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11 reviews in total 
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Compadres (2016)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A Fun Adventure Despite Technical and Artistic Flaws, 1 May 2016

This was the first truly bilingual film I have ever seen. No, it's not merely a film where people talk in two languages. It's the first I've seen where the events unfold in two languages and the audience processes them accordingly. I didn't know what effect it would have on me at first, despite knowing both English and Spanish. However, after watching "Compadres", I saw that, if anything, it gave the film a richness that made it fun to watch.

Alas, after watching the film, I couldn't help but feel as though I just sat through a six-month telenovela hastily condensed into an hour-and-a-half work: The scope was clearly a grand one, but director Enrique Begne's execution suggested he was well out of his depth, since he botched quite a number of elements along the way. To wit, the editing appeared rushed and scattered, with some scenes leaving out plot-critical shots of items and people that are normally taken for granted in other films. The music was all over the place, ranging from twisted to tender, while an equally erratic score filled the crevices. Additionally, there were actions by the characters in certain scenes, such as Garza randomly kissing the waitress at the diner, that felt out of place; they were probably inserted just to extract a laugh from the audience when, truth be told, they didn't need to. Even the opening title credits looked half- baked, as though they came straight out of a student copy of Adobe Flash. These factors converged to derail the film's tone, leaving one convinced that Begne simply could not decide what flavor of story he wanted to tell. Maybe a glance at Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" could have helped.

And yet... you can't help but immerse yourself in the experience, despite the above lapses in judgment. Omar Chaparro (as the stoic Mexican cop Garza) and Joey Morgan (as the bumbling but good-hearted computer hacker Vic) make for an enjoyably discordant duo, showing that strong characters backed by capable actors do matter. The desolate landscapes and grimy city scenes add to the alienation that slowly grates on Garza and Vic. In the face of relentless backstabbing and setbacks, their budding friendship is the only thing left that they believe in, and that modicum of hope is just enough to push them forward, to search for the truth, to save each other's lives. Said tribulations have their own share of twists and surprises (with competent explanations on the side) to mystify but not confuse. The story that pierces through the poor choices made by the filmmakers successfully keeps the audience in the game and endears the lively cast of characters to the moviegoers.

By the end of the film, you'll want to see Garza and Vic head out for another adventure, one you would gladly pay a matinée ticket for. Hopefully, some better production personnel will be in tow.

Catalog (1961)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Surprising Find, 9 November 2013

I caught wind of Mr. Whitney's work while learning about slit-scan photography, the technique used to create those engrossing images that form the "stargate" sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. It never occurred to me that this kind of motion photography was possible in 1961. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how slit-scan is done, but this experimental short film demonstrates other tangentially related techniques. Whitney employs techniques such as extended exposure, optical manipulation, kaleidoscopic mirroring and some frame-by-frame editing, all with the aid of an analog computer Whitney built for this purpose.

The image effects in this short still fascinate even after decades of ever-improving special effects and the advent of computer technology. Even the most spoiled connoisseur of special effects would find appreciation from the work Whitney and others, of which Catalog displays for our wonder.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Eureka!, 15 January 2011

I have found it! This is the real deal, the bottom of the barrel, the absolute worst, the nadir of cinema. Ben & Arthur made me do the unthinkable by "honoring" it with a 1 rating on IMDb, something I have never done in the 11 years I have been rating movies on this site. Normally, I try to find at least one redeeming point in any bad film I see, if only to rationalize its merits and save myself face: Even the horrendous "Titanic: The Animated Musical" had at least decent still drawings at the very end. Alas, "Ben & Arthur" was beyond redemption and any hope that one could walk away from the film with something to justify the experience.

The fact that IMDb even has an entry for this audiovisual equivalent of excrement frightens me. I believe it did get a screening at a movie theater, it is a feature-length work and its DVD is readily available at several online stores, so I guess it technically qualifies as a "film". Whatever you wish to call this work, everything in it is bad: Acting, writing, direction, editing, music, photography, sound recording, set design, continuity.... I could go on, but other reviewers on this site have already elaborated on this film's numerous flaws, with far better grace and humor.

