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Stand Tall (1997)
Pumping Iron Jr.
A bodybuilder fan will enjoy Stand Tall by default. This documentary highlights bodybuilding as its setting. Overall, it is an attempt for Lou Ferrigno to get out of the shadow of Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are brief moments where we see Ferrigno as a human being, not the villain as he is depicted in Pumping Iron. We see Ferrigno as a child, the son, the husband and a friend to many. As a professional bodybuilder, we see him as an idol as well.
However, Stand Tall mirrors many of its plot and filming style to Pumping Iron. The only difference is they put Ferrigno in the shoes of Schwarzenegger. This is obvious as the documentaries attempt to put Ferrigno on the same "stage" as Schwarzenegger. Similar journey's, backgrounds and goals. This is attempted but fails. This is because of Ferrigno. No matter how presented, Ferrigno tries to be like Arnold, the leading man, the hero, the champion. However, in the end, although humble and still loved by many, falls short from being like Arnold. Stand Tall is the overall message of Ferrigno's story. Time and time again he has failed but continues to fight the good fight. Although the moral of the story is present, the documentary portrays Ferrigno as second best, if not a less popular version of Schwarzenegger.
Moments of Fellini
Roma starts out as a very long-winded, dull and very boring story. The distance the audience journeys with the story is justified with what the story becomes. The patient viewer will be treated with a very special experience. Alfonso Cuarón shows us the raw nature of Mexico. At times, the setting showcases the blink existence of these characters. You need to search long and hard to find any signs of hope. As we witness Cleo's struggle, we begin to understand what the movie's intentions are. Roma is a foreign film in more ways that one. Many viewers are unable to sit through this movie. However, those who find a connection with Cleo, will find themselves redeemed as the closing credits appear. Roma is an experience worth feeling.
La grande illusion (1937)
A Masterpiece Story but not a Masterpiece Film.
I have been told time and time again by several film historians, movie buffs and fans that La Grande Illusion is a masterpiece. I respectfully disagree. For 1937, it is a marvel or a story. The idea of its existence in 1937, when Nazi Germany was a reality and its its height of power and fear throughout Europe, a movie depicting a pacifist view on was and relationship to Germany showcases the power of cinema. Still, when including production value and overall story structure, it is difficult to defend Grand Illusion being a better produced movie than All Quiet on the Western Front. The movie does have several powerful moments that keeps its audience confirming its importance in cinema. The French book burning scenes, the comments on the Jewish character, the existence of a Black solider in prison, and the relationship between the German and French leaders, showing hope in the depths of war. At the same time, the movie's simple opening and quick and easy ending does not transition as well as other movies of its time. Unless it was the goal of Director Jean Renoir to have the story start and end without a beginning or an ending, the movie has its weaknesses. While some of the movie's editing is put into questioning, the movie's overall structure can be hailed good because of its story line and cast of characters. The movie gives us several scenes that keeps the audience appreciating what Grand Illusion is, A pacifist war film that is an excellent example of story over action. For a World War 1 drama, we are not witness to a single battle scene. A movie about War, there is no need to witness the battlefield. We partake in the war behind closed doors. More talk than action, Grand Illusion offers a different take on War and more importantly the relationship between the enemies of the so called War. Many will call the movie a masterpiece but I will continue to stand my ground. A marvel of a story for 1937, it's message is forever powerful and important. However, in comparison to other War time movies of its genre, I must respectful consider Grand Illusion a good movie, with great intentions. As an overall film, it falls short being a masterpiece.
Camera Store (2017)
Character Development - in Conflict !
With brilliant Actors like John Rhys-Davies and John Larroquette, how can a movie miss? Easily. With that said, Camera Store is one missed opportunity after another. The collection of f-words throughout the movie is evidence of a cast attempting to work with a script with several holes in it. The story-line as well as the character development of the cast both lack substance. The audience finds themselves asking the question: who is the main character of this movie half way through. The first obstacle is to get passed the first 15 minutes of the movie. It's hard to see what the main plot of the movie is until it is too late. Supporting characters come and go and intersect with the central characters, not as comic relief but as part of the overall plot that falls short time and time again. The audience is trapped in a movie that they feel obligated to watch since they are roped into watching. Once we learn of the character's back story, if any, we are left not caring since none of the characters are believable let alone appealing. The idea that every photo has a negative side may be the premise of the movie, but in the end, who cares?
