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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Bothersome Man - Purgatory Film ? Reviewed Here

Imagine this, you are dropped off in a city where you are given a nice home, a beautiful lover, an easy job and just about basic want in life is satisfied.  Doesn't sound too bad, right?
Now imagine the world is a dulled sensory experience.  The food doesn't taste good, the drinks are not intoxicating, there is no meaning to work and love has little feeling. Everything about this place is bland.

"The Bothersome Man" is set in such a place.  I watched this Norwegian film in  English subtitle.  The main character, Trond, is delivered to this strange, sterile, seemingly content city.  He is quickly given an easy, well paying job, a gorgeous girlfriend to live with, and very pleasant acquaintances.  

Trond soon finds though that all of the pleasures in life are vacuous pleasures.  Everyone is friendly but they have no desire for meaningful friendships.  Work is easy but gives no satisfaction.  Physical relationships are boring.  There are no children. Love serves no purpose.

If you enjoy films that do not give you the answers but let you sort them out for yourself, you may enjoy "The Bothersome Man"   It makes for an interesting debate.  Is this flick about Purgoratory?  Is it a simulated parallel world  (ie The Matrix) ? Is it a social criticism of our own meaningless routines?

I don't know.  The Bothersome Man had me thinking about it for days though.

For you are looking for something a little different and dryly disturbing (a cross between The Matrix and a bleak Twilight Zone episode), then check it out.


Rated R

96 Minutes

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Whatever Works - Film Review - Larry David - Rachel Adams

"Whatever Works" is written and directed by Woody Allen and stars Larry David.  Larry David plays a retired physicist, Boris Yellnikoff. He lives in New York City.  He is a tired, neurotic, suicidal, genius and disgusted with just about everything
and everyone one.  He thinks just about everything is stupid.  He is very vocal about his feelings and expresses them through a number of literal and thinly veiled monologues.

In between Yellnikoff's rants he meets homeless Melody (Rachel Evan Wood).  Melody is much, much younger (I'd say by 40+ years). She is bubbly, naive and not so bright.  Improbably, they fall in love and marry.

Whatever Works feels much like a play.  There is no sweep to the film, the scenes are played out in small spaces,  and the dialog is somewhat more animated that you'd see in a typical film.

Larry David is perfectly cast for this film.  Larry David is cynical as ever and there are times when you want to pat him on the back and other times where I wanted to turn off the film because he is so wonderfully depressing.

Rachel Evan Wood plays the naive young woman, Melody. Wood plays her perfectly.  I do not think the character of Melody is easy to play. Melody has fallen off track in life. She is naive and uneducated but she is also eager to learn. This character is a terrific mover and shaker in the film.  Wood's performance reminds me so much of  Amy Adam's terrific and not as easy as it seems role of Ashley in the movie Junebug (my review here).

Supporting cast is very good as well and played by veteran actors.  Notably Patricia Clarkson. Clarkson plays Melody's mother, does a fine job.  I don't think Clarkson has ever played a bad role in her acting career.

The theme of Whatever Works dare I say, is existentialism?  That might be too strong a word but maybe not?  Throughout the film characters are struggling to find what works for them in life.  Basically, if it makes you more happy, it must be good.

Whatever Works is very theatric.  It often feels more like a  play than a movie.

If you like quirky films or Woody Allen films in general, you should check this film out.


PG 13

1 hour 34 minutes

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Usual Suspects - Kevin Spacey Film Review

After years and years of people telling me to watch "The Usual Suspects" I finally got around to seeing this film.

The Usual Suspects is about a band of veteran, career thieves who are forced to do one more job together.

The cast (Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollack and Pete Postlethwaite) is great and were all A-list actors at the time this film was made in 2005.

I enjoyed the film but I really wish I saw this film in 1995.  The mid nineties saw a wave of these semi-artsey crime films (think Pulp Fiction) and back then a lot of the twists, turns and dialog were new and fresh.  Watch the same films now and they seem cliche at times.  That said, The Usual Suspects does have it's share of surprises.

The Usual Suspects is considered a crime-film classic by many and I do suggest you see it if you get a chance.  The film may feel all too familiar at times but if you can keep in perspective that the film came out in the nineties and was one of the best crime flicks at the time, you'll appeciate this film.

Check it out.

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Men Who Stare at Goats - Any Good? Find Out Here

Men Who Stare at Goats - Army Psychogical Ops Film Review

"Men Who Stare at Goats" is a strange film that is loosely based on true events.  It features an A-list cast of characters portrayed as United States Army soldiers that claim to have psychic and other paranormal. These abilities like invisibility, visions of things happening in far off places and other Jedi mind tricks are used by the US Military against foreign interests.

George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges and Ewan McGregor star in the film.

In spite of the powerful cast of actors and unorthodox script, some of which is supposedly 'true', I didn't find much to like in this film. It wasn't all that funny because it tried to hard to be funny. Perhaps with such odd subject matter, the film could have been played more straight up. A drier, more serious film could have exploited the unavoidably laughable, absurd paranormal training and activities of this (possibly real-life) special forces unit.

I'd skip this film or put it low on your priority list of movies to watch.  Not that is was terrible. It wasn't. I just can think of too many other terrific films to watch.


