Reviews written by registered user
rbischoff

8 reviews in total 
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"Mad Men" (2007)
7 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Don't need to be reminded of the 50s-60s, 21 December 2011
3/10

I sincerely tried to watch this series because of the good buzz from the critics, but finally gave up after watching the first 5-6 episodes. It was very painful and took much willpower to make it that far.

Unfortunately, I remember the 50s and 60s very well. Far from being a wonderful time, they were, as the series suggests, full of stupid actions and opinions---smoking, racial prejudice, gender prejudice, etc. But I don't need to be reminded of that.

Beyond that, the plots, such as they are, are dull, slow-moving and predictable. Which leads one to ask, "If I don't like the characters or the premise, and nothing is happening, why am I watching?"

The overall effect of the series is like that of movies where special effects are overused, thinking they will wow watchers to such an extent that they will forget about the lack of plot. Simply having everyone smoke and wear ugly 60s clothing while sitting on ugly 60s furniture and spouting uninformed, narrow viewpoints isn't enough to hold viewer interest. At least not mine.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Don't overlook this gem! Pulsates with energy and passion., 15 October 2010
8/10

Acting on a neighbor's recommendation, my wife and I went to see "streetballers" during its premier week. Our verdict? "WOW!" I can say with little fear of contradiction that this film is an event completely unprecedented in St. Louis history. Not only was it SHOT in St. Louis, but ALL the talent--cinematographers (gorgeous shots!), soundtrack (original songs!), editing--in fact, ALL creative and every other kind of work was performed by St. Louis locals. This film is a complete St. Louis production.

Local production doesn't necessarily translate to high quality, of course. There are many St. Louis residents who could produce SOME kind of film using strictly local talent and resources, but--and here's the kicker--"streetballers" has truly world-class production values! Let me repeat, world-class! The film, despite being shot on an unbelievably small budget of $1.5 million (movies of this quality require budgets of $25-50 million) has absolutely no low-cost "indie" feel to it. Although Matt Krentz originally wrote the screenplay about 7 years ago, it took him until now to: shop it around to all the major studios, who liked it but turned him down because he was too young, didn't have a "big name", and has never been to film school; decide to do it himself; raise the money; put together a production company; and, finally, to actually make the movie.

Some St. Louis folks have already seen "streetballers", since it was screened during SLIFF (the St. Louis International Film Festival), where it won the top award for audience choice, outscoring previous years' winners "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Juno." This weekend was its first actual opening in theaters, two of which are in St. Louis.

We simply can't recommend "streetballers" highly enough. Our only caveat is that the language is more than a little rough at times, if your ears are easily offended. (Think "Spike Lee" film--and "streetballers" doesn't suffer by the comparison!) We purchased the soundtrack CD at the showing, and have pre-ordered a DVD of the movie itself on their website. The website also contains an amazing amount of information on all the people involved. (Did you know that one of the stars, Jimmy McKinney, was a basketball star at the University of Missouri from 2003-2006? Many of the players have similarly astounding court skills.) By the way, the schoolyard where the protagonist practices his basketball is behind Sigel Elementary, located in McKinley Heights on Allen at Serbian Way. The girl's house is on Russell at the corner.

Ex (2009)
15 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Best film we've seen in a year--everything works!, 26 April 2010
9/10

Just saw this movie Saturday night at an Italian film festival. It came out in Feb. 2009 and was nominated for and won several awards. There are numerous interwoven stories, with a talented cast of veteran actors who are perfectly chosen for their parts. Filled with episodes of both roll-on-the-floor hilarity and tears-in-the-eyes poignancy. Best movie of any kind, in any language, that we've seen in the last couple of years. If only it were easier to rent (from Netflix, Blockbuster, etc.) or in general distribution in U.S. theaters! The only way to get a copy that I can find is on Amazon--at $30+ for Region 2 (Europe) DVD! The soundtrack is terrific, too. All in all, a perfectly put together movie. Not sure why the 312 IMDb.com ratings thus far average only 6.3...

