Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
How Wrong I Was
So I remember watching this series as a child (through the ages of about 10 to 14)--although I have no recollection of this particular episode. I recall clearly that I didn't think much of it at the time. I found the kids cloyingly cute, the score somewhat mawkish and overbearing, and the laugh track intrusive.
I do remember John Byner's hilarious stand-up bit in which he does an impression of Brian Keith, kneading his face at every opportunity as if it were a lump of bread dough. That, and the MAD Magazine satire pretty well sealed the deal for me. I thought it must be a pretty bad show.
I saw a re-run of this episode today, and am a little embarrassed to admit that I was practically moved to tears. Admittedly, the subject of terminal illness in children is a pretty easy way to get me. But I was stunned by the *economy* of the writing. There isn't a wasted word or moment in the whole thing. There isn't a scene that goes a second beyond the instant that its point has been made.
The acting, especially by Keith, was great.
And that ending (really a twist ending) in which French and Uncle Bill think they've pulled the wool over the eyes of the kids (with the most noble of intentions) only to find out that Buffy has figured out exactly what's going on--all without a word of dialogue. It was, as one of the other reviewers here put it, heartbreaking.
There's never a point at which any of the characters says, "The kid is going to die." There are no tender homilies or lectures to the kids explaining to them the essential tragedy of the biological condition. None of the on-the-nose, expository, radio-with-pictures dialogue that burdens the worst TV dramas I see today: "You know, Ashley, all your father and I--who died in a tragic drug overdose when you were a baby--ever wanted was for you to be happy, even though I could never blah blah blah."
Here, it's all communicated through reaction shots and people doing their best to protect each other from the inescapable and awful truth.
La loi du marché (2015)
Like Kafka on Tranquilizers. And Prozac.
I walked out of this film after about forty minutes, so take my comments accordingly.
This film is well directed, acted, and shot. It effectively portrays the hell its very sympathetic protagonist is going through. It's a story worth telling. The actors are superb.
It's just way too slow. Every scene that I saw (and after 40 minutes, I believe that I had seen a total of about six of them--at least, that's what it felt like)was about three times as long as it had to be. The scene made its point, and then just kept going. And going. And going.
I get it: The protagonist, a good and decent man, is being abused by. . . well, just about everyone. I got it after the first 30 seconds of the first scene. All he can do is take his next punch and keep on keeping on.
The first thing I did when I got home was check the total running time for this film: 91 minutes. In other words, about the minimum acceptable length for a feature. And that's almost always the case with films that move this slowly: The writer (invariably also the director) doesn't have enough ideas or story to sustain a feature. So he just stretches every scene long past the point it should be stretched.
What you end up with is a painfully slow, paper-thin film.
Third Person (2013)
Pretty Good Movie with Two Problems
The first problem is that, at 137 minutes, it's too long. You could easily cut 15 minutes out of this thing.
The second problem is that it comes down to what is becoming one of modern cinema's most dependable clichés. No, it's not the car chase that upsets a vegetable cart or decapitates a fire hydrant. It's not even the motorcycle or welding helmet pulled off to reveal *gasp* it's a woman (usually shaking out her long tresses as if she were in a shampoo commercial).
No, I'm talking about the dead-child character ghost--more specifically, it's the drowned-child character ghost.
If you want a protagonist to really beat himself up, just push his toddler into the pool. Works every time! Yes I know, you only turned your back for a minute and there was the little tyke lying motionless at the bottom your screenplay. The script doctors tried to save him but in the end there was nothing they could do.
This one is at the heart of films as diverse as Gravity, Finding Nemo, Ordinary People, Jacob's Ladder, Children of Men. All great films but. . . couldn't we come up with something else for a character to feel bad about? That dead kid could really use a rest.
Also, the first runner-up in the character-ghost competition also puts in an appearance during this film: father/daughter incest. Writers needing something for their female characters to be tormented over have reached for father/daughter incest ever since Chinatown broke that taboo in nineteen seventy something.
But other than these two clichés turning out to be the main character motivators, it wasn't a bad movie.
Another Reviewer Here said it best:
"The Killing is an innovative thriller trapped inside a bloated self-indulgent work of improvisational theater."
I don't have much to add to this comment except to say that there is actually a pretty good story in here. It's well developed and escalates nicely. The protagonist, well played by Ben Gazarra, is truly an interesting (if not very likable) character.
Unfortunately, the character and story are weighed down by interminable scenes from the tawdry shows-within-a-show that the main character produces in his strip club. These shows are just bizarre and amateurish. A few glimpses of them would have given us all we need to know about Cosmo Vitelli and his world, but instead we're subjected to these scenes over and over, in stultifying detail. It's just. . . boring.
Another reviewer here has complained that Vitelli is wounded in a way that should be fatal, and yet he finishes out the movie as if he doesn't have a care in the world. That reviewer is right. It's just ridiculous and unbelievable.
