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A "ho hum" movie with a long drawn out ending
15 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
While watching "my week with Marilyn we learn that the main characters "week" with Marilyn was similar to several others' "weeks" with Marilyn when she was passionately involved with them. But my reaction to this movie was "who cares?!" While the movie might be called "entertaining" to an extent, it is trite and pointless. I didn't particularly like Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. I honestly never believed her in the character role, the same way that I never believed Will Smith as Ali. I also found the last half hour of the film to drag and I kept saying "end it already!". Normally I write a comprehensive review of the films I see, but this review pretty much sums up the experience of "My Week with Marilyn".
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War Horse (2011)
"The Fantastics done as Titanic"
26 July 2012
Living in NYC, I have the opportunity to see the stage play that this film is based on, but I haven't seen it. I was eager to watch War Horse and I have to say it is the most difficult movie that I have ever had to give a number rating to. The story is amazing. But the story is very "personal". Director Steven Spielberg, however, presents the story on an "Epic" scale which is all wrong. I kept thinking of "The Fantastics" done as "Titanic" while I was watching this movie. Because the story is so good, I kept wanting to watch it (on DVD). But after watching this film, what I really want to do is get tickets to the Broadway show. A few years ago, Spike Lee brilliantly brought the Broadway show "Passing Strange" to film. I only wish he would have done the same for War Horse. Perhaps it is not too late?
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A documentary that leaves you thinking..
17 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Becnel at the first annual conference in Contra Costa California in August 20007. I was moved by the conference and subsequently watched "Redemption" the Jamie Fox movie regarding Stanley Tookie Williams.

Tribute is a documentary that revolves around the funeral service of Stanley Tookie Williams and the "tribute" spoken by his friends during the service. Surprisingly, Nation of Islam leader Louis Ferrakhan gives an amazingly moving eulogy in this film.

While the film supposedly re-enacts Tookie's execution, it really doesn't and personally, I thought the re-enactment scenes could have been left out.

Overall, it is a fine documentary of the funeral of Stanley Tookie Williams. As I said, I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Becnel personally, and I know how sincere she is in her mission.

"Tribute" is an excellent documentary of Tookie's funeral. It isn't in depth, but it is fine nonetheless.
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One man's personal experience of the transition of his hometown
18 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Of time and the City" is a movie that begs

to be shown in an art museum. It is a 71 minute experience of

videos and photos accompanied by spoken prose, poetry, and music

of one man's experience of the transition of Liverpool. It is almost

a documentary of sorts. Whatever it is, it is mesmerizing, absorbing, and truly magnificent. I honestly believe that this film will be part of many video displays in museums throughout the world. We first experience Liverpool early in the 20th century when the author is young then experience Liverpool throughout his childhood, his adolescent years, young adulthood, adulthood, and finally, the sadness of what once was in reminiscence.
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Ônibus 174 (2002)
The best thriller since "Das Boot"
21 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Bus 174 is one of the best Documentaries I have ever seen. It is also one of the best "thrillers" I have ever seen.

It is the true story of young man who holds those on a bus hostage. Because the television media were at the scene, a major part of the movie is televised live footage of the hijacker and his hostages on the bus. It is riveting to watch. However, in addition, comments from those who knew the hijacker as a child and teenager are included, as well as comments from the police and hostage negotiating team. Also included is footage of the hijacker and his "associates" interviewed earlier in his life.

Bus 174 has us asking several questions about the resources available to the poor in Brazil, about the training (or lack of training might be more accurate) of the police and hostage negotiators, about the lack of communication between those involved.

But most importantly, this movie is about "S", a real person who we gain a real understanding about. The movie dwells a bit too long on "written history" and while the bus footage is riveting, it may go on too long in the second hour.

Since so many television crews were shooting footage, I tend to think that more graphic footage may exist of some of the scenes that those who made the film chose not to use. But this movie was an edge of seat thriller. A chilling documentary of a real life event. I kept wondering how I would have reacted if I were on that bus. And I kept seeing "S" as those on the bus did, a scared young man who only truly wanted to get out alive and not kill anyone. It's ashamed that the police didn't see him that way.
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Like watching someone else play an action Video Game
5 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First let me begin by saying this is a "Comment" not a "Review" and there is no need for me to sum up the plot of this film which has already been summed up by others. Let me say, however, that I grew up in a time where a thriller was a "true" thriller. I can think back on films like Silence of the Lambs and Cape Fear that combined action with psychological tension. Then there were the Hitchcock masterpieces. These days, "Thrillers" seem to be defined by how many non-stop computer assisted action sequences can be incorporated into a film. Which brings up to The Bourne Ultimatum.

