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Wonderful, Warm Drama With Soccer As A Unifying, Loving Force - Hard To Believe, But True!, 24 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was recently asked to write a recommendation for a soccer film, this was the first title that came to my mind. So, even though soccer only plays a small part of the story, it is such an important element in the DNA of the film, I had to include it.

The film is The Year My Parents Went On Vacation from Brazilian writer/director Cao Hamburger. The year mentioned in the title is 1970 and excitement is in the air as Brazil makes it to the World Cup Finals and with Pele on their team, what could possibly be wrong!

Well, lots actually.

Our protagonist is 11 year old Mauro (Michel Joelsas) who, along with his political dissident parents is on the run from the military police. In order to protect Mauro, his father arranges to leave him with his paternal Grandfather while they "go on vacation", which is a euphemism for hiding out from the authorities.

So Mauro gets dropped at the entrance of a large scary apartment building in a run down section of Sao Paulo and with a quick hug and a kiss, his parents are gone. Unbeknownst to them however, Mauro's Grandfather has just died that morning from a heart attack.

Things then go from bad to worse for Mauro as this is a very Orthodox Jewish area of Sao Paulo and most of the residents only speak Yiddish, a language that sounds like so much gibberish to young Mauro who didn't even know his father was Jewish.

Now enters Shlomo (Germano Haiut), a crabby, ill-tempered old duffer who lives in the apartment next door to Mauro's deceased grandfather and there is a great discussion among the neighbors about what to do with Mauro.

Finally, the local Rabbi decrees that since God dropped Mauro on Shlomo's doorstep, HE must know what he's doing and orders Shlomo to care for the boy until his parents return, albeit with help from the community. Talk about an odd couple!

But this is where soccer comes into play.

Because Brazil is in the World Cup Finals against Mexico, the entire country gets united behind their national team and before long everyone from Communist to Capitalist, old to young, male to female or whatever combination you can come up with manages to put aside their differences long enough to root for Pele and team Brazil.

If I have made The Year My Parents Went On Vacation sound like a Brazilian "Home Alone", I apologize; nothing could be further from the truth.

What I liked about this film was the way it managed to negotiate the growing friendship between Mauro and Shlomo without resorting to emotional tricks or false sentiment.

In fact, The Year My Parents Went On Vacation is one of the least sentimental films I have seen.

With its excellent performances, well written script, exceptional cinematography and understated, but effective music score, The Year My Parents Went On Vacation is a coming of age dramady that is light years ahead most other films in that usually overwrought genre. I can't recommend this film enough.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Knowing Absolutely Nothing About British Soccer Was Not A Hindrance, In Fact, It Was A Help To Me!, 23 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is no joke that other countries around the world take their soccer seriously. I won't say that there have never been riots or fights at American sporting events, but when you look at the death tolls from soccer disagreements worldwide, they make America seem positively civilized by comparison.

That said, as a complete non-fan of soccer (any sport where you can't use your hands or arms is not much of a sport) and as someone who knows next to nothing about the game's history, it would seem odd that I recommend The Damned United so highly, but I do.

While the names Brian Clough, Peter Taylor, Don Revie and Sam Longson may bring forth exciting memories to British soccer fans, they mean nothing to me. But, if there is a film written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and starring Michael Sheen (Unthinkable, Frost/Nixon), Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd, the Harry Potter films) and Jim Broadbent (Bullets Over Broadway, Moulin Rouge, the Harry Potter films), I will certainly fork over my nine bucks to see it.

The Damned United follows the true story of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), who was brought in to manage the Leeds United football club in 1974 replacing the team's beloved manager Don Revie (Colm Meaney). Clough's controversial 44-day stint at Leeds United was full of hubris, jealousy, betrayal, incompetence and was such a condensed human drama that it has spawned novels, plays, countless hours of critical analysis and now a film.

Not knowing anything about the real people involved, or how they have been portrayed in the newspapers enabled me to perhaps see the film with fresher eyes than a knowledgeable fan may have. So, while I can't comment on the films historical accuracy, I can say that the dramatic accuracy is spot on.

We meet Brian Clough and learn how he adopted Muhammad Ali's boisterous braggadocio as a personality template much to the chagrin of players and fans alike. We see what a constant headache Clough was to the team owners and how he had little regard for the huge amounts of their money he was spending.

