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I found "Prime" to hold a great deal of promise, mostly unfulfilled. It has the great Meryl Streep who in vastly underrused and the pretty and adequate Uma Thurman, who, in her mid 30's is still getting by more on her beauty than her acting. Finally, Bryan Greenberg (one of the trio of aspiring actors from HBO's fascinating but short-lived "Unscripted) really didn't bring much to the party. He did an average job of playing an average guy; no lows, and no highs either. This was a nice film with a sweet and gentle story, but let's not get carried away; there in nothing here to warrant "brilliant" or "great".
It is a nice little film, but yet another example of people doing OK work and receiving great accolades. If you enjoy it, great, just don't believe that there's anything outstanding here.
Elizabethtown misses its turn-off
First of all, I was looking forward to this film. Cameron Crowe has delighted and surprised me over the years. With "Elizabethtown", he really disappointed me. In summary, it is a film about failure and redemption that fails to find its own core. The ingredients were in place for an excellent film, but I got the impression that the story was written out of rough drafts, not a final revision. You can't help but see the similarities with "Jerry McGuire"; bright young designer in a sports-related industry fails fantastically, and into his life comes a beautiful and quirky young woman who (inexplicably) falls for him. With "Jerry McGuire' Renee Zellweger's character saw Jerry's passion, commitment and Don Quixote like quest for truth and honesty. Drew is supposed to be struggling with his conscience, his lack of a relationship with his dead Father, his battle between material success/failure and living a life of truth and integrity. We really don't see any of that in Orlando Bloom's Drew. In fact, I never felt any emotion coming from him at all; he is like the competent lead in a high school play. Promising, yes, but you won't see the pay-off in this performance. Likewise, the ever dependable Kirsten Dunst is given really weak material to work with. Crowe seems to want her to be a mix of Jean Arthur in a Capra film and a bit of Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine". As a result, she is stuck in a narrow bubble, not quite developed into anything you can find believable. Crowe gives her New Age lines like "You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard it"... that are supposed to be profound, but land flat and dull. For reasons unknown, Crowe has adopted the current director's gimmick of using his leading man to narrate the film (i.e. Don Roos in "Happy Endings' among others). Just like the over use of non-original soundtrack, this is very tiring due to its overuse and really violates the rule of "show-don't tell". Why not just pass out the all-too-predictable script? I'm sorry that this wasn't the film it wanted to be. I would be remiss for not applauding Susan Sarandon's superb scene at her husband's memorial. That gives you an idea of what "Elizabethtown" could have been. It's the highlight of the film! Just as "Garden State" was poor man's attempt at re-making "The Graduate", "Elizabehtown" failed at re-making "Jerry McGuire"- Crowe did it right the first time. This time, the magic just didn't blend.
Andrew Jenks, Room 335 (2006)
You Must See This Incredible Film!!!
I had the good fortune to see this documentary at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I cannot recall seeing a more human film. Quite simply it is beautiful and inspiring.
19 year-old Andrew Jenks decided to spend 6 weeks living in a assisted living facility in Florida. There, he and his two friends (and fellow filmmakers, Jonah Q. Pettigrew & Will Godel)recorded their experiences there, building relationships with people 4 and 5 times their ages. Incredible people, all with great strengths and flaws hidden within aging and failing bodies. You will become so enamored of the residents, that you'll feel that you know them.
The magic of this film is that there are no walls between the filmmakers and their subjects and neither is there any barrier between the audience and the film itself.
These young men made this film with respect, humor and dignity and it is so inspiring to see these courageous guys knock down the walls between generations and bring out the humanity of these all but forgotten seniors. It brought to mind the John Prine song, "Hello in There". This movie succeeds in breaking barriers between generations and you'll never look at old age in the same way again.
Do yourself a favor and see this very human, and very inspiring film!!!