This film is non-stop action. Bourne runs, Bourne runs, Bourne runs... you get the idea. On the other hand, what "plot" there is actually makes sense. It ends up being an intelligent action thriller, with a LOT of action. I watched this film on DVD while working out on a treadmill and an hour felt like 10 minutes.

So, to sum up, if you like your thrillers with LOTS of action, and no plot "loopholes" in whatever plot there is, this one is for you! It's like watching someone else play an action Video Game.
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A pretentious, self centered bore without a single likable character
29 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was eager to watch "Before I Forget" given the favorable reviews that I had read. I missed seeing the movie when it was screened in NYC, so I purchased it on DVD. After watching it, I have to say that I'm glad I missed the NYC screening.

The plot has been summed up by another reviewer so I don't need to go into details about the plot. My problem with this movie, however, was that I didn't like the main character. He came across as self centered, one dimensional, and uncaring... bitter, but not willing to look at any options.

Perhaps, as another reviewer pointed out, gay society in France has fewer supports than gay society in the US or other countries. That might explain the main characters feelings and emotions. But it doesn't change my feelings about the movie.

I watched "Before I Forget" on DVD after watching "Paranoid Park", "City of Men" and "3:10 to Yuma". I would gladly sit through any of those movies again (and I don't particularly like Westerns) than watch "Before I Forget" again.

As I said in my summary, I found this movie to be a "Pretentious, self centered bore without a single likable character"
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Paranoid Park (2007)
Typical for Gus Van Sant
20 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone who watches more than one Gus Van Sant movie quickly comes to realize that the director has a distinct "style" that one either is intrigued by or dislikes. Having seen several of Van Sant's movies, I was looking forward to Paranoid Park. Since the plot summary is readily available elsewhere on IMDb I'll skip it and get right to the comments...

This movie is filmed in an "artsy" style. At times, we have a closeup of the main character who is carrying on a conversation with another character who we don't see. At other times, the movie has a "stoned" feel as if the character is high. At other times, we see a conversation being held between two characters yet we don't hear the spoken words. Again, it's "artsy". the main character spends most of the movie in a state of "numbness" which is appropriate given the material. When the movie ended, I reacted the same way that I reacted to several other Van Sant films...which was by saying "and...?" In Paranoid Park, Van Sant puts far more closure on the story than in many of his other films. But Van Sant's characters are complex and the closure only relates to part of their complexity.

I have to say I liked these people. They were intelligent, cared about each other, and seemed very real. I'd be happy to have any of them as my friend. That's a rarity in movies these days where teenagers are depicted and I have to give Van Sant credit for the way that the characters come across.

So, to sum up... If you like Van Sant films, you'll like this one. For those who haven't seen a Van Sant film, I'd say give it a chance. Good Will Hunting is probably the movie by Van Sant that has the broadest appeal. But Paranoid Park seems the most real.
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Chop Shop (2007)
A low budget movie with an Ethnic Flair
9 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Some critics have compared Chop Shop with the theatrical releases of City of God and Pixote. I've seen both of those as well as Chop Shop and like in many instances, I don't feel the comparison is warranted. City of God and Pixote surely had a much higher budget. Chop Shop is a low budget independent film about survival and hope, disappointment, and continuing with life. One of the scenes is allegedly filmed during the US Open and either the filmmakers had incredible connections or the scene was filmed at another time and the US open footage was added. I say that because I live in the area where this movie was filmed and security is insane while the tennis matches are in progress. It's also noteworthy that the actors actual names were their character's names in the movie. Back to the movie. It's an enjoyable story about survival. However, it ended up getting a 7 because... at times the actors acted extremely well. At other times, they appeared to be just reciting their lines. If the actors were less competent (as they were in the low budget "The Big Dis" for example) I would have been more forgiving. But in several scenes each and every one of these actors gave exemplary performances. At other times, they appeared bored. The director might be at fault here. I also had problems with the ending. This is one of those movies that "just ends". Maybe there will be a part 2? Definitely worth getting on DVD. I wont bother summing up the story because that info is already available on IMDb.
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Hair meets Apocalypse Now?
18 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Julie Taymor certainly has a brilliant mind. Having seen both her Lion King and Green Bird on Broadway, I was eagerly awaiting the release of "Across the Universe". Week after week, month after month, I watched the Preview of it prior to the featured movie at my local theater, but it seemed to take nearly two years before the actual movie was released. When it was released, at least here in NYC, the reviews were less than positive and there was discussion about Taymor wanting to take her name off the film, etc.

