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264 reviews in total 
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Grey Gardens (2009) (TV)
adds nothing but bad impersonations to the Maysles' fantastic original, 22 April 2015

Show business sure is weird.

Edie Beale was a charming, fascinating person who never made it until she played herself for the Maysles brothers. Drew Barrymore is a nice person with less talent and charm than Edie had in her big toe. Both came from famous families. The one with far less talent became a big star, and the other died in obscurity.

I truly like and admire Drew Barrymore as a person, and I had hoped that this movie would prove me wrong about her as an actor, would prove that she DOES have talent and CAN play characters who are not herself, but it didn't. None of the Barrymores could; they all had such strong, distinctive personalities that they were always the Barrymores, regardless of what characters they were supposed to be playing. It was true about Lionel, Ethel and John, and it's true about Drew. She can't help it; she has those Barrymore genes.

I watched her pretending to be Edie Beale for almost two hours, and every second of that time I was yearning for the real thing. This is a trashy TV movie that adds nothing worthwhile to the real, original, fantastic Grey Gardens starring the real Beales instead of Hollywood stars trying and failing to impersonate them. But the hordes of TV addicts who can't get anything until they see it acted out on TV by famous actors think this is a masterpiece. Go figure.

Brotherly (2008)
phony, plodding, whiny and very creepy, 21 April 2015

This movie is so bad in so many ways that I don't know where to start.

(1) Saying that a story is true does not automatically make it believable, and this one is not believable at all. If this story IS true, the writer and director did a great job of making it seem completely phony.

(2) It felt like it was four hours long but left WAY too many holes in the story - as if the guys were making out and the next day the older one leaves for college with no warning at all. It's just chopped-up nonsense.

(3) The middle-aged guy being interviewed is so full of whiny self-pity that it just makes him creepy and obnoxious; I'd run faster to get away from him than his brother did. Lots of people had alcoholic parents; he's got no excuse for still acting like an obnoxious child 40 years later. He should quit whining and grow up.

(4) What's the big deal about sex between brothers? It's not like they'd have retarded children. It's no more inherently wrong than being gay is.

(5) This is nowhere near the end of the list, but I need to go brush my teeth. This phony, plodding, whining, creepy movie left a nasty taste in my mouth.

C.O.G. (2013)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
a spoiled, self-pitying jerk slums it for a few weeks, 15 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'd never heard of David Sedaris, and this movie doesn't motivate me to change that. If he's anything at all like the David in this movie, he's a rich, spoiled, shallow, obnoxious, narcissistic, condescending, self-pitying, passive-aggressive jerk. Not the kind of person I want in my life.

I might have liked this movie if only Curly (or Jon, or anybody!) had beaten that you-can't-get-mad-at-me-I'm-just-a-lost-little-boy smirk off his face, but it didn't happen. Too bad. Other reviewers talk about how he grew and changed in the course of the movie, but I guess they saw a different movie. He was a spoiled, self-pitying jerk in the beginning and he was still a spoiled, self-pitying jerk at the end.

I thought I liked Jonathan Groff (he's what drew me to this movie) but the more he plays obnoxious characters like this the more I suspect it may be because he's like them. And Dennis O'Hare is so reliably good that it's surprising how bad he is here. The Christianity shtick in this movie feels completely false, sour and vindictive, like something shoehorned in only to let the writer settle a mean-spirited old grudge.

I stuck with this movie all the way to the end, and the best thing I can say about it is that it did, finally, end. I hated it.

Brilliant & Beautiful, 12 April 2015

Young & Beautiful is one of François Ozon's few completely serious movies, without even the gentle humor of In the House. This will appeal more to fans of Time to Leave or Under the Sand than to fans of 8 Women, for example - unless you love every movie he's ever made, as I do.

This is the marvelously well written, directed, photographed and acted story of a beautiful girl named Isabelle, from a prosperous and loving middle-class family, who turns 17 during the course of the movie. She and her younger brother Victor are best friends.

She has a strong sex drive but quickly discovers that she doesn't really enjoy the act itself. Her body insists on doing it, and she's in high demand because of her extraordinary beauty, so she goes online and turns it into a part-time job on weekdays after school. She does it more to channel her frighteningly strong drive into something productive than for the money - which seems to me like a remarkably intelligent and sensible decision for a 17-year-old. No one has any idea that she's doing it, even Victor.

