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The Class of 92 (2013)
To Be Honest, It's Pretty Bad
Considering the material that they had to work with, including in depth interviews with the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, I'd have to say that "The Class of 92" is one of the worst made documentaries that I have ever seen. It's amazing that the filmmakers managed to turn such an interesting subject and exciting story into a documentary that is extremely boring and difficult to watch. They even managed to make Eric Cantona boring. If you don't know the story of Manchester United's youth program and the explosion of young guns Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, the two Nevilles, and Nicky Butt into the football world then this documentary... will not tell you that story in any intelligible way. If you do know the story, this documentary won't shed very much insight onto anything.
Unexpectedly, Phil Neville comes off as the most thoughtful and insightful member of the group and is the most fun to listen to.
Advertising for this film implies that you will see a lot of great footage of the lads reunited back together and larking about... there is some of that, but it all comes off a bit forced and the players don't really seem comfortable.
Brilliant, Contemplative Character Study
The passionate antipathy that this movie has generated (see it's many one star reviews here, such as the person who removed the DVD after one hour, broke the DVD in half, then decided it was necessary to break it into fourths....) tells you that there is something to this movie. I always find it strange when people are so affected by a work of art as to have their passions inflamed by it and then they say it is crap....
GREENBERG is a musing, contemplative character study that follows the life of Ben Stiller's 40ish post break down bachelor guy who has flown out to California to stay in his brother's empty house for a while and work at "doing nothing".
A lot of people won't like this movie because it is like real life. A lot of people won't like this movie because it is not plot driven. Some people will just find the Greenberg character too irritating, but those should be able to notice that it is a pretty good movie even if they don't like it.
And for the rest, however much a minority they may be, this movie has a lot to offer. Remarkable acting, several genuinely memorable scenes, and a canvas that encourages one's mind to explore deeper questions about contemporary life, humanity, and our often dysfunctional relationships.
Rear Window (1954)
Maybe in the 1950s?
I'm a big Hitchcock fan and hadn't seen Rear Window since I was a child, so I was surprised when I sat down again recently to watch it and found the movie to be quite bad. Obviously this is one of Hitchcock's most famous movies and is considered a classic, but on re-examination one wonders if aside from the novelty of the concept of the film and it's reputation if it is really a very good movie after all.
I won't go into the details of the plot too much, because it is unlikely you are reading reviews of this famous movie to find out what it is about. And if you are then there are hundreds of other reviews here that already give a rough outline of the plot. The core concept in Rear Window of having a story that plays out from events witnessed while looking in the neighbors' windows in a building across a courtyard or alleyway from one's own apartment is a great concept and that is really the best thing about this film. The sound and music are also quite good, especially impressive is the way we get just snippets of (often ambiguous) sound drifting in from the apartments across the way as we see what is happening inside them.
Anyway, aside from the novel concept and some of the nice technical aspects of the film making, what are the problems with this movie? First of all, there is not really any reason to be suspicious about the murderer. Jimmy Stewart is convinced that the man murdered his wife, but he doesn't have any reason to believe anything like that happened and neither do we the audience. And this is true well over an hour into the movie, so it is just boring. Then in the end his theory turns out to have been magically true... so what? It was still boring, and all that happened was it stopped making sense when the man turned out to have murdered his wife even though there was no evidence or reason for any suspicion whatsoever that he had done so.
One thing that doesn't help the movie is that Jimmy Stewart was extremely poorly cast. He is about ten years too old for the relationship with Grace Kelly to play out the way it should, and he hardly fits the bill of a globe trotting adventure photographer. I love Jimmy Stewart, but this role needed an actor who was younger and less pedestrian in personality.
Well, those two things pretty much ruin the movie. The plot is implausible at best and having an implausible lead actor doesn't make it any better. Perhaps in the 1950s audiences were naive enough to get in on the idea of 'suspicion' about this man who murdered his wife, but when you look at the movie today he is just a man living his life there is no reason to believe he did anything wrong at all and that ruins the suspense of the movie and makes it pretty strange to watch for the first eighty or ninety minutes. The characters don't make any sense, because you can't understand why they are buying into this idea that the guy 'over there' murdered his wife when there is literally no reason whatsoever to have any suspicion (that they know of or that we the audience know of) until the movie is already almost over. Personally, as a viewer, I could not get into a 'suspension of disbelief' for this plot and that made the viewing extremely tedious.
