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MA;UCLA; Motion Picture/Television
1979-84: Program Director, Storer Communications (Comcast) Co; California.
1984-Present: Writer/Director, Media Production & Operations Dept; Aramco; Dhahran, KSA
Get the Gringo (2012)
"Gringo" unexpectedly popped up during a channel-surf session and I got locked in. Edgy, gritty, and Latino-stylish, the film captures the violent, cartoonish hell of a Mexican prison. Lots of action, but not really an Action-genre film; more like a long unfolding caper, populated by fiery psychos, drug-dealers, a heart-of-gold mama, and one savvy 10-year-old. Botox-averse Gibson seems to have banished himself to this cinematic (and actual) backwater, but has come to terms with it. He brings his "Lethal Weapon" edginess to the role...perhaps his strongest movie actor asset, enabling the film to gel nicely.
It's a well-constructed film, with a foot in both the US and Latin markets (also savvy), that balances its few north-of-the-border scenes of cool elegance with the violently wacky world co-existing just south of San Diego. Interestingly, it was shot on video, or rather "digital format" producing an appropriate visual look- not "low budget" or "documentary," but decidedly gritty and harsh.
In all, "Get the Gringo" is a competent piece of work, which hopefully will re-coup its $20 million production costs. It's a unique and worthy addition to anyone's collection of Latin shoot-'em-ups.
The Watch (2012)
Crude, high school guy bodily-function humor combined with incoherently mixed genres makes for harmless, goofy entertainment. A post-modern buddy movie that outrages only in its self-conscious stab at hipness. Just kick back in your recliner and let "The Watch" drift harmlessly past, punctuated by the pleasant surprises of Lee Ermey's cameo, Vince Vaughn's performance, and the orgy scene. If ever there was a generously-funded film in search of an objective, this is it. Like many movies these days, producers and directors seem to think the medium needs reinventing- to move past what they see as tired old "relics." Voila! A science-fiction/comedy/horror flick that ricochets off its own mixed genres, propelled from scene-to-scene with mindless energy but no objective. Like jerking off.
The Sunset Limited (2011)
This film is a stunning piece of work, period. It's Samuel L. Jackson's finest performance, complemented by a restrained intensity from Tommy Lee Jones; and McCarthy's script is insightful, dramatic, and structurally flawless- a work of art.
A two-man-cast dialog between Athiest and Believer sounds like a cinematic recipe for disaster...but not in this case. "The Sunset Limited" establishes its dramatic impact from its opening lines, and never relents. It's confrontational where "My Dinner with Andre" was passive; it engages the audience, involves them in the debate almost as an active participant...it cajoles, it patronizes, it preaches.
Each character makes a convincing case for their respective belief. One almost wonders how the Athiest White has survived as long as he has with such icy cynicism and despair, while Black makes the case for the Believer with inspired, pragmatic eloquence.
Athiest or Believer, Jew or Gentile, Black or White...we come away from this film realizing that we escape damnation not necessarily by the embrace of prophets, but by recognizing the precariousness of our mortality.
Something's Gotta Give (2003)
"Something's Gotta Give" is a film so suffocatingly mannered, so airtight that its characters dare not misstep nor misspeak. A Neverland (Peter Pan, not MJ) populated entirely by the well to do who grow old with astonishing grace,wit, and charm. And not a Howard Hawks wit, or a "His Girl Friday" charm; not a self-propelled 1930s, devil-may-care screwball comedy. No, "Something's Gotta Give" is directed with one eye on the audience. It's icily, cynically calculating. And so typical for our time.
Supremely well-acted. Impeccable art direction and music scoring. Beach houses in the Hamptons, witty, wealthy, glamorous people, eligible bachelors and lovable rogues. What's not to like?
The insipid pretense of impossible characters, impossible situations, and impossible settings. All contrived for immediate audience and box-office gratification. "Something's Gotta Give" is the quintessential chic-flick that is ultimately, and sadly, pornographic.
