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6/10
Animated Banana Splits
24 July 2009
I just watched this on the Boomerang channel and while I did enjoy this enough to recommend, it just wasn't the same. First, the costumes looked different and I had to think that the original suits that were worn was probably thrown out and new ones had to be made. Secondly, the voice of Allan Melvin (Drooper) disappears for about 15 minutes later in the show and you can't help but notice the new voice which sounds completely different! I really wonder what was going on during the making of this. I loved the Banana Splits as a kid and I did enjoy this, but it's obvious that this effort wasn't well thought out and appears like it was rushed onto the air.
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Working Boys (1985)
6/10
Yes, I saw this!
19 June 2009
I was a Marine stationed in Okinawa and I went to the Philipines three times during the 1980's and I used to tune into the Eat Bulaga TV show and thought it was fun. No, I don't speak Tagalog but it was still a fun show to watch! I then saw the TV commercials for this movie and wanted to see it so a nice girl took me to the local theater and we did indeed see this.

If I remember (and it's been quite some time) the film was reminiscent of a Cheech and Chong movie without the raunch and maybe Help with the Beatles. Just goofy bits and slapstick comedy with the three leads getting involved in different shenanigans. No, it was not exactly the Marx Brothers but harmless fun!
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Let's Rock (1958)
6/10
Joy Harmon
14 April 2009
This fun little movie has many young singers performing in various scenes and as enjoyable as that is, it's the (all too brief) role of Joy Harmon that makes this film worth watching. What a body! Even though Joy wears a long dress it's still easy to see what a tremendous figure she had. Of course, later in her career viewers could get a better look in films like Village of the Giants and Cool Hand Luke. Everyday I wish that selfish husband of hers (Jeff Gourson of Adam Sandler's production company) would have not convinced her to quit acting. What a shame!

Anyway, everyone enjoy this little film and I promise you won't forget Miss Harmon's unforgettable presence.
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Capote (2005)
8/10
The events that left Capote a shattered man
24 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike other efforts that described themselves as being biographies I think a better way of looking at this film would be as a haunting remembrance and a synopses of events that would forever change a man. This certainly isn't about the life of someone but instead is about the most important time in the life of one of the most talented writers this country ever produced. Story starts out in 1959 where writer Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) notices a news article about a Kansas family being murdered and persuades the editor of The New Yorker to allow him to do a series of articles on the effects it has on the residents. Truman brings his childhood friend and fellow writer Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) to Kansas with him to help out with the research and while they interview some of the locals the police arrest the two killers.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Perry Smith (Clifton James Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) eventually confess to the murders and it's at this point when Truman decides that he will write his next book on the events. The local officials allow Truman to visit both of these men but it's Perry that he becomes friendliest with and eventually it grows to be an attraction. Truman does use his charm to get vital information for his book but eventually it dawns on him that after 6 years of appeals the only way he will be able to finish it is when they both are finally executed by the state.

This is directed by Bennett Miller who's only other film was the documentary "The Cruise" and one can't help but be impressed with his direction but of course it helps to have a special actor like Hoffman in the starring role. This film does belong to Hoffman and his performance can easily be described as riveting especially during the scenes when he talks about himself growing up as different and one gets a good sense of why he became such a charmer. One of the more interesting things that the film lets on is that Harper Lee actually helped Truman gain information for his book "In Cold Blood" while still working on "To Kill a Mockingbird" and in fact, her book was published and made into a film while he still waited for the appeals to end. The 6 years that Truman worked on "In Cold Blood" was the time that changed him forever to the point that he never wrote another novel again and this film does a splendid job of making sure that audiences understand that this man was so disturbed by his own behavior that he never forgave himself. This isn't really a biography but the film does a remarkable job of capturing the time and events that led to Truman questioning his own humanity. Miller is certainly a director to watch but it's Hoffman who once again demonstrates that he's one of our finest actors working today as he provides one of the year's best performances.
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In Her Shoes (2005)
5/10
Hanson working with extremely lightweight material
23 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to imagine that the same director who gave us "L.A. Confidential" and "Wonder Boys" is the same filmmaker who has now given us a film that makes Rob Reiner look like Ingmar Bergman. Even a silly fantasy romp like "8 Mile" had it's moments of genuine truth but here Curtis Hanson is clearly working with a story that doesn't sustain the edge that he attempts to establish early on. Story is about two sisters, one is a boozy illiterate named Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and the other an intelligent Philadelphia lawyer named Rose (Toni Collette) and the two of them were raised by their father after their mother died when they were young.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Maggie drinks and steals and sleeps around endlessly while Rose who's a few pounds heavier attempts to be the responsible big sister and watch over her but one day Maggie finally crosses the line and is thrown out. Rose finds out that her sister not only has been stealing again but finds her in bed with a potential boyfriend and orders her to get out of her life completely. With nowhere to go Maggie heads to Florida after discovering that she has a long lost grandmother named Ella (Shirley MacLaine) and is allowed to stay with her in her retirement home. Meanwhile, Rose leaves her job and gets engaged to a former co-worker but she has incredible difficulty in telling him about the details of her relationship with her sister. Maggie finds Ella unflappable but supportive and is urged to get a job at the assisted living center and eventually it's here that Maggie starts to find herself and mature.

First off, I am recommending this film for others to see and it's primarily because of the good performances that take place despite a script that's aimed strictly for viewers of the Lifetime channel. One can't help but wonder what exactly Curtis Hanson saw in this story that would attract him to the project because the film is about as revolutionary as an episode of "The Gilmore Girls". The best moments (for me anyway) come during the first part of the film where we come to understand Rose's frustration with her immature sister and Collette in her role gives the film it's best performance. In fact, all the actors are fine with MacLaine playing her usual crusty but experienced older woman and even Diaz (whom I'm an admitted non-fan of) plays her character well but the script by Erin Brockovich's Susannah Grant dives head on into sappy predictable material like the scenes where Maggie learns how to read. I guess the reason I'm still recommending this film is because I just don't think it would be fair to all of the actors involved who really do a good job despite the lack of depth with the story. Call me a softy if you have to but I think I would be lying if I didn't say that this still offers enough scenes of emotional turmoil for it's characters to shine and to also give the film whatever heart it has.
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7/10
Pacino doing his thing in entertaining film
20 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
We have all seen films where certain actor's just seem to shamelessly chew up their scenes with gusto but let's face it, it would be hard to imagine other films if they didn't. I think this is one of those films because without Al Pacino doing what he does best this would probably come off as tedious at best. Story is about an ex-football player named Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) who has suffered a career ending injury and ends up working for $10 an hour at a 1-900 telephone service where he gives football picks to listeners.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Brandon is so good at this that eventually he gets a phone call from Walter Abrams (Pacino) who runs a sports betting service in New York City where clients spend thousands and even millions of dollars. Walter is very successful and married to Toni (Rene Russo) and together they raise their young daughter but he's also a recovering gambling addict with a serious heart condition. Walter brings Brandon to the East Coast and shows him how to be a ruthless prognosticator and when Brandon proves to be a complete success with his football picks he actually gets a co-anchor position on Walter's cable access show. Things eventually start to go downhill when Brandon's picks start going sour and clients start losing all of their money but things really get bad when Walter starts gambling again and also suspects that Brandon and his wife are having an affair.

