Reviews

285 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Black Girl (1966)
Awful awful awful awful awful.
21 October 2011
"Black Girl" ("Borom Sarret") (French/African, 1966): Read any book about film, and this one is cited as a GREAT work. Well folks, the King Has No Clothes. A brain-damaged college freshman could've done better. Here's what the STORY tried to be: an African woman is hired as a child caretaker in Africa, and later follows the French family to France to continue working for them. She doesn't like it. She complains a lot, thinks of herself as a slave, and eventually does something drastic. I'm telling you this isn't just a yawn... it is story full of plot holes, no character depth, no situational empathy (although I suspect viewers were EXPECTED to have strong feelings and side with the "poor girl"), continuity problems, and a motivational mess. That's not all. The movie has TERRIBLE camera work, crappy lighting, editing equal to a monkey with scissors, scoring that makes no sense and has no subtlety, acting that just plain stinks, location shots that are perhaps the worst I've ever seen… I'm simply ASTOUNDED at the kudos given this terrible mess of a lousy film. I can only surmise that in this case the "King has no clothes" Syndrome was the 1960's politically correct social agenda in the Euro/American sphere for recognizing black/white equal rights - which caused it to be held high for its (possible) intentions when in reality it deserved to be tossed in the garbage can as a failed attempt.
7 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Blast 'Em (1992)
Make my Day
17 September 2011
"Blast'em" (1992): This is a vanity documentary… which means the people who wanted to be documented had a documentary made about them. Pathetic, right? Well, NOT if you're them and you're THAT convinced you're deserving of more attention than anyone ever seems to give you and your "art". This is about some of the awful people who stalk stars and other faux news-worthy characters in Here Today / Gone Tomorrowland. Paparazzi. If YOU had a film made about you and your daily exploits but it showcased your whining, foul mouth, unprofessional and illegal behaviors, sneaky tricks, and self-centered self-righteousness, would YOU want it released to the public? I doubt it. But THAT is how ironically deluded and desperate these people were. They're long gone now, I'm sure. (I don't even have the urge to remember their names or Google them to see who rightfully died at the hands of a fed-up person who'd been violated once too many.)
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
I nearly puked
14 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, I HATE "vanity films". You know what they are - films made merely to promote this product or that person(s). Second, if you want to get on my bad side, try to validate and romanticize graffiti applied to others' private property. Third, I taught a long time, and it's been almost as long since I had to listen to so many self-righteous, self-impressed, self-centered, uneducated, immature idiots who want to believe their emotions validate their lack of intelligence. Their art efforts were shallow, and, of course, self-aggrandized (you can first spot these types by the time they spend practicing their signature instead of their art), and, are equally admired by a small peer audience of uneducated culture-babies who grew up on placebo intellectualism and Trix cereal. In an especially pathetic move to create associations, they include film maker Harmony Korine as though he is "one of them". (After all, it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know!) You'll love/hate their classically dimwitted, ironic rebellious insistence to be heroic "individuals" by their group pride in ALL skateboarding, looking alike, making like things, reveling in their refusal to become adults, and speaking with the same lack of language skills and education. You'll want to choke the "LIKE" and "YOU KNOW" right out of them. SPOILER ALERT: Oh, and just in case that doesn't bring you over, one of them dies and the others are given the chance to cash in on THAT emotion too… complete with romantic music sprayed on the surface of their fallen comrade. I nearly puked. What a bunch of jerk-offs who can't keep their spray cans in their pants.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Citizen Cohn (1992 TV Movie)
Disgusting and true
9 December 2008
"Citizen Cohn" (1992): James Woods plays intense characters. This may be his best. Roy Cohn (Woods) was the pit bull dog of a lawyer for Senator Joe McCarthy during the Commie Hunts of the 1950's and beyond. We follow Cohn's life – his self-righteous, contradictory, opportunistic, sleazy life – from childhood to death bed. Structured in flashbacks and flashforwards, we see his twisted points of view along with his victims and lackies. This is one of the best character studies ever made. It's disgusting, and true. Also starring Joe Don Baker, Joseph Bologna, Ed Flanders, Frederick Forrest, Lee Grant, and others. If you like Woods' job in this one (and you will), see "Another Day in Paradise" or the classic "The Onion Field".
