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If I didn't know someone in this film...
If I didn't know someone in this film I would never have watched. Pretty awful all around. But as one tries to find the good in a bad situation - like when you're being held captive against your will (like watching this made me feel) - I found myself looking for the positives. At first I thought all the acting atrocious, including the person I know. But then I realized that this has a lot to do just with the American accents sounding like people from Los Angeles (instead of "good" actors with British accents typically in these types of films) but if you accept that, then the acting really isn't so bad. I realized that the actors just inevitably reflected the low budget quality of every scene they were in. I also imagined that if all the footage were re-processed through modern editing & effects software, this could actually look a helluva lot better and improve it's IMDb score up to maybe a 6.5 or so. (That could even be a fun film school assignment!)
The person in this film that I know was my high school drama teacher (super nice guy BTW, we all loved him). But I did NOT ever need to see him do a sex scene. Man, did I cringe at that! Fortunately, that scene was shot as badly as everything else so it wasn't THAT traumatizing. :) And I just noticed: look at the IMDb credits for the crew. They totally "whitened up" all the names like "Lopez" and etc. Miguel López is credited as Mike Lowe; Norberto Castronuovo credited as Norman Newcastle; Federico Fernández becomes Fred Fern, and so on. What's up with THAT?
If you have an imagination and can "see" this flick re-edited with modern technology, you might find it palatable. Or if you just like hot chicks with great boobs. And if you don't know anyone in it.
The Interview (2014)
**Very weak potential spoilers (events, not really plot)** Ridiculously stupid movie, but by design so why such negative responses? Look, it's nothing more than one of those poopy joke, stick-it-up-your-butt-to-hide-it movies with nonstop innuendo about all the guys being maybe a little gay. With that in mind, it's fun for what it is.
I see other user reviews comparing this weakly to other Franco/Rogen movies, but I have seen none of them so I don't have that gauge to measure by.
By now you know the plot (and the meta real life drama it created) so I won't rehash. Instead, random impressions: beautifully photographed; a surprise there. The guy playing Kim Jong-un was too handsome and masculine to accurately portray the real guy, but OK. Diana Bang was actually kinda brilliant in her switching demeanors between ice-cold officious and guard-down horny, winning the best moments of the film in her reaction to Rogen's bare chest and the shot of her giddy and vicious as she shot a massive gun thru a door. And really, that's about it. Oh, and a particular shot getting me to aloud shout "OHHH!!!" when a tank ran over a jeep (there's more to it than just that). But maybe that's a guy moment only we would "enjoy." Perhaps I'm being kind to this silly venture because it was my first comic de-stress release since a certain big event here in the US (but let's not go down that road here); my point being that when I watched this I was very in need of escape into mindless laughs and this movie delivered.
Yes, I'm years behind in reviewing this (2016 for a 1998 movie), but it's on TV right now and I'm writing this after Norman cleans up the murder scene. I couldn't even get farther than that before I had to come here to express my displeasure, annoyance and embarrassment about this so-called remake.
First off, Vince Vaughan is absolutely horrendous. He shows no more acting finesse, depth or imagination than a weak high school actor. And that's just judging him on his own merits. Compare his performance to Anthony Perkins' utterly stunning, nuanced performance of depth and complexity and the viewer feels either embarrassed or sorry for Vaughan taking on a role he simply hasn't got any caliber of chops to play. I wish I could've jumped onto the set two weeks into shooting and rescue him so he'd save face. That, or I want to slap him silly for thinking he could actually play this role.
Anne Heche seems lost. She's neither full of anxiety nor cheerful nor proud. Somehow she TRIES to play each in moments but each comes across as insincere. Shallow. I see her acting, or trying to. Trying to squeeze out the emotion the director called for in each shot. But here, too: zero acting finesse. Just going thru the motions and hitting the marks with no real life going on inside.
These two (and the real estate office co-worker, too) seem like awful Saturday Night Live performers trying their hand at drama. And, somehow every actor today (up to the point I watched this film) delivers his lines unnaturally. For a period I was in the kitchen only hearing Vaughan deliver his lines. Again, he sounded like a high school actor with no life behind the lines. Just throwing them out in a drab manner.
And while one wants to admire Gus Van Sant because Gus Van Sant, I can only lower his career peg a few notches over this debacle. Hitchcock had - again, this word - finesse with his shots (with help from expert editing). Here, both directing and editing seem lackluster. While one would like to avoid comparisons between the two films and judge this one on its own, I cannot in this regard. In the original, I distinctly remember the combination of editing and directing causing brief shots to interrupt and flow with flawless tempo. For example, the shot through the shower curtain (after the stabbing) of the killer turning the corner out of the bathroom and out of view. In the original it's a quick flash and almost suggested, as if you happened to glance up from the dead body and you thought you saw something. In this version, Van Sant (and the editor) let the shot play out more fully, making the tempo clunky. There are countless examples of this. Even the bird picture falling off the wall seemed stilted.
In the original, there's one shot I never read anyone mention in any review anywhere (look for this in the original): after Norman discovers the murder and goes into the office to grab a mop and bucket, he closes the office door. This always struck me as odd; why are we, the audience, left outside to look at a closed door? On closer examination of this peculiar shot of the closed door, I noticed the shadow of the roof eave on the door with its window make the very distinct shape of a guillotine! Ah! THAT's why Hitchcock had us wait outside with the door closed. To give us a sort of subliminal hint of death. In this remake, there's nothing anywhere close to such clever imagination.
The film is still running in the other room as I now finish this. Will I continue to watch? Perhaps, for awhile. To see how bad the rest of it is. At least Anne Heche is out of the picture now.
Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
It Ain't What It Used To Be
"PA4" felt like a bridge between where the story was in the past, which the filmmakers seem ready to abandon, and whatever else their imaginations can plan for the future. A necessary bridge that finally extricates the storyline out of the same family and opens up the franchise to the evil forces attacking persons, families or situations as unlimited as future sequel numbers. So if you want to keep track of the entire franchise through the already-announced PA5 up to the likely PA12, 13, and so on, here's all you need to know about PA4 (without having to see it): it's the one where the filmmakers transitioned the franchise from an endearing little series of films made with ingenuity in effects and suspense, to a predictable series of familiar horror movie staples.
I actually liked PA3 (especially the kitchen furniture trick) and thought the slowly-panning camera amusing for it's deliberately slow action: though some viewers might have thought it made the pace too slow, I thought it cleverly built suspense in a "meta" self-conscious kinda way. At this point I don't much remember PA2 save that I liked it.
"Admired" might be a better word rather than "liked." I admired this franchise for it's fun and fright on the cheap. They certainly seem inexpensively-made movies, and yet were inventive within that limitation. And I admired the filmmakers' success ($) in doing so.
But at this point it seems the filmmakers have tired of needing to be inventive and low-tech and have lost their sense of fun and ability to create suspense and replaced these with the desire to make movies filled with standard stuff from the marketing department's catalog of predictable horror elements.
Some of the things in PA4 that, to me, signaled a shift from what has made this franchise fun to watch and toward schlocky run-of-the-mill cheap horror not worth my time:
1) The acting. Through PA3, the actors were believably 'real;' I felt I was watching actual family video. Unknowns who might not have had sufficient acting training to be overly 'acty.' That changed in PA4. While everyone was fine enough, I felt, this time out, that I was indeed watching actors.
2) Hackneyed horror stunts:
2A):(MINOR SPOILER HERE): as the boy was riding his Big Wheel through the kitchen, a chair moved backward into his path. More subtle and creepy, I thought, would have been to have had the chair simply fall backward into the boy's path.
2B) (PRETTY MAJOR SPOILER): the levitation scene (which, I read online, was an idea contributed to the directors by magician David Copperfield. Directors: don't take your horror tricks from a schlocky magician if you don't want a schlocky effect). And this action accomplished nothing in the story; no demon mechanic worked on her undercarriage or drained her oil, so to speak, while she was up there. It was just raising her up for no reason but to show it. Useless.
2C): (MAJOR SPOILER): PA4 went from suggested horror in earlier films to hackneyed demon-face makeup. Oh, please. Crossing that bridge opened the door to showing it again in future movies, but of course next in acid-saliva dripping digital detail, in 3D, and so on. Ho-hum. The suggested is more scary than the blatant.
2D): while the idea of the Xbox Kinect demonstrated the ingenuity of previous PA films, it's mere presence opened another door, a door leading to enhanced visual effects. Whereas previous PA films relied on inexpensive effects like a door mysteriously opening slowly or a light flickering - things that would creep us out at home if we actually saw them - OR, jerry-rigged ingenuity like a video camera duct-taped to an old fan (an on-screen idea that mirrored the behind-the-scenes budget) - now we've got high-tech gadgets implemented and manipulated digitally in post. (By the way, bothersomely-accomplished in PA4: the Kinect sensor dots projected into the room looked different in different sequences; when the dots were going to show us something creepy, the dots looked larger and more like they were overlaid onto the scene in post - kinda like the way badly-accomplished snow falling in old movies looks like its not naturally part of the scene.)
PA4 was a bridge and a gate, over and through which walked a fun little original series into the domain of predictable ideas that have already been done in a thousand other horror movies. If I were the Producer, I'd demand the future films adhere to a low-budget aesthetic of simplicity in execution (this will force creative originality) and if something looks like it's been done already in some other movie (ugh, that demon make-up), demand another way. And there's humor in suspense - audiences tend to laugh a little after the build-up and release - ensure that 'humor' maintains.
The Young Animals (1968)
Serious Social Issue with Interesting Directing
This 1968 film stands out from other low-budget 1960s teen flicks for its seriousness and unusual direction. Despite their sometimes "gee whiz" innocence typical of other 1960s films, high school students here deal with racism, activism, violence and rape. As dissatisfaction with unequal treatment of Mexican-American students increases, violence escalates. Students find themselves facing property destruction, graphic violence and a unique torture.
Most notable is the standout direction by Maury Dexter. Dolly, tracking and crane shots add visual interest when a stationary camera would have sufficed; plus, violence is filmed with active camera placements. For example, inside and in front of vehicles during chase sequences and inside a salvage airplane along with the actors (or stunt doubles) as a piece of wrecking equipment slices through it - an especially unusual sequence. Further visual interest is added by excellent editing that keeps a realistic timeline through quick cutting among multiple cameras at the climaxes of action but is not so excessive as to be confusing as is too common in today's action movies. At times, the editing is "psychedelic" quick, for example during a rock band's performance and might remind the viewer of filmmaker Russ Meyer's unusual editing.
I was surprised to see a very young A Martinez (billed as Adolph Martinez) in what is apparently his first movie and, though his role is small, is very good. Also exceptional is the lively score by the great Les Baxter. Fans of his "tropical lounge" music will appreciate hints of it here among congas, timbales and prominent brass. Listen for it! In all, a movie most compelling for its unusual direction and serious tone, though the acting sometimes turns "Sharks vs Jets" melodramatic.
Funny Bones (1995)
Widely unknown gem that explores the source of comedy. Oliver Platt plays the unfunny son (Tommy) of an enormously successful comedian played by Jerry Lewis (George). Tommy, after a tragic debut of his stand-up comedy act in Las Vegas, goes back to his birth hometown in England in search of what is funny. In England, Tommy discovers aging vaudevillians and their quirky acts, one of which he recognizes. He then explores the family who perform this familiar act, finding more than comedy.