My goodness, even the first few seconds tells you how badly this film will devolve: It features an irrelevant and disgusting background animation for an opening sequence and the use of a gingerly MIDI-recorded rendition of "The Entertainer" for an otherwise ostensibly tragic love story. Scott Joplin should simply come back from the grave and toss the filmmaker into a vat of liquefied iron, which closely resembles the red fluid flowing across the screen. It would've made the opening credits seem more proper.

Oh, but the filmmaker, Sam Mraovich. Let me add something that no reviewer has addressed as of yet: Considering he did nearly all of the production duties in this film, he is technically also an "auteur" in the same vein as, say, Stanley Kubrick or Wes Anderson. However, those last two, while often writing and producing their own material, nevertheless saw the benefit of sharing the workload with people that are experts in their respective fields of film production, while also staying involved and informed of progress. Mraovich on the other hand quite literally does all the work in piecing together this wreck, almost surely because he fancied himself as capable of such and not because a lack of appropriate personnel. Fact-checking is non-existent, with Mraovich going as far as screwing up basic Bible facts that even cold-hearted Atheists would recognize. The fact that he also stars in Ben & Arthur as the central protagonist (nudity and all), while providing what is hands-down the worst performance by any actor I have ever seen, reinforces what everyone here already knows: That Mraovich has lost much of his grasp of reality and has no idea of how humans function.

(Additionally, even Kubrick usually had his name in only a few credits at most or, in the case of "A Clockwork Orange", in just one card. Mraovich's name is everywhere in Ben & Arthur.)

And just what were the actors in this movie thinking of when they signed on to this thing anyway? Anyone with a brain cell would have backed out after reading the first page of the script. Were they doing it out of duty? Maybe they were blackmailed. Were they even paid well? (I would imagine SAG would frown upon paying actors in graham crackers.) Maybe they simply pitied the hopelessly delusional Mraovich.

In any case, Ben & Arthur was quite the discovery for me. Wider awareness of this movie could easily set the gay rights movement back to the stone age. Once you are done with this abomination, if you dare brave it, you'll conclude that it belongs in the great Pantheon of Bad Ideas like the Great Leap Forward and The Baseball Network.

"Turn-On" (1969)
10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Ayayay!, 31 March 2005

I learned about this show a few days ago. Having read some of the amusing comments regarding this show on IMDb, I just had to go down to the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills to see what the fuss was about.

Oh wow. The trivia section here said that ABC canceled the show just minutes after the first episode began airing. Now that I saw that fateful first episode, they were doing 60s television a favor. Manic, disturbing, unnerving and psychotic are just some of the lighter adjectives that describe this show. By itself, the "rapid fire humor" was too rapid (the show cuts into too many skits into too little time) and not humorous enough (obvious double jokes, for one).

And yet the show was funny... for all the wrong reasons! While the jokes were hardly laughable (except perhaps the candy dispenser refusing to pop out The Pill; that was a real guff!), their execution certainly was. Mr. Conway tries, but he really doesn't belong here; "eye-candy" that isn't; a curious dog-cat-Muppet hybrid silently popping up with a bewildering stare after seeing a, um, "sex act"; oh, and let's not forget the "Body Politic". All of this is sardine-canned into thirty minutes to yield some of the most bizarre entertainment ever produced for television. Perhaps it should come with every sale of the Ludovico Machine. Indeed, the white background, extremely minimalist set designs and mind-frying Moog synthesizer music would make you think that Laugh-In was doing a little "in-out in-out" with Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange!

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Sadness, singing, and Siegfried to boot!, 17 March 2005

How refreshing and appropriate, it seems, that this interpretation of Wagner's final Ring Cycle opera takes us away from the distant places of Norse lore to the gilded towers of the Industrial Age. The way I see it, Götterdämmerung tells the story of a world on the brink of losing its faith. There's nothing to believe in anymore; there's no one you can trust. The Gibichung Hall doubles as a contempt-ridden snake pit, surely an ode to man's vapid purpose. Thus the world's wealth cannot disguise the misery of its existence. Our way of life is unsustainable and heading for ruin. The god's absolutely final chance to maintain the status quo (in the form of Siegfried) fails.

