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Acting is Top Notch But the Movie Could Use an Infusion of Dramatic Tension
The acting here is top notch all around, led by Knightley and West. But I can see how many reviewers were turned off by this very much dialogue driven movie. The film, in my opinion, could have used a big infusion of dramatic tension, so although I was interested in the characters I never was able to invest emotionally in them.
Finally, why the filmmakers chose to show us virtually nothing of the enormous success Colette (Knightley) went on to later in life (as I had to read about it in the postscripts) I have no idea. They seemed more interested in showing us much more of her sexual preferences. One final thought, I thought it was funny how the Claudine novels basically went "viral" over 100 years before its current meaning in our world of computers and social media.
Can Be Lurid & Gruesome But the Acting Kept Me Engaged & Interested
The acting of Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, and Jamey Sheridan carries this film, as I see it. It's the latest interpretation of what happened on August 4th, 1892, in Fall River, Massachusetts, when the sensational axe murders of Andrew and Gabby Borden occurred in their home.
The movie is quite slow paced, and has several lurid, gruesome, and violent scenes perpetrated against both humans and animals. There's also a concurrent theme of sexual molestation, as well as graphic nudity in the final 25 minutes or so of the film.
Overall, this film won't appeal to everyone and can be difficult to watch at times, but, for me, the fine acting was enough to keep me engaged.
I'm clearly in the minority here, regarding this documentary on the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The film does effectively bring out the dark creative genius of McQueen, evident from when he began in the field. It became clear that he just wanted to design and evoke emotions, so when the fame and fortune inevitably arrived he became more and more miserable, all culminating in a most tragic ending.
McQueen delighted in turning his catwalk shows into often very controversial drama themed events, such as The Highland Rape Collection, whereby the models were depicted as just emerging from a sexual assault. As he often states in the movie, McQueen didn't care what others thought about him so despite being savaged by some critics, at times, he would remain true to what he felt was his artistry.
To me, the doc became too repetitious and seemed to cover the same ground over and over as it progressed. Add to it, the rather small subtitles and it all didn't add up to the greatest viewing experience for me. But I certainly got a sense of the incredible, seemingly natural, talent of this brilliant fashion designer.
Skate Kitchen (2018)
Not a Film That I Would Expect to Like, Yet I Did
Successfully using non-professional actors at the time (with the exceptions of Elizabeth Rodriguez and Jaden Smith) this quasi-documentary centers on the NYC female skateboarding collective known as Skate Kitchen. It falls short at times, but overall I found it another fascinating film from director Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack).
Although I'm way out of the intended demographic of the movie, I still was quite engaged and interested in the characters of the Skate Kitchen. With the exception of the lead here Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), we really don't find out a lot about the backgrounds or history of these teens. Thus, the movie is more about the portrayal of female friendship and bonding at this age, with the, at times, inevitable crossing paths with some male skateboarders.
Not a film that I would expect to like, yet I was taken in by the intimate portrayal of these teens, while trying not to judge their futures.
Kelly Macdonald is Astounding in This Powerhouse of a Movie
A powerhouse of a movie, led by the astounding nuanced performance of Kelly Macdonald. She portrays Agnes, a very introverted homemaker in a lifeless marriage, but who has a passion and genius for jigsaw puzzles.
Irrfan Khan is also exceptional in the role of Robert, who advertises for a jigsaw puzzle partner for an upcoming competition, and to which Agnes replies. The two will not only work well together on the puzzles, but will teach each other some valuable life's lessons as well.
David Denman is also totally believable here as Louie, Agnes' rather selfish lunkhead of a husband. I just thought the acting, direction, and writing in this film was spot on.
Overall, just an outstanding drama laced with humor and led by Macdonald's superb performance.
Di Renjie zhi Sidatianwang (2018)
Movie Has Its Faults But it is Spectacular in Many Ways
This latest Detective Dee film, directed by Tsui Hark, is a colorful epic ancient Chinese saga. It's filled with martial arts sequences, acrobatics, as well as plenty of treachery, deception, sorcery, illusions, and pageantry.
