Reviews written by registered user
rbsteury

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15 reviews in total 
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12 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Tedius beyond description, 1 August 2015
2/10

As I overheard someone going out of its showing at the Traverse City Film Festival saying "That was fricking torture." A story about an unlikable slacker going nowhere, the movie is filled with people uttering painfully unfunny lines. At first the packed theater politely laughed and by the end of this pointless 75 minutes the audience was dead silent (or asleep). I won't dwell on the plot because there is none. Sorry if I sound angry but it was a wasted evening and $24 for my wife and me.

How sad that Olympia Dukakis has let herself sink to the level of appearing in a movie this banal. Jason Schwartzman's pug Arrow is the only star that earned his pay.

Stay away. (2/10)

Rich Hill (2014)
20 out of 59 people found the following review useful:
Wanted to Like It But Just Couldn't, 3 August 2014
5/10

My wife and I both looked forward to seeing this at the Traverse CIty Film Festival. Living in an impoverished area of Michigan makes us have first-hand compassion for those who have so little. But this movie seemed to us to be little more than a repetitive and depressing look at families going nowhere. There was absolutely no arc in the documentary study of 3 young boys who ended up with little more knowledge or ability to cope at the end of the film than when it started. No one seemed any wiser or less clueless.

The film follows 3 young boys (why not at least one girl??) and, unfortunately, two are clearly psychiatrically challenged. Only Andrew seems to have some ability to logically analyze his sad situation and the failures of the adults around him. Harley is "scary" unbalanced emotionally with huge outbursts of violence (especially so, when one sees him fondling knives in a store and knowing he will soon be legally able to purchase guns). Appachey is very similar. Both have completely unrealistic expectations of their future.

It is hard for me to understand that the filmmakers say they come from this area and know this poverty firsthand. I see the working (and non-working) poor everyday as a physician who sees such patients. There are a few who resemble these boys and their families but most do not. When viewers see the families in this film continuously chugging down high-caffeine drink (and with the adults, beer), and chain- smoking, while playing video games day and night, it makes it pretty hard to be sympathetic. The poor in my practice hunt, fish, spend time with their kids, and basically do the best they can. These parents lay in bed all day and call the truant officers when their kids become too much for them. The images presented here just seems so far from the reality I have seen in my patients living in poverty.

And, as I said, no arc and no story is being told except that these people are living an existence they are unlikely to ever escape. We were very disappointed.

Silver Bells (2013) (V)
9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A little cheesy but fun…, 21 December 2013
7/10

Each year I search for a Christmas movie with a Christian slant appropriate for the youth in the youth group my wife and I voluntarily lead. We've done all the big ones ("The Nativity Story", "It's a Wonderful LIfe") and some smaller gems ( "The Ultimate Gift" and the wonderful, under-appreciated "Noelle") but other than those we often are desperate for something that is not a completely cheesy Hallmark type movie with a nod towards the Christ story. Last year I used clips from old "ER's" which always had emotional and impact-full Christmas episodes.

This movie is a little cheesy but lots of fun. For me, living in central-western Michigan, it has the allure of being shot in and around Grand Rapids with several local venues being shown. It is also a big plug for the Salvation Army, which is a very deserving organization (and also K- Mart which is, altruistically speaking, less deserving.)

The story revolves around a local, hyper-competitive sports reporter (Will Dalton played a little over-the-top by Bruce Boxleitner) and his family consisting of his spouse and two children (his son Jason is played by Kenton Duty who does a great job.) Antonio Fargas as Melvin Lowell, a Major in the Salvation Army is also very winning.

Will gets in trouble by carelessly but accidentally injuring a ref in his son's high school basketball game when he vociferously protests the ref's decision. This ultimately loses the game for his son, who quits the team in humiliation, and their father-son relationship suffers. In addition the referee presses charges for his (minor) injuries and Bruce must do humiliating (for him) community service by bell ringing at a Salvation Army kettle. Further, because his embarrassingly uncontrolled behavior has gone viral on social media, he loses his anchor spot at his work. There are some very funny developments and under the tutelage of Major Lowell the "go-for-the-win" Bruce begins to realize Christmas means more than who has the best home decorations or even who can raise the most money at his Christmas kettle.

