Reviews written by registered user

Send an IMDb private message to this author or view their message board profile.

Page 1 of 10:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [Next]
91 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Rare, Uncompromising And Raw Viewing Experience, 29 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Going boldly back to the stagy, early days of TV dramas - minus the live - Louis C.K. created ten mesmerizing chapters in the life of the family Wittel, a damaged and battered family operating, for one hundred years, a dive bar in Brooklyn USA.

At once funny, tragic, shocking and lewd, "Horace and Pete" is an uncompromising truth beyond rare in contemporary entertainment filled with phony sentiment and easy solutions. The episodes - ranging from sixty-eight to thirty minutes - ultimately rips the heart from viewers courageous enough to sit quietly and take the ride along with Louis and an amazing cast whose work deserves every award imaginable. (If ever a show deserved a Peabody, it is "Horace and Pete.") It's doubtful anyone will look at Alan Alda or Jessica Lange in the same way.

It's a pleasure to watch a groundbreaking show setting the storytelling bar at a new, almost unreachable level for future shows to scale. Fair warning, "Horace and Pete" is not for those easily shocked or upset by raw depictions of a family in, to say the least, desperate ruin. Its universal themes of extreme family dysfunction and decades of patriarchal abuse may resonate deeply and touch within or send some searching for a convenient pillow to hide the proceedings from sight.

Not residing in the same Universe as "Cheers," even Bukowski, the vagaries of politics and contemporary life are bandied about by barflies whose wisdom is directly proportional to their alcohol intake. They're not despicable, eschew your pity, and will spit judgment back in your face. They just are with neither delusion, apology nor rationalization. They're someone you know. Or a family member (God help you).

In one extraordinary episode among many, the venerable Laurie Metcalf - playing Louis' ex-wife - admits infidelity against her second husband in a locked down closeup held for ten minutes without a cut.

The production is raw, too. Especially the first episode. There is camera shake, and audio is disrupted when actors thump chests near body mikes. Oddly, a missed match-frame edit making a slight jump cut is allowed to pass. No editor worth their salt would allow such a glaring error. It seems Louis might be underscoring the story rawness within the production. Or he wished to make it look cheap for fund raising purposes. It's really irrelevant as the tech credits are generally fine. Story and character are king here, not pretty pictures.

Enough gratitude for this show cannot be expressed. A show mounted by Louis on a prayer by asking viewers to pay a few bucks per episode - a self-distribution model working well for a show Louis would never offer to networks who wouldn't touch it anyway.

There are not enough kudos to lay at the feet of Louis C.K. and the brave cast. "Horace and Pete" is an unforgettable experience that just might haunt you. Do Not Miss It.

19 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
A Highly Disappointing SF Film Mashup, 22 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's partially the casting, partially the direction sinking this film. Mostly it's a script cobbed together from "ET," "Starman," a dash of "CE3K," the Superman legend, "Village of the Damned," and generic child-in-jeopardy tale. That's the most amazing, and disappointing, aspect of "Midnight Special" - that the creative and original Jeff Nichols wrote a shamefully derivative script filled with plot holes large enough to fly a mothership through.

After a compelling first act, "Midnight Special" turns into a boring chase/race-against-time story of an extraordinary, luminous boy with 'powers and abilities far beyond that of mortal men' sought by the Feds and a cultish church who venerate him because he speaks coordinates in tongues. This boy comes from "a world-on-world" whose inhabitants watch over us. (Given the state of the world, they're doing a crappy job.) The explanation tracks more like angels from another dimension than aliens.

The boy, played by Jaeden Lieberher, fails to create sympathy through all the chaos. The wonderful Kirsten Dunst has never been more wasted in a placeholder role as the boy's mom. Shannon is his hulking father. Edgerton only serviceable as a tag along State Trooper. They dodge bullets on a lumbering path to specific Florida coordinates where the boy has a date with destiny; the merging of dimension X and our pitiful dimension. Other luminous beings spirit the boy away and POOF - the convergence disappears. Big deal! A most unsatisfying and anticlimactic end that does not inspire the wonder the special effects technicians hoped it would despite Mom's mugging at the otherworldly architecture.

It might occur this is a Jesus allegory with a 'birth' of a messiah from common parents. There's not a glimmer of that (save some 'fire from Heaven'). Early on, there was promise of social commentary about our over-surveilled lives. Nope. That's not present either. Also lacking, commentary about people steeping in religious fervor to fill absences in themselves. The church members, including Sam Shepherd, are bland.