32 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
Disappointment of a lifetime, 23 February 2008
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just came from the theater and I have to say that my confidence in IMDb as a useful rating source has seriously eroded. Incredibly, more than 51% of over 28,000 voters rated this movie a 10! I've been viewing movies for more than 50 years and this one is by far the biggest disappointment I've ever experienced.

This from someone, mind you, who thinks very highly of P.T. Anderson! I consider Magnolia one of the finest movies ever made (underrated at IMDb) and I'm also a big fan of Boogie Nights, many scenes of which remain indelibly in my mind after a single viewing many years ago. But nearly everything about TWBB is wrong, wrong, wrong. The only element that worked at all was Daniel Day-Lewis, who added yet another brilliant performance to his portfolio.

Where to start my critique? Well, first of all, Upton Sinclair must not only be turning over in his grave but vomiting up everything he ever ate. It's sacrilege for P.T. to claim that his screenplay is based on, or even suggested by, Sinclair's novel Oil! After reading Sinclair's work a couple of weeks ago, I can tell you that only a handful of truly superficial elements made it into the screenplay. Loved the novel, hated the movie. P.T. made no attempt whatsoever to adapt the novel. It's a travesty for the Academy to have nominated his screenplay in the "based on material previously published" category. Especially if you contrast it with Atonement--an extremely faithful and successful adaptation of Ian McEwan's outstanding novel.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE: Sinclair's novel is an engaging diatribe against capitalism involving two major themes. First, that unregulated capitalists can amass enough money/power to purchase and subvert supposedly populist governments. He wrote Oil! in 1927, just after the Teapot Dome Scandal of the Harding administration, and much of the book is a thinly veiled roman a clef that expresses his outrage over that affair. The other major theme is the rebellion of labor against rampant capitalists, through unionism and fledgling socialist and communist movements in the USA and via actual government takeover by the Bolsheviks in Russia, which had just happened in 1917 and was still playing itself out on the world stage.

The Day-Lewis character in the book was in fact a very successful, mid-level businessman who specialized in drilling for oil (an oil operator, in other words). He was good at making sharp deals and at bribing officials at all levels of government to gain favorable treatment. He was not, however, a crazed murderer, or even a murderer at all! In fact, he tended to treat his employees better than most of his contemporaries.

His son, called Bunny, was actually his son, not an orphan (the mother was separated), who remained very close to his father throughout his life. He was never deaf. Bunny was a major character and the overall narrator of the novel. Paul was another major character. He was an extremely principled and well-read do-gooder and labor organizer whom Bunny highly admired. He was not, as P.T. would have it, someone who would sell out his family for the proverbial thirty pieces of silver ($500.)

Overall, Sinclair's novel richly characterizes a multitude of players and epicly describes the sociological forces that drive them. The movie, by comparison, is pitifully small and petty, with players depicted as inherently evil but with little motivation for being so.

I could go on and on and on about differences. In reality, the only way I can understand how such a disaster as TWBB could have come about is to imagine that P.T. was on crack when he read the novel and/or when he wrote the screenplay. He and I certainly didn't read the same work--the novel by Upton Sinclair! Of course that may not matter to most viewers. I am guessing that less than one in 500 of you might actually read, or have read, Sinclair's novel. The crushing disappointment for me is how such an incredibly talented director could have spent so much time and money to make such a miserable movie from such a great book.

Even when I try to judge the movie for itself instead of for what it could have been there are numerous things I hate about it. The music, for instance, is terrible. And I normally find most musical scores to be excellent. But in TWBB, P.T. is apparently going for some sense of tragic doom, which is highly inappropriate and ultimately annoying, particularly when devoid of any character motivation. Then there's the editing, which I found tediously long in shot after shot. The movie just drags, and for no valid reason.

And there's the science of oil drilling, which P.T. gets completely wrong, apparently on purpose, since it is perfectly described in Sinclair's novel (not to mention that he could have easily hired a technical consultant had he wished to get it right.) I'm talking about basic stuff here, not anything esoteric. Most egregious is the depiction of drilling as piledriving--lifting and dropping a bar. As the novel so clearly states, drilling is just that--drilling. It's accomplished by rotating a bit, just like you would with a hand drill, but on a larger scale. Arrgh--how do such changes make any sense?

