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Kind of long.
21 April 2008
I wish this was a better review, but I have to say I was a little disappointed with this movie.

Like the newspapers said, it had MOMENTS that rocked, but they were few and far between. Jason Segal was good, the girls were all hot, but the supporting players took me out of the film. I know, they are all "Apatow regulars", but every time they came on the screen I thought "Hey, there's that guy from _____, that other Apatow movie". Normally that doesn't bug me, as they are usually well cast.

But Paul Rudd as a surfing instructor? I didn't buy that at all. Jonah Hill as the waiter? Took me right out of the story.

I like the nudity, and some of the jokes, but this film was LONG and I wish I'd waited for the DVD.
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Conviction (2006)
same old same old...
23 February 2006
I just saw this on i-tunes, and that's about as interesting as the show gets- the fact that it's available for free, and without commercials, is wonderful.

As a LAW AND ORDER fan, mainly SVU, I had high hopes for this one. But I'm sad to report that it's not very interesting at all.

The plot could be taken out of a screen writing 101 class, and I won't go into it here except to say that (what a shocker!) there's a newbie, a cynic, a 'playa', and several gorgeous women who all act so dumb that you would'nt want them anywhere near you in a courtroom.

The masterminds at Dick Wolf productions also cast an actor named Elias Koteas to play a small role. Why do I point this out? Because Mr. Koteas, while being a fine actor, looks sounds and acts almost exactly like Christopher Meloni in SVU. Right down to the odd fitting toupee. In fact, several cast members from various LAW AND ORDER shows make appearances, but none can find any way of whipping up any interest in this soggy pile.

Someone needs to tell Dick Wolf- what worked 15 years ago is stale and boring now. All the same writers, directors, producers who were once able to bring something new to the game, are all now formulaic and dull. They try to spice it up with some sex, but even that is tame and predictable.

And apparently there are no gay characters in New York City! And the black men are either drug dealers or cowards! Okay, what did I like? I'm sure there was something. Let me wrack my brain. They actually use songs in this show, not that God awful beginning music class 'bump bump!' made famous for the last few decades. And it was beautifully filmed. And some of the acting wasn't bad, I particularly like Julianne Nicholson and the judge in her courtroom.

But other than that it's cliché after cliché after cliché followed by cliché. Hey, let's use a fat cop. And let's have him eating a donut! And that 'out of control' DA? How about he wolfs down aspirin with a red-bull. And that naive young dope who gave up his high paying job to 'do the right thing'- let's have him... ah, hell, it's not even worth recounting.

Like McDonalds, the Law and Order enterprise goes down easy, offers no nutrition, and makes you feel lousy after wards.

Stick with SVU.
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11 February 2006
This is a powerful beautiful film about love, in whatever form it takes. The acting is all superlative, but the film making itself is what sets this apart.

Here is a film maker who is not afraid to take time, to show you images with music, it's not fast paced (that's not to say it's slow) and it loves itself in a good way, if that makes any sense at all.

Ang Lee is truly a gifted film maker, he crafts this film from a simple story into a deeply thoughtful and moving testament to love, and a political comment on our world as well.

Yes, it features some of the worst wigs seen on film since Everybodys All American, but no matter. It's a beautiful piece of work, and one of the few films that you should actually see on a big screen- it's vast.
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Bee Season (2005)
Lovely, if flawed
11 February 2006
Okay, I can see how this film got lost in the shuffle- it's a quiet odd smart film that deals with quiet odd smart people. But it's worth seeing.

The acting is wonderful, the children and Juliette Binoche are magnificent. And Richard Gear was lovely too, although I thought miscast. Not having read the book, though, perhaps he was perfectly cast, but I found him so handsome that I couldn't believe he had these problems! Shallow on my part, I know, but there it is.

The children and the complex rich story carry this film, and they do it well. It was photographed lovingly, and the music was great too.

But as a Juliette Binoche fan, she remains the main reason to see this gem.
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Daniel Day Lewis makes this all worthwhile
11 February 2006
Even though I didn't entirely believe him in this role, he's such an outstanding actor that it held my attention.

