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StevePulaski

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
An unexpected horror film that became a low-key winner, 20 October 2014
8/10

The original 1976 "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" ranks as one of my favorite crime-dramas and horror films for its brilliant use of docudrama-style narration and editing, as well as its completely terrifying portrayal of an innocent town rocked by inconsistent and senseless murders, sending residents into a panic. In addition, the film combines my obscure interest of murders and murderers and fuels them into a film that works well under many different genres. The film profiled the mysterious murders by someone known only as "The Phantom Killer," who, for three solid months in 1946, terrorized the town of Texarkana, right on the border of Texas and Arkansas, committing gruesome murders or vicious attacks on the backroads of "lovers lanes." To this day, "The Phantom's" identity has never been confirmed and many believed that he walked the streets of Texarkana until his assumed death.

The new, 2014 film bearing the same name is less a remake or a reboot of the original cult film but more a strange, meta-sequel, concerning present-day Texarkana, a distinctly southern town that still has the blemish of The Phantom clear in its history. Once a year, on Halloween, the town shows the original 1976 film at a drive-in theater, only this year the showing incites another masked assailant, who is going around committing gruesome murders eerily similar to those decade ago. A high school-age girl named Jami (Addison Timlin) is the first to encounter the second Phantom Killer after witnessing her boyfriend being brutally murdered by him in a woodsy area on Halloween night. Now, Jami and another close friend attempt to track down the history of the original Phantom Killer, right down to the son of Charles B. Pierce, the director of the original "Town That Dreaded Sundown," in order to optimistically garner answers about the current Phantom Killer.

There are two issues with "The Town That Dreaded Sundown," both relatively minor in the broad spectrum, but worth mentioning as they are readily apparent. For starters, the film immediately loses the impact brought on by its predecessor because, in 1976, when the film was made, it was pragmatic to think that the man who committed the murders in 1946 would still be alive today, walking the streets of Texarkana. With that in mind, the film was an effective piece of work, resurrecting the ideas about the killer that were chilling to recall. The new "Town That Dreaded Sundown" obviously doesn't bear that same resonance, and, in addition, has an issue with the way it wants to show its town. The lingo, the look, and the feel of Texarkana in this particular film are all evidently modern, but the vehicles used could all be dated back to the seventies and beyond. Either Texarkana is a down that doesn't really age (which could very well be the case) or the true time period wasn't taken into full consideration.

Other than that, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" is a surprisingly effective sequel, informative enough to be considered a worthy piece of analysis into The Phantom Killer, dark and haunting enough to live up to the standard set forth by its predecessors, and not meta or self-referential enough to be a distraction or an annoyance. The film, like the 1976 film, understands its story and takes it seriously, and has no issue making the film dark and commendably frightening. Compare the murder scenes in this film to the murder scenes that took place in the original film, both of which made effective by the lack of music and their emphasis on realism. This particular film has no quibbles about making its murder sequences violent and horrifying, with one particular sequence at a hotel being entirely effective thanks to how much it wants to show and how gruesome it wants to be.

Even with all the violence and gruesomeness occurring, "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" still slows down to adhere to the story's history, even expanding beyond it in subjective realms that we truly question to be true or not. Scenes like the ones featuring a long conversation with Pierce's son, who is obsessive about letting the truth be known about The Phantom Killer, leave a little bit of ambiguity to a story already so peculiar and odd that we wonder if what is being examined has any substance to it outside of the screenplay.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon made probably the best thing that could've resulted from a continuation to the 1976 film's story, and, through dark direction and an uncompromising notion to depict brutality and horror in its most chilling sense, makes "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" a thoroughly enjoyable and enticing affair.

Proxy (2013/I)
Leads you in by curiosity and grips you by its ambition, 17 October 2014
8/10

At first thought, Proxy isn't a horror film because it doesn't concern elements we commonly associate with horror, such as serial killers, demons, and supernatural occurrences. However, it contains the horror elements some of us tragically face as human beings, such as rape, miscarriage, distrust, betrayal, and loneliness in such a way that makes for an experience thriving on fear and uncertainty. I love when films, independent or mainstream, go off on tangents and completely catch me off guard with their intelligence and craft.

