Reviews written by registered user

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Kontakt (1978)
"Yellow Submarine" meets "The Godfather", 25 March 2017

Obviously the main thing that the viewer notices about Vladimir Tarasov's "Kontakt" is the "Godfather" love theme (called "Speak Softly Love"). But what really caught my eye is that the animation looks like the animation in "Yellow Submarine". The main character even looks like the cartoon version of John Lennon in that movie, and the alien shapes itself in a pair of boots that look like the kinky boot beasts (that try to stomp on the submarine).

Of course, I'm sure that this is a pure coincidence. The main thing about this short is that it's a good cartoon. The alien has one of the most interesting looks that I've ever seen in popular culture.

new Russia, 24 March 2017

Pavel Lungin's "Oligarkh" (alternately called "Tycoon" and "Tycoon: A New Russian" in English) looks at the free-for-all that dominated post-Soviet Russia. The protagonist becomes the richest man in the country through all manner of vile means. It was unfortunate that Boris Yeltsin, initially seen as a champion of democracy, sold his country off to the old functionaries who became oligarchs. Some have fallen from grace and even faced criminal prosecution, depending on which ones the government favors.

I understand that Platon Makovsky is based on Boris Berezovsky. It probably could have just as easily focused on any of the magnates who rose to prominence in the 1990s. The point is, these ruthless people turned the Russian Federation into their playground.

It's not a masterpiece, but worth seeing.

Inside Out (2015/I)
What would another emotion be?, 23 March 2017

I should start by saying that I'm not any fan of Disney movies. Even so, "Inside Out" is an interesting look at the evolution of human emotions and the problems that people can have adjusting to a new location. I particularly liked the part where they showed dreams getting produced Hollywood-style. My personal favorite of the emotions was Anger, just because I liked the way that he was always about to explode. If there were another emotion in Riley's head, maybe it would be cynicism (is that considered an emotion?). I haven't seen any of 2015's other nominees for Best Animated Feature, so I can't compare this one, but it seems as though they only award Disney movies.

And of course I can't avoid talking about the cast. Amy Poehler and Bill Hader are former "Saturday Night Live" cast members (co-star Bobby Moynihan still is). Lewis Black does skits in the persona of someone approaching a mental breakdown, so he's the perfect person to voice Anger. Mindy Kaling is best known as a comedian, but made a good point about the lack of attention paid to the recent murder of an Indian-American (by someone who said "Get out of our country!"). This is the first that I've ever heard of Phyllis Smith or Richard Kind. Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan are pretty well known. Paula Poundstone had been around for years before I heard about her (and I heard about her due to her run-in with the law). Frank Oz is best known for his Muppets work but has also directed a number of movies, including one called "In & Out" (IMDb needs to include that in the trivia). Flea is a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. John Ratzenberger voiced the piggy bank in "Toy Story". Rashida Jones is Quincy Jones's daughter.

All in all, a pretty enjoyable movie.

Day Watch (2006)
when opposites clash, 22 March 2017

Sergey Lukyanenko's Watch series depicts a war between Light Forces and Dark Forces. Timur Bekmambetov filmed the first entry, "Nochnoy dozor" (Night Watch) in 2004 and then released the second entry, "Dnevnoy dozor" (Day Watch) two years later. All that I can say is that it's not like anything that you've ever seen. This isn't simply a plain old vampire story ("Twilight" doesn't count for anything). It incorporates history; how many movies have mentioned Tamerlane? And some of those action scenes are enough to shock even the most hardened action fan.

I should say that the movie isn't a masterpiece. It's an innovative movie, and an entertaining one. The last half hour has to be seen to be believed. If you're into dark fantasy - think NBC's "Grimm" - then this will be the movie for you.

choose the right life, 21 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sam Mendes had previously focused on the falsity of the suburban lifestyle with his Oscar-winning directorial debut "American Beauty". He returned to the topic with "Revolutionary Road". Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet play a 1950s couple who abandoned their dream jobs in favor of a suburban lifestyle. Neither the husband nor the wife feels fulfilled. When they consider a change of pace, it exposes not only the flaws in their lifestyle but also in their relationship. And I mean with dire consequences.

Suburban Gothic is a common theme in cinema. I have no doubt that what the movie depicts happened more often than we might think. Indeed, there are still instances of people giving up on their dreams to do what they think that society expects of them.