There is also a side story about a Central Michigan University football player who has just won the Heisman trophy. Obviously, this part of the plot is a complete fantasy given the big money and politics involved in who wins the Heisman. Somebody involved in this film is pretty clearly a CMU alum as there are Central Michigan banners up all over the place and nary a Michigan State University or University of Michigan appearance. I am an alum of both MSU and U of M but good for the little guys!

The Christian content is gentle but central to the theme, so those who object to such proselytizing may dislike this film. But the main theme is very humanitarian and charitable, focusing on what Christmas SHOULD be about rather than what it so often is.

Silver Bells was obviously shot on a very low budget and apparently released direct-to-video, and that sometimes shows. But it was indeed filmed during the winter season and the snowy scenes look very real. Some actors deliver their lines more convincingly than others but overall the acting did not make me roll my eyes. For an evening of smiles and basic truths being re-enforced, you could do a lot worse.

22 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Sobering but entertaining with wonderful people profiled, 2 March 2013
9/10

My wife and I downloaded this from iTunes today and were so impacted by the film. The film follows several people of different races and backgrounds, urban to the South to the mountains of Colorado. All are working (as the film goes on) but none make enough to buy enough food to be sure it will last all month. Many of them do not even qualify for food stamps/bridge cards. The fact that the poor and hungry have little lobbying impact in Washington compared to the gigantic agribusiness flood of money is clearly part of the reason we see this dilemma where the richest large nation fails miserably in keeping its working poor feed. Please see this film if you care about this issue. Many of your opinions may turn out to be misconceptions founded on stereotypes.

As for Marc Newman's criticism, the idea that charity organizations like food kitchens and food banks sponsored by churches (yes, those clips of devoted pastors and churches were kept in and were very impressive) could solve this problem is ludicrous. We are talking about 50 million people and 13 million children. As my pastor (who is VERY conservative) says... the problem is overwhelming. There is no way volunteer and charitable organizations can meet the demand, and for Mr. Newman to suggest it could makes me wonder if he has ever worked at trying to get food to the poor. Many of us have done so and we know how huge this problem is... far beyond the resources of the faith community. As was noted in this documentary, the government once before almost totally eliminated hunger (in the late 70's) when both Democrats and Republicans (including Ronald Reagan) made it a priority. The government could do it again if it desired.

Compliance (2012)
164 out of 198 people found the following review useful:
Unpleasant to watch but important, 3 August 2012
8/10

I saw this today at the Traverse City Film Festival. About 1/4 of the audience walked out before the film ended. I do not disagree that the movie is difficult to watch, but I think you can hardly review a movie where you walked out without seeing the entire film. This film makes an important and real point... that many of us will, when listening to what we assume to be an authority figure, do things which we know are wrong. It also has two characters who say in one way or another "No, I will not do this." Bravo for them and may each of us feel empowered to do the same, if not by our own ethical standards, then by viewing this movie and realizing how devastating the consequences can be.

One would like to be able to say "No one could be so stupid" but the fact that this type of event (involving, reportedly, even more degrading assaultive behavior than portrayed in this film) has happened repeatedly in this country (over 70, according to the closing credits) shows that wish to be untrue. I hope every young person will view this film and be brave enough to refuse any authority figure who makes demands on them which seem to go beyond the bounds of the law and good sense.

And don't ever talk to a law officer in detail without your attorney being present (and no, I am not a lawyer.)

Ethel (2012)
14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Engaging Biography of a Woman with Few Faults, 3 August 2012
9/10

I just saw this at the Traverse City Film Festival. I am not a Kennedy aficionado, having some reservation about the morals of the family. But what I learned about Ethel made me admire her as possibly one of the great political wives of my time. Directed by her youngest child, Rory, the film primarily consists of an interview of Ethel and input in similar fashion from her remaining children.

Ethel is a delight; funny and insightful. Supplemented with a great deal of historical footage, it is obvious how much she loved Robert and how she influenced first him and then, after his assassination, their children. Her life was devoted to her husband, her family, her strong faith and her feeling that she had an obligation to give back to her country for her high-born status. But in addition to this, she could be acerbic, comedic and at times outrageous resulting in several political embarrassments for Robert when he was yet living. She makes few apologies. She is a real national treasure and this film gives a great appreciation for her life of quiet dignity and service. Don't miss it.

