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Woman in Gold (2015)
9/10
A superb movie, must see.
19 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The script was just enough-- pure distilled perfection.

Its a nice simple story that you can follow. This is remarkable since there are flashbacks throughout.

The writer, director or cinematographer is a genius or all of them. The old faded picture segue to a moving picture. The flashback characters materialize in the modern cafe. The students in the background of the art museum. Going to the men's room to lose composure. Driving through the yellow traffic light. Judicious gingerly use of profanity. The splitting the goodbye scene with her parents for maximum impact at the end. Conflating present and past in end scene in her house was a genius use of the actors and setups. Her being an amateur before the local court-- him with the Supreme Court.

It was riveting, they wove a thriller into a drama. It showed the banality of evil, taking brothers off the plane. Mirren, what more needs to be said? It was like Amistad, that we have to honor our ancestors.

What an uplifting story, and one you should not miss.
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Survivor (I) (2015)
4/10
Another Eloi drama-porn fantasy
12 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Stop. Stop the DVD. Stop the stream. Stop the torrent. There is nothing worth watching here other than a waste of acting talent. Instead watch The Shallows. I was lucky enough to have that DVD from the library as well, even though I did not know enough to turn off this crap until after I watched it. Now you know. Spare yourself.

There must be a completely clueless elite that produces, writes, and directs atrocities like this. They have no connection to any human behaviors not involving limos and Dom Perignon. They watch other movies and see them succeed. So they make cargo-cult monstrosities like this, aping things like chases and explosion but without understanding. The characters don't behave in any believable way. The "technical" aspects like soldering a blob on a sim card to make a bomb are laugh-out-loud pathetic. Get any tech adviser from his mom's basement and he can come up with something more believable.

Some specific objections. It takes an hour to learn what the opening scene in Afghanistan had to do with anything. An ambassador that can order extra-judicial killings in her host country. A high-level chosen-child striver security analysis that has to work the counter. You mind as well make her a heroic DMV clerk. Milla making noises when she is chased that alternate between Frank Zappa's "ice pick in the forehead" and the noises women tennis players make when they hit the ball. We all want to have sex with the nice Croatian girl, but she shouldn't make those noises when she is running for her life. Simple labored breathing would be fine, and probably a lot sexier. About five nondescript middle-aged white guys (NM-AWGs) that I could not tell apart even by the end of the movie. I don't know if the director has a crush on this facial type, but maybe he could cast a few redheads and beards and heaven-forbid, black and brown people. A few more gals might help too. Or just eliminate half the characters.

The writer, director, and producer must be some Eloi-class elites that don't know anything about people or things. Maybe they just forgot, we all get old.

A lot might have been saved in the editing bay. Open with the art gallery scene, but the owner friend is a guy. There are more straight people than lesbians, sorry, its simple demographics. Then some work boredom. Then the fantastic restaurant explosion. Lose the Afghanistan scene completely. We know there are sociopaths out there, don't remind us when we go to a movie. Also lose the whole McGuffin gas bomb thing. That means all the high-tech gibberish too. Terrorists are stupid savage people. They would use a fertilizer bomb in some unexpected vehicle to kill everybody. Maybe make it a CNN truck so if it blows up or not, its a win/win. Have her save the crowd from that.

I was so delighted when a NM-AWG wondered where she would go after the bomb and another NM-AWG said "she will follow Embassy protocol." Gosh where they could have gone from there. Milla pulls out a bus locker key, perhaps from her sweet Croatian vagina. At the locker she gets $20,000, a gun, a passport, and a burner phone. She calls in and now all the good guys know she is on their side. The suspense is having her come in, without getting killed. She would have to have some special info, maybe the after-plastic-surgery appearance of the bad guy. But she gets foiled over and over. So she decides to fly to New York and stop the madman herself, despite just being a mild-mannered albeit sexy DMV clerk.

The bones are all there, its just in the arrangement and details that this movie fails so miserably. There was one benefit in watching this dreadful mess. When I did plug in The Shallows, 20 minutes in I got a lump in my throat and jumped up and shouted, "Look everybody, a plot!"
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Blood Ties (I) (2013)
5/10
My brother the sociopath
8 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
People just don't act like this. Perhaps in France where the writer/director is from, you stick with family members who are total losers, living in your little village with the one little well. Here in America, we have much more affiliation with friends and our co-workers than with any jerk relatives, even in 1970. Many families have spread across the country and hardly see each other any more.

When I read the box office section, I misread the 46 thousand domestic gross as 46 million. So I do the highlight>copy>New Tab>Bookmarks>Box Office Mojo>paste>search>click, because Jeff Besos is too inconsiderate to put a link both ways even though he owns both websites. So then I see they spent 25 million and got 2 million back from sales in France. So I guess those European investors that wanted to make a killing in the American market lost almost everything. Sorry, c'est dommage.

The sad thing is that if the editor or the money men deleted one scene, just one scene, this movie would be 100 times better. That scene was where the bad brother executes and entire family at that restaurant, for reasons unknown. Its awful hard to care about this sociopath jerk after that, and that scene was pretty early in the movie. With the time saved by taking that scene out, they could have put in a scene explaining how the crazy ticked-off ex husband escaped and was in pursuit of the cop brother. That would have made the ending more understandable, if no more sensible.

A few news flashes for French directors. An ex-con that just got out might get mad at his ex-girlfriend when he is drunk and lonely late at night. He will not take a gun into Grand Central Station to execute the girl and her cop boyfriend. Next flash: street hoods in Brooklyn in the 1970s did not carry machine guns. Another flash: Some loser brother does not get out of prison and start killing people, robbing people, and running girls without getting his knees broken by the Italians, and Puerto Rican, and Koreans, and gosh knows how many other established criminal enterprises there were in that neighborhood.

I think the director was insecure in his story and his actors, so he had to spray gratuitous drama wherever he could. This is so sad, since the actors and cinematography and music and editing were all so good. This movie showed me how little can be wrong to make a competent production into a flop.

Just toning everything down would have made this a decent move. Make the bad brother a lovable rogue, not a complete sociopath. No executing his henchmen in the robbery or other absurdities. Cripes, robbers are not murderers, it is just such incoherent characterization. I kinda lost track of all the girls, forgetting who was an ex-wife or a sister, or a lover, or some random broad off the street. Less is more.

And none of this love-you-hate-you-love-you-hate-you brother nonsense. Maybe make the cop brother get involved by busting brothels to make room for his brother's business, and of course, he would be in on the take. Its either that or make it a simple bad guy chased by the good cop with no family relationship, just good vs bad.

Its dripping with drama, but its all cargo-cult drama. The director has never read or studied much less been in real situations in the 1970s. He has dreamed up this confabulated image based on all the other (bad) movies he has watched, so the behaviors and characters in the movie don't ring true. I think of the violence in Goodfellas, and there was the central murder of Billy Batts, and Joe Pesci shooting the kid, and him getting his just rewards in the end. But there was no willy-nilly killing sprees. Mobsters are about money, not violence. The violence happens but as a result of chasing the money. Killing a whole family? They have assets, take the restaurant like in Donnie Brasco, or any other type of hard-butt extortion. Its all about money and killing people does not get you your money back, and attracts way too much attention from law enforcement.

The real pathos about this flick it that it could have been saved if they just cut out the absurd violence, and simplified the plot, and took out a few characters. They could have made back the budget in the editing room. A few re-shoots might have made it a profit-maker. What a sad sad waste.
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Downward Dog (2017– )
3/10
Like friends except nobody's friends
17 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Oh gosh, I have pals that manage millennials, and now I see what they are going through. Its not just the slacker "everybody gets a trophy" snowflakes, its the complete lack of ambitions, goals, or a philosophy. The show does not just show millennial slackers, it is made by millennial slackers, who all must give themselves little trophies no matter how self-indulgent and lame the work is.

How dare ABC preempt Blackish for this? I feel lobotomized.

Whew, they are moving it to Tuesday, to die the death it so deserves. Time for this week's episode of Luther.
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Ender's Game (2013)
3/10
Dreadful
13 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
OK men, we are facing a ruthless adversary with superior technology, intelligence, and numbers. Accordingly, we are going to have you play paintball all day. Don't worry, you get to play video games after that. Its like you never left your mom's basement.

In what absurd universe do they let children lead armies, on purpose? Great life lessons, like kick people when they are down.

