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Fonda only gem in this waste
What is the point of this self-absorbed production? I guess it's mom's inability to face reality. The story drags and drags and drags...uh, what? Oh, yeah, Mom decides to visit her past by bringing her uppie-ish Manhattan trained teenagers to experience the Woodstock generation's deep convictions to peace and love. A premise this mother has spent her adult life rejecting. Predictable every moment.
Jane Fonda as one reviewer here commented never experienced the Woodstock moment although she was a most prominent protester against the USA-Vietnam police action. Fonda is good and is worth watching. In fact all the performers are good. Too bad we don't get more of Kyle McLachlan.
The Boys Are Back (2009)
Heartwarming not as script is in knots
Finally saw this film from beginning to conclusion. Had caught bits and pieces (on Showtime) and it made no sense. Now I can reflect with some competence.
The screenplay begs for "competence." The nagging, continuing "ghost-wife" is a cliché. The lost, near-forgotten teen son from the first marriage played evenly by young George MacKay has but one or two scenes of any value to the overall script. This character is written as an uptight, boarding-school, Brit teen seeking acceptance from his father. I get that. But, considering the numerous wasted scenes as the second wife drifts into death is long and boring.
With that said; the film offers some promise. The younger son is wonderfully, cheerfully portrayed by Nicholas McNulty. The director had to have rewritten parts of the script to infuse the energy of this little boy-actor making the film a bit more realistic.
Clive Owen, a very good actor, does his best to muddle through the disjointed script. However, his character is far from believable. An award-winning sportsman in his youth, he is now an aging, sudden single-father, sportswriter in Australia. (Of course, the film was produced by their government.) When he leaves the boys alone to attend a major tennis match some seven hours drive away well, you might already guess what happens. The huge glitch in the script is that he could've taken the boys with him. They might have ended up locked in a hotel room for a day or two; but, that in itself would have given the screenplay/story some extra leg room for character development.
When he goes to England to retrieve his run-away teen ranks as the highlight of the film. The interactions between father and long-lost son are realistic. They are not heartwarming. No swell of the angelic chorus. The very last scene when young MacKay looks at his father is the only heartwarming moment. It lasts for about 3 seconds, but only makes sense if you can sit through the entire movie.
Arizona Summer (2004)
unrealistic family stupidity
Disclaimer: watched this on Showtime and could only take 75 minutes of this trash. A family movie?? The kids are not even cute. The older teen counselors attempt "rising" above a horrid script and story.
Lee Majors is a plain-out awful actor since he first entered a sound-stage. He does not disappoint as the camp director. The script goes off in all directions with no conclusions. The bullying by the camp counselors toward each other as well as the little campers is totally unrealistic. They would have been fired in a real life setting. (I know this as I was a camp assistant director.) A waste of time and money.
Remember Me (2010)
A shout out for young Ruby Jerins
The film is surprisingly watchable. As in most films the conclusion is worth wading through most of the 113 minutes. Since most reviewers have already provided the plot, story, etc., my interest was the rather unique bonding between Tyler, played well by Robert Pattinson, and his 11-year old sister, Caroline, played to a perfect pitch by Ruby Jerins. The scenes they have together are most memorable and probably worth your time.
Pierce Brosnan as the father, Charles Hawkins, a corporate chieftain is underplayed by Brosnan. To add to his dismal performance his Brooklyn accent is mumbled British making his character even more unbelievable.
Fortunately, a good supporting cast with notable performances by Kate Burton as Brosnan's secretary, and Tate Ellington as Pattinson's hyper-active roommate also help surf this piece.
Emile de Ravin is cast as Ally Craig, Tyler's girlfriend. I can't blame her for a wickedly poor performance. It makes me wonder if her character (and plot line) was thrown in during filming so Pattinson's character would have a "love interest." I blame the director for no guidance what-so-ever.
3/10 as it is watchable especially Pattinson and young Ruby Jerins.
Ode to Billy Joe (1976)
Robby Benson's Mississippi
Had not seen this movie since its theatrical release in 1976 or 77. Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor were considered upcoming stars and were also romantically linked. Anyway...