This film is clearly an 'indy' film, and has many wonderful qualities. The photography, some of the acting, the scenery. Unfortunately, the script I found cloying and weak and entirely unbelievable, it sidestepped the creepy incestuous moments that it evoked, and felt a little like watching a scene from a writers workshop at times.

That being said- Daniel Day Lewis. He makes it all worthwhile.

It's worth a rent, and I do look forward to whatever Ms. Miller does next, and I hope she has a long career. It's wonderful to find a woman filmmaker who is willing to explore difficult themes, I just wish this film had been better.
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Jarhead (2005)
a well done pointless exercise
7 December 2005
With all that's going on in the world, why they chose this particular war to examine is beyond me. The story goes nowhere, which is the point, but the actors are wonderful, particularly Jake Gylenhaal.

The camera work is fluid and showy, but I felt it was often trying to tart up a story that needed some pizazz- and the music is, well, reminiscent to American Beauty.

I was disappointed with Peter Skarrsgard, I felt he coasted through the role that could have infused the film with a little energy.

All in all a very macho film with no place to go, perhaps this would have been brilliant ten years ago, but in this day and age it felt like I was watching a very well produced antique.

Sam Mendes, however, remains a director to watch.
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The Triangle (2005)
creepy fun, saved by the actors
5 December 2005
I'm not usually a 'sci-fi' kind of fan, I came to this quite frankly because there was nothing else on, and I was taken with it. It's haunted and very funny, I think in an intentional way (one line, describing a billionaire- 'he's the anti-Trump, no publicist, no parties, no public profile').

The actors rise considerably far above the material. Particularly Sam Neill, Eric Stoltz, and Bruce Davison, who all infuse their potentially one-dimensional roles with plenty of good stuff. My main gripe was with the plot, which is pretty convoluted, and didn't really become much more focused over the course of the next two episodes.

It was wonderful to see such fine Independent film actors tear up a script. They added depth and feeling to parts that normally would have none, and it became more noticeable as the mini-series went on and other actors came in and did not add that depth.

The director had a sure hand, and did a wonderful job not only with the actors but in creating a world that looks familiar, but can't possibly exist.

The music wasn't to my taste, but the photography was expertly done, there was clearly a great deal of thought and production value put into this film.

I'm hoping they'll make another one, perhaps turn this into a series, I think it may work even better as a one hour weekly adventure story.

All in all, worth a watch.
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A wonderful train wreck
2 November 2005
I could not stop watching this odd little movie, even when I wanted to! The performances- or are they?- are all believable and painful and funny, just like the family. It is an odd mix of documentary and fiction, but compelling and fun and awful.

The plot is as simple as can be- a family drives across the country- but the characters are like none seen in films in a very long time. The father and mother, in particular, steal the show- they are hurting and raw and hungry and brutal and real. The daughters are actresses, so that's when it falls a little into clichés that I have seen before, but whenever it gets back to the two parents, I was entranced.

Director Andrew Wagner does a fantastic job, I'm very curious to see what he does with a film his family does not act in!
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Lackawanna Blues (2005 TV Movie)
2 November 2005
I loved this movie, and ALL the performances. Sure, S. Epatha was stunning, but how about Terrance Howard and Jeffrey Wright and even odd little Macy Gray? They were all wonderful, as was the child, never an easy role to pull off.

George C. Wolfe directed this from the play he directed in New York, and by all accounts he is an incredible director, visual and great with the actors. The story held me and I truly cared not just about the people in it, but also about how the times have changed so- a point brought home simply and tenderly by the ending.

This is absolutely worth viewing!
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The Dying Gaul (I) (2005)
Interesting, watchable, and maddening
2 November 2005
I enjoyed this film, up to a point- and that point was almost exactly the half way mark, where the writer director chose to go the maudlin implausible route instead of sticking with what he had, which was wonderful.

To have three characters in conflict and resolve it without any fancy plot device would have been truly courageous, but sadly what started out so lovely descended into melodrama and tedium.

That being said, Craig Lucas is clearly a talent to watch, he did a marvelous job with the actors- particularly Peter Skaarsgard, who does wonderful work, and the script is smart and even touching in places.