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Shane (1953)
One of the very best Westerns
9 December 2008
"Shane" (1952): This is a classic Hollywood "Western", but it is one of the very best. I'll admit to not liking the lurid hues of Technicolor film, nor am I big on sweeping orchestral scores, but this story has heart and morals. Alan Ladd (the stoic stranger), Jean Arthur (the dedicated wife), Van Heflin (the dedicated farmer), Brandon De Wilde (the untalented boy who plays their son), Jack Palance (the hired killer), Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, and others star or fill in the story. Settlers starting farms are being harassed by one group of ranchers, and the problems escalate. By pure chance, a stranger wanders across their turf battle – a stranger with history – who, we learn, is ready to try a new life. He likes these people, and wants to stay. All the moral dilemmas are in place, the battles of wills and patience begin, and the boiling point will be found. Coming out of WWII, this film's message of "you can only be pushed so far, your patience can only last so long, and bullies must then be handled" would've rung true and positive for that audience – as it should to this day.
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Rocky Marciano (1999 TV Movie)
Skip the fake Rocky. See the REAL Rocky.
9 December 2008
"Rocky Marciano" (1999): Can the true life story of a boxer be full of lessons for us all? Yes. Forget that shmucky stuff like "Rocky", "Rocky II", "III", "IV" Sixteen, Twenty seven, Son of Rocky... ad nauseum. This is the modest, gritty, not-pretty, non-romanticized story of an underdog from Day One, who, by sheer determination and little else, rose to the top, and remains the ONLY undefeated Heavy Weight box in history. To do this, you must be something special, even if you ARE modest, have doubts, get pounded around, conned, taken for granted, and trade off family time to earn a living. It's OUR story, if you look beyond the ring. Jon Favreau stars, along with Penelope Miller, Judd Hirsch, a sleazy character by Tony Lo Bianco, and a wonderful character by George C. Scott. This is not the only boxing movie by far, but it is one of the Top Five. ("Raging Bull", "On the Waterfront", "Ali", and "The Boxer" would have to be the others.)
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Thompson was simply a Poster Boy
9 December 2008
"Gonzo – The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" (2007): This is a two hour documentary on writer Hunter Thompson, told through old film footage, and the memories of people who knew, and love-hated him. Was he talented, was his writing all that unique, was he undeservedly made into an icon? Look, those were heady times for all, and breaking rules was not only the joy but the expectation. I knew plenty of creative people who spit at anything that wasn't within their sphere that week. The air was full of pretension, self-righteousness, and huge self-indulgence. Thompson was simply a Poster Boy for the many. SOMEONE had to do it. SOMEONE had to mingle with the Upper Crud of that time, and the Upper Crud got a buzz from taking a Walk on the Wild Side with someone who didn't give a damn, held power, and could entertain them with a devil-may-care attitude they could only fantasize owning and enjoying. Fact is, the Poster Boys, besides being creative at times, were obnoxious, selfish, showy, mean spirited, dangerous, irritating, and NOT someone you'd want as a neighbor or near your kids at any time. They were novelty acts, and no doubt felt the pressure to perform like a merry monkey on acid. All that said, this film is a GOOD documentary of someone you will NOT like, and you will question the judgment of those who did.
1 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Nanking (2007)
Nanking raises big questions
9 December 2008
"Nanking" (documentary, 2007): When we think of Evil and War, we think first of the Nazis, Germany, and Jews. Though this is simplistic, we at least have these household terms as points of reference. We HATE everything around the names Nazi, Swastika, and Hitler. What our history has failed to do is discuss the Japanese at and before that same era with their attacks upon China, and, how they were no less brutal than the Nazis. Ill even go further than that and say their blood lust was more brutal, random, passionate, and less calculating than the Nazis. WHY we, as Americans, have allowed our history to be written so clearly and sharply about the Germans, yet so vaguely and softly about the Japanese, is a question I suspect has embarrassing answers. See this documentary. It wont answer all your questions, but it will initiate them.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Waiting for Godot, I mean, Guffman
9 December 2008