Camera Store tries to be something that it is not. Scenes from a Mall, or a real depiction / Cassavetes like story, this movie is not. Much like the movie's poster, the genre is not properly depicted. Looking more like a Spy / Film Noir thriller, Camera Store has elements of comedy, but is far from a comedy. A weird drama type / low budget movie that depicts characters with no beginning, middle or end. In the end, Camera Store tries to be a "hit or miss" movie that is only for a certain type of audience. It is that reason alone that makes Camera Store a miss. Secondly, the motivation of every character in the story is questioned since we are looking at both the positive and negative, the real and the fake sides of the characters. Sounds good on paper, but on film, it's mostly negative.
Model Shop (1969)
A Long Violin Solo
This is not an example of an American-French New Wave movie. There are elements of French New Wave, but overall, the Model Shop is an empty 90 minute movie about two central characters that nobody can relate to. George is a cheat, a liar, a deadbeat, and not interesting. Lola is sexy but dull. Both characters lose the audience before they can get to the third act. Only then does the movie turn into anything that reflects a French film. But by then, it is too late. The saving graces of this movie is how the filmmakers showcased the streets of a Los Angles from the 1970's that no longer exists, cameo by Fred Willard and the final 45 seconds of the movie where we actually see a brief moment of redemption.
Mike is Dead
The only saving grace of this movie is the symbolism that keeps popping up. Considered by many to be one of the worst movies ever made, more still consider it to be the worst Israeli movie ever made. Originally titled, the Hitchhiker, this movie has been defined as a metaphorical counter-culture film. I will disagree with its current label of being a psychedelic drama. Not once in the movie do we see anyone taking drugs or hallucinating...technically. The central character of the story is Mike, who is introduced wearing goat fur. The goat symbolize fertility, vitality and ceaseless energy. The he-goat (buck) is the epitome of masculine virility and creative energy. Among being a veteran, Mike identifies to the audience as being a "Hippie". From his long hair, down to his bare feet. Throughout the entire movie, Mike walks around without shoes or sandals. Bare feet have come to symbolize innocence or childhood in a glorifying perception of freedom from real-life requirements. Others see Mike's shoe less character as one that is dead. In some cultures, the dead are buried without their shoes. Meaning, Mike may be a ghost if not dead inside. After all, Mike is being chase by two Mimes that look like Undertakers. Returning from the War, he has given up on the world and is constantly trying to find beauty and love. The dream he has showcases all the horrors or war, ignorance, imprisonment, hunger and hate in the world. To dream that you are screaming symbolizes anger and fear. If you try to scream, but no sound comes out, then it indicates your sense of helplessness and frustration in some situation. Mike's dream is completely silent.
The movie is flawed in many ways, but throughout the movie, you can see symbolism in the innocence in the white car they drive, the ruins on the island, the biblical way they dance for joy on the edge of the beach, and most of all, symbolism in the lamb. In Christianity, the lamb represents Christ as both suffering and triumphant; it is typically a sacrificial animal, and may also symbolize gentleness, innocence, and purity. The lamb symbolizes sweetness, forgiveness and meekness. The ending is powerful and delivers the most obvious message for its audience. However, the low budget, mediocre acting and rushed production quality makes it difficult for many to take seriously. And that is the biggest shame about the movie.
Do you know where your Daughter is ?
Fugeuse is a failed Canadian attempt to be a dark and dangerous look into the life of a suburban teenage girl gone bad. Ludivine Reding shows off her assets as she attempts to show any signs of being an actress. An ornament at most, Ludivine's "deer in headlights" quality is the only saving grace of this series. Her sexy ignorance is attractive yet sickening. You want to see this "little girl" fall from the little grace she has in order to justify her story. Little girls should not play with matches, let alone be away from their parents until they are old enough to fly on their own.
The mean streets of Montreal at best looks like a unorganized day at Disney World than anything remotely like the mean streets of Los Angeles, Detroit or Chicago. The rough lifestyle and the mean streets they try to showcase falls short to anything real or traumatizing. The locations are too clean to be real. Much like most of the cast, they are hard to believe let alone accepting as dark characters.
The taboo of the good girl next door becoming the dirty Jezebel is the only thing that makes this series watchable. Her journey at best is predictable and at sometimes laughable. Her post rape scene was hard to consider dramatic. She looked more hung over than being manic from her ordeal.
In the end, the moral of the series is not taken seriously. The audience is here for the eye candy and nothing else.
Fugueuse is a recycled Havoc (2005). If Young & Beautiful (2013) and the Client List (2010) had a unwanted baby, it would look a little like Fugueuse.
If you want a R rated version of a Lifetime movie, Fugueuse is perfect. If you are looking for something raw and original, it falls flat.
