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Brokeback Mountain (2005)
"Brokeback Mountain": A Gay-Authentic Love Story
"Brokeback Mountain" is more than a 'groundbreaker'. The story involves two men, who have more than an 'affinity' in them. They truly love each other, but an ignorant society and negative influences very divisively tries to break and separate them (discrimination, family influences, folkways, hostility, ignorance, inflexibility, mores, narrowness, norms, oppression, anti-gay parenting, perceptions, perspectives, prejudice, non-family relationships, repression, rigidity, standards, inner and outer struggles, upbringing, and etcetera). Negative influences, and not the men's love for each other, are what makes the film uncomfortable and unsettling. Like "The Boys in the Band", the film infuses stark reality, and takes audiences outside of their 'comfort zone'. But, it is love that legitimizes and validates a gay relationship. Negative influences can hamper, but not necessarily destroy, a gay relationship that is brought together in commitment, dedication, and love (unless those directly involved allow them to). Love transcends death, and it continues into infinity. Although physical presence is not perceived in death, faith, hope and love are the abstracts that render a relationship to become concrete. If you believe, nothing is impossible. In life, or in death.
Some say that Heath Ledger is best remembered for "The Joker". That is not necessarily true. Others believe that he is best remembered for "Brokeback Mountain" and his sensitive, strong, anything-but-weak portrayal of a gay man who, sadly and unfortunately, believes that his gay relationship cannot be. No doubt the film was given an unhappy ending because of a belief that audiences would not accept two men (or two women) legitimately loving. Quoting an old saying, "Oh what a web we weave, when we practice to deceive." Remember that Hollywood is highly invested in making money. Conveying honesty or truth is not a prerequisite (example: in most 'cowboy and Indian' films, 'the white man' is rarely shown as 'the bad guy').
If one uses critical analysis when viewing this film, the gay cognitions of two gay men and their highly-charged emotions in a harsh and judgmental environment, will be better understood. Outside of the two gay men, in this film, gayness is not even tolerated.
Christmas on Division Street (1991)
"He's not a bum. He's my friend!"
This movie is not just a "tear jerker," it is an honest depiction of the homeless plight in America (right in our own home towns). People, some who are young children, are starving and dying. And, even those who are surviving become "invisible" (quote from the film). 'Paul Newmannites' continually teach me, more and more, about what real charity is (Paul Newman was a master of the acting craft--and a person, for charity, who 'put his money where his mouth is').
The most important lesson I learned from this film was Fred Savage openly and proudly declaring "He's not a bum. He's my friend!" Not surprisingly, Hume Cronyn (a great and legendary actor), gives a magnificent portrayal of an "invisible" homeless man who gives love and gets love. The end of the film sums up the plight of those who are homeless. We must trust some strangers, or we will never get to know anybody. To do this, I am required to come out of my "comfort zone," and share with others less fortunate than myself.
I am a physically-disabled man, living on a fixed budget, but I give every spare dollar to the homeless. And, I give to Westport Country Playhouse (one of Paul Newman's many causes), so that the poor can enjoy live theater at its best (Paul Newman once said that "theater is a sacred place").
This movie should be a classic, and shown on television every year, just like "The Wizard of Oz".
I Love You, Man (2009)
I love you, man. I love you, woman.
Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones make this film endearingly work. It is funny, it is sad, and it bring out the ironies of relationships.
Although the film contains stereotypes, which are not necessarily true, it makes one seriously think about homophobia, relationships with men, and relationships with women. Overall, I think that the film conveys the vital importance of having an open heart and and an open mind.
The film clearly conveys the vital importance of loving one's fellow man and woman. Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones really come through in effectively conveying this message. Like Sean Penn, Hollywood seems to be getting this message, and positively conveying it to the world.
Hate only brings more hate, but love brings a love that continues to help us to grow and grow as civilized human beings. Like "Milk", this film is a must-see, and I rank it a 10 out of 10.
Since President Obama has been elected President of the United States, I have seen God's true message of love (that we should love one another) accurately portrayed. We should strive to love, not hate, one another. This film is a strong bearer of this message, and I hope to see more films bearing such an empowering message. See this film with someone you love and, maybe, with someone you don't. Then, just revel in the power of love.
Last Chance Harvey (2008)
Dustin and Emma's time to shine, and they shine brightly.
Although I am not certain, I would strongly suggest that the script was especially written for Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Harvey Shine promises to dance his lady's socks off, and Harvey keeps his promise.
The performances are powerful and sensitive, and the storyline effectively deals with real-life issues. The script is anything, but boring, and the difficulty in establishing relationships is honestly portrayed.
This film is as much about real-life Dustin Hoffman, as it is about fictitious-character Harvey Shine. It is good that "The Graduate" has used his education and life experience wisely. "Rain Man" has learned how to smile through the clouds. He teaches us how to use our emotions to cry, laugh, and smile. No doubt, "Tootsie" helped Dustin and all of us to learn from our feelings.
"Last Chance Harvey" is not only a 'feel-good' film, but it is one that can get, or keep us, on track.
It such a relief that one can see a film without blood, gore, sex, and violence. I can only hope that Hollywood will make more films like "Last Chance Harvey", and I rank the movie a 10 out of 10. I came out of this film feeling good about myself and the people all around me. It is not Harvey's, or Emma's, or our last chance. The sun still shines, and the world is still a wonderful place.
Fatal Rescue (2009)
Stop and smell the roses.
This film is stunning, and is an award winner. It has the feel of a fantasy, in the midst of Michael's dark secret. There is denial in the midst of a real-life tragedy. This cannot be happening, but it is. Will the past keep two people from being freed in the present? Will a mother unlock the secrets that keep her from happiness? Will a father learn to stop running, and stay with the woman and son that he loves? Will a family be rescued?