94 Minutes

Rated R

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do It Again - Kinks Reunion Documentary Film

"Do it Again"  was also a radio popular Kinks song back in the 1980's. It is also the title of this documentary.

Boston Globe reporter Geoff Edgers has a rather irrational idea.... the year is 2002 and he wants to make a film about reuniting the rock group The Kinks.  That is, he wants to be the catalyst in reuniting this legendary rock band.

Most of this film is spent watching Edgers researching the methods and reasons he would need to utilize to get the Kinks to play music again. He does this by using his Boston Globe influence to secure meetings with people who have influence in the music world.

Along the way he meets with a number of celebrities and even manages to get them to sing along with him while he plays Kinks songs on his guitar.

Some will say, as I have wondered, if this movie isn't more of an ego trip for Edger's. After all, he uses much of the film as a vehicle to play his guitar with other musicians (some of whom are offended by this).  With that in mind, the film is pretty well done. 

The core members of The Kinks are often talked about but rarely seen. This creates an almost mystical, enigmatic element to the film. 

The film delves deep into the dark side of the Kinks and the psychological forces that thwart their reunion.

I loved the end of the film.  It comes to an emotional, decisive conclusion.

Check it out.

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Great Inuit Film Atanarjuat aka The Fast Runner Review

Set in the eastern Arctic "The Fast Runner " (Atanarjuat ) is a wonderful film that, according to smarter people than me, accurately portrays the ancient Inuit culture.

I really loved this film.  It never felt like I was watching a movie. It felt like I was gazing through a window back in time. The film is not just a great story but it is a lesson on Inuit family bonds, customs and how they function as a society.  The simplicity and complexity of the ancient Inuit people shine through in this film.

The unforgiving scenery is beautiful and bleak.  The acting is terrific. The story, based on an old Inuit legend was captivating.

The Fast Runner was tremendous. You want to watch this film. 

Check it out

Rated R (some subtitled profanity, strong sexual scenes, full frontal nudity)


2 hrs 52 minutes

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Darkon Real Life Dungeons and Dragons Documentary Film Review

I didn't know whether to laugh at these guys or run off to Baltimore, Maryland to join them.  A really intriguing film to watch.  Fantasy role players (ie Dungeons and Dragons, etc) will appreciate this film.   Members of Darkon are real life fantasy role players. They are all grown adults.  They participate in  full contact combat, medieval-knight style combat (padded weapons are used) in order  to advance the interest of their respective nations, which exist entirely on fictitious maps.

While members of Darkon live normal, working lives during the day, their time off consists of weekends of diplomatic negotiations, trading fantasy currency, and waging war.  All the while they speak to each other in a melodramatic tone that reminds me of a Lord of the Rings movie (which I'm sure they've all seen a thousand times)

I loved how the film completely respects the players of Darkon.  There is no ridicule, though there is a touch of irony. The film is a documentary intermingled with dramatic fiction that plays out the very fantasy the nations of Darkon are living out.

I loved this film and the passion of Darkon players.  Their sincerity, while sometimes disturbing, also shows a level of creative thinking that most of us grown-ups lose in our early twenties.

Check it out sometime. You'll see what I mean.


96 Mins

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Page One New York Times Documentary Review - David Carr

The oily shine on the face, the mussed hair, the puffy eyes, and day-old business attire in need of a wash.  Endless hours, brains that won't shut off, and a never ending cycle of deadlines

Apparently, this is a normal day in the New York Times newsroom.  "Page One" is a documentary that gives a peek into the culture of the New York Times and lends some compelling insight into uncertain future of the newspaper industry.

I've always been a sucker for films about people who are passionate and dedicated to their careers. I've also enjoy movies that examine the impact of real-world paradigm shifts.

Page One delivers both and a whole lot more.   This film really sums up the challenges the New York Times and other print newspapers face in the internet age. This struggle is the crux of the film, yet the audience gets a lot more interesting topics as a bonus.   Insight into what it is like to work in the workaholic, relatively PC, newsroom of NYT.   You get salacious details into the fall of The Tribune.  You get quick, fascinating stories of  internal controversies at New York Times  (think David Blair, Wikileaks, Judith Miller, to name a few).

The most colorful person in the film by far is David Carr. Carr is media reporter for the NYT.  I won't give much away, but let's just say his rough hewn, profane dedication to the New York Times really captivated me. He's a character with character.  You'll love his part in the film.

This documentary never lost my attention.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sugar - Minor League Baseball Film Review

"Sugar" is a largely English subtitled minor league baseball movie about a young pitcher, named Sugar. Sugar is from the Dominican Republic and is given an opportunity to play for a minor league baseball team in Iowa, USA.

There was not one predictable moment in the entire film. Not this is this film is filled with unexpected twists and turns, there are none. Each moment I thought this film was approaching some sort of cliche or melodrama, it completely avoids it.  Because of this, the movie "Sugar" is terrific.

The main character is very sympathetic but film does not force you to feel sympathy.  This is simply a well intentioned young man going through the motions of probably what thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of one-time young baseball hopefuls have experienced.

The end of the film (and I'm not spoiling anything here) I thought was pretty innovative though few people will realize it.  The end of the film left me with no doubt about the future of Sugar, yet the film didn't need to explain his fate to me either. It gives you enough clues and lets you fill in the rest.

Check out Sugar. It is a good film.

