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Bottle Shock (2008)
You don't have to be a wine expert to enjoy Bottle Shock
Bottle Shock is, on the surface, about a blind wine-tasting competition, held in France, where California and French nectared offerings of the vine are vying for top marks from le creme de la crop of French wine aficionados. What captivated however is the intoxicating depth of the connections between the players and what motivates each of them. There's the connection between the non-French businessmen in France. There's the connection between father and son. Between the vintners in CA who are tired of being red-headed stepchildren in the world of wine, like the rest of the world, in comparison with French wine. Between Mexican vintner whose love of the art is ancestral and imbibed with passion and the rich man who is playing at it -- albeit playing hard. Between the non-committed but committed intern and the heads she turns. Motivations traverse the gamut, from purely business to a search for significance. There's a dry humour throughout and a collective heart that squeezes tears. The competition is based on a true story, which adds depth upon depth.
The Paperboy (2012)
I bet The Paperboy is one helluva novel if the movie is this good
A netflix pick, The Paperboy's very brief synopsis was long enough to have me choosing it yet it was too brief to indicate the depravity of it. Do not -- I repeat, DO NOT -- watch this movie if you are squeamish about brief scenes of graphic violence or what I'll call "alternative sexual practices". The plot is riveting. The construction of the plot is unusual. The acting ensemble is the best I've seen in awhile, and each one impeccably delivers. Cusack is in his creepiest role to date. When Kidman and Efron are in a scene you won't be able to decide who looks more devastatingly gorgeous. The Paperboy reminds me of an old Paul Newman film (generically speaking) yet its distinctly in a class by itself. Again beware that it has some disturbing scenes that won't be easy to shake loose once you've seen them.
Listen to the lyrics and hear Townes' soul speak
I would encourage anyone who is a fan of Townes' music watch this. Townes Van Zandt was a man of deep and complex character. He spoke his soul through his lyrics. I can't help but wonder, throughout watching the clips of Townes himself and those left behind and their recollections, if anyone really "got" Townes. He literally sacrificed his health, his family, and ultimately his life trying to be heard.
The scenes with Townes' wives and children were the most touching. Looking into the great black pools of Townes' eyes, it's easy to see how those around him would be mesmerized and want to be near him. The film also handled the less glamorous side of Townes' life with grace.
It's clear that Townes rejected the privileged lifestyle of his family and sought the real gold, that which touches the humanity in each of us, which he did so well through his music.
Django Unchained (2012)
Slave Days Western Love Story
What takes a film from being great to being a masterpiece are the details. Being meticulous with the details is a Tarantino trademark. Does it mean all of his films reach the level of masterpiece? Probably. With Django Unchained he's wrapped a gilded frame around it.
There's been much hype about the soundtrack on facebook. If anything tarnishes the gild, 'tis this. It doesn't pound and it doesn't disappear; nor does it complement, which is a pity as it could have been that much more spectacular. It's a vague distraction more than anything.
It takes courage to watch Django Unchained. What happens in it is usually reserved for the deep recesses of our minds. I'm still reeling from the intensity. Such feeling couldn't have been evoked without the SUPERB acting on each person's part. Without flawless performances by all there would have been a crack in the mirror.
Prime Evil (1988)
better than bad bad b horror
"Prime Evil" came in a boxed set of bad "b" movies. The hope was that it would be at minimum watchable. It met those expectations. The plot was complicated enough, and the format was such that it succeeded in building suspense. This is a horror movie without too much horror, and it is presented without any gratuitous violence. I liked the tale told from a feminine perspective. The reality is that, similar to "Rosemary's Baby", it is a tale that could actually be. That perhaps is where the horror creeps in, in retrospect. The cast was decent and had skills beyond that of your typical bad "b" film. Was I glad I watched it? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably.
The Woman (2011)
Patriarchy and feminism in their extremes
The Woman tells the tale of a feral woman who is captured by, at least on the surface, a traditional family man who is an attorney in a solo practice. As the movie proceeds, it is clear that the man's patriarchy goes way beyond, into that of a power-crazed maniac. The tension is palpable between the man and his captured trophy as her presence in the lives of the family members affects each differently. Be prepared for shocking and intense graphic violence and plot twists you would never expect. Not for the squeamish. The story is compelling and so are the characters in this study of human nature.
The acting is practiced and believable. The writers have a good handle on the dynamics of domestic violence. I see this film as exemplifying domestic violence taken to its furthest extreme. How domestic violence perpetuates itself through the generations can be seen in the distance.
I like the way The Woman is the central character of the film while at the same time being incidental to the drama unfolding within the family unit.
Irish Witchcraft 101
The tale is outlined at first, then fleshed out. There is skillful employment of ambiguity. There is no formulaic plot here, although you know at the end there is going to be a showdown of one sort or another. Outcast has a dual meaning. There are disturbing elements of graphic violence, although they are strategic and never gratuitous. The review is dubbed as it is as the practices of the characters would appear to be those used in the fundamentals used in real witchcraft.
The acting is solid.
As others who have reviewed "Outcast" have noted, the film is not only about supernatural practices; there are cultural and age aspects to it as well. Cultural includes capturing the feel of the high rise projects (i.e. estates) and the busybody social workers that come with them. There are the tensions connected with melting pot clashes. Age aspects have young adults trying to find resonance with other young adults. A subject also breached is that of adults with developmental and cognitive impairments and differing views of where they fit into a culture.
