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Criteria: below ten titles, only counting films and TV films, and with less than two known works (that's why you won't be seeing Heather O'Rourke here, just an example).
Extended Outlook: The Script (2006)
Looking at the secrets inside a great script
Brief yet interesting. One of the many extras from "The Weather Man" (2005), this one reveals about the film's script written by Steve Conrad and how the project got made, with producer Todd Black - who worked with Steve in "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" (hunt down this movie, please!) - who always wanted to reunite with the writer, then the script came up and it was all a matter of time to join Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine and Gore Verbinski.
Good bonus material, with the highlight being Conrad's explanations on how he came with the story, the facts behind the fiction - the idea of Dave Spritz being hit by fast food throughout "The Weather Man", according to him, was from a real incident involving his friends trying to do same thing to a big shot reporter during a live coverage. The opinions - as usual in this type of program - are too much focused in selling the image, the success but they're not all wrong about the movie. No way. 8/10
Unrequited Love (2009)
A harmless environmental love story
"Unrequited Love" tells about a young man (Max Irons) who wants to win back the love of his life by writing poems in a beautiful yet lonely place, by a tree. However, he's not much of a good writer, barely can feel the reality of his words, and through the whole time after writing one bad sentence after another, he keeps messing up with the nature by throwing scribbled papers on the ground. And nature gets even at him...
The visual is good, Max Irons' presence is quite interesting, the poetry though silly is amusing to hear it but the story's concept is utterly confusing, obscure and so little in such a hurried time that there's not even time for the audience to come up with a great thought. Harmless fun, quite watchable. The only problem was the delivery of the film's message (oh yeah, the tree has spoken but who understood what was said? then credits roll). A good short film. 6/10
The Cutback (2011)
Knives and stabbing competition in working places...literally
This exquisite dark humored short film looks at the cold relations in an office space where staff literally back-stab each other for new positions, recognition, praise and stuff in order to please colleagues and bosses. To get what you want or to get even at someone who made you look back before our superiors, the only chance you have is to stab the other one in the best possible way. Lesson learned in the hard way by newbie Abbie (Ashby Taggart), who under peer pressure decides he needs to get a knife and use against his new rival.
Though most of the cast provide us with strange performances (only the lead convinces), the concept works very easily, the laughs come in this same way, and no minutes were wasted. A better dialog could be useful and more fun illustrations of the hard obstacles of working spaces could be used here as well.
Gets a 7 as my 777th review written on July 7. 7/10
OJ: The Untold Story (2000)
Real or not, speculation or fact, still deserves some view
Made five years after OJ Simpson's infamous trial accused of the horrendous and mysterious murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and David Goldman a year earlier, this BBC piece uncovers some conspiracy theories, more myths and new evidences on the murder case. And obvious, there's plenty of good and bad reasons of why the majority of people still believe OJ did it.
From forensics to detectives who worked on the case, and people who knew the alleged killer and the victims, this untold story analyze evidences (not sure how real and hot they are) that can put Simpson and even an accomplice at the crime scene, someone close to OJ and with motives for killing. The man himself, obviously, isn't here. If everything presented was new and unseen/unheard during the sloppy investigation, then this movie delivers a lot for curious people.
I was very little at the time of the events, and as growing up became a little aware of the facts so this documentary helped me a bit in understanding things (though, I've got lost sometimes when the narrator or someone else kept pointing out to a certain thing or a certain scenario as if they were making the film for people who know everything about the issue, and they didn't want to include newcomers) It's a mere gossip journalism, perfectly made for their standards and nothing more than that. Good but BBC has better. 6/10
Doubt: Stage to Screen (2009)
The process behind "Doubt"
A good accomplish though following a worn out procedure in terms of bonus for DVD's: interviews with director/writer, actors, revealing about the challenges of adapting the play to the big screen; the cast talk about their excitement in being part of an acclaimed project, their inspirations in composing the characters they were playing so and so.
