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Mr. Right (2015)
Quirky and funny as Hell
Thank God for a movie that is hilariously different! So many movies today are special effects and explosions -- all aimed at the teen audience eager for the same old, same old. Sam Rockwell is fantastically funny as a hit-man who kills the people who hire him, rather than the people he is hired to kill. When he falls in love with the lovelorn Anna Kendrick you don't see how it can possibly work but the charm and quirkiness of Rockwell's character inevitably wins her over. A series of assassination attempts on Rockwell's life are ruthlessly snuffed out in bloodiest fashion that is so way over the top as to keep the audience laughing. A terrific script by Max Landis (son of John Landis of Animal House fame) makes you want to seek out more films scripted by the same hand. Most critics hated this movie -- which doesn't mean a damn thing considering the garbage they praise all too often. If you want something that is plain daffy and funny as Hell then this comes highly recommended.
The Other Woman (2014)
Witless mess that is kept afloat by the hardworking cast
Lesley Mann is always a delight as an actress and she battles it out as a betrayed wife in this tasteless piece of dreck aimed at the feminist audience. Cameron Diaz, looking like a stick insect put together with silicone and play dough, scorched with a blowtorch and bleached to distraction, goofballs her way through the story with a manic charm and perseverance that is more than this vile, untalented script deserves. One wants to weep at the depths to which screen writing has sunk when a witless piece of garbage like this that depends on vomit and diarrhea jokes for its laughs -- and judging by reading other postings -- succeeds in entertaining the female viewers. By all means let's see a movie about wives and mistresses taking revenge on an unfaithful mate but let's see it done with wit and style, not with unpleasant bodily functions and scenes in which the man develops breasts due to being unknowingly plied with female hormone pills. (Would a movie in which a man slips male hormone pills to a woman be funny if she developed balls and a beard? Maybe in America, nowhere else.) What a HUGE condemnation on the taste -- or lack of it -- that permeates Hollywood today. The fact that audiences have applauded this movie only indicates the depths to which film-making has sunk. That this script was greenlit at all is saddening beyond belief. Mars and Jupiter are planets other than Earth, and the fact that this movie has attained the success it has makes one wonder what planet the viewer who applauds this dreck is from. Where is the wit? Where is the intelligence? Is lavatory humor the wave of the future? Yes, there are movies around that have scatological humor in them and yes, they were written by men, but they succeed because they have solid wit and smarts behind them. The Other Woman has a basic idea that rapidly descends into the gutter and chooses not to raise its head again. For all the battles that women have had to be accepted as individuals in their own right, this movie hurls them right back down into the pit. I would love to see Lesley Mann, Cameron Diaz et al in a movie about women taking revenge on an unfaithful mate (see the 1959 Alain Delon movie Women Are Weak or the 1968 Three In The Attic for tips on how to write such a movie) but The Other Woman is a tasteless stinker of a movie that fails to understand how scriptwriting works. Obviously the only thing that matters in Hollywood today is the box-office count and the fact that this movie has scored big can only be attributed to the pull of its stars, who deserve one hell of a lot better. Let's hope in future that they get it.
Me Mammy (1968)
Fond memories of a wonderful show.
I would LOVE to see this show again -- though by the sound of it, it's gone forever. One episode had Milo O'Shea bringing home a pregnant girlfriend and announcing to his mammy that he intended to marry her, much to her dismay -- which was instantly replaced by outrage when the mammy discovered that the girl was pregnant by another man and Milo didn't mind. The mammy took the girl out shopping, the girl announced that she had to "go to the lavvy" and the mammy sent her "all the way down, all the way down" to the bottom of the stairs to the underground trains and the mammy took off running, knowing the girl had no idea where they lived. A very funny show with great supporting characters.