"Midnight Special" adds neither subtext nor exposition to a story begging for some. Even the title derived from the song doesn't track. "Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me." Okay, he did shine light, but the Feds - after everyone within a hundred mile radius sees the other world - still prosecute and jail Dad and the Trooper. That we're deaf, dumb and blind in a mysterious Universe is not a lot to be left with after two hours.

Too much mystery ruins a film - the slight flash of light in Dad's eyes at fade out an example. Without context, too much mystery makes "Midnight Special" an uncooked, epic misfire in this dimension or any other. Give it a pass.

7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant Commentary Of Contemporary Society Through A Forties Lens, 8 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Look Who's Back" posits Hitler floats down - from somewhere - to land in an abandoned Berlin lot seventy years after his suicide. A bold idea backed up by a smart, funny and incisive script (that closely follows the book) delivered by a good cast. The resulting package is thought provoking, shocking and, at times, hilarious.

Initially seen a laughable street performer, a foggy Herr Hitler walks Berlin's streets searching for the Führerbunker and wonders what happened to the thousand year Reich. He takes selfies with bemused tourists, and gets into a fight with a mime who's ticked-off his thunder is taken by an icon of terror.

Hitler falls in with a hapless TV journalist who becomes his traveling companion on a cross-Germany trip to learn what's bugging people, and what they desire. They honestly tell him - believing he's an actor and not the real thing - about wages and education. Mostly, the people are vocal with despicable hate for immigrants. Here, Muslims fill in for Jews who are barely mentioned.

In a brilliant bit of dialogue, a working class German states Muslims have IQs of fifty or sixty. Hitler asks what is the average German's IQ. The worker tells him eighty. (80-89 — Below average: Can perform explicit routinized hands-on tasks without supervision as long as there are no moments of choice and it is always clear what has to be done.)

Hitler discovers TV and wonders why this technological marvel broadcasts mostly cooking shows. He quickly becomes computer-literate. Young adults latch onto him believing he's the joke du jour. Before you know it, Hitler's polemics have millions of social media hits.

He becomes a regular contributor on a very popular TV show where his nationalist speech (more passionate and even tempered versus the wild-eyed rants of yore) strikes a chord. Honestly, those who are awake in contemporary society will find grains of truth in what this monster says.

Then the Fuhrer writes a book that's the source for a film.

This multifaceted film tackles a number of important issues: the permanence of racism and xenophobia, the danger of projecting darkness onto a manipulative figurehead (eerie in the Trump era), life in a dumbed-down world, lack of personal responsibility, and much more. It's also a history lesson presenting just how Hitler rose in the Thirties.

The tone veers serious when the journalist learns, through viewing videotape, that this is no actor, this is The Hitler. No spoilers as to what transpires.

"Look Who's Back" is brilliant satire, biting social commentary, and entertaining. It's well worth a view as long as you don't mind a psychopath telling you what's wrong with society.

Concussion (2015)
6 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Welcome Back, Will Smith, 23 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After a series of career missteps in truly awful films, Will Smith returns with a vengeance in "Concussion." Smith is nearly unrecognizable as Dr. Omalu, the Nigerian immigrant who takes the powerful NFL to task for the deaths of players due to the brain disease he discovers.

While the plot is a very familiar Little Man David – Corporate Goliath story, the film is elevated by not only Smith's work but terrific supporting players in regretful Alec Baldwin and supportive Albert Brooks. There's particular note of David Morse, a C level, sixth billing actor who continually shows his impressive chops. Morse plays to great effect Mike Webster, a Steelers player who goes quietly insane – pulling teeth and supergluing them back, shocking himself with a Taser – and finally succeeds at suicide. As a Pittsburgh Coroner, Dr. Omalu's scientific curiosity regarding the death of the otherwise healthy Webster sets the ball in motion.

Thing is, Webster is a former football God in Steeler's town where fans take the game far more seriously than a sport ever should be. The pressured Omalu persists, pays out of pocket for expensive tests while the complications quickly pile up.

"Concussion" adds subtext about what it means to be an American. Smith places Heaven just slightly above America. Surely a large corporation who knows they're killing people will take swift and direct action to stop the deaths and forget the billions at stake. That's what America stands for. Or so the not-yet-a citizen Omalu believes. Then the very rude awakening alarm clock goes off.

This ripped from the headlines story also adds a love interest for Omalu that's sweet but neither here nor there.

One laughable scene finds Omalu courted by the Fed to be the US Coroner. The interviewer touts the government's honesty. Omalu doesn't take that corrupt bait.

There's sincerity in these proceedings. A Capraesque quality. "Concussion" successfully walks the tightrope between earnestness and cynicism - quite an accomplishment in contemporary cinema. "Concussion" offers good acting, a solid story that's part forensic mystery, part Don Quixote quest, part pledge of allegiance. It's satisfying and worth a look.

