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How I Live Now (2013)
Telepathic teeny-bopper romance turns eternal, conquering war and distance
American-girl, Daisy, is shipped off to England to live with her cousins in a rural area so she can get embroiled in a war. She has lots of voices in her head telling her rules, but she mostly likes to sulk, overreact and snipe at everyone. Then she notices cousin Eddie staring at her and at first hates him, but when he licks the blood off her hand where she injured herself she starts warming up to him. He frolics in the lake with her so she finally opens up because she realizes he's dreamy and telepathic and handles skittish, hurt animals and angry girls well.
Then the little girl in the family picks petals off a flower, just like the famous nuclear war political ad from the 60s. Uh oh, nuclear war has begun in England and there is some weird weather. The kids decide to hide in a barn for some reason instead of their house but now Daisy has suddenly decided she's in eternal love with cousin Eddie. They do the wild thing and Daisy has finally gotten rid of the voices in her head telling her rules. She's growing into a woman now so she can be responsible for herself and her new experiences. She doesn't need no stinking rules anymore!
But just after discovering her first telepathic boy-crush, soldiers show up to take all the kids to safe haven communities away from where terrorists will find them (or so they think). They separate the boys from the girls and Daisy and her day-old romance are brutally torn apart. Eddie yells to her to remember what he told her (that they should always make their way back to the farm area if anything bad happens since it's their eternal happy place).
The girls are sent to live with a Scottish woman in a nice house inside a military-like installation. Daisy and the little girl are made to work on a farm and grow vegetables. Daisy is plotting her escape back to the farm to be with telepathic, dreamy Eddie. She looks at maps and pilfers packaged goods to eat on her escape. One day after farming work is over for the day, the rebels attack the caravan and their safe haven so she and the little girl run off to go back to the farm for her eternal, telepathic lover. Luckily she is all ready to leave.
The two girls walk back to the farm for a week and find out you should avoid men in the wild along the way. They are trouble and will all try rape you or chase you and they might need to be shot if you can't hide from them. They also find chocolates in a crashed plane's wreckage. They find out the younger cousin who is a boy has been killed (maybe as a child soldier).
They finally make it back to the farm-area by using Daisy's eternal telepathic connection to Eddie after she loses her map and compass. When she wishes for help from him, she has dreams or a hawk- friend guides her back. She has the special, eternal kind of teen romance that comes with supernatural abilities!
When she finally finds cousin Eddie, he has recently been injured and is lying in the woods near the farm. She nurses him back to health, but he has been scarred by the war so is now mute. The war ends as she's nursing him and finally all she can do is lick Eddie's hand where he accidentally injured it to show she cares. How the roles have changed, now she's the strong one helping Eddie to heal his psychic wounds just as he did for her.
Overall the movie is mediocre because of the ludicrous script and the actors have to work very hard to try to pull it off. The girl playing Daisy tries hard, has a pretty decent American accent but doesn't feel convincing as an American teen (the attitude and the way she carries herself don't quite work, and I've seen plenty of surly American teens).
The main problem is the awful script with too much and too many corny things packed into its short length. The director tries, but this movie was stillborn before he started.
This series doesn't do much for me
The idea for this series is interesting, but I had a hard time buying into it that these rich, often spoiled, 50-something men were all swanning around together to begin with.
Of the men, 2 are divorced, one seems never to have been married and one is married. They all hang out together in their seemingly extensive leisure time, drive fancy cars, inhabit big houses and seem to be focused on picking up chicks 25 years their juniors.
The acting is good enough, but I mostly had a problem with the premise, the plot-lines and the set ups.
The narration throughout each episode was bothersome to me since it is mostly a bunch of pretentious drivel about the stages of a man's life and how it relates to sex. Perhaps it's meant to be ironic and expose the character of one of the main characters, but if so it's not particularly funny or ironic. It keeps droning on in the same pretentious way throughout the episode and if it's supposed to add a light-hearted touch it utterly fails. This kind of thing works better in the Sex and the City universe than it does here.
I don't particularly know men that chum around together in the way that these guys do. Maybe it's different in London, but the chatter that fills each episode didn't strike me as especially authentic or likely for men that I know. Who wrote this stuff? I also noticed in the IMDb ratings that women of all ages rated this show much, much more highly than men did. Maybe this show isn't really targeted to men or meant to represent them, but is instead targeted at appealing to womens' conceptions of men or their projections onto them.
