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Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
I hate it when I go to a film and I wince.
The last time I did so (and all through the picture) was Baz Lurmann's Moulin Rouge.
I don't have a problem suspending my belief when I watch a movie; I'm willing to go along with the ride with any film-maker. I just don't like to have my intelligence urinated on; and once again, it happens, and the guilty party this time is Slumdog Millionaire.
It's a mess, pure and simple; the photography is all over the place (I HATE MTV and CSI) and the worst of it all I'm under the unspoken impression that I'm watching one barely subtle plug for the Who Wants to Be A Millionaire franchise.
I don't care if it took home every Oscar at this year's Academy Awards (and the ones they did win I'm totally convinced the Academy is using crystal meth), this is one Best Picture Oscar winner I will never add to my DVD collection.
A minus five stars, in my book.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
"Silver Linings Playbook" And The Lessons Learned
I was not prepared for "Silver Linings Playbook". I was armed to hate it. I saw all the Oscar hype the Weinstein Company surrounded this film and I was loaded to cut it off at the ankles. And then, I saw it. In real terms, "Silver Linings Playbook" is a messy, disheveled little boy with dirt ground into the knees of his pants and snot running down his nose. The story sucks you in and gently shakes you. This is not a typical Hollywood film. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give outstanding performances. Not since "The Graduate" (1967) have I thought this long and hard about a couple well after the final reel unspools. Like Benjamin and Elaine in the former, I want Pat & Tiffany to make it in the latter. Buy it on DVD.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
A Film Classic That Will Be Remembered 50 Years From Now
My friends and I have a theory: those who bad-mouth Brokeback Mountain have NOT seen it.
This is a beautifully filmed motion picture; I'd dare as line it up alongside the David Lean 1962 classic "Lawrence of Arabia" and John Ford's 1956 masterpiece "The Searchers" for landscape and scenery being a principal character.
And heartbreaking, too; my, my!
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play two young buck cowboys with nary a pot to pee in nor a window to throw it out of, herding sheep by their lonesome in Wyoming during the summer of 1963.
And because they have nothing but themselves, they first fall into rutting lust, and then slowly into love.
What is even more heart-breaking is the fact that they have the opportunity to strike out on their own as cowboy ranchers, but fear keeps one of the duo from following through.
And in the course of twenty years of meeting for summertime fishing trips, they fritter their lives away.
I watched this in a full house of blue collar types when it arrived here in our town; after the film was over, the general consensus was Brokeback Mountain was awesome, and we were glad for the chance to see this (finally) on the big screen, after all the hoopla controversy surrounding it.
Definitely one to own on DVD.
Finally! "Daria - The Complete Animated Series" on DVD!!!
I never thought I would live to see the day when "thirtysomething", "The Archie Show", "Salo: or the 120 Days of Sodom" or "Daria" would all come out on DVD. The first three were all released within the last few years; "Daria" was still the lone hold-out. But, that day has finally arrived; and hallelujah! MTV/Paramount released the entire series (plus the two movies "Is It Fall Yet?" & "Is It College Yet?") on a 8-DVD fat-clamshell box set!!!
So how does it look?
Mighty fine, I must say!!!
I long suspected (and it was confirmed by show creator Glenn Eichler in the box set) that the music bites used during the original MTV run would be the fly-in-the-ointment to getting this great show released on DVD (damn music licensing, anyway!) So 99% of those sound bites were replaced. Is it noticeable? As a die-hard "Daria" fan, I'm not missing the music cues one little bit! I think it was a wise move, indeed; perhaps those bites would have dated the series even more, twenty years down the line.
The DVD transfer are wonderful; of what I've viewed thus far, the colors are crisp and the prints are clean (however, on my copy, there seems to be a 5-second glitch at the beginning of "Boxing Daria": there's dialog, but no picture. I don't remember that). But I'm relaxing too high in hog heaven to even care about that picayune flub; because I'm enjoying all of my favorite episodes (like "Arts & Crass", "I Don't", "Write Where It Hurts", "See Jane Run", "Monster", "The Daria Hunter", etcetera) in the best digital glory.
There are also wonderful special features on the final disc; including the "Daria Day" bumpers used when MTV played "Daria" all day long (you can click to add them to the episode assigned, if you desire), the never-before-seen Mystik Spiral spin-off script, Top Ten Video Countdown by Daria and Jane, and the primitive but fun pilot episode "Sealed With A Kick".
For "Daria" fans everywhere, this is definitely the best bang-for-the-buck I've seen in a long, long time. You will not be disappointed.
And, for fans of animated series, if you own "The Flintstones", "The Jetsons", "Jonny Quest" or any of "The Simpsons" or "South Park" on DVD, this is definitely one to add to your collection.
Get it now while the getting's good!!!
Up in the Air (2009)
Somewhere in Heaven, the great Billy Wilder is Smiling
I wasn't really prepared for Jason Reitman's "Up In The Air"; given the trailers I'd viewed, it looked like it would be a smart-ass little comedy.
Boy, did I blow it by avoiding it in the theater and electing to wait for the DVD.
In a nutshell, George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, traveling corporate cut-throat who has his honed his terminator skills to a fine science. When he discovers that fellow head-hunter Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is about to make him obsolete, he petitions his younger boss (Jason Bateman) to allow him to round her up for a road trip to show her how it's done. Along this merry path of old dog/new trick comes Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), road warrior herself, whom Ryan discovers also delights in the high-flying traveling business life.
But along the way Ryan and Natalie discover just what is entailed in terminating individuals from the corporate payrolls; and Ryan begins to wonder about the road he has chosen and enjoyed for so long.