But we also learn how effective Clough was. One thread of the story shows us how Clough managed to take his previous team, Derby County, from a national joke to serious first division competitors.

We also see that behind the outrageous public persona of Brian Clough lay the unheralded strategist Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall) who handled the games play books, starting line-ups and the other day-to-day minutiae that make up the running of any professional sports team.

And we see how Clough's reckless egomania nearly destroyed this decades long friendship. I wasn't expecting an affecting bromance when I went into see The Damned United and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the theme of how a friendship can survive through fame, fortune and failure was what The Damned United was really about.

The soccer was incidental.

So, even if you know nothing about British soccer leagues, The Damned United works as a powerful well-written drama, full of great acting and unforgettable characters.

4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
This Is US History Told By Loons! It Was Ludicrous in 1950 And It Still Is!, 22 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I first saw this short film on the DVD of the 1951 Captain Horatio Hornblower starring Gregory Peck. And that fictional film had more accurate history than this ludicrous short subject.

My Country Tis Of Thee is for the social retards who hate real history and prefer that America's past be rendered in semi-literate bursts of myth, unearned patriotism and religious faith.

Yes, the film alludes to real things that happened, there was a US Civil War, a War of 1812, Abe Lincoln was the president at one time, America did fight in WWII etc. But the time frame for these events is often jumbled and key points are missed, for example, there is no mention of our most important WWII ally, the Soviet Union.

The Cold War notwithstanding, even for 1950, this was unforgivable.

The treatment of the Native Americans is laughable, even for the time period. Only a loon, a tea bagger or Glenn Beck would find this short film watchable and I would only show it to kids as punishment and only then if there was a real historian nearby to clear up the falsehoods and fantastic errors.

Like, the film says the atom bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki were launched from Okinawa. Huh? It was the island of Tinian. Everyone knows this, even in 1950 they knew it. If My Country Tis Of Thee gets this simple easily verifiable facts wrong, what else does it get wrong?

Too much to even count as it turns out. You help no one by promoting historical trash as truth. Especially when the real story of America is so enthralling, so captivating, so inspiring, why embellish it with falsehoods, lies and untruths?

America overcoming its errors and former wrong ways has made us a stronger nation, a more just nation, a better nation; there is no reason to be ashamed of that.

Denying those truths is the real crime.

You don't prove your love for the USA by lying about it, or by denying our faults. In fact, our openness in talking about them and dealing with them IS one of the things that makes America the great country we are.

180 out of 321 people found the following review useful:
Like The Lead Character, The Social Network Misses The Important Ideas, 2 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is something wrong with this film like it was put though a filter of some type to remove any real humanity, unless that is the point. I'm not a psychiatrist but Mark Zuckerberg as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg in the film seems to suffer from some kind of emotional agnosia. . .and so does the film.

I was looking forward to this film and I had fun watching it, but as I thought about it afterwards, all I could remember were the squandered opportunities the film had to actually tell a moving story about friendship and loyalty that got wrecked by a cool business venture that became much too successful way too quickly.

Both Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher have both said The Social Network is not really about the "Facebook saga" with Sorkin even being so bold as to claim the basic story goes all the way back to the Greek dramatists. He has a point, so what do you think, would Aristophanes have been a MAC man or a PC user?

Truly, you won't find a better emotional core to build a drama around than the relationship between best friends Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). That bromance is the heart of The Social Network and the film kept getting close to this emotional territory but then it would crash like an overloaded network and flit to other characters not important to the main story.

For example, the machinations of the Winklevoss twins are comic relief elevated to main story arc status. The self-righteous anger they feel and the lengths they go to seek revenge play like Margaret Dumont fighting with Groucho Marx.

It's very satisfying to see these overly entitled, great white hopes become dismayingly angry that things didn't go exactly the way they wanted them to for probably the first time in their lives. The Social Network develops a sharp edge to it in these scenes from their characters genuine feelings of an entitlement snatched away from them by a clearly undeserving cretin and the actors play it for all the high comedy they can.

But the main bromance is tested when the sexy, charming, persuasive entrepreneur Sean Parker (played to paranoid perfection by Justin Timberlake) comes in well over an hour into the film and starts finding ways to turn Facebook into a mega-money making operation all the while charming the pants off Mark Zuckerberg; much to Eduardo's sad eyed jealousy.

At this moment, The Social Network could become an ancient Greek drama in more ways than one.