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
The Real World
This is a genuinely humane and sentimental film that succeeds on so many levels. It's more than a comedy or "documentary" as an earlier reviewer noted. "Broadway Danny Rose" is in essence an ethnographic film...one that explores the quirky, multi-layered culture and peoples that inhabit the Manhattan/Jersey turf. The collection of lower-rung show people, gangsters, and promoters trapped in a uniformly hostile world, and yet redeemed by ethical and principled characters such as Rose and, ultimately, Tina Vitale. It could only be photographed in black-and-white... again by Gordon Willis, with impeccable appropriateness for the material. Woody Allen's films are often set in an almost off-planet Neverland, devoid of sympathetic characters and situations. "Broadway Danny Rose" reminds us that Allen can wring a good story out of the real world when he chooses to.
Neither Fish nor Fowl
Brilliantly staged, superb performances by Kevin Kline and Jon Pryce, and those great Cole Porter songs (the reason for buying the DVD). And yet this film is profoundly strange, lurching between musical and biopic, as ambivalent as Porter's sexual orientation. Screenwriter Jay Cock's tone-deaf dialogue saps critically-needed energy from the film while characters stop the action to deliver formal speeches rather fire clever quips from the hip. But what can we expect from a film-critic-turned screenwriter? De Lovely needs more stacatto Hollywood dialogue that matches the style, grace, and elegance of the art direction and cast performances. DeLovely is actually 2 films at war with one another: an elegant, snappy musical versus a dull, literary biopic. And the winner is the musical.
Classic Greek Ideology
Superbly scripted and acted, 300 is a statement on modern political theory as much as an historical drama. The film stands firm in its defense of individual and collective liberty (currently unfashionable among academia's white wine set) in the face of the relentless onslaught of totalitarianism.
300's techno-wizardry and comic bookishness is bowled over by the solid integrity of its script and concept...rare in a movie these days. The special effects scream computer geek, while the muscular dialogue conveys old-school character and principle.
Freedom is never free, and if we've learned nothing else from the Greeks, including out-of-control public spending, it is that. It's amusing that some reviewers make irrelevant attacks the film's imaginary "homophobic" references...and miss the point. Survival in ancient times demanded that principle count for more than trendiness, and the Spartans recognized that the Athenians were more than mere philosophers and boy lovers. It's the same as today as the civilized world again confronts a Satanic Persian menace.
Update: Hollywood's slimy political correctness was again in evidence at the Golden Globes when emcee Ricky Gervais refused to acknowledge presenter Gerard Butler by name, introducing him only as "that guy from 300." Cheap shot.
Route 66 (1960)
Route 66 remains television's greatest series ever. The combination of an engaging duo, solid writing (most of the time), fresh locations,theme music, and the Corvette, provided three astounding seasons. The show generated a unique mood and atmosphere that has never been duplicated on TV since. The stories, though well-intentioned, were trumped by the visual, visceral energy of the 'Vette, every time; shaping the car consumerist dreams of millions (including me-a 10-year-old at the time). Pure gold, especially for Chevrolet. Today's DVDs are always a treat to look at, and conjure up that same magic. Best wishes, and thank you to Marty and George, Stirling, Nelson, and the crew... wherever they may be.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Airtight, flawless piece of work.
No Country for Old Men is one of those films that lingers for days, forcing one to reflect and come to terms with this brilliantly executed work of art. The Coen Brothers have come a long way from Raising Arizona, and return to the Southwest to present a more mature tale of morality and despair, of decent people confronted and consumed by dark forces.
It's a kind of synthesis of John Ford and David Lynch, and yet wholly original: tense, taut, and deceptively simple. Barren landscapes, terse dialog, music used only to punctuate, action that quietly leads one in, then smashes them in the face.
The usual Coen droll, laconic style is still there...but no longer the inside-joke, or the wry social commentary. This time its more purposeful, more profound, bordering on nihilism. Other films seem insipid by comparison.
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story remains an all-time great movie musical, fully on par with The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof. Robert Wise's impeccable craftsmanship again shines through, and the rest of the crew reads like a Hollywood Deam Team: Sondheim/Bernstein/Lehman/Robbins. Its a shame that even in 1961, the lyrics had to be watered-down for political correctness. God knows what a re-make would be like today. Maybe Quentin Tarantino could make a good stab at a high-gloss update, where inner-city gangs DON'T spontaneously break into ballet dance numbers, and incessant finger-snapping. Regardless, the film should be in everyone's library: more proof that "they don't make movies like this any more."