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Temple Grandin (2010) (TV)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Finally put a story and full-formed person to the name and legend!, 27 September 2010

Okay,perhaps "legend" might be construed as being a bit of an exaggeration(particularly by Ms.Grandin herself,I'll bet). But I must say that when I first heard about the accomplished behavioral psychologist and innovator in livestock herding technology getting a movie made about her I felt like saying "Wow! What took them so long?". You see,having family afflicted with autism,and with my mother particularly involved in various causes and functions in the cause over thirty years,Someone like Temple Grandin has been a familiar name for quite some time now. A remarkable story then as now.

I'll confess that when I found out that Claire Danes was cast as Dr.Grandin,I was skeptical. A very pretty actress known more for playing sort of "Damsel in distress" roles,I couldn't immediately meld that image with that of the plain,can-do autistic woman by concept. But this movie set me right.

Even though this is literally a biopic,it still seems as much concerned with the nuts and bolts of her ideas and contributions to agriculture and the study of autism(most movies where autism is a topic only choose to deal with the character who is afflicted and how it affects the ones who are "normal",with precious little if anything offered about the person with the affliction)as it is about her. Besides Danes' bravura performance as Grandin(and I must say that physically,Miss Danes' eyes actually ARE perfect for the role. Just take a look at a photo of both women!),much credit goes to director Mick Jackson and the editing,which is able to give about as good a sampling of what Professor Grandin's thought processes are as can be done in a "one-shot" movie can give.

Not a real populous cast(i.e. much of the people involved are mostly "non-entities": people who have contact with Temple but have either negative or no direct impact on her life),but the support is largely patient and fit in well--David Straithairn as a kindly science teacher who sort of sets Miss Grandin on her way as a youth;Catherine O'Hara as the aunt living in Arizona who goes out of her way to accommodate the title character and Julia Ormond as Temple's strong-willed(if perhaps sometimes hard-headed),educated mother--and aid the movie along its stated path.

Perfect for HBO(I frankly have no real idea how this movie could EVER be sold as a large screen offering,and that's NOT a knock on this film at all!),it's running time moves like a breeze and,if you are in any way engaged by what you see in it,will want to see it more times and maybe even do some real digging about the main subject(who is currently in her mid-sixties,still a tenured professor at Colorado State University),either or both by internet research and her numerous writings. I suppose maybe why this doesn't get a higher rating by me is because it still feels like more could've been covered on this pallet and that they stopped themselves a bit short(don't THINK I'm giving much of anything away here),otherwise a very rewarding film!

Small town comes make a porn., 21 September 2010

Andy Sargentee(Jeff Bridges,somewhere between'Lebowski'and,well...some other characters he's played before)is an affable schmo who cannot seem to keep a job nor his marriage,which wouldn't probably trouble him too much were it not for the fact that he loses contact with this teenage son,who he feels is becoming less impressed or needing for him. On an average evening in the local watering hole,Andy has a moment of clarity: he needs money...what is a profitable line of business...PORN!

He assembles his cadre of locals in the small town he lives: the shy,studious sort who still lives at home(Joe Pantoliano),the "Gay-but-he-doesn't-know-it" longtime pal(Ted Danson),the twitchy,loserish wannabe grounds-keeper(William Fichter),a lonely,heartsick longtime buddy(Tim Blake Nelson)who is torn between trying to entice his longtime interest(Glenne Headley)into doing the porn and instead just breaking down and professing love for her,the local video store clerk/film student(Patrick Fugit)and various others(some ladies,mostly men)to produce,write,cast and film the porn. The ensuing events are neither too predictable nor particularly surprising,but they DO have their own elements of charm.

A low energy,chock-full of quasi-cameos(short list:Steven Weber,Brad Garrett,Judy Greer,Jeanne Tripplehorn,Valerie Perrine),directed and written by Michael Traeger,this movie neither possesses the large idea concept or ambition to be given much shrift for large market distribution(and this is a rare time when I mostly agree with that move)nor does it feel like this film lacks any ingenuity to make it merely an "afterthought"(i.e. another romantic comedy/drama,another stock family drama etc.)movie that quickly goes to video and/or cable. The show's unique idea,fine casting(if nothing exceptional acting-wise from anyone involved)and warm,pleasant play out make this worth the time to watch. Using a narrative element(with Bridges' Andy as the narrator,of course),this has an almost wistful and matter of fact quality which seems strangely informative. Probably can be found in the many piles of cheap purchases at stores like Walgreen's or CVS or any supermarket chain store(which is where I got my copy). If you got a high tolerance for "questionable" material for a quirky comedy,give this one a try.

