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Monday, August 29, 2011

Which Film is Better - North Face or Into Thin Air ?

I'll won't keep you long on this post :-)  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakaur is by far not only a tremendous book but it was made into a great documentary film as well.

The film, "Into Thin Air", is far superior to the film "North Face"

With that in mind, North Face is still a terrific film. It is not a documentary but it is based on true events during World War Two. It involves two German soldiers tasked to climb the unclimbable North Face. The German Government meant it for propaganda but the two soldiers really wanted to do it in the spirit of climbing, not for any Nazi cause.

I wrote an article that reviews the "North Face" film and hope that you enjoy it.

North Face DVD Movie Review: Great German Foreign Film Rating

Monsters - Great Alien Invasion Movie

Monsters is a 2010 film set in modern day USA and Mexico. Aliens (as in from outer space) have occupied part of Mexico and the United States and are constantly attacked by the USA and Mexico military. Travelling on foot, two people are trying to get through the 'infected' zone without being killed by aliens or bombed by the military.

This film great. There is not a lot of action, rather the film takes its own time in a not too slow, not too fast pace.  

What impresses me in this film is how life seems to go on in spite of the alien occupation. This isn't a classic sci-fi shooter. Unlike the movie "Cloverfield", which I loved,  where there is total crisis and lives are disrupted, the Alien-human war in Monsters is going on for years and  virtually taken for granted by by society.  Feels realistic in a way. Maybe this is what happens during long and protracted wars?

The actors, none of whom you'd recognize, are terrific and believable.  

The film was supposedly filmed on virtually no budget, but it doesn't feel cheap at all. It feels like a multi million dollar film without all the pretentious, over reliance on special effects.

Check it out. It is a heck of a flick.

Lebanon - Das Boat in a Tank

This 2009 film I once heard described as "Das Boat" in a tank. The remarkable part about this film is that the entire film is shot from a view within a tank.  It is also its downfall.  .  I was intrigued by the film and enjoyed it overall, but confines of the space also seemed to confine the ability of the film to develop.

Maybe, though, this lack of development is the point. Instead of a complex film, perhaps the film was intended as simply a shallow, myopic view of war..... much like a tank crew would experience..

In many ways, I felt the film could be adapted into a play or even should have been one instead of a movie. 

My recommendation is to check it out sometime but don't expect too much.  I think you'll like it, just not if you were expecting a masterpiece.

Hell's Angels by Howard Hughs

Howard Hughs' film "Hell's Angels" is a World War One film written in 1930.

For a 1930's film, I found it very innovative and daring for its time.  

The film is shot in mostly black and white but also features a few color scenes that were considered revolutionary in it's day. 

The film is daring for 1930. Sexually suggestive scenes, the horrors of war, the futility of death, infidelity and some incredible aerial scenes that feel so real, and in some cases, are very real.

The acting is a bit over dramatic and forced at times but that seemed to be fairly common of the era.

The film is a cinematic masterpiece. Watch it sometime, especially if you enjoy the black and white classics.

Exit Through The Gift Shop Movie DVD Review

What a terrific documentary. Runner up in 2011 for a best documentary Oscar, this film documents street art. Street art is in essence, illegal graffiti.  The film does a tremendous job of showing the stealth and beauty of this art, as well as the fascinating, eccentric subculture that participates.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" pulls you right into the film. The film is not judgmental at all. If anything, the film embraces this style of art. It is as if you are stealing the night with the artists themselves. Best of all, these artist are not just simple punks spraying profanity on the walls, they are truly making very profound and prolific art.  

Definitely see this film.  I thought I would be bored or perhaps angry at the film. I felt no negative emotion, although it did at times make me question authenticity or, better stated, sanity of the art world. But isn't that what art is all about? 

Check it out.

Another terrific art documentary is Art of The Steal about the 'theft' of the Albert Barnes, Barnes Foundation art collection. Check out my review here

AntiChrist - Most Disturbing Film Ever

This 2009 film is by far the most disturbing and graphic films I have ever seen.  The movie is about a couple, devastated by the death of their only child, who moves to a remote wooded cabin to heal.

