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Bored to Death (2009)
Loved this series
I didn't watch pay TV for several years and only came across this this MONTH and haven't been as happy watching anything this witty and goofily entertaining since Psych ended. I didn't expect much at first from the title of the show but was happily surprised. I have an inordinate fondness for detection fiction and all things NYC having gone to Columbia University myself for a humanities degree and lived on the Lower East side back in the late 1980's, the show's settings make me miss NYC very much. Am very sad the show was canceled after such a brief run. Love all the characters and lines like "I'm a non-practicing vegan." Hope to see more from all of the talented team in creating this show and am interested in reading the work of Jonathan Ames now.
The Motel (2005)
American film from an Asian-American's perspective
I found this movie at the public library. I never heard about it playing in theaters. I loved "You and Me and Everyone We Know" by Miranda July so I thought I'd give this one a try. It helped that it was about a Chinese-American family as I am Chinese American myself. There is a sensitivity in the handling of the characters' emotions that is different from 99% of movies out there, an authenticity and empathy that precise depicts the awkwardness and unspoken despair and silly sadness of everyday life. Some scenes were a little unconvincing and undeveloped or outlandish, but for the few brief moments of genuine emotion this movie captured, it was worth it. Naturally I give this a thumbs-up as I would like to see more movies from the Asian-American perspective. Usually Asian-Americans are the side characters..in this one the non-Asians are.
Promethean waste of money
I kept trying to suspend my disbelief to enjoy this movie - I was trying to believe that waking up after two years of space travel in stasis could leave the crew so grumpy, uninterested and nonchalant. That their dialogue would be so juvenile. That their personalities could be so mediocre and unimpressive. But then...there was that scene in the medi-pod. And Shaw running around afterwards w/ NARY A WORD TO ANYONE ABOUT IT. /facepalm. I can only guess none of the scriptwriters were women. This incredibly expensive film was ruined by some basic plot failures and I lost my ability to follow the characters with any sense of belief. This was a trip down absurdity lane and quickly devolved into something the makers of Beavis and Butthead could've made more profound and entertaining. I was so disappointed after the trailer build-ups for this movie. This should've been a great movie, and it just goes to show millions of dollars can't fix it when the script or editing or direction is bad.
John Carter (2012)
Surprisingly good movie
When this came out in theaters I heard nothing but mediocre reviews. When I just watched it on video today I found it to have far more depth and character then I would've imagined coming from such a sci-fi movie. I never read the original Burroughs books, so I don't know if this came from the movie script of the original fiction. In any case, I would love to see a sequel. I thought it deserved a write up with a positive review.
The characters were well-rounded, the special effects weren't awful, there were very few scenes where I went...well, that's just absurd. It was a totally entertaining, imaginative escape/adventure/love story.
La graine et le mulet (2007)
This COULD have been a very good movie
It had atmosphere, closely-observed characters, some genuine feeling and warmth - but it was spoiled by lack of editing. Too many scenes went on too long, were too close-up and seemed gratuitous - the dockyard boss ranting at Slimane - the buttocks exposed in Majid's sex scene - the little girl being potty-trained - the endless belly dance and chasing of the motorbike. The real interest lay in the Slimane's journey to start a business - his family and friend's help - his interactions with his extended family - but just where it could have crescendoed and could of given us the super-satisfying happy ending we would love to see, especially when so much investment is made into the characters- well, you'll find out. It reminded me of seeing My Beautiful Launderette the first time - whereas that movie was a success, and I could not say the same for this one, especially as the ending does not create any satisfying or meaningful conclusion.
Boring and Wrong
The life of the real Judge Bean was more interesting, at least as how it is recounted on Wikipedia, and if Wikipedia is true, then episodes of the movie go directly opposite events of the real Roy Bean's life.
The scene where Paul Newman orders the hanging of a criminal who doesn't think he has done anything wrong for killing a Chinese man? The real Bean made up that law himself as an excuse to release an Irish murderer from his crime - by saying that his law book ruled against killing human beings- not Chinamen.
The first man Bean ever killed was a Mexican "desperado," according to Wikipedia. At 41, he married an 18 year old Mexican girl and then was convicted of assaulting her in their marriage, which eventually led to a divorce after 4 children.
No, the real Judge Bean didn't sound at all like a person worth mythologizing, at least not THIS way, except as an example of misbehavior and notoriety - a far cry from this boring, lazy, star-vehicle movie with a truly reprehensible script that does a disservice to history and to our intelligence.
The only real interest this movie has is as a historical document and as an excuse to ogle the famous actors of the time - Paul Newman, Ava Gardner, a young Victoria Principal, who all play shallow, 2 dimensional characters.