Everything goes well until the police investigation of a sudden but natural death involves her, and the cops tell her mother. Since she's a minor, she's legally a victim, not a criminal, but the proverbial stuff hits the fan anyway.

Besides Ozon's brilliance and skill, which are remarkably consistent across the wide range of genres he experiments with, this movie is extraordinary for three wonderful performances. First is Marine Vacth as Isabelle. It's rare and delightful when a great beauty turns out to be greatly talented as well.

Second is Fantin Ravat as her little brother Victor. Theirs is the strongest, healthiest, most interesting and most gratifying sibling relationship I've ever seen.

Third is Charlotte Rampling as the wife of one of Isabelle's clients. The scene between her and Vacth is like a cinematic jewel, full of beauty and magic. Those two powerful women and Ozon raise an already very good movie into the heavens. Fantastic.

charming Duris, charmless movie, 8 April 2015

Romain Duris is fantastic, as he always is, but this movie is not. The screenplay, the direction, and all the other actors are so charmless and unfunny that I'd think this was a Hollywood movie if it didn't have subtitles.

The only other thing that's even mildly interesting in Heartbreaker (and further proof that it didn't come from Hollywood) is Vanessa Paradis's wonderfully natural look, with only a little makeup added to what she was born with - small breasts, gapped teeth, and all. How refreshing to see a movie star who isn't driven to "enhance" her natural self with silicone, surgery and fake teeth.

Unfortunately, though, she can't rise above this movie's abysmally stupid screenplay and incompetent direction. Only Romain Duris manages that. After seeing this turkey, I'm more convinced than ever that Duris simply cannot be bad no matter how bad a movie he's in.

The Circle (2014)
Well done movie about somewhat uninteresting people, 5 April 2015

The Circle seems like an unusually well-made home movie, like a 60th anniversary present from an extraordinarily rich and generous friend. It tells the personal story of an old gay Swiss couple through interviews with them and amazingly effective reenactments of their experiences in the mid-1950s in Zurich. They aren't particularly interesting people, but the movie is so well made that it's entertaining anyway.

As a documentary of Switzerland's uniquely civilized history of homophobia it's a curiosity at best, like an inside look at the interpersonal relationships between employees at a flower shop. If the worst that ever happened was a threat of forced outing, then Swiss gays have a lot to be grateful for and always did.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A wonderful, wonderful movie with one big flaw, 5 April 2015

I LOVED this movie. It's about a couple of gay teenagers who don't get to know each other until after one of them dies. I don't understand why other online reviewers keep saying how sad it is, because to me it's marvelously positive, encouraging, romantic and satisfying. Those reviewers must think death is a big deal.

The story is fascinating and completely believable, which is extraordinary for a movie about the supernatural. The dialog is always perfect - economical and powerful. The direction, the acting by every actor in every role (especially Liv Tyler as Adam's neurotic mother and Noah Silver as Jamie - he's fantastic in a marvelously sweet, subtle and sexy performance), the cinematography, production design, sound, music, etc, could not be better. This is a fantastic movie.

The only huge flaw is the Frances character. She's unnecessary, contrived, unbelievable and very, very annoying. I almost quit watching when she became such a huge part of the story. The fact that I didn't, and that I'm giving it ten stars in spite of her, is testimony to how very, very good this movie is.

incompetent and amateurish, 28 March 2015

If there is a worthwhile story to be told about the events in Boise in 1955, it's obscured by this movie's incompetence. It seems like an uninspired parody of Ken Burns's formulaic and pretentious historical documentaries for PBS, in which a disembodied narrator reads from contemporary sources (in this case, a single Boise newspaper) and follows each reading with the name of the source.

When the source is almost always the same source, that already tiresome formula quickly becomes unbearable - like the second or third time this narrator solemnly says "The Evening Standard" (or whatever its name was) after reading from the newspaper for about 10 seconds. By the time he'd said the same three words the same way a dozen or more times I was ready to pull my hair out. I was no longer able even to listen to what he was reading from the paper, because I knew that another horrible "The Evening Standard" was only seconds away.

But he's only one of this movie's several unseen narrators. That man reads the bits from the newspaper, but another narrator, the one who fills in most of the gaps between his readings from the paper, is a woman who is even worse than he is. The first time she pronounced "escape" as if it were spelled "excape", I had to do an instant replay because I couldn't believe my ears; but there it was.