Stripes (1981)
FALL Iiiin!!!, 20 September 2010

Working class schleps John Winger(Bill Murray)and Russell Ziskey(Harold Ramis)decide,on a whim,to join the Army,much of the reasoning to escape the humdrum lives they lead in the big city. Probably not the best reasoning,but if we had good reasoning added to the mix of many comedies,they'd seem to cease being comedies now,wouldn't they?

Thus we have the seedlings of this largely enjoyable comedy that mixes many of the ingredients of National Lampoon's Animal House and Meatballs(which were directed and/or written by director Ivan Reitman and Ramis),which follows the two protagonists thru basic training on through their first deployment in Europe. And if you're guessing that there's more to the story than merely passing basic training and their deployment well,you'd be guessing correctly.

A friend of mine who's been in the Army(around the time this movie was released,in fact)told me that the film isn't based in much reality--and I'm sure most people who been in the Army would probably agree--but I have the impression that this has JUST enough real element in it to make it roundly palpable AS WELL as a lot of fun.

A fantastic ensemble cast features Warren Oates in one of his last roles(as their drill Sergeant),John Larroquette(as a preening,weaselly superior),John Candy(as the gregarious,heavy-set recruit with JUST the right amount of rage issues),John Dietz,P.J.Soles(a sympathetic MP who has a thing for Murray's character),Sean Young(same as SOles' character,only for Ramis),Conrad Dunn and John Volstead(pre-"Other brother Darryl" from Newhart,as Laroquette's oft-put-upon aide)among others to fill out as big,loud and enthusiastic ensemble. Three years later,Reitman,Murray and Ramis(to name possibly just a few)would tone this formula down to "PG" for the even more successful comedy Ghostbusters. Here,they keep it loose,kinetic and light as a quasi-Cold War,broadly patriotic usage of about 100 minutes of film viewing.

A great watch no matter the medium(big screen,TV,video,DVD). The more recent DVDs have plenty of back-chatter,tributes and story about the making. Well,well worth the price if you're up for it,as well as this show.'re body won't be lovin' it., 8 September 2010

The story of then unknown filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's odyssey to uncover the effects of a solid fast-food diet,via an entire month of eating nothing but McDonald's,is pretty well documented by now. The darling(in tandem with Michael Moore's scathing and somewhat over-blown Iraq War/anti-Bush administration documentary epic Fahrenheit 9/11)of a number of film festivals,it would be the talk of anyone who had ANY interest in health,food education or simple curiosity about what it really WOULD be like to indulge in the world's most easily identifiable and popular fast food for that long.

A smart,well-thought endurance test for anyone who's had some digestive problems(of which I count myself among),this is a cheerfully broad swipe at not just the fast food industry(with small swipes at Baskin Robbins and the Soda companies)but at Supermarket retailers,the corporate strategies behind them,the educational initiatives(or usually the lack thereof),the disparity of food marketing,profits and advertising and--last but not least--social attitudes toward eating. Plenty of editing and graphic,a fair injection of "man on the street" interviews and,of course,Spurlock's own observations,reactions to the diet and pitfalls(which are a bit painful to endure at a point,to be honest)which are matched by the skepticism,horror and disbelief at his experiment shared by his girlfriend(a Vegan chef,no less!),a series of doctors and health consultants and even his mother. Truly a packed show that is largely satisfying.

A tad preachy,it still has a delightfully lighter touch than many of Moore's movies(particularly Fahrenheit)and while the social/health-wise impact the show maybe aiming for is somewhat negligible in result(aside from "not making" McDonald's eliminate the Super Size option on their menus not long after this show's theatrical run),it is still a largely entertaining and eye-opening tour de force. Extras on the DVD are somewhat "off the reservation",choosing to deal more in general food/health quandaries(for example:the location of breakfast cereals and candy placement in your average supermarket)than necessarily any direct relation to the fast food questions,but still definitely worth a look.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Good movie,GREAT concept and promotional push, 8 September 2010

Now somewhat expected in scary movies,around 1998 filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez made the daring and clever move of not only creating a singular camera,FX-free horror film with unknown actors(which may've as much been the end product of being relative first-timers of movie making as it would be credited to being ingenious,to be sure)but also going to work promoting the film as if it were a real occurrence,replete with its own website,its own history,documentation,and plenty(and I mean PLENTY)of interviews and fake newscasts. By the time of it's running,thru a number or film festivals and word-of-mouth promotions thru the early part of 1999,the movie was a virtual dynamo of anticipation when it finally landed in commercial theaters a week or two after the 4th of July that year.

