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Die Friseuse (2010)
A charming movie for grown-ups
If you are looking for a charming movie for grownups, DIE FRISEUSE (The Hairdresser) is well watching. Netflix has it and I don't know who else but it is worth looking for it. It touches just about every aspect of human life and whoever says Germans do not have a sense of humor hasn't seen this movie. Doris Dörrie took Laila Stieler's script, cast Gabriela Maria Schmeide as Kathi and created a wonderful film worth seeing more than once. These filmmakers were not afraid to deal with love, sexuality, bigotry, discrimination and racism in a real and compelling way. I was rooting for Kathi to succeed and the more she fell or was pushed down the more I rooted for her as she got up to go at it again. Might be too deep for the shallowness of some audiences but for me it was also a slap in the face to Hollywood conventions as if Doris Dorrie was trying to tell them, "This is how you make a movie". I love films that have a universal theme of humanity and that are told through a realistic dead pan sort of humor. This movie is set in Germany but it deals with the same issues most face every day, whether you're in Rome, East Los Angeles, Taipei, or London. It might help if you know a little bit of the culture and history of Germany before and after the Berlin wall fell to catch some of the subtle nuances sprinkler throughout but it is not necessary to enjoy this gem.
The Wolverine (2013)
Best Wolverine to date
Saw The Wolverine. Masterfully choreographed action and best train fight scene ever. The best Wolverine yet and Hugh Jackman delivers. Thoughtfully paced with a perfect blend of action and story. You don't need to know anything about the previous movies since this one can stand alone. The story may get in the way at times for those who only enjoy mindless action. I will go see it again without the 3D effect to see if that made any difference. The only drawback for me was the glare from theater stair's runner lights on my 3D glasses but that had nothing to do with the movie. They threw in a nice little surprise for the true fans just after the end credits started to roll.
Pass the Mic! (2003)
A piece of history and a business lesson
First of all I am not a big fan of Hip Hop, I don't care if it's Latino, Persian or what have you but I am a big fan of history and this doc painstakingly addresses the ups and down of the music business. You may have all the talent in the world but if you don't have the rudiments of business down pat you may be in for a big surprise when you find yourself on the street with zero in your pocket. This doc does an excellent job giving you the good, the bad and the ugly of the business. These young voices yell loud and clear what can happen if you don't play attention. It was great to see the Latin Hip-Hop underground and see firsthand how it all evolved. This is a must see for all interested in pursuing the music business. Raw, unapologetic and still having a bit of charming naiveté as the artists talk about their highs and lows. Respected by their peers and dismissed by the labels until the record companies found a way to exploit their talents. If you're into Latin Hip Hop or just dreaming about the music business then I suggest you take a look at this documentary it will do you a world of good. There is a lot more to the biz that just Pass The Mic!
Two Million Stupid Women (2009)
Low Budget meets Brilliant Writing = A Real Gem
Never mind the title, here's your chance to be a fly on the wall to see Melissa (Sarah Hall), Anna (Katy Stoll) and Todd (Mark R. Gerson) go on an all-night screwball escapade trying to help Melissa fulfill a nutty and sometimes aching quest. This brilliantly written movie seemed to throw away all the Hollywood conventions and became a must see for independent cinema lovers, warts and all. Whether it's a tragedy hidden in a romantic comedy or a romantic comedy hidden in a tragedy or maybe it a sub-genre of a dark comedy I don't know and I don't care. It worked. It was great to see that even on a very limited budget the producers and director took the time to assemble a phenomenal cast and to get as much production value as possible. The sound track was perfect for the ages of the three pals cruising around trying to accomplish their crazy mission. I didn't care for the music but that's what twenty-something young adults would probably have on the radio and what would be playing at the clubs they visited. Jamie Neese did a great job directing Amy Heidish wonderful screenplay.
Let Go (2011)
great performances by Ed Asner and Kevin Hart
I think the reason this gem did not get the proper release is that it was marketed to a hip Kevin Hart audience and not the Ed Asner audience. Here you have something closer to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with brilliant performances but the marketing people missed the mark. Kevin Hart's tragic character Kris performance was spot on, it had its comic moments but you felt the character's fallen from grace humiliation. So if you went in thinking you were going to get a laugh a minute from this comic genius you were disappointed. Only Ed Asner could have pulled off Artie, the nasty crotchety old buzzard career criminal and still be so endearing. Director Brian Jett got Oscar worthy performances out of these two and others in the cast. As an audience, do we have the time to sit and appreciate the complexities of Walter, played brilliantly by David Denman? He had to play straight man to a cast of faulted characters while dealing with his own short comings. Who did not fall in love with Darla? Gillian Jacobs was, well, beautiful as ever and you sensed her conniving character becoming real and not just putting on an act just to get what she wanted.
I know that with people in the cast like Ed Asner, Kevin Hart, Dov Davidoff, Garrett Morris, Jack Carter, Rance Howard you'd expect a laugh a minute but instead you end up watching a sweet moving movie about people in situations that you have to laugh to keep from crying. This was a tragic comedy doing a high wire act between tragedy and comedy. Brian Jett did a great job with 4 strong characters, each with their own character arc, their own issues and their own way to resolving them. This is a comedy but not for the MTV crowd.
Blood and Bone (2009)
Can anybody tell me why this gem did not get theatrical release?
Had to see it one more time. Here's a lesson for young producers, writers and directors everywhere, a movie with Oscar nomination quality performances by Eamonn Walker and Nona Gaye, a heartfelt story masterfully directed by Ben Ramsey . This is not your typical martial arts action movie, it is really closer to 'Kill Bill' . Can anybody tell me why this gem did not get theatrical release? That was not a rhetorical question. Most of the actors fully occupied their characters. The protagonist might have been a one note superhero whose only Kryptonite was high moral and ethical values but it was flawlessly portrayed by Michael Jai White. The antagonist's complex character, played point on by Eamonn Walker is something we normally do not associate within this genre. Although there is violence, it worked because it was an integral part of the story.
