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Please let me save you from wasting 12 hours of your life
7 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Very disappointing and disjointed TV series -- I guess it was a summer fill-in a couple of years back. No surprise it was not renewed for a 2nd season.

If I'd tried to follow on TV as broadcast, I would have dropped out by the 2nd episode, as things were already getting ridiculous....but with DVD sets, it is all too tempting to just keep going. "I'll watch only ONE MORE episode..."

Anyways: after finishing this, I felt exploited. The storyline is full of inconsistencies, and feels like something that was just made up on the spot by desperate screenwriters, trying to come up with something "shocking" or "MORE shocking" in every episode. There is not internal logic to it -- by the end, more than half of the characters are killers, serial killers or accomplices of a serial killer. The ending is especially annoying, as it is not deserved and gauzy (everyone not outright killed, is now happy and has a cute baby!). Also, the show drops a lot of "fact bombs" by the end -- things we were deliberately deceived about.

The really interesting ideas touched on -- can a child of 9 be a budding monster and future serial killer? can the tendency to be a murderer be inherited (especially if your mom, both your grandfathers, your grandmother and a few aunts/uncles are killers!)??? But this is all dumped, in favor of addle-brained plot developments, and ridiculous scenarios, and people who just don't act like real human beings.

It's all set in a monstrously lavish house, decorated like a showcase home -- in the first episode, a canny PR person can't even find a room in the home to shoot an interview, because it is so lavish as to be off-putting to voters -- I don't know if this was a real house or a set, but it is claustrophobic and only serves to make the very rich family at the center of the plot unsympathetic yuppies.

It helps not at all that one major character (yup, a murderer!) is running for mayor of BOSTON -- hardly a small town -- but spends all her time trying to track down various serial killers of her family & others, so that she spends close to zero time on her campaign (yet wins!) -- while having a lesbian affair with her black campaign manager -- how many trendy PC points do you get for THAT? Her father AND mother were killed by serial killers (but not before her father is NAMED wrongly as a serial killer for most of the episodes!) and this doesn't hurt her campaign, nor that her one brothers is a crackhead junkie and her other brother ALSO is a murderer (but don't worry, she got him off without jail time!).

If all that is not bad enough to deter you....this vastly rich, powerful political family in BOSTON lack any Boston accents whatsoever. The Kennedy's all had Boston accents, so how could they ALL grow up in Boston and yet sound like they came from Columbus, Ohio? (The only character with a genuine accent is the female police officer, which only serves to make it more glaring for the others.)

Oh, and NOBODY for 12 episodes has a problem with the chief police investigator on a huge serial murder case, with bodies all around piling the BROTHER in law of the suspects (oh yeah and black, while they are all white) and NOBODY has a problem with this. (In real life, his presence would make prosecution impossible, so he'd be tossed off the case instantly.)

Those are only the highlights of a very bad viewing experience. It makes you feel totally ripped off for having sat through it. So many of these long series -- 12 episodes or MORE, some running for YEARS -- tell stories that could easily and BETTER be told in ONE two hour movie -- or at most, a 3 episode "mini series". What ever happened to mini-series? today, a silly murder mystery requires as much time to unfold its story, as "War & Peace" or GWTW! and that is just absurd, and almost punitive towards viewers. It needs to stop!

In conclusion: not recommended.
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Malice (1993)
Stupid, and has not aged well
28 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Caught this on late night TV -- can it be almost 25 years ago? wow. Most of the folks here have gone to amazing careers, and need no introduction -- Baldwin, Kidman, Pullman, scriptwriter Sorkin.

But this is a terribly written movie -- handsomely produced -- finest actors -- but ultimately feels like a manipulative rip-off. I am not sure I processed that back in '93, because I knew less about both fertility treatments and the legal system.

For starters: "Jeb Hill" (Baldwin) is an absolutely top surgeon at an MA hospital, but is willing to operate on his GIRLFRIEND, rendering her both sterile and MENOPAUSAL (!!!) by removing both of her ovaries -- for a lousy $20 million? Hello? the actor was 34 here, so presumably his character is roughly this age -- a surgeon at the BEGINNING of a brilliant, 35 plus year career -- and who would throw it AWAY for a lousy $20 million?

Wait a sec. But it isn't $20 million. $20 mil is the SETTLEMENT, meaning Kidman's lawyers skim a minimum of 30% off the top, and more likely 40%. Let's go with 30% though. Now it is only $14 million. And the two con artists would presumably be splitting it -- they are not even married -- so that's a lousy $7 million each. (In reality, this would have gone to trial -- Dr. Hill's remarks were off the record, and he would have retracted them -- and that would have probably meant way less even than this.)

$7 million? to give up your CAREER, which presumably Hill loves and is brilliant at-- to retire in his early 30s? A thoracic surgeon probably earned close to half a million a YEAR back then -- over just 20 years that is $10 million by itself.

And Kidman was willing to go through SURGICAL MENOPAUSE to get her $7 million? with all of the risks, discomforts, etc. of early menopause? The script keeps saying "children" but she never wanted kids (*because we all know that mean bee-yotches in movies are not maternal and hate kids). But did she want the OTHER risks and miseries of menopause? or the side effects of taking estrogen pills for the next 20 years? HOT FLASHES? hair loss, weight gain, dry skin, sexual side effects?

Are you kidding me? If a woman HAD $7 million, she'd probably gladly pay every penny to be able to NOT go through early menopause!

It is as if the scriptwriters had no idea what really happens to women to lose their ovaries. They did not do even the most minimal research.

Today, this would be even greater hooey, since it would be easy to have tested the aborted fetus to determine if it was Bill Pullman's biological child, which would have blown the whole lawsuit apart. The plot line with him accused of rape feels manipulative.

Also the end with the whole "blind child they think has seen everything" -- unbelievably hokey and "convenient". The whole script is just stupid & manipulative.

Only bright spot is a small role by the legendary Anne Bancroft -- giving everyone here a master's class in art of real acting (as Kidman's drunk, hostile mother). Though whoever thought that dark, ethnic looking Bancroft could be the mom of pale, lanky redhead Kidman doesn't know much about genetics as well. And what abusive DRUNK cares if they drink single malt scotch? Do the writers here know that a single malt costs about 10 times what a bottle of cheap whiskey costs? No drunk would make that cost/benefit analysis and decide to drink the hoity-toity stuff.

A film that was never very good and has aged badly. Only interesting to see Kidman (a tremendous natural beauty here at 25) and Alec Baldwin (a super-hottie in his day) when young. Baldwin especially has matured into an hilarious comedian, once he aged past his hottie stage.

Only worth viewing again for Bancroft's terrific scene, which is only about 4 minutes out of the whole film.
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Inconceivable (2017)
Done-to-death "evil woman" thriller
19 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Really just a terrible movie. And its been done SO many times in the past -- someone mentioned "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" but I just saw a black variation on this last year (can't recall the title, very boring) with a rich black couple who hire a surrogate. This is virtually the same film with a white cast!

I call these "evil BEE-yotch" films. There is always a nice woman, and then an evil woman who is jealous and wants the nice woman's "life" (which is always wealthy beyond belief). The husband is a passive dupe. Sometimes he cheats with the evil BEE-yotch, but not always -- not here, even though Nicky Whelan is far prettier and younger than Gina Gershon.

The only thing that could pass for a twist is that the Whelan BEE-yotch character is a lesbian. But that hardly raises an eyebrow today.

Aside from how derivative this is...they can't even get the details correct. There are numerous logic errors in the film. In the first scenes, Katie (Welan in a brunette wig) is seemingly an abused new mother, trying to runaway with her baby, when her husband comes home -- there is an altercation and she kills him with a convenient kitchen knife.

BUT...later in the film, we learn she is really their EGG DONOR, who managed to find their identities, track them down -- and is STEALING the baby -- and she has just murdered the babies real mother upstairs in the tub. Then she kills the husband. She has to have left DNA and fingerprints all over the darned house, but NOBODY -- police, FBI -- is searching for her! ha! she's fooled them! she has COLORED CONTACT LENSES! (BTW: nobody is searching for a kidnapped newborn baby? are you kidding me?)

At the end, an emergency room doctor tells Nick Cage that his wife (Gershon) -- ALSO stabbed by Whelan! in an identical incident! -- "didn't make it". He weeps. Everyone weeps. Katie (Whelan) is nowhere around, she's giving birth. Later, it turns out Gershon is not even INJURED from a huge knife plunged into her ABDOMEN (!!!). She's alive, to the shock of Katie (Whelan) who intended to kill her, and steal her husband and new baby. But...why on earth would the ER doctor have told Cage that his wife was dead? when she was FINE??? The only reason was to FOOL the audience! with totally false info!

We see Katie go into the hospital -- she is also injured slightly -- and they are just putting a bandage on her and it's a DAY after Gershon supposed DIED. Yet they are just putting a bandage on her wound? for the first time? then she's suddenly in labor, even though earlier we were told "she has three more weeks". She is put UNDER for a C-section (why???) -- totally knocked out -- which is NOT how c-sections are normally done. (They are done with spinal blocks and most women are completely awake & alert through the procedure.)

THEN we see her wake up, not even in the recovery room -- she's alone somewhere -- and they go down to the nursery to see the new baby. She is so FINE after a C-SECTION -- which is major surgery, cutting your abdominal muscles -- that she can get out of her wheelchair and run around. Note: most women can barely walk after a C-section and it takes 6 weeks for a complete recovery.

Did none of these people ever have a baby? yeesh. On top of that, we see Cage, Gershon, their new baby, their existing 5 year old daughter -- AND KATIE'S DAUGHTER!!!! -- all together in bed. Supposedly they get to KEEP Katie's daughter, even though the child was never theirs -- belonged to another (murdered) couple -- the child is entirely unrelated to either Cage OR Gershon (though a half sibling to their own daughter).

On what planet would they have gotten custody? That child had a family, even if her parents were murdered -- aunts, uncles, grandparents -- who would be desperately searching for her! Even if Cage's family wished to adopt her, it would be a lengthy process and no guarantee they would win custody. (Even if the murderous mother, Whelan, were in jail -- it would not sever her parental rights and the child would likely go into foster care.)

Mistakes like these are utterly thoughtless, showing NOBODY involved gave this the most minimal attention -- just slapped together lazily the tritest elements of this genre.

Gershon and Whelan do decent work, to be fair. Cage sleepwalks. He and poor Faye Dunaway look just awful -- hello folks? there is high def film now! you can't hide the wrinkles! -- and their presence is just sad.

Lastly: why oh why do these films always have to be set in the most obscenely lavish mega-mansions? This one is so over the top, it made me think of the "Versailles" palace from the film "The Queen of Versailles". It is just exhaustingly large and opulent. Even a pair of doctors would not likely have a house like this. Don't people in ordinary colonials and bungalows also have problems with infertility? The set is just a total distraction from the plot or characters, such as they are.

