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Male, 58 years old.
Make sure you act honorably and nobly, even if you don't feel honorable or noble.
Cherish all and praise many.
Give the gift of friendship and accept it just as easily.
Brave the weather of stormy minds with but little ill contempt.
Refresh those who are tired.
Greet those who are wary.
Dance with the ones who are merry, but more importantly with the ones who aren't.
Find no fault in anyone and forgive easily those who find fault in you.
Delight in the well told joke, no matter how many times you have heard it before.
Bless those who curse you, that you might be the one to lift their curse.
Find peace in all who trouble you...and trouble them not in return.
Hug those who need hugs, and those who do not. And be not the first to step away from a hug.
Live as an example to everyone and let your mistakes be many, for that is the way one learns.
Be patient, kind, and easy to talk to.
Let others speak before you speak, and listen...really listen to what they are saying.
Never be afraid to express your humor, as long as that humor is not cruel or demeaning to anyone.
Do good to those who can do nothing for you.
Give, expecting nothing in return.
Do not cling to anything. Release your tether and others will release theirs.
Cry at sad movies. Laugh at funny ones. Be frightened when the movie is scary.
Look for similarities in everyone you meet. You will find there are many.
Love all, but especially those who feel they don't deserve to be loved.
It's okay if you aren't perfect.
Don't worry. Don't. ever. worry.
Be happy. It was for this reason you were created.
Kidnapped for Christ (2014)
Biased and Unfair Documentary
I guess I'm a purist. Being 56 years old and a lifelong cinephile, with a penchant for documentaries, I bemoan the fact that many documentarians of late have lost their ability to be unbiased observers. Nothing was more disturbing in this movie than the scene in which David hands director Kate Logan a note to be passed to his friends outside the Dominican Republic. Once a documentary becomes biased it loses all moral ground.
In 1992, in the comedy/drama movie called "Man Bites Dog" about a film crew following a "heartless killer" as he commits his crimes, the film crew eventually begins to knowingly aid and abet the killer. This was a parody of a documentary and laughable. "Kidnapped for Christ" is not a parody and scares the hell out of me.
Despite the subject matter of the film, the documentarian should strive to be "documenting" the matter, not participating in it in any way, shape or form. She should try to be as unbiased as possible instead of trying to shape public opinion. Kate Logan insults the viewer by telling us we're stupid by editing the film in a way that we don't have to think for ourselves. She is showing us her point of view and calling it a documentary. There is, of course, a bit at the end where two of the principals in the film come down for and against the Christian school. More of this would have made the movie better. But in other scenes, you can tell how one-sided the production is, such as the scene in which the youths are taken on an outing to Pico and play in the muddy grass there. Logan focuses on Tai, a young lady who doesn't like the mud and doesn't want to play in it. It is a scene where the central focus is Tai complaining about the outing and how much she hates it there. Strangely enough, Tai seems to be the only one complaining and sometimes she can't be heard due to the laughter and squeals of delight coming from the 99% of the kids who are enjoying the day. Why not interview someone who is part of that merriment for balance?
Some of the "evidence" against the school is merely anecdotal at best, such as when director Logan overhears loud yelling outside her room on the campus and states that it came from one of the people in control who was yelling at his charge. We have to take her word for it as nothing is shown as evidence. When she points the camera out the window all seems calm with the two people involved. A wiser documentarian would have left this part out of the movie as it's clearly hearsay and can't be proved.
I'm not saying that abuses did not happen at the school, even the people in charge agree that some have occurred. What I am saying is that the director of this film slanted it in such a way that it's impossible to determine what really happened at the school. It seems that Kate Logan was graciously granted permission to film on-site, which usually indicates that the people in charge had little to hide. She may have realized, once there, that a film without conflict won't sell in the United States. She seems to have tried to manufacture discontent with the available footage she possessed. For despite the ominous overtones of the film, we see no abuse happening, only hearsay. Kids have to make their beds and fold their clothes properly. Kids have to exercise when told to. Kids are told to obey authority. There is talk of "swats." This is somehow considered child abuse. We don't see any such "beatings" so we have to take the word of Logan, who has already showed us that this is a film she has slanted to force her views on the viewer. Did we think she would honestly show us more cinematic fairness after she tips her hand that she's one sided in the note exchanging scene with David?