We are first greeted with Esther Woodhouse (Alexia Rasmussen), a pregnant woman who, judging by the looks of her stomach, is very close to her due date, emerging from a clinic to only be savagely attacked by a random mugger. She suffers a miscarriage and is left physically deformed, and, due to obtaining the sperm from a sperm bank, has almost nobody to help her through her tragedy. On an off- the-cuff decision, Esther visits a support group for grieving parents, where she meets Melanie Michaels (Alexa Havins), who claims her husband and son were killed. Esther becomes close with Melanie, much to the dismay of Esther's jealous lover Anika Barön (Kristina Klebe).

This is all of the plot I'm willing to give away, for Proxy is one of those films where the line between basic plot summation and spoiler territory is so incredibly thin that another few words added to a sentence could spoil more of the movie experience. It doesn't matter, though, for I'm in the business of opinion and not synopsis. From the moment it kicks off, Proxy is potent and terrifying as a horror film, always engaging the viewer with elements of mystery and character insincerity and keeping them immersed by moving quite frequently and scarcely letting up. In addition, the performances, specifically Rasmussen and Havins, convey a detached and disconnected sense of reality that is almost necessary in a film where the audience is unsure of who is honest, as well as the characters themselves.

On top of that, there is a serious feeling of contempt and loathe that looms over the viewer with every scene, making this a deeper and more investing horror film than I initially imagined. The way the film plays with your emotions by taking numerous social tragedies and lumping together, not for shock, but for the sake of narrative potency and the near-personification of fear is just delightful. Director and co- writer Zack Parker (working alongside writing partner Kevin Donner) take their time to allow slowburn tension to develop, as Proxy occupies a liberally-used two hours, sometimes focusing on conversation, character interest, or events, depending on the current mood of the writers. At two hours, there is ample amount of time to spend on all these aspects, assuring we never get a thoughtful film that races by too quickly to even be analyzed.

Proxy's only issue is that not every performer can make the transition from disconnected to fiery and fuming with anger, most notably Joe Swanberg, one of my favorite directors, who has played low-key for so long perhaps his attempt at sudden rage just feels off-kilter for that reason. There is an understandable mixed reaction to Proxy for more than just its performances, but above all, like many films released under the IFC Midnight label, it's a nasty but thoroughly commendable piece of work illustrating fine- tuned components in a genre that so desperately needs not only some subversiveness but some age-old ideas done correctly rather than haphazardly.

Starring: Alexia Rasmussen, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe, and Joe Swanberg. Directed by: Zack Parker.

Godzilla (1954)
One of the only cases where we review and analyze an original work entirely different from its sucessors, 17 October 2014
8/10

Trying to convince somebody that isn't wholly invested in cinema, or somebody simply not willing to learn about the culture, that the first Godzilla film was actually a film littered with commentary and played nothing like the idea we all have in our heads about the towering monster is a daunting and almost thankless task in itself. Once you grasp the idea of a postwar Japan that was left demilitarized and financially and structurally battered, fearful of invaders, nuclear repercussions, and the country's future in terms of basic economic prosperity, the original, 1954 Japanese film (known as Gojira in Japanese) becomes a film ripe for thoughtful dissection and analysis by just your average cinephile or history buff.

Little needs to be explained in the way of the film's story, I feel, but the basic idea concerns the awakening of a towering behemoth thanks to prolific nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese are petrified of the destruction possible with this creature lurking around, find their government is content on hiding and obscuring facts related to the issue, and see a dissenting country in the mix of deciding what to do with the monster. While a good majority of the people, understandably, want this monster extinct and destroyed as soon as possible, Dr. Yamane Emiko (Momoko Kōchi) finds the possibility for research and analysis on Godzilla invaluable and has the ambition to try and capture him alive. Dr. Emiko is in the minority on this view, but he sees the long-term value in the creature, while the townspeople, acting on impulse and responding to an immediate conception of fear, want nothing to do with the creature.

This ignites an idea brought on by classic Universal monster movies of the 1930's and 1940's about humans' role in these man-made disasters, or whether or not humans have the responsibility to "play God" in any way. This idea, in conjunction with relativistic looks at the Japanese mindset in the 1940's and 1950's, after the repercussions of World War II, the basic elements of human fear, and what Godzilla metaphorically represents, are all relative in analyzing this particular piece, and it may indeed be the only franchise where the first film is looked at and critiqued in an entirely different light than its successors.

