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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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Powerful But Fun McDonald's Documentary

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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