This is directed by D.J. Caruso (Taking Lives) who has shown to be a competent filmmaker and here he's made a pretty good looking film that makes good use of it's New York City locations. The film's story doesn't offer anything revolutionary in terms of surprises but the main theme of people betting large amounts of cash is something that I have always found intriguing. McConaughey is a capable actor and here he's well cast as an ex-jock who is easily drawn into the gambling circles and from the perspective of the audience it's believable to watch his character get so taken in. Pacino is the key to this film not only because of his star power but for the simple fact that he's the real life force that makes this effort so entertaining to watch. His character has been described by many as reminiscent of his role in "The Devil's Advocate" and it would be hard to argue it but being one of the best actors in the world he still gives this character enough unique tics to make sure it is clearly different. Sure, Pacino is over the top but can anyone really imagine this film without him? Dan Gilroy's script doesn't offer anything that hasn't been done better before (1974's The Gambler is a good example) but the cast is good and Pacino once again shows audiences that he's still a force to be reckoned with.
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Separate Lies (2005)
5/10
Noble Separate Lies falters towards the end
17 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is based on the 1950 novel "A Way Through the Wood" by Nigel Balchin and though the majority of the original story dwelled more on the adulterous affair it still made it's point with the characters and British manners in terms of how they deal with stress. Story is about James Manning (Tom Wilkinson) who's a very successful professional solicitor in London and seemingly has a happy marriage with his wife Anne (Emily Watson) but while at a cricket match they meet William Bule (Rupert Everett) who's the son of a local Lord.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** One night Anne is throwing a party but James is unable to attend because of work but when he returns home he finds out that the husband of their housekeeper was hit by a car and eventually dies and this leads James to thinking that Bule is responsible after noticing a nick on his vehicle. James questions Anne about the accident and she admits to him that not only were they together romantically but that it was she that was driving and is the one at fault. The three of them decide to cover everything up with alibi's but this proves to be difficult when a police inspector comes snooping about and while he thinks he's knows what has happened he still can't get any of them to admit to anything. Eventually James and Anne separate and she spends her time with Bule even after it's discovered that he has terminal cancer and while James is obviously heartbroken he still maintains a sense of decency and stays friendly with his wife.

This is directed by actor/writer Julian Fellowes who won an Oscar for his screenplay for "Gosford Park" and here he's making his debut as a director. Fellowes is obviously fond of stories dealing with British manners and class as his "Gosford Park" script proves and he does a credible job of showing how the English can still be polite and proper even during the most extreme of times. I thought it was humorous when James was all set to call the police and turn Bule in until he found out that it was his wife that was involved and then decides that lying is the best course of action to take. While I thought the film hit a bullseye in dealing with the issues of moral responsibility and ethics I still had too many problems with other areas especially regarding how we're supposed to feel about Bule after he becomes sick. The film spends the majority of it's time making it clear that he's an incredibly shallow and selfish cad but after he gets one of those movie illness's the characters still feel sorry about him! We all know that there is nothing logical about a woman's taste in men so I won't carp too much about Anne staying with him but James reaction to the news just doesn't seem believable. I kept waiting for him to open a bottle of champagne and kick up his heels and scream "YAHOO" but instead James appears to be honestly sorry about the man who took his wife. There is also a totally unnecessary narration that takes place during certain intervals and I have always maintained that if filmmakers feel the need for a narrator than it's a sure sign that they don't have confidence in the way they're telling a story. The acting is top notch with Wilkinson enjoying one of his best roles to date and Everett is so good that you can't help but think that the film should have been more about him. Some are raving about this as being one of the best films of the year and while I'm the first to say that this is pretty well made and acted I still found enough things to make me think otherwise.
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Flightplan (2005)
5/10
Far fetched Flightplan
16 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
We all know that an audience is supposed to keep in mind that most things they are watching are implausible when it comes to movie plots and that everyone should just sit back and enjoy a film but you have to ask yourself...where do you draw the line? That's a question that people can only answer for themselves because I'm one of those that needs more logic and common sense in order to be entertained. Story is about Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) who is recently widowed and traveling with her six year old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) from Germany to the United States with her husband's casket.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

Kyle is an airline propulsion engineer and knows very well about the very same double decker aircraft that she's flying on but she's also under a lot of stress in dealing with the death of her husband and decides to get some sleep while on her flight. She awakens three hours later to find out that Julia is missing and when she asks the flight attendants if they have seen her they not only say no but can't even confirm that she brought a child on board with her. There is nothing on the flight manifest and when Kyle starts demanding that a search takes place and to see the Captain (Sean Bean) the air marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) steps in to try and calm her. Kyle starts to shout at everyone and points her fingers at some Arab passengers but things get even more chaotic when the truth is revealed and her knowledge of the inner structure of the plane comes into great use.

German director Robert Schwentke is relatively unknown (even in Europe) and here he's tackling his first big project with a good cast and while I'll give him credit for creating some good moments it's the last half hour of the film that (I think) ultimately asks too much from audiences. Okay, we understand the main plot line of Foster's daughter disappearing on an airplane which is pretty hard to swallow to begin with but in terms of being an audience member we'll go along with it and see where it goes and where it does go is a direction that I personally can't believe. I can overlook some of the holes in the plot like Julia being able to survive hours in the freezing cargo area of the plane without becoming a human Popsicle and the shabby (and sometimes insulting) treatment that Kyle receives from the flight attendants but what I can't comprehend is how incredibly elaborate the whole plot of getting 50 million dollars wired into an account! Too many, and I mean TOO MANY things had to fall into place for something that criminally immense to take place. I never did figure out who sent Captain Rich (Bean) that wire stating that Julia was killed with her father and I know that most will say it was the bad guys on the ground but how realistic is that? Are they that capable? Foster is fine as one would expect and there are some genuine tense moments that take place but let's face it, this is just another overblown big budget effort that's aimed at an already established unsophisticated and gullible crowd.
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Proof (2005)
6/10
Auburn's play brought to life with Paltrow's performance
9 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Even the most successful plays can be difficult to translate onto the big screen but given the right director and a solid cast it can certainly end up with positive results. This latest attempt (while no awe inspiring achievement) still leans towards the positive and benefits from a very good performance by Gwyneth Paltrow who when given the right material is as good an actress as any other working today. Story is about Catherine (Paltrow) who's father Robert (Anthony Hopkins) was a brilliant mathematician at the University of Chicago but has died after suffering from mental illness. Catherine is also a mathematician and goes to school at Northwestern but she took time off to care for her father during the last few years of his life.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Robert has left over 100 notebooks filled with his scribblings and a young math student named Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal) spends his time pouring over them one by one (with Catherine's permission) with the hope of finding something important. Catherine's controlling sister Claire (Hope Davis) comes in from New York for the funeral but she also wants her sister to come back to the East Coast with her because of the fear that their father's illness is hereditary. While Catherine and Claire argue about what should be done Hal suddenly emerges with one of Robert's notebooks and tells them that it contains a mathematical proof that will change the way scholars think but the real surprise comes when Catherine announces that the proof came from her and not her father!