I recently purchased the movie on DVD and watched it. Reviewing this movie is as difficult as explaining it. It has a serious story about a young man from Britain who comes to NYC's Greenwich Village during a time when protests of the Vietnam war were increasing. But Across the Universe transcends from a serious story, to real life footage of the Detroit Riots, to an acid trip hallucination, then back to a serious story several times throughout its 2 hours and 15 minute running time.

All of the actors are excellent and all the members of the Beatles would be proud, I'm sure, of the performances of those who sing the Beatles' songs.

I'm a NYC resident and if this movie were released in the early 80's, it's the type of movie where one would have lit a joint in the balcony of the Loews Astor Plaza theater, and went for the "trip".

If you like the Beatles or Julie Taymor or both, pop in the DVD, sit back, let yourself go and enjoy the ride "across the Universe"!
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A realistic portrayal of today's inner city students
29 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As a social worker in NYC who works primarily with teenage gang members, I was able to relate strongly to this film. I found the high school students very realistic. In fact, each and every one of them could be compared to a student that I currently am counseling or have counseled in the past. Many directors of this "type" of film tend to feel that they need to have melodramatic music in the film. I applaud Mr. LaGravanisse for his use of hip hop/rap to break the tension. However, the scenes depicting the strained relationship between the teacher and her husband could have been deleted since they were really unnecessary. Despite that, this is a wonderful movie, in fact, one of my favorite movies of all time. A solid 10.
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Maybe I missed something
25 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I really wanted to like this movie and I like Cle Bone Stone a lot. But the movie tended to present something as fact, then drop it, and move on to something else. I'm not naive to gangs: I work with gangs: the bloods, the crips, and a local NYC gang "LB". I really liked Cle and I'm hoping that one day he'll be courageous enough to do an autobiography of himself. That would, no doubt, be an outstanding movie and an Oscar winner. Bastards of the Party is a fine movie.. It's just that I thought it could have been an exceptional movie.

However, I applaud Cle Bone Stone for his work on this excellent documentary.
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the last 20 minutes spoiled it for me
23 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I watched "There will be Blood" on DVD because I didn't want to sit through the 3+ hours in the theater. The first 20 or so minutes of this movie is essentially silent. Not a word is spoken.. but I felt it was appropriate as an introduction to the remainder of the film. The remainder of There Will be Blood is a very watchable film except for the last 20 minutes but more on that later. However, I agree with those who say that "nothing happens" in this film. However, the storyline and the cinematography carry this movie well. In fact, I was planning on giving this movie a 9 until the last 20 minutes. At that point, the movie goes completely over the top and focuses on something that to me, seemed totally irrelevant to the rest of the movie. It's rare for me to take 4 points off for 20 minutes of a film, but I really had to for the last 20 minutes of this movie. It's certainly watchable, and the cinematography and Daniel Day Lewis' performance is excellent. But, the last 20 minutes ruined it for me.
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Hairspray (2007)
Nothing like the Broadway Musical with the Original Cast
28 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a NY'er and I saw the musical with the original cast three times: once with a friend and twice with teenagers that I counsel. We all loved it. So I was looking forward to the movie. I have to say I didn't like the movie although I wanted to.

The music is still excellent, and the new songs are very good as well. Queen Latifah is very good although she seems to be playing the same type of character that she played in Chicago. Tracy and Link are excellent. But...

The movie seems to play on the racial issue to excess, especially in the last half hour when a great deal of the plot was changed from the Broadway musical. While the Broadway musical could be taken seriously, I couldn't take the last hour of the movie seriously.

After having seen the brilliant Harvey Fierstein as Edna on Broadway, John Travolta was,... well, let's just say that Dorothy Michaels would get a 9 out of 10 (for those who remember Tootsie) while Edna would get a 4 at best. And there was no chemistry between Edna and Wilbur.

But I had real problems with the changes in the story. Why take something that works and change it? I haven't seen the current cast of Hairspray on Broadway, and few have these days with the strike. But when the strike is over, I'd urge everyone who visits or lives in NYC to see the show.

As for the movie... well, it IS entertaining. How does it compare to other musical movies? I liked Chicago (the movie) more than the Broadway Musical and I liked Phantom (the movie) MUCH more than the Broadway musical (although it took some time for me to get used to the Phantom's "gruff" voice). Chorus Line was much better as a musical, and Rent was better as a musical.
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A little disappointed
26 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I read the script to the play "A Raisin in the Sun" when I was in high school in 1977. I loved it when I read it and I'm surprised that it took me 30 years to watch the movie, on DVD...