Rated R

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Think a Movie Called "Troll Hunter" Could be Any Good - Click To Learn Here

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Troll Hunter Movie Review

Troll Hunter is a fictitious, sci fi film that is shot in documentary style.  It is a Norwegian language film. I watched it in English subtitles.

A group of college students are working on a school project. They want to do a news piece on an enigmatic bear poacher.  The bear poacher turns out to be actually a troll hunter employed by the government TSS (Troll Security Service)

Otto Jerpersen is perfectly cast as the troll hunter.  His character is believable. As you'd expect from a covert killer, he is jaded and terse but not a cookie cutter tough guy. He has a human side that is wonderfully subdued.

The college students are played very well. Nice acting.  They come across as the skeptical yet naive, fight the system types that are in over their heads, as often kids are.  Their expressions transition from child like awe to horror perfectly.

With the exception of the scenes where the characters re running. (there are not too many,) the camera work is pretty steady. You won't feel nauseated after seeing this film.

Monster films are tough to make.  The audience never satisfied with how the monsters look. The troll animation is not bad.  I expected worse. Trolls apparently come in different sizes. I was disappointed at the look of the smaller cave-dwelling trolls. To me it was just a better than average Halloween costume. The larger trolls though, they get up to 50 feet if you didn't know that folk, looked good enough to keep my interest..

A bold film to make. It combines suspense, conspiracy theory, good acting, uniqueness all in one nice mockumentary. Check it out.


103 minutes


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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Everything Must Go Movie Review Will Ferrell

"Everything Must Go" stars Will Ferrell as an alcoholic who loses everything to booze.  He loses his job, wife leaves him and takes his money.

She also locks him out of the house. 

All of his possessions are left on the lawn of his home.  He can't get into the house, so he decides to live outside, in the front yard.

Will Ferrell is terrific as a dramatic actor. He could easily over play the drunk but he underplays it beautifully. This is no "Old School" craziness.  This is a likable man with a problem.

The predictable cliche in this film is Ferrell's character mentoring a young child. It all seemed so improbable but I suppose the script needed a way to give a broken man some redemption.

The film also has a few things I'm glad they left out.  Without spoiling anything for you, let's just say Ferrell's love interests are played out in a believable manner.

There are some funny scenes in the film and moments of darkness. If you liked the film "Stranger Than Fiction" (a terrific flick) you'll enjoy "Everything Must Go"

Please Check Out This Other Review by TurtleDog

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Strike - Foreign Polish Solidarity Movie Review

I was in the mood to watch a foreign film and found a real gem.  A Polish film called "Strike" struck me as interesting film so I watched it on DVD.  The film is based on the Polish Solidarity union movement.

If you like gritty films. This film is really gritty.  Not especially violent, profane or disturbing but completely gritty.  The film takes place largely within and around a Polish shipbuilding yard.  It is a dirty, rugged, harsh place.  The setting feels absolutely real.

The lead character, Katherina Thalbach, is amazing.  Her despiration, drive, strength and vulnerability come through effortlessly..  She does a terrific acting job among a really good cast.

If you like foreign film you'll love it.  If you've ever worked the long, dirty days in a factory, you'll love it too.  The film gives insight into Solidarity, Polish Communist party politics, factory culture and has some interesting family stories as well.

Check it out.

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Pineapple Express - Is It as Funny as it Claims to Be? Learn Here

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pineapple Express Movie Review - Seth Rogan James Franco

Pineapple Express is a slightly more polished, and I use the the term "polished" very liberally, version of Cheech and Chong.

There is non stop illegal substance abuse through out the film as a heavy smoking process server (Rogan) and his drug dealer (Franco) become witnesses to a murder and, of course, the murders want to kill them.

The film is really funny if you like Seth Rogan-style films.  Rogan is the master when playing bumbling, in-over-his-head, unambitious man roles and carries the film.

What makes Pineapple Express differ from other Rogan films  is how violent it can be at times.  There is a good deal of shooting and blood that is all handled in a matter of fact, comic manner (think Matt Damon in Dogma, only not nearly that dark.)

If you like 1) Rogan's style 2) buddy films like Dumb and Dumber 3) plus a touch of Dogma, you'll like Pineapple Express.


111 Minutes

Rated R

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Super Bad Film Review - Michael Cera Jonah Hill Are Great

When I finally got around to watching Superbad I was thrilled with this comedy.  I had just recently watched Talladega Nights . Talladega was funny enough to get a positive review.  Superbad gets a rave review.

The plot is simple enough and you've heard it a million times.  Unpopular high school nerds approaching graduation want to get to the big party they don't belong in and meet the girls they yearn for.  To get to the party, they must supply the booze and endure the hardships of doing just that.

Sounds cliche but it really isn't.  The comedy and all its raunchiness doesn't feel particularly contrived and the scenes are really funny. Sure, there are predictable moments in the film but they are so well played out I was only minimally annoyed... and found a great laugh or two in the meantime.

Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are a great comedy team.  They pretty much do the old fashioned straight guy , funny guy bit, but it really works.  

The real star of the film is Christopher Mintz-Plasse.  He plays the ultra-nerd. Hapless, dopey, socially awkward, yet he is the only one that is able to obtain the fake ID needed for alcohol. You can image the hilarious possibilities.