Joy (2015/I)
65 out of 120 people found the following review useful:
No Drama + No Comedy - Stakes = Zero Story, 22 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mostly, the everyman applauds when another everyman struggles against odds to find success. Sometime those struggles are herculean. Not the case in "Joy." While the real life, inventive Joy deserves kudos, the bottom line is this is a feature film about the creator of a better mop.

Russell struggles, unsuccessfully, to portray as harrowing the path to the mop. Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), deals with a houseful of kids, only a few of them children by age. The motley crew in a small house is not on Joy's side. She is the breadwinner, the adult, the rock whose imagination is a liability to those overly dependent on her. It's a paint-by-numbers affair from there – familial jealousy, dirty financial dealings, the nightmare foretold by the old saw, "Do not do business with your family."

The only one with an eye on Joy's genius is Grandma (Diane Ladd). Joy uses her small crumb of encouragement to build a mop prototype. She brings it to QVC where the initial sale segment bombs. Slick QVC huckster Bradley Cooper takes a chance and allows Joy to showcase the mop herself. Bingo! The mop sells out. Success? Nope. The parts supplier is screwing Joy, every sale of the mop loses money, and the family wants their money back. Financial ruin follows. Then Grandma dies. But the plucky Joy womans up to settle all scores financial and emotional. Hoorah!

In lieu of dramatizing a woman overcoming, Russell instead created a painfully unfunny comedy. His palette is broad with a spectrum of quirkies mincing about with a family dynamic that could only exist in a poorly written movie like "Joy." The spot-on Russell eventually had to fall. "Joy" is the X marking the spot.

Made-for-this-film, unfunny soap opera segments are unmotivated. There is no subtext pointing to the off-TV characters. There's also no payoff. There are out-of-left-field scenes of the soap in the first quarter and it's never seen again. What's the point?

The Cooper-Lawrence chemistry bright and vibrant in past screen pairings is absent in "Joy." Here, it's given way to forced discomfort. There's a sense Lawrence, Cooper and DeNiro at some point knew "Joy" was a dog and tried hard to not phone it in. That or their direction was, "You've just been hit by a phaser on stun."

The tonally confused "Joy" offers little on the path to an unsatisfying end where Joy makes it big, big, big and helps others succeed.

There's little sympathy for Joy. The stakes: not living to one's potential and living with unfulfilled dreams. Her children are healthy. Her dad, DeNiro, runs a going concern and could help financially if push came to shove. She's smart and capable of working. Poor Joy.

One wonders about the scores of courageous men and women who daily struggle against far greater odds, wolves at the door, to put bread on the table. Where are tales of these folks? It's an odd and tragic choice for Russell to highlight Joy's story (and insensitive in the current economy where one in seven US children go to bed hungry). The can-do attitude of a person overcoming trials is powerful. Open your eyes, Mr. Russell. There are far better underdog tales to make. They're just not sexy as Lawrence dancing with a mop.

34 out of 67 people found the following review useful:
Miserable; Not Only The Character's Life But The Film Too, 21 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At 156 minutes, "The Revenant" is unwatchable, so it wasn't. After an hour, instead skipped to watch a minute every three or four through to the last twenty minutes which encapsulates the final conflict between John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass). Nothing was missed for in between is Glass grimacing left then right.

There is a harrowing, savage bear attack leading to Glass hanging to life by a slender thread. Oddly, all that came to mind is how the effects were accomplished. That goes to a lack of empathy for protagonist Glass.

This is a film of unquestioned artistic merit. Though some gush about the cinematography, it is merely serviceable. It's not the cinematography that's beautiful, it's the wilderness. All that's required of an available light cinematographer is to set the frame and F-stop. The actors most likely kissed pavement back in civilization after shooting this demanding film. They did well under the circumstances, particularly DiCaprio. The villain is the director and the unreachable allegory he wrote on the script pages.

In "Jodorowsky's Dune," the titular director made a few memorable Seventies' films. When pitching "Dune," the studios requested a standard length film - 120 minutes (not viable for a film from a story this complex). But Jodorowsky wondered why it couldn't be ten hours or twenty hours. He was clueless why the studios weren't funding him. The doc is in part the story of a delusional, out-of-control ego. The viewer may wish to slap his face. Enter Alejandro González Iñárritu who also appears to have an ego of the same dimensions.

God bless the artists, but not those who trade their expression for self aggrandizement. Not only is "The Revenant" a vanity project, it is Oscar bait.