For the most part,it feels like a lot of invention and inspiration for a movie that,while inspired and effective enough,seems to be really challenging the viewer to love it or hate it. When I first saw it eleven years ago,I was much more in the "love it" camp. Upon re-watching it in full more recently,I'd more put it in the "solid like" category.

Treated,at its broad-frame as a sort of "Super documentary",it portends to show the film of an attempted documentary of three film students from Baltimore(Heather Donahue,Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard--all using their real names and not seemingly attempting to show any distinction that would give them away as actors)who go on the trail of the rural legend of the Blair Witch,an 18th century woman who was cast into the woods of post-colonial Maryland,only to disappear and somehow,foist curse on the locals in neighboring towns. After roughly eight days of being lost in the woods somehow,the three understandably lose their cools,rationale and eventually much more as their uncanny knack to be tracked by someone(or something)in the woods has them unable to think clearly and,ultimately,escape.

Plenty of "cinema verite" and improvisation(supposedly,the directors made the actors merely react to situations by leaving index cards along the woods telling them of what was happening next)made this simultaneously one of the more organic and unnerving films made.My lessening of enchantment of this movie is mostly from the passage of time,a chance to digest all the elements of the film/story and the re-evaluation of camera and filming tactics,which,while appreciable for their lack of excess and attention to more intangible fear and atmosphere,seem to be challenging the viewer in ways that threaten to break the viewing experience as well as enhance it.

Extras on the DVD are a real plus:getting to see much of the back-story attached to this show is a largely satisfying element(and also gives me some insight into a couple of less-than-flattering reviews)to accompany a film that may seem a bit thin or "naked" on its own. An inspiration for ensuing "shocker" movies to come(Cloverfield,Quarantine,Paranormal Activity,The Last Exocrcism come to mind),this movie is worth a look,though the cleavage of opinion on it is gonna be quite difficult to overcome. Back then,a near ten;now,a weak seven. A keeper? You be the judge.

Pittsburgh (2006)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Felt like it didn't go "all the way" with the mockumentary, 22 August 2010

Played VERY tightly to reality,with not a single "cast" member playing anything besides themselves,this wryly intended parody of show business is played like a mockumentary,and while I certainly wasn't completely turned-off by it(Jeff Goldblum is so likable playing nearly anything that in playing himself as a subtle mocking of himself,he's actually EVEN MORE engaging than usual),I still felt like this show seemed to be so dry and minimalist that it lacks much in the way of "meat" and siphons away from the comedy.

Because of his romance with a fellow actress Catherine Wreford,and her need of a work visa to stay working the stage in the United States(she's from Canada),Mr.Goldblum interrupts his film career to take part in a civic theater production of "The Music Man" back in his home town of Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania. Along the way,with plenty of skeptical outsiders(ranging from his oft-ignored agent to Conan O'Brien and Craig Kilborn),and his own personal doubts about the wisdom of going from reliable big screen presence to local theater,even for just a two-week limited engagement. Along the way,he manages to swing a co-starring support for the show from good friends Illeana Douglass and Ed Begley Jr.(who in turn enlists,quid pro quo,Jeff to help him do infomercials for his own patented environmentally friendly gadgets)and seems to re-connect with his old stomping grounds,though one doubts it'll be of any really lasting impression or emotional depth. Directors Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBranch don't seem to be sure if they are going for a Christopher Guest-like mockumentary(which,by using all players as themselves would suggest they weren't)or more of a meta-mocking of the biz(which they seem to not have the heart to really do by show's end),therefore making this film at best a mild curiosity with some laughs and at worst a sort of Luke-warm "inside" comedy that is going to leave plenty of viewers bored and/or displeased,even angry.

A rental curiosity really. The quick run of the show and the generally light treatment here make this not a total waste. One might be better served to not expect too much of it,though.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Pretty standard stuff as a whole;Is more appreciable for the parts., 3 August 2010

Three kids--best buds Wade(Nate Hartley)and Ryan(Troy Gentile)and shrimpy,spaz-like Emmett(David Dorfman)--are united by a common anxiety in their freshman year in high school: the perpetual abuse of ruthless thugs Terry Filkins(Alex Frost)and his toady Ronnie(Josh Peck). Fed up with the abuse in short order,they seek the help of a bodyguard and after going through a number of candidates whose asking prices are more than these lads can pony up,they settle on a charismatic Army vet named Drillbit Taylor(Owen Wilson,charming as a seemingly oft-unscrubbed target of abuse,both verbal and physical)who can talk the talk of a tough guy/guardian/sensei but seems to be more intent on...well,something more.