Like I said, I love Hitchcock and had considered this to be a classic movie from what I remembered when I saw it as a child, but it hasn't aged well.
The Century of the Self (2002)
Thought Provoking, but Imperfect
The Century of the Self is a thought provoking, four part documentary describing how Freudian and post-Freudian ideas about human nature were adopted by corporations and politicians to manipulate society and public values in the 20th Century. There is a particular focus on the influence of Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, on American culture, business, and politics. This is a well crafted, engagingly paced, and consistently interesting documentary, and has developed a bit of a cult following.
This documentary is a bit overly simplistic and tries to fit the messy reality of history into neat little boxes. It gives far too much credit to Freud and his followers, failing to acknowledge that Freud's ideas, even by the 1970s, had been largely discredited and dismissed by the psychological community. The idea of an individual was not new to the 20th Century (let alone Freud or his successors), nor was the idea that most human beings are irrational simpletons (or worse) who must be manipulated and led around by the nose through appeals to their basest emotions and desires, but The Century of the Self tells us that these were revolutionary new ideas and concepts. One didn't need to be a Freudian to come up with advertising that, for example, shows a pretty woman in a short skirt sucking on a tubular popsicle and saying, "Oooh what an exciting man you are!" to a man in a flashy new convertible, but the documentary implies that pretty much all of advertising and public relations until the 1960s was driven by Freudian theories about human nature and the unconscious mind.
An embarrassingly ironic note is struck throughout with the use of mood music prompts to indicate to viewers what values they should attribute to different organizations and ideas, such as by playing foreboding, negative music whenever corporations are mentioned by the narrator. This becomes quite absurd in the context of what is basically an extended criticism of attempts by advertisers and politicians in the 20th Century to influence public sentiment through manipulative emotional prompting rather than honest information and debate about ideas.
Those criticisms aside, The Century of the Self is a good watch and filled with interesting information and insights.
Nuanced Human Drama / Slice of Life
The story in "Netto" is particular to the East Berlin/West Berlin divide, yet it is also a universal story that has repeated itself one way or another in every time and culture. It is a story of a decent man who has 'failed' at life, and how he and his son relate to each other.
The father in this story is an East German who has been unable to adjust to changing times and circumstances. He is estranged from his family, unemployed, and bogged down psychologically in a past that is no longer applicable to the world around him -- he is drowning. His teenage son comes to live with him unexpectedly when the boy's mother decides to move to a new house with her new husband/partner.
This is a 'slice of life' story, with beautifully nuanced characters and a remarkable amount of insight into human relationships and psychology. The acting is exceptional.
"Netto" ends somewhat abruptly, and that is the only real criticism or complaint that I have about it. A very good film.
Ceský sen (2004)
Waste of Time
I don't want to waste too much time on this review, as the film itself was already time wasting enough.
First of all, nothing happens. The picture of the film makers being chased on the front cover was bogus, they weren't chased, they weren't attacked -- some people argued with them at the end of the 'prank' in an extremely non-threatening way and that was all.
Secondly, the film was extremely poorly made. It's honestly hard to make a documentary this boring, everything about the production was poor and not even up to a decent amateur standard. It's amazing how poorly edited and selected the cuts that they used were. Just really, really, woefully poor film making.
In the end, when pressed on the issue, the film makers admitted that they got the money for this big hoax as a grant from the Czech government. Apparently, they are privileged boys with some connections. It's actually quite sickening when you think about a relatively poor nation like the Czech Republic having their tax dollars squandered in this way so that two unusually dim witted brats can play a big joke on a couple thousand people.
And I have to say, considering the time and resources involved, getting what looked like at most 2,000 people to show up for the joke is not very impressive. These guys are underachievers all the way to the finish.
Boring, offensive, poorly made, waste of time. End.