This is directed by John Madden who worked with Paltrow before in "Shakespeare in Love" and with this effort I came away thinking that these two should team up again because Madden has shown the ability to bring out her best performances. This is adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn and Paltrow reprises her role as Catherine from the London stage and I think viewers will get a good sense that she knows the inner workings of her character because her performance is the best thing about this film. The story wisely doesn't dwell on what exactly the proof is because I don't know anyone who really cared about what they were talking about in terms of mathematics because the core of the story is Catherine and whether or not she's suffering from mental illness like her father. Paltrow's performance is vital to the film because without it's strength this could have been an incredibly dull viewing experience but (for the most part) it does work and for me it's the only reason to give this a recommendation. The film is stagy and scenes are set up for characters to have long vocal confrontations with each other but at the root of the story is Catherine's frustration and paranoia and Paltrow once again demonstrates that she's an underrated actress.
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8/10
Provoking film achieves it's purpose
2 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
After reading both user comments and critics reviews it's obvious that this is one of those films that will divide audiences but like everything else that has happened in my life I lie somewhere in the middle. Some critics have publicly stated that this is one of the best films of the year but while I think that point is pretty arguable I do think that any film that can cause so many heated debates warrants a viewing and easily gets a recommendation from me. Story is about Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) who lives in a small town in Indiana running a diner and living a nice quiet life with his lawyer wife Edie (Maria Bello) and their two children. One day two thugs enter the diner and threaten the lives of everyone but Tom (unexpectedly) springs to life and kills them both which makes him a darling of the media and has his face plastered on every newscast on television.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** One day three mysterious strangers show up at the diner headed by a badly scarred Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) and they waste no time in stating that Tom is actually a gangster from Philadelphia named Joey Cusack who disappeared almost 20 years ago. Tom denies the allegations but Fogarty and his men won't go away and when his family is threatened he ends up killing them at his home in a bloody confrontation. Tom finally comes clean about his past with his family and they don't know how to react to this shocking news but when his gangster brother Richie (William Hurt) calls it becomes obvious that things won't be getting any better until he finally puts an end to things.

Love him or hate him I have always been a big David Cronenberg admirer and even his most avant-garde efforts (Crash, eXistenZ) were interesting affairs and I think this is easily one of his better films. Cronenberg has shown that he's attracted to stories about characters who dwell in the shadows of reality and time and one of his gifts as a director comes from the fact that he never pulls any punches with his characters which allows for plenty of interpretation in terms of their actions. The sex scene on the stairwell for example has been called by many as gratuitous and unnecessary but I disagree because I had a feeling that it's shown for two reasons and the first has to do with the correlation between sex and violence and the adrenalin rush that both Tom and Edie were feeling at that time while the second reason has to do with Edie having sex for the first time with Joey after his real identity has been admitted. The script asks so many pertinent questions about violence such as it's importance in settling issues and disputes and one of the answers might be that it's acceptable (and unavoidable) during certain instances. One of the other interesting aspects of the story has to do with Tom's teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes) who after discovering the truth about his father finds something in himself to justify his reaction to the school bullies and this leads to more questions about whether violence is either hereditary in some manner or just part of nature that we all have inside of us. Cronenberg doesn't use violence as a metaphor but instead uses it as the central piece for the actions of the characters and if you have to simplify what exactly the point is I think it has to do with the fact that violence is at times unavoidable but is also something that everyone has to learn to live with on some level. Okay, so many people hate this film but I came away thinking that it accomplished exactly what it set out to do and in this day and age of unimaginative and predictable Hollywood tripe I get on my knees and thank God that there are filmmakers like Cronenberg who still challenge audiences.
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5/10
Caterina discovers that life in the big city is complex
26 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
My reaction to viewing this film is one that suggests that a missed opportunity took place because what could have been a potentially fascinating film instead turned out to be something that quickly loses steam. Story is about 12 year old Caterina Iocovoni (Alice Teghil) who moves from the small town of Montaldo Di Castro to Rome where her father Giancarlo (Sergio Castellitto) grew up. Giancarlo is a frustrated accounting teacher who hates his job and dreams of being a writer but perceives that his lack of success comes from society itself.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Once Caterina enters school she discovers that her class is divided into two main cliques with one side being the radical left intellectual socialists while the other side is the spoiled reactionary industrialist fascists. Caterina first becomes friends with Margherita (Carolina Iaquaniello) who usually buries herself in her bedroom and lights incense but when she shows herself to be too passionate about affairs it forces Caterina to keep her distance. She then becomes friendly with the incredibly rich and spoiled Daniela (Federica Sbrenna) who's father is an important politician but she proves to be shallow and inconsiderate and it leaves Caterina out of both loops. Meanwhile, Giancarlo tries to use all of his daughters friends in an attempt to get their parents to read his unpublished novel but while he's busy embarrassing himself his wife Agata (Margherita Buy) is having an affair with an old friend.

This is directed by Paolo Virzi and the general premise of his film is pretty interesting with young Caterina discovering the cultural schisms of Italian society but I felt that what Virzi wanted to say was said about halfway through with the remainder of his film becoming labored. The performances are solid with Teghil showing enough wide eyed innocence to make her character believable but the film also gives Castellitto another opportunity to prove that's he's one of Europe's finest character actors. Along with the script dragging towards the end I also had a sense that the film has a strong disdain for Rome itself and wanted to show that true happiness is found only in small communities which isn't a bad perspective but I had a feeling that this was used just as an excuse for the characters actions. I certainly didn't dislike this film and it does take an admirable stab at something that's culturally significant (are you listening Hollywood?) but the film as a whole makes it's point early enough and than ultimately becomes tiresome going down the stretch.
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Red Eye (2005)
5/10
Not bad but Red Eye is also nothing special
25 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Every so often a film comes out that should have found a home as a television movie of the week and I think this latest suspense effort qualifies as that but what this does offer is a look at a good young actress as she continues her rise in popularity. Story is about a hard working hotel desk manager named Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) who is waiting to board the Red Eye back to Miami to see her father Joe (Brian Cox) after attending a funeral. While in the airport terminal she meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) and they engage in idle chatter and innocent flirtation but once they get on their flight she discovers who he really is and what his real intentions are.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** As it turns out Jackson has been watching Lisa for quite some time and has purposely bought a ticket to sit next to her because he's part of a terrorist group that wants to assassinate William Keefe (Jack Scalia) who's the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. Jackson needs Lisa to call the hotel where she works and have Keefe and his family moved to the appropriate room and if she doesn't cooperate her father will be killed by a gunman who's parked outside his home.

