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12 reviews in total 
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Brüno (2009)
25 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
Stupid, Belabored, Homophobic Stereotype, 10 July 2009

Brüno is the most stupid, homophobic movie I've seen in years, just one long, vulgar, shallow caricature of a gay stereotype. Vacuous, self-obsessed Brüno has lost his show in Vienna and wants to be a Hollywood Superstar. What could be a clever skewering of the cult of celebrity just focuses on a tedious parade of fag jokes. The publicity declares that it's supposed to be an exposé of homophobia. Said homophobes only enter the film after fifty minutes of stupid gags about anal sex and bondage, and Brüno is so shallow and unlikable that I felt sorry for the homophobes who were supposedly the targets of this satire, but they only served to make the fag look even sillier than he did on his own. This movie doesn't expose homophobia so much as it exploits it.

Look, I'm cool with over the top stereotypes. I'm not above crude and vulgar. Hell, I dressed up as a nun in mini-habit and fishnet stockings and ran for public office, getting international fame as "Sister Boom Boom," but in my childhood I quickly learned the difference between the "Jewish jokes" told by my Jewish relatives, and the "Jew jokes" told by anti-Semites. Both played on stereotypes, but the simplest litmus test is: Are you laughing with us or against us? As long as you are clearly with us, you can get away with a lot.

A few jokes that struck me as genuinely funny were lost on the young, straight audience that roared through most of the movie as I sank into my chair. Yes, a few moments were genuinely funny, but not nearly worth sitting through the rest of it. Altogether this was not laughing with the gays, but laughing at the fag. Sad. After the brilliance of "Borat" I expected better at least.

It would be interesting to watch the hate crimes statistics and see if homophobic violence edges up in the next week or two. It will be even more interesting to see if Mr. Cohen takes any notice if they do.

This movie does not deserve the controversy and attention of a boycott. Just don't waste your time and money.

The Pig (2008)
8 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
Cute,gentle, heartwarming Islamophobic propaganda, 20 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Grisen" opens with an old Danish man in the back of a cab driven by a dark-haired young man (immigrant?) blasting a rock song on the radio calling for a return to the old days when everyone in Denmark was free.

Once in the hospital old Asbjorn is charmed by an amusing picture of a pig which offers him great comfort through the various colorectal procedures that may or may not find evidences of cancer.

One morning he wakes up to find a Muslim roommate surrounded by a huge family and his "guardian angel" pig missing. The dear old-fashioned gent is being very much put out by the Muslims who are arrogantly imposing their foreign restrictive values, and the mollycoddling liberals who just shrug and make ineffectual bureaucratic noises.

Even setting aside the many easy solutions to this dilemma that would undermine the drama ("Why doesn't Hamlet just kill the king?"), it simply re-enforces the stereotypes described above.

Actually few Muslims would care one way or another about a picture of a pig (unless it is a contrivance in a pointedly islamophobic caricature.) We don't eat pork, but a painting is just a painting and so what? Most Muslim immigrants are very adaptive, getting along fine in host countries. Of course there are obstinate characters on all sides of any question and they grab the headlines and become the focus of drama. It is too bad that with all the efforts at reconciliation and co-operation that this negative stereotype is being so promoted.

Even though much of the humor is banal and predictable, the stereotypic lawyering, the butt jokes, the film is technically well produced. Worthy of an Oscar nomination? I don't see how.

I do find it interesting that I haven't seen any protests or arguments against this film. Nobody is trying to stop it or censor it. Mine is the first complaint I've seen anywhere and even then I would not make any effort to censor it, just to ask people to consider carefully what it is saying.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Poor, poor Louise..... How on earth did she get roped into this?, 28 June 2007

What a bomb! Another example of how trying too hard to be camp just doesn't work. If you can imagine a bunch of stoners trying to make "The Three Stooges meet Countess Dracula" and loading it with bare-breasted women you may get an idea of what this is like. Unfortunately the many pairs of boobs make it unfit for 5-10 year old boys who would otherwise be the best audience for this. One pair of boobs just right for the little boys would be the idiot twin sons of the Countess who do a rather intriguing mirroring-each-other pantomime, getting out of bed and starting their morning ablutions. But mostly they're just two stooges in black capes and bad "Transylwanian" accents.

Louise Fletcher manages to glide over this morass, ever elegant and charismatic. Watching her shine so magnificently over the ordure that is the rest of it is rather amazing to see, and the fashion show in the last 15 minutes has some fun costumes. Maria Schneider just looks like she's waiting to get paid. One hopes that she and Ms. Fletcher were getting plenty. Given the production values, either their pay ate up the entire budget, or they were blackmailed into this disaster.

This may rival "Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter" for worst vampflick ever, but at least "JC" was clearly an amateur production. There is no excuse for this abysmal waste of time.