And then there's the complaint that killing the Chinese Bookie of the title--getting past the dogs and the guards--is way too easy for Vitelli. Also a legitimate knock against the movie.
No one has mentioned that there's also some pretty bad cinematography on display here--scenes in which the camera follows so poorly during closeups that actors' eyes drift out of the frame.
There's an interesting movie in here, but it's so amateurish and self-indulgent in places that that movie is suffocated.
Last Passenger (2013)
More than a train wreck. Just not quite enough more.
The people who made Last Passenger are clearly fans of classic thrillers and have studied the form of their art. The direction, casting and acting are excellent. The look of the film and the level of special effects is impressive, considering the budget. And what a great score! I haven't heard a soundtrack for a thriller this good in decades. IMHO, it's the single best thing about this film.
I liked all the characters. I was not bothered, as some other reviewers were, by the absence of any attempt to explain the bad guy's motives. Do we ever understand the motives of these monsters? The writers made the decision to make him simply a malevolent force, and I have no problem with that. It's sufficient that he does what he does. I was with this film and on board for the ride from the start.
Unfortunately, the script has a common earmark of films written and directed by the same person: The plot just isn't good enough. There are several junctures in the story where a director would have told the writer (had they been two separate people), "You've got to do better than this." Instead, I'm guessing he said to himself, "I'll direct this so well that no one will notice."
Well, we did notice. We noticed that the female lead, as appealing as she is, is given nothing to do in the A story except babysit. We noticed that (as one of the other reviewers here put it) the grandmother character's sole function appears to be to die (after some babysitting). The actresses in this film were really given thankless roles (except when they're thanked for babysitting). And yes, we did notice that, in the end, the main character's solution to his problem is simply to jump from the train (moving at about 90 m.p.h). And he lives! Somehow. Because . . he's the protagonist?
Not good enough.
A thriller like this runs on a series of escalating dilemmas and solutions. The dilemmas must be dire (which the filmmakers managed). The solutions have to be a few degrees cleverer than any of us would come up with in the moment. This is especially true in a thriller with a premise we've seen more than a few times. The writers are obligated to come up with at least one solution that is smarter than the solutions presented in all of those other runaway train stories that came before theirs. And they did come up with one such solution--the fire and fire-extinguisher idea of blowing up the deck between train cars so that they can access the coupling. It stretched credulity a little bit, but at least it was clever. And original. Bravo!
Unfortunately, that's followed by the really lame solution of just jumping from the speeding train--which is what was left with the audience as the credits rolled.
It just falls short. Heh. Kind of like a couple of characters at the climax.
Interesting Premise Becomes Muddled About halfway through
So, this starts out interestingly enough: The wayward, troubled veteran brother comes back home for a visit and threatens normal, stable brother's happy marriage. Not wholly original, but interesting. A solid dramatic premise.
As several reviewers here have pointed out, the movie is unnecessarily slow. Actually, it isn't unnecessary. It's slow because a feature has to be a minimum of about 90 minutes, and the screenwriter who--surprise--is also the director, seemed unable to come up with enough story to fill this thing out. So, there are a lot of filler shots of wallpaper, curios, cobwebs and--as someone has already mentioned--characters staring blankly.
I don't know who D. R. Hood (the director/screenwriter) is but, apparently unable to think of any actual story events having to do with the returning brother, she decides about halfway through the film to turn it into a story about the couple's inability to have a baby. She starts a half-baked plot thread about a childhood "friend" of the brothers who has (unknowingly) been cuckolded by his wife and the wayward brother. The cuckold makes a pass at Claire Foy (the supposedly happy, stable bro's wife) which she brushes off.
But then, discovering that her husband (normal brother)is the cause of their inability to conceive, Claire immediately turns to the cuckolded friend for a quick shagging. Up until now, she's rebuffed his advances, but after all, she wants a baby so what the hell. I guess adoption was not an option.
What has this to do with the returning brother, you might ask? Not much. The obvious plot development would be to have *him* be the sperm reservoir whom Claire turns to for a good shagging--at least keeping the baby within the same, general gene pool as her husband. Why drag in this fourth, barely developed character to serve that function? And then give him a major part in the movie's final scene? Meanwhile, returning veteran brother is nowhere to be found. He just disappears from the last five or eight minutes of the film.
Oh, I almost forgot: There were some murky hints that the brothers shared some kind of incestuous, carnal relationship that were never quite clear to me.
Anyway, there was a serviceable premise and some really good acting here. And I like the gradual revelations about the crazy deeds of the loopy, AWOL brother turning out, in fact, to be deeds of the supposedly stable brother. But the story--as slight as it is--is a mess, in my opinion.
This director should probably leave the script writing to someone else next time.
Europa Report (2013)
Points for Originality and ambition
I liked this film's brave ending, the score, the characters, their dialogue, and the generally realistic tone. At times I found the "found footage" aspect to be frustrating, as I wanted to see more of the moon's surface. But I'm sure that was necessary to keep the budget at a reasonable level.