The story for this film is admittedly lightweight but I found the simplicity of it all refreshing in that one isn't bombarded with ridiculous situations and plot twists where the audience ends up rolling their eyes. You have to give a lot of the credit to old pro Wes Craven who lends his experience as a director to a so-so script and manages to uplift the material and make this film better than it deserves. The other thing that this has going for it is McAdams who has continued to show that she's one of the better up and coming actresses working today and even when this film starts to border on silliness McAdams screen presence saves it. I'm not going to tell anyone that they should see this because it is a film that (for the most part) is totally lacking in surprises but in terms of a suspense thriller it's not too bad mainly because of all the talent involved.
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5/10
Completely sappy and predictable, yet...
18 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
You have to ask yourself where the Hallmark Channel or the Lifetime Movie Network are when you need them because this is one of those films that would have definitely played better if it ran on either of those but I'm the first to admit that this lightweight effort still manages to be watchable. Story is about Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez) who heads to Wyoming with her 12 year old daughter Griff (Becca Gardner) to escape from her abusive boyfriend Gary (Damian Lewis) and hopefully stay with her father in-law whom she hasn't talked to in over 10 years.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Einar Gilkyson (Robert Redford) lives on his ranch and tends daily to his friend Mitch Bradley (Morgan Freeman) who was badly mauled by a grizzly bear and needs shots of morphine for his constant pain but their lives are interrupted when Jean shows up on his doorstep asking for help. Einar blames her for the death of his son but when he finds out that Griff is the granddaughter he never knew he reluctantly agrees to let them stay. Jean gets a job in town at the local diner and even manages to start a romance with Sheriff Crane Curtis (Josh Lucas) while back at the ranch Griff helps out with Mitch's meals and morphine shots and even starts to get on Einar's good side. Things get rocky when Einar and Jean vent their guilt at each other but eventually things subside and look for the better until Gary shows up and starts more trouble.

This is directed by Lasse Hallstrom who has shown in past efforts a penchant for stories about characters who are trying to find themselves but while this isn't quite as gooey and icky as "Chocolat" it's still nowhere near as pertinent as " The Cider House Rules". This film is utterly predictable and sappy and has loads of symbolism involving the grizzly bear being locked up and while I'm the first to admit that this plays like a cheesy television movie of the week I still found this to be watchable. The script is totally devoid of surprises and everything you think is going to happen does but you have to give the cast all the credit in the world because it's their talent and star power that gets the audience through this without rolling their eyes too many times. It's hard to describe what charm this film has but I think it goes mainly to Redford and Freeman who together bring a comfort to this story and bring their characters to life. One would naturally expect a better film given the cast and director but I do have to be honest and say that this still doesn't come off as bad as I originally thought and I think that certain portions of the audience will discover this. Sure, it's a cheesy film and offers nothing new but I think (somewhere) buried in this script there's a heart and the cast gives whatever life there is to the story.
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6/10
Mr. Warren...you have done it again!
14 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Yep, it's so bad it's good and this little gem has so many moments in it for viewers to throw in their own jokes that it ultimately becomes one's own Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's so easy to say that this is one of the worst films ever made but the truth is that it's not the worst and also the low budget cheesiness just makes this a lot of fun to watch. I personally enjoy these types of films and I never get tired of viewing them so unless your taste is confined to just a small spectrum of high brow cinema this ultra cheap film can absolutely be fun for the viewer. Story is about 4 teenagers who go out boating one afternoon and head to what they thought was a deserted island but once they arrive they discover that someone actually lives there.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** The 4 teens are Reg (Don Sullivan AKA Scotty Beckett), Skip (Paul Pepper), Julie (Mitzie Albertson), and Pam (Brianne Murphy) and they end up being captured by a female mad scientist named Dr. Myra (Katherine Victor) and her deformed man slave Ivan (Chuck Niles) and thrown into some cages in the basement. Dr. Myra is in cahoots with some foreign agents to make a nerve gas that causes people to become zombie-like but before she tests it on the kids she uses a gorilla(!) first and discovers that her research has worked. Meanwhile, Morrie (Jay Hawk) and Dotty (Nan Green) are worried about their missing pals and go to the local sheriff's office but when they all go to the island it turns out that the Sheriff (Mike Concannon) is in business with Dr. Myra!

This is directed by the infamous Jerry Warren who along with Ed Wood was one of those filmmakers whom you could count on for low budget silliness and let's face it...this has plenty! First off, when actress Victor makes her appearance she looks like a cross between Lily Munster and Vampira (and Elvira!) and she wears these fancy evening gowns even though she's supposed to be alone on an island and even keeps them on under her lab coat. I had to scratch my head when she conveniently had cold soda pop in her cupboard for the teens and unless she and Ivan like to sit around and have a cold one you have to wonder why someone so diabolical would have soda pop. And speaking of Ivan, with that long sleeve coat he wears he looks like a combination of Quasimodo and some gangland vato but I especially couldn't help but notice that when he brought some food for the two hot looking chicks he took an extra long time leering at them. Some of the other innocuous things that made an impression on me are things like the sheriff's office which actually looks like a diner or a roadside gift shop. The raft that Reg and Skip put together has got to be the worse thing I ever saw and did they really think that a few pieces of lumber would keep the four of them afloat? Gilligan could have done a better job! Did I hear right when Morrie said that the island was 30 or 40 miles away by boat? It would take forever for anyone to get to that island and speaking of Morrie he seems like an Anthony Perkins type of person who's always rubbing his clammy little hands together and when he's talking at the sheriff's office he has this nervous look on his face like he's ready to empty his bowels. The fight that takes place in the lab towards the end of the film has got to be the worst choreographed thing I ever saw and they all look like drunks at an Easter egg hunt but I was really surprised that some dumb teenager could beat a (supposed) highly trained foreign agent in a fight. For anyone interested in some trivia you might want to know that actress Murphy who plays Pam was actually Warrens wife and she would go on to an incredibly successful career behind the scenes in both television and film. The actor who plays the vato...er...Ivan was Los Angeles disc jockey Chuck Niles and he was very popular for a number of years and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If your into low budget horror films or a connoisseur of bad cinema in general than this is definitely for you but to be honest I just have a soft spot for small films and an effort like this is quite simply a lot of fun to view.
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Grizzly Man (2005)
8/10
Unsympathetic and riveting Grizzly Man
12 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Werner Herzog has long been my favorite director and though he's best known for films such as "Aguirre: The Wrath of God", Nosferatu the Vampyre", and "Fitzcarraldo" he's also an incredibly underrated documentary filmmaker and here he seemingly has found an ideal subject to analyze. Story is about Timothy Treadwell who along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and eaten by a grizzly bear in 2003 but this film delves into who Treadwell was exactly as a person and why he spent every summer for 13 years living among the bears and foxes.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** The story of Treadwell starts with his upbringing in New York State where he eventually went to college on a diving scholarship but after an injury he started to hang out with the wrong crowd and became a gun carrying alcoholic. After a failed career as an actor he meets Jewel Palovak and together they start an organization called Grizzly People and this is when he started heading to Alaska to spend his summers at the Katmai National Park and Reservation. Treadwell shot over 100 hours of some truly astonishing footage of the grizzlies in that area and during these tapes he talks of willing to die for these animals but not to die from them. Treadwell wrote a book and ended up on the David Letterman Show to talk about his exploits but there are some real questions to be asked such as what purpose did his being out there really accomplish?

