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About as pleasant and enjoyable as gargling with razor blades!, 25 June 2016

I know that among film snobs that the films of John Cassavetes are considered amazing works of art. And, of all of Cassavetes films, this is his most famous because it was nominated for two Academy Awards. Yet, despite this and some very positive reviews, I felt that watching this film was like SLOWLY chewing on broken glass! It was thoroughly unpleasant and seemed to be in need of massive editing. As a play, this might have a film, I see it as something that the average film viewer couldn't possibly enjoy.

The film consists of what appear to almost be home movies that last a very, very long time. The camera work is better than home movies but the graininess of the print and the complete lack of even minor editing made it seem like a movie not yet ready for the movies. There isn't a lot of story. Instead it's full of scenes were Gene Rowlands screams and yells--acting at times like she's mentally ill but at others like she's just a very nasty and occasionally self-destructive person (more like a person diagnosed with a Borderline Personality Disorder than anything else). And, as for her husband (played by Peter Falk), mostly he's impassive...until he blows up and screams at her. If you like this sort of thing as well as knowing that it is an art house favorite, you'll probably enjoy the film. As for me, it was a major chore to finish it.

A fascinating discussion of the early days of sub warfare in WWII as well as the fate of one lone U-boat., 25 June 2016

Documentaries about WWII are a dime a dozen, as tons of programs about it fill up American cable TV. After all, much of it is made up of old footage and they're cheap to make. However, because there are so many of these shows, it's hard to care about any of them. But in the case of "Nazi Attack on America" the program is not only unique but has a depth to it that make it a must-see.

The program begins with a bit of a history lesson about the German submarine program in the early days of WWII. This leads to the discussion of U-166 and its mission to sink ships along America's Gulf Coast in 1942. The damage it wrought as well as its own fate wrap up this portion of the the wreck of this sub was discovered by accident a few years ago.

What follows is a thorough scientific investigation by the world famous Robert Ballard and his team. Using two robotic subs, they review video of the wreck of U-166 as well as employ a super high tech imaging system to figure out what sank the ship. How all this went to then right a wrong committed by the Navy brass back in 1942 is what make this show really fascinating...but I don't want to ruin the surprise...just watch the show.

This is a really good series...and I never thought I'd see an episode this bad!, 24 June 2016

Since "The Lost Silk Hat" was only the third episode of an otherwise fantastic series, I guess I can overlook how bad this one is...but it really, really is stupid. I can see why Ronald Colman was not asked to write further episodes of "Four Star Playhouse"!

The film begins with a fancily dressed Colman leaving some fashionable British home. However, he forgot his hat inside and cannot bring himself to go back because apparently he promised NEVER to return after having a fight with the lady who lives inside. So, he keeps approaching strangers--asking them to sneak inside and retrieve the hat. This make no sense nor do any of the characters he meets--they are just bizarro goofballs. In fact NOTHING about the show makes any sense at all...and it strains all credibility that anyone could behave like these folks. Ill-conceived and not the least bit entertaining. And a waste of a good actor...though it's his fault he was in such a turkey!

Offside (2006/I)
Yet another film banned in his own homeland., 24 June 2016

Jafar Panahi is a talented filmmaker who was punished by the Iranian government for making films which were unacceptable to the religious zealots running the country. As a result, he's been banned from making films and is stuck there...but he STILL makes the occasional film despite the ban. One of his many banned films is "Offsides" and I can only assume it was banned because it questions the new rules that say that women are not allowed into sporting events to see them. The story is about a group of women who have disguised themselves as men in order to see a soccer game...and many of them are caught! But what's to become of these brave women? See the film and find out for yourself.

This story by Panahi is similar to most of his other films because it looks less like a fancy movie and almost as if Panahi and his crew simply filmed real events. There are no sets...they film at a stadium and appear to have used some soccer match as an occasion to make the film. It's an economical way to film and worked very well in this case.