An empty shell of a movie. Avoid.
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Can this really be almost 50 years old?
14 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
And how many times has it been made and remade? I'm probably more familiar overall with the TV series version, with Jack Krugman and Tony Randall, which by necessity had to broaden the story and pump up the minor supporting characters. There's even 1-2 FEMALE versions.

But the original has more lives than a cat -- several FILM versions, plus countless stage productions since the 1960s.

I've never completely got what is supposedly so funny about it, except some universal battle between sloppy folks and neat freaks.

Just caught some of it on late-night TV, and one thing -- nit picky, but it drove me nuts (my inner Felix Ungar?) -- is when Felix is cooking dinner for Oscar and two ditsy Pidgeon sisters.

The whole thing is predicated on Oscar coming home "late" -- by about 30 minutes -- and Felix's meatloaf is "ruined". In fact, we see it later as a flaming charcoal briquette....why not turn the heat OFF?

This is the kind of departure from reality that makes me crazy in films. Meatloaf is about the easiest, most relaxed food on earth. It keeps for HOURS -- even DAYS -- once cooked, you can eat it COLD (it's delicious -- try it some time!). You can cook it and reheat it, and if anything, the flavor is even better having mellowed.

There is no way, not even for a nut like Felix, that a meatloaf would have to be served instantly or "go bad". For starters: after cooking, the meat must "rest" for 20 minutes or so.

On top of that: when he goes shopping....and the whole premise is they are eating at home to "save money"...Felix goes to the butcher and orders FOUR POUNDS of freshly ground beef. Good lordy! Neil Simon clearly never cooked a meatloaf in his life, nor even bothered to look up a recipe! FOUR POUNDS! that would make enough meatloaf for a dozen people, with leftovers.

Meatloaf is a classic Depression-era recipe intended to STRETCH a very small amount of ground meat - with fillers, bread crumbs, chopped veggies, beaten eggs, etc. -- so that a pound of meat or LESS could feed a family. A meatloaf that was "all beef" would be greasy, heavy and terrible.

It makes no sense for two "broke bachelor's" trying to save money on a dinner date, to buy FOUR POUNDS of ground beef (even at 1967 prices). Even considering how eccentric Felix is - - how OCD -- the way he's cooking this, and acting like a meatloaf is a fragile soufflé, just makes zero sense.

NOTE: as a broke young woman years ago, I used to be able to concoct a full sized -- and delicious! -- meatloaf from one scant HALF POUND of ground beef, bolstered with a lot of add-ins like bread crumbs and beaten egg, and a few secret ingredients. I will happily supply that recipe -- Lily"s Famous Meatloaf" on request to anyone interested!
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Just stop killing dogs in movies. Stop it. Stop it NOW!!!
21 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Because I am sick and tired of it, and it is exploited for sympathy or motivation for killing -- it is pure manipulation of the audience, not unlike tying an adorable toddler to railroad tracks in front of an oncoming locomotive. It's cheap thrills. It's disgusting.

I am tired of renting movies, only to find out that any cute animal in the film is going to be brutally killed along the way, simply as exploitation. I think why it galls me so much here, is that I saw the opening, and the cute dog, and then the titles, which FEATURE the cute dog running around being cute and doing tricks, so I figured "they wouldn't feature the dog if they were going to cause it harm". Stupid me.

Generally I refuse to watch films with violence to animals, on principal, but I never heard of this third rate direct-to-video cheapie, and I thought maybe it would be OK. I was wrong. It is not OK.

It's basically an attempt to remake one of those cheap, spaghetti westerns of the 60s -- right down the titles, which are an homage of 60s style -- but update the flippant language and graphic violence to the present day. Frankly, I never much liked spaghetti westerns in the first place, but at least 50 years ago, the violence was cartoonish.

Here its buckets of blood, slashed throats and of course -- dog murder.

It doesn't make things better that Abby (Jumpy) is about the cutest, cleverest best trained dog I've seen in films or on TV in a long time -- she could be the next Lassie or something. She steals every scene with and out-acts protagonist Ethan Hawke (she out-acts John Travolta, too, but that's a low bar to clear). Because she is SO adorable and the camera (and crew and cast) clearly adore her....they focus on her so much, she stops being an "animal" and becomes the film's HEROINE....only to see her brutally killed in a sickening way.

I'm sorry folks, but that is not entertainment. And I won't pay for it or watch it (by choice) and I will tell anyone in hearing distance to stay far, far away from this pathetic piece of garbage. No surprise this went direct to video. And how desperate are Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, who used to be A-list actors? They are a bit older, but look fine -- they clearly could do better stuff than this. If I were forced to this level of degradation in my career, I'd hang up my spurs & retire.

2 stars solely for Abby (Jumpy) giving an Oscar level performance, and to her trainer. What a sweetie! I'm just sorry I had to see her in this, and because I will never see her parts in this film again, because this film is an abomination that will never enter my home again.
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Hell or High Water (II) (2016)
good performances can't save critical plot flaws
7 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm torn on this film; it has many good points including first rate performances from Jeff Bridges and some of the supporting actors. The music is terrific and the cinematography is gorgeous -- though I was disappointed to find out it was all filmed in NEW Mexico (us Easterners were probably easily fooled -- but don't Texans and New Mexicans sense this right off? Perhaps the crew -- 90% British -- don't see any differences between those two states!)

It's also very funny in places. But HOHW has a fatal flaw, and that is....plot holes the size of Jupiter.

The biggest and most glaring: EVERYTHING in the film hinges on the two bank robbing brother's motivation to save the family farm from foreclosure, by robbing one local bank chain of the petty cash in the drawer (and then laundering that money at casinos, and ultimately, paying their late mother's reverse mortgage off with the stolen cash).

I am gobsmacked the film's writers did not bother to research this AT ALL. That is not how reverse mortgages even work. You do not even have to make payments on a reverse mortgage, so it could not be "in arrears". And the mother borrowed only $25,000? That's chump change -- the ranch is clearly hundreds of acres (we see it at the end, stretching to the horizon) and worth at the rock-bottom minimum hundreds of thousands of dollars BEFORE THEY FIND OIL ON IT.

So the brothers were never "poor" as Chris Pine alleges at the end, when claiming that's why he robbed banks -- so his two sons would not "grow up poor like he did". OK -- except he wasn't poor. And most people provide for their sons by GETTING A JOB. And maybe, moving somewhere where there are more jobs. Or by SELLING the land (so you could pay off the reverse mortgage legally) and then still having anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to MILLIONS OF DOLLARS (!!!).

On top of this, it is infuriating to think the filmmakers think if you cannot provide your children with MILLIONS OF DOLLARS...they are "poor". There is in their eyes nothing in between foreclosure/welfare and MILLIONS? Nothing like, say, "an ordinary job" and "paying your bills" and "living an honest life"?

It's like some weird justification for armed robbery, to "get even" with banks -- who are apparently supposed to forgive all loans, and never demand repayment, and of course, we all know if you own property -- it is "yours" for all eternity, even if you don't pay your taxes, bills or mortgage loans.

On top of this; HOW can people who KNOW they have just won the biggest life lotto of all -- owning a ranch pumping $600,000 worth of oil profits every year and ergo, worth at least $20 million -- be whining about "how poor they are" and "how rough they have it" and how they have to be criminals??? That defies all credulity. Most people in their shoes would be on spending sprees with the royalty checks.

Some other posters have also noted other stupid stuff like "casinos have cameras" and "since they are already suspect (definitely the Ben Foster character, as he's been shot by police), it would be easy to work backwards, and realize Chris Pine paid off the mortgage on his ranch in a suspicious fashion, and with checks from a casino". The most mundane detective work would have turned up the casino laundering trick and bingo, case solved.

Lastly: at the end, Chris Pine is GUT SHOT, and has a bullet in him, but it hardly effects him -- he's not rolling on the ground screaming in pain or dying from peritonitis -- and how did he get the bullet out? going to the hospital would have pointed a big fat arrow at him as part of the robbery team. Did he dig it out himself and do home surgery? WTF?

Too bad that nobody edited this or read it before filming, or had a bank loan officers give it a once over -- the devil is in the details, and these flaws keep this from being anything more than a mediocre shoot 'em up robbery film (with debts, also noted by others, to "No Country For Old Men").
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Third Person (2013)
Weak tea
1 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Disappointing film from a director who has done much work, including his famous "Crash".

"Third Person" attempts to build on that legacy, but is much weaker in concept and execution. I am surprised how many reviews here absolutely miss the real story here -- it is about a famous fiction writer, "Michael" (Liam Neeson), who is holed up in a fancy suite in Paris. The three story "threads" are actually fiction he is MAKING UP while writing a book -- a book we know from his editor is not well received, as his editor tells him "his new work is not as strong or shocking" as his first novel.

So he is attempting to "juice up" some intense stories to get published, and part of how he is doing this to exploit people -- first to exploit his mistress, who has shared with him the dark secret story of her incestuous relationship with her father. The other two stories are purely fictional and are ways that Michael is working out the tragedy of his son's drowning death -- which occurred when he was too wrapped up in a phone call from his lover (the incestuous one, played by Olivia Wilde) to pay attention to a toddler in a swimming pool. The death has broken up his marriage to Kim Basinger.

Story One has Adrien Brody, as a dishonest fashion designer who steals others designs, but who gets involved with a Roma Gypsy woman -- who needs help ransoming her kidnapped daughter, but who in fact is likely just running a scam on a wealthy American. Brody's character also has lost a daughter in an identical swimming pool accident (and his wife, Maria Bello, looks hauntingly similar to Kim Basinger).

Story Two has Mila Kunis, as an ex-actress forced to clean hotel rooms and desperately trying to get back visitation rights to her little boy...after she lost custody for (presumably) putting plastic bags on the boy's head (!!!) to teach him a lesson about playing with dry cleaning bags. (This is very confusing and not well-explained). As a result, her ex-husband very logically does not want her to have unsupervised visitation with the boy.

It took a me while into the film to piece this together -- duh on me -- because looking back, it is very obvious, with 3 of stories having to do with a child who is put in danger or killed because of parental neglect and the guilt that ensues. If that were not enough -- DUH! -- the title of the film is THIRD PERSON, i.e., a story told in the third person -- FICTION.

Most of the story with the mistress may be fiction as well -- she disappears at the end -- though the true part is that Michael knows she had a incestuous affair with her father, and cruelly exploits that to have a "shocking story" for his new book.

The other tip off is the 3 stories are set in different places -- the hotel room in Paris where Michael is writing his novel -- the hotel in NYC where Mila Kunis is a maid -- and Italy, where Adrien Brody meets the gypsy woman. Yet, we see Mila cleaning Michael's hotel room -- or leaving an critical note in his room -- or smashing flowers in his girlfriend's suite -- when this should be impossible as she should be in NYC. But of course...she does not exist at all, except in Michael's imagination, so he moves her in and out of HIS reality.

