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L'insulte (2017)
6/10
A bit too melodramatic
20 May 2018
I was expecting a lot more of a film that was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and I'm surprised that as of this writing (about 20 reviews), only one IMDb review was negative. I'm sure a film like this in Lebanon is groundbreaking, but researching this film on IMDb, it looks like it didn't even win any awards in the Lebanese version of the Oscars, although nominated. I don't know exactly what is allowed in a Lebanese courtroom, but it seemed there was a lot of unrelated issues being litigated, which didn't seem very believable. The film was just too heavy-handed and melodramatic for me.

The one positive thing I'll say about this movie is Rita Hayek, who has the possibility of being a real breakout star in international cinema if that's something she wants. She can act, and is gorgeous.
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She's Gotta Have It (2017– )
6/10
Mixed bag...
15 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The good: Spike Lee has a unique visual style that is impressive to watch. His shots of Brooklyn are gorgeous. And unlike many others, I thought the actors/actresses did a very good job, especially the actors/actresses playing Nola Darling, Mars Blackmon and Jamie Overstreet. The final episode, where they all spontaneously break into a choreographed dance to Prince's "Raspberry Beret" was the highlight of the series, and maybe the best scene of this kind since Travolta and Thurman danced to "You Never Can Tell" in "Pulp Fiction."

The bad: What has killed his career is that he can't keep his far-left political views out of his films. Episode 8 opened up with about a five minute trashing of Donald Trump that was completely unnecessary. Episode 9 showed a white woman calling the police to remove a homeless man from sitting outside her property who may have also vandalized her property by painting something on her steps. The white woman and the police were made to look like horrible monsters, and that it was wrong to remove the homeless person in this situation.

Of course, some people will probably agree with Lee's political views, so they'll probably really like this series. But I'm guessing that group will be niche. So as for me, I'm still not sure if I'm going to give Season 2 a chance when it appears on Netflix in either 2018 or 2019.
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5/10
Not bad, but incomplete
15 April 2018
Like many, I watched this documentary on Netflix after I saw the Netflix drama series with Alison Brie about GLOW. I was in my mid-20s when GLOW was on TV in the mid-80's, so I knew something about it. So I was a bit disappointed in this documentary. It was really hard to get a sense of what the series was like during that time. The documentary focused on a few of the wrestlers (such as Mountain Fiji and Matilda the Hun), but I remember a few other notable wrestlers in that series (including the no-longer-politically correct heel from the Middle East called Palestina), and they weren't talked about at all.

The problem with this movie is that without David McLane (the creator of GLOW) or Matt Cimber (the director of most GLOW episodes) participating in this documentary (they both apparently refused when asked to participate) there's just a lot that isn't there. It kind of reminded me of the documentary "Disgraced" about the murder of a Baylor college basketball player by one of his teammates, when they got refusals to participate from Baylor University, most of the teammates, and most of the attorneys who worked the case. That left much missing from the film, as is the case here.

I understand that you work with what you can work with, but there is always the risk that the result is not as good as it could have been. And that is what the case is here.
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The Larry Sanders Show (1992–1998)
10/10
One of the all-time great shows...
5 April 2018
...and I say that as someone who thought Shandling's earlier show on Showtime, "It's Garry Shandling's Show" was pretty bad. Because this series was on HBO in the 90's rather than on one of the three major networks, I know that not very many people got to see it. I heartily encourage anyone who hasn't seen it to do so. I very rarely laugh out loud watching TV shows, but I did numerous times throughout it's run. Because it was on HBO, the language is R-Rated, so if you're offended by that, I guess you shouldn't see it. But I thought that's what made it so good, because you got stars playing themselves talking in a way that you wouldn't hear them on talk shows or on publicity tours. And Jeffrey Tambor as the insecure sidekick may not have leading man looks, but has superb acting chops instead.
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Corporate (2016– )
8/10
Funny for just about anyone.
5 April 2018
Even though this show got very good reviews, it is shown on Comedy Central in America. I'm in my 50's, and let's just say I don't think I'm someone that Comedy Central is targeting to watch their shows. However, from the start of Episode 1, I thought this series was very well-written, and very funny. Most of it is deadpan humor, but I very much enjoyed it. All the actors/actresses are very good, but I'd say my favorite is Lance Reddick who plays the CEO of Hampton Deville. My favorite Episode in Season 1 was the one about Casual Fridays, which is probably the funniest show I've seen on TV since watching the homage to Mrs. Doubtfire episode on "Broad City" in 2016.