26 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
A Surprisingly Well-Balanced Study of Social Activism, 25 August 2011

I saw this film this July at the Traverse City Film Festival. Actually, I was dragged there by my daughter (who is much more of an activist concerning environmental issues than am I.) I generally avoid environmental documentaries because many times they paint a very black and white view of the issues. This film is an engrossing and gratifying exception.

The film follows former Earth Liberation Front (ELF) activist Daniel McGowan from his arrest by the FBI as an "environmental terrorist" through his legal efforts to avoid a life sentence. Even though his actions only resulted in destruction of property without loss of life or even physical harm to living creatures, the government was determined to make an example of Daniel and a few others of the formerly close-knit group. For many years they had no leads in ELF's membership and the crimes (destroying -- primarily by arson -- ranger stations and businesses that they considered destructive to the environment). They only cracked the case 5 years after the organization had disbanded by treating it as a "cold case." At that time, the FBI serendipitously uncovered information which led to the identification of one of the more hard-core and less altruistic members of the group who then turned informant on the rest of the members, which resulted in his doing no jail time at all while his fellow conspirators faced life sentences. Unfair, but not uncommon in our system of "justice."

Daniel McGowan is a city-raised young man from New York who became infatuated with environmental activists, participating in their peaceful and legal protests. Upon seeing the foolish and counterproductive hard-nosed repression of those protests by government and police agencies, he decided to throw his lot in with others in ELF and resorted to property damage to make corporations and the government "feel the pain" of their policies.

Here is where the documentary becomes wonderfully balanced, allowing the pursuing government agencies their frustrations and those property owners who had been attacked to voice the disruption and anxiety that ELF caused in their life. At times, ELF acted on faulty information which resulted in businesses being attacked who were completely innocent of the policies ELF felt were destructive to the earth.

Daniel himself comes off as idealistic and frustrated, but often misguided and gullible. As his life progresses, he becomes wiser about some of his decisions and regretful of the destruction in which he participated and how the consequences of that destruction was often (but not always) negative to the environmental movement. However, after his arrest he would not testify against his fellow ELF members (one of the few) and therefore received some of the harshest punishment. One can find some sympathy for him, especially with the idea that he was equated in the justice system with terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh or the 9/11 terrorists, although he never physically harmed any living being.

But the prosecutors are also portrayed in a generally positive light, with one saying at the end of the film (to paraphrase) that he was old enough to understand that not everything is black and white... that life is much more complicated than that. He said that once he understood where Daniel came from and why he believed as he did, he could understand why he might make the decisions he did, wrong-headed as they were. Such enlightenment being shown by our government officials is somewhat unusual.

The co-directer, Sam Cullman, who held a Q&A after the screening at Traverse City, said this is "A" story of ELF, and not "The" story, and I think that is well-stated. The organization probably has many stories as each member had his or her own motivations.

The larger question remains... if faced with a resistant and unresponsive establishment, how is change effected? This film adds to that discussion in a balanced and educational, but compelling way, making it one of the best docs about tactics used by social and environmental movements. 9/10

14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful Documentary Made Primarily from Old Archival Materials, 30 July 2011
9/10

I just saw "The Loving Story" this afternoon at the Traverse City Film Festival. The film is moving and inspirational, illustrating that sometimes even poor and minimally educated people can obtain justice within our court system. The story is straightforward and the ending is known, but the still photos and interview footage (some just recently discovered) of Richard and Mildred Loving shows a very genuine and touching relationship between them and their 3 children. Their quiet dignity in the face of racist laws and attitudes is inspirational. The ACLU once again is shown to be a force for justice to which people without money or power can turn.

We were not lucky enough to have the Loving's daughter Peggy present (as was the case for aegriffin at Tribeca) but the director and writers Nancy Buirski and Susie Ruth Powell were here for a Q&A. Their story of how this documentary came to be is entertaining and emotional. The idea that this film should have been used (as suggested by another reviewer) as an "opportunity to investigate the legal process" leaves me puzzled. Unless one is an attorney, the film presents as much about the legal process as one would reasonably want to know. It is not a legal treatise, but rather a story of a couple in love who would not back down from what is right, and an affirmation that the US legal system can (in time) bring about a just outcome on some occasions.