This sounds cleverer than it really is. In fact, it is exhausting and tiring to watch. It also feels like the deaths of two children (and near death of another child) are simply used for exploitation -- so the characters can "feel sad". Even worse is the unconvincing incest, used for shock value (EW!). In the end, nothing comes of any of it -- except perhaps his book is published --the editor loves the new shocking material even though he KNOWS Michael is horribly exploiting and hurting his girlfriend, as readers will know who she is in real life. (How readers would know who he is having affairs with in real life, I have no idea. It is far more plausible that readers would know he lost a child to drowning, as that would be a public police matter and therefore, be hurtful to his wife & family, exploiting THEIR privacy.)

So it's about the "creative" process and how writers (and one presumes, filmmakers) exploit everything in their lives, in order to get published or produced. Making one wonder how much the director is exploiting HIS loved ones here.

All in all, too hard to follow -- inconsistent and illogical in places -- not as clever as the director thinks -- and exploitative.
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A Chef's Life (2013– )
Weird hybrid of reality TV and a cooking show
10 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The "2" is for the food and cooking, which often look delicious. But this show is so obviously faked, I am amazed people fall for this. Do they believe the couples on "Bachelor/Bachelorette" are genuinely dating and "in love"?

There is no real restaurant "Chef and The Farmer". It's a set for a TV reality show. Simple common sense tell you that no such upscale eatery could survive in a dreary, remote small rural village that is 90 minutes (each way) from the nearest (modest-sized) metropolitan area. You'd be lucky to have 5 customers most nights. It would be impossible to survive. No -- this was an admittedly clever idea for a reality show, and the "customers" are clearly fake, or showing up to get on TV. It was "pre-sold" as a concept for PBS (in SC) and then went national.

Vivian Howard is an attractive, 30-something lady, though her demeanor is often crabby. Of course, from other fake, scripted "reality shows" like American Pickers and Pawn Stars, we know this too is a "shtick". Her husband is rarely seen. They seem to argue a lot. I hope their marriage is better than it looks here. Both of them claim to have "worked in New York City" but if you do the math...they only spent a couple of years there out of college.

By age 26, Vivian was back home in rural North Carolina (a place she says upfront she hated and wanted to GET AWAY FROM)....hmm, why would anyone do that? NYC is the gourmet restaurant capital of THE WORLD. I could see going to a slightly smaller market, but a village in NC? where no customers exist?

BTW: I have talked to actual residents of this part of NC, and they have told me "Kinston is a poor, black-majority village, and no way any of the locals could possibly be eating at an upscale, fancy restaurant". Watch the show, folks. You can count the black people on one hand and have fingers left over. No black customers and no black STAFF. How can you live and work and have a business in a 90% black area, with no black people? Hmmm.

Howard's parents own a large farm, and are immensely rich. Check out the "man cabin" (or whatever they call it) -- it's not a shack. It's nicer than most people's homes! and HUGE! so these very rich people got their daughter to come back to NC, by first offering to support her, and her deadbeat husband (perhaps when she got preggers?) and THEN by offering to pay for her to have a "fake restaurant" and then they (or her husband) marketed the heck out of filming the "fake tribulations" for PBS....and the restaurant burned down.

No inkling as to how you'd survive that, or how someone who works 24/7 can be raising twins....or what kind of income you could possibly generate from a super-fancy restaurant in BUM you-know-what Egypt. (Of course, I know once it got on famous on TV, that did generate some business plus profits from books, PBS revenues, etc.. I mean INITIALLY.)

Every crisis and situation is fake and manufactured for TV cameras. I pity their kids. I pity the husband and the marriage. I'll be really happy when reality TV dies a much deserved death.
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The Meddler (2015)
Hip deep in stereotypes
5 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It's depressing to see a fine actress and lovely lady like Susan Sarandon reduced to doing this kind of comic shtick. There isn't much here you couldn't find in a 1950s TV sitcom about an "interfering mother" -- about the only surprise is that the character of Marnie Minervini is not Jewish, but Italian. (Speaking of that: would an Italian mother be bringing over BAGELS? not biscotti or cannoli? Really?)

The stereotype of the bossy smother-mother -- well-intentioned, but SO overbearing -- is a very, very old trope and yet the director here, Lorene Scafaria, seems to think she's struck comedic gold. A bonus feature on the DVD is an interview with Scafaria and her own real life mother, on whom the film characters are based...and it comes across as creepy & troubling, not cute. About the only thing original is that the "smother-mother" here, Marnie, is a baby boomer and not a member of the Greatest Generation...if you fall into that demographic, it is a bit jarring to realize you are now among the OLDSTERS being mocked, and not the "young hip generation" anymore.

But the problem with THAT, is when an overbearing mother of that former era was caricatured (unfairly I think), we KNEW someone of that age was a lifetime homemaker & mother, with no real education or career outside of that. So when their kids were grown and their spouse passed away, they had literally NOTHING else in their lives. That is very hard to accept when it comes to a boomer mom, who almost certainly had a career, went to college, etc. If we take Rose Bryne (age 38) and Susan Sarandon (who looks amazing at 70) literally...she did not have her daughter until she was 32.

Yet there is no sense whatsoever that Marnie has ever had a profession or career, even part-time...that she had any life beyond marriage & kids...that she has same-age friends (and not just her daughter's friends)...or a life in Manhattan that she has left behind...or that she has always hovered over Lori (Bryne) who at least in her late 30s, for Lori's entire life.

That's because Marnie is reduced to a stereotype; a meddling, clinging old crone with no life of her own. If Scarfaria thinks this about her own mother (besides mining her for lame jokes), it is pretty darn sad.

Of course the vehicle that finally gives Marnie "a new life" and gets her claws out of Lori (a little) has to be....a new romance, supplied by J.K. Simmons (who's as charming as always). Indeed, nice single men in their 70s are clamoring for gorgeous Marnie here, which frankly is not something I've seen much for women I know over 60. And in LOS ANGELES! In other words: it is apparently not possible for a woman to heal from widowhood or loneliness or clinginess...unless she finds a new lover/husband.

The other kinda distasteful element of the film is that Scarfaria (either reflecting real life OR a kind of cultural elitism) has made Marnie staggeringly wealthy. Of course, some people ARE really wealthy, but THAT also means the story is far less universal. Most older widows struggle financially -- your Social Security check is cut by a third when your spouse dies -- but not Marnie! SHE has apparently inherited MILLIONS from her husband, about which she acts as if he were a great-uncle who left her an unexpected inheritance. (Wasn't their wealth, their mutual assets, HALF HERS all this time? why was she SURPRISED to get it?)

Out of a combination of guilt, wealth, control, naivete, and self-destructiveness, Marnie seems driven to spend her millions inappropriately -- buying expensive Apple electronics for people she barely knows, and throwing a very costly, large wedding for two ALREADY MARRIED lesbian friends of her daughter ....a couple whom she has just met! -- at first offering them $13,000 as tax-free gift....but then, paying entirely for a wedding which is clearly more than 2-3 times that much, being a catered affair on a rented YACHT and including a very costly designer dress for the bride!

Though the whole concept is tedious, I think that last part lost the whole believability aspect for me. Even sitcoms have to be grounded in something relatable. If my mother spent a sizable chunk of her assets (and my future inheritance!) on a stranger's gay wedding (and not MY OWN wedding!)...I'd be properly concerned she was mentally ill or even showing signs of impending dementia. That isn't cute. It's troubling. It is troubling if the lesbian couple accepts this much money from a wealthy stranger, even as a gift. NOBODY here is behaving like anything resembling a real, normal human being in 2015.

Not funny. Sad.
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Predestination (I) (2014)
Dreary adaptation of classic Heinlein story...
5 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I give this a 3 out of 10 almost solely for the wonderful performance of Australian actress Sarah Snook as the protagonist. She can't save this mess -- nobody could -- but this is a career-making performance and she gives the film an emotional depth and resonance that otherwise it would utterly lack. I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future!

So OK: lot of folks here do not recognize this as an adaptation of a very old Robert A. Heinlein short story from 1958. Legend says he wrote it in one day. Heinlein is one of the classic masters of Sci Fi, author of "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Starship Troopers" among many others.

Actually, since they gave it the name "Predestination" (?) and not the original story title of "All You Zombies", it took me a good 45 minutes to figure this out. I hadn't read that story in years. It's very short -- a few pages -- and unlike the film which is very dark and dour, the STORY is humorous and breezy. It is clearly done as a lark, a kind of meta-joke. At the time Heinlein wrote it, for one thing, people knew virtually nothing about DNA. Also Christine Jorgenson was in the news, making people aware for the first time of transsexuals and sex reassignment surgery -- very shocking in that era.

On top of that...Heinlein wrote this around the time of the old humor song "I'm My Own Grandpa" (sung briefly in the film). Twirl all that around in a blender, and you get "All You Zombies". Also add some serious lack of knowledge about genetics, DNA, inter-sex and hermaphrodism. But again, it was a HUMOR story....meant entirely to be a brain twister. If you put yourself in a 1950s frame of mind, and not a 21st century frame of mind, you can see the humor. Heinlein wanted to come up with a story about someone who changed genders from female to male, AND had a baby. He wondered if you could do that, could you -- theoretically, with time travel (!) -- be your own parents?

Well, aside from the lack of time travel....this is stupid. You can't change genders that easily. A woman (even a hermaphrodite appearing as a woman) would not suddenly lose her womanhood because she had a difficult delivery, even if she had a total hysterectomy. (Do women TODAY who have hysterectomies become surgical males???) Even in the 1950s, it was hardly the norm to do forced surgery without consent, on an otherwise sane ADULT. (Here, Heinlein may have read about a few rare cases back then, where a MALE child had a traumatic accident to his penis, and so surgeons - with consent of the parents -- tried to turn such a victim into a female. These attempts utterly failed, BTW.)

On top of that...Heinlein knew astonishingly little about genetics. A child of two twin siblings (say, fraternal twins) would likely have horrible birth defects, from multiple copies of genes. It would be a perfectly terrible idea, not some brilliant way to create a "time travel agent".

Mostly though, it is a short breezy story full of bad sexist jokes (the worst is that the heroine wants to go into space, and so joins an organization of female prostitutes who service astronauts (!!!) called W.H.O.R.E.S. Yes, Heinlein was really THAT sexist and misogynistic (but then, it WAS the 50s).

Spinning this out into a full length film and making it glum & serious just ruins whatever charm the original short story had. I think it could have been a terrific episode of the original Twilight Zone, had they been able back then to deal with issues about gender, sexual identity and unwed motherhood. But at this length, and with this overly solemn attitude, it feels too much like it was plucked from sci fi historical obscurity SOLELY because it is about "gender identity" and transsexual surgery. As such, they can't participate in Heinlein's JOKE over this, but have to be politically correct. It sinks this slight story like a massive two-ton boulder strapped to a piece of tissue paper.

