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The Humbling (2014)
Al Pacino is still the man
Actor Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is losing his mind and falls off the stage. He vows never to go on stage again. He's an insomniac and alone in the world. He misses while trying to shot himself. He gets himself into a clinic with Dr. Farr (Dylan Baker). After getting out, he's visited by a theater friend's daughter Pegeen Stapleford (Greta Gerwig). She has had a crush on him since childhood and is now a lesbian. He has a sexual relationship with her despite being her godfather as various people come to challenge it. There is also fellow patient Sybil who keeps hounding him to kill her husband.
Al Pacino shows that he still has it. He never lost it. He just hasn't had big hits lately. Al Pacino is actually good at dead pan humor. The stuff in between isn't as good. Gerwig is playing her usual flaky cute girl. It's a lot of wacky characters. There is a pervasive sadness with moments of great comedic outbursts.
Y tu mamá también (2001)
What a trio!
In Mexico City, horny best friends Tenoch Iturbide (Diego Luna) and Julio Zapata (Gael García Bernal) aimlessly drift as college beckons and their girlfriends are traveling overseas. At a family wedding, they meet Luisa Cortés (Maribel Verdú), a slightly older woman and the wife of Tenoch's cousin Jano. Jano is cheating on her and she gets news from a doctor. She agrees to go on a road trip with the boys to a non-existent beach and find an intense rollicking sexual journey.
What a trio! It was my first introduction to these three actors. It's incredible to discover both Luna and Bernal at the same time. Their magnetic personalities are obvious right away. Maribel Verdú is no shrinking violet either. The three of them are terrific together. Some of it is a little slow especially the beginning. There are also great scenes that are absolutely electric. It's also my first Alfonso Cuarón movie and I didn't connect him to my favorite Harry Potter movie Prisoner of Azkaban until much later. He has such amazing range.
The Emperor's Club (2002)
a little different from the general sainted teacher movie
William Hundert (Kevin Kline) is a retired after 34 years of teaching. He is at a resort attending a dinner in his honor. He recalls his time at the prestigious boys school Saint Benedict's Academy. It's early 1970s. His class is a bunch of fresh face respectful kids until the arrival of the opinionated rebellious Senator's son Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch). There is a competition in the school tradition called Mr. Julius Caesar. Sedgewick starts to corrupt his fellow classmates including Martin Blythe (Paul Dano), Louis Masoudi (Jesse Eisenberg) and Deepak Mehta. Sedgewick's father is a cold man and Hundert starts to get through to him. Hundert massages Sedgewick's grade to get him into the top three for the Julius Casesar competition. Hundert figures out that Sedgewick is cheating and ensures that he would lose. They dare each other but they both keep it a secret. Sedgewick returns to his pranking slacker ways and a C average. Twenty five years later, Sedgewick organizes a rematch while offering a large donation.
This is a different take on the sainted teacher movie. Hundert is not always right and does some morally ambiguous things. His reasoning is commendable. The lesson is brilliantly compelling. He is a flawed character struggling in a flawed world with a flawed student. It's kind of a reverse "Mr. Holland's Opus" and there are no tears in this one. Holland thinks himself a failure but his students show him his success. Hundert thinks himself a solid teacher but is challenged by the one that got away.
What is the True Meaning of Pictures?
Shelby Lee Adams has been taking pictures of poor subsistence farmer families in rural Appalachia for around 30 years. This documentary shows Adams interacting with the family members and organizing the photo taking. It examines their lives and the effects of coal mining as well as other things over the years.
It's a question of realism or constructed art by the photographer artist. It's a matter of the eye of the beholder or the intent of the camera. Are the poor being taken advantage of? Is it condescending to ask? Do they understand the images they project? What is right and what is wrong? The movie asks a lot of questions and lets the audience decides. It makes the academic arguments about art come alive.
Tom yum goong (2005)
excuse to see action stunts
The Jaturungkabart once were protectors of Thailand's revered Royal war elephants. Kham (Tony Jaa) is from a long line of protectors. He grew up with great elephant Por Yai and his calf Kohrn. Elephants are taken by poachers with the help of corrupt officials. Kham goes to Sydney to confront Vietnamese gangster Johnny to avenge his father and save his elephants.
