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Mr. Right (2015)
Quirky and funny as Hell
Thank God for a movie that is hilariously different! So many movies today are special effects and explosions -- all aimed at the teen audience eager for the same old, same old. Sam Rockwell is fantastically funny as a hit-man who kills the people who hire him, rather than the people he is hired to kill. When he falls in love with the lovelorn Anna Kendrick you don't see how it can possibly work but the charm and quirkiness of Rockwell's character inevitably wins her over. A series of assassination attempts on Rockwell's life are ruthlessly snuffed out in bloodiest fashion that is so way over the top as to keep the audience laughing. A terrific script by Max Landis (son of John Landis of Animal House fame) makes you want to seek out more films scripted by the same hand. Most critics hated this movie -- which doesn't mean a damn thing considering the garbage they praise all too often. If you want something that is plain daffy and funny as Hell then this comes highly recommended.
The Other Woman (2014)
Witless mess that is kept afloat by the hardworking cast
Lesley Mann is always a delight as an actress and she battles it out as a betrayed wife in this tasteless piece of dreck aimed at the feminist audience. Cameron Diaz, looking like a stick insect put together with silicone and play dough, scorched with a blowtorch and bleached to distraction, goofballs her way through the story with a manic charm and perseverance that is more than this vile, untalented script deserves. One wants to weep at the depths to which screen writing has sunk when a witless piece of garbage like this that depends on vomit and diarrhea jokes for its laughs -- and judging by reading other postings -- succeeds in entertaining the female viewers. By all means let's see a movie about wives and mistresses taking revenge on an unfaithful mate but let's see it done with wit and style, not with unpleasant bodily functions and scenes in which the man develops breasts due to being unknowingly plied with female hormone pills. (Would a movie in which a man slips male hormone pills to a woman be funny if she developed balls and a beard? Maybe in America, nowhere else.) What a HUGE condemnation on the taste -- or lack of it -- that permeates Hollywood today. The fact that audiences have applauded this movie only indicates the depths to which film-making has sunk. That this script was greenlit at all is saddening beyond belief. Mars and Jupiter are planets other than Earth, and the fact that this movie has attained the success it has makes one wonder what planet the viewer who applauds this dreck is from. Where is the wit? Where is the intelligence? Is lavatory humor the wave of the future? Yes, there are movies around that have scatological humor in them and yes, they were written by men, but they succeed because they have solid wit and smarts behind them. The Other Woman has a basic idea that rapidly descends into the gutter and chooses not to raise its head again. For all the battles that women have had to be accepted as individuals in their own right, this movie hurls them right back down into the pit. I would love to see Lesley Mann, Cameron Diaz et al in a movie about women taking revenge on an unfaithful mate (see the 1959 Alain Delon movie Women Are Weak or the 1968 Three In The Attic for tips on how to write such a movie) but The Other Woman is a tasteless stinker of a movie that fails to understand how scriptwriting works. Obviously the only thing that matters in Hollywood today is the box-office count and the fact that this movie has scored big can only be attributed to the pull of its stars, who deserve one hell of a lot better. Let's hope in future that they get it.
Me Mammy (1968)
Fond memories of a wonderful show.
I would LOVE to see this show again -- though by the sound of it, it's gone forever. One episode had Milo O'Shea bringing home a pregnant girlfriend and announcing to his mammy that he intended to marry her, much to her dismay -- which was instantly replaced by outrage when the mammy discovered that the girl was pregnant by another man and Milo didn't mind. The mammy took the girl out shopping, the girl announced that she had to "go to the lavvy" and the mammy sent her "all the way down, all the way down" to the bottom of the stairs to the underground trains and the mammy took off running, knowing the girl had no idea where they lived. A very funny show with great supporting characters.
