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100 Bloody Acres (2012)
You find out your girlfriend has been cheating on you. You start quizzing her about it. You want not only number of times but when, where, what specific acts did they perform, everything. Your obsession with it is so intense that you start to sound a little bit not right in the head. You just won't let it go.
Now, imagine this conversation takes place while you and your girlfriend are both bound and bloody, and waiting for a couple of maniacs to grind you up into human fertilizer in a giant meat-grinder. That's how crazy this movie is. I especially loved the Aussie country music, which is every bit as goofy as you'd expect.
I have no proof of this, but I suspect the movie was inspired by an Ambrose Bierce story called "Oil of Dog."
Insert food pun here
This is like a cross between Big Night and Good Will Hunting. Bradley Cooper plays Adam, a supposedly brilliant chef whose temper tantrums and other personality flaws make him impossible to work for. He's so abusive and fragile that when the guys from Michelin finally arrive you want to shout, "Don't tell Adam!"
Cooper is of course playing the familiar figure of Gordon Ramsey. The problem with that is that Ramsey's childish behavior - screaming fits laced with obscenities and crockery smashing - might be considered (although I confess not by me) to be appropriate and even entertaining in a kitchen full of students, but certainly not when the kitchen is staffed by your own hand-picked employees. In the end, you don't care whether Cooper's self-pitying piece of shyte succeeds or fails or trips and breaks his neck.
Beyond the Lights (2014)
At one point in this cold mess of a movie, Noni's mother, played by Minnie, shouts, "You're a bloody cliché!" Bingo, Minnie, Noni, Gugu et al., you're ALL bloody clichés. There's the spoiled little pop star who has absofreakinlutely everything a girl could want, except true love and the will to live. There's the harridanish stage mom whose nastiness translates to excellent negotiating skills with music industry execs. There's the impossibly dull love interest - a cop who aspires to be a city councilman, just writing that made me yawn.
What made it a little bit interesting for me was the way the black characters were all good and the white characters were all either evil or incompetent. Me, I'm Italian; my grandparents came to the USA 60 years after the American Civil War ended, so you guys fight it out amongst yourselves, please. It was just nice to see the caucasians get theirs for a change.
Btw, the music doesn't even try to be good.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
David Beckham is a British soccer star and the husband of Victoria Beckham ("Posh Spice" of the Spice Girls). His trademark is a goal shot that curves across the pitch and into the net. The soccer equivalent of an unhittable curve ball in baseball. "Bend it like Beckham" means making that type of spectacular shot. Apart from that, and a little shrine to him in the main character's bedroom and a faux-cameo at the very end, the movie has nothing to do with him.
The movie is full of little soccer in-jokes, such as the present that one of the characters' parents give her of a jersey with the number 9 on it (property of the great Mia Hamm, to those in the know), references to "Posh 'n' Becks," the video homage to the WUSA one of the characters plays for a disbelieving friend ("They *have* that??"), lesbian gags, sports-bra gags, and so on.
The story is about a teenage girl in England who idolizes Beckham and wants to be a soccer star. She has a real gift, but the two seemingly insurmountable obstacles she must overcome are the absence of a professional women's league in the UK (hence their fascination with our WUSA), and her parents, who are set in very old-fashioned ways that do not allow daughters, among other things, to engage in contact sports. The girl's family are portrayed with great affection -- think My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The girl loves and respects them enough to go through sitcom hell to conceal her growing soccer stardom from them.
Girl Most Likely (2012)
There is a genre of film - this one and Switch come to mind - that depict the denizens of New York City as absurdly neurotic fast-talkers who can't seem to find happiness but who, you realize as the movie hits the 5-minute mark, are all secretly pleased about their excruciating personalities and their irrelevant lives. Pleased. Pleased, when they should be looking in the mirror and telling themselves to snap out of it and get over themselves.
I am here to tell you that these movie characters are all figments of some writer's lazy imagination. Do not be afraid to move to New York, it's a lovely place with all kinds of nice people. If you move there - specifically, to the island of Manhattan, either east of west of Central Park or points south - you will find that if you love the city, it will love you back. It's as simple as that. And I promise you will never meet idiots like the preposterous fictions in these movies.
