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Not enough character development or story to bother
If you ever wonder why Paul Haggis, or Damon/Affleck received awards for screen writing, then let this film be an example of a screenplay that does not work. The screen writer is not totally to blame. It is the producer, or producers, that are ultimately responsible for the end product. They must not have had the experience to realize that the script required more polishing or possibly, a rewrite.
The movie's home page or web site states that Clean has won awards at various film festivals, which is commendable. However, we are not told what the competition was or the other films or home movies Clean was up against.
Home video is a booming global industry and cultural phenomena. When you hear that the late Saddam Hussein was a fan of Tom Cruise films, you know that many have been touched. Along with the roll-out of the VCR in the 1980s and current digital medium of choice the DVD, plus retail successes of Blockbuster and Netflix, and you have a planet full of film fans. Some have taken this to the extreme and pursue the art of film making on a budget. Enter the Indie film. I mention this because it appears that Clean is wrapped as an Indie film, which thanks to Sex, Lies, and Videotape and more recently Little Miss Sunshine, can be a popular selling point. Clean has these wrappings of a successful Indie film, but a peak under the hood displays some parts missing. The global demand for films is on the up and up, so who am I to question cable networks for picking up Clean.
This film does have acceptable direction and editing, but not enough depth in character development to involve the viewer in telling a compelling story. There are several scenes in Clean when things happen with out any setup. One involves the lead male ridiculing a female dinner companion for faking her enjoyment of (careful) having breakfast during dinner time. This particular scene made me feel sorry for the female. But, the sorrow had nothing to do with the story, and it's the story that you should be experiencing. This was just one example of several scenes where awkwardness or inexperience drew focus away from the story. Let's face it, eggs and bacon tastes good anytime.
However, for the people behind the scenes, Clean represents a grand achievement. I saw the film on the satellite DirecTV Starz movie channel. Imagine how proud the film makers and actors are to get on a legitimate pay channel movie network.
As I count them, there are only 4 user comments and the message board is empty. Today is March 15, 2008. I would suppose that after a few showings of Clean on Starz, or maybe another cable channel, there will be more comments and messages. Feel free to add to these lists. It's free and can be more fun than watching Clean.
Other Voices (2000)
Special film with obvious flaws, maybe on purpose ?
Although the acting performances and script are genuinely eccentric and fun, the inconclusiveness of the marriage game, and the consequential lack of a closure prevent Other Voices from reaching the masses.
Fundamentally, OV may have worked better as a comedy. Quite frankly, the character of Campbell Scott, as the lead's friend and accountant, is comedic from start to finish. Rob Morrow makes a Tourette's inflicted stock trader a blast to watch. Not to mention the self-absorbed psychiatrist and over-the-top marriage-fixer and his tough-guy assistant.
With the timing being the turn of the century, when black or dark comedies ruled Hollywood, maybe OV's creators used a twisted-drama format to preview the impact of an individual-obsessed society.
Are we? And, can this be answered by the story of a "keep the relationship fresh" marriage game that went too far and adversely-involved the couples friends and family.
The fact that the couple never discussed children cannot be dismissed. Or, is not considering children the self-obsessiveness that the creators wished us to know. Wish we could ask the writers and producers.
Generates appreciation for the first Evil Dead by Raimi
Falls into the film category of "Way too ridiculous in the dialogue and execution departments to be taken seriously". Whereas Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth or My Boyfriend's Back know they are bad, Scarecrows doesn't. Evil Dead set such a high standard for the comedic horror on a budget genre, that Scarecrows is simply out of place.
Suspicions of inexperience are immediately at play as there are no hints of noise or vibration in the hull and cockpit of an airborne plane. The repeated display of a picture of 3 men just screams for a story arc, but nothing comes. Although the men are obviously the scarecrows, there is no explanation.
Knowing this film is too serious for it's own good may produce some grins. I don't recall if Joe Bob Briggs ever previewed Scarecrows, but I believe that he wouldn't stoop this low. However, with an IMDb rating of over 6, there are many people that disagree.
Friends with Money (2006)
The role of money in relationships? A lightning rod for issues.