"Up In The Air" is a masterpiece that feels and sounds like a unreleased Billy Wilder film. I've already dove-tailed it (double-feature-style) with Wilder's 1960 classic "The Apartment", and it is san-fran-tastic to behold!! The nuances and shadings that George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick and Jason Bateman bring to this picture cannot be underestimated. Even if the great Billy Wilder had made this in an earlier decade, the best actors he could come up with in the respective roles would have been Cary Grant, Shirley Jones, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon; and even then, they couldn't do it this wonderful justice.
Very rarely do I give a film 10 stars; this is one that I do.
Who Is This Person and Why Does She Have a TV Show???
I saw the cutesy promos most of the summer for this NBC show and I kept thinking to myself "who is this woman and why is NBC making a TV show with her?"
Turns out Ms. Whitney Cummings cut her teeth on the thoroughly annoying Ashton Kutcher-produced MTV series "Punk'd" and that is her modus operandi to situation comedy fame.
I think Khloe Kardashian has absolutely no talent whatsoever but she has more qualifications for a situation comedy than Ms. Whitney Cummings.
I didn't find the pilot episode funny in the least little bit, and the supporting characters Ms. Cummings created for herself are deadly dull people that I wouldn't waste 30 minutes on each week.
As much as I despise reality-based shows such as "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" at least there is a shard or two of entertainment possibility.
I can't say that for "Whitney".
The nicest thing I can say about "Whitney" is click your remote over to the Bravo channel and see what the "Real Housewives" are up to this evening.
"Whitney" is merde.
Burn After Reading (2008)
Go See Burn After Reading! Go, Now!!! *Possible Spoiler!!!*
. . .you'll laugh your butt off! Excellent cast; funny, well-written script all directed in that delicious Coen brothers style that is all seriousness with the subtle wink-at-the-audience that they do so very smoothly.
I'm not about to give away the plot, but this farce is hardly broad, because it is populated with characters with tics most of us can recognize.
Personally, I predict Brad Pitt and John Malkovitch will nab Best Supporting Actor Oscar nods for their performances in this film; both are beautiful to behold and watch for the next moment they fill the screen.
Just remember, the thing in the basement will bring down the house! I laughed and cried at the same time!
The Boys in the Band (1970)
Kudos to CBS DVD/Paramount For A Beautiful Transfer!!!
I gotta tell the truth and shame the devil, I didn't know if I WANTED to purchase the new DVD release of The Boys In The Band; all the self-loathing and bitchy camaraderie was just a little more than I could stand last time I viewed it (1998). But hey!, I thought, if nothing else I could run the pilot episode of (the American version of) Queer As Folk afterward to counter-balance the histrionics.
Well, not this time! I was really blown away (no pun intended unless you want to) by the beautiful print CBS DVD/Paramount struck on this DVD release: the colors were magnificent and I didn't see on dirt speck or stray hair the entire time I watched. Perhaps time has mellowed me a little more compassionately to my fellow freaks (and I say that with love and respect to the characters) and I wasn't wincing at all, unlike the '98 viewing.
Also lovely to look at were the mini-documentaries included on the disc: one for the original off-Broadway play; two, for the actual filming of this movie, and three; 40 years later, what happens in terms of the landmark this film has made.
It also contains the commentary track by director William Freidkin, which I will soon see, but if the documentaries are any indication, I will warm more to him than I have in the past (see Cruising).
My only bitch (CBS/Paramount, are you reading this?): once again, there's no informational insert card with the DVD.
All-in-all, The Boys In The Band is still a magnificent train wreck, but now an enjoyable one, nevertheless, thanks to CBS/Paramount.
Brilliant, Brilliant Film!!!
Turn off the computer, silence your phone, put away the iPad and iPod and inject this DVD into your player and watch.
For those of us who went through September 11, 2001, it will be a blessing to your soul.
You will cry, rejoice, laugh, be touched and be released.
Kudos to all the actors involved, especially Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Zoe Caldwell, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright; and Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell, who spear-headed this fine cast.
It's a fine example of what movie-making should really be about: not just to entertain, but to touch and lift and maybe even heal the soul.
Meet My Mom (2010)
What A Pleasant TV Film!!! *Possible Spoilers!!!*
Usually I'm very wary with most TV films, especially those coming from the Lifetime, Oxygen, WE or Hallmark channels. Most are either the violent poor-poor-pitiful-me womens variety or they are so saccharine and preachy they make me gag! But "Meet My Mom" is a most pleasant film that didn't insult my spirit or my intelligence; I really cared what happened to the people involved.
The plot, in short: 7 year-old Jared Marshall (Charles Henry Wilson) strikes up a school project pen pal in the form of Army Sergeant Vince Carerra (a genuinely warm Johnny Messner). When Sgt. Carerra returns from overseas, he decides to look up the young Jared and in the process makes friends with the young lad's mother (a fine Lori Loughlin). Very gently, with little moments of every day life, these three people begin to bond.
Granted, it's not "Meet Me In St. Louis" and yet it is; there's a kindness to these characters that has been long missing from television (or films for that matter). It is so very nice to sit down to a film and watch it and care about characters without feeling like your soul has been sullied or your emotions masturbated.
And it is always a delight to see the wonderful Stefanie Powers, this time as Lori Loughlin's mother, Louise Metcalf. Ms. Powers is a great anchor for any production and "Meet My Mom" is blessed to have her.
The ending I won't spoil for you; Sgt. Carerra finds himself, after building a relationship with mother and son, ready to ship off once more overseas. Will they or won't they marry? The finale does satisfy, but don't bet the farm on a M-G-M happy ending.