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Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Snapshots of a Still - Slow - Simple - Sad Story
At first I complained about the abundance of establishing shots of the town. Not only does every scene open and end with an exterior shot of the town but throughout most of the scenes, we are witness to cut- away shots of the town. Why? As the movie starts to build, we start to understand that the pace of the movie along with the style of directing start to make sense. The movie is slow for a reason. Along with the acting, the pace builds up momentum as we start to learn about the plot. Later, as the story slowly unfolds, we learn more about the main character and the family dynamics that tell its own story. Manchester by the Sea is not a Hollywood movie. More like a Cassavetes movie, it does not begin or end. Instead, we start the story in the middle and abruptly conclude without a resolution. With that said, the movie successfully tells a story that the movie industry and most audiences don't appreciate. Therefore, Manchester by the Sea is a marvel of something you don't see everyday, even though it tells a somewhat simple story. Its the simplicity of many of the scenes that gives Manchester by the Sea its unique quality of a movie. The rawness of the simple characters in this simple town makes the movie real and interesting. If you like special effects with explosions, this is not the movie for you.
Summer of 8 (2016)
Empty Coming of Age Drama
Summer of 8 appears to be a modern day Summer of 42 with the backdrop of a modern day Eden being the beach side world of youth and endless possibility. Most "Coming of Age" dramas include the subject matter of saying goodbye, losing ones virginity or letting go of the past in order to grow up. While Summer of 42 captures the age of innocence along with the struggle of entering adulthood, Summer of 8 falls short far from anything serious let alone entertaining. For starters, the movie cast 8 actors in their late 20's to portray a group of 18 year old recent high school graduates. Not only are most of the characters hard to keep track since all are attractive and look very similar. None of them represent a broad picture of today's youth. All are from well-to-do families since all are well dressed, well spoken and hardly have any real problems since the only issue is being young and having doubts about tomorrow. Although the premise offers a universal issue facing every generation, the cast and overall story fail to attract a large audience that would really care about any of them. The phony love scene is not only absent from the audience view but unrealistic and basically just as empty as the plot of the story. At the end of this 85 minute very slow story, the audience is left cheated, knowing that the only reason they gave this movie a chance was because of the movie's poster. The image of girls dressed in bikinis caught their eye. The limited eye candy along with 85 pages of endless dialogue and monologues makes Summer of 8 want to be taken serious but is nothing more than an empty drama.
79 Minute Music Video
If you don't care about plot and only want to see eye candy, the Erotic Diary of Misty Mundae is just what you are looking for. Compared to most junk you find out there in the library of soft core porn, this little treat cuts to what the audience came to see. Forget about a real story or even a script, this visually driven story is more of a music video with re-edited scenes shown over and over again. Now don't be angry if you think this isn't a movie and that you've been robbed. Far from it, instead of having to bare corny dialogue or a story line that nobody cares about, the audience is given a treat of great visual stimulus. Nothing more and nothing less but the real reason why you would want to watch any movie with the word "Erotic" in it. Misty Mundae stars at the height of her potential. Her innocent sexy appeal is the main attraction. A true fan will no be disappointed. Misty shows us her "O" face over hundred times. Her multiple collages of sexy sex scenes and titillating montages reminds the audience why we are fans of hers. Her famous "tie" striptease is the icing of this soft-core cake.
Tiger Town (1983)
With Eyes of a Child & An Adult
I remember watching this for the first time on the Disney Channel when I was a 5 year old in 1983. What I recall watching was a 2 hour drama about a Boy that had magically powers that could make a Baseball player hit home-runs. Now, 33 years later I see Tiger Town for what it is, a 76 minute movie that deals with death, doubt, fear and the hope of believing in something that others don't. Watching as an Adult, Tiger Town does have its limitations as a movie, but also has several powerful moments which a Child would not notice or appreciate. The Father, Buddy, is obviously depressed and dying. Unable to find employment, unwanted to a degree, he can only shelter his Son from the large crowds and the rawness that Detroit was and still is. Moments shared at the Italian restaurant are very similar to the restaurant scene in the Bicycle Thieves as the relationship between Father and Son. The scene is very simple but beautiful. With the death of his Dad, the movie shows how lost and scared Alex is among the mob of the city. The large crowds at the ball game suffocates the audience as he tries to get to his seat. You feel how alone and sad he is without his Dad. The character of Billy Young is not just an old baseball player but a surrogate Father to Alex. The times he spent with his Dad at the ballgame is reflected in the hope Alex has for Billy. The ending cries a moment similar from the movie 400 Blows where Alex is left alone (in the end) at the empty ball park. The movie ends with Alex now able to start his own life. The prophecy that "Buddy" left for Alex has been for-filled. He can now believe in something else. Hopefully himself! Tiger Town showcases the bleak reality of life, Aka Detroit. We see the meanness in the streets and the characters. The city is imperfect. Alex is also imperfect. The home they live in, the school he attends. Nothing is perfect. Alex is bullied at school, looked down upon and ridiculed by many in the movie. Finding out his Father died by finding a room full of strangers in his house. Having strangers look down at him as he enters the ball park only adds to the truth that Alex is unwanted and alone. Nobody will give him 50 cents to ride the bus. Alex sits among people at lunch but doesn't interact. Alex needs to believe in Billy but more importantly, the struggle for him to believe in himself is the overall climax of the movie. Many of the scenes where Alex has doubt, we hear the same sad music play in the background. It is the same song that is playing when Billy Young runs toward home plate to score the winning run. It is these moments of doubt that you truly need to believe in yourself. That is the overall message of the movie.