L'oro di Napoli (1954)
A knockout from De Sica
Superb collection of vignettes in the daily life of the people of Naples, lensed by a master director. Six separate stories, all with wonderful characters, including one starring De Sica himself as a frustrated Count, ready to wager the family silver and country estates in a desperate attempt to win an ongoing card game against an unbeatable street urchin. The movie begins with the tale of a downtrodden family man who rebels against his low-level, mob-boss bully of a lodger, setting his family free -- but at what cost? Funny, but also disturbing. One of the stories a touching, virtually wordless tale of a heartbroken mother accompanying her child's coffin to the cemetery, together with a crowd of children, unaware of the real tragedy, only interested in candy. The most dramatic piece starring Silvana Mangano as a prostitute tricked into a loveless marriage by a wealthy man atoning for the suicide of his true love. The stand-out story, a delightful tale of an adulterous pizza maker, Sophia Loren, desperately in search of an emerald ring, supposedly baked into a pizza, but in reality left on her lover's nightstand. This film is worth watching for one scene alone, watching Loren stride down the street in the rain, followed by her cuckolded husband. If ever one scene in a movie made a star then this is it. Obviously not wearing a bra, Loren's breasts fill the screen and De Sica, full of mischief, follows her every move, both from front and behind in a gorgeous, gorgeous display of Loren's twenty year old sensuality. One of those knockout scenes that belongs to film history. The last vignette, an arrogant landlord, bully to all his tenants, humiliated by them when they all in unison blow a Bronx cheer as he passes by. A trifle, but brilliantly set up and performed with cheeky perfection. What this movie also offers is the sense of reality, a total lack of artifice and lack of studio sets, all in the style of the Bicycle Thief, another of De Sica's masterpieces, filmed on the streets. One's heart aches for the passing of such a talented actor and director. This is a movie that demands to be released in a full version, not the shortened American one, in a decent and respectable DVD. Can't Criterion get hold of this somehow? MovIe lovers deserve to be able to enjoy every minute of this delight. Hats off to De Sica and all involved!
The Broken Tower (2011)
Valiant attempt to capture a problematical character
The Broken Tower is the type of movie one generally sees at minor film festivals and thence disappears into the darkness, never to be seen again. Having said that, one should never dismiss such honorable efforts simply because there is no vast audience for a film that has no special effects, extra terrestrials, car chases or gunplay (which would exclude most European movies.) Oh and yes, it's in black and white and concerns Hart Crane, a gay poet in the 1920's who killed himself at thirty two.
James Franco wrote and directed this movie, which comes across as an experimental film from a student still with much to learn. (Not knocking it, merely an observation, which is open to argument.) What the movie lacks most of all is an introduction to the many people whom Crane came into contact with during his life (from literary and social critic Waldo Frank - HUGE in his observations on American Society, to writer Malcolm Cowley and his painter-wife Peggy (Crane's only heterosexual love affair), painter Georgia O'Keefe and her husband Alfred Stieglitz, introducing Crane to Literary New York in the shape of Eugene O'Neill.) And other major influences in his life, Caresse and Harry Crosby (publishers of the Black Sun Press in Paris, who first brought recognition to William Burroughs, James Joyce etc, whose works were considered too obscene to be published in America.) WHERE is the scene where Harry Crosby (nephew of J.P. Morgan) considered the model for the Great Gatsby and the acknowledged epitome of drug-fueled extravagance and irresponsible behaviour in the 1920's, murders his mistress and kills himself while Hart is obliviously having dinner with Caresse? And what about Emil Opffer, Crane's one great love, for whom he wrote the suite of poems VOYAGES, which drop into the movie with flat readings, completely unbolstered by imaginative visuals? Nothing about Opffer's background, his family's flight from assassination in Denmark or Opffer's own experiences during World War 1. And what about Crane's mother's mental instability, her rejection of him for his homosexuality and threats to expose his sexual preferences to his father? And the meeting between Crane and Federico Garcia Lorca in 1929? Two doomed poets, both homosexual, totally unalike but both critical of American Society in the 1920's, although Crane's love for his country was absolute and eternal.
The Broken Tower does illustrate the difficulties of Crane's poetry, which in his own words is described as "A jazz roof garden method, evolved from a pseudo-symphonic construction, of an abstract beauty that has not been done before in the English language. A kind of metaphysical quotidian combination". (Wow!) At the time Crane's poetry was more appreciated outside of the United States than within. (The London Times: "Mr Crane reveals a profound originality in lines of arresting and luminous quality", whereas in the New York Saturday Review, "Mr. Crane rapes language under the impression he is paying it the highest compliment".) Poet Marianne Moore, who printed some of Crane's earliest poems, found them so impenetrable that she rewrote them without Crane's permission, an act of betrayal that devastated him.