The film holds up extremely well considering it was made 35 years ago. If I'd never seen it and told it was made two years ago -- I'd easily believe it.
It's easy to fall in love with Robby Benson's Billy Joe. That is key to understanding this film. The extremely sensitive, yet sturdy teen, might be a bit overplayed by Benson, but Billy Joe's eccentricities is what brings Glynnis' 15-year old, Bobbie Lee character to sexual fruition, and almost always, frustration. We are left to guess Bobby Joe's age, but the character can't be much older than 17 (going on 13).
While their love affair is brief; it is played out in memorable and sensitive scenes. The moonlit pond scene is funny, true and uncannily tender considering the expected romantic (sexual) gesturing never occurs. The school-bus scene with Bobby Joe forcibly boards to find Billie Lee is comedic as it is romantic.
Billy Joe's confusion regarding his sexuality is uncomfortably confirmed when he realizes he is different. Perhaps because the film was made in 1975, and teen-age homosexuality was considered near pornographic, or just the writer and director's vision of keeping Billy Joe as mysterious as possible, the audience never views any sexual tensions between other male characters, let alone an encounter scene between the male partners. It would've made the picture and the character more believable especially when Bobby Joe tells Billie Lee about the encounter, which she casually dismisses as a drunken episode.
It leaves the audience wondering. Why did Bobby Joe commit suicide when Billie Lee was so willing to accept him? Is the overlay of southern views of homosexuality in the late 50's that drove him to his death? Or, was it just Bobby Joe's extreme (yet sturdy), impulsive, sensitivities that he refused to accept himself -- or even try.
6/10 as the film holds so well after 35 years, and Robby Benson's overwhelming portrayal. Of course, the story itself, and the mysteries that are never explained.
Frozen Waste Attention Getter
It takes an awful long, boring 20 minutes or so before this film comes to a stop; literally. Two boys and one college girl stuck on a chairlift in the middle of the night. Everyone gone home. Lights out. And, the fun begins...
The story itself holds merit. However, so many flaws interrupt the flow of supposed fright, freezing and sheer terror that the audience was promised. It almost becomes a tender-hearted comedy. The very few moments that hold any surprise are quickly doused by easily predictable conclusions.
The acting is novice. The script nearly predictable. With that said, I waited (or waded though) till the final credits. The photography is good given the Utah location.
Hey, if you like wolves...don't miss this stinker. 2/10 for the intent and photography.
Underwheming except for Marcia and Devon
The inside "peek" this film allows into the mystery of schizophrenia is underwhelming. Marcia Gay Harden attempts to bring Mary Marino, suburban wife and mother, some authenticity. However, the film's focus is on young Chris and his seemingly disconnected father.
The script is more relevant to the young boy's few hurdles due to his mother's illness. The perfunctory scenes of disbelief, anger and frustration when his mother is manic looking for him on the school bus, or unexpectedly delivering her homemade birthday cake while he is amongst friends at the arcade or bowling alley, demonstrate the obligatory embarrassment and that's it.
Dad's compulsion to complete a homemade sailboat albeit one avenue that allows him to "sail away" from reality makes little sense to the overall structure of the film. Although, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
Young Devon Gearhart shoulders the entire production as middle-schooler Chris Marino. Considering he was about 12-years-old (via IMDb stats), he was excellent. Joe Pantoliano as the father is miscast. He phones-in a stale characterization. The brief moments the script allows him to shine are wasted. Some of his lack of ambition can be laid at the director/screenwriter's door.
4/10 only for Devon and Ms. Hardin's attempts to make this film worthwhile.
worth the time
The two times I've seen this movie I've missed the first ten or so minutes. Often those initial scenes can lay the entire foundation of what follows.
Simply stated, I liked the film. The "belated" mother and "angry" pre-teen concept is rarely explored. It is normally the child/father reunification, which I suppose is more common. It is very rare for a mother to abandon her infant leaving the child's total care to the father.
The film's overall synergy is the intimate portrait through the screenplay and extremely honest dialog between mother and son. Its downfall rests in the same place.