So what radical message was the director trying to get across with this particular movie? Well, it's all about women trying to sneak into a World Cup qualifying soccer match by dressing up as men. It seems that in Iran, women are not allowed to even sit amongst the men or in women only section but are condemned to watch the match on television. These women, while radical for their sneaking in, are an interesting contrast as they are still rabidly pro-Iran and cheer madly for the team and never say anything against the status quo...they just want to see the game. My wife was surprised and said it was odd that they would choose something as mundane as a sporting event in order to take their stand for equality...and she's right. And, to me that is what made this such an exemplary film. It can be small ways in which sexism can be addressed....and using humor and likable characters, Panahi has constructed an engaging film and possibly one of his very best pictures. Well made and simple...yet in its way wildly subversive.

Wildly uneven...and I wanted to like it more than I did., 23 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Among the wildest, weirdest and most creative filmmaking countries are the Japanese. I love the strange and very funny films I have often seen from this movie-making juggernaut. Sure, they have made a lot of sophisticated and artsy film by the likes of Ozu and Kurosawa...but they also have brought us films like "Happiness of the Katauris" as well as the ultra-weird films of Minoru Kawasaki. "Happiness of the Katakuris" is a hilarious zombie musical from Takashi Miike...possibly my favorite Japanese comedy. As for Kawasaki, his films got far beyond this in strangeness...such as "Executive Koala" in which the leading character is played by a guy in a koala suit, "Rug Cop" which is about a toupee wearing cop whose wig actually has a mind of its own as well as "Calamari Wrestler"...about a pro wrestler who is a giant squid!!! So, it's not at all surprising that I would get a copy of "Tokyo Zombie"...a comedy zombie film from Sakichi Satô. Apparently it's based on a manga series...though I know nothing more about this.

The film begins with two complete idiots, Micchan and Fujio, practicing (very badly) their martial arts instead of working. The boss catches them and is very angry...and attacks Micchan. To stop him, Fujio smashes the boss in the head with a fire extinguisher and the pair then take the jerky boss to 'Black Mount Fuji"....a giant mountain of garbage outside Tokyo. It seems that LOTS of murdered folks have been buried there...and soon after they plant the boss, the dead all start coming to life and do what comes natural to zombies...try to feast on the living. During this period, Micchan is bitten and jumps supposedly to his death--leaving Fujio with a really nasty lady he inexplicably takes care of through the rest of the film.

The story then jumps ahead five years. It seems that within Tokyo, the rich scum have set up a compound and they keep out the zombies...or at least most of them. They do bring in some to have them fight in an arena against various poor people who the rich have enslaved. One of them is Fujio and the awful rich women who come to the games hate him as he's too good and his fights only last a few seconds. So, the man running the games brings everyone a surprise...zombie Micchan!! What's next? See the film and learn who prevails in this battle of the titans...or at least two crappy jujitsu practitioners.

Based on the description, the story sounds incredibly strange and right up my alley, right? Well, yes...and no. The problem is that while there are many funny story elements the film also has many slow spots and some of the characters (especially Fujio's wife) make little sense and the story seems almost as if they're winging it. Also, some of the acting and special effects have an incredibly cheap quality about them. If you are a patient person and don't mind the lulls, the story is worth seeing. But I cannot help that perhaps it could have been a lot better.

It's got everything hipsters want in a movie...., 23 June 2016

"Passenger Side" consists of two brothers (Adam Scott and the writer/director's brother, Joel Bissonnette) spend the entire movie on a roadtrip--driving aimlessly all over the greater Los Angeles area. Much of the time you have no idea why they are doing this nor what the one brother is looking for during this day. All you really do know is that they talk A LOT and meet lots of quirky, almost funny characters.

