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The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)
Commits the greatest sin in cinema - it's boring.
The film follows Spurlock as he seeks out funding for the movie, which is ostensibly about product placement. However, the plot gets dull as we already know the ending, that the movie gets funding and gets made. There is no arc, no interesting advances. And talking to industry hired guns (i.e. analysts and advertising folks) gets droll and repetitive. So, the movie was simply dull and uninteresting after a while.
I had hoped that, like most documentaries where the star is the producer/director, there would be two concurrent story lines running throughout - one with the contrived plot of finding sponsors, the other with a great inner-workings of the beast sort of thing where we learn something about product placement. Instead we are shown a dozen 3-second product placement clips and told that it's everpresent. This is not new information to anyone with a working brain stem. We are not educated on the topic. It's a real shame. I'll give an example of this done correctly - most any Michael Moore film. There's the "plot" of Moore going here, doing that. But there's also an entire portion of the film where you learn a lot about the topic of the film. Be it gun control, or health care, you come away with more knowledge and certainly at least a rudimentary understanding of the broad system at work. This movie, you know nothing more than you went in with, other than you can monitor someone's brain with an fMRI machine whilst they watch movie trailers.
A serious miss, and a serious missed opportunity for Spurlock. This could have been fantastic, but his personal role in the movie took over and destroyed the entire concept. Pass.
Love & Other Drugs (2010)
This is three different movies, completely disjointed.
There's the movie about the pharma rep, working hard to make money and get his product onto shelves and into prescriptions.
There's the slapstick comedy with the millionaire goofball little brother.
And of course, there's the romantic movie where the couple comes together for a fling, separates, and comes together at the end.
Any of these movies makes sense. Slosh them all together into the same bucket, and it doesn't make sense. After watching the movie, you ask yourself lots of questions.
"Why did they even mention the brother's millions at the beginning? It never comes up again." "Why is the millionaire brother living on his couch while he's struggling to pay his credit card bills?" "Why does Maggie know the drug reps and their game?" "Why does the office seem to know Maggie so well, if that's her first visit there?" The list could go on and on. Maggie having Parkinson's does nothing for the movie, and honestly doesn't even tie into the pharma rep scenario. (Ironically, early in the movie Randall says to Maggie that he reps a Parkinson's drug... but they never go back to that either).
All in all, a serious miss of a movie. It made no sense. It was cheap, and amateurishly thrown together to make something bigger than it needed to be. It failed as a movie.
Great subject matter nearly derailed by terrible camera-work
I'm a huge fan of any sort of religious or philosophical debate subject matter. I absolutely love contemplating the intricacies of this stuff.
The subject matter is straightforward, and I enjoyed seeing both Hitchens and Wilson present all manner of arguments for their positions on all manner of tangential issues regarding Christianity. They stick mostly on morality which got a bit tiresome frankly, (I thought Wilson's repetitive god-based reasoning were fairly easy to absolve however.) It was interesting to hear them go 'round and 'round about this issue or that. I thoroughly enjoyed the debates.
What I absolutely loathed was the cinematography style. The camera never stood still. It was zoomed into Hitchens' face, darting around as if the cameraman was trembling uncontrollably. This isn't a punk music video! But you wouldn't know it from the obnoxious heavy metal soundtrack either. Totally inappropriate to the subject matter, distracting, and frankly they should re-edit the entire film to remove as much of the extreme-closeups, shakiness, and death metal as possible.
Pledge of Allegiance Blues (2005)
Good concept, amateur production, unsatisfying story arc.
This documentary follows the recent case of Michael Newdow and his pursuit to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. I followed this case in the news and was interested to learn more about both the case and the man. In some respects, the film revealed the seemingly untenable divide in America, but mostly it showed that the wrong man got the job. Newdow is annoying, arrogant, and not fun to watch on screen.
The low production value is not a complaint, this was clearly a small project and the effort put into it is obvious. My real complaint is that there's hardly a plot - the actual Supreme Court case is the last 5-10 minutes of the movie, and is immensely unsatisfying to the viewer from a cinematic standpoint, regardless where you stand on the issue.
I wouldn't dissuade anyone from viewing this movie - it's available at libraries and online. I just wouldn't put too high an expectation on the viewing experience.
Al Franken: God Spoke (2006)
Telling the truth - Fair & Unbalanced.
Al Franken may not be your cup of tea. He may not be your favorite comedian, radio talk show host, or author. His cackle may annoy you. But his obedience to bringing out the truth in important political issues shines through as his most enduring and important trait.
This documentary follows Franken during the last few years and shows the private and public sides - or make that side, because they are virtually interchangeable. What this film demonstrates is that love him or hate him, he's not putting on a show. He is passionate about pointing out the distortions, the misrepresentations, and of course the outright lies that are purported and disseminated by the conservative right-wing segment of the American media.
The film flows smoothly, keeps a good pace, and edits the boring parts out of the political backdrop through which Al constantly presents himself. It never dwells too long on one subject nor drags on with endless monologue - there is simply too much good material that the editors needed to get to.
Franken is, first and foremost, a satirist. He sees the punch line in any situation, and has a tuned comic timing that has served him well, allowing him to surreptitiously get close to his opponents, and deliver criticism with unfazed wit and vigor.