At least this movie doesn't use the other even more annoying gimmick that's practically universal in historical documentaries now, which is the dramatic reenactment of historical events. I really can't stand those dumbed-down reenactments, as if we would never believe that the Declaration of Independence was signed unless we saw bad actors doing it on TV.

This movie doesn't have those, but I'm pretty sure it would if the producers had had the money for D-list actors and chintzy sets and costumes. The western world is now populated by people who can't grasp anything unless they see it acted out on TV, the more like a soap opera the better. The entire 8+ hours of HBO's silly John Adams miniseries was like that, and people loved it.

I may follow another reviewer's excellent suggestion and read the book on which this incompetent movie is based (John Gerassi's The Boys of Boise: Furor, Vice and Folly in an American City). I'd rather read on my own than be read to by an idiot who evidently thinks I've forgotten where he got the stuff he reads and has to remind me every ten seconds.

Or I may just leave Boise in its petty, ignorant past and get on with my own life. I'm certainly not learning anything about the town from this movie, except that it has the worst newspaper in the United States.

Fantastic production, often stupid story, miscast Thompson, 23 March 2015

All of the weaknesses in this mostly spectacular production of Angels in America are inherent in the play on which it's based. Except for one serious mistake in casting, Mike Nichols did an astounding job of turning a deeply flawed but occasionally brilliant play into a much better movie.

The biggest problem with Angels in America is the angels. The entire "heaven" theme that's only hinted at in the first half comes in with such force in the second that it nearly torpedoes this hugely ambitious production.

Poor Emma Thompson is given such stupid, pretentious lines to read, lines that I'm not sure the greatest actor who ever lived could have spoken without coming off as a moron, that it's amazing her career survived this.

Her long, LONG, excruciatingly bad speech to Prior about the history of the universe is unbelievably stupid, so stupid and so awkward that at best it may be a bizarre attempt at comic relief by a writer with no sense for comedy.

But the nurse she plays isn't much better, even though those lines are better written. Thompson is just miscast in those roles. In large part it's because her clumsy American accents make it a strain to accept those characters as real. She's working so hard (but failing) to get the accents right that it sounds like she has marbles in her mouth.

But, as I said, I'm not sure any actor on earth could do much better, at least with the insufferably stupid angel character (although I'd like to see what Meryl Streep would have done with that role). Even the otherwise well-written (and impeccably acted) role of Belize degenerates into pretentious gibberish near the end when Kushner has him telling Cohn what the afterlife is like.

A writer who doesn't know anything about or even believe in the afterlife shouldn't make it such an important part of his work. Those scenes are SO false and SO pretentious that they almost sink an otherwise unique and often fascinating play.

If Kushner had stuck to the human beings and left out the angels (and the whole absurd supernatural construct they represent), if he had sidelined his own petty, personal, spoiled-childish animosity toward God instead of making it central, he'd have had a much more powerful play. It's completely appropriate that the first half won a Pulitzer Prize but the second half didn't.

The other actors are fine, especially Streep as Mother Pitt and Ethel Rosenberg, Mary-Louise Parker as Harper and Jeffrey Wright as Belize, a role he obviously was born to play. Mike Nichols is a genius, and the overall production is among the best ever filmed.

The sets, costumes and effects are brilliant and flawless. This is a fully and richly executed movie - it was released as a TV miniseries only because the movie studios wouldn't finance it. Except for the stupid angel and afterlife parts in the second half, the nearly six hours fly past, which is a huge compliment from someone with a short attention span like me.

(It's funny to see how many of the negative reviews are from clueless people who watched this based only on its title and ran screaming when they discovered it's not a sterile, patriotic, inspirational product of the Billy Graham Studios.)

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
moronic, talentless, insulting garbage, 21 March 2015

It's not just the acting - nothing about this movie is good or even bearable. The story is stupid, all the characters are shallow and completely unrealistic, every word they say sounds like it was written by an emotionally stunted 11-year-old girl who has never read anything except Facebook, and there is not a single real actor anywhere, just people with no talent or skill repeating stupid lines some moron told them to say loud so everybody can hear them.

This movie so distorts and caricatures the conflict between fundamentalist Christians and gay men that it insults everybody on both sides and makes a serious problem seem ridiculous.

People wail about the lack of good gay movies, and if this is the kind of crap they watch I can understand why. There are hundreds of gay movies FAR better than this one. This is the worst of the worst.

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