoy watching it, but I think I'd prefer a good "The Three Stooges" short in that case. I guess I can't quite recommend it, but I'll admit the film grew on me a bit, but considering the levels were at here, it's a minor work for the Farrelly's who've done better, and it's a flattery-filled imitation than it is, the real thing. It's a mixed review-, but it's one of those, if-nothing-better-is-on movies. Oh, I should also mention Stephen Collins has a crucial part too, that's, fine. Nothing special, but he's good in it.

THIN ICE (2012) Director: Jill Sprecher

3 1/2 STARS

The Sprecher Sisters, Jill and Karen are often overlooked in the film world of great and talented siblings behind the camera, especially since "Thin Ice" marks their first feature film in over a decade, but it comes off the heels of their first two wonderful films, "Clockwatchers" and "13 Conversations About One Thing". They're visual often invoke paintings, and their use of space is a specialty of theirs. "Thin Ice" is admittedly their weakest film, by far, but it's not exactly their fault. They've picked a genre that's frankly been so oversaturated that, we're just a few steps ahead of them from minute one now. I often wondered if there's any new way to do a con movie, anymore. There's basically two ways to do it, set up how the con is going to happen, and then leave out just enough info for us to not be 100% sure what's happening until the final reveal, or, there's the way it's done in "Thin Ice", which I won't completely give away, but if you've seen films like David Mamet's "House of Games" or particularly, the Argentinean film "Nine Queens", or it's American remake "Criminal", you'll have a half-way decent idea of what's happening in the film. (Hell, if you want to go all the way back, you can essentially trace nearly all these films to "The Sting" or even Kubrick's "The Killing".) At an insurance convention, we meet Kenosha insurance man, Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear), one of the best in the business. He holds seminars and has won numerous awards for selling insurance. However, he's in a bit of a career slump. His wife Jo An, (Lea Thompson) is separated from him, and he's on a losing streak at the casino, when Sherri (Jennifer Edward-Hughes) a drunk floosie fellow insurance agent, falls into his lap and hotel room, where she steals his wallet, and maxes out his credit cards gambling. It's then that he befriend Bob Egan (David Harbour), who attended him seminar earlier that day, and he steals him away from a job with his rival, and gives him a section to canvas. He keeps bringing in new claims, but he spends much of the time, with the elderly man named Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin) who lives for his dog Lucky, and has a house full of old junk. Possibly a rug that could raise in value, but not much else. Soon, he buys a small policy, to help fix a broken TV. However, amongst the valuables, is a violin, that a mysterious stranger from Chicago, Leonard Dahl (Bob Balaban) claims that a buyer is interested in purchasing it for $30,000. This grabs Mickey's attention, as he owes money everywhere right now, and with his credit cards maxed, he decides to sell the violin, but Gorvy, becomes more interested in keeping it, even getting Randy (Billy Crudup) a local locksmith/former criminal, to come in, and set an alarm system up, so that the violin can be put away. Mickey tries to get Randy, to help him break in and switch the violin with a fake he just bought, so he can sell to the highest bidder, but things go awry, and Randy and Mickey, end up having to bury a body, and now Mickey's got blackmail threats on top of everything else. He can't even keep from pissing off his secretary, Karla (Michelle Arthur) who's about to receive her insurance license, and is technical the company's CFO, wondering what's with all the constant fluctuations in the balance. Kinnear is quite good at playing a guy, who is just slimy enough to understand why his dilemma is his making, and that he deserves what's happening to him, but not so slimy that you can't empathize with him. It's basically, we're watching, waiting to see, how things are finally going to be played out, and how he'll lose everything. I don't think there was much surprise or shock. The movie is basically a black comedy, definitely the broadest thing the Sprecher Sisters have done. In some ways, it's a very sharp departure from their more realistic and grounded characters and stories. I'm torn on "Thin Ice", but I am gonna recommend it, for what it does well. It's a good con movie, but we've just seen too many of them over-the-years, and this one got lost in the shuffle. There's a lot of good acting, and great performances all around. (Although Lea Thompson should've been used more) I guess I'm disappointed considering their previous work, this sharp change in direction and mood for them, but if anything else, it shows that they can do almost anything.

I happened to check Roger Ebert's review, after I finished writing mine above. Jill Sprecher, wrote a note to Roger, explaining that the film was completely re-edited by the producers and distributors, which completely took out twenty minutes from the film, including, them rearranging scenes, eliminating a majority of a voiceover, and even occasionally used outtakes as opposed to their takes. I knew there was something fishy going on. Legally, they're names are on the film, but they're refusing to take credit for the project, in it's current state. I knew something felt fishy, this film doesn't have the feel of their previous works. Here's a lesson to people, occasionally, something like this happens on a film, where producers and studios  have a way of taking final control of a project away from the directors. If anybody's interested, I highly recommend finding their previous films "Clockwatchers" and "13 Conversation...", before watching "Thin Ice", and compare their films with their final cut, compared to "Thin Ice" where control was taken away, and try to imagine the film they were trying to make. That is, until if/when their director's cut ever gets released.