I'm not sure how many people are watching this show, as it seems to have zero cultural buzz. But it is well worth watching, and I very much look forward to Season 2!
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The Thieves (2012)
6/10
Kinda convoluted, complicated and long
25 February 2018
This looked like a fun movie from the trailer. As my rating of "6" shows, it wasn't that bad, but it could have been much better. As others have noted, the film is very long, and could have been cut down by 15-30 minutes, which would have made it tighter. And as is the case with many films in Asian cinema, this film gets extremely complicated and convoluted on just who is doing what to whom, so it gets very, very confusing at times. You really need to keep your focus to follow most of the picture.
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The Big Sick (2017)
4/10
Unfunny, and a very poor "acting" job by Kumail Nanjiani
3 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Based on a true story, we see that Emily Gordon, the love interest in this movie was played by Zoe Kazan. I would suggest that the role of Kumail Nanjiani should also have been played by someone else. Now, one would think that it shouldn't be hard to play yourself, or a reasonable facsimile of yourself. But he seemed painfully unprepared to play himself(!), and came off as extremely unlikeable. That is the crux of the problem of this movie for me. If we don't empathize or like Kumail, we really don't care what happens to him. And I didn't care.

And since we knew that they are married in real life, there was absolutely no dramatic tension for me that she was going to die or be disabled, and that when she says she wants to break up with him and doesn't want to see him again, well of course we knew that wasn't going to happen!

The only positive thing I can say about this movie is the performance of Holly Hunter, who is fantastic as Emily's Mom. Ray Romano as Emily's Dad also does a good job. I also think that Nanjiani does a fine job on the TV series "Silicon Valley," but he did a terrible job in his own movie.
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Tramps (2016)
7/10
Great chemistry between the two leads
20 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
We've seen the theme of Tramps played out before in other movies...two lonely people beaten by life meet each other and find love. However, in Tramps, both Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten are both physically attractive and have excellent chemistry with each other, and the film works. The characters are also handled very sensitively, especially Ellie (Grace Van Patten) who transforms along the way in a very believable manner.

It's not going to win Oscars or Golden Globes, but is definitely worth a look. And it's only 83 minutes long!!
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I am Jane Doe (I) (2017)
5/10
It's really more about Backpage than it is about child sex trafficking
11 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As a couple of others have already noted, this film should have been titled, "The War On Backpage." While the film does talk about child sex trafficking, that really isn't the thrust of this movie. Therefore the way this film is positioned and marketed is highly misleading. If I knew this film was about Backpage.com, I doubt I would have watched it, which I'm sure is why the film is being positioned the way it is.

The primary thrust of this movie is about how Backpage has a personals section where there is de facto child sex trafficking, and that this should be stopped. So we keep on seeing lawsuits against Backpage, but Backpage keeps winning based on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Now, the obvious solution (at least to me), is that Congress should modify the law, and perhaps give a "carve out" to make it criminal to publish this type of thing. But that would be too hard for Congress, as companies like Google and Microsoft don't want that law to be touched. So Congress isn't blamed here, probably because Senators like John McCain, Claire McCaskill and Rob Portman were cooperative with the filmmakers. Instead, the judges are blamed for siding with Backpage. So the film leans toward it being the judges' fault, because this is clearly wrong, and they should be more activist.

The film is earnest enough in trying to make its point, but that doesn't mean it's a good movie. If you're really interested in seeing a movie about child sex trafficking, watch "Abduction of Eden" (sometimes just called "Eden"), which stars Jamie Chung and is based on a true story. It is a harrowing, upsetting movie to watch, but I thought it was magnificent. I thought I would see a documentary perspective of something similar to that, but that is not at all what is going on here.
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Big Little Lies (2017– )
9/10
...but it's a shame that female critics have politicized the notion that men who didn't like this series are sexist
30 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As a white American male, I really liked this series. The acting is superb by just about everybody, and especially Witherspoon, Kidman, Skarsgard, Dern, and Kravitz. Another performance that was very strong but is hardly mentioned is Robin Weigert as the therapist (note: I am not related to or friends with Robin Weigert!). However, I must admit that I came very close to turning this off after the first 10 minutes, as the Reese Witherspoon character of Madeline is unbelievably annoying. Thankfully, I hung in there, and Madeline becomes more likable, and the series is just so very good.