While the film's subplot about a mystical eastern powder smuggled in large wax eggs at first appears better edited out, it provides a tenuously apt metaphor.
The greatest part of this charming story comes from learning about the family and their history. And we learn of the tragedy and pathos deep within their comedy.
I've always firmly believed the old tenet that the best comedy has threads of tragedy (or menace) in it. And in England, failed comic Tommy discovers this as well. As Tommy, Oliver Platt shows his own pathos from the start and is remarkable. The rest of the cast is a marvel: Leslie Caron is absolutely gorgeous, especially in her man's shirt, untucked, singing a cabaret song. The procession of old vaudevillians are a delight in a montage, and Freddie Davies and George Carl as an aging brother act are a revelation, a beacon illuminating the forgotten immense talent of days gone by. But the film belongs to the remarkable talents of young Lee Evans as the perhaps dimwitted son Jack. Here, we see in Evans, and in his character, a source of comedy so organic and abundant that Jim Carrey and his characters now look utterly forced and sham. And it's a shame that Evans is not as well known worldwide as Carrey; this fact being another of comedy's tragedies. Oddly, or aptly, Jerry Lewis plays one of the most serious characters in the film because he has to confront and admit the source of his own comedy. To the Jerry Lewis-phobic audience, fear not: he is actually very good here, probably because he largely, generously, takes a back seat to the more central characters. In Hitchcock parlance, Lewis' character is something of the "MacGuffin" that drives the larger story, and Lewis appears to understand this.
The style of direction is quirky, showing much charm in the old seaside town in England that was, in some long ago day (when the sun seemed to shine every day), a center for quality vaudeville. And the viewer gets to delight in two hours' evidence of what Platt's character believes: that (in my favorite line of the film), "...all the best things in life belong to the past."
Overall, hardly a perfect film. Yet it's one that stays with you. There's much love, charm and laughs in this work that may leave you feeling compelled to add to your list of all-time favorites.
Excess Baggage (1997)
Good Movie To Have On The TV In The Background
Awful movie to sit and watch. But that's not how I experienced this one. It came on TV and I had it on in the background as I did stuff around the house. In this way, I could just sample bits n pieces of the actors, and hear most of the (lame) story. This was great, because only HEARING this movie made me realize how spectacular - uhm.. better word: "unique" - an actor Christopher Walken is. Walken is the epitome of Walken in this one. If you're an impersonator who wants to study the Christopher Walken voice and speech pattern, get this movie! There's absolutely no one like Walken.
But as for the other actors: Silverstone made no impression on me whatever, and I've never actually seen Benecio Del Toro in anything (or that I remember), and I thought he was pretty gutsy for taking on this particular characterization. He seemed so "in" this role that I wondered if he actually speaks like that. Frankly, it was a bit over the top, but kudos to him for pulling off a performance in the Brad Pitt school of acting method. Also, I saw that he was younger than I imagined. He looks young (but worn out) in this movie. He seemed more handsome than I imagined him, but clearly he'll not age well, which should make for some interesting character opportunities in the coming years.
Open Water (2003)
A waste of time - - filmmakers', actors' and viewers'
Ridiculous! I can't BELIEVE they spent over two years filming this (on weekends and vacation time), and that the actors actually put themselves at risk swimming with actual sharks. Taking that risk for THIS?!
** Here's the spoiler ** What was up with that ending? I wasn't even sure what happened to the man, at first. Directing, editing and "script" on that was completely vague. So it was up to the actress, I suppose, to convey that he had died. (And how idiotic that she'd just push him off, instead of hang onto him / retain his body for a proper funeral / use him for flotation / use his equipment (knife, e.g.) for possible tools of survival). And then when she submerges herself I said, "Is that it? Is she drowning herself? Is she just 'hiding' from sharks?" (Ha!). And then, fade to black. Uhh, yeah. Whatever. Talk about inability to write a scenario and direct with competence!
Two more annoying things: 1) That boob shot. It stood out like a sore ..thumb. So glaringly gratuitous. I felt embarrassed for the actress because it was so unnecessary, despite what the Producer said in the optional Commentary on the DVD. Which brings me to annoying thing #2): The optional Commentary on the DVD: the Producer (the director's wife) must be one of the most irritating people in the biz. In one breath she's trying to be 'deep' about the bland story, and in the next she's "selling" this entire cheap project as something stupendous. Shut up!
Fade to black.
Donnie Darko (2001)
A Film For Creative Youth
The following regards the DVD release of the original version.
Throughout my many years of looking at User Comments about countless movies here on IMDb.com, I am on occasion amazed at the glaring lack of insight of some people to appreciate the creative genius that most other people agree exists in certain films. Unfortunately, in the case of "Donnie Darko," I now find myself to be one of those morons. Sorry, but I just didn't see in this film any of the stupendous achievement that most other viewers have found. I found the film neither highly original, profound, nor particularly intelligent (beyond a plot construction that the viewer must wrap his brain around).
My lack of appreciation makes me ponder not what I've missed in the movie, but myself: Have I "lost it"? Why don't I find "Donnie Darko" to be the ingenious gem that most others agree it to be?
One theory: I'm too old for this movie. Of the people I've known personally who've said they enjoy "Donnie Darko," I realize that they all have been teens to twenty-somethings with a creative bent and perhaps who also possess a soupçon of general life-angst and who are, perhaps, like Donnie Darko himself, more intelligent than the people around them; young people who feel isolated because of their superior ability to doubt or challenge what others around them accept blindly. If that description fits you, then see "Donnie Darko."
