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6 reviews in total 
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4 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Dumb but Gorgeous, 1 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A gorgeous over-the-top CGI spectacle with cute actors delivering empty performances in the service of Disney shamelessly self-promoting its own corporate brand. Without a doubt, Brad Bird got "studio'ed."

THE GOOD: The special effects are amazing. The scenes of the future city are marvelous. The art direction is pitch perfect. The design of the city, the retro-50's future meets millennial technology fused with art deco and steam punk elements is absolute eye candy of the finest cinematic order. The cartoon action sequences recall a sort of bloodless-yet-hyperviolent Jetsons episode that are fun to watch if you put yourself in the mind of a child. The film makes an attempt to deliver a strong moral message of encouraging science and creativity and art in order to save the future of the humanity. Finally, the little girl playing Athena is adorable as hell.

THE BAD: There is no character depth whatsoever. We are repeatedly told that the lead girl is an engineering genius, but she doesn't ever do or say anything that would indicate she has any science education past the 5th grade. For a sci-fi movie, this is an unforgivable sin. She overacts the entire movie, screeching and howling like she's trapped in a broad slapstick comedy. It gets annoying. Clooney looks bored and has no chemistry with the lead. In fact the story is supported solely by the sheer power of his charisma and the warm (yet a little creepy) connection he has with Athena (who is really charming). The titular city is supposedly an Atlas Shrugged like Utopia for ex-patriated genius, yet the only person living there is Hugh Laurie with his army of robots. The movie is almost entirely humorless, and what few attempted moments of levity are ruined by obvious heavy handed product endorsements, which constantly takes us out of the story in order to remind us we are watching a Disney tent-pole extravaganza. This is corporate product, not art. This film is a hodge-podge of other superior films, most notably "Meet the Hendersons," which was far, far more entertaining on every level.

THE UGLY: The acting is horrible. There was never a single moment where I was "transported." More than anything, I watched this movie because I wanted to be swept away into a magical world of childlike wonder and imagination where all things were possible and blah, blah, blah. But the cardboard characters and the complete lack of human connection these actors had to their story kept me at arm's length so I never experienced a single emotion other than "wow, that was cool CGI." Every problem in the story was solved with violence. The moralizing is insultingly simple. The world's problems are complex and very real. To simply say that we are heading into doom because of an antennae from another dimension is insulting to the real sacrifices real people make everyday by opposing real greed, injustice and oppression. Disney is making a political statement but sanitizing it of all politics, religion, reason or judgment of any kind; so it's left with a hollow, shallow, politically correct piece of trite. Sci-fi is for intelligent audiences. This movie is really dumb. I mean, really, really dumb.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Americans say, "What's Glastonbury?", 12 March 2007

Americans have never heard of Glastonbury. That may seem surprising to our British friends, but neither myself nor any fellow "Yank" I've ever spoken to had any idea of what it was. To all my fellow Americans out there, let me explain: It's the greatest kept secret in all of Britain. We don't know about it because there is no way for anyone to make any money telling Americans about it. The only way I can describe Glastonbury is "Woodstock, but cool...I mean really, really cool." I kept saying as I watched this film, I wish it were longer. First of all, as a rock film, it's better than any concert film you can name (even though we Americans only knew maybe 20% of the bands in the film). Better than Live Aid. Better than Live 8. Better than Knebworth. (Unfortunately, we can't see every performance in its entirety because there are so many of them.) And the fascination extends beyond the musical performances. It's a wonderful historical document, showing the evolution of British pop, from classic rock to punk to new wave to industrial to whatever they call today's music. Plus you get an look at the fashions and zeitgeist of each music. Hippy's to bikers to (what we Americans call) lot-scammers. Glostonbury shows nakedness, drugs, mud, music and chaos on a biblical scale, often times on the stage itself. It defies explanation. You can only see it to believe it. Woodstock happened only once. This goes on every summer, and the music doesn't suck. It's a crowning achievement for rock cinema and rock history. I've always wondered why the best rock comes from Britain. This film offers a clue. After the film was over, I walked out of the theater and wanted a hit of acid or a stiff drink. I wanted to smash a window and streak down the street. I wanted to light a fire, quit my job and join a rock band, renounce all my worldly possessions and grow out my hair. I wanted to stand up and cheer because this is a classic film. I didn't do any of those things, except the later, because I'm not a moron; but the film certainly conveys the liberating power of music and it's capacity to free the soul. I am so amazed that the Glastonbury festival even exists in this modern age of the puritanical War on Drugs. It couldn't exist in America. I'm glad it does exist, and I'm glad that this film exists because Bachanalia is no longer valued. It is seen as a threat, as a corruptive force rather than a liberating rite of passage. It is an experience everyone should have at least once in their life, and should the day come when the 'Forces that Be' close Glastonbury down, at least Temple's film will still be here to show future generations how wonderful life can be when lived with perfect unfettered collective freedom, (as Bowie says) "if just for one day."