But it doesn't. Instead, we just get more back and forth cutting between depositions and lawyer meetings, which are interesting and could have provided clues into the characters, but don't. These scenes were the biggest missed opportunities in the film.

Another squandered moment, why can't we see the scene where Zuckerberg goes into an investment banker's office in his bathrobe and slippers to deliver a Sean Parker bird-flip? Will Zuckerberg realize that making good on revenge for others is totally unsatisfying? And why was the tough talking Parker too big a wuss not to do it himself?

If the scene isn't going to advance the plot or inform about the characters, why have it?

Witnessing Parkers pathetic attempt at a put down of Andrew Garfield by offering him a check for $19,000 and then totally being made a fool of showed exactly what kind of man Saverin was and what kind of useless blow-hard Parker was.

As a secondary theme, the idea that money can ruin almost anything good like friendship, loyalty or love, even here, The Social Network does not convince. It seems that it was the fact that Facebook made tons of money that this story even has an ending that did not end in suicide or death. If Sorkin or Fincher sees anything ironic or even noteworthy in this, they sure don't indicate it in the film.

Remember, people would even have excused a horrible sociopathic bully like Alex DeLage in A Clockwork Orange if he had only made a billion dollars for someone.

As it is right now, The Social Network feels way too long and there is no emotional payoff. I didn't feel a sense of relief or fun or even sadness when the end credit titles listed what happened to the various characters.

The Social Network had glibness and a flow that only indicated a surface look at the deeper themes, but nothing else.

Fincher generally likes to make fast moving films because he seems to fear depth. He probably disagrees with the saying that "still waters run deep" and thinks that still waters are the ones that turn stagnant.

Well David, that's true, but stagnant water can still be deep water, and shallow water is never anything else.

89 out of 146 people found the following review useful:
The Film To See If You Like Getting Bored Into A Coma!, 23 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was really looking forward to this film. I like all the actors and the technical credits looked promising. I felt this film might live or die by its script but seeing Alex Garland's name attached was a bonus. I liked his previous work; The Beach, most of Sunshine and I especially loved 28 Days Later.

That Kazuo Ishiguro wrote the novel this film is based on was less impressive for me. I do not know the mans literary work and regarding film work, one of the better Merchant/Ivory films, The Remains Of The Day was based on an Ishiguro novel, so I was not unduly alarmed when I sat down.

I also have, make that HAD, no strong opinion about the competence of director Mark Romanek and some films, despite the "auteur theory" are not director made.

Never Let Me Go looked like one of those. What I neglected to consider was that a director could completely unmake a reasonably good story.

This film is a torturous mess. It is dull looking, leaden paced and they really should have had one or two more story conferences to work out the stupendous improbabilities in the plot. Now, I understand that the film takes place neither in the future, nor in the past and that it is presenting a world developmentally different than our own, but please, this film makes no sense, even if you apply the generally absurd level of sense that is standard for the sci-fi genre.

First, the "surprise" that these kids are being raised for the sole purpose of organ donation is stated verbally quite early in the film. But that's just for the slow members of the audience. In fact, the films ending, thematic point and character denouement are visually shown to us in the very first scene as a skinny, scarred Andrew Garfield is wheeled into an operating room to have his last useful organs removed under the watchful eye of Carrey Mulligan, the woman who truly loves him.

Gee, thanks Carrey, I'm glad you love him. Imagine what might have happened if you hated him!

But this whole organ transplant idea is just a clumsy allegory for something else because it makes no medical sense what so ever. The film makes some attempt at explanation for why this society needs so many organ donors, but it is a ludicrous premise.

If these kids are being used for say, kidney transplants, and human kidneys still work the same way and for the same reasons in their world, than I can at least conclude some nominal comparability to our own world. And here the films central plot point crashes on the rocks of reality.

For example, in the USA last year, 28,000 people were saved by organ transplants, out of a roughly 305,000,000 population. That's a very small percentage. Most of the diseases and accidents that can kill you are not fixable by simply getting a new kidney.

Then there is the utter passivity of kids. I mean, they adamantly don't want to die, but when they are let out of their holding pens to go for a drive far into the countryside, they return on time and on schedule. It almost seems like they WANT to be carved up into all their little pieces parts.

I don't even want to get into the utter stupidity of the film postulating that the third grade drawings of houses and cows somehow indicates that that person has a "soul".