Ah, let's chat about Siegfried: For a "free hero," he's as whiny as Luke Skywalker and as reckless as Harry Potter, and yet these latter two are not as easy to beguile. By today's standards he would never be considered a hero in any way. At best, he's oblivious to the pressing challenges that the world faces. At worst, he's an idiotic numb-skull who won't heed to any good advice, not even his own. If anything, the real hero of this debacle would be Brünnhilde, who in The Valkyrie saves a defenseless girl from a terrible fate, stands up for herself in answering to her considerably peeved super-father, and here returns the Rhinegold to its proper owners.

And yet, despite all of this, when Brünnhilde sings about the end of the gods, it plays the same leitmotif that opens The Rhinegold: Will the world start anew? Will there be new "gods" to take the reins? Is there hope still? What do we know? That's the great things about this opera, and especially this production. In the end, all great works must do one thing to survive the wear of time, of which this opera succeeds: To leave us wondering about what could have been and what could still be.

10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
What would Wagner think?, 21 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Wait, you don't mean Richard Wagner, I hope!?" The guy who wrote Tannhauser, Lohengrin, and Ring Cycle (Rheingold, Valkyrie, some forgettable romp after Valkyrie, and Gotterdammerung)? Yes, sorry, but I do mean THAT Richard Wagner. What would he think of films today? He never lived to see the medium rise to its full glory; but by today's cinematic standards, if he wanted to do one, what could stop him? Imagine him writing scripts, composing film scores, and perhaps producing and directing. With his lofty imagination and desire to fuse drama and music with meaningful tact, his films would be unparalleled!

"But Wagner has nothing to do with this tawdry excuse of a 'movie'! What's the point?" Well, while watching this, I remembered recently reading a short parody of The Valkyrie that attempts to summarize the opera's complex story. It was quite funny, but if I didn't know the opera's music and lacked firsthand knowledge of plot points, the humor would have been lost. This "movie" felt much like a short, watered-down, and generally hilarious parody of an otherwise memorable opera. The only problem is that You Got Served is not based on a memorable opera... or anything else! It is very much its own film, and yet the film has this urgent need to feel complete.

Chris Stokes, a band-manager-turned-filmmaker as is the current zeitgeist, writes and directs this laughable exercise in movie-making. I bet he comes from the music video tradition, since the "movie" exploits fast cuts, faster girls, jarring edits (EDIT: The editing in this film was atrocious!), and loud music, all for the sake of promoting a musical act. I hope this experience teaches him that films and music videos do not equate. Films are longer and require much more care.

He didn't think his screenplay through. Its numerous faults include blatant stereotypes, poor exposition (more than once did I see the need for several scenes to be condensed; plot holes were abundant), repetition (Stokes greatly wants to remind us that our protagonists owe money), deus ex machina (Grandma has some backup cash; forgettable friend learns about a major dance contest; "Mr. Rad" getting our "heroes" out of a fine mess with some gang), trite dialog (I could swear that, at one point, it looked as though Steve Harvey badly wanted to say a comeback to some comment made to him, but NOOOOO! The script apparently had other plans!), the sacrificial lamb (in the form of "Lil' Saint". Telling.), and the obligatory "romance" (the film's two resident lovebirds are no Tristan and Isolde, let me tell 'ya).

Nor did he think his casting through. Musical acts don't necessarily make actors. (Mariah Carey paid dearly for not understanding this.) Not one the young "actors" in this film showed any conviction in their roles. The film exemplifies two types of bad acting: One coming from good actors muddled in bad roles (Harvey and a few of the token adults fit this) and another coming from bad actors relishing in awful roles (which this film has in spades).

Boy, did I get served! This is required viewing if you want to learn how NOT to make a film. Wagner would be ashamed of such a hackneyed fusion of "music" and "drama." If he was alive to see this... thing, he would never stop vomiting. Honestly, his oral discharges would be far more entertaining than this act of cinematic terrorism.

3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
I'm sorry, but..., 23 September 2003

...having seen this movie, I must disagree with most of the other commentators. This film is quite bad in just about every basic aspect.

