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Community: Critical Film Studies (2011)
A fantastic episode
I don't want to give too much away but I was so mystified early on in the episode, with its heavy themes and paucity of jokes - it was still captivating and amusing - but then the payoff is so surprising and hilarious. Then, upon rewatching, I saw how smart the writing was and was laughing at new and different things.
Then, after watching the source material that inspired the episode and then watching the show a THIRD time, I saw even more jokes. Clearly, I have way too much time on my hands. But kudos to the network for airing such a ballsy, intelligent, anachronistic shaggy dog joke. And mad props to Danny Pudi for his amazing performance. Watch the episode again to just see him and how he changes throughout the episode. He's the reason for this show's success.
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
KCRW the Movie
This is a torturous and annoying movie about whiny rich people that romanticizes and oversimplifies addiction. It's drenched in that Jonathan Demme white guilt where all cultures are represented - it takes place during the wedding of a Jewish woman to a black man in an Indian-themed ceremony where their best friends (who are in 1/2 the scenes but have almost no lines) are Asian.
The black characters are all saintly and sage, dispensing just the right words to help the angst-y white characters, yet they have no souls of their own. The white characters are completely self-involved to the point where you have no sympathy for their petty issues. And then the wedding scenes go on and on. My sister likened the movie to attending an excruciatingly long wedding except without the booze.
The acting is good and everyone is giving their all, but the writing is so self indulgent, you just want to throttle all of the characters. On top of that, there's "world music" playing throughout the movie, both in soundtrack and by peripheral actors wandering through the hallways. Why? The only great moment was when one of the main characters turns to one of these omnipresent minstrels plucking away at some sitar-y instrument and says, "Give it a rest." Sadly, thirty seconds later, the music was back.
It was great to see Debra Winger back on screen and she's as magnetic as ever. It's too bad her talents were wasted on such a clunker.
Criminal Minds (2005)
Overdone like a gray steak
I'm watching this show for this first time and like all the other crime shows like CSI and Without a Trace, this show is full of grisly, exploitative violence that seems to be there just for the sake of grisly, exploitative violence. But moreover, the writing is full of melodrama and overwrought emotion. The actors are similarly hammy and really pile it on. Mandy Patinkin, in particular, is full of false pathos. I understand that you need to make a show sensational, but does it always have to be child molestation and murder? Maybe this is fun for some, but for me, it makes me feel icky for watching it. I don't care if they catch the criminal; I'm not going to make it through this episode.
It's not a terrible movie, but it doesn't live up to the first movie in the least. There are tons of bullets, death and explosions. Lots of action scenes and imagery ripped off from other movies. Lots of speeches about terrorism and the collapse of society that all add up to little. It leads up to a trite nonsensical ending that makes little sense. The entire package is wrapped up in intrusive orchestral music (whereas the score of the original was so fantastic).
But there are a couple of good performances by young actors. Ultimately, the lack of a real story was a huge disappointment and the plethora of banal speeches kept my finger on the fast forward button. Boo.
Le divorce (2003)
Bad acting + bad plot + bad directing = bad movie
The Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala team has lost their touch. In an attempt at a whimsical, romantic story about an American in Paris, they instead deliver a lesson in French culture.
James Ivory seems more interested in showing montages of meticulously prepared French cuisine than in telling a story. In his Paris, the denizens watch Renoir's "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Red Shoes" on the television - there are no gameshows or reality TV in such a civilized society. In this reality, people quote poetry in their everyday conversations. It's a magical fairy tale land where Kate Hudson eats all the patisserie she wants without gaining a pound.
Meanwhile, what little story there is is scattered and disjointed. The focus shifts awkwardly between Naomi Watts' character and Kate Hudson's. Then, in the end, a mysterious voiceover comes out of nowhere to wrap things up for the audience. It comes far too late, however, as everyone was ready to leave 90 minutes earlier. Naomi Watts delivers a passionless performance in a character that is thoroughly unlikable for her capriciousness and egocentrism. Kate Hudson's Isabel is all about sparkly-eyed cuteness. Her self-aware coquettishness becomes cloying all too quickly, though, as one wishes to mash a grapefruit half into her mug when she does nothing but smile preciously for two hours straight.
The only bright spots come from the American family played by Sam Waterston, Stockard Channing and the very wry Thomas Lennon (of "The State" fame). Though they are portrayed to be the ugly Americans, they are actually the only reasonable people in the movie. Meanwhile, James Ivory is so captivated by France, he has delivered a two-hour love letter to Paris at the audience's expense. It makes me angry, this movie is so bad.
Ralph Fiennes is fine, but this little tale is pretty monotonous. It builds up to a plot twist that is visible from miles away.
David Cronenberg needs to get a sense of humor. Not to say that this should have been a comedy, but he takes himself far too seriously.
Miranda Richardson is great.
Gangs of New York (2002)
A baffling movie.
At the opening of this movie, I couldn't help but think I was watching "The Pirates of the Caribbean" with the garish "authentic" costumes and the cartoonish extras and the overdone production design. Unfortunately, this ride went on about two and a half hours longer than the Disneyland ride.
Throughout the entire movie, I was shuffling in my seat thinking about all the extras they had to wrangle and how much money they must have spent in production; never did I become engrossed in the story. The script weak all around. The acting (save for Mr. Day-Lewis) is forgettable. The music is intrusive.
While it's full of spectacle, the movie fails to impress.