Check this film out.  You'll like it.

113 minutes
Rated R

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Talladega Nights Movie Review Reilly Ferrell Are Hilarious at Times

Talladega Nights is a comedy about highly successful NASCAR race car driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) whose success on racing scene is threatened when French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen .... aka Borat ) crosses over from Formula One to NASCAR.

Every Southern-NASCAR and French stereotype is depicted in this film.  Cohen and Ferrell are terrific.  While this is not the best comedy I have seen in a while (Bridesmaids was very, very good by the way), Talladega Nights does get a couple good laugh out loud moments in.

This is the kind of no-brainer comedy that Will Ferrell fans come to expect and that I enjoy very much.

The film felt neither too short nor too long.  The supporting cast was hilarious (John C. Reilly is superb).  The film does manage I'm sure to ruffle a few feathers too. I'm sure some NASCAR fans aren't thrilled with the "southern lifestyle" depicted in this film but it sure is fun.

Check it out.

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Like Armwrestling? Whether You Do Or Not, You'll Like This Documentary

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pulling John - Best Armwrestling Documentary Movie ? Review

John Brzenk is the best arm wrestler in the world.  Two arm wrestlers, Alexy Voevoda and Travis Bagent, are hungry to defeat Brzenk.

I know little of professional arm wrestling except watching it occasionally as a teenager on Jim McKay's "Wide World of Sports."  Arm wrestling was always presented as a sport where any guy with big biceps could excel .  All brawn, no brains and not much to talk about.    The documentary "Pulling John" really made me take a new interest in the sport.  This film demonstrates that arm wresting is not a world of back-wood dummies. The competitors are dedicated to training and are will to travel great distances to compete. They also understand the strategies to the sport. Strategies that could give small arm wrestler the edge over a much larger competitor.

The film's choice of arm wrestlers to focus on could not have been better.  The personalities of Brezenk, Voevoda and Bagent could not be more different yet complimentary. Each has kind of attitude you could write into a move script.

Bagent is the young, brash and cocky competition.  He has the personality of a pro (think Hulk Hogan) wrestler.  He works constantly on his image and his swagger. He is good. He lets the world know it.

Voevoda is a gentle giant and a powerful one at that.  He is also very quiet and introspective.  The zen athlete of arm wrestling. Likable with a calm intensity.

Brzenk. If you like classy champions, you could not ask for one. He is friendly, low key and lets actions speak for words. He is completely genuine.

The film never lost my attention. 

 Very interesting film.  Check it out.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Winnebago Man - Jack Rebney Viral Swearing Man Documentary

I never heard of Jack Rebney but apparently a lot of people have.  He once attempted to make his own Winnebago commercial. The outtakes became one of the very first videos to go viral on the Internet.  There are two reasons for this 1) His acting incompetence is hilarious 2) His off-scene profanity laden tirades were stuff of legend.

Years later, filmmaker Ben Steinbauer becomes obsessed with the cultural underground legend of Jack Rebney. He wants to find this man and make a film on what it is like to be Jack Rebney.

The film is excellent and is completely reliant on the responses of Jack Rebney.  Jack Rebney is a defiant, opinionated, isolated man who lacks any social sophistication. This is not to put down Rebney, if anything, he is likely the most honest speaking, and profane, fellow on Earth.  

The film is a tug of war between Steinbaurer and Rebney.  While Rebney is very over the top, he never really gives Steinbauer what he wants, which is some juicy craziness.  He walks up to the line without ever crossing it.  As a viewer I could feel the tension in Rebney but he manages so well not to explode that it creates a lot of wonderful suspense in the film.  Not suspense like the Sixth Sense or anything. Suspense as you expect around the dinner table knowing Dad is coming home mad. That kind of suspense.

The movie culminates in crescendo when Steinbaurer convinces Rebney (who is very reluctant) and one of Rebney's no-so-well intentioned friends to attend the Found Footage festival where Rebney is to speak. The Found Footage Festival is a group of Indie movie enthusiasts who have been laughing at Rebney's Winnebago commercial for years.

Is Rebney going to be a mocked or revered?  It is really up to Rebney's speach. Will he come off as a kook or a hero?

Rebney stepping on stage was like watching the end of a Rocky film (I won't tell you which one so I don't spoil it). Ther is a lot of tension.  Would Rebney go crazy?  Would he make a fool of himself?  Would he keep it together and surprise everyone?

Check out this film. You will love the ending.

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Junebug - Amy Adams Oscar Nod Film - Review

Boy, was Junebug a nice film to watch.   A work assignment takes urban, career driven, newlywed couple to meet the new husband's rural family.  Cultural differences in family value clash.

Sounds like the same old formula right?  Urban, selfish, type A personalities the laid back, religious hillbilly family, right?  Not at all.  The film is much more toned down and too wonderfully human for that. Yes, there is something odd about this family but the reason for this  is very deep and never really revealled.  Yes, the Chicago couple (Embeth Davidtz and Alessandro Nivola) moves too fast for this family and has a selfish side, but the pace and mood feels very natural and not contrived.  This movie is not "The Beverly Hillbillies." 

What felt so refreshing about this film is that it is about a middle class family.  This is not one of those films where we are expected to root for a wealthy family with nothing to lose (think 'The Blind Side' ). Nor is this a film that depicts a hopelessly downtrodden family overcoming impossible events.

