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About as entertaining as attending an AA meeting
During the late 1960's and 1970's I remember that independent producers used to make these "church" films, and rent out the movie theaters to show them. The films were under the guise of "entertainment" pictures, but essentially were morality tales about the evils of drugs, alcohol addiction, infidelity, etc. This movie smacks of that sort of picture. Character with substance abuse problem refuses to admit he has a problem, and must be re-born. God, I hate being preached to. I don't like it in church and I certainly don't like it in movies. This film is a huge disappointment. Preachy, predictable and pedestrian. I would have expected better of Robert Zemekis. Perhaps he has been attending too many AA meetings these days, because the film feels like it was made by Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Watch (2012)
Worst Comedy of the Year
The Watch is a witless film, filled inexplicably with penis jokes. Jonah Hill's unfunny character is especially disturbing to endure given especially the recent real life events. He plays a sociopath loner who collects firearms. While the script makes several references to his interest in heterosexual sexual exploits, he has an odd obsession with large penises. Eventually the script morphs into a comedic version of "Aliens" in a final showdown at the local Costco.
Ben Stiller is somewhat bland in the thankless role of straight man placed in the group of sophomoric buffoons who only want to belong to the neighborhood watch to bond and get drunk. The film is embarrassingly bad, and probably ranks as one of the worst comedies of the year.
Game Change (2012)
Stellar film and performances -- but only a fraction of the actual book
This film is a must-see for anyone the least bit interested in the political process. While Palin supporters undoubtedly will be deeply offended by it, it presents an accurate, realistic and unbiased account of McCain's team to find a running mate that would attract the right wing vote and in the process fails to properly vet her.
I had read the book prior to seeing the film, and I knew the film really deals with only one very small section of the entire book. The book itself "Game Change" is actually much more about the Clinton's and Obama. There is also a large section of the book which deals with John Edwards and his wife. Any of these sections would be material for several more films.
I felt one of the real strengths of the film was in the performances. Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson all turn in outstanding performances without attempting to do "impersonations" of the real life characters.
Dream Boy (2008)
Powerful and underrated film
I began watching the film with mild interest and very quickly was drawn into the quiet intensity of the film. One must avoid any discussion of specific plot elements, which would ultimately spoil the experience of the film. It is NOT as some have called it, a "Brokeback Mountain" about teenagers. It is different. It is unique. It is beautiful photographed, sensitively told and atmospheric. I was especially impressed with the performances of Stephan Bender as Nathan and Max Roeg as Roy. While I had no idea what the exact outcome of the film would be, there is a "foreboding" that overshadows the entire story; You get clues along the way that "something is wrong." But the final 20 minutes or so will probably really surprise you. There is much more going on here that can be easily summarized in a user review or with a catch line that describes the plot's formula. I think it's the type of film that will provoke a great deal of discussion and it deserved to be released on DVD.
An interesting side by side comparison to Song of Bernadette
When I was in Lourdes, I wanted to see this version, which plays daily at the small movie theatre -- but the theatre had shut down for the season. I finally got to see this on DVD recently. I was aware that the version with Jennifer Jones, "The Song of Bernadette" took quite a few dramatic liberties with the story so I was eager to see how this version compared. The attempt here is to present a more accurate re-telling of both the miracles as well as Bernadette's family life. We don't have the antagonists in this like we do in the original and we don't have much of the dramatic conflicts that drive the original so as a narrative, this doesn't work as well, but the story is told with beauty and simplicity. The settings far more accurately represent what Lourdes really looked like too. I think this is well worth watching for anyone interested in Lourdes.
Mack the Knife (1989)
A flat but passable version
I remember when this version opened at the Chicago Film Festival. There was a reasonable about of excitement about it since there is no contemporary filmed version of Three Penny Opera at all. My conclusion after seeing it is that the big problem is that Three Penny Opera probably can't be successfully filmed at all and still capture the raw stage energy of the stage production. The very idea of the piece is the break the fourth wall between the actors and the audience. I think it's odd nonetheless that this version has never been transferred to DVD. I agree however that the criticisms of it are too harsh. Many a filmed musical from the 1980's and 1990's period has this same look and feel where all the energy of the stage version has been completely drained from the piece.
Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)
Look for the Well-Executed Montage Sequence
This is the type of film that shows how one can find interesting small moments in an otherwise rather average film. Buried in the middle of this film is a five minute beautiful example of a montage by rhythm as Joan Greenwood tries to make her way through a chaotic masque ball in order to meet her lover. The sequence climaxes with a series of flash pans and POV shots as we are thrust into the center of the action with the character. The filmmaker inserts fast POV shots of close ups of the masked revelers. The cuts and flash pans are edited rhythmically with the music and make for a wonderful example of a well-executed montage sequence. Show just this sequence to film students.
Much better without the triptych effect
I (fortunately) viewed this for the first time on the DVD version where the filmmaker chooses to use the triptych effect only once to punctuate a party scene. This is much the same way that this technique was used by the French Impressionist filmmakers of the 1920's. They never filmed entire movies using these kinds of avant-garde techniques. However I understand that those who watched this film in the theater had to endure the triptych effect throughout the entire move. As a reference, the director has included the triptych version on the DVD. The technique wears thin after only a few minutes and makes it impossible to focus on story and character. See this film in its conventional version and I'm certain you will enjoy it.
The Art of Film (1976)
1 of the first important series on film studies
This series of mostly 15 - 20 minute 16mm film programs was made in the 1970's by Film Perspective company out of Chicago. If you happened to be at a high school or college where any of the films in this series are still owned, guard them with your life!
Even though the film examples are dated, much of the series is still highly educational.
"The Emerging Chaplin" is especially good as are the episodes on sound and the edited image among others.
Rod Serling's mellifluous voice is a bonus. I've tried for years to find out if any company holds the rights to these and would love to see the entire series restored to DVD.
A Nice Learning Tool For Film Students
I continue like this this very short film by Mike Hoover. It's really more of a poetic documentary. It is completely wordless and really makes us feel the joy that this filmmaker gets from mountain climbing. The film incorporates nearly every basic film technique taught in film school and its a great learning tool for beginning film students. I especially like the way Hoover uses time compression so skillfully. We forget that his climb up the mountain actually a series of climbs compressed into about 9 minutes) and his descent (about 30 seconds long) is all created with skillful editing. It's too bad that Pyramid films which owns the rights to this couldn't have struck a new print before transferring this to DVD! The DVD transfer looks really bad. It appears to be simply a copy of a video dup of the original 16mm.