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The Last Laugh (2019)
perhaps for an audience "of a certain age"
Some very strange but true FACTS for this review: 1. The science of Egyptology was born when Napoleon, in an attempt to conquer the world, discovered Egypt en route. His retinue of scientists were so transfixed they begged him for permission to stay behind, and he granted it. Which is why most of the books on Egyptology are translated from the French. 2. Early (French) Egyptologists based their science on something called the Kings List. In the second half of the list, the Kings had normal lifespans. That portion is still taught in university today. In the first half of the list, each King lived for 1000s of years. That is never mentioned. Never. Coincidentally, if the first part of the List were true, hypothetically, those would be last known people in history to cheat death. The rest of us ultimately get old and pay the tab. This film is about precisely that. 3. Chevy is older than Dreyfuss but looks younger. Chase was the lynchpin for SNL and essentially launched the show. But here, playing against type, he is straight man for Dreyfuss, one of the world's most under-appreciated actors, who plays a "natural" comic as if he were born for the part. 4. For older folks, simply watching these two in action is reward enough. For a younger crowd, however, as Don Rickles himself used to say, parts of this uneven film are as exciting as watching a fly crawl up a drape.
Byuti insaideu (2015)
every story is a love story
1. One the most powerful scenes in the history film is the blackout scene in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN. This extends that specific theme.
2. Every story is a love story but not every story is about selfless love.
3. Korea does a better job with romantic comedies than any other country.
4. Like the main character, the movie is easy to find fault with. But if you commit to it, it will provide an experience you will never forget.
Travelers: 001 (2017)
Who needs an AI when the writers play God?
All the new shows are now "goosing" their audience with clif-hangers. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it makes a mess. This is a mess.
The Archer (2017)
wobbly movie with wobbly reviews
1. They have been making these "exploitation" movies -- wrongly accused teen sent to detention camp by corrupt judge -- since the 1940s. Seriously.
2. The IMDB external reviews make this sound like a mix of Godfather and Star Wars. It is not.
3. Bailey Noble is the best thing in the movie. She seems like she actually cares about her character, a claim no other cast member can make.
4. The corrupt judge is played by a character actor who always plays corrupt judges. The evil warden is played by a Robert Redford lookalike, which is just creepy. The cast is always dressed in Tide-clean outfits which is the telltale of a B movie.
Bottom Line -- if you are sent up the river by a corrupt judge, and this movie is played on movie night, it is bearable. Otherwise it is not
still one of the best physical comics in the game
Comedy currently offers more quantity than quality. That is not necessarily a good thing. Professionals, as in talent agents for HBO, vette comics based on two primary factors, material and delivery. You can be strong in one and weak in the other. Strong in both and you go in the history books like a Carlin or Pryor. The material here is not on par with Johnson's "signature" pieces like the nail story. But nonetheless she remains one of the top physical (delivery) comics out there and for that reason alone this special is worth your time.
Dancing Co-Ed (1939)
Meet the Blonde Bonfire
Which is how the studio PR Dept described Lana in her next few movies, significantly just after the male moviegoing public digested this one. As a B-grade comedy, it is simply that. As a Turner vehicle on the upward arc of her career it is something else. You were almost a decade into the Hayes Code and if you were looking for something a little higher octane than the typical Hollywood assembly line product, this was your stop. Turner, born in 1921, was a legitimate teen herself -- this was decades before Hollywood started casting "older for younger" -- and in short skirts, short shorts, and closeups, she steals the film at a felony level.
Melissa George Fans Will be Disappointed
Astonishing how good the first 10 minutes is, and how horrible the rest of the writing is. Melissa George gives 110% as a some sort of private superspy who is "the best" at what she does. After being betrayed and almost killed, she decides to go back and find out who it was that betrayed her. Great setup. But after that great setup, we get a crazy and illogical arc which randomly involves an innocent child, a past lover, an ongoing mission, betrayal everwhere, roaming killers, spies spying on spies (just like in Mad magazine) and a household which is SUPPOSED TO BE HIGH SECURITY but seems to have more cladestine comings and goings than a college dorm in the 1960s. Gawd-awful. I lasted three episodes. You may last longer depending on your pain threshold. This series was not cancelled. It was euthanized.