What Crane was aiming for with his poetry was an Elizabethan accent on the American scene, drawn from the example of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, but rejecting Eliot's whole-hearted pessimism. Crane believed in America as the bridge to the future through mechanisation and he tried to infuse this in his poetry. What he ended up with was a mass of images that were so dense in their construction that the uninitiated reader would find them impossible to navigate. Crane believed in starting the journey for the reader, but forcing them to complete it on their own, which inevitably led to a great deal of frustration.
The Broken Tower is divided into various "Voyages", supposedly designed to illustrate the major events in Crane's life, drawing ever closer to his suicide. These are introduced by cue cards. For example "Hart Crane goes to Cuba" -- and we see him taking a long, long walk down a street somewhere. Or "Hart Crane goes to Mexico" -- and we see him singing in a bar with a Mexican guitarist. The pivotal moments in his life simply fail to materialize. While his alcoholism and poverty are well documented, and figure in the movie, so many other incidents are missing. The fact that he left America when the Great Depression hit, the fact that he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship that enabled him to live in Mexico during this period, but was threatened with withdrawal due to his erratic behaviour and public intoxication, is nowhere to be seen.
Another screenplay, entitled HART CRANE, written in 2008, can be found on www.simplyscripts.com and covers all the main incidents in Crane's life. Unfortunately, while it might be of interest to anyone seeking a fuller and more coherent version of Crane's life, it is unlikely ever to see the light of day due to the release of The Broken Tower.
Summing up, James Franco deserves kudos for having tackled such a difficult and uncommercial subject. Certainly an original interpretation of a problematical character, the chasms that exist between each "Voyage" and the lack of depth in the main character (due to the absence of any interaction with the main movers and shakers in his life) make it highly unlikely that this movie will have any lasting effect or figure in any revival. However, if this movie interests anyone enough to seek out Crane's poetry, then that is everything one can wish for -- and grateful thanks to James Franco for that.
Dos tipos duros (2003)
A confused mess
As a fan of Antonio Resines, I wanted to like this movie. A talented actor in both comedy and drama, he has to work hard in this one. The most one can say is that the movie is a confused mess that simply cannot make up its mind just what it wants to be. Is it a buddy movie? A comedy? A crime caper? The story is all over the place and is hard to follow. So many disparate elements that fail to come together. Yes, there are a few laughs here and there but the violent aspects quickly demolish these. The story appeared to be thrown together as the film-makers actually made the movie. Nothing is believable and the story quickly wears out its welcome. An unfortunate misfire. Give it a miss.
No sabe no contesta (2002)
Flaky and funny as hell
Boy, what a fantastic charmer of a movie! Beautifully written with dialog that is so deceptively easy. Absolutely deadpan comedy that is hysterical to watch. The story of Joaquin, his family and friends and the girl he falls in love with. The entire plot revolves around a piano that must be sequestered in Joaquin's grandparents house in order not to be seized by the courts in payment for the collapse of Joaquin's father's business. Everything that can go wrong. does go wrong and the piano is progressively destroyed throughout the movie. Fantastic performances from the talented young cast, terrific star power at work here. Funny, funny, funny scenes with voice overs contradicting the actual dialog being spoken. Beautifully directed, unexpected twists and turns in a nonlinear storyline that is charmingly flaky. Wonderfully original. If you want something that is completely different to the usual dreck of adolescent screw-ups seen in American cinema then get your hands on this one. An absolute delight!
Una noche con Sabrina Love (2000)
One night with Cecilia Roth!