Regarding that particular plot construction: there have been movies somewhat similar (David Lynch's "Lost Highway" comes to mind), but not one that pushes the buttons of today's youth. So that's my assessment: "Donnie Darko" is a film that creative, intellectually-superior-to-their-peers, mentally/socially fettered youth can rally around as one that speaks to them.
However, if you're a FORMERLY youthful, creative social misfit like myself, you'll probably not care too much for this film. You've already gone through your phase of attraction to science fictional phenomena of wormholes, time travel and evil-looking imaginary friends to assist you out of your teen-angsty life. We older creatives have already embraced and abandoned such phenomena; but now here they are, presented anew, for a new generation. Every generation of us needs such a film. Enjoy it, my younger brethren.
** Spoiler ahead ** Extras on the DVD include extended and deleted scenes. Some of the deleted material puts a divine spin on the story, which I agree with the director (in optional Commentary) inclusion of which would be too revealing, too explanatory (and, being an atheist, would turn me off). Better to let events be of mysterious origin. Oh, and for the record, I found the Bunny Boy of the movie "Gummo" far more intriguing and symbolic than Frank in "Donnie Darko."
I saw this once 20 years ago; I've never forgotten it.
It's been TWENTY YEARS (!) since I've seen this movie in a theatre, and I've never yet forgotten it. If any movie can be said to be life-changing, this is it. TESTAMENT was first shown in theatres, and the film's power became front page headlines for quite some time. People were crying in theatres, and article after article told of how this extremely powerful film affected people. This was not hype; the emotional strength of this movie is genuinely powerful.
For myself, I held back as best I could from crying in the theatre (me being a 23 year old guy seeing it with two (married) friends). But the effect on me was apparently visible immediately: when I walked out of the theatre and passed thru the line of people waiting for the next showing, a woman, who was laughing with her friends, happened to look at me and her face went completely serious. I very nearly hugged her right there, this stranger. When I got home, I cried for about two hours. The film's themes affected my, at the time, concerns about love, relationships, and such like.
One scene I'll never EVER forget, the most devastating: the 13-ish year old daughter asks her mother, "What's it like?" MOTHER: "What's what like?" DAUGHTER: "Making love." The mother (Jane Alexander -- my God, what a performance!) tells her in a very frank and beautiful speech, and the daughter caps off that scene with a devastating remark that just kills you and got my tears flowing (I probably couldn't hold back at that point).
Before making TESTAMENT, director Lynne Littman had made only documentaries, so maybe that "realism" style added to the power and believability of this movie. One of my all time favorite supporting actors is in this film, and he does a fantastic job: Mako. He and the young retarded (Down Syndrome?) boy who plays his son make a phenomenal team. They're my favorite characters: so full of innocence, father so full of love, strength and pain. Agh... my god my god... what a movie. Whew.
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)
Good premise, good jokes, poorly executed
I like Rob Schneider. He's got a goofy sense of humor, which I totally dig. Plus, like me, he's from the San Francisco Bay Area, so naturally I root for him. Unfortunately, I can't say this movie was worth the $3.99 rental (DVD). The jokes seemed like they SHOULD be funny, but everything fell flat. As if they used all the takes that just didn't `click,' didn't have the right comic timing. Maybe it was the director's fault, maybe it was due to bad editing. But something kept this entire flick on the `feeling forced' level.
Besides the main story-driven bits of schtick, there were tons of amusing little side moments - like conniving the cute fish-store clerk to get some sea snails out of the bottom of the tank (this made her breasts dip into the cold water), and the tomato slice falling out of TJ's sandwich, only to `wash ashore' on Deuce's chest - but nothing seemed to work naturally. Everything felt awkward. Failing most notably were the voiceovers of supposed passers-by yelling nasty jokes to Deuce's freakishly tall date, and the scene of dialogue between Deuce and his father in the men's room (while another man had a noisy bowel movement -- perhaps the only time I've never laughed at poop noises). These especially lacked any comedic finesse. If another director, or perhaps editor, or perhaps a bigger budget are used next time out, then I will look forward to the supposed sequel, `Deuce Bigalow, Electric Gigolo.' The premise is good, Schneider is good, the jokes were even good, but the slap-dash feel of this movie ruined all it's potential.
In a film all about beauty vs ugly, Rob Schneider ain't THAT ugly. The ugliest sight was Eddie Griffin in white-face. EEK! Big Boy as Fluisa was pretty funny (probably the funniest in the film), the gay fish tank repair guy was amusing, and hey, Oded Fehr: great ass, fella. (But another nagging question: why did this Israeli actor, whose character's name is so French (Antoine Laconte) speak with what seemed to be a Russian accent? Weird. But.. great ass, guy!)
Oh, and as far as the DVD goes, there was very little in the way of `Extras.' Almost none, in fact. There were about five or so very brief clips of actors on the set commenting about the film between clips from the trailer. And there were some previews of other films. That's about it. Lame. How 'bout some outtakes, at least?! I rate this film just 35% (I don't use a `*' (stars) rating system).
NOT a fan of the genre liked it!
Here's a point of view from someone who is bored by the 'fantasy' (and 'sci fi') genre: I really can't stand all those wizard/princess/Star Trek/SciFi/actors-in-too-much make-up movies. So here's the bottom line: that *I* liked this movie makes it a triumphant success!