Michelle Monagan's "Diane" is not fully believable as the runaway mother turned rig-driver. I place this malfunction on the director. Her seemingly instant acceptance as Peter's mother is hollow. However, when that bump (although it is apparent throughout the film) is overcome it becomes a bittersweet love story. Young Jimmy Bennett's "Peter" is relatively excellent. When the two characters are left alone, which is a great deal of the picture, the film works best.
Dying father "Len Bonner" (very curious name) played by Benjamin Bratt offers nothing to the overall story and script. His screen time could not be more than 8 minutes. His importance to 11-year old Peter appears distant and unrealistic. It would've been justifiable to simply have buried him at the beginning of the picture.
Overall "Trucker" is a worthwhile watch, if for nothing else than for Jimmy Bennett. I'm guessing from the IMDb stats that he was about 12 or 13 when this film was made. Further research shows he currently plays the nerdy, teen-age genius on TV's "No Ordinary Family." His career is one to watch.
Stolen Lives (2009)
Predictable yet engrossing
Caught this film by accident on Showtime. Its 'get-to-the-point' screenplay holds some similarity to the "Cold Case" television series. Detective Tom Adkins is drawn into a case where the body of a young child in a buried box is found on a construction site. Initially, he holds hope the corpse is that of his own long lost son who disappeared at a roadside carnival some ten years previous when he was 8-years old. However, the deceased child is a boy. The remains prove likely the crime is 50 years old.
The story jumps back into 1958 by introducing Matthew Wakefield and his three super-obedient children; all boys. You're left to guess the ages. Oldest is 13, middle child maybe 11, and John is possibly 9 or 10. Their mother's sudden death leaves Wakefield devastated. He is unemployed and can't find work. He is able to board his two older boys with his wife's childless sister and her ignorant husband.
His youngest son, John, is mentally challenged and deemed unacceptable by the ignorant brother-in-law for the retardation and other questionable reasons (perhaps Wakefield is a homo and John is not his biological offspring) by his brother-in-law. Matthew has no choice but to keep young John with him as he seeks employment. He lands a construction job quickly. His dedication and work ethic keeps him working. He and his young boy move into a nearby rooming house. He also brings his son to work until the site foreman forbids it. No choice but to leave the challenged child home, then the unthinkable in more ways than one: John goes missing.
Back to the future: Detective Adkins realizes the similarities are too coincidental. It appears evident the same killer committed the crimes 40-years apart. The audience already knows the killer. The story follows the path of least resistance.
Jon Hamm is a charmer. His talent is moderated (or obliterated) for whatever reasons in this 91 minute drama. Ditto for Josh Lucas who plays the 1958 father. Lucas is able to rise above the script at times. This is a male dominated piece. Female characters are hollow or dead while alive. In one silly bit Lucas' character joins Sally Ann, the town slut, in an attempt of sexual intercourse during a night-time delivery dock rendezvous.
Everyone's a critic, eh? The film lacks depth.
Spoilers ahead: Wakefield's wife and mother of their three boys commits suicide presumably because her youngest son is a 'retard' in 1958 ??? Our culture had well-advanced by then to accept the mentally retarded. The three brothers introduction in the film would've been better served by a skinny-dip scene in some pond (the ol' swimin hole) where some laughter, splashing and real kid dialog (circa 1958) would have helped develop some audience empathy when they have to separate.
Lucas' relationship with his mentally challenged son offered numerous opportunities to display father/son bonding. Instead it is nothing but unrequited likability. 13 or 14-year old Jimmy Bennett's portrayal of 10-year old John is left in the grayness stumbling his best as the mentally challenged youngest son. His performance is forced at best. It's 1958 and John's hair is near shoulder length giving him a feminine appearance, which is fine if it was somehow addressed via dialog, story line (barbers are afraid of him) or really the script. One could easily suggest that Wakefield allows his son's extra hair because it is a denial of his mentally challenged status, or the hair reminds him of his late wife. Something, anything...? Jon Hamm's Detective Adkins is totally deadpan. We know Hamm is talented; you just need one episode of MAD MEN to understand. His character seems - no, is - totally lost. Adkins memorializes his son's disappearance by keeping the kid's room intact against his wife's better judgment. Here is another opportunity thrown away. While Adkin's son, Tommy, Jr played (very briefly) by Ty Panitz has no - none - nada connection between characters. However, the one flare-up of "real" emotion goes to Adkin's wife, Barbara, played (again, very briefly) by Rhona Mitra when she forces to Adkin's to at least come to terms that their son is dead.