I read the book after I saw the series, and the biggest difference is that the book takes place in Australia, and with the exception of Perry and Celeste, the people living there are much less affluent. I thought the book was better, but the TV series worked very well.

However, the problem I have is the female TV critics who decided to politicize men's reactions to this series. Specifically, if men didn't like this, then they were sexist. As a white male, I liked the series because I thought the acting was good, and it was an entertaining story. I can guarantee that I wasn't patting myself on the back during this series telling myself what an evolved guy I was because I liked the show. Maybe some men (and I'm sure some women), didn't like it because they just didn't like it. As we all know, you can check IMDb ratings for just about any highly acclaimed movie or TV show, and there will always be someone who dislikes it and rates it a "1" or a "2." If you're a male and didn't like it and rated it a "1" or a "2," you shouldn't be branded as sexist for this opinion.
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One Mississippi (2015–2017)
6/10
Season 1 = Very Good; Season 2 = Not Good
20 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I gave this a "6" rating, because I would have put Season 1 at a 7 or 8, but Season 2 is about a 5. And for me, that's a big difference.

Season 1 was very interesting, and certainly unique. It explored the death of Tig's mother, and her being sexually molested at a young age. Despite all that, it had its moments of understated humor, and John Rothman as the anal-retentive step-dad stole most of the scenes he was in.

So what happened in Season 2? Where to begin. First of all, as others have already noted, there were quite a few anti-Trump references in the show, which seemed wholly unnecessary. Secondly, Notaro's character became much less likable. Thirdly, they gave more emphasis to the supporting characters this year (her brother, and the aforementioned anal-retentive step-dad), and quite frankly, they weren't very interesting. Fourthly, the first season had a lot more "fantasy sequences" coming out of Tig's fertile mind, and this season, there was very little of that. Fifthly, the show had far fewer funny moments compared to last year. Finally, and most importantly, the main story arc of the series was whether Tig's sound engineer on the radio show (Stephanie Allyne, Tig's partner in real life), would come out as a lesbian and be with Tig. It was all very, very predictable.

At only six episodes per season, you can blow right through them, which is what I did for Season 2. Because I assume Season 3 will also be 6 episodes, I'll give it another chance. But now it is on a short leash.
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Risk (I) (2016)
4/10
It's no Citizenfour...that I can tell you
9 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
While my political perspective is much different from Laura Poitras, the director, I was able to appreciate "Citizenfour" and could see why it received such acclaim.

Not so with this one. Just a sloppy, haphazard effort. Supposedly this was filmed over a 6 year period, but it would have been nice if there were some markers along the way telling us which year that which things were happening. If it's difficult to judge the years now, imagine 10- 20 years from now, when this is less of a "hot topic" issue.

Although Poitras is clearly on the side of what Wikileaks does, she still makes Assange come off as a real sexist jerk. And his #1 assistant, Sarah Harrison, comes off as a Stepford Wife that has apparently drunk gallons and gallons of Kool-Aid.

Obviously, it is hard to ignore the politics of a film like this when reviewing it. If you agree with the politics, you'll probably be more supportive of this film. If you don't agree with what Wikileaks is doing, you'll view Assange and company as smug, self-important hypocrites.

After I saw the film, I was reading up about how this film was re-cut after being shown at Cannes, where Poitras had a change of heart on how she had previously shown Assange, and decided to now show his more sexist side. Similar to the change in perspective of Jacob Applebaum, whom Poitras was apparently sleeping with during a portion of this six year period, and then he was later accused of sexual misconduct. A film about all of that would probably have been a more interesting story than what we saw in the film.
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7/10
Maybe the Answer was "All of the Above"
3 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Although I always admired Whitney Houston's incredible talent, I was never a huge fan of her music. However, once her death was announced, it saddened me more than any other famous person who had died. Maybe because we are both about the same age, or maybe because someone so beautiful and so talented left us in such a tragic way.

Living in New Jersey (where she had a house), there were always rumors about her sexuality. I always thought her inability to "come out" was the primary reason for her sadness and drug use,and ultimately her death. But after watching this movie, it seems that there are multiple reasons, including her adjustments from a poor life to a wealthy life, her early drug addictions that continued, and her family members who didn't have her best interests in mind. I never thought Bobby Brown was the primary reason for her downfall, which seems to be supported by this documentary.

