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237 reviews in total 
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25 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
aka "PLAIN DIRTY", 27 November 2004

Doesn't deserve the horrible rating the IMDb viewers gave or nor the cold shoulder it otherwise received. Sort of a poor man's Flannery O'Connor short

story. Almost works as a character study of the poor girl at the center of the picture and, in this regard, I believe that it was the movie's creator(s)' intention not to allow our hillbilly queen to garner our sympathy . Another plus is that the characters appear genuine when they could have easily been allowed to slide

into stereotypes. Holds your interest and maintains pace despite relatively

modest plot. Satisfying to know that this mild, unpretentious entertainment was made with such a modest -possibly nominal - budget. I'm thinking that the

naysayer's just didn't have the patience or humility to enjoy this film.

17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Unpretenious, funny and Liv Tyler!, 26 January 2007

Although I agree with many of the people that this was a good movie, I do not necessarily agree that it had a moral, taught a lesson, etc. The script, as economical as it was, was terrific, not to mention hilarious! There is hardly a wasted line, scene, etc. Nobody overacts. The actors simply just do their jobs. Some of the jokes had me laughing out loud at midnight; e.g., when brother #1 says "awesome" upon learning brother #2 has bedded Liv Tyler, #2 thanks him - to which #1 says "No, I'm thinking her standards are so low I've still got a chance".

The movie is chock full of tiny lines of great dialog. Most are not crafted jokes but simply hilarious circumstantially, as when the protagonist comments on the strength of the stoner's weed and - in a casual aside - the stoner says, "Yeah, I put some crack in". Also, our hero so deftly manages to unintentionally insult everyone and everything while spilling his guts; e.g., believing he's offering profound insight into life but instead degrading the existence of his listeners. These asides and conversations, like much of the dialogue, are not stand alone funny but fit in so well to the mood and of the setting. The setting and circumstances - failed dreams in the Heartland - could be milked for much melodramatic value but is well treated here in a matter-of-fact manner. This movie is true farce. I hate to use clichés but Lonesome Jim is the perfect example of "What you see (and hear) is exactly what you get.

Casey Aflleck could easily have played his role as manic or overly deadpan but finds a great balance. Overlooked is his dad's character, who pulls pathos out of middle America. Liv Tyler displays more skill here than in all her minutes in Lord of the Rings combined. And the stoner uncle, without exaggeration could be a candidate for Best supporting actor. But Mary Kay Place steals the show outright. She is the Everymom of all time. I lost my mom last year and my siblings and I can see now that what we interpreted as mom's naive cheerfulness was actually a profound strength. No small feat to create this observation in a movie which, at times, seems almost completely played for laughs. In fact, the uplifting effect of the movie truly appears as almost an afterthought. Creating something out of nothing is the mark of good art.

30 out of 48 people found the following review useful:
The #1 Movie I Love to Hate, 25 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the late 60's, early 70's, when movies began to circulate as news and talk show events, we the public began to believe we were to leave the theater having gotten (or not) the message. Such was for better or worse. Great movies like BONNIE & CLYDE, MIDNIGHT COWBOY and NETWORK were fussed, discussed, etc., and educated and entertained us with varying points of view (if no more through water cooler encounters). I may be naive but was it THEN that it became fun to discuss favorite movies, much like books had so been? SUPPORT: Siskel & Ebert's AT THE MOVIES began to appear on PBS in the late 70's.

The blowback was a series of shallow - if mildly clever - movies that either the new industry and/or the media spun to we the public as "art". Hence TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, DRIVING MISS DAISY, MOONSTRUCK, and more recently Shakespeare IN LOVE, etc. I suggest that films of this caliber, not necessarily terrible, never won Oscars in the 40's, 50's or 60's.

The characters in TOE are inarticulate, impatient and shallow people. TOE might have been good if such were the intended message. The sentiments of the movie are incredibly contrived; e.g., we are told zero of the substance of Flab's affairs though Emma's affair is, of course, justified, authentic, etc. I sum up McClain's Character in one word: shrill. I also dare anyone to create a more unashamed melodramatic ending. After watching this flick I walked out of the cinema in Topeka, KS in 1983 not giving a rat's ass about any of the folk or sentiments I'd just seen. Blame it on me being Roman Catholic but the only events, people, circumstances, etc., worthy of concern in TOE were Flap and Emma's children, to which NO attention was paid.