War Story (2014)
Imagine, if you will, Catherine Keener bending over a sink for whatever reason. Imagine a mournful solo cello noodling away on the soundtrack. Now imagine Catherine Keener snapping photos of Sicily (which, it turns out, is a sh*thole) or of various fashionably grungy Middle Eastern types. Minimalist synthesizer noise on the soundtrack. Now she's back at the sink. Now taking snapshots. Ear-splitting vocal on the track. Now the sink.
Regarding the spoiler alert: there is no plot. That's the spoiler.
Regarding the music: we all love music, right? I love music, too. But the music on the soundtrack made me want to run twin power drills into my ears.
English Major In-Jokes!
This is a Jane Austen film for a generation of kids who have never heard of Jane Austen. The flood of Jane Austen in-jokes I think we have a right to expect from a movie made around this premise never appears. Maybe a trickle, a drop or two. Idiotic pop culture references, yes (Bee Gees lyrics, hand on my heart), but nothing to cause an old-fashioned English major to glance up from his OED, much less deliver a genteel muffled guffaw.
There are many farcical moments, if you enjoy farce. The attempts at rom com (and by the way, I would like to apologize to all Gypsies for that abbreviation) are signaled by ghastly pop songs of the kind you hear in the background of Gray's Anatomy, and soulful piano music. I hate soulful piano music. No, I mean really, it makes my skin crawl. Please rom coms, no more.
The Loneliest Planet (2011)
The Longest Movie
It starts with a girl with mismatched rug and curtains bouncing up and down without needing to dampen any chestal oscillation. Neither was there any plot or characterization to speak of or write about, so I decided to focus on the scenery, which I confess is usually my favorite part of any movie.
The scenery in Georgia consists mostly of rocks and grass. No trees or shrubs or anything. Mostly rocks, actually. In fact, one of the male characters tries to offer the female character a rock as a present. It was a grayish, irregularly shaped rock and did not seem to impress the girl at all. Then they walked for several days, albeit not long enough for the ginger girl's black roots to emerge.
Regarding the grass: I wonder if it might not actually have been sedges, (cyperaceae) owing to the visibly poor soil of the region. On the other hand, my knowledge of Georgian flora is meager, so don't take my word for it. Imagine my review going on like this for three- or four- hundred pages and you have a good approximation of this movie. You're welcome.
American Hustle (2013)
Overacted and confused
A movie about Italian and Jewish hustlers back in the late 1970s, made by people whose idea of these things apparently comes from magazines and TV. I grew up with such people, and here's a little hint: They had better taste in clothes, and they weren't always screaming at each other at the top of their voices.
And seriously, guys, if you want to portray a Jew from the Bronx, why not cast a real one in the role? Christian Bale's performance was one long cliché, punctuated by Bale's embarrassing scenery-chewing "Oscar moments." He didn't know what he was doing. Amy Adams' strength is her looks and the occasional camera take, but that's about it. Bradley Cooper was better but still not great. Jennifer Lawrence was the best of them, by far the most convincing (except for her character's inexplicable attraction to the repulsive Bale).
The plot was confused. Not really worth following - there's a time-saver for you. And the setting was not convincing as either New York or New Jersey. What a missed opportunity this movie was.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
If you've read much H.P. Lovecraft you will understand this movie. There is a race of Ancient Gods, or Great Old Ones, or whatever, lurking just underneath our perception. They are "dead but dreaming" down there, waiting for the moment when they will be released to rule, or kill, the human race. There is a cult of humans trying to keep the Ancient Gods down, or perhaps trying to release them. Some poor soul says the wrong words and releases one of the Great Old Ones. Use your bloodiest imagination to fill in the rest. It's all rather nonsensical, but if you suspend your disbelief for a few pages you will lose sleep over it. If you are young and impressionable it might scare the crap out of you.
What this movie does is to techify Lovecraft's idea and then take it further than Lovecraft himself ever took it. It's not pretty.