That something more is mostly sponging money and swag from the kids' well-to-do families,which he helps pirate with the counseling of his fellow societal cast-offs(led by the always priceless Danny McBride). Drillbit,you see,is much more of a "homeless slacker" than "master warrior/guardian",and is in the midst of pulling off a fairly well-trailed con. All as the boys he's "taken under his wing" take to heart his lessons and simultaneously try to avoid their tormentors/get them back in the process.

Nothing really new or inherently interesting in and of itself(i.e. the 'high school is unfair',heroes as persecuted,bullies being heartless jack-offs,tough-guy to weakling budding relationships,etc.),and director Steven Brill,along with co-writers Seth Rogen and Kristopher Brown(I believe both also writers of the considerably better SuperBad)don't engineer anything exceptional as a whole product. The real attractions are Wilson,milking every ounce of his own distaff,bent charms and loser charisma,McBride as the less-honorable crony of Drillbit's,and the five principle teen players just mentioned. Engaging,sympathetic,tangible and none-too-much-over-the-top characters make this less-than-two hour exercise more than tolerable,even quite funny(if not exceptional or even really memorable).

Movies being increasingly more expensive(and that's even WITHOUT the 3-D glasses),it makes one like myself consider carefully which shows to try and plunk down any geld. I was initially kinda curious about this one but didn't act on it. Seeing it some time after it's gone to rentals doesn't change my verdict,but I can still feel good about giving this one a spin.

Nice movie,but could've worked even better as a sit-com or TV light comedy-drama, 18 July 2010

The summary line is not meant to be dismissive of this show. It's merely saying that the elements of this film was,to my viewing,more perfect for a continuing story instead of a finite,80/90 minute framing.

Another "Fish-out-of-Water" story: Dr.Benjamin Stone(Michael J.Fox),still as pitch-perfect,quasi-yuppiesque yet charming as ever,in what would eventually prove to be a bit of a last hurrah of his film appeal from "Back to the Future")is a rising success as a young doctor/surgeon in a large,east coast city(I cannot immediately recall the city;I want to say Washington D.C. or Philadelphia)who is out to interview for a prestigious opening at a high dollar medical practice in Los Angeles. Instead of taking a simple,six hour(roughly)flight to the coast,the good doctor decides to drive there. If you're on this site and/or familiar with this movie at all,you're probably not in any need of prompting as to just how plot shifting THAT decision will be.

Upon wrecking property in a charming and unapologetically hayseed hamlet of the the deep south(they seemed to mention or hint at it being Georgia)named Grady,Dr.Stone is stranded in this town for the better part of two weeks,both as part of a sentence and because his car is in desperate need of work. There,he meets practically all of the locals,and his initial annoyance with their culture melts into acceptance and even fondness,crowned by his interest in a pretty,headstrong young single mom(Julie Warner)who herself is studying to become a lawyer.

One of the many forays into American culture for Scottish-born director Michael Caton-Jones,this marked sort of a twilight in Mr.Fox's once nearly automatic career as a charming,leading man matinée draw(a period that would extend from 1985 thru 1993).Though he would continue to make front-line movies after this,this would mark the last of the healthy,carefree young adult movies that is and will always be remembered for. Soon after this film wrapped,Fox discovered and was soon officially diagnosed with Parkinsons. On top of this,his overidentifiablity from his earlier success made it far more difficult to copy this formula in future works(Life With Mikey,For Love or Money and Greedy were all VERY coolly received),and thus put him at the point of trying supporting work(An American President)and television ("Spin City"). What might be equally eye-opening(besides the choice smaller roles that might've come off as almost cameo-like from then rising stars Woody Harrelson and Bridget Fonda,as restless locals)was the not-tapped enough charm of Miss Warner as the love interest or the fine,unaccalimed bow of Barnard Huges and David Ogden Stiers as the town's incumbent doctor and mayor,respectively.

A charming,likable show that,if it is able to successfully draw in the viewer,might leave said viewer left wanting perhaps to get more out of this story and these characters. A missed opportunity at more,perhaps.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
I was hoping for restraint,and I wasn't let down, 12 July 2010

When this show was first released three years ago,my viewing of the trailers(plus my opinion of Adam Sandler movies)had me thinking something like this:interesting story,good intentions but a bit mawkish and played for the syrupy,sentimental laughs and forced tears. The reviews weren't exceptionally great for it,either,saying in essence that while the show is fine overall,its casting and scripting seemed to be going for the easy crowd pleasing elements(not to mention each critic's personal opinion of Sandler,which oft times aren't too favorable)thus making it only an honorable effort at best.