Am I the only guy that thinks the black chick is a better actor than Harrison Ford? I like young fiction. I like sci-fi. I hated this.

The only re-shoot save I can see is to have all the other kids be black. Every single one of them. Something about fast twitch muscles. And he is so lame all the other kids take pity on him. So each kid shows him their one special trick or cheat. By learning all of the tricks he becomes better than the other kids and saves the day. Plus you get those Oscar yappers off your back.

Hey, it beats having some white guy play a Maori.

PS: I shipped this before the movie ended. So I should warn no matter how bad you think it is as you watch, it gets worse. Much worse.

PPS: To review the DVD, I would say "Even the trailers are bad."
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Bitter Lake (2015)
2/10
If you can't make sense of the world, call it art.
11 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It was an IMDb reviewer that commented on the horrible Dungeons and Dragons movie, "This is what happens when your mother owns a production company." Bitter Lake is what happens when you have access to the BBC film library and a lot of stock footage. It reminds me of an Ed Wood movie. I would call this a drive-by documentary.

Reverend Ike used to shout in his sermons, "Throw your money to the wall, that what sticks is for god, that what falls is for the church." Curtis is throwing a lot at the wall, hoping some of it just has to stick. After all, its two hours and sixteen minutes of throwing.

Curtis is a bit of a throwback, espousing turn-of-the-century platitudes (that's 1900, not 2000). He is slathering on the stock footage and art house sensibilities to shroud the basic fact that his analysis is a re-hash of Max Weber: WASP good, Orientals bad. And of course, jolly old England is just peachy, despite being buffoon incompetents. I really loved how he lays the troubles as being due to Roosevelt, when it is Britain's incompetent attempt to seize the remnant of the Ottoman Empire that made a mess of the Middle East, not to mention WWI. I am 38 minutes in, and still no mention of British Petroleum. OK, I will suffer a few more minutes.

Breathtaking specious arguments. "Collapse of Western economies sent leftists to Afghanistan" Oh really? Collapse? I guess he hopes in 100 years no one will remember that there was no real collapse, maybe just a slight economic contraction. "Manufacturing was decimated" Another common lie. Manufacturing has grown in dollar terms for decades. What has fallen is manufacturing employments, since we invented automation.

Curtis cherry-picks events and facts to support his hackneyed thesis. He did remind of things I forgot, like the oil embargo was triggered by an Israeli war. Too bad when Jimmy Carter got America off imported oil, we just didn't tell Saudi Arabia to stuff it and let Israel conquer everything between Libya and Turkey. It would have a saved a lot of blood and treasure for the whole world.

He accuses politicians of oversimplifying the world into good and evil, 20 seconds after he uses the word evil to characteristic those pesky orientals. Pot calling the kettle black.

OK, 1:45 and he claims Afghanistan has taught us all our beliefs and wrong, and now we believe in nothing. Ahhh nihilism, I guess this is a follow on to The Big Lebowski. He also rags on banks, like any good English elitist socialist should. Yawn.

One man's bribery and corruption is another man's economic and social stability. Saddam was corrupt and brutal, but no one can argue that Iraq is worse off today, for both Sunnis and Shias, than it was under his rule. Its like this whole documentary is an apology by someone who understands nothing, for Western societies that are equally clueless. Synecdoche.

A few nuggets but mostly blather-- politicians "gave" the banks power-- ha ha. I learned more reading the comments here than watching the video.
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Washington the Warrior (2006 TV Movie)
8/10
Great history, terrible video conversion
7 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This DVD taught me a lot about Washington. The "making of" was good too, as it showed deleted scenes such as when Washington marched the three mutineers through the camp before having them shot. The trailer (on YouTube) pointed out that Washington lost more battles then he won.

It was clear that Washington was a social climber, and not beneath talking credit for Yorktown, when it was the French general who convinced Washington to attack Yorktown instead of New York. Still, Washington would lead from the front, under withering fire, so his bravery (or foolhardiness) was obvious. And he did have the humility to accept that the French general was right. So for an ego-driven climber, who married rich and learned to love, I have to admit he was a pretty great man. That he turned over power back to the politicians was a monumental accomplishment.

The amazing thing about Washington is that he would learn from his mistakes, and he was analog in his thinking. Not a pushover and not brutal, he pardoned mutineers when it served the cause, and shot them when that served the cause.

What was horrible about the video was the interlacing artifacts. Everything that moved had comb artifacts, and there would be raster lines on white moving objects as well. The "making of" feature said that the documentary was shot in 720p at 24fps. So to actually add interlace artifacts to the DVD was a monumental bit of incompetence. Thankfully the free VLC video player has a de-interlace option in the "Tools>Preferences>Video" dialog. It takes out the worst of the artifacts, but it would be better if the DVD authoring just mapped the 24p into the 60i of the NTSC format properly. I was playing this out of a laptop connected via HDMI to a 70-inch TV, so the artifacts were really noticeable. If your DVD player de-interlaces automatically, you won't have this problem.
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Open Range (2003)
8/10
Great solid Western
25 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
What a great simple straightforward story, told well. No time-line chopping, just a nice linear story. No tragic hero that dies in the end. Just good guys and bad guys, and a happy ending, the way a Western should be. Can you believe the Hispanic kid was not killed off? What is remarkable is that I like the movie but I dislike Costner. Not as bad as I hate some other actors, but if you watch the bonus feature, he is almost as narcissistic as Tom Cruise in his bonus interview in The Last Samurai. It helps that Costner wears a beard so he is less recognizable to me, and his voice is not too obnoxious.

Another really stunning thing is that they used an older Annette Bening instead of some barely-legal fluff babe as the female lead. Bening is at the height of her power as an actress. Small things she did were really expressive, it was a joy to watch. All the talent was great, as was the camera work and editing. Yeah, it moved slowly, but I didn't care, I so enjoyed being transported back there, watching something that seemed based on believable human behavior, not Hollywood action-porn. This was obviously written before the time of first-person-shooter video games and I love it for that.

I still put True Grit as the best Western. After that, I used to put Tombstone. I never liked Unforgiven that much. So this was a great pleasure, as I would slot this in ahead of Tombstone, a solid #2. The voice-over in Tombstone makes it more like you are looking at the period. This movie immerses you in the period. You feel like you are living there back then.

Last week at the library I was cursed by my selection of Child 44, Atonement, and Cowboys and Aliens. Now I knew C&A was a stinker, that is why I took it it out, but the other two were a real disappointment. So this week its this flick, Breach, and the X-men future passed movie. This movie alone was worth the trip to the library, and Breach was darn good as well. I am confident the X-men movie will be another teen fanboy movie that looks more like a first-person shooter than a movie. That's OK, that's what I expect. What was a joy was seeing a Kevin Costner movie I really liked.
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Atonement (2007)
2/10
As rotten as its subject
18 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I guess probabilities exist that would see me taking out Aliens and Cowboys, Child 44, and this piece of crap from the library on the same day. All three suck, and often in the same way.

This movie is a Mean Girls with level-1 Tarantino, a schedule II Shyamalan, with an Altman tracking shot kicker. The Tarantino is because it jumps around in time, a very 1990s device and pretty bankrupt in this day and age. Worse yet, it plays the exact same scene over, just from a slightly different POV, so it wastes your time while it confused the story-line. Its a Shyamalan since it has a sociopath twist at the end. This allows the writers to hurt you the same way the creeptastic girl in the story hurts everyone around her.

The Altman kicker is the long tracking shot at Dunkirk, in a scene that was irrelevant to the story. Its as if these young directors have to brag at cocktail parties, "Oh I shot a horse chase in the desert (Aliens and Cowboys), or in this case, "Oh I shot a beach scene from WWII." Because the technology of movie-making has advanced so much, the scene does look better, but these self-absorbed directors put it down solely to their genius.

The horror of this movie is that it made money and got acclaim, which will only encourage more of this self-indulgent crap. I guess if your brain is still infantile, and you like pretty colors and distracting sounds, yeah, this film is great for that. If you have moved past a noisy mobile dancing over your crib, to the point where things have to make at least a little sense, this movie is atrocious.

Acting is good, other than direction that has them all seem autistic, as they all pause for 12 seconds rather than respond to whatever manufactured senseless dramatic situation they are faced with. Direction is so inept he changes the actress playing the "star" and also starts referring to her by her last name instead of her first. What point in this crap, symbolism she is changing? Go back to film school, and stay there.

