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I created this list of just the good ones for you! Please let me know if you disagree about some of them or know of others that you feel belongs here.
NOTE: IMDB will not allow me to read your comments unless I join Facebook. I don't wish to. So if you'd like to comment directly to me, please-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll post your comments here.
Hungry for Change (2012)
I feel better now that I see all the other reviewers feel the same.
Two stars for some good basic information in the beginning, zero for the rest. Truthfully I didn't even get to the part about juicing. My BS meter also went off in the middle part about the dangers of MSG so I just stopped and did some digging. The only thing I have to add to the conversation is the result of my brush-up on that topic. I'm glad that I did because I had always heard that MSG is bad but didn't know any details. I thought it was a sort of super-salt. In fact it *is* a salt. It's the sodium salt of glutamate. (Thanks to kmtroy for pointing out it's not the same as guanine.) Turns out that compared with table salt it's basically benign. Both are flavor enhancers. The main difference is that the LD50 of MSG is five times that of table salt which means that it takes five times as much MSG to kill a rat than table salt.
What surprised me was both the absurd amounts they gave to baby mice. My back-of-the-envelope guestimate says it would be roughly the same as injecting a 150 pound person with almost half a pound of MSG. Imagine being injected with half a pound of table salt! This does seem to cause a lot of obesity in mice so there is a grain of truth there. I'm just surprised those doses didn't kill all of them.
Studies on people don't seem to indicate any real problems with the stuff. (Might it have something to do with the crappy foods that get loaded up with MSG? Nah.) Double blind tests on people taking capsules of the stuff didn't show any problems. The part I liked best was one study where one participant who self-described as being highly sensitive to MSG handled it just fine but claimed a reaction to the placebo.
Watch out too about Jon Gabriel, the guy trying to paint MSG as poison. Turns out he's not any sort of scientist. He's just a guy out there selling yet another diet book. So I'm not surprised to hear that the movie ends as an infomercial for a juicer. Personally, I'd rather eat all the healthy fruit and stuff than drink their juice. I'm definitely glad that I learned to not fear MSG.
(Astro) Turf Wars (2010)
I wanted to like it
Perhaps it was just Netflix's fault for describing this as an exposé by an undercover liberal reporter who embedded himself in the Tea Party movement. Sounds good, but there was only a single brief scene where the narrator gets up in a Tea Party meeting and urges them on, draws a few cheers, and then sheepishly sits back down. That's it as far as any subterfuge goes and I found that to be extremely disappointing. That aside, it was really little more than footage of unattractive loons waving signs opposed to big government. There were a few details on the Koch brothers that I did not know about, and some silly time-lines and charts full of names of nefarious people and organizations connected by a web of arrows shown many times, I'm guessing because it was too much work to create additional visual aids. All in all it was quite disappointing and I can not recommend it. You will be better served by any Michael Moore movie.
Quite a good performance
It is really hard for me to judge this movie because it is politically charged, historically educational, and a rather scattered collection of lewd and extreme segments, all at once. The first two thirds were excellent and I laughed really hard and often. Much of what Farrel says about G.W. is both shocking and true, so there is some really valuable recent history delivered in a very entertaining way. No small feat. Some of the information was even shocking to learn and I had to look it up and always found that he was correct. I haven't looked up everything but I would bet that nearly everything he says that wasn't obviously a joke is completely true. The movie is very valuable for anyone who doesn't know much about G.W. or misremembers or just plain forgot.
Even though the first two thirds has some really hilarious parts, it is shot through with some serious material which I did not mind. The performance takes an abrupt and very serious turn for the final third. I was OK with that too but was sad that most of the laughs were gone. Still, I thought the latter material dragged on far too long. So if you don't watch the whole thing that is perfectly OK. Just know that the wrap-up and interaction with the audience at the end is precious.
You will either love this movie or love to hate it, so either way you win!
Open Range (2003)
On second thought the moral of the story is questionable
I liked this movie a lot. Costner never really tries to get accents right but his normal voice is fine in this case and he turns in a pretty good acting job. The story was fun, engaging and satisfying.