Although clichéd, rarely will a film contain such strong writing, casting, and acting. An artistic triumph regardless of box office numbers, which are becoming less of a success barometer as the clock ticks.
Please note: viewers expecting an extension of the Rachel character that Aniston portrayed in Friends may be disappointed. Here she continues to sharpen her acting skills and distancing herself from Rachel.
By the way, the title of my comment is a quote from actress Joan Cusack in the DVD Behind-the-Scenes featurette, describing her opinion of the meaning of the film.
All performances are so organic, it is difficult to identify one as being better. To overlook any work from actress Frances McDormand is to miss someone with talent on par with Meryl Streep. Surely her strength partly derives from talent and a fertile environment from being married to Joel Coen, half of the Coen duo responsible for Fargo, Big Lebowski, and Oh Brother Where Art Thou.
Sony and Sundance have to be thanked for funding and producing this rare collaboration of talent.
Vampire Bats (2005)
Surprisingly decent TV movie delivered for the Halloween season of 2005
The dialogue of the college-aged characters towards the beginning of this made for TV film captured my attention. The group, which tended towards the Gothic or nerd type of college stereotype, spoke like real people.
The pacing and editing was above par for a TV movie, and the fact that Lucy Lawless does not age continues to confound me.
I Tivoed this movie, and because of the Sunday time-shifts from the afternoon NFL games, I missed the last 15 minutes of the film. I hope to catch it the next time it is run. Ideally, I will not have to wait until next Halloween.
This movie, with a little more money and the proper advertising, could have been an acceptable movie theatre offering. OK, maybe another A/B list lead to counter Lucy Lawless would be necessary, but the basics of an intelligent, somewhat thought-provoking movie are firmly in place with Vampire Bats.
Funny Ha Ha (2002)
Result of the post industrial/information revolution on the human condition
An Indy film about post-college, new england twenty-somethings dealing with their inability to communicate feelings.
Brilliant comments by other IMDb users.
The only thing I can add as an almost 50-something, I can still relate to all the content of Funny Ha Ha. Just within the past couple years, I have experienced the exact inabilities to get to the point in conversations and express myself, and end up wasting the opportunity on passive/aggressive psychobabble and small-talk. Too much information -- I know.
Funny Ha Ha will find it's audience thanks to Sundance and the Independent Film Channel (IFC).
Get a load of the sound of the 16 mm camera throughout. Quadruple cudo's.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Sophia Coppola Discovers Cinematic Voice by Creating Bill Murray Vehicle
It is now clear why the movie Virgin Suicides, scribed from the book, was not a great movie. Sofia delivers best when she can create her own landscape, as in LIT. Knowing that Sofia and Spike Jonz split up, and seeing LIT, we know that Charlotte's character embodies both a confused Sofia and her crush on Bill Murray. There is an entire generation of women that look to Bill Murray's movie caricatures as the bomb. This is evident watching and listening to Sofia anytime Bill comes up in some of the behind the scenes reels on the DVD. This is not a bad thing. It creates the heart wrenching humane embellishments conveyed by LIT.
To say Sofia is a visual storyteller is an understatement. Growing up in a movie family may have created this trait and skill. You are 10 to 20 scenes into LIT before you get any dialogue between on-screen characters.
LIT is not for everyone. It is very visual and introspective in all the right ways. Those viewers starved by a real human journey and experience will enjoy.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Time Travel Epic Disguised as a Late 80'S Teen Angst Film. Huh?
I will forever be in Drew Barrymore's debt for making sure Donnie Darko was made. This, in spite of Charlie's Angels Full Throttle. Like other IMDb reviewers, I am surprised by DD's high rating. Don't get me wrong. DD is a very good movie. But, to rank it up there with Citizen Kane is a stretch. Moving forward, writer and director Richard Kelly, may have problems generating as much cult mania with his next project. I hope that Richard can continue his success many more times, because I am a fan and rank DD in my personal top ten.