L'oro di Napoli (1954)
A knockout from De Sica
Superb collection of vignettes in the daily life of the people of Naples, lensed by a master director. Six separate stories, all with wonderful characters, including one starring De Sica himself as a frustrated Count, ready to wager the family silver and country estates in a desperate attempt to win an ongoing card game against an unbeatable street urchin. The movie begins with the tale of a downtrodden family man who rebels against his low-level, mob-boss bully of a lodger, setting his family free -- but at what cost? Funny, but also disturbing. One of the stories a touching, virtually wordless tale of a heartbroken mother accompanying her child's coffin to the cemetery, together with a crowd of children, unaware of the real tragedy, only interested in candy. The most dramatic piece starring Silvana Mangano as a prostitute tricked into a loveless marriage by a wealthy man atoning for the suicide of his true love. The stand-out story, a delightful tale of an adulterous pizza maker, Sophia Loren, desperately in search of an emerald ring, supposedly baked into a pizza, but in reality left on her lover's nightstand. This film is worth watching for one scene alone, watching Loren stride down the street in the rain, followed by her cuckolded husband. If ever one scene in a movie made a star then this is it. Obviously not wearing a bra, Loren's breasts fill the screen and De Sica, full of mischief, follows her every move, both from front and behind in a gorgeous, gorgeous display of Loren's twenty year old sensuality. One of those knockout scenes that belongs to film history. The last vignette, an arrogant landlord, bully to all his tenants, humiliated by them when they all in unison blow a Bronx cheer as he passes by. A trifle, but brilliantly set up and performed with cheeky perfection. What this movie also offers is the sense of reality, a total lack of artifice and lack of studio sets, all in the style of the Bicycle Thief, another of De Sica's masterpieces, filmed on the streets. One's heart aches for the passing of such a talented actor and director. This is a movie that demands to be released in a full version, not the shortened American one, in a decent and respectable DVD. Can't Criterion get hold of this somehow? MovIe lovers deserve to be able to enjoy every minute of this delight. Hats off to De Sica and all involved!
The Broken Tower (2011)
Valiant attempt to capture a problematical character
The Broken Tower is the type of movie one generally sees at minor film festivals and thence disappears into the darkness, never to be seen again. Having said that, one should never dismiss such honorable efforts simply because there is no vast audience for a film that has no special effects, extra terrestrials, car chases or gunplay (which would exclude most European movies.) Oh and yes, it's in black and white and concerns Hart Crane, a gay poet in the 1920's who killed himself at thirty two.
James Franco wrote and directed this movie, which comes across as an experimental film from a student still with much to learn. (Not knocking it, merely an observation, which is open to argument.) What the movie lacks most of all is an introduction to the many people whom Crane came into contact with during his life (from literary and social critic Waldo Frank - HUGE in his observations on American Society, to writer Malcolm Cowley and his painter-wife Peggy (Crane's only heterosexual love affair), painter Georgia O'Keefe and her husband Alfred Stieglitz, introducing Crane to Literary New York in the shape of Eugene O'Neill.) And other major influences in his life, Caresse and Harry Crosby (publishers of the Black Sun Press in Paris, who first brought recognition to William Burroughs, James Joyce etc, whose works were considered too obscene to be published in America.) WHERE is the scene where Harry Crosby (nephew of J.P. Morgan) considered the model for the Great Gatsby and the acknowledged epitome of drug-fueled extravagance and irresponsible behaviour in the 1920's, murders his mistress and kills himself while Hart is obliviously having dinner with Caresse? And what about Emil Opffer, Crane's one great love, for whom he wrote the suite of poems VOYAGES, which drop into the movie with flat readings, completely unbolstered by imaginative visuals? Nothing about Opffer's background, his family's flight from assassination in Denmark or Opffer's own experiences during World War 1. And what about Crane's mother's mental instability, her rejection of him for his homosexuality and threats to expose his sexual preferences to his father? And the meeting between Crane and Federico Garcia Lorca in 1929? Two doomed poets, both homosexual, totally unalike but both critical of American Society in the 1920's, although Crane's love for his country was absolute and eternal.