You have to see this movie to savor the richness of genuine love. The road to life is sometimes laden with great difficulty, but is it worth the effort to overcome and experience the things that are cherished in life's walk? The film is riddled with many questions, but its ending provides much introspection.
Well done, and a Steve Guttenberg triumph beyond any cocoon. I rank this film a 10 out of 10. If you let out all of the stops, you will be able to release all of your emotions, and you will be able to appreciate the essence of life. Yes, stop and smell the roses.
What Happens in Vegas (2008)
Enjoy this very romantic and side-splitting movie!
Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher have great chemistry. So much so that, if they were to fall in love, in real life, it would be a believable and terrific marriage!
There is laughter throughout the movie. The entire audience laughed hysterically! And, there is plenty of romance and enjoyable moments. Diaz, Kutcher, Treat Williams, and the entire cast work well together. Most importantly, the film works for me, and for several audiences that I had the privilege of previewing with. It's good, clean fun and I think you'll enjoy it. The film, most definitely, deserves a higher rank than a 5. It's my kind of film, and I would like to see more films like this.
I rank the film a 10 out of 10 because the movie is well done. Bravo!
The Russell Girl (2008)
She's not just the Russell Girl. She has a first name.
Times flies. The last time I saw Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio--well, was when she was Tom Cruise's girlfriend in "The Color of Money". Now, she is playing a mother.
Without giving the plot away, the movie deals with guilt, denial, grief, and loss. Secrets are lethal, and they seem to abound in so many families.
This film is a sumptuous production. Only the likes of Hallmark and Playhouse 90 could offer such a magnificent presentation. There is a stellar cast, brilliant direction, and fine editing. The story is true to life, and naturally slow as the arduous events pull at your heart strings. This is a tearjerker, and you will need at least one box of tissue. Generously pass the Kleenex around because all of the viewers will need them. The timing is just right for some serious issues, there is actually some resolution, and the ending is a myriad of emotional fireworks.
I cannot praise this film enough, and rank it a 10 out of 10. This movie is a definite award winner, and a must see. But, it's not just a film for families. It's a film for singles, and everyone. But, to really appreciate this movie, you must be open to feelings, and be willing to deal with issues. Yes, life can be as difficult, as it can be rewarding. But, with just the right measure of love and support, we can rise to life's joys and its challenges. Bravo!
Yonkers Joe (2008)
An extraordinary story of bonding, love, and special needs. A must see!
I think that Yonkers Joe (2008) is an excellent movie--well acted, well directed, well done! Tom Guiry is not guilty of overacting. He wants to show audiences that, as a person with special needs, he does not belong with his father. At the end of the movie, Joe, Jr. and his father hug, showing their deep love for one another. Joe, Jr. does not belong in his father's world. He has his own world. He has his own friends. In his own world, he can make love as a complete man, and does not have to apologize for his sexual thoughts, feelings, or actions. And, yes, his father is a gambler. Joe, Jr. has enough intelligence and intellect to be aware that his father's world will not give him want he needs and wants. But, his father allows his son to win at something. And, this is a moment of great pride and high self-esteem for Joe, Jr. He is able to show, in a very concrete way, just how much he loves his father. Joe, Jr. can now go into the world with his head held high. He loves his father, and does not care how he makes his living, just as long as he continues to win. Joe, Jr. shows infinite faith and great pride in his father. Joe, Jr.'s father is his son's hero, no matter what, and there is a strong bond between them--so strong that even gambling cannot destroy their resilient bond. In Joe Jr.'s eyes, his father is a giant--and is not a common, ordinary hood. Christine Lahti's supportive performance is as riveting, as the performances of the father and son. Superb! I rank this movie a 10 out of 10.
Let's hear it for F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story: it's positively moving, and it's a definite winner!
Blanchette, Fincher, Pitt, Roth and a stellar cast make this film work. It is a masterpiece, spellbinding, and makes one really think about the miracle of life. It is a privilege, and we only go this way once.
I used to think that aging, and watching most of your family members and some of your friends die, and leaving you behind is one of the most sad things. And, yet, when I saw this film, Brad Pitt's character was getting younger, but he was still facing many of the same things-- in reverse.
The film left me with some very beautiful things. It's not about death. It's about life, and the fact that we have been touched by some truly charismatic, dynamic, and lovely people--in our journey through life.
Did I tell you the one about the fact I was struck by lightning seven times--and survived?!? Ah, the miracle of life! I rank this film a 10 out of 10. I don't know whether there will be Academy-award winners from this film, but I can only exclaim that this film is a definite winner for me. It touched every emotion, and there are some empowering lessons to be learned from this film. By all means, go see it. And, if possible, be with someone you love, share and pass-on the valuable moments you experience from this wonderful film!
Exit Speed (2008)
Hop on this movie's bus, get behind the wheel, and enjoy some wild driving!
I saw "Exit Speed" (2008), in Dallas, at Studio Movie Grill. What adds to the excitement is the presence of the cast and crew, who joined us, while the film kept us on the edge of our seats! I haven't had so much fun since "Jaws" kept people out of the water, and "Psycho" (the Alfred Hitchcock version) kept people out of the shower! David Rees Snell, who plays Danny Gunn (the bus driver), looks so cute--while standing in his underwear (he should be able to get plenty of babes)! Too bad that the director chose not to use the character throughout the film. David Rees Small would add more action to the film, and would make the movie even more interesting.
There were some things that could have been done differently. If the bus driver had not been killed, it would have added to the tension (driving the bus, while wounded, in an erratic way). The bus could have been driven by stunt drivers, and there could even have been some special effects. At some point, the survivors could have grabbed a gun, taken one of the motorcycles, and sought help (in this way, there would have been more survivors).
All of the cast and crew do a wonderful job, and the movie keeps us well entertained. And, Everett Sifuentes, who plays the Spanish-speaking Mr. Vargas, provides comedy relief and steals the show!