Grey's Anatomy (2005)
When I began watching Grey's Anatomy I was single, dating and connected with the first round of characters that the show offered its audience. We were along for the journey with these young Doctors as they began their professional careers as well as their personal struggles with friendship and love. Fourteen seasons later, Grey's Anatomy has become a completely different show as we the audience has also changed. I am now married with children and at a similar time-line as some of the current cast members. It is for this reason that I am no longer a devoted fan. Having seen every episode since its pilot, I have finally questioned why I am still tuning in every week to watch the continuing adventures of Meredith Grey and her circle of friends and fellow doctors. Simple, it is no longer the same show I began to watch 14 seasons ago. Most of the character of the original show have left if not been killed off. The hospital has been set on fire, blown up, and taken hostage multiple times. We have seen love, lost, passion, promise, joy and sadness from multiple story lines throughout its run. Grey's Anatomy has reinvented itself so many times that we have seen its central figure (Meredith Grey) change for good and bad.
From the single girl, the devoted daughter, the young doctor, the passionate girl friend, the on again off again good / bad friend, the angry daughter living in her Mom' shadow, the newly-wed, young mother, widower, lost adult and now, for lack of anything else, a supporting character to the show that graces her name.
For this reason and the loss of so many of its prior cast members, I have found myself question time and time again when Grey's Anatomy "jumped the shark."
Grey's Anatomy by default has inherited the generational audience of fans from such shows as St. Elsewhere, Chicago Hope and ER. The hospital drama has a home with Grey's Anatomy. When the show began, it was a home to a young cast of young professionals that were in multiple "sexual" relationships as they juggled their careers and side stories. Also, the show has taken a life of its own by juggling a much more diverse cast then it set out originally. With good and bad results, the solid fact remains that the current show does not reflect anything that the original show set out to be 14 seasons ago.
While the show has created a multitude of amazing stories and moments for its audience to enjoy, I have lost that love and feeling many years ago. Now, I fear that after many years of hoping, wishing and praying, the show will not return to what it once was. It has tried several times to revive its cast to showcase this but has failed. Even during its second and third wind of new medical arrivals, only a handful have made the cut to the current cast while the large majority have disappeared if not written off the show. However, I am not angry at the overall show. Grey' Anatomy has (had) produced many good characters and stories back in the day. Thank you for the good times, which were many many seasons ago. Now, audience members have to make a tough decision.
With that said, the show has struggled for an identity while holding onto several different aspects for a show. It has taken me this long to finally "pull the plug" and take Grey's Anatomy off of life support.
How to Slay a Vampire (1995)
A Fang-less Vampire
Before you make fun of this "movie" it is important to know that the Directors have already beat you to it. The Polonia Brothers make no secret that they are poking fun at themselves throughout the movie. It is this truth that makes How to Slay a Vampire a fun experience. You are never to expect what you are watching be taken serious let alone art. Instead, we are entertained with this unique horror / comedy / satire of a vampire story. Filmed on location, mostly in a basement of a house where the audience gets to view one ceiling shot after another. It is this low angle frame after frame that reminds us we are watching a zero budget movie. Most importantly, fans of the Polonia Brothers will appreciate this gem. Not the best of their work, however, this movie does showcase John and Mark having fun while making the movie. That alone makes this more than just a movie, it is a journal entry in the brotherhood John and Mark once had.
Twin Peaks: Part 18 (2017)
The Phantom Menace - The Ego & The Artist
Bottom line, this is a vision of David Lynch and Mark Frost, if you don't like it, watch something else. Whether or not you gave 18 hours of your life to go on a journey to see if everything is going to either make sense or work out in the end is on your heads and not David Lynch or Mark Frost. If you are a die hard fan who will hope a future movie, book or series will answer all the open ended questions, or you are a fan that has lost sleep or is no longer a fan, that's on you. All in all, you did not watch a series made for you but a series (story) made by two Artist who wanted to tell their story....period. However, we live in a post "Breaking Bad" world that requires TV shows and films to have a structured story that ties everything together in the end with a proper resolution. The exact opposite of what the fans witnessed at the end of Twin Peaks. Bottom line, if you want a narrative that has your proper beginning, middle and end with a climax, resolution and and overall message to the stories theme and plot, you can find this in most of the movies and shows that Hollywood produces. Lynch's fans pride themselves on enjoying an avant-garde mix of visuals and sounds that are not only entertaining but somewhat spiritual on the way they are showcased. To many, this has not been the case after the series finale. Most will question why Lynch introduced so many characters that were pointless to the overall story, why he left the audience with so many unanswered questions and why we the audience was witnessed to a circus of long winded scenes that either gave you a head ache or prolonged scenes to the point that you kept questioning Lynch's motive? Like George Lucas making a mistake with Episode 1-3, Lynch had no real collaboration with others but had full creative control with his vision. With that said, this is the final result. In a nutshell, I use the Monica Bellucci scene to rap up Season 3 as a whole. Lynch filmed a single scene in France and wrote a scene specifically for Monica Bellucci (who played herself) for the soul purpose of going to France and getting to work with Monica Bellucci. This is a perfect example of the Ego corrupting all. Lynch did not have to waste time and resources to fly a crew out to France or the cast a specific Actress in order to make the scene work. Lynch could have saved money and time by casting another actress and filmed this small scene on location to save time and energy. This is what 99% of most Directors would have been told to do and would have complied. However, Lynch's vision required this. As a fan of Twin Peaks, you need to answer the question on your own whether you decide to take it or leave it.
