Reviews, Reports + Comments

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review of film: "KALAMITY" (about young men with bad relationship problems)

Review of film:  KALAMITY

…  I attended an advance screening of this “Indie” film at the venerable Music Box theater in Chicago.  In a postcard type “flyer” handed out there before the showing, it quotes various press reviews about it from New York and national publications, using comments such as:  “An Externalized emotional landscape” & “Psycho-Noir” (= New York Press);  “Stylishly Directed” (= NYC Movie Guru);  “Perverse” (= Variety);  & “Belligerant” (= The Onion A.V. Club)…

…  Others included:  “Psychopathic volatility” & “Menacing hostility” (= Box Office Magazine);  “Volatile anger” ( = The Hollywood Reporter);  and “An emotionally unflinching portrait of insecure young men.” ( = Stephen Holden of the NY Times)…  The “Tag-line” for the film is “What’s tearing you up inside?”…

…  Do these comments really “FIT” the movie?...  I hope to give you a little idea about that in the “Review” below, & in my “ADDITIONAL” comments relating a post-screening TALK held with the writer – director – editor, JAMES M. HAUSLER

…  As the film starts out, Billy Klepack (NICK STAHL) returns home after an upsetting breakup with his girlfriend Alice (BEAU GARRETT)…  He’s warmly greeted & “encouraged” by his father Tom (ROBERT FORSTER), mother Terry (PATRICIA KALEMBER), & much younger sister Barbie (SAMMI HANRATTY)…

…  One of Nick’s first stops is to see his best friend Stanley Keller (JONATHAN JACKSON), who works at a place that installs car audio systems and the like.  Jon has clearly heard of the breakup, and expresses a bunch of very ANTI-WOMEN comments to Nick…

…  While some of that might be construed as “supportive”, it seems a bit “OFF” emotion-wise:  Jon seems even angrier than Nick himself is about the girlfriend--  to the point that, Jon’s virtually a “POSTER boy” for MISOGYNY…  Nick is a bit indefinite in talking about his “situation” with Beau…

…  The more the story goes along, the STRANGER Jon’s actions and attitudes seem to be…  He easily gets extremely ANGRY for little reason, especially when he sees a mutual friend named Christian Phillips (CHRISTOPHER M. CLARK) talking to Nick about him…

…  Nick himself has a bunch of problems & clearly “unresolved” issues, in that he keeps picturing himself TALKING to his ex-girlfriend when she’s not really there…  Periodically, things get “confused”, because the film flips BACK & FORTH in time--  so, sometimes we’re seeing the “past” elements of their relationship, sometimes he’s “currently” phoning her, & sometimes, he’s just “IMAGINING” things…

…  But, as “perplexed” as Nick is at times, Jon is clearly in much WORSE shape--  seldom being calm, often getting “agitated” over “nothing” situations, & obviously suffering from PAINS in his brain area…  There’s just “TOO MUCH” anger & violence “swirling around” inside him!... 

…  Jon is visibly bitter over problems with his OWN girlfriend, Ashley (ALONA TAL), & we see a disturbing scene of his “STALKING” her, followed by a scene of his being bloodied (which was not a “good” sign in any way)!...  At one point, Jon heatedly threatens Chris & even ATTACKS him physically…

…  Nick & Chris are concerned about the sudden reported disappearance of pretty-but-acerbic Alona (who doesn’t like taking “bs” from anyone)…  But, when Jon goes out of town, after the two friends BREAK INTO his place & find some “incriminating” evidence against Jon, they do NOTHING of consequence-- & in fact HURT the possible prevention of further problems…

…  Rather than contact the AUTHORITIES about what they’ve found (since it’s reported on TV that the police are “searching” for info about Alona, who the guys supposedly “care” about), they go off on their OWN to try to FIND Alona… 

…  When Nick & Chris find something of vital importance during their search, they again “take” what I call “STUPID PILLS” & once more are SILENT about what they find (--  more about that later, in my report on talking to the Director!)…

…  Why has Jon LIED about where he’s going on his trip out of town?...  What critical action is he contemplating about ANOTHER major character in the story?...  Will Chris & Nick “CATCH-ON” to things “in-time” to create a worthwhile ‘response”?...