It is difficult to discuss the content of DD. It is a vague story at best, and upon first viewing, will leave you clouded. I recommended DD to a friend and all he could say is "that movie was messed up". By visiting the film web site and reading IMDb user comments, you will be able to develop your own understanding. I truly thought I had the story down, but after discussing with several frequent movie goers, discovered that each had their own understanding. The personalization of a mysterious story, a good soundtrack, a new movie star (Jake) and his sister Maggie, and several familiar faces (Drew, Patrick, and Noah) added up to an intriguing movie experience.
The modification of my original review is to touch on Richard Kelly's upcoming Southland Tales movie starring The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Sean William Scott, among others. The buzz on the street about Southland is not good based on film festival preview reports of a seriously disjointed story and the lack of a central plot. There were similar issues with 2001 festival previews and the initial opening of Donnie Darko. But, here we are several years later with one of the more highly rated IMDb movies that continues to draw in fans. Richard claims that to understand Southland Tales, you must start by following the visual stories at the official web site. Let's hope he is on to something.
A pearl of a movie. Seabiscuit wins!
I just read about 40 of the user reviews of Seabiscuit. Negative comments mentioned audience over-manipulation, poor character development, a sappy attempt for an Oscar bid, and others. There are some truths to these comments, but don't let them cause you to miss this terrific movie experience. Although the minimization of the Tom Smith character, especially during the last third of the movie, did let me down, I am sure it was an editing and time-saving measure. Rarely will we see such an uplifting and metaphoric story of two hearts. One, an underdog racehorse, and the other, a nation tested by the devastation of the Great Depression. Yes, National Velvet and Black Stallion rank as successful movies. So does Seabiscuit.
I can't help but wonder how good Pearl Harbor, another history lesson, would have been had it been written by Gary Ross. No discredit to Michael Bay. If Bay would have had a Ross script, PH would have fared much better.
Gary Ross has enough experience in this industry to make a good movie. "Big" and "Pleasantville" are holding up well over time. Although it is aimed at the masses, Seabiscuit crosses the line in first place 90% of the time.
My First Mister (2001)
Ghost World for humans!
The parallels between this film and Ghost World abound. In Ghost World's defense, it was directly linked to a comic and succeeded in being artistically blessed. On the other hand, 1st Mister is so real and true that your heart gets an exercise (and how often does that happen?).
Other than the artistic versus real comparison, 1st Mister spends much time with the departed. You may not want to view if you are in the throws of experiencing the pitfalls of life.
Is it me, or are more films subject matter about mortality due to baby boomers looking straight down the barrel at their own? Part of the previous sentence is quoted from a comment made by Tom Petty the musician, when he was providing a life view of approaching his 50th birthday, but there were no plans to stop rockin. Rock on Tom!
You Can Count on Me (2000)
Very good, no frills take on two siblings in middle age.
You could compare this film to many: "Map of the World", "Horse Whisperer", "Ordinary People", "Where the Heart Is", etc. The theme being a depiction of families (or nuclear families) living their lives and dealing with some sort of tragedy. And, not necessarily surviving the tragedy, but, coming out of it with acceptance that life is basically a lot of Monday mornings. Or, more clearly, the realization that we are on our own and there is no blueprint for life, so you better get started creating a world that you and the people you care about can coexist. There are no flaws in this film. However, I enjoyed "Ordinary People" better. But, that is not totally fair, because Robert Redford was able to use his name and reputation to get that incredible cast for "Ordinary People".
Not quite as good as Dead Again.
But given that, not a terrible watch. I read a comment about the lighting being special in this film. This really added to my enjoyment. I suppose that Kevin Anderson and his management expected his career to take off, because he did Leibestraum the same year (1991) as "Sleeping With The Enemy" with Julia Roberts, whose career was blossoming. Not that Kevin hasn't hit the big time since then. Who knows. Maybe he has wildly surpassed his personal goals. I enjoy his performances, including the TV thing about a Catholic priest a few years back. For DVD renters, catch the deleted scene. This is the coolest. The ladies at the Cat House, are also the nurses in the hospital. This revelation was the highlight of the film. For that reason, I don't understand why it was left out. There are equally explicit scenes that were left in, and they dovetail with the deleted scene. But, I was not the writer and director of Internal Affairs, successfully released the previous year.