I never lived in rural America but I get the feeling that this movie depicts rural communities fairly well.  The dialog is toned down (which veteran actor Scott Wilson masters in this film), the pace is slower, the family values are deeper and Christian belief is obvious.

Amy Adams got an Oscar nod for her role in this film.  She is terrific. Her character is eccentric. bubbly, energetic and very wordy.  She is an anomaly this terse, rural world.  I suspect this character is crazy but not in a contrived way. Her nuttiness creates no undue strain on the family, she is simply an eccentric but important piece of the film

Check This Film Out.

Rated R


106 Minutes

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Super Size Me - McDonalds Documentary Morgan Spurlock Review

Boy, did I enjoy Super Size Me.   Film maker Morgan Spurlock decides to eat only McDonald's food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, everyday for one month.  He has physicians closely monitor the health consequences of this diet, which prove to be nearly disastrous for Spurlock.

Spurlock is simply terrific. He is likeable and very dedicated to his task.  His body begins a quick metamorphosis into a very unhealthy condition yet he continues his McDonald's diet in a very light-hearted, amusing, and, sometimes, grotesque manner.

It seems most Americans either have or had a love affair with the fast food restaurant chain, McDonald's, so I have no doubt some people who watch this for the first time will feel offended.  How dare Spurlock put down McDonalds?   Spurlock, however, does not really assault McDonalds, he is just making us aware of some bad things we already know.
One very terrific surprise in the movie is when Spurlock begins to analyze school lunch systems and how excessively bad they are for good health.  I did not see this part coming.  It is both intriguing and alarming to see what kids are eating every day.

Super Size me is a terrific film.  I enjoyed it more than Spurlock's more recent film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.
Check out super size me.

PG 13
100 minutes

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold Review - Morgan Spurlock

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is a documentary about corporate sponsorship of movies.  Morgan Spurlock, the star and mastermind behind "Supersize Me" sets out to make a movie that is completely funded through product placement within the film.  Corporations provide products for free and Morgan Spurlock agrees to put them in the film for a price tag of $25,000 (for minimal placement) up to $1,000,000.  The million-dollar fee gets your corporate name into the title of the film.  POM Wonderful takes Spurlock up on million dollar offer so the movie is actually called "Pom Wonderful's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold"

Spurlock is wonderfully charismatic and upbeat in this film just as he was in Supersize Me.  I was impressed by his salesmanship skills.  The first initial meetings are disasters, but he picks up on sales charm fast and after a while he is selling to CEO's and other big wigs like a true first class pro.

Spurlock is really terrific as a commercial actor too. Check out the way he pitches products in the film (on behalf of his corporate sponsors, of course).  His everyman look and enthusiasm made me want to run out to the store right there.

The film drew a wide variety of (non sponsoring) familiar faces you don't normally in the same production. Donald Trump, Ralf Nader, Quentin Tarrentino, Big Boi (Outkast), Noam Chomsky (philosopher, teacher, writer, activist), Jimmy Kimmel, etc. all make appearances and even provide some insight and commentary to the film  in addition to the corporate execs funding the film.

The end result is that Spurlock creates a film about itself, which I find hard to explain.  It is a film about product placement that is funded completely by the products it placed in the film.   The fascinating part of the film is that there is part of me that feels Spurlock really laid a huge scam on the sponsors of the film, while still giving them what they wanted.

If you are a Spurlock fan and loved Supersize Me (my review here), check out The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  This movie is not as good as Supersize Me but you might still like it.

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 Hilarious Non- Documentary Film 

Everyone Loves Raymond in Russia? Making of Raymond in Russia Documentary

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exporting Raymond Philip Rosenthal Documentary Review

The movie Exporting Raymond features Philip Rosenthal. Philip Rosenthal is the creator of the long running, popular sit-com series "Everyone Loves Raymond"

Exporting Raymond is about Rosenthal's efforts to re-create the same show using Russian actors in Russia.

This documentary is created in a comedic, light hearted style. If you ever watched Everyone Loves Raymond, you'd have no doubt Philip Rosenthal was the creator.  His real-life humor and  mannerisms are clearly reflected in the character Raymond.  

There are big challenges for Rosenthal to overcome when he starts collaborating with Russian producers and writers. Russia and the United States have very different views on manhood, family, work ethic and entertainment.  This is the most interesting part of the film.

If you are a fan of Everyone Loves Raymond and have an interest in Russian entertainment culture, you'll like this film.  If you want non-stop laughs, you'll be disappointed.  I thought the film never lived up to the preview trailer. The trailer is a laugh a minute, this film isn't.  Not entirely unfunny exactly but I can't remember laughing out loud.

Rated PG

86 Minutes


Bridesmaids... A Very Funny Film

Want to Be Depressed or Confused .... Watch This Film

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bridesmaids Movie Review Stars Kristen Wiig

I put off watching the movie " Bridesmaids " because I thought it would be a bonefide chick flick.  Yes, the film does focus on women planning a wedding, which smells like smoke in a chick flick fire.   Also, there is no substantial male role in the film. Men are reduced to frustrating peripheral love interests of the women, which, again,is very chick flickish.

