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Wilby Wonderful (2004)
Funny, kind and quirky
Wilby Wonderful is a generous-hearted dark comedy drama with down-to-earth characters in realistic, hum-drum, inescapable life situations. The pace of the film lets us see into the emotional lives and conflicts the characters must deal with; there's a lot of quirky humor, and lovely shots of people's faces slowly changing as their feelings catch up with their minds.
All the actors do a great job. Ellen Page is solid and appealing; Sandra Oh is heart-breaking, contained and gorgeous.
If you like off-beat stories and solid, ensemble acting you will enjoy WW - it's a lovely way to spend a while.
The Eclipse (2009)
Big subject, slight treatment
The Eclipse has lots of good things about it, but in the end, the pieces don't hold together. Part of the problem is the editing and writing. There are many long shots - beautiful - with the most peculiar music playing, a mixture of bad Benjamin Britten and Philip Glass, and it goes on and on, setting a vague, angsty, weird mood. The story is a wisp, and the writing, while good, doesn't fill the film. The interior sets as well as the gorgeous Irish country side are beautiful, but some scenes are so badly shot that you can hardly see what's going on.
I kept watching because - besides expecting a payoff - the acting and characters are appealing. Hinds is great - he holds a lot in, myriad emotions flicker across his face, he clearly has a large interior life. The female lead grew on me, although her character is odd and prickly. Quinn, fabulously good, plays a character who's just a plot device to get the others in the right places, but he's so vivid, full-realized, pathetic and despicable at the same time, that the plot should have served him better. When the three leads get together, the film changes, and it's charged, strong, unpredictable, real, surprising.
We care about the emotional subject - unresolved grief, the spiritually or psychologically open states we can find out selves in, and how to move on and in to our lives. But it's as if half the film got left on the editing floor - the half with more acting and less music. It's like there are holes in the movie, filled with music. I know there was more there, but we can't see it. Worth checking out anyway for the acting.
Bon voyage (2003)
Crazy humor, desperate times
It's hard to categorize this one. BV is a screw-ball comedy set in France at the beginning of WWII. It's about charming, endearing people driven to do crazy things for good and bad reasons, and about being selfish and self-interested in the face of tragedy. The actors are all excellent, attractive and believable. BV is fast-paced and intriguing, with plenty of action and complicated relationships. The sets and locale are fun.
It is hard to reconcile the humor and mad-cap adventure with the certainty of the enormous ruin about to be inflicted on everyone - but you don't need to try. Just as magic surrealism can make more sense than realism, the humor here, the heart of the film, affirms the desire and hope that life must go on. It's done very well.
A Great Movie
You MUST see Scarecrow if you are a fan of Pacino's or Hackman's. Don't read one second more, go out & rent it NOW. If you are undecided...
Where to begin. Cinematography: takes you right into the center of the story and every scene. Music: backs up and deepens the action. Must pay attention to: all the extras - the faces are incredible. It's as if you are seeing people from all times/any times, Dust Bowl types, Americans on the lam, losers, down and outers, wannabes. Plot: some will say this is the weakest element, and it is if you want a strong narrative with a climax and resolution - a literary approach. But if you let yourself believe in the director and actors and the whole experience, the plot works beautifully, because it supports what the movie is all about: two men who come to love and trust each other.
Acting: astounding, intimate, uncomfortable, heart-wrenching, funny, poignant, vivid, memorable, aching, disturbing. The characters played by Hackman and Pacino, Max and Lion, are complicated, inarticulate men totally down on their luck. They may never be up on it. We get to see them from the inside out, feel their despair, rage, dyspeptic, desperate hope; see them implode, explode, reload and go on. As their relationship changes every minute, underneath the surface squabbles and discontents a strong foundation is laid. The emotional experience is subtle, believable, realistic.
Two scenes among many are standouts - dinner with Max's old friends, and the strip dance in the bar - watch the interplay of expressions on the faces of Max and Lion and the bar crawlers as you listen to the music.
This movie is what art is all about: going into another world and living it from the inside. I feel bigger and better for having seen it.
Prime Cut (1972)
Loads of fun
This flick has it all: bad guys, really bad guys and the worst guys. Lots of action, fast and plot-driven. Excellent cinematography, concise, tight, vivid. Good music. Two of the most fun chew-up-the-scenery action crash scenes I've ever seen - the thresher and the truck. Great characters, esp the leads, played by Hackman & Marvin.