Following the boom of the Japanese film industry in the 1950's and 1960's, American activities such as golf were beginning to become prominent in Japan, along with the ubiquity of home Television sets, which saw exponential sales from a few thousands to two million during the mid to late 1960's. As a result, Japan's successful film industry became short-lived, as less and less people flocked out to the theaters due to the lack of popularity of the establishments comparative to the United States. The company that released Gojira, Toho and its director Ishirō Honda, began catering to the lowest common-denominator, not filling their follow-up efforts to Godzilla with thought-provoking commentary on Japanese culture and topical events, but instead, loading them with the kind of cheesiness and glitz expected to attract young children or a late-night audience. The Godzilla films became more concerned with the sounds-and-lights aesthetic, ridiculous and often ludicrous monsters that were totally geared towards selling action figures, and a line of comic books and video games to license the everlasting hell out of Godzilla name.

This kind of franchise and international ubiquity obscured the original film not only for its datedness but made its justifications for social commentary laughable to those uninformed about Japanese culture at the time . This is one of the many things licensing does to hurt a brand or product in the long-term sense, for it alienates consumers because they can't seem to escape it no matter which way they turn, but the reasons for the greatness of the original product become lessened or forgotten due to the constant influx of new material related to the original work.

Gojira may find itself crude in parts, with its assembly of miniatures optimistically passing off as a rogue monstrosity devastating a large community, or its evident aspects showcasing overacting, but it's nonetheless enjoyable on an entertainment level and thoughtful on a commentary-level. This is one of the few films that can be so relevant and topical while playing one of the most simplistic but effective instrumental tracks, and that in its own right is uncommonly beautiful.

Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura. Directed by: Ishirō Honda.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Illustrates a rule of thumb for comedies with punctuation in their titles, 15 October 2014
2/10

Bro, What Happened? is a throwaway, straight-to-DVD comedy that is so brazen in its insincerity as a comedy that it doesn't disguise it is practically a retread of The Hangover, right down to its credits, filled with images and videos recapping a party, and Superbad, with its two leads looking practically like the dopplegangers of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. The film plays like one of those sequels to a successful comedy that wasn't conceived until years after its predecessor's release, like Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation or Road Trip: Beer Pong, in look and presentation, where it seems producers just cast every young person they could find on large college campuses and shot it right in the middle of a weekend campus party.

The title of the film is the exact question I kept asking myself as I heard each failing joke, viewed each grotesque scene, or was subjected to an endless array of juvenile sight-gags involving such hilarious topics as anal sex and diarrhea. What happened to wit, the idea of characters, or the conception of concocting a film similar in mood and focus of the films this particular project seems so keen in trying to emulate? Rather than going straight for the punchline, why couldn't the director (who goes by the sole name of "Dante" and has his name on films like InAPPropriate Comedy and The Underground Comedy Movie for the record) and the trio of writers find the joys of depicting college life in a simultaneously realistic and humorous sense?

The film concerns two dolts who wake up one morning to realize that the best party of their life occurred last night but they cannot seem to remember anything about it. They wake up to find a man named "MF Bob" (Jamie Kennedy in one of his laziest roles to date) cooking bacon in the kitchen and a house destroyed, obviously meaning something totally wild took place last night. Furthermore, the one's girlfriend is coming to visit him in a matter of hours, but neither of them can seem to illustrate what took place the previous night. Thus, they need to be reminded by other individuals who didn't consume enough alcohol to experience short term memory loss, so most of the film takes place in flashback, recounting a night filled with drugs, alcohol, and debauchery.

Watching a comedy like this only reminds me why comedies like American Pie, The Hangover, and Superbad succeed so overwhelmingly compared to this. For starters, there's a story to latch on to in each one of those films, but there is also the element of character and focus in those films that reminds one of their own life or at least transports them into the lives of other characters with realistic issues. If we want to compare Bro, What Happened? to the film it wants to be, The Hangover for a younger crowd, just contemplate what the film lacks compared to it. Besides stripping the mystery down to being a perfunctory plotpoint, there are also no characters who fascinate because of their commonality (all of them function like the most empty-headed fratboys this side of the quad), there are little to no scenarios that utilize character to make their jokes or setups effective, and whenever the film feels desperate enough, it decides to incorporate sight-gags in hopes you'll smirk. The film is the definition of a cop-out comedy - a comedy that looks to find the easy way out of setting up a story or analyzing the anatomy of a joke in order to get to the joke.