This film is very artistically shot and has some great performances by Willem Dafoe and Charolette Gainsbourg. It borders between dark fantasy and devistating reality.

This movie is very sexually and violently graphic. It is not for those with a weak stomach. I felt so disturbed by some scenes, I had to get up and pace around. 

I thought the violence was far too much and was likely overdone for shock value. The film is well acted and has some visually artistic scenes, but I think only a few ultra die hard art film fans will find this stimulating.

I was glad I saw it, but I'll never watch it again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Barnes Collection - Art of The Steal Movie Review

If you haven't heard of the Barnes art collection, I'll give you a quick primer.  Albert Barnes aquired a profound collection of the most important impressionist and modernist art in the world. When he died his will demanded that it remain in his home located in Lower Merion, PA.  Eventually, powerful interests in the state of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia forced the collection to be removed from Barnes' Lower Merion home and into Philadelphia (the expected move is in 2012)

"The Art of The Steal" is documentary that follows all of the conspiratorial events that led up to the decision to "steal" the collection from the Barnes foundation.

The film is very good. It really drives home how powerful interests can form a coalition and force anything to happen, against all wishes.  The events leading up to the decision to move Albert Barnes' art is a bit convoluted but this film makes it very easy to follow.

This film really made me think.  It isn't just some high brow, aristocratic artistic dilemma. It raises questions about exactly how sacred a man's last will and testament really is. You want your property to be doled out a certain way after you die and it may, or may not as this film shows, turn out that way at all.

The Art of The Steal also does a nice job of demonstrating how different motives can compete against one another. The people who can defend the Barnes collection work for or depend on the forces who want to take it.

There are some great conspiratorial aspects to the film as well.

Good film to watch. Check it out.

More Best Movie Reviews By TurtleDog

Great and Disturbing Foreign War Film

Film on The Gritty Life of a Derivative Trader

Somewhere Movie Review - Director Sofia Coppola

"Somewhere" starts Stephen Dorff as a popular and famous actor who lives an eternally empty life.  There is nothing he seems to enjoy.  The world panders to him. He lives in luxurious hotels He has sex with all the beautiful women. He takes drugs and drinks all he wants. Yet, he seems to feel nothing.

When his daughter, played by Ella Fanning, arrives, he seems to find some purpose. He enjoys her brief stay and begins feel emotion.

Sofia Coppola's film is interesting not for what it does, but for what it doesn't.  There is no real tension in the film. While Dorff's character is not a drunk, he never loses control. His daughter shows up unexpectedly but he has not resentment.  While he is not the model father, he isn't a bad one either. He's quite loving toward his daughter.

There are no suspenseful moments. The film is just a journey where the ending is not important. Is this an existential romp or a psychological one? There is no right answer and it doesn't matter.

I was a bit frustrated with the film's slow pace and long scenes but it in the end I realized it was terrific. This is a film that uses no cliche (with the exception of Dorff's unshaven look with whiskers that never seem to get longer or shorter.... how do guys do that?). There are no tricks or twists to the film. You are simply following a man's empty life.

Check the movie Somewhere sometime.


Rated R

1hr 38 min

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Another Great Film That Examines a Man's Life - Barney's Version

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bad News Bears Billy Bob Thorton Movie Review

Angelina Jolie's ex Billy Bob Thornton stars in this 2005 remake of original 1975 The Bad News Bears movie.
Both the remake and the original focus on an alcoholic baseball has been that, out of financial necessity, agrees to coach a team of misfit outcast children in an extremely competitive, suburban little league.

I think it is fair to compare both films since the 2005 version is pretty faithful to the original 1976 story.  After all, a remake is intended to take an old idea, reshape it, and make money on it.  I am not against remakes, but they are meant to ride the coat-tails of the original and sell tickets.  Reviewing the 'new' based on how it compares to the 'old' is fair game here.

The 2005 film has some funny moments but often Thorton's brash, profane moments at times feel a little contrived.  In spite of Thorton's off-screen bad boy image, he never really appears natural in the role of the degenerate coach. The original film starred Walter Matthau who is so natural in the role you forget he is an actor. Matthau's character is out of shape, lumbering and and wears a world-weary face beautifully. 