The Broken Tower does illustrate the difficulties of Crane's poetry, which in his own words is described as "A jazz roof garden method, evolved from a pseudo-symphonic construction, of an abstract beauty that has not been done before in the English language. A kind of metaphysical quotidian combination". (Wow!) At the time Crane's poetry was more appreciated outside of the United States than within. (The London Times: "Mr Crane reveals a profound originality in lines of arresting and luminous quality", whereas in the New York Saturday Review, "Mr. Crane rapes language under the impression he is paying it the highest compliment".) Poet Marianne Moore, who printed some of Crane's earliest poems, found them so impenetrable that she rewrote them without Crane's permission, an act of betrayal that devastated him.
What Crane was aiming for with his poetry was an Elizabethan accent on the American scene, drawn from the example of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, but rejecting Eliot's whole-hearted pessimism. Crane believed in America as the bridge to the future through mechanisation and he tried to infuse this in his poetry. What he ended up with was a mass of images that were so dense in their construction that the uninitiated reader would find them impossible to navigate. Crane believed in starting the journey for the reader, but forcing them to complete it on their own, which inevitably led to a great deal of frustration.
The Broken Tower is divided into various "Voyages", supposedly designed to illustrate the major events in Crane's life, drawing ever closer to his suicide. These are introduced by cue cards. For example "Hart Crane goes to Cuba" -- and we see him taking a long, long walk down a street somewhere. Or "Hart Crane goes to Mexico" -- and we see him singing in a bar with a Mexican guitarist. The pivotal moments in his life simply fail to materialize. While his alcoholism and poverty are well documented, and figure in the movie, so many other incidents are missing. The fact that he left America when the Great Depression hit, the fact that he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship that enabled him to live in Mexico during this period, but was threatened with withdrawal due to his erratic behaviour and public intoxication, is nowhere to be seen.
Another screenplay, entitled HART CRANE, written in 2008, can be found on www.simplyscripts.com and covers all the main incidents in Crane's life. Unfortunately, while it might be of interest to anyone seeking a fuller and more coherent version of Crane's life, it is unlikely ever to see the light of day due to the release of The Broken Tower.
Summing up, James Franco deserves kudos for having tackled such a difficult and uncommercial subject. Certainly an original interpretation of a problematical character, the chasms that exist between each "Voyage" and the lack of depth in the main character (due to the absence of any interaction with the main movers and shakers in his life) make it highly unlikely that this movie will have any lasting effect or figure in any revival. However, if this movie interests anyone enough to seek out Crane's poetry, then that is everything one can wish for -- and grateful thanks to James Franco for that.
Dos tipos duros (2003)
A confused mess
As a fan of Antonio Resines, I wanted to like this movie. A talented actor in both comedy and drama, he has to work hard in this one. The most one can say is that the movie is a confused mess that simply cannot make up its mind just what it wants to be. Is it a buddy movie? A comedy? A crime caper? The story is all over the place and is hard to follow. So many disparate elements that fail to come together. Yes, there are a few laughs here and there but the violent aspects quickly demolish these. The story appeared to be thrown together as the film-makers actually made the movie. Nothing is believable and the story quickly wears out its welcome. An unfortunate misfire. Give it a miss.
No sabe no contesta (2002)
Flaky and funny as hell
Boy, what a fantastic charmer of a movie! Beautifully written with dialog that is so deceptively easy. Absolutely deadpan comedy that is hysterical to watch. The story of Joaquin, his family and friends and the girl he falls in love with. The entire plot revolves around a piano that must be sequestered in Joaquin's grandparents house in order not to be seized by the courts in payment for the collapse of Joaquin's father's business. Everything that can go wrong. does go wrong and the piano is progressively destroyed throughout the movie. Fantastic performances from the talented young cast, terrific star power at work here. Funny, funny, funny scenes with voice overs contradicting the actual dialog being spoken. Beautifully directed, unexpected twists and turns in a nonlinear storyline that is charmingly flaky. Wonderfully original. If you want something that is completely different to the usual dreck of adolescent screw-ups seen in American cinema then get your hands on this one. An absolute delight!