Recently,I got a chance to see this movie as a cheap(well,okay,library rental,so free)rent and found myself pleasantly impressed(if not overwhelmingly disabused of my suspicions)with this movie. The film opens as a look into the life of Dr.Alan Johnson(Don Cheadle,who never,EVER seems off in any performance!),a very successful NYC dentist/orthodontist whose career might be more vulnerable than it initially appears(i.e. at least one previous messy patient lawsuit and one that seems to be brewing). His marriage and family life is comfortable and stable,but lacks much pop or interest.

Then one evening he runs across a guy on the street who looks a lot like an old college chum. On a hunch,he follows him and his suspicions are correct: the man,Charlie Fineman(Sandler,all Bob Dylan-looking and refining his "strange" persona to largely positive effect),was in fact Alan's old roomie in college,a fellow dental student. The previous six to seven years have been mostly an escape for Alan's old pal,as his losing his wife,three daughters and dog in one of the planes in 9-11 has him spinning a deep cocoon of music,movies and video games to drown out his memories,also in essence amplifying his looming bi-polar disorder.

Cheadle and Sandler work well off each other,and even though the inevitable Sandler "Blow up"(a la his many comedies and his dramatic turn in 2002's Punch Drunk Love)occurs,it is paced to perfection and this show,which is fraught with emotional keynotes,works a fair amount of restraint to make this sympathetic,warm,touching and yet not so manipulative that it runs the risk of turning off most audiences. Credit to Director/Writer Mike Binder(who also appears as Charlie's accountant)for making a movie that works a post 9-11 story with as much restraint,deftness and nuance to make this more of a personal story,rather than a simple,dumb weeper or "feel good" comedy. Some of the previously mentioned criticism of this film also landed on the casting of the rest of the movie,particularly on Liv Tyler as the wide-eyed(but not naive)psychologist/therapist that works downstairs from Dr.Johnson,but I personally found her likable and not so intrusive or glaringly off-rhythm to the film's sometimes sad,quasi-quirky and off-beat mien. Saffron Burrows,as the potential lawsuit aforementioned,early on threatens to sort of take this film down an alley that seemed kind of incongruent,but the script integrates her back into the fiber of the story,albeit somewhat implausibly. Everyone else seems fit in just fine:Jada Pinkett Smith as Dr.Johnson's soft-spoken,reasonably patient wife,Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon as Charlie's sometimes over-bearing in-laws,John de Lancie as a concerned but ultimately powerless therapist,Rae Allen as Charlie's concerned landlady and Donald Sutherland as a no-nonsense judge.

To me,the way to make a story like this play better is the use of restraint:namely,the ability to draw out odd,tragic characters without having to punch the emotional cues,happy ones as well as sad. This movie is able to go roughly two hours doing this quite well.

Probably watered down from play,but still a legit watch, 26 June 2010

A warm,summer afternoon at the softball park between two workplace rival companies becomes the make-cute meeting for Debbie(Demi Moore,who,while hardly the greatest actress in the world,can still fit roles and is a perfect fit here),an advertising design artist and Danny(Rob Lowe,as '80s air-fluffed and perfect as ever),a condiments and insundries salesman feel an attraction,first there,then at the usual watering hole haunt. This being still the height of STDs being a "non-topic"(i.e. the mid-'80s,right on top of AIDS becoming a household topic),the attraction is a no-brainer for a one-night stand. But something happens: they find out they like each other and decide to pursue this relationship,much to either the dismay and/or astonishment of their best friends:Debbie's dour,cynical pal Joan(Elizabeth Perkins,one-note here but an EFFECTIVE one note)and Danny's bombastic buddy Bernie(Jim Belushi,having a good ol' time). From there,the course of almost an entire calendar year follows the events play out.

Adapted from David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago",it's pretty easy to notice(particularly to anyone with familiarity of Mr.Mamet's work) that this script is a far more palatable treatment for the screen than what you might've(I have yet to actually see this put to stage off original script)seen on original draft and/or performance. While this movie might turn off theater snobs(and possibly people with a low tolerance for '80s kitsch),anyone with an interest in seeing pretty actors(Lowe and Moore)playing for emotional range(and not doing too badly,IMHO)and solid,not quite looker actors(Belushi and Perkins,though Ms.Perkins HAS softened up over the years,becoming almost vampish looking herself)to sharpen up their acting fangs should be able to appreciate it. Directed by TV and film vet Edward Zwick(with a reworked title AND script from Second City and SNL vet Tim Kazurinsky,who has a cameo),this movie is deceptively advertised as a sex comedy,but actually has a softer,deeper,layered sense of itself. It's a good keeper of a film,worth at least a re-watch or two.

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