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I girasoli (1970)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Italian Style
I just finished watching the stunning Blu Ray of the original Italian English-subtitled version of this film--the best version available. I do not understand all the naysayers reviewing this film. If you are a fan of Loren and Mastroianni, if you are a fan of DeSica, if you enjoy a good old-fashioned melodrama that will tear at your heart, you MUST see this film! To dismiss this film as Soviet propaganda, or as unrealistic, is like criticizing "The Little Mermaid" for having a singing mermaid and talking fish. It utterly misses the point. This movie contains one of the very best, if not THE best Sophia Loren performance on film. Henri Mancini's score is unforgettable. This film makes you care about the plight of both characters. It is available as part of the new "Sophia Loren Collection" box set, and for me, this, along with "Marriage Italian Style," is the "jewel" of the set. See it!
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The Emperor's New Clothes
This is the first film of the year to which I give one star. I cannot believe the misleading hype by Wes Anderson fans and film critics this film is getting. I sat there for 90 minutes and I did not laugh once, and this was supposed to be a comedy (I only noticed about 4 people laughing in a pretty full theater). The famous adult actors were cardboard cartoons. They appeared to do one day's work and pick up a fat paycheck. This is the worse acting that Willis, Norton, Mc Dormand. and Murray have ever done. The two kids were good, but their lines never resembled anything kids would actually ever say to one another. In short, this movie is for Wes Anderson fans only. Other people best stay away from this stink bomb!
Quantum of Solace (2008)
I just returned from a screening of Quantum of Solace. Boy was I disappointed--and so was the audience. Nowhere do they advertise going in that this is a direct sequel to 2006's Casino Royale. Many of the characters are the same. So if you did not see that movie, or did not re-screen it recently, you will DEFINITELY BE LOST in the plot, with characters that are never explained. Those who claim otherwise are very familiar with Casino Royale or they are lying. How in the world would anyone know who "Vesper" was if you didn't see the first movie? This movie should be more correctly titled "Casino Royale 2." The only reason they didn't name it that is that those who did not see the earlier film might stay away, and they don't want to lose those extra millions of dollars in ticket sales.
Whose idea was it to get an art-house director like Marc Forster to direct the latest Bond action flick? The man knows nothing about action films or achieving the correct tone of a Bond film.
The film is poorly shot, and the action scenes are so quickly edited with so many close-ups, that it is literally impossible to follow the characters. In one early scene, a major character appears shot to death from what we can see visually, but she is very much alive in the next scene.
The opening song by Alicia Keyes is probably one of the worst title songs in Bond history. The Bond girls we have come to expect are nothing special in the looks department. The cool cars we have come to expect are nearly unseen due to poor cinematography and editing. The sense of fun that used to pervade the Bond films is totally missing. There is little to no character development. The story does not engage the audience. There is only one set piece worth remembering, involving two planes. This is also supposed to be an early Bond picture chronologically, or else the plot involving M and Bond makes no sense, yet Daniel Craig looks tired in the role.
The studio must have bought off the major critics who are somehow giving this film a positive review. This film does not deserve the money it is raking in. It makes "hash" of a once great series of films. If you want a movie "thrill-ride" that actually thrills, see "Eagle Eye" instead--it is better in every way.
Pineapple Express (2008)
THIS MOVIE IS A DISGRACE! Don't believe the IMDb rating. You have to be stoned to enjoy this.
I left the theater feeling unclean and also ripped off for paying to see this drivel. 1) It is not funny--there was only sporadic laughter in the packed audience, in contrast to Judd Apatow's much better films. 2) It has a disgusting message--that it is great to be stoned all the time. Despite Seth Rogen's character saying midway through the film that it is a waste to be stoned every day, the final scene in the diner totally contradicts this earlier scene as the three friends are happily stoned again, and loving it! 3) People who get shot up multiple times do not die. Several of the main characters get shot up repeatedly, yet they remain healthy and alive and do not seek out medical assistance. In contrast, the "bad" guys all die from their wounds. 4) There is a "lovely" scene in which Saul sells pot to underage children--and they are seen enjoying their trips as well. Isn't this a great message to be sending the teenagers who sneak into this R-rated film? 5) The foul language that pervades this film makes "Step Brothers" look like a Disney release. When will the writers learn that bad language should be made to make a point, and it loses all shock value when used for no reason and all the time. 6) Seth Rogen again has a gorgeous girlfriend--that he dumps! What beautiful girl with an IQ above 60 would be with the type of person Seth Rogen plays? Is this really plausible? Does anybody really believe that someone like Katherine Heigl in "Knocked Up" would ever want to be with someone like Seth Rogen?
