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ben_robertson

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8 reviews in total 
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Was the life of Joan of Arc this boring?, 6 February 2013
5/10

It seems to me that there must be more to the life of Joan of Arc, a figure about which I have heard all my life, than is portrayed in this film. Perhaps it is a difficult subject to dramatize, although the summary sounds dramatic enough to me. What comes through here is rather a critique of religion and spirituality and mysticism. The result is Joan of Arc as misguided child, Joan of Arc as psychotic young woman. These criticisms for what they are worth do not help make the film entertaining. While I was initially taken by the historical detail, I ended up spending most of my time wondering how France could have fallen for this child. Hunger Games, for a modern example, presents a much more credible heroine who is used by the powers that be for their own ends. That to me is an interesting story that has emotional content. Joan of Arc the film raises interesting questions but it is not entertaining or moving and I suppose in the end when a girl gets burned at the stake I want to be moved. I think the film could have been improved by a more faithful treatment of the history which I must believe was more interesting than this film for the name Joan of Arc to come down to us so prominently through the ages.

Hitchcock (2012)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful insight into how hard it is to make a film!, 11 January 2013
7/10

All I have to say is, Anthony Hopkins conducting the shower scene in Psycho. That and Helen Mirren as Alma. This film is a great inspiration for anyone who wants to make a film. It shows that no matter who you are it ain't easy and we know that is true. Recently Brad Pitt struggled to get Money Ball made. Historically Walt Disney struggled to get Snow White made. In the case of Snow White and Psycho, Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock ended up putting up their own money to make the films and not just a little money but house money. Like they would lose their homes if they did not make the money back on the film. That is the kind of passion and belief it takes to make great films and Hitchcock does a good job of showing one of the the greatest directors of all time struggling like a kid out of school to get his film made. Not only the money but the creative process itself if shown here and again, it ain't easy. Did you know Psycho almost ended up on TV? See the movie and watch Anthony Hopkins conduct the shower scene. Brilliant!

Milk? (2012)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
You don't anything about milk till you see this film, 15 October 2012
8/10

This important documentary about milk screened at the 2012 New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH. The first thing I want to say is that I loved Sebastian Howard and Mark Westberg's editing. In at least two places they spliced their subjects into sound bites and had them all contradicting each other in staccato segments, sometimes as short as one word, "Yes!" or "No!" and let the audience see in summary just how controversial the simple subject of milk really is. With so much lackluster editing in film, I was delighted to see someone getting creative in their story telling and it reminded me of similar devices used in the novels of Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler where the key images are summarized in a montage of memory at the end of the book. The subject of the film was how healthy is milk and Howard interviewed some of the leading industry, medical, scientific, and nutrition authorities in North America, yes including Canada, on this topic. As a person who does not drink plain milk, raw or pasteurized, I was happy to see someone investigating this health issue in a balanced way that tells both sides of the story. I also wished I could hear more on the topic of how cultures and bacteria change the properties of milk when it comes in the form of various cheeses and yogurt and how experts view the health impact of these foods as opposed to plain milk. What I did not expect in the film was the moving portrait of a Canadian farmer producing raw milk who was persecuted and later exonerated by the Canadian government and his inspiring cry for freedom to make, drink and sell raw milk. In his words, "Politically, food is a weapon". Wow! And that was just the beginning. This film is well worth seeing for anyone who is interested in the political and health issues related to the production of food and milk.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Truthful and funny story about recovering from divorce, 15 October 2012
7/10

This film screened at the 2012 New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH and several of the people I spoke to after really enjoyed it. I will admit that I felt it was slow at times. However, for anyone who has been through a divorce or knows someone who has been through a divorce, this is a fun film that I think can help a lot of people. I saw myself in some of the characters and I saw my friends and family. Two friends who saw the movie said that one scene came right out of their own lives after they got divorced. So while it may not be for everyone, I highly recommend this film to people who can relate to the material and think they might enjoy seeing the difficult subject of divorce treated with intelligence, humanity and humor.