Richard Linklater, the director of the 2005 film, never really seems to nail down the political incorrectness that carried makes the 1976 film a classic.  While there are non-PC scenes where I laughed out loud, most of the political incorrectness felt contrived simply to make a non-PC film.  The original 1976 Bad News Bears had extremely funny, as well as troubling, lines that just flowed beautifully. Perhaps this is because the 1976 film was made, shall I say, in 1976. Drunk driving, abusive language, chauvinism was more accepted then and therefore come off more natural in the original. I'm not suggesting that those activities are the right thing to do but when portraying them in older films, it just comes across more smoothly. 

Greg Kinare, in 2005, never lives up to the tremendous Vic Morrow 1976 performance. Both play the uber competitive , arrogant rival coach.  Kinare's pulls off some funny moments but he comes off as a goof.  Vic Morrow's performance was simply great, dark, deep acting.  Where Kinare's character has to come out and tell you he is full of himself, Morrow's character pulls this off simply in the way he controls his voice and posture.

Overall, I thought Thorton's Bad News Bears wasn't bad.  It probably gained some fans who never even knew the film was a remake.  If you didn't see Walter Matthau's Bad News Bears though, you better check it out.  It is a classic sports film.


Rated R

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Come and See - Foreign Artsey War Film Review

Come and See is definitely a movie that I would not want to see over and over again.  Not because the flick is bad. It is actually quite good.  The film though, is very heavy and very depressing.

Come and see is a Russian foreign film (Russian with English subtitles) set during World War Two. The Germans have invaded the Russian republic of Byelorussia and a young Byelorussian joins the army to fight the Nazis.

The film feels utterly nightmarish, in a good way, if that is possible. The scenes of suffering, fear and devastation are sustained and artsy without becoming too embellished. The Russian landscape is a bleak, wet, purgatory. It is as if the landscape is a monster itself, doling out pain and suffering to those who dare survive.

If there was ever a film that could show the atrocities of war without really any battle scenes it is this one.  Saving Private Ryan this film is not. There are brief explosions and gun fire typically followed by long, brilliant scenes of angst.

Come and See is definitely a film to see.  Save it for a night when you are looking for a downer. I have those nights and I suspect some of you do too.


Rated R


Check Out These Other Best Movie Reviews by TurtleDog

Monday, August 15, 2011

Casino Jack Kevin Spacey True Political Film Review

Casino Jack is a completely unveiled look at Jack Abramoff and his wildly bold political scandals while serving as a Washington D.C. lobbyist.

When ever I see a 'true story' or a ' film based upon actual events' it makes me wonder, is the film really all that true?  Sometimes films malign history.  I do not know the extent of the truth told in Casino Jack, but I have to suspect it is largely true.  Why?  Simply because Casino Jack is written with all the actual names of those involved in the scandal. It would simply be too brash to lie and risk the lawsuits, etc.  I could be wrong though.  That said, there are a lot of names thrown around George Bush and  Tom DeLay come to mind as well as a host of other real behind the scenes figures. Their is no hiding the true players involved with the corruption.

The film's trailer is excellent and really made me want to watch this flick. As promised in the trailer, the film moves at the fast pace. A pace typical of most white collar-workaholic films.  Jet set travel, 5 star hotesl, exotic locations and lots of money and back room deals.  

I was let down by Casino Jack because I expected a more funny movie.  Sure, it is a 'true story' and all, and maybe the facts are not that funny, but the trailer had me thinking this would be more of a hilarious romp.  This film couldn't figure out if it was a comedy or a historical story and was unable to hit the mark in between.

Kevin Spacey is good as always but, seeing the real Jack Abramoff on the news, I could not associate Spacey with the athletic, viral looking Abramoff.  Spacey definitely adds a very human side, a side you sometimes cheer, to his amoral Abramoff character but I felt his more comic lines, especially his quoting of movie lines and voice impressions to be slightly cringe worthy rather than funny.

