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Freeway Killer (2010)
worth it for true crime die hards...
It is interesting to see Leet in the principal role of Freeway killer William Bonin, who apparently was an extremely disturbed individual who also teamed up with young boys he either picked up hitchhiking, or at local parties in the area of Southern Los Angeles.
The product of a pedophile grandfather and alcoholic mother (we only see a glimpse of his mother, a psychological wreck for certain). Yet none of the back-story of Bonin can explicate the heinous acts of kidnapping and torture he put his victims through, in real life.
There is also an odd scene where his friend "Vern" is dressed as wizard, into the occult and Tarot cards, and helps host parties to attract young boys. (Reminiscent of John Wayne Gacy, Des Plaines Illinois serial killer).
Actor Michael Rooker (from JFK film), is excellent as the detective who finally trails the killer, there is an especially good scene at a local newsstand, while Bonin is salivating over the headlines and murders, Rooker is observing him casually. Then Bonin suddenly turns to him to try and out him as a detective.
If you like this type film you may also be interested in "The Hillside Stranglers" with Billy Zane and Dennis Farina as the killers (actually a good true crime story due for a re-make). As well as the Gacy film with Brian Dennehy, in the lead role as John Wayne Gacy.
The story is based on facts, and a cautionary tale for random young people who will just trust any stranger. This story shows,no matter how friendly a sociopath may seem, they are chameleons, and capable of anything. You may also like criminologist author Michael Schecter's book "Serial Killers" . truly surreal and horrifying.
An American Crime (2007)
Keener is excellent, as is Ellen Page...
As victim Sylvia Likens, Ellen Page (a young newcomer here) is very believable. Catherine Keener is excellent (as she usually is) in the understated performance here of a monster. In reality, Gertrude Baniszewski was apparently an untreated sociopath who had many children, lived in Indiana, and had neighbors who "heard nothing" despite abuse and nefarious screaming at her downtrodden home.
It is filmed realistically, and brutally. Having researched a few true crime cases, I would be interested to see the Director here address the Sharon Tate murders. We know Americans have been lied to by THAT particular story.
With the cinematography, he clearly has a true feel for the brutality and starkness of what these crimes reflect about an average, lower class community in America. Keener is excellent as Gertrude/"Gerty", a woman who has a passel of children, an ex husband who was a deadbeat, and clearly has several psychological problems.
The audience will see James DiFranco as her young lover (actually he was two years younger than her daughter Paula)
The true crime behind this film is telling and horrific. Everyone who has a social conscience should watch this film, to see the plausible deniability and denial that exists in America, regarding true crime, even today. 10/10.
Flores Raras (2013)
Gloria Pires as Lota De Macedo Soares...
Lovely. A story here that is not overshadowed by the relationships, politics, or agenda. It is, simply beautifully filmed, the beaches of Rio De Janeiro, the beautiful home Lota has deigned in part to accommodate her new lover, poet Elizabeth Bishop, completely played by Miranda Otto.
Otto is at once restrained yet yearning, a Vassar graduate visiting her friend, who initially is puzzled (and indeed overwhelmed) by the beauty and passion of South America.
She plays the American New England spinster type well, without a stereotype here. We can feel she wants, and NEEDS to break free from societal restraints.
The filming of the rain forests, the owls at night, the visuals are incredible. Lota Soares was politically connected and designed the park near Carioca beach, the title infers, reaching for the moon has so may more connotations for each woman.
What is most refreshing is the way this film is written, sensitive to the issues each woman experiences, it is an individual and a private journey.
The actress portraying Carlotta Soares is affecting and sad, and Miranda Otto is quite believable as Bishop. The story is beautiful and sad, and the scenery of Brazil is not to be missed, simply beautiful, and beautifully filmed. 10/10
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
very nicely done...captures the times
This film is the basic story of 1969, Marty and Pearl Kantrowitz a couple who married young and have two children, on vacation in upstate NY. Anything north of the city is "upstate" and they take vacation near the well known "Nevele" and Concord Hotels, only at a more down at heel bungalow campground.
