Reviews written by registered user
karmaDhyana

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18 reviews in total 
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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Us vs. Them: Nobody Wins, 12 June 2007
9/10

This film is about the legacy left by a man with altruistic intentions of providing a college education to students who would otherwise not have been able to afford one, and another man who mutated the original idea to his own ends.

In the late 1950s, Rex Clemens, the 'hero' (per se) of this film saw the writing on the wall regarding the decline of the timber industry in Oregon, and wanted to give the children of Philomath, Oregon an opportunity to get an education that would save them from a dismal and uncertain career in a town were the timber industry that once reigned unfettered had come to a screeching halt--and branch out into more promising fields. His motivation was to give the youth of Philomath, a town he dearly loved, the chance to compete in a changing world economy. Thus, he created a foundation that supported school-building projects and provided a 4-year college scholarship to any student that graduated from Philomath High School.

After Clemens' death, Steve Lowther, Clemens' nephew--who is now in charge of the foundation--lost sight of his uncle's original mission by using his personal religious and ideological agendas to keep 'undesirable' students from taking advantage of the generous opportunity his uncle created.

During the film Mr. Lowther proves to be his own worst enemy: In one of many times Mr. Lowther contradicts himself, he states that one of the objectives of the education process was to teach children social skills, but in another statement he accuses the school superintendent, Dr. Terry Kneisler (whom Lowther shows an open contempt for) of pursuing a "social agenda". (BTW, Dr. Kneisler, now the Superintendent of Reynolds School District in Oregon, is an intelligent, well-liked and respected man in his district.) A public forum was held--overseen by an impartial arbitrator--wherein all interested parties were encouraged to participate and express their views regarding Dr. Kneisler and his position as superintendent; a decision was later made that he should continue as superintendent. This decision enraged Mr. Lowther who, in the film smirked, "We took our toys and went home," meaning he withdrew the scholarship altogether. This 'my way or the highway' attitude, and his choice of words used to describe his disdain for the board's decision, personified the childish attitude he embraced when he didn't get what he wanted.

Additionally, the above-referenced forum was considered by Mr. Lowther to be underhanded, and declared that their differences be settled 'like men', behind closed doors, without the benefit of others listening to both sides of the issue and communicating their concerns, if any. Apparently, Mr. Lowther was either unaware of, or had no regard for Oregon state law that mandates School Board meetings OPEN to the PUBLIC (with limited exceptions, such as personnel contract negotiations, or consultation with attorneys).

Another example of Mr. Lowther's dubious beliefs was when he spoke of his strong religious Christian values, then declared his wish to 'tar and feather' Kneisler, a value I find quite the contrary to Christian values.

Ultimately, Mr. Lowther reinstated the foundation funding by attaching an admission restriction to students who had no "background" (i.e. who didn't come from families) in timber, mining and/or agriculture fields.

The point that this documentary drives home is that, while Mr. Lowther thought he was hurting Dr. Kneisler and his supporters by dismantling the foundation his uncle had created, he was actually 'clear-cutting' the young men and women whose opportunity to create a better way of life for themselves was felled by a man with an ax to grind. Timber.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Walking in the shoes of others..., 12 June 2007
8/10

I was initially interested in this film for two reasons: 1) I am a Buddhist, and was greatly distressed--as were many others--to hear of the destruction of the sculptures of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001 by the Taliban, and 2) I am particularly interested in Middle Eastern cultures and the challenges and conflicts that the people face, especially in regard to the political exhibition being played out since the United States' military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This documentary is evidence of the turmoil and hardship suffered by a particular 'cave dwelling' Shia family of Afghanistan refugees, seen through the eyes of an eight year old boy named Mir.

There are no happy endings in subject matter concerning war-torn countries and the innocent civilians who suffer at the hands of the 'liberators' as well as the 'invaders', and this documentary is no exception. However, the smile on the face of young Mir is a testament to the enduring shining spirit that lies within even the most downtrodden and oppressed members of humanity.

This is a must see for those willing to put aside political ideologies long enough to tap into the compassion that lay within all of us.

Songbirds (2007)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Tragic and Beautiful, 12 June 2007
9/10

I found "Songbirds" to be an excellent film featuring great music of unique and uncommon themes.

This documentary portrays the heartrending lives and intimate experiences of women trapped behind the tangible and emotional bars that constitute their daily existence.

The featured women share personal pain and hope through music, in an array of styles and approaches. While some songs seem staged--presented in the fashion of a 'musical'--others feature raw emotion-driven performances by artists whose voices would most certainly never be heard, had it not been for this cinematic representation.