CITIZEN GANGSTER (2012) Director: Nathan Morlando

3 1/2 STARS

Edwin Boyd (Scott Speedman) needed money, so one day, he went to the Lorne Greene Acting School, thinking that he could one get some quick money and be famous as an actor. It's nice to think that had he been accepted, and Taft-Hartley approved, maybe he wouldn't have become Canada's most infamous bankrobber. Boyd was never given good cards to begin with, but he wanted to try and bring in enough for his struggling family, and have his wife, Doreen (Kelly Reilly) not have to worry about losing the house. Once he begins robbing banks, with his dashing good looks, elaborated on by the makeup he uses as a signature, he starts becoming a bit of a cult hero in Canada. Even getting hit on by the bank clerks while he's robbing them. Eventually of course, he gets caught, and sent to jail, but he runs into some other robbers, led by Lenny Jackson (Kevin Durand), and soon, they breakout of jail, and become a second-tier Bonnie & Clyde-type gang, constantly hiding out and committing crimes, all through Eastern Canada. The style of the movie is quite intriguing, lots of dark blues and greys that seemed to pepper the snowy darkness of the settings. The movie though, relies mainly on Speedman's performance, as he's onscreen for most of the film, and the movie doesn't always succeed at this, but it's interesting how it transitions from one kind of film to another and to another. The title "Citizen Gangster," is a bit tricky to explain, 'cause it involves a title Boyd won years after his criminal activities ended, but other than the stylize nature of the film, the other really important part is a very underused Brian Cox as Boyd's father, who splatters his harsh, but true words about Edwin not making any good decisions. It sad that he really was trying, to do good with his life, but they chose to portray his as unable to, and not always because of his own issues; there's a lot of class and economic subtext to the film. There's nothing truly new here in the genre, but I still thoroughly this most true-to-life tale, of one of last folk hero's who became infamous right at the end of radio and the beginning of television era in Canada. It's the first feature film by Canadian Writer-Director, Nathan Morlando, and it's a good first film, despite some pacing problems, he got a great command of both vision and style, and I'm interesting, throughout the film, what I was gonna see next. This kind of story's been done better plenty of times, but "Citizen Gangster" is still a good one.

THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH (2012) Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

1 1/2 STARS

You ever start watching a movie, getting interesting, wondering what's gonna happen, and then, the movie adds a twist, and you're going, "Oh, we're-, we're going, this way, aren't we?" in that disappointed Stewie Griffin voice. It's not OH!, it's A-o-o-oh. down, to the bass of your voice. That's what happened to me, after almost an hour of "The Woman in the Fifth". Like, real-l-l-l-ly, we're going with that plot device. Huh. And it's a bad plot device, the kind they made fun of on an episode of "Friends" once. This is the second feature I've seen from Polish-British Director Pawel Pawlikowski, after the romance "My Summer of Love", which I think I watched twice, and still don't remember too well, and "The Woman in the Fifth" is kinda like that as well. The movie begins with Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) an American English lecturer, who, had a novel once upon a time, but has since been struggling to fight for custody of his kid. He's flown to Paris to see her, and he barely recognizes her in her new glasses. On the way to the airport, his bags are stolen, including all his money and plane tickets. Left with, basically just a passport, he finds lodging and a job from Sezer (Samir Guesmi), who runs a hole-in-the-wall cafe. He also attends a literary get-together that he gets invited too, after someone in a bookstore recognized him from his book. He's not much of a writer anymore, isn't even interested in it, and spends much of his time writing, just writing a long letter to his daughter. Then, her meets Margit (Kristen Scott Thomas). They form a bond, at the get-together, talking alone on the balcony. The "Fifth" in the title, is the apartment number that she lives in. She's a widower who's husband was also a writer, who lost his mind a bit years ago. There's an intense loneliness in Tom, even as Sezer's girlfriend Ania,  (Joanna Kulig) keeps making friendly motions towards him. He knows, to some extent, that he may forever be stuck in Paris, working at a strange job that reeks of suspicious behavior. Where the movie goes from here, I won't describe, but with these kind of set-ups, I think there's too kinds of reactions to it. One is either, shock of some kind as though a lightbulb just goes off and we're delighted that we've been fooled, but that only really works if we're interested enough in the character and the story, to begin with, to allow us to accept these kind of revelations. I didn't get that reaction. I was still wondering, "What's going to happen to this guy," or more accurately, "What is this guy going to do, eventually?" and then to have the rug pulled from under me, just came off like, he had a character, and a setting, and a situation, but he didn't have a story, and so, he cheated. The film is based on a popular Douglas Kennedy novel, and I think the material would've worked better in novel form, where you can get the true essence on the insights on Tom's mind, but in film, we don't get that, and we just get a film that seems to be flowing aimlessly, searching for an ending. I didn't feel cheated in "The Woman in the Fifth", but I feel disappointed. I thought something more thoughtful and inventive would happen, and instead, we got a tired, old story, and a tired old cliche. I was hoping to like "The Woman in the Fifth", but overall, I ended up leaving it going, "Is that all there is?"