Still I found myself wondering days later about the moral of the story which seems to be that redemption is possible through courageous acts. I realized that the "good guys" who liberate a troubled town might have been able to achieve the same end without so many people getting killed. They wanted to remain free-grazers which the power brokers in town despise because they were nomadic and interfered with their ranching by grazing as they go.
After all the dust settled they decide that settling down in that town seemed like a good idea but if they had decided that at the beginning nobody would have had to die. Instead they fought for a freedom they didn't want anymore. Sure, they didn't deserve the hatred, and if they hadn't killed the haters, they would have had to have worked out their differences politically and as neighbors, but isn't that a better way to solve differences in lifestyles and politics? I don't know. It was a fine movie but maybe not such a good message.
Inside Job (2010)
The best part were the many beautiful city flyovers
I learned a few useful things and enjoyed some of the interviews but mostly found it to be too long, rambling, and unsatisfying. The movie seemed to be hunting for the place to lay blame so by chasing the trail of responsibility I expected some sort of conclusion. Even a conclusion that we're all to blame would have been fine but it didn't do that either. Without any sort of conclusion it felt incomplete and therefore disappointing after a two hour set-up. Maybe it would have been better as a 1 or 2 part PBS special. I honestly did love the many beautiful cityscape flyovers which is the only reason that I scored it as having a slightly positive net value.
The Town (2010)
And not for the reasons most people talk about. I was very skeptical given the plot which made it sound like just another tired heist movie with the lovable hood trying to get out of the game only to get pulled in for one more big job (yawn!). Sure, all those elements were there along with all the shooting and chasing you'd expect. Good cast, acting, directing, aerial shots, special effects; the works. But the one really unexpected thing that really made it for me was the great dialog. Lots of really sensitive touches that really sell the story. I'm not such an action junkie but I'll take more of this stuff any day.
Oh, BTW, watch for Jon Hamm as the main FBI guy. He's been in some nice little fun movies but I never really noticed him before now. He's really quite fun to watch and I'll be hoping to see him get more big parts like this one. Nicely done all around.
The Botany of Desire (2009)
Our plants may be more successful than we are
By making themselves as attractive to us as possible, the four plants documented here have spread over the whole world. They have succeeded in getting us to do their bidding. Michael Pollan helps us see from the plant's point of view just what we're doing to the planet. By telling the history of some of our most important plants and interviewing the growers most intimate with them, he clarifies our symbiotic relationship with them. He lays out fairly the opposing views on high tech versus organic growing arguments. He clearly prefers the work-with-nature approach but fully understands that we're completely dependent upon high tech methods. The only really clear opinion he hammers strongly is that monoculture is bad and that preserving biodiversity is the key to a solution. He doesn't quite explain *how* we can do that globally, but he's quite good at getting people thinking in new ways about the bigger pictures of this divisive subject, and this is the main strength of the movie. The photography and production quality are also very high.
Miracle Mile (1988)
The stunts were the best part
The movie was quite bad but it managed to get me to watch the whole thing. The acting was atrocious and the whole movie felt like it was originally a stage play and that all the original stage actors were dragged in to make the movie version and nobody bothered to tell them that they don't need to project their voices to fill a 200 foot auditorium.
Honestly the stunts were the best part because this was in the days before CGI and you could tell that these stuntmen were really putting their lives on the line. One guy leaps from the back of a moving truck, a bicyclist gets doored and flies over the car, two speeding cars approach head-on and veer in different directions at the last possible moment. I have respect for that.
For all the people that liked this movie because of the excitement over the OMG-only-x-minutes-till-disaster situation, I can only urge you to see _Nick of Time_ which will show you what can be happen when you put it in the right hands. If you haven't seen this one yet then I recommend skipping it and going directly to _Nick of Time_. And besides, when has Johnny Depp ever disappointed?
Where the #$&% Is Santa? (2008)
It was different
I like the Jackass stuff better but this was entertaining in a different way. I kinda like how it seems to be mostly scripted but with a lot of obviously unpleasant stuff. Of course that is what us sickos want. The scripting allows it to go to new horrible heights you could never visit in a strictly realistic setting. I kept expecting some character to die. I was also surprised to see that some of these guys can actually act a little. It's a shame that a couple of them can't act, but then I'm sure I couldn't do it either. If more of these movies are made I hope they get some acting lessons. I like the self-parody and would be interested to see more.