I've got to say that I'm a little disappointed in it. I really didn't like Sidney Potier's performance. I found it mechanical. I work in a tough "hood" and I kept thinking as I watched this movie how times may have changed.. ie. that the opposite might be true today... ie a white family planning to move into a "black hood".

As far as African American stories go, I didn't find this up to the works of August Wilson that I saw in the NYC theater (King Headley III and Jitney). But it was a fine movie anyway and well deserved of an 8.
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The Tenants (2005)
Excellent story, Good screenplay, poorly directed
7 August 2006
30 years ago (wow!) back in High School, I was a big fan of Bernard Malamud and read most of his works in Modern American Literature Class. But I didn't read The Tenants. So I looked forward to seeing The Tenants especially since my Cuzzin, Snoop Dogg is in it.

The Tenants is an excellent though simple story transformed into a very good screenplay. The problem, however, is the director. This movie feels like it was directed by a film student. It's directed in what I would call a "matter of fact" style which fails to develop a relationship between the characters. In fact, the characters seem just to be reciting lines. Despite that, the screenplay carries this movie well and it was certainly a movie I wanted to go back to and watch to the end on DVD.
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A joyous musical about endings, death, and beginnings
2 July 2006
I must admit, it was a delight to see this movie after watching Susan Strohman's horrible film version of The Producers on DVD the other evening. Robert Altman, at 81, has a fabulous movie here. His camera-work is extraordinary in capturing the musical numbers and he lets the cast speak for themselves. This is a film where the cast is allowed to "breathe" and as a result, we connect with them. It's a lovely touching film and don't get me wrong, I'm open to any type of film. I liked Waist Deep. But this movie is a true gem. It's ashamed that it opened so early in the season because it is a true contender for the "best picture" Oscar. It's hard to describe this movie. Yes, it's a comedy at times, but it's more. It's unique.
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The Producers (2005)
Oh my god, this movie is awful!
28 June 2006
Being a NYC resident, I've seen The Producers on Broadway five times, the first being with the original cast. Watching the film version of the show made me really angry. Gone was the chemistry between the actors. In the movie, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick just seemed to be reading lines. In the show, there was chemistry between them. And why did Susan Strohman decide to exclude and/or change some numbers. "The King of Old Broadway" was key intro to the show, yet it is omitted from the move. Why?!! And "that face" was completely redone minus the excellent choreography! I want to tell any IMDb readers who might be planning a trip to NYC, please, see The Producers on Broadway... see it the way it was intended to be seen.

Of the three recent Broadway shows that have transferred to the "big screen" The Producers is BY FAR the worst. "Rent" wasn't wonderful but it was tolerable. Phantom, once I got over the fact that the "phantom" couldn't sing, was actually quite good. Overall, Rent gets a "6", Phantom an "8.5" and The Producers, a 2.5.

Please, if anyone is planning to visit NYC, see the Producers on Broadway. It's FAR, FAR! better than the movie.

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L.I.E. (2001)
26 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Considering the number of awards that this movie was nominated for and received at film festivals around the world, and the comments about how the director was admirable in choosing to present a difficult subject, I looked forward to seeing L.I.E.

As much as I wanted to like this movie, I didn't. The movie seems to feel that mature teenagers are able to make choices regarding their sexual experiences and I had no problems with that. The problem with this movie for me, is that the characters weren't well developed and their relationship with each other wasn't developed either. Unlike those who made other comments, I didn't like the character of "Big John". I agree that the director was courageous in tackling so controversial a topic. I only wish the result was a better movie.
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An absorbing moving documentary
10 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I had the pleasure of seeing this moving documentary at the Film Forum in NYC this evening followed by a question and answer sessions by the filmmakers. The movie depicts how a change of environment, and by having those around them truly believe in their education, teenagers can be stimulated into believing in themselves. Personally, I would hope that every inner city junior high school and high school should offer the chance for their students to view this film. Unlike "Born into Brothels" which was narrated and told primarily from the filmmaker's point of view, Boys of Baraka is narrated and told by the boys themselves, and that makes it a really strong picture. We get to know these boys, Tre, Richard, Devon, and the others and see a future for them. In the question and answer session, the filmmakers were able to address several questions that are left hanging in the movie such as What happened to Richard? (He's about to enter Job Corp) What happened to the school building? (It remains in Baraka, abandoned).Are similar schools planned elsewhere? (Yes, in Baltimore) but personally I believe that the environment, the lizards, the hedgehogs, the elephants all have a lot to do with the positive impact of the Baraka education and that can't be replicated in Baltimore. I've personally seen how environment can change a person. Each year, I take a select few of the troubled teenagers that I counsel up to a dude ranch in upper NY State for a day. It's amazing watching a tough thug gang member cradling a Belgian Hare in his arms. This movie is a real gem. And a big "thank you" to Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady for taking time to discuss the movie and the program.
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The Aviator (2004)
Highly entertaining but ... (minor spoilers)
9 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Having missed The Aviator in the theaters, I purchased a used DVD from my local video chain for a bargain $9.99 and watched it over three days while exercising on the treadmill.

