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mackjay2

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85 reviews in total 
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Stand (2014/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Excellent, not to be missed, 19 August 2015
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

STAND is the kind of film that pulls you in, holds on and hits you hard. It asks a classic, eternal question: when is doing the right thing worth risking everything else? Many in the US know that life for gay people in Russia leaves a lot to be desired. This film goes a long way to make us see the oppressed existence of those who do not conform to the "norms" of society. The only way they get along is by maintaining a low profile and not making waves.

Anton and Vlad are a happy male couple. Both attractive and intelligent, they have a seemingly ideal relationship, as lovers and best friends. But a rift starts between them one night, when they witness the beating of a another gay man. Anton wanted to stop the car and help, but Vlad kept going. Later it is learned that the victim has died. Anton devotes himself to uncovering the killer and Vlad somewhat reluctantly, out of love, agrees to help him. But Anton takes one chance too many in his search and Vlad reacts with anger out of fear for his partner's safety. After a painful confrontation, they go their separate ways ,with Anton pursuing his mission at first alone, then with the help of a handsome friend, Andrey. No real spoiler here; the rest of the story is strong stuff and not easy to forget.

The actors are uniformly excellent, with Renat Shuteev, as Anton, deserving top honors for a very convincing characterization. Director Jonathan Taieb does a fine job of setting the scene and evoking excellent performances. A few scenes seem slightly overlong, even superfluous, but they don't detract from the overall quality of this film. An LGBT film with a strong message and artistic value.

An all-around good episode, 21 November 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An all-around good episode of Gunsmoke. Very well acted, some excitement and a dramatically compelling story line.

John Crawford was expert at playing thugs and bad men in the Old West, and he's at the top of his game here, playing amoral Loy Bishop. When Bishop's plan to collect a thousand-dollar reward for "capturing" his former friend, a wanted murderer, does not work out the way he expects, he plans to retaliate on Marshal Dillon. Bishop had shot his friend in the back and delivered the body to Dillon, who saw through his criminal plan. Part of Bishop's new plan, that of revenge, includes the participation of Rose Ellen. She is supposed to seduce and distract Dillon, who's been called to another town as a ruse to get him out of Dodge and into Bishop's clutches. Things look pretty bad for the Marshal until Rose Ellen breaks down and helps him escape. When all is said and done--it's Gunsmoke after all, and Marshal Dillon can't be killed off the show--Rose Ellen expects to be the Marshal's "woman". Again, it's Gunsmoke, and he just isn't interested in romance. So poor naive Rose Ellen is left with nothing but an offer to go to Dodge City and look for a job.

This is a very good example of how a pretty formulaic (though always engaging and well-wrought) series can occasionally touch on deeper human values and feelings. Bethel Leslie, who plays Rose Ellen, does an excellent job of conveying the character's despair and emptiness at the end. It's a convincing, "real" moment in a story that in many ways had to be contrived. Very likely, there were many decent people back in those days who ended up with little to hold onto in their lives.

Not a Great Episode, But Still Worth a Look, 30 October 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Contrary to the previous user reviews here, there is no need to disparage Rod Serling or his great series "The Twilight Zone" when discussing an unrelated "Gunsmoke" episode.

The biggest problem in "Coventry" is with villain Dean Beard remaining in Dodge after certain events in which he is clearly involved. He's really asking for trouble. A seemingly clever trickster like Beard would have skipped town. Joe Maross gives a convincing performance as "rotten to the core" villain Dean Beard. He makes the blatant morality play of "Coventry" work. Another good thing is the visual appeal of the episode's denouement, set in amid a windstorm on a desolate prairie. Certainly not one of the great "Gunsmoke" episodes, but worth an occasional look.

Good Episode until the last act, 24 October 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a fine Gunsmoke episode until a turn of events near the end spoils the credibility. Actors Dianne Foster, Jason Evers give excellent performances as featured characters. Foster plays Cornelia, a woman whose husband is killed by Matt Dillon out of necessity. When Matt explains the situation to the widow, she only vows revenge and plans to have him killed in reprisal. After a couple of failed attempts to find a gunman brave enough to go against the Marshall, she is approached by Ben Harden (Jason Evers). His handsome looks and pleasant manner win Cornelia over. A romance begins with Ben and she seems to be having second thoughts about her revenge plot. When Matt sees Ben in the Long Branch, he tells him that he suspects Cornelia has approached him about her plot. In other words, he implies that Cornelia is only romancing Ben so that he will be willing to do her dirty work. However, we don't really know if that is true, since Cornelia does seem very taken with Ben. Logically, Ben goes to Cornelia and asks if what Marshall Dillon implies is true. She answers only that she loves him and they embrace. Then, illogically, Ben announces he will carry out Cornelia's reprisal and kill Matt Dillon. He rushes out of the room and after a moment's reflection, Cornelia tries to catch up with him. In only a few moments, Ben has followed the Marshall 10 miles out of town where he plans to confront him with a gun. Cornelia arrives moments too late and must see Ben lying dead after Matt had to shoot him in self defense.