HITLER'S CHILDREN (2012) Director: Chanoch Zeevi


I happened to flip to PBS one day, awhile ago, and they were showing the actual video footage of the hanging of Amon Goeth. I stopped writing for a big, as I pondered whether or not to explain who Amon Goeth was, 'cause most people should know who he was, but on the same token, you can easily claim that not enough people do. Anyway, it took them, three tries to hang him. The rope was too long, the drop didn't work another time, and it took them three tries, to finally hang him; I never forgot seeing that footage. "Hitler's Children" includes interviews, with the surviving blood relatives, of the leaders and most notorious members of the Nazi party, include Amon Goeth's daughter, and details some of the choices they've made over the years, or in some cases, had to make, in order to separate themselves, if they could, from the legacy of their namesake. I can't imagine would it would mean, to have a name like Himmler or Goering or Goess, but these people have been living with it for quite some time. Monika Goeth, recalls running into someone who was at Plaszow, and the way she describes it, when the guy realizes who her father was, is startling. She wasn't told about the amount and viciousness of the people he murdered. Other relatives, search out the places they lived, even comparing old home photos of their relatives to the locations, which haven't changed much. Others actually start talking, and touring about what it's like. Bettina Goering said that her family was always happy when someone would think they were Finnish or Dutch, as hey tried desperately to rid themselves of their German ancestry completely. Many of them went overseas, took their husband's name, and learn to speak multiple languages. Few of them stayed in Germany. Niklas Frank's family, still had a box that Hitler gave his great-uncle Hans Frank. One of them found out that even after their grandfather was killed, their grandmother remained a Nazi, and in close contact to some of those former Nazis that were in hiding for decades. I read a news story recently that they're still finding ex-Nazis, and holding trials for their crimes, some seventy years later. "Hitler's Children" is a striking and haunting documentary; one more aspect of the war that we haven't looked through. Last week, I reviewed a documentary called "Inside Hana's Suitcase" about children, who were still just learning about the atrocities of the Holocause, and here's a movie about people who have to personally live with that the history and knowledge of their family's most gruesome acts. It's striking how normal they all seem, and how sullen they are. I wish I could think of something more thoughtful or profound to say about the film, or the history or something, but frankly there isn't much you can say. These peoples' relatives committed horrible acts of genocide, and they have to live with that. We get, the briefest of glimpses into what living with that kind of burden entails, and that' s it, the briefest of glimpses, and the realization that they live with it, twenty-four seven. It's an intriguing documentary, and I can't fully grasp their lives, other than through the prism of my own, and mostly when I think of that, I think about how lucky I was to have not been born into their families. Not an easy watch, but probably something you should watch, even if, it's only a minor glimpse, and that's probably all we can deal with anyway.



A city street has been shut down for the day. There's camera, lights, a lot of people hurriedly walking around, looking very busy, and a long-haired overweight guy, who pacing slowly from each part of the scene to the next, making sure everything is perfect; he's even waiting for the golden hour, to get exactly, just the right light to shoot. Movie set, right? No, this is all, just for a single still photograph. Gregory Crewdson has becomes a major name in modern photography, and his process is some of the most complex and intricate around. And the most expensive. His photos sell for the tens of thousands, which is good, because he uses to money to fund his next photos. A whole series of his photos, can cost the amount of a small movie, and they're shot like one too. He'll set fire to house, or flood living rooms, to get the shot he wants. He doesn't come off as such a determine artist, just one who's got an image in his mind, and wants to visualize it. The series of his that the film focuses on, are the ten years it took for him to make his "Beneath the Roses" series, which was inspired by classic cinema. His images are fascinating portrayals of Americana, often dark imagery. He mentioned inspiration came from people as wide-ranging as Edward Hopper to David Lynch, and it shows. Strangely, Crewdson doesn't seems to resemble his work much at all, in hindsight. He's big and funny at times, underdresses in big t-shirt and comfortable shorts and slacks. He looks like he never moved out of his mother's basement. As I watched "...Brief Encounters" I find myself fascinated by the process at which he makes his pictures, which, really does resemble a movie set. He even claims they're essentially film, with the dialogue and the narrative. I'd like to own a few of his pictures, and possibly hang out with Crewdson personally, although we never really dive into this disconnect in his work. He seems to be inspired on a whim, when it comes to a theme or an idea. He mentioned that his next series would be inspired by Rome.It's as good an inspiration as far as I'm concerned, but personally, I don't quite know what to make of it. I was entertain by the film, so I'm recommending, but I suspect that we really didn't dig too much into Crewdson, the person, with the documentary, and I have a feeling that, to get a better sense of that, we should dive more into his photography than this bio-documentary. I can see, his process is worth keeping a record of, but a very mixed review from me, especially with hindsight, my appreciation for Crewdson grew, but my appreciation for the film, didn't. 

