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40 reviews in total 
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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
I Defy Anyone to Write a Spoiler for this Movie, 15 February 2007

If you liked Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, etc., you'll like Inland Empire. There are some similarities to those previous films, but Inland Empire is a new departure, or maybe a culmination, for David Lynch.

Anyone who thinks they can write a spoiler for this movie doesn't have a clue what they saw. This is not a plot driven movie in any sense. It's a film about the nuts and bolts of reality and the human mind -- among other things.

Laura Dern has finally been given a role to expand into, and she doesn't disappoint at all. Her white trash trailer wife monologues are stunning. There is also a street kid monologue (with subtitles!) towards the end of the film that is likewise a classic, and performed by a totally unknown Japanese girl.

I thought the ending credits sequence too precious; we get Laura Herring and the usual suspects trotted out. We learn that Naomi Watts did voice-overs. But this is classic Lynch that will have you pondering for a long time.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Idealistic Youth is Disapprised of His Intent, 29 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a fictional story about a young doctor from Scotland who goes to Uganda to do service to the common people, and thru a series of fortunate/unfortunate events winds up as an intimate of Idi Amin shortly after he assumes the presidency.

No doubt there are some technical inaccuracies in this film, and I'm sure someone out there will be able to spot them, but for this is really a very well written, acted and filmed story. We know well in advance how our young hero is going to spiral down into the madness of the madman's mad house, but still the story is so artfully told we are fascinated by every facet and twist of the plot. FW deserves an Oscar, and the young doctor deserves, well, some more good roles.

The only faults which bother me personally was the sudden appearance of the English doctor's wife at the end, on the bus. Is she fleeing the country. What happened there? Her whole sub plot was not really relevant except to establish the Scot doctor's raging libido. And the Englishman from the embassy was a great character foil, but his character and storyline never went anywhere. That could have been a rich look at the political side of the story.

But in the final analysis, this is not primarily a political film; it's the story of very flawed man, and how he destroyed massive quantities of people, one way or another. For such a heavy and grim movie, it's a surprisingly good time.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Downfall meets Ronen, 24 January 2007

This is a fictionalized but meticulously filmed story of the Japanese experience of the battle at Iwo Jima. It is the complementary story to Clint Eastwood's other film about Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers.

I wasn't going to write a review of this film at all, because there's not a whole lot to say about it. It's good. But it's also the most haunting film I've seen in a long time. The lunacy of war and aggression will stick with you long after you've left the theatre. You've been warned! Yes, there are a few historically inaccurate details (two G.I.'s lighting up cigarettes at night -- and then complaining that they'd be sitting ducks for Japanese snipers!) but overall this is a thorough film both in terms of the history of the conflict, and in the psychology of the Japanese people and military. Like the last Nazis waiting out the end in Hitler's bunker, these people can only come to the realisation that they've been duped into a war that they will not win.

26 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Good Portrayal, Few Explanations, 14 January 2007

I saw this at the German Film Festival in San Francisco, and having been to a few of these before, I was prepared for a depressing experience. What's with these Germans? Anyway . . . this is a brutal, thorough, carefully crafted portrayal of the tortured life of what Americans call with politically correct blandness a "sex offender." Our protagonist, Theo, is raping his third victim when we meet him. He is a smoldering, violent thug. We next encounter him, 9 years later, as he is released from a mental hospital into a supervised residential setting. He is a broken man. He is riding a beast he hates, and he has no idea when the beast will bite again.

As a portrayal of psychology, angst, subtlety of emotion, and real human relations, I would give this film a 10. The sparring session between Theo, and his budding girlfriend Nettie, is a brilliant display of the subtle forces which are torturing the both of them. The fact that these two people have the sparsest dialog in the history of cinema may not be realistically correct, but it is an excellent artistic way of turning the focus to their inner emotions. This film is art, after all -- not a documentary.

The only reason I didn't go for 10 stars is that I had a persistent feeling that something was missing. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I would have liked some back story about Theo's youth, something that would make him a whole person. The film does work without that, but it is a lack that a writer and director of such brilliance could somehow have remedied.

This is not a feel good, date movie.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
British Drama at Its Best, 7 January 2007

A new school teacher has an affair with one of her teen age male students. Another teacher observes their activity and confronts her.

If that sounds like the ultimate in spare plot descriptions, I'm afraid it's all I can say about this film without spoiling it. This is a film which is plot driven, and that plot is full of so many twists and turns that to say any more about it without a spoiler alert would get me a black eye from the IMDb. A difficult film to review, indeed.