Get the popcorn, Saturday Night Drive-In movies are back.
DELIVERED delivers the goods sum it all up.
This gem is a real heartfelt Indie crime thriller that did not let the modest budget get in the way of a great story. You can tell this movie was well planned and perfectly executed.
Michael Madison flawless direction takes you from one scene of the tightly written screenplay by Brandon Manbeck seamlessly to the next scene pulling crisp and dead on performances by an amazing cast. There were some scenes that made you think twice but they were well planted for a purpose to be revealed later.
I found this movie to be as enjoyable as many of my favorite films growing up and I have no problem recommending it to anyone.
Shane (Michael Madison) is a wounded veteran comes home to find his parent's home has been foreclosed and his widowed mother (Alana Stewart) close to being evicted.
Modest and unassuming with the endearing charm of a lost puppy Shane learns and grows quickly. Starts off wearing his father's hand me downs for job interviews and you can see and feel this character growing and gaining confidence as the story progresses. Promising to get his mother's home back he reluctantly takes a job as an armed courier for a shady private delivery service. Everything is going great until one delivery does not go as planned and there are some dire consequences.
We understand Shane's coolness as he does not go to pieces when thing go awry but one can't help feeling that under that calm exterior is a Jack Nicholson or Joe Pesci ready to explode any minute.
Shane's mother portrayed by Alana Stewart was reminiscent of Melissa Leo's Oscar winning role in THE FIGHTER. This tough, determined, and proud widow will not let the misfortunes life threw at her keep her down. She did her best to keep her son from knowing what she was going through. She went to work as a janitor keeping her head high by wearing her uniform with dignity and her make-up impeccable.
Jeanette Steiner is charming and surprisingly multi-dimensional as Cindy the woman in peril.
Toshi Toda's deliciously over the top performance as the gangster Katsuro was phenomenal as well as Tadamori Yagi as his coke head son.
Chic Daniels, Kenny Lombino, Brian McGuire, Yoshi Ando, Jesse Weinberg, Koji Wada round out the first-rate supporting cast.
Cinematographer Ricky Fosheim did a terrific capturing the spirit through excellent images, Production Designer Jennifer Nelson along with Wardrobe and Make-up by Tiffany Anguiano and Nancy Fregoso kept it real. I generally find movies where the leading actor is also the director as sappy, egotistical, and self-indulgent with the "Look at me, I am a big star now" kind of thing. Michael Madison would have none of that here. His laser like focus on the characters and story was clear from the beginning.
So many elements of DELIVERED reminded me of the fun drive-in movies of American International Pictures and Hammer Films with a little Robert Mitchum in YAKUZA (sans giri), Peter Falk in the 1962 THE PRICE OF THE TOMATOES, and Jim Brown in the SPLIT thrown in for good measure. While it would be easy to reference DRIVE, VANISHING POINT, or TRUE ROMANCE, even TO LIVE ND DIE IN LA, I think that the feel is closer to the 1955 THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS with John Ireland.
Here you have a well-crafted true to the bone Indie with an excellent story.
Linda Nelson and Michael Madison team made a small budget independent film with a heart of a lion.
Might be hard to find but it is well worth the search.
A Better Life (2011)
Heartfelf and real.
I like how Chris Weitz kept the focus on the characters and avoided the usual politics of the subject matter. This movie kept the audience riveted to the screen without resorting to usual polemics found in similar subject films. Personally I think this movie is closer to "El Norte" than "The Bicycle Thief", maybe a mix of the two but still authentic. Superb performances by most of the cast including Demian Bichir as Carlos Galindo, newcomer Jose Julian as Luis Galindo, Joaquin Cosio as Blasco, Bobby Soto as Luis' friend. Richard Cabral, Jason Medwin and Tom Schanleys played very believable, three dimension roles. Eric Eason and Chris Weitz did a great job on balancing keeping it real and entertaining at the same time. Carlos, a Mexican gardener in the United States illegally doing all he can trying to single handed raise a son in a vulnerable age at a vulnerable time. If you are looking for a warm and heart felt movie without the overblown melodramas then this is a most see.
Love & Other Drugs (2010)
Best rom-com I've seen in ages
What starts out as a typical rom-com ends up making some very powerful statements about life, love, pharmaceuticals and HMOs. The writing was incredibly tight and Edward Zwick's direction was flawless. I had a problem with Maggie at first but as this film develops she manages to win you over, scene by scene. Jake, Anne and Oliver were dead on. Hank Azaria nailed it as a doctor having to deal with today's realities in his practice, Josh Gad was wonderful even if his character did not had to be such a stereotypical side kick. About the thing that was a little force was Jamie's brother and even his character arc grew. This has to be one of the best romantic comedies I've seen since I don't know when. Intelligently writing, masterfully directed and superb acting makes me give it a must see.
Lovely, Still (2008)
A romantic tale for everyone.
Nick Fackler knocked "Lovely, Still" out of the ballpark. This is a love story at heart that engages you with humor, drama and honesty. Why this movie was overlooked by the Golden Globes, Oscars and SAG awards will be a mystery to me. I would vote it best Indie out there. Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn gave exceptional performances along with Adam Scott and Elizabeth banks. What we think at the beginning is a love late in life romantic comedy between a curmudgeonly elder and a lonely widow turns into a beautifully crafted compelling drama. We all had a father or dear uncle like Martin landau's character Robert Malone who late in life doesn't always seem to be all there. I highly recommended.