I am not a prude at all. It is just that this film had no logic to it, no point to it, was unfunny, and highly glamorizes drug use more than any film I have ever seen. Why is it that some people get "up in arms" to see a character smoke a cigarette in a film, but doing drugs and loving it and pushing it to minors is perceived as OK? As to the IMDb overall rating above an 8, obviously the studio has been busy corrupting the website with their votes, and the timing was curious--the movie opened just yesterday and all of these high votes already! I think if you were stoned and found ANYTHING funny -- as people do when they are stoned -- you would be the ones enjoying this film. For anyone else, you'd best save your money and not waste your time. Remember, you vote with your ticket-buying. Do you really want to see more stoner comedies like this being made? The only ones who will be laughing the next day after the drugs wear off are the filmmakers and actors who have raked in all the dough. For the rest of us, we are all the poorer for films like "Pineapple Express."
What Is Going On Here??
Currently, "Behind the Mask" has a whopping 7.9 rating at this website, and Rotten Tomatoes is listing it in the high 70's! I love horror movies and spoofs of horror movies. So it was with great anticipation that my friend and I went to see this "turkey" tonight. We are shaking our heads. I really believe all of the postings online are "shills" for the movie and that the critics got paid to write a favorable review. Be forewarned--this is the worst film I have seen in several years! The camera-work in the first half so constantly shaky and hand-held no doubt to imitate the style of "Blair Witch." It is so overdone--and to no purpose--that it induces cringes and nausea from the audience. In the final third of the film, the camera settles down--alas the lighting is so poor that you cannot really see anything clearly--doubtless because the director does not want you to know that you are seeing nothing. The plot makes no sense, the humor is not funny (I didn't laugh once), the acting is TERRIBLE, and the ending and ending credits very predictable. On the whole--a complete waste of time and shocking that people have been raving about this film! There are absolutely no scares here either, and though the film is unrated, very little gore. Please save your money and pass up this poor excuse for a movie!
A Travesty--A Blown Opportunity
Do the readers of the posted comments for this film notice that the raves are coming from those who saw it at a gay and lesbian film festival somewhere? I don't know why but so many people who see films at festivals overrate them, as if the slightest gay reference in a film automatically makes it good. I missed it at last year's Outfest in LA, and heard that it was really good. I also wondered why it took over a year for this film to get released. Having finally gotten a chance to see it at a regular theater, I now know why. It was TERRIBLE! I can't understand why another Outfest entry that I saw--"The 25th Day" with hotties James Marsden and Scott Speedman went direct to video, and they bothered to release this trashy film. I am a fan of horror films. Hellbent is really the first "gay" slasher picture. Too bad it had to be done this badly--poor script, mediocre direction, laughable dialogue, paper-thin characters, an ending that can only be described as a complete let-down, and no insight whatsoever as to the killer. If you saw the poster to this film and the first make-out scene in the film, you saw the best part of the movie. Only the drag queen character was able to make any kind of lingering impression. The actor resisted the temptation to make his character campy, and so we have sympathy for him. Otherwise, don't waste your money. I am out 10 bucks and 90 minutes of my life that I'll never get back! I hope more talented gay filmmakers will try there hand at this genre, which has proved itself so profitably to str8 audiences. Openly gay filmmakers and writers such as Victor Salva ("Jeepers Creepers 1 & 2") and Kevin Williamson (the "Scream" movies and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" movies) have so far given us "eye candy" in the form of hunky guys, but their movies so far are engineered to mainstream str8 audiences. They have had their success commercially. It is time for them to "come out" and make a truly gay horror film like this one. What do they have to lose? Be yourselves, for Godsakes--don't pretend to be str8. Write what you know about and what you feel (that is, lust for guys, not for girls). If they ever do, maybe we will get the first GOOD gay slasher film! HellBent is certainly not that film.