Gone with the Pope (2010)
Self Autobiography of Therapy
Duke Mitchell spent most of his life in nightclubs. As a Singer and an Actor, Duke struggled to showcase his talent. Throughout the movie, it's hard to decipher between Duke Mitchell and the character Paul for whom he portrays. Both men are victims of the life they chose. Each is fighting to survive and are living on the run. Duke would die from lung cancer at the age of 55. Its hard not to remind yourself while watching the movie as Duke smokes countless amounts of cigarettes. Duke's character deals with being a prisoner, having a burden and feeling cheated. He is angry and manipulates many of his close friends. Wanted to be loved, the only real woman in his life is distant and a minor character. The so called "leader of the band" or head gang member, Duke always tries to stay in charge and be one step ahead of everyone else. You could say that Duke lived like this for most of his life. The ending is very powerful as well as unexpected. You need to ask yourself if Duke is running away or running after something. The ending show's his true fear and that he has been running his entire life. He is angry and America, his friends, and even his Faith. For the low budget / grind house picture that it is, Gone with the Pope meant much more to Duke Mitchell then you think. Having accomplished what it did not set out to do, the movie showcases timeless images of Los Angeles and Las Vegas from the 1970's. The wardrobe alone makes this movie worth watching. For an entertaining movie, any grind house fan will not be disappointed. Then again, for a deep hidden message, Duke's final message to the audience is one that many might not be able to witness.
Les rendez-vous de Paris (1995)
The 3 Stages of Trivial Adultery
Not one of Rohmer's best works, Rendezvous in Paris lacks the passion, the seduction as well as the lust that is found in most of his films. Set in 3 Acts, the story has a mixture of pre-Seinfeld coincidences that interlock the three stories together. Since the connections are not profound or at least comical, the audience is doomed to lose interest in not only the story line but also the characters involved. Most of the characters on screen are only present for around twenty minutes, this does not give the audience enough time to connect or care about the circumstances that they are involved in. The only saving grace the movie has is its moral (or lack of one) involving glimpses of relationships and the need, or want or fear of adultery. In Act 1, we witness when adultery goes wrong. Act 2, the fear of getting caught, and finally we see the need and interest in committing adultery. Other than that, the story lacks much of what is needed for a successful movie. Which includes, filming permits. A great drinking game while watching this movie is to drink every time you see someone in the background look at the camera. This was not only obvious throughout the story, it reminded you that you were watching a movie.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
6 Ways that could have saved Heaven's Gate
Heaven's Gate is an epic vision by Filmmaker Michael Cimino. Whether you like it or not, it's Cimino's story that he wanted to tell. The end result was a box office cancer with several finished versions that bankrupted a studio and ruined the career of many in the entertainment industry. However, we are left with a movie that Cimino continues to have critics pan and praise with its countless highs and lows. Here are my 7 ways that could have saved Heaven's Gate from what is utterly became. 1. Stopping Cimino throughout the production. The Studio had several opportunities to save money and time by not allowing Cimino to go over budget several times and going over schedule multiple times. The excessive demand in production value and countless spending could have been halted if not minimized if you reigned Cimino in on multiple occasions. Filmed mostly in Montana, scenes were also shot at Oxford. However, filming in Newport, Rhode Island for less than a 5 minute scenes could have been completely scrapped. This also would have saved money and time for the sake of the Director's vision. Whether the final product would have been drastically different, the Studio would not have faced as such a giant disaster. 2. More back story. The movie is an epic drag when it comes to the subject matter and its overall plot. Giving a narration, subtitles for the non speaking English characters along with more backstory about the immigrants could have given this beautiful film a more "understandable" story to help the audience from hating it. The confusion the audience strives is that the long-winded sequences lack the direction of story. 3. Scrapping your minor characters. If the goal is to produce and epic five hour movie, then you need to keep your characters. However, if you wanted a better story without losing site of the main story you would need to cut back on the side stories from actors like John Hurt, Jeff Bridges, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Masur and Mickey Rourke. This would have helped cut the final length of the movie and improved the central story line. 4. More romance. The story does lack a connection between the three main characters: Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken and Isabelle Huppert. Several critics have complained that the love interest between this romantic triangle could have greatly been bettered. 