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Poor Raymond Carver
Still hard to believe this film received an Academy Award for best script. It looks more to have been written by 4 very green high school students inexperienced in life or the art of writing. They seem to have spent a lot of their time sitting around calling up favorite movie tropes & clichés. These somehow got misinterpreted as Magic Realism by a gullible press assisted along no doubt by a prominent product placement of Borges' Labyrinth in Ed Norton's hand in one of many stagy scenes.
Also in evidence as teenage over-enthusiasm is an excessive amount of misogyny. The women in this film come off as conniving, manipulative, neurotic & self-obsessed in the extreme with Emma Stone as the new Martha Plimpton. I wonder if Lindsay Duncan was aware before signing on of the grotesquely abusive & wholly gratuitous verbal intro her character received in the bar scene. The male characters fare somewhat better only because their humiliation comes in having to appear semi-nude, easily laughed off in macho culture.
Actually I think what Inarittu & his band have pulled off is to deliberately make a shallow pretentious pseudo-Indy film satirizing their counterparts of the north to which a major part of Jollywood elite have bought in whole hog.
Dom Hemingway (2013)
Flat, stagy, overacted & underwritten...
Flat, stagy, overacted & underwritten, this thing plays out for the most part as a junior high school attempt at imitating Guy Ritchie. I mostly agree with the reviewer who said he expected Guy Ritchie & got Will Ferrell, except that Will Ferrell does manage to be funny which I don't think Jude Law succeeds at at all. There was really no plot to speak of, just a very tired & very old cliché about some stolen money but the whole sequence of events unrolls so choppily & the Dom Hemingway character is so overwrought & unsympathetic, you wind up rooting for the wrong people (or no one - just for the bloody film to end already).
Nothing redeeming in this thing. Saw it all better in Sexy Beast & that was no great shakes either but at least Kingsley can be truly menacing, not just pathetic like an overweight Jude Law.
Another lame derivative movie...
This film starts out with a lot of promise: the first fantasy sequence on the subway platform, tied in with the eHarmony bit (this movie sure has a lot of blatant product placements) was great, as were Stiller & Wiig's initial performances. But then the hammer falls with the overcooked overacted cliché scenes of office down-sizing, followed by some vague ill-defined vision quest after the nebulous Sean Penn character (a heroic photographer?) mixed in with nonsense about skateboarding (pandering to a very specific demographic I guess) & some kind of non-ending.
Biggest problem was the film-makers lost focus early on vis-a-vis what was fantasy & what was reality which is what The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is really about.
This made me think of a Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan movie that had the same theme but was a thousand times better: Joe versus the Volcano.
Very big disappointment
Let me say right off I'm a huge fan of dystopian sci-fi films, especially Blade Runner & Brazil & Code 46. In addition, Host & Mother, directed previously by Joon Bong-Ho, are two of my favorite films of recent years. I was really looking forward seeing this movie, even going so far as to paying full price for the Amazon Prime Instant Video.
That said, how to start cataloging the letdowns. First, the story, which is as linear as the train it takes place on. Some people claim the movie is a parable which I'd be more than ready to embrace if it were even remotely true, but in truth the story line is a simplistic, almost juvenile treatise on the evils of the powerful vs. the weak, predicable as to both plot & characters. None of the characters really stand out as much more than 2-dimensional cartoon characters, which might have worked if the film were animated, but the acting, especially among English- speaking ones, is stilted & forced. After viewing Host (2 of whose leads appear in this, again as father & daughter) & Mother, as well as other Asian films, I've pretty much concluded that English-speaking actors, particularly American ones, do not fare well in over-the-top films like this, apparently being unable to convey the powerful facial expressions of their emotionally less-restrained Asian counterparts & compensating with overly theatrical readings of their lines. John Hurt is the exception: he's lucky to have that finely engraved face, but drones on wearily as he has in most films since Alien. Tilda Swinton is funny but looks & acts like she's in a totally different movie, maybe Monty Python knockoff.
One major character named Gilliam & several vaguely retro futuristic sets suggest this is a minor homage to Terry Gilliam's Brazil. But in that case maybe it should have been called Bengladesh.
The Leftovers (2014)
2 episodes in, this show's already worse than the last episodes of Lost
Lots has been written about Leftovers' creator Lindelof worrying that his work would always be compared to the awful ending episodes of Lost. Well, this show's already far worse than the last episodes of Lost. For starters, the whole concept is very tired & has been done far better, as already mentioned in these comments (The 4400 for starters). Nevertheless the idea might have worked if it were handled with some originality, but that's the whole problem: it's not, it's just a collection of old S-F tropes (disappearing people, crazy cult, feral pets, ordinary citizens under severe duress) w/o substance.