This is a good plot with a faulty final act. Ben should not have changed his mind so quickly about killing Matt: he could have believed Cornelia had changed her own mind about revenge or simply refused to do the job. In spite of that, it's an engaging episode with good performances by an attractive cast.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Lurid, unconvincing and ultimately pointless, 14 February 2014
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Diane Keaton is a charming and attractive performer, but she is not up to this role. She is visibly uncomfortable in the sleaze/sex scenes and often resorts to mannerisms familiar from her Annie Hall character (watch this film and think of Annie Hall. It's obvious she is not immersed in the Theresa character). On the other hand, Keaton does well in the scenes where she is a teacher, and is quite convincing. Despite the all-around histrionics, she is not bad in the family scenes with sister and father. But this film fails for a few reasons. It has a dark, depressive atmosphere that is not justified by its outcome: poor Theresa is damaged emotionally by her physical 'defects' and by a too-strict Catholic upbringing, this is believable. And it's believable that a person lacking self-confidence would seek out acceptance and affirmation from promiscuous sex (a fairly common scenario, actually). But the film really does seem to say that Theresa deserves her fate in the end. She blows off the one man (Atherton) who would have made sense as a partner and feels compelled to continue a descent into debauchery. Doesn't this film seem to say, keep up with this kind of lifestyle and you'll end up miserable and bitter (like Theresa's sister ) or brutally murdered? This film seems to indulge us in its sleazy world, yet it seems to judge Theresa for immersing herself in it in a vain attempt to ease her pain. Note the way director Richard Brooks chooses to end the film, on Theresa's face as the life blinks out of her--there is no requiem, no final coda expressing pity or remorse. We have been shown the brutal murder of a sympathetic character as if it were a scene from a cheap horror movie. Diane Keaton is not solely to blame for the ultimate failure of the film, the writers and director are more responsible. Still, it's hard not to imagine Keaton and Tuesday Weld exchanging roles: Weld has a much wider range as an actress and certainly would have handled the 'secret life' with more conviction.

12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Sex & Death in a beautiful setting, 2 December 2013
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"L'Inconnu du Lac" is a beautifully shot film. That's part of the seductive nature of the experience for the characters and for the viewer. We don't see a lot of gay-themed films like this, minus most of the stereotypes, in a minimalist setting, with threadbare narrative. The protagonist, Franck, is a cute, 20-30-something guy who swims at a lake frequented by other gay men in search of sun and sex. Franck has no trouble attracting attention, with and without his swimsuit on. He quickly befriends an older, unattractive man who always sits alone and seems aloof. Franck's need for connection to others is emphasized by this friendship. When Michel, a handsome, mustachioed hunk, is spotted, Franck goes into hot pursuit mode. The two connect after a while, in one of several graphic sexual encounters, and, much too soon, Franck thinks he's in love. The film takes a sinister turn when Franck witnesses Michel drown a previous companion in the lake. Consumed by desire for Michel, he tells no one about this and, though he admits to a detective that he was there on the evening of the murder, denies he saw anything. Why? Franck is so sexually addicted to Michel that he cannot bear to let him go by exposing him. The relationship between the two men continues, without real development, since Michel will have none of Franck's insistence on anything more than sex. In the end, Franck is consumed, literally by desire: the "petite mort" of sexual pleasure becomes the annihilation of the self. The film's beautiful setting plays against the disturbing narrative, making it a unique, provocative, and often erotic experience.

16 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
An excellent main actor saves this one, 13 October 2012
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Thure Lindhardt is at the center of this film and he's really its only saving grace. His Erik is the kind of character many of us know, or have been, in life. He's in his late 30s, but hasn't really done much with his life, and he's somewhat addicted to casual sex. When a phone hook-up leads to emotional involvement, Erik's life suddenly has a focus and it gives him more impetus to complete his documentary film project. Handsome, charismatic Lindhardt is well-cast, as a non-native trying to make it in New York. He knows how to express the conflicts within Erik: wanting love, but pursuing an impossible object. He's decisive, tender, petulant and confusing, all at once. Lindhardt is the kind of actor who can do much with small nuances of voice and facial expression.

Unfortunately, Lindhardt is playing opposite a much less compelling character and actor, in Paul (Zachary Booth). This actor gives a professional performance, but Paul is so nearly a non-entity, it's doubtful anyone else could do more with him. He's narcissistic, drug-addled and self-destructive from the start, and he never changes. Erik is narcissistic too, but his character and storyline have more substance. For some viewers, it may be hard to understand why Erik puts up with Paul and returns to him again and again. Lindhardt makes us believe in Erik's obsession, at least most of the time: we don't always want the most appropriate person. One one level, this is a story about the power of sexual attraction, but it's also about the attraction of a 'wounded deer'. Erik thinks that Paul needs him, and that notion is as strong as any to make him continue the relationship.