This is an evil movie. It does not appear to be about evil, but it is evil in the way it is edited and slanted, apparently for the sake of being a daring filmmaker exposing the truth...as she sees it. It is a vanity project that insults the viewer.
The real title should be "Kate Bites Dog."
Point Break (1991)
Great action scenes and mind games to boot
Kinda slow and stodgy at the start-up, where character development is needed, and there is some action involving a bank robbery by 4 people wearing ex-presidents mask, but overall, despite the surfing theme, it's a pretty good movie...even if you don't surf. Keanu Reeves is the young hotshot FBI agent fresh from Quantico, resented by most old timers who have long since given up on actually solving a crime - realizing the paperwork is the scariest thing about their jobs, not the criminals. Gary Busey plays a character saddled with the young FBI agent, and who is really aggravated by the pup's aggressive idealism...at first, but then, like all good buddy movies, they form a bond. Keanu goes undercover by getting a lead that the string of bank robberies has something to do with surfing, so he learns to surf in a really short montage. From there, there's one fantastic foot chase when the FBI agent sees one of the "ex-presidents" still wearing his mask, fresh from a bank robbery nearby. The foot chase is worth the price of admission by itself. It's really that good. Good Steadicam work, too. Next comes a strange bond the FBI agent forms with the leader of a surfing tribe of 4, with everyone in on every little secret the other person has and yet no one can reveal their hand next. Then comes the parachute scenes. One of them tops the foot chase scene as the FBI agent jumps out of a perfectly good plane with nothing but a hope and a prayer (and a handgun) continuing his chase of the head of the ex-presidents. Reeves, Busey and Patrick Swayze are excellent in their roles. Oscar Winner Kathryn Bigelow directed this winner and her then husband, James Cameron produced it. Watch it just for the scene where the dog is thrown on someone if for nothing else.
I am 51 years old and can remember the times Bob Hope took his traveling comedy show to Vietnam. His comedy was clean and sometimes a bit biting, but he never lacked in class. Even though we were opposite on the political spectrum I thought he was a wonderful comedian and I was proud that he risked his life to give the troops a nice sized portion of laughs that were in short supply in the American and allied military troops during that dark time in our history.
It was with such intent that I wanted to enjoy this movie, "Patriot Act." My, how times have changed! The jokes seemed overwhelmingly mean-spirited, one of them comparing the size of the audience to Rosie O'Donnell's private parts. Now is there really any need to go there. As the camera panned over the crowd as that joke fell fairly flat, you could see the puzzled looks on some of the soldier's faces. It seemed to me as if every joke had a political slant to it, as if they were saying "Republicans good. Democrats bad." They didn't need to resort to that. Surely democrats and republicans all have sons and daughters fighting in the war. It's not all black and white, right or wrong. I just don't think it should have been classless entertainment. Every other word out of the comedians mouths seemed to be the "F-bomb." That just lacks imagination. And Drew Carey, a comedian I normally enjoy, was cutting down the Iraqi women, their style of dress, the Iraqi food, their lifestyle. These are the people we are supposed to be helping, Drew, and insulting them is not getting us anywhere. We can't win their hearts and minds by making them the butt end of the jokes. Quit presenting yourselves as the ugly Americans and learn some class, a la Bob Hope.
Conversations with God (2006)
What it Means to Be Human
Having read and enjoyed the first three "Conversations with God" books, I was fully prepared to enjoy the movie as well. Although I gave it a 5 star perfect rating, I am fully prepared to accept the fact that many people will not have the same love for the film as I do. It is somewhat slow paced and there isn't much action in the movie. It deals mainly with the background details of Neale Donald Walsch, who after suffering from a broken neck after a car accident, soon loses his job as well as his home and becomes a homeless person scavenging for food and recyclables while living in a tent in a park. Things keep going badly for the soon to be published author as he finds a job only to have the business go bankrupt soon after. He is awakened one night by a voice in his head asking him if he had had enough yet. The voice sounds just like his voice and he is chagrined to learn the voice is coming from his head. He is even more shocked to find the voice is saying that it is God that Walsch is hearing. He grabs a nearby notepad and begins transcribing what he is hearing. This becomes the book, "Conversations with God," which is initially rejected by the publishing firm he contacts. The movie is a sincere, devout movie that I predict will totally upset traditional, mainstream churches and temples. Walsch's "God" is a modern God who is neither vengeful or angry, who seeks to teach Walsch about love and compassion rather than obeying rules and dishing out punishments. God speaks in such a way to sound reasonable, humorous, and more like a good friend than a strict father figure. If you liked the books, you'll love this adaptation as well. If you are not interested in matters of the spirit you might want to ignore this film. Well acted, directed and edited. A must-see for anyone interested in matters of the soul and what it means to be human.