…  The CONCEPTS behind the story are interesting in themselves--  young men having difficulties with relationships & how they handle their own lives…  But, a bunch of the actions & attitudes shown by Nick & Chris are so damn STUPID, they literally INJURE the film by destroying the believability of the characters…

…  The problem appears to be inherently with the WRITING, rather than in the acting (which seems good by Nick & Jon in that they’re properly “playing” their characters;  it was hard to tell if Chris was overly “weak” & “stiff” because of how his role was written)…

…  In any case, the good “powerful” elements are so impaired by the as-written foolishness of the mind-sets of Nick & Chris (& the destructiveness of Jon), the movie devolves into a sad WASTE of the characters (both figuratively & literally in the “what’s going to HAPPEN now?!” vague end concerning Nick)… 

…  Thus, I reluctantly must grade this film at like 6.25 stars out of 10 (with it’s being above 5 only because the actors are obviously trying hard with the roles they’ve been given)…

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Report: The Making & Selling of an INDIE FILM ["KALAMITY"] = Death by “STUPID Pills”



Report:  The Making & Selling of an INDIE FILM = Death by “STUPID Pills”

After the screening of “KALAMITY” (which I’m reviewing separately), writer – director – editor JAMES M. HAUSLER was available to talk to the audience.  Understanding how film-making tends to be a labor-of-LOVE for the people involved, I mainly asked QUESTIONS rather than offer any comments on what I’d seen (since I don’t like to “rain” on people’s “parade” when they seem well-intentioned in their efforts)…

…  After the talk, I looked up info on the internet, & find that “KALAMITY” is Hausler’s 3rd film:  There was “TRIP OUT” made (starring himself & Chris) in 2005 (= a “black comedic tale…  [about] three adolescent boys and one sinfully attractive cheerleader…  on a hallucinogenic journey”);  & “WILD SEVEN” in 2006 (with James, Chris & Robert), about “a man who breathes nothing but ill will begins a noxious domino effect as quickly as an uncontrollable virus kills.”…

…  With this new film [which seems a bit “akin” to the previous 2 in “tone”], James has been traveling around the country to show it to select groups:  January 6th in Dallas, January 10th in Minneapolis, in Nashville on the 11th, to D.C. on the 21st (for a week’s run), to Providence, RI on the 24th, Chicago on the 25th, & scheduled for Austin, TX on the 26th & Sacramento, CA on the 27th

…  For the Chicago advance (& I’m guessing also for the others), they made an interesting use of SOCIAL MEDIA to publicize things:  on January 7th, I saw a little “blurb” mentioning there was info on TWITTER re a screening of the film… 

…  I went to that, & it had a link to a FACEBOOK page about the movie, including a button you could “click” advising whether you planned to ATTEND the screening [which implied it was no-charge, tho it didn’t speficially say anything about that], & asking you for e-mail addresses of friends to whom they could send info about the screening…  A menu “confirmed” that you’d stated you would “attend”, & I later heard passes were also offered on the FilmMetro web-site for it…

…  The venue in Chicago was a non-mall old-time theater (tho the showings at some of the other cities seem --  from their names -- like they might be a part of modern mega-plexes)… That’s all fine, & appears a SENSIBLE way of trying to promote an independent film, since you often need to avoid high expenses for holding screenings…

…  It was a COLD day (in the teens or twenties), so the crowd at the Music Box in Chicago was not large (maybe 50-60 or so people), & they wisely allowed people to wait in the warm lobby before the screening…

…  A young man asked people for their E-MAIL addresses, checking them against a list they had from acceptances & the like, with the stated intention of sending “FOLLOW-UPS” to attendees to see what they “thought” of the film…  (So far, I haven’t received anything from them, but it just screened a day ago)…

