Reviews written by registered user

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104 reviews in total 
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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Brave and beautiful girls meet a harsh and ugly world., 24 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A sobering documentary about the perils of being a young girl and believing the world is her friend. (Full disclaimer: I am friends with the mother of young Paige featured in this documentary as we are from the same hometown of Albany)

Audrie & Daisy recounts two different instances in which a young woman parties with the guys and is made to pay for it with shame, humiliation, degradation (by her peers and community) and even death (in the case of Audrie).

Tougher-than-we-can-ever-imagine Daisy survives her ordeal alongside her best friend, Paige, who is also raped the same evening (because boys will be boys) although luckily her rapist admits to his crime and she therefore doesn't find herself in legal turmoil. Yes ... revolting and disgusting. Daisy and her family (her brother is a solid chap) find themselves harassed and hounded by a community -- Maryville, MO (40 some minutes from home) where someone burns the family's house to the ground in spite!!! -- that refuses to believe their football stars could possibly be rapists. In towns like this athletes are small-town heroes and dynastic political families wield a lot of power.

Audrie & Daisy spends much time upon Daisy and the aftermath of her sexual assault/rape (she was 14 at the time, Paige 13) as it also interviews law enforcement officers in Nodaway County, MO (a bunch of idiots) who "won't point fingers" but don't mind naming names ... of girls who apparently lead boys astray. Much of it is shocking. Much of it is unbelievable. All of it is disturbing.

Brave and beautiful girls. Harsh and ugly world.

Persecuted (2014/I)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Tolerance is the most evil, vile, despicable act on the planet. Who knew?!, 16 February 2016

Implausibly ridiculous!

Persecuted is a film that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and its storyline could not nor would not ever happen in reality; but it has not stopped filmmaker Daniel Lusko from writing and directing the story to pander to the fears of the far political and religious right. This is yet another film made by a "Christian" filmmaker who wants to purport that he and others like him are being "persecuted" for their beliefs … seemingly forgetting what actual persecution is (I'd say ask Christ about it but He died from actual persecution).

The real kicker to the story: the "villains" of Persecuted are people merely seeking tolerance for all religion! It is an organization that seeks the approval of a revered Christian evangelist named John Luther (James Remar – Django Unchainced) to go ahead and begin worldwide operations with some sort of assistance from the US government (because that'd happen!). One seeking the vocal support of Luther is a US Senator (Bruce Davison – X-Men), who becomes downright frustrated when Luther speaks his conscious and says he cannot approve of a group that would place Christians at the same table as leaders from other world religions. Tolerance!? What are these despicable bastards thinking?!

The US Senator and some of Luther's own cohorts are so upset with his lack of cooperation, they decide to frame him for the murder of a young and innocent teenage girl! They get the girl killed but they are unable to capture/arrest Luther who proves to be a rather wily one. The damage to his name has been done, though … as everyone simply believes John Luther would just KILL this girl … just because. The world has turned against John Luther!

The entire film is a cat-n-mouse chase between Luther and those after him. As Luther has God on his side and government = bad, there aren't a whole lot of surprises as the film advances.

As the film culminates in a ridiculous stand-off, I was not able to shake the thought that the film's primary villains are people who seek tolerance and understanding of others so that there would be NO MORE religious war and leaders from all religions would respect one another enough to listen to others. TOLERANCE is the real villainy in Persecuted! Wrap your head around that one! This is frightening and I guess it is the world that some want.

Yoda got this one completely wrong: "Fear is the path to the dark side … fear leads to anger … anger leads to hate … hate leads to suffering." Who knew it all actually stems from TOLERANCE?

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
70's Chic Space Oddity, 5 April 2015

In this dark comedy that is blacker than the deepest depths of space, a group of denizens reside in a random floating space station (Station 76 to be exact) whose lives and well-being are put up for inspection by the audience as they struggle with everyday ordeals such as loneliness, infidelity, sexism, drug use, self loathing and loneliness (yes, the second mention was intentional).

This low budget film does the most with its budget and it actually all looks quite acceptable as it is a spoof/comedic take on cheap, cheesy futuristic 70's science fiction films which allows for poor special effects and less-than believable interior shots of actual human- built ships/stations floating about in space. The station's interior décor is 1970s chic ... as are the characters' costumes and hair styles. The director (Jack Plotnick) has all of this down.

Where he suffers is piecing together the story's narrative. His lack of direction is rather obvious as the toxicity of some of the laughs aren't as deadly as they should be. I chuckled throughout most of this movie but this comedy is actually more of a tragedy and while everything is played for laughs the somber, serious nature of each of the characters may persuade some to believe they are instead watching a bizarre drama as these characters are clearly all crying on the inside.