Also good in the cast is Julianne Nicholson, as Erik's close friend and collaborator. She brings a natural, lived-in quality to their scenes together.

The film opens well, and builds the narrative nicely, until the final third, when it feels slightly disjointed and suffers a bit from a loss of energy. It's nicely shot and has a mostly pleasing music score, highlighted by the song under the opening credits.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Finely Crafted Noir Thriller, 9 May 2011
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lea Massari makes a memorable femme-fatale in this Hitchcockian venture into nocturnal suspense. "Le Monte-Charge" (Literally, Service Elevator) is a dark, little-known gem of late-period Film Noir. Irony plays a major role right from the start, as Robert (excellent Robert Hossein) returns from prison on Christmas Eve. All he finds is a lonely Paris neighborhood, with people rushing around the streets, shopping and chattering. His mother had died while he was in prison, and her dark apartment is a depressing place to be. Solitary Robert dines alone, but by chance he meets an attractive woman, Marthe (Massari) and her little girl. Eventually, Robert ends up in the woman's apartment, but things don't go quite as he expected. This elevator makes some mysterious and extremely intriguing stops along the way, and it would be unacceptable to spoil any of them. Director Bluwal shows influence of Hitchcock and of some masters of French crime drama, with atmospheric camera work and in particular the use of sound effects. The actors are fully inside their roles. Besides the fine leads, there is Maurice Biraud, very good as Mr. Ferry. Georges Delerue provided a score that is a classic of his particular kind: sparingly used and melancholy. Much of the story is set in a large factory building that contains a private apartment, but Bluwal makes great use of Paris exteriors as well (not the typical, romantic ones, but the quartiers inhabited by ordinary working people). Not just another disposable thriller, this is a meticulously crafted film of startling surprises, revelations and numerous cinematic pleasures.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Pain and Suffering in Bourges, 27 April 2011
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After his triumph in "Les Dimanches de Ville-D'Avray", Hardy Krüger gives another unforgettable and unique performance. In "The Franciscan of Bourges", Krüger plays Alfred, a German in occupied France, near the end of the war. In the film's second scene, the actor is introduced with a sympathetic look on his face, as he watches a young man taken in by the Gestapo for questioning. Alfred knows what the interrogation will entail--the young man was caught spying on a German operation. It will be relentless and brutal. Director Autant-Lara spares the viewer none of the violence and cruelty of the new prisoner's treatment, and it's a mark of the film's power. Very early on, we are shown what the French citizens are up against on a daily basis. Alfred knows of the inhumane treatment of prisoners, but he is unable to steel himself against it, or see it as "necessary". When he pays a visit to the victim and his brother, who was later brought in, Alfred reveals himself to be a Franciscan Friar. This means all men are his brothers and he is obliged to offer comfort and aid to anyone in need. Krüger plays Alfred with a kind of innocence, even though the cruelty he witnesses cannot be new to him at the time of the story. The film suggests that the youth of the most recent prisoners has awakened him to take a more active role. He is moved by the treatment of the two brothers, and is further touched by two even younger boys who are captured and held at the prison. In a beautifully played sequence, Alfred arranges for a middle-aged, wounded, resistance worker to see his wife for the last time, on his way to a hospital where he will surely perish. The Friar's superiors suspect his actions and issue a severe warning. But Alfred's determination to help the suffering prisoners only increases. When the two youngest captives are awaiting what may be a death sentence, the film reaches one of its strongest moments. Alfred discusses belief in God with one of the boys, who insists there is nothing to believe in, or to pray to. Alfred says the boy should pray to God as though he did believe. "Why", asks the boy, "should I pray to someone I don't believe exists?" The utter despair and nihilism of his situation gradually becomes too much for Alfred to bear and he turns to drink at one point. Eventually, he even plots to sabotage the Germans. The film has several scenes of stark emotional power. This is an unflinching look at the individual, human face of the Resistance and of at least one member of the enemy whose own humanity is brutalized by the experience. A masterpiece that deserves a wider distribution than it apparently received at the time of its release.

Howl (2010)
19 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
An Essential Film of Great Ideas, 26 December 2010
9/10

This is a brilliant film. I have not seen a another film that successfully shows how someone creates a work of art, especially a literary work. This film does it brilliantly, largely by quotations from the poem read very effectively by James Franco, who plays Ginsberg. Acted out interviews illuminate many things and the trial itself is extremely involving to watch. Even the animated portions we see while we hear parts of the poem work well. It's a remarkable film about artistic creation and how the artist must be allowed to use his own words and to use language that expresses his meaning fully, not language that is inoffensive to some imaginary reader.

Franco, John Hamm, David Strathairn, Bob Balaban, Jeff Daniels are all at their best, and seem truly committed to the project.

You don't even have to be a fan of Ginsberg, or know much about who he was to enjoy this. I was really impressed, one of the best films of this year, but it will likely be ignored by many.


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