Barry Pepper does a decent job as Abramoffs right hand man Michael Scanlon and is probably the only character that really adds some panache to this flick. His performance is convincing as the arch-typical high speed, free wheeling, amoral soul of ambition but, in spite of the considerable screen time he gets, his role doesn't prop up the film significantly.

The one actor who I thought would save the day was John Lovitz as the shady business partner of Abramoff, Adam Kidan. His role is as goofy, amoral and (intentionally) without class as any he has played. He is corrupt, sloppy and rich.  He does a respectable job but I really thought his part could have really made the film a more fun romp to watch.  Instead, the direction takes this character down a more seedy path that make him look more pathetic that haplessly hilarious.  Of course, again, this is a true film and perhaps the direction of Kidan's partner actually is the way Adam Kidan was.  If that is the case, Jon Lovitz, a normally good comedic supporting character was probably a bit over matched for the part of Adam Kidan.

All in all, in spite of my not so rosy review, the film definitely has value in helping people understand what happened during the Abramoff affair (that is if it is as true as it might be).  Political junkies will enjoy the film and audiences in general I feel will have mixed reviews.  Some will like it and some will not.  

I'm somewhere in between.

Rated R
108 Minutes

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Patton Oswalt Kevin Corrigan Big Fan Film Review

The film Big Fan is about a thirty five year old man, obsessed with the New York Giants and still living with his mother.  The man is beat up by the Giants' player he idolizes and it changes the course of his life.

Patton Oswalt, you may know him as a stand up comedian when he's not acting, does a decent job in a film that I didn't find all that funny. There are some funny moments, like a terrific part where his fed up mother rips him while driving in the car, but nothing that really had me roaring.

The ending of the film, I must say, was a bit unexpected so kudos on that, but otherwise the Big Fan depends too much on New York stereotypes and the same old mid-thirties and living at home family-son struggles that you've seen over and over.


Rated R

88 Minutes

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Of Gods and Men Monks Meet Terrorist Film Review

Of Gods and Men is an intriguing true story of a Trappist monk monastery set in an Algerian village.

Knowing they are going to be overrun by terrorists, the Trappist monks must decide to stay or fleet their monastery and village it serves with charity and medicine.

The film dialog is in French.

I loved this film. It has a slow pace that does not feel boring at all. A large part of the film immerses itself into the daily lives of a Trappist monk.  They devoutly serve their god and the village they live in. Their lives are filled with exhaustive, contemplative, tedious daily chores. These rituals dominate the film and are somehow interesting to watch.  I felt like I really learned something about Trappist monks after watching Of Gods and Men.

The film also delivers some interesting lessons on peaceful co-existence that does not feel controversial, judgmental or forced upon the viewer. 

Check it out.

Rated PG 13

2 hours and 3 minutes

More Best Movie Reviews By TurtleDog Below

Winter In Wartime World War II Foreign Film Review

Winter In Wartime is a 2008 foreign war film. In the last months of German occupation, a British Royal Airforce pilot is shot down and a young dutch boy decides to help. 

The film has some interesting interplay in this, I suppose you'd say, coming of age film. The boy must balance his aid of the pilot with his relationship with his neutral father and his uncle who does not want him involved with the war.

I enjoyed the film for the most part but did find it predictable.  There is a twist in the film that only novice film watchers,  likely those about the boy's age in the film, would miss.  The final scene, while somewhat suspenseful is very predictable and closes too neatly.

I can't say for sure the state of the German army in the closing months before a crushing defeat by the Russians, but this film sure makes it look good to be a German soldier even in a losing war.  The army looks young, well clothed, well fed, good morale and well supplied.  Seems like a flaw in the film.

It is not a bad film at all, just a little too tidy and easy to figure out. It made me feel like I'd see this all before somewhere else.

Please Check Out These other TurtleDog Reviews on Best Reviews By TurtleDog

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

JFK Assasination Mockumentary Interview With The Assassin

Interview With The Assassin is a mockumentary that is about a laid off television cameraman who has the opportunity to interview the 'grassy knoll' assassin who shot John F. Kennedy.

This movie is not another Oliver Stone JFK. JFK represented itself more or less as fact even though its 'facts' are loosely based. Interview With The Assassin is a fictitious movie that doesn't pretend to be anything except a gripping film.

