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30 great minutes!
There are 30 minutes of this film that will fascinate you, hold you spellbound, totally engage your empathy and emotions.
Unfortunately, these moments are scattered randomly in a movie that's 110 minutes long, and the remaining 80 minutes leave a lot to be desired, with stilted, rushed dialog that almost seems like it's being read from cue cards, characters who come and go so quickly that even when what they say touches you, no lasting sense of connection is forged.
The big issue is the structure itself: 'Martine' is shooting a documentary about the relationship between women and food at her friend's birthday party, giving the characters a chance to deliver monologues straight to the camera that are often fascinating, even riveting. But there are too many people, too many words, too much going on between the characters outside what the documentary camera sees. This could easily have been addressed by giving Martine an assistant, someone to actually work the camera and spy on the party's goings on when Martine is elsewhere. But without that convention, we are often uncertain what is documentary and what is 'real' life.
There is so much here that doesn't matter-- why a triple birthday, for women turning 30, 40 and 50 when the issues of age and aging are largely in the back ground? Why so many people? Why so many conflicts and love stories when the central love affair between women and food is far more interesting than any of the interpersonal stuff?
Several fine performances here-- notably Frances Bergen and Beth Grant, though Mary Crosby at her radiant best is given little to do.
Worth seeing for the 30 good minutes, but sadly disappointing in so many ways... ultimately, it's a man putting words in women's mouths about what it's like to be a woman, and it's certainly not a comedy. I hope a woman film maker chooses to make the actual documentary at the center of this movie-- that's a film I'd love to see.
Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)
Just stunningly bad
Douglas does his best with what they've given him, and there is some really interesting chemistry between him and George Hamilton, but this film isn't even half baked.
More than anything, it's like watching an extended Episode of an 80's soap-- Dynasty, Falcon Crest, take your pick. The motivations (other than sheer meanness) are unclear, the acting uneven (some characters are perpetually hysterical, others practically catatonic)the emotional pitch is fevered, the dialog ridiculous, and the scenery gets thoroughly chewed...
To coin (oh all right, steal) a phrase, Two weeks in another town is a tale told by an idiot, full of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing.
The Happening (2008)
Should have been called 'The Trainwreck'
A group of nervous, attractive people desperately in search of what they need...no, not the characters seeking a cure. I'm talking about the actors looking for the story. Alas, they fail.
Pity that no one in M.Night's world loves him enough to say 'Dude, it isn't working-- A wind borne toxin would infect people before they had time to slam a door. Convertible Jeeps aren't air tight, even if there are NO holes in the fabric roof. You don't grow your own lemons in New England. People just don't leave radios tied to fences. Grownups get angry when strangers slap their children.' And so a parable about nature fighting back becomes instead a feeble parody, to the point that the very valid point is lost in a sea of guffaws.
Odd though, that a native of India, which has three times the population of the US in only a third the land mass would choose bucolic New England to represent man's inhumanity to nature...
Hell Ride (2008)
An unintentional comedy
The problem here is Larry Bishop: with his orange skin, shoepolish black hair, prissy little beard and a weird tendency to tuck his chin resulting in Bambi eyes, his performance is as cheesy and full of holes as a 10 pound wheel of Jarlsberg.
He's simply ludicrous, and ruins every scene he's in... which is pretty much every scene.
How he managed to get genuine talent like Madsen, Hopper, Caradine and Balfour to participate is a mystery to me-- solid, competent actors, if not exactly major stars-- but the magic name 'Tarantino' probably explains a lot. No matter: Bishop is as competent behind the camera as he is in front of it, he'd just as well have gathered his cast from a high school drama club for all the intelligence and authenticity he extracts from his cast.
With the backing of Tarantino, could I have made a better film? Yes. And so could my 9 year old nephew.
A little less would have been so much more...
I wanted to like it, but just couldn't buy into it.
Couldn't believe Bridges, in the early scenes he's pure ham with a rancid edge. Comedy is not his genre.
Couldn't believe Bridges would be married to Arquette and having hot sex all over the house.
Couldn't believe the premise that the world would keep watching, even after it became clear that everyone knows they are being taped.
Could have worked, if the scale had been kept realistic: if the success of the show and commensurate payday were such that the family could have at least pretended NOT to be in on the joke. A little less would have been so much more...
Instead, it just insults the intelligence of every character, and the audience as well.
Power Play (2003)
It's just breathtaking in it's awfulness-- you really must see it!
Depending on your perspective, Dylan Walsh is either the savior or the problem here: since he's the only one on screen that can actually get his lines out with something akin to natural cadences and inflection, he either ruins the movie by pointing up everyone else's flaws, or he saves it by providing some context for their awfulness.
I'm inclined to the later view-- thanks to him, it works as high comedy. He's the 7 footer in a game of dwarf basketball, his skill set just doesn't apply in this context, and his discombobulation is delicious.
The real treat though is Ms. Eastwood, whose inability to speak in plain English is so pervasive I actually googled her, expecting to learn that she was a Russian beauty who pronounced her lines phonetically, with no understanding of their meaning. But no: she's just a talent free American who will leave you laughing with every line she drops. Whether she knew what the lines meant must remain an open question.
Almost like he didn't trust the material
Sounds odd, I know. But throughout, I felt Welles was over reaching, over acting, not trusting the words on the page to hold our interest.
So he dressed up Shakespeare in a cardboard crown made from an old shoebox, and transmogrified himself from Welles the actor to Welles the movie star, and left not a corner of his weird, cheesy sets unchewed.
So why even 5 stars? Because it's Macbeth, and therefore worth seeing. Because Jenette Nolan surprises in the difficult role of the Lady, and because the imagery is sometimes worthy of the words. But mostly, because we can watch Welles plant the seeds of his own eventual self destruction, sinking not into Macbeth's madness, but into his own self important mediocrity.
A whiff of unfulfilled potential...
They had the bones of a really good story, here: two guys, more than best friends. More than brothers, more than lovers, they are each others sole support system, like twins conjoined by emotions instead of biology. What happens when a girl comes along that threatens to cut them apart?
Too much is included here that's not integral to that story: >they aren't just thieves, their *gigolo* thieves, cuz that's, ya know, *cooler*. >not just one woman threatens to separate them, but two. And oh yeah, it's a mother/daughter duo, both (inexplicably) drawn to the same dude (really, how much ego massage does Getty need?) >and Mom has a creepy friend who practically brow beats her into the affair because, uh... no reason, really: just makes mom's adultery more forgivable >the boy's criminal bosses aren't just pointlessly bizarre, they're pointless: they steal focus without adding interest >oh, and it's a coming of age story about 'boys' in their late twenties/thirties, even though it would have worked better on several levels played roughly a decade younger.
David Arquette is surprisingly good: the viewer is more in touch with what he's feeling than he is himself, making the emotional cyclone of the climax feel real and inevitable. Margulies is radiant, sensitive-- anyone would fall in love with her. But Getty seems out of his depth and Birch is painfully wooden: no chemistry between them, leaving Arquette to carry the load alone.
Worth seeing? Depends on how big a soft spot you have for bad boys, and whether you are put off by the smell of unfulfilled potential.