The acting isn't bad, given what the actors have to work with, but the plot is overly choppy & predictable. It's as though this mess came out of the same kitchen as Under The Dome.
Spike Jonze/Adam Spiegel sets up easy-to-knock-down situations, taking pot shots at generic targets which have no bulls-eyes at their center, just great big easy-to-hit circles. Yes, it's true people are having others write their intimate missives - so what, they were doing it in the 19th century - what's new? Yes, people seem to spend more time talking into machines than with each other. Wasn't that the complaint about A.G. Bell's new contraption? Isn't that "other people" they're talking to on the other end?
In the end SJ/AS is a techno-sentamentalist, decrying the medium because he can't find the message. This is a paean for the generation that looooooves to Kvetch. Any 3 minutes of Silicon Valley is orders of magnitude superior to this uninspired pulp.
To live a life w/o hope or humor, creativity or imagination is deeply disturbing, but to depict such a life in a film which is itself (deliberately or not) devoid of hope, humor, creativity or imagination is inexcusable. And to applaud such a work as worthy of esteem & major awards is to pander to the worst aspects of our Hollywood-spawned culture's self-referential obsession.
Low Winter Sun (2013)
Everyone's a loser, especially the viewer...
I mean the show, not the so-called story. I haven't seen the original Brit version of this series so I can't compare the 2 but just knowing the original was far shorter puts me in favor of that one.
I can't think of any aspect of this LWS worth praising except the cinematography and how could you go wrong with ruined Detroit? But the casting was atrocious & the acting (where there was any) consequently all over the map. The white hoods looked like college students, the black hoods looked like central casting.
Mark Strong seemed to be so wrapped up in holding in his Brit inflections that everything else got withheld as well. I found myself longing for some Victor Mature or Robert Mitchum grimacing & hamming. Those guys could have played Agnew in their sleep. Lennie James, OTOH, seemed to be auditioning for a modern version of The Tempest. Interesting but distracting.
What else? The plot was choppy & predictable & highly dissatisfying. Odd that AMC should have run this after Breaking Bad. Maybe they should have called it Breaking Worse.
The Blacklist (2013)
Spader is the ONLY good thing about this mess....
First off, everyone picked up on the Silence of the Lambs knockoff in the relationship between Red & Keen, so that's a pretty pathetic start. Then our introduction to the star, FBI agent Keen popping out of bed displaying her lovely buns barely clad in a bikini (very lovely but really threw off the tension & rhythm - what little there was - built up so far).
Then the "plot" took off like a BOOH. Lots of choppy editing, screaming Feds, blood blood & more blood. But no logic or common sense. Games about what side Spader's character is on but not enough substance or character development for anything to make much sense or to care about. To say nothing of the cartoon acting.
Spader does reptilian very well & I'm glad he's working but for the sake of his sanity & his soul I think the man should hie himself to the UK where they appreciate talent like his & find himself a decent series.
One measly star.
Bold Venture (1959)
Great series on radio & TV
I remember this series both on radio & TV as very superior fare full of existentialist romantic atmosphere. Morton Fine & David Friedkin were responsible for a lot of excellent radio programs including Broadway is My Beat (with lieutenant Danny Clover) & I Spy. Other shows the 2 created or worked on on TV included The Pawnbroker (which won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Drama in 1965), The Nativity, The Greek Tycoon, I Spy, The Next Man, The Most Deadly Game,& several television Westerns including The Rifleman, The Big Valley, Maverick.
A friend in the business once told me many years ago that Bold Venture scripts were all written in blank verse. I don't know if he was pulling my leg but they sure sounded that way.
Brilliant though somewhat extreme...
Which it was intended to be, of course. When Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968 it generated much the same reactions as HC2 for many or the same reasons: Gruesome plot & graphic shots of people being tortured, dismembered & eaten alive. As I recall, the makers of that film had to get their props fresh from an abattoir to make things look real. And boy, did it work.
I see HC2 as the 21st century's NOTLD. True, there's some updating here: the use of staple guns, crowbars & duct tape as opposed to axes & plain old zombie brute strength. And more focus on the pain we inflict (or dream of inflicting, even if metaphorically) on one another as opposed to the (hopeless?) dream of escape from terror.
I think HC2 (paired with HC1 before it) is a real work of art: Brilliantly executed technically, a wonderful adjustment of perspective from the previous film & hugely adept at peeling back the social politesse to reveal what lurks underneath the surface for many of us.
I'm not saying we're all Martin, but if we don't try to understand Martin for what he is & why he is what he is, then more of us will be Martn's victims.
Can't wait to see HC3.