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Noordzee, Texas (2011)
Not very realistic
In a movie that is about so little, attention to detail is important and in this one the director completely missed the boat. It opens quite nicely and even though it begins as a typical coming of age/coming out story, the cinematography promises something bigger. However the film never delivers. For starters the central character, Pim, has no personality. He is a complete dud. The director tries to show him interested in drawing, but Pim only does it occasionally and seems to have no passion in it whatsoever. The film also opens with Pim as a much younger kid who is somehow fascinated by his mother's beauty queen crown & sash, both of which he puts in a shoebox (the mother doesn't notice? doesn't care?). It is clear that the director is just accumulating things for Pim to put in his collection box, but with little reason to do so except fulfill a director's plot device at the end of a movie.
Although the actors do an admirable job, the film is just not very well conceived. The beginning has lots of quick cuts, that end abruptly & leave things unexplained, then the film ends with longer shots in which very little happens. Pim's love interest runs off with a girl, and then all of sudden he comes back....no explanation, no development of the characters means the viewer has no explanation for why things happen except that it's just a series of random events a director tried to string together. Beautiful Thing, Ma Vie En Rose, My Beautiful Laundrette....the list of films that explore the themes that this film only touches on is quite long & they do a much better job, so I don't really see any point to this one.
On Location: George Carlin at USC (1977)
1st HBO special is also his weakest
I started watching his specials in chronological order. This one is interesting not because it is funny (which it's not), but because it is interesting to see how far he has come. I always remember him being funny from the get go, but revisiting this one clearly shows that his act has evolved significantly (and for the better). Here he relies more on his mannerisms for humor, while much of the material is pretty banal & doesn't hold up that well. His later career is much more focused on language & politics. It seems that as he has gotten older he has become less concerned with offending people, which means a much funnier act. The only parts of this show that still seem funny are those that are the crudest (ie. farting, bad language...).
Trembling Before G-d (2001)
As someone who grew up with religion & was gay, the topic of the intersection of the 2 would be potentially interesting. However, I just found this to be a rather banal documentary. It's a rather superficial. Just people stating the same thing over & over... As a budding gay boy, I looked at religion & saw it for what it was...a load of bunk. So, listening to a bunch of people hem & haw about reconciling the differences between the 2 just sounds tiresome & confirmed that renouncing religion (superstition) is the right decision.
If there wasn't so much footage of people bloviating about themselves & more about either the history of treatment of homosexuality in Judaism or more about actual philosophical underpinnings of religion that could still make it relevant in a secular society, this could have been much better...However, as others have mentioned, it's mostly just people kvetching with annoying music in the background. Had Oprah done a show on the topic, it would have been more interesting.
Watch on the Rhine (1943)
Preachy writing & uneven acting mar what could have been an interesting melodrama
All the dialog in this movie is written as if it were a sermon. Not only is the movie too preachy, but the acting is either too stiff (the children) or too hysterical (Bette Davis, in one of her weaker performances). Another weakness of the movie is that all the dialog revolves around generalities rather than specifics. Fascism and Nazis are bad! Maybe in 1943 this was groundbreaking, but today the simplemindedness of the writing makes this a story of caricatures, rather than a story of real people. The plot of the movie could have survived if this had been filmed as a film noir with unknowns in the leads instead of a melodrama for actors pining to win an Oscar.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
The premise of the movie had much going for it, however, despite the novelty of models selling off someone else's furniture to live the high life, this movie has nothing going for it. The characters are cardboard. The dialog is so painfully scripted, it's hard to sit through, and if there were any jokes in the movie, I missed them. Marilyn Monroe's walking into walls because she doesn't want to wear glasses is completely unbelievable & not funny. Grable's stupidity is also too ham-fisted to be believed. Bacall's gold-digging is so forced, it's annoying to listen to. Why anyone would want to sit through this is beyond me.
Traditional marriage as insipid kiddie porn
Well, if kiddie porn could be insipid, this would be it. An older pervert holds a missing girl hostage on his boat & counts off the days til he can legally marry her. Ostensibly to earn money he invites fishers on to the boat to fish, which creates conflict. That actually sounds like it could be a good movie, but "knife in the water" this is not. Think of a music video for John Tesh set in South Korea w/ a virginal 16 yr. old often dressed in white swinging back & forth off the bough of the ship & older men oggling her endlessly, interrupted periodically by scenes of a man old enough to be her grandfather shooting arrows at them because he's jealous. This movie has the emotional complexity of Cinderella and the sub-par acting isn't awful enough to be laughable. The plot is about as unoriginal as it gets and since there's virtually no dialogue, the director has to torture you with excruciatingly insipid new age music for the entire duration of the movie. Getting shot at by real arrows would be a lot less painful than sitting through this one.