Robin Williams said "Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you make too much money." A deleted scene titled "Walking through the fields" is God's way of telling you that you have too much budget.

The movie is titled Atonement, but that is not what it is about. First off, there is no atonement. The creep girl does not recant until she is 79 years old. Robbie's mother, her parents, everyone she hurt is dead. Cumberbatch is dead, unable to reply to her new accusations. Some atonement. The movie seems to be a love story, until the Shyamalan happens and its all a lie, told by the lying sociopath narcissist girl who ruins everyone's life, including the people that watch this drek.

So just when you think are are watching a move about a young couple, its really about this despicable creepy crap brat. Great, I love to see scheming creep sociopaths, especially ones that maneuver their lies into a big life payoff.

You could toss out all the war scenes and the scenes with Anorexic Girl. Then it would be about Briony. You would have to expand her POV and linearize the story line. Thing is, who would want to watch this creepy little liar? A novelist might think the story is all about the little budding writer, but everyone else sees her as an ancillary little distraction to life. A dork.

There were implausibilities. Like why didn't the police re-trace Robbie's path to prove he couldn't have tried to rape the girl? And prison for attempted rape, pretty much a mild assault? No, hardly. Even if her daddy was Lord Truplewaite of Devon on Hardwicke.

The movie was like a promo reel for the director, showing off his scenes, the hiding from the Boche, the trudging in the field, the hospital scene. I guess that is why I hate this movie so much. The soldiers coming into the hospital moved me to tears, and rather than stick to a coherent logical story, he had to bounce off to his next self-indulgent show-off clip reel.

I agree with another commentator. That there is a privileged class in the world that never had to work at anything and always is guaranteed to have a happy ending. So a happy ending is boring to them, whereas to us its the rarest of occurrences. I am sorry that the Marie Antoinettes of the world like this movie, it shows we are in need of a colony collapse disorder.
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Child 44 (2015)
Fractally inept
17 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was fractally inept, from the smallest detail to the biggest concept. The script and director must think its an accomplishment to keep the audience confused. No, confusion is the natural human condition. What is rare is clarity. I despised this movie from the beginning, when it was obvious that they used the Law and Order: Criminal Intent opening. This is where you string as many completely unrelated vignettes together because you are too incompetent to tell a story. Lets torture the audience, like some teen-tease. I remember checking the progress bar at 18 minutes, thinking that at least the movie had begun. I was wrong, it was more like three movies.

While USSR was no paradise in 1953, I have to believe the portrait painted by the book author of total repression represented his homosexual orientation. Yeah, USSR was probably pretty repressive if you were gay. That is wrong and bad, but don't portray every aspect of society as that repressive to everyone from farmers to MGB officers. As the Russian commentator noted here, even by 1953 the USSR was getting less totalitarian. Stalin died in 1953.

The movie was like a dramatization of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood but mixed in with portraits of Waco, Ruby Ridge, the McCarthy hearings, and the Mi Lai massacre. Its as if the movie cherry-picked every horror and excess of the USSR and then painted it as everyday life.

Confusion. Boy oh boy will you be confused. There is a reviewers here that thinks Gary Oldman was the father that adopted Tom Hardy. Another does not think the assassinated farmers were hiding the political prisoner. I have never watched a movie where the editing was so inept that I would be expecting the resolution of some vignette, and pop, I was in a completely different place with different characters maybe at a different place in the timeline. This may have been because the self-indulgent director shot a 4-hour movie and the editor had to smoosh it into a still-too-long 2 hours and 17 minutes.

And the director delights in confusion. Hey, lets have the big mano-a-mano climax be mud wrestling where we can't tell anybody apart. And lets use a lot of Jason Bourne shaky-cam so it is really impossible to know what is going on. Its just the feelings we convey, to show all the characters are confused too. Watch the director commentary of Amadeus where Milos Forman agonizes if his opening scene is clear enough for the audience to know what is going on.

In addition to the incompetent editing and script and direction, the fake accents do grate a little. Otherwise the actors were A-list, as you would expect. That fakeness was not helped by wild implausibility. Even in 1953 USSR, heck, especially in 1953 USSR, does anyone really think a mid-level MGB officer can shoot a subordinate in the back, in his office no-less? I know the book author hated the USSR, but do we really believe that the law enforcement apparatus would suppress murders because its the hallmark of an "imperfect society? Read the Wikipedia entry on Andrei Chikatilo, the real serial killer this movie appropriates. The Russians had 15 prosecutors and 29 detectives on the case. The investigation did implicate innocent people, but that happens in the US every single day. The investigation also solved 1000 unrelated crimes, including rapes and murders. Sure, you could say that was in 1985 USSR, but its not like the 1950s could have been that much different in the attitude towards crime.

Another major implausibility is the relationship to the wife. She loves you, she hates you, she cons you, she betrays you, she stands by you. Its like being married to the Magic 8-Ball. You never know what's going to turn up. Sorry, not based on any reality I have ever seen. Sneaky snarky scumbags stay that way. Oh, and back to confusion, how about when Hardy shows up at some parent's apartment. I thought they were her parents, since, ta da, he was an orphan. But no, the Amazing Kreskin tapped us on the forehead and with no warning or foreshadowing, we are expected to know they are his adoptive parents.

The main conflict here is really office politics. Spy agencies are full of passive-aggressives. they don't go around shooting each other or defenseless Kulaks at the drop of a hat.

Sadly there is no way to fix this mess. Its what economists call a dead-weight loss. You could give the book to the Russians that made Stalingrad (1990), and even they could not coax a good believable story out of this.

OK, who can resist? First, when writing about a mass murderer and serial killer, lets make the main conflict being with him (or her if you want an Oscar). Sure keep it in 1953 USSR, but factually show the hope for the future and changes as Stalin dies. Rather than some goofy spy agency fallen angel, lets have it be a prosecutor, like actually happened in real-life. Lets have Hardy be glad that the totalitarian state is in decline, but the only way he gets closer to solving the crime is by going all Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue on the suspects. This will let us wonder why humans always resort to violence and repression to get what we really really want.

A nice art-house film disguised as a police procedural. The society gets less repressive as the hero gets more repressive. The crazy killer goes down, so how do we really feel about that? Easy 85 million domestic gross, with great foreign box office. There will always be the action figures and product placements to make this a real home run. People that read the book will be appalled, but there are so few of them, it really does not matter.
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4/10
b + b = b-
15 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Mixing two B-movie genres does not give you an A movie. It gives you a lousy B movie, if that. Pretty much a set-piece action-porn flick, but with a huge budget. I heard about this reading on Favreau's movie Chef, a much better use of your time and his money. I also read somewhere that Favreau was mad at some famous actor who dissed this movie when it came out, as if that could have really accounted for the flop. No, all of SAG praising this turkey would not have made it watchable.

Because Hollywood types live in this make-believe netherworld they have no idea how real humans beings would behave. They also have little understanding of how aliens would behave. Here is a realistic re-write. Big alien ship lands in the desert. OK they start drilling for gold, lets allow that stupidity. The Indians are a little freaked. The aliens start grabbing up a few Indians to eat, mmmmmm red meat. Then as they scout around, they notice the giant cattle ranch. Cattle are way meatier than Indians so they take all the cattle and start eating them. This would actually provide some interesting dynamic, when the big-man-on-campus cattle baron has all his cattle taken away. Suddenly he has no wealth, no power, no jobs. Lets see how people treat him then. Now he might have a reason to go fight the aliens. He sure would have not risked his life for his milquetoast son.

As the aliens quietly mine for gold and munch on cattle, the locals work themselves into a lather. The aliens don't have to abduct anyone to do anal probing, they know all they need to from the first few Indians they ate. Stick a giant claw into a human and he dies. Research complete. Let's eat.

OK, OK, so the townspeople and Indians join together and attack the Alien spaceship. Since these creatures have the capacity for interstellar travel, they sure don't need to engage in hand-to-hand combat. No, they just zap every human in about 3 minutes and the humans are all dead. Also, since the Aliens have surely mastered genetics, they don't look like crude creepy turtle-people. They all look like TV newscasters, all of them. So with their chiseled features and great enunciation, slowly but surely the audience begins to sympathize with them, instead of those dirty townspeople or savage Indians.