This film by Matt Bissonnette is the perfect hipster movie. It has a soundtrack filled with discordant music that most other folks would dislike. It has TONS of dialog that is extremely smug and self-aware (and no one actually ever speaks this way in real life). And, it has no real just drifts aimlessly until the movie ends. None of these things are what others want in a film but hipsters, who generally revel in finding a film no one else understands or cares to understand, will love it because it's just a rather unenjoyable experience. The film has a few moments but never does anything to capitalize on them.

Piper (2016)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The best thing about "Finding Dory"..., 22 June 2016

I don't like sequels and rarely will I go see one in the theater. In fact, I rarely watch them period. To me, the films are a bit lazy and offer little, if anything, in the way of originality. Because of this, I was not thrilled when my daughter asked me to take her to see the film "Finding Dory". Fortunately, "Piper" was highly original and very enjoyable...and was clearly the high point of my evening.

The film is told with no words and is the story of a very timid baby sandpiper. Unlike the adult birds, it is afraid of the water...particularly when it's hit by a big wave. So how will this adorable little bird overcome its shyness?

The best thing about this film is the character design. The baby piper is adorable and is a great combination of a more realistic sort of CGI with a slightly cartoony character. Overall, the film was gorgeous and enjoyable...and rather sweet.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
More of the same...., 22 June 2016

"Finding Dory" is more of the same...which will no doubt thrill children and audiences of the original, "Finding Nemo". But, for folks like me who are NOT big fans of sequels, there also is more of the same.

The film is set before, during and mostly after the adventures that Nemo and his father went through in the previous film. Oddly, while Dory has no attention span and not real memory, she inexplicably kinda remembers her early life and goes off in search of her parents. Nemo and Dad go along to help and a bunch of new friends help Dory to achieve her dream.

The film is a lazy product...a sequel which is enjoyable but introduces nothing substantially new. There's nothing offensive about it at all but I cannot understand folks being excited about it because the film is mostly by the numbers and takes few chances. Worth seeing if you want to see a CGI film (and the 3D looks nice) and don't mind an incredibly familiar cast.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Well crafted but not a film I personally liked., 22 June 2016

"Embrace of the Serpent" is an Oscar-nominated movie from Columbia. It also has many very positive reviews on IMDb, so it's obvious many folks like the movie. As for me, I was completely ambivalent about it and not especially impressed.

When the film begins, you'll notice that it was filmed in black & white. This is an unusual choice but the cinematography is still very nice. However, the opening scene has a lot of snakes--the sort of shots that will make folks with a phobia about the creatures incredibly uncomfortable. I like snakes but realize a significant number of folks don't...though the word 'serpent' is in the title!

The story is told in an unusual manner--with the same native man being shown decades apart assisting two different white scientists as they go in search of some plant that supposedly has curative powers. Throughout all this, the native dispenses his wisdom and the film seems to say, at least at times, that natives are good and outsiders are bad (sort of like "Avatar"). It's apparently based on some strange journals by some real life folks...including the super-weird portion involving the bizarro religious cult. However, to me this just wasn't especially interesting or entertaining. Strange, yes...but not something I really cared for one way or the other.

Pleasant nonsense...., 21 June 2016

Jeff Harper (Victor Mature) has been sent by his father to bargain for some prime cattle Hawaii. While the cattle industry was big on some of the islands, why folks from the continental US would want a piece of this action is confusing. Regardless, Jeff arrives on the fictional Hawaiian island of Ahmi-Oni with his friend, Rusty (Jack Oakie). The first thing Jeff sees is Eileen (Betty Grable) and he's hooked but thinks (??) that she is a native and doesn't understand English (despite being VERY blonde). Soon he's in love and seems to have forgotten about his business...and soon Dad arrives to try to get talks back on track. Who will win out in the end? The love-struck son or the business-minded dad?

This film is a pleasant and lightweight bit of entertainment. The songs are mostly a distraction as big production numbers seem to have nothing to do with island life...but so it was in the 1940s! The romance is also cute but the best part is the grouchy gather, as George Barbier as one of the best supporting actors of his age when it came to playing old grouches! Enjoyable but slight.

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