Campbell Scott seemed miscast to me, wooden and distant at places but oddly brazen in others. I can't imagine a married studio executive actually touching and almost kissing a writer ON THE LOT. I found myself imagining what other actors would have done with the role, never a good sign. But then again, he was one of the producers, so Mr. Lucas had his hands tied.

All in all, the first act was so promising that I was angered by the way Lucas decided to end it.
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Junebug (2005)
27 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great film, and the director Phil Morrison is to be congratulated because it walks the fine line between loving observation and mocking condescension. I've never heard of this director before, but you can bet I'll go and see his next film!

The actors are all wonderful, particularly the parents of the family, they are truly standouts.

The music is perfect, the camera-work divine, and the story compelling.

The plot is (this is not a spoiler!) basically a fish out of water, but this fish is lovely Embeth Davidtz and she carries the story on her lovely slim shoulders quite well. The man playing her husband didn't have much to do, but the gentleman playing the artist she wants to represent is a marvel.

Do yourself a favor and see this movie, it gives hope to the independent film world!
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Loverboy (2005)
A failure, yes, but why?
27 October 2005
Kevin Bacon is a fine actor, and I was looking forward to this, his debut as a director. He's certainly worked with some of the best in the business, and one would hope that he'd picked up some great lessons in film making.

But this film, sadly, doesn't offer us much.

I believe the two main reasons it doesn't work are the script, and the casting of Kyra Sedgewick, Mr. Bacons real life wife.

The script is pretentious and humorless and forced, and Ms. Sedgewick, a fine actress with a beautiful body (shown off here quite often) is almost fetishized by her husband in this film- to the detriment of the story itself.

It's a film chock-a-block with celebrity cameos, everyone from Matt Dillion to Sandra Bullock to Campbell Scott and Marisa Tomei, and no one really survives it.

I will say this though- it is a BOLD failure, and I do look forward to what Mr. Bacon can do with a half decent script. He (and we) deserve better.
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Last Days (2005)
Enjoyable useless beauty
21 October 2005
As others have rightly pointed out, so much of this film depends on your prior knowledge (dare I say, love) of Kurt Cobain, that's it's hard to take it out of that context.

Sadly, I saw it with a few people who not only were not Cobain fans, but didn't know much about his life. Needless to say, they did not like the film.

Not that I loved it, but every scene was informed by all I knew had happened to him, and was going to happen in this film.

The shots are stunning, gorgeous, and the director of photography did amazing work- it's like watching a painting come to life, a still life with grunger plopped in the middle. Very interesting film, visually.

The SOUND of the film is quite amazing as well, the music of the sounds themselves, the water trickling and the heaters bumping on and off- it was almost like an art experience.

The acting was all fine, although there wasn't much for them to do, as the script felt a bit improvised and shallow- but that didn't stop me from enjoying it.

Actually, I enjoyed it like a decent drug trip- Gus Van Zant takes you on a drug trip, and you either go with it or you struggle against it, but it's definitely trippy and weird and not altogether unenjoyable.
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Sadly true and great.
21 October 2005
I say sadly because if you see this movie now, you realize how low our media has sunk- all the warning signs are in this movie.

It's a great film, I think the last great James Brooks film, but others may disagree. It has rich characters (who are believable as well), great acting, great writing, and although the music got a little cheesy, I even liked that.

William Hurt has never been better. Holly Hunter is stunning. And Albert Brooks walks away with every scene he's in- this triangle of people is beautifully drawn and compelling and made the whole movie soar above it's vital and important topic of the News, and how it's slowly being compromised in our nation.

Watch this with NETWORK for a truly fun and frightening evening.
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Difficult but wonderful.
21 October 2005
Ira Sachs, the first time director who made this film, deserves some kind of an award.

He's managed to bring together a very diverse story and cast, and have it be about something, AND get it released into American theaters. Give this man another movie, quick~! Rip Torn is amazing. And the Russian woman is stunning too. Their relationship is complicated and believable and awful, but not nearly as bad as Rip Torns relationship with his son, played wonderfully by the man who was once in that TV show with Rob Morrow and some Elk.

The music is beautiful, the camera-work divine, the pace gets slow at times but I stayed with it because I just loved seeing good actors get a chance to tear it up with a good script.