THE CONQUEST (2011) Director: Xavier Durringer


I didn't really have the greatest reaction to "The Conquest," and it's a two-fold response, from me. One being that, since I do follow politics closely, even once seriously considered Poli-Sci as a major in college for awhile, that part of me, feels that I've simply seen most of what's in "The Conquest" at several other different times and ways, secondly, I've always found that, when we're discussing these major and historical presidential campaigns, it's actually more interesting to see a documentary on it, then to actually see a dramatization. For instance, I can never get some of the images out of my head from the great D.A. Pennebaker documentary "The War Room", which gave us this amazing behind-the-scene look at Clinton's presidential run, or the legendary short film "Primary" about the '60 Wisconsin primary battle between Humphrey and Kennedy. Even the recent HBO doc, "By the People..." documenting Obama's election, there was a truly thrilling nature to the project, that you just don't get in these adapted films. (Haven't seen "Game Change", btw, but I read the book, which was indubitably intriguing) It may also help knowing the background going in, and unfortunately, I wasn't as familiar going into "The Conquest" about the battle between Jacques Chirac (Bernard Le Coq) and Nicholas Sarkozy (Denis Podalydes). It's not exactly new, or even news, that it's possible for members of the same political party to be mortal enemies that can't stand each other, and curse each other when the camera's off, (or occasionally, when it's on.) even in France's right-winged party (Which is more like, what we in America would consider the Center-Right here, but whatever...) and the rise of the young Sarkozy has always been one of intrigue, fighting for better and better cabinet positions, while Chirac, can't standing his brashness and youthful insistence and drive, keeps hoping to relegate him to lower, and more unimportant posts. Sarkozy's first big splash in national politics, was when he stubbornly refused to place a key vote, until his then-wife, Marie-Dominique, who he was fighting with, refused to make an appearance and be at his side. That is, unusual, compared to America, where we practically have special training for the wives of candidates nowadays. Now, we fast forward, to Sarkozy, determined to defeat Chirac for the '07 Presidency, and his current wife, Cecilia (Florence Pernel) is one of his most trusted advisers, yet, she remains on her way to becoming the second future ex-Mrs. Sarkozy. It's fairly well-know Sarkozy's difficulty in keeping a wife, and it's fairly well-known, despite having a kid with his current wife, supermodel Carla Bruni, that they basically, live in separate houses and have an open-relationship. That's not shown in the movie though, what we mostly get, outside of the slow deterioration of Cecilia and Nicolas's marriage, is the divisive battle of wills and power plays between Chiraq and Sarkozy. This, tet-a-tet which is both deadly serious, and times, completely ridiculous, as is all election campaigns. The reality of politics, often takes surreal detours. I always think of the opening of "Fahrenheit 9/11" when I see a politician start going off on another, while in front of a camera, seeing the makeup and the preparation that the live feed picks up, before they go live. The whole show of politics, is possibly makes the behind-the-scenes grind so much more interesting in hindsight. Still, I missed the sense of urgency that I hope for in campaign films, that absolute need for both sides, or at least, even one side, to be continuously striving for victory, and win-at-all costs. It was there, but I think "The Conquest" was more about the mudslinging than the actual prize. They don't even really deal with the inevitability of having to defeat the next opponent, which is interesting in hindsight, seeing that Sarkozy became a one-term French President. I guess, for what was good about it, I'm gonna recommend "The Conquest" but under a caveat that I think we've seen this done better, of course, being an American, we might just presume we've done everything better to begin with.

SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS (2006) Director: Todd Phillips

1/2 STAR

There's been a lot of me, starting to write a movie review, and then, getting bored or tired or disappointed (or all three at once) at the prospect of having to write about something that, frankly, the kind of thing that, nobody goes into film criticism, wanting to write. We don't want reviews of "School for Scoundrels" as some of you may be shocked to believe! We don't want to have to explain a plot so irrevocably inept and have to go over a so-called "comedy" in lengthy detail, with focus on our thoughts and opinions as we watched the film, or immediately thereafter. They aren't really worth the wasting of precious seconds and minutes of life, to actually have to place my palms over my keyboard in typing position, and have them use there power to be a medium of my thoughts, for a film like "School for Scoundrels". (And many other films for that matter.) I feel sorry for my fingers at this moment, knowing that the joy they usually feel when I crack them and ready them for work like this, so excited to do their job, and be the great communicators and mediators that they are when I type, but alas, it's not to say of anything of value or importance or even, to discuss something that requires a great deal of thought and reflection. It's the way people feel, when they're excited to go to work in the morning, only to find that there car's missing, and their job sucks that day. Todd Phillips has always been, more or less erratic in general. I've skipped most of his work, only catching "Old School", "Starsky & Hutch" and of course, the first two "The Hangover" movies until now. I thought the only thing funny in "Old School" was Will Ferrell, I think I did recommend "Starsky & Hutch", for reasons I couldn't explain if you place a gun to my head right now, although I think it had something to do with casting Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear. I liked the first "The Hangover," although I thought it was overrated, and the second one..., well, the second one, was the second one. "School for Scoundrels" believe it or not, is actually a remake of a 1960 comedy, although I seriously doubt that I'm gonna search it out. The movie starts out, slightly promising with Roger (Jon Heder) a meter maid who's often berating and beaten up by those who he gives tickets to. He complains to his Boss/Counselor Seargeant Moorehead (Luiz Guzman) who's no help. Neither are any of his friends. Even the little brother's he mentors, don't want anything to do with him. He finally takes some advice from Ian (David Cross) to go take the class from Dr. P. (Billy Bob Thornton), who is a-..., I don't know, what do you want to call him? There's nobody there; I don't know who I'm talking to. Well, it's in the damn title, he teaches them how to be, I don't know, scoundrels, or pricks, or whatever. Remember that character Tom Cruise played in "Magnolia", kinda like that guy, without the ego and glitz. Yeah, kinda like that guy, only more hands on, and personal, and in-your-face. He's basically teaching them, how to be cool, and assertive, particularly when trying to get women. Oh yeah, Roger has a crush on Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) a cute, albeit and boring, Australian- what-the-hell is her job? I want to say flight attendant-, oh it doesn't matter, she's basically got the personality of a houseplant, and is about as morose as Jon Heder, so maybe their a good match, although it would've been interesting if Barrett switched roles with Sarah Silverman's who played her pushy, annoying roommate Becky. Other than that, if I laughed once or twice at this senseless movie it was probably just to break up the monotony, and not for anything onscreen in particular. The men in the movie are all sleezy, shallow pricks, and the women are brainless morons who are apparently eager to be with the sleezy shallow pricks, and that can only be so funny for so long, when it's intentionally ironic. When it's not done with irony, well...- it was sad to see Michael Clarke Duncan having to take a role as some kind of strongman/bodyguard to Mr. P. in this too. Not much to like about "School for Scoundrels", and the few "good parts" that would explain my 1/2 STAR rating, well they're not good enough to waste time writing about them.