All in all, a very sad documentary, but if you're interested in Whitney Houston's story, it's a definite must-see.
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Cape Fear (1991)
9/10
Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
27 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Scorsese's career has been one where there have been many ups and downs in the quality of his films. But I thought he hit it out of the park with Cape Fear, and I thought it was the best film of 1991, as well as one of the scarier pictures I have ever seen. I know people in 1991 went crazy over The Silence of the Lambs, but I thought Cape Fear was far superior to this.

I'll be the first to say that the De Niro character was at times a bit over-the-top, and was portrayed in a near super-human way at times, which stretched credulity. Nevertheless, there were so many good things about this movie that I was able to overlook that. Juliette Lewis was great in one of her first major film roles as the free-spirited daughter of Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange, and definitely deserved the Oscar nomination that she received.
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9/10
Underrated in America
27 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Along with Capturing the Friedmans, I thought this was the best 2003 release in America. In 2003, everyone talked endlessly and breathlessly in the USA about Mystic River or Lost in Translation, but I felt Dirty Pretty Things was far superior. I think the story was extremely interesting, and when the twist at the end happened, I didn't see it coming at all, and that's a great thing when you watch a movie like this. This was probably considered Chiwetel's Ejiofor's first significant role, and he was great in it. And Sergi Lopez knows how to play a great bad guy. Audrey Tautou and Sophie Okonedo also did a good job in supporting roles. All around, just a great effort by Frears
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3/10
Interminably slow
26 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
After watching the first few minutes of this film drag on and on and on, I had a feeling this was a bad omen for what the rest of the film was going to be like. Sadly, I was correct. I could barely keep my eyes open watching this, although now that it's over, I'm wide awake. What does that tell you?

Perhaps if I was more of a jazz aficionado, I would have appreciated the music, and thus this movie, much more. But the film was rated so highly by critics that I didn't think that would matter very much. My mistake. So the nicest thing I can say about this movie is if you're a big fan of classic jazz, you might enjoy this better than I did. Or not.
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10/10
I suppose I'm one of the few who saw this before TMI happened
20 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
According to Wikipedia as I compose this review, the Three Mile Island accident happened 12 days after the release of this picture. I remember seeing it the Friday night it opened, and it blew me away. Over time, I think Apocalypse Now has become the better picture of 1979, but at that time, I thought it was the best film of 1979.

The problem with this movie was that it became more of a political movie after TMI, rather than the thriller with which it was originally intended. It's of course impossible to view this movie without factoring in what occurred at TMI. You can't "un-ring the bell," as they say. I was lucky to watch it without the taint of TMI, but of course, not too many people can say that.

Jack Lemmon has the performance of the movie. I'm a fan of Jane Fonda, but I didn't think she was plausible in the role of a TV reporter.
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The Lovers (I) (2017)
2/10
First it was excruciatingly slow, then it finished with a big dose of pretentiousness
20 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The critics loved this movie, and the premise seemed funny...a married couple who are both cheating on each other, rekindle their romance, and "cheat" on their lovers! Unfortunately, none of the promise of this plot was ever realized. The first half hour is excruciatingly slow, with hardly anything at all happening. Towards the end, when their adult child and his girlfriend come to visit them, it's not bad. But then everything falls apart, and the cheating husband gets on the house piano, and sings a song about love. Really.

Tracy Letts, who I used to like in Homeland, is way out of his league in this movie. It's interesting to see Debra Winger after all these years, but she does nothing to make this role "her own." Dozens of actresses her age could have played that part, and we wouldn't have seen any difference.

All in all, you'd be wise to skip this one. I sure wish I did.
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10/10
One of the best films of the 2000's!
18 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
...and also one of the rare cases where the movie is better than the book that it's based on, and I think the book is very good. Helen Fielding wrote both, and her screenplay is very funny, and very clever. Zellweger is of course fantastic as Bridget Jones. There are so many great scenes, but my favorite one is probably the dinner party sequence where she's the only single person, and the overly enthusiastic pregnant couple makes her feel really bad about being single. But then Mark Darcy comforts her, and tells her that he likes her "just as you are."
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10/10
Which tot was abducted? Nathan Jr....I think.
18 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When I saw this in the movie theater in 1987, I laughed out loud numerous times, which is something I rarely do when I go to the movies. I realized at the time that this was probably the funniest movie I had ever seen. But since I was still relatively young at the time (under 30), I assumed that I'd eventually see something that was even funnier.