In Bruges (2008)
Director dropped the ball on this one
Beautiful scenes of Bruges & an above average performance by Farrell can not save this clunker. For starters every line in this movie sounds like it was written for maximum irony or humor. There isn't a single line that sounds like something someone in such a scenario would actually say. Secondly, every plot development is predictable & completely implausible. If it's true that Bruges has no police & that no one in Bruges ever calls the police when crimes are committed, it would seem to be reasonable to conclude that Bruges would be the hub of criminal activity in Europe. But it's not, & people's behavior in this movie is just completely implausible, from beginning to end. The director so obviously drags out the final scene, with what is probably supposed to increase tension for the viewer, but it's really just tiresome. How many times does he have to shoot the Farrel character & not do it? How many times does the Farrel character have to get away but just stand there to what for him to catch up? It has all the subtlety of a film student's final project. Finally, Ralph Fiennes can't act & he's particularly atrocious in this thing. I'm surprised by all the praise heaped on this, rather derivative "hip" gangster flick, but then again the quality here on IMDb really has taken a nosedive over the past decade. If flashy, hip gangsta films are your thing then maybe you'll enjoy this, but if you really want to laugh "lock stock & 2 smoking barrels" has many more laughs & feels more natural than this thing (in spite of its more implausible scenarios).
Little Children (2006)
On par with "Requiem for a Dream" or "Mullholland Drive", a testament to the poor taste of the masses
I'm astounded by how many people have written glowing reviews for this. This movie, while not the worst I've ever seen, is extremely bad nonetheless. It starts off with an interesting idea perhaps, but most of the acting & all of the writing is terrible, not even remotely believable. Kate Winslet plays a housewife shunned by 3 other neighborhood wives, whose dialogue at the neighborhood park make them little more than cardboard cutouts. Add to that a caricature of a pedophile & a not even remotely believable nutcase of a former cop and you have your typical Hollywood portrayal of unrest in Suburbia. No, actually your typical satire of suburbia is better than this, at least there's at least one good joke. The writing in this movie is so contrived as to make anyone even remotely familiar with world cinema cringe. The infidels go back to their spouses, the cop & the pedophile kiss & make up....bleck! Rent American Dream instead.
A History of Violence (2005)
Cronenberg's worst (including Crash)
I was a big fan of Cronenberg, but it's clear from this (& Crash) that he should stick to sci-fi. The premise for the movie could have been very interesting, but its actual implementation is universally awful. Nothing about this movie is credible. The dialogue is as contrived as it gets, Not of the characters are remotely believable, and the individual scenarios just don't add up. If the sheriff found out about the ties between organized crime, why didn't he ever contact the FBI when the family was being stalked? Why did everyone always neglect to call for help when they had ample time & opportunity to do so? Why did all the exchanges with the mob types go unnoticed by people in public places (the mall, the diner, etc.)? Why didn't the son ever comment to anyone about the harassment at school & when it was obvious to others at school why didn't fellow school mates say anything? Why does every scene have to be a big blow-out, ultra dramatic sequence? Why does the wife heave violently? Why does she hit him, then consent to have sex, then slap him and run up the steps? There is nothing in this script that is actually true to how people actually behave. From all the rave reviews, it looks like people have been so inundated with CGI & cartoon violence, that they think a manga with real people is somehow deep & involving. If you really want to see a movie that handles, sex & violence in a daring, but credible way, the French do a much better job. Check out Irreversible or Humanite instead.
Another Hollywood issue movie: trite, poorly written & not even remotely believable
The fact that a movie this trite can win an Academy Award speaks volumes about Hollywood's understanding of race relations. Here's a movie that presents a racist white cop feeling up a black woman (who doesn't file a harassment suit) and then (by pure coincidence) pulls her from a burning car one second before it blows up, and she looks back at him afterward and smiles as if to say, "hey let's go out on a date". Here's a movie that portrays someone shooting someone of another race (out of revenge), but, surprise! no one gets hurt. Here's a movie that manages to cram in almost every racial group into it, but completely steers clear of queers, yes an LA without gays....or gay jokes/slurs. Lots of completely annoying characters angrily spouting off dialog that was clearly written by someone who doesn't have a clue about how people really talk, all in the service of making various racial issues obvious to middle America...and to a completely insipid New Age soundtrack that attempts to keep the audience awake when nothing is happening (and succeeds because of how annoying it is). But, hey, all you need is slick cinematography and a good PR machine and no one will be the wiser, judging from the IMDb rating. "City of Hope" did the intertwined story thing first & much better, "Do The Right Thing" tackled racism far more subtly than this schlock fest, and "Falling Down" did the angry LA racism thing much more believably. "Crash" epitomizes everything that is wrong with America: it's unoriginal, it lacks subtlety or believability, it attempts to be all things to all people, and it insists on pronouncing how good it is in spite of its obvious flaws.