The surprising factors comes from hearing that Sister James (character played by Amy Adams in "Doubt") was modeled on one of director John Patrick Shanley's teachers at a Catholic school during the 1960's, year the movie takes place - the real Sister James appears in the documentary and also in the documentary "The Sisters of Charity" (also present as bonus material); and that the director was a little reluctant in casting Viola Davis in what would turn out to be considered one of the greatest performances of that year and one of her most important roles up until then, becoming a mainstream name. Fun to watch. 9/10
Scoring 'Doubt' (2009)
Howard Shore explains his "Doubt" score
I don't have much to add to my synopsis written here, about this great bonus material from "Doubt". Musical scores are an important of the process of why we enjoy and above all, remember movies but it's an aspect that gets overlooked when studios and directors are producing their DVD's extras, and so, under that optic I was very pleased with this special following the great Howard Shore and his process of composition while coming up with themes for the characters and situations presented in Shanley's film - thankful to this I started to pay more attention to the music, subtle and minimalistic, rarely used and very suitable to a very talky film, filled with dialogs after dialogs. The documentary is short but positively sweet like all the pieces written by Shore in "Doubt". 9/10
Estranho triângulo (1970)
An OK film that breaks some barriers
A Brazilian rarity in so many aspects, mostly because of two controversial topics in the 1970's during the military regime: students political protests and homosexualism. While the first is a mere plot device that doesn't impact the movie, the latter is what the movie is about (in part) though it's not deeply covered as it should be but couldn't because of the many restrictions imposed at the time - either way, it was a daring theme to be treated then, and the optic we have of it now makes of "Strange Triangle" is a good thing to watch. Somehow, this movie escaped the censors.
The triangle of the title is formed by poor college student Durval (Carlo Mossy), an unemployed guy who finds his way in life by working for Werner, a rich businessman (José Augusto Branco) who's attracted to Durval and has an affair with him; while Susana (Leila Santos) is the one who Werner shows to everybody as his wife. Things get complicated when Durval and Susana get involved, with the guy thinking he's in love with her, and in his naivety he thinks he can exclude Werner out of the equation forgetting that he depends of the other man to live his dream of fancy cars, paid apartment and luxury. And worst: it turns out that Werner has plans to marry the girl, and it's not only because of the convenience, he also thinks he's in love with her. I guess everyone can see tragedy coming a mile away...
Above all, the story is involving despite omitting what goes on between both guys and displaying more of the intimacy between the young heterosexual couple. I know, sign of times. But I know a lot of people will be disappointed by this lack of honesty and openness in the film. Thankfully, José Augusto Branco is such a good actor that his nuanced performance as a gay man managed to overcome the lack of dynamism between his character and Durval. I won't even bother mentioning about the rest of the cast, all I can say is that they were really dull. José Wilker, as Durval's friend, in one of his earliest roles, comes off as a fine presence and manages to do some good. What do I learned from it? Well, relationships are flawed, frail, most of the time people are used because of interests, their money and their appearance, and that whole "love's all that matters and money can't buy love" is pure crap. We need them both but that doesn't mean they come hand in hand. Fassbinder did it better ("Fox and his Friends" for instance) but this one, for a first time director, is quite watchable. 7/10
Vincent Who? (2009)
Overcoming the tragedy and building a legacy: the Asian community fights for their civil rights in America
Like the many people interviewed at this documentary's introduction, I didn't know who Vincent Chin was up until very recently, when I stumbled into an Wikipedia entry that caught my attention. A brief summary of the events: Chin was a Chinese worker tragic murdered in Detroit, in 1982, confused as Japanese by two unemployed white autoworkers due to the Anti-Japanese sentiment brought on by the massive competition in the auto industry with oriental companies taking over the business with their efficiency and causing the American business to shut down with loss after loss, firing thousands of people. What angered society at the time was the fact that the perpetrators received fines and no jail time due to technicalities and a lousy perception from the judge who viewed the murder as a manslaughter, with the men simply intending to cause harm but not kill, he didn't considered as a hate crime and that's it. From that, the Asian community gathered in many American states, protesting, forming coalitions and demanding for justice. Sadly, it didn't came but something more powerful rose from it, which helped to avoid more cases like this to take place.
"Vincent Who?" analyzes the crime very briefly, focusing mostly in the advances of the Asian community and their causes in America fighting for civil rights, all which sparkled after the horrible tragedy, always remembering the victim in tributes, discussions and screenings of the Oscar nominated documentary. The film is a complement of their efforts in those 30 years raising awareness on their progress and what's more to be done by all the Asian movements in U.S. Thanks to this film, this is an important part of history that won't be forgotten and needs to be more discussed by everyone. 10/10
Na voyne, kak na voyne (1968)
An overlooked gem
The loneliness of the leader, whoever this leader is, whether being in a corporation or a team leader or head of the family, is crucial in order to get things done, to better understand everything and everyone around him/her, trying to find conditions to complete his goals and fulfill his/her existence. It's in those solitary moments one finds some peace (without others) and yet plenty of war on the inside, battling his inner demons, doubting time and again. "What am I doing wrong? What needs to be changed? How do others perceive me and how do I perceive myself?" and so on. "At War as at War" deals with such ideal though it seems to skip those things. It's buried very deep but it's there. To some, it may seem a conventional war movie about a flawed leader who manages to defeat his obstacles while dealing with a more experienced crew; to me, it was a poignant observation on the human condition when faced with strange adversities that seem small things to many but it's a whole world to some.