…  Actor NICK STAHL is around 30 years old, & has been known from his past work in “THE THIN RED LINE” (1998), “BULLY” (made in 2001), & “TERMINATOR 3” in 2003 (+ more recent work in small films & TV)…

…  JONATHON JACKSON (also around 30) had his “breakout” role as the distressed son of Michelle Pfeiffer in 1998’s “THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN”.  He appeared in 2002’s “TUCK EVERLASTING”, & has been highly regarded for his playing Lucas “Lucky” Spencer on the TV soap “GENERAL HOSPITAL”…

…  In the lobby after the screening, Mr. Hausler very agreeably answered QUESTIONS from people, & took photos with some of them…

…  To my asking Mr. Hausler how he chanced to utilize Jonathan & Nick (whose main feature film roles were done some time ago), he said, he was very impressed by seeing Nick’s role in “BULLY”, & had him specially brought into the DC area for filming…

…  He initially wasn’t as familiar with Jon, but, after seeing some of his past work, also very much wanted to utilize his services, & brought him in for the shoot…

…  The other people were often ones he KNEW from living in the DC area.  He told me how almost all the filming was done around the DC suburb of Fairfax, VA…  To my question, he said, the shooting took maybe 4 weeks or so of preparation [for the writing, etc.], & the actual filming was set for like 4 weeks.  But, they’d encountered horribly rainy weather, & it actually took more like 6 weeks to do the filming…

…  I posed a hypothetical question:  if he had the time and / or money, are there things in “KALAMITY” that he would have changed or added to in some way?  He said, well, when you do a film, there are always some things you think about “later” that might have ADDED to its effectiveness.  But, overall, it came out as he’d WANTED it to, so he was satisfied with it as it stands…

…  To a question asked by another audience member, Mr. Hausler said no, the film was NOT based on any “true story” involving his own life…  As to just how he might eventually MARKET the film (such as, would it be in “general” release or put out straight to video or whatever?), he said, NO decision had been made yet about that: it all depends on what “comes up” during their overall special exhibitions & the “reactions” to it…    

…  When I asked about possible FUTURE movie projects, he said he has an idea for a “SLASHER” type movie, which will be funnier & “campier” than the one we just saw…

…  As I stated before, I purposely did not volunteer any of my OWN comments about the movie.  For the sake of information, I want to speak about that a bit at this time:

…  When dealing with very “unusual” incidents and people, it often requires most viewers to be able to have a “suspension of DISBELIEF” to a certain degree.  When the happenings are TOO “outrageous”, it makes it very HARD for a viewer to achieve that --  & that’s a big problem I personally had with this film:

…  After Chris is threatened by angry Jon & then badly hurt by Jon’s bashing his head with a ROCK, Chris acts like “nothing” much happened, supposedly has no “recollection” they’d been arguing (much less that he’d been purposely HIT by Jon), & doesn’t actively try to see a DOCTOR--  talking as if someone might if they’d merely suffered a “paper-cut” or slight skate-boarding mishap or the like…

…  And  then,  when later taken to a hospital by Nick, Chris & Nick just “DITHER around” about what happened, not seeing a clear need to “DO” something concrete about Jon’s actions (much less call the police about the strange things going on to people they supposedly care for)…
 
...  Nick & Chris break into Jon’s place when he’s out of town--  yet the broken-off doorknob & the like seem to be mainly “overlooked” (by Jon when he later returns)… 

…  More importantly, when Chris finds & points out bloody fingerprints on a photo of a girl they know + a bloody cloth,  rather than advise the police that something is very “wrong”, Chris keeps FINGERING the photo & CORRUPTING evidence of likely importance!...