I hope this movie opens doors for these obviously artistic and creative people, who are very talented. There is plenty of action, and every cast member gives us his or her piece of the action. This movie may or may not be an award winner but, considering the fact that it was done on a tight budget, the film provides plenty of innovation and thrills!
It is worth seeing, and I rank this film an 8 out of 10. You've probably never had a bus ride like this!
Another disappointing Seann William Scott film of the "Animal House" mentality.
I just watched this, another in a series of stereotypical Seann William Scott films. In each succeeding film, he becomes more and more crude and vulgar. In this particular film, he shows his bare butt, while wearing an athletic supporter. I can only assume that, in his next film, he will give us a full-frontal shot of his sexual anatomy.
This guy really has potential, and I wonder when he his going to get serious about acting, instead of horsing around. There are consummate professionals, out there, like Jason Statham and Woody Harrelson. Both are too young to be legends, but they are constantly working hard to become masters of their craft. And, like Sean Penn in "Milk" (2008) and Nicole Kidman in "Australia" (2008), they are already showing the stuff that legends are made of. I only wish that Woody Harrelson could read my review, and take Seann under his wing. Woody is the most versatile, and constantly working, actor I know. Why? Because knows that an actor needs to be versatile, not only to survive in a tough industry but, also, to continually get better and better. Like legends Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman, Woody knows that an actor needs to keep perfecting his craft, while he is having some fun.
I'm just patiently waiting for Seann to get out of the "Animal House" mentality. An actor can only take crudeness, sex and vulgarity just so far, until the audience gets weary of it. I rank this film a 3 out of 10. I'm sorry, Seann, but a scrutinizing movie lover expects a lot more than you seem to be willing to give. Quit acting like a 'low life', Seann. Take yourself up to a higher and less-primitive level.
Seven Pounds (2008)
The film is incomplete and uneven, but the acting performances are worth seeing.
Academy Award® nominee Will Smith reunites with the directors and producers of The Pursuit of Happiness for the new drama Seven Pounds. Smith stars as Ben Thomas, an IRS agent with a fateful secret who embarks on a personal journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers. Rosario Dawson also stars. Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper and Woody Harrelson are too-sparingly featured.
The problem with this film is that it starts out slowly and, mid-way through the story, the viewer gets a chance to see what's going on. From the beginning, there is mystery and suspense, but the director fails to build the tension necessary to hold the viewer on the edge of his or her seat. There are seven strangers--but, with the exception of Rosario Dawson (who, like Will Smith, gives a riveting performance), the viewer never really gets to to know them. Because the script is not fully developed, the viewer never gets to know seven very impressive characters. Instead, the director incorrectly assumes that the viewer is going to be able to easily figure out the story line. But, in fact, the characters and the story are very complex.
Woody Harrelson, an incredibly versatile actor, plays an empowering and inspiring blind man. He's winning. He's someone the viewer wants to know. Woody takes the blind man to new and exciting heights. He does not play a dull, stereotypical blind person. And, he plays the blind person as an individual who is able to do extraordinary things. And, in the real world, there are such gifted individuals. Unfortunately, Woody and the other strangers (with the exception of Rosario Dawson) are relegated to cameo roles. This is sad because each of the seven characters have so much potential that they can make individual sequels of the original story.
The viewer gets a chance to know Will Smith's character, by putting all of the puzzle pieces together--but the film has, what I consider to be, an extremely disappointing ending. The finale is not logical, and does not live up to the character's potential, or what he is all about. The mystery and suspense completely unravels, and the viewer is left with absolutely nothing. The viewer is only left with the question why???
Because Will, Rosario and Woody work extremely hard to hold the whole thing together--in spite of a poorly-edited film and only a partially-developed script--I rank this film a 7 out of 10. With Alfred Hitchcock as the director, and an editor specializing in mystery and suspense, the film could have easily ranked a 10 out of 10.
Gran Torino (2008)
Another top-notch, Clint Eastwood film that entertains and teaches.
Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times: "Dirty Harry is back, in a way, in "Gran Torino," not as a character but as a ghostly presence. He hovers in the film, in its themes and high-caliber imagery, and of course most obviously in Mr. Eastwood's face. It is a monumental face now, so puckered and pleated that it no longer looks merely weathered, as it has for decades, but seems closer to petrified wood. Words like flinty and steely come to mind, adjectives that Mr. Eastwood ... expressively embodies with his usual lack of fuss and a number of growls." More praise for Eastwood comes from Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, who comments: "No one makes movies like Gran Torino any more, and more's the pity. This one, with Clint Eastwood as director and star, is concerned with honor and atonement, with rough justice and the family of man. It raises irascibility to the level of folk art, takes unapologetic time-outs for unfashionable moral debates, revives acting conventions that haven't been in fashion for half a century and keeps you watching every frame as Mr. Eastwood snarls, glowers, mutters, growls and grins his way through the performance of a lifetime." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News remarks that "it's clearly a career-capping work." Kenneth Turan in The Los Angeles Times writes that the movie "is impossible to imagine without the actor in the title role. The notion of a 78-year-old action hero may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Eastwood brings it off, even if his toughness is as much verbal as physical. Even at 78, Eastwood can make 'Get off my lawn' sound as menacing as 'Make my day,' and when he says 'I blow a hole in your face and sleep like a baby,' he sounds as if he means it."
