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A Teacher (2013)
A sad movie on a sickening subject.
We don't get to know the characters in this film. Hannah Fidell gives us no back story and no resolution. If you feel as nervous about the epidemic of teacher-student sexual abuse as I do, "A Teacher" won't leave you feeling any better.
"A Teacher" is not the cheap outrage movie I thought it might be. It is not full of raunchy sex. There is no violence to. The director attempted a psychological treatment of the perpetrator. She succeeds, but she doesn't surprise me.
Lindsay Burdge plays Diana Watts, a 30-ish high school English teacher with a lost lamb demeanor and a family crisis she is trying to avoid. Diana is not the Pam Smart sultry seductress with wicked intentions. She girl-next-door attractive, but she is depressed. I empathized. I wanted to help her find her way.
Diana has roommates and friends who ask her out to parties where she has the opportunity to meet guys, but she's so insecure she cannot really connect with her peers. Diana's ex-husband and her brother try to get her attention about issues in the family, but Diana is too confused deal with them.
How did a nice girl like Diana end up with that creep? Hidell leaves it up to us to guess.
Will Brittain plays Eric Tull, a hot high school jock from a rich family. Eric is the dominant one in the relationship. Eric decides he is going to take Diana to his father's ranch. Eric decides when they are going to have sex.
The sex depicted is not explicit, but Hidell makes it plain it is joyless for Diana. Eric is a bonehead. He doesn't read when Diana is feeling sad an anxious. He doesn't care. Eric's job is stud service. He could get any girl in school he wanted. It seems he thinks Diana should be grateful to HIM for a quickie in the parking lot!
Eric comes across as a bit old for high school. This often happens when directors cast 25-year-old hunks to play high school students. However, Hidell does a deft job in show us how Eric is not quite a man yet. Diana isn't able to convey to Eric the high risk of their relationship. Eric is not able to see the situation as an adult and exercise good judgment. He's just an over privileged Texas boy playing with daddy's toys and diddling his English teacher.
I wanted to see something bad happen to Eric. I wanted to see something good happen to Diana. I wanted a comforting answer as to why so many pretty, young teachers have sex with their students. However, Hidell does't just come out and give me what I want.
Apart from awkward camera work and the stop-and-go jumpiness from one seen to the next, Hidell does a good job with what she has. She doesn't try to emulate the Hollywood blockbusters. She doesn't make her actors punch above their weight, which steers the film away from b-movie movie ham.
I felt voyeuristic. It might have been me and my camera following Diana around. The absence of backstory or subplots gave me an undiluted taste of a perilous episode in Diana Watts' life.
The drawback of Hidell's cinema vérité is I found no redemption for Eric. I just hated him. However, Eric is the victim. Not Diana. Diana is the adult. Diana is the one breaking her contract, lying to her employers, and eroding society's trust. Yet, Hidell is telling me I must empathize with Diana, and I do. Perhaps Hidell is saving the tears of Eric for "A Teacher II."
A fabulous disaster!
Okay all you One-Star Wallys, you Gloomy Guses, you Debbie Downers, I'm going to explain this for the umpty-umpth time in thirty-five years: "1941" is slapstick comedy. It's a big, noisy mess. It's warped fun and nothing more. "1941" is not -- I repeat NOT -- your mature sophisti-comedy with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn with pithy nuances and lessons for the heart.
You've got Eddie Deezen on a Ferris wheel, Ned Beatty on an artillery cannon, John Belushi on a P-40 Tomahawk, and Bobby Di Cicco on the make! You've got Slim Pickens reprising Major Kong, Robert Stack as a resolute General Stillwell, and Lorraine Gary as an hysterical housewife. There are soldiers, sailor, zoot-suiters, submarines, tanks, toilet jokes, paint factories, machine guns, rockets, explosions, and wild-eyed screaming close-ups. There's John Williams' bombastic orchestral score, there's boogie-woogie, swing, and close-harmony. There are rude ethnic stereotypes and sophomoric sex jokes. There are kicks in the shins and punches in the nose.
There is no subtlety. None. If you're looking for any of that Woody Allen stuff, you might as well watch the Three Stooges for the character development and "Hamlet" for the pie fight.
If you took "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" and siphoned off the clever plot, you might get something like "1941." "1941" retains the riotous excitement Spielberg brought us with "Sugarland Express," but burns off the sorrow of "Sugarland," leaving pure intoxicated joy!
I don't advocate substances either way, but you can still follow "1941" no matter how stoned or drunk you are. You will love it if you just want to take your mind off your troubles for a couple of hours. Just don't try to take it to film school, you'll only whine and fuss.
Black Dahlia (2006)
If you're going to make a bad move, you might as well do a good job!