I'm going to sound like a snob now. Here's the substance of the personal comments I heard and still hear when I inquire about TOE: "It was so good", "It was so sad.", "It was soooo good!", "It was sooo moving.", "It was just like real life.", "I can't believe she died.", "You know my sister just died." You get the picture.

Snow Angels (2007/I)
18 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Very Good If Depressing, 30 September 2008

The underlying novel and this film stole my planned novel! I live in Northeast Pennsylvania (the film is set in Southwest PA). I'm one of those who threaten, promise, etc., to write a book someday but probably never will. But my main idea was to write about one of the ancient defunct communities that dot the old coal and oil regions of the state.

SNOW ANGELS does a great job at depicting lives in such communities. Especially during that part of the year when the landscape is barren and suicides spike. The profound sense of hopelessness is evident in many of the characters. Those without resources fall into profound despair. Those better off look into themselves. The result is always tragic or counter-productive. Only youth sees promise, has hope, etc.

The film was far from perfect: Rockwell and Beckinsale's story line so dominates that the lives of the other characters become almost a distraction. I doubt that's what the author intended. The climax pays off in intensity but is predictable. But the acting and script are exceptional as is the pacing and mood. For those who think the film lacks plot, the simple depiction of setting and life are story enough.

Bernie (2011)
34 out of 59 people found the following review useful:
An Absolute Miscalculation, 11 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After reading Rolling Stone's account of the actual crime, framed by the filming of this movie, I walked out of the theater disappointed. The story of Bernie and Majorie is poignant and makes a good magazine read but is not extraordinary or compelling enough for book-length treatment or psychoanalytic examination. But it certainly could serve as a great topic for a black comedy sprinkled heavily with suspense and allowing the cast plenty of poetic license. In planning for such, Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine are perfect casting choices. Instead, here's what you get: Thirty, maybe FORTY percent of BERNIE is interviews with actual townsfolk or actors which, instead of supporting the storyline, plot, etc., actually interrupt what little movement is achieved. If sometimes humorous, the cuts to interview eventually become groan inducing and are so pervasive that the dramatic portions take a backseat. Its like watching an A&E documentary with short "dramatic reenactments" peppered in. As such, neither Black nor MacLaine get to "take off" and get no chance to inhabit their characters. There's nary any effort to depict how Bernie and Majorie "bonded". Comic opportunities with their road trips are wasted. In short, BERNIE should have been seen as a great opportunity to entertain us with good writing, acting and movie making. Instead, it chooses to take very seriously a real-life tragedy that simply does not rise to the level of great stuff.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
The Sun Never Shines In Yorkshire., 14 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Almost literally. In truth there are a few moments featuring outdoor scenes where the sun MIGHT be out amongst clouds, though camera and lighting do their best to avoid such potential charm. And therein are presented the underlying themes of evil, greed, debauchery, misery, hopelessness and...... did I mention....evil.

The Red Riding Trilogy is a five hour adventure into a dark world of vile corruption, pedophilia, brutality, fear and futility. It is certainly not without merit. It features police corruption and brutality as well or better than anything I've viewed. (Example: When a mentally deficient character wets his pants upon sight of the cops we understand entirely his reaction.) The lead characters, arguably there are four, are so flawed that they function less as protagonists than as faint glimmers of humanity. Yet they are genuine to a fault. The bleak hopelessness of the British working class is well supported by the lighting, tinting (its neither color nor B&W) and drab settings. There is certainly a story in here somewhere, not so much moved by the characters as by the ugliness of human nature and it's ability to overwhelm the good.

Rather than say the RRT would be better pressed into a single feature length film, the true merits of RRT would be better presented as a multi-part, episodic production more slowly introducing and intermingling the various characters. RRT is certainly more about characters and their natures, reactions and failings than anything else! As I mentioned before, only arguably have we four main characters. The story, quite artfully, ebbs and flows re the importance of and emphasis on certain people. A seemingly minor character is a plot devise at one point, only to be more fully drawn much later. An eight or ten part RRT, at an hour a shot, would/could provide something as engaging as ; e.g., a BBC Dicken's production. Imagine a modern day Bleak House adding drugs, sex, gruesome violence and overwhelming fear.