Among the epic failures....Ethan Hawke is badly miscast, since he looks NOTHING like Sarah Snook, and unless sex reassignment surgery makes you TALLER and muscular, no excuse about a "face transplant" will explain the differences. In male makeup, Snook looks a bit like a younger Mickey Rourke, and I can only imagine how good he would have been in this (25 years ago, before he ruined his face boxing). Surely they could have found someone who was slightly built, and had more of a resemblance to the actress though.

Unfortunately this reveals the problem in translating this to the screen: in a STORY, we see the characters only in our imagination. In a FILM, if you see right off that the time travel agent and Snook look nearly identical, you would be in on the twist right away (yes, even with a "face transplant").

In any event, the whole thing doesn't work at all, and is doomed by its 1950s ideas about sex reassignment surgery and even gender identity. No surprise this went direct to video.

Watch it only to see Sarah Snook; she is worth sitting through the lameness. I predict she will be a major actress in short time.
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Boring, facile rip-off of Woody Allen...
27 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
And Whit Stillman. And Wes Anderson. No question here who first time director Peter Glanz looks up to and idolizes! He has even copied the whole idea of setting a film in the 60s....but I assume (from the "making of" featurette on the DVD) that he is far, far too young to have even been a small child in the 60s. This isn't nostalgia or is just homage to directors who are 30 years older than himself.

If you are going to go to the expense and trouble of setting a film in a specific historical setting, you'd think you would have a POINT to has some link to history of that era....or it references something in your personal life, or that of a relative. Or it's based on a novel or incident from the past. Otherwise, it feels pointless. The director clearly has no real feeling or nostalgia for the past, except for "mod fashions of the 60s". Or maybe it has something to do with the success of "Mad Men", which has done more to make the 60s have a comeback than anything else I know.

But "Mad Men" is making a point about how the history of the 60s, is the underpinnings of so many things we think and do today...part of our evolution as a culture. "The Longest Week" has no point. It is utterly trivial.

The story is about a useless trust fund brat (Jason Bateman) who is 40ish and suddenly his absent parents cut him off (for no real reason). He has to crash with his best friend, a successful pop artist (Billy Crudup). He meets a beautiful model (Olivia Wilde, a little long in the tooth for a fashion model of the era -- Twiggy was SIXTEEN) and they have a week-long affair while he is displaced from his lavish lifestyle in his parent's luxe hotel suite.

That's IT. He "suffers" (stealing money from his friends) for ONE WEEK. This week is so transformative, he grows up (sort of).

I don't know a thing about the director, but it made me wonder if he was this same sort of trust fund brat. In the post 2008 economic climate, it is REALLY hard to work up sympathy for some billionaire's spoiled man-child.

No surprise this film was shelved for over 2 years before going direct to video, based I am sure solely on the star names. In that time, bit part player Jenny Slate (she plays a blind date of the hero) rose to prominence in the (much better) indie film "Obvious Child"; as a result, she is given TOP BILLING. But she only has a couple of brief scenes.

I enjoy 60s nostalgia as much as anyone (I was actually around then!) but this feels as fake and sterile as a display in department store window.

It did occur to me watching is clearly set in about 1966 (from the clothes model Beatrice wears). If Conrad Valmont (Bateman) is, in 2016, he would be...90. That shook me up a bit. It's worth thinking about. Clearly it never crossed the director's mind (i.e., what happened through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, to these vapid characters).

(I would have been interested to see the original B&W short that the director showed at Sundance. Too bad, it is not included on the DVD extras and I can't even find a link to it on Vimeo or anywhere on IMDb.)
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The X-Files (1993– )
Reboot of the famous 90s series
3 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I was a big fan of X-files back in 1993; in fact, I was taping every episode on my VCR because I was sure it would be canceled before the first season finished, and back in those days, there was no guarantee it would end up on VHS tape (let alone DVDs). Yes, children, there was a time when a short-lived series without a big fan base simply disappeared into the ether! And I loved it, and wanted to preserve it.

Silly me! it went on to become a mega-hit and one of those defining series that (like Star Trek or CSI) has become part of our culture and even our language.

The show was always uneven -- a superb episode would be followed by one that was silly or illogical. They would set up character parameters, then violate them. The show would veer from a kind of serious, breathless "alien invasion" theme -- to one about people with tails, or deformed hillbilly mutants. (Some of those episodes are quite funny, but seem to be another show entirely.)

A move in Season 5 to LA from Vancouver ruined the gloomy Pacific NW mood of the show in my opinion. It became more and more uneven in quality and illogical in theme (though I kept watching) until the original actors quit, and were replaced (Robert Patrick, Annabelle Gish). After that, really, it was not the same show AT ALL. A case of "false advertising". It was so profitable, that the producers (and Chris Carter) simply could not let it (and the $$$) go. A couple of lame theatrical movies followed, never able to remotely capture the magic of the early years of the show.

So -- now, 23 (!!!) years after the premiere, they have rebooted the franchise....keenly aware that fans really only loved the early years of the show. So they copied everything, even the titles down the last molecule. For me, it's very nostalgic. I half expect to find Bill Clinton is still President! LOL! Only....only....well, it's not 1993 and a lot of water has gone under that bridge.

For starters, David Duchovney (Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) are just....old. (Hey, I am too! I was a young whipper-snapper of 37 when this was first on! But folks, I am not seen in closeups on HDTV.) And frankly, they look tired and worn out. I don't blame them for aging. I blame them, Chris Carter, the writers & producers for not accepting that people age and change, and failing to show the characters as having moved on in some way. You can't just put your same outfit on, go back to the same office with the same poster and pretend it's 1993 and nobody will notice your wrinkles and crow's feet.

Somehow, Duchovny manages to now look OLDER than AD Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) -- how'd that happen? In '93, Duchovny was 33 and somehow looked 25. His behavior and his crazy beliefs seemed absolutely believable in a young, brash guy a few years out of college or the FBI Academy. Today, Duchovny looks every year of his 55; tired and without energy.

And Gillian Andersen? honey, you need to stay out of the sun or use more sunscreen. And what's with her hair? I think somewhere here it says it is a wig, because she didn't want to dye her blonde hair red again for the part....well, it looks strange. Greasy, flat. She had such gorgeous hair back in the 90s....she was an archetypal redhead, with peaches & cream skin. I guess that type does not age well. She's only about 47, but looks 55. (Frankly, this shook me up.)

On the other hand: the 3 new episodes (2016) of "season 10" -- as if the years 2002-2016 are brushed off, as irrelevant? hello? -- have been all quite good. Vintage X-files, as if the bad years (roughly 1998-2002) of the show, where it clearly jumped the shark (or had different lead actors) never happened! If you can overlook the aging stars... then the writing and special effects have been excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed each show, despite the pangs I felt every time I looked at them and realized 23 years have gone by (and that the world itself is a very different place today).

I suspect this will work nicely for a short 6 episode run....but I hope nobody gets the idea of bringing the show back on regular series basis. I don't think it could work long-term. It reminds me, in a way, of those Star Trek movies, where the original cast got older and heavier and sadder looking with each outing, until you sincerely wished they would check into some 25th century Assisted Living home. Sometimes TV series are best left in the era in which they were created; a kind of time capsule.

Was there a real reason to reboot X-Files (besides the obvious: money and the fact that nobody involved ever had this kind of mega-success again)? The creative process means we have to move on and invent NEW things, with each generation....not endlessly recycle and reboot the old.

In short: bittersweet....and yeah, I'll watch all six new episodes. After that, please: R.I.P., X- files. Let the 90s be in the past, and move on.
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Green Card (1990)
7 Stars....for the Apartment
22 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this in the theatre in 1990, and a few times on TV, but last night I caught it again on late night TV for the first time in years. 25 years, but I had the same reaction to it, LOL.

This is a perfectly terrible, unfunny movie with a script that would be lame on a 30 minute sitcom. It was made solely as a vehicle to introduce Gerard Depardieu to American audiences, and as such was a failure. It also showcased the lovely Andy McDowell, but rather unfairly -- she's either pregnant or post-pregnant here, and although radiantly beautiful, she is hulking around in huge, baggy jumpers and tops. Considering Depardieu is a heavy set man, the combination isn't romantic at all. It's like a "before" ad for Weight Watchers.

I'm not saying a comedy about two heavy set people can't be done -- of course, it could be and delightful, with lots of avenues for humor. But that's not how this framed AT ALL. Their weights are not alluded to, except briefly when George (Depardieu) wrongly guesses Brontë's weight as 140 lbs (she says "125 lbs"...well, maybe when not preggers).

I think this pretty much restricted the script to "no nude scenes".

And oy, the plot: unrealistic and leaden. Not only does immigration law in the US work NOTHING like this (is it possible the all-Aussie crew had no idea?), we are talking about a pretty serious crime. It's not "cute" to defraud the INS. George has no reason to do all this. He could have applied for a work visa, and waited it out. Also, come on -- he's what? 45 or older? What has he been doing all this time? Frankly, though the script was apparently WRITTEN for him, Depardieu is entirely WRONG for it -- and unfunny -- every scene is just painful. George needs to be an eager YOUNG guy, maybe 25 or 30 with some real goal -- something he would NEED to be in America to accomplish.

OK, so why 7 stars? Honestly, I remember this movie well for one reason -- it is shot in the loveliest, most charming apartment I have ever seen. It is truly the apartment of my dreams. I've never forgotten it, and 25 years after, I could have described it down to the last detail. I suspect it is only a movie set, but OMG, what a set. (The building itself is real.) Never mind it would have cost a fortune, even in 1989, and never mind it is probably a CO OP (meaning you buy in, and not rent it, and we are talking MILLIONS of dollars). I don't care. It's a dream and a wonderful one -- oh that greenhouse...the koi pond...the fountain.

This was the beginning of the shabby chic style, and it was never showcased better than here. Kudos to the set designer. I want to live here. I just don't want to live with fat annoying George, or dull matronly Brontë.

Consider watching this with the sound turned off.
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Yes, it IS surprisingly downbeat
22 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I was majorly disappointed in this documentary about legendary animator Hiyao Miyazaki and his famous Studio Ghibli (that produced such iconic animated films as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke to name a few.

First let me say that I near-worship Miyazaki. When I first found his work in the mid-90s, I had a fantasy of flying to Japan, prostrating myself at the front door of Studio Ghibli and begging for a job as the lowest underling -- sweeping floors, making tea -- just to be near the artists & their work. OK, a silly mid-life fantasy. But still. I adored them, and I still consider Miyazaki the most pre-eminent animator of the last 35 years, and Studio Ghibli makes Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks look a bit lame (his hand drawn animation blasts their computer graphics into space dust).