Bro, What Happened? is just another interchangeable direct-to-DVD comedy, boasting talents like Jamie Kennedy and Bobby Lee on the front of their cover to include them in the film for performances just longer than a cameo, and continues to follow the trend set forth by Dude, Where's My Car?. That particular trend seems to be the more punctuation in a comedy's title, the dumber it has to be.

Starring: Daniel Skelton, Jamie Kennedy, Bobby Lee, and Lorenzo Lamas. Directed by: Dante.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A film that does more than want all of your headline space, 13 October 2014
8/10

I'm sure anyone who read my three scathing reviews of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" film franchise assumed I'd deliver a similarly scathing review to the film adaptation of the children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," a book that was read to me about fifteen to twenty times cover-to-cover when I was a child. Right off the bat, the film, judging from the marketing campaign's focus and trailers, was headed down the road of being a part of the "maximum antics, minimum laughter" subgenre, or the kind of children's film that is unsubstantial and dreadfully harmful to the attention span of its audiences.

I report back with a surprising amount of optimism; "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" is a thoroughly pleasant affair, greatly reminiscent of the kinds of films my generation grew up with, released in the nineties or early 2000′s. It has the right amount of geniality to appeal to kids of all ages, but the right balance of humor to remain surprisingly mature, in the face when so many jokes are made and could look to cater to the lowest common denominator of childish humor. The biggest problem with children's films nowadays is their impulsion to include extremely unnecessary amounts of bathroom humor, awful situational comedy, and cheap, inane sloganeering (see Nickelodeon's "iCarly" for the best example of this).

"Alexander" doesn't compromise at that, effectively finding the heart and natural humor of its situational comedy without trying to make it brazenly clear with an abundance of awful screen writing. Writer Rob Lieber is essentially writing this story on a terrain filled with mines and hazards, but finds the humor in the actual situation over what the characters could possibly say to further decorate or emphasize the current scenario. It doesn't overplay jokes, it moves with commendable fluidity through its barrage of "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad" events that span the course of a day, and, quite frequently, is laugh-out-loud funny.

The story concerns the Cooper family, made up of the family patriarch Ben (Steve Carell), who is seeking a new job, Kelly (Jennifer Garner), an author of children's books, Anthony (Dylan Minnette), the oldest of the couple's siblings, looking to get his license and attend prom with his inconsiderate, stuck-up girlfriend (Bella Thorne), Emily (Kerris Dorsey), who is looking forward to her starring role in "Peter Pan," the couple's infant toddler, in love with his bumblebee pacifier, and, finally, twelve-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), who's birthday happens to be the day the family experiences the day from Hell. For starters, everybody wakes up late with their own individual problem, and the worst possible circumstances plague this family so much so that Emily can only label the day as "cursed" over and over again.

The film progresses by showing each individual catastrophe unfold in a way that doesn't feel so much perfunctory as it does a screen writing exercise on behalf of Lieber to try and extract all the humor that can be brought out of a situation rather than the dialog that can be added in as it occurs. In addition, the film never tries to delude itself by justifying the events of the day as being some sort of "learning experience" or having the characters incessantly "look on the bright side" of things. The characters have no qualms admitting that the day has sucked, and little to no elements concerning self-delusion are ever proposed.

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" may have its missteps, as it sometimes oversteps the crude boundary in terms of how childish its dialog wants to be, but even that is buoyed by some rather risqué but good-natured material (including one uproariously funny zinger by Garner, which is only continued by Carell). The film is one of the most fun kid films of the year, but as somebody studying writing in college, we may need to talk about redundancy and an overuse of adjectives in the film's title, which may be the film's biggest issue. Anybody who can approach the ticket counter and say "One for 'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" without stuttering deserves a generous discount on their ticket price.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An act of adhering to what made one successful, 13 October 2014
8/10

For several years now, I have long admired filmmaker James Rolfe and his online series "The Angry Video Game Nerd" for a barrage of reasons. For starters, Rolfe and his "nerd" persona have single- handedly resurrected a low-key demographic of retro gaming, bringing it more into the mainstream, to the point where, I believe, he deserves some credit for etching the names of consoles like Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System into the vocabularies of this generation (hell, he was the direct motivation for me purchasing my NES and a library of games in 2011). His series, which, for over one-hundred episodes, picks a game from a classic console and critiques it in a manner that is extremely vulgar, often juvenile, but so well-written and slickly edited and produced that quickly becomes part of its charm. Rolfe, in addition, manages to remain so eloquent and informed despite sounding so graphic with his descriptions. "The Angry Video Game Nerd" remains a staple in some of my favorite internet-exclusive content.