So by the time the movie ends, we are delighted the TV newscaster aliens have killed all the humans, eaten all the cattle, and taken all the gold. Based on this level of narcissism and rapaciousness, we will no doubt nominate them to political office where they can start wars to kill more humans and graft more gold.

Roll credits.

I once read that the writers of a situation comedy reach creative bankruptcy when they do the "amnesia episode". I agree, so that aspect has to go. Also the alien-as-pretty-girl trope. That way you don't get distracted for 12 minuets wondered "How the hell did she get here?!" It is already a completely ridiculous premise, so chopping up the timeline just makes it more confusing. Straighten out the timeline, like a good B-movie. Fire all the high-dollar actors. Replace Daniel Craig with some young teen idol. I don't know who that is these days, but like DeCaprio 20 years ago. One star, one big paycheck. Cut the casting budget. Five townspeople, five Indians, three aliens. No dogs or kids, its tough enough having horses on set.

20 million budget, 85 million domestic gross. Plenty of action figure tie-ins. Maybe a ride at Universal Studios where you ride a mechanical horse up to the spaceship and then get tasered. Legal has to work out some kinks, but I think it would really go big. Anything would better than this movie, anything.

(Special tip o' the hat to the programmers at IMDb who won't let me write B + B = B- in the title, since they think it is shouting.)
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Burnt (I) (2015)
6/10
Sub TV-movie
4 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Pretty awful. A TV movie would be better. At least watching a Lifetime flick I will care a little about the characters and have a lump in my throat at the end. This thing, I wanted to waterboard the characters with soup from the Seinfield episode of the Soup Nazi, "Plenty soup for you!" I wish IMDb had a way to tag writers so that there is a pop-up warning displayed anytime you look at any of their movies. I gave this flick a try since I watched "Chef (2014)" a few weeks ago and I liked it. This one is perfectly incoherent. They trot out the worn-out tripe that a great chef has to be an infant terrible, emphasis on the infant. Then they have Bradley-Brad's competitor telling him that Bradley-Brad is a better chef, and that the competitor "needs him" ya know, to be better and give him something to strive for. What crap.

If Bradley-Brad did stumble into the competitor's kitchen drunk and raving, the competitor would have filmed it with his iPhone and posted it on Facebook 20 seconds after it happened. Then he would have let Bradley-Brad put the bag over his head and walked out of the kitchen smoked a cigarette, and gone to a pay phone to call the cops, explaining "This drunk raving lunatic came into my kitchen and put a sous vide bag over his head".

And sous vide as some avant garde cooking technique, please. How 2000. Maybe having Samoans roast a pig in the yard every night, that would be something different. Chez Poly. All the supposed food porn just turned me off. It was like real porn, over-demonstrative and completely unable to convey the subtle joys of the activity.

And the story arc is as unbelievable as the supposed avant garde cooking. He was a rotten viscous dope-fiend prick. Then he shucked a million oysters, and found redemption?! And he is now a good person when he finally goes to group therapy. A rotten prick never ever changes, it wired in, hardwired. But being humiliated and given an old set of knives and he becomes a decent loving step-dad role model. Judging from the waif-like appearance of his ex-girlfriend Bradley-Brad would have started abusing the little girl daughter in a couple years, while holding her mom's job as leverage to keep the whole thing quiet.

Chef Ramsey might throw pans around the kitchen, but that is just drama porn meant to keep people watching something on par with seeing paint dry. If a chef did that in real life he would be drawn up before the labor relations commission and sued for his entire net worth every time it happened.

And how about the female lead for mother of the year? The way her kid bosses her around, no wonder she takes Bradley-Brad's BS. If she didn't give in after 12 seconds her kid would have eaten the oatmeal instead of bribing the little rotten monster with coco puffs (deleted scene). Maybe if the rotten hell-child was wearing the oatmeal and made to go to school a few times, she might learn the social utility of listening to her mom.

What a hollow empty narcissist, to try an please some French frog idiots, rather than make a decent meal for the customers paying him exorbitant money. "The Hundred-Foot Journey" was pretty good. But note it was about the people, not the food. Burnt is like some Asperger examination of the food more than the people, since none of the people made any sense and none of them were consistent or believable. So I guess it had to be about the food.

To fix a movie with such a bad script is not a matter of a few re-shoots. Since this is pretty much a sausage fest, like a war movie, lets make the girl lead into the star. All the actors are great in this thing, a tribute to their professionalism. So make Bradley-Brad a believable narcissist sociopath by having him stay a narcissist sociopath the whole flick. Have the gal battle him the whole movie, until by the end the staff and owner and customers band behind her to get Bradley-Brad tossed out onto the street, a homeless bum. Maybe have her end up with the competitor, who helps her destroy Bradley-Brad, a commentary on how society can defeat sociopaths if we stick together.

Another theme could be how narcissist sociopaths so need to hurt people, they will start hurting themselves when the victims wise up and shun them. So sure, have Bradley-Brad seduce the gal and use his charm and cooking and witty repartee. Then after he tries to rape the little girl, lets have mom destroy him. And lets shoot a lot of new footage showing the mom to be a decent mother, not a phone-it-in mother. Eighty five million domestic gross and think of the action figures and marketing tie ins. Maybe go really dark and have her stab Bradley-Brad as he tries to rape the little girl yet again, and then you could sell the knife kit as a great tie-in. Its not just a Ginsu, its a statement of social justice.

Meanwhile, am I the only guy that will place a fork on the floor every time I go out to eat? I suspect the Michelin people were laughing as hard as all the real cooks when they watched this. That is not to say a Michelin taster never tried the fork trick, sometime in 1950, and that is not so say the tasters were exclusively two middle-aged men, back in 1960. But even if the fork play is pure BS, the wanna-be restaurants don't know that and I thankfully meet the demographic of the supposed Michelin taster. Next movie lets have them check the tires on the customer's cars to find the Michelin men.
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My Old Lady (2014)
4/10
A study in low character
19 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I note that people either love or hate this flick. Add me to the haters.

My fundamental problem is that the whole premise is implausible. I mean, the deadbeat bum got offered 9 million Euros for the building. Close to ten million bucks. But I guess in true New Yorker fashion, he had to hold out for 12 million. A person of his character would be on a first-class jet back to the Big Apple and starting on his coke habit 20 seconds after signing the contract. But then we wouldn't have all the other implausible drama.

Every major character was deplorable. Kevin Kline played a dead-beat bum and a whiny man-child. You can blame your grandparents (I'm Irish so I drink!) or you can blame your parents (Mommy didn't love me!) but here in real life we become adults and we can shape our own personality independent of genetics or upbringing. He is also a thief, stealing furniture to sell off for pocket change. His alcoholism and his relapse is almost to be expected. Of course he is an extortionist, shaking down the developer for cash at every opportunity.

Deplorable #2 is Maggie. She's an adulteress that is not even sure of the paternity of her own daughter. She is also a venal gold-digger, that only stayed with her husband since he was rich. To top things off, rather than get a job and keep her apartment building in the family, she follows her bum muse, and sells it off in a kind of private reverse mortgage.

Then there is deplorable #3, the daughter. She is another bum that needs to live with her mommy so she does not have to work too hard or find a husband. In addition, she is a mistress home-wrecker, just like mommy. Selfish to the core, she only worries about the affect of Keven's appearance on herself. What a peach.

They are from a milieu of deplorables. Kevin's dad is an adulterer, obviously. This man so full of love he needs side action does not have enough love to play catch with his sullen spoiled little boy (or leave him an inheritance). Kevin's mom is a piece of work. A passive-aggressive narcissist that repeatedly tries to kill herself, and finally succeeds in blowing her brains out in front of her young son. Zappa comes to mind, "You better get it right the first time, 'cause there's nothing worse than a suicide chump." I guess with a wife like this there is no wonder the dad cheated on her. Maggie's husband has such low character he stays married to her despite knowing he is being cuckolded.

The only decent people are the doctor, the real estate agent, the gal singing opera, and the shopkeeper that bought the stuff from Kevin. The developer might be hated by some people, but he is only trying to make Paris modern, and provide more housing. He was also a man of his word, letting Kevin extort him based on promises. They get a total of 3 minutes of screen time.

The fact that the deplorables are considered normal by the scriptwriter is the best reason to never live in a big city like New York.