Trust me, there are better ways to prove your humanity than by the creation of lousy amateur art. It's a ludicrous conceit and whoever came up with it should be ashamed of themselves.

So if you want to see a film with an improbable story by Kazuo Ishiguro, check out The Saddest Music In The World. But since that film was directed by the Canadian genius Guy Maddin, the film has wit, excessive eccentricities in filmic style and a huge number of belly laughs.

Avoid Never Let Me Go unless you consider getting bored into a coma a fun way to spend an evening.

18 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Driving A Car Or Operating Heavy Machinery After Seeing This Film Could Be Hazadous!, 27 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The critical hosannas being hurled at this film are completely mystifying to me. I have not seen such a disingenuous conglomeration of bad ideas thrown together like ingredients for a hack melodrama get this much critical praise, since, I don't know, since A Beautiful Mind or Crash.

Maybe it's because I like all the actors so much. It was disappointing to see people with such distinctive screen presences as Samuel L Jackson, Naomi Watts and Shareeka Epps get used in a story that wouldn't have passed muster as a cheap Lifetime Channel movie.

Watching Annette Bening treating Jimmy Smits rudely or having Naomi Watts introduce Sam Jackson to her nosy neighbor as her father were scenes that should have sparkled, but here they were flat as yesterday's ginger ale.

Nothing rang true for me in this story from the desperation of the young black couple to adopt a baby, any baby, to the aggressive career girl lawyer to Annette Bening's Latina maid; this doesn't mean there are not people in these predicaments in real life, because there are. I just didn't believe them here.

A good example was Shareeka Epps, she was so great in Half-Nelson as the smart girl who saw through her drug addicted teachers faults to his positive qualities, but here as an obnoxious teen giving the third degree to hopeful parents who want to adopt a baby she is thinking of giving up, I mean this is a dumb idea for a character. It's a self-conscious and false attempt to add a layer to what is essentially a bland stock character, it's right out of screen writing 101 and just as predictable.

But it was the way all the characters spoke with the same type of ironic-hip diction of a bad cable TV series that was truly annoying. With my eyes closed, I could not tell who was talking to whom, they all had the same vocabulary whether they were a Catholic nun or a high priced lawyer. How realistic is that? It isn't, except in Bad TV Land!

I swear, this glacially paced movie put me into a mouth-breathing coma. A double shot of Starbucks espresso was not enough to pull me out of my torpor after I sleepwalked out of the theater into the warm night air. Seriously, I needed a defibrillator to zap me back to the living world when this film was over.

But what really ticked me off was that this film did not have the decency to just be bad and misguided, but it had to pretend to be about "SOMETHING" in capital letters, when it is really nothing more than an ordinary dull soap opera dressed up as a motion picture.

I kept thinking to myself, "Douglas Sirk would have known what to do with this script." What a shame he's no longer with us. Gosh this film was a waste of time.

17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
This Is Either The Most Believable Mockumentary In Film History, Or The Most Disingenuous Documentary., 25 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a film where the less you know about it beforehand, the better. Directed by the mysterious street artist Banksy, the ostensible story follows a French immigrant to Los Angeles named Thierry Guetta who made his living operating a second hand clothing shop.

As a hobby, Guetta began videotaping the nighttime antics of various local street artists like Shepard Fairey (who created the famous HOPE poster of Barack Obama) as they plastered their guerrilla art on empty billboards, highway overpasses and the blank sides of buildings often times just a few steps ahead of the vigilant, but unappreciative L.A. police department.

Virtually any street artist who was anyone, including the elusive Banksy, sooner or later got videotaped by Guetta, which led to hundreds of hours of raw footage being stored in unmarked boxes that no one would ever see.

Like a collection of dictionaries on a shelf, while they may have all the words necessary to tell a great story, until someone did the actual work of putting them into a coherent order, there would be no way to separate the signal from the noise.

Several attempts to bring order to this chaos were less than successful, finally, Thierry Guetta got tired of just documenting these street artists, hey, if they could be artists by just doing it, so could he. So, blatantly stealing these street artists style, methods and madness, Thierry Guetta declared himself an artist and began to create work on his own.

Yes, just like that.