I thought it was the other Black Dahlia film and switched it off after eight minutes, like several other reviewers. Then I went back to it. I laughed my ass off the whole way through.
Maybe it comes from being a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, but I have a genuine affection for movies this bad. It has the setup of a porno movie, except it's cheap splatter film horror.
The murders take place in what looks to be an abandoned jailhouse. You never catch on to the identity of the big guys in bondage masks and butcher's aprons who are speechless and stone-faced.
They cut the women up, though you don't see how because they couldn't afford the special effects. Then they have rubber limbs and guts that they set out on the sidewalk as the mark of the killer.
The little blonde who facilitates the murders has the most lines. She looks like a petite dominatrix from S&M fetish films, and I think she is. She lures the women in under the ruse of auditioning for a film about the Black Dahlia. She's very perky when she says stuff like, "Shut the **** up, b*tch!" While the guys are working over the poor victim with saws and drills and fake blood is spurting all over the place.
There is a silly plot with the police investigating the crimes, who seem to be one irritable African-American cop like something out of "Repo Man," and some homely lady cop who might have been a bailiff on "Night Court." The guy obsessed with the Black Dahlia who gets caught up in the murderer's scheme looks like he might still be in high school. He interviews the little dominatrix and this weird old man and at the weird old man's house. The weird old man is supposed to be the last director to see the Black Dahlia alive. He ties into the climax of the film, which you surely don't want to miss.
I did enjoy the interrupting still and video footage that come out of nowhere and make it like a cheap version of "Natural Born Killers." The soundtrack is a dramatic classical music affair, including a "Sanctus," by which composer I don't know, which is rather stylish as the film reaches its feverish peak. They also use Sinatra tunes when they are dismembering the bodies.
This film is a lot of laughs precisely because of how bad it is, which is so bad it's good!
Prison Girls (1972)
Natural is nice
Contrary to dominant standards, I and a millions of other men do enjoy, ahem, "natural" looking women in skin flicks. It is rather stimulating when today's generic models and actresses are so plucked, waxed, and buffed they look like store mannequins.
The reason I could give Prison Girls two stars is the copious amount of nudity throughout. Otherwise the movie is dreadfully tedious.
Prison Girls hearkens back to the time in which skin flicks had to be "educational" to pass the censor's muster. Thus, the sex therapy subplot is a weak attempt at social redemption.
The acting is amateur at best. The body painting artist is a wee bit funny. He makes one good Jewish joke.
The sex scenes are simulated flippy-floppy that cuts out before anything too heavy happens.
There is one harrowing rape scene with one of the girls and a motorcycle gang that, though comically rendered, might upset some viewers.
And yes, the music is terrible.
With the ready and free availability of more vintage pornography on the Internet than you can shake a stick it, Prison Girls is probably not worth your while, unless you're a fanatic for softcore b-movies.
Harold and Kumar are not the problem
I give this waste of time three stars solely because Cho and Penn are such a personable pair and enjoyable to watch even in a disjointed script of recycled jokes. Low-brow humor is fun. I love good jokes about sex, excretory activities, pot-smoking, and racial stereotypes. That's what made H&KGTWC so great.
However, it did not seem to occur to the clowns who wrote and directed H&KEFGT that you can make NEW jokes about sex, excretory activities, pot-smoking, and racial stereotypes for a sequel with the same cool characters. All they did was rehash themes from H&KGTWC.
I was looking forward to seeing Neil Patrick Harris, but his role was just an exaggeration on the NPH character he played in H&KGTWC.
I hope this is not the end of the Harold and Kumar franchise. Cho and Penn might yet be the new Cheech and Chong, but they need writers and directors who will give them material with some depth and intellect. They are too talented for this H&KEFGT sort of drek, which should not have gone directly to video but directly into the dumpster.
An American Crime (2007)
Treatment of case too cursory
I read of the Likens case before I heard of the film. I waited a year for the DVD release; it wasn't in any cinema in my region. I just watched AAC tonight and I am disappointed. The actors did a fine job and the cinematography was engaging; the problem is, as several comments above point out, this is not a lurid enough film for such a lurid case as Sylvia's. Perhaps the director was trying to dodge an NC-17 rating, but that's what it would require to develop a story approaching the horrors of these events. O'Haver's interpretation is on the level of a Lifetime original. The film feels like it's in a big hurry to tell the story as if it is scared of its own subject. The scenes seem disjointed as though too much was left on the cutting room floor. I wish the film had spent more time focused on the torture of Ms. Likens and the squalor of the home. That way the viewer might better understand domestic violence still chilling 43 years later. The dream sequence with Ricky Hobbs and Sylvia's parents should have been dumped. Nonetheless, I still recommend AAC. Before watching the film, read the Wikipedia article on the Likens case. You will know how the story ends; however, the background information will supplement what the film lacks.