Both DiCaprio and Winslet put on fine performances, as I expected. Far removed from their "Titanic" roles, their characters start out close but feel more and more distant from each other as the movie progresses. To be certain, there are some unpleasant scenes in the movie (but they do add to the plot). Also appearing is Leo and Kate's "Titanic" co-star Kathy Bates as a hypocritical realtor. Like "Death of a Salesman" and "Save the Tiger", the movie offers an acerbic look at the supposed idealism of the American dream. I recommend it, but remember that it's not an uplifting movie.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Hermione meets Gandalf (and Obi-Wan), 20 March 2017

OK, so we all know the story. While watching "Beauty and the Beast", I kept picturing Emma Watson (as Belle) doing some magic trick that her most famous character would've done; Ian McKellen (as Cogsworth) saying something about the One Ring; and Ewan McGregor (as Lumiere) trying to use the Force. Yeah, that's the kind of person that I am.

As to the controversy of LeFou turning out to be gay, what I ask is why some people are OK with a story that's basically a glamorization of Stockholm syndrome but aren't OK with a gay guy. Never mind that these same people will read their children the Bible (which contains rape, incest and murder). These people announced their plans to boycott the movie, but I doubt that'll harm Disney's bottom line.

And as for the director and the rest of the cast. Bill Condon previously directed "Gods and Monsters" (about James Whale, the openly gay director of 1931's "Frankenstein"), "Kinsey" (about Alfred Kinsey, the author of books about humans' sexual tendencies) and "Dreamgirls" (a fictionalized account of the Supremes). The rest of the cast includes Kevin Kline (my favorite actor), Josh Gad (Olaf in "Frozen"), Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

So, better movies will probably come out this year.

revenge of the graphic artists, 19 March 2017

I had never heard of Harvey Pekar or his work before "American Splendor" got released. Now that I've seen the movie, I'm impressed. The movie makes clear that Pekar (Paul Giamatti) didn't want to condescend to his audience. He just wanted to show life as it was. No sugar-coating, just the truth. As is often the cast with great artists, misery made for some fine work. An unusual trick that the movie uses is to intersperse footage of the real Pekar talking about why he created the cartoons that he did. He had some good things to say.

Basically, this is what movies should be. It should go without saying that Giamatti does a perfect job as Pekar. Equal credit should go to Hope Davis as a fan whom he marries, as well as some other cast members (you gotta love what Pekar's friend says about "Revenge of the Nerds"). I'd also like to see the other movies directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Definitely see it.

Watch for a young Josh Hutcherson as the boy dressed as Robin.

Okh and Akh go camping, 17 March 2017

Having debuted in 1975's "Okh i Akh", the title characters now go camping. Yuri Prytkov's "Okh i Akh idut v pokhod" shows how the perky Akh and gloomy Okh stay friends no matter what befalls them (often caused by Okh's lack of self-confidence), to the point where Okh goes through a change. It's not any sort of masterpiece, but still enjoyable enough. It'll probably entertain the tykes. I hope that in the coming years, the Soyuzmultfilm cartoons get more widely seen. That studio turned out some clever cartoons. They're available on YouTube, so they're not exactly obscure.

As they say in Russian, the guys lived two steps from each other.

See a connection?, 15 March 2017

Pepe Danquart's Oscar-winning "Schwarzfahrer" is a look not only at racism, but at its subtlety. The old woman who rants against immigrants is odious enough, but more important is that no one challenges her. To be certain, her rant sounds like what we still hear from these losers, or from politicians looking to score votes. I immediately saw a link between the old woman's "blacks carry AIDS" and Donald Trump's "Mexicans bring drugs".

It would be easy to say that due to Germany's history, it has no choice but to make movies like this. In reality this should apply to every country. Racism exists everywhere. And as Billy Bragg said, racism must always get challenged. After all, no one is born racist.

Definitely see the movie.

it's a Ja-far cry from the original, 13 March 2017

Disney's "Aladdin" was one of the most lively animated features ever thanks to Robin Williams's wacky performance as the genie. So it's no surprise that without Williams, the straight-to-video sequel is a far inferior quality. But even if Williams had participated, it wouldn't have helped much. The whole movie is an uninspired excuse to make money. Truth is, had Williams provided the voice, it probably would've hurt his career. The movie might entertain the tykes for its running time, but I doubt that anyone over the age of twelve will enjoy it. NOT WORTH YOUR TIME!

On the subject of Agrabah, there was a poll a year or two ago. A large number of people said that they supported bombing Agrabah, not realizing that it's a fictional city.

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