Raymond J Barry is by far the star of this film.  He plays, Walter Ohlinger, the assassin confessing his story to Ron Kobeleski, the camera man.  Barry plays the part with searing intensity that does not feel contrived. His character can be downright scary at times.

The directing and writing are pretty solid. Throughout the film you are not sure if Ohlinger is telling the truth or not.  As the characters look for the one guy who can prove the story, strange things happen to both Ohlinger and Kobeleski that further the mystery.  Are people really following them or just paranoia?

Watch the film. You won't be able to take your eyes off the screen.

Please read some other posts by TurtleDog 

Documentary/Mockumentary Nuclear War Film

Not So Great Surfing Flick - Is This Film For You?

Vince Vaughn Return To Paradise - Would You Go To This Beach Island 'Paradise'?

Fascinating Pro Wrestling Documentary - Beyond The Mat

Threads - A Very Sobering and Revealing Nuclear War Film

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blue Crush Surfing Movie Review

Blue Crush is a surfer movie staring Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez.

Blue Crush is about 3 girls who have a passion for surfing. They live paycheck to paycheck in Hawaii surfing every moment they are not working as maids at a local hotel.  Kate Bosworth plays Anne Marie, who, of course, falls for a pro football player on vacation. Anne Marie's relationship with the pro football player takes away from her preparation time for the big pro surfer pipeline tournament, which Michelle Rodriquez, the less talented surfer, resents.

Sound pretty cliche? Well, I suppose it is. This is a pretty lighthearted film that isn't particularly unique as far as surfing films go.  The girls work hard in blue collar jobs but they still manage to somehow rent a low rent home that is, conveniently enough, located right on a gorgeous beach. If poverty were only so nice we'd all be living in 'squalor' in a tropical resort.

The acting by Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez is not particularly impressive, the men and women in the film are not particularly sexy, the surfing scenes will not help novices understand the sport, nor will the surfing scenes give experienced surfers something to think about.  Actually, there is a lot of falling down going on in the surfing scenes. At one point I wondered if the point of surfing is to actually get on a wave or simply remain under them.

The 2002 sound track really dates this film. Shame because otherwise I would have found it to be a little more of a timeless film.

Oh, yeah.... the film felt about 15 minutes too long as well

Believe it or not, I did not hate this film.  The film certainly is easy to watch. Little suspense, light drama and even the brief fight scene between the pro football player and a resentful local did not end up as a blood feud or anything particularly disturbing.

This is easy to watch and a way to pass the time if you are in the mood for a surfing flick. It is no Endless Summer or even North Shore for that matter but it can't hurt to watch it if there's nothing better on.

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Happy Go Lucky Mike Leigh Film Movie Review

I saw the movie "Another Year" by Mike Leigh and fell in love with the film. I simply had to watch another film by Leigh.  "Happy Go Lucky" was my next choice.

Happy go lucky stars Sally Hawkins as Poppy, an infinitely cheerful, bubbly 30 year old woman. The film follows her through her daily routine of taking classes, teaching classes, partying with friends and meeting strangers.

Sally Hawkins is simply perfect as the high energy poppy. Her performance wore me out (in a good way) with her over abundant happy-go-lucky enthusiasm for life.

Another perfect performance is rendered by Eddie Marsan. Marsan plays, Scott. Scott is the most negative, maniacal, crazed driving instructor you could ever hope to never meet.  Poppy takes driving lessons from Scott and the scenes are somehow both disturbing and hilarious.

The films pace and background music are classic Mike Leigh. Leigh's films are so beautiful because they take their time and really lets the audience become absorbed in the characters.

I also thought the film had a wonderful twist in the crecendo moment where Poppy and Scott have a conflict toward the end of the film.  Feel free to comment. Was Scott right or just crazy?  I hope he was right as it adds a terrific unexpected revelation that ripples throughout the whole film.

Check it out.

Please Read Some of My Other TurtleDog Posts

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Argentina = Intelligent Cop Film? You Bet!

Denzel Washington - Can He Catch A Runaway Train?

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Another End of The World Movie That You'll Love  - Click Here