"The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie" is a blatant, one-hundred and fourteen minute tribute to the fans that have kept this series going for an upwards of one-hundred episodes, and it's a damn fine tribute at that. It concerns our beloved Nerd, who is informed by his pal Cooper (Jeremy Suarez) that "Eee Tee 2" is in production, which will serve as a sequel to the infamous "Eee Tee" (not called "E.T." for presumed copyright reasons) video game for the Atari 2600, which is widely considered to be the worst game of all time. Despite being known for reviewing and ripping apart awful games from decades past, the Nerd has still not reviewed "Eee Tee" in any sense and is constantly badgered and reminded of his failure to do so.

Frustrated by the requests from his fans after persistent "no's" and disillusionment because he works a video game store, where businesses like Cockburn Industries, Inc. pester him to review their abysmal games, the Nerd faces a predicament of the highest order. On top of the multitude of requests to review "Eee Tee," Nerd is also sick of hearing about the rumored burial of hundreds of thousands of Atari 2600 cartridges after the commercial failure of "Eee Tee" among other things led to Atari going bankrupt in 1983. The Nerd, Cooper, and Cockburn executive Mandi (Sarah Glendening) embark on a trip to Alamogordo, New Mexico in order to see if the urban legend is true or not. The trio faces trouble when they are mistaken as extra-terrestrial hunters by General Dark Onward (Stephen Mendel), who demands the capture of the three.

As one can see, to take this material seriously would be not only an insult to one's intelligence but unfair to the film at hand. "The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie" makes about as much sense as the storyline to some of the horrendous Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis games the Nerd has made a career out of reviewing. With this, the film adheres to one of the Nerd's nods to his unexpected career and legacy, with the second nod is being the relatively low budge visual effects, greatly adhering to Rolfe's love for B-movies and classic monster movies from decades past.

Several reviews have criticized the film's poor special effects, which makes me question how well they know the online series. The series, from the get-go, has utilized poor special effects because of Rolfe's love for practical effects of computer generated imagery, and communicates an essence of amateur, home-video quality that is incredibly close to home. "The Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie" exercises those kind of cheap special effects on a larger scale in a way that adheres to the principles of his older episodes. If the film looked any glossier or more aesthetically accomplished, I have a feeling many would criticize it for being overblown and insincere.

Then there's the fact that if you're a fan of "The Angry Video Game Nerd," I struggle to see how one could be disappointed by the film at hand. From everything Rolfe stands for being included somewhere in the film, and an ending that will definitely satisfy any fan's appetite that has long been unrecognized, the film lives up to the web series and honors the principles of Rolfe's career accordingly. It's a fun, joyous romp through the glories of low-budget filmmaking, and a successful film adaptation of a series that still has a lot of uncharted territory.

The Judge (2014)
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A successful film in the regard it's sure to please its audience, 13 October 2014
7/10

"The Judge" is one of those films that with decidedly lesser and less passionate talent could've been a more evident hot mess than it already is. In its current form, however, it's a rare hot mess that succeeds mostly because of the audacity and chemistry of its performers, on top of the entertaining content it provides us, despite its lengthy runtime (one-hundred and thirty-seven minutes minus credits).

The film concerns Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.), an immensely successful, arrogant Chicago lawyer, who returns to his hometown of Carlinville, Indiana for his mother's funeral, leaving behind an unsatisfied wife who wants out of their marriage and a young daughter who knows a bit too much for her age. Upon returning to Carlinville, Hank reconnects with his two siblings and realizes all the reasons him and his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), have severed all ties to each other. Hank detests his father for not just his stubborn and sometimes vague natures, but his crooked sensibilities that often come off as brash and inhuman.

