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35 reviews in total 
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Foxfire (1996)
Superbly produced and inspired work with extraordinary insight into today's teens, 12 January 2015

I think you could live a thousand years and never see a more brilliantly made cinematic work. Literally every scene is eloquently written and masterfully filmed. The visual tone exactly matches the content of every moment of the film. You very rarely see such technical virtuosity coupled with such depth of human interaction. ALL the performances are spot on. The movie takes an unflinching, unvarnished look at vulnerability and love and loss and the way of the world for young people growing up in our time. You've known these kids -- maybe you WERE one of them. Alternately brutal and magical -- FOXFIRE is an absolute masterwork in every way. A vividly beautiful, heartbreaking inspiration.

Game Change (2012) (TV)
3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Dazzlingly entertaining, superbly crafted movie; wonderfully fun story-telling, 16 May 2012

As I recall, the book "GAME CHANGE" was accused of ridiculing Sarah Palin. I'm sure many of the over-sensitive could take that away from the movie, too, but I absolutely did not. In fact, seeing this movie gave me not only a more detailed view of what happened but it also brought me to some serious admiration for Ms. Palin. There are a lot of laughs - it was a crazy situation at times - but the movie clearly illustrates how presidential campaigns have become a form of guerrilla warfare. What the film does best is show Ms. Palin's astonishing gifts as a public speaker and political activist. Julianne Moore gives a truly miraculous performance - there were many times when I thought: "How can that NOT be the actual Sarah Palin!" Before I saw this movie I had chalked most of Palin's success up to her good looks. I realize now that there is a genius of a certain kind in her. The movie makes that clear but very objectively shows her at her best and at her worst. She at times appears to be a monster - though no more so than any person who takes on leadership and responsibilities and has learned how to seriously kick butt. As has often been pointed out, men are forgiven for this far more readily than women. Sarah Palin has the one trait that's universally admired among humans and has been since before the Pleistocene: guts. You have to respect that - and the fact that she's coming from a place of deep personal conviction. If she had only grown up in a metropolitan setting and gotten a standard university education, who knows where she could be today? That's the sad and astonishing reality: her limitations seem to be due to the simple reality that she grew up in a very small town and did not get a very thorough education. I came away convinced that, had she been around in simpler times (maybe the early 1800s) she might well have become the first woman president - a hundred years before women had the right to vote! Lookout Annie Oakley! Eva Peron has nothing on Sarah. Great movie! It works because it remains at all times focused on the humanity of all the characters. The political efforts are merely the stage for each character to play out his or her true nature. I highly recommend this to Repubs and Dems alike. You will LOVE it!

38 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
Inspired writing and performances -- a pure joy to watch, 4 May 2012

Every now and then a show comes along that just goes its own way -- fearless -- provocative -- dazzling! This is one of those rare treats and you have to hope that its audience finds it while this absolute miracle is still on the air. These people trust their maddest impulses and what you get is not only hilariously funny but also outrageously original and profoundly entertaining. Just when you think you know who these characters are they stun you with another of their many hidden "facets". Chloe (Krysten Ritter) is always in danger of running away with this one -- you just almost never see a performance this outrageously over-the-top that is also so beautifully nuanced ... but not so fast -- June (Dreama Walker) can turn it way, way up at any time and so can James Van Der Beek -- or possibly anyone in this all-pro cast -- who knows?

313 out of 519 people found the following review useful:
Spectacular -- Transporting -- Surprisingly Moving High Adventure Epic!, 28 February 2012