Franken seemingly has no agenda short of exposing deceit and uncovering the truth. I enjoyed this film, and believe it illustrates that Franken is not guided by idiom, or faith, or conspiracy, but by reality and his passion to broadcast it.
Waiting for NESARA (2005)
Interesting group of people - bad directing / editing. Gets repetitive and boring
The movie could have been good - had the director and editor chosen to display any sort of plot or story arc. But there simply isn't either. Nothing actually "happens". It's an hour and a half of the same people telling the same stuff over and over.
Interesting? Absolutely. The subjects are lunatics who deserve this sort of documentation. But the viewer deserves to be at least mildly entertained by the talent of a filmmaker. On that front, this movie fails miserably.
I find the NESARA group to be indicative of all religious groups - appearing insane to anyone outside their bubble. All religions look like crazed cults from an outside perspective. This highly radical ex-Mormon group comes across as insane and even its own members question the truthfulness of their claims.
In short, this would make a great 20-30 minute television piece. But this is far too long of a movie with no plot or action, or even really a point of view.
Music and Lyrics (2007)
Harmless, and a lot of fun
My wife and I went to see this last night (Valentine's Day, 2007) and it delivered just what we hoped for - an unpretentious "feel good" movie that keeps you smiling and laughing for 90 minutes.
With plenty of fun 80's nostalgia (think _Wedding Singer_), and a light touch, the movie never ventures in the realm of reality, but it doesn't jump off the deep end with too much obnoxious cutesy-ness either. It feels like a light-hearted love story set to music. Surprisingly, pretty good music.
We both loved it, want the soundtrack, and recommend it highly. If you're looking for a movie that won't disappoint, and won't raise your blood pressure, this is it.
A fair round-table discussion of God, centered on two famous men.
As the title suggests, the series uses the dichotomy of two contrasting figures: The notably religious C. S. Lewis (of Narnia fame) and equally notable atheist, Sigmund Freud. Their lives are shown through brief vignettes, each demonstrating the two mens' path towards or away from religion. Surrounding each scene is a sometimes lively round-table discussion featuring people of different persuasions, seemingly all religious save two. The moderator asks general questions, often from the biographical scenes, and the table takes turns answering.
As a self-described amateur religious philosopher, I was drawn to this special after catching most of it on television, and promptly purchased the DVD. I've now watched it two, maybe three times, and while it's shallow in its debate, and far too short to really get to anything meaningful, it's an interesting show and I'll probably watch it yet again! (In fact, every time the resident atheists bring up a point based on evidence, logic, reason, etc., the subject is quickly changed to feelings, or emotion, or the like.) I would hope that a future series expands on the issues raised. I know that if Michael Shermer is involved, I'll watch it. All in all, definitely worth watching, if a little topical because of the time restrictions and the emphasis placed on the title characters' biographies.
The Island (2005)
"Isle" be skipping a second viewing of this excessive rerun
I paused the movie at 1:11 to answer the phone. At this point, I was enjoying the movie. It was a brilliant vision of the future, cinematographically speaking, and the sets and costuming was well done. The style evoked "Gattica" and "Minority Report", with a little bit of the quirkiness we all loved in "12 Monkeys".
The rest went downhill. The chase scenes were repetitive, unrealistic and relentless. (How could the enemy constantly find our heroes within 30 seconds?) The effects were terrific. The "wasp" flying sport bikes were amazing, and the highway chase was just awesome. However, it went on, and on, and it seemed I had transformed into a remake of "THX 1138", which is _not_ a compliment.
I won't give anything away, but the end scene is silly. People unaware of things seem to instantly understand EVERYTHING although they were provided no explanation of reality.
The worst part, by far, was the obnoxious product placement. Every prop was bought and paid for. It wasn't a beer, it was a futuristic BUDWEISER. It wasn't a cop car, it was a 30 minute ad for the 2005 Dodge Charger and Magnum. It wasn't a sports car, it was the new Cadillac concept car. (and Cadillac SRX got plenty of on-screen time too). I'm surprised the shirts didn't have huge HANES logos on them. I was wondering when they'd zoom in on the guns to show the SMITH & WESSON imprint. Why was everything out of 2005 in a movie set 'after 2050' ? It was really obvious, very poorly done, and really distracting. Of course, I'm enjoying NACHO DORITOS as I write this review ... ;-) All in all, I left this movie annoyed, and with a bad taste in my mouth. I LOVE science fiction movies, and this was just a very, very disappointing movie. It was 30 minutes too long at 2:15, followed much the path you'd expect, and although the overall concept was intriguing, they must have left the good dialogue on the cutting room floor.
State v. (2002)
The best courtroom reality show!
If you liked "Law And Order: Crime and Punishment", than you'd love "State v.", as it actually took you into the jury deliberations which L+O:C+P fails to do.
Each episode followed the complete trial of a major crime (often murder, sometimes rape, etc.) The opening arguments, major testimony and cross examinations, and closing arguments were shown, as well as sidebar and jury-out-of-the-room discussions with the judge. Then, the case went to the jury and the cameras were rolling there too, and you'd get to see the discussions and debates there. Finally, the verdict was announced and the sentencing also.
I was sad to see this show never come back, it was on during the summer of 2002 and 2003. It was / is a terrific show that I'd love to see return at some later date.