"Waiting for Guffman" (1996): THE FINEST assemblage of straight-faced comedians in all of history, create one of THE funniest movies EVER. "Waiting for Guffman" is about humans with more than enough faith...AND self-delusions. Christopher Guest is the driving force, both in front of and behind the camera, and along with Eugene Levy, portray a small town's population creating a small play about their small history, which is a VERY BIG deal to them. Guest's consistent theme (throughout his films) is about humans who don't have enough insight or talent to spot the lack of it within themselves. There is an incredible blind faith, tenderness and embarrassing, misguided drive within these people. And yet, within their little world, they support the dreams for one another, and move through their lives with solid delusion. "This is Spinal Tap", "Best in Show", and "A Mighty Wind" are other great examples. Guest also has the sense to call back his actors for further projects. This is brilliant work.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A quiet, subtle film
11 May 2008
"Winter Passing" (2005): This is a quiet, subtle film full of interesting people and complex emotions buried within private lives. Slowly the story weaves together, as the main characters find themselves connecting to others. Starring Ed Harris (great), Zoeey Dechanel (a growing favorite of mine), Will Ferrell (in an understated, odd role), Amelia Warner (as the "glue" of the group), and Amy Madigan (as the "catalyst"). This is my first viewing. Upon further viewings, it could end up in my top category. "Winter Passing" belongs somewhere in a grouping that would also include "Avalon" and "Unstrung Heroes". It is gentle, sad, quiet, painful, quirky, almost funny for split seconds, mysterious, loving, fragile, and forgiving.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
ONE reason to see this film
11 May 2008
"La Vie en Rose" (also known as "La Mome", 2007): As far as I'm concerned, there is one reason to see this film: Marion Cotillard. Okay, now let me back up… It's the life story of Edith Piaf, the French singer. She had a rough childhood, yes, but my god, she was such an obnoxious, screwed-up, addicted, mess of neurotic ego glitches, I wouldn't have wanted to live in the SAME CITY as her. Ugh. Nor have I EVER thought she was a singer worth praise. Ever. The story has that "you know where this is headed right from the start" structure, which works well. Since I do NOT like her singing, there's waaaay too much singing. Since she was a highly irritating person who brought trouble to everyone she touched, you won't like her. Now back to Marion Cotillard. She is AMAZING. AMAZING. If you want to see great acting, this is a rare example of what can be reached. Everyone in the cast is good, but I'm not listing them here. The film is carried entirely on the strong back of Cotillard.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Away from Her (2006)
Too much Info/Edu
11 May 2008
"Away from Her" (2007): Alzheimer's Disease. Love. Fighting all your life to keep it. Letting go. This is a painful, honest, frightening, gentle, terrifying film… because it is about that disease. The lead characters are superb. Julie Christie is an understated glory. Gordon Pinsent is stoic and fragile at the same time. Olympia Dukakis is brash and grounded. This SHOULD'VE been in the top category, but it's not… and here's why: For all its subtle acting, lovely photography, emotional power, and elegant story telling, it had too much "informational/educational agenda" loaded in. There was a less than subtle "teach the audience" angle to it, which often overstated a scene. I DO own this film, I WILL watch it again, it WAS a very moving experience, but it was NOT in the hands of a mature film director (Sarah Polley), I'm sorry to say.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
NOT a Kid's Movie!
11 May 2008
"Pan's Labyrinth" (Spanish, 2006): It won 3 Academy awards. Sometimes that means something. I think it does this time, but I suspect the film leaves quite a few average audience members scratching their heads and feeling disappointed. The story has two strings – one historical, about the end of WWII in Spain, when those in power are trying to clear out the last of the rebels, and, one increasingly fantastic, about a young girl who stumbles into a world of mystery, threats, and very strange events. Watch the movie from this vantage point right from the outset: It will move back and forth from one set of "realities" to the other. Think of one as the ADULT stage for The Struggle, and the other as the CHILD stage for The Struggle. It's political and archetypal. As for the creations, they are pretty interesting, with some wonderfully bizarre, dark, and frightening. THIS IS NOT a children's movie. NO WAY. It's violent and full of visualized nightmares.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Days of Glory (2006)
Long overdue
11 May 2008
"Days of Glory" ("Indigenes") (French & Arabic, 2006): It's World War II, in French Algeria, Africa. The local men want to fight the Nazis to help protect the "Motherland" of France. They volunteer, full of glory and enthusiasm. Then comes real war. And, if that wasn't enough, they slowly discover not only their love and dedication to each other, but the Class system within the French attitude. They are, they learn, eternally lower beings to the French. Do they fight the Nazis, or the French Class system and the racists, or both? Who lives – and why? Is there any sense to this at all? You will join their troop, and move through the horrors with them. This is a frustrating, maddening, sad, inspiring, embarrassing moment in French history. It's a film that may be long overdue, but does not have to go unnoticed.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Hyped as a Comedy? No way!