Always a pleasure to see anything new coming out of Latin America, Argentina is one of the most talented countries when it comes to film production. Una Noche Con Sabrina Love has two of the Spanish speaking world's greatest actresses in Cecilia Roth and Norma Aleandro. Alas, the latter is woefully under-used in a role as a photographer that she fleshes out way beyond its worthiness. Aleandro glows off the screen with sheer star power but essentially has very little to do. Cecilia Roth sinks her teeth into the role of porn star Sabrina Love who gives one night of passion to the virginal seventeen year old Daniel, who writes to her from his small village in the country and wins one night in her arms. With a series of picaresque adventures before he arrives in Buenos Aires, Daniel reconnects with the secretly gay brother he has not seen for three years. Without having read the source material of the book on which this movie is based, one has an expectation that the picaresque adventures will continue. Alas, the story gets bogged down in heavy-handed philosophical discussion that should have been tossed out of the window. This is one very obvious instance in which the screenwriter should have stepped away from the source material. There is a lot of very good acting talent at work here, specifically from the two lead actresses, but as the character of Daniel (ably interpreted by Tomas Fonzi) is the focus of the story, there should have been more opportunity for his character to experience a wider range of emotions. One wonders how Fellini might have handled a coming of age story like this. Not a complete failure, but when the movie has the title One Night With Sabrina Love, one could be forgiven for wanting to see how the encounter between the porn star and the inexperienced young guy would affect her as much as him. It would certainly have given Cecilia Roth a greater opportunity, which she unquestionably would have soared with. An interesting movie with a few disappointing longeurs along the way. Could have been better with a more skilfully written script. Just because the book is good doesn't mean to say that the script should stay faithful.
Edge of Darkness (2010)
As convincing as a three dollar bill
Mel Gibson waited seven years before stepping back in front of the camera. He should have waited for better material. Edge of Darkness is utterly grim and humorless and plods along with threats of danger that never seem to materialize. What action there is rears its head at the most absurd and inappropriate moments, action for the sake of action, without rhyme or reason. Scenes clunk along with endless explanations, threats of this and that that leave one scratching one's head with bewilderment. Mel has been around too long to ever be boring as an actor but the material given him here had the audience I was sitting with giggling at the phony ridiculousness of it all. If you ever saw the classic SILKWOOD, which was ten times more absorbing than this outing, then you pretty much have the whole story in a nutshell. When Mel discovers a Geiger counter in his daughter's apartment and finds a lock of her hair is radioactive, then you might as well get up out of your seat and leave the theater as everything that follows is utterly predictable. Ray Winstone, as a government operative muttering threats against Mel's investigation into his daughter's death, is virtually incomprehensible in his scenes. The ultimate disclosure behind Mel's daughter's murder is so unconvincing, one wonders if the screenwriter's maiden aunt suggested it when he was stuck for an idea. If there is one word to be used in describing this movie then it is "predictable". Two words: "phony and predictable". Mel, you're a great guy to spend time with but give us something better next time.
Christmas Cottage (2008)
Not for diabetics.
The overload of sugar in this movie would kill a truckload of diabetics. Dreadful, dreadful dialog that would make the regular viewer cringe with embarrassment. Watching the hugely talented Peter O'Toole in this movie makes one hope that he never has to watch this or ever again have to descend to this level to make a living. For this particular viewer, the only thought that went through my mind was, please somebody hand me a fork so I can stick it in my eyes. This is a movie made for old ladies who live alone with a houseful of cats. If Thomas Kinkade has a story to tell, then he needs a much more gifted writer to bring it to fruition. This is a movie that would reduce even the most sympathetic of souls to batter their head on the coffee table in utter despair. Watching Peter O'Toole, who does everything but wear a sandwich board saying, "My character is going to die very soon", one prays that he will just peg out so that one will no longer have to observe the depths to which he has sunk in acting in this tripe. A definite miss.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Give me back the hour and forty minutes I wasted on this tripe! You won't sleep after watching it? Well, guess what, this viewer almost fell asleep during the endless longuers of waiting for the sound of footsteps (again and again) or yet ANOTHER bump in the night that went nowhere. Ohmygod, a swinging chandelier??? Okay, so where's the monkey that set it in motion? Gee, must have been somebody with a long stick. The two lead actors do have good abilities but they're wasted in a non-story that really needed ramping up on the action and suspense. I don't care if the movie only cost fifteen grand to make, when I pay my money and sacrifice my time I want some degree of emotional involvement and this just didn't cut it. Major, major question: who on earth sleeps with their bedroom door open every night??? Nobody but these dopes. Doors creak (hinges need oiling), door slams (somebody yanked the dental floss), lights go on (who's out of sight flicking the switch?). Bits and pieces of so many other horror movies, snippets of conversation referring to the supernatural, the devil ad infinitum. Kudos to the studio execs who ran with this movie and put one over on the American movie-going public. Yes, a sucker is born every minute and this movie is proof of that. (Just how dumb was the initial viewing audience shown in the trailer and why don't they get out more?) I'm giving this a four for successfully putting one over on the masses. Great job, guys!