By my standards, "must-see" films are getting to be rather rare. This one is by all means a MUST-SEE for everyone who loves science fiction and/or super heroes! Long before Superman, there was John Carter. Many have very likely forgotten what a resourceful and imaginative writer Edgar Rice Burroughs was. Most people only know he authored the original TARZAN. The movie JOHN CARTER is based on Burroughs' novel, A PRINCESS OF MARS, and his 1911 vision of an advanced civilization on Mars is truly astonishing. Upon seeing this, the first question you will likely ask is, "How is it no one has filmed this fantastic, mind-blowing, eye-popping, compelling sci-fi adventure saga before?" Well, there have been a few faint attempts but the true realization of John Carter's magnificent adventures waited patiently for the masterful CGI wizardry of director Andrew Stanton and the 2012 resources of Disney/Pixar. Amazingly, Mr. Stanton shot this heavily CGI-based epic on film! According to the director, he did so simply to see what it was like to make a movie like this on film before film is gone. The experience apparently has made him a fan of the classic motion picture medium and I imagine we will hear more from him on why. Of course I'm not going to give anything away. Suffice it to say that, thankfully, JOHN CARTER is a complete film experience: a suspenseful, dazzling story -- efficiently and superbly told -- with dramatic and unforgettable visuals -- and compelling, moving performances. Lynn Collins is particularly brilliant and beguiling as the exotic and dynamic Martian princess. Throughout the film the detail is extraordinary and the pacing is right on the mark, relentlessly drawing you forward into the wonder of this newly discovered, challenging, turbulent world. What a magnificent adventure saga! Let's put it this way: if you liked Sinbad, you will LOVE John Carter. Thanks to a sure-handed director, an inspired cast, and state of the art technical people, it's a fulfilling experience that I predict will remain with you always -- especially if you are among the young! JOHN CARTER is the ultimate exotic adventure; a masterpiece of cinematic action and pacing.

The Artist (2011/I)
4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A colossal disappointment - could have been a great film, 2 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I give the producers and director enormous credit for being so bold as to make a SILENT, BLACK & WHITE feature in the year 2011. Jean DuJardin deserves all the awards there are for his fabulous embodiment (veritable channeling!) of a long list of great silent leading men, including Douglas Fairbanks (Senior & Junior!), Rudolf Valentino, Ramon Navarro, etc. But sadly there are a number of key flaws in the realization of this film that completely derail the extraordinary possibilities it offered. For one thing, the director seems not to know that silent films never played at natural speed. Much is made of the fact that silent films were shot at 16 frames per second and sound films at 24 frames per second. While this is a fact, makers of silent films all "undercranked" in order to perk up the action. The cameras were even designed to do this because, early on, they became aware that real-time -- without the realism of spoken dialog -- came across as very tedious. And that's exactly what this film is -- tedious. Furthermore, since the movie does eventually break its silence, I must say that the time for that to happen should have been MUCH earlier in the film. It would have been a wonderful touch for sound and dialog (and the revelation of the leading man's accent) to happen at the time that it becomes apparent that sound films have taken over at the box office. Instead, this movie draws it out -- way out -- until the leading man has finally accepted the way of history. It's terribly anticlimactic by then and comes way too late to make a point. Now here's a tip: just to test how this film would play slightly sped up, in the authentic style of silent movies, I watched it again. This time while in PLAY mode I pressed the ">>" SCAN button just once, to speed up the picture. Voila! Suddenly it's very entertaining -- especially the part with the dog! If you're not a fast reader, you may have to pause briefly to read the narrative cards, but this is the way I would recommend viewing the film. I'm not joking. The music is not affected -- and you will be finished sooner as well.

8 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
A dazzling polished gem of a pilot!, 15 September 2011

Wow; wow; wow; wow; WOW! It is well-known in the TV world that a new sitcom now has to open running on all cylinders or it is over. The two seasons SEINFELD had to get it together is a thing of the past - now you're lucky if you get two episodes! Amazingly, now and then, a sitcom manages to present a pilot that is at mid-third-season form out of the gate, like MODERN FAMILY did - and now FREE AGENTS has done. The writing is quirky and original and yet 100% genuine-to-character - delicious dialog! Everyone knows what a great talent Hank Azaria is - and I have known of Kathryn Hahn's stunning performing skills since they gave her the "A" storyline in an episode of that coroner's office series in which she played a supporting character. I have always imagined they may have regretted that since she completely eclipsed everything else that ever came out of that fairly excellent program! This is television comedy AT ITS BEST. So far, I wouldn't hesitate to put this up against the best sitcoms of today or of any day. I can't imagine anyone giving this anything less than ten stars - unless they work for another network! It's truly top-of-the-line.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
At least as much misinformation as information - are these real doctors?, 8 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So, among the usual health tips, what have THE DOCTORS given us so far? A lot of silly live demos - including one in which a black volunteer from the audience was humiliated by a skincare guru smearing white goo all over his face. Then there was the time a couple wondered how their baby's eye color could be different from theirs. Now here's a great question that I'm sure has haunted marriages down through the ages and probably has been the cause of much needless suspicion! A perfect chance for Dr. Travis to explain how dominant traits (brown eyes) and recessive traits (light or blue eyes) interact. He could have finally explained to the public how two brown-eyed parents can easily produce a blue-eyed child. He could have also explained that brown eyes simply have more melanin (pigment) than light eyes and he could have pointed out that, in many individuals, pigment appears in eyes and hair later in childhood. We got none of the above. He simply observed that one parent had flecks of brown in his eyes and therefore could pass that on genetically.

