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Certainly bingeworthy. Not a masterpiece.
Other reviewers who mentioned that Mindhunter is like 2 different shows have it right. You've got the bingeworthy and the cringeworthy. The part dealing with interviewing serial killers and solving local crimes is quite good. The part that tries to delve into the characters home life and relationships slows the show's momentum and is actually hard to watch at times. Luckily, the relationship parts make up only about 20-25% of the show.
Set design and cinematography are top notch. Soundtrack is hit and miss, but there are some great selections, like the Led Zeppelin in the last episode, that are powerful. All of it seems tailored to appeal to late Boomers/early Gen-Xers who grew up in the 70s. That's me, and I really enjoyed the cars, clothes, mise en scene, and the color pallet.
Dialogue can be too on-the-nose and explanatory sometimes. The writers should give the audience more credit. The interview scenes are compelling, though. They are the core of the show, and I wanted more of them.
80% x 8.4 rating for the police work parts. 20% x 4.4 rating for the relationship parts = 7.6 overall rating. In toto, it was a good first season, and I'm looking forward to see where it goes from here.
Bad Teacher (2011)
Crude... but I like it
'Bad Teacher' sets the bar low and clears it with ease.
The film's unalloyed tastelessness is its best quality. Diaz bludgeons the viewer with vulgarity and coarseness, and I admired the way she tears into her role. She has no redeeming qualities, yet I rooted for her. If you can surrender and allow yourself to be dragged into the muck, it's an enjoyable ride.
The jokes come fast. Not all are funny, but enough of them score to keep things moving. The supporting performances are superb. There are many experienced comedic actors here adding funny bits with great timing. Timberlake had the weakest written part, but even he ripped off a few zingers. I probably got the biggest chuckles from the bits in the unrated version that were cut out of the theatrical cut. They were truly crude. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. Such is the charm of this one if you go for that sort of thing.
The Descendants (2011)
A big ehh..
Alexander Payne's made a career out of casting a gimlet eye on the foibles of flawed middle class folks, and while he might have seemed a bit condescending toward them, you empathized with them or even loved them.
Ironically, with Clooney's 1-percenter lead, Payne seems to have gone to great lengths to portray his most likable protagonist thus far, yet I feel nothing.
Clooney spends the movie trying to resolve being cuckolded while he drags his two daughters and a stoner boyfriend along for the ride. Shouldn't he be helping his kids cope with their loss? Truth be told, they don't seem all that broken up about it. Nor does he, although he's obsessed with being cheated on. In fact the only person who registers what feels like appropriate grief is father-in-law Robert Forster. His performance stands out because of it.
Clooney's character is remote. He can barely stand to hug his kids when they find out mom's doomed. When stoner boy reveals a horribly painful fact, Clooney's a wax dummy. And Clooney does not do sorrow well. So you have this melodramatic set-up about the most tragic of circumstances, and the lead actor plays it like a wooden Indian. I understand that was the point. It just didn't work is all.
He's plenty invested in his personal tragedy, though. He gets most worked up in his therapeutic monologues with his comatose wife. As he goes through anger, repentance, and acceptance, we are supposed to think he has accomplished something. I didn't. Another character also exorcises demons over top the vegged-out wife. That poor woman. (Although, from what we hear about her in the script, she's not supposed to be very likable.)
At the end, Clooney shows he has grown to the point where he can stand to sit on the same couch with his kids and eat ice cream. I can appreciate understatement and all, but it's not enough. Ask the younger one if she wants to go camping next week or something. Anything.
I would be remiss without adding that the voice-over and on-the-nose expository dialogue in the first third of the film were also below Payne's usually high standards. I guess every director has a misfire eventually.
The Social Network (2010)
Entertaining Flick, A Little Over-hyped
The critics are falling all over themselves praising this film, predicting a armload of Oscars for the principals come March, and that could very well happen, but The Social Network doesn't seem like any kind of modern-day classic to me.
What strikes one while watching it is the skillful way Sorkin, Fincher, and the actors can hold your interest for 2 hours with a story about a socially-awkward computer wiz's rise to the top and the pesky lawsuits he had to endure, which seem real important during the film, but eventually result in settlements.
Apparently Fincher can make any subject matter interesting, and Sorkin's rapid-fire script had the audience I watched with hanging on every word. You had to pay attention. If you were distracted for 5 seconds, you might miss 4 lines of dialogue. And while all of it was clever, there were no great truths coming from the actor's mouths. There wasn't much of a theme to latch on to here, other than the irony of a friendless geek creating the biggest social phenomenon on the web. As far as I could tell, everyone just wanted to get paid. Except Justin Timberlake's character who wanted to get laid and high as well. He was great, by the way.
Jesse Eisenberg was also great (again) evolving from his usual intelligent, self-conscious, sensitive guy to an intelligent, self-conscious, insensitive guy. Not much of a leap that Eisenberg manages easily. I didn't hate his character at the end as much as everyone else seems to. Best bud Andrew Garfield and rich guy(s) Armie Hammer were good too.