OK, so how do we fix this mess? I can see a murder mystery. Make Maggie even more rotten. Make the daughter much nicer. Maggie is killed. The movie would implicate Kevin, who is, after all, a creep. Then he gets put in prison, and we find the daughter really is his sister, so she can file a claim and get the house, and who cares if it will be in court for a decade, she has a place to live. Agatha Christie with a level-1 Shyamalan.

Or make it a thriller. Kevin kills Maggie, which does save a lot of budget, and we watch that real estate agent, now cast as a detective, solve the crime. Halfway through, Kevin learns the daughter is his sister, and he is trying to kill her too. Now we have the damsel in distress. Make the doctor the detective's sidekick, she is so sweet and hot, can't lose with that casting. Have the developer as a love interest for the daughter, so they can get married and she ends up the property anyway. Jules Maigret crossed with Columbo.
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Brooklyn (2015)
6/10
Bimbo tale
22 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is about a sex trafficking ring run by an Irish priest in Brooklyn back in the 1950s. The Irish Church grooms and singles out good prospects. The Brooklyn priest then solicits money to bring those girls to America. He pimps them out into high-visibility department store jobs, as well as holding weekly dances where the girls can meet nice Catholic boys that will make a lot of Catholic babies who can drop coins into the collection plate for generations to come.

Eilis, his latest recruit, is a dainty waif type especially favored by the Church. Even if her sickly body cannot attract a sperm donor, she is good rape bait so she can end up an unwed mother contributing to the orphanage. Eilis is stupid, ungrateful, headstrong, and devious. Despite the Irish priest bringing her over with Irish money, she trolls some Italian guy. The priest must have figured that at least Italians are Catholic, so its business for some parish, but I am sure he was not pleased.

So to compound her ungratefulness, she has illegitimate sex with this Italian guy, and only afterwards marries him in a civil ceremony, another two spits in the face to her pimp priest. Worst yet, rather than get to work making Catholic babies, she flits back off to Ireland over some silly personal family problem. Not the family she should be starting, but her old family, the one she should have left behind and forgotten about.

So her devious ways come to the fore as she shows up in Ireland with no wedding ring, and tells no one she is married, not even her mother or an Irish priest. Rather than just take care of business, she has to try out her sex worker expertise, as taught her by her madam, who runs her Brooklyn brothel/boarding house as well as the other sluts she lives with there. In no time she has trapped a nice young man from a good family into her web.

Things were going peachy for this she-devil until her nefarious bigamist celestial marriage ways are uncovered by the town grocer, who adheres to higher moral code. Once the waif hooker realized the jig is up, she hustles off on the first train out of town. Not taking advantage of the telegraph at every dock, she steams home and surprises her first mark, that naive Italian kid she hooked into marriage using sex.

It was a directorial trump to make me like this tramp at first and feel sorry for her, cry with her, and find her attractive. Over the course of the film the director deftly shows what a scheming piece of crap Eilis is, and you hate her so bad you want to kill when you see that she is sinking her claws into the nice Italian kid. Needless to say, she will never tell him of her attempts to seduce the Irish guy, since it is obvious she is of extremely low character.

I was surprised a guy wrote the book, the story has an Ayn Rand feel to it, you know, "everybody does Dagny." Well I am sure Eilis will go through life charming boys and priests and employers, until maybe that Italian guy, tired of being cuckolded, will defenestrate her.

Lots of thought-provoking subtext, such as the role of the Church in the international sex trade. Its all prettified, but its obvious what is going on. I note the priest was not bringing over any bricklayers to help the US economy, he was essentially a uterus importer.

Another important life lesson so profoundly presented by the director was how you should never fall for those non-threatening waif bimbos. They are just devious little screw-ups. The best woman in the film was the boarding house lady. With her by your side you might have a happy life, and maybe she would look the other way if you dabbled in her merchandise once in a while. You wouldn't have to work a day in your life, and you end with the house if one of the whores kills her.

"Beware the Waif" would be a good tag line for the film. Twenty years ago, if you met Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder at some privileged posh Hollywood party, you might choose Winona to go home with. If you were on the spaceship with the drooling alien, you would know Sigourney is the partner you want. Otherwise you would just be an appetizer to Winona's inevitable death. Life is a spaceship my friend.
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Ex Machina (2014)
4/10
Forgettable
17 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I had this scribbled down on a pad where I jot down movies I want to see. I had forgot to cross it off when I saw it 6 months ago. I had forgot I had watched it, the movie is that forgettable. What really astonishes me is that I hated the movie and I still didn't remember it. Its like the observation in Rounders that we hardly remember the good poker hands but remember the bad beats exactly. Yet I still forgot this turkey, after a few months. Its not even good enough to hate.

I did remember seeing it soon after it started-- "Ohhh, this piece of crap." I still forgot the plot, and I fell asleep shorty after nerd-boy arrives at the compound. Fortunately I can read the "spoiler" reviews here and remind myself of what happened.

What a waste of talent and sets and cinematography. A simple re-write would have made the move much more interesting. The genius guy robot inventor should have been a robot too. That is the real Turing test. The quiet slave girl should have been the real human being. She had to make the inventor a guy since programming is a sexist profession and its the only way she could get taken seriously. Female 19th century authors had to pretend to be guys for the same reason.

The inventor guy should be addicted to Ritalin, not alcohol, and remember, he is the real AI robot. The movie could be a series of mini-Shyamalans, twist after twist. He thinks the slave girl is a robot, but finds she is human. He things the inventor guy is a human but he is a robot. He realizes the slave girl is the genius programmer. That is the Turing test, that he can't tell the guy is a robot and he wants to have sex with the robot girl more than the real girl, who intimidates him. Get Lucy Liu.

Then have the inventor guy robot rape the nerd. Ahh this is good stuff. And the nerd kinda liked it, but keeps wondering if he is queer since it was a machine that raped him and not a person. Note he confesses his thoughts to Ava, not the real woman. And so then he rapes Ava, and we can ponder if it is rape because rape was in his heart, even if it was a machine he raped.

A million endings come to mind, but I would have the slave girl who is really a genius programmer get bored with the whole thing, and leave the nerd trapped to starve to death, with the guy robot raping him repeatedly, and the nerd raping Ava repeatedly, until he is so weak from starvation the inventor guy robot just tosses the nerd's limp near-death body around as he finally rapes him to death. It adds a comedy dimension that the movie so needs.

Best of all, the slave girl real woman can fly out of the mess, and like the sociopath she is, start conjuring a new Turing test with new robots in a different compound. Now you got a sequel. Now you got a franchise.
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5/10
Unrealistic and self-indulgent
20 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I have to believe this was written under the influence of methamphetamine. There surely was no research influencing it, not even a trip to the dude ranch in Modern Family where Delmar could have schooled Quentin in the the postmodern Hollywood perceptions of the authentic West.

Its OK that Quentin was the rotten little boy in Junior High School, sitting in the back row, cupping his face into his hands and making fart noises. Its just that most of us grow out of that class-clown attention-whore phase around 9th grade. I am pretty sure that it is the same little boy repeating the N-word a hundred times, with his little prick sadistic grin, claiming its art and he is exposing racism. Hey, watch "42" if you want to see racism, this is faux-provocative tripe.

The movie is way too long. What could be a word is a sentence. What could be a sentence is paragraph. What could be a paragraph is a page, and what could be a page is a chapter. We get it QT, stop condescending.

The movie is completely unbelievable. Maybe people behave this way in meth-fueled Platonic Hollywood elitist fever dreams, but not in any planet we inhabit. First of, unlike Hollywood, criminals do not like stress or tension anymore than the rest of us. They would have waylaid the stage and blown off Kurt Russell's head, rather than do a long involved ridiculous mass murder with more moving parts that the Space Shuttle. It was Mad Magazine in the 1970s that showed Hollywood perception was a shoot-out in the street at high noon, while the reality was a shotgun to the back of the head at 4AM as the guy left the saloon.

Kurt would not be keeping his lady prisoner alive for the hangman. That is absurd. In the winter he would have killed her in an instant since the cold would keep her from smelling on the trip to Red Rock. He would have raped her first, bad teeth or no, she was pretty cute.

The people were all cartoon characters as well. First off, not even the Wizard of the KKK would call a black man the N-word to his face, when said black man has two .44 caliber pistols stuffed in his belt. What was Dr. King's expression-- "pernicious racism"? It would have been far more effective to have a character "slip" and say the N-word, only to apologize profusely. That is pernicious racism. This 14-year old neener neener name-calling is pathetic.