Everyone I saw it with gave this documentary their highest rating. You will not regret the time spent viewing this heart-warming slice of civil rights history. Kudos to Ms. Buirski & Powell.

And Ms. Buirski did mention that the documentary will be shown on HBO in February 2012. I certainly plan to watch it again at that time. 9/10

The Penny (2010)
4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
I Wanted It To Be Good, 16 July 2011
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I watched this on DVD tonight hoping against hope that it would be on the level of "Facing the Giants" or even "To Save a Life." As Christian youth group leaders, it would be great to have another movie to recommend to our youth as a realistic portrayal of how difficult living life without Christ can be or one that assists them in their Christian life by bringing a deeper understanding of how God works in our life.

Unfortunately, the film was not a good experience. We stuck it through till the end but only with difficulty. I am amazed at the film's present rating on IMDb (7.9) and would have to think that there is some funny business there. There is no way this movie can hold its own among any other movies rated in the high 7's of which I am familiar.

The tortured story starts with the death of a cop (in a completely unconvincing scene) many years previously which apparently lead to the dead cop's partner (Tom Lodewyck as Jack Carter) leaving the police force and becoming a mailman. (The movie skips ahead here -- a decade? -- but some people apparently age -- like Carter's kids -- and some do not -- like Carter himself who looks exactly the same.)

There are all kinds of story lines scattered the rest of the way, most of them totally unconvincing. Some of them are a wife who is ill with a chronic cough (and, by the way, that story line is never resolved and is mentioned ever so briefly in the last third of the movie), a daughter who feels unloved but whose relationship with her father is quite suddenly (and unconvincingly) repaired in the last reel, an exceedingly bitter husband getting a divorce from an unfaithful but repentant wife to whom he shows not the slightest ounce of grace or forgiveness (not even when the film has ended), a kid who survived the initial shooting but is a video-game playing bum, and a "bad" girl (we know because she wears way too much makeup) who steals money and in the end gets her just deserts by being killed in an auto accident (that's the Christian spirit). Most of the teens in the movie are mean thugs or shallow idiots... obviously writer/director Nathan Webster does not think our youth are a very good bunch.

All of these story lines are somehow connected by a bent penny that plays a key role in the final showdown. But what that has to do with any Christian message is pretty far-fetched. Something about (after Jack gazes up into the sky with a radiant smile) "Some call it fate or destiny. Others just bad luck or even coincidence. Me... I call it Providence, because that's who it is." Real heavy, man. That will bring in a lot of believers. In fact, the only way we know these people are Christians is that occasionally they pray before meals or bedtime (with their kids), read the Bible before going to bed, and say things like "God has a plan." But then, they can castigate a receptionist at their physician's office of ripping them off for all the tests being ordered on their wife (as if the receptionist were to blame)... no problem with that lack of charity or understanding.

For those interested in the Christian theology that (I think) the movie was trying to put forward, it is of the "Everything happens for a reason" variety. If you really believe that popular maxim that recently every pro athlete and movie star allows to glibly flow from their mouth (and is found nowhere in the Bible) you should read Chapter 6 of Larry Osborne's wonderful little book "10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe."

The one good thing about the movie was the acting of Molly Kunz as Jack's daughter. She steals every scene she is in and is about the only actor in this movie who delivers lines as someone would actually say them in real life, rather than as stiff as 3 day old toast.

I guess I will show my youth group "To Save a Life Again." 3/10 rbsteury (Sheridan, MI) 16 July 2011

Antychryst (2002)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Hopelessly Pretentious, 20 October 2010
2/10

A thoroughly unlikeable and unpleasant "short" that drags on for almost a half hour. The plot (or what is submitted as a plot) deserves about three or four minutes and the rest is tedium.

If you can not figure out where this is going in the first three minutes you have no imagination. The four characters are completely superficially portrayed but behave as if theta were quoting Shakespeare. I kept watching (for what seemed like hours) thinking there must be some redeeming surprise ending. (Don't hold your breath)

Do yourself a favor and don't waste your time on this exercise in the banal.


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