Unstrung Heroes (1995)
Pretty Standard Stuff but Not Bad
A young boy with an inventor for a father and a sick but loving mother finds life's answers in the unusual shenanigans of his two odd uncles, played by Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin. The uncles are hoarders and one is extremely paranoid. Though it's not really a coming-of-age story, the boy does expand his horizons through the unusual insights of his two uncles, one of whom collects, among everything else, balls "because they carry the sound of children playing" within them. It's a fairly interesting movie but nothing groundbreaking. Director Diane Keaton does about as well as anyone can with the material at hand. The two odd uncles provide a unique look at life to a confused young boy's eyes. John Turturro as the father is pretty unusual when we meet him as well but he loses his quirkiness once his wife, Andie MacDowell, comes down with an illness from which there is no hope of escape. The boy, now given a sense of self and purpose from his uncles, now has to rescue his father from giving up on life. The movie sways from comedy to pathos but is worth a viewing.
They Shouldn't have moved the meeting back to 1:15!
"Edmond" is one hell of a thrill ride. It starts off simple enough with Edmond in his corporate business suit learning that a meeting has been pushed back to 1:15, which causes him grief for no known reason. On his way home, he passes a tarot card reader and happens to notice the address for the shop is #115. Seeing it as some sort of sign, Edmond agrees to have his fortune told...and he finds out it's not so good. At home, Edmond seems out of place and tells his wife he's going out. She asks him to bring her back a pack of cigarettes and he informs her that he's not coming back. She's confused and Edmond calmly explains that he doesn't love her anymore and he wants to leave and never return. Edmond leaves and then meets a man in an upscale bar, played by Joe Mantegna, who Edmond learns is a somewhat rational racist, which triggers something in Edmond. The man convinces Edmond that Edmnond needs to get laid. Edmond agrees and goes out to a place the racist man recommended and there he gets into haggling about the cost of having sex with a stranger and is distressed that there are so many hidden charges and that he can't pay for it all with his credit card. Edmond leaves and heads out onto the street where he sees a game of three-card-monte in progress. A guy in the crowd tells Edmond how the trick is done and how it can be beat. Edmond takes the bait and joins in the game, only to have his money tricked away from him. Edmond wants to see the cards they are using and this doesn't sit well with the card sharps. Things happen to Edmond all through this night of hell and nothing seems to make sense. He haggles about the cost of everything and feels like he has no power until he comes across a wicked looking knife in a pawn shop that he purchases. Feeling empowered, Edmond no longer feels like a victim but a victor. Edmond finds a racist streak in him that comes out in a confrontation with a pimp and things get pretty rough from this point on. Edmond's destiny is sealed and he declares at one point that "people kill simply because there are too many people in the world." Something is seriously wrong with this once mild-mannered businessman who wonders why the entire world has gone crazy except for him. They should have never moved that meeting back to 1:15, man!
Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go into the Parking Garage...
Very well scripted thriller about a woman alone in an underground parking lot with all the exits closed and who is being stalked by an extremely lonely and misguided security guard who just wants to be her friend, even if it kills her. Most movies of this sort seem to have logical plot holes that you could drive a truck through, but not this one. The woman being stalked consistently does the right things to escape but seems to be realistically foiled in each of her attempts. My only complaint is that there are two many crazed security guard movies available for viewing these days. Just once Id like to see one get to be the hero of a film.
Not a Remake of Jaws!
An odd duck of a movie about a young woman who finds out that she has teeth in her private parts. Does any more need to be said about this? I expected the film to take on more of an exploitation angle, such as the type of films released by Troma corporation, but no, this film is treated as if it were a Lifetime movie. The woman in question is not a monster, nor is she a victim, shes just someone who is aghast at the power her feminine parts have to sever the sexual appendage of any male who makes her angry. The only question I have after watching the movie is wondering whether our young lass has to brush the teeth hidden inside her most private of chambers.