There are at least four reason why I like this film: 1. Clint Eastwood shows that the character he is playing is willing to serve in a war-- and die if necessary--to preserve freedom (and he has a medal to prove it), 2. he has grown old and the whole world has changed (and everyone around him seems to indicate--in one way or another--that he is no appreciated or needed), 3. even with a transformation, he demonstrates that people tend to be reactive--rather than responsive--and are slow to change (this is particularly true with bias, discrimination, and prejudice), and 4. that tolerance can lead to understanding (he tries to give tough love, but he becomes softer in his response--instead of his reaction--after giving and receiving genuine love). It seems that everyone around him wants his Gran Torino and everything else he owns, before he even has died, instead of being interested in him. He lives in a community that is transformation, and he knows absolutely nothing about culture, diversity, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. He does know about aging, however (if nowhere else, he learns about it from people's adverse and negative reactions, everywhere around him). He isn't exactly treated with dignity and respect, so why should he treat anyone else with dignity and respect? And, trust must be earned.
If this is Clint Eastwood's last film, I can only say that that his performance, in this stunning film, is what legends are made of. There are some wonderful performances in "Milk" (Sean Penn), "Australia" (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), "Changeling" (Angelina Jolie and director Clint Eastwood), and "The Dark Knight" (a riveting performance by "Brokeback Mountain's" Heath Ledger). In viewing all of these films, there are performances that are not only superb, but they evoke every one of the emotions and carry the intellect and intelligence of human cognitions to the highest pinnacle of excellence. As a gay person, I must say that I am moved by Sean Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk, I am moved by the romantic chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, and I would be remiss if I did not mention Angelina Jolie's flawless and moving performance. But, I give the top honor to Clint Eastwood for giving us films that educate and entertain. And, "Gran Torino" (2008) is no exception. One cannot walk away from a Clint Eastwood film, without saying that they haven't learned something, or without saying (just like the legendary Ethel Merman used to sing) 'there's no business (quite) like show business'. I rank "Gran Torino" (2008) a 10 out of 10. Clint Eastwood's performance is more than another version of 'Dirty Harry'. In fact, his portrayal is reminiscent of the Paul Newman character in "Nobody's Perfect".
Surfer, Dude (2008)
You're invited to catch a wave, and enjoy the fun!
Surfing, dude? You bet! Woody Harrelson is an acting chameleon! Every time the camera lens focuses on him, he becomes a different character. I think that's what makes actors interesting, and Woody does it on the level of a skilled, consummate professional. In this film, Woody shows his comedic side, and he does it as his hilarious best! I'm very much impressed by Woody's versatility.
What I like about this film is that it's laid back, you enjoy the scenery, the waves, and the babes. The film makes me feel like a surfer bum, and I enjoy every minute of it!
Steve Addington (aptly played by Matthew McConaughey) has a dream to become a surfer in his very own, custom-designed kind of Eden. The continuity in the film is purposely confused, in order to give the viewer a feeling of Addington's initial frustration. His dream does not work out, to his satisfaction, in the film's beginning. But, thankfully, mid-way through the film a 'mermaid' saves the day, and Addington's dream sees a delightful 'climax' (if you'll forgive my unfortunate choice of words). Matthew has sex appeal, and he shows it, but not in a narcissistic way. Both Matthew and Woody show their love for the environment and, when the film ends, I just don't want to come home from the beach.
It is obvious that Woody, Matthew, and the entire cast had a great deal of fun while making this film. It becomes a delightful and somewhat zany surfing party, and the viewer is cordially invited to participate in the fun. Unlike "Tropic Thunder" (2008), there are no 'inside jokes'. Every move is caught by a camera lens, and the viewer is always 'let in' on each happening.
The film takes me, personally, back in time. And, it is a such a refreshing memory! I can almost hear the Beach Boys singing, and 'the Gidge' (Sandra Dee) is no longer lost. This film is my kind of paradise, and I rank it an 8 out of 10. Grab a surfboard, smell the salty air, and let's go surfing!
Let your heart shine!
"Milk" (1980) not only stands as a tribute to Harvey Milk and the Stonewall Rebellion, but for every person that has grieved and fought for gay civil rights. The gay movement has made a great deal of progress, but there is a long way to go. Yet, there is hope. Who would have thought, for example, that conservative New England would ever show compassion for gay people--and, yet, I say with great pride that my home state of Connecticut now grants gay marriage. Although gay people are where African Americans were, prior to when they got civil rights, African Americans serve as our role models in our fight for equality and fairness.
It is becoming apparent that the majority of gay people are united in faith, religion, and spirituality. Gay marriage is showing that we take commitment seriously, too. And, it is a blessing to see traditional vows being used in gay ceremonies. What are fight is all about, I think, is getting a piece of the piece. It is not about a takeover, or changing the world--but, rather, giving us a legitimate place in a society that is equally precious.
It is re-assuring to see Sean Penn so believably, and with compassion. He shines as Harvey Milk, and the radiance comes from his sincerity. It is very obvious that his heart is in the right place, and being a person with such humility, he captures the hearts and minds of many. It is also very gratifying to see so many people, outside of the gay community, supporting us in our fight for civil rights. It is very comforting to see a significant number of the same people standing beside us. Our fight is not about, and should not be all about religion. It is about accepting diversity, and about love. This whole thing is about getting to better understand each other, and to cheer each other on. It's not about turning the entire world gay--and, in fact, gay people only make up a minority of the population.
I am a tiny ant living in a huge colony of ants--but, as a gay person, I have an enormous degree of pride in our inherent goodness, and the good that we are able to do. But, it is good to see people like Sean Penn, Kevin Costner, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Paul Newman, Brad Pitt, and Heath Ledger further empower us. For such things, and more, I am greatly thankful.
Gus Van Sant's direction is flawless, and the performances by member of the cast is impeccable. The film is inspirational--and, hopefully, it will recruit others in our quest for civil rights and understanding. I rank this film a 10 out of 10. Please go see the movie. See it with a gracious heart and an open mind.
Swing Vote (2008)
Kevin Costner is a gentle, kind, and respectful man who makes the world a better place.