The cabin is way too big-- they didn't have the lumber nor the Trane forced-air furnace in post Civil War Wyoming. It should have been the size of a stage, but that would remind us this should be a play. Summer stock at best.

Others have noted all the modern words and expressions, just something else to remind us that every single word in the movie is a lie, including "the," "and," and "but." Having hung around the mob and some outlaw bikers, I can assure you that no ass-clown is going to sashay into the clubhouse and start taking people's guns. The allure and beauty of the West is the equality conferred by a gun on your side. Kurt's only option would be to wait out the storm in the barn.

The very Western hardness QT is trying to portray makes it unlikely that some brother is going to stage this complex fiasco out of filial love. Equally unlikely is his gang cronies coming along, when there is no direct financial benefit to them. They would have skedaddled to Mexico a month ago. It would be far more plausible if the gal knew where the loot was buried, and that is why they were trying to save her.

The gang-leader importuning patience. Maybe for a boring movie, but in real life criminals have no patience, that is why they are criminals. Otherwise they would be working for Wells Fargo and contributing to their pension plans.

Pistols. Nobody with any experience would want to have a pistol in a gunfight. The 12-gauge with 00 buckshot is far preferred. Concealing guns under tables and chairs-- puleeze-- how many things do they want to risk going wrong? Criminals are stupid and impatient, this scheming is completely out of character.

Major spoiler, detailed synopsis: Talk talk talk; talk talk; talk talk talk talk. Interracial sodomy rape. Boom. Boom boom boom boom. Boom boom boom boom boom. Roll credits.

The acting was magnificent-- which is what fools some people into thinking this is a good movie. Music was OK, don't know why it got an Oscar. Cinematography was superb as well.
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8/10
A kids film, and an art film
23 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
When the librarians put this out on the end-cap, I thought it was the 2016 remake. Now I know, this is the sequel, not the all-gyrlll-power remake. I wanted to see the remake to find out if it was pretty good and it was fan-boy misogyny that made it a flop. That is a task for another day, but watching this movie, and reading about it here will help me understand the remake and it flopping.

Now that I understand there was an animated series, and that burned in certain expectations into not fan-boys, but kids, well that might explain the vehemence towards the all-girl cast. When something is burned into your brain as a kid, its like a religion, and I can see them being really upset with the remake, they consider it blasphemous. I guess the remake could be done with the original actors, but they are both long in the tooth and expensive. I would have had the original cast have kids, and turn the business over to them, for the good of humanity. If Melissa McCarthy is as profane in the remake as in most of her films, I can see that as another betrayal. The original was a cute movie made into a kid's franchise, and then they do the four-letter-word treatment. They deserved to flop if that is the case.

The one thing I don't understand here is the slighting of the black character. He was not an any Act 1 scenes, and then, poof, he is dressed up and running around Manhattan. Talk about prestidigitation. Maybe he held out for too much money (called "gettin' uppity" by Hollywood producers) and finally made a deal and joined the cast halfway through principle photography.

This is a simple good movie. I barely remember the original, but I like this one. It was playful and aimed to kids. It did not try to slip in all kinds of innuendo and double entendre to keep mommy and daddy amused. Instead it had some art film elements, like New York being a hell hole, The statue of liberty being a beacon of hope, and yeah, love cures all. Very childish, almost infantile. I loved it.

Despite the movie Trainwreck, most movies that break even are pretty good. This one was $37 million in, $215 million out, worldwide. When you look at inflation-adjusted box office, the original was $586 million domestic, this one was $244 million domestic, and the 2016 gyrll-power remake was $130 million. Seems about right.
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The Final Cut (2004)
4/10
Sketchy script, good direction, other than casting
19 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A flop this monumental never has a simple explanation. I do think a lot can be laid at the feet of Robin Williams. He is miscast and plays the part in a way that makes me enjoy his misery. I can't tell if he is severely constipated or if he has diarrhea and is pinching his cheeks together so as not to soil his trousers.

The script has some shortcomings as well. So why does anyone care if a cutter shorts out his own chip? Why does anyone care that a cutter is part of an anti-memory movement? Why does anyone care about memory chips anyway? What did that guy who shot Robin Williams have against the rich guy? I am too bored to try and figure it out by watching the DVD over. There was no setup to the "romance." What on earth would she see in that stuffy constipated old man? And how the heck would she just jump in bed with him? The writer lived in LA too long.

Human beings just don't behave the way portrayed in this movie. You can invent plots, but you can't invent human nature, not when it is this far removed from reality.

When they showed the clips of crazy stuff people mis-remember, that invalidated the whole movie for me. Does that mean that he really did dream he did not kill the kid, but really did? Criss cross, switch swatch, goof-ball, go back to smoking dope in your college sophomore dorm room.

And most of all, if you were going to suppress a memory, why would it be the memory that you acted decently and saw the other kid was alive? Come on.

Saving this film would have been so easy. Just switch the parts of Robin Williams and Jim Caviezel. Now I can see why Sorvino would get busy with him on short notice. Now I can root for the hero. Now I can hate the bad guy. The director got star-struck, but he got struck by the wrong star.

The direction, by the same guy that wrote the mess, was quite good. Too bad his own writing tanked the career of a decent director. The editing and cinematography were equally superb. Tinfoil on a turd, unfortunately.

The movie studio marketing did not help-- setting up the expectation that this was a thriller, when it was a fever-dream thought-piece hallucination art film. If they wanted a thriller, they should have said so. Open with the cutter chased in the cemetery. The cutter has some secret that the bad guy could use to get rich-- maybe the ultimate stock tip-- who cares, its a McGuffin. Cutter runs to other cutter. Cutter runs to pretty girl. Cutter goes to den of iniquity to try and erase his memory. Use the abandoned factory set for the showdown. Pretty girl in distress, other cutter killed, maybe dweeb apprentice rises to the challenge. Cutter goes mano-a-mano with the bad guy on that plank, the bad guy falls to his death, or maybe only stunned and cutter pours red paint into the bad guy's mouth like waterboarding to either kill him (OK, too harsh for Hollywood) or get some information that saves the day. And remember, Robin Williams is the bad guy and Jim Caviezel is the cutter.

$85 million domestic gross, and think of the action figure tie-ins and the whole little factory toy set. Call Disney, make it a franchise with the cutter getting messed with every two years. I can hear the 5th sequel's trailer-- with that Tugg Speedman tone-- "All he wanted was to make re-memories...."
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A Serious Man (2009)
8/10
A movie about faith.
12 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I think the movie was about the son and his faith, not the cuckolded dad. Screen time does not a lead character make. The dad was the foil. He had faith in his brother, who was bat-shiat crazy. He had faith in his unfaithful wife. He had faith in Chrysler, what a dork. But his faith pays off sometimes, like when he gets tenure because he is Jewish (and because his son being raised Jewish).

The daughter is a a faithless hedonist. The first rabbi has blind faith, the second cynical faith, but the last rabbi had a questioning curious faith. He didn't see taking the kid's radio so much as an opportunity to punish, as much as an opportunity to learn something.

The tornado, the doctor's call, and Sy's death were an example of the Jewish phrase "Man plans, God laughs." I think they are saying a little faith is OK, but don't be surprised if it doesn't get you anywhere.

Larry says we can't understand understand anything, the wife doesn't understand him or his physics, the daughter can't understand him, nobody understands the Mentaculus or Arthur's gambling and homosexuality, no wonder faith has to take center stage. Notice the son is more searching than bewildered, that is why he smokes pot. Notice the son has character-- he wants to pay the 20 bucks back. And note the aged Rabbi is on a constant quest to understand things, both old things and new things. He is the hero of the flick.

This is a cute cheap little art film. That is all it is trying to be, so don't get cranky demanding another Oh Brother or Big Lebowski. Since it is a coming-of-age flick, it added to my theory that when you tease kids in Junior High school they become passive-aggressive sociopath computer programmers, and when you tease kids in High School they become shoot-black-people-in-the-back bully cops, but now I see, when they teased the Coens in Elementary School, we get Jewish art films. Cool. I guess the lesson is to tease 'em often, tease 'em early, and tease them with gusto, and the world will be a better place.
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4/10
Overwrought mess
6 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Vamping off Dostoevsky's comment on families, all good movies are the same, each failed movie is unique. This is why I love to watch failure unfold on the big screen.