Join Us (2007)
Raises some interesting questions
At what point does the spanking of a child become a beating? At what point does a community church become a cult? Those two questions are at the center of "Join Us" wherein disgruntled members of a small church in South Carolina leave the church and wish to file charges against their former pastor. The ex-members apparently stood by while the pastor beat their children while they watched, as the beatings were backed up by verses in the Bible. The pastor even recounts the Old Testament law wherein it was permissible to stone a rebellious child to death if necessary. The pastor and his ultra-faithful wife defend all the charges against them with the wife stressing that what they did may seem "cultish" to outsiders, everything was done with the best intentions. The ex-members go to a cult deprogramming center, said to be the only one in the USA, and are encouraged to ask questions and to think for themselves once again, instead of hanging onto the pastor's every controlling word. In an attempt to entrap the pastor into admitting child abuse one of the ex-members of the church goes to see him and his wife while wearing a hidden camera and microphone. Somehow the wiley pastor never cops to the charges while being recorded. His wife is heard in a recorded phone conversation stating that the pastor has stage one Alzheimer's disease and later states that the ex-members should leave him alone because of his "sick mind." Later, in a separate conversation, we hear the pastor declare that there have been some allegations about him having Alzheimer's and then adds that those who say that are "liars!" The look on the woman's face who heard his own wife state that he has Alzeimer's Disease is priceless.
It's an interesting movie about how easily some minds can be controlled and how some churches could be considered cults but it's definitely not totally convincing, but it does raise some interesting questions.
The Woodsman (2004)
Disturbing but effective
Effective character story about a convicted child molester being released from prison after 12 years of incarceration. His parole officer keeps extra tight watch on the ex-con, especially upon learning that the only housing available to the former-molester is right across the street from an elementary school. Kevin Bacon plays a man who wants to be free from his past but at the same time still feels urges he's not quite comfortable with around children. As Bacon sits in his room watching the schoolyard across the street he notices the actions of another pedophile and feels confused about what his proper actions should be. Should he alert the police? Should he take part in the crime? Or should he go down there and beat the molester to a bloody pulp. Slow paced but effective movie about the true evil that lurks around our children on a daily basis.
Just Plain Bad
An extremely weak excuse for a plot and even more a weak excuse for entertainment. A sex therapist can't have an orgasm. She reveals this to two of her clients who invite her to a place called "Shortbus" where all kinds of sex goes on. The sex is shown graphically, even down to the "money shots" that pornography relies on to pay the bills. The movie is incredibly sad. No one is happy and everyone is a victim. If you like sex, love or intimacy, stay away from this film. It will make you prefer taking a vow of chastity for a more entertaining lifestyle. Seriously, "Shortbus" features scene after scene of people chasing that first orgasm. There is no love, no fun, no caring, no sharing, just orgies, sex toys, masturbation and a pathetic grasping for a drug like euphoria through mindless sex. A lame excuse for a provocative study of sexual proclivities. If romance killing is your cup of tea, rent this film.
Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)
Quite a Lot of Fun
Really, quite a lot of fun. We start off with a bunch of empty headed party people mugging for their home camera as they make their way to their friend's yacht, one of whom has a fear of water and continuously wears her life jacket no matter what...and also has a baby on board with her. Once upon the yacht and lurching out into the high seas, more inanity occurs as we learn the various minuscule personalities of young, stupid people out having a good time. The fun begins for the viewer when everyone decides to go for a swim, except for the girl with the baby asleep in the cabin and the fear of water, so the brain dead "owner" of the yacht picks her up and jumps overboard with her in his arms. Soon after everyone is in the water, one of the goobers realizes that no one lowered the ladder that will help them all get back aboard the ship. I found it tremendous fun trying to figure out, along with the on screen characters, just how one would get back aboard a yacht with no tools or devices available to help them. And the the baby starts crying and no one can do anything about it. The ending of the film is one of those scenes you'll be debating for years as to what the hell happened.