5. Edits, edits and more edits. Heaven's Gate has moments of pure beauty and epic scenes. How it is edited into a movie creates a long melodramatic story that baffles and goes nowhere. Although Heaven's Gate did have several final edited versions, the idea of a total re- edit, from its opening credits, to including flashbacks and rearranging scenes by manipulating the time sequence could have helped with the pacing of the movie. 6. Make Heaven's Gate into a 2 part movie if not a Trilogy. If the Studio made their single box office bomb into a 3 part epic, they had the chance of recouping their investment and keeping Cimino's vision of a 5 1/2 hour story. Along with option #5, editing the movie into 3 parts would have given the audience more time to digest the story and the vision that Cimino wanted to tell.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Snapshots of a Still - Slow - Simple - Sad Story
At first I complained about the abundance of establishing shots of the town. Not only does every scene open and end with an exterior shot of the town but throughout most of the scenes, we are witness to cut- away shots of the town. Why? As the movie starts to build, we start to understand that the pace of the movie along with the style of directing start to make sense. The movie is slow for a reason. Along with the acting, the pace builds up momentum as we start to learn about the plot. Later, as the story slowly unfolds, we learn more about the main character and the family dynamics that tell its own story. Manchester by the Sea is not a Hollywood movie. More like a Cassavetes movie, it does not begin or end. Instead, we start the story in the middle and abruptly conclude without a resolution. With that said, the movie successfully tells a story that the movie industry and most audiences don't appreciate. Therefore, Manchester by the Sea is a marvel of something you don't see everyday, even though it tells a somewhat simple story. Its the simplicity of many of the scenes that gives Manchester by the Sea its unique quality of a movie. The rawness of the simple characters in this simple town makes the movie real and interesting. If you like special effects with explosions, this is not the movie for you.
Summer of 8 (2016)
Empty Coming of Age Drama
Summer of 8 appears to be a modern day Summer of 42 with the backdrop of a modern day Eden being the beach side world of youth and endless possibility. Most "Coming of Age" dramas include the subject matter of saying goodbye, losing ones virginity or letting go of the past in order to grow up. While Summer of 42 captures the age of innocence along with the struggle of entering adulthood, Summer of 8 falls short far from anything serious let alone entertaining. For starters, the movie cast 8 actors in their late 20's to portray a group of 18 year old recent high school graduates. Not only are most of the characters hard to keep track since all are attractive and look very similar. None of them represent a broad picture of today's youth. All are from well-to-do families since all are well dressed, well spoken and hardly have any real problems since the only issue is being young and having doubts about tomorrow. Although the premise offers a universal issue facing every generation, the cast and overall story fail to attract a large audience that would really care about any of them. The phony love scene is not only absent from the audience view but unrealistic and basically just as empty as the plot of the story. At the end of this 85 minute very slow story, the audience is left cheated, knowing that the only reason they gave this movie a chance was because of the movie's poster. The image of girls dressed in bikinis caught their eye. The limited eye candy along with 85 pages of endless dialogue and monologues makes Summer of 8 want to be taken serious but is nothing more than an empty drama.
79 Minute Music Video
If you don't care about plot and only want to see eye candy, the Erotic Diary of Misty Mundae is just what you are looking for. Compared to most junk you find out there in the library of soft core porn, this little treat cuts to what the audience came to see. Forget about a real story or even a script, this visually driven story is more of a music video with re-edited scenes shown over and over again. Now don't be angry if you think this isn't a movie and that you've been robbed. Far from it, instead of having to bare corny dialogue or a story line that nobody cares about, the audience is given a treat of great visual stimulus. Nothing more and nothing less but the real reason why you would want to watch any movie with the word "Erotic" in it. Misty Mundae stars at the height of her potential. Her innocent sexy appeal is the main attraction. A true fan will no be disappointed. Misty shows us her "O" face over hundred times. Her multiple collages of sexy sex scenes and titillating montages reminds the audience why we are fans of hers. Her famous "tie" striptease is the icing of this soft-core cake.