In any case, I can see why the show only lasted a few seasons. It's an unusual subject for TV to tackle sex-obsessed, gossipy, Peter Pan-syndrome middle-aged men, but maybe there is a reason for the lack of shows like this one. I'd guess that most average people will not find these shows very authentic or interesting, but mostly pretentious, unfunny and bizarre.
Little Britain (2003)
Funny, but repetitive after a while
I watched these episodes on NetFlix and there are moments that are funny, but the comedy gets a little old after a while because of the limited number of characters. Not that this problem is all that unusual for a lot of sketch comedy.
It reminds me a bit of MadTV or SNL with the repeating characters; with some of the vulgarity of South Park; and some absurdity as in Monty Python. It has much higher production values than the usual sketch comedy (which usually has an obvious look of being filmed on a set with cheap costumes and a "studio audience"). They make it look much more like a normal TV show.
Some touches are outstanding--including some very funny characters, good voice-over and interesting ending vignettes.
While it's undeniably entertaining, it has all the same problems that most sketch comedy has: some characters start becoming more annoying than funny after a while, especially if they were a little annoying to begin with. Give it time for shock-value to wear off or the line to be said one-too-many-times, or the main joke of a sketch becomes routine, and you'll start feeling a little weary of it. This is especially true if you watch episodes without giving some time in between.
Examples: Dame Sally Markham was funny at first, but finding more ways for her to pad out her romance novels starts to get a little boring. Lou and Andy are also funny at first, but after a while I get tired of the 3 minute set-up for him to predictably change his mind about what he wants.
Other characters are a little more funny such as Marjorie Dawes of FatFighters (the ultimate hypocrite who lectures everyone else and tries to act superior). It's a bit Church Lady-ish from SNL. Yet at least they put her in some different situations and give her more material. I find Vicky funny despite the repetitiveness.
I'm sure the characters people get annoyed with depend on the personality and how often you see them.
It's probably worth checking out the series if you haven't seen it, but don't watch too many in a row or you'll blow through the series and feel a little sick and annoyed in the process.
Save Me (2007)
A nuanced character study and a minor gem
There is a whole list of things I liked about this movie. Though it has some flaws, they are far outshone by the good.
The setting of the movie and the approach to the characters is brilliant. Most movies that show non-urban, non-coastal US cities fall into a trap of playing the setting and the characters for laughs, or at least exaggerating the local color for effect (witness Coen Brothers movies, for example). This movie didn't fall into the self-conscious exaggeration, which inevitably keeps the audience at a distance. Instead, it shows most things in a very human level--you're not looking down on, or sideways at, or with an outsider's view of the people or situation. This is the water you're swimming in. You're there to witness what is going on without the self-conscious, ironic and "precious" aspects that many directors are afraid to leave behind. This view of the rural West feels very genuine (and I know because I've lived there before).
The acting by Judith Light and Stephen Lang is phenomenal and that by Chad Allen and Robert Gant is very good. The large cast of supporting actors is largely very good, too. It becomes even more amazing that they pulled this off when the movie makers undoubtedly were working on a shoe-string budget. The performances are better than many big budget movies. The script allows for complex characters and the acting is nuanced.
The production values are similarly good for the small budget: beautiful filming, a good musical score and songs that worked just right for the tone.
There is a sense of space and stillness that allows things to breathe and it's a little bit "Zen" once the movie gets going. I didn't find the first few scenes of the movie fit in particularly well with the rest of the tone, but it was a minor annoyance. Some people may be expecting more of an emotional roller-coaster. The script and the direction were taken in a different direction than "hero-against-conspiring-world." You're meant to identify with different aspects of many characters and not only see things from a single perspective. It's harder to maintain a singular emotional intensity based on this focus. I found it quite effective for what it set out to accomplish (not what some reviewers wished it had accomplished instead).
A minor quibble is that some of the quiet lines were hard to hear and understand (though it could've been bad audio compression artifacts since I watched it on Netflix instant watch so it was not full DVD quality).
You really should see this movie if you care about any of the themes it addresses or you love to watch good acting.
OT: Our Town (2002)
It's all about the kids in the film
OT: Our Town is a documentary I'm glad I watched. It's an inspirational story in the vein of those dramas about teachers who make a difference in a falling apart urban school. But really, the kids are what make the movie work.