The major problem with RRT is that what we ultimately learn to be the great evil has by then become so obscured by characters and emotions that it almost gives new definition to anticlimax. There may -or quite possibly may not - have been sufficient clues, dialog, etc. attending to the "story" to have made its outcome satisfying. Assuming there were enough such tips (this is arguable!) by the end of RRT the viewer is far too exhausted to piece the story together. In a nutshell, the backbone story/plot takes such a distant backseat to the grittiness, characters and tragedies that it will be long forgotten before RRT's fears and tears are still remembered.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A Film for Film Lovers, 28 January 2009

I've just enjoyed reading several User Comments herein. I most appreciate the suggestion that this movie was, and still is, overlooked and underrated. TDOTL will probably remain in my top ten until I join Harry Greener.

I've a unique introduction to this film. TDOTL came out just months after I covered it in an American Lit course at St. Bonaveture University. Nate West's short novel was packaged with MISS LONELY HEARTS, a story helping to explain West's comprehension of the hapless, downtrodden, pathetic persons existing in the lower middle and lower classes. I say "comprehension" carefully, not compassion, sympathy, concern, etc. Like Tod in TDOTL, our male protagonist in MLH views the swarm with more of an agony, horror and - yes - fear. This provides much insight into the infamous final scenes in TDOTL.

Having so raved, I cannot help but wonder whether TDOTL might have functioned better if Barty. the cowboy and the "Estes"' character had better characterization,points of views. etc., (certainly Barty's character was as important to West as Harry). I also wonder what West may have produced had he not died in 1940 in a car crash. What would West have to write or say about Hollywood had he lived a full life?

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Much Better Than Paranormal Activity, 20 May 2010

The timing and pacing are what makes this film exceptional. There are just enough slow panning and still shots done just right to, if nothing else, allow CEREMONY to legitimately come in at feature length (in contrast, the padding in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was obvious). Make no mistake about it, this is an art school project taking what has been learned of camera angles, background music, timing, lighting and sounds. Its also a very good art school project that is very, very scary. CEREMONY could serve as an excellent examination of "what scares us". The makers deserve some kudos and some form of release. Again, its skill and wisdom that make good films, not money.

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Don't Miss This One, 13 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Time and time again, especially after having watched a series of duds, I think that good films are a thing of the past. Then I stumble on something like TDOAC and am reminded to never say die - there's still great stuff out there! Here's a movie with just three folks; i.e., not even an extra passerby or folks in the distance. Its taunt, exciting and without hardly a wasted word or second. The "twist", surprise, etc., is a true creativity and made so believable by the dialog and acting. Ah yes the acting! Each character fights for supremacy for our attention all the while fighting one another. It's like a triumvirate of deceit! Eddie Marsen seems to be saying, "Move over Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, etc., the new Brit Bad Boy is here!". His "Vic" intimidated me from my Laptop! Don't miss this film!

11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Good Job, 23 December 2010

Although this type of film has been done many times before there is always room for good writing, acting, camera work and directing. Hey, if one is going to enjoy a modest budget horror flick one must get past the fact the takes-place-in-a-town-with-weird-residents plus the supernatural-aspects-to-be-taken-for-granted are simply ingrained in the process. This setting and genre must either be accepted and enjoyed or ignored altogether.

That said, the acting is FROM WITHIN is exceptional. The teens (and they actually look like teenagers instead of dressed up 30-year-olds) are neither sullen nor over the top but anxious, indecisive, vulnerable; i.e., like real teenagers. Miss Rice in particular delivers her lines in convincing fashion. The two young male leads could easily slide into stereotypes but...well...don't. The adults, e.g., the sheriff and the preacher, aren't overbearing elders. All the adults, in fact, actually interact with the teens, whereas in many movies like this one there is the teen world (Read: real and emotional) and the adult world (Read: static and authoritative).

The supernatural aspect, while never believable, is thankfully modest in inception and use. If the final scenes are not edge-of-your-seat they hold your interest as to what's going to happen. Cool "twist" at the very end too. What's a 56-year-old movie snob watching something like this for? Hey, I'm entitled to some fun too. Most things like this are lucky to last 20 minutes on my screen. FROM WITHIN went the full micro-wave popcorn ninety minutes.

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