THE FOUR-FACED LIAR (2010) Director: Jacob Chase


The Four-Faced Liar (2010)

The thing that makes "The Four-Faced Liar," just barely recommendable is that, it's a film about two people finding out that they're falling in love with each other, and not about two girls who find out that they're lesbians. My friend Melissa has been recommending "The Four-Faced Liar" to me for awhile now, among other titles, and I finally got around to it last week. As I searched for a decent movie review to look at and recall some of the details of the film (Which I do occasionally, when they are harder to recall than say, more memorable films, like "The Dark Knight Rises" for instance) and to my surprise, there weren't any reviews on, and I had to scour the internet a bit, before stumbling to to find Danielle Riendeau's smartly-written review. The title comes from the name of the New York bar, conveniently located between sex shops, in one of those areas of New York that you're more likely to see on "Girls" instead of "Sex and the City". Greg and Molly (Daniel Carlisle and Emily Peck) are new in town, and have been a couple for awhile. They soon hit it off with a trio of sorts, Trip and Chloe (Todd Kubrak and Liz Osborn) and Trip's lesbian roommate Bridget (Marja Lewis Ryan). Molly is attending college and while she's in love with Greg, he starts to become rather dull after awhile. He also cheats on her at one point. Meanwhile, Bridget, is outgoing gothic-y, and fun. She has days of the week assigned to her booty, in between being obsessed over "Wuthering Heights". That's the kind that would work better in a play than a movie, and sure enough, the film was written by Ryan, and adapted from her original stage play, and at times, I think it would've played better on a black box stage. There's a lot of quick-witted dialogue, but the action remains a little too slow for film. I think it was done to extend the runtime of the film, 'cause I have a feeling done at the right speed and pace, the play is probably just a one-act-er. (Is that a word, one-act-er; that doesn't sound right. Oh well.) It works however, especially during the last half-hour or so, on the performances. Greg, at one point, cheats on Molly, but he rededicates himself to her, meanwhile, Molly's clearly falling in love with Bridget, who frankly, can't fathom the notion of a meaningful relationship, although she's getting much inspiration from Catherine, which, as most of you have probably figured out by now, the film is loosely inspired by "Wuthering Heights" and Molly is Bridget's Heathcliff. (Or it might be the other way around) The last scene really got me. The two girl lying in bed, looking up, and just talking about, the unknown that's next between them. Ryan is really good with dialogue. The movie is erratic, and the beginning and the ending are the strongest parts, while the middle dwindles a bit. So 2/3 of the movie works, and the dialogue had some real moments of strength and insight. It's a small recommendation for this low-key rom-com, but there's interesting stuff here.

KADOSH (2000) Director: Amos Gitai

2 1/2 STARS

You know, I've often discussed how it's usually easy to remember a movie on recall for me, but "Kadosh" is one, that I am having trouble recalling. In fact, when I watched the opening shot, a long single take, of a couple that's getting out of bed and beginning their day, I swore that it was so familiar that, perhaps I had seen the film before, or at least had started watching it at one point, and just never finished. (I'm pretty sure it was the latter) Yet, I still had a difficult time, getting a real grasp for "Kadosh" and I think I know why. It's because the movie, isn't so much interested in plot, as oppose to recreating a reality of the world the film takes place in, in this particular case, a look inside the life of women, is the ultra-orthodox Hasidim faith of Judaism, and taking place in Mea Shearim, a very Hasidim area of Jerusalem. In that aspect, the movie works, but what that means it lacks, is a more driving story and plot to follow. That makes sense, considering Israeli Director Amos Gitai's background as a documentarian, although the one previous film of his I've seen, a movie I do remember quite well called "Free Zone", also dealt with the complications of modern-day life in the Middle East. Kadosh, has a small plot, involving how one young woman, Malka (Meital Barda) falls in love with Yaakov (Sami Huri) but he is rejected by the sect, for his radicals views (Which aren't that radical) and insteal Malka is to marry Yossef (Uri Klauzner), while another marriage, Meir and Rivka (Yoram Hattab and Yael Abecassis) is being forced to be divorced, since Rivka is now barren. These decisions, seem guided by the Yeshiva's Rabbit, who happens to be Meir's father, but in reality, it's the old traditional and male dominance of the orthodoxy that dictates the procedures. The women's only job is to bare children, and the men,... well the men can do pretty much anything within the bounds of the religion. They study and debate the Talmud quite a bit for instance, often looking for loopholes in the Sabbath procedures. Not all marriages or lives or the women are bad, but essentially, they're all subservient to the men in this closed-in, sect. It's a film about the way people live, and not about what someone does. This is why, it isn't strikingly entertaining. It's well-made, albeit slow-moving, and frankly while I normally love long takes in film, even this one was starting to bother me a bit. It had good motives, and it does showcase a part of the Middle East, that a lot of us aren't familiar with and haven't seen, especially in terms of the way women are treated. (It's hardly the Taliban, but still, it's shocking behavior) That said, does good motives, make a good movie. The fact is that a truly entertaining film, need slightly more than that. I respect and admire "Kadosh", and may even recommend people see it, under certain circumstances, but I can't say that I ever want to see it again. It took me two viewings to sit through it, and there's still, very little driving this movie forward. 

Monday, June 17, 2013



Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman

I hate dating. I hate the rules of dating, and I hate the entire process of having to go out and be with someone, and then either make a move or not make a move and then figure out what move it is you’re supposed to or not supposed to make…. People, when dating, are by far at their most self-conscious of themselves. I believe only the truest free-spirits can ever be comfortable doing it, and even then, it’s probably a defense mechanism to hide some other personal flaw a person may deems as not good for use during the practice of dating. The only other people, that dating is good for, are those who aren’t self-conscious, because they don’t know any better, like the young, which is probably what makes them so appealing.