The filming and editing are good enough, nothing special. It also seems like the filming crew were dropped in the middle of the action with no time to get much back-story. The pieces of background and context they do get are really priceless.
It's nice to see the kids go through this play. To me, the most striking aspect was just how vulnerable and tender the kids actually are, despite the rough neighborhood and the rough situations life has given them.
There are some touching moments as the kids come together and connect with each other. They touch on some issues of feeling competent, dealing with romance, and negotiating relationships with parents. In some ways it's a bit cathartic like a "Breakfast Club" set in Compton instead of John Hughes' suburban Chicago. It's nice to see them come together, but just like The Breakfast Club you have to wonder if it will really last past the experience they had together.
Lets hope these kids remember their successes and go on to be successful and happy in life. They deserve it.
Rich and Strange (1931)
Certainly Strange and Disjointed
This movie really doesn't hang together well and there is very little flow. The story is disjointed and you get the feeling that the script wasn't very good, that Hitchcock was a bit bored with the premise and experimented.
The beginning scenes in which Fred leaves work, the umbrellas, and the underground are all highly stylized. The umbrella sequence is like some choreographed chorus line. Very strange.
Fred, the husband, is insufferably boring and unsympathetic from about 2 minutes into the movie until the end. The actions on the subway are enough to make you cringe and think he's an idiotic lout from then and the loutishness pretty much continues the entire movie. Fred makes you feel uncomfortable and itchy on a number of occasions.
If you've looked at the other reviews you know the general outline of the movie. Fred is boring and bored. He gets some money from a rich uncle to take a cruise with his wife who is way out of his league. The cruise just makes the couple find other people to fall in love with.
The only people I felt any sympathy for were Emily Commander Gordon. Emily because she is somewhat pretty and the closest thing to vivacious in the movie, and Commander Gorden for being somewhat distinguished-looking and calling Emily on being a flirt ("are you pulling my leg?") and seeming to want to be decent to her while clearly aware that her husband is on the level of a slug and that Emily and Fred are horrible together.
Meanwhile, Fred falls for "The Princess." There is an intensely awkward and itchy-feeling scene in which Fred is trying to kiss the princess while wearing his ridiculous Arabian Knights outfit and he can't figure out how to get around the veil covering her mouth. This is a great scene that once again illustrates what an idiot Fred is. It made my skin crawl. This is a sort of comedy by making the audience extremely uncomfortable at just how pathetic a human can be.
Though not a sympathetic character, I had to agree with "The Princess" when she later tells Emily that she's stupid not to leave Fred for Commander Gordon.
The elevator and watch scene is outright comic.
Some scenes with Emily and Commander Gordon that show their feet while walking are just odd.
In the end, I was feeling it a bit of a tragedy that the couple stayed together at all. I wondered if Hitchcock really wanted people to be happy or annoyed that they ended up together in the end.
I actually felt there were many scenes that worked well at creating an odd atmosphere and tension with their experimental flavor. At times I was reminded of David Lynch's Eraserhead. For instance, in the scene where the two stay in their cabin while the boat is being abandoned, the loud thumping and running noises nearly drown out the dialog in both loudness and any attention being paid to it. It made me wonder how many of these odd touches were mistakes and how many were Hitchcock trying to do something interesting with a movie that was essentially not that interesting because of plot and character.
This is probably a movie that is worth watching for individual scenes and experiments, but doesn't further the assumed point of the movie. In fact in some ways, Hitchcock seems to try actively subverting any kind of morality-play aspects that might have been implied in the script.
It doesn't hold together as a whole, but there are plenty of interesting experiments to watch. If it's a train-wreck of a movie, at least it's an interesting wreck.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Beautiful, Wandering, Cartoonish Mess
I wanted to like this movie much more than I did since I've liked many Wes Anderson movies in the past. This movie just didn't do all that much for me, though.
Sure it's shiny and detailed and Wes Anderson has a distinctive visual style. He can repeat motifs over and over. He can play up his own little inside jokes for his fan base, give them a wink as if to say "isn't it fun being part of my club." The fact is that I didn't actually feel like the characters were in any way real. They were all exaggerated cartoons. I know that's Wes' style and it works sometimes, especially in the more comedic moments and when the characters weren't mostly just a stuttering of themes without direction. Thanks for showing us your stylistic twitches.
As profound as this movie wants to be, it often came off as simply pretentious and too clever by half.