White Dog (1982)
Worth a Look
I enjoyed this movie...in all it's campiness. It's about a Hollywood starlet adopting a German Shepherd she rescued after accidentally hitting it with her car and pays for its vet's bills, even after putting up fliers looking for the real owners. The dog and her bond and one night the dog gets loose and returns home covered with blood. The actress, Kristy McNichol, figures the dog got into a fight with another animal when it's actually shown that he attacked a sanitation worker who just happened to be African-American. One day McNichol brings her dog to the studio where she's shooting a scene and for seemingly no reason at all the dog attacks McNichol's co-star, who is also African-American. McNichol takes the dog to a trainer, Burl Ives, who tells her that the dog is an attack dog trained to attack black people by it's previous owner, a racist. Ives suggests the dog can't be retrained and says it should be put down. Along comes assistant trainer, Paul Winfield, who just happens to be African-American, who insists upon taking o the task of trying to recondition the dog, to take away it's racist teachings. Does the retraining work? That's up to debate. This movie does a good job with the question "can racism be unlearned?" Romain Gary, the writer of the book on which this movie is based had some qualms with how Paramount adapted this for the screen and disavowed this version. Still, I found it interesting, despite the TV movie-of-the-week level of acting.
The Hiding Place (1975)
A Test of Faith
During the swell of Nazi Germany, the Christian ten Boom family struggle to make safe all who seek sanctuary in their home. They hire a sympathetic builder to create a hiding place in one of their rooms for when the Gestapo are near. A sympathetic German officer benevolently tries to warn the ten Booms that their hiding place is becoming well known and warns them to be extra careful as to whom they trust. What happens next focuses on the ten Boom sisters, Corrie and Betsie, and how they survive the harsh realities that face them and test their faith in God and Jesus. This was Jennette Clift's only movie role and what a role it is, as the main focus of the story, Corrie ten Boom.
In This World (2002)
A Muddled Mess
What a muddled mess. This film, under the assumed pretense of being "artistic" fails on every count. Is it a documentary or isn't it? Some scenes are staged, apparently, and some aren't. The story, as it appears to unfold, is about a man wanting to travel from Afghanistan to London, through sometimes treacherous Mid-East countries, and the young guide who agrees, for a price, to take him there. Every step of the way is captured on what must be the world's shakiest camera. And for the life of me I could not summon up any sympathy for the lead characters. Why did the man want to go to London? To see his family? Or to join a terrorist cell? It wasn't made clear to me at all. For a much better movie on a similar subject, with better direction, acting, writing and cinematography, check out "I Am David" about a boy escaping a Nazi concentration camp to make it to a free country.
Funny Games (1997)
Well Made, Disturbing and Surreal
The evil in this film comes across as well mannered, clean cut, polite and unaware that it is indeed evil - but is it all a ruse? Two polite young men take a family hostage and begin to play mind games with them. They tease them like a cat teases a mouse he's about to kill. I actually began to feel a sense of guilt about "enjoying" a film so disturbing. You are, in essence, watching the apparent demise of a family and their dog...or are you? There is a scene where one of the interlopers searches desperately for a television remote control device so that he can turn back time. Is this to tell us, the viewer, that the ongoing is all fiction, which we know damn well it is. But then, if it is, why does the unreality of whats happening seem so real...or surreal? A fascinating and disturbing film where all but one instance of carnage happens off-screen. The director sets you up to think there are jumps just around the corner but the jumps never surprise you like that. The jumps are in plain sight at all times.
Deacons for Defense (2003)
Accurate depiction of the events in my hometown
I was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana (the lumber town depicted in "Deacons for Defense") and lived through the events depicted in this movie. I can attest to the fact that it is very factually recounted. The tension between the blacks and the whites during that time were very high and emotionally charged. As a child I was taught by my Klansman father that black people were to be hated. For whatever reason that never really rang true to me and I refused to hate. It's so strange to look back objectively on a movie like this that reopens those old wounds. It's about the black citizens of Bogalusa who form a group intending to protect themselves from the bigotry that envelops the city and the tough choices they had to make going into this situation with little or no backup from the city police or the elected politicians in the area. It's really a very good movie.
Unlike the CD of the Same Name
I didn't like this "Vision Shared" because it's very different from the CD of the same name which I had enjoyed for years. First of all, this is not a concert film, but rather a compilation of clips of various entertainers in separate settings singing some of the songs on the CD. The trouble is that so many of the songs are talked over by the commentators that you can't enjoy the singing. A prime example of this is the beautiful "Hobo's Lullaby" that is performed by Emmilou Harris. Just as she gets into it, the narrator starts another round of commentary totally destroying the song. This happens throughout the documentary. Perhaps it is better for you if you aren't familiar with the famed CD of the same name. It might just make you want to go out and buy it after seeing this.