When Jessica (Liv Tyler - Empire Records) newly arrives at Station 76 as a new mate, the men and women of the station aren't sure what to make of a woman wanting to "work". The station's captain (Patrick Wilson - Little Children) is unhappy with his new partner but also appears to harbor some resentment towards the one who just left whom Jessica is replacing. Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) plays the station's maintenance man whose wife (Marisa Coughlan - Pumpkin) has grown bored with both marriage and motherhood.

Their lives unhappily float about in space ... and that is about it. Some will chuckle at their lives and misfortunes as presented and others simply won't get it; but we are laughing at tragic human internal suffering. It's black comedy ... and parts of it do work.

The film clearly won't be for everyone. I enjoyed this for the most part but I know many others won't like it ... so I won't be going out of my way to recommend this to those I know.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
My Mediocre Mistress, 5 April 2015

In this Australian coming-of-age film, 16-year-old Charlie Boyd (Harrison Gilbertson - Need for Speed) happens on a family tragedy which profoundly affects his relationship with his mother. Unable to relate to her and appearing to be a bit of a loner with few friends, Charlie finds himself curiously drawn to a new woman in town (Emmamuelle Beart - 8 Women) whose beauty captivates him ... although it also appears to capture the attention of several men as she has men entering and leaving her home at all hours of the day and night.

After breaking onto her grounds one afternoon, Charlie discovers Maggie (Beart) with a male client in a rather compromising situation. Charlie learns that Maggie is a dominatrix (for the right price) and he longs to be near her so much he begs her to hire him as her garden/pool boy ... which she reluctantly agrees to do.

The pairing of the two characters in this film is oddly uncomfortable as there is a stigma stateside involving sexual relations (of any kind) with anybody below the age of consent. As Australia's age of consent is 16, this is a societal difference some won't accept but it does make a difference when viewing the movie.

Beart is a strikingly beautiful woman and she is rather believable here as a secretive woman who is as fragile as she is strong. Her wounded soul is believable and I understood her character's frustration, anger and misery. Gilbertson is fine here although he doesn't have to do quite as much as Beart. He portrays a quiet, seething anger rather convincingly and his seeming inability to fully grasp the film's content might be intentional ... as he is still so young himself.

The film is very tame ... one shouldn't be worried about anything that may or may not be shown on screen. The two need what is inside the other person ... so there is no bared flesh in this BDSM film like Fifty Shades of Grey (it has even fewer risqué sequences than R100).

My Mistress has a decent story about two people at its center, it just isn't overly well-developed. I'd have liked a little more of these two emotionally bonding ... I felt like I/it needed more.

Serena (2014/I)
6 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Serena is Sad Sad Sad for a Number of Reasons, 4 April 2015

Hoping that lightning and/or movie magic would happen thrice, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (both of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) team-up for a third time in, Serena, a Susanne Bier movie adaptation of a Ron Rash novel. In their previous two efforts, they were directed by David O. Russell who has proved to be a master at coaxing great performances out of his actors (his latest two films picked up 8 acting nominations between them!); and although neither actor does poorly here, Bier proves to be a much lesser director as the film lacks focus and neither multiple-Oscar nominated actor (she has won one) turn in award-worthy performances in this film.

Serena is titled after Lawrence's character, a tragic Colorado lumber heiress whose entire family succumbed to a house fire when she was merely 12 years old. At an upscale equestrian event in Boston in the late 1920's, she catches the eye of a driven and ambitious lumber baron (wannabe) played by Bradley Cooper. After an oh-so-brief flirtation, the pair are married and they return to his native North Carolina where he owns many acres of land in the Great Smokies. He also has prospects in the the wilds of Brazil, and as long as he can make a profit here in the states him and his young wife can move to South America and live a very comfortable life.

Only, secrets from his past come to light and Serena fears losing him and her new, secure life (she invested all of her money in his holdings) ... and things don't go smoothly.

Costarring Toby Jones (Infamous), Rhys Ifans (Vanity Fair), Sean Harris ('71), Ana Ularu (Outbound), Christian McKay (Rush) and Sam Reid (Belle), Serena is a beautifully photographed film (I'll give 'em that) with credible performances from the entire cast; but the story proves to be too expansive to fit into the confines of the film's runtime as characters begin making too many seemingly uncharacteristic choices for no believable reasons. I'm assuming the book expands a bit more on motivation and character back-stories to be acceptable ... much of that is left out of the cinematic Serena.

