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Bullock is strong in this time line puzzle
In "Premonition", a woman finds herself in a real-life nightmare--her life becomes a non-linear experience, a puzzle that she must sort out. And she must do it by herself, because if you start talking about premonitions, you sound like a crazy person.
As viewers, we get to work on the same temporal puzzle that Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) is trying to unravel. At first, it seems that the time line will be difficult to follow, but the script does a good job of helping the viewer keep things straight.
The film has its twists and turns, eventually morphing into an ethical puzzle, which deserved more attention. But that is a minor issue.
Early in the story, Linda is told that her husband died in an accident. Bullock's portrayal of grief is one of the best I have seen. And it takes the viewer into her world immediately.
There is a lot of moralizing built into the story, but it does not detract much. However, the film contains a lot of religious symbolism--to the point that I found it distracting.
By the time we get to the end of the film, the story has the feeling of a roller-coaster--in a good way. Some reviewers hate the ending. There is no satisfying everyone on this issue. I can't say it ended strongly, but it was not a cop-out.
The acting is good, including that of the children. The story is engaging. I have to deduct a little for the weak ending and the religious undertones that unnecessarily detract from the stronger story lines.
Tequila Sunrise (1988)
A Stylish Story That Is Part Crime Drama, Part Romance
"Tequila Sunrise" is a film that has more style than substance, more innuendo than plot. So I can see why some viewers might not love it. But the same can be said of "The Maltese Falcon", which has a plot maybe more convoluted than this film.
The overall feeling of the film is anticipation, the waiting for something to happen that clarifies the ambiguous intentions and the shady alliances of the characters, because the viewer--unlike in some other films--knows less than the characters.
The acting of Mel Gibson, Raul Julia and, especially, Michelle Pfeiffer should be singled out. In a film where intentions are not revealed, the actors need a good internal compass to direct them with integrity in the development of the roles through the story.
The music used adds significantly to the film's mood. Especially the unmistakable sax of David Sanborn, which is one of the highlights of the film.
I can understand why some might criticize the ending. I think there might be better choices, but that does not negate the value of the entire film.
Great Writing and Comic Timing Combine for LingOL
The writing for this show is smart and funny.
In the first episode, Nina Whitley (Eliza Coupe)--a corporate lawyer living the good life--finds her life spiraling out of control after her ex-fiancé calls to let her know he has a new fiancée. She does some things at the workplace that cannot be undone and before you know it, she is working at the Public Defender's office, representing another class of client. She has to learn how to deal with juries and those of a lower social station.
This isn't so much "fish out of water" as it is fish in a smaller, dirtier pond. And Eliza Coupe is the perfect actress for the writers to write for. Sort of a cross between Cameron Diaz and Taylor Schilling, with a dash of "New Girl" Zooey Deschanel, she has great timing and a real talent for physical comedy.
The rest of the cast is tremendous. And the series is still young, with plenty of time to develop their personalities. The writers spread the punchlines between the supporting roster, neglecting no one.
Nina sometimes flies out of control, but she always knows when she is doing it, as if she is watching her own car accident in slow motion and can't avert her eyes. Her self-consciousness is a lovable part of her personality. Now, if she can just expand her awareness to include (the well being of) others, she knows she can become a better person. The journey promises to be filled with laughs, many of them out loud.
Chrisley Knows Best (2014)
A Flamboyant Father and his Family
No reality show is for everyone. But I promise my review--unlike others here--will amount to more than just condemning the show because it is from the reality genre.
The Chrisleys (Todd and Julie) live in the Atlanta area where they raise their five children. The show is mostly a comedy driven by Todd's one liners, observations, and edicts. Much of the narrative is about the trials of raising teenagers, so you get the usual episodes about the new teenage driver or the perils of dating. This is very like "Preacher's Daughters" without the Bible verses.
You might be able to relate to them if you live in a 30,000 square foot home in a gated community and your children receive Range Rovers or Mercedes convertibles for their sixteenth birthdays. Seriously, though, the kids realize they live a charmed life. Even when they rebel, which is frequently, they know they have less to complain about than some other kids.
The show is not all comedy. It does tackle some real issues and situations, like drugs and a grandchild conceived out of wedlock. But there is never any doubt that love binds this family together.
Todd has been described as "flambouyant" by his son-in-law. Let's just say that you would not be surprised if he said, "Make it work!" He does play to the cameras, which is acceptable in my book. And the show includes brief sessions where the family members sit down and talk to us/the camera/the producers, depending upon how you want to see it.
I cannot say I laugh out loud a lot while watching, but much of it is funny.
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Documenting a chapter in American censorship
This film feels almost like a documentary in the sense that it does not contain much emotional content. It details the happenstances of Larry Flynt's life without asking us to love the guy or identify with him. But it does ask us to identify with his ideals, which are the core of the film.
Flynt is well portrayed by Woody Harrelson as a self-interested entrepreneur, a self-invented man who found success in the publication of erotica via a circuitous route. He is also a man who goes out of his way to tackle controversy and ruffle feathers. Like Hefner and Guccione and others who work in the porn arena, Flynt waves the American flag and champions Constitutional rights, especially first amendment rights. Flynt also had the misfortune of beginning his crusade in Cincinnati--a very nice area that also has a deserved reputation of prudishness, based upon several notable cases of censorship.
Courtney Love plays Flynt's (third) wife Althea, and delivers a tremendous performance of the complex woman who stood by Flynt during the worst times.
The story is mostly fact, not fiction. Those unfamiliar with Flynt's battles with the law and his historic court cases can learn about a chapter in America's struggle to escape the influences of self-appointed moralists. In retrospect--given the availability of porn today--this story may seem unreal to some, but the battle lines and the consequences were as real as a sniper's bullet.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
An Unconventional Story of Love
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a film about relationships. The relationship between a young girl and her father. The relationship between the people of a somewhat primitive society and the land they live off. And the relationship of every part of the world to every other part.