The atmosphere of the Catskills bungalow and the rather tacky but fun atmosphere is realistic. Tovah Feldshuh as Lillian is excellent, she realizes something is amiss with Pearl and lets her son know, calling him in Brooklyn.
The Moon walk itself is secondary to the actual story of America in the turbulent 1960's, Woodstock, and social unrest, but the story is not heavy handed.
Nor is it a complete miss like the faint hearted "1969" film with Robert Downey Jr., which attempts to address the same time period in America, and misses the point. Entirely.
Pearl Kantrowitz, well portrayed by Diane Lane feels something is missing, she has married too young, and subsequently meets Walker Jerome, a hippie who is known as the "Blouse man" (announced over the intercom by Julie Kavner's unmistakable voice ), when he brings his bus of clothing and jewelry to the camp site. Viggo Mortensen as Walker Jerome, is believable as a young man who eventually gets involved with Pearl, hoping for more.
The story rings true because it is simple, but believable and even sad. The affair with him, the ultimate fact that she realizes her life is passing by, but she does love her husband and children as well. and its time to say good bye to lofty dreams. There is a decent soundtrack including Joni Mitchell, and many other gems from that era. Liev Schreiber as Marty Kantrowitz is sympathetic and funny, attempting to dance to Jimi Hendrix at the end of the film.
The story is memorable without cheap sentiment, and a rare thing we see from Hollywood deserves praise. It is not a cheap romantic comedy with over the top actors, just a believable vignette which will touch you as the audience.
During the credits I noticed it was produced by Dustin Hoffman as well as Tony Goldwyn. Well done. 9/10.
well written, and Adrien Brody is excellent....
This story may attract an audience which even may have no interest in George Reeves himself, or the "Superman" series, a faded far away time. But it also a story of deceptions, corruption, mendacity and of course murder.
Diane Lane as the former showgirl, Toni Mannix, happens upon young actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck) at a Hollywood party. She becomes involved with him and apparently as older woman feels she has a few good years left, so wants to keep Reeves as her ego boost. A "kept" man, she buys him a house in Benedict Canyon which her husband (who has his own mistress and dalliances) gladly pays for to keep her occupied.
Lane has been in some rather mediocre films lately, so deserves credit for this realistic role of Toni Mannix. Eddie Mannix is well portrayed by Bob Hoskins. Eddie Mannix himself, if you read his biography was the right arm of Louis B. Mayer, MGM and its enforcement of the golden years of the studio. It makes for an interesting read as well.
Indeed, the actual factual story is about Eddie Mannix, his VP position at MGM and the role of Howard Strickland as "the fixer" in the times when MGM studios ruled Hollywood with an iron fist. They also ruled actors, their careers, and possibly (if one has read of the murder mystery of Jean Harlow's husband, Paul Bern) have had involvement in many cover-ups.
Adrien Brody as the outside observer, almost reminds one of Nick Carraway in "The Great Gatsby" (referring to Fitzgerald's book, not the recent abysmal commercial movie with Leonardo di Caprio).
We see him as he attempts to speak to Toni Mannix about the Reeves murder and she is a silhouette, saying "he was shot" but revealing nothing further about Reeves' death. As a sometime private investigator, Louis Simo is an outsider trying to piece the puzzle together.
Reeves died an evening when there ere three other people present . His sometime girlfriend Lenore Lemmon (Robin Tunney is believable, but a bit over the top as a cheap NY hustler), writer Robert Condon and another woman, who all subsequently stated that Reeves simply shot himself directly in the head as a result of long term depression over his career. There were however, gunshots in the floor as well, which LAPD never explained. At the scene of the murder also were found Catholic mass cards, which some have suggested were left by Toni Mannix, who in her life mourned Reeves' death and never re-married after her husband, Eddie Mannix died.
The story is very good, and while I am not a fan of Ben Affleck, he does have the cadence here of George Reeves, a rather bygone era of "movie star" ambitions which for Reeves himself were never achieved in his life. Thee is a sense of tawdriness and disdain Reeves himself felt for the Hollywood "system" and the character he portrayed on TV just to try get a film career going, which actually never materialized for him.