Skateboarding and the Arab Spring, 15 October 2012
7/10

This documentary screened at the 2012 New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH where it was well attended and well received. Brett Saunders' film focuses on the Herrawi brothers in Alexandria, Egypt who tell the story of how they helped to start the skate boarding movement in Egypt. What makes the film poignant and moving is that the young men who are telling the story of how skate boarding changed their lives are speaking against the backdrop of the overthrow of the Egyptian government. Saunders was making this film when the protests began and told us after the screening that he lived in an apartment on Tahrir Square where he saw the bloodshed first hand. Just as protesters in Tiananmen Square stood up to their government a generation ago, Egyptian youth stood up to their government inspired by Western ideals and yes, skate boarding. Saunders' film is an important contribution to the story of modern Egypt and the Arab Spring.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Well rounded doc on medical marijuana policy in Montana, 15 October 2012
7/10

This documentary was screened at the 2012 New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH. It is a well rounded perspective on the issue of medical marijuana laws in the state of Montana. It shows both sides of the emotional debate over legalizing medical marijuana. The pro and con forces got equal time as the story unfolded over a several year period. Whoever sees this is going to have their own opinion going in and I think the film makers while not completely hiding their bias do give fair treatment of the issue or at least it seemed so to me and the film was well made and I applaud the multi-year effort which required a lot of patience and foresight. One statistic that I would like to have seen is how changes in drug use in Montana compared to the rest of the country. The stat used in the film shows marijuana use among high school students in Montana declining by 4-6% after the law to legalize medical marijuana was introduced. While interesting, I think this stat would be even more interesting if shown in context with the rest of the country, perhaps contrasting those states with medical marijuana laws and those without. Another question that the film raises is whether it is preferable for patients to use morphine and other opiates to treat chronic pain or if marijuana might be a better, cheaper substitute that is less addictive and has fewer side effects. The explosion in the use of prescription opiates begs the question of whether pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in prohibiting the use of marijuana when it competes with their products. After the screening, a local representative of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a non-profit organization that is calling for an end to drug prohibition, said that it is his understanding that pharmaceutical companies do in fact actively lobby against medical marijuana for precisely this reason. The human side of the story is that several of the people involved in the medical marijuana trade in Montana have been convicted for violating federal law including one for a 90+ year sentence. Again, the film begs the question of the constitutionality of federal drug laws (alcohol prohibition required an amendment to the Constitution), states rights and Federalism. The film makers did an excellent job raising these questions and it is perhaps a testament to the quality of their work that it left me wanting to know more about this issue.

Deadfall (2012)
41 out of 72 people found the following review useful:
Well written Bana boom, 15 October 2012
8/10

This movie I saw at the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH and it was my favorite of the weekend. The writing was excellent and Bana gave yet another great performance as a violent man who was crazy and funny and charming and human. Writer Zach Dean combined the Western, crime, thriller, sports and family genres to tell a story about three dysfunctional families that are brought together by the trauma of childhood abuse. I knew where the story was going and yet in the end Dean was able to surprise me with how he got there. He did a masterful job pulling together his threads in a way that reminded me of Paul Haggis's work in Crash. Dean's story set in the modern West even included an Indian chief in what was one of my favorite scenes. Afterwards I reflected on Bana's work and wondered if he will ever reach the pinnacle of achievement we saw in the fantastic Australian film Chopper. That role allowed Bana to use all of his gifts in a way that I will never forget and which makes him for me one of the greatest actors working today.

Looper (2012)
0 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Promising new writer-director's ambitious debut, 30 September 2012
8/10

Rian Johnson did a great job on this ambitious film. Loopers combines 4 genres - sci-fi, thriller, drama and, this is the one that surprised me most, horror. While the action and the suspense were excellent it took me some time to buy into Joseph Gordon Levitt's character perhaps because there was little to like about a party guy who's sole focus was his own survival. The story's core however is philosophical and reminded me of an excellent book that came out several years ago called The Secret Lives of Boys. Watch the movie to see how they make it call come together! I am thrilled to see to see guys like Rian getting their movies made and doing a great job in the process. Bravo!