Fast forward to 2017, and this is still the funniest movie I've ever seen, so I guess I have to give it a 10! I'm not one of those people slavishly devoted to the Coen brothers, but I'd say Raising Arizona and Fargo are their best. However, they've had some duds as well (Burn After Reading, anybody?). But I do admire their fearlessness to take on many different genres.

I thought the script for Raising Arizona was fantastic, and I thought they would be making other very funny movies in the future. Alas, that hasn't been the case. In terms of being funny, I thought Intolerable Cruelty was a distant second. Fargo is probably their very best, but the humor is a lot more subtle and nuanced.
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Ghost (1990)
9/10
Anyone who's able to make me like Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg in a Movie Must be a Genius
17 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The most interesting thing about this movie before it was released in the Summer of 1990 was that there was no hype about it. I remember that Premiere Magazine did their annual Top 20 prediction list of what would gross the most money that summer, and Ghost wasn't even in their list of 20. But the critical reviews were high, and the word-of-mouth was so strong, that it ended up being the #1 summer flick that year. As I said in the Summary Title, anyone who can make Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg come off as being likable and sympathetic is a genius, whether that was the director, the editor, or maybe just a little bit of both.
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Forushande (2016)
4/10
Nonsensical
17 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm someone who really liked, "A Separation," so I was looking forward to this film which has of course received high critical acclaim. The first half of this movie was compelling...what happened to the wife, and will they find the person who attacked her? But then when the "explanation" is given, it doesn't really make any sense, and the question really isn't answered. Why do I say that? Because the guy accused of attacking the wife doesn't seem like he'd be able to do it. So what is the explanation for that? There is no explanation. Oh well.

So then I decide to watch the extra on the DVD, where the director explains what he was trying to accomplish. This will surely help me understand this picture better! But it didn't. Apparently, to really "get" this film, you have to be well-versed in the play "Death of a Salesman," (which I read in high school, by the way), which is also being performed by an acting troupe in this movie. Seriously! So I guess I just wasn't smart enough to appreciate this film. I guess all the critics who loved it and the Academy who gave it the Best Foreign Film Oscar are much smarter and hipper than me.
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10/10
A Masterpiece That Was Way Ahead of It's Time
11 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Many movies released in the 70's were way ahead of it's time, including films such as "A Clockwork Orange." I first saw this on HBO in the late 70's, and even then, the sexual frankness in "Carnal Knowledge" was way ahead of anything that had been out at that time. Perhaps if you're watching this for the first time in 2017, maybe it doesn't wear well over time. "Annie Hall" is my all-time favorite movie, and even I think that much of this movie is dated now (e.g., "Impeach Ronald Reagan" was considered a funny line at the time because he wasn't yet President, and only Governor of California).

Yes, it's great seeing Ann Margret naked, but if that's all you're getting out of this film, you've really missed the point.
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Okja (2017)
4/10
A screed against major food manufacturers...but they don't kill pets
30 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I can appreciate the CGI and technical work they did on this picture. And yes, it tries to tug at the heart strings. But I don't appreciate being manipulated that we shouldn't be killing animals for our food. And to drive this point home, they use a little girl's pet as an animal about to be slaughtered for food. And the end scene when all the animals about to be slaughtered become anthropomorphic and save a baby pig. It's just not how things are in the world, and if you feel so strongly about this, then become vegan. Finally, Jake Gyllenhaal is horrible in this picture, and just mugs his way through. I was excited to see such a highly rated movie appear exclusively on Netflix, and then when I saw it, I was no longer excited.
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Requiem (2006)
3/10
Focused on the wrong thing
28 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
There are plenty of spoilers in this, including a spoiler from "The Sixth Sense" in case you still haven't seen that one.

As others who disliked this movie have already said, the film is very slow, and not much is going on until maybe the last 15 minutes of the film, when they are considering doing an exorcism on Michaela. But by then, who really cared? At the end of the film, I realized that they had focused on the wrong thing in this story, when they show a written epilogue that says something like, "After performing several dozen exorcisms on Michaela, she ended up dying a few months later." THAT was the most interesting and compelling part of the story, and all they did was mention it at the end, without showing any of it? It would be like watching "The Sixth Sense", and having it fade out after the little boy helped to show that the mother was poisoning her little girl, which is how she really died. And then after the fade out, we would see an epilogue on the screen that said, "Bruce Willis was actually already dead, so he therefore was a ghost."
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