Hank realizes he'll have to extend his stay in Carlinville when his father is suspected of murdering a man he sent to prison some years ago. After a long, emotional night at his wife's funeral, Joseph wakes up to find his car scratched with blood in the front-grill that matches the blood of the victim he hit, who was riding on the street on a bicycle. After being granted the ability by Joseph, Hank now has to go about defending his father, as he is up against the equally-renowned prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton).

I cannot proceed further into analysis until I recognize the beauty of Downey, Jr. and Duvall's chemistry and their individual performances. Both actors convey such a natural feeling of stubbornness and gusto that, when both men are in the room together, often occupied by tense arguing or bickering, "The Judge" electrifies the audience. Downey, Jr., even as he nears fifty, occupies the sensibilities and the mindset of a cocky frat boy in the best possible way, and Duvall, in his early-eighties, finds commendable energy in his role as the judge-turned-convict. When put together and given personalities that the men can convey in their sleep (Downey Jr.'s cocky, holier-than- thou attitude and Duvall's all-knowing attitude but occasionally vague intentions), the film explodes on screen.

Then there's the man who is likely going to get little praise, due to his minimal involvement until the final act of the film, Billy Bob Thornton, doing the best Billy Bob Thornton performance possible. You know the type: confident, but not foolishly cocky, well-spoken, with a humble southern drawl, and groomed but mannered method to his madness. Right off the bat, we have three incredible talents gracing the screen at one time, which almost makes us forget how average and often cluttered the story really is.

"The Judge" suffers from the classic issue of having too many subplots. In my plot summation, I mentioned two (the divorce and the murder trial), yet that doesn't even scratch the film's surface of how many bases it attempts to hit. Aside from trying to play up the "father never loved me" storyline, "The Judge" attempts to build so much around the life of Hank that it can't keep up. We have a divorce, the rekindling of an old relationship, a possible deadbeat dad situation, a vague future, and that's not even considering the subplots and other features plaguing the other characters, like Joseph and his other two sons. There is simply too much occurring in "The Judge" to effectively appreciate everything it has to offer.

Then there's the fact that the courtroom scenes of the film, unlike in "Flight," back in 2012, which proved not to be something they were ostracized as prior to the film's release, which find themselves too lost in the affinity of theatricalities rather than realism. By this point, the whole film has taken a realistic, human focus to its story, and to see "The Judge" take on brazen obviousness in the way of courtroom shouting and disobedience finds ways to be offputting at times.

Nonetheless, "The Judge" is, above all, an audience's film, meaning that most people who go to see this film will, in turn, love it, and find themselves reflecting on life, their family, and themselves. I'd be lying if I said this film didn't hit personal chords, depicting a troubled relationship between father-and-son that I have encountered in life countless times, with attitudes and stances greatly mirroring my own reality. For this reason, among the fact that the film's performances are truly something to take in and the film's human interest never loses sight despite a heavy dependence on storyline, I'm recommending "The Judge" to people as a solid piece of adult drama with a modern, human focus; we hardly ever get those anymore by someone who's name isn't Alexander Payne.

A misstep of an introduction, 9 October 2014
5/10

Take a Chance is a landmark in not Lloyd's filmography but silent cinema in general, as one of the era's most recognizable characters was born. Take a Chance was the first film that had Lloyd adopt his signature "glasses" character, the goofy but lovable character who always found a way to get involved in sticky situations. Unfortunately, the short feels very much half-baked, almost as if Lloyd was more excited for the potential of his character that he threw together a short so that he could have something of an introduction rather than a competent project.

The short is a classic love story about Lloyd's character falling in love with a particular woman and finding ways to lose her and have himself succumb to bitter jealousy because of the man she's really in love with. Even for the early days of film, this seems like standard fare. At any rate, the short does have one great scene, which comes early in the one-reeler, where Lloyd is riding in the back seat of a vehicle, with his crush in the passenger seat and her particular lover driving (played by the likes of Bebe Daniels and 'Snub' Pollard, respectively, Lloyd's go-to characters of the era). The scene involves Lloyd mixing ways with both characters, either by kissing his lover or slapping her lover, causing a front-seat dispute amongst the two characters, with Lloyd sitting back and appearing innocent. This is a classic in silent film setups, and gives the "glasses" character a mischievous side, introducing him rather effectively.