Failure is fractal, it scales from the smallest detail to the largest concept. This movie does not need Mandelbrot mathematics to be bad, it has Ben Afflick. Ben is the fibromyalgia of bad, sending out little tendrils through the spine of a movie and making it suck everywhere. Jesse Eisenberg, more like a bad rash, helps with the disaster creation. I am surprised they didn't cast Adam Sandler.

Reverend Ike in Detroit used to shout, "Throw your money to the wall, that what sticks is for the Lord, that what falls is for the Church." Well this was throwing plot lines at a wall to see what would stick. When none of them did, they just included them all into an over-long mess.

What I love about the movie is that it depicts big corporate management failure at its best. First they hire a bunch of expensive actors. We all know expensive is not necessarily good. Gotta have plot, so they ordered a bunch up, and man oh man, did they get it. A bunch. And a bunch of sets, and a bunch of shooting locations, and a bunch of wire work, and a bunch of special effects.

Oh crap, Charlie Rose is in this-- I hope the theaters had barf bags tucked into every seat-back.

This movie is pretty much suited to its target-- Asperger fan boys. Talk about lack of synaptic pruning, this thing is all over the place. Lets see how far along I am--- 46 minutes in, 1:45 to go, gosh help me, the horror, the horror.

They didn't hire a director that understood kid fanboys, they hired a kid fanboy. And they were surprised when they got an infantile movie mess.

I was always surprised when I took probability and statistics, how a certain outcome could be foretold with such a small sample size. But the confidence interval tells no lies. I am sure the minute they came out of the focus groups the studio knew it had a flop. I like to pretend I am the Webster Wolfe fixer they call to patch up the mess. There is no fix for this, Ben Afflick is in it. Maybe they could hire Christian Bale and digitally map his face over Ben Afflick's, but there are probably a whole slew of contract issues. Note to big studios, be sure to put in a clause that you can replace the actor's face and voice in all contracts.

Now somebody is grabbing somebody's heart out, foretelling more senseless plot points. Oh crap, an hour and thirty five minutes to go, give me strength.

Dragging a car by a cable, I guess the laws of physics never mattered, so whey should they now. And Batman needn't stand on a crane shooting tracking arrows into the truck, he could just sit in the Bat Cave and reroute the damn truck with a hack and some Perl code.

I hated this move from the opening shot of Bat Boy levitating, when the whole beautiful premise of Batman is he had no super-human powers. Then it was a dream, and I hated it even more, lazy hack third-rate story telling hacks.

Big plus, Eisenberg just used the word "Junebug" which reminded me of "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka," which was on Bounce last night. I have the DVD, of course. 1:21 to go, please make it stop.

The Superman actor looks a tiny bit like John Travolta, around the mouth. 1:16 to go-- I know a movie sucks when I don't pause the DVD when I go make a sandwich, unlike Vera or even that Woody Allen Paris flick I watched last night.

OK, I am going to take a shower and get ready for bed, while this movie plays out. Pro-tip to the studios-- watch 5 contiguous episodes of NYPD Blue before green-lighting anything. All you need a 6 good guys, 2 bad guys, and Sipowicz slapping one of the bad guys in the back of the head. Anything more is excess. Oh dear deity- Wonder Woman, who's next, Wolverine? I hope he slashes them all to tiny chunks and puts them on a pizza.

Nooooo Kevin Costner-- nooooooooo. If you film it they won't come dude, and they sure won't pay. Time to shower. A new Simpsons on tonight.

Well I'm back, totally refreshed, as if the shower washed this bad movie off me. Thankfully I watched Total Recall 2012 two days ago, so I was prepared for bad. I can't believe I am saying this-- but I would rather watch a Bob's Burger episode then the end of this mess. See ya!
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8/10
Thought provoking
5 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I watched Total Recall (2012) last night. You could make a colorable argument that it is the stupidest movie ever made. So watching this today almost gave me whiplash, since it is such a thought-provoking flick.

It might not be the thoughts Woody wants. I see it as Woody trying to apologize for cynicism and negatively his whole life. Then again, maybe he went to France to meet Roman Polanski and get some 12-year-old girls. Hard to say.

I find it amusing, Woody's smugness, when he criticizes Hollywood for only caring about dinner and movies. (I do think the LA Times should be divided into those two sections, just for convenience.) It seems the only thing Woody has more contempt for than Hollywood is businessmen. What a hackneyed Marxist college professor outlook on life. Welcome to Woody's world, set your watch back 40 years. No wonder he is fixated on the past.

It was appropriate that Woody showed the Versailles, since his Marie Antoinette attitude was so prevalent. He must miss Greenwich Village, now all gentrified. Being way more provincial than he would admit, Woody can't see all the hip artists are in Branson Missouri, watching Yakov Smirnoff and being the same drunken bums artists they have been for centuries, if not millennia.

It was fun to pause the movie and look people up. I knew of Gertrude Stien, but a little Wikipedia and I can see she was a Bay Area trust fund baby, kinda like the Grateful Dead. She could afford to not have a job and buy paintings from the whole coterie of bums that swarmed around her like bees to honey. Remember, to these bums of magnificent commitment, what we call a "salon" was to them a warm room, and maybe some free booze.

Like I said, it is a thoughtful movie. So I got to thinking about this dynamic: rich idle people, who any good Marxist should hate, except they are bum magnets for a bunch of dipsomaniac artist types. And how the art is a fusion, a very capitalist fusion, of those rich patron's expectations and the kind of long-con BS that a bunch of brain-damaged dope fiends can whip up on short notice with minimal effort. Before long, voilà, Rothko. But of course, there is also a lot of good art that comes out of this patronage. It will be interesting to see what comes out of Branson and Taos and all the other cheap places where bum artistes can afford to live.

Woody would hate the analogy, but you can see Hollywood as the rich trust fund Gertrude Stein, and see the equally capitalistic exploits produced by the hordes of very good and very bad artistes it attracts.

So other than the bits of New York smug, this is a very lovely movie. It's drop-dead gorgeous, Deakins-quality cinematography. I am delighted it made so much money, since Woody needs to learn being a cynic is really no fun, and the cheapest form of smugness and condescension.
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Total Recall (I) (2012)
6/10
Another action porn yawner
4 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
So I have labeled Interstellar as drama porn, and Grand Budapest Hotel as character porn, so this is action porn. Like conventional sex porn, the movie sacrifices everything just to obsess over some single-minded thing. They keep people running about and chasing each other and shooting. There really needs to be a believable plot to hold things together. It makes the whole thing as implausible as anything to come out of North Hollywood. Problem is, when you are doing science fiction, plausibility is the most important thing.

This is a great study in failure. Fantastic sets, great acting, wonderful special effects. Financial flop. This is yet another action flick that seems born out of a video game mentality. Like a mobile spinning above a baby's crib, just make a lot of motions and pretty colors and noises and the baby is happy. Its simplistic bordering on infantile.

Implausibility, as if cars would have steering wheels, they use whatever 19th century tropes will allow some action. I am surprised they didn't have a buggy whip fight. And its just like Matrix Revolutions. One hundred bad-guy machines would be semi-plausible, but there are always thousands if not millions. Trust me, Google and Microsoft will make sure the government does not have to chase you anywhere. No matter where you run, they will know exactly where you are. Once PayPal eliminates cash, well there you go, welcome to a real dystopia.

The piano scene reminds me of that Taxi episode where Reverend Jim started playing the piano and exclaimed "I musta had lessons!"

Major spoiler detailed synopsis: Cheezy title card exposition, shootout, (12 second girl time), shithole Dilbert exposition, drug abuse, shootout, foot chase, (12 second girl time), mano a girlo, foot chase, stylish phone exposition, hackneyed bank exposition, shootout, car chase, crappy hologram exposition, (12 second girl time), armed standoff, shootout, foot chase, ménage à trois fight, hiding, (12 second girl time), scheming, shootout, captivity, shootout, conflict, escape, capture, re-escape, foot chase, shootout, foot chase, captivity, gyrrlll power, mano a roboto, mano a mano, save the girl, save the world, kill the ex, happy ever after.
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Vera: Old Wounds (2015)
Season 5, Episode 2
Keep your study guide handy.
13 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A good solid issue. The Season 5 cast is delightfully diverse. Not that I care about race as much as being to tell the characters apart. Here we have that Cush girl, a sort of non-threatening paleface replacement for the irreplaceable Holley from Season 1. Billy the CSI guy is now Marcus, a black guy who is not yet sporting a 4-day growth like Vera's old sidekick. The new sidekick is suitably nondescript, pretty much a fluff-boy, only he does not have that babe wife with the great personality like the first sidekick. Delightfully, they have a little person as the Garcia cyber-sleuth type. She is in a wheelchair and easy to tell from all the nondescript old white guys (NOWGs). There are even some people of color with non-speaking parts so Northumberton is looking a little less like Northern Idaho.