In the movie, the intrepid Detective Dee, head of the Bureau of Investigations, is awarded the super powerful Dragon-Taming Mace by the Emperor for his past heroism in saving the Kingdom. But the Detective will have to contend with the power hungry and evil Empress, as well as a reemerging cult, named the Wind Warriors, who seek control of the Dynasty as well, using magic and mind control.
I would say the film is somewhat overly long at about 2hrs. and 12 min. in length and it can be confusing and complicated at times.The final battle sequence I thought was too drawn out as well.
However, if one can just sit back and enjoy the wild special effects, the intrigue, the twists and turns, and colorful pageantry of it all, there are rewards here, although the movie is not for everyone.
Drain Alcatraz (2017)
I thought this National Geographic documentary, at only 47 minutes in length, was a rather fascinating film of the infamous prison Alcatraz. In 1934, the Federal Bureau of Prisons took over "The Rock" and till its closing in 1963 housed some of the most notorious criminals such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Whitey Bulger.
The main focus of the film is on why Alcatraz was considered nearly impossible to escape from, although it lay just a mile off the coast, in San Francisco Bay. Using computer graphics and high definition sonar scans, the waters surrounding the prison were drained on screen to illustrate what lay on the bottom of the bay, and how this helped caused extreme natural forces which made the waters so dangerous.
There were 14 escape attempts from Alcatraz. Probably the most known was in 1962 when 3 prisoners made elaborate preparations to escape, made it to the water and launched a makeshift raft into San Francisco Bay. The FBI launched an extensive search for the men but it was never proven one way or another whether they actually reached the shores of San Francisco. although some of their materials were plucked from the water such a their life vests and a paddle.
Overall this documentary, directed by Wayne Abbott, crams a lot into its brief running time, and I found it to be very interesting and informative. By the way, Alcatraz is now a museum run by the National Park Service, and is host to over a million visitors a year.
Gauguin - Voyage de Tahiti (2017)
Has Its Moments
I thought this film, directed by Edouard Deluc, had its moments but with its very methodical pacing and depressive tone can be a difficult watch. Vincent Cassel give a fine performance as the acclaimed artist Paul Gauguin, who unable to sell his paintings in France, leaves his family in Paris to find inspiration for his work on the island of Tahiti.
There he meets the Tahitian beauty Tehura (Tuhei Adams), who, while living together, begins to pose for Gauguin's paintings and sketches. However, despite the lush atmospherics of it all, Gauguin finds himself still impoverished, in failing health, and becoming more and possessive and selfish when it comes to young Tehura. The envisioned idyllic life is slipping away.
Overall, despite the powerful performances from Cassel and the debut of Adams, the movie to me just became mostly a slog, although, at times, it seems to come together nicely, but those moments are too few and far between. Thus, just a fair rating for me.
A Tale of Two Festivals
I picked up a copy of this DVD from my local library. At about an hour in length, the documentary centers on 2 motorcycle festivals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a week apart during the Memorial Day time period
One bike festival, called Harley Week, is comprised mostly of white bikers, while the other festival, called Black Bike Week, is comprised mostly of black bikers. Estimates in the film have about 30,000 bilkers attending Harley Week, with 300,000 bikers coming in for Black Bike Week.
One of the main points the movie, which is directed by Ricky Kelly, tries to make is that the attendees at Black Bike Week are not treated equally to those coming to Harley Week. An enormous police presence of about 700 officers are sent to Myrtle Beach from all over South Carolina, leading to accusations that the black motorcyclists are being intimidated and harassed. The bikers are also confined to a 23 mile one-way traffic loop which causes loads of frustration, not only for the bikers but for tourists and local citizens. Finally, there are complaints that local businesses jack up their prices and set up stricter rules to follow during Black Biker Week.