Seeing this movie makes one realize how truly dumb and unchallenging most Hollywood movies, aimed at young teenage boys, are. The script was brilliant, and all four actors do a fine job of bringing the story to life. I too saw Mary Louise Parker in the stage version, and though I slightly preferred her to Gwynneth, the latter nonetheless was fine as the gifted and disturbed Catherine. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was very good in his role, but too good-looking and hunky to play a geeky mathematician. Compared to the play, his relationship with Catherine developed a little too quickly in the movie, considering what a loner Catherine had been up to this time. Hope Davis was great as the more "normal," but controlling sister Claire, her second best performance ever, after the under-appreciated one she gave in "American Splendor" (be sure to rent THAT movie if you haven't seen it), and she manages to be more sympathetic than the actress who played her in the stage version. Hopkins as the brilliant, mentally ill mathematician-father was fine, though not particularly special in the role.
I only have two quibbles. One, there was not enough mathematics in the movie OR the play. Everyone has studied advanced math, so why not challenge the audience a little more and let us in on what the proof is actually about. It is kind of like watching a movie about a musician and not letting the audience hear any of the music! Two, it is not believable that in a crucial scene towards the end of the movie, that neither Catherine and especially the more materialistic Claire would not care what ultimately happens to the proof, especially when being told of its possible value.
Aside from these flaws, if you are looking for intelligent fare and a break from mindless action films and the mostly unfunny comedies of the past summer, you owe it to yourself to see this film. The theater I saw it in was almost empty, so I fear it is not doing too well. Remember that every ticket you buy is a vote for more of that kind of film being made. Let's hear it for more stimulating and mature films like this one!
The Reception (2005)
Slow & non-illuminating
MINOR SPOILER AHEAD: Did the other posters see the same film that I did? I viewed this film tonight at the American Cinematheque, and while I applaud the filmmaker for making a decent-looking film for only $5000, I thought the film was a complete waste of time. Without giving anything away for those souls who still want to see this, Jeannette is such an unredeeming bitch in every way (and with a false French accent that I could hear a mile away) that there is no reason I can see why the black artist would choose to stay with her, or even be with her in the first place. Because such an unbelievable relationship is set up in the beginning of the film, there is no real tension in the development with the other characters that the filmmakers intended. This film won an award at Outfest this year. I found the film very flat, as I think most people will. This is a very overrated film.
Père et fils (2003)
A Magnificent Film with a truly great performance by Phillipe Noiret
I saw this movie at the Toronto Film Festival because it starred the great actor Phillipe Noiret. It arrived with little fanfare, compared to a film like "The Barbarian Invasions," which it actually resembles. Well it turned out to be a great film, and actually better than "TBI" in that the relationships between the father and his sons were more clearly defined and developed in this film. It is touching and very funny at the same time. The film also makes some amusing digs at the French Canadians by French people from France! Anybody who sees this film will want to immediately call his or her father up if at all possible, wherever he may be, and tell him how much he is loved, for the film movingly shows the importance and uniqueness of fathers and of the power of reconciliation and forgiveness. The director in the Q & A said he wanted to simply make an entertaining film. What he has created is so much more than that!
This superb and unique movie may be even better than "The Pianist"!
I saw this film at the Toronto Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation! This film tells a story that to my knowledge has never been told before--namely about the Rosenstrasse (a street in Berlin)uprising of German gentile women who were married to Jews at the end of the Second World War. As such, it is a unique story, and what's more, is the only film about the Holocaust that I have ever seen that shows that there were GOOD Germans (the helping family in "Anne Frank" for instance was Dutch) who did NOT support the Nazis, and, in fact, had the fortitude to stand up against their own country's immorality and brutality during the Nazi regime, at the risk of their very lives. The acting is great across the board, the framing story in New York interesting and intricate, the direction from Von Trotta masterful in every scene, and the production values, including the gorgeous cinematography, outstanding. Of course the family in New York could be speaking German. Many immigrants in this country choose to speak in their native tongue with their family--a common occurrence. So that criticism is unwarranted. To say more would spoil the experience. The film is long, but I did not look at my watch once. I am hoping this film gets some distribution is North America, for not only is this film a masterpiece, but it can actually help heal any animosity people have towards the Germans because of their support of Hitler. If this film is playing in your area, I URGE YOU TO SEE IT! You will be glad you did!