11 May 2008
"The Ballad of Jack and Rose" (2005): Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Camilla Belle, Catherine Keener, Beau Bridges, Jason Lee, Paul Dano, Ryan McDonald, and Jena Malone. This is the "ballad" of a man trying to keep his personal 1967 alive through his land, home, lifestyle, and daughter. Things are both ideal, and deeply troubled. Enter the "guests" who are mere catalysts for what lurks beneath. Although hyped as a comedy, it is not. At all. It IS touching, creepy, sad, embarrassing, delicate, beautiful, awkward, dramatic, pathetic… but not funny. Lewis always does a great job, Belle was a revelation of delicate, desperate wisdom. Keener was her rough edged, fragile persona. This story lives somewhere between gritty realism and a Legend of Olde. It appears very here and now, while it feels symbolic and literary… a long story to be told night after night around a fire.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Bronx Tale (1993)
It's "Avalon" with gangsters
11 May 2008
"A Bronx Tale" (1993): Starring Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, and other talented actors. Set in 1960-68 Bronx New York, this is the story of one small neighborhood, its residents – good and bad – how they interact, how they learn, who survives, and why. Directed by De Niro, written and produced by Palminteri, this is their baby in every way. It's a gritty yet mythical tale as seen through the eyes of a child, hard working adults, and criminals. The music track may at times be a little heavy-handed in its attempts to nail down a time frame, there are a few small continuity issues, but overall this is an enjoyable, rough film. It reminds me of "Avalon" but with gangsters. That is a simplification, but you get the idea. If you don't, SEE "Avalon" too!
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Brave One (2007)
Goodbye political correctness - FINALLY
11 May 2008
"The Brave One" (2007): Vigilante/revenge films are a category almost all their own. Some are pure sensationalism, others have higher qualities. One of the best of all time is "Jeremiah Johnson" (1972, Robert Redford); interesting ones are "Falling Down" (1993, Michael Douglas) and "The Fugitive" (1993, Harrison Ford); and some of the worst would have to be the "Rambo" series (Sylvester Stallone). "The Brave One" fits somewhere between "Jeremiah" and "Falling", and has the bonus of always-superb acting of Jodie Foster. Co-starring Terrence Howard, this is a look at a woman completely changed by a horrific incident in her life. With something of the attitude of "Taxi Driver" (speaking of Jodie Foster) (1976, Robert DeNiro), we watch a person follow their changing (latent?) psyche down an entirely unexpected but genetically familiar, overgrown path. Everyone's human. Everyone hurts, everyone wants to make things "Right", everyone is capable of violence despite social fashions that may say otherwise. This is the core of "The Brave One". It's worth every sad, tense, frightening, convoluted minute. It's well edited, scored, and photographed.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Atonement (2007)
Clarification at last
11 May 2008
"Atonement" (2007): With hesitations: I need to see this one a second time. It may go up or down in my categories. There's no doubt the acting, lighting, and photography were great. The 1930's story has too much of what I've long been weary – Constipated English Gentry. There is a glossy, invisible division between the viewer and the characters, making them seem less real. The story jumps around and often morphs, which I didn't mind, but doubted its usefulness until the last 15 minutes, when it was finally clarified. It didn't take long to understand the idea of "atonement", but I WAS caught by surprise as to how it was all happening. This was interesting to me, and finally removed the "glossiness" with which I had trouble.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not just Movie Real
11 May 2008
"Elizabeth – the Golden Age" (2007): I think it's fair to first mention what I said about "Elizabeth" (1998): "I continue to be amazed at the early, huge talent of Blanchett, surrounded by the talents of other actors, set in this world of stone and silk, blood and wine, golden crowns and poisoned gowns. Every time I see this film, I like it more. Perhaps it's not as huge in scope as "Lawrence of Arabia", but of equal quality when it comes to being a character study. It just doesn't get any better than this. The transformation of a girl into a woman into a reluctant, then resigned, then powerful queen, surrounded by liars, schemers and self-centered fools, is powerful history enough. Add the very best acting, sets, & costumes that feel REAL (not Movie-real), and a point that never veers away from it's goal, and I've got a film I'll see numerous times. Cate Blanchett is the best." Now: "Elizabeth – the Golden Age" is a great followup effort. All I've said about the latter applies to this one, and I add that the shift from the first "dark" film to this, a film full of light, is an interesting visual symbol for the changes in England (not to mention the darkening of Spain). This part of the story is "grander" – bigger – with huge events – less about the growth of Elizabeth, and more about England and its goals. It DOES get personal, but all is repeatedly set aside for the sake of what was seen as British destiny. This would make a wonderful double feature.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Westerner (1940)
A Perfect Representation of the American Psyche in 1940
11 May 2008
"The Westerner" (1940): Directed by William Wyler, starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennen. On one level, this is a classic tale of the Old West as it struggled through a transition of re-settlement. Depicted as such, it is a beautifully photographed, well acted, gritty, weird, funny, and emotional story. But, this film was also made in 1940. The Germans had begun their sweep across Europe, they were breaking treaties as fast as necessary, and non-militarized countries could not withstand the armed renegade country bent on following no rules but its own. To think that this was not on the minds of "The Westerner's" writers, directors, and audience, would be naïve. It's a perfect representation of current events in Europe, England, and America – as of 1940. (1941 would change that.) I found it fascinating from this perspective – watching it with something of the same gut level understanding that people in that time would have certainly felt. Cooper was the outsider who had no real attachments and wanted to remain isolated – keeping his freedom and avoiding entanglements. The town, run by despot Judge Roy Bean, made their own laws, convicted everyone in their way, and hung them without a second thought. The farmers were seen as an impediment to their expanding ideas which required more and more land and water. Cooper was drawn into the battle of ideologies, and attempted to become the ambassador aiming for peace, not war. He moved slowly, and lost the trust of everyone – until it was made very clear to him that the aggressors had no intention of honoring promises. It was time to take sides. It is PERFECT representation of that, and our (we, the Westerners), time.