19 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Warmhearted Tear-fest, 31 January 2007

"Clubland" is a wonderful laugh-out-loud "dramedic" tearfest sporting an amazing tour de force performance by Brenda Blethyn who received a standing ovation at Sundance '07 for her remarkable portrayal of the aging mother desperately clinging to her handsome virginal son as he strives to build a romantic relationship of his own away from her controlling maternal influence. To reveal much more would be a disservice to this charming little film, but suffice to say that Blethyn turns in a performance that is transformative. She hits every note and takes the audience through every emotion in the human experience as we watch her arc from a cute upbeat "fun-mother" at the beginning to a mean, controlling, jealous, self-pitying witch - yet all the while, we love her dearly. This film continues the emerging tradition of strong Australian performances with solid acting from the entire cast. The "coming of age" element is likewise sweet and adeptly handled by the two gorgeous young stars. Brendan Clearkin gives a passionate and artfully understated performance as the alienated and powerless father who still chases his dreams of musical stardom. Finally, Richard Wilson issues yet another barn-busting standout supporting role, this time as the retarded brother who alone in the family has the intelligence to recognize the white elephant in the family room. Wilson is the comedic relief, the bittersweet soul, the character foil and the dramatic precipitant of the entire story; and he carries it off masterfully. Wilson is certainly destined to be a major star, and I cannot wait for him to appear in a leading role. Every character has a dream, and watching them strive towards it as reality comes crashing against them makes for one hundred ten minutes of warm and deeply moving entertainment.

Joshua (2007)
116 out of 183 people found the following review useful:
The Most Intelligent Horror Film Since "The Shining", 31 January 2007

This film is so good, I saw it twice at Sundance. Certainly the best at the '07 festival. Unlike modern horror films, "Joshua" does not rely upon blood and gore to deliver its impact. Director George Ratliff weaves a tale of mounting dread and tension through stunning performances, brilliant cinematography (for which it won the Sundance '07 Best Cinematography Award) and haunting music.

The premise of the film is simple and genius, a parent's worst nightmare: what would happen if your 10 yr old child felt no love for you at all? As a society we fetish-ize childhood, romanticize their innocence, deify their pure potentiality, and self-sacrifice for their unconditional love. Given our biological and societal predilection/preoccupation towards nurturing our youth, could a parent possibly even understand or recognize that their child doesn't want their love? Instead of a child beaming with unconditional love and the positive youthful energy, Joshua is an empty shell devoid of anything resembling emotion – and the effect is a chilling abomination. As a final hook, the question emerges, Is the kid bad because the parents secretly failed him somehow, or is the kid just pure evil? "Joshua" kept me entranced to the final frame.

The acting is monumental, especially Vera Farmiga who's battle with psychotic post partum depression is mind-blowingly realized. Jacob Kogan masters the thousand-mile dead eyed stare of the sociopathic titular character who steals every scene with a chilling, Mensa-like gravitas unusual in any actor, much less one so young. The music, mostly modern dissonant pieces played by Joshua on his grand piano, echoes Joshua's character: haunting and creepy yet perfectly composed and structured. The cinematography subtly changes as the film progresses, starting out colorful and normal, but then gradually growing darker, uglier and more claustrophobic, until the climax where the film looks like it was shot in Hell itself.

Like Hannibal, I found myself rooting for the "bad guy" who is a fascinating paradox: charming, talented, brilliant and self-composed but flawed to lack even the most remote shred of human empathy. I've heard a lot of comparisons to "The Omen," "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby," but these films have nothing in common with "Joshua" except that they are horror films dealing with parenthood gone awry. The horror element here is psychological, not supernatural, and it's interwoven with a great deal of social irony that makes this film much more fun to watch. Also, unlike those other films, the "problem child" in this film emerges as a fully realized personality, not just a plot device – mostly due to the great performance by Jacob Kogan, who somehow accomplishes the impossible task of being lovable and hateful at the same time. The whole thing is directed masterfully by George Ratliff who steers the film between tension and laughter to achieve a thrilling and creepy film that is intelligent and amusing – and keeps us guessing - to the end.