First Rate Documentary about a First Rate Talent
I saw this superb documentary at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival. It is extremely absorbing and very well crafted, drawing you into the life and career of Harry Nilsson, one of the most overlooked musical talents of the 1960's and 70's. While I was familiar with his better known compositions ("One is the Loneliest Number", "Without You"), I learned about this man's brilliant writing and beautiful singing. If you love music, you'll find plenty to draw you in to his world, which unfortunately spiraled out of control as his success increased and his past haunted him. However sad, he nonetheless was completely devoted to his family and you will find yourself so glad to have met this man. The profile is effectively told through Nilsson's own words and those of his friends and colleagues (a virtual Who's Who of Rock)who loved and respected him. Don't miss this!
Dallas 362 (2003)
Good First Try, but...
...not quite the film that it aspires to be.
First of all, the cast is impressive, but too often they are underfed by the drawn-out story.
The performances are all solid, and Caan succeeds in getting you to be invested in caring about the characters.
However, the story is too thin and the attempts at humor really don't land. The previous poster is correct in that the second half of the film drags, and nothing that happens to the characters will come as a surprise to anyone.
There are clear elements in the story which will remind you of "Good Will Hunting" and "The Slaughter Rule", but the characters and actors all carve out their individual idnetities.
I was a bit surprised by the DVD interviews with the cast where they all talked about what a great script it was and how excited they were to do it.
The greatness that these established actors refer to doesn't show up in the final cut.
Having said that, I have to admire Scott Caan's ambition and belief in his work, which is quite evident. But to write, direct and act in your first film is an enormous undertaking and one that very few people outside of Woody Allen could expect to pull off. Yet, "Dallas 362" has strong elements of Caan's directorial talent on display, which I'm sure that he will continue to develop and expand upon.
Fever Pitch (2005)
Farrelly's Losing their Fastball?
As a baseball, Farrelly, and Barrymore fan, I was anxious to see this film. An accurate gauge of a movie's quality is how long it takes me to look at my watch. I resisted doing that until precisely one hour had lapsed in the film, but with little story progression. The script and direction is nothing like what we've come to expect from the Farrelly brothers. This film could've been a made for TV movie; the plot is so predictable, it could've been directed and written by a host of anonymous people. The sad part is that its not even a new direction for the Farrelly's (the way that "Stuck On You" retained some of their irrepressible outrageousness, while mining a nice new maturity). Its not even a bad imitation of their own work. Drew Barrymore is a can't lose actress; she makes this film worth watching through her understated acting and great charm. Jimmy Fallon is someone who while not bad enough to be offensive, is not strong enough to be the lead in any movie. It's hard to believe that the Farrelly's weren't more inventive with the story; truly, save your money and rent it if you must, but its hard to believe that this is the same team who brought us "Something About Mary" and even the underrated "Stuck On You" with great performances by Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon.
A word about "opportunity"...
I've read several comments criticizing "Spanglish" for perpetrating stereotypes about Anglos as being somehow evil, and Hispanics being foolish for allowing their children to bypass opportunities like spending the summer in a beach house in Malibu or attending an exclusive academy...
While I can see that on the surface, one may get that impression, I believe that there's more subtle forces at work in the story. Deborah (Tea Leoni) is a neurotic and deeply unhappy woman, who uses her cast-iron will to control and overpower everyone in her world. She quickly latches onto Cristina (Shelbie Bruce), the housekeeper's daughter, beautiful and brilliant, making her a surrogate child to remind her own daughter that she's overweight and by comparison, unattractive; a disappointment to her shallow and insensitive mother.
She then appropriates Cristina, taking her out for a "treat", but in reality, its Deborah disrespecting boundaries and seeking to insert herself between Cristina and her mother, Flor (Paz Vega). She is utterly dismissive to the offense taken by Flor, who correctly reads the power grab, and to the cruel slight to Berniece, her own daughter.
Despite Flor's assertive demand to not offer any more such manipulative "gifts" to Cristina, Deborah doggedly sets up a way to get Cristina into the exclusive academy her own children attend.
What is perhaps not obvious to someone not familiar with the Hispanic culture, is the reverence with which children are held. The beautiful intimacy and trust between Flor and Cristina is testament to that bond. Flor isn't fooled by Deborah's "generosity". She realizes that Deb is jealous of their bond, and uses every tool she has to insert herself in the relationship, blatantly using Cristina as a tool to tweak the noses of Flor and Berniece(Sarah Steele). Deborah isn't interested in Cristina's future; she uses anyone, anytime for her manipulation and control, all the time being the most out of control character in the story.