The film has lofty ambitions and does achieve a few of them; but the editing and/or screenplay are just too weak. I will again note how beautiful some of the images Serena gives its audience are -- fog- covered mountains and valleys are breathtakingly beautiful. The film also has a nice eye for period detail but much of that is lost by trying to keep track of the ever-expanding story.

Serena wanted to be great ... and it had a decent chance at being so; but it just is not to be. It is tragic.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
What a Special Song, 4 April 2015

"Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand." -- William Butler Yeats

So opens the lovingly animated Song of the Sea, the second feature- length film of Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore who gave audiences the animated surprise The Secret of Kells in 2009. Both of his films are glorious tributes to the lore and history of his beloved Ireland, and his 2D animation style is grandly and respectfully suited to the tone and mood(s) his films want to convey.

In Song of the Sea, a young boy loses his mother as she brings his younger sister into the world. It sounds bleak but it isn't an overly dark moment in the film as Song of the Sea simply needs the daughter to come into the film for the story to actually begin and the build-up is ever so brief with the actual moment not being captured on screen. The boy, Ben, was taught songs of yore from his loving mother ... all which had secrets and links to her (unknown to him) past history as a selkie -- a mythical creature of Irish/Scottish lore that was a woman who could become a sea-dwelling seal.

Set in a mostly-modern animated world, the mythical past is believed to be exactly that -- "mythical" -- until a few years pass and the (mute) young sister, Saoirse, is called back to the sea after playing a mystical shell flute ... much to the horror of her father (Brendan Gleeson - Gangs of New York), brother and Granny (Fionnula Flanagan - The Others).

Granny is so horrified by the thought of losing a grandchild that she sweeps the two kids up removing them from their coastal dwelling to live with her in the big city. It is here that the journey of the two kids begin as they make it their mission to return home to their father and the wide-open ocean their mother so loved. It is also on this journey that the two fully discover the purpose and meaning of Saoirse's abilities ... and that her life depends on making it back to the sea and finding a mythical coat left behind for her by her late-mother.

The film is a beautiful one to look at and watch unfold. The cutesy dynamics of siblings plays out nicely as big brother Ben tires easily of a little sister he cannot fully relate to although knows her importance (to himself as well as selkie lore). Elegantly drawn, Song of the Sea carries on the tradition of colorful-yet-simple animation from Moore's prior film. Where that film used greenish tints to capture the Emerald Isle, Song uses various shades of blues and grays to capture to spirit of the sea ... and the sea-life on display here is adorable.

I'm not sure if the film fully explains itself, but it has piqued my interest in its subject matter and some of the stories at its center. I just may have to learn more about them ... which means this film is still a success.

Beautiful. Simple. Charming. Song of the Sea is another pleasant film experience from a most-promising young filmmaker.

Wild Tales (2014)
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Wildly thrilling. Wildly fun. Wildly original., 17 March 2015

This Argentine film that found itself nominated for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award comes to us from director Damián Szifrón who has crafted a feature film comprised of a series of 6 vignettes/small stories about human beings from all walks of (Argentine) life who are all tested and taken to their limits ... until they finally lose control. While mostly disastrous the film is also WILDly thrilling and wholly original in its daring cheekiness ... as the film is a bitter dark comedy (with tinges of brutal drama).

It is a film about a myriad group of people on a plane; a young waitress who still finds herself grieving over a family tragedy of the past; an encounter between two men from different social classes on a desolate highway; a man growing tired of the rat race of life in which we are all destined to lose; the aftermath of a horrible automobile accident; and a wedding reception like none you've ever seen before. All feature one or two characters taken to the edge ...

It is how each of them handles their various situations that give us our WILD stories. Fascinatingly grim at times, the film almost always miraculously produces laughter and grins. Much of the laughter might be heavily muffled as one chuckles under his/her breath as others around them fail to see the director's (WILDly) wicked sense of humor come into play in some of the film's intense situations; but the dark tone pervades the entire film.

While the film is most definitely tragic in many instances, Wild Tales is a comedy of errors about human nature and who we are. Some can watch this and most-likely not pick up even a hint of humor; but it is there ... and it is fantastically facetious.

Wildly thrilling. Wildly fun. Wildly original. It is courageously wild.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
If Paradise is only in one's head can it ever truly be found?, 16 September 2014

An almost stranger-than-fiction tale of paradise found and paradise lost is recounted in the documentary The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, a true-crime mystery that unfolded in the remote islands off the South American coast during the 1930s that remains unsolved to this day.

Tiring of conventional life in Germany, a doctor and his sickly mistress retreat from civilization and head to the furthest reaches of the earth -- the unsettled islands of the nature-filled Galapagos Islands. A family of three soon joins them on the island and tensions begin to build as each have contrasting opinions of what the isle should be like. Things change even more when a beguiling baroness and her two lovers arrive on the island hoping to scout out a location for a fancy hotel.