Hackman is fantastic and memorable as an utterly loathsome, disgusting, frightening villain, who keeps a twinkle of charm that makes him even more despicable, and who shows his callow, wormy heart at the end. Marvin plays a straight-ahead get-it-done knight-errant - you know nothing is going to keep him from his quest.
The content of the film is not for everyone. Very strong stomachs are advised because the story is utterly amoral. But if that's your hunk of hamburger, you can't do better than biting into this one.
The Thrill is Sleaze
This is one heck of a sleazy time. If you like slumming, want to be blasted by a steam cleaner cuz you feel so dirty, like to wallow in slop, enjoy slimy scum bags, can't live without paranoid fantasies, then this is your two hours of mayhem and muck. Let's hope you never see Nic Cage look this creepy again - like someone attached it to the wrong end of a shop vac that sucked out a honey bucket. Cage is either very ill or an ex-actor inexplicably still acting.
You will enjoy the film if you're a BIG fan of Cage's, Herzog's, or if your expectations for B movies are D or less. The mistake Herzog made is that we don't care enough one way or the other about any of the main characters, plus he rode on the Abel's coattails. Years after seeing Harvey do BL I remember EVERYTHING about that guy, and how wonderfully loathsome he was. Cage's BL? - gone already.
It's Complicated (2009)
Fun - simply fun
This is a very easy fun flick with moments that tug your heartstrings or maybe make you think of bathos, but that's OK, you will enjoy yourself anyway.
The cast is uniformly great. Meryl really shines, Alec throws himself around in an endearingly annoying way, the kids are all smart, the houses are gorgeous, the architects are capable, the hotels are comfy, the food looks scrumptious. That points out the big flaw: these folks - unlike 95% of America - have no money problems, no looks problems, no taste problems, & no time problems.
If that doesn't bother you - it didn't me, it's after all a fairy tale - you will enjoy every minute.
Worst Move of the Year
This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen!
Simplistic,pandering, silly, plodding, inaccurate, full of awful stereotypes - painful! shameful!
Whatever is good about it - others have pointed out the great makeup for example - is way overshadowed by the utterly stupid and vacuous premise of the film. The short story may be wonderful. The conceit of the film is ridiculous. It's one of those movies that tells you the characters love each other, but we don't feel it. We are told Momma loves her Benjamin, but we don't feel it. Benjamin himself is really quite the jerk.
The heavy poorly done accents alone almost do in this one alone. I am not sure why Southern accents inspire such derision, but this movie has set back another decade or two anyone taking Southerners seriously.
I saw this because I have heretofore enjoyed all of Brad's movies. Not a fan of Cate, but she can act. They are both awful in this. I blame that on the idiotic story & execution. At its best it's sentimental, empty pap, at its worst it's pretentious, bloviated, false and offensive.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Hard to take this one at all seriously. Quentin was def attempting something, but he didn't carry anything off cohesively. It's a mishmash.
Tongue-sticking out refs to cowboy movies, good bit actors but dopey big ones, great cinematography and mostly good editing but some BIG goofs, plodding plot. Never has Hitler looked so simply wrong, or been played so buffoonishly to no effect. Churchill was unrecognizable. Brad is a hoot & that's not good. His accent is distracting, poorly done and laughable, and he looks like he's got marbles tucked into his cheeks.
The highlight, if you can call it that, is Nazi villain Landa, played very well, if over the top. IB is a lot like baseball: lots of standing around covered up with overdone dialog followed by a lot of action that's over very fast. Enjoyable silliness for the most part, it's definitely entertaining, but you will need a few beers to smooth over the long boring bits, and at about 2 1/2 hours, there are quite a few. If you smoke a lot of dope & are into sci-fi, this could be just the ticket to fritter away an evening.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Like other viewers, I had hoped & expected this film would have more depth and bite. The actors are all excellent; Spacey in particular, lizard-eyed, creepy and half-asleep.
Those that shaped the final cut made choices to tone down the black humor. That was a mistake because nothing, least of all the military, really gets spoofed, so the film becomes more like a fantasy of what clever people think is a fresh take on the war economy.
You'll have fun watching this - Clooney is very good, ditto Bridges, MacGregor has always left me cold but he plays goofy well. Just don't expect any real commentary on real events. It's more like a fond, "hey, ain't those guys cute!" shaggy dog tale.