A young newcomer named Quvenzhane Wallis plays the part of Hushpuppy, the daughter of Wink (played by Dwight Henry), a man who feels an imperative to make a "beast" of her so she can survive after he is gone.
This is a good example of magical realism, where magical beings and happenings exist in the everyday world. The symbolism is intriguing, but not necessary for the narrative of the film to succeed. The real "magic" is the relationship between the two primary characters, to say nothing of the accomplished acting of these two newcomers, one only six years old. If the love sometimes seems buried deep below the surface, it is always there and powerfully strong.
Obviously, this film is not for everyone. But the acting alone makes it a must see for me.
Duck and Cover (1952)
Interesting Artifact of the 1950s
I'm sure this purportedly educational film seems foolish and funny from the 21st century viewpoint. Aimed at children, "Duck and Cover" was apropos for its time, when the public was mostly ignorant of the real risks of nuclear warfare, but very afraid of its implications--the way it changed one's view of the world and personal safety, in general.
It would be difficult to ascertain if the film accomplished what it set out to do--to give children (and their parents) a sense of security in a more dangerous world. Or did it actually make life seem scarier and more uncertain with its warning about "the bright flash" that might interrupt a beautiful day, without prior alarm, from some unseen, ominous and omnipresent source?
Having been a child during that era--and the Cuban missile crisis--I can verify that there was a toll exacted by the constant barrage of warnings about the unspeakable horrors that might befall American citizens at the hands of an evil, godless entity. Thanks, government, for demonizing an entire population and producing such ridiculous garbage as "Duck and Cover".
The film clearly has another agenda--one that pervades almost all government-produced films: legitimizing those in authority. The children who view the film are told "We must obey the civil defense worker". And more than once, it tells kids to ask "older people" in the event of an atomic emergency. Images remind the student viewer that teachers are in charge in the classroom, a message I am sure all educators appreciated.
This film is an interesting artifact from a "simpler" time--simpler in the sense that the average American citizen rarely questioned authority. I think the average congressman in 1952 knew little more than his constituents about the effects of nuclear weapons. The naivete that pervades the film is authentic.
Dr. Jack (1922)
Lloyd's Levity is Charming
This silent film is a real charmer. It relies almost exclusively on the talents of Harold Lloyd as the eponymous doctor, who sees the world as a funhouse and treats his patients accordingly. Written by Hal Roach and others, "Dr. Jack" feels like it was written with Lloyd's talents in mind. The physicality of the humor, and the sight gags, make this a perfect vehicle for Lloyd's abilities.
There is a basic story, but "Dr. Jack" is a series of vignettes which demonstrate the doctor's uncommon but "common sense" approach to healing. Best described as holistic, the doctor looks beyond the apparent malady, prescribing whatever a patient truly needs--from fresh air to a hug.
The overly-serious conventions of mainstream medicine are lampooned as is the image of the stuffy practitioner whose gravity only manages to drag down the spirits of those he treats. As we see, the levity of Lloyd is sometimes just what the doctor (should have) ordered.
Edge of Darkness (1943)
"Edge of Darkness" is a film built around the meaning of the word "quisling"--one who collaborates with the enemy--and the fact that the word comes from an infamous Norwegian. The story is about a Nazi-occupied Norwegian fishing village during WWII. Since Hollywood produced this film in 1943, it is not surprising that, like all films of the era, it succumbs to propaganda in place of authenticity.
But this film goes completely overboard in its attempts to dramatize the philosophical differences between those who choose freedom versus those who seek to conquer. This is a film of caricatures. At times it has a noir style, but the leaden delivery of the dialogue sinks this film. If you read about the problems that plagued this production (see the trivia notes), you can understand how the performances might be compromised. Ruth Gordon, whose performance I enjoyed the most, said she hated the film.
One major problem is the musical score, which is even more heavy-handed than the script. I have a feeling that the book might be a good read, but its translation to film is over the top. There are some well-written speeches that feel out of place in this corny rendition of wartime resistance. There are many films that do it better, particularly with regard to the French resistance. Or how about "Casablanca"?
Much of the dialogue in this film is laughable, because it forces the characters to say things no one would ever say. "We are soldiers, soldiers of our Fuhrer. These are rebels. They must not win!" I really don't think audiences in 1943 had to be convinced that the Nazis were morally in the wrong. Yet films like this continued to beat them over the head with simplistic pleas that draw the Germans (and Japanese) as evil, sometimes even subhuman, people.
I believe the story is meant to be about bravery and loyalty. It is somewhat successful at that, but the overall film sinks under the weight of its own overdone propaganda.
To Die For (1995)
This film has a great cast. Nicole Kidman, who plays Suzanne Stone Maretto, is amazing in this film. Talk about committing to a role! So why do I feel so lukewarm about the film? Maybe because it is considered a black comedy, but I find little funny in it. More probably because the story is not very compelling. We have seen other films with this basic premise. I think it is easy to lapse in caricatures when filming a black comedy. In this case, some characters did feel like caricatures while others seemed totally real. The juxtaposition of those two types of entities is distracting.
It has been suggested that "To Die For" is a satire that skewers reality TV and the idea that television grants importance to a person or subject. The director hits the viewer over the head trying to sell that theme. But that's not how I perceive the story, which feels more like a character study.
The structure of the film, while interesting, eventually proves tiring. Interspersing montage, faux interviews and a documentary-style is innovative, but they undercut the scenes that are straight narrative.
This is not a grest film. It is not one of the season's best. But it is interesting. I would view this film just to watch Nicole Kidman walk her tightrope of a performance and deliver a memorable portrayal.