The killer is known by the audience throughout most of the film. Adkin's long-held suspicions are true. The killer in one of the few brief flashes of life explored in this drama admits to Adkins, how wonderful the "killing" made him feel.
I guess little Tommy, Jr.'s body is found as most of the characters walk joyful through the cemetery in the final scene. Joyful perhaps that the filming wrapped that day?
3/10 because the story held great promise, as did the actors based on previous work. And, the editors kept the pace quick and as painless as possible.
6/10 ... for story and screenplay. Upfront a complaint: the one sex scene, the two lovers are completely covered. Why? Having them completely naked is some sort of crime I'm told because it depicts "underage" pornographic activity. Both actors were (according to IMDb) both over 20 years old at time of filming. Such infringement on the First Amendment is going too far. Certainly, if they were 12 & 13 the prohibition might hold merit. But, that still limits the writer and director. Why are we so afraid of sex? It actually diminishes (just slightly) the story in Keith. This is more for the boards, following are my observations...
I caught this gem on Showtime. "Coming-of-age" movies are so predictable. Keith is a bit different. The nerd as pretty-boy bully. The much sought after blond "prom-queen" type is caring and not blatant.
Elisabeth Harnois is Natalie, a regal, senior high-school beauty on her parental, pre-planned life as a teen-age (14th ranked) tennis champion preparing for a tennis scholarship college life at Duke University. Her high-school "court" includes a stylish, continental boyfriend, Raff, played by Ignacio Serricchio. And other stylish beauty-queen wanna-be's. All lily white in some Georgia superb.
The cast includes Jennifer Grey and a dozen others who have but a few lines that are near-inconsequential for the story line. In fact (be it IMDb's fault or production management)a small, but pivotal bit played out on screen for less than 90 seconds between Keith, Natalie and (maybe 8,9 or 10 years old) Billy, played by Zach Rockefeller is relegated to second page status here on IMDb.
Harnois' portrayal of Natalie is understated. Perhaps knowing that she was near-29 playing an18-year old allowed her to exercise reflection. She is completely viable as the senior high-school beauty within the cleverly diagrammed story and script. However, and this stone may be more for the direction, a particular maturity and minimal passion is obvious.
The title role Keith is cautiously surrendered by Jesse McCartney. He is a pretty-boy and at first glance seems miscast. A slight alteration in hair-styling and he'd pass as Justin Beiber's older brother, perhaps. He does not make the role his own. Numerous scenes he plays as if in a dress-rehearsal. Paradoxically, his subtle portrayal works well as the story progresses.
McCartney is the nerdish chemistry student paired with Natalie for their senior project. Her early dismissal of his obvious attentions slowly dissolves and she accepts their relationship as platonic. The undercurrent slowly gets stronger. This is a bumpy ride for both characters. Natalie is reminded by friends and parents of her status above this uncanny Keith. This only motivates her closer into a seemingly bizarre relationship.
Keith's idea of romance is bowling and searching for used bowling balls. His gift of a carburetor leaves audience (me) and Natalie puzzled. Evening jaunts in his pick-up is unique to Natalie and disturbing. When he drifts into the 'deep end' engaging in outbursts and disappearances only makes him more attractive to Natalie. When she secretly discovers he is on depression medication Natalie commences her crusade to save him. She drops her country-club boyfriend and rejects her pre-planned future.
After an evening of lovemaking in his pick-up, Keith crudely rejects any future together. Herein lays the essence of the film. The writers and director thus far have taken us on an acceptable roller-coaster ride of teen-age angst, love and lust. We are hesitantly endeared to Keith and Natalie. While we are taken aback at times by Keith's disturbing remarks and actions, Natalie puts up with them, hence, we do as well. Until his almost off-hand and subtly abusive rejection after the consummation are we angered. Disgusted we applaud Natalie's anger.
Is the movie over? Far from it. The final minutes play out like a good mystery and worth every second.