The back story with Reeves' mother (excellent cameo by Lois Smith as Helen Bessalo), is also relevant. There is a tragic story to the upbringing of George Reeves and what depressions and failures he may have had in his life as well as the abandonment of his father in real life. His mother also apparently lied to him about his father and reasons he left.
And it is indeed, THIS aspect of the mystery, which helps the story to meld as something more than just a has been celebrity and tawdry Hollywood. We see Adrien Brody as he watches his estranged son, a young boy with a new stepfather, and how his young son idolized "Superman" ( a rather silly series at best, but it clearly had an impact on children of that time). As Louis Simo, he is in a state of flux, drinking, resenting his choice to feed off of the seaminess of his job, but who still in the end tries to do the right thing and mend his relationship with his young son. He relates to Reeves' tragic death in a very personal way, seeing that this may be his final chance as well.
After seeing this film again on TMC I hope to see Adrien Brody in more suspense and drama. He clearly offers many layers to the audience and has much more to offer in the way of his talent for drama and subtlety. Even though the character of Louis Simo is on the periphery, the story works because we empathize and see the world of Hollywood through his eyes, and not some ephemeral filter with which plastic Hollywood is often shown to the masses.
The Hollywood of the MGM "golden" days" was not so golden on its underbelly, and the hypocrisy of it and how people view it is addressed in the story here. It does not come off as a cheap parody however, unlike the TV we see today which is indeed pure trash.
Den skaldede frisør (2012)
Good job by Brosnan...well written
I normally do not like the typical American romantic trite comedy, which is cartoon-ish, unrealistic, and reads like a Hallmark card.
This film is, happily, none of those. It is a very well-written story about several characters converging, The wife with cancer, older, whose daughter is to be married in Italy. The character Brosnan plays is an unavailable father (whose son turns out to be gay and not wanting marriage, in the end). Her husband is also a loser who cheats, and yet wants her back in the end, just for his convenience.
There are a few annoying characters such as the frivolous actress portraying "Benedicta", a former sister in law who continues to pursue Brosnan, who lost his wife and has been a widower.
It is not a straight comedy, there are some very good scenes such as mother and daughter talking about marriage, how things don't always work out, and generally how life can throw us curve balls when we least expect it.
The end is positive and hopeful, and while I am not a fan I thought Pierce Brosnan was very good in this type role and had some depth we don't normally see. Highly Recommended. 8/10
Excellent performance by Lange
This film is a stand out performance by Jessica Lange, who at this point in time appears in some films as the neurotic mother(as in "Prozac nation"), which covers the issue of clinical depression in a rather convoluted manner.
This film details actress Frances Farmer's life, early success, stage and screen, her contempt for Hollywood superficiality and the eventual downward spiral f her career, as well as her sanity.
The scenes with esteemed NY playwright Clifford Odets are interesting, well portrayed by Jeffrey DeMunn. Lange looks lovely, fragile yet tough, a defiant and independent spirit, especially considering this was the era of 1930's and 1940's.
Her mother is well-portrayed by the rather schizoid Kim Stanley ("Séance for Wet Afternoon'). Ms. Stanley portrays a narcissistic, controlling and even malevolent force in Frances' life.
When Frances tires of Hollywood facade and "glamour", she states to her mother she just wants to live her own life, quietly, and rejects Hollywood. This seemed to be the mechanism which enraged her mother, and eventually causes her to have Frances committed to the Western Asylum in Washington State.
Many books have been written (although the supposed lobotomy issue has been debunked), but clearly Frances underwent insulin and other barbaric treatments while committed to the barbaric asylum. Lange is very believable here, disheveled, angry, but also edgy and raw. And not necessarily "in the wrong" despite American society and it treatment of emotionally disturbed inmates at the time.
In a disturbing scene with psychiatrist, "Dr. Symington" it is evident at the time that railroading patients into involuntary commitment was all too commonplace. Frances may have been a common bipolar patient who would have responded to talk therapy, but this was never given a chance. Indeed, she was never given a chance.
The book "Will There Really be a Morning?" is also a good reference for those interested in delving into Frances Farmer's biography. While some have mentioned this film doesn't accurately portray the story, I think overall the audience gets a clear sense of the despair, longing and passion which were interwoven in Miss Farmer's life, and Jessica Lange does an excellent portrayal here. Highly recommended. 9/10.