Una noche con Sabrina Love (2000)
One night with Cecilia Roth!
Always a pleasure to see anything new coming out of Latin America, Argentina is one of the most talented countries when it comes to film production. Una Noche Con Sabrina Love has two of the Spanish speaking world's greatest actresses in Cecilia Roth and Norma Aleandro. Alas, the latter is woefully under-used in a role as a photographer that she fleshes out way beyond its worthiness. Aleandro glows off the screen with sheer star power but essentially has very little to do. Cecilia Roth sinks her teeth into the role of porn star Sabrina Love who gives one night of passion to the virginal seventeen year old Daniel, who writes to her from his small village in the country and wins one night in her arms. With a series of picaresque adventures before he arrives in Buenos Aires, Daniel reconnects with the secretly gay brother he has not seen for three years. Without having read the source material of the book on which this movie is based, one has an expectation that the picaresque adventures will continue. Alas, the story gets bogged down in heavy-handed philosophical discussion that should have been tossed out of the window. This is one very obvious instance in which the screenwriter should have stepped away from the source material. There is a lot of very good acting talent at work here, specifically from the two lead actresses, but as the character of Daniel (ably interpreted by Tomas Fonzi) is the focus of the story, there should have been more opportunity for his character to experience a wider range of emotions. One wonders how Fellini might have handled a coming of age story like this. Not a complete failure, but when the movie has the title One Night With Sabrina Love, one could be forgiven for wanting to see how the encounter between the porn star and the inexperienced young guy would affect her as much as him. It would certainly have given Cecilia Roth a greater opportunity, which she unquestionably would have soared with. An interesting movie with a few disappointing longeurs along the way. Could have been better with a more skilfully written script. Just because the book is good doesn't mean to say that the script should stay faithful.
Edge of Darkness (2010)
As convincing as a three dollar bill
Mel Gibson waited seven years before stepping back in front of the camera. He should have waited for better material. Edge of Darkness is utterly grim and humorless and plods along with threats of danger that never seem to materialize. What action there is rears its head at the most absurd and inappropriate moments, action for the sake of action, without rhyme or reason. Scenes clunk along with endless explanations, threats of this and that that leave one scratching one's head with bewilderment. Mel has been around too long to ever be boring as an actor but the material given him here had the audience I was sitting with giggling at the phony ridiculousness of it all. If you ever saw the classic SILKWOOD, which was ten times more absorbing than this outing, then you pretty much have the whole story in a nutshell. When Mel discovers a Geiger counter in his daughter's apartment and finds a lock of her hair is radioactive, then you might as well get up out of your seat and leave the theater as everything that follows is utterly predictable. Ray Winstone, as a government operative muttering threats against Mel's investigation into his daughter's death, is virtually incomprehensible in his scenes. The ultimate disclosure behind Mel's daughter's murder is so unconvincing, one wonders if the screenwriter's maiden aunt suggested it when he was stuck for an idea. If there is one word to be used in describing this movie then it is "predictable". Two words: "phony and predictable". Mel, you're a great guy to spend time with but give us something better next time.
Christmas Cottage (2008)
Not for diabetics.
The overload of sugar in this movie would kill a truckload of diabetics. Dreadful, dreadful dialog that would make the regular viewer cringe with embarrassment. Watching the hugely talented Peter O'Toole in this movie makes one hope that he never has to watch this or ever again have to descend to this level to make a living. For this particular viewer, the only thought that went through my mind was, please somebody hand me a fork so I can stick it in my eyes. This is a movie made for old ladies who live alone with a houseful of cats. If Thomas Kinkade has a story to tell, then he needs a much more gifted writer to bring it to fruition. This is a movie that would reduce even the most sympathetic of souls to batter their head on the coffee table in utter despair. Watching Peter O'Toole, who does everything but wear a sandwich board saying, "My character is going to die very soon", one prays that he will just peg out so that one will no longer have to observe the depths to which he has sunk in acting in this tripe. A definite miss.