I found this movie very, very entertaining, and it made the minutes on my treadmill seem like seconds. but... Leonardo DeCaprio never convinced me that he was Howard Hughes. In other films, the performances were so good that the actor became the character (Malcom X and Ray come to mind). But my only real gripe about this movie is the ending.It almost felt as if the director was leaving the door open for an Aviator, Part II. We never know what became of the Senate Hearings and we never know what became of the potential purchase of TWA. Despite this, I found it an excellent depiction of a fascinating era in American History. I saw Million Dollar Baby and, in my opinion, this is a FAR superior picture, though no better than an 8.
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Brian's Song (1971 TV Movie)
The Only FOOTBALL movie I've ever loved
20 April 2005
It's strange that I'm a big fan of football but I'm not a fan of football movies. I slept through The Longest Yard and Any Given Sunday.. However, when I was 10 years old I watched Brian's Song on TV and I was incredibly moved. So I purchased the DVD recently and expected to be disappointed. I was very wrong. Once again I was moved by this movie which has exceptional performances by Billy Dee Williams and James Caan. My only caveat is that being a TV movie, it had to fit time constraints, so rather than the movie showing the ending, it is told to us by Jack Warden. Despite this, this is a truly a wonderful movie!
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Sorry to say i was disappointed
3 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was really looking forward to seeing Born Into Brothels. However, after seeing it, I must say that I was disappointed. It's a good movie, but in my opinion certainly not worthy of the "Best Documentary" Oscar (that, I think, should have gone to Tupac Resurrection and I think the Best Picture Oscar should have gone to Hotel Rwanda which wasn't even nominated!) Documentaries, in my opinion, need to capture their audience in the first couple of minutes. They should be like essays, with an opening statement showing what is going to be presented afterward and why. Born Into Brothels doesn't do this. It begins as a messy composition of the comments of several children. The story itself is quite good. But the cinematography is my main complaint. The camera is always either in close up or closer up. It zooms in on the children's faces so that only 2/3 of the face is seen. In street scenes, the camera is jumping all over the place or speeding down the road in a total blur. I never got to really see or understand the environment that these children live in. The sole exception was the beginning of the beach scene. Overall, I found the movie a narcissistic glorification of Zana Briski who attempted to "save" some of these children from their horrible fate. But I never got to really know the children and what they REALLY thought and felt and experienced and I think that's what Zana Briski missed when she set off on her mission. Perhaps that's why the majority of the children don't end up "saved". One of the child photographers who ends up going to a fine school in India at one point in the movie comments about how wonderfully a photo captured feeling. I only wish he were in charge of making the film.
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Well directed, well acted, but completely implausible
16 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was looking forward to seeing this movie on video but after doing so, I must say I was disappointed. The biggest problem was the characters and how their behavior was totally implausible (at least to me). The former owner I couldn't stand. She speaks with an attorney then proceeds to act against the attorney's recommendations? Her "boyfriend" also was unbelievable. Would someone really go to such extremes for someone they just recently met putting their own job and family in jeopardy? Ben Kingley's character I actually liked until his actions at the end which were unbelievable. Didn't he have a daughter? The one character that I liked was his wife. Overall, a well directed well acted movie with a really ridiculous story.
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Slow, boring, and lacking in emotion
6 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I know I'm in the minority regarding this movie, but I have to say that I found it slow, boring, and lacking in emotion. Eastwood seemed to feel that each point needed to be dwelled upon for an extended period of time. Numerous times during this movie, I kept saying to myself, "OK, you've made your point, now move on!". I found this movie devoid of any emotion and totally numb. I also can't understand how Hillary Swank was nominated for an Academy Award for this movie. Her performance was nowhere near her exceptional performance in Boys Don't Cry. Also, the priest said that he has seen Frankie at mass every Sunday for 23 years!. Yet the priest looked under 40. He became a priest at 17?!
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