This is a film which is primarily about women (some of them anyway): their emotions, how they think, how they act, how they rationalize, how they maneuver. It's an unflattering picture, but excruciatingly well done. The dialog is razor sharp (i.e. bitchy) with nary an ounce of fat. Judi Densch is brilliant. Cate Blanchette does a superb job portraying a woman who is borderline disturbed - on one level conflicted about what she's doing but on another totally enthused.

The men come off looking much more intelligent and noble, tho they have minor roles. Cate's husband, in fact, has two or three sentences towards the end of the film (again, I can't tell you what's happening when he says them because it would give away the plot) that are succinct, honest, to the point, and sane. This is in sharp contrast to everything else we've been seeing.

Highly recommended. Whoever wrote this should get a Pulitzer, not an Oscar.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Saving Private Foetus, 4 January 2007

This film is set in England in the year 2027, when the human species has become infertile. There are no, or few children, and no one yet of child bearing age. The world in general has collapsed, tho it is not made clear to us if this is directly related to the infertility problem. There is an underground resistance movement which has found a pregnant girl and is trying to get her to a safe haven. That's the general gist of it.

Acting? Superb. Cinematography? Astounding. Dialog? Mostly great, with a few clunkers here and there. Action? Lots of it, and Spielbergian in its quality and realism.

The problem is, this is a film with no message, no insight or meaning, other than the moronic way we manage to deal with our ever more stellar technology, and the violent way we solve our problems. It mostly plays the emotion card, and people who are satisfied with that will love the film. People who love action that's well done, will love this film. Unfortunately, there's nothing else here. It's a magnificently executed depiction of destruction, violence, and despair.

A lot of people are calling this film thought provoking. You don't want to have those kinds of thoughts.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Mr. Ordinary, 29 December 2006

When it comes to films about the Buddhist and Hindu worlds, you really have to know beforehand what you're looking at, otherwise it will make little or no sense -- or worse. Capturing the inner journey on film is probably impossible. Having issued that warning, I can tell you this is a good film.

When we first meet Rinpoche (a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist teacher), he is a solitary little man walking around London, followed by a handful of totally enthralled students. He has a passion for soccer, and apparently good food, too. It is not clear if he has a shrine room, an organization, or a practice center -- the usual venue for Buddhist teachers. He seems aware of but untouched by his surroundings.

It is only when we get to his home base in Bhutan that we see he is a major spiritual, social, and political figure. People are bowing to him all over the place, he blesses hundreds of people, he is chauffered, and wined and dined.

So what does this actually tell us about the dharma? A lot, but you have to know what you're seeing before you see it. First, his Western students are immensely lucky to have such access to him; they hang out watching TV, cook dinner together, etc. As Rinpoche laments himself, in Buddhist countries the gap is too great between him and the ordinary people for him to be as effective a teacher as he should.

It also shows us how an enlightened being is truly without ego pretense. He is as happy and comfortable living in a plebe flat in London, as sitting on a throne in Bhutan and naming babies for groveling parents. He is not so much a teacher of important subject matter, but the embodiment of that subject matter. It's that total lack of pretense that rings true. Not that he's an easy man to be around -- far from it, but it is one of the jobs of the real teacher to keep his students off balance. It keeps them from turning into a barnacle on the guru, and forces them to work with their own minds, which is the whole point of this particular spiritual path. Occasionally he does say a few words about the dharma, mostly geared to Westerners.

This film also contains a gem of an interview, two interlaced interviews actually, one of them with Gesar Mukpo, the half American/half Tibetan son of Chogyam Trungpa Rin. and a tulku in his own right, and the other with Steven Seagal, who gets sliced and diced as a total phony. People need to be warned about the bad teachers. In fact, it was around the time Steven Seagal was enthroned that I left Buddhism as a formal member.

So once again, this is a film for true believers. Preaching to the choir so to speak. It is also possible for someone who knows nothing about Buddhism to watch this film and become inspired to check out the dharma, and I think that was a primary reason he gave approval for the film.

It's been about 40 years since Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism landed in the West, and this film is a fascinating reality check on how it is developing. This film shows that overall it is developing very well, not only in terms of creating good students, but challenging Tibetans to adapt the core of their teachings to a very alien culture.

Bobby (2006)
13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Got it!, 4 December 2006

This film is about people working and staying at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the day Robert Kennedy was shot there.