And no, it is not even Ed-Wood-so-bad-it's-good. Ed Wood, bless his soul, took his work seriously enough to give it a quirky charm. Even "Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter" was compellingly weird in its gawd-awfulness. I like quirky bad movies, but this was just pointlessly vacuous.

Poor, poor Louise... I'm sure she's done her best to forget this trainwreck, and so shall I!

31 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Wonderfully over-the-top dark comedy, 20 June 2007

This movie is pure grand guignol with obvious references to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "Sunset Boulevard." If you enjoy shrill, histrionic, over the top, morbid, nasty, vicious humor you'll love Alan Cumming's directorial debut.

Purely on the technical merits, this film would deserve no more than 7 out of ten stars, maybe even a mere 4, but it has the madness, the idiosyncratic verve to become a camp cult classic. Cumming's performance is a bit of PeeWee Herman as Norma Desmond, but when you think he's pulled out all the stops, Karen Black takes it to the next level, and then.... well, it just gets madder and madder.

While it is clearly not for everyone, "Suffering Man's Charity" is an absolute treat for the right -- or perhaps a very wrong -- mindset.

The Bubble (2006)
29 out of 133 people found the following review useful:
"The Bubble" is a bust, 2 June 2007

"The Bubble" is an effort to make a gay Romeo & Juliet type of story with an Israeli and a Palestinian, although it seems to come at it by way of "Friends" or "Beverly Hills 90210." The characters are shallow and trite as are the dialog and plot line. The movie seems torn between fluff and depth. On the one hand there is a pointed effort at being shallow as (in one example of many) some minor characters even ask questions that invite development of insight into the conflicts at hand, and get answers like, "Hey, we're here to make a poster for a rave against the occupation. Don't get political!" Beyond the obvious absurdity of such a line, it's just one of many ham-fisted signals that the movie is just as hollow and insubstantial as its title suggests. On the other hand, the movie's main pretension to depth follows the lovers to a presentation of "Bent" a play about gays in a Nazi labor camp. The scene on stage is awkwardly rushed, undermining its erotic power (understandable given the constraints of film-time, but still this could have been edited to much better effect.) and comes off as flimsily as the rest of the film. Too bad. This play deserves much better.

The characters are so one-dimensionally cartoony some even have names that telegraph their entire (though the word seems inappropriate here) substance. The aggressive soldier from the crack Golani brigade is named "Golan." The militant Palestinian is named "Jihad." The striving-for-chic faghag roommate is "Lulu." Anyone familiar with the checkpoints and life in Palestine, whether from real life or documentaries will find the checkpoint scenes as absurdly unreal as… well, the rest of this fluffy fantasy. When a Palestinian woman goes into the fastest labor on record Israeli soldiers are solicitous and helpful, an ambulance shows up in minutes. (The outcome of the birth serves to show the Palestinians as unappreciative of Israeli beneficence and even downright paranoiac.) Altogether the checkpoint is shown as a mere nuisance, not the series of bone-numbing, soul-crushing, humiliating obstructions with no regard for medical care or necessity in cases of birth, death, or severe illness. Ashraf, the Palestinian lover, seems to get through from Nablus to Tel Aviv with no problems, no papers, no hassles. He just shows up whenever he likes. When the Israelis want to get through it is much more of a challenge involving a scheme worthy of Lucy Ricardo.

Against the backdrop of nice, supportive Israelis and surly homophobic Palestinians we move to a resolution that is utterly lacking in motivation or purpose – except as a painfully obvious dramatic device to milk sympathy for the forbidden lovers.

Gay Israeli-Palestinian romance has been handled on stage with much more skill and depth as in Saleem's "Salaam/Shalom" so this film is hardly even as groundbreaking as some people would like to think.

Gloriously bad films – like the works of Ed Wood -- at least have some striking idiosyncrasy to distinguish them. This one doesn't even have that going for it. Most of the sound track sounds like Simon and Garfunkel on quaaludes, and even with the weird oedipal touches to the gay sex scenes, the general incompetence that pervades this movie plays out like a mediocre TV-movie-of-the-week.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A rather interesting... and extremely adapted adaptation., 28 February 2007

Generally well done as this is, the TV production of "Execution of Justice" is a far departure from Emily Mann's play on which it is supposedly based. Ms. Mann's script is actually a collage of quotes from news reports, speeches, and trial transcripts following White's assassination of Milk and Moscone.

The TV production takes place largely around the lives of both Harvey Milk and Dan White. It takes the usual liberties with actual details (whereas the original play was extremely factual), but essentially gives a good overview of the events and pressures leading to the double murder.