The Healer (2017)
Arango threw a curve ball, and a lot of people missed the pitch
The first thing that everyone missed is that this is an "auteur" movie, that is, the writer and director are one and the same.
The significance of that is important.
Canada, since the launch of its film sector in in the 1980s via tax credits, has built a solid and reliable industry by being essentially the "Walmart" of the sector. Constantly undercutting Hollywood prices (because of the cheaper Loonie) has kept the cash flowing.
And the Canucks have also taken hostage obscure sectors of the business that no one else was paying attention to. For example, 90% of all the so-called "X-mas" films you have seen in the last 20 years were Canadian-made.
Finally, Canada is where most once-successful franchises go to die. When you see a horror franchise or action franchise on its very last legs -- think Freddy Kruger IX or something like that -- chances are it is Canadian made.
So, against this odd backdrop of entrepreneurial spirit, it is rare and refreshing to see an auteur express a vision that is not a knockoff of something else.
And that is the key. This film is an original, it is like nothing you have seen. It takes place in one of Canada's most picturesque (showcase) small towns but it is not a small town piece like Doc Martin or Gilmore Girls or even Corner Gas. It has elements of faith but it is not a "faith-based" movie. It has elements of a rom-com yet without the "rom."
Again, an original.
And it is technically perfect. The script is solid. The acting from the leads is excellent, especially the often-overlooked Jonathan Pryce. (Secondary characters are hit and miss, which unfortunately is the curse of Canadian film making.) The story holds the attention. The questions raised are interesting. In many ways the film revisits issues from the blockbuster hit Resurrection (1980) but in a much subtler way.
It is solid workmanlike entertainment and deserves a better rating than most members have given it.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
Who says there is no such thing as time travel....?
Because writer/director Zahler has taken his audience back to an era when films were simpler, direct, and,above all, unrelenting in their pursuit of a single theme or idea.
He has manufactured a true guilty pleasure -- a film about a man making bad choices that is driven by brilliant characterizations, raw Adrenalin, and a compelling narrative that makes you watch no matter how much you know you should look away.
In the grand tradition of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, Vaughn, an actor once relegated to romantic comedies, does "the" physical role of his career and it is a barn burner.
There is no pretense at class. This is 1960s grindhouse from start to finish and if you have any doubts just listen to the closing music at the 2:05 mark --- a brisk orchestral piece that sounds more fitting to a vaudeville act than a melodrama. Zahler ends the show by signalling that he was messing with your head, overloading your senses, all along -- and moreover he was doing it deliberately and knowingly.
Don Johnson, an actor who continues to win SEXIEST MAN ALIVE awards for merely showing up at the ceremony, wanted to try something different and succeeded - his cigar-smoking, sadistic warden is a masterpiece. Unforgettable.
A hard film to review, a difficult film to classify, and an impossible film to ignore. The closest analog in this era would be the highly stylized, and highly violent, films from South Korea that glorify the individual over the system.
Our Souls at Night (2017)
Barefoot in the Park (1967) a Half Century Later
Some have said that Napoleon would have been nothing without Waterloo. The subtext of this movie may well be that the Baby Boomers, once the top demographic on the planet, having failed to improve the political system or the economic system, or to manifest especially noteworthy parenting skills -- in fact, having failed to improve the planet in any detectable way -- may best be remembered for simply getting old.
If that theorem is to be proved anywhere, it would be in this wonderful movie.
This may be a shock to the younger IMDb members, but at one time Redford and Fonda were not merely the biggest stars in Hollywood but also the biggest sex symbols in the biz.
If in 1967 -- please put on your time travel, butterfly effect, hats here -- you had suggested to these two that a full half-century later they would star is a laid-back but irrefutably charming rom-com where, in the very first scene, Fonda shows up at Redford's door and politely asks if he would mind sleeping with her ... well, let's just say that a raised eyebrow would be least you could expect in return
The script is so subtle (a word I have astonishingly used only a very few times in some 1350+ reviews here) that the viewer does not know whether to laugh or cry. Even the way Redford's character chooses to initially respond to the invitation -- not by a 411.com search, but by looking up Fonda's phone number in a handwritten address book his late wife had left behind -- brings an unavoidable smile to those who grasp the passage of time.