It would be easy to say that Treadwell was merely an eccentric but the truth of the manner is that he was an extremely angry man who had become totally disillusioned by life itself and the people that he had come into contact with. Herzog is no fool and he easily see's through Treadwell and correctly makes sure that the audience doesn't make the wrong assumption that he's portraying a sympathetic view of this man, because he's not. In a startling scene Treadwell rants and raves and drops F-bombs in the direction of the Park Service whom he blames as being against him but what the shot proves is that the reason he's out there to begin with is because of his perception of not fitting into the real world. Palovak has in her possession the audio tape that recorded the screaming deaths of Treadwell and Huguenard but Herzog correctly does not allow the audience to listen to what he hears for a few seconds and tells Palovak that she should burn it not only out of respect for the friends and family of the victims but more importantly because a persons death is a private matter. Herzog's approach to this film is what really works for me and at times during his narration I felt some real anger coming from his voice and his fair reaction helps diminish the perception that Treadwell was just a goofy guy trying to do good because his actions not only resulted in his death but the even more tragic death of Huguenard who was afraid of bears and didn't even want to be there! Herzog is a master at deciphering someone like this and his film is riveting from start to finish and I'm definitely hoping that I hear the title of this film when the Academy Award nominations are announced.
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6/10
Ambitious film comes across as a tad flat
11 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There have been several films that I have thought of as disappointing after an initial viewing and then as time has gone by I have admittedly changed my vote (Bertolucci's 1900 comes to mind) and I'm going to predict that this film will probably end up the same way because my first reaction after seeing this is that it seems to be missing a few things to make it truly effective. With that, I am giving this a recommendation because anything that has a cast this good and is that ambitious deserves the credit it's due and should have people (like myself) telling others to judge it for themselves. Story takes place in Northern Kenya where the wife of a British diplomat and her companion are murdered on a secluded road and when her husband attempts to piece together the details of what happened everything points to a pharmaceutical company that uses the poor as guinea pigs.

Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) is a mild mannered and timid British government official who married Tessa (Rachel Weisz) who's a very outspoken activist and when she travels with her husband to Africa she unravels the secret of what the drug companies are up to. After Tessa's death Justin starts asking questions and checking her e-mails that include intricate details involving fellow government officials Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston) and Sir Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) but when he arrives at medical station in a remote part of the country he meets Marcus Lorbeer (Pete Postlethwaite) who ends up giving him the final pieces as to why Tessa was killed.

Fernando Meirelles gave everyone warning to his talents a few years ago when he made the exciting "City of God" and he seems easily destined to become one of the more interesting directors working today but I do have to admit that I think he stumbles somewhat in this his latest effort. First off, I think the good outweigh the bad and I am recommending this film because of the performances of both Fiennes and Weisz but also because of the whole scope of the story where one man seemingly dwarfed by both the politics of a third world country and the involvement of the drug companies still finds the resources in himself to get to the bottom of things. But, I'm definitely not giving this as high a praise as so many others have and I certainly don't think this is one of the years best films and a good part of the reason has to do with the overall look of the film. Meirelles has once again hired cinematographer Cesar Charlone and while their collaboration on "City of God" ended up with a film that was visually exciting to watch the same cannot be said here. The hand held camera work didn't bother me as much as it did many others but what I did notice was that the entire film lacked a crispness and clearness that is evident in very low budget films. I'm not sure if Meirelles and Charlone purposely used a low grade camera to shoot this film (hopefully the DVD will be more clear) because it's either lighter to carry in crowd scenes or maybe they were going for some artistic statement but the end result is a film that looks cheaply shot. Secondly, the story about the evil drug companies is something that we have all seen before (how many does it make now?) and if the script expect the audience to be shocked by these events than it fails on that level because most (if not all) viewers already know this long before they step into the theater. What does work is watching Fiennes character learn more about his wife than he did before her death and seemingly fall in love with her all over again. This is the base of the script and in conveying this Fiennes once again shows that he's one of the best actor's in the world. Like I said earlier, I am giving this a recommendation and I do hope people check out this film because it does have a lot to offer and instead of throwing away your money on some inane Hollywood nonsense one might want to view something a little more challenging.
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The Boogens (1981)
5/10
Run of the mill Boogens
6 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film had all of the ingredients to become a cult hit but for whatever reason everything and everyone involved just couldn't make this as memorable as it deserved. But, at the same time it's hard to dislike this effort because it does make an admirable attempt in the horror genre even if it's execution can't be described as anything but lukewarm. Story is about two young couples who have decided to stay at a friends cabin in Silver City, Colorado where an abandon mine has just been reopened but what they don't know is that the house they are going to be staying at has underground tunnels from the basement to the main mine shaft.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Mark Kinner (Fred McCarren) and Roger Lowrie (Jeff Harlan) work for Syndicated Mines, Inc. and they have invited Trish Michaels (Rebecca Balding) and Jessica Ford (Anne-Marie Martin) to stay with them but when they use dynamite and open up an old mine it releases some mutant creatures that are able to make their way up into the basement and start to kill the unsuspecting occupants. Lurking around the mine is an old man named Greenwalt (Jon Lormer) who knows the horrible history of the mine but by the time he tries to warn everyone it's too late!