That said, this film had humor. It  felt a lot like the classic "Wedding Crashers" movie. Guys will laugh out loud watching "Bridesmaids".  Some of the humor is downright offensive in a great way.  You'll never forget the scene where the bridesmaids are trying on high end wedding gowns and they all suddenly succumb to food poisoning. Yeah, lets just say it gets messy.

Bridesmaids is fun to watch and doesn't follow all the normal cliches.  Kristen Wiig (who also wrote the film)  is perfect as the working class bridesmaid who wants more control over the wedding but struggles against an overbearing, snobbish, more privileged, and more beautiful woman.  It would be so easy to make Wiig's character sympathetic to audiences. It would be easy to make the character more of a heroic underdog who, after huge punishing obstacles, finds redemption in the end.  It doesn't quite work out this way though. She is very imperfect, occasionally annoying and her best intentions often fall flat where her antagonist often shines.  At times I found myself routing for her arch rival.

Bridesmaids was a truly funny film.  Check it out sometime.

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Synecdouche, NY Phillip Seymour Hoffman Michele Williams Film Review

I'm quite sure that the film Synecdouche, NY is a masterpiece but I can not explain why.  Better put, I have never achieved the level of intelligence required to understand the brilliance of this film.

This movie is hard to describe. I'll try to do it in two sentences that, I assure, will do the plot no justice. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a playwright / director who is given a MacArthur grant (a lot of money) that allows him to spend the next forty years (that's 4-0 years) developing a play. In the course of that time, he is neurotic, loses his family, works obsessively and sees a lot of doctors.

Synecdouche, NY is a collage of itself.  There are layers and layers of scenes, settings and emotions spanny forty years of story.  This collage blurs between dream and reality. I often could not tell if the scene was meant to be actually happening or a fantasy of the characters.

 It is hard to say if Charlie Kaufman's film is a film about love, about creating a play, about following passions, about a broken neurotic, or whatever? You tell me.

I was riveted to each scene and it really hurt to watch at times.  The film is depressing in an epic way. I could feel the pain of life eating the characters away, slowly, tediously and myself with it.  Honestly, I could not sit through the film in one sitting.  I took a break about halfway through then picked up where I left off the next day. It started to wear on my soul.

The acting is superb.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt) is perfect for the role, but isn't he always? He plays each emotion and each line very convincingly. His soft, out of shape features make for a terrific, world-weary playwright who still has the drive to go on in spite of his own psychosis and losses.

Catherine Keener and Michele Williams, both experts at portraying angst filled roles, are terrific as well.

Look, I can't not begin to suggest whether this film is right for you or not.  I honestly don't know what the right answer is. Do you like art films that provide loads of scenes to interpret but no answers? You might ('might' being the operative word) love it.  It is big and beautiful in its own right but I can't explain why.  

Maybe I am the sucker here?  

I'm not sure.

Rated R

124 Minutes

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Greenberg Movie Review Ben Stiller Greta Gerwig

Greenberg is a film about a socially awkward, angry man, (Stiller) who develops an awkward relationship with his brother's family nanny, Florence (Gerwing)

The   film  does not follow the usual formulas.  The characters are not facing some insurmountable goal. There are no weddings to be had or taken. There is no damsel in distress. There are no fires to put out.  Greenberg simply wants to do nothing for a while and Florence is unable to do anything but nothing.  They don't struggle against this.  This is a film about human interaction without crisis. While the film takes place over just a couple weeks by the end you see how decades of friendship molds, or destroys, relationships.

Terrific acting.  This is a serious film.  It has humorous moments but this is no comedy. Who would have thought Stiller would be simply perfect as the once-institutiionalized, moody, angry and somewhat deranged Greenberg. He creates a lot of tension in the film simply as the man who is ready to explode but never quite reaches meltdown. He is like a firework whose fuse has burned away and the explosion has not yet released itself.

Greta Gerwig is unbelievable as well and quite a surprise in this film.  Her voice, her looks, and the way she carries herself makes Florence so real. She could be that girl you'd never think twice about in a casual meeting but get to know her and you'll be taken by her. Not necessarily in a romantic way but in a way that anyone interested in people with great depth of personality would be.  She is both genuinely kind and dutiful, yet seems to have no imminent opportunities.  She is somewhat promiscuous but not in an offensive way. She is naive but intelligent. She is endlessly kind without being sappy.

So, Did I love the film? Each scene really gripped me.  I could not stop watching this film.  As a whole though, I was somehow left unsatisfied. I'm very open minded about quirky films like Greenberg, but this one I felt just missed somewhere.

That said, I'm not suggesting you should not watch the film.  It is one of those flicks where if you enjoy art house films, you might actually love it.  If you enjoy more mega blockbuster flicks you will likely hate it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Biutiful - Javier Bardem Alexjandro Inarritu Movie Review

Is Biutiful a movie about street crime, raising a family, dying of cancer, forgiving one's family or atoning for your past?  Well, I suppose it is about all of that plus a touch of mysticism. Biutiful sounds like a confusing movie right? Nah. It is actually a very deep story that is pretty easy to follow.  Written and directed by Alexjandro Gonzales Inarritu, Biutiful is just as easy , if not easier, to follow than one of his other, equally complex films, "Babel"

This movie really moved me at times. Javier Bardem is a street criminal who acts as a sort of middle man in counterfeit goods production and the cheap foreign labor. He is a dedicated family man. He is dying of cancer.