The sick truth about PC
I saw what this play illustrates in college in the early 1990s. Carol keeps referring to "my group." We can assume it's a militant feminist student organization, but it could one of many antagonistic outfits steeped in identity politics. These groups always claimed they wanted justice and equality. I participated in several such groups and I quickly observed they care for neither equality nor justice; what they wanted was deference, authority, and often revenge. John tells Carol several times he thinks she is angry. He is correct, of course. What John does not realize from the moment Carol sets foot in his office is he's a dead man. He is her prey. Carol is a type of student I knew well. She is quite intelligent. She is, however, confused and angry. On top of that, she suffers from depression, which diminishes her cognitive abilities. In self-righteous sociopolitical outrage, her "group" has given her a scapegoat--the white male establishment. Her "group" has also given her a deluded purpose--tear down the white male establishment. Much of what some commentators here attribute to John's "stilted" nature is actually Mamet's writing style. However, John is indeed stilted. He is a nerdy college professor. I met many of them too. He lives in his ideas. He pursues ever more clever theories about life and learning. Ironically, he is a bit hazy on what's going on in the here and now. He cannot read Carol's rage and this is his Achilles heel. Carol did not start out as a "bad" person. She started out as a "sad" person. I don't remember the exact quote, but John tells her: The Stoic philosophers say if you take away the statement "I have been injured" you take away the injury. Something like that. Carol's "group" has done quite the opposite. It has goaded her to build her entire life around being injured and being a victim. This is the bread-and-butter of "identity politics." By the time Carol enters John's office she has been trained to kill careers the way the drill sergeant's charges have been trained to kill enemy soldiers in "Full Metal Jacket." "Oleanna" is a tragedy about the consequences of misguided anger. The term "politically correct" is now no more than a term of abuse bandied about by right-wing half-wits; however, I remember the year 1990 and the pins leftie militants sported: "PC and Proud." I saw a lot of people get hurt by political correctness but two things I never saw PC give anybody: 1. Real empowerment. 2. Happiness. David Mamet nails the essence of PC in "Oleanna."
Working Girls (1986)
Molly is a pitiful and confused young woman in need of psychiatric intervention. She is no heroine. You will these HB0-type "documentaries" about prostitution focus on high end brothels. Here again Lizzie Borden is credited with being "gritty" and "realistic" even though though the spoiled over-grown teenagers in this house of prostitution do not represent the state of prostitution worldwide, which is a dangerous criminal underworld of rape, disease, drugs, murder, slavery, and child molestation. "Working Girls" does the same kind of disservice to REAL women's issues, globally speaking, as do "Pretty Woman" and the "Vagina Monologues." I gave the film such a low rating because of its deceptive message. On the basis of cinematography, directing, and acting, it rises from terrible to sub-mediocre.
Cheech & Chong for a new millennium
I usually despise college romp comedies, but the chemistry between Cho and Penn is something special. We all know the "slacker," all the brains and potential for so-called success, but prefers chasing weed and chicks (perhaps some of us were the "slacker"!) I was hoping to see more from Harold and Kumar--a few more movies, maybe a TV spin-off, but perhaps it was wise to leave the magic in one movie. Think of all the sequels and spin-offs that failed to summon the magic and flopped.
Even Cheech & Chong, a seasoned comedy duo should have stopped cinematic endeavors with "Up In Smoke."
Sure, the H&KGTWC relies on some cheap gags, like the psycho ex-child star and the Indian convenience store, but in this movie, they work.
Harold & Kumar represent the a new generation of truly multicultural Americans!
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Cool movie, horrible hype
Two strong, smart, and sexy women face incredible odds after a chain of ill-starred events. T&L is bona-fide "buddy movie" in which the buddies are female in roles typically reserved for male anti-heroes. They're tough and savvy...and flawed for sure. That's why we root for them. The Southern twang, the convertible, the desert highway, and the law in hot pursuit: Cinema Americana at its best! In 1993 Thelma & Louise was on the syllabus of my women's studies course as required viewing. A neurotic college town rallying cry was: "Thelma & Louise Live!" To be sure, there were overtly "feminist" themes in the film, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, patriarchy, women breaking free of the "nice girl" repression, and women fighting back. However, in the end, it was just a Hollywood road movie and an awfully thin soup for a Power-to-Women manifesto! When it turns up on TV, I still have trouble divorcing the film from the pitiful pop culture legacy from the early '90s.
Watch T&L and enjoy it for what it is. Keep your eyes on road and don't look 15 years back in the rear view mirror!