The story isn't about making Anglos look "evil" or Hispanics look "foolish". It is about people who make things more important than family, about letting go and trusting that there's something to hold onto, right in your own home.
This film is rarely screened (I saw it at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival in 2003), but run to see it if you get the chance!
A CBC interviewer caught Welles in his apartment in Paris (?) in 1960, before Welles realized that he was rapidly becoming unemployable in Hollywood. He had not yet descended into the permanent guest role he was forced into in the 60's and 70's doing magic and making small talk on variety and talk shows in America. At this time, he still had options, although they were mostly abroad. The Interviewer asks pertinent questions and listens carefully, allowing Welles to dispense his fascinating discourse without interrupting (like too many of today's interviewers).
Welles is full of surprises. He is still vital, hopeful and energized. He rejects the "genius" label:"I don't regard (Art) as the prime importance in life or at the expense of any other value in life. Friendship, citizenship, politics are above it . I do respect those who do they are the great contributors. I'm certainly not one of them I'm basically an adventurer..."
He speaks with great admiration and detail of legendary cinematographer Gregg Toland and how he made "Citizen Kane" possible, generously refusing to quash Welles "ignorance" about film making.
Without giving away too many of his brilliant reflections, let me strongly recommend this film to any artist, fan, film buff or thinking person.
Don't miss this Film!!!
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. If you liked "Buena Vista Social Club", then you'll likely love this film! It is the story of "Los Zafiros" (The Sapphires) an extremely popular Cuban vocal group of the 1960's and early 70's. They combined American doo-wop with influences from Cuba, and Latin American musical genres. The result is phenomenal harmonies, soaring leads and an infectiously fun and electric stage presence. The film tracks the rise of the group through interviews with friends, family and the 2 surviving members, one of whom still lives in Cuba, the other in Miami.
The director never gets in the way of the music or the fact that Los Zafiros vividly live in the hearts of Cubans to this day. When you hear their music, and see the vintage clips of their showmanship, you'll understand why they were often called Cuba's answer to the Beatles.
Miguelito and Manuel are the two survivors who tell the story of the group and deeply miss their 3 departed musical brothers. When Miguelito returns to Havana for their reunion, you feel as if you've traveled without leaving your seat. This culture of passion, joy, love, respect and tragedy is so inspiring that you'll want to buy a Zafiros CD and re-live the experience all over again. A perfect tribute to these marvelous musicians and their rich culture and passion for living.
Dreaming of Julia (2003)
Sweet film, true story...Worth seeing
I saw this film and heard the writer-director, Juan Gerard, speak at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival.
All I knew about it was that it was the story of an 8-year-old boy at the time of the Cuban Revolution in 1958 and how it affects his home and family.
Its opening scene will bring to mind "Cinema Paradiso". In fact, the film is filled with references to classic films: The Roulette Wheel (Casablanca), "chicken clucking" (Rebel Without a Cause), references to Bunuel, "Touch of Evil"; you'll find more. The homeless man (Georg Stanford Brown)is a reference to Cuban folklore which often uses a black man as a type of Greek chorus.
What this film really is is the culmination of a dream. Gerard's wish to honor his family and medium of film that he has loved all of his life.
This is the true story of Juan Gerard and all the people in it are real,as are the events depicted. Gerard is actually an architect and engineer (and passionate film lover) but his dream was to make this movie. He and his wife decided to live that dream and Harvey Keitel became an "angel" who believed in Gerard and agreed to produce and star in it. Keitel holds the screen powerfully as the mysterious and secretive grandfather "Che". Brown and Keitel are the only Americans in the cast. Iben Hjejle (High Fidelity) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Y tu Mama Tambien) offer strong support in key roles.
Truthfully, the first half of the film suffers from stiff delivery of lines, and some overracting, but stay with it. The last half is much better as the events of the revolution combine for the bittersweet, and honest climax. It is the first effort of Juan Gerard, but it is honest as he is and his passion and heart really come through,in this sincere first effort. I would definitely see it again, and hope that he continues his film career.