Last Days in the Desert (2015)
Jesus the Therapist
The concept of doing a movie about Christ's 40 days in the Desert is very intriguing. The idea of His trials and tribulations being tempted by Satan and battling his destiny as the Savior of the world would fascinate any Christian audience. The character of Jesus the Man and not Jesus the Son of God is present. The audience is not witnessed to any miracles or sermons. Instead, we see Jesus the young Rabbi and Carpenter and instead of making grand speeches, we see a soft spoken Man trying to be a family psychologist as he tries to help a family He meets while in the Desert. This is very different from your average movie about Jesus Christ. As he tries to deal with being the Son of God he comes across a Father and Son that have troubles of their own. Jesus tries to help in more ways than one and this takes up about 80% of the movie. The movie has many odd moments including a few times when Satan messes with Jesus throughout the Desert. Although this is an interesting concept and I enjoyed the originality of the movie, I feel it falls short. The movie should have been all about the Desert and how it impacted Jesus. We really don't see a difference in Jesus or any character development by the end of the movie. The relationship between Jesus and Satan was also weird. They go from being Enemies, which is obvious, to almost sympathetic friends. Their relationship could have used some more time to focus on. Finally, my biggest gripe with the movie is the ending. I felt the last ten minutes should have been cut entirely. We witness the Crucifixion and the Burial, but not the Resurrection. This decision by the Director, along with having the modern day scene at the very end, is up for debate. Why he decided to include this needs to be questioned and defended. My only opinion on showcasing this is whether or not it is needed for the story line. After all, this is about Jesus in the Desert, nothing else. I felt the ending took away from the plot of what Jesus was doing for those 40 days and why it is important to the overall Character. I feel the movie failed to show us that. Granted we can make parallels between Jesus and God and the Father and Son characters. Still, from what transpires between the characters, is anything learned from their decisions? Overall, Jesus becomes more and more a side character as the Family takes center stage. If the theme of loyalty is the overall message from the movie, the question remains, is it obvious?
The Day the Clown Cried (1972)
Identity Over Ideology
I am reviewing the Day the Clown Cried after watching the recently aired German documentary that premiered in 2016. About thirty minutes of footage has been available to the pubic online. Although over an hour of the movie has still never been seen, or premiered to an audience, millions of interested fans remain eager to witness. Along with countless articles and interviews on the subject, a believe a review is justified. With that said, this review is focused on the many "hats" that Jerry Lewis wore in the making of The Day the Clown Cried. More than 40 years later, the reason behind him not making the entire movie public is more clear.
As the Producer, Jerry had to work with other financial people in order to make this movie happen. With multiple speculations along with recent interviews, it has been confirmed that Jerry had an uphill battle in order to make the movie happen. This alone can ruin a movie, let alone guarantee it to flop. In several scenes we see wonderful production value. Costumes, locations, props are historically accurate. In others, we see a lack of this. Some of the scenes lack substance due to lack of budget. Filmed in Sweden, you could tell that they did the best with what they had to work with. Many of the Actors work well while others are do not. This is a perfect example of some of the children in the prison scenes. Many are well cast while others appear like obvious local extras.
As Director, Jerry had successfully directed may Paramount comedies throughout the 1960's. His quality as a Director would have made him a well seasoned professional for the 1972 production. However, although the premise of the movie is about a Clown, The Day the Clown Cried is far from a typical Jerry Lewis comedy. Having been able to direct himself many times before was never a problem. Yet for a drama, this may have added to the pressure of producing a better performance for a drama.
As an Artist, one's pride can get the best of oneself. Whether you are from France or not, there is evidence to conclude that Jerry Lewis is a comedic genius. For decades, Jerry Lewis has made people laugh. As a professional, Jerry Lewis has pushed himself to get the very best from his performance and budget. Speculations have convinced fans that Lewis was taking drugs (pain killers) during the production of the Day the Clown Cried due to a physical ailment. I believe this made his performance both good and bad. In many scenes of the movie, we see this. Some scenes are emotionally driven with a real dramatic overtone of acting. I believe the emotional pressure of the film can been seen on Lewis's face during his performance. At times, you can see his character overwhelmed and losing hope. These moments are overpowering. Other scenes lack this quality for the same reason. Some scenes are quickly shot and are void of the same quality as before. This falls on the shoulders of the Director.