This film is directed by James L. Conway who has become a pretty good television director and he does a better than adequate job with this because if anything else it's a nicely shot film capturing the scenic locations of beautiful Utah. The film is very careful not to allow the audience to see the actual Boogens until probably the last 15 minutes and let's face it...they don't look that intimidating at all. They look like the baby dragons from the film "Dragonslayer" but these little darlings have long tentacles that help them drag their victims down into their tunnels. I do have two questions about the actual Boogens and the first has to do with why they're called Boogens. The only time we hear the name used is when the old guy is in the underground cavern and when they start attacking he mutters "Boogens". Secondly, how did the Boogens survive all those years underground with nothing to eat? Also, the Boogens don't seem to eat their victims because when they find Roger's body all that seemed to happen was his face being chewed on a bit. When do they eat? The script runs the usual gamut of young people in a cabin being attacked like the one obnoxious guy who's a sex fiend and shouts "you dare to question the virility of Hormone Man?". Balding has a nice wholesome screen presence and provides the film's only two nude scenes (which I would like to thank her for) but her (blossoming) boyfriend Mark who while sincere still comes off as slow to react. Besides Balding, the only other familiar faces in the cast are character actors Lormer and Med Flory and the film is surprisingly small in terms of the amount of actors used. The script doesn't offer any surprises and the story is pretty basic offering some monsters and a little nudity and gore but it comes across as nothing more than a by the numbers horror flick. It's not badly made and the dialog is believable but it just doesn't have that something special to get anyone excited.
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6/10
The epitome of an 80's slasher film
5 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Written an directed by two women this has become what a lot of horror films represented in the 1980's but it also proves that even if your female in the movie making business money is still the focus point. Story is about a bunch of teenage girls who decide to have a slumber party one Friday night but what they don't know is that a mentally disturbed man has escaped and is roaming about the same area where he committed his crimes in 1969. The party is held at the home of Trish (Michelle Michaels) and her friends who are attending are Diane (Gina Mari), Kimberly (Debra Deliso), and Jackie (Andree Honore) but her next door neighbor is Valerie (Robin Stille) who is the new kid in school and has been has been treated unfairly by Diane so she decides not to show up.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Lurking around the house is Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) who's an escaped mental patient and armed with a two foot power drill that he uses to kill everyone that he comes in contact with. From horny boyfriends to oddball neighbors Thorn kills them all and starts to pile them into the trunk of a car but it's the pretty teenage girls at the party that seem to be where his real interest lies.

This is directed by Amy Holden Jones and written by Rita Mae Brown and just goes to show that even female movie makers want to make money because this is one of those films that has become a cult favorite. You know your about to see an exploitation classic when during the opening credits actress Michaels has already started getting naked for the camera! We have all seen our share of shower scenes but the one that takes place at school in the girls gym makes you re-check who made this film because you would swear that a man was involved. The camera pans from one girls tight butt up to their perky boobs and then moves on to the next girl where we see the same thing! While the camera pans from one naked girl to the next it's absolutely impossible to concentrate on what exactly they are chatting about but the scene is there for one point and it's to show nudity and nothing more! There were a few things that I couldn't help but notice and the first is the goofy (and seemingly sexually indifferent) neighbor David who spends his Friday nights by the woodpile killing snails with a cleaver. He didn't seem to care that there are some hot chicks parading around and instead mutters "that makes 53 tonight"! Stille who plays Valerie is the spittin' image of Virginia Madsen and as big a compliment as that is it was Jennifer Meyers (as Courtney) who stayed in my mind because she's one of the few girls I have seen sporting a mullet for a hairdo. The cast is basically unknowns but the one familiar face (and body!) that is recognizable is Brinke Stevens who plays Linda and she's the first nude body that we see in the shower scene. What makes this film work is how basic it's premise is as it has the usual gratuitous nudity and gore and show's you early on who the killer is without having the audience think who might be the one responsible. It's simplicity makes this a film that's hard to dislike as it delivers exactly what it advertises and offers none of the ridiculous plot twists that usually has viewers rolling their eyes. This has become quite the cult sensation and it's fairly easy to see why and while it's certainly no cinema classic it is a piece of exploitation that works perfectly on it's own.
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Twins of Evil (1971)
6/10
Third and final installment of the Karnstein/Mircalla story
3 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The first entry of this story was "The Vampire Lovers" and I (and many others) consider it not only the best in the trilogy but one of the finest films Hammer ever produced. It's a classic! The second was "Lust for a Vampire" and while clearly not as good as the first it still had enough going for it to give a solid recommendation but this last film (still a must see) is easily the lesser of the three. Don't let what I have just said detract from anyone viewing this because because it's still a sold horror film and if you have seen the first two then this should be mandatory to close out the series. Story is about twin girls Maria (Mary Collinson) and Frieda (Madeleine Collinson) who after the death of their parents are sent to live in the village of Karnstein with their aunt and uncle.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** The uncle is Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing) who is ultra religious and part of a puritan group called the Brotherhood who grab young girls and burn them at the stake if their moral convictions are in question. Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas) is into evil doings like sacrificing virgins but when the blood of one of his victims drips into a tomb the body of Countess Mircalla (Katya Wyeth) is resurrected. Mircalla bites Karnstein on the neck and now he's a vampire and has his eyes on Weil's twin nieces. Maria is kind and docile but Freida definitely has a wild side and sneaks out at night to visit the Count which ends in her becoming a vampire as well.

This film is directed by John Hough (Legend of Hell House, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) who was a pretty competent director in his day and while this was his third film it was his first high profile project. Originally the producers wanted Ingrid Pitt to reprise her role as Mircalla in a glorified cameo but it never happened and led to the casting of Wyeth who strangely completely disappears after her one and only scene. Where did she go? Cushing has a very showy performance and plays against what he usually does in these types of films and it's definitely not a "good guy" role. Cushing and his cohorts would simply snag up any woman they could get their hands on and burn them at the stake and utter "the young must be chastised" as his explanation. Between Cushing's burning at the stake and Thomas's sacrificing virgins one has to wonder how there were any females left in the village under the age of 25! The script in this third entry is definitely different than the first two as it has no lesbian storyline at all but still boasts a few scenes of nudity. The film is promoted by the fact that the two lead roles are of the Collinson twins who were Playboy magazine's first twin sister playmates but if your expecting explicit and gratuitous nudity than you'll probably be disappointed. Madeleine Collinson has a nice nude scene towards the end but other than that (and the sacrifice of a topless virgin) the film is nearly void of the sensuality that was prevalent in the first two films. The film's funniest scene comes when Karnstein's black mute slave enters the room and starts waving his arms like he's trying to signal a rescue plane or something and the Count (in true charade mode) says,"...they have torches...and crosses..." and while it's easy to laugh it's still a scene that proves that this is the weaker of the trilogy. Still, it's a Hammer film with blood and nudity and has Cushing giving one of the liveliest performances of his career which is more than enough to give this a hearty recommendation.
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Schizoid (1980)
5/10
Good cast does what it can in drab thriller
2 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If you've set your mind to the fact that your going to view this low budget thriller than please don't expect to see something along the lines of "Psycho" or "Wait Until Dark" because this is eons away from resembling anything that well made. With that, despite all of it's faults you might still find this to be passable in terms of a late night viewing because the recognizable cast helps this film...in volumes! Story is about a Los Angeles psychiatrist named Pieter Fales (Klaus Kinski) who is a widower and having trouble with his angry and unbalanced daughter Alison (Donna Wilkes) who blames him for the death of her mother.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Dr. Fales is in charge of a weekly therapy group and he's sexually involved with two members including Julie (Marianna Hill) who has an advice column in the local paper and has been receiving strange letters from someone who contemplates murder. When members of Dr. Fales group start popping up dead the police (Richard Herd & Joe Regalbuto) start to wonder who might be responsible like Julie's ex-husband Doug (Craig Wasson), Gilbert (Christopher Lloyd) the horny maintenance man, Dr. Fales himself or the uncontrollable Alison.