Grizzly Man (2005)
Eerie and paradoxical
Frankly, I went hoping to hear first hand the grisly (no pun intended) footage of Treadwell and his girlfriend's death. It was frustrating and disappointing when Herzog took the higher moral ground of listening to it himself on earphones and making the audience watch his tearful reaction; then advising the woman, Treadwell's friend, who owned the tape, to destroy it.
I thought the documentary was good when it delved into Treadwell's upbringing and past connection with friends; and his ability to find entertainment in narrating himself among the bears. It was eerie, how many times Treadwell paradoxically contemplated the method of his own death. The fact is, Treadwell was something of an odd, irritating person...apparently bi-polar, with manic highs and sobbing, sentimental lows. In some scenes as he narrates the bears behind him he practically acts like Pee Wee Herman among the Grizzlies. It is no surprise when some of the documentary guests state their beliefs that Treadwell "got what he deserved" from risking death in his delusional bond with the bears.
I like everything, but the fact that Herzog would not allow the audience to hear the actual, final tape, or see photographs of the aftermath that are luridly described by a coroner but not shown.
The Dying Gaul (2005)
I just saw this at the Seattle Film Festival, Peter Saarsgard was there to answer questions. The movie is extremely watchable for the first half of the way through, is built on a fascinating premise with interesting characters (a bisexual movie producer and his wife who reside in a Lifestyles of the Rich And Famous type beachside modern mansion, a young gay writer whose lover has died of AIDS), and builds to a pitch of extreme suspense. After that, however, the plot stumbles and the film's conclusion turns on a series of unbelievable events. I thought since the movie was based on a play, the plot would be clear, but it's almost as if the movie version was forced to cut out some important sequences, as there is never quite enough information about 1) how the woman obtains all her inside information on the writer, 2) how the writer's ex-wife was related to the characters and 3) most importantly, what happens to the characters at the end of the movie.
I went into the bathroom after the movie and joined a lineup of women who were also asking each, "What exactly happened there?" --- when it's not clear it's a sign of unclear movie-making.
Another Good Japanese Animation Film
WARNING: PLOT SPOILERS BELOW - DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT SOME CHARACTERS REVEALED
A great animated thrill-ride peopled with archetypes and insanely detailed, awe-inspiring machinery and backgrounds. Steamboy is repeatedly asked, to what is the best end of science? To make people happy? To make powerful weapons that will harm one another? (or conversely to keep them safe from their enemies)? Or to entertain them? The main characters are a wild man grandfather, whose runs about most of the movie as naked as a castaway, representing an innocent but wild and raging nature figure, and believes power should be used to make people happy through entertainment; a cyborg father, who has given up on nature and harnessed the fruits of science to produce weapons to be sold cynically to capitalist bankers and salesmen, and the boy, who must watch the two battle each other for dominance, even while various other international elements fight over their inventions. As usual, Japanese cartoon films pose more complex questions than American ones, nor do they provide the same type of easy good/bad, black/white resolutions Americans are so fond of. Instead, each character is allowed to describe their opinions, and the boy, like the audience, must observe, listen to all sides, and think hard before drawing conclusions as to where his own heart lies. Following the unquestioned policies of ones family or national alliances alone is unwise. If only all people could learn to think like this.
I saw this at the Seattle Int'l Film Festival with the director in attendance. She was a slim blonde Englishwoman, a photographer and a friend of Nick Rhodes (of Duran Duran fame), who said that while in Los Angeles, it was the large amount of homeless people pushing "trollies" (shopping carts) that inspired her to make this documentary. She initially focused on how they obtained them and how they were used (i.e. as ways to cart their belongings, as ways to make a living recycling cans and bottles to support drug habits) and then she zooms in on several homeless who agreed to be filmed by her and let her into their lives. In the course of their movie you become moved by their plight, and in between the movie discusses statistics of homelessness, the percentage that are war veterans and mentally ill, the increasing lack of beds available to them in the city, and interviews activists with visions of how to help the homeless, former homeless people who describe how they have gotten out, and homeless who more or less feel doomed to remain as they are and why. In one scene she invites a homeless person she has gotten to know to attend a charity ball for the homeless at a luxury hotel - and amusingly, she has the camera record the shocked expressions of the tuxedoed valets as she asks them airily in her English accent to park her friend's shopping cart loaded with garbage bags of belongings in between the squads of limos arriving.
The movie is artistically shot, with plenty of great music from Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nick Rhodes, among others, which was donated as they are all socially conscious activists. Altogether an excellent movie about a depressing topic, delivered in much the way Mary Poppins delivers medicine with a spoonful of sugar. This movie reminds me of Born Into Brothels, also shown at the SIFF, which began with a female photographer who as she became more intimate with her subjects, took the opportunity to utilize the documentary form as a vehicle for enlightenment and social change.