I read half of 'The Hobbit' literally decades ago, but stopped there; I never read the further LotR trilogy. Therefore, I cannot make an 'expert' (and nit-picky) review of what's been done to the story, as some have done here. But regarding adaptation to the screen: is ANY book ever completely (CAN any book be?) converted to the screen with 100% accuracy? I'm sure upon its release, the filmed version of 'Gone With The Wind' similarly had its complaints from purists. The opening narration of the storyline hooked me (maybe it was because of that milky/sultry woman's voice). The visuals
were spectacular, and even the obvious computer effects - which usually irritate me for their unnatural fluidity - didn't bother me too much. However, I did tend to roll my eyes somewhat at those ape-like Orcs (or goblins or whatever they were -- how stereotypically-acted, and that dumb make-up!). The art-direction was phenomenal (I even found it in my heart to excuse the at-times look of Thomas Kinkade paintings); the cinematography and the gorgeous New Zealand scenics all combined into a world that I enjoyed giving myself over to. (I never knew that New Zealand was *SO* beautiful!! What a great advertisement this film makes for the director's homeland!)
Before watching the movie (on DVD), I first watched all the behind the scenes 'extras.' While watching all that, I thought to myself, "Aren't hobbits supposed to be short?" (I saw actors of essentially the same height on the set.) Then I started the movie and was surprised to see that, indeed, the filmmakers somehow managed to make all those hobbits all squished-down looking (with cute chubby faces). Amazing. As far as acting goes, I really don't think any actor (the men of the Fellowship) was much challenged, so no one much impressed me EXCEPT Ian McKellan and Peter Cushing and Ian Holm (who also recently impressed me in "From Hell"). All three of these were fantastic; really, the only performances that I didn't think were "walked-thru."
Yes, the ending left me feeling as if suffering an interrupted interlude with my girlfriend (that is, unfinished) and wanting more. But I know that I'll see my girlfriend again (when the other two movies are released, and I'll finally claim my relief). I can excuse the abrupt ending because I went into this knowing that there are three films; aren't 'the movies' a business, after all? They have every right to want us to return for the rest of their product.
And a final note regarding director Peter Jackson: wotta guy! I was shocked to see (here on IMDb) that he's made so few movies. To be entrusted with such an undertaking as this really says something (either about him and/or the studio/producers). Maybe the studio executives, like myself, have been impressed with his abilities on those few movies he's made. Myself, I've liked this guy's style since seeing my first Peter Jackson flick: 'Heavenly Creatures.' I look forward to much more from him.
Harold and Maude (1971)
Some H&M trivia
My personal favorite film of all time. Other than this film simply being so damn good, I have personal reasons to love HAROLD & MAUDE: * I saw them filming this in Pacifica, CA in 1970 (the one-second-long shot of Harold driving off the highway toward the cliff at the end of the film). * I grew up all around the filming locations (San Francisco Bay Area). * And more... ...But enough about me. Here are bits of trivia that may be of interest to some: * Years ago I read that the H&M script was writer Colin Higgins' senior thesis project for scriptwriting at USC or UCLA (I forget which). * Higgins adapted the script into a stage play in appx 1980, in which Ellen Geer (the movie's "Sunshine Dore") played Maude recently. * I read a paperback novelization of H&M years ago, and it was written that Harold used the top of a Datsun (Nissan) station-wagon to modify the Jaguar into a hearse.
There was a period of about five years where I would HAVE to see this film every 6 months or so to "re-charge" my enthusiasm for life. I just watched it again last week, and it had a lovely tranquilizing effect on me (calmed my stresses about finance and romance; made me appreciate the beauty of life again). Not many movies have the power to do that. I consider this movie my favorite, second only to "Nights of Cabiria" by Fellini (see!), and I give HAROLD AND MAUDE a 95% rating (of course, 100% being perfect).
Baby Boy (2001)
"Baby Boy" has value beyond stereotypes
I really liked "Baby Boy." But maybe that's because I'm as white as they come. I've just read some other User Comments here, and whether John Singleton does or does not dish-up nothing but stereotypes about blacks, I won't debate. Look, I totally dug this film because of other reasons. While watching "Baby Boy," I had two thoughts: 1) that I don't relate to the 'black' culture presented, but 2) this didn't matter because I did relate TOTALLY to a lot of the issues at the core of this story. Psychological and emotional issues about growing up, about cheating, about love, about undesirable characters working their way back into your life and screwing everything up. And so on. OK, I understand Users' complaints here about "stereotypes," but I say to them, "Don't worry about it... this white guy kind of thought the same thing, too, and so this movie didn't paint a picture for me of 'what all blacks' lifestyles must be.'" Dudes, all I saw were universal themes about, like I said, about love, about becoming a responsible adult, and all that. White people go thru exactly the same shi.. stuff. Those universal themes just happened to be wrapped up in some kind of black wrapping paper. This viewer set that paper aside, and appreciated the gift inside. This movie really pressed some emotional buttons with me, and I appreciated it. [And by the way, we white people don't assume that all black people see all white people as the characters we are presented as in films: all the terrorists, rapists, mid-western nerd housewives, financiers, CEOs, trailer-trash, etc etc etc. Why do (some of) you assume we think ALL blacks "are" as presented in films such as "Baby Boy"? We don't. Period.]
In fact, I could relate to the issues of this film's men AND women. So, this script was universal in that way, too. Anyway, here's all what I really wanted to say about this film: All these emotional issues were brought to life by EXCELLENT performances. (I say Ving Rhames is one of our best actors working in America today. He is consistently excellent; I never see him "acting," I always only see him "being" his character. And his performance here in "Baby Boy" was Oscar-worthy, if you ask me).