Exit Through The Gift Shop finally takes us to the madcap opening of Thierry Guetta's first one-man show in a gallery created from an unused TV Studio. It is a huge success and becomes the "happening" place to be seen for a while. In fact, Thierry Guetta has probably made more money and generated more press than some of the street artists he used to film and who are still on the streets as it were, much to their annoyance.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is a thrilling and original film that grabs you from the first and won't let go; the only problem with all of this is it may just be a prank.

The clues to that are the fact that Banksy, the nominal director is a notorious prankster and not too many people seemed to have heard about this Thierry Guetta until this film was made.

One other thing, actor Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Greenberg, Pirate Radio) provides the narration for the film and unless I am very mistaken, also seems to be the disguised voice of Banksy, who we see interviewed in heavy silhouette to hide his face. It also seems odd that all of this could have been happening in the very public L.A. art community without more people on the outside hearing about it.

Either way, this is a fast paced and exciting film that will tickle you, astound you and fascinate you, even if you know nothing about street art. Which makes Exit Through The Gift Shop either the most believable mockumentary in film history, or the most disingenuous documentary.

Exit Through The Gift Shop celebrates the subversive excitement many artists feel as they skewer the pieties of the pop culture that spawned them and not so subtly reminds us that on occasion, even the tamest of artists will bite the hand that feeds them. Don't miss it.

Invictus (2009)
28 out of 52 people found the following review useful:
Invictus Turns The Truly Inspiring Nelson Mandela Into A Platitude Mouthing Yoda-like Character., 15 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. As I reflected upon the day, I thought about the sheer number of unlikely things that have occurred in my lifetime.

Back when I was ten, the idea that Great Britain and the IRA would ever achieve a ceasefire was, at best, a dim prospect. Likewise, no one thought the USSR would ever dissolve or that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled and the idea that a black man would one day be elected President of the USA was given about as much a chance of happening as finding two identical snowflakes.

The thought that South Africa, a county where racism WAS the official government policy would ever end its evil apartheid ways was almost inconceivable. Adding to that, the fact that the citizens of South Africa elected themselves a black president was an almost unbelievable turn of events.

Then, in order to prevent his country from devolving into resentment and revenge, President Nelson Mandela (a believer in the power of forgiveness) established the Truth And Reconciliation Commission where people could admit to their past racist misdeeds and then be publicly forgiven.

This showed me that the people of South Africa, both black and white have achieved a level of grace and civility that we Americans can only dream about.

If you don't believe me, just listen to any Teabagger or wingnut religious conservative on contemporary talk radio. You won't hear more foolish hateful nonsense this side of a fascist dictator. However, what the real Nelson Mandela did to avoid the potential revenge and recriminations of the people is an inspiring story that truly gives me hope for mankind.

So how come Invictus proved to be one of the most annoying experiences I have spent in a movie theater in a long time? Was it because director Clint Eastwood has reduced Nelson Mandela to a supporting player in his own life and instead focused his film on a white rugby team?

Was it because he turned Nelson Mandela into a Yoda-like character sputtering out banal philosophy that would embarrass even the flightiest of New Age nit-wits, or even a serious New Age nit-wit like Deepak Chopra? I mean, what has happened to Clint Eastwood?

How can it be that after directing about 30+ feature films, Eastwood still has not developed any kind of camera sense. I find it hard to accept the sloppy choices of angles and coverage in Eastwood's films, especially since he usually works with very competent cinematographers and editors.

Every poignant plot point is telegraphed well in advance, so any chance of surprise or insight is muffed. Is this what his vast experience in the film industry has taught him?

Clint Eastwood has spoken with admiration of some of the directors he has worked with in the past, like the Hollywood studio trained minimalist Don Siegel and the operatic Italian Sergio Leone, in fact, he's even dedicated films to those two masters. Why Clint Eastwood now desires to direct films like Ron Howard is a true mystery.

But there are a couple of things in Invictus that even the anemically talented Ron Howard would never have done. For instance, what's with all the musical montages that serve no purpose but to slow down an already leaden pace?

What's with the unforgivable instance of showing a massive jet liner buzzing the rugby stadium during the final game? Now, I know that the plane buzzing actually happened, but Eastwood uses this incident as a way to instantly tap into our post 9/11 awareness of planes flying into buildings for terroristic purposes to create a false moment of tension.

I mean, even the most xenophobic American who cares not one whit about what happens outside the borders of the continental United States would have at least heard about a jet liner crashing into a rugby stadium in South Africa during the World Cup game, which, by the way, is actually played for by teams from around the world, most unlike our own masturbatory baseball World Series where we even celebrate the lunacy of two teams from the same city competing with each other, as if this were something culturally significant.