The dialog is a joy. It has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and most importantly never quite heads in the direction you expect it to.
In fact -- this for film historians only -- it may be a true breakthrough in concept. Remember that in the 1970s scriptwriters tried to "take the rom-com up a notch" by deliberately cutting out the "boy meets girl" portion of the traditional formula. Dozens of rom-coms since that era have started with the very first scene taking place "the morning after," leaving the audience to wonder how the original romance blossomed, before getting caught up in the subsequent events.
In that context, the premise here, if this film resonates with people in the months and years to come, could become a milestone in rom-coms. And deservedly so.
The Shadow Line: Episode #1.2 (2011)
Oh WoW (says the Top Reviewer)
Since the IMDb has been kind enough to call me a Top Reviewer (over 1350 reviews) I wanted to repay the favour with a detailed and eloquent review.
That's my review.
This episode is the middle of a complicated story told via mini-series, but here is the rub: You don't need the other episodes. This instalment is so good you could watch it alone and simply be dazzled by the performances and the writing.
Rafe Spall in particular steals his scenes and makes even the Bond villains look friendly and amiable.
Nim's Island (2008)
textbook example of raw star power overcoming all obstacles
And when I refer above to "all obstacles," I mean a script that comes across like one of the animals on the island (all of whom are simply adorable) bit a chunk out of it, no one noticed, and they filmed it anyway.
Butler, Foster, and Breslin between them generate enough electricity to power Manhattan or, in this case, at least a small island. They keep you glued to the screen in spite of the nonsense.
The story contains a brief scene where an overweight Australian boy, along with his parents, is briefly on the island. He not only sees Mim but tracks her down and makes a connection. Seconds later, he has to leave and disappears from the story.
The audience feels much the same way by the time the curtain closes. But it was a fun ride while it lasted.
never a watcher when you really need one
The movie drags viewers into a world when psychic abilities are common and each ability has a cute name.
The pity is that Hollywood itself totally lacks any of these abilities, most especially the "watchers." Otherwise someone would have noticed that the great ideas in the story were steam-rolled under a chewy and wandering script.
As I have said in some 1350+ reviews here, the key to a good movie is audience connection. It is that simple. In the opening of the Matrix for example we connect with Neo and he carries us through the film.
Here all the characters are in a "connection vacuum" save for Fanning who holds the attention by star power alone. It is ironic how the script makes such a fuss about her "being 13 years old" when typical of Hollywood she was at the time 15 "playing younger." Turns out the strange world presented in the movie is quite normal and boring compared to the inner workings of Tinseltown itself.
This film could have been something special. Instead it will go into the annals of film history as merely an oddity.
Like the inmates, a film not certain of what it wants to be ...
My list of reviews on the IMDb contains a significant number of documentaries and it has always been my view that a good documentary can be both entertaining and informative at the same time.
(See, for example, my review of The 24 Hour War (2016), the tale of an infamous feud between two car companies. The movie made you FEEL LIKE YOU WERE RIGHT THERE AT THE TRACK.)
Which is not the case here. Here, Director Micah Brown made the most serious mistake any film-maker can commit going into a project. He believed his own "spin." Brown went out of his way, bent over backwards, performed filmic contortions, all to "de-sensationalize" this tale.
Fully aware that the fighting aspects could overpower the core story, and believing that the moral, ethical and existential aspects of the piece were far too important to trivialize, Brown presents the viewer with a story that overall seems more like a Sunday morning sermon than a boxing film.
The "proof" of the core flaw here becomes obvious when the actual fight finally arrives, after every possible moral nuance of the story has, by that time, been dug up and analyzed under a microscope.