I had no idea, until the ending credits, that "Baby Boy" was written and directed by John Singleton. Honestly, while watching it (on cable) I was convinced that it must have been written by a woman, because it so perfectly expressed such poignant emotional moments. Of course, the actors - and Singleton as director - can also share credit for those moments. Also while watching, I had the thought that "this is well-directed; who did this?" I guess my point here is [and this comment may annoy some Users here] that "Baby Boy" offers proof of Singleton's talents as one of those very good filmmakers who actually DESERVES the accolades critics and "industry" people give him. [Although, I never saw "Higher Learning," which Users here say stunk.] Anyway, not the BEST film ever, but a solid 3 out of 4 stars. [Okay, one more word about the acting in this flick: I'm an actor myself, and many of the performances here made me LOVE acting... there were nice meaty scenes and speeches here, and always so well done that it made me proud to be an actor. (Especially one monologue by Mr Rhames -- phenomenal, Sir!). Bravo to all this cast.] Perhaps the best overall thing I can say about "Baby Boy" is that it left me wanting to see it again.
La vita è bella (1997)
Not as Good as Everyone Says
The idea behind LA VITA E BELLA - "Life is Beautiful" - is a good one: when put into a Nazi deathcamp, a father tries to shield his son from the horrors of the reality by telling the boy it's all a game, a competition to play well and win the big prize at the end. But the delivery of the story fails only because Benigni also shields THE AUDIENCE from the horrors of the deathcamp. Perhaps Benigni thought our foreknowledge of the camps would play as a sufficiently horrific canvas on which Benigni can, then, paint his contrasting light story. But it doesn't work that way. Not for this viewer, anyway. The movie needed to play up the contrast of the evil element to allow the sweet story to shine more brightly than it did. While one is grateful that Benigni didn't show more graphic detail, one can't help imagine the movie's increased effectiveness if the scenes in the camp without the boy were more strongly constructed with suspenseful elements of threat, inhumanity, distress and hopelessness. This would have made the optimistic scenes with the boy all the more poignant.
Signore Benigni clearly has great vivacity and elan for life, as he has demonstrated at the Oscars ceremony (climbing over the chairs) and in other movies, which I'm sure makes him a great guy to know personally. But his personal joie de vivre seems to have undermined him from showing the full dark contrast needed here. I was more moved by Benigni's Oscar acceptance speech than by this movie for which he won.
The Perfect Storm (2000)
Cliche upon cliche.
The Perfect Storm is a cliche-fest. Familiar archetype characters speaking ridiculous dialogue of the melodramatic Soap Opera kind brought embarassingly to life through overwrought performances.
There's nothing subtle about THE PERFECT STORM. Characters and their relationships are about as subtle as a brick to the head: The gotta-win ship's captain; his condescending boss; the blue-collar couple struggling to make it (She: "I'm really gonna' give it a go this time!"); the hardy, salty & wise middle-aged female bar-owner [counterpart to TWISTER's old Aunt]; the fat chick familiarly defensive about her weight; the heartwarming sap of the non-custodial parent and his son; there's even a grizzled old fisherman barfly ("I remember when..." ). One wonders if director Wolfgang Peterson's understanding of english is so weak that he needed these characterization and dialogue overstatements to have felt that their message was getting across sufficiently.
Clooney and Wahlberg give decent performances, but only because they don't "try" to act as much as the others. Actually, as the "fat chick" (Irene), Rusty Schwimmer is pretty good even though she's got stupid dialogue to trod through; in the end, she's the only one I cared anything about. But absolutely the WORST performance (and one of the most embarassing I've seen in recent years) is from Diane Lane as Wahlberg's girlfriend. For starters, she can't manage the accent (Wahlberg, from near Boston, gets sort of close but lacks the northern Massachusetts twang). And Lane gives it her "TV-acting" all: yelling her emotions to prove how strongly she feels, TRYING to convey a tough-gal swagger while drinking in the local bar. Embarassing. What's happened to acting in recent years? It seems someone is teaching "actors" (of the TV kind, mostly), to "demonstrate" every emotion and motivation visibly. I can hear the acting coach now: "Exaggerate the mime of your emotion, honey! Don't let anyone doubt what you're feeling. CONVEY!"
This was one of the few movies that while watching it I actually put my hand to my cheek and shook my head in disbelief (at how stupid it all was). And I swear I nearly laughed out loud during the sequence out in the storm when Clooney climbs out onto a boom of his ship to cut loose an anchor that's whipping around on it's chain and breaking things: Clooney clinging desperately to that boom in those churning waves reminded me of that old slapstick visual gag of some guy on the ladder of a firetruck as it races through a city, the swinging-to-and-fro ladder narrowly missing bridges and sides of buildings.
At least the effects looked pretty good, though they did have that "computer" look to them.
A Civil Action (1998)
A Different Ending Was Filmed
I've just scanned through the UserComments for A CIVIL ACTION, and there are many complaints about the lackluster ending. I agree, but the ending seen in the film was not the original ending filmed. As released, the end runs thus: aerial shot of Boston's Fenway Park (baseball stadium - - remember, Duvall's character is an avid Red Sox fan, and said to always be at every home game). So... aerial shot of Fenway Park; swelling sound of baseball fans cheering during the aerial shot; cut to Duvall in his basement office, and now the fans' cheering is heard over Duvall's portable radio. Then a messenger hands Duvall an envelope containing info that ends the movie.
As originally conceived (and actually filmed, with hundreds of extras in Fenway Park over three days), Travolta tells Duvall, in person during a baseball game at Fenway, of the info that will eventually prove Duvall's company guilty. I haven't seen the script, as originally conceived, but supposedly Travolta's presentation to Duvall of the condemning evidence is delivered in tandem with the baseball fans' increasing excitement over the game. And, given the extras' direction to stand and cheer wildly at one point, one could presume this occurs at Travolta's final checkmate of Duvall.