Aside from plot attributes, "Outcast" is a spell-binding (no pun intended) story that I felt compelled to watch until the end. Hoping to see more by this director soon!
Two Lovers (2008)
A Jewish Movie that Non-Jews Can Relate to and Learn From **POSSIBLE SPOILERS**
Firstly, I'm not Jewish. However, not being Jewish and not knowing many Jewish people (I live in a small town. I get my knowledge of Jewish folks from movies!), I think this movie is a template for what might happen with many Jewish families. Without saying anymore about the plot, I would like to say a few words about the characters and the character development and perhaps a few other things.
Joaquin Phoenix has screen presence and star power and even has acting ability, but I think he was wrong for this role. Not wrong exactly but I'm sure another actor could have done it better. My main issue was wondering if the character was or was not supposed to be a nut case. If the character was supposed to be a little off kilter, then he pulled off the role perfectly. There were a few times when he would suddenly crack a joke but the joke was not funny but more surreal. I liked his character in the very beginning but as the film traveled on the resonance with him was lost.
Gwyneth Paltrow manifests her character with the same finesse she was seen manifesting in The Royal Tenenbaums. Wan. Fragile. There is not the same sense of fixedness here; more a pretty fall leaf that blows into your yard on a cold gray afternoon.
Vinessa Shaw, the "other" female lover Joaquin is torn between, is the demure, trusting, nurturing young woman who knows who she wants and will not be denied says her daddy. Her skin is translucent, the smile that plays around her lips entrances, and her artful use of eyes and head movements is joyful to behold. I would like to see her in more movies!
I about fell over seeing Isabella Rosselini in this movie as Joaquin's mother. She is a damned fine actress and I daresay can master any role that is placed before her. I would love to see Quentin Tarantino do another Jackie Brown-like film and have Isabella in it.
Elias Koteas is another great surprise for this film. Believe it or not, the first film I saw him in was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1990. Since then I've seen him in Look Who's Talking, and a lesser-known film with the name Crash, directed by David Cronenberg, which has a way-different plot than the popular Hollywood piece o' crap! Elias glows in his role here.
This film is a fine piece of work on several levels other than that impressive ensemble who brings it to life. It's a sleeper, where you keep discovering new layers every time you think about it. The relationships between the characters are the stars of the show. Joaquin's relationship with his parents is painfully exquisite.
I like the location of the filming -- where else would it be?! -- and the intimacy of the sets. I'm remembering a soundtrack with classical music, but I may be remembering wrong. It must have been seamless.
Whether you are Jewish, not Jewish but can appreciate films about Jewish people, want to learn a little about New York Jewish folks, or who has ever been in love, lost love, then found it again, with a twist, you will be entertained. Thank you to the director, the actors, the screenwriter, the producer, and everyone else in any way responsible for the creation of this work. Thanks also goes to our local independent movie house for bringing another fine piece of cinema to our berg.
You'll have more information on the sex scandal than you did before.
The term documentary implies something based on documents. Facts. The truth. Isn't it funny how often documentaries show documents alright, but just not all of the documents, or maybe purposefully selected documents. Just imagine a documentary about the criminal justice system and its own brand of documentary and your head just might start training for the Olympic swim team and have a shot at a medal.
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired is a film that HBO bought the rights to and I believe broadcast starting this month (June 2008). I just finished watching it with my younger son. Throughout the viewing, he and I drew very different conclusions, not only from the events that were described but how we felt about what we were seeing. It is no surprise at all, as a person's biopsychosocial context throws prismatic paint onto our perspectual lenses.
Do I want to climb up on the soapbox and proclaim what I saw is the right way to see it? Maybe the urge is there. Will I curb the urge? Probably.
What transpired for Mr. Polanski over the media and court coverage of an incident in 1977 of, at minimum, statutory criminal sexual conduct by a 43 year-old Roman and a 13 year-old child whose mother aspired to stardom and whose daughter was OK with posing in nude photos, is carefully constructed by the creator of the documentary. Just as the artist chooses brushes and colors for their painting; just as the perceiver filters databytes into a pattern that makes sense, so too does the documentarian in this work.
Is it the case with every documentary? We will save that discussion for another day. I will leave it to the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Whatever you see, please watch this rendering of history. It's worth your time.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem are the stars of this film.
I wasn't sure what to expect with this movie. All I heard was it had Tommy Lee Jones in it and was about a cowboy. When a friend mentioned she wanted to see it I took a quick gander at a plot summary that didn't give away any secrets. I had seen no trailers. You'd be better off not doing either either.
Tommy Lee Jones plays a small but powerful role. Woody Harrelson is exceptional. There are two real stars in this movie, but they aren't the two illustrious names above. I refuse to give away any of the plot, but Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem each have stage presence that unequivocally portend their presence upon many more screens in the future. Mark my words! If you've seen any Coen brothers' directed movies you know that they can be ...... intense. This one is no exception. The plot twists and turns like a dragonfly on a hot day, and it is with delicious anticipation that one sits in their seat wondering what's going to happen next. Stay away from this movie if you're not into graphic violence.
There is a philosophical aspect to the movie that I chose not to explore on my first viewing of it. Think "Unforgiven" with a Coen Brothers twist.