But this documentary is the epitome of bad documentaries. It's fragmented. It's boring. If you have not seen most of films, it won't even make sense. They give no framework for understanding WHO he is or why he is important (or why his presumed retirement is an irreplaceable loss for the world of animation). A good documentary could be on rice farmers in the Sub-Sahara, and be seen by someone who has never heard of them, and actually make you understand and appreciate the subject. This documentary does the OPPOSITE -- it took someone and something I absolutely adore and revere, and made them more boring than math homework.

For starters, the film is in Japanese, and they thought so little of it as to not dub any of it. It's grueling to watch. (There is more footage of the studio's adorable snub-tailed cat than Miyazaki!) The subtitles are so poorly done, you often cannot read them against the backdrops. This is inexcusable. It would have taken very little effort to have the narration dubbed into English.

About all I got out of this (besides meeting their cat!) was that the studio itself is interesting - - a light filled and charmingly modest space. We also see what I THINK was Miyazaki's home (they do not make it clear) and again, it's a large and homey space, but nothing fancy. I imagine if one toured the home of John Lassiter or Brad Bird or any Disney exec, you'd see something on an entirely different scale of bling. You get to see nature surrounding Studio Ghibli and the rooftop garden, which is a glimpse into the natural beauty often reflected in the films. That much is nice. But there isn't too much of it.

Most of the film is the rather dark and depressing personality of MIyazaki. Good thing I never became his gofer/tea girl, because I thought he would be a warm, grandfatherly person full of light and imagination. Ummm....not. He's an "end of the world" type, and strikes me as depressed. His colleagues and co-workers come off as non-entities (though I am sure they do important work). I was surprised not to see evidence of his family (besides the son, Goro, whom Miyazaki makes painfully clear is not talented enough to take over the studio). Supposedly Miyazaki based the characters of May, Seitsuke, Kiki and San on his granddaughters. They must be young adults by now. It would have been nice to have seen them or at least some photos of his family. (If he is married, they do not mention his wife.)

I have probably seen films like Totoro and Kiki 10-12 times each, if not more and remain fascinated with all Miyazaki's work. I like some better than others, but all of them form a rich cultural treasure chest. THIS documentary -- I fell asleep somewhere around the last third. FELL ASLEEP. It is unbelievably dull. How you can make such a fascinating person dull is beyond me.
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The Homesman (2014)
Sorry I bothered to watch this
7 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
(Some plot spoilers below, be warned!)

I have to rate this one star, because I felt totally exploited having sat through this. It presents itself (falsely) as the story of a charming, tough and pragmatic woman (a spinster, in that era) who has her own farm and is very independent and competent. She volunteers to take 3 insane women back from the Nebraska wilderness to "civilization" in Iowa, and along the way, picks up a drifter who is about to be hung. She saves him, and after a variety of typical "journey through the old west stuff" (Indians, rustlers, etc.), she abruptly kills herself. He tries to abandon the crazy women, but then has a change of heart and delivers them to Iowa.

Hilary Swank is very fine in her role as Mary Bee Cuddy, but god what a waste of her talent. She is presented as a strong character, and then kills herself because she is rejected (for the 2nd time in the film) by a man she throws herself at (the drifter, played gruffly by Tommy Lee Jones). This is incongruous and inconsistent with everything we've been shown up to this point. It would have made more sense if aliens had landed in a space ship.

There is no way a tough pioneer woman like Mary Bee would have killed herself over a romantic rejection. It makes no sense. It is also beyond ridiculous that anyone would consider her "ugly" back then -- check out some photographs from the 1850s. The most gorgeous celebrities of the day were not what we modern folks would have considered "hot" -- no makeup, greasy hair, etc. Mary Bee would have been a STONE FOX in 1850. Even if she'd been crippled, lame, pockmarked and blind in one eye -- her money and land would have attracted SOMEONE. There was a shortage of women in the Old West. This is a FACT. Men could not be choosy the way they are today, in a large modern city.

On the other hand, Tommy Lee Jones is a grizzled man in his late 60s. He really was repulsed by the attention from a 31 year old woman? even if she was fat and covered in pimples, he would have probably been so grateful to have sex, he would have fallen on his knees in gratitude.

There is something mentally wrong not with the 3 insane ladies here (whose back stories are very choppy and vague -- and it is not plausible that 3 of 6 women in the same town would have the same mental breakdown at the same time), but with the AUTHOR and SCREENWRITER for putting this hateful rubbish on the screen. It has to be the most anti-feminist, female-hating movie I have seen in my life, positing that a woman who is "plain" (which Swank very obviously is NOT, making it idiotic) has to kill herself, because not having sex or failing to marry is such an absolute disaster. Never mind the many thousands of spinsters of this era (some of them very famous: Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, among others). It was not all that uncommon to remain single in the 19th century (for men or women).

Also it cannot be that surprising that Mary Bee couldn't find a husband in a tiny prairie settlement with approximately 10 people in the entire TOWN (6 of won are other women, 3 of which are insane). Didn't any of the husbands of the insane women want a new wife? a mother for their children? Yeesh.

Near the end, as if to rub it in, 70 year old Tommy Lee Jones proposes to a comely 16 year old waitress (Hailie Seinfeld, utterly wasted) as if to prove that "men only want extremely young hotties...see?"

If this was not a DVD borrowed from the library, I'd burn it. Avoid at all costs.
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Tammy (2014)
Wretchedly unfunny "comedy"
23 June 2015
I thought "Identity Thief" was a pretty bad movie, that exploited poor Melissa McCarthy for her size. But the actress and her husband actually wrote and produced "Tammy", so I am forced to conclude this not "fatty bashing" but that she actually seeks out these roles -- or I should say "THIS ROLE", because its beginning to seem they are all alike. She keeps playing the SAME repulsive character, who is verbally foul mouthed and stupid. (Her weight is really the least of it, though exploited for "humor" as she continually gets hurt, hit, trampled, etc.)

Sadly, there is material here that could have been genuine and humorous -- something about our declining economy, where a middle-aged woman might be stuck working at a lousy fast food restaurant for $7.25 an hour. Alas, this source was not even considered. Like so many movies emanating from the high & mighty in Hollyweird, tucked away in their mansions & gated BelAir communities, "Tammy" simply sneers down from on high, at the "awful low-life rednecks" if they were a species apart (you know, from us tasteful people who are slim and never make mistakes).

The story is reed thin -- Tammy is a pathetic loud-mouthed violent loser, who in one day is fired from her lousy fast food job AND comes home to find her husband cheating on her. She leaves on a road trip -- but because she has barely $60 to her name and no car, she has to take along her alcoholic grandmother. They go from place to place, having adventures or incidents that do not contribute to the story line or even make sense....for starters, it took me until nearly the end of the film to realize this is supposed to take place in Louisville, Kentucky. Tammy and Grandma are headed to Niagara Falls, but someone end up in the Mark Twain National Forest -- in Missouri. Look at a map, you'll see how absurd this is.

The biggest flaw in the film is that Melissa McCarthy is a woman in her mid-40s, and looks it. Nothing wrong with that. But the character of Tammy appears to be not a middle aged loser, but an affectless young woman, maybe 23. She has no backstory, no children, no explanation for how she ended up working fast food in her 40s. I can only imagine how good someone like Rebel Wilson might have been with this role! McCarthy has badly miscast HERSELF. For proof of this, she has also cast Susan Sarandon (age 67) as her GRANDMA, and Alison Janney (age 54) as her MOM. This is only possible if each woman gave birth at 12. If Tammy is really 43 as McCarthy is, then Sarandon is exactly right to be her MOM. Why add another character? Janney does exactly nothing here, and has about 4 lines of dialog. Is it vanity or what to pretend McCarthy is in her 20s?

Susan Sarandon, god knows, is a wonderful actress, and totally game -- she really tries here to play out of type, in baggy clothing and prosthetic swollen feet -- but it's hopeless. She is a slim vibrant lady in her 60s, who looks about 52. In fact, she looks miles better than McCarthy, who is made up to look just wretched. (It is apparently not enough for Tammy to be fat -- she is also slovenly, with unwashed stringy hair and wearing the same hideous outfit throughout.) You do wonder how two slim women like Sarandon and Janney raised a morbidly obese daughter.

As slovenly as she is, Tammy apparently OWNS her own home -- which is a charming Craftsman style, furnished like it was featured in House Beautiful. Huh, how does such a total slob (whose car is disgusting and falling apart) manage such a gorgeous house? How does she afford it on a fast food salary? Why does she walk away from a home she OWNS, taking only a bag of clothes and never expresses the slightest concern for her furniture or possessions?

Although nearly every plot point is grating and humorless, the low point is when the two women go to a bar, and immediately hook up with a father and son combo -- thankless roles for Gary Cole and Mark Duplass (hope they were paid a lot, cuz otherwise I don't get it). Cole, who appears to be about 55 is immediately drawn to grandmotherly Sarandon, with her orthopedic shoes and swollen ankles (despite many hot women in the bar) and in minutes, they are having sex in her car. On the other hand, Tammy is pursing the son, in the most aggressive and repulsive way possible (she is shown hitting shamelessly on every man there, oblivious to their disgust at her appearance and apparently thinking herself a "hottie") -- he initially shows repulsion at her -- but the script has him suddenly having a change of heart and falling in love with Tammy, for no believable reason -- she's a self-destructive moron, lives 2 states away from him, is hideously unattractive -- but he's not only abruptly smitten (after being repulsed!), but bails Grandma out of jail to the tune of $1600. Yeah, right.

Almost as bad is a finale set at a giant lesbian Fourth of July party. Not only desperately unfunny, but a tragic waste of the very fine actresses Kathy Bates and Sandra Oh. How bad is it in Hollyweird these days, that actresses of their caliber have to play "second fiddle" to an untalented and unfunny and painfully unattractive figure like "Tammy"? There is some story there, probably way funnier and more poignant than this one.

Avoid, avoid, avoid.
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Talhotblond: (2009)
Very poorly constructed, cheaply-made documentary
27 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Having read about this case, and also having seen the pseudo-documentary "Catfish", I was drawn to view this film. It is a documentary; the OTHER 2012 film also called "Tallhotblond" is a fictional treatment of the story directed by Courtney Cox. I have not seen that, but I can't imagine it could possibly be done more poorly than this.

The worst part? It is "narrated" by an actor pretending to be the victim, which of course means fictionalized invented dialog that never happened. OK in a fiction treatment, NOT OK in a serious documentary. The death of this innocent young man is an appalling tragedy, but putting words in his mouth is just lame. The SECOND worst part is how much of the content is interviews with a psychologist who had NO (zero!) involvement with the case, never met any of the participants or interviewed them, and is simply pontificating in a moral/emotional way he is not entitled to about the case. You might as well have spent time interviewing my Aunt Tilly.