Putney Swope (1969)
Robert Downey Sr's PUTNEY SWOPE is an outrageous stab in the back of the advertising world. Apparently, Downey had a nose-diving career in the advertising industry, and this film are all his "I hate this job" daydreams while trying to endure it. The opening Boardroom scene is some of the most bizarre, wacky and brilliant satire ever committed to film. It's the story of the accidental voting-in of the Board's token black man as President of the agency (he's their Music Director). From there, Downey's daydreams turn the struggling white-led advertising company upside down and into the successful black-run "Truth And Soul" advertising agency (Complete with what you might call a corporate Intranet: "The Drum" -- see the movie, you'll understand). The movie is refreshingly un-P.C., with dialogue like, "I'm a happy Chink!" and the proposed advertising campaign that has Colombus meeting Indians with "cleft heads." Oh yes, and a pot-smoking midget President of the U.S.A. There's one thing that is really annoying (to me, anyway; others don't seem to mind): that the lead character's voice appears dubbed. WHY did they do that?? Was the actor unintelligible or something? In fact, looking at the credits for this flick, I see that Downey himself provided the voice for Swope. I sure wish he'd email me with the reason why... Also in the cast is actor Alan Arbus, himself a one-time Ad-man. If you like bizarre outrageous humor, this is a definite for you!
Silly Dark Humor
My personal favorite of Russ Meyer's films. The script, by Roger Ebert (!), is loaded with brilliant sexual dark humor. For example, the opening sequence finds an aging Adolph Hitler lookalike being whipped by a stud in a Pilgrim outfit; meanwhile, "Hitler" is tortured (erotically) by a variety of buxom ethnic babes ("Ah! Limehouse!"). Later, the Pilgrim really gives to Adolph what the rest of the world always wanted to give him - and sticks it to him good! And the ending wraps up a murder mystery by rising to outrageous absurdity. Along the way, our Greek Chorus narrator (Kitten Natividad) keeps us UP to date on the proceedings. Beautifully photographed (Meyer's best acheivement, I think). See what I call "The Indian Flip," and learn something new to do with a light socket. An absolute must for - as someone said - you know who you are...
The Greatest American Movie Ever Made.
Despite contrary reviews by people who just don't "get it," this brilliant piece of sexy reverie just might be the greatest American movie ever made. Really, think about it: classic American Storyline: with dreams of success, a band travels to LA to "make it." But just like America, the dream has no guarantees and people will fall in the race to the top. And beyond the storyline, the film itself: post-WWII pin-up photographer Russ Meyer, after struggling thru low-budget indie productions, gets major studio backing to take his vision to the highest heights. Only in America! Folks, this movie *IS* America. Its dreams and seductive promises for success; its unfortunate treatment of losers in the game; its sex: for money and as a ladder to success; its slimy lawyers and insane artists. And on and on. Many people seem to hate this movie; maybe that's because the best absurdist humor like this always has a biting truth behind it. Part of that biting truth being that a major studio can be equally seduced into giving someone like Meyer a chance with a big budget. By the way, Meyer's use of 20CFox's theme fanfare during the decapitation was a double-edged sword: to make humorous a vicious act, and as Meyer's statement to Fox that, "Hey, you guys gave me the money to do this!"
Horribly melodramatic, but psychologically complex, well-directed and excellently edited. Spencer Tracy is an innocent man assumed guilty by a mob and "lynched." Making this 1936 film still-timely are the growth of the mob and its trial, conviction and execution of Tracy based only on speculation and emotion instead of on evidence and reason. Also, the line, "I will remind the jury of the easy habit of putting on foreigners events that disturb our conscience" comments on a tendency that still exists today (just listen to talk radio here in Massachusetts!). The story touches on many issues - morality, humanity, patriotism, law, politics, media, etc - and, as such, raises many issues for discussion. Teachers might consider showing this film in class as a start-point into exploration of today's issues. Spencer Tracy gives an appropriately melodramatic performance, but Edward Ellis as the town sheriff gives the best (albeit small) performance. For entertainment value, I'd give this film 6/10; but for fans of any of the stars, the director, or for advocates of civil rights and justice, this film is worth about 8/10; finally, as a tool for teachers, 10/10.
You gotta admire Tallulah!
Two ways we enjoy movies are 1) to share the emotional life of characters in a great story, regardless of the performer, and 2) to watch a great performer, regardless of the story. "Die! Die My Darling" "Fanatic"] falls into the latter category; here, Tallulah Bankhead is the great performer. Bankhead was, it is popularly believed, in the depths of alcohol abuse when she made this classic melodramatic thriller. Yet, she turns-in a terr(or)ific performance. Alcohol abuse may have helped her to slur some lines in that unique drawl of hers, but the well-experienced actress that she is - underneath the numb - shines thru by having clearly planned ahead to alternate her episodes of sweetness and rage, and performs them with well-crafted notes. It's an absolute tour-de-force: That ET-like bourbon voice of hers croaking out commands to her servants; like a witch shrieking "Liar!" to Stefanie Powers (and slapping her silly!); and looking like a backsliding soul at her most pitiful digging in her closet for a secret stash. And my favorite image: force-feeding a sermon to Stefanie Powers at gunpoint (Bankhead holding the Bible *and* a gun in her hands!). The story that sets all this into motion: Bankhead receives a visit from her dead son's one-time fiance, played by Stefanie Powers. Bankhead, a religious fanatic [thus the other title to this movie], presumes her son's betrothal to Powers means that they *are* husband and wife - FOR ETERNITY! Powers plays along, at first, but reveals little truths that counter the religious Bankhead's plans for her son's eternal peace; Bankhead, then, turns determined to "save" her son's Grace by keeping Powers pure. And so it goes from that, with escalating animosity. Bankhead is great. The production design is great (sets and color), and Yootha Joyce as the housemaid Anna is also terrific. Powers, however, grossly overacts; but, to her credit, she lets Yootha Joyce really lay into her with obviously no stunt-doubles between them. That was fun. Oh, there's also a couple homage to PSYCHO: recall that scene in Psycho when Vera Miles screams and flails an arm to set swinging the overhead lamp upon entering the fruit cellar. There's an instance when Powers screams and does the same with an overhead lamp. At that moment, listen to the soundtrack: it shrieks for a measure or two like Psycho's shower scene shrieking violins. Cool. I'll let you find the second "borrowing" from Psycho; it's not as obvious. For some campy fun, definitely rent this'n. Powers is a snitty over-acter, and she'll annoy you, but you'll feel she gets what she deserves when the Ol' Lady smacks the stuffing out of her. Plus, Bankhead simply saying the line "Milk?!" will make it all worthwhile - and that's just at the beginning...!