Bardem is so human in this film that you can't help but root for him. This film is no "Rudy" though. Writer / Director Alexjandro Gonzales Inarritu never asks the audience to love or hate Bardem's character, you just can't help liking him. In someway, Bardem's character is the everyman trying to get by in a life that keeps knocking you down. He is able to provide and show compassion in even the most difficult of circumstances. His acting does not feel contrived, it feels so natural.

The film bounces around from one idea to another but it all ties together. It even tactfully delves into mysticism, which I felt was refreshing and wonderfully surprising since the metaphysics of the scenes do not distract frrom the story or dictate it as it would in say a "Sixth Sense" sort of film. It just sort of comes and goes and the film still feels in touch.

The scenes of a decaying Barcelona were so gritty it made me think twice about ever visiting Spain but there is a certain beauty in the way this film is shot that I suppose it is also a bit of an art film.

This film I thought was flawless and really moved me. It is an art house type film that really deserves a wider audience. Bardem was nominated for Best Actor and the trophy went to Colin Firth.  After seeing this film, I think Bardem was robbed.

Check it out.


Rate R

148 Minutes

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Ryan Reynolds Iraq Contractor ' Buried ' Alive Film Review

Let me know what you think of this idea.  You and I will go see a film that:

1. You see only one character (Ryan Reynolds)

2. The entire film is set with the confines of a makeshift coffin buried beneath the ground.

3. Oh yeah, it's not a comedy either. It's dark

You would probably run away from me.  

Ryan Reynolds stars in the movie " Buried." It is one of the more innovative films I have seen in a while.  Even better yet, the entire film is plausible. This could actually happen in real-life just as it did on film.  

Reynolds character is a truck driver working for a contract firm in Iraq.  At the start of the film he wakes up in a coffin.. He is injured and confused but slowly remembers that his truck convoy was attacked. He is being held for ransom and will run out of oxygen soon.

As you watch this film, you'll be in the coffin with Reynold the whole time. His acting is really tremendous.  This movie is a great breakthrough for Reynolds as he really shows that he can play parts in what I'd call more 'riskier' films and pull it off.

His only means of communicating with the outside (or above ground) world is by cell phone. He desperately tries calling family, friends, US Government, his employer, and eventually gets put through to a service that specializes in locating hostages in Iraq.  During these calls the movie gets really intriguing and complex, yet very easy to follow.  You sense both a loving and broken family history.  You feel paranoia and confusion over who is helping him. You sense a frustrated worker and an uncaring corporation. The frustrations of government bureaucracy.  A few twists along the way and, my favorite, the frustration of being put on hold especially, I suppose, when buried and running out of air.

This movie is great. It is not fun though. Very dark and depressing. Excellent suspense and some great messages.  If you are looking for something very different, watch Buried.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chloe - Liam Neeson Julianne Moore Film Review

The movie Chloe is about a doctor ( Julianne Moore ) who suspects her husband ( Liam Neeson ) is cheating on her.  To find out if he is having and affair, she hires a prostitute ( Amanda Seyfried ) to seduce her husband and report back to her what happens.

Julianne Moore is terrific as always.  I found her performance to be pretty solid. Her emotions of dread and suspicion felt real.

Liam Neeson does a nice job but he does not step out of his comfort zone as an actor. It is the role we've seen before. Neeson plays the older, above middle class, sophisticated, dark, handsome, well-spoken male so often that it no longer seems to require any effort from him.  In Chloe, he plays a successful, financially well to do, lecturer/professor. He dresses in his usual dark, drab "Liam Neeson" garb and, of course, there is the dark and sophisticated side.

This family has its troubles to begin with and, naturally, problems deepens when Moore's character begins to employe a prostitute to spy on her husband's infidelity.  Typically when characters in the film begin to develop problems the audience cares about what is happening. They are either rooting for the family to over come the odds, or rooting for a character to carry out some scheme, or  root against good fortune.  In this film, the family has such a privileged, luxurious life, I could have cared less what happens to them. I felt nothing for this family.

The story is not exactly perfect but it works pretty well until maybe the final third of the film. Sure the writing and directing attempt a clever, subtle twist in the film but it gets completely steamrolled toward the end when the film looks too much like Glenn Close and Michael Douglass in the terrific film, Fatal Attraction.

Don't expect a lot if you see this.


Rated R

1 hour 38 minutes

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Never Let Me Go Film Review - Keira Knightly Carey Mulligan

All disease has been cured and people routinely live to be 100 years.  The reason for this, it seems, is that children are bred to be 'donors'   Their minds and bodies are conditioned to prepare them for an adulthood spent donating organs over a period of months or years until 'completion', their death.

 "Never Let Me Go" is based upon the novel, "Never Let Me Go", by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Very intriguing movie. I've heard people call "Never Let Me Go " a science fiction film but I think  it feels more like an alternative history film.  There are no futuristic scenes or techno gadgets. It is a bleak, austere world. The film is set in the 1960's, 70's, 80's, and 90's and the only 'sci-fi' element about it is that somehow the world was easily convinced to allow the forced execution of perfectly healthy, innocent young people so organs can be farmed.