Suddenly, as the bell sounds for Round 1, the ever-patient viewer realizes that he has no concept of the fighting capabilities of either man; there has been no attempt to present that information in the exposition; there is no colour commentary; the rounds (the culmination of the movie) are edited like a highlight reel and do not flow; and (surprise!) one of the opponents has a major size advantage that no one told you about.
Here is a tip to aspiring documentary makers: surprises are great for birthdays and anniversaries; story-telling requires keeping the viewer fully informed as we move along, so there can be "connection" with what is happening on screen.
Better Call Saul: Chicanery (2017)
copying genius ... is still genius
The template for this arc is Inherit The Wind, considered as one of the top 10 best courtroom dramas of all time.
But copying genius is still genius.
The Spencer Tracy movie dealt with issues of religion. This deals with issues of morality. Difference? Not much.
The audience, the characters, pretty much know what happened "factually." But the law is an odd animal. It is man's attempt to grasp at something greater than himself. Messing with evidence is wrong. But using the law to get back at your brother for a lifetime of perceived wrongs is no better.
Also the way the producers set up entire episodes with flashbacks that initially make no sense is becoming almost a trademark.
Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Stories about TRanshumanism do not always work as intended.This one does. In the original Frankenstein story, the interaction between the "monster" and an innocent child who stumbles on the creature has become iconic. And hard to beat. This episode recreates that scene with one difference -- the child is also artificial and the humans (two thugs) are the bad guys. It is clever and it works. Even better, it trumps itself. At the close the AI robot (the "monster") who saved the girl (also an AI) was so damaged defending the girl that he had to be rebooted. So when the girl comes to thank the bot for saving her life, he has no memory of it. She gives him a flower but, having no memory, he tosses it away. And the episode closes on that shot -- the flower lying on the ground. Is that the future of mankind?
The great irony of course is that, because this was conceived as an "historical" -- almost educational -- drama, it never found an audience.
Which of course is the insanity of the modern entertainment business.
As a film, as a narrative, as a story, as entertainment it is perfect.
Perfect as to script, casting, acting, direction, editing, the whole 9 years.
In a parallel universe somewhere this film made it to theatres around the world and was cherished.
In this is universe, it is actually hard to find a copy.
Anti Matter (2016)
Brilliant Indie with "weaponized editing"
I have said before that if I had a dollar for every "auteur" indie (where the writer and director were one and the same) that aimed for the stars but kept hitting the floor, well, I could retire.
But for every dozen or so indies that hit a brick wall, one soars. This is the one that soars.
Indeed it aims high, turning what looks like a basic "sci fi experiment gone wrong" into an existential crisis of the soul.
But it succeeds, astonishingly, at being both entertaining and bemusing.
I was glued to the screen from the beginning to the end. That seldom happens.
The actors, the script, the direction, all remind me of Hitchcock at his peak. YOU CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO THESE PEOPLE.
And the editing, OMG. This is the first film I can recall where aggressive editing was used instead of complex SFX. The editing is beyond brilliant, it moves the audience at a visceral level from scene to scene.
This wonderful show which barely lasted two seasons was taken before its time and made my IMDb list of shows that will be sorely missed.
This episode is technically perfect in terms of craftsmanship and execution. It pushes all the buttons and show what might have been if the show had been allowed a proper run.
The moral issues are astonishing.
Well, it's not the Matrix
I have a theory about Hollywood which, if true, would be even more twisted than this movie.
I think there is a corner somewhere in Beverly Hills, don't know exactly where. There is a man waiting there, well-dressed, he looks like he belongs.
After dark, you casually saunter up to this man and as you pass you discretely hand him a folded up $100 bill; and, at the exact same moment, he passes you a carefully folded up script.
Of course, you cannot look at the script until you get back to your car. And by that time he man has disappeared. But you still have the script. And you look at the script, and, lo and behold, it is a complete ready-to-shoot (on video) script that has characters just like a real script; and dialog just like a real script; but virtually no SFX except maybe for paint and putty and basic stuff you can get at a hardware store; and even the locations are re-used here and there, all to save money.
And you say to yourself, OMG, this script is so cheap to make that it is a sure thing I can find the cash and, if I make it and it finds a distributor, then everyone is into profit after the first week or two.