It's very easy to relate with young and impressionable lieutenant Maleshkin (Mikhail Kononov, good actor), a young adult with relative experience, enough to lead a small crew (a mechanic, an arms specialist and the pilot) of an armored tank, guys who are older than him and who always find ways to ignore his orders. He shouts with them cause that's the only way they obey him (not really, though), but deep down he wants to be like one of those commanders who find ways of being nice to his subordinates, a true leader. Maleshkin's situation is one of a kind. He fights three wars at the same time: with WWII going its course, German forces are marching through Ukraine (1), and the man's mission is to lead one of the many tanks in deadly combats, and besides dealing with a reckless crew (2), he's trying to look good with his superiors (3), some who are very skeptical of his leadership and others who fully believe he can be a disciplined officer and a great leader. His way to bring up the squad's morale: suicide and encouraging acts such as picking up a hand-grenade that one of his soldiers let it fall inside the vehicle without its pin.
The thing I loved the most about the movie was its simplicity with a thought-provoking story (sometimes, writers and directors can provide with those), very accessible it is in terms of presenting a quality story that doesn't linger for too long, well-acted, with some surprising humored scenes - it's almost a comedy - and exciting action sequences. But let's go to what it matters, the screenplay's achievement: a solid view on the difference between a leader and a boss, commander. Business marketers use those definitions at right and left to exhaustion when talking company's leaderships but I think this movie got it right. The first inspires his team, recognizes his errors; the other just demands, bullies, harasses, more concerned in the result than in the actions that led to it. And Maleshkin is a proof of both, in many scenes, and he's a good example that people can change from one to another under the most difficult and unthinkable situations. 9/10
The Sicilian (1987)
Cimino's real worst (yet still better than many films out there)
"Heaven's Gate" was Michael Cimino's worst film and one of the worst of all time? Never. The troubled making of it was a disaster, indeed, but the movie is almost a masterpiece and a good film on its own. The ones that came after Cimino's "ban" from Hollywood are the excellent "The Year of the Dragon", the average "Desperate Hours", his last "The Sunchaser" (a nice film for those with eyes to see), and this one "The Sicilian", adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel and based on the life of criminal Salvatore Giuliano. In my humble opinion, this is his worst film. Confusing, ineffective and trapped in a weird chaotic fashion with scenes going from good to painfully bad. But it's better to blame on Steve Shagan's script and the studio who trimmed down the film in a few minutes making the story even more confusing than what already is.
What we gather is that Giuliano (played by a dreadful Christopher Lambert) and his Sicilian group of criminal peasants cause horror in Sicily stealing land from its rich owners and giving to the poor, working for the cause of making Sicily independent. He defied politics, the church and everyone against his actions. His popularity was so great that even a powerful mafioso (like the one played by Joss Ackland) gave him some support until the day his arrogance for more power drives him off course, and no one's there to help him anymore. I guess this film could be called "Salvatore Giuliano: The Beginning" as it ends from the part where Francesco Rosi's good classic begins with the disastrous and controversial investigation about the mysterious robber's murder, a political criminal that devastated Italy.
If built on the same tradition of "The Godfather", with substance and greatness it would have turned out to be a great endeavor. However, it all looks phoney, simplistic and we feel as if watching a poor version of "Scarface". Another story about a man trying so hard to be a powerful criminal, difference is that he has some ideals of respect, justice and fights for others though he's no hero - but he seems more reliable than all the other corrupted Italian institutions. And in Giuliano's role, Lambert comes off a stiff, unnatural, only pleasing to look at when he's dressed with his elegant trench-coat. Ruined the movie just as much as Barbara Sukowa as the American lady who "rapes" the gangster.
And there are qualities to be found in this Cimino work, qualities that remind us of his previous works. The cinematography bears similarities with the shots captured in "The Deer Hunter" and "Heaven's Gate" and Vilmos Szigmond is not the director of photography here yet it looks like one of his works; David Mansfield score has its moments; Mr. Ackland was a strong presence, as John Turturro as well, playing Giuliano's best friend. It's the story that is wrong. I couldn't get anything from it, no life, no truth, nothing new.
Worthy of a view? Maybe, out of curiosity. Bear in mind that Cimino lost his mojo with this thing with badly staged scenes (but some horrifying and effective moments as well, demonstrated in the barber's execution in front a whole village after being discovered as a traitor who denounced Giuliano) and no story to work with. The book has to be ten thousands better to get ruined this way. 5/10