A lot of time is given to the murderer -- "marinesniper" was his internet name -- who is self-serving and making excuses and blaming others for the fact that he MURDERED an innocent man that he incorrectly believed was a love rival for an internet flirtation with a woman he idiotically thought was really a "tall hot blond" and only 18. Of course, she was no such thing. He'd never even met her in person.

The whole film basically is a blame fest on the lady (Mary), a 46 year old, lonely housewife in a failing marriage, who disguised herself as her attractive young daughter Jessie while online. This is treated as if she herself were a criminal for indulging in what I am sure seemed like harmless, pretend flirting.

Not one person (the shooter, the victim's family, the pontificating psychologist, the woman's ex-husband) seem to have considered that a homely, lonely middle-aged woman could have probably never gotten flirtatious attention and attracted sexual desire WITHOUT some kind of false internet persona. BTW, this is the exact situation of the film "Catfish" (though nobody was murdered or harmed in anyway in that story) -- some young men were FOOLED by a middle-aged, plain-looking lady who was enjoying some sexy internet flirting. That woman was ALSO using the persona of her teenage daughter (but with photographs of a total stranger she found online).

What this really tells us is NOT about the horrors of the internet -- where what you think are friends are phonies -- but shows us just how miserable life can be if you are an older woman, perhaps not physically attractive or overweight. You have no options for romance in real life, and to get flirtations or romance even on the internet, you must lie. Had Mary Sheiler tried to attract "marinesniper" (a lonely guy her own age!), he would not have spent 2 minutes willing to talk to her, because she was not "tall, nor blond, nor hot" enough to spike his interest.

Are homely, plain or overweight women in mid-life condemned therefore to sterile lives of total loneliness and rejection? That seems to be the conclusion of this documentary, which has the nerve to blame Mary (who never faced any charges whatsoever) for the murder of young Brian! and let the real murderer off the hook. On what planet does a jilted lover (no matter how deluded about his "loved one") get the right to MURDER anyone he sees as a rival? Surprisingly, this was DIRECTED by a woman (Barbara Shroeder). I wonder how old she was when she made this film, because she is utterly lacking in sympathy for this woman -- who lost her marriage, her husband and her relationship to her own daughter because of her deceptive flirtations online (most of which did not lead to any murder or mayhem). Her judgment was awful, her use of her daughter's photos pretty sleazy -- but she is a sad and lonely case. Not a killer! BTW: I can't think of a cheaper shot than to use so many photos of Ms. Sheiler, with the intent of letting viewers know "she's a real DOG, isn't she? nobody any man would ever desire".

On top of this, the film is painfully slow and relies on showing typed instant messages rather than any action or investigation. Worst example of misogynist reportage I have seen in a very long time. Avoid.
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Frances Ha (2012)
Did we see the same movie?
10 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I read such euphoric, glowing reviews of this film, I was expecting something truly special. I love "The Squid and The Whale"; I have admired Gerwig in other films as a natural-looking and sweet actress. I like black and white films, New Wave "homage" and old Woody Allen films like "Manhattan".

By the time I actually got to view this film, I was jazzed about it. It has incredibly high ratings on Rottentomatoes and other, major downer.

The problem may be that since it came out, I've seen most of the TV series "Girls". It feels like "Frances Ha" is very derivative of "Girls', or even Lena Dunham's earlier film "Tiny Furniture". The subject of loserish young women in Brooklyn -- living on their wealthy parent's dime -- is getting awfully tread-worn. I think directors and professional reviews (most of whom live in NYC or LA) have over-estimated how much this reflects the reality of life for young people today. Only a tiny percentage can afford this kind of la-di-da lifestyle, and the privations ordinary young people would really face are far worse than depicted here.

Frances comes off far worse than even Dunham's Hannah Horvath (who is merely whiny, irritating and self-important). She is actually presented here as sweet, but semi-retarded -- a 27 year old divorcée (a point nearly every reviewer has MISSED) who is so childish that she skips & plays like a 10 year old, dresses like a little kid, has a female best friend (but no particular drive for a boyfriend or lover) with whom she holds hands like little kids -- Frances playacts at lesbianism, without the passion for that either -- runs in the street and urinates in public (may I say here: ewww).

Like Hannah Horvath, she can manage to live in one of the most expensive areas in the nation, without a real job, because (apparently) her parents must be sending her thousands of dollars each year. There is no other way this adds up. Frances has no job -- she's an "apprentice dancer", which seems doubtful pays anything at a tiny company. She's not good enough to make the cut for a member of the company, which is painfully obvious from seeing Gerwig galumph around -- she isn't built at all like a dancer, she's broad in the shoulders, thick-waisted, with the oddest mannish walk.

The filmmakers don't seem to have even the slightest clue about how hard dancers have to work -- the constant studio work, classes, workouts, DIETING -- obsession with their body (which is, of course, their tool). Frances mostly sleeps around all day. She doesn't take class. She doesn't audition. Any inclination that she might really be a choreographer is dumped on the audience in the last few minutes.

The film follows Frances as she loses her apartment, when her roommate (the so-called "best friend") callously moves out and leaves her in the lurch. This makes the whole idea that the two women are inseparable, lover-like, intimate best friends very unbelievable. Who would not know this in advance? What kind of friend would move out in 2 days, knowing they would leave you homeless? Frances then moves from one acquaintance to another, crashing in their apartments, while doing....well, nothing in particular. Certainly not dancing, nor choreographing anything. She makes a disastrous, expensive trip to Paris -- mostly to show off to her better-off acquaintances -- and then has to spend the summer working at her old college as an RA.

The most confusing bit for me was when Frances runs into her EX-HUSBAND ("we used to be married") -- hello, this was never previously even hinted at. I don't even see the actor in the credits here! When was Frances married? for how long? when did she divorce? There isn't a word about what would have been a major relationship, lifestyle change, emotional upheaval. It might have well explained everything she does in the film, but it is dropped as a "fact bomb" near the end, unrelated to every single other thing in the plot. (For example, we are led to believe Frances is deeply attached her best friend Sophie, because she lacks the maturity to form a relationship with a man....but if she did fall in love & marry AND DIVORCE -- all since college only 5 years earlier -- she certainly did do those things, and recently.)

It is a cheap shot, and one I have seen before, to have Sophie seem to have achieved adulthood and the "perfect life" with a rich boyfriend in Japan...only to quickly show it is all a sham, they are not in love and Sophie is drunkenly unhappy, and then it is really Frances who is doing OK after all. None of this is foreshadowed; it feels like wish fulfillment and sour grapes ("I'm so jealous of my friends, maybe they are not really as happy as they look!").

Sophie has been such a rotten, unfeeling and cruel "friend" to Frances, you can't help but hope she IS out of Frances' life forever.

Lastly: at the end, Frances is shown happily in her OWN large apartment, with a wooded view (in Brooklyn?) that she can suddenly afford, on the pay from a part-time secretarial job with a tiny modern dance company. Say what? That's science fiction. Maybe this film was misshelved.
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Blue Jasmine (2013)
Wildly overpraised, tired Woody Allen remake of "Streetcar"
5 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I read so many slavering positive reviews for this film, I was expecting something really special -- silly me. I don't think Woody Allen has made a decent film in 35 years -- a few very slight comedies like Vicky Christina Barcelona, but really not anything of consequence.

I think he's become like the Emperor in his New Clothes; he must have some incredible power over people that they not only overlook the slightness of his films (and many stinkers like Blue Jasmine among them) but have apparently decided it's perfectly OK that he married his own stepdaughter.

Among the chief problems of Blue Jasmine, is that it is posited as a harsh look at a crazy rich woman, who lost everything (ala the Madoff scandal) when her husband went to jail -- an indictment of "those awful rich people and their sickeningly lavish lifestyles". Ahem -- this is from a man who is not just a multi-millionaire with several homes (and a wife 40 years his junior) but who owns a $12 million "palazzo" (seriously) in Venice. Allen is on very shaky ground moralizing about extreme wealth or lavish lifestyles.

Funnily enough, he is also wildly contemptuous of the working class, and their skeevy apartments, clothes, accents, bad taste. Of course, as this film makes painfully clear, Mr. Allen knows nobody from this milieu (certainly NOT in San Francisco) and has not the foggiest idea of how a middle class person might live in the US (let alone San Francisco, one of the costliest areas), or how a middle class person might be living/acting differently than a poor person or a working class person.

That pretty much one and nothing he sympathizes or identifies with. Both women (Jasmine and her adopted sister Ginger) are pretty awful gold-diggers -- each of them very willing to cheat or lie to get a "man" (and so no surprise or sympathy when it turns out they have chosen very, very poorly).

BTW: the adoption device makes no sense whatsoever. I know plenty of biological sisters who look as different as Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett. There is no reason for them to be adopted, just as there is no reason for Ginger to have both a New Jersey gumba for a ex husband AND another very similar one for a boyfriend. There is no reason for Jasmine's "son" to be her stepson (she's plenty old enough to his mom, and since she isn't, why does she care about his opinion of her?)

The way the story is posited as a kind of modern retelling of "Streetcar Named Desire" is hamhanded and obvious, broadcasting the ending from the first few minutes -- and the way it is wrapped around a very sloppy retelling of the Bernie Madoff story is pointless. (Madoff did not kill himself...he was turned in by his adult sons, not his wife....he wasn't a womanizer....his wife was given millions of dollars, not left poverty-stricken.) The real Madoff story is actually far more fascinating.

Clearly Allen meant to set this story in New Jersey; Ginger and her men all have strong Jersey accents and lifestyles. NOTHING here is representative of San Francisco -- no grocery clerk in SF is living in a huge 3 bedroom apartment with a fireplace (more likely Oakland or Richmond). If you mean to say "New Jersey", why film in San Francisco? Lazy, sloppy, thoughtless. New Jersey would have been far funnier, for that matter.

The most unconvincing bit though has to be Jasmine's almost engagement to a diplomat -- a wannabe politician quite a bit younger than her. Would someone like that marry a woman they just met (maybe over 2-3 weeks)? without checking them out? Wouldn't even casually vet them online? (This on top of the absurd idea that a 45 year old woman couldn't figure out how to use the internet -- smartphones, HELLO!) Wouldn't such a man -- staggeringly rich, huge house in Marin, handsome -- have a zillion high class ladies competing for his attention?

While I've loved Blanchett for years, this is NOT her best work and I was surprised it won all sorts of awards. She and almost everyone here is painfully miscast, whether the story is a remake of "Streetcar" or a retelling of the Madoff debacle. This the work of a tired, sour, bitter old man who basically dislikes both the rich and the poor, and can't see the irony in his own life, but prefers to make films scorning everyone else for their foibles.