Bleak Moments (1971)
Saw this movie when it first came out in the 1970's and hated, hated, hated it! Easily the most booooring movie I have ever seen in my life. Don't know where Leigh got his inspiration but this is one of those movies where you want to shake the characters to get them to open their mouths and communicate. The title says it all because there are no saving moments in this movie, just long, long silences with people unable to articulate what they are (presumably) feeling. If you want to watch something that will drive you to drink then this is the one for you. If you have nothing better to do for two hours then stick a fork in a toaster: the experience will be infinitely more pleasurable than anything you will get from this! Yes, Leigh came up with a lot of really worthwhile stuff much later in his career but give this one a miss.
Wow! Incredible performances from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymore Hoffman. Mesmerizing intensity from Streep as the nun seeking to find Hoffman guilty of a sin he may or may not have committed. Amy Adams gives a sincere performance as the nun who sets the ball rolling with her suspicions that Hoffman may have molested a black student. The scenes between Streep and Hoffman crackle with intelligence and frightening intensity. Streep, as the unrelenting figure of justice, determined at any cost to destroy Hoffman, is terrifying and unrelenting. Hoffman gives a performance less restrained and mannered than the one he gave in Capote (and won the Oscar for) and boy, does he ever deserve to have won a second one for this outing. An absolute knockout, nuanced and convincing in every way. What a masterful performance! John Patrick Shanley's script is riveting from start to finish. If anyone has any doubts about watching this movie due to the theme then put those doubts aside as the writing and acting are without doubt amongst the finest ever committed to film. A superb piece of work.
The Life of Reilly (2006)
Brilliant raconteur in a three hour, one-man show
Just watched the unedited three hour version of The Life of Reilly filmed in San Francisco in 2001. This is a two DVD set that is superb quality and crystal clear. It appears that the filming is authorized as CNR sees everything from the stage, throwing barbs at the audience now and again and would unquestionably have commented on the filming had it been done without his permission. Not having seen the version shown in theaters I have to assume that this is the complete show as opposed to the mini-documentary which most of the posters on this site are referring to. This is a brilliantly funny one-man show, witty and dramatic, funny and tragic in the telling of stories from Nelson Reilly's life and career. His performance covers a huge range of subjects and his delivery is masterful. Strange to believe that his talents will essentially be remembered only for his contribution to Match Game.
A one-man show that is both touching and very, very funny. For anyone who knows anything about show business from way back when - and I'm talking about the great Vaudeville stars of the 20's and 30's, this is a nostalgic mind-blower. When Nelson Reilly talks about his family, describing them as "portrayed by" Burt Lancaster or Shirley Booth or any one of a multitude of movie stars from the 40's and 50's, the result is hysterical. What a wonderful memorial to a talented and loving personality.
Polvo enamorado (2003)
A gallant effort that fails to carry to the international market. Made in Peru on what is obviously a limited budget, the only way this movie could have succeeded would have been with an extremely talented director. What this movie has is a director who has waaaay too many shaky and distracting images and uneven handling of the camera. Scenes are shot in the simplest manner possible with no originality. The story, of a young woman destined for the convent who agrees to marry a much older man on condition he does not seek sexual relations, then meets and falls in love with the new town priest, has echoes of The Crime of Padre Amaro, with none of the sweep of storytelling or professionalism in movie-making. The lead actress is unexceptional, as are most of the supporting cast, with the exception of the priest and the girl's stepson, who has secret lusts of his own for her. Unacceptable as a slice of realism, this movie simply fails to impress on any level. While the story itself does have an interesting premise, it is simply too dated to be of any real interest. A valiant effort on a shoestring budget but really not worth the time.
Mujeres Infieles (2004)
Absorbing, frequently funny look at women's sexual needs.