You see, when I originally wrote that intro to my "Canon of Film" entry for "Manhattan" many years ago, I thought I was making an actual declaration of some kind, and on my worst days, it could be described as one, but I realize now, that not only is it a good preamble to discussing the film, but it actually almost seems like dialogue from it. Like something Isaac (Woody Allen) or Mary (Diane Keaton) would say at some lavish dinner party or museum for somebody who knows somebody about the New York intellectual elite, right in between conversations about what everyone's analyst says about their wet dreams and why Van Gogh is overrated. On some level, "Manhattan" really is just about, the ways in which men and women, react to each other, especially when each of them know that sex is a possibility. It's this constant battle we have, between love and intelligence. Yes, we can appreciate Bergman and Arbus and McLuhan, and all those other names that get thrown around at parties, or nowadays, in FB groups, and still essentially, just wish somebody who look us lovingly in the eye and tell you to calm down and make love to me in some strange way that nobody would ever let you before, and then after that have her say, "Oh look, the late show is a W.C. Fields film."

Those are the constant extremes of Woody Allen, and no more than in "Manhattan", does he so clearly and perceptively struggle with them than in "Manhattan". It was appreciated by critics and the public when the film was released, but now the film reveals itself as a true masterpiece, not just about dating, but the reasons we do date, to find love. And then, the even worse part is that thought that, what if we had the love that we wanted and strived for, but let it go, maybe without even realizing it, and that’s assuming that are feelings we love, is actually love, and not a mind-created mirage to help cure us of loneliness.  Shot with gorgeous blue-lit black and white photography by the great Gordon Willis, and using George Gershwin songs as the ironic soundtrack, Allan begins the movie by saying "Chapter 1" but he gets so bogged down in criticizing his own words, he never gets around to chapter 2, or for that matter, sentence 2. He plays a New York intellectual who writes on a dreadful TV sitcom named Isaac Davis. His 2nd ex-wife, Jill (Meryl Streep) has left him for another woman, and has begun writing a tell-all book about their marriage. He's currently dating Tracy (Mariel Hemingway, in an Oscar-nominated role) a 17-year-old high school student, who idealizes Isaac, but who Isaac keeps trying to break up with, mostly because he realizes the absurdity of the relationship, on both sides. (He's 25 years older than her.) Isaac's best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) is cheating on his wife Emily (Anne Byrne), with Mary, a magazine writer, who's on a similar intellectual plane with Isaac, which is why Yale continually tries to get the two of them together since he won't break-up with his wife. Mary's also a complete mess, who switches back and forth, between being the unknowing Philadelphian that's in over her head (Although being that my family's from Philly, I also don't know what-the-hell she means when she refers back to Philadelphia) and cursing like a sailor at herself, as she realizes every stupid relationship mistake she makes, but can't help herself from making them. 

The love-triangles that form out of this are probably the ones you expect, but not in the way you’d expect. For instance, one day when both are still in their respected relationship, Mary calls Isaac to go to the planetarium on a Saturday afternoon, not because of mutual attraction, but mainly out of boredom, which is also the reason he decides to go. They share a nice quiet, well-lit afternoon, and begin to think they might be a good couple. But would they make a good couple? Would any combination of these people make a good couple? As everybody starts falling in and out of lust, and then love for each other, the key to this film, is Tracy, the 17-year old, who's so quiet and observant, but fiercely in love with Isaac, that age or things-in-common, or any other factor that apply to the other people don’t apply to her. Is she the most diluted character or the least diluted? Appearances aren't what they seem, but there’s a quality to her that makes her endearing, a good soul that isn't going to break with a break-up, or for that matter with age. Isaac finally realizes, too late what he gave up with her and finally getting together for a doomed relationship with Mary, and in a perfect final scene confronts her once again, to try to win her back. Does it mean a relationship between them would actually work, or is it that she represents something that none of the other characters feel. It’s not youth, as most would think, but loss, the belief that we missed an opportunity that one may not have known even existed. It's not the mistakes we choices we make, that trouble us most, but the choices we passed up on.  

I've  been known to have had several of those; I'm sure we all have. I don’t know what I missed out on, but that doesn't mean I don’t think about the road not taken. But what hurts more, is that after we take the road, it’s almost impossible to take a u-turn and find the road again if we want a do-over. That's the thing about fond memories, they're only fond, because they're on some level, they come out of regret, something Isaac and Yale find out, as we all do, too late.

Friday, June 14, 2013


The 5 Obstructions blogathon

I had planned on writing something else, but a funny thing happened on the way to the publish button. I came across, on one of the hundreds of blogs I follow, "The 5 Obstructions Blogathon", a couple sleepless night ago. I was intrigued, first because of the title, which references the great Lars von Trier and Jorgen Leth documentary, where von Tiers, challenges his directing idol, to remake the same film, five different times, under five different sets of rules and parameters. I wrote a Canon of Film entry on that film earlier; the link to that post is below:

Oh, this is apart of the blog "My Film Views" who's constructed this equivalent challenge, for film bloggers, here's his link:

Many other bloggers are participating. I normally am not big on blog-a-thons. I like following some of the relay races, although they never seem to invite me to participate for some reason, (I would, if asked, I don't know why they don't) but normally I don't participate on my own, but something kinda came over me this time around. Maybe I was looking for a challenge. Sometimes I get tired of looking for simply new topics, and sometimes I'd rather experiment and simply, work on extending my writing skills; a blog-a-thon, like this, where every month we'd have to write a movie review, under different parameters than the film before, it intrigued me greatly. For instance, the first challenge, something I haven't done since film school.