Never Let Me Go focuses on three people, raised in a school for donors called Hailsham.  Hailsham reminds me a great deal of the school in the Harry Potter series. That sort of happy, all-too-innocent atmosphere with dark, dark undertones.  Hailsham being by far the darker.

The story moves along flawlessly. I was not once bored or looking at the clock. It was quite intriguing. The idea that the characters will die soon from donation was a heavy undertone of the film but it did not come close to dominating the dialog. It contributes to the depth of the characters but does not get in the way of the actual story.  The story focuses on three 'donors' and their intense lifelong relationship. 

Keira Knightly, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan play the three donors and are simply perfect. Watch their emotions as closely as you listen to their lines.  They give the characters great depth. Depth is important in this film as there are no save the world or save ourselves heroics. The characters are born to die and are willing to do so dutifully. There are no gimmicks to fall back on. The film relies totally on good writing, directing and acting. It does this beautifully.

Rated R


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Monday, September 19, 2011

The American - Movie Review a George Clooney Film

Is it me or do assassin / hit-man films all seem to have the same story line.   A world-weary,  aging hit man wants out of the business. The mysterious organization he works for turns against him.  The American is pretty much that kind of film.

The American stars George Clooney as the hit man who seems to just want a quiet life and, yes, the organization he has been so loyal to has other plans for their assassin in mind. Seen that before? I'll bet you have.

The plot came to me as no surprise.  The ending, and I'm not giving anything away here, no spoilers, is one I promise you've seen a number of times.  Let's just say, after the final climatic scene, you have no doubt about what is going to happen to Clooney's character.  Even if you don't suspect this ending, you've seen the same, exact finale used before in other films.

Oh yeah, and Clooney's mysterious character does manage to attract a bevy of beautiful women half his age.  Imagine that?

So, I did not like The American?  Actually, all of its cliches aside, it is a pretty taut film.   Clooney is actually great as the weary, done it all before profession.  A similar, albeit darker, role that he played in the 2007 Michael Clayton film, which i loved.  He looks like a million bucks but his terse, quiet character comes off very well.  He's is not a character you love but you don't hate him either.  The film does not go out of the way to make him look like a good-guy. There are no scenes of him become the reluctant hero or "pet-the-dog" scenes that give the audience something to rally around.  I really respected this direction of the film

Another credit to the film is that it is not about Clooney hunting a target. Actually, for much of the film he is hired to make a gun for another assassin, which is more interesting than it sounds.  The creation of the weapon takes all his mechanical skills and assassin-experience, which comes off nicely during some nice, sparse, dialog between him and the assassin the gun will belong to.  This gives the film some originality.

The setting is terrific too.  The majority of the film is set in and around  in a small, rocky, remote Italian village filled many intersecting tiny streets, alleys and wonderfully rustic homes.  The action is sparse but when it happens, this maze-like setting gives some nice tension without all the usual gun fighting and fisticuffs.

I was glad I watched the film.  The plot and ending showed no innovation at all, yet it still came off feeling fresh in many ways.  

I'd suggest checking it out sometime, especially if you are a fan of this genre of film or simply a fan of Clooney.


Rated R

1 hour 45 minutes

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York Movie Review - NY Times Photographer

Bill Cunningham New York is a documentary film about a New York Times newspaper fashion photographer.  

I loved this documentary and I loved Bill Cunningham.  Bill Cunningham lives a very simple and austere lifestyle.  He resides in an apartment above Carnegie Hall. His home has no kitchen or bathroom (the bathroom is shared with other residents down the hall).   He does not have a car and rides his bike around New York all day long.  He has no significant other and does not seem to have any close friends.  He devotes his life night and day to photographing the clothes people while walking the streets of Manhattan.

Sounds like a crazy guy right?  Perhaps some inaccessible, curmudgeon artist? Dirty appearance, no money, critical of others?

Nope.  Not only does Bill Cunningham live a life that would make a Quaker feel like a sinner, he is a contradiction to his values, and I mean that in the most flattering way. Bill seems to love people. He enjoys their company, laughs constantly and genuinely is a guy you'd want to get to know.  Seriously, you'd feel good around this guy.

His life is about fashion, yet he is the least fashionable man in New York.  He repairs jackets with tape and doesn't even need a closet as he has so few clothes.

Bill not only takes pictures all day long of people walking the street, but he is also a high-fashion photographer rubbing elbows with some of the most famous and influential people in New York City.  Their fame and influence have no meaning to him though, only their clothes give him purpose.  He looks for originality in fashion and he doesn't seem to mind who wears it.

I've probably said too much about this documentary (I usually try not to say to much about the content of films but couldn't resist). The crime in stating too much about this film is that 'understatement' is really what makes this film so beautiful. 

 You'll love Bill, but you never really know him and the film preserves that by not resorting to countless banal questions about personal relationships like so many other films do.  This film has a purely beautiful character who exudes so much passion in life it is infectious. It makes you want to, as they say, suck-the-marrow out of life.  Bill's life is not for me, yet somehow I am envious.    Toward the end of the film, the only moment when the movie begins to very reservedly ask the 'tough' questions of Bill, I actually began to cringe at the idea of this man opening up his personal feelings aside from his work.  I was not disappointed though.

You should really check this film out.  I don't care if you don't like the New York Times, fashion, or photography. If you like documentary films about people choosing a path in life and sticking to it no matter what, you'll love it.

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