Anyway, that is a backstory as good as or better than the real backstory to this film. The young actors gave it a go, but from almost the beginning, the characters are so unsympathetic that you almost feel, hey, if Satan doesn't arrive soon and take these guys out, maybe I will...
American Gods: Git Gone (2017)
"I think being dead has me at a disadvantage" (dialog)
Can we talk for a moment? Please pull up a chair.
In recent reviews I have tried to document the extraordinary evolution in TV since approximately the early 1990s to the present, an evolution that by this year (2017) has not only surpassed the quality of "theatrical movies" (something that would have unheard of a few years ago) but a phenomenon which I felt deserved its very own name, ie, TV 3.0
Shows like Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Dead Like Me, Banshee, are all iterations of the TV 3.0 phenomenon. However, until the arrival of this mind-boggling show, I felt that 2017's Westworld, with its huge names in front of and behind the camera, and massive budget, was the leading exponent.
I was wrong.
The clearly insane and deranged -- yet brilliant and unequalled!-- American Gods takes first prize. I confess I was spellbound but still "on the fence" until this specific episode.
However as I watched the incomparable Emily Browning trying to sew her arm back on while apologizing to her former best friend for urgently needing a toilet -- among many other unforgettable plot arcs -- I realized that it does not take big names and a big budget to evolve TV to the next level.
It takes only talent and guts, both of which this show has. In spades.
This is possibly the most startling and unforgettable episode of TV I have seen since (only fans will remember this) Angel turned "evil" after sleeping with Buffy and started killing everyone.
Props to the producers, writers and stars. This was not merely good TV, this was a piece of history.
Bad Frank (2017)
Definitively Not "Taken"
What prompted me to track this film down and have a peek was the paradox presented by the mainstream reviews.
They were skewed in every possible direction.
BAD FRANK was clearly one of those rare films you either loved or hated, but no middle ground.
If you loved it, you loved the performances, the quirky dialog, the oddball plot development and direction, and the whole "film noire" mood (even though it was shot in color). And also it was nominated for a whole bunch of awards I had never heard of, even won a couple.
However, if you hated it -- and a lot of mainstream reviewers did in fact hate it -- you saw it as a poor knockoff to Taken; you saw it as failing to deliver on its "action" promise; and you saw it as overlong, jumbled, and generally disappointing.
In other words, for a reviewer, this was a challenge. I had to find out for myself.
And I did.
Here is my take on BAD FRANK.
1. Critics who saw it as a cheap knockoff of Taken did not understand the film. In spite of the story and the casting, even in spite of the PR package put out by the distributors, this is much more a film that belongs in the class of "artistic horror" than an action story.
TAKEN, with Liam Neeson (the first one, not the horrible sequels), was a jewel of writing and direction. Action, reaction. Action, reaction. A straight arc from beginning to end. BAD FRANK benefits from, and yet also suffers from, Tony Germinario's intention -- as both writer and director -- to break as many scriptwriting conventions as he possibly can. And he does it just to show he can. (Like George Carlin's gag -- "why does a dog lick his privates? CAUSE HE CAN!")
2. When judged in its proper class -- as idiosyncratic horror, like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT -- it is pretty interesting, and stays with you after the credits roll, which is saying something. Which is not to say it is perfect, or even close to perfect, or even that it could get a table close to perfect at a fancy restaurant. It is overlong, some of the dialog is terrible -- and Tony Germinario may possibly have seen one too many Tarantino movies, and it shows.
But the acting is astounding. Interdonato never breaks character even for a split second, and Sizemore matches him pound for pound in the race to see who is crazier and deserves to have PLANTERS stamped on his butt.
3. The ending (which I will NOT give away) shows, once again, Tony Germinario's obsession with breaking rules. Remember the happy ending in Taken? Well, this ain't Taken. Not even close! Once again, a wackjob ending like this one is the hallmark, the fingerprint, of a horror film, not an action film.