I think that this film shows that America is very divided, on some very crucial issues, and proposition 8 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I am a Connecticut resident, and have been for all of my life (over 61 years), but I cannot believe that conservative New England has more compassion for gay people than superficial liberal California. The film's weakest point is its inability to deal with any of the issues (abortion, gay marriage, a failing health system, euthanasia, the environment, the damage done by globalization, the high rate of unemployment, downsizing, a capitalistic country floating on credit and getting deeper and deeper in debt, the plight of baby boomer's who will be retiring within the next 10 years, conservation, the environment, and a country that is dependent on oil, etcetera etcetera). Yet, Kevin Costner is and has always been deeply respectful of all people of any color, creed, culture, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and spirituality. He is going, and has always gone deeper than Paul Newman, who believed that good fortune in life is dependent on luck. There are a significant number of people in America, who work very hard and seek the American dream, but always remain poor regardless of the groundless puritan work ethic. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer--and, increasingly, a growing number of Americans are existing below the poverty line. In America, there seems to be no balance, there is inequality, and there is unfairness. In the pursuit of happiness, there is shrinking liberty in a country that is supposed to be democratic. Apathy is increasing due to the electoral college and a representative government which is failing to meet the needs of all its people. The emphasis is on third-world countries, the war, and world affairs. Yet, increasing numbers of Americans are living on the streets, are going hungry, and some are even starving to death. I give credit to Kevin Costner for bringing the issues to the forefront of America by appearing in movies like "Dances With Wolves" (the plight of the Indians or Native Americans), the conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination (extending way beyond the Bush family), and "Swing Vote". Believe it or not, one vote does make a profound difference. And, Kevin Costner movies allow human beings to feel and think. Because of this, and Kevin Costner's constant respect for all human beings, I rank this film a 10 out of 10. Perhaps Americans cannot settle all of the issues overnight, but we can engage in compromise and negotiation. In hope, I believe, there will be a resolve. I am tired of being battered by the continual battle between the conservatives, the liberals, and religion. I am a moderate, but am always at risk and vulnerable walking in the middle road of America's rush-hour traffic. It is extremely dangerous and very risky being in the middle of the conservatives, the liberals, and religion. And, I am only a little ant in a huge colony of ants. I am neither wealthy, nor am I famous. But, the Kevin Costners, the Paul Newmans and the Elizabeth Taylors, of the world, do make a positive impact on reaching a higher quality of life. And, there are the Judy Garlands, the Heath Ledgers and the Sean Penns, of the world, who make life richer and empower pride in being gay.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
The girls can look at what the boys missed out on, but why?
All the boys seem to be sexually aroused by Mandy Lane. All the girls seem to be jealous of Mandy Lane. But, nothing seems to become of it, and this viewer wonders why? Mandy is beautiful and a magnet to every boy she meets, but we never get to know Mandy or any of the characters in the film. Mandy accepts an invitation, from her student friends, to go to a secluded ranch. Three boys and three girls drink and drug. In the film, the teenagers drink booze like its water, and take drugs to experience a psychedelic trip. And, there is absolutely no sex. In the meantime, the teenagers disappear one by one. But, the others are all drunk and high. Nobody, including those watching the film, cares or is at all concerned. Nobody, including the audience, seems to give a damn. Emmet, a fellow student, is the instigator of the entire event. There is a security guard, Garth (dashingly and handsomely played by Anson Mount), who guards and protects the ranch. Midway through the film, the killer is revealed, the tension is suddenly released like air let out of a balloon. The events are completely predictable, and the film just completely fizzles out. Mandy meets her match, but we don't ever know why--and, at the end of the film, there is still no sex. Does Mandy hypnotize the boys, or does she simply bore all of the boys and girls to their deaths? This absolutely-confused viewer can only conclude that Mandy wishes to get rid of the female and male competition--by killing off the manipulative girls and the nasty boys.
Is Mandy worth all of the attention? The director (Jonathan Levine) seems to think so, but this viewer does not. The able cinematographer (Darren Genet) provides some stunning images but, in fact, his focus seems to be on Garth, who is quite the stud. Not all of the boys love Mandy, or do they? If you want to be bored enough to find out how this film winds up, my advice is to sleep midway through film, until you see the temptress Mandy and Garth's bulging crotch. But, don't wait for anything to happen. Yep, you guessed it. Mandy remains a virgin, and there's still no sex. I rank this film a 3 out of 10, but not because of Mandy. Why? Because all of the girls love Garth, and all voyeuristic eyes seem to be on Garth in a compromising position. But unfortunately, girls and boys, this film never seems to get beyond a disappointing and incomplete sexual fantasy. Mandy goes to a secluded ranch, and nothing sexual ever happens. The audience is led to horror on a ranch--and cannot help, but wonder why?
Transporter 3 (2008)
Statham makes this film worthwhile, but not as good as the original.
Frank Martin (Jason Statham) returns--and, in this particular sequel, he is responsible for the safety of Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), an attractive and sexy Ukrainian woman, who is frisky--but, sometimes, rather disoriented. Frank and Valentina are traveling from Marseille to Budapest, with an explosive bracelet that's set to explode, if Frank or Valentina make the wrong moves. Talk about trying to put the pressure on! Frank initially growls, but Valentina finally gets him in the mood. Rudakova comes through, in the end, but she takes too long to deliver any kind of excitement. Frank's not gay, and he does have an insatiable appetite for women. It's just that Rudakova acts like she's an android. She's attractive, frisky and sexy--in a robotic sort of way--but she's got absolutely no emotions. And yet, Valentina wonders aloud, what's wrong with Frank?
I generally don't like sequels because they get weaker and weaker, for a variety of different reasons, as the saga continues. But, if done in the James Bond tradition with a strong male character that the audience can identify with, it really works. It doesn't work with Quantum of Solace (2008). It really can, and does work, with Jason Statham, who represents a kind of raw masculinity that the audience can, and does, identify with. Statham, a great martial artist, might even deliver James Bond to new and higher level. But, the director has to let Statham do Statham with class, style and an even-bigger budget.