There is also in the doc an interesting piece on the history of neighboring Atlantic Beach (from what I read is now mostly annexed by North Myrtle Beach) and the role it played in South Carolina during the height of segregation. The town was booming then and was one place African-Americans could safely visit and enjoy the beaches and hotels there. Even the black entertainers who were performing in Myrtle Beach had to go back to Atlantic Beach to sleep due to segregation laws. Ironically, as segregation has decreased over the years the town of Atlantic Beach has suffered economically .
Overall, I thought this film made its point in a verbose but clear way, and with a new mayor elected in Myrtle Beach in November 2017 it will remain to be seen if any changes are made. To note, subtitles were available on the DVD and there are brief shots of upper female nudity in the film.
Love, Cecil (2017)
Well Presented Doc on a Multi-Talented Genius
In-depth documentary on the life and career of the immensely talented photographer, costume and set designer, illustrator, author, and painter Cecil Beaton. I thought the film captured well his incredible driving and creative force to illustrate what he regarded as the wondrous beauty in this world, aside from what reality truly was. To note, there were no subtitles on my DVD copy.
Beaton, who died in 1980 at the age of 76, is depicted giving candid interview excerpts here, and there are many other interview clips from those who knew him or were inspired by his work. But the real power of this movie, is in the incredibly striking photographs he took, as well as the dazzling costumes and lush sets he designed for such films as My Fair Lady and Gigi.
Overall, the documentary, most ably narrated by Rupert Everett and directed by the talented Lisa Immordino Vreeland, is a well presented look into the world of a multi-talented genius, as I see it.
Insightful & Fascinating Doc
This meticulously researched and cerebral docudrama is part of the PBS American Masters series, centering on the life and writings of Edgar A. Poe (he seldom used his middle name Allan). Denis O'Hare ably portrays Poe here and since I knew little of his life and how he crafted his masterworks I found the film highly insightful and fascinating.
The PBS documentary, directed by Eric Stange, also gives a vivid picture of what life was like in the 19th century, so different than today. Overall, for those that like historical movies and want to know more of what influences went into Poe's often macabre genius, I can highly recommend this one.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
High Expectations Dashed
My expectations for this satirical comedy were sky high due to the near unanimous pro critics praise. Oops! Not so fast.
Having worked in the telemarketing field, I can say the presentation of those elements in the movie were spot on. I also thought the dark satire of the state of our present society worked well at times.
However, for me, a good portion of the film just never got its act together enough to gel into a real effective movie and fell flat. Perhaps this is the result of Boots Riley's feature film debut, so with lots of good things here I'll look forward to his next presentation.
Our House (2018)
Fairly Creepy & Well Presented
I thought this fantasy horror tale was fairly creepy and was quite well presented. The young cast do very well in their roles and are quite believable. It's not the most original movie I've seen in this genre, but, overall, it was better than I anticipated and it kept me engaged throughout.
Never Goin' Back (2018)
Stoner "Comedy" Just Deteriorates
Looks like I'm clearly in the minority here, but I found little humor in this stoner "comedy". Two teen BFF"S (Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone), working as waitresses at a diner, are trying to get enough cash together to go on dream trip to the beach at Galveston.
The chaos and misadventures that follow might have been funny, but to me they just deteriorated into gross, crude, and moronic elements that were more annoying and painful to watch than anything else.
Not for me.
The Padre (2018)
Lacks Dramatic Tension & Suspense
Set in Colombia, Tim Roth portrays a pickpocket and conman disguised as a padre, as he tries to escape the pursuing ex-Marshal Nick Nolte, who believes Roth was responsible for the death of his pregnant daughter. Nolte has hired Luis Guzman, a local police officer, to help him in this pursuit and to smooth things over when Nolte disrespects the local populace or their customs. Finally, Valeria Henriquez is quite engaging as the young charmer Lena, who is desperate to join her sister in Minnesota (sold online to a family when they were both in a church orphanage) and will even team up with the "padre" to get there.