Summary: as a first film for a fledgling writer/director correctly niched in its class -- horror -- it is interesting and memorable. As pure entertainment competing for your attention with the other 10,000 movies available in theatres and on the net, it is perhaps less of a sure thing. But still memorable.
Recommended? Yes, m'am.
The most important thing you need to remember before you watch, or re-watch, this wonderful film is that, in 1960, Disney was not the impersonal corporate behemoth you see today (owning about 1/3 of all US media) but rather the personal hobby of its creator, Walt Disney, who supervised every aspect of every project. Especially the ones he liked.
And he LOVED this one, and spared no expense to make it perfect. (Look for that phrase in the reviews of current movies -- 'spared no expense' -- and good luck trying to find it!) Mills steals every scene with a smile or a smirk or a glance. Makes Lindsay Lohan look like a wannabee. And every supporting character is cast by a major star from the period.
In many ways, a perfect film.
The Lost City of Z (2016)
Unusual Review Notes for an Unusual Movie
That the movie succeeds is a credit to Hunnam, who comes of age both literally and figuratively in this movie with a performance of great humility, charm, and grit. A far cry from his breakout role as a motorcycle gang leader, and an even further cry from his awkward performance in Guy Ritchie's unique (and hopefully never-to-be-repeated) view of young King Arthur as a slum thug.
Props to audiences worldwide who are connecting with a 2 hour and 20 minute opus that is as far from the new Transformers attempt as the earth is from the moon. Shows that quality film-making will always find an audience.
Would have been nice if the script were historically accurate but perhaps that is asking too much.
Ironically, because of the internet, the amount of solid new archaeological evidence being released each 24 hours in today's world would be the equivalent of ten years of time in Fawcett's era. In particular, I am referring to the material of late which suggests lost civilizations submerged in both the Atlantic and the Pacific over 12,000 years ago (see Graham Hancock's lectures for more, most free on Youtube) would explain how Brazil, centered between the two, could indeed have hosted a "lost city" which, thousands of years ago, entertained guests from both realms.
Finally -- for hard-core history buffs only -- the written diagrams preserved even today in the Archives of Rio de Janeiro ("Folio #512") which constitute the last known "communication" from the ACTUAL final, ill-fated, Fawcett expedition were discredited because "experts" of the day claimed they contained elements of different language roots, not one root, and hence "must" be fake. However, if indeed the area was a centerpoint between two now-lost civilizations originating in two different oceans, the multiple language roots would be expected and natural, and not an indication of fraud.
The Karate Kid (1984)
History and time give this movie a different feel
Done by the same director as Rocky, this unusual "feel good" movie became a hit in 1984 and generated two sequels before the mania died and the franchise imploded.
I remember the phenomenon from the 80s yet as a "prolific reviewer" for the IMDb now (which, for buffs, is not the same thing as a "Voracious Eater" from the Claymore series) I now see the film differently.
I see a very competently done film that is literally lifted off the ground and carried to the finish line by the extraordinary one-of-a-kind performance from a (then) 50 year old Pat Morita, an actor who essentially spent his entire career doing "asian walkons" and offers us only this one role as a chance to see what he actually could do. Given half a chance.
Macchio and Shue were competent (the former had some momentum from Happy Days/Laverne and Shirley and the latter was beginning a short career as a type of "brat pack" teenage star) but it was Morita who owned the film and kept your interest.
Unfortunately the historical record even on the IMDb does not reflect any of this. Shue actually won an award for a completely forgettable part and Morita not only did not win anything for this film but the only nominations he received were in the "supporting role" category. This is clear "color blindness" on the part of Hollywood. He has almost as much screen time as Macchio (I counted) but because his career was merely bit parts before (and after) this was the prevailing mindset. The film would have failed without him.
As a footnote, I was not able to identify precisely why he was cast in the role, but historically Okinawa has indeed been associated with its own unique brand of martial arts and, in the martial arts world, short stocky older men have long been acknowledged as champions even though in the films of our present era someone of Morita's age or body-type would never even be considered for such a part.
The two sequels were much weaker but the demand for them was great and, when there is money on the table, Hollywood will always oblige.