Although I like the first Transporter best, there is still a great deal intact, but the director in this particular sequel (Olivier Megatron) keeps Statham from showing his stuff as effectively as he did, with class and style, in The Bank Job and the first Transporter. The reason, for this, seems to be in the difference of Megatron's directorial style than what was displayed in The Bank Job and the first Transporter. Megatron's timing and action does not keep up with Statham's rhythm and moves. Megatron slowly waltzes, and does not maintain the quick-moving pace of the choreography to Statham's sometimes frenetic beat.
Transporter 3 does have more grit, but not enough, to give Statham the artistic and creative freedom and space he needs, for Statham to pull out the stops and give it all he's got. Admittedly, Statham is just beginning to concentrate on his acting, as much as on his stunts, and that's good. Because Statham does have the potential for that which legends are made of, but he needs projects that show Statham's own acting style and versatility. Statham already displays greatness, but there is more left untapped, and he's not just another muscle man or pretty face. Sure, he's got brawn. And, yes, the women love him. But, Statham's got a brain. He's got a strong acting ability. And, not all of his muscles are between his legs.
Megatron is a good director, but he's not a good match for Statham. If Statham decides to continue on with the Transporter sequels, he needs a director like Louis Letterier. And, even if Statham decides to go onto another similar project, or different kind of role, he needs a director of "The Bank Job" caliber. Whatever he chooses, I hope that Statham chooses to take on a different kind of role. In this way, he will get a chance to show his versatility--and, just as importantly, Statham's will not caught in the spider webs of Hollywood stereotyping. The same, or similar casting, has vanquished many a great star's career.
Although better than Transporter 2, this third sequel has lost some of the first Transporter's energy, and I give it a ranking of 7 out of 10. With another director, better editing and faster action (with more closeups), I would have given it an 8 or 9. While not The Bank Job, this sequel is still worth seeing. And, Statham is what makes this sequel worthwhile. I particularly enjoyed the action scenes, including the absolutely funny and novel bicycle chase!
Nobody's Fool (1994)
Another Paul Newman and Jessica Tandy Masterpiece!
As a Connecticut resident, I had the rare privilege of meeting film great's Art Carney (who I best remember for TV's The Honeymooners and the Oscar-winning "Harry and Tonto"), Katharine Hepburn (who I best remember for "African Queen" and "The Philadelphia Story"), and Paul Newman (who I best remember for "Absence of Malice", the Oscar-winning "Color of Money", "Nobody's Fool", and "The Road to Perdition"). Eugene Wilder's "Our Town", the theater, and Westport Country Playhouse were also hallowed places for Paul Newman. He enjoyed the footlights and the stage, as well as movies. Indeed, Paul Newman is a thespian, who is a priceless one of a kind. Paul Newman's legacy lives on through his matchless performances and his wonderful deeds that continue on with Newman's Own, a exemplary example of commitment, dedication, humility, and selflessness. He gave his all, and he gave his best.
In Connecticut, Paul Newman is known as a "regular guy," but he is also known as a consummate professional, who is missed in Hollywood and around the world.
My favorite Paul Newman film is "Nobody's Fool" (1994)--and, indeed, he was "Nobody's Fool" in real life, as well as on the stage and screen. Quite frankly, I believe that Paul Newman deserves an Oscar for his moving and sensitive portrayal of Sully. The film is a tear- jerker--and my tears flow like a river, every time I view this movie.
Paul Newman is universally loved, and so it is quite a triumph for Paul Newman to play an unsympathetic, yet winsome character. Sully has got to be at least one of Paul Newman's greatest roles since the Oscar-winning "Hud".
This movie's superb qualities are definitely supported by Paul Newman's relationships with the interwoven characters throughout the film. But, it must be said that there are relationships that stand out. Jessica Tandy's superb performance, and her relationship with Paul Newman. Once again, through Jessica Tandy, we can see what is "Driving Miss Daisy". This movie is dedicated to Jessica Tandy, and this film great is also sorely missed. Sully's relationships with Rub and his own son: "Peter's my son. You're my best friend." And, then, there's Paul Newman's relationships to the matchless Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith. These are electric and magnetic performances generating the reflections of another Robert Benton masterpiece, the heartwarming "Places in the Heart".
But accolades go Paul Newman whose performance melts our hearts, as he changes Sully into a functioning, loving, responsible, and vital member of his community and the human race. But, this is not a surprise to me because, like Julia Roberts, Paul Newman is a hero to myself and to all of the people he continues to touch.
As Melanie Griffith triumphantly proclaims to Paul Newman, in "Nobody's Fool" (1994): "...(Paul Newman was, and continues to be,) a man among men." Paul Newman is that, and more. I rank this film a 10 out of 10. To Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy and all of the excellent cast members, I say 'Bravo'!
Read the book. It's so much better than the film.
I did not like the acting, directing, or screen writing in this dull and awkward film--but, primarily, the blame seems to be on Hardwicke and Pattinson. His characterization, however, was intriguing.
Stewart sulks a great deal. The best scenes were with her father. But, the sparks between Bella and Edward never seem to catch on fire.
Part of the blame seems to point to the film's lack of development. Relationships are or should be an integral part of the film, but there seems to be no attempt at getting to know what motivates and stimulates the characters.
The film lacks emotion and poignancy, moves too fast, and gets stuck on a subplot--which, in my opinion, could have been deleted from the start or edited out after viewing the rushes (if scenes mid-way into the film ended up on the cutting room floor, they never would have been missed).
Special effects were poor, but were obviously added to compensate for the poorly-developed script. Hardwicke came through with the teen, but was absent in some very-important scenes, but this may be a problem with the direction rather than the acting.