Okay, it's daytime TV - so keep it simple, fast, and program for the lowest IQ possible, right? Cast your regulars and guest doctors on their likability and their Hollywood good looks. So what if your hottie Dr. Lisa has a tendency toward whininess and crankiness. I'll never forget the time she casually referred to plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew as "The plastic guy over there." Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew seems to think he's also automatically a dermatologist but seems to know next to nothing about dark circles under the eyes, simply putting them down to "Mediterranean origin" or allergies. It would have been helpful to viewers if he had explained that the "Mediterranean origin" dark circles are the brown genetic ones that result from pigmentation. The effective treatment for these consists of lightening creams or bleaching agents. And the blue/red pigmentation is almost always due to ruptured capillaries; it's treated with entirely different preparations. Just knowing that distinction - the brown vs. the blue/red would have been helpful to a lot of people.

Another dismal failure was the remote segment that was supposed to inform us as to whether we should drink bottled water or tap water. We hear a lot from the tap water side - including that they test their water every 24 hours. If they had bothered to consult anyone from the bottled water side (a glaring omission) they would have found out that bottled water companies test EVERY HOUR. This is a medical program but they never bother to mention that most who drink tap water are now drinking a percentage of "reprocessed" waste water. Much to the surprise of modern science, traces of antibiotics and other prescription drugs which are routinely flushed down the toilet (the standard medical method of disposal) are being ingested by tap water drinkers. Shouldn't a drinking water quality segment on a show called THE DOCTORS at least mention this? The bacteriologist who finds a high level of bacteria in one sample of bottled water doesn't bother to mention whether this is a harmful bacteria or what symptoms (if any) it might produce. Other things that should have come up would be trihalomethanes which are only produced in piped tap water and the more effective and chlorine-free ozonation process which all bottled water companies must use to purify their water.

The worst thing I've seen yet is Dr. Lisa in Chicago, drooling over and raving about what she authoritatively calls "healthy" hot dogs. Two of the four hot dogs she raves about are regular beef hot dogs which are WAY too high in saturated fat and sodium. Even the turkey dog is relatively high in saturated fat and sodium and low in nutrition. "SELF" magazine's online nutrition guide gives turkey dogs 1.5 out of 5 stars for healthfulness. According to Dr. Lisa, "healthy sauerkraut" and simple vegetable garnishes like tomatoes apparently transform the hot dog into a health food. She exaggerates the vitamin and fiber content of sauerkraut, which is on the low side and she somehow forgets all about its huge sugar and sodium content. In an era when black people suffer from diabetes and heart disease at staggering rates and in which legislation has had to be invoked to prevent more fast food restaurants from opening in black neighborhoods this is just what we need: a black M.D. telling the world how healthy hot dogs are. At the close of the segment we see all the other docs happily chewing away on hot dogs as well! I'm suspicious - was the hot dog segment a product placement deal? Are people paying for the chance to have a doctor pitch their product? There have been a slew of questionable products promoted on the show with the doctors saying they "might work". Well, just when did supposed professionals in the medical field stop waiting for scientific proof? I have to ask again - are these real doctors? The producers of this show are asleep at the wheel. Do they not know how to do elementary research on the net? Doesn't anyone know that nutrition levels of foods are easily checked with official USDA charts? Do the "doctors" not know basic genetics? Do they not care at all about accuracy or dispensing accurate information? Or are they simply hungry to break into the media field at any cost?