Take a Chance, however, spirals downhill because of its major concern with trying to drum up slapstick humor and ridiculous setups rather than establish wit or character investment. There's nothing wrong with slapstick comedy but, unless you have great performers or circumstances that find a way to subvert themselves, you're basically poking and prodding schtick until it becomes overbearing and dry, which is what happens here. Nonetheless, more fun would be had when Lloyd found more interesting and exhilarating things to do with his newfound character in the next chapter of his particular career.

Starring: Harold Lloyd, 'Snub' Pollard, and Bebe Daniels. Directed by: Alfred J. Goulding.

A start to Lloyd's invaluable zaniness, 9 October 2014
8/10

Look Pleasant, Please is one of the early Harold Lloyd shorts, where the comedian adopted his signature "glasses" character, who, while consistently well-meaning, always found a way to get into trouble and waltz into sticky situations. Here, he plays a man who is victim to a cruel misunderstanding when a photo studio operator ('Snub' Pollard), who's prime interest is flirting with his female customers, takes a pass at one of his female clientele (Bebe Daniels) and goes too far. She phones for her husband, who agrees to come down and rough up the photographer, but when the photographer lends his job over to Harold in a panic, he now becomes the unintentional target for the woman's brutish husband.

There isn't a great deal to say about Look Pleasant, Please other than its own look is rather unpolished and quite manic but not to any particular fault. It moves, it's kinetic enough to be entertaining, but it also stops and recognizes setup is key overall, never loaning too much of its energy to slapstick, although finding a time and place for it. Lloyd is a thoroughly watchable talent, frantic and bearing enough energy for the entire cast of characters, and clearly loves what he's doing every step of the way. The short is sweet and cheerful and, in its own right, a staple to what the late 1910's cinema was all about.

Starring: Harold Lloyd, 'Snub' Pollard, and Bebe Daniels. Directed by: Alfred J. Goulding.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A necessary magazine, an acceptable film, 9 October 2014
6/10

The 50 Year Argument, the new documentary codirected by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi, opens with a tender and hard-hitting monologue about the subjectivity of journalistic stories due to the impossibility of the human mind being able to objectively record and store memories from our lives. Because of this mental improbability, we rely on stories we tell ourselves or stories we read in newspapers or online to receive our information, and we use that as the makeup for our opinions and our ideas about the world. This monologue was taken from an article written by Oliver Sacks from "The New York Review of Books" in 2013 and it sets the right tone for the documentary, which serves as a ninety-minute history of the publication.

"The New York Review of Books" has been a cornerstone for literary criticism and opinion on social and political ideas since 1963. We learn how, from the get-go, the magazine was never interested in denoting a bias or acting as a politically involved piece of literature in a sea where numerous other publications fulfill that same need. Instead, the magazine decided to be a haven for well-written, intelligently-researched and organized publication catering to those who love literature, classic and contemporary, and those who enjoy reading well-articulated, eloquent editorials on social and political ideas. The magazine, we see, is almost like a coffeeshop on the pages of a book, minus the aroma of coffee and the environmental perks of a social resting place; it's a collection of editorials by readers for readers and its essays have gone on to be highly-regarded pieces of criticism.

The 50 Year Argument shows the magazine's emergence during the bitter writers strike and Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's to become a beloved source for thought-provoking ideas to flourish. For starters, at only ninety-one minutes, there's an evident amount of rushing present to try and hit all the main points of the magazine's history, making the film feel like a greatest hits compilation of sorts. This means that no singular news story can be developed in its entirety, which allows for more topics to be mentioned and analyzed, but not enough to truly make one seriously contemplate any specific issues.

In addition, The 50 Year Argument occasionally becomes redundant, as it is basically a montage of talking heads discussing the magazine's significance, rather than developing on specific issues or how exactly the magazine is put together. Scorsese and Tedeschi desperately try to make sure every writer and editor is included in the film that it isn't until the film is over that you realize you really can't identify anyone else in the film except for Robert Lane, the magazine's chief editor.

The 50 Year Argument will no doubt be embraced and thoroughly enjoyed by loyal readers of "The New York Review of Books," and the magazine really deserves a film to analyze and state its significance and its role in many different news stories since the early 1960's. Yet, despite the generous runtime and the admirable attempt of inclusion, I can't help but feel this was an exercise much too lengthy for its own good.

NOTE: The 50 Year Argument will air throughout the month of October 2014 on HBO.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi.


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