Yet another good movie to come out of Chile, which continues to be one of the least applauded of the Latin American countries where film-making is concerned. The story revolves around the women in three different relationships: the married television newscaster having an affair with her boss, the secretary at the television studio having an affair with her husband's son, and a third wife whose husband uses her simply for his own sexual gratification. The story begins with a gas explosion at a motel where the newscaster's boss is killed and the injured newscaster herself is revealed as his lover in a live broadcast that her husband and the boss' wife both see. The three individual stories are further complicated by a fourth wife unable to get an orgasm from her unresponsive husband. While the various stories might sound unconnected, they all fall into a pattern of neglect of one kind or another on the part of the husbands, which forces the wives to seek satisfaction elsewhere. The third wife, used by her husband, falls into a joyful lesbian relationship with a new girl in town, and the fourth wife, unable to get an orgasm, falls madly in love with a battery operated device that has a habit of running away from her. Add to this a couple of gay detectives seeking to compromise one of the errant wives and there is plenty of action to keep the story moving. There are funny moments and there are sad ones, but whatever, there is never a dull moment. Intelligent acting and a very professional approach to story telling and film-making, this movie rises well above soap opera level. Another good one for Chile!
Laugh out loud funny.
Three husbands who elect to live independently of their wives move in together and hire a young cleaning woman to take care of their apartment. When each of them falls for her, they are surprised to discover that she is no pushover. Ground rules are immediately put into place by the cleaner and the husbands find themselves being whipped into shape in a fashion their wives have never been able to do. Invitations to dinner are accepted by the girl, only for the would-be Romeo to be presented with a bill at the end of the evening for the hours she has spent being wined and dined. The continuing problems with the ex-wives finds no easy resolution and the continuing pursuit of the cleaner is constantly being foiled by the girl herself. Some of the situations are laugh out loud ridiculous and the story proceeds at a breakneck speed that never flags. An American version of this movie might have had the husbands learning their lesson and being accepted back by their wives but this fresh and original Spanish approach, while satisfying, does not tie up all the husbands' indiscretions with a happily-ever-after conclusion. This movie is a lot of fun and well worth the time.
Padre Nuestro (2005)
Charming story of reconnected family relationships.
Continually surprising that Chile, one of the least represented of the Latin American countries, succeeds in turning out such good films. (Spoilers contained.) Padre Nuestro is a charming and consistently interesting study of the relationships of two sons and a daughter coming together to visit their dying father in hospital, together with the elder son's second wife. The father's marriage long having ended, his longtime lover has finally come to the realization that she has been wasting her time and must leave. One superb scene in a restaurant is done in one take, in which the frigid daughter, unable to enjoy the physical side of her own marriage, derides her brother's second wife for refusing to bear him children, only to discover that her brother is the one who refuses to father them. The stability of their marriage is inevitably threatened. The tone of the movie is not at all downbeat as there are many entertaining and amusing moments. The younger son is persuaded to steal an ambulance so his father can revisit one of his old watering holes and visit a local brothel. When the two brothers, sitting in the brothel bar discussing their past rivalries, discover their father has disappeared, they immediately go in pursuit. In a Felliniesque sequence the father is simply exploring the city he has lived in for so long, drinking in its many pleasures. Finally reconnecting, the father demands that his sons take him by ambulance to the small town by the sea where he grew up. His nostalgia surfaces in an amusing story of how he lost his virginity to a nun. The daughter, bringing her mother for a last reunion with her ex-husband, together with the brother's second wife, learns where the father is headed and arrives as the old man dies in his sons' arms. For one last brief moment the family is together.
Excellent direction by Rodrigo Sepulveda, with a wonderful sense of movement. Impressive direction in the single take sequence in the restaurant. A touch of Fellini with the accompanying music score, which is consistently good. While the subject matter would appear to be downbeat, the music lifts the tone so that it becomes touching rather than depressing. A very nice movie from a Latin American country that has yet to score big in the international market. Worth watching.
10,000 BC (2008)
So bad it's not funny? Oh yes it is!