With this good cast and storyline I guess I expected more from this movie, but it lacked dramatic tension and suspense and came across as too flat-toned. Overall, it just never seemed to gel into anything substantial, as I see it.
Good Intentions But That Can't Save This Movie
Good intentions by all concerned to bring attention to the horrors of elephant poaching in Africa. However,if I'm going to be honest here, the movie itself was just way too filled with head shakingly ridiculous plot elements and dialogue. Not to be mean, but the young lead Sam Ashe Arnold needs to take a few more acting classes. Overall, can't recommend.
Dark River (2017)
There's no question Ruth Wilson has superb charisma on screen and her co-star Mark Stanley is excellent as well, but this film gives the viewer, in my opinion, little room to "come up for air", as the storyline is just relentlessly dark and bleak. I thought the writer and director here Clio Bernard's 2013 movie The Selfish Giant was powerful and memorable, but her latest film is just too muddled and depressing for my tastes.
Sollers Point (2017)
Realism Carries This Indie
McCaul Lombardi stars here as Keith, finishing up a 9 months of home detention after a prison stretch. He's living with his father (Jim Belushi), in Baltimore, with whom he has a strained relationship.
As with many other films of this genre, Keith will have to decide whether to accept some help from other family members and go back to school, or somehow slide back into his old trouble prone ways. You want to root for him, but he sure doesn't make it easy for you, with his, at times, volatile and impulsive actions.
Overall, the movie, written and directed by Matthew Porterfield (Putty Hill) , is carried along by its believable realistic characters and elements, and I was engaged enough to want to know how this was all going to turn out. However, don't expect any easy answers here or things to be eventually all "wrapped up in a neat bow".
Not Your Ordinary Documentary
This documentary on the life and career of actor and screenwriter Hampton Fancher, directed by Michael Almereyda, is definitely not your standard doc.
Early on it seemed so disjointed and weird that I wondered is this going to get any better? Fortunately, it did, at least in my opinion, but I believe it won't appeal to everyone.
Fancher, who is now 80-years-old and living in Brooklyn Heights, is best known for his co-writing the screenplay for one of the classic sci-fi movies of all time, the groundbreaking Blade Runner (1982). He also co-wrote the 2017 remake Blade Runner 2049, as well as writing The Mighty Quinn (1989) and co-writing and directing The Minus Man (1999).
Fancher's adolescence and young adulthood was so amazing and wild that I could only shake my head in disbelief at it. Most of the movie has Fancher recounting his life in his own words, and it is quite the life, to which I'll leave most of the details to the viewer.
Finally, in the last twenty minutes or so, Fancher recounts the backstory of his role in bringing Blade Runner to the screen, and it is quite the tale. Overall, viewers here are going to have to adjust to a different way of telling a life story, and, as I see it, the film got increasing coherent as it progressed, was filled with surprises, and I ended up rather engaged in it.
To note: there were no subtitles on my DVD copy, obtained at my local library, and there is explicit language throughout.
Amazing & Remarkable
This is an amazing and remarkable documentary. Born into abject poverty in Kenya, with an abusive and alcoholic father and a family that completely abandoned him as a child, Charles Mully became a street beggar and, of course, became most hardened and angry at society.
However, after a benevolent Indian woman gave him a break and offered him odd jobs to do, Mully eventually worked his way into becoming a self-made millionaire. But unhappy with his life and circumstances, Mully had an epiphany to get rid of his earthly possessions and to devote his life to helping the poor, especially street orphans like he was himself once.
He began to bring the orphans from the streets of the slums of Kenya to his home and set up his own orphanage. With his wife Esther accepting this for the most part, but running into opposition from his 9 children, Mully steadfastly moved ahead with his plan to save as many youngsters as possible.
Without going into more detail, let's just say his Mully Children's Family, against numerous obstacles, continued on and became the amazing presence and sanctuary it is today, rescuing thousands of orphans and giving them a second chance in life.
Overall, this film, directed by Scott Haze, is a truly inspirational and amazing tale that I can recommend highly to all.