Cube Zero (2004)
There will be a hot time in the old cube tonight!
Finally we get to see who's pulling the strings behind the whole "cube" set-up. It's fun to watch what's taking place and it's also a bit of a downer too. It takes away the whole mystery and puts a few theories to rest, but you gotta go with it. First of all, we meet the two functionaries doing their job making sure the cube is lethal and that the people inside eventually meet their demise or find a way out...if that's even possible. One of the functionaries is super intelligent and also begins to grow a conscience when he gets enamored of one of his female charges in the cube. He looks up her file and finds she never signed a consent form! Egads! We the viewer are stunned - are these Cube-ites volunteers or what? This guy tries to alert his superiors to the consent form error and believe it or not gets put in the cube himself - willingly. Is his intelligence powerful enough to outwit the cube? Hmmm. In the meantime the boss of the functionaries makes a visit with two worker drones to the operations center to make sure the smart guy doesn't outwit the system. While all this is taking place, there's an oblivious group that is in the cube already trying to get out. This is where the non-consenting woman is located. So we see two stories at once converging at the climax. Very exciting with my only quibble being that the cube boss somewhat hammed up his character into a cartoon figure. Still, fine movie.
On Edge (2001)
Great Fodder for Fun left on Low Burner
I like mockumentaries and thought this one had potential as the ice skating world is ripe for picking, but it was not to be. "On Edge" must've looked good on paper as there are lots of good set-ups for comedic moments but the execution is awful. The best films in this type of film (Think "Best in Show" or "Incident at Loch Ness" for two wildly different but highly effective mockumentaries) seem to know that the comedy works best when the on screen characters don't "try" to be funny. "On Edge" features so much self conscious mugging for the camera that I'd bet it was fun to be on the set at the time of filming but for those of us in the audience it's very hard to sit through. It's sort of like visiting family and having the children constantly tug at your sleeve to watch them perform their ballet twirling or magic acts. That works fine on a family level but not on a feature film level. It's really a shame too because the movie has a charming blueprint. It focuses on a number of young ice skaters prepping for the regional competition. There's the fat girl, the twins, the klutz, the biker chick, and the one for whom ice skating isn't her real dream but her stage mother won't let her stop skating because she's a natural. Jason Alexander is sort of an everyman, playing Zamboni Phil, and commenting sagely on the different girls and their managers. He must've really needed a paycheck to appear in this turkey. I'd like to see this movie remade by Christopher Guest and company. They could do it proud.
Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
Cold Comfort Warms the Cockles
My wife recommended this movie to me and after secretly viewing the trailer I didn't really want to see it. But...as my wife has never recommended something I didn't end up liking, I gave in and watched the film with her. What can I say? Her record stands. This was a perfect recommendation. It's about a flippant young woman, Kate Beckinsale, who, after the death of her parents, goes to live with some obscure relatives at a place called "Cold Comfort Farm." Upon arrival, she finds the family manse lives up to its name as everyone she meets seem enveloped in a shroud of doom and/or filth. The farm is rather run-down and the family members seem to not care about making things better as they are as run down and filthy as the lodgings appear. One by one, however, our determined orphan lass gets to know the family and learns of their secret dreams and what is keeping them from it. It seems there is a reclusive dowager in an upstairs room who somehow holds and iron grip on the rest of the family due to something mysterious that happened many years ago. All she will eventually say about it is "I saw something nasty in the woodshed!" This doesn't deter Beckinsale's character as she weaves an air of trust and optimism among the family members who begin to look to her for answers to their dilemmas. Does she get to the crone who saw something nasty in the woodshed? I'll never tell. But let me add this - this movie ain't no "Pollyanna." It's a family film, for sure, but is not all sweet and saccharine and therefore unrealistic. Beckinsale's character is a wonderful role model.