Awards should be given to those brave enough to sit through this slog. It is a simple story raised to the power of crashing bore. "The Revenant" is nearly incomprehensible, and filled with spiritual mumbo-jumbo even Iñárritu most likely can't explain.

See this if you relish masochism. It's a bet this film will bomb. Maybe that will awaken Iñárritu. He's a genius. He just doesn't know how to connect with an audience. He certainly doesn't here.

75 out of 151 people found the following review useful:
Wild Fun That Comes With A Big Price Tag, 21 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the 168 minute version.

There's no denying Quentin Tarantino's twisted genius and perverse vision. His films are unapologetic challenges to share the roller-coaster as long as one accepts Tarantino run the ride. No one seems to mind. It may be time to challenge that precept.

In a "Playboy" interview, Tarantino stated, "I just don't want to be an old-man filmmaker." Pure Tarantino, "The Hateful Eight" is poetic, profane, laconic, really nasty, bloody as all hell, and meditative; the first half - uncharacteristically old man-y, moody and brooding with meaningful dialogue sharp as a razor. There's promise of a re-think as if Tarantino's voice finally broke to adult from adolescent. Then the film derails to the usual Tarantino / Three Stooges high jinks.

This filmmaker is a master at creating tension; cinematic foreplay teasing and teasing until big, sweet, orgiastic release in blood and guts. He also deconstructs and spins plot twists and turns into gold. That task is easy in, essentially, a stage play with eight trapped in one room. A Tarantino film with social commentary as text, the subject under the microscope is race hatred. Setting the film post-Civil War allows the saying of things unacceptable in contemporary society. Like "Django Unchained," nary a few minutes pass without a "ni**er." And the room is divided into North and South.

The length works against this film. At 168 minutes it was quite enough. The added twenty-odd minutes in the roadshow version might make the experience interminable. The film runs out of steam as it plays out and plays out with dialogue between the bang-bang – and there is plenty of blood.

Then there's misogyny. "The Hateful Eight" revels in the abuse of Jennifer Jason Lee, even with her portrayal of a scheming, cold-hearted killer. Her multiple beatings and battered face appears as if a domestic violence victim – most unappealing.

The cast does well with the material. There are no standouts, really, but Tim Roth channels Cristoph Waltz who must have been busy.

The cinematography is spectacular. Not necessarily the lighting, but the incredible use of the wide screen frame. The look and feel is evocative of David Lean epics Tarantino emulates even to the use of 'Roadshow', a practice that passed out of favor fifty years ago. Films are no longer shot this way. In this regard it was a pleasure to watch.

If Tarantino wished to create the emotion of hate in the audience, he succeeded. The hate spills over the footlights, but there is a fine line between using verbiage and posture to underscore race hatred and making a racist (and misogynistic) film. More than in other films, "The Hateful Eight" crosses that line. Racists hide in plain sight and race bait. This film again leads to question Tarantino's personal attitude. He becomes more suspect peppering scripts with "ni**er" - even in his contemporary films (joining real life "Black Lives Matter" protesters notwithstanding). Every use of "ni**er" is another nail in the coffin. Also, his neurotic mentions of big black c**k in several films (here, sucking) skews toward wish fulfillment. As Black critics have said, "Something is wrong with this guy (Tarantino)."

This is a very ugly, distasteful, caveman film within grand entertainment. That push-pull leads to a zero sum, and self-reflection as to what exactly is entertaining about "The Hateful Eight." Given the dichotomy, not a lot.

14 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Episode IV Remade In JJ's Image, 17 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After so many years of waiting it is a thrill to inject into the arm a new film in the franchise. The ST: TFA fix is short lived. Like a sugar rush. Inexorably, time ticks on. The high subsides and one is left, well, empty.

It's difficult to imagine all the talent in H'Wood and beyond combined their creative juices to make this very familiar tasting drink. In fact, it's Episode IV Cola in a new, politically correct container. Wait! At the helm, JJ Abrams, rapist of the Star Trek franchise and all-around hack. That explains it.

SW: TFA is too long, too homage-y (was there really a reason to crank up the chess game on the Falcon?), and absent an original idea for your pleasure. Thank the Maker there were no Jar Jars. That's not exactly high praise. Why exactly does Kylo Ren wear a Vaderesque mask? Mr. V's mask was utilitarian. Questions as these seep in while scanning for the Civic in the parking lot.

Cynics crow SW: TFA is a money making machine. Rabid fans stand ready to eviscerate those not drinking the Kool Aid. More moderate fans might pine for the time their virgin eyes watched desperate Luke consider his future in the twins setting before him on the sandy horizon to John William's brilliant score. Those who venerate will. Those who grew up in the flickering light of the preceding trilogies might take pause and remember. Remember.