Eragon (2006)
Worst Directed Movie Ever?, 18 December 2006

Unlike most of the people who hate this film, I have not read the book, so I can hate this film purely on its own merits. This movie has everything and squanders it all: a powerhouse cast of internationally acclaimed actors, a gorgeous new lead actor, knockout special effects, a snappy pace and a fascinating fantasy premise; but it is completely wasted on a director with absolutely no imagination of how to convey the magic of the fantasy genre or where to place a camera - and especially no idea how to direct a cast of real actors. This movie really makes one appreciate the genius of Peter Jackson who knows that film is a visual medium where the camera is most important storyteller, even when you have a three hundred million dollar budget. A mountain of money can't save a film from sucking when the director can't capture mood or character. Someone should have told director Fangmeir that a movie is more than just a collection of a thousand crane shots, flying shots, dolly tracks and visual effects. None of that will add up to a squirt of hobbit pee if they don't further the plot, characters or theme. For example: Yeah, the dragon looks cool, but it fails to evoke any feeling or meaning other than "Wow, that's a really neat looking dragon." We are told there is a spiritual connection between Eragon and the dragon, but we never FEEL the connection for ourselves. (Check out ET if you want to see how this is done by a real master.) We are told the dragon is a reflection of Eragon's latent majestic inner power. But in the hands of Fangmeir, the dragon represents nothing more than a boy's new toy, a cute little puppy at first and a reptilian jet-fighter at the end; all the while, Eragon remains unchanged from start to finish. He stands the same, talks the same, behaves the same and looks the same through his entire arc. Movie magic is more than just CGI effects and lighting. It comes from the actor's eyes, but Fangmeir wouldn't know anything about that.

Also, there are plot holes galore such that any believability is totally destroyed. Nothing makes any sense by the time the movie builds up to the final climax. Of course things had to be cut from the book, but from the reviews of people who have read it, this is not a faithful adaptation; so this is no excuse for plot holes. One changes things from the book so that there ARE not plot holes in the film.

Fangmeir has done a great disservice to fans of the book and lovers of fantasy films in general.

Lucky for this film, the charisma of the main actor Edward Speleers is phenomenal. He's the only reason I'm rating this film higher than a one out of ten. I would love to see what he could do in the hands of a real director.

74 out of 88 people found the following review useful:
Artful and true, 2 February 2006

Cudos to Archer, Stumpf, cast and crew! I saw this film at Sundance '06, and it was a very powerful experience. After leaving the theater, the movie stayed in my head for days in a way that most of the other films I saw at the festival didn't. This is a very beautiful, sensitive and intelligent film that fills a gap desperately in need of filling. From the opening shot until the end, this film has real style - style adeptly tempered to serve the film's meaning. The amazing audiotrack and moody cinematography juxtapose marvelously together into that haunting feeling that everyone can relate to - that terrible obsession that dominates everyone's youth experience: the Crush. But what made this film so memorable is the way in which that crush is conveyed. The film succeeds to frankly and respectfully navigate the subject of teen sexuality without ever feeling obscene. The movie comes off not so much "sexy" as it is simply beautiful, intimate and scary. The director lets each scene unfold slowly; the shots are methodical, precise and poignant; the film is lovely with an undercurrent of dread. Logan (played by the eminently watchable Malcolm Stumpf) to his credit never seems to be acting, but rather the primary characters are allowed to simply exist naturally on screen, allowing the story, cinematography and soundtrack convey the message. There are no monologues, no exaggerated displays of emotion or angst - except for one positively soaring performance by Fairuza Balk playing Logan's self-absorbed mother. There is teen drama without melodrama. Logan's just a normal small quiet boy thrust into adolescence, outcast, uncool and powerless, searching for a personal identity that will enable him to satisfy the feelings he cannot admit to having.

The heartbreak and trauma we all experience during our awkward youth stays with us and defines our lives forever. Being a gay adolescent is even more confusing. There are no role models to look up to. No compass to guide. No gay professional athletes in sports, no gay marquee actors on the silver screen, no gay politicians, no gay teachers. The majority of "queer cinema" yields only stereotypes and caricatures. The violence this lack of role models imposes upon the self image of gay teens is an abominable disgrace that future enlightened generations will look back upon in shame. This is the conflict that Logan must endure. And this is perhaps what writer-director Cam Archer is looking to rectify. In a world fixated on the fetish of youth, the young are exploited and sold empty style by a media machine that doesn't care about substance. Perhaps one day when movies like this wonderful film are shown in the multiplexes of mid-America as the normal faire de jour (and that day will most likely never come), film historians will look back to Wild Tigers as a seminal piece that had the courage to openly, realistically and artfully look at love as it is. Until that day, I will proudly display my ticket stub on my wall next to my autographed poster (thanks guys) and proclaim, "I was there when it all happened. I saw a film that had the guts to matter."