An Ode to the Master Filmmaker
This HBO documentary, directed by Susan Lacy, at nearly two and a half hours long , is really an ode to one of the master filmmakers of all time Steven Spielberg.
For movie buffs, like myself, the film can be mind boggling as the incredible list of Spielberg movies over the decades is documented. He will give his personal view of what went into each movie, and there are many behind-the-scenes details offered by his fellow artists and collaborators.
As other reviewers have noted, the praise heaped upon him in the doc can get to be overdone as the film progresses. Also, I would have liked to have heard what Spielberg thought of the many actors who, over the years, helped make his films so special, but there's virtually none of that here.
Overall though, to get to relive some of these great movies and to get lots of insight into what makes this genius of the cinema tick, was certainly worth the price of admission for me.
The Witch Files (2018)
Not My Demographic
Being of an older generation, I realize that this movie was not geared for my demographic and may appeal more to younger viewers. But since there are not a lot of reviews as I write this, I'll try and give my opinion.
Five teens from a high school in Maine band together and form a coven on a site where centuries before suspected witches may have been pursued and murdered by the townspeople. By using chants and the power of group thoughts, they begin to realize these thoughts can be transferred into actually making their wishes become reality.
At first, it's a rather harmless use of their new powers, but as things progress they begin to realize there will be a steep price to pay for their actions. Plus, it will eventually become clear that there's a more sinister force at work among the five teens, one that will have to be fought for their own survival.
I thought, at times, this fantasy horror film had some surprising moments where it didn't take a path you would expect. Also, the dialogue and characters were more interesting than I anticipated.
However, overall, I just found this B-movie to be rather hokey and, as mentioned earlier, may appeal more to a much younger crowd. Thus, not awful, but not my cup of tea.
With very deliberate pacing and dark humor that seldom works effectively, this movie just added up to a difficult watch for me. Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska are fine actors but they can only do so much with this flat script. Save yourself the trek.
S.M.A.R.T. Chase (2017)
Orlando Bloom portrays the head of a Shanghai security company specializing in protecting valuable art work being transported from country to country. After a priceless Van Gogh is stolen from his possession about a year before, he's given a second chance by a Shanghai museum to transport a most valuable and last of its kind vase. Of course, things will not go according to plan.
This film just came across to me as amateurish and non-believable with stilted dialogue as well. Numerous chases and martial arts scenes are very predictable. Also, could someone have gotten Bloom a band-aid for that bloody forehead gash he was sporting almost the entire movie?
Overall, can't recommend.
Very Engaging Documentary
This very engaging documentary centers on the story of Ted Slauson, a mathematics teacher who become rather obsessed with the classic game show The Price is Right. Slauson, after becoming a fan of the show, realized that many of the items displayed for bids were often repeated. Thus, he began to record and memorize every item he could, leading to the knowledge that if he were on the show as a contestant he could be very successful.
Slauson, as the movie depicts, would begin to wait on the contestant lines very early in the morning, in the hopes of being interviewed and selected to be "called down" to bid on items, and, if successful, be in the final showcase. The film gives what I found to be a most interesting behind-the-scenes look at the game show, with Slauson narrating throughout and letting the viewer know his own personal experience, which was backed up by fascinating film footage of him in the audience and what was happening.
I won't give away too much how this all worked out but over the years Slauson appeared in the audience 37 times. There are also interviews with former host and executive producer Bob Barker and Roger Dobkowitz respectively, and another key figure in the doc is one of the gorgeous models on the show, Holly Hollstrom.
Postscript: As I usually do, after watching a doc I look up the histories of some of the people mentioned in it, and I was astounded to see on Wikipedia the bitter lawsuits, court cases, and settlements that took place over the years between Hollstrom, other models, and employees vs.Bob Barker and the show. This was not mentioned in "Perfect Bid", as I imagine the director C.J. Wallis just wanted to focus on the story at hand involving Slauson.