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
wow...worth watching for Douglas
Michael Douglas deserves credit for his part in this rather bizarre supposed documentary. Other than passing factoids and news blurbs, I am not familiar with Liberace, other than the obvious media stories and a few appearances he had on Johnny Carson back in the day.
Liberace's sometime friend, Scott Thorson, while in real life is apparently a sordid character (We ARE in Hollywood, no one gets a free lunch). Anyway while Damon can be annoying in 'wholesome' type characters, he does okay here. Although I believe that for real facts one may want to research more.
At any rate the lifestyle of Liberace is explored, the sumptuous, over the top decor, the dogs, the hangers on, the users, the creepy plastic surgeon (well played by a nearly unrecognizable Rob Lowe).
Michael Douglas and his visual effects are quite stunning: the make up here is on the mark. It is something you may find yourself re-watching in disbelief. His effeminate characteristics are also similar to Liberace, the relationship with his mother, and how he actually was relieved once she passed away.
Douglas really does seem to be the bilious, blatant and attention seeking persona of Liberace, quite a contrast in performance to Wall street raider Gordon Gecko. Here Douglas transforms into a caricature, believable, humorous, or creepy at times.
The pastiche here probably doesn't follow reality, and clearly Liberace had many unsavory experiences, and so the tales we hear now may not all be true. The film makes Thorson a sympathetic jilted boy toy, but perhaps the real story is quite different. He certainly overcame the relationship quick enough to sue the Estate of Liberace for six figures.
Audiences not interested in this subject matte may be surprised, and Douglas' performance alone is well worth watching. 8/10.
James Dean (1976)
Written from the perspective of Dean's long term friend Bast (well portrayed by Robert Brandon), this film as some good quirks and sub- texts to it.
Actor Stephen McHattie does have the affect and appearance of Dean in some instances, he portrays the early start of James Dean as a somewhat transient and alienated life. Living in NYC and finally getting accepted to the prestigious Actors Studio, but living with a big name actor, who is just someone he owes a debt to, and to "pay the piper" as he tells his friend.
The section regarding Dean's earlier family life could have been better explicated, but the audience does see his Hollywood relationships, including some decent cameos by Brooke Adams and Meg Foster (as Liz "Dizzy" Sheridan, who appeared in "Rebel Without a Cause"), and now plays Seinfeld's mother (credited as Liz Sheridan).
Overall worth seeing , but better to rent a DVD or purchase it, for the true researcher into Dean's checkered history. This film shown on MAVTV channel in US is terribly edited, and MAVTV is not a good viewing experience, at all. 8/10.
The Member of the Wedding (1952)
American south and its discontents...
Carson McCullers wrote short stories on oddities and anomalies in the south and its culture. This film gives us hints of the schizophrenic nature of the south, which indeed still exists today.
The character of Frankie Addams is,without a doubt, disjointed and at times over the top. But she is at the awkward age of 14, and believes the world is revolving around her mini-drama and imagined victim-hood. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Janice and Jarvis (Frankie's older brother, headed to Camp Lejeune for boot camp and the war) are getting married, and this is a pivotal point in Frankies life. It seems nothing is good enough. Frankie is a reject in the neighborhood "treehouse club" and she is jealous (at first) of piano player Mary Littlejohn, who is more attractive to the boys of the neighborhood.
Ethel Waters and the subtext of Honey Brown, his trouble with local police, and the general prejudice of the south is touched upon.
Granted while Julie Harris is shrill and a bit annoying, it actually points to the fact that indeed her "problems" matter little in the grand scheme of things, in fact "The Wedding" itself is almost a minor aberration, when we look at the state of American culture during this era, segregation and the suffocating, alienating sense of it.
Ms. Waters sings in the film , it adds a touch of melancholy as we continue the narrative to its conclusion.Brandon De Wilde, as young Jon Henry also gives a sense of antagonism, and that "something is not quite right".
If you can get past Harris, the story itself tells of a niche in American history which no one seems to acknowledge, even at the present time. Recommended reading as well. 8/10.