…  The most shockingly “senseless” thing is, when generally “weak” Chris leads Nick to a forested area & they find the bloody BODY of Jon’s ex-girlfriend Ashley (who they’d both liked), they just “TALK” about the discovery in a “detached” way rather than “DOING” something of consequence… 

…  It’s like these (comparatively “with-it”) guys have their own “SCREWS LOOSE”, as if they’ve time & again chugged down a mass of “STUPID” pills.  It’s illogical, ABSURD--  & their failure to do anything really rational leads to more DEATHS in the story…

…  To me, their sudden “idiocy” is just “TOO MUCH” to “accept” in the story line, & just sabotages the scenario & annihilates the audience’s ability to “BUY-INTO” the plot decisions…  It’s a sad thing to see in a film that you’re trying to get people “interested in”, & seems to “cry-out” for the need of getting moreinput” from “neutral” 3rd parties BEFORE going forward with planning the film…

…  Again, it’s just “one person’s opinion”--  but while the postcard “blurb” quotes may well have some accuracy, I feel what I (& a number of others) saw as innate defects will DERAIL a “positive” outcome for the “selling” of such an indie film to a “general” public… I’m afraid that, as constituted, “KALAMITY” IS one…

…  With all the obvious WORK that went into the planning & production, I find that a SAD potential “outcome” for this (& possible future “similar” endeavors)--  & I heartily hope such plot deficiencies are REDUCED in future indie & other projects by Mr. Hausler!…


...  MY RATING on the above:  7.50 of 10 stars

My review of: "THE COMPANY MEN" (about how people handle being downsized in their jobs)

Review of film:  THE COMPANY MEN

Have you ever wondered, in a world of economic COLLAPSE, who in the Business world will PERSONALLY crumple--  & will they ever be able to rise ABOVE it all?  This film delves into that situation…

…  The GTX Corp is a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, involved in such pursuits as shipbuilding.  It’s run by James Salinger (CRAIG T. NELSON) who founded the company.  He claims his main focus is his “stockholders”--  but HE is one of the largest owners of the company, so it’s really his own WALLET that he truly cares about…

…  His right-hand man is Gene McClary (TOMMIE LEE JONES), who’s been with Craig from the start of the company.  Tommie really cares about the EMPLOYEES, & is regularly at ODDS with Craig over his desire to keep DOWNSIZING the firm to add to short-term profits…

…  Tommie’s main assistant is long-time employee Phil Woodward (CHRIS COOPER), who’s described as a “kiss-ass”, tho he seems to be sincere in his concern about his own underlings, in part because he rose up from working on the shop floor building ships… 

…  The bright “star” under him is sales director Bobby Walker (BEN AFFLECK), who’s a sharp dresser, handsome, charismatic and charming.  He likes his “rich man” toys-- a Porsche sports car, a large home, etc….

…  Ben’s wife Gail (SUZANNE RICO) is basically “down-to-earth”, as are their kids Drew (ANTHONY O’LEARY) -- who loves basketball & bike-riding --, and younger child Carson (ANGELA REZZA)…

…  In large part to “impress” the market (in the sense of getting the GTX share prices to rise), Craig wants to LAY-OFF loads of people.  Tommie Lee, who always feels it’s best to be honest & blunt, tells him he feels it’s a HORRIBLE idea in that it’ll disrupt many lives.  But, Craig doesn’t care what he thinks, & goes “behind his back” to close 2 of his 3 shipbuilding groups…

…  Tommie Lee gets very angry, but Craig doesn’t care…  Partly to foster a possible buy-out offer, Craig then works to have ANOTHER round of lay-offs.  When that hits Ben & Chris, Tommie Lee is livid & tries to help them…

…  Ben reacts especially POORLY to the situation:  he tries to keep his lay-off a SECRET, even from his family & his own KIDS (which makes them feel worried about his marriage)…

…  His wife tries to be practical, urging him to CUT-BACK on his expenses (like his expensive car, golfing at the country club, etc.);  but he simply DOESN’T want to do any of those things, feeling it’ll hurt his image & thus his ability to get a NEW 6-figure job…

…  Well, even tho Ben refuses to “downsize” his lifestyle, he gets NOWHERE in his job searches…  Eventually, as things start to deteriorate more & more, he’s forced to radically CHANGE his “style”, including accepting a construction job with his wife’s brother, Jack Dolan (KEVIN COSTNER)…

…  Will CHRIS (an older man) be able to “handle” losing his job?...  Will BEN be able to find a new career he feels is “proper” for him & his abilities?...  Will TOMMY be able to keep dealing with Craig (whom he’s grown to despise)?-- &, if not, what will he “DO” for his own life (which is becoming increasingly difficult economically)?...