For one, instead of having a strong story that drives our heroes Gil and Jake to strive for inclusion at the expense of their dignity, we have nothing more than a series of episodic gross-out gags and ruses, not to mention a slapped-on romance. The razor-thin plot consists of fraternity brothers inducting Gil in hopes that Jake would join the fraternity as well and, with his former football skills, beat a rival fraternity (of which we know nothing of, by the way) in a football game that exists only because there was a need for an uplifting and climactic ending.

Second, the gags are gross in the extreme, yet they are neither funny (thanks to poor timing aided by the aforementioned episodic approach, despite well-done delivery) nor disgusting (Yes, every conceivable example of displaying people's by-products is in this movie.). Some of the humor is good only when taken out of the context of the film, but for the most part it is just plain sad, because it leaves little for the audience to fill in with their imagination.

Third, the bad-enough one-dimensional stereotypes that unfortunately are the characters are in addition plagued with an air of arrogance and self-importance. Moreover, some of the characters are not completely fleshed out and, because of it, they miss moments that could've been ripe with humor. For example, Charlie Talbert gives a memorable and hilarious comedic performance as Dooly, but even that can't save his poorly written on-screen persona. (Early on he says he "likes pussy", but near the end it shows that he is clearly a homosexual. The actual problem is that there is no comedic arc to discern whether that was the case all along, he developed a taste for it, or if he was bi.) Try as I might, these problems couldn't be ignored and ultimately soured the film for me.

I gave the film a 3: The lowest rating you can go + Basic principles of film-making are followed + Charlie Talbert.

18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Curiously quirky Hitchcock, 25 April 2002

What an unusual Hitchcock film this is! For one thing, in this film, he doesn't focus on themes of murder and suspense as he is well remembered for. Instead, he takes a satirical look at the complexities of marriage and fidelity, with rich, quirky, and even disturbing humor. (It's interesting to note that Elsie Randolph returned in another twisted Hitchcock "comedy", "Frenzy", forty years after this film.) The editing is a bit crude by today's standards, although you just have to appreciate the mix of titles and audible dialogue to represent the transition from silent films to "talkies". Still, it's a funny film you can enjoy, with numerous Hitchcock elements clearly evident. Enjoy!

Angus (1995)
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A flat-out revelation., 12 April 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What makes the teenage years so vexing is how a young person's line of thinking evolves from the logical, unadultered mannerisms of childhood to the obstinate, interpretive idiosyncrasy of adulthood. As children, we might remember seeing things and make a simple yet direct remark about it, yet, as adults, we might see things, stop to think about it, taking into account all our past experiences and teachings, and make an "observation", when we soon realize that there are other people that have their own "observations". Worse yet is how the young person does not immediately see this transformation.

It is during these years where we begin to contemplate a new reality, one based on indifference and hopelessness. It is here where the young person begins to interpret ideas, histories, and ideologies of all sorts, however good or bad they intend to be, and have the option of either rejecting or accepting them. This is where our hero, Angus Bethune (played flawlessly by Charlie Talbert) is thrown in. As a child, he has always been the butt of jokes and, along with his best friend Troy Wedberg (Chris Owen), the target of bullies. His protection has relied on wit, humor, and physical prowess. His love for Melissa Lefevre (Ariana Richards) is just as strong as his hate for Rick Sanford (James Van der Beek).

Yet, showing his affection to his yearning love is, in his opinion, an unreasonable goal. What could possibly make Angus reason like this? Could it be Rick? By the time we are done with the first act we see that Rick has already managed to mentally, emotionally, and socially control Angus. Rick is also highly manipulative, as he uses his bullying tactics over Troy to betray his own best friend. As if that wasn't enough, he's the good-looking quarterback and the head of the class, which yields ostensible power to him. He shows no compassion to whoever he feels is not "normal", that is, whoever does not follow his concepts of physical and social beauty. Although the film does not demonstrate how Rick obtained such line of though, his mind is no-doubtedly locked in to this ideology. Aptly would Camus describe Rick and his cronies "no longer represent men, but an idea raised to the temperature of the most inflexible of wills."