Sure it was fun. Glad to see some of the old crew again. There was emotion and humor. Too, there was promise. It evaporated like an ice cube in the Tattoine desert. For that, Mr. Abrams, you will not be forgiven. Place your voodoo doll of Abrams for Ep VII next to Lucas' doll for Eps I and II. Feel free to stick pins at your convenience.

Some films become cultural touchstones. "Star Wars: A New Hope" is one. SW: TFA is not. It's just another film. Perhaps the failure is the audience. With lofty expectation there's bound to be disappointment. Maybe not. SW: TFA wrought heartache.

Room (2015/I)
23 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Fails To Plumb The Subject's Depth, 16 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A poor kissing cousin to "Stockholm, Pennsylvania," "Room" is a backyard shed creating the world's limits to a kidnapped young woman and her by-the-adbductor son.

Snatched at seventeen, Joy (Brie Larson) is imprisoned for seven years by a standard, un-dimensional psycho holding the power of life and death over her. (Cross him in the least and there's no electricity or heat.) At the start, Joy's son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), is angry and semi-feral yet quite content following silly rules in the only world he knows. Their pointless days come to an end when Joy contrives Jack's death forcing the psycho to bury the allegedly dead child. Well-rehearsed, Jack escapes and the dominoes fall leading to their escape to a world that has passed by Joy and one in which Jack has zero knowledge (a first encounter with steps mystifies him).

Yellow ribbons and celebrations follow. With opposite effect. Joy's parents have divorced, high school chums have moved on. A formative slice of high school track star Joy's life is missing. Joy's biological dad harshly judges her; mom and daughter fight at the same level of a rebellious teen railing against parental control.

Due to his age, Jack is 'plastic', his societal integration much easier. Soon he's knocking around a ball with neighbor kid. But, a reporter's insensitive question causes Joy to break down which leads to a brief institutionalization. And she's released all better.

However, the treatment of an inherently dramatic subject matter of abduction and reintegration here falls short. The sunshine and rainbows, feel good ending, while moving, is mawkish. Everyone is healed and the horror of what was lived through for nearly a decade is forgotten. It is also a cheap device when children are wiser than adults. All these problems of the script.

The balance of the failure of this film rests squarely on Brie Larson's shoulders. Her portrayal, as others, is at arms length with the character and hit a wall keeping her from connecting with feelings. Many crow her portrayal is spectacular. For her it is. In the annals of effective acting it is middling. Therefore, this is her tour de force - by default.

"Stockholm, Pennsylvania" took the protagonist's story to a far more logical, satisfying and shocking conclusion. On the base, sensational end of the spectrum, TV's "Cleveland Abduction." Find "Room" between the two. Either a good movie-of-the-week or poor indie sidestepping, and in some ways trivializing, a horrific subject.

Watch "Stockholm, Pennsylvania" instead.

The 33 (2015)
9 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
FLASH: Hollywood Invades Chile, 19 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Given a full-on H'Wood treatment, the compelling story of "The 33" trapped miners becomes tasteless fodder for international audiences.

The Chilean government and mining corporation accepted the deaths of these miners even as they still lived and breathed. The filmmakers also treat this story with a carelessness further burying these brave men. There's a roster of stars wringing hands and fretting in an embarrassing and juvenile dramatic fashion. The only fireworks from scrappy Juliette Binoche who drives the continued efforts to save these men. The rest of the cast simply deliver predictable lines in a contrived, static plot based on a novel by one of the survivors. Was it really that calm and boring among these men?

The setup is too short to provide empathy. That may be a function of the sheer number of men. However, it leads to a lack of emotional investment in them. Portraying caring relatives above does not pay off the investiture in those below. Even two-way video messaging between trapped and relatives is flat and dull. Their release from the grip of the mine is therefore anti-climatic and borders on "so what."

Having never been in a mine, nor being an engineer, when the initial pilot hole misses by thirty feet due to rock dynamics a question arose, "why not drill for the variance." It took the cinematic engineering geniuses another hour of screen time to figure this out. That and the 'Mericans save the day through perseverance after other drills quieted. What would Chile do without the good ol' US of A (a question those who suffered torture and death at the hands of CIA-backed puppet Pinochet in 1973 might best answer).

That the dialogue is English with a few non-subtitled Spanish passages is a condescending pat on the head to the countrymen whose language was not used.

It takes firm resolve to take a highly dramatic story and churn it into baby food, and the filmmakers succeeded. Give this film a pass.

Page 1 of 10:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [Next]