I guess the lack of real conflict or suspense is the cause for the slight flatness I felt at the end. I knew Zuckerberg was going to come out filthy rich and in the absence of any personal epiphany from him, the fate of his former best bud just wasn't enough to get me emotionally involved. (Don't worry, he got paid -- along with everyone else.)
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Not all that revolutionary in 2009
When this novel came out in 1961, with JFK in office and America at the zenith of empire, perhaps this story about the dark rumblings beneath the veneer of suburban normalcy was bold and original. But now? Almost 50 years later? It's been done to death, don't you think?
We get it, Mendes. The suburbs suck, and the American Dream isn't all it's cracked up to be. You already covered that territory once-- more deftly. Add to that: the 50s were a conformist prison. Congratulations, you've hit the cliché trifecta.
The timing on this one is especially bad given our current economic woes. The family lives in a beautiful neighborhood. Husband has a secure, not-too-difficult job and is about to be promoted. Children are healthy and happy. Looks pretty good from the edge of the abyss here in 2010. What's the problem?
The wife never became an artist!--not that she showed any evidence of possessing a speck of talent. Her neighbors are boring!--although they seem to be perfectly nice folks. Their trip to Paris where they were somehow to achieve self-actualization was scrubbed! Her husband turned out to be a rather ordinary fellow and not Cary Grant! Boo freaking hoo!
Take some of hubby's raise, hire a nanny, and then perfect your "art." Hell, Grace Metalious wrote Peyton Place under the same set of constraints without the raise and the nanny (during the exact same time period). No, not with this precious broad. It's Paris or nothing for her.
Is this movie trying to say that the wife's inability to grow up --i.e., deal with the responsibilities of life and diminished expectations-- was her tragic flaw? Or is it proposing that "society" and "the times" caused a non-conformist to destroy herself? It's hard to say, but given the emphasis on setting and period details, it seems to be the latter. Through the telescope of 50 years, it just looks naive and childish. A better theme would be: how do we find dignity and meaning in life once we realize we're not that "special?" But that's a little deeper than this shallow examination cared to delve. Much easier to blame the "phoniness" of "society."
The crazy son of the real estate agent was a clumsy contrivance to catalyze the conflict and hammer the audience over the head with the movie's theme.
The acting was good, given the material. The sets and cinematography were top-notch. It's a great movie to look at with the sound off. Beautiful really, which pushes the rating into respectable territory. Points, too, for at least addressing the most common of adult themes in a straightforward, un-ironic fashion. But in the end, it's rather "fake-deep" and superfluous with an unsatisfying ending.
District 9 (2009)
Really Kinda Ridiculous
I can think of worse sci-fi movies to spend 2 hours on, but this movie is really quite absurd.
I can suspend disbelief for damn near anything, but the plot has to make some sense. Why were the aliens so easy to herd into the camp? How'd they get their weapons back? And once they did, why did they not dish out some head-and-chest-exploding destruction on their enemies? Oh that's right, they traded them for cat food.
And how many times did a bad guy have his gun trained on one of our heroes and then proceed to explain in lengthy detail how much they were going to enjoy killing them only to be foiled at the last second because of their ridiculous verbosity? At least four.
And in the scene at the end, when the half human tells his prawn buddy to save himself. After the requisite "No, you go save yourself" line, how about a little cover fire there, pal? Just standing there sorta takes away from the whole sacrifice angle, see? You have a freakin' transformer suit that fires rockets. Don't just watch idly while prawnny makes the run with his corrugated tin shield getting peppered with machine gun fire. He makes it anyway, of course.
I could go on, but, well you know.
The little alien kid was cute, though.
4/10 - but 1 star here to try and tamp that 8.4 down (I mean come on, people. It's embarrassing.)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
my backlash vote
Saying this is the #2 movie of all-time is like saying McDonald's makes the best hamburgers. They're both palatable, predictable, inoffensive products that are easy to digest. Both have happy endings-- that is, if you find the stunning speed with which a McDonald's hamburger flushes out your digestive tract to be a "happy" occasion.
All you need to know is that Shawshank has the exact same ending as "Trading Places." So why not make "Trading Places" the greatest comedy of all-time?? What the hell, why not make it #3 on IMDb? It too is competent and utterly middle-of-the road in terms of quality and originality within its genre.
Instead of Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy laughing it up on a Caribbean beach after besting the forces of evil, we get Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. It's the exact same ending! Shawshank was OK when I saw it when it came out. But count me among the backlash group that would rather see it with the 6-7 rating that it deserves. Thusly, I hereby cast my symbolic 1-star vote.
Another totally unique offering from Solondz
I was reading something about "the next Scorsese." I guess they meant the next great American director. They mentioned Wes Anderson, David O. Russell, Paul Anderson, the Wachowski brothers, and some others-- all undeniably talented people. But the guy they missed was Solondz. I can't think of anybody who can combine the comic and the tragic in such a completely believable manner. Both Happiness and Dollhouse contain those moments where the characters reactions are so real that you laugh reflexively from recognition while at the same time you may be saddened or even repulsed by what is developing on screen. I can't think of anyone in the "mainstream"(i.e., available at the video store) today who can create and execute the tragi-comic so deftly and consistently. I can't wait for his next movie. I am sure at the least it will be different, and more intelligent than 99.9% of the movies out there.