Awful, awful, awful! Dumb as a brick. Was the English language quite so cultured as this ten thousand years ago and did everybody have such perfect teeth? When the villains of the piece appear on horseback to enslave the good guys you immediately smell the rottenness of the script. ("The four leg monsters are approaching". Hunh?) When the hero of the piece falls into a pit where a saber toothed tiger is drowning and says, "I'll help you if you don't eat me" you wonder how nobody could have thunk 'Well gee, is this just too dumb for audiences to swallow?' You half expect the tiger to make some kind of verbal response, which would really have landed us in looney-tunesville. You get the payoff from this scene when the tiger reappears to save the hero from the hands of a native tribe, obliging the hero by again not eating him. In a perpetual pursuit of the kidnapped love interest, after various contrived incidents, including an attack by savage CGI chickens that Colonel Sanders would have been proud of, we wind up in some pseudo-Egyptian, pyramid-building country with some vaguely extra-terrestrial leader who really isn't. In the screening I attended the audience was rolling in the aisles at just how dumb this movie is. The CGI effects? Well, we've seen them all before and it would have been nice to have had some kind of story and characters to back the effects up. And yes, as so many other people have pointed out, it does indeed bear more than a vague resemblance to the Mel Gibson flick Apocalypto, minus the intelligence and story direction. The ending of the movie had everyone in the audience howling with derision. If the makers of this movie were aiming for the lowest common denominator then they have unerringly hit their mark. Hard not to believe that this won't top the worst movie list at year's end.
For the Use of the Hall (1975)
Funny and touching commentary on failure and success
"What is a wasted life?" is the question that the wonderful Aline MacMahon asks as the narrator in this absorbing and amusing taped stage play. Taking place over the course of two days following the disastrous production of playwright Martin's fourth play, the story revolves around the shifting relationships between Martin's first and second wife, his first wife's new husband Allen, and Martin's sister Terry, a lapsed nun. Charlotte, the first wife, a now-penniless socialite and Allen, a failed forger of famous painters, survive by stealing groceries from neighbor's porches. When Martin's new play folds in the middle of the first act he retreats to his mother's (Aline MacMahon's) summer home on Long Island where Charlotte and Allen have taken up residence, unknown to the family. Comedic conflicts immediately arise when Martin, who has a habit of fainting at any moment of stress, arrives in the middle of the night with his second wife Alice, a successful writer of children's books. While Martin, Charlotte, Allen and Terry could all be classified as failures to some extent, the meaning of the play (and of the title) can be encapsulated in a rave review of Martin's failed play - which he delivers before fainting on realization that he only dreamed it. The critic's comment, that no matter whether a play was good or bad he was just grateful for the use of the hall, applies to the state of life itself. In other words, it may not be perfect but it's better than nothing. The gloriously classy Aline MacMahon, who even at an advanced age makes one aware of just how beautiful she was in younger days, provides commentary on the past, the future and the ultimate demise of the play's characters, all of whom she outlives. This is a funny and touching filmed stage play that provides a charming tribute to a talented writer. Intelligently directed by Lee Grant, kudos to Broadway Theater Archives for making a record of this production.
Perfecto amor equivocado (2004)
Enjoyable Cuban farce
More of a bedroom farce than anything, this is the story of Julio, a one book famous writer, who returns to Cuba after an absence of two years to discover his daughter Mily is engaged to be married to Manolo, a man his own age. Julio has been having a longtime affair with Silvia, who is having an affair with David, who is having an affair with Diego. Interviewed by TV reporter Ana about his one famous book, Julio commences an affair with Ana after Silvia dumps him. When Julio's wife Myriam discovers he has been having an affair with both Silvia and Ana she steals Manolo from her daughter and leaves Julio, who is dumped by Ana and proposes marriage to Silvia when he discovers she is pregnant (by David). Mily, Julio's daughter, then becomes engaged -- to David.
This is a very good looking movie that makes terrific good use of Havana as backdrop. (Nice to see it and recognize a lot of the locations.) What it doesn't do is show the deprivations that the average Cuban undergoes in their daily life. All of the characters seem to live a comfortable lifestyle with no financial problems. Having said that, this is an escapist comedy which should be accepted on that level. The twists and turns of the plot are loopy to say the least and the sly comedic digs at life under the socialist system are hilarious. The revolving door of bedroom characters are not altogether believable but the movie has enough pace and unexpected twists to hold one's interest. The cinematography and general look of the movie is excellent.
El aura (2005)
Absorbing film noir
Totally absorbing from start to finish, this is the story of an unadventurous taxidermist who dreams about carrying out the perfect bank robbery. His dreams enacted before the viewer's eyes, in reality he is too withdrawn to actually perform them. Until... one day, while on a hunting trip, he accidentally shoots and kills the owner of a cabin in the woods where he discovers an armored truck heist has been blueprinted. The dead man's co-conspirators arriving, the taxidermist convinces them that he is now in charge of the robbery of the armored truck. However, things don't go smoothly at all: a bloody, botched robbery attempt before the armored truck robbery, an epileptic seizure gripping the taxidermist at the worst possible moment, and double crosses unexpectedly rearing their ugly heads with deadly results.