Tiger Town (1983)
With Eyes of a Child & An Adult
I remember watching this for the first time on the Disney Channel when I was a 5 year old in 1983. What I recall watching was a 2 hour drama about a Boy that had magically powers that could make a Baseball player hit home-runs. Now, 33 years later I see Tiger Town for what it is, a 76 minute movie that deals with death, doubt, fear and the hope of believing in something that others don't. Watching as an Adult, Tiger Town does have its limitations as a movie, but also has several powerful moments which a Child would not notice or appreciate. The Father, Buddy, is obviously depressed and dying. Unable to find employment, unwanted to a degree, he can only shelter his Son from the large crowds and the rawness that Detroit was and still is. Moments shared at the Italian restaurant are very similar to the restaurant scene in the Bicycle Thieves as the relationship between Father and Son. The scene is very simple but beautiful. With the death of his Dad, the movie shows how lost and scared Alex is among the mob of the city. The large crowds at the ball game suffocates the audience as he tries to get to his seat. You feel how alone and sad he is without his Dad. The character of Billy Young is not just an old baseball player but a surrogate Father to Alex. The times he spent with his Dad at the ballgame is reflected in the hope Alex has for Billy. The ending cries a moment similar from the movie 400 Blows where Alex is left alone (in the end) at the empty ball park. The movie ends with Alex now able to start his own life. The prophecy that "Buddy" left for Alex has been for-filled. He can now believe in something else. Hopefully himself! Tiger Town showcases the bleak reality of life, Aka Detroit. We see the meanness in the streets and the characters. The city is imperfect. Alex is also imperfect. The home they live in, the school he attends. Nothing is perfect. Alex is bullied at school, looked down upon and ridiculed by many in the movie. Finding out his Father died by finding a room full of strangers in his house. Having strangers look down at him as he enters the ball park only adds to the truth that Alex is unwanted and alone. Nobody will give him 50 cents to ride the bus. Alex sits among people at lunch but doesn't interact. Alex needs to believe in Billy but more importantly, the struggle for him to believe in himself is the overall climax of the movie. Many of the scenes where Alex has doubt, we hear the same sad music play in the background. It is the same song that is playing when Billy Young runs toward home plate to score the winning run. It is these moments of doubt that you truly need to believe in yourself. That is the overall message of the movie.
Last Days in the Desert (2015)
Jesus the Therapist
The concept of doing a movie about Christ's 40 days in the Desert is very intriguing. The idea of His trials and tribulations being tempted by Satan and battling his destiny as the Savior of the world would fascinate any Christian audience. The character of Jesus the Man and not Jesus the Son of God is present. The audience is not witnessed to any miracles or sermons. Instead, we see Jesus the young Rabbi and Carpenter and instead of making grand speeches, we see a soft spoken Man trying to be a family psychologist as he tries to help a family He meets while in the Desert. This is very different from your average movie about Jesus Christ. As he tries to deal with being the Son of God he comes across a Father and Son that have troubles of their own. Jesus tries to help in more ways than one and this takes up about 80% of the movie. The movie has many odd moments including a few times when Satan messes with Jesus throughout the Desert. Although this is an interesting concept and I enjoyed the originality of the movie, I feel it falls short. The movie should have been all about the Desert and how it impacted Jesus. We really don't see a difference in Jesus or any character development by the end of the movie. The relationship between Jesus and Satan was also weird. They go from being Enemies, which is obvious, to almost sympathetic friends. Their relationship could have used some more time to focus on. Finally, my biggest gripe with the movie is the ending. I felt the last ten minutes should have been cut entirely. We witness the Crucifixion and the Burial, but not the Resurrection. This decision by the Director, along with having the modern day scene at the very end, is up for debate. Why he decided to include this needs to be questioned and defended. My only opinion on showcasing this is whether or not it is needed for the story line. After all, this is about Jesus in the Desert, nothing else. I felt the ending took away from the plot of what Jesus was doing for those 40 days and why it is important to the overall Character. I feel the movie failed to show us that. Granted we can make parallels between Jesus and God and the Father and Son characters. Still, from what transpires between the characters, is anything learned from their decisions? Overall, Jesus becomes more and more a side character as the Family takes center stage. If the theme of loyalty is the overall message from the movie, the question remains, is it obvious?