This is directed by David Paulsen who was a television writer but had also made another slasher-like flick earlier in his career but never seemed to make the best of his film efforts. Let's just come right out and say that Paulsen seems totally unable to deliver anything resembling suspense and the murders that we do see are shot in an incredibly clumsy manner and the music that accompanies these scenes (what happened Craig Hundley?) has got to be the worst I've ever heard. Talk about annoying! Two things that I noticed while watching this stand in my memory like the fact that Kinski smokes through the entire film. Besides the fight sequence at the end I can't remember one scene where he doesn't have a cigarette either in his hand or his mouth. In one scene Hill finally takes one away from him and puts it out! The second thing is the size of Dr. Fales house...it's the biggest thing I've ever seen! Scarlett O'Hara would be envious! I know psychiatrists make a pretty good living but...HOLY COW! This wouldn't be your typical 80's slasher flick without nudity and Kinski himself has two sex scenes with a stripper and Hill but it's the shots of a nude Wilkes (TV's Hello, Larry and B-film favorite Angel) that is primarily the highlight. The familiar faces in the cast help the viewer get through this (admittingly) sub par effort including Kinski (one of my personal favorites) but also Hill who was always a good actress. Sure it's bad, but I think it's a watchable bad film.
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Irreversible (2002)
6/10
A case of revenge
1 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Though most viewers and critics found the graphic violence in this film to be (not only) excessive but the main source for their disliking this effort but I'm one of those who can understand the reason for it and my complaint comes at the overly used "backward style" that has become nearly cliché. Story starts with the last scene where we see two men in a gay S&M club called "Rectum" where they are frantically searching for Le Tenia (tapeworm) who has raped the girlfriend of one of the two but when they find him things go horribly wrong.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** When Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) think they have found Le Tenia (Jo Prestia) in the bowels of that nightmarish club Marcus ends up with a broken arm while Pierre saves him (from rape) by bludgeoning the man with a fire extinguisher. While all this goes on the real Le Tenia is off to the side laughing at the events that have taken place! The story continues in reverse where we see how everything ended up so horribly from getting information from a she-male hooker to a couple of vigilante thugs who help in their search. Alex (Monica Bellucci) is the girlfriend of Marcus and the ex-wife of Pierre but the three of them get along and are at a party when she leaves suddenly and is attacked and anally raped. Before the party Marcus and Alex were in their apartment in bed but when he leaves to pick something up at the store Alex finds out that she is indeed pregnant.

This is only the second film for director Gaspar Noe but even if your part of the demographic that hated this effort I think Noe makes it clear that he's a young filmmaker to watch. His first film was "I stand Alone" and if you look at both of his choices in directing than one might say that Noe's attracted to characters that have a difficult time controlling themselves. The graphic nature in which this story is told is easily going to put off certain portions of the audience but for those with stronger stomaches the skill in which this was made is clearly evident. I was one who at first wasn't sure if the wrong man was killed at the beginning of the film and I had to look on this website to be sure but for those of you who are still confused the wrong guy was killed. This is arguably the most important part of the story in which it shows the futility of revenge and a second rape was only seconds away from occurring! Still, I'm with most of the critics who are tired of the "Memento" style of storytelling and it's become passé in the world of cinema and you have to wonder just how effective this film would have been otherwise. I'm not saying that this is a terrific film because I really don't think it is but I did find it visually and audibly interesting and gives notice that Noe is a talent to watch in the future.
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1900 (1976)
7/10
Flawed 1900 is still an interesting journey
31 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Despite all the criticism that's been thrown at this film I'm proud to say that this is still worthy of everyone's time and you have to credit this remarkable director for being bold enough to take on something this immense in scale. Anything this size and length will undoubtedly have areas in the story that just won't work for some (Lord knows I found a few) but to say that this film is a failure just doesn't sit well with me because I think all that is right with this seemingly gets forgotten. Story takes place in Italy with the death of Verdi in 1900 and ends with the death of Mussolini in 1945 and shows during the course of those years the rise and fall of fascism. Two boys are born on the same day with one being the grandson of a wealthy land owner (Burt Lancaster) and the other a bastard child of a peasant (Sterling Hayden) who works on the estate as a foreman.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** The story follows these two as Alfredo Berlinghieri (Robert DeNiro) inherits his fathers land after his death while Olmo Dalco (Gerard Depardieu) continues to live among the peasants and while they try and remain friends it becomes difficult with the separation between landowners and workers. Fascism is on the rise and Alfredo's foreman Attila (Donald Sutherland) becomes a blackshirt and he and his cohorts start to threaten the rest of the residents in the area. Over the years Alfredo marries Ada Fiastri Paulhan (Dominique Sanda) but she becomes disillusioned with her husbands cowardice and apathetic attitude to the point where she not only sympathizes with the workers but she becomes an alcoholic and leaves Alfredo. With the end of WWII and Mussolini the peasants kill Attila and decide to hold a mock trial for Alfredo in which they will decide his fate but it's Olmo who convinces everyone that what he symbolizes is already dead.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci has always been one of my favorite filmmakers and God knows I would never miss one of his films but I'm the first to admit that viewing 1900 is indeed a chore. The film's style can definitely be compared to the great Sergio Leone (in length as well) but Bertolucci's personal stamp is readily evident in several scenes such as the graphic nudity and the beautiful Italian countryside. Many viewers and critics have pointed out several of the (so-called) flaws in the story such as the portrayal of the peasants who come across as unsympathetic and I'm in agreement with this because the scene in which a worker cuts his own ear off serves no purpose at all and what exactly did Alfredo do that was so horrible that the people put him on trial? Being born into wealth? Apathy? These are not crimes! For me, one scene stands out that seems to belong in another film and it's where Alfredo and Ada snort some cocaine which makes one wonder how prevalent that drug was in the early parts of the 20th century. There are some glaring events in this attempted epic that might have viewers scratching their heads but for me this ambitious film represents the type of project that other directors should want to tackle (at least once) in their careers. Okay, the script goes all over the place but not once can I say I was bored watching this (I've seen it twice so far) and that's a tribute to Bertolucci who has consistently given audiences films to be talked about.
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Fat Girl (2001)
6/10
Another hard look at teenage sexuality by Breillat
30 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike other French films that frequently delve into the subject of teenage love and sex this effort offers a more tougher (and at times realistic) viewpoint and ends up using violence to make a statement. The ending to this film has angered and confused many viewers and while I'm the first to say that it was probably unnecessary I still think this is something that should be viewed and talked about. Story is about two teenage sisters that are staying with their parents in a resort town while on vacation and while discussing the subject of losing their virginity they find out that they have opposite opinions. Elena (Roxane Mesquida) is 15 and very pretty and she wants to save herself for true love but her overweight 12 year old sister Anais (Anais Pingot) declares that she would rather it be to a stranger so that it will be over and done.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Elena meets 21 year old Fernando (Libero De Rienzo) who's a law student and he ends up sneaking into the two sisters bedroom at night for some fun but Elena tells him that she's saving her virginity although he still manages to talk her into two other forms of intimacy. Eventually Fernando does have intercourse with Elena but her mother (Arsinee Khanjian) finds out and gets very upset to the point that she cancels the rest of the vacation and pours her two daughters into the car so that they can drive back home. During the long drive Elena's mother is still fuming and tells her that they might have her inspected which would add to her humiliation but things unexpectedly turn tragic when the three of them are attacked while at a rest stop.