If you don't agree with my review, I would ask that you reserve judgment until you: (1) read Sinclair's novel Oil!, (2) imagine that Clint Eastwood had spent the same amount of time and money as P.T. did to adapt it, and (3) compare your imagined Eastwood adaptation to the actual TWBB.

Oh, to think what might have been! Please, P.T., go back to your original screenplays and leave adaptations to those more willing to sublimate their egos.

Tai-Pan (1986)
11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Not bad!, 5 September 2005
7/10

I found this movie to follow the novel pretty closely, considering of course that the novel is about 900 pages and the movie is only two hours! While not of the same outstanding caliber of adaptation as the Shogun miniseries, it nevertheless manages to generate some excitement and give a flavor for the happenings of that period, during which the colony of Hong Kong was founded.

Joan Chen was especially good as Mai-Mai, and all the other parts were at least adequately cast. The locations, sets and production values were of uniformly good quality. The only thing lacking was enough time to tell a story this long and complex--in such a short production one only has time to hit the high points of the plot. But it was enjoyable nevertheless.

Exquisitely matches the book in look and tone, 4 February 2004
9/10

A cinematic masterpiece. For art direction and cinematography, GWAPE easily ranks among the top ten films of the thousands I have seen. It is comparable to the Godfather epic and Lawrence of Arabia in that regard. Dozens of scenes are worthy of framing and mounting in galleries--they are that exquisite.

Regarding performances, I can now see why there is such a buzz about Scarlett. That so young an actress can carry a film in which there is so little dialogue and in which, as the lead, she appears in nearly every shot gives you some idea of her level of acting skill. Could she be our next Meryl Streep? All in all, the casting is pretty much spot on, but Judy Parfitt as the Matron does especially fine work.

Girl With a Pearl Earring deserves to be widely seen and to be much awarded, but it may struggle in both areas. It may be too "quiet" to appeal to broad tastes. In this I would liken it to "sex, lies and videotape", which has a similar aesthetic tension. It also has the misfortune of debuting in 2003, the year in which the academy will award Peter Jackson for his (highly deserved!) work on the LOTR trilogy.

If you even remotely enjoy any of the fine arts I can highly recommend that you see this film. But I also strongly recommend that you Tracy Chevalier's book first. My spouse's viewing experience was somewhat lessened because she was expecting a more direct, less subtle storyline. The hallmark of Chevalier's work is her brooding atmosphere, in which each visual and aural element contributes meticulously and subtly to the overall effect. The author (and the film director) both master this technique, ultimately emulating the method and mood of Vermeer's paintings with outstanding success. I applaud their achievements.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A tribute to French films, but nowhere near as good as their best., 4 October 2003
5/10

Neither my wife nor I thought very much of this film.

Overall mood is mostly down, without much hope of redemption even at the end. The small story, such as it is, is more symbolic/metaphoric than concrete, and hammers over and over again at the difficulty we have as individuals trying to connect with one another, or even in finding any meaning in our miserable lives. All visuals serve to increase the feeling of isolation and disconnectedness.

We get the message, but we just don't believe the author's or director's viewpoint is very much on target, so we're not particularly sympathetic. If you're looking for either a good time or a thought-provoking experience you would do better to look elsewhere. 5/10 is being generous, and we continue to be disappointed with Bill Murray's recent work and anything Sofia Coppola directs. Bill's just milking his reputation from his earlier work. Sofia wouldn't get work at all if it weren't for her family relationship. Even Scarlett, talented as she is, can't save this turkey.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Underseen, under-appreciated, understated masterpiece, 2 October 2003
9/10

Would probably not have been introduced to this wonderful film were I not St. Louis based. (GH is from STL, so the movie got more press/play here.)

Indeed, missing this film would have been a shame. It is simply a classic. Everything from photography to music to acting to editing comes together to create a very subtle and refined tone that focuses the viewer on important, real questions implicit in the story. To wit: what is love? what is sex? are we alone in the world? is there anything out there worthwhile?

It would be difficult to view this film and not be moved. Hopefully Elysian Fields will grow in stature as time goes on and not be consigned to its current obscurity on the cinematic dust heap.