Mocking Judd Apatow
"The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It" is a spoof of Judd Apatow's films (i.e. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, etc.). If you take Judd Apatow's work seriously then you will not enjoy this movie -- in a sense, it is making fun of you. In "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc", the Apatow style of 'humor' and 'creativity' finally gets the send-up it deserves.
As in all of the Apatow films, "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" is a collection of scatological+sexual and/or drugs+violence comedy sketches structured loosely around a simple plot. The viewer of Apatow's films is supposed to be shocked or surprised by the vulgarity of the humor, which is typically set against a backdrop of traditional, 'non-threatening', suburban life. "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" follows the same pattern, often directly aping Apatow's jokes, but turns up the volume on them until they actually ARE surprisingly vulgar, thus casting into relief how ridiculous, uncreative, and boring Apatow's brand of humor is at its root.
For example, a famous scene from Apatow's film "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" features the mild-mannered, non-threatening, likable protagonist getting up peacefully in the morning and walking to the bathroom to urinate, except ("gasp") he has a raging hard-on prominently visible through his underwear and has trouble cranking down his penis to toilet level in order to take a leak. This is basically the comedic pattern of all Judd Apatow's movies, as well as his many imitators. In "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" the film makers mock this same scene by having a similar protagonist, in a similar situation, get up out of bed and walk to the bathroom with a hard-on that stretches nearly up to his chin, he then sits on the toilet and has to keep cranking his hard-on down in order to move it out of the way so he can read the newspaper, etc.
"The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" uses this same pattern of exploding Apatow's humor, pushing it to an extreme, more actually "gross" or "shocking" level, in order to illustrate how fundamentally unintelligent and boring this style of humor is. With movies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" in mind, "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" becomes quite funny in contrast. It is a mocking imitation of not only Apatow's movies, but the juvenile, born-yesterday attitude towards sex and violence that permeates much of our popular culture.
Personally, there is something profoundly subversive about Apatow's films that has always bothered me -- it is in the way he mixes profane, destructive, or demeaning content into 'family values' type material that is, or was, one of the last bastions of respect and human dignity in Western society. I really don't find the content or scatological humor of Apatow's (or similar) films to be anything one would blush at, or even blink an eye at, so the appeal of these films has always been difficult for me to understand. I could go take a poop in the punch bowl at my Grandma's 50th Wedding Anniversary party, but I'm not sure what would be so shocking, silly, or creative about that, it is just an unsanitary mess that other people will have to clean up, and the product of extraordinarily selfish behavior. But so what about taking a dump -- everyone does. There is nothing to be shocked about, and it's not an inherently humorous thing any more than strange sexual situations or behaviors are. Everyone has sex, or practically everyone. So what? How boring. Anyone can shove a giant stake up their butthole until they die, they can even train themselves to enjoy it while it happens, and what is shocking or funny about this sort of realization? But that is the essence of Apatow-style humor, and to me it seems like it appeals to people who are, on some deeper psychological level, quite repressed.
"The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" approaches these same sorts criticism of Apatow-style comedy, but on Apatow's own level. It is 'even more Apatow than Apatow', to an extent that is intentionally absurd (and funny). There is a scene where the protagonist (after saving up '41 years worth' of sperm) ejaculates violently out of the window for several minutes, obliviously stopping a wild fire in California and causing the nearest beach to be awash with foam. I find that scene to be quite a bit more amusing than Apatow's mildly exaggerated sexual situations and humor. At least "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who etc" is ACTUALLY over the top, while Apatow's movies only pretend to be.
Much like logic drawn to its ultimate conclusion, this movie draws out the Apatow style of humor to its conclusion, revealing a glaring image of 'laugh-at-able' stupidity.
I can only hope someone will make as effective a send-up of Will Ferrell's work, which is like the nice-guy version of what Apatow does.
(p.s. For the record: I thought Apatow's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" was a decent/good movie, and hilarious in parts.)
Their Sidekick was Ronnie Dobbs?
I think the brothers' sidekick was Ronnie Dobbs. What more do you need to know? This movie is a joke.