One Of My Top Ten Faves
John Frankenheimer's SECONDS is one of my top ten favorite films. A man (played by once blacklisted actor John Randolph) with a successful but empty life accepts the mysterious offer of a way to break free. Through the secretive operations of a well-guarded corporation, the man is "reborn" into a new identity and a second chance. A terrific script with every line meaningful, the man makes some existential revelations and makes a daring turnaround. Reportedly, Rock Hudson had to fight to be cast in the role of the second identity, and has said that this was his favorite film. Trust me, this is far and away unlike anything else he's done. This film is one of the three or four that have ever given me the genuine creeps: thanks largely to the great James Wong Howe's cinematography, the opening scene in NYC's Grand Central Station is actually nauseating (in a good way). And the final sequence is one of the very few in the history of film that have genuinely frightened me. The video release (finally!) of appx 1996 contains a scene that I don't remember being in the film the first time I saw it: the bacchanalian wine-making orgy. I'm unsure whether I like this scene or not: it fits the storyline, but its tone is grossly out of tune with the rest of the film (but maybe that was intentional, given the context and theme). Performances all around are perfection, and thanks to Frankenheimer for allowing two great actors - John Randolph and Will Geer - to play a crucial and emotional scene of five (or so) minutes continuously (that is, with no cuts). That's the best way to prove to an audience which actors can really act!
Put some David Lynch, some Errol Morris, and a whole lotta Diane Arbus into the ink bottle, shake well and pour, and the Rorschach ink blot you'll get is Harmony Korine's GUMMO. I've just read all the User Comments here, and these are apparent: Obviously GUMMO *is* art, because so many people hate this movie and so many people love it. Just like art. Those people who hated this movie and, therefore, object to it being called "art" are those kind of people who must like "nice art" like pretty seascapes, happy clowns and - yuck - "crafts." It will also be fun to remind these sort of people of Hitler's campaign for "moral art:" it was all mundane. (And look at the genuis of "immoral artists" such as Kirchner and Max Beckmann.) Gummo is pretty damned immoral: animal abuse, granny killing, cat torture, and so on. GUMMO having "no plot" reveals it's higher brilliance: read how many Users here mentioned GUMMO's lack of plot AND said that they were moved by it. This is what I call "Rorschach Art." That is, meaning found in random "ink blots" on the page or, in this case, on the screen. In my case, I found myself, for some subconscious reason, identifying with the Bunny Boy. I don't know why, but I felt something familiar in this guy. That's great art. My favorite image: hard to say, there are so many great ones, but I find myself thinking nonstop about the boy turning askew the pictures on the wall, and when he lifts the family portrait, cockroaches scuttle from underneath. Mr Korine: I'm an actor, and I'll offer my services to you pro bono. You're something else! [Well, make that for scale!]
Le notti di Cabiria (1957)
That glance,that nod, that smile.
This is the first Fellini film I ever saw (and thank heavens I saw it on the big screen); I absolutely FELL IN LOVE with its now-legendary star Giulietta Masina (in the title role of Cabiria). Watching the movie, I wanted to shout to her to "watch out!" and to jump into the screen to take her away from the parasites who wanted to feed on her. So entranced was I by Masina's performance. Telling the surface plot is unnecessary here; the film's substance happens between the lines: Cabiria's emotional depth between the devastations, her perpetual longing for better and, despite it all, her indomitable happiness. It's the story of predators and prey (Cabiria), and it's a picture of the enduring human spirit. Only an actress of transcendent powers could pull off such a task, and Masina manages it beautifully. Look at the IMDb "Awards & Nominations" page for this film: in 1957 Masina won "Best Actress" at Cannes; in 1958 the film won the Oscar for "Best Foreign Language Film;" and in 1959 the film was nominated for a British Academy Award for "Best Film From Any Source." Three of the film's magical moments: 1) the "Hypnotist" scene. 2) After falling asleep atop a cliff where one of those "predators" had taken advantage of her, she awakes and the sea below this cliff is now covered by a misty shroud (you interpret what "being above the clouds" means). And 3) after a final personal devastation, she joins a small troupe of carefree youth in their singing and dancing as they walk the road. Joining them, her dirt-smudged and tear-swollen face regains its radiance and we feel happy that she's smiling again. But the real brilliance of this moment - one of the most affecting in all cinema - is when Cabiria glances briefly INTO THE LENS, smiles and nods AT *US* that she will be alright. Watching this movie that first time I was happy that she was smiling among these young troubadours, but not until she glanced, smiled and nodded directly TO ME did I feel released from my need to rescue and protect her, free to leave the theater and let her go on her own (without me). Personally, no other actress has ever been able to penetrate so completely to my emotional core. Brilliant director, brilliant actress. SEE THIS MOVIE.