Things happen. Bad things.

Told through narration by the reading of the actual people's journals and diary entries of their time on the island, the visuals of the film are as equally fascinating as a surprising amount of actual video footage was recorded of the various adventurers. It is as if it was all meant to happen ... so we'd be intrigued anew 80 years later! This little story has remarkably remained secret over the decades ... I'm surprised Hollywood has not tried to adapt this into a jaw-dropping suspense thriller as nobody on the island knew what to think of any of the others once mysterious things started to happen. What did happen? I watched the documentary and am still unsure. It is a perfect mystery ... or it is a perfect hoax.

The film is intriguing and made me think of Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None'. I wish there was more to know ... but there isn't. It is an eternal mystery ...

"A closed mouth admits no flies."

13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Very Good Girls = Very Mediocre Movie, 5 August 2014

Very Good Girls has somehow managed to get a truly noteworthy and remarkable cast in spite of being a most mediocre, humdrum and unremarkable film itself.

The movie is about two best girl friends during their last summer together in New York before they go off to two different colleges in the fall. As the title implies, they've been "Very Good Girls" in high school and are not overly experienced in some aspects of life making them conclude that they should lose their virginity before heading off to school. Their friendship is tested over the summer by various things -- work, family, uncertainty, tragedy -- but most of all by their mutual attraction to a handsome street artist they meet and befriend.

Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam) and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) play besties Lily and Gerry with Boyd Holbrook (Milk) playing their object of affection who ends up favoring one of the girls to the other. Fanning and Olsen are two of the best young working actresses in Hollywood today and I do not question their talent at all; but Olsen's five year age differential is highly apparent here making the casting in this film ever-so-slightly distracting. Richard Dreyfus (Jaws), Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love), Clark Gregg (The Avengers) and Demi Moore (Ghost) play parents of the two girls while Peter Sarsgaard (An Education) co-stars as Lily's boss and Kiernan Shipka (Sally in 'Mad Men') as her younger sister.

The first-time director, Naomi Foner, just happens to be the mother of the Gyllenhaal siblings (Jake and Maggie) which most likely helps explain why this talented cast (Sarsgaard is Foner's son-in-law) signed onto such a pedestrian, over-done script.

The story is nothing special -- and has been told many times -- but the acting in Very Good Girls is "Very Good" and solid. Everyone involved here is singularly better than the film as a whole.

Son of God (2014)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not Divine But NOT As Awful As Others Want It To Be, 5 August 2014

This well-meaning film may be a tad bit overlong (2 hours and 40 minutes) and it clearly wants to convey a nice message about Christ and his followers He picked up at various locations throughout the Promised Land; but it would be hard to give this film enough praise to recommend it as most of it comes from the already seen The Bible miniseries shown on TV earlier this year.

That 10-hour film event was edited to make this film for theaters which now solely includes the scenes of Jesus in order to make a film specifically about Him ... and -- to be fair -- to make more money (which is disappointing and something He most likely would not approve of).

My father summed it up best with the comment, "Haven't I already seen this?" He had and those interested in this subject most likely already have as well although there were a few re-shot and extended scenes featuring the GQ-handsome Jesus Christ (Diogo Morgado) found throughout this new movie. Clearly the anti-religious crowd will be vocal in their disdain for it although most probably have not watched it. I am not the most "religious" person on the planet and I have so many doubts and questions regarding the writings of mere mortal men regarding this Divine Individual that many avid churchgoers would probably throw me out; but I am aptly named (Thomas) and I have no problem with people either believing or not and I won't belittle another for whatever choice he/she makes regarding it. I believe in some form of creation (a Big Bang) but I also believe whoever created organized religion is playing a lot of people for fools ($).

Many people going in to this film will get what they are expecting from it (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) but there is little new here that will awe a new audience. Some of the casting choices are debatable -- early scenes have a nearly blonde Mary (!) -- but this movie does a decent job of showcasing the motivations some of these men had. I don't think this was as good as The Passion (a decade old this year!) and much of it was played pretty safe.

I wasn't upset with the liberties taken here -- it is a movie after all. There was a lot of criticism of Noah earlier this year because many said it strayed too far from the Biblical text (all 7 verses or so of the Noah story!) and also raised a fair amount of questions about a Creator who would kill the sinning masses (including innocent babies which had to really upset some -- how dare liberal Hollywood include that in a film!). Son of God only depicted a benevolent God and was therefore accepted by these same people. I couldn't imagine people NOT wanting to think very hard.

There are many better movies on this subject an audience can watch and there are also a few worse ones.

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