OBSTRUCTION 1: Write a positive review for a film you don't like, or write a negative review for a film you love.

This is a cool challenge to yourself, to see if you can not only defend, but also beat down your own thoughts on a film. I'm not big on talking on a film I don't like, and justifying it, although I'm sure if I needed to, that 5 STAR review of "Rock of Ages" is probably in me, but instead, at three in the morning, I for some reason, chose to start slamming Woody Allen's masterpiece "Manhattan". To some extent, it's a natural pick, I've written on it before, I'm known for being an Allen fan already, and I wouldn't be alone is going after it, Woody Allen himself hates the movie, so I guess I must've thought, maybe it'd fun to dig into the psyche of Woody and see if I can see what he sees. Or maybe, it was the fact that I hadn't slept in two days, and just wanted to vent about the script I was writing, not coming out as I like, either way, here's my blogathon entry, and my special Negative Review of "Manhattan"!

MANHATTAN (1979) Director: Woody Allen


There's something creepy nowadays about how Woody Allen's "Manhattan" plays out. Especially knowing what we know now about Woody, even the illusion of him dating a teenager... well, I guess him and Sun-Yi still together have the last laugh with that one, but still.... He's also mentioned, to his credit, that "Manhattan" is one of his worst films, and he's amazed that it has the popularity and acclaim that it does. (He famously promised to direct a film for free, if the studio wouldn't release it) There are parts of the movie that work like Gordon Willis's gorgeous, slightly blue-tinted, black-and-white photography, and the performances, especially by Mariel Hemmingway, as the beautfiul and tall teenager Tracy who Allen's character, Isaac Davis is dating, almost embarassingly. There's a 25-year age difference between Isaac and the awkward and lanky Tracy, and Isaac seems to be attempting to have her break up with him, for the whole movie. He finally breaks up with her, when he actually has a decent excuse; he's fallen in love, or so he thinks, with his friend Yale's (Michael Murphy) mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton). This is where the film really gets sketchy. Yale and Mary often double-date with Isaac and Tracy, and what they're really up to,is rather disturbing when you think about it, even if it is in the subconscious of the male characters. It's always common in Woody Allen films, for a character, usually male, to be in a relationship, and suddenly find himself yearning over someone else, obsessed to the point where they'll do anything to be with that person, and the second they get with that person, they can't wait to get rid of her. "Manhattan" goes one-step more devious, as the entire film, is essentially about both men, constantly trying to pawn off their girlfriend onto another guy, or another life. The way Mary and Isaac argue over Ingmar Bergman for instance, is a sign to Yale, that he can drops hints to Isaac that they would probably be good together, and perhaps Yale's not around once in a while, which helps get them to hit it off and hang out at a museum or a park, one a lazy Saturday afternoon on their own, where they get to know a little bit more about each other. Possibly, let them see if there's a spark between them themselves? On the other hand, Isaac keeps telling Tracy she should start dating people her own age, and to go off to college or backpack through Europe. Strangely, both Isaac and Yale are essentially right in their relationship analysis. And essentially wrong, naturally 'cause nobody can ever fully trust their inner emotions in Woody Allen's universe. The one character who seems completely at ease with the relationship decision she made is Isaac's ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep), who left Isaac for a woman, and plans on writing a tell-all book about their marriage. Isaac work in television producing makes him a known entertainment commodity, so this isn't the greatest hit to his, already blustered reputation. Still, Jill might be the most vengeful lesbian in all of film, other than possibly Katherine Trammel, and that's only if you "Basic Instinct" that way.

Essentially, these are the same themes and comedic undertones Allen used effectively in "Annie Hall", except done with the shallowness of Shakespeare's most mischievous comic characters at the helm. When you look back on Isaac, running through the streets of New York, what is he really looking for, and what does he think he'll find when he finally reaches Tracy, who's hours away from a six-month trip to Europe, that he knows will completely ensure that she'll never be the innocent wide-eyed teen that fell in love with him. What exactly is he saying about love, love is only for the youth? Is love youth? Is it familiarity? Or is love simply, that which we don't have at the moment, and the yearning and striving for it, that's real true love, and the actual getting of love, falls at the weight of our disappointment and great expectations?

In hindsight, Allen's right. "Manhattan" is a beautiful film, that takes place in an amazing city that can't be summed up by one movie, and certainly not and opening prologue, but it's not a good one of his. It takes the most cynical depictions of human behavior, particularly in regard to love and dating. For the men, it's a game of musical girlfriends, with emotion-filled irony, as they only realize their supposedly true feelings for them, after they've tossed them aside, like an old toy a child hasn't played with in years. And the women, frankly, seem more than willing to let this be the norm. Especially Keaton's character, who's basically a flakier version of Annie Hall. Why is Mary, so willing to be with Yale, even requesting that he not leave his wife for her, begetting the question of why she's in it to begin with? Or why she goes with Isaac later, even after knowing that he just quit being a pedophile finished dating a teenager. Is she somebody who loves drama, and being caught in the middle, or is she really as flighty as she seems, always spouting about how people didn't do these things in Philadelphia, where she's from? Are these people looking for love or witty conversation between sexual escapades and the next brunch. If love is companionship, than no one had a happy ending in this film. "Manhattan" is so cynical, it can't find anything to hold true. You can argue it's even cynical about cynicism, if somebody wishes to read that much into it. There's no great defining message on love or anything  else in "Manhattan" and if there is, it's scattered at best, and at worst, it's an exploration of the most primal and shallow aspects of human nature, hidden by the guise of New York intellectualism and George Gershwin music.