Just a huge disappointment.
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As bad as the one star reviews say it is; believe them
8 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Terence Malick's "Days of Heaven" is my favorite film of all time, and I am inclined to like many of his other works, so this was a sore disappointment. It is boring, glacially paced and what story there -- not much -- is hard to understand and confusingly told.

However, I did a little research and I'll share it with other puzzled viewers. I actually looked up a bio of Terence Malick. As I suspected while watching, this is HIGHLY autobiographical (the people bits, not the dinosaur bits). Mr. Malick was born in 1943; he grew up in Waco, Texas. He is the eldest of three brothers. His youngest brother died in 1968 by suicide. (That brother was a gifted guitarist, just as in the film.)

Once I read this, a lot of the film actually clicked -- though a good film requires no research or explanation, the STORY is the explanation. Obviously, this is the story of Malick's childhood, and the director (in his late 60s while filming this) was reflecting deeply on the passage of his own life, his family and the awful tragic loss of his young brother. I have no doubt that death impacted them all tremendously and caused his mother no end of grief.

I have to say that I -- like so many here -- assumed, when we see Jessica Chastain get a telegram at the early part of the film, that the son died in Vietnam. The time line and period make this reasonable. But knowing the real story, that is less likely.

I can only imagine a 67 year old man, reflecting on the brother who has never grown old, and the death of his parents (his mom in 2011 -- she was 99! and probably frail and his dad 2 years later) and his own mortality. What does that all mean in the scheme of things?

But honestly, that would have been better asked in a biographical story. All the stuff about the planets and dinosaurs and beginning of life is just VERY pretentious, and looks like cobbled together bits of Cosmos. It is a bizarre lead-in to a story about a very middle class family in 50s Texas, a quite ordinary story at that. There is nothing here to suggest the younger brother is suicidal or depressed. Indeed, it is Malick's character (young Jack) who seems depressed, as both a kid and an adult (Sean Penn, phoning it in).

The largest part of the film is just the family's quite ordinary everyday life in Waco in the year 1956, when Jack is about 12 or 13. It's lovely, but has absolutely nothing to say -- and is filmed through the glow of nostalgia. Waco, a dusty East Texas town, is shown as looking like a Pottery Barn catalog. The family lives in a HUGE old house, tastefully decorated with antiques and pastel colors. It is always summer. Oddly, it is as shady and tree-lined as some Midwest or East Coast area -- nothing like the Texas that I have visited.

Criminally, the wonderful actress Jessica Chastain is wasted here, and spends the film hanging up laundry or walking through sprinklers or floating in the air (????). What is the point here? she grieved terribly for the loss of her young son; in time, she came to some acceptance of this through religious faith. Young Terence Malick was a very crabby and ungrateful kid, who did really mean things like blow up frogs with rockets and throws rocks through neighbor's window. In time, he grows up to be so pretentious he thinks HE ALONE is the entire reason for the existence of the universe, from the big bang to the sun collapsing into a black hole. The end.
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Dated Schmaltz
20 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I hadn't seen this film since it was in theaters, almost 20 years ago, but it is currently in heavy rotation on a cable movie channel. It has not aged well, influenced by popular 80s films like Thelma and Louise, Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias -- female pal movies that were much better than this one.

In fact, Mary-Louise Parker is pretty much reprising the same exact role from Fried Green Tomatoes only in contemporary dress. There is even an identical lesbian angle (Parker is the pretty straight girl who has a lesbian who adores her, futilely). My guess is that for most women, being adored by a mannish lesbian is not very flattering, but creepy and you wouldn't go on to hang around with that person as your "bestie" -- you'd avoid them.

Drew Barrymore is about 20 years old here and just adorable with a mop of curly hair. There is also Matthew McConnaughey in his first role, as a straight arrow cop who loves Drew. And of course Whoopie Goldberg, basically playing herself -- she simply has no range at all. Her character is not very convincing as a lesbian, it seems like a plot device. She too is reprising her role from Sister Act -- the flamboyant lounge singer.

So though the actresses are all quite attractive, and there is some cute, snappy dialog amongst them, the plot structure is ridiculous. Whoopie is driving from NYC to LA, and needs someone to share gas expenses (in a minivan?), and Mary-Louise joins her. They pick up Drew, who is running away from an abusive boyfriend (whom she accidentally murders). On the way, Mary-Louise's AIDS flares up, so they stop and STAY FOREVER in Tucson -- where none of them have roots or family or any reason to be there.

Amazingly they are able to rent a huge adobe MANSION in the remote desert (???) though none of them has money or a job, and one is pregnant and one is dying of AIDS. How do they pay for this? It's like a $3 million dollar palazzo. BTW, I've been to Tucson and it is staggering hot desert country, something you'd never glean from the film -- it's like they picked Tucson by throwing a dart at map blindfolded -- for starters, it is NOT on the way from NYC to LA, but hundreds of miles out of the way.

Let me repeat: none of them have real jobs, or health insurance, yet it's no problem to rent a huge house (constantly filled with hundreds of friends -- in a strange city -- and lavish parties). It's all about "bonding" between these 3 very different women who honestly have nothing in common, and one is dying and another has a deeply creepy crush on her.

There is a time-line here set by Drew's character's pregnancy -- she is visibly pregnant as soon as they are in Tucson and has her baby near the end, so the whole film must be happened in under 7 months and more likely 3-4 months. Yet it is very clear in the plot that over a year goes by -- the longest pregnancy in history. Furthermore, it ends up that Drew's baby is fathered by some black guy who is never mentioned in the plot at all. Matthew recovers from this shock in a nanosecond, and presumably marries her anyways.

In short, this is less about female friendship than pure science fiction. These are not dear friends but casual acquaintances from a road trip, and their stay-over in Tucson makes zero sense plot-wise or common-sense wise. Most treasured friendships evolve over a lifetime of shared experience -- not forced through contrived short-term events. It's beyond obvious this was written and directed by men.
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Hanging Up (2000)
Hang up on this one, fast
16 April 2014
I caught this on late night TV, having missed it in the theaters originally. I wasn't expecting brilliance, but just HOW bad this was - given all the talent involved (Keaton, Ryan, Kudrow, Ephron sisters) it was pretty shockingly poor.

One thing that stood out to me (in 2014) is that filmmakers need to be more careful about centering pictures on things like phones or computers. The technology changes SO fast, and it dates the film just horribly. Think about movies from the 40s-60s; they often seem ageless. But nobody today can see those big clunky cellphones from 1999 without falling over god! the giant antennas! lol!

What we DO forget though -- and this is endemic throughout the entire film -- is how costly a cellphone was in 1999. It was something only a person of wealth and privilege would own, or if you did own it, could use it round the clock, with no concern over every expensive minute (unlimited chat was unknown then). Simply that the Mozell clan can afford to yak constantly on expensive phones was a clear, elitist signal that these folks are staggering rich -- BEFORE you notice that they all live in giant Hollywood mansions, drive huge SUVs and can travel about on a whim.

Screenwriters Delia and Nora Ephron based this on their own lives, as wealthy Hollywoodistas, but it just displays their cluelessness about how ordinary Americans live or deal with the universal problem of aging parents, illness and death. It trivializes a whole serious and very human subject. In his last film, Walter Matthau is touching if for no other reason than he was actually very ill and just hanging on; he died a few months later.

Diane Keaton directs this mess very awkwardly, though she was given a script that I think had to have been close to unfilmable. For starters, it is heavily autobiographical -- the Ephrons are a sister clan of successful writers, whose parents WERE successful Hollywood screenwriters. That means everyone involved was way too close to the subject or milieu to be objective.

Meg Ryan is attractive here, pre-facelift, though she is playing the same role as in many other films (goofy overwhelmed chick). Keaton should have known better than to cast herself; she is 16-18 years older than the other actresses and far too old to be their sister (we see them all playing together as as similar-age siblings in flashbacks!).

The main star here is....the lavish sets, the art direction of which totally distracts from the plot. Ryan's character lives in a Tuscan mansion of vast proportions and decor, despite no visible means of income. Matthau is shown in an unbelievably posh Modernist mansion you enter on a bridge over a pool (and it's been seen in FAR too many other movies and commercials to work here as a believable family home).

The final straw: at the excruciating end (the film is 95 minutes but feels like 3 hours), the sisters come together after Dad's sudden death for Thanksgiving dinner. They get in a cutesy, phony food fight throwing flour on each other's posh black Donna Karan outfits (*plugged by NAME!), who without a maid or cleaning service, would throw FLOUR all over themselves and the kitchen floor, just before Thanksgiving dinner? Nobody. Only someone rich, and with servants, would remotely consider it.

Conclusion: just painful to watch, unfunny and snobbishly elitist. Avoid.
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One of the dumbest movies I've ever sat through
11 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I know taste is personal but this was so mega-watt stupid, that I can't get over even the fact that sat through it. Yes, I saw "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" and I thought those were OK-enough action/adventure films. (And yeah, I'm old enough that I watched and loved the old Adam West Batman series on TV!)

First off, the film looks just awful. It's so dark that many scenes are impossible to watch, things flying by in the dark. You can't even enjoy seeing the Batcycle or Batplane, as it's too dark to really what they look like. You can't even really make out Batman's batsuit here.

Christian Bale reprises the role; he's OK as Batman but never seems to be enjoying or relishing the role. Once we establish Bruce Wayne as this handicapped, his return to fighting strength is not credible -- if you have no cartilage in both knees, you are lucky if you can walk up a few stairs, let alone fist fight anyone.

Bane? I hear that the villain is well-developed in the Batman graphic novel universe; here he borders on ridiculous. He's got a Hannibal Lektor bondage-type mask on through the WHOLE movie -- they never unmask him, which the viewer is practically begging for by the end. (They unmasked Darth Vader, for cripe's sake!) Tom Hardy works this part pretty hard, but it's impossible to emote with a mask over your MOUTH, and all your dialog not just mumbled, but mumbled in a strange Gypsy accent.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman? Hathaway is pretty, but frail looking. She is not credible in the fight scenes, where she ass-woops some big men even though she weighs roughly 90 lbs. She also has zero sex chemistry with Batman or Bruce Wayne.

The stand out is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, maturing into a fine actor -- he's really almost the lead here, as Batman/Bruce Wayne are curiously absent for over half the run-time.

So again-- where to begin with all the ghastly flaws here? Having Batman absent for most of the film is a serious error. Batman is so weak and sickly here, he's not a hero -- just a weakling who fights like a girl and gets beat up by the villain (Bane). He won't use weapons, so he fights with his fists, even though the city is at stake from terrorist with a NUCLEAR WEAPON. (The Federal government is curiously disinterested and uninvolved with the proceedings, even over 5 months -- no special Ops, no Seal Team Six, no troops, nothing.)