A leisurely paced movie that is totally absorbing, a terrific character study by Ricardo Darin, beautifully directed by the late Fabian Bielinsky, the movie accelerates towards the end with some fine twists that you don't see coming. Well worth the time and effort.
A faltering relationship revitalized.
Spoilers contained. When Camilo's girlfriend Pola decides she wants a week apart from him to evaluate their relationship, Camilo is devastated. His daily routine and undemanding night job at a video store have led to a complacent and undemanding lifestyle. Unexpectedly encountering Mikela, an unpredictable eccentric whom he rescues from a street fight, he invites her back to his apartment where she stays for several days. Their relationship failing to move beyond casual verbal exchanges, Camilo discovers Mikela had been institutionalized as a schizophrenic. While Camilo sleeps, Mikela steals his wallet and leaves, is picked up by a sexual predator and abandoned by the roadside. Camilo encounters Pola once again. An awkward sexual exchange occurs and Camilo flees his apartment, unsure if their relationship can be resurrected. Discovering that Mikela has been rescued and once again institutionalized, Camilo visits her but his approaches are met by blank silence. On the seventh day of the forced separation, Pola returns to Camilo once again and he accepts that their relationship can move on to another level.
This is a very good looking movie, with excellent cinematography. Filmed with a hand held camera, there are endless jump-cuts interspersed with titles indicating the timeline over the seven days of separation. The unusual approach to storytelling leaves one thinking that this is an extended experimental movie from newly graduated film school students. The acting of the principals, particularly Francisco Perez-Bannen as Camilo, is faultless. Alas, there are way too many scenes that provide information about the characters backgrounds but simply go nowhere. A lot of the dialog in these scenes appears to be improvised. And there are way too many quirky characters who appear to serve little purpose, particularly Mikela, who is very much of a blank. Presumably we are supposed to assume that Camilo's return to Pola is occasioned by his interaction with Mikela but her character is simply too understated and inconsequential to make any valid change to his psyche. Still, the look of the movie is wonderful and as stated before, the cinematography is first class. Would be interesting to see what else emerges from the hands of the participants in this Chilean venture.
Inside Man (2006)
Talk and talk and talk and talk and talk.
Described as an action thriller one has to ask where was the action and where were the thrills? Anyone watching the trailer for this movie will undoubtedly be presented with what appears to be violent action sequences. Well guess what, guys? These action sequences only take place inside Denzel's head and don't actually exist. The first hour and a half of this talk-fest centers around Denzel Washington as a hostage negotiator trying to figure out what the hell is going on inside a bank where would-be robbers have taken several people hostage. Anyone watching this movie would be left asking the same question, aside from wondering why they ever sat down to watch it in the first place. This interminable sequence goes on and on and on and plays out like an extended first act from any of a score of superior "true" action thrillers that have both a second and a third act. One sits there waiting for something to happen and all anybody does is talk. And talk and talk and talk. Yes, there is a twist somewhere around the hour and forty minute mark but by then the viewer only regrets wasting the time that went before. Jodie Foster is obviously in this movie only for marquee value as her role is so minuscule as to be a complete waste of her talents. Is the twist in the plot worth waiting for? Not particularly. Would I like my money back? Not half as much as the time I wasted watching this boring talk marathon.
This psychological thriller opened to dismal reviews and did very little box office. Having seen it, the hostile reaction against it makes you want to seize the critics by the scruff of their necks and slam them against a wall for their lack of comprehension and recognition of superior and original talent. This is a dazzling movie, with so many tricks of story telling and directing that one is left astounded. Yes, it needs patience as the story is not an easy one to follow - but the payoff is well worth it. The acting is brilliant. Gosling and McGregor give riveting performances as a suicidal student and the psychologist trying to save him. Naomi Watts illuminates the screen with every scene in which she appears. David Benioff's script is a maze of layered logic that at times is infuriating to try and fathom but by the end one is filled with admiration for his craftsmanship. Beautifully directed with segues such as one has not seen on screen before. Well worth the time and effort.