It makes one wonder if confinement quashes dreams of creative expression or strengthens them.

"Raines" (2007)
21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Goldblum, Once Again, Gets To Prove His Mettle, 17 March 2007
8/10

I LOVED the pilot of "Raines"; being a HUGE JG fan, I couldn't wait to watch it (holding my breath all the while, hoping that the creators would do credit to JG's highly underrated acting prowess). I was NOT disappointed.

His POV throughout the pilot episode was so unique; I was concerned that this was another in a long line of 'kooky detective' series (see Monk, Psych, etc.). But my fears were soon allayed.

The most interesting aspect of this show was that, while I watched it, I truly ran the gamut of emotions (if I may employ such an over-used cliché); I laughed, I was intrigued, and the ending not only completely caught me off-guard, I found myself in a pool of tears. Sounds corny, right? Well, shucks, it's the truth.

I suggest to those who haven't seen the pilot do so before watching the following episodes, as it is the essential building block for the series (yea, I know that's what a pilot is supposed to be, but so often that is not the case--I have seen the ol' bait and hook method used in a variety of pilots that went on to a series that didn't follow the original premise).

I can't wait for the upcoming episodes; I just hope the networks give it the chance that it deserves.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Let's See What's In Store For Andy...., 17 March 2007
7/10

I have been an Andy Richter fan from the Conan days; his dry wit never failed to crack me up. Additionally, he was funny in "Arrested Development" where he plays himself and his four brothers, Donnie Richter, Chareth Richter, Rocky Richter-Wang and Emmett Richter. IMO he's always a stitch, and in this show he follows suit.

Secondly, my interest in this series was piqued due to the fact that the FAB Tony Hale is in it, because he was as so amazingly funny in "Arrested Development" I HAD to see him in a different role (having browsed through his body of work, I realized just how much he's done that I wasn't ever aware of!). Not surprisingly, he is great in his role of "Simon", the owner of the video store that is located directly underneath Andy's accounting office.

I can't wait to see if the follow-up episode(a) lives up to the funny and original pilot.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A Less Complicated Account of the Book, 15 March 2007
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***MAY contain spoilers (in the broader sense)***

For those of you who are Buddhists, are interested in Buddhism from a layperson's viewpoint, or enjoy documentaries that showcase non-American culture(s), I would highly recommend "The Tibetan Book of the Dead". The crux of this film reflects the crux of Buddhism (Tibetan or not): Live knowing that you will die, and die a good death.

A "good death" in the context of this film is to recognize the various stages (bardos) at the moment of death, and for 49 days following--through the practice of phowa. This ritual is performed by a guru, monk or lama (or a practicing Buddhist with expertise and/or experience in performing phowa), using the script originally written by Guru Padmasambhava (who first brought Buddhism to Tibet), to help the dead achieve enlightenment, or if not, a precious human rebirth.

Leonard Cohen--singer/songwriter extraordinaire--narrates this film, and rightly so: In 1996 he was ordained as a Zen monk after practicing Buddhism for 20+ years, so he understands the significance of this topic. Additionally, his voice is beautiful and uniquely calm--respectful of the sacred nature of this topic.

Though parts of this documentary look as though they may have been "staged", my opinion is that this small Tibetan community allowed the cameras to capture a profoundly revered Buddhist ceremony for the benefit of all sentient beings everywhere.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Cut-ups and cut up, 1 September 2006
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was one of the funniest roasts I've seen, even though it was obviously, as MovieAddict2006 commented, cut to hell and back. (But my cable company is showing the uncut version on pay-per-view, which I think would be a worthwhile indulgence.)

It was clear that William Shatner ("the past-tense of 'Shitner" as one comic put it) was a big enough man to laugh at the comic jabs and oft-times full-out thrusts hurled in his direction. From his weight, to his hair-piece, to his acting/singing talents, nothing was deemed to sacred to mock, and he welcomed it all with humor and good nature.

Also, George Takei seemed genuinely entertained at the jokes made at his expense, although many of them would appear to be the pinnancle of "gay-bashing" (at least to those without a sense of humor).

Unfortunately, Farrah Fawcett's bit was like watching a train wreck having a bad-hair day in slooooow motion. Where, oh where was the stage hook when we needed it most?

The only person I couldn't quite figure out was Andy Dick; his back- and on-stage antics made the news, but while he was taking a good a**-kicking from others (and others were taking a not-so-good face-licking from him), he was often seen shaking his head "No, no, no" and mouthing the words, "That's not true" (he even flipped someone the bird, at one point). The thing is, he seemed REALLY stoned and/or drunk, and I couldn't tell if it was all part of the scheme of things or if, in his substance-induced stupor, he was really insulted.