I'm sure the people will fall all over themselves to defend this movie, say it's the best thing ever made and they're happy that they're elite enough to understand it while anyone who criticizes it didn't truly understand.
Fine, reinforce your clique if it makes you feel better.
But perhaps I (and others who criticize it) understood it just fine, but didn't have a need to try reading in as much profoundness, where there really wasn't much of actual substance there. Lots of style, lots of repeated elements, lots of flash. No one would claim that it's lacking in style, just that it lacks in believability and real feeling. The cartoon characters didn't tug at my heart strings, sorry.
It's probably worth seeing for its stylistic elements, I just wouldn't go in counting on lots more than that.
Inconsistent Movie with some Good Moments, carried by Felicity Huffman
Felicity Huffman does a good job in this movie while pretending to be a man trying to be a woman. Although there are a few annoying and unrealistic things about her performance, she pulls off the role quite admirably.
The main problem with the movie is that it is quite frankly, boring. The introduction to the characters takes a long time, the initial hour of the road trip seems rather contrived and is supposed to make us think that the characters are growing fonder and closer to each other and that they had real issues, but I was never very sincerely convinced by most of what I saw. In the same way, I was never convinced of Bree's church lady persona, uptightness, and complete frumpiness.
It is better than many movies, but still nothing all that special aside from the fact that Felicity Huffman pulls off pretending to be a man ish woman pretty well. It peeks at issues never raised by most movies, but is neither extremely entertaining nor extremely enlightening in any emotional way.
It's probably worth watching slightly more than an average movie, but not all that much more. I'm a bit surprised by all the extremely positive reviews since I didn't find it to be anything all that special.
Reasonable Documentary on Facts about the Universe
As others have said, this video gives some facts about the universe and types of stars and the ways they live and die in particular. It includes NASA footage and animations.
Shatner does a good job of narrating without calling attention to himself with the overly dramatic pauses he is sometimes known for. I instantly recognized his voice, but his narration was nicely unobtrusive.
The information is at a pretty basic level, so if you've ever had an astronomy class or even were mildly curious about astronomy and have done a little reading then you probably know most of this. Examples are information about stars going supernova, what a black hole is, etc.
I ran across this on a 2 DVD set of NASA videos called "Mysteries of Space" that I picked up for $4.99. Of the 3 short documentaries on this DVD, this one was by far the best, since it had reasonable information and wasn't nearly so slow-paced as some of the other NASA documentaries. It also showed less gratuitous footage expressing "aren't we cool because of our superior 1960s technology" (which of course looks comically dated). This particular DVD set puts an annoying watermark in the bottom corner of the screen the entire length of these videos (probably so they could say they added something to the video so that people couldn't legally simply re-copy the video off the DVD, see below).
This documentary itself likely has no (or few) copyright restrictions since it was a publication of NASA, a US government agency. This probably explains why is it might be widely available on different DVD collections that simply repackage NASA non-copyrightable videos. It's likely that you can legally view this video for free if you can find it somewhere online.
These documentaries are 100% voice-over narration with other images (no talking to experts or exploring issues or controversies as a more modern documentary probably would). The documentary technique seems dated and slightly more boring at times, but for a film simply presenting basic information it's a passable, if unexciting technique.
It's probably something to watch if you have some time to kill, don't know much about the universe or want to relive the kind of films you saw in the 1970s and 1980s in school (though this is one of the better videos of that type).
Spring Forward (1999)
Good movie, interesting idea, good acting
I liked this movie and found it an interesting character study that creates a hypnotic viewing experience. A few times the writing can be a bit overboard, but it's mostly very good.
The one scene that stood out to me as really out of character was one towards the first where the character Paul runs off into the woods and starts crying. To me, it seemed vary unlikely that it would've happened this way. It doesn't seem likely, and this seemed more like a blunt object to set up the plot and background than coming out of the character here.
To me, this movie was much more interesting for things that were unsaid than for the things that were said. The negative space is used well and I was glad they didn't follow up everything with some explanation of what happened next. You have to stay observant and make connections rather than expecting to be spoon fed. Nothing is certain in life, and neither is this movie. If you want a very linear storyline then go see something else. But if you want to examine the edges of things that are said and things that are meant, but not said, this is a good movie.
Fascinating to watch. Peri Gilpin's brief appearance was perfect, also.