5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Horrendous waste of talent - painful to watch - an exercise in futility., 9 April 2011

Cliché characters, cliché plots, lame jokes, awkward scenes, clumsy shots - It's mystifying that these superbly talented actors could have ever looked at these scripts and thought they could be even remotely funny when produced. in the last episode I watched, they fell into the deadly sitcom trap of all the characters seeming to speak with the same character "voice". I should say "quip" with the same character "voice". Quip - quip - quip - not very pleasant. And not only are these bad scripts, they are bad scripts produced badly. They actually succeed in making Alison Janney look even taller than she is! To begin with, Matthew Perry as lovable Lothario is simply not a convincing scenario. The show tries everything to sizzle - from trying to imitate Aaron Sorkin's rapid-fire quipping to applying juvenile sexual wish-fulfillment. Ugh. I do have to give credit to these brave actors who really do give it their all trying to make this schtick work - but it's an exercise in pure futility. This is a perfect illustration of the fact that you can book all the best on screen talent in the world and still not achieve chemistry or overcome bad writing.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Way beyond BRILLIANT - as good as it gets in modern entertainment, 8 April 2011

This show sets the bar so high there may never be another production, film or TV, to match it. They could have easily gone for a fine one-hour drama with this much delicious content - but instead they maxxed-out the impact by compressing a stunning array of great scenes into a completely dazzling half hour. Everything here is top-of-the-line: writing, directing, casting, acting, sets, cinematography, sound, editing, music - it is a tour de force of excellence. And there is not a single performance in this entire series that does not rate AT LEAST an A+. Some of the character work is in the stratosphere. Debi Mazar is outstanding as Shauna Roberts, the brassy go-getter publicity agent who every now-and-then reveals a touching vulnerability just below the surface. Often she's held to only a few seconds of screen time yet accomplishes everything necessary to etch a great character on your memory forever. Constance Zimmer conjures up the very soul of Dana Gordon (the earthy, "climb up the career ladder whatever way you can" studio exec) - she is so seamlessly perfect you literally cannot believe she is an actress! Jeremy Piven as the complicated, ass-kicking, no-holds-barred, turn-on-a-dime, win-at-all-costs, beat-the-odds alpha-male agent is 100% IN THE ZONE! I have never seen a performance outside a Shakespearean theatre that matches this in virtuosity. Every molecule - every atom of Piven's being resonates to Ari's larger than life character! Thinking of coming to L.A. to work in the glittering world of the Hollywood entertainment biz? It may be cranked up a notch or two, but this IS the Hollywood of today. Are you ready for the blissful highs and devastating lows? The duplicity, the betrayals, the moments of self-confrontation, the unpredictability, the irrationality, the insane risks, the amazing rewards, the fragility and fleeting nature of success? This is the way it is for the young people who come to scale the heights - or be gutted by the merciless system. As a new actor in town, you should be so lucky as to draw the attention of lovable scumbag Ari Gold!!! All the characters in this show are as real as you will ever see anywhere. You could spend an afternoon on the Sunset Strip any day of the week and come up with multiples of ALL OF THEM. There has never been a better series on television.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Absorbing & worth watching -- especially for Susan Ward's wonderfully eerie performance, 22 March 2011

I LOVE movies like this and they are all too rare. Yes, it's a highly commercial venture but its creators and participants just can't resist doing something compelling - and fascinating - with their work. For me, the all-time classic in this category would be Herk Harvey's "Carnival Of Souls" (1962). Expectations are set at zero but, scene by scene, something is developing that you just don't want to let go of. I find that low budget films in general have an astonishing tendency to find their own unique character! The basic premise is well-thought out and very well conceived - you immediately sense the vulnerability of Lori Heuring's very well-played character as the "have-not" among the disturbingly menacing "haves". And, as a result, you feel her personal strength as well. Thus the major conflict is set -- and the crisis and resolution turn out to be pretty gripping after all. Susan Ward is truly mesmerizing in her meticulously developed, wonderfully shaded role. The movie would be worth seeing for that alone but it's actually a very good, spine-tingling psychological horror/thriller and it's entertaining throughout.

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