I could have told Eastwood that he was on a fool's errand if he was specifically trying to make an inspirational movie. If an audience finds some kind of inspiration from your film, that's great, but they are the only ones who can do that.

If you try to impose that feeling on people, you will just end up sounding preachy and scolding and believe me, the only thing worse than false sincerity is false inspiration.

Invictus is a two hour plus scolding lesson full of inspirational haranguing that has the effect of pummeling you into brain dead, but laudatory submission. But, when the whole damn fool audience is cheering at the most cliché of sport movie banalities, it is easier to just flow with the crowd.

Although not explained clearly, the title Invictus is Latin for "unconquered" and is the title of a famous poem by William Ernest Hensly that ends with the lines "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

Apparently, Nelson Mandela used to recite the poem to himself during his long imprisonment to help keep himself sane. But there is a more recent use of the poem Invictus that deserves to be mentioned.

It seems that when Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, he used the Hensley poem Invictus as his final statement. Why do I find that coincidence much more interesting and intriguing than this film? But hey, if it's inspiring enough for Timothy McVeigh, who am I to argue?

The Road (2009/I)
13 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
This Road Is Long And Leads Nowhere!, 25 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was looking forward to seeing The Road. I have not read the book by Cormac McCarthy, but then, I have never read The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind or Twilight and that has not stopped me from enjoying those films.

What really interested me in seeing The Road was the fact it was an "End Of The World" movie. I have always loved movies that threaten, depict, portend, demonstrate or are either pre or post apocalyptic. One of the most joyous experiences I ever had at the movies was at the end of Michael Tolkin's 1991 film The Rapture when the biblical prophecies alluded to throughout the film actually came true in very imaginative ways to my great delight and this is praise coming from an atheist who finds the Bible patently ridiculous.

The Road has an interesting if not very unique look and I certainly liked the bleak music score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, but it wasn't long before The Road began to go down hill. The main reason for my disappointment was the fact the film never addresses what kind of disaster it was that destroyed the Earth.

I understand why that information was not necessary in the book. From what I gather, the book was less a sci-fi story about a post-apocalyptic world and more an allegory about humanity surviving, hopefully with its morals and ethics intact. In many ways, the type of disaster that has befallen the Earth is unimportant, its just the "Maguffin", the thing that gets the story moving and involves all the characters.

But film is a very literal medium and The Road would have benefited by having had someone think a little bit more about what kind of disaster it was that has befallen the Earth.

I've been criticized for focusing on this one point and I am being told by people that the actual type of disaster doesn't matter. Doesn't matter? Perhaps that's true for the book, but the entire look of the film from its physical staging, to the costumes, the make-up and production design all grow organically from whatever kind of disaster it was. Believe me, the remnants of a nuclear holocaust would look very different from say, an environmental disaster or a disease epidemic.

Would it have been so difficult for the filmmakers to have selected one kind of disaster and then have focused their energies into making that reality consistent?

What am I to think about the numerous conflicting visuals presented in The Road? We see huge ships, their keels broken, laying on inland highways quite far from the ocean. How did they get there? Was their massive worldwide flooding?

And yes, we do know what that kind of disaster looks like. Check out photos of New Orleans post-Katrina or the coastal towns of Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004. Talk about a worldwide disaster, the massive undersea quake on December 26, 2004 caused the entire Earth to wobble about 1" and shortened the length of the day by almost 3 micro-seconds.

Much of The Road is spent wandering around in formerly tree rich areas (the film was partly shot in my home state of Pennsylvania, which believe me, North, South, East and West, we have lots of trees here), but the trees shown in this film are all dead, dried out, rotted and prone to collapse, leading to several tense scenes as Papa Viggo and Kiddie Kodi have to dodge falling timber.

These massive piles of kindling are also prone to bursting into flames, in fact, many times in the film we see the characters walking through what initially appears to be snow, but actually turns out to be falling ash from those burning trees.

And yet, there is an almost constant cover of dark grey clouds and copious rainfall everywhere they travel. Huh? How can the trees and the ground be so dry as to spontaneously combust, yet barely a day goes by without a drenching rainfall? I accept the fact I may be the only person who cares about this inconsistency, but I can't believe I'm the only one who's noticed it.