4 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Perfume Stinks, 2 January 2007

The best thing about this movie would be the lush visuals and it could even get an Oscar in various technical categories. Too bad the writing is choppy and the actors are weakly directed. Hoffman and Rickman are conspicuous in their own styles highlighting the vacuity of direction at least as far as the characters are concerned.

The very high production values and the lack of depth among the characters creates an emphasis on visual style without depth. The script undermines the movie further. Starting with an unrealistic conceit such as the superhuman sense of smell requires sticking closely to the logic that such an anomaly creates. This narrative had gaps and flaws that made the story ridiculous. With the shallow characterizations and sloppy scripting the effulgence of the technical direction blows up into unintended high camp. A climactic scene that should convey sublime joy comes off as an accidental parody of Ken Russell.

If you want to see camp re-defined, by all means go and have a good laugh. If you want to see 18th-century Paris as a garish blend of the styles of Windsor McKay and Hieronymus Bosch, the movie is not without some interest, but as story-telling goes it's a rickety, pretentious mess.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Disney clichés set in a sterilized vision of Sicily, 3 December 2006

A poor little boy working hard to support his sister and grandmother overcomes the well-meaning interference of a teacher and social worker. Even the supposed gangster turns out to have a heart of gold. It's the same old much-regurgitated Disney TV novella set this time in Sicily, and hasn't Sicily endured enough troubles already? Although Giancarlo Giannini easily goes through the motions he only shows how strained and awkward the other actors are, consistently enough to show that the directors, not the actors are at fault. Aside from the Disney media empire breaking into a new market there is no point to this stale, formulaic twaddle.

4 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Very pretty, but largely disappointing and stereotypic., 3 November 2006

While the cinematography is stunningly gorgeous, I found "Iraq in Fragments" to be mostly very disappointing, a shallow rehash of stereotypes of the 3 main sections of Iraq.

First we get a little boy who's failed the first grade 2 or 3 times and professes to be loved and well-cared for by a boss who is rough and bullying to him, behavior that would be clearly labeled as abusive in the US. Granted in a much harsher, more violent society little Muhammed may be relatively well-off. But this roughness, the constant low-level violence and the threat of much worse, the cycle of failure and nostalgia for Saddam Hussein (Yes, he was terrible, but now is so much worse, they all say.) is simply what we already "know" from western press reports from the Sunni Arabs.

The Shi'ite segment shows rough "justice" as suspects in a minor crime are kept imprisoned in blindfolds by what appears to be a vigilante squad. Here we see the prayers, processions, funerals, self-flagellation – oh, those exotically religious Shi'ites! And the Kurds are shown as struggling to develop democracy. The little boy who is the focus has auburn highlights in his hair, showing these Kurds to be more western than the Arabs. Montage shots of boys in a field recall Eisenstein, images of youthful dreams of building a new future.

The visual lessons of Eisenstein are much displayed here with wonderful montages, and the composition of this film alone makes it well worth watching. It is one of the most beautifully shot movies I've seen in a long time. Still, the content seems to be so much western hand-wringing over Arab violence, and the eventual dismemberment of the country (implied in the title) and hope for Kurdish democracy. (And here is the simplistic emotional uplift that softens the rest of the film.) The aesthetics of the movie are seductive and one can feel the visual poetry as being somehow more than that. Alas, it isn't. While the close presence and some of the time spent with individuals, particularly the young Sunni Arab and Kurdish boys, provide a sense of personal intimacy, they reveal no depth or complexity to the situations they live in, or any sense either of what holds Iraq together or what's tearing it apart. The framing of these three sections offers a sense of boundary and inevitability, objectifying the subjects, telling us nothing new about them or their situation, and encouraging distance and complacency among western viewers.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A delightful comedy about death and child molestation., 8 June 2006

Olga Malea's new comedy raised quite a ruckus when it opened in Athens, offending many people with its comedic framing of a hunt for a pedophile. The comedy actually opens up the characters of people surrounding the molester and creates a sense of humanity and depth without in any way excusing the crime. In fact, as it unfolds, some of the zaniness that builds the comedy is revealed as having more purpose and hidden depth than is apparent at first.

The romantic leads, Hristos Loulis and Faye Xila, are very engaging and sexy, he in a very sweet, vulnerable, natural way, she as a comedic over-sexed goth working as an undertaker's assistant. The funereal aspect is a bit of a cross between "Six Feet Under" and the old Keystone Kop farces, but part of the charm of the comically disastrous events surrounding the funerals is the insight into Greek customs, especially as they are being complicated by modernization.

"9" seems a high rating as so much of the movie is really quite good, but not really top notch, (more like a 7 or 8) yet the outstanding way in which it handles a very touchy subject earns it extra points, and the overall juggling of the different erotic and comedic themes, along with the more delicate material is extremely deft.

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