"Twilight" misses out on effectively probing the things that each of the characters wanted, but could not get. The film is a metaphor for sex, but fails to tell a compelling story to hold one's interest. Because the focus is blurred, there is little or no clarity. And, the film is not well grounded.
I rank the film a 6 out of 10--but, if the film was better developed, it would hold more promise. As is, the chemistry does not really work. "Twilight" ends up leaving its audience completely in the dark.
Role Models (2008)
A comedy with potential, but it just doesn't quite make it.
This film is about two screwed-up guys, who are court-ordered to work with hardcore misfit kids, and they try to use the blind-leading-the- blind approach to turn the kids' lives around for the better. Mid-way through the film, the guys have some success. Then, towards the end of the film, they screw-up again. At the film's finale, will the guys succeed?
Danny and Wheeler are the two guys that promote a high-energy drink with a rather moronic name. At the same time, they educate school kids about the pratfalls of drugs. Danny, a rather dull guy, claims to be unhappy with his life. During his time of unhappiness, he gets Danny in trouble. That brings the guys to Sturdy Wings, a kind of big brother/big sister program, in which the Wings do not seem to be too steady. The Wings would rather fly than stay with the program. There is a kid caught up in an adolescent type of medieval role play, and the other kid is just plain crude. To say the least, the guys do not seem to be a good match to deal with kids.
There are some good laughs, in the midst of all the crudeness, but the film could have been a lot of funnier. And, it could have been poignant--but, somehow, the Wings never get sturdy enough to get off the ground. The actors and the film miss their mark.
There is some deadpan, and a reminder of "American Pie". But, it's the supporting cast that really deliver (Jane Lynch and some actors from the Apatow realm). The jokes about breasts, and drawings of the genitalia, are inappropriate for a film about rehabilitating kids. Although they might fit in "American Pie", they don't belong in "Role Models". And, besides, such gimmicks just don't provide comic relief.
"Role Models" and Sturdy Wings do not get me positively anywhere, and leave me in suspended animation. I rank this film a 6 out of 10.
The House Bunny (2008)
An empowering uplift with some funny and ironic moments.
I am gay, I keep God in the center of my life, and God loves me. God has taught me to love the beautiful and the handsome--but, more importantly, he has taught me to love myself and others for what they are inside. This film positively reinforces what God has taught me. "The House Bunny" (2008) is a light comedy, but it's not silly. This film demonstrates that someone can have beauty or brawn, and still have a brain. And, that someone can be proud, rather than carrying around heavy and burdensome guilt. That's right, a person can have intellect, intelligence and pride. As a gay person, I respect the beauty, the intellect, the intelligence and the pride of women, even though my sexual preference is for men. As a gay person, do I despise and hate women? Absolutely not! In fact, I absolutely adore Shelley (Anna Faris) and Hugh Hefner. I continually read everything that I can get my hands on, and am an avid subscriber of Playboy Magazine. Years ago, I was a volunteer for the Salvation Army, and the Playboy Club generously contributed to help others. Like Paul Newman, Hugh Hefner has quite a heart and quite a mind. Both Paul Newman and Hugh Hefner have an extensive history of charitable philanthropy. I'll never forget Paul Newman or Hugh Hefner for their generosity. I just happen to be physically disabled and, when I was a young boy, the Salvation Army left a gift package at my front door. My family was poor, and my mother had just died of ovarian cancer. I was only 12, and my mother was only 39 years young. My mother--the matriarch of my family--was my sun, my moon, and my stars. Her death was quite a loss, and the Playboy Club lessened that loss by contributing to the Salvation Army. And, Hugh Hefner even let June Allyson (my heroine, since I was a little boy of 5) stay at his home (Mayfair) in London. Years later, Paul Newman opened the Hole in the Wall Camp (near my home in Ashford, Connecticut) for the disabled and terminally ill children. Because of Paul Newman and Hugh Hefner, I found love at or close to my front doorstep.
In "House Bunny" (2008), Shelley (Anna Faris) is abandoned as a baby on someone else's front doorstep. Like Steve McQueen (in real life), Shelley's only childhood home is an orphanage. But, as she physically develops, Shelley finds herself becoming more and more likable. And, as destiny or fate would have it, Shelley finds happiness and a family at the Playboy mansion with Hugh Hefner. Through a comedy of errors and ironies, Shelley becomes a sorority mother. And, through her guidance and wisdom, she guides the sorority girls in finding their rite of passage in the beauty of their inner and outer selves, in those around them, and in the wisdom of the world.
The entire cast is marvelous--including Anna Faris, Katharine McPhee, Rumer Willis, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D'Angelo and, last but not least, Hugh Hefner. The costumes are very delightful, and so are the sets. The script is funny, appropriately showing the joys, the disappointments, and the ironies of life. Both the cinematography and the direction are good.
"The House Bunny" (2008) is definitely an empowering uplift--which, I think, those over PG12 will enjoy--and I rank the film an 8 out of 10.
Eden Lake (2008)
A film for those who rank '8, 9, or 10 (out of 10)' for the use of anger and violence.
This film seems to be rated by its use of extreme violence. Those who allow the violence, whether they object to it or not, seem to rank the film the highest with an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10. Yet, the film introduces a series of issues it never resolves: illegally entering an area that has been bought by a developer (an area that was formerly a public park), the use of a boom box playing extremely-loud rap music, a couple that is extremely-intimate in front of under-the-legal-age children, and a legal-age male engaging in labeling or name calling (I believe the stereotypical term 'dick' was used). An equally-horrific scene is the killing of the children's dog. Whether the killing was an 'accident' or not, being 'sorry' for the killing is not adequate.
Two or more wrongs, on either party, do not make a right. Granted, it was not right for the children to puncture the tire on, or steal, the couple's car. But, it is not right for the legal-age male to enter the children's home without permission. There is plenty, in this film, to incite both sides--and, thus, 'fuel the fire' (anger) and engage in violence. Both parties, at various times in the film, are persecutors. And, at other times, are victims.