The Day the Clown Cried (1972)
Identity Over Ideology
I am reviewing the Day the Clown Cried after watching the recently aired German documentary that premiered in 2016. About thirty minutes of footage has been available to the pubic online. Although over an hour of the movie has still never been seen, or premiered to an audience, millions of interested fans remain eager to witness. Along with countless articles and interviews on the subject, a believe a review is justified. With that said, this review is focused on the many "hats" that Jerry Lewis wore in the making of The Day the Clown Cried. More than 40 years later, the reason behind him not making the entire movie public is more clear.
As the Producer, Jerry had to work with other financial people in order to make this movie happen. With multiple speculations along with recent interviews, it has been confirmed that Jerry had an uphill battle in order to make the movie happen. This alone can ruin a movie, let alone guarantee it to flop. In several scenes we see wonderful production value. Costumes, locations, props are historically accurate. In others, we see a lack of this. Some of the scenes lack substance due to lack of budget. Filmed in Sweden, you could tell that they did the best with what they had to work with. Many of the Actors work well while others are do not. This is a perfect example of some of the children in the prison scenes. Many are well cast while others appear like obvious local extras.
As Director, Jerry had successfully directed may Paramount comedies throughout the 1960's. His quality as a Director would have made him a well seasoned professional for the 1972 production. However, although the premise of the movie is about a Clown, The Day the Clown Cried is far from a typical Jerry Lewis comedy. Having been able to direct himself many times before was never a problem. Yet for a drama, this may have added to the pressure of producing a better performance for a drama.
As an Artist, one's pride can get the best of oneself. Whether you are from France or not, there is evidence to conclude that Jerry Lewis is a comedic genius. For decades, Jerry Lewis has made people laugh. As a professional, Jerry Lewis has pushed himself to get the very best from his performance and budget. Speculations have convinced fans that Lewis was taking drugs (pain killers) during the production of the Day the Clown Cried due to a physical ailment. I believe this made his performance both good and bad. In many scenes of the movie, we see this. Some scenes are emotionally driven with a real dramatic overtone of acting. I believe the emotional pressure of the film can been seen on Lewis's face during his performance. At times, you can see his character overwhelmed and losing hope. These moments are overpowering. Other scenes lack this quality for the same reason. Some scenes are quickly shot and are void of the same quality as before. This falls on the shoulders of the Director.
Finally, and most importantly, as a Jew, Jerry Lewis is quoted in the documentary about what that means to him and to what he was aiming to do with the movie's overall message. This Hat alone can overwhelm anyone making a movie involving the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg refused to take any payment for his work on Schindler's List because he felt it would have been blood money. The fear of a negative audience reaction to the movie is one thing to handle. It is something completely different if you are excommunicated and labeled for benefiting from the murder of millions. Jerry Lewis had the fear of not only ruining himself professionally but personally as well.
Each of these roles that Jerry Lewis held in the making of The Day the Clown Cried effected his decision to not release the movie. I believe it was a collection of these duties that made himself hesitant to be judged. With what is available to view, the movie has great merit along with great doubt. The fear of this movie being a disaster for 1972 is well defended. Then again, the idea of this movie being a masterpiece and one of Jerry Lewis's best, is also a realistic possibility.
The vision that Jerry Lewis wanted and got I feel were two different products. His Identity during the production and forty years later plays evident to just that.
One of Shandling's Last Appearances
After hearing of Garry Shandling's death, I recall watching this episode months earlier. It is shocking how much they talk about death and getting old. Reminiscing of the passing o Robin Williams and traveling down memory lane at the Comedy Store, it's touching to think that this was one of the last times we would see Garry Shandling. Watching Seinfeld and Shandling pay homage to the collage of photos of comedians that are on the wall at the Comedy Store, adds to the eeriness that man of their friends and comic partners have passed on. Jerry Seinfeld even says, "You have to die in your 60's to have people say, wow, he was young." Shandling later talks about what he wants at his funeral and writing a suicide note. Although entertaining and funny, there is a little bit of reality to why Shandling is talking so much about getting old and death. Garry later remarks as the two take a tour of their old studio that, "It's a different world and a different time." At the very end, Shandling talks about how he was mistaken for having died when talking to his doctor. By the end of the story, Shandling doesn't complete the sentence as the episode fades to black. A touching ending to his abrupt story.