Finally, and most importantly, as a Jew, Jerry Lewis is quoted in the documentary about what that means to him and to what he was aiming to do with the movie's overall message. This Hat alone can overwhelm anyone making a movie involving the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg refused to take any payment for his work on Schindler's List because he felt it would have been blood money. The fear of a negative audience reaction to the movie is one thing to handle. It is something completely different if you are excommunicated and labeled for benefiting from the murder of millions. Jerry Lewis had the fear of not only ruining himself professionally but personally as well.
Each of these roles that Jerry Lewis held in the making of The Day the Clown Cried effected his decision to not release the movie. I believe it was a collection of these duties that made himself hesitant to be judged. With what is available to view, the movie has great merit along with great doubt. The fear of this movie being a disaster for 1972 is well defended. Then again, the idea of this movie being a masterpiece and one of Jerry Lewis's best, is also a realistic possibility.
The vision that Jerry Lewis wanted and got I feel were two different products. His Identity during the production and forty years later plays evident to just that.
One of Shandling's Last Appearances
After hearing of Garry Shandling's death, I recall watching this episode months earlier. It is shocking how much they talk about death and getting old. Reminiscing of the passing o Robin Williams and traveling down memory lane at the Comedy Store, it's touching to think that this was one of the last times we would see Garry Shandling. Watching Seinfeld and Shandling pay homage to the collage of photos of comedians that are on the wall at the Comedy Store, adds to the eeriness that man of their friends and comic partners have passed on. Jerry Seinfeld even says, "You have to die in your 60's to have people say, wow, he was young." Shandling later talks about what he wants at his funeral and writing a suicide note. Although entertaining and funny, there is a little bit of reality to why Shandling is talking so much about getting old and death. Garry later remarks as the two take a tour of their old studio that, "It's a different world and a different time." At the very end, Shandling talks about how he was mistaken for having died when talking to his doctor. By the end of the story, Shandling doesn't complete the sentence as the episode fades to black. A touching ending to his abrupt story.
The Three Stooges (2000)
Although the production value and the acting is great, the story- line keeps this movie from being great. Any die hard fan of the Three Stooges will want to watch this, but most fans will be left disappointed with how bad this movie got the story wrong. With what they could produce in under 2 hours, the movie showcases a multiple bio picture with thirty years of show business history thrown in. Still, how the Stooges are depicted and how history is depicted, leaves the audience the argument to disagree with every scene in the movie. Curly's health is touched upon, but his redemption as a Father and Husband is never discussed. Larry's back-story is hardly shown. This makes the movie central focus being Moe Howard. Still, much of Moe's background is never talked about. His depiction of a "has been" after the 1950's short series was far from the truth. Moe Howard was never un-employed or ever retired. The movie gets this wrong since Moe Howard was always working most of his professional career. In the end, the issue of money, fame or importance is never resolved. It is important that the movie mentions how bad the Stooges were treated by the Studio, but we never get to see the Studio's side to the story. The movie does show the human side to the Stooges which is good. Then again, depicting Shemp as a wimp and Joe Besser as a jerk is far from the truth. This is a fictional depiction of the three stooges and far from an accurate depiction of how these men truly were. Then again, compared to the 2012 Comedy the Three Stooges, this movie is much much better.
The Martian (2015)
MacGyver on Mars
If you are not a fan of MacGyver, this two hour plus movie is going to feel like five hours. Other than some moments taken from Mission to Mars, Apollo 13 and Gravity, Matt Damon plays Robinson Crusoe on Mars. If you believe that millions of devoted fans of NASA would flood Time Square to find out if this movie will have a happy ending, then you can believe anything. If you love the science and math behind space exploration, the Martian is a marvel. If you like your space odyssey to have aliens, laser fights and chase scenes, this movie is not for you. Unlike Sam Rockwell's Moon, Matt Damon is not completely alone. Half the movie is Matt only while the other half is filled with a colorful cast that you often see in comedies. Overall, the movie helps you to smile from time to time but is far from a comedy...or a musical.
Steve Jobs (2015)
Hollywood has given us five major motion pictures about an asteroid that is going to hit the Earth. Much like that plot line, I strongly believe Earth has enough movies about the life and times of Steve Jobs. Whether he be a madman or a genius, the audience has enough stories on Steve Jobs in their library. Aaron Sorkin brings us another well written "West Wing" quality script where people are walking and talking while taking and walking. Much like the movie depicts a sold out audience time and time again to applaud everything and anything that is and was Steve Jobs, movie's like this have a devoted fan base of fanatics that will wait in line for hours for an "App" that they do not need. Steve Jobs is at times entertaining and informative while also being empty and pertinacious. Time and time again the audience is asking the question, Why? Even with a good back story of why Jobs left Apple and why Jobs was the way he was, the movie leaves us asking time and time again, Why Why Why? Why do we need another Steve Jobs movie? Why are we showcasing the life and the man: Steve Jobs? And why do we not give Steve Wozniak the credit that he deserves?