The rebellious children are at the age of defying authority. Couldn't the adult female, a teacher, see that? It seems that at least one member of the couple should have been able see that trouble was ahead, and they should clear out. But, after the children puncture the tires on the couple's car, they go back to Eden Lake for more--and further 'fule the fire' (anger) and the use of violence. The use of anger and violence, no matter on whose side, never solves a thing.
Somehow, the film seems to side with the couple because they have 'squatter's rights', but the under-legal-age children (who also engage in anger and violence) have no 'rights'. The couple can be 'intimate' on private property, but the children can not play (loud) 'rap music' on the same piece of private property.
I am not saying that the under-legal-age children are right for what they do, in the film, but there is a legal matter of both parties entering private property. If either party had respected the private property, the anger and the violence (depicted in the film) wouldn't have happened at all. By not respecting private property, both parties become persecutors and victims. As such, I can not find innocence on either side, and I rank this film a 1 out of 10. The children depicted in the film are 'rebellious', but the adults depicted in this film are 'brainless'. I am tired of films that continually glorify lust, anger, violence, and the 'gloom and doom'. Lust is not the same as sex, and sex is not a substitute for love. And, violence--even when shrouded in anger--is not a substitute for good acting, good direction, and a well-written script. This film justifies 'the ends' for 'the means', and ends up saying that the use of anger and violence is okay, if an immediate resolution cannot be found. Such a message is not only faulty, but is completely untrue.
Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
If the Devil Makes Spike Lee do it, there's a reason for some Hell raising.
A.O. Scott in the New York Times, while agreeing that the movie "sometimes stumbles under its heavy, self-imposed burden of historical significance," suggests that this war movie, except for darker faces, is not all that different from war movies of the past. He writes: "Mr. Lee sticks to the sturdy conventions of the infantry movie, adapting old-fashioned techniques to an unfamiliar, neglected story. And the cinematic traditionalism of "Miracle at St. Anna" is perhaps its most satisfying trait. At its best, this is a platoon picture, and if it's not exactly like the ones Hollywood made in the late '50s and early '60s, that's part of Mr. Lee's argument: it's the movie someone should have had the guts or the vision to make back then. Better late than never." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, while also expressing criticism about some of Lee's scenes, concludes: "The scenes I object to are not evidence of any special perception I have. They're the kind of scenes many studio chiefs from the dawn of film might have singled out, in the interest of making the film shorter and faster. But they're important to Lee, who must have defended them. And it's important to me that he did. When you see one of his films, you're seeing one of his films. And "Miracle at St. Anna" contains richness, anger, history, sentiment, fantasy, reality, violence and life. Maybe too much. Better than too little."
I am of Italian descent, and so are my relatives, but none of us are offended by Spike Lee's film. The movie honestly depicts the heavy cost of discrimination and prejudice. The fact is that blacks, right up to the time of Civil Rights, were treated as second or third-class citizens--just the way gays are treated now. A significant number of blacks died during the war, but rarely was one of them given a purple heart. And, none were given recognition for their sacrifices. Italians, remaining in Italy, had to survive. Some were fascists. Some were anti- fascists. Some Germans were pro-Jewish, but they feared for their lives, and dared not to turn against Hitler and the fascists. Some whites were treating blacks like trash. Yet, blacks were fighting for America and freedom. Some Italians accepted the blacks. Some Italians did not, but blacks immediately noticed that they were treated better by the Italians, than they were by the Americans. Some Italians resented Americans invading their native soil--regardless of their race, color, or ethnicity. Additionally, some members of the same racial, ethnic, and cultural group don't even get along. It is clear that human beings, in general, have a lot to learn about treating each other with dignity, respect, love, gentleness, and kindness. Nobody wins in a war, not even in a war of discrimination and prejudice. Spike Lee tells it like he sees it, and through the sharing of his thoughts and feelings. He tells a story of oppression, richness, anger, history, sentiment, fantasy, reality, violence, and life. Sometimes, life is ugly and is anything but white-washed pretty, or made better by being politically correct. Spike Lee is to be praised for telling a story that is not white-washed pretty or politically correct. I don't think he tells us too much. I think that Spike Lee tells us what--he thinks-- we need to see, feel, and hear. And, through Spike Lee's voice, he tells us what is important to him. Like Roger Ebert, I defend Spike Lee's right to do so.
I rank this film a 10 out of 10.
Christmas Cottage (2008)
A sumptuous production worth seeing!
This film, co-produced by Thomas Kinkade, is as beautiful, natural, and true-to-life as his paintings. Michael Campus, the director provides a breathtaking and memorable reminder of the Christmases of old. This, in addition to the capable writing of Ken LaZebnik, adds to the color of the Christmas story. Jared Padalecki (Thomas Kinkade), who provided a great deal of the emotion and feel of the movie, is a gifted actor. He shows much promise, and it is hoped that a brilliant and long acting career is in his future. Peter O'Toole (Glen Wessler), another gifted and sensitive actor, provides 'the light' for this and many superb performances. Mr. O'Toole is probably best remembered for his award- winning performance in "Lawrence of Arabia". And, it is always good to see Charlotte Rae and Ed Asner, who greatly add to this and many winning performances. Marcia Gay Harden's inner beauty, and outer loveliness, come through in this film. This is a feel-good movie, which does present like a Hallmark Christmas card, but I think that this quality only adds to the presentation. Thomas Kinkade has his own unique style, a brilliance that increasingly illuminates his work. This, along with the spirit of Christmas, makes this film worth seeing. There is empowerment in the story--which, in my opinion, makes this movie deserving of no less than a 10 out of 10. Enjoy the film, and see it with someone you love. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!