Looking forward to this directors next film!
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Lost (2004–2010)
A great show
11 October 2005
This is only based on the first season, but what a first season! The directing and acting and writing was all wonderful, I so look forward to wherever they take this show.

My favorites; Terry O'Quinn as the mysterious John Locke. He is a character you rarely see on television, someone with true mystery and power.

And Jorge Garcia, as the funny big guy- again, written and performed as though this were a feature film.

I'm less excited about the women on this show, the girl playing KATE seems a bit, well, modelly, and the bratty little sister flat out annoys, but that could be how she's written.

Bravo to ABC for having the guts to produce something with this much quality, I only hope they keep it up!
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The Bulls (2005)
11 October 2005
I was lucky enough to catch this short with a program of shorts at the Wine Country Festival, and it stood out among the crowd.

The director, Eric Stoltz (who I was waiting to see on Will and Grace last week, where was he??) does a fine job of creating a mood with the camera and music, so that you constantly feel that something bad is going to happen.

And it does, sort of, but in a funny way. The tone shifts back and forth, and the actors are marvelous here, I've never seen any of them but Rod McLachlan and Chris Pine are terrific as the pseudo father/son team. The girl didn't have a lot to do, but did it well.

If I had one complaint it was that there appeared to be a large scratch across one of the scenes, I don't know if it was in the projector or on the film, but that kind of thing always bugs me.

Overall, I found it dark and delightful, and worth seeing if it plays at a festival near you.
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odd fun, but not satisfying
11 October 2005
I'll admit that this film has great style, and the director Adam Goldberg is clearly talented - I like his work as an actor, as well- but I LOVE YOUR WORK falls short of what I like in a film. My friends who saw it with me at the festival enjoyed it, some more than others, and it's admittedly dark and complex- but at times I checked out of the story because I just didn't care that much about Giovanni Ribisis character. That's not to say that he doesn't do great work- that's what's hard about this film, it's obvious that everyone is talented and trying really hard, so you almost WANT it to succeed- but I left the theater feeling kind of ho-hum about it. Franke Potente is almost unrecognizable, and does fine work, as does Jared Harris, Judy Greer, and the whole cast.

But the story wasn't very strong or interesting, unless you're a put upon famous actor in Hollywood. The camera-work was lovely, the music was just okay and not very memorable, but overall I was left with the feeling that Adam Goldberg is quite talented but needs a great script to really soar.
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Best in Show (2000)
Truly original.
5 October 2005
I happen to love this director, Christopher Guest, and will see anything he makes. He's full of wit and anarchy and even feeling, and his films are populated with dorks and freaks and silliness, I love it.

This particular film is almost so absurd as to be related to Monty Python. The people are as odd as the dogs, and the performances, as usual, are naturalistic to the point of being documentarian. How he gets these actors to be SO natural is a small miracle in a world of overblown fake acting- by this I mean the state of modern film making.

In any case, I had to see this movie TWICE, that's how funny it is, and that's how curious it is to be let into this world of "Dog Shows".

Absolutely worth renting!
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Not as good as ...
5 October 2005
... the play it was based on, other Edward Zwick films, and so on.

I'm a big fan of Mr. Zwick and his films, but this seems to be the one misfire. Starting with rewriting a David Mamet film, turning it into a 'lighter' version, diluted it of all it's bite. They try to give some to the best friends, Belushi and Perkins, but that's such a cinema cliché that it had no power at all.

That and the fact that Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, while obviously being at the peak of their 'hotness', weren't really the full bodied rip'em apart actors that any piece Mamet writes NEEDS to breathe life into it! It's wan, it's silly, and it doesn't quite work.
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The Original
3 October 2005
Yes, this is the much copied original 'frat house' comedy, replete with nudity, drugs, anarchy, and every other stereo type in the books.

And yet, it all works beautifully, some would say even inspiringly. Well, obviously insipiringly, as every college comedy in the last 30 years seems to have 'borrowed' from it.

The plot is, well, the plot, and you'll find it elsewhere.

What makes this film shine are the performances, particularly John Belushi who steals every scene he's in. How sad that we lost this clown, he could've gone on to a career that rivalled Charlie Chaplins, he's that wonderful without words. His face was so expressive, he didn't even need lines.