It's because I do love "End Of The World" movies that I don't allow filmmakers to simply retreat into vague notions of unnamed calamity as catch-all explanation for their attempts at heightened drama and forced action. This is a cop-out in the same way bad sci-fi films use the vagueness of "time travel" to cover over their creators lack of even trying to make their stories plausible.

Come on filmmakers, you're the ones spending millions of dollars here, you're the ones asking me to spend two hours of my life here, it is your job to make the best film you can and if you slack off on the hard stuff, like making a film that makes sense, even within the limited frame of reference and reality you are creating, then I have every right to call you out on it.

I have had some friends of mine tell me that I should simply view The Road as a tense story of survival between a father and his young son. This is the wrong way to approach me. I am not a person who is automatically concerned simply because a character in jeopardy happens to be a child. My general attitude is "F**K" the children. Far from being the key to our future, I have seen too many contemporary adult lives ruined by kids.

Am I being unnecessarily hard on the filmmakers? Perhaps, but film-making is a hard job and if you are not up to the task, well, they always have room on the night shift at McDonalds.

But don't travel down this road, unless you like being disappointed.

20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
High Hopes Dashed! The Lame Modern Story De-Bones The Solid Older One!, 27 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Big disappointment here. I was really looking forward to this film based on the trailers I had seen some months ago. The thought of Meryl Streep playing Julia Child with Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul was, like creamy butter spread on fresh baked French bread, a combination too delicious to pass up even though it seems so obvious in retrospect.

It was much later on that I began to understand that this film was not going to be solely about Julia Child, but was going to be a combination of two stories.

The first story was about Julia Child, a woman who by all rights should not have succeeded at any of the things she tried to do, but because of her indomitable spirit and tenacity and after suffering years of humiliating failure, she finally succeeded in the harshly competitive worlds of serious cookery, book publishing and television and she would change the way America looked at food and life forever.

The other person in the film was Julie Powell an uninteresting little cubicle worker who wrote a blog in Queens.

Let me state here very clearly, no matter how important the events, tragedies, loves, losses and happenings of your life are to you personally; that does not make them interesting for a movie audience.

I don't doubt that the real Julie Powell found true solace in cooking after spending her days in a cubicle listening to tales of woe from 9/11 victim families and I certainly don't doubt that she is sincere in her love and respect for Julia Child; but what did Julie Powell really do? Cook recipes from a book that thousands and thousands of other people have already cooked? Write about it on a blog? From this they made a movie?

Forgive me, the real Julia Child deserves a movie all her own. If the movie studios don't want to touch it, how about you cable channels. Come on Showtime, HBO! Julia Child really did learn to cook, really did write a great book and really did change TV and the kitchen for millions of people in America and elsewhere.

She's certainly as interesting as Truman, Bernard & Doris or the wacko mother and daughter from Grey Gardens.

Julie & Julia is a choppy film, every time Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are on screen, the film is interesting and has the tangy lightness of a beurre blanc, every time Amy Adams and Chris Messina are on screen, the film falls like a flat soufflé.

This is not their fault. Amy Adams and Chris Messina are both talented and attractive people, but Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep, locations in Paris and a credible sense of history are tough acts to follow. Especially when the best they can muster is a second floor walk-up above of a pizzeria.

There are a few times when Amy Adams is out with her snooty friends when the screen crackles but overall, the film stops cold whenever we cut to the modern story.

The big problem is there is an attempt to compare the two lives, Julia Child and Julie Powell, and there is no comparison. Julia Child on her most dull days was more interesting than Julie Powell. I realize that may be unfair, but I am calling it the way I see it.

There are a couple of good things to observe however. I am thrilled that Julie Powell decided to find in Julia Child a guru of sorts. When you consider how many people suffering from the existential angst that Julie Powell was dealing with turn to goofy New Age nitwits like Deepak Chopra or humorless cults like Scientology; please drugs and alcohol are better for you and no where near as brain numbing. Julia Child is a much better influence by far.

But there is something else happening since the release of Julie & Julia that gives me huge hope for America. Since Julie & Julia hit the multiplexes, I have read that copies of Julia Child's book Mastering The Art Of French Cooking have been flying off bookstore shelves everywhere the film is playing. But that has not happened with Julie Powell's book. This confirms something I have long suspected; the American people know the real thing when they see it.

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