Well, that was challenging and fun. And I'll cure myself of that icky feeling, by posting my real thoughts on "Manhattan" with my  Canon of Film entry, as my next blogpost, but until then, I hope you enjoyed this. Can't wait 'til the next obstruction I'll have to write.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Well, while we here, having been painstakingly compiling a poll of the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!", the WGA, the Writer's Guild of America, which for the few who may not know, is the Screenwriters' Union in Hollywood, released their own list last week, of the "101 Best-Written TV Shows of All-Time".  Not gonna lie, being as list-obsessed as I am, I took a day and a half or so, pouring over it. Oh, if you haven't done that yet, here's the link to their list below:

You should also the introduction to the list, written by Paul Brownfield, it's quite a good opening.

Personally, I think it's actually quite a good list they compiled. Sure, there's a few complaints like all lists do, it certainly looks very different from a list I would've compiled, overall.... I mean there's maybe 3 or 4 shows, that I think, no good reason or argument can be made for their inclusion, and some of them were pretty high too but, that's not bad for these kind of lists, and the rest, I can certainly understand it getting on this list, even if a few wouldn't have made mine, or if it should've been in another order, but generally, I think the Writer's Guild did quite a good job on this. They did one a few years ago, regarding the Best Screenplays of all-time, and this one, and I like that they chose to do one for television, as I'm doing here. This poll was constructed to be a television equivalent, at least structurally, to "Sight & Sound"'s movie poll, so there's a lot of admiration I have for it.

In case you're wondering about their top-sheet results, they named "The Sopranos" as the Best-Written TV show of All-Time, with "Seinfeld", 2nd, followed by "The Twilight Zone", "All in the Family", "M*A*S*H", "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Mad Men", "Cheers", "The Wire" and "The West Wing" rounding out the Top Ten. (Alright, "The West Wing" was way too low, there I said it.) The rest, I'll let you look up, but it's actually not that different from the way our Poll has been looking. For the most part anyway, there's currently one show in the Top Ten, of our Current Results, that didn't make their list, (I'll tell you which show that is in a bit) but keep in mind, they're judging the writing only, of a show. The writing is one aspect, and a crucial one at that, but it's not necessarily the only aspect that makes great show. Especially in our poll, where we accept votes for TV shows, that don't even have writing. So there you go.

Speaking of votes, let's take a look at the newest ballots to be received in our poll, and a special thank you to Josh Lyons of Couch Potato Club, for participating. He's the latest entertainment blogger to participate, I sincerely hope we get many more of them soon.

JOSH LYONS (Couch Potato Club; )
Friends ('94)
Cheers ('82)
The Walking Dead
The Office ('05)
Married...with Children
The Simpsons
The Big Bang Theory
Alfred Hitchcock Presents ('55)

1. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
2. Scrubs
3. Angel ('99)
4. Firefly
5. Boardwalk Empire
6. Breaking Bad
7. The Big Bang Theory
8. Dollhouse
9. Modern Family
10. New Girl

The Voice ('11)
The X-Factor ('11)
American Idol
Hell's Kitchen ('10)
MasterChef ('10)
Big Brother ('00)
The Amazing Race

Star Trek ('66)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Saturday Night Live
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Mad Men
The Sopranos
The Walking Dead
The Bob Newhart Show ('72)
Dragnet ('67)

Well, we're still quite a ways from actually finishing that Poll, but we're getting closer. We're almost 3/4th the way done. The top sheet, still pretty much looks the same, with "Seinfeld" still way ahead of the field, although "M*A*S*H", is getting closer to them. Other than that, the only completely new entry into the Top Ten, making it into the Top Ten, for the first time, is "The Walking Dead," which, yes, that's also the show, that didn't make WGA's list. (I haven't seen it, you can complain to the WGA.)

Right now, we're still a little short of our goal of 100 ballots, so we still need more people, like you, to participate! In case you're new to this, the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!" poll, like I said, was a television reaction to "Sight & Sound"'s Movie poll, only thing is that, anybody can participate. If you want to submit your ballot, there dozens of places all over Facebook in movie groups, and movie reviewer groups, as well as on my Facebook page, you can Comment with your ballot their, you can send it to me, you can message it to me on Facebook, or you can just comment with it on this blogpost below. However you can get ahold of me, get ahold of me, basically. And leave your name too, I won't accept Anonymous ballots; if it's your choices for the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!", you should be proud enough to put your name down, and also because, I need a way of contacting you, in case I have a question on your ballot. For instance, in case a title has been used for multiple TV shows, like "The Office", or "Hawaii Five-O", or "Dragnet", most recently, or a few other cases, regarding rules. Here are the rules by the way:

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

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

It's been rare, but there have been a couple occasions where I had to disqualify a vote, for something like "Looney Tunes", which, the version of that, that most people mean when they say that, actually aired in movie theaters originally, so, things like that, that come up. So yeah, make sure, I can in some way, contact you, in case this happens.

So, that it's. Be as specific as possible, but don't worry, it's only ten shows. Time for to vote, and submit your ballot, to name the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME!"