It's got action, real stunts, Tony Jaa and explosive destruction. The acting is B-level. I don't expect Tony Jaa to be an extraordinary actor and he has good charisma for a stuntman. It's his action that speaks louder. I like policeman Mark but the rest aren't that special. The comedy ranges from cute to cheesy. On that note, there is a Jackie Chan impersonator. For that to truly work, the movie needs the real Jackie Chan who would nail the comic handoff of that scene. The story is functional but this is an excuse to see action stunts. Although Jackie would have done it with better humor.
like everyone but not much of a story
Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) has an imaginary friend in the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot. He likes to crash funerals. He meets Annie Cotton (Mia Wasikowska) at the funeral of a cancer kid. She lives with her mother Rachel and sister Elizabeth (Schuyler Fisk). Mabel Tell (Jane Adams) is Enoch's aunt and guardian. Annie and Enoch begin a relationship. She has cancer and only months to live. He has to process the losses that he has suffered.
This is a slow contemplative movie from Gus Van Sant. The imaginary pilot feels a bit gimmicky. Henry Hopper does an able job as an odd introvert. Fisk has some good scenes. Mia continues to shine. I like everybody but there is no tension. The movie mopes around in yet another sick person romance.
gloriously bad acting and Odorama
In Baltimore, Francine Fishpaw (Divine) only wants to be a normal suburban housewife. The problem is that her husband Elmer shows pornos in his theater and the neighbors are demonstrating on their front lawn. Her kids are flirtatious Lu-Lu and foot-obsessed Dexter. There is a notorious Baltimore Foot Stomper on the loose. Elmer is cheating with his secretary. Dexter gets expelled from school. Lu-Lu fails every class and gets knocked up by pathetic thug Bo-Bo.
John Waters is reveling in deliberate bad acting, satirical craziness and outrageous story. It's weird and that's how he likes it but it isn't big laughs funny. It's not for everyone and it's not really even for me. The big plus of this movie is the charismatic Divine. She brings a humanity to her unreal character.
Summer of '42 (1971)
Oscy is the star character
Hermie (Gary Grimes) recalls the summer of 42 on Nantucket Island when he was 15 with his family on summer holidays. His best friends are Oscy and Benjie. The boys are sex obsessed and Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) is Hermie's biggest obsession. New bride Dorothy sends her husband off to war leaving her alone in the beach house. He helps her carry the grocery home. Oscy picks up three girls at the movies. Oscy chooses the pretty blonde Miriam and leaves Hermie with the mousy Aggie. Benjie runs off and Gloria also leaves.
I think every guy has had an Oscy in his life during that age or maybe was the Oscy of the group himself. Oscy gives a nostalgic realism feel to this memory laden movie. Dorothy is a fantasy that is understandable by all men past the teenage years. The young guys fit their roles very well. Jennifer O'Neill is pretty. I wouldn't say anybody acted exceptionally well but they all do their parts. This has the condom buying scene plus other coming-of-age standards. There is a really slow climatic scene which feels odd for the subject matter in the modern sense.
Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
Aardman continues their unique style
Shaun is the runt and the smartest of the sheep herd. He's tired of getting sheared and plans to take a day off. With the other sheep, they put the farmer to sleep and distract the dog. When they try to wake up the farmer, his trailer rolls away to the Big City and he has an accident. He loses his memory and gains new work as a popular hair stylist. Meanwhile the farm is turning into chaos. Shaun and the rest of the sheep go to the Big City. They and the dog have to find the farmer while avoiding Trumper from Animal Containment.
Aardman is at it again with their unique stop-motion style and light family fare. There is basically no dialog. It's utterly charming. Shaun and the other animals are lovable. This is easy family fun.
...All the Marbles (1981)
more than T & A
Iris (Vicki Frederick) and Molly (Laurene Landon) are the California Dolls traveling the country with their hard-nosed manager Harry Sears (Peter Falk) to wrestle in rundown events. The girls try to do it seriously but money is tight and life on the road is a struggle. Sleazy promoter Eddie Cisco (Burt Young) shorts the girls $20 and Harry takes a bat to his Mecedes. In the end, he comes to them with a title fight.
On the surface, one would think this is a simple T&A B-movie of the era but it's actually a good movie about an unconventional family. I really love their relationship. The actual wrestling isn't quite as interesting. It's questionable whether that many people would watch serious women's wrestling. It would be more like a carnival sideshow or WWF in the old days. All that aside, this is a great family unit to watch.