John Vernon was the perfect foil for him, the ideal villain. Dean Wormer (perfectly named) was the character that could've been the hardest to believe, and yet he made it all real, and I actually cared for him a little bit at the end.

Tom Hulce, Kevin Bacon, Donald Sutherland, Verna Bloom, Peter Reigert- this cast is amazing and they all look like they're having the time of their lives.

Kudo's to director John Landis for bringing it all together and yet keeping that anarchic spirit that seems to belong to the college years. It made me want to go out and get high!
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Two and a Half Men (2003–2015)
The odd couple, with a kid
3 October 2005
I have to say, I lean towards agreeing with 'bad one liners followed by canned laughter'. This style of sitcom certainly had it's day, but after seeing THE OFFICE or ARRESTED Development, it becomes clear why people are tuning into reality shows.

That's not to knock the actors, who try valiantly to beat some humor into the proceedings. Cryer, in particular, has a way with a line that makes it come to life, even on the lifeless episodes. And Sheen does a nice job parodying himself in a way. I even grew to like the little kid, always the most dangerous cast member on a sitcom.

But the show seems to be sinking somehow, losing it's fun, and trying harder at the same time, which I find hard to watch. If they would just be brave and do one without a laugh track, which I personally think is killing the great American sitcom, the writing would HAVE to change, because they'd hear what jokes work rather than try and convince us that a joke is funny by using canned laughter.

Anyway. Not an entirely bad way to kill half an hour, and some talent involved, but not really worth making 'appointment television'.
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3 October 2005
I was quite taken with this film, a lovely respite from all the junk that has come out this year.

It's a simple tale of people connecting, and all the fear and heartache and joy that that simple act can encompass, but it's told with such an odd point of view that you look anew at simple encouters.

The actors- were they professional?- are all wonderful, and some of the scenes with the two girls giving a 'jimmy ha-ha' for instance border on outright child porn, but strangely it's not offensive. It offers a true to life way of seeing burgeoning sexuality without guidance, stumbling towards connection, it's messy and funny and uncomfortable, all good things. I'm not sounding clear about it, but it's terrific.

Don't expect the old plot point a/ plot point b/ basic boring storytelling that we're spoon fed on TV and in big budget studio films, this is truly independent and quirky and worth seeing.

Miranda July wrote and directed it and she also stars, and I hope she has a career that lets her make whatever her creative soul needs to make, she's a true American original.
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A lovely film
3 October 2005
I was lucky enough to see this film as part of the 'shorts' program at the Wine Country festival, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys film, not just shorts. It's emotional but not in a cloying way, and the performances are all wonderful. I particularly liked the blind girl, she was moving without TRYING to be moving. Gary Busey was a nice surprise, I didn't expect him to come down off of his 'crazy' perch, but when he does it's really nice to witness.

Apparently they are trying to turn this into a feature, which I think is a great idea, as long as they don't recast the roles.

Shane Stanley directed this, and he did a marvelous job, I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.
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Happy Endings (2005)
Could have been great.
3 October 2005
I think Don Roos is a VERY talented writer and director, let me get that out of the way first and foremost. He's smart and funny and cares and has a point of view that is not often seen in mainstream films. So why did I only give it a 7 rating? Because it was two hours and ten minutes long, and I just had a hard time caring that much for that long. If it was just 15 minutes shorter, it may have been a classic, but as science has proved- it's hard to sit still for that long.

Sounds shallow, but there it is.

Everything else about the film I just about loved- Lisa Kudrow was brilliant, as was Steve Coogan and Tom Arnold and Jason Ritter- but, as has been noted elsewhere, the movie belongs to Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose name I've never been able to spell let alone pronounce. She walks away with every scene she's in, and it's a marvel to behold.

I was less crazy about Laura Dern and Jessie Bradford, I felt that they almost tried to hard to show us how interesting and dramatic they could be, and when you're in the same scene as some of the other marvelous actors, it really SHOWS when you're 'acting', if that makes sense.

I wanted to love this film, and parts of it I did, but the overall left me dissatisfied, but hopeful for Don Roos next film, which I will see in it's opening weekend.
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