No matter, it was great fodder for the taint-of-heart, and a welcome alternative to the regular Comedy Central programming.

Shirley Ghostman--a HIT!, 5 August 2006
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Marc Wootten is a GENIUS as Shirley Ghostman, a spirit guide who channels celebrity spirits. This show, "High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman" is a spoof of mediums (can you say John Edward?) and alleged paranormal experts who make a living speaking with the long-departed.

Shirley Ghostman's appearance may be as funny, if not funnier, than the show itself. 'Her' approximate 6 foot+, 250 pound frame is ensconced with a white pantsuit, matching white cape and shoes, while her make-up consists of peach lip gloss, frosted eye-shadow, mascara and all I can describe as an Angie Dickinson hairdo: a blonde, puffy, to-the-shoulders bob-type thing (which may, or may not, be Marc's real hair...either that, or a dang good wig).

I've only seen one episode of this show, but I loved every campy minute of it. Not only did it feature a "slice-of-life" scene featuring Shirley visiting a local gym for a workout with a personal trainer, it ended with her engaging a live audience (who didn't quite know what to make of the whole shebang), and channeling the spirit of a cantankerous, ill-tempered and foul-mouthed Frank Sinatra (whose rousing rendition spoofing "My Way" was a hit with the audience).

Even though the show became a bit corny at times, if you're even a bit wary of the whole supernatural/spiritual contact thing, you'll appreciate this royal send-up.

Matango (1963)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Attack of the Mushroom People (english title), 22 July 2006
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie was featured on late night horror shows in the Detroit area where I grew up. I saw it at least three times in my early teens, but it's been about 30 years since my last viewing, so my memory's a bit foggy on the details.

The tale surrounds the survivors of a shipwreck on a murky, misty island, to which they discover the majority of flora are strange, large, unusual looking mushrooms.

After the crew and passengers run out of food, they decide to start eating the mushrooms. Little do they know, the mushrooms transform them into mushrooms themselves! D'OH!

The story is told in narrative style, by the lone survivor of the shipwreck, whose face is hidden by the camera while he relates the events to a room full of interested parties (doctors, scientists, et al).

This film has an original story line, and quite memorable special effects, script and actors' performances (even if it was dubbed in English). Some would consider this Le Bad Cinema, but as far as horror/fantasy genre of the time goes, I consider it a classic.

The most memorable part, in my opinion, was near the end when the investigators listening to the story asked the survivor why they should believe such an utterly ridiculous tale, and the man turns to the camera, revealing a face riddled with fungal growth, shouting, "Because I ate them too!". Creepy music--end film.

Too good to pass up.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
An Poignant, Amazing Film, 22 July 2006
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In a world awash in frivolous, inconsequential movies targeting the lowest common denominator (not that all of such are without a certain amount of entertainment value), "The United States of Leland" is a blessedly thought-provoking film, full of substance and significance.

Ryan Gosling is extraordinary as Leland P. Fitzgerald, a detached teenager coming to grips with his feelings of disillusionment and disconcertion regarding the meaning of his life, and in doing so, commits an unforgivable and seemingly meaningless act of violence.

Don Cheadle, playing Pearl Madison, the teacher at the juvenile detention facility to which Leland is sent, is as always, fantastic. The complexity of his character fluctuates between infidelity with his girlfriend; to a genuine concern for Leland; to his self-serving struggling, part-time writer alter-ego that pushes him to find the reason and circumstances behind Leland's inextricable actions.

Kevin Spacey plays a part he seems to have been born to play: A self-absorbed, callous man, insensitive to those around him who suffer his wrath. Playing a successful writer (Albert T. Fitzgerald, Leland's father), his condescension and distance toward others lays, in part, the foundation of the implied decline of his marriage, and perhaps, the reason lurking behind his son's ultimate horrific decision.

Jena Malone (who played 'Mary' in "Saved!") portrays Leland's girlfriend, a young teen fraught with personal demons, the least of which is a drug addiction that threatens to destroy her most intimate relationships, as well as herself.

An extremely well-written script, and a supporting cast of actors such as Lena Olin, Chris Klein, Ann Magnuson, and Sherilyn Fenn contributing fine performances, create an unforgettable portrayal of a teenager's life in emotional turmoil.

This film is not for anyone looking for a quick fix to boredom, or a picker-upper for those feeling down or depressed. It is an utterly absorbing character study filled with heartache and desolation, as well as a very telling example of life in these United States.


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