The police -- all of 'em -- go into the sewer system to hunt down Bane and his team, with the result that they are all trapped....for 5 months. How do they eat? the FAQ states that "food is sent down through manholes". OK -- then why can't they ESCAPE up the manholes? Yeesh. It's just bad writing so that Bane can rule over the city.

Unlike almost all other Americans, the residents of Gotham have no personal guns or weapons and don't fight back.

Some other critical errors IMHO:

1. It's implied Bane was horribly mutilated while trying to save Talia in prison -- his jaw torn off? all his teeth pulled? SOMETHING? but we never learn what. This is a cheat. It must be pretty awful if he requires a mask all the time, and pain medication constantly.

2. What's with the stupid prison anyhow? People move in and out of it like it was hotel -- no guards, no security. It seems to be down a well. Men & women & children are all imprisoned in the same place -- no cells, no restraints? A tiny child can easily escape? It must be pretty darn close to Gotham, since Bane can drag Bruce Wayne there and back, seemingly in an hour.

3. When Bruce Wayne escapes finally from the well, he does it by not taking a rope. But at the top of the well, he HAS a rope and throws it back down -- to help the others escape? huh? Why say "no rope" and then show him with a huge rope?

4. Why does the prison have a huge flat screen TV? what primitive third world prison has a huge flat screen TV for PRISONERS, let alone gets reception on it -- in English? (Where again is this prison??) Do they have CABLE? for prisoners?

5. The film posits that young orphaned boys in Gotham live in orphanages, run by priests -- what is this, 1940 and "Bells of St. Mary's" or something? Orphanages do not exist in the US; children without parents live in foster homes, run by the state. The idea of turning stately Wayne Manor into an orphanage is beyond ridiculous.

6. Is John Blake (Gordon-Levitt) supposed to be Robin? They imply this, but it is not consistent with the Batman canon. (Gordon-Levitt is a better actor than Bale, and has more screen time, which badly unbalances the story.)

7. Bruce Wayne loses his entire fortune (???), in one bad investment. Now he's poor. So how, at the end, is he able to go to Paris with Selena Kyle and live comfortably? Paris is wicked expensive. Also: Europe isn't on Neptune; how could someone that famous live openly in Paris and nobody in the US ever notices or reads about him?

Thats just a few of the more painful idiocies; the whole movie is practically ready for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 -- almost every scene has something thats flat-out absurd or illogical in it.

In conclusion: a total waste of time. If I'd paid money to see this, I'd be seriously angry. Fortunately I just viewed someone's DVD of it. Even so, I won't get those 2.5 hours of my life back! AVOID.
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Beginners (2010)
Unbelievably boring and twee
10 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The ultimate measure of a terrible film is, I think, if you fall asleep during it. I watched this film in broad daylight, when I was wide awake and it put me under. It's better than Ambien! To be fair, I watched it again, and...yup, I fell asleep during it again.

I've seen enough to know it's twee and very pretentious, and wildly overrated by critics. I believe this is because of Christopher Plummer's sympathetic role as an elderly man who comes out of the closet, just before dying of cancer. That has "movie of the week" written all over it, and Plummer is quite good in the part. He's actually OLD, so this isn't a lot of creepy makeup and he's convincing enough about being a repressed gay man.

A film about just this would have been fine, even interesting. (My only problem here is that the year is 2003 - -the film states this often -- so he came out of the closet at a time when homosexuality was embraced and accepted. Heck, it was pretty well embraced and accepted by the 80s and certainly the 90s.)

But unfortunately, the movie is only briefly and occasionally about the father's foray into the homosexual community. 90% is about the SON, played by Ewan McGregor and this is boring beyond belief -- self-pitying and maudlin and purposeless.

Even worse, the entire film is based on director Mike Mill's real life, almost exactly. So it's autobiographical with all the pitfalls that entails. Obviously, Mr. Mills feels sorry, just unbearably sorry for....HIMSELF. As if having a gay father is so terrible (yet at the same time, he must be so politically correct as to not show any discomfort in the protagonist at this development!)

I must pause here and say that after viewing the bonus "making of" feature on the DVD, I looked Mills up and found that he is actually married to indie filmmaker and performance artist Miranda July -- umm, not a famous blonde french actress (as in this film). In fact, Ms. July's fame and indie creds far outweigh his own. She's American, so they clearly had no "language barrier" (a big part of their courtship and romance in this film).

So as an autobiographical sketch, the movie is pretty dishonest. Oliver (McGregor) is depicted as an cartoonist (not a graphic designer as many reviews state!) who can barely draw, in the general way of James Thurber, and who never seems to be actually working. This gives him lots and lots and lots of time for romance, caring for his sick dad, feeling sad, taking care of his super-cute dog (who talks in SUBTITLES!), feeling more sad, thinking a lot about the past, and angsting over his super-pretty French girlfriend.

The film kinda of takes a brickbat to slam you over the head -- again and again -- about how really terribly sad all this is....losing your parent. Now, I'm only a bit older than the director and I lost both my parents, mom when I was in my 20s and my dad almost exactly when he lost his dad. Sure it's sad, but LIFE GOES ON....most of us have jobs, kids, marriages, responsibility and we can't just blubber and whine indefinitely.

Also: having odd parents, or even parents who do not love one another, does not handicap most people for life in their own romances or marriage. If this was true, half of all people would never get married!

One could easily pick up the implication from this film that Mills (or Oliver) was "ruined" for adult life and relationships because his dad was a closeted gay man....and I am sure that was not the director's intent.

Goran Visnjic plays the father's gay lover, and for whatever reason (?), they have made him look creepy and weird. I am not sure why, since he's a good looking guy.

Also: I am seriously tired of films where nobody in them has any form of gainful employment, yet they lead posh lives in Los Angeles and New York City! and live in huge, beautiful homes. Oliver's home here appears to be a cliffside Mediterranean home in Los Feliz that would cost millions of dollars. The romance between him and Anna comes off as false and "cute" in the manner of old films from the 60s and 70s -- the characters go roller skating (and steal the skates!), graffiti up buildngs, take their talking dog into restaurants and generally act childish, even though one assumes they are well into their 30s.

I think this comes off as false, because while director Mills really did have a gay dad, he did not have a whimsical romance with a French actress....but instead with a rather famous fellow filmmaker who was American. Frankly, this film did not call for ANY romance on Oliver's part; it should have stuck to the story about the father and that might have worked. What is left is just meandering, jumping back and forth in time confusingly, and full of self-pity and gloominess (despite the character's wealth, privilege and creative success!).

ALL OF THIS is made 100 times worse by a musical score so depressing and slow and pitying (and which is constantly present without variation), that, well...what can I say, it put me to sleep TWICE.

The bright spot of the film is the cute Jack Russell terrier, but what the heck did this have to do with anything? It's the father's dog, but we don't see HIM interacting with it -- only Oliver. Is there a point here besides "the dog is very cute"? Would a Great Dane or a cat have made the essential storyline any different? NO? then leave it out!

In short: boring beyond human endurance and twee to the max. Avoid at all costs.
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One-sided religious propaganda film
28 March 2013
Even if I was a vegetarian, I'd be dismayed by this film, which is a textbook example of propaganda -- think Leni Reifenstahl and "The Triumph of the Will" in Hitler's Germany. Such films have an agenda, and use cinematic techniques to promote that agenda, without balance or integrity or truthfulness. Truth plays a backseat to promoting the political agenda.

Here the agenda is .... veganism. And not just general "it's good for you!" veganism nor even the "save the cute widdle animals" veganism -- this is a direct polemic stating that veganism -- and ONLY veganism -- will save your life, enable you to cure a whole range of diseases and live for a very long time, the whole while as a fit, buff triathelete or firefighter.

The theories of Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Esselstyn are the most extreme of all eating regimes -- not even vegetarianism is remotely good enough here. This is the Pritikin or Ornish diets, on steroids. ZERO fats, zero meat, zero dairy products -- yup, folks, YOGURT will kill you. Milk, of course, will kill you -- even organic skim milk.

What does this leave you to eat? Only vegetables, and more vegetables. Furthermore, they must be steamed or baked, as you cannot of course fry or stir fry, sauté or fricassee because remember -- ZERO fats. Yes, folks -- OLIVE OIL, now it's bad for you. Even Canola oil. No oils or fats whatsoever, in any form. SO this is a diet of steamed vegetables and only steamed vegetables, and nothing else.

Needless to say, this very harsh diet is not too appealing to any normal person, nor is it a diet normally eaten by any human society on earth. It lacks a number of nutrients and vitamins, which must be taken by pill form (B-12 etc.). But of course, unpalatable as it is, it leads directly to weight loss -- and the weight loss to remission from obesity, Type II diabetes, coronary artery disease and cholesterol problems.

I can almost accept that, though of course 99% of people cannot stick to a diet this horrible. You might as well say you can cure these things if you fast all the time, and live on water, but it does not translate that most folks can do that.

But it goes off the rails when the filmmakers state you can CURE METASTATIC BREAST CANCER (and infer, all cancers) by eating vegan foods. Not prevent breast cancer -- not cure a primary tumor -- but cure breast cancer which had spread to the subjects spine, liver and bones. This is untrue, and a hateful, ugly promise to make to suffering cancer victims, which cannot possibly be true. Nor does the movie offer any PROOF, besides one elderly lady's anecdotal story (we do not even know for sure she ever had cancer, for starters) that this is so. Certainly any "proof" would involve thousands of patients with metastatic cancer over many years, and with double blind studies.

It is shocking and horrifying that two physicians who call themselves "scientists" would promise such a thing. It proved to me, what I had been thinking silently through the rest of the film -- this is not science, this is RELIGION...the religion of veganism, which incorporates a hatred for all things pleasurable in the world (but especially food), a belief in eternal life (promised to you by eating vegan!) and the necessity to preach at and convert others. As such, it is frightening beyond any other type of diet hucksterism.

NO matter what you eat, I assure you -- you are going to die sometime, and you will die of SOMETHING. No diet in the world can save you from metastatic cancer, and I am appalled beyond words at DOCTORS pushing a protocol on patients which involves REFUSING chemo and radiation (proven to help) and instead an unproven diet plan. (Note that cancer victims typically lose a lot of weight and have trouble eating; I can't imagine a worse thing that forcing them to eat tasteless vegan dishes and lose weight on purpose!)

On top of this, the film is dry and full of statistics, along with simple-minded attacks on old filmstrips that show "the 7 basic food groups" or whatever, from like 1946. Also I noted that when the filmmaker himself is shown going on his diet, as well as other participants, they are very openly showing bags and boxes from the Whole Foods chain of stores (was it a paid advertisement?).

In short, not recommended. This is religion, not science. It is a sad comment on society that we cannot discuss and debate issues about food and diet, without it becoming an attack on other people who eat differently than we do, or on other people's body types or habits.
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