Like many others who have written comments here, I found the time-line scrambling a pointless gimmick. It did nothing to to increase my interest in the story.
Finally (SPOILER ALERT). . .
I found the monster to be somewhat unconvincing. I don't mind that it looked like something from an old Moody Blues album cover, or--as one other reviewer put it--something rejected from the War of the Worlds art department.
What bothered me was its behaviour. Why would an aquatic creature attack (and presumably eat) astronauts walking around on the surface of the ice? Presumably, there being only a vacuum above the ice, there was nothing living on the surface before the spaceship landed--at least, nothing large enough to satisfy this monster's appetite. So I just don't see why its natural tendency would be to break through the ice and grab something walking around up there. If the creature had never acquired prey in this manner before, there just wouldn't be any natural precedent for it.
Normally, I wouldn't pick at a thread like this, but the movie seemed to be going out of its way to be believable on a scientific level.
Night Gallery: Fright Night (1972)
I'd forgotten how bad this show could be. . .
This episode was little more than an excuse to string together a bunch of creepy moments. Nothing about it makes any sense. It starts with a couple arriving at a house which the husband has freshly inherited from "Cousin Zachariah." From the outside, the house appears pretty modest and modern. Inside, it has plenty of large, creepy haunted-house rooms and an attic which the exterior house couldn't possibly accommodate. The story takes place in the early seventies, but for some reason this house requires the attentions of a cranky caretaker played by Ellen Corby. Her sole purpose in this episode is to offer exposition about. . . how creepy the house is. She cautions the couple not to move or open a trunk in the attic. "Someone" will be coming for it! Well, that "someone" turns out to be the decayed zombie corpse of cousin Zachariah, now wearing a monk's robe. For some reason, he returns every Halloween to get the trunk--even though the trunk appears to be perfectly capable of moving on its own. Why the trunk is to be retrieved, and what is in it, are never revealed. Or even hinted at. All we know is that it can move, open and close on its own, and that all of the husband's efforts to dispose of it result in the trunk returning to its old spot in the attic.
In the meantime, there's some nonsense about the couple being possessed by spirits from the 18th century--none of which has anything to do with the trunk, cousin Zachariah, or his house (which can't be more than 30 years old).
It's as if the writers took every haunted-house cliché they could think of and just shook them up together in a box. Er, trunk. The actors are trying gamely but they have no motivation to say or do anything they actually do in the story. Stuart Whitman begins the episode with what I'm guessing is supposed to be some kind of English accent, but by the end of it he's abandoned that effort completely and is just grunting out his lines.
I tried to use closed captioning to interpret some of the grunts, but it would give a few words of his speech and then just insert (unintelligible) in all the places I couldn't make out.
On the Trail of Genghis Khan (2010)
A Moving and Impressive Journey
Tim Cope's trek is an astonishing accomplishment--especially for a young man who had never ridden a horse before starting. It's both informative and very moving. I started watching it as research for a novel,started making notes, but ended up just letting it play out as I became so caught up in it.
Cope did almost all of the filming himself, which means that he must have covered much of the trail twice--once to go ahead and set up his camera, and then backtracking to ride up to it. That, and backtracking to retrieve his camera after riding away from it.
He lets us in on his best and worst moments of the trip and seems completely unguarded.
My only complaint is that I wish he had had a better camera--or maybe whoever transferred the images to DVD just didn't do that great a job. I know that video formats advance almost weekly but the image quality, by today's standards, seems a bit fuzzy and washed out. Even the frame and titling for the episode menu on the DVD look soft to me. At one point you get a look at his camera in the special features section, and it doesn't exactly look like a high-end model. I assume he was limited by what he could carry and his budget.
Fortunately, Cope is an excellent cinematographer with a fine eye. He composes many beautiful frames and the camera is rock steady for the most part. The sound is also pretty good.
Whatever camera he used, it's astonishing that he managed to keep it working through the whole three years under the extreme temperatures he suffered through. At least, he never talks about any equipment failures.
Clearly, he wanted our attention on the peoples, the animals, and the landscapes he shows to us--and he does a superb job.
Maybe the best travel piece I've ever seen.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
A movie that knows just when to break the rules
The problem I have with romantic comedies is that they are the most formulaic and hidebound of all the genres. If it's a comedy, then by definition it has to have a happy ending. And if it's a romance, the only happy ending is to have the two leads get together. So usually I'm just tapping my toe, waiting for the leads to get through the requisite squirming before the inevitable.
Lately, we've seen a variety of crude gags thrown into the mix, presumably to distract us from this inevitability This movie does a great job of hewing closely enough to the standard romcom formula to keep an audience satisfied, while undercutting it enough to surprise us now and then and prevent us from seeing exactly where it's going at any point. The outcome of the big dance contest is a perfect example.
It's not easy to write a movie that's this particular, this original and yet satisfying. Wonderful performances don't hurt, either.
Warning: There are a few unbelievably long scenes. And yet they work.