What about Angus? What about his influences? He seems to have a very supportive and eccentric family composed of his truck-driving mother (Kathy Bates) and his active, unrelenting grandfather (George C. Scott). Troy, equally eccentric, provides support at school. Yet nothing works: In his mind, his positive traits (good at science, excellent tackler, full of heart) cannot overcome his negative ones (overweight, timid, reclusive). He doesn't open his blinds in his bedroom to let the sunlight in, and he already has plans to transfer to another school, where he can be accepted for once. He wants nothing to do with the outside world, which, he feels, doesn't want him anyway.

When Rick forces Angus to come into this world, by rigging an election so as to make him dance with Melissa, Angus becomes really confused. Will Angus go to the dance or not? He can have his "moment" with Melissa, yet he will risk humiliation, knowing that Rick had set this up. However, the real question this second act is this: If he makes a decision, what will it be based on? How will other people and their ideas affect his decision.

Hereafter, his support group will aggravate Angus' confusion by bombarding him with ideology. His Grampa says "Screw 'em" to anybody who opposes what he wants (of which includes marrying a woman thirty years his junior), demonstrating that Angus should not fear what others think of him, thus he should go. His mother wants Angus to focus on his studies, so that he can get his ticket out of Owatonna High, thus he should not go. Troy, in his whimsical self, thinks Angus needs to change his image and manner in order to find acceptance, thus he should go. Angus himself thinks that, in spite of the opportunity to dance with the girl of his dreams, he knows that Rick will make a fool out of him, thus he should not go. How can Angus make sense out of all this?

This is where Grampa comes in. He knows his grandson very well, and he has faith in Angus' warm qualities. He even goes out to get him a nice tuxedo, albeit a plum-colored one, but Angus refuses to wear it. Angus loves his Grampa, but Angus feels weak upon the implications of the dance. This all changes, however, when Grampa dies. Early in the film, Grampa wished that Angus could talk to Melissa just once before he died. Sadly, he will not live to see this. When Grampa's fiancee April (Anna Levine) brings the plum suit to Angus, Angus realizes he has betrayed Grampa's faith in him. He will say "Screw 'em", and set out to attain his goal as well as his self-esteem and self-determination....

Thus, Angus no longer sees Rick as a bully, but as a danger to his well-being. Melissa is not merely a love interest, but a token for being courageous and brave. He has a label for these people now, based on numerous levels of reasoning.

What's so amazing about this film is how it is richly paced. You can take delight in the visual aspects of the film and show compassion for these people. Composition creates a moving experience with the story, using the warm colors of autumn. Music also plays an important role, as it balances teenage angst with feelings of longing and disillusion.

How sad that you truly can't enjoy a film like this if you see it quickly! Angus warrants a deeper study into the nature of bullying, use of power, teenage confusion and conditioning, obesity, and the power to overcome, themes that lie much deeper into its "after-school-special" facade. Don't let the theme of acceptance thwart you off! I must warn you: If you felt alone and alienated in high school, this movie won't disappoint. If you didn't feel alone and alienated, either avoid this film or stop denying it, take the bitter pill, and see, no, "observe" it.

Now go have another.

At least it has Charlie Talbert., 5 September 2001

"Social Misfits", as many of you are already aware, is a small-time independent flick. I found the film quite enjoyable and even poignant at times. Some of the writing, especially amongst the counselors and between the warden and the mother, was stale. The theme and premise of change of character through suffering slips away, as some of the violence that continues to occur throughout the movie suggests.

Still, the film has a slew of young actors with great potential. Tann is excellent as the leader of the group, as are Damon and De la Fuente as the Hispanic hoodlums. All the female roles were played wonderfully, and I'll give high esteem to the very young Huett, who played the girl who though she could fly.

What really saved the movie, for me anyway, is Charlie Talbert, in a very rare showing. Talbert is of "Angus" (1995) fame, and is rarely seen in movies. Even though his performance and his "moments" were short, he took great advantage of it. Throughout the movie, he is sweet, assertive, and charismatic. Through tone, physical features (he looks huggable), hand gestures, emotions, and body movements, he expresses his character (Kyle the klepto) perfectly! Talbert once again (alongside "Angus") demonstrates that he truly has a talent for acting. He would surely be appreciated if we see him in more key films.

All-in-all, "Social Misfits" is a great movie to rent. Take it home, and I bet you'll enjoy it, if only a bit.

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