There are actually two films here. The first is a narrative about a bunch of truly uninteresting and useless personalities who work in a hotel. The other is a collection of film clips from the RFK campaign. Putting the two of these together could have been a good idea. In this case, it results in nothing less than a disaster and travesty, which insults us the audience, and even worse, it immerses RFK into the worst kind of soap opera trash. It's an insult to all concerned.

I gave this film two stars, instead of zero, because of the film clips, and Laurence Fishburne's acting, which almost saved the character he was playing. In all honesty, it's been a long time since I've seen a film this bad. Furthermore, I lived thru the 60's, and this film does nothing whatsoever to capture the atmosphere of the times. The doper scenes are caricatures. There's no tension whatsoever, either between the characters, or about the politics of the day. Believe me, 1968 was anything but a dull year. People were truly freaking out. The whole country was falling apart. From this film, we're led to believe that the biggest crisis of the day was a dullsville hotel manager cheating on his wife, and an alcoholic lounge singer.

What were the people who made this garbage thinking?


Well, that's the review I wrote immediately after seeing this film. However, upon further reflection, I'm having a very different take.

Particularly irksome was the casting in this story. It's all big names. In fact, it's totally topheavy. This is most annoying. "Oh, there's the Hobbit!" "Oh, there's the West Wing!" "Oh, there's Morpheus!" If a Hollywood film has two of these people, that's normal; they're balanced by the lesser known actors.

But these are not stupid people. So it dawned on me; this is exactly what they wanted to do. This is not really a film about RFK, or the assassination, or the Ambassador Hotel. It's a political statement from Hollywood. Laurence Fishburne's Uncle Tom routine has nothing to do with the story line; it's seriously out of whack with the politics of race of the day. That's clear. This also explains why none of the subplots ties in at all with the assassination. They're not supposed to. I kept wondering what the heck the Czech reporter had to do with any of this. Now it's clear. She was there to show that tho the message is anti-right establishment, but they're not Commmie Pinkos, the traditional retort of the conservative right. And that stuff about the CHADS! obvious in retrospect.

This film is an in joke. It's a message from the Hollywood elite about how little we've progressed, and how off track politically and socially we've become, how we're still embroiled in stupid wars, racism, poitical duplicity, etc. That's the only explanation that makes any sense to me. These are not stupid people. Taken at face value, this film is nonsense.

Deja Vu (2006)
21 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
Haven't I Seen This Crap Somewhere Before?, 24 November 2006

In the final analysis, this is a time travel action flick, with a few good lines of dialog, and a heroine with nice breasts.

The plot has enough holes to drive several Hummers thru sideways.

There is no depth whatsoever to any of the characters here.

Tell me how Denzel Washington plays "chicken" on a suspension bridge, without killing anyone or himself, and without getting nailed by the police? I kept hoping something better was coming around the bend, but it just kept spiraling down into tinseltown pyrotechnics.

In fact, there was a movie just like this about 10 years ago, same plot, same ending, same bogus science, and it was just as disappointing.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant, but . . ., 19 November 2006

Harold Crick is an IRS agent who hears a woman's voice narrating his life as he goes through his day. The woman is actually a novelist, and he is the main character in her latest novel. This is bad enough for the fellow, but one day he discovers she is going to kill him off.

This film is brilliant. The premise, the dialog and the acting are superb. The story is literal and allegorical and clever all at the same time. It's wraps a lot of different concepts together in a way I've never seen done before in a film.

Will Ferrel has truly made the transition into "serious" acting here. Dustin Hoffman, as usual, is amazing to watch, and he has the best lines. Emma Thompson has her character flawlessly portrayed.

The reason I have not given this film ten stars, is because the ending is not consistent with the rest of the film in terms of quality. OK, it's an acceptable ending, and it makes sense, but it lacks the brilliance of the rest of the movie. They should have come up with something better. Also, the Maggie Gyllenhall character was flawed; she starts out a firebrand and ends up a Barbie Doll. Unfortunate.

But these flaws notwithstanding, a great film to see and savor. The most original dialog I've heard on screen, and an amazing tour de force of literary style that shows a respect for the audience rarely seen in a tinseltown production.

P.S. Trivia note. The director went to great pains to make this take place in an unidentfiable city -- all the transit buses have nary a word painted on them -- but the opening scene has Harold getting onto a BART train! The rest of the film doesn't look like San Francisco tho.

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