It makes you wonder how ass backwards lucky this director (Troy Duffy) must have been for the first screenplay+film to actually turn out good. It's one of those big mysteries of life when these things happen, like everyone is capable of producing a little bit of interesting stuff, if all the stars align perfectly then someone with little or no talent can hit on that little bit of interesting about 1000 times in a row and produce something really awesome in spite of himself or herself. Sort of like hitting your number at roulette ten times in a row. That's my working theory as far as The Boondock Saints goes, because this movie is so damn bad, it's like a made for TV action movie that wasn't good enough for TV and just got shelved and replaced by Sabrina The Teenage Witch reruns because the station didn't want to embarrass itself.
I would only recommend this Boondock Saints II to people if I didn't want them to ask me for movie recommendations anymore.
p.s. IMDb kiss my ass.
The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988)
World's Most Objectionable Soundtrack
I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and rate this thing a 5 -- I could only get through about 15 minutes. The soundtrack is easily the worst I have ever heard. For some reason I want to say it is a cross between Yani and Gallagher, which doesn't make sense, but does describe it perfectly. And I mean in a bad way, because that could potentially be good.
I've never heard another soundtrack that remotely approaches this level of objectionability. There are some people who have a special talent for making things so bad that they are good, but then there is another level below that of things that are so bad that they are really incredibly bad with no possible good at all, and that is the level that the soundtrack to this film is at. I'd rather listen to a four year old screaming and banging on pots for three hours while his sick little sister is puking in the background and crying and the mother is threatening to "beat their asses" than to listen to one more minute of this.
I know what you are thinking, can it really that bad? I think my ears are bleeding. I never heard anything like that before, it hurt me. I'm pretty sure that listening to this music would be considered "torture" under the terms of the Geneva Convention -- it was one of the worst experiences of my life.
ONLY TONE DEAF PEOPLE COULD POSSIBLY ENJOY THIS FILM, AND TO THEM I SAY, "GOD BLESS YOU."
If you thought Foster's role in Taxi Driver was disturbing....
If you thought Foster's role in Taxi Driver was disturbing, you ain't seen nothing yet...
I don't know how to rate this movie, but it made me feel dirty. It is an interesting thriller where Jodie Foster plays a 13 year old girl who lives by herself in a cottage in a quiet little town and hides some dark secrets that you discover as the film progresses. Most of the "thrill" factor of the film comes from Martin Sheen's character who is the local pedophile (everyone in town knows about his 'predilections') and is trying quite transparently and disturbingly to prey on Foster's character. Along the way, Foster's 13 year old character ends up having a love affair with a boy from the local high school who is a crippled amateur magician (no kidding).
Foster is an incredible actress, everyone in the film does a good job, and this film has plenty to recommend it. However, the pedophile theme is disturbing and sometimes crosses into exploitation. What is particularly bothersome to me is that after we have this whole Martin Sheen the detestable pedophile theme played throughout the movie we are then shown a tender love making scene between Foster and her crippled magician boyfriend, including nudity as they disrobe (I don't really want to see sex scenes with 13 year old girls, and I especially don't want to see sex scenes with naked 13 year old girls, OK?!? I felt like I needed to go take a shower after watching this.), forcing us to view Foster's 13 year old character in a sexual light. As far as I'm concerned, that is exploitative and really is intended to play for kicks to a pedophile element in the audience. The easiest way to express the message of this movie would be: "Little girls -- so innocent, and yet so sexy." It's f--ed up if you ask me.
There is some satisfaction, however, in the fact that Martin Sheen's character gets his just desserts in the end. The film is well made, the acting is superb, and it is certainly something from out of left field, so to speak. Were it not for the weird themes and situations, however, this film would be little more than a collection of genre clichés.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane reminds me of The Blue Lagoon (Brooke Shields) in that it is a well made, beautiful, thought provoking film, and yet I really wouldn't allow my children to be around the people who made it. However, The Blue Lagoon has much more to recommend it than The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. I would only recommend this film to genuine Foster connoisseurs or to people who are really looking for some strange and unique cinema to see, because this certainly is strange and unique. ...How this movie was ever rated 'PG' is beyond the scope of my considerable imagination. Recommended only for well-adjusted adults.