Like another reviewer, I really wanted to like this movie. I went with my father who was the biggest lover and booster of classical music but neither of us could stand this movie. I wouldn't even call it a movie. A better description might be a record of a few chamber concert pieces. As I recall, the camera never even moved. Rather, it just sat on a tripod for the entirety of each piece. The only attempts at dramatic effect were at the very end of each piece when the movie would cut to trees waving in the wind or little wavelets lapping at a beach. I'm sure the director would have preferred to have used footage of some really big crashing waves but the best he could find were a few inches high at some nearby lake, and again using a stationary camera. Truly pathetic. I can't imagine how anyone could justify rating this movie higher than a five. When we walked out, my father and I were completely mystified as to how it was possible to make such a bad movie. I don't know of of any good movies about Bach. The world really does need one, but just because it doesn't exist is not a reason to see this one. Someone will make one someday. Until then just keep rewatching _Amadeus_.
Ipan the Terrible!
It's really hard to imagine how this movie got a score of 8.5. Since nobody has given it a bad review yet I guess it is up to me.
I know that I was warned that it was something of a Russian Benny Hill, and that much turned out to be true. Very slapstick and silly, sure, but in such a tedious and painful way. The story and acting are terrible. It even attempts to be a musical! Perhaps some Russians will enjoy it for some cultural references that I'm not getting, but otherwise I would expect it to appeal only to six year-olds. Unless you have some very strong reason for seeing this movie I suggest that you avoid it.
What was the point of the movie?
The competition goes as you would expect and you're sad for all the kids who lose. That much is a given. It's also predictable that the contest will seem cruel, but was that the only point the movie had to make? There were several references to a "Great American Tradition" and one reference to "child abuse" so I'm going to assume they were trying to present some sort of truthful contrast between those extremes and possibly to suggest that it's both at the same time. As if that would make it some sort of paradox and therefore slightly holy. I'm going to assume this explanation is reaching too far and that it's completely wrong. And this is my point: whatever point it is the film makers were trying to make, it didn't come across. Did it need to have a point? Well it's either that or show us something profound or wonderful or beautiful or,... something! Otherwise, why bother?
daring but goes nowhere
Labeling this movie as ahead of its time would be a bit too generous. In truth, it was ahead of its time but missed the mark. With lots of cuts between fantasy and what is probably reality, the movie does take you into the head of a disconnected music star. The only trouble is that once we're there, ... then what? In this case, nothing much, and that's a shame. At one point Hoffman's character meets a woman more screwed up than he is, and he sets about to help her a bit. Their interaction is poignant, but the movie is mostly devoid of emotion. It's nice enough to watch Hoffman walk through this movie, but i really can't recommend it for much else.
Girls Will Be Girls (2003)
The good kind of camp
Very funny. Completely captivating. The visual style was all 70's pastel kitsch: house, clothes, hair. Cheesy low-tech special effects don't seem to follow any particular style but simply add fun comedy touches. Strong language is often fresh and honest. The aging actress character always says exactly what's on her mind. Think of it as "Hairspray" meets "Valley of the Dolls".
i gave it 3/10 and even that's a gift. the strange thing is that i can't keep myself from suggesting certain people see it. hopefully you're not one of them. the quality is impossibly bad yet somehow some elements sort of stuck in my brain. if you figure out what that's about, let me know?
Le sexe des étoiles (1993)
A somewhat believable story on the effects of a parent's sex change on the family. Denis Mercier gives the strongest performance of the movie. He's listed in the IMDB as an actor but is very believable as a transsexual.
Overall a high quality production sensitively done. As the movie didn't have much of a plot, that leads to an anticlimactic ending. What there is of a plot is somewhat overly melodramatic. Still, it's one of the few but growing number of movies with positive portrayals of transgendered people and issues.
Minority Report (2002)
Don't do it!