Director Catherine Breillat has not only dealt before with the theme of exploring ones sexuality she's pretty much made her whole career out of it and she's always been a filmmaker that's been deemed controversial so I wasn't entirely shocked by the sudden ending. If one can (somewhat) try and forget the last 10 minutes they might remember that everything that came before it is actually pretty interesting starting with the fact that Breillat makes the younger sister the wisest of the two. Being a woman Breillat offers no sympathy to young female characters in her films since she understands their motives like the pretty Elena who want's love before sex but forces herself to believe Fernando's words and allows him to have his way. Breillat once again doesn't shy away from nudity in her films and here there is an extended sequence with Fernando and Elena in bed that lasts probably well over 15 minutes with the two of them naked as he seduces her and in case you were wondering...yes, that's a prosthetic penis he's wearing which explains his brief but horse hung appearance. Those who are confused by the ending might want to remember that Anais wanted to lose herself to a stranger not to mention that the assailant killed her pretty sister and chose to have sex with her instead but my question is did Breillat need that type of ending to make her point? I don't think so and you can't argue with those who hated it but I do think this is a thought provoking film that deserves not only a viewing but a tough discussion afterward. That's more than enough reason to recommend this and you have to respect any director who offers a challenge to it's audience which is what Breillat has been doing for some time.
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6/10
Female wrestlers, a monster, and plenty of nudity!
29 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
You can just tell when a certain film has that special quality and seems deemed to end up a cult favorite and with this gem I was tipped off just by the title alone because the word "Apes" is wrong since there is only one! I couldn't wait to watch this after seeing that! Story starts out with a female wrestler named Lucy Ossorio (Norma Lazareno) who critically maims another woman during a match which prompts her to consider retiring which pleases her boyfriend Arturo Martinez (Armando Silvestre) who's a cop.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Meanwhile, one Dr. Krallman (Jose Elias Moreno) needs a heart for his dying son Julio (Agustin Martinez Solares) so with the help from his gimp assistant Goyo (Carlos Lopez Moctezuma) they steal a gorilla from the local zoo and use it's organ. Not long after the operation Julio transforms into a half beast half human monster that breaks free and starts a murderous rampage of killing men and tearing the clothes off of women. Krallman and Goyo use a tranquilizer gun to stop him and bring him back but they also go to the hospital and abducts the female wrestler that was injured and they use her heart. They think everything will be fine after removing the gorilla heart and replacing it with one that's human but that darn monkey blood has still remained in Julio's system and he once again turns into the beast!

This low budget Mexican horror flick was directed by Rene Cardona who is part of the infamous Cardona family and along with his son they together have made several entertaining exploitation films such as this. Where do I begin with my observances? First off, this film is very bloody and boasts scenes involving decapitations, eye gouging, throat ripping, and stock footage of a real heart transplant that gives this some sort of weird credence for fans of gore. But let's face it, this is one of those "it's so bad it's good" efforts that even got the title wrong considering there is only one ape and I couldn't help but notice the shot of a real orangutan before the phony shot of the guy in the worst ape costume I have ever seen. This film is also horribly dubbed with mouths moving in one direction and words obviously muttering something else but they also had the English voices incorrectly pronouncing the letter "J" with Julio being pronounced with the American "J" and not like an "H". It's also hard not to notice that the half beast half human monster wouldn't hesitate for one second to kill every man it came into contact with but with the women his priority was to get their clothes off! It's hard to hate a monster for that reason and I guess even half beast half human creatures get horny too! Obviously that's the human side of him but it also makes me think that if you take a beast that's 99% ape and 1% human that would be enough of a human side to make it horny for naked women. There's two other things that I couldn't help but notice like the police car that almost hits the crowd of people at a murder scene and the fake grass that moves from a woman fighting with the monster revealing the floor of the soundstage! If your looking for a cheap exploitation film than you don't have to look any further because this effort delivers the goods and has plenty of gratuitous nudity and cheap gore to entertain those who enjoy this genre.
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Andrei Rublev (1966)
10/10
A true cinematic masterpiece
28 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to describe and put into words just how great something is without going overboard but this is one of those rare films that deserves all the praise in the world. Why this isn't mentioned by more critics and die-hard film buffs is a mystery because this is easily one of the greatest achievements I've ever seen and it puts to shame some of the other films that have had the monitor "Great" slapped on them. Story is about the 15th century Russian monk and painter Andrei Rublyov (Anatoli Solonitsyn) who is summoned by the Grand Prince to work with Theophanes the Greek (Nikolai Sergeyev) in painting the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** During Rublyov's journey he witnesses first hand many of the atrocities that are taking place in his country including a pagan orgy (in which he is tempted) and the Tartar raids that has Rublyov himself killing another man. All of this leads to Rublyov making a vow of silence, "I have nothing more to say to men" but over the next year he witnesses the casting and raising of a bell by a bell-maker's son (Nikolai Burlyayev) who knows that he will killed by the Grand Prince if it is not successfully completed. Rublyov is so moved by this that it restores his faith (spiritually and artistically) and tells the boy that they should go together, "You'll cast bells. I'll paint icons".

With this one film director Andrei Tarkovsky has achieved something that most (if not all) other filmmakers could only dream of but he still had to deal with the Russian censors who forced Tarkovsky to edit certain scenes of brutality. The question of what is art and what inspires it has been a debate with Tarkovsky throughout his career but with Andrei Rublyov he seems to use him as a metaphor for where artistic motivation comes from. Without poverty and inhumanity would there be art? Tarkovsky asks these questions but this film is more than just thought provoking because it's also one of the most visually stunning cinematic efforts I have ever seen. Cinematographer Vadim Yusov's haunting black and white imagery makes the bleak Russian countryside look absolutely breathtaking and this is one the finest films ever shot. At 205 minutes this fragmented and episodic film covers events from 1400 to 1423 and while other films are lucky to have at least one memorable scene in it this seems to be one incredible shot after another and the casting of the bell stands as one the most indelible celluloid microcosms ever captured. From the opening scene to the end shots where the viewer can see Rublyov's actual paintings Tarkovsky's epic film is indeed a masterpiece and it's the perfect example of cinema as art.
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