The Incident (1967)
Taut, well made thriller
The plot is simple: Late night subway riders are terrorized by 2 thugs out for kicks. The thugs jam the subway doors so no one can get on or off and the conductor never visits the car. It really makes the viewer feel trapped with the rest of the victims, who are, by the way, pretty standard stereotypes of everyday America. There's the teenagers in love who are always kissing, the black man with a chip on his shoulder about white America and his social worker wife who pleads for him to not be so angry, two servicemen on their way to or back from an assignment and one has his arm in a cast, the harried married couple with a sleeping child, the elderly Jewish couple, the alcoholic, the squabbling couple, a man who may or may not be homosexual, a sleeping bum, and that may or may not be all. Tony Musante as the creepier of the two tough guys is well played. He has venom dripping off of him like a coiled serpent about to strike. His villainy is so real you I sometimes wondered if he was acting or just really mean in person. Martin Sheen, of all people, plays the other tough guy, who seems like he is drawn along by the lead of his pal into the mental and physical games they play on the other subway riders. The two laugh a lot at the misfortunes of their sport and as you watch you wonder if there is a happy ending in sight or is this one of those movies where nobody goes home happy, not even the viewer. The movie is in stark black and white and made better by that fact. In the shadows behind each characters eyes you see a universe of fear and loathing but you keep looking for a positive sign. A very well made movie with my only quibble being that the set up is kinda long. We see each person making it to the fateful subway car and learn their back history. If this film were remade today I can see this entire section being dropped. We could start right in on the subway and use flashbacks to illuminate the histories. But that's just me.
Lost Boys of Sudan (2003)
A fish out of water story with a non-fiction twist
Well made documentary focusing on two Sudanese refugees who get resettled in the United States. It's your basic fish out of water story with a non-fiction twist. I found it fascinating to see how Peter and Santino lived prior to coming to America and how they adapted once they arrived here (in Houston, Texas.) They expected a sort of heaven but found out that it's a lot harder than it looks to cope well in the states. They go from hopeful idealists to somewhat more realistic skeptics. Everywhere they go they meet bureaucrats with paper trails that most citizens may take for granted. They fret that they are blacker than the African-Americans here and don't feel accepted because of that. One of the "Lost Boys" manages to leave Houston to go to Olathe, Kansas, where he finds conditions slightly better but still less than ideal. There are people that try to help them as well as try to hurt them in this film. Not shown, but talked about, are those who put a gun to their heads and robbed them, leading one Lost Boy to comment negatively that "all black people in America are no good." I found it interesting, too, that they arrived in Houston in August 2001, a month before the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. I had hoped to see their reaction to this tragedy but it's not mentioned at all. Still, all in all, a really well done documentary with no narration. None is needed really. The "Lost Boys" do a fine job expounding on the events going on around them without any help at all, thank you very much.
The Insider (1999)
Russell Crowe shines as another glowering protagonist.
"The Insider" is a good movie about the topic of tobacco manipulation. Most people that I know have been aware of the dangers of smoking for a very long time and so it's really no surprise to learn that major tobacco companies make it so that cigarettes are highly addictive. Apparently this isn't supposed to be fair, especially since the CEOs of the 7 major companies all swore under oath that they didn't believe nicotine was addictive. This movie is about a scientist who worked for Brown and Williamson, the #3 tobacco company, who had knowledge that his CEO lied and therefore cast doubt on the veracity of the other 6 CEOs. So, in a nutshell, if they lied and knew their product was causing cancer deaths worldwide, they would therefore be liable and could be sued for billions of dollars. The movie centers on Al Pacino as "60 Minutes" segment producer Lowell Bergman, and glowering Russell Crowe as Jeffery Wigand, the scientist with a conscience, as they struggle to come to grips with the truth as it relates to the law and their ethics. Christopher Plummer also shines as Mike Wallace.
Yat goh ho yan (1997)
Thin on plot but fat with exciting stunts.
Thin on plot and fat with exciting stunts, Jackie Chan's "Mr. Nice Guy" is more like a speedy carnival ride than a movie. Chan plays a television chef who gets mixed up with a female reporter with an incriminating videotape that drug lords are after. Along the way Jackie Chan has his prerequisite close calls and death defying stunts mixed with his affable humor. All the stunts are good ones and there's a set-piece that requires Chan to escape his enemy in an unfinished building where all the blue doors are already installed that is my favorite. It's quite a farce having people opening and closing doors in pursuit and escape and never knowing who or what's behind the next door. One extended scene is a guilty pleasure for me and involves Chan commandeering a large earth moving vehicle and wreaking havoc with it. When I say large, I mean LARGE. The tires alone must be 12 feet tall in and of themselves. It's pretty cool to see the devastation this vehicle incurs. A fun film. Had the plot itself been a bit more thickened my rating would've been higher.