This movie is terrible that I am profoundly disgusted. Certainly my expectations were too high because I was fully expecting to love it. I was unprepared for something this bad. I suppose you want details. OK, well, the opening scene shows a group of clairvoyants predicting a murder. As soon as the machine they're plugged into detects this prediction it doesn't just send a computer message; instead it carves a ball from a block of wood and engraves the name of the victim on it, and another ball with the name of the murderer. One ball then rolls down a spiral tube in one direction, and the other ball spirals down another tube in the other direction. Someone then explains that it's important for the machine to do this because something about the grain of the wood makes it impossible to counterfeit. Does that make any sense to you? It sure didn't to me.
Then there's the entirely gratuitous giant virtual reality setup that the Tom Cruse character uses to understand the details of each murder. Lots of expensive computer graphics are likewise complete wastes of resources. Likewise for the chase scenes and love interests, but at least that's nothing unusual.
So how did it happen that so much money was spent to make such a lousy movie? I can answer that in two words: "Product Placements". The movie seemed to include at least a dozen prominent placements for products such as Lexus, The Gap, and Revo sunglasses. This is nothing like the placements we commonly see where you're never 100% sure it was paid for by the company who's logo or product is shown. This movie hits you over the head with each one.
Part of the reason I was expecting to like the movie is because Ebert & Roper raved about it. They never even mentioned how this movie takes product placements to new heights. I now trust him less.
Finally, Steven Spielberg has tended to make better and better movies, so I'm equally disappointed with him. _Shrek_ and _Artificial Intelligence_ were brilliant. I can only guess that he's either hard up for cash or gone off the rails.
If this were just a normal summer blockbuster I wouldn't have commented on it, but this one is so bad that I have to call out the IMDb voters that pushed it into the best 250 movies of all time! (Now it's down to 7.7 in 2011. BTW, I don't think that IMDb should list movies in the top 250 until at least a year after their release.0
If you haven't seen it yet, don't bother.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I didn't get it
I was completely prepared to enjoy this movie. I love most of the principal actors--especially Angelica Huston who I see far too infrequently. Also, Bill Murry may even be my favorite actor since I've never disliked a performance of his. Until now that is. I thought that all of the actors fell flat due mostly to the rather stilted and formal dialogue. I'm sure that was intended, but it simply didn't work for me. The only bright spot for me was Gwyneth Paltrow who was beautiful to watch and played the only character who seemed even slightly more than two dimensional. The movie had something of the feel of _The World According to Garp_ though there appear to be no connection. So if you liked the Garp books and movies, you'll probably like this one. For me it was OK to watch but I mostly just didn't get it.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
"Brilliant" seems to be a word movie reviewers use far to often. In this case it's exactly the right word. I haven't been this blown away by a movie in years; and I see a lot of movies! Not much point giving details of the movie. I knew almost nothing about it before seeing it, and I'm glad for that. I will say that it's a rock-and-roll movie and except for _Help_ I've never really liked any of them but in this case the music was incredible, the lyrics were perfect and it all supported the themes under the story. You can't miss this one, and though this film may not absolutely require it, try to see it in a good theater.
I Want What I Want (1972)
Simplistic yet thought provoking
This is the story of a young man's slow transition into the woman he always knew he was meant to be. Roy/Wendy played by Anne Heywood takes the plunge, leaving her abusive father's house and starting life anew as a woman. Through trial and error she learns the skills and consequences of being a woman as well as the terrible problems involved in not being considered fully female.
The look of the film is total 70's complete with bellbottoms and sappy soundtrack. The story is also somewhat unrealistic. For example, Wendy is able to become fully passable with only a short time of practicing in private. The film goes on to explore many interesting consequences of a life "under cover" when all she wants is a simple life as a normal woman. With all it's obvious faults, "I Want What I Want" contains some surprisingly touching and sensitive moments. And although it appears to have been a very cheap production, the filmmakers manage to do quite a lot with their limited resources. For example, background sounds of cars and dogs during some of Wendy's terrifying moments in public give an eerily realistic feel.
I always find it disappointing when a woman is cast for the part of a man pretending to be a woman. "Victor Victoria" is a fine film using the same gimmick but I find it very difficult to see Julie Andrews as a man even though she gives about the best performance she was capable of. The same goes for this film. Contrast that with "The Crying Game" where the illusion is perfect due to exceptional casting.
Probably controversial in it's time, "I Want What I Want" is a clearly a small film but one worth watching by anyone interested transgender issues.