15 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It's all about the Goal
11 May 2008
"Charlie Wilson's War" (2007): Starring Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Emily Blunt, and Amy Adams. Charlie Wilson was a congressman who decided the Afghan people needed help fighting the invading Russians. There you go. That's the story. What's interesting about it the film are the characters – real people – who made things happen, their interactions, and, the depiction of how REAL politics happens. Good old boys and girls. Hand shakes and favors. Debts and haranguing. Under-cover under cover under cover. Information blanketed beyond recognition. The Process. I found this film funny, frightening, fascinating, and informative. It's not a movie about special effects (which were weak), acting or photography or scoring. It's all there, but only to support the main character – the Political Goal.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The original Room Full of Snakes
11 May 2008
"The Lion in Winter" (1968): Adapted from the original stage play, this is a brilliant dialog film in the demanding tradition of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?", but set in the 12th century with Henry II and his conniving family members. It's a room full of snakes in that castle. Every line, thought, and action is further fodder for retort and revenge. It's very much in the attitude of Shakespeare, but without the rhyme. It is smart, witty, dark, funny, and well acted by all. Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, and others star in an incredibly literate, intense story. The sets are beautifully gritty. The lighting is a compromise that goes too far for convenient visualization. Spotlights alter the fire & candlelight logic at every turn. I found this the only flaw, but one that kept snagging me throughout. 1968 was an epic year for films.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The blood runs cold
11 May 2008
"Michael Clayton" (2007): George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and others star in this increasingly tense and lesseningly confusing drama. You have NO clue what's going on at first, you just know it sounds crazy, crazy, it sounds crazy, just crazy. It's interesting, dramatic, fast moving… so you stick with it. It's corporate. Lots of suits. You can feel the corruption. There are slimy weasels everywhere… they take pride in it… but who is who and why when what where… not so easy. Try to keep up – you'll need the info later – and be prepared for great scenes, top notch acting, a score that's moody but telegraphs upcoming events just a little too much, and let me tell you - there are a few scenes of such raw, blood-running-cold sociopathy, you'll never forget them.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The power of exchanges
11 May 2008
"A Man for all Seasons" (1966): Starring Paul Scofield, Vanessa Redgrave, John Hurt, and Suzannah York. I assume much of this case in 16th century Britain against Thomas More contains accuracies equal to the documentation of the case "against" Joan of Arc. Politics never changes, does it? This is a wonderful character study and superb dialog film about maneuvering, power, honesty, and honor. Thomas More was a man of steadfast clear-headedness, belief in the truth, and willingness to die for that which he saw as his country's salvation: the Law. I quickly began overlooking the visual flaws – extremely overly lit sets, nights confused with days, weak makeup, and other less rational devices – because of the power of the exchanges of the powerful vs the honorable characters.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Das Boot (1981)
You are battered right along with the crew
11 May 2008
"Das Boot" (1985, Dir. cut, 209 min., dubbed): It is long, stressful, and brutal. It is also a great film, and an interesting statement made BY Germans FOR Germans about World War II. Like many contemporary war films, this one soon loses the romance and glamour – as do wars for seasoned soldiers. Wolfgang Petersen chose the perfect moment for this story – just as it was dawning on the German submarine crews that the Allies had taken the lead, and now it was the Axis on the run. Everything they'd believed – or wanted to believe – was collapsing. They were seeing their leaders (Hitler, Goering, etc.) as an incompetent egotists with a no regard for anyone's expertise or lives, including "their" own people. You will live underwater with a group of average "Johann's" day after day after attack after attack as they try to kill their enemy and find themselves on the receiving end more and more often. The length of this film batters you along with them. The scoring is great, the claustrophobic camera work very effective, the editing… everything… is guided by the one goal of this exceptional film.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.