The Three Stooges (2000)
Although the production value and the acting is great, the story- line keeps this movie from being great. Any die hard fan of the Three Stooges will want to watch this, but most fans will be left disappointed with how bad this movie got the story wrong. With what they could produce in under 2 hours, the movie showcases a multiple bio picture with thirty years of show business history thrown in. Still, how the Stooges are depicted and how history is depicted, leaves the audience the argument to disagree with every scene in the movie. Curly's health is touched upon, but his redemption as a Father and Husband is never discussed. Larry's back-story is hardly shown. This makes the movie central focus being Moe Howard. Still, much of Moe's background is never talked about. His depiction of a "has been" after the 1950's short series was far from the truth. Moe Howard was never un-employed or ever retired. The movie gets this wrong since Moe Howard was always working most of his professional career. In the end, the issue of money, fame or importance is never resolved. It is important that the movie mentions how bad the Stooges were treated by the Studio, but we never get to see the Studio's side to the story. The movie does show the human side to the Stooges which is good. Then again, depicting Shemp as a wimp and Joe Besser as a jerk is far from the truth. This is a fictional depiction of the three stooges and far from an accurate depiction of how these men truly were. Then again, compared to the 2012 Comedy the Three Stooges, this movie is much much better.
The Martian (2015)
MacGyver on Mars
If you are not a fan of MacGyver, this two hour plus movie is going to feel like five hours. Other than some moments taken from Mission to Mars, Apollo 13 and Gravity, Matt Damon plays Robinson Crusoe on Mars. If you believe that millions of devoted fans of NASA would flood Time Square to find out if this movie will have a happy ending, then you can believe anything. If you love the science and math behind space exploration, the Martian is a marvel. If you like your space odyssey to have aliens, laser fights and chase scenes, this movie is not for you. Unlike Sam Rockwell's Moon, Matt Damon is not completely alone. Half the movie is Matt only while the other half is filled with a colorful cast that you often see in comedies. Overall, the movie helps you to smile from time to time but is far from a comedy...or a musical.
Steve Jobs (2015)
Hollywood has given us five major motion pictures about an asteroid that is going to hit the Earth. Much like that plot line, I strongly believe Earth has enough movies about the life and times of Steve Jobs. Whether he be a madman or a genius, the audience has enough stories on Steve Jobs in their library. Aaron Sorkin brings us another well written "West Wing" quality script where people are walking and talking while taking and walking. Much like the movie depicts a sold out audience time and time again to applaud everything and anything that is and was Steve Jobs, movie's like this have a devoted fan base of fanatics that will wait in line for hours for an "App" that they do not need. Steve Jobs is at times entertaining and informative while also being empty and pertinacious. Time and time again the audience is asking the question, Why? Even with a good back story of why Jobs left Apple and why Jobs was the way he was, the movie leaves us asking time and time again, Why Why Why? Why do we need another Steve Jobs movie? Why are we showcasing the life and the man: Steve Jobs? And why do we not give Steve Wozniak the credit that he deserves?
Finders Keepers (2015)
More than just a Foot
On the surface, Finders Keepers is an odd and funny look into the lives of two interesting characters from North Carolina who fight over the ownership of a severed foot /leg. Although entertaining, this documentary is much more than just an out of the ordinary situation. The deeper we get into the background of the story and its characters, we witness a struggle for fame, forgiveness and family. Issues of drug addiction and childhood trauma appear as we see a deeper story that deals with regrets and poor decisions that have created a major journey that both characters travel through. An uplifting ending helps bring closure where it is much needed. Still, the odd scenario which Finders Keepers showcase, may not find a larger audience that this documentary deserves.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
A Beautiful, Expensive and Important Disappointment
Once Upon a Time in America is the perfect example of a Hollywood film that you hate to love. An obedient film lover will make a list of many reasons why this movie is great. Why it should be on your list of movies to watch and why it should be considered an important work of cinema can be debated and defended time and time again. Still, many will agree that the movie falls short in many ways to be considered a classic. Fans and critics will both agree that Once Upon a Time in American will easily confuse its audience without hardly any trouble. A period piece that jumps around from decade to decade will alone make the time-line confusing to any audience. Throw in character motivation and you have a roller coaster of confusion and endless questioning. With a blockbuster cast of some of the most talented names in Hollywood, and a legendary film maker, it's hard to acknowledge that the end result would be anything less that great. With Once Upon a Time in America, it is just that. Many will support the imperfectness that the movie is by showcasing the several different edited versions and why the final version came to being. Then again, whether or not each version tells a different story, the overall structure of the story still remains. No matter if we have 3 hour or 6 hour version, we are still left with empty characters from the very beginning. With all its faults and mystery that both versions have, the plot, the theme and many of its characters have holes. The potential Once Upon a Time in America had with its reach as a cinematic triumph, falls short from anything spectacular. What could have been one of the best 'American' films, falls among the many mobster flicks which does not do this movie justice. Although the cons do outweigh the pros, the movie holds up with many moments of beauty.