The plot is relativity straightforward and now they are doing a straight Law & Order intro, instead of showing 5 completely unrelated things they can tease us with until they so neatly tie things together like Law & Order Criminal Intent did.

This one has way too many characters as usual, and a healthy smattering of nondescript old white guys. Turn on closed-captioning. Do have your 12-year-old daughter keeping track of things on a 4'x8' whiteboard rolled up next to your recliner. To get her started, here is the Vera episode study guide, which will require all 8 colors in her dry-erase marker set:

Aiden-- new sidekick. Marcus-- CSI guy clean shaven. Helen-- cybergirl Hardison type, little person. Carrie-- dead girl. Kenny-- Vera employee, original nondescript old white guy (NOWG#1). William Bill Telling-- dad of dead girl (NOWG#2). Beryl Doyle-- William Bill's estranged wife. {Half-caste means mixed-race.} Claire-- dead girl's pal went to London but really Carlyle, Shyamalan: really Aisha Sharma Indian girl daughter of Banerjee. Stan Convile, Male#1-- neighbor and friend of dead girl's dad (NOWG#3). Bethany– Vera employee, surrogate Holly. John Warrick-- old cop boss (NOWG#4). Jimmy-- original detective on case, unseen. Charlotte-- John's wife, long goodbye. Arjun Banerjee -- Indian coat maker factory owner. Michael Tennant-- Banerjee employee, now politician, crush on dead girl (NOWG#5). Alan Dawson-- Beryl's affair, Shyamalan: its John, old cop boss. Terry Manttan-- boy dead girl liked, convict in Carlyle, now carnival worker (NOWG#6).

So there are 2 Shyamalan twists, but they are only Schedule 3 Shyamalans, so you don't feel like hunting down the writer and clubbing him like a baby seal. Speaking of which, unlike many episodes there is no bat-shiat crazy woman causing all the trouble.

Like every episode, Vera can carry the whole thing-- she is the greatest. Highly recommended, especially if you spend time thinking on the story instead of inventing some Leftist slant subtext, which is not really here. Like always they like to confuse things by referring to people sometimes by their first name, sometimes by their last, and this episode has two characters under multiple names. Bonus points for getting a couple Indians in this episode, but I doubt we will ever see a real Asian from China or Vietnam.
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8/10
Really well done, half drama, half documentary
12 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Thank gosh the librarians put this out on the end cap, or I would have missed this gem. Don't be put off by the clunky cover art. This is an excellent dramatization of the Laconia Incident, see Wikipedia for the details.

This was done back in 2010, and I don't know that is before everyone starting saying TV is getting more important than movies, but this sure builds the case. It is after the The Wire and during Breaking Bad and all the other things people credit for TV's ascendancy.

Do get the 2-disk DVD so you can enjoy this at your leisure. The actors were unknown to me, but of such great talent it did not matter. I agree this was not an anti-American film, after all, the consensus is it was an American war crime to attack the rescue effort. More disturbing than the war crime was the cover-up. Anyone can make a mistake in the heat of battle, but only a corrupt organization pretends it did not happen.

Rather than getting all cronied up, I think this is less about choosing sides than a study in the variability of human behavior. It shows how middle management in a vicious organization can act with decency, and middle management in a virtuous organization can act shamefully. How both those organizations reacted to these events gives food for thought.

Another real plus is that the DVD comes on two disks. This means they spent more money rather than use strong compression. As a result, the rippling ocean and other high-bit-rate scenes look great, even up-scaled to HD.
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4/10
Better than Ambien
8 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Watching the DVD put me asleep in 20 minutes. Thankfully the IMDb reviews tipped me that the movie is incomprehensible without reading the book and watching the 1979 mini-series 4 or 5 times. Its a spy thriller that you can only appreciate if you already know the ending.

Read the Wikipedia plot summary. And blog posts,(tinker-tailor-a-guide-for-the-perplexed/). Be sure to turn on closed captioning. They will put the name of the speaker in parentheses on occasion so you can figure out who the heck is talking.

Every time I read a spoiler I was amazed at how how sloppily the film was put together. No, I did not notice the sign for Bidabesto n the subway wall since there were a couple walking down the stares and the gal had a big floppy afro and that got me thinking how she got cast and if hair like that is hard to care for and how it looked silly flopping as she descended the stairs.

Just like there were always some Indians that lived near the fort, there are always some fan-boys that think its great you have to have read the books and watch the 1979 miniseries. Heck, even the director notes you should listen to his commentary in order to understand what is going on. His tone told me there were recording the commentary after the theatrical release where everyone was staggering out the theater asking "WTF just happened, I want my money back." Listen to Milos Forman commentary at the beginning of Amadeus, where he beats himself up worrying that audience will not understand who the guy running across the courtyard is. Read about Hitchcock arguing with Carry Grant, who did not "feel" his character would look across the street when he exited a building. Hitchcock exploded, "Its because I want the audience to understand what building is across the street!" A director's first duty is to clarity, not the narcissism of the actors or the autism of the writer. He serves the viewer, rather than condescend to us that we are so stupid we cannot understand his masterpiece.

The Wikipeda plot summary shows you this really is a simple plot. There is not a lot of stuff going on, once you take out the self-indulgent peacocking of having to watch files being lifted in a little dumbwaiter. There are two activating events, a botched defection in Budapest and a blown cover in gosh knows what city where a some British dolts get killed and a Russian traitor girl gets kidnapped. Needless to say, these don't come at the beginning of the movie since that would make sense. There are handfuls of flashbacks, but you can tease out the change-- when Oldman is staring into space one minute, and then he is somewhere else the next second, well Elmer, that thar is a flashback. The thing is there is so little context for any scene transitions, you get lost and everything is a blur.

That lack of context is telling. See, I am sure le Carré is autistic. He pretty much admits it, talking about his social awkwardness in the featurette. Having worked in tech for decades, and being pretty far up the spectrum myself, I can see how le Carré loves to dive into details, but stitching things together-- not so much. The books offer up a flood of semi-relevant details, so that critics read their own deep profound interpretations. Another Asperger feature is the lack of context. People like le Carré and myself just assume you know every single thing we know, and that you have had the exact same life experiences, and that like Ayne Rand, if you don't like Strauss and tap dancing, you are a worthless idiot.

Autism is fine for a novel. le Carré just churned out a torrent of words. You can flip back and forth in the books. He eventually reached coverage and connected the details together. I am sure his editor did yeoman's work trying to get a comprehensible story written down.

Now we come to this movie, and rather than feel sorry for a fellow Aspergiac like le Carré, I have to feel the director is just f*&ing with my head, like Thurman Murman was doing to Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. I remember way into the movie thinking "Who the heck is Alleline?" And then a quick trip to the IMDb listing and I realize, "Oh, they mean Percy." Introducing people by first name and then switching to surname is a stupidity that they do in the series Vera, and all the more reason to have your 12-year-old daughter writing down the characters and plot points on a 8' x 12' white board you have rolled up next to your recliner. Maybe force her to read the book too-- "No daddy, its so booooooring!"

OK, too many details and no context, and a director who might be a narcissist sociopath since he like making moves only the chosen few can understand. Why he is so special, you should welcome spending 90 dollars to see the movie 9 times. But adding to this is the implausibility of the plot, and how Oldman catches the bad guy. None of this rings true, and looks like the fever dream of a clerk typist in MI6 that dreams of what real spies must be doing.

On top of that is the dreariness. It looks like they were shooting in Pompey after the pyroclastic ash cloud. Everything gray and dirty and depressing. When I watched the commentary track, I had a Mrs Fisher Murder Mystery episode playing without sound on the second TV. Quite the contrast. This film was just ugly, everything about it, plot, characterization, cinematography, is ugly. Glad I got the DVD for free from the library. And do get the DVD or unlimited streaming, you will need a few watches if you have not read the book.
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