…  I found this to be an unusually WELL-DONE movie.  I don’t care about the “accents” people might use, or what their star-actor “names” might conjure up.  My concern is, are the characters BELIEVABLE?  They are, & you learn to CARE about most of them, because of the many “levels” of emotions covered in the plot lines…

…  Yes, the film hits a number of “hot-buttons” about the bad businessmen & the crooked banks & the like during the economic recession--  but, the main characters are APROPOS “stand-ins” for the types of suffering that have arisen:  the depressing reduction in feelings of self-WORTH, the DIFFICULTIES in finding “similar” job possibilities, the frayed RELATIONSHIPS & touchy EMOTIONS, etc…

…  It’s not a “great” film, but it’s unusually WELL-DONE by all involved, & thus I’m rating it as 8.25 out of 10 stars…

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review of film: "THE MECHANIC" ( an action-thriller about hit-men )

2011, 01-24:

Review of film:  THE MECHANIC

Double-cross, triple-cross, cris-cross--  it’s all in a “day’s work” when you’re an “independent” HIT-MAN…

…  Arthur Bishop (JASON STATHAM) is “For Hire”, & I don’t mean for OFFICE work…  As the film starts, he’s involved in “taking-out” a DRUG lord of some kind in Colombia…  Bit-by-bit, we learn that he’s working for a powerful “autonomous” agency called “The Company”, headed by Dean (TONY GOLDWYN)…

…  For some reason, he’s instructed to “deal” with a guy named Harry McKenna (DONALD SUTHERLAND), who’d been a “MENTOR” of sorts to him in the past…  They talk about what a “loser” Donald’s son Steve (BEN FOSTER) had been, discuss the “biz” they’d both been involved in for years, etc…

…  In part because of what happens to Donald, Jason takes Ben under his (destructive) “wing” & teaches HIM the “biz”…  Because Ben had a history of “screwing-up” things, Jason cautions him to handle things in a “certain” way with a huge guy named Burke (JEFF CHASE).  Ben, naturally, DISREGARDS his words-- & suffers for it…

…  The “Company” sets Jason (& Ben) up with some other “temp” jobs, including going after a scammer RELIGIOUS figure named “Vaughn” (JOHN McCONNELL) in Chicago [tho most scenes appear to have been actually shot in Louisiana]…

…  The film is an EXPLOSION-lovers dream, with loads of fast-paced action & violence, plus bunches of blood squirting all over the place…  But, “COMPLICATIONS” arise in the lives of Jason & Ben, as each separately learns some “disquieting” information about the “trade” they’d chosen & the people they were “involved” with…

…  Will there be DECEPTIONS in the various relationships?...  WHO was really deceiving whom?...  Will Jason & Ben be able to CONTINUE working together as more & more facts get known?...  What will “happen” to them & the people who’d misled them?...

…  The film is basically EFFECTIVE as an “actioner” chase / thriller--  tho periodically overly “one-note” in its story line…  The acting is successful and “believable”, & thus, I’m rating the movie as 7.5 out of 10 stars…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review of film: "NO STRINGS ATTACHED" (rom-com with NATALIE PORTMAN & ASHTON KUTCHER)

Review of film:  NO STRINGS ATTACHED

One of the common threads of attitudes by horny guys is, they’re always hoping & looking for a woman who’d be happy to have just a PHYSICAL relationship with “no STRINGS attached”…  That’s what we have here…

… Adam (ASHTON KUTCHER) has recently broken up with a girlfriend named Vanessa (OPHELIA LOVIBOND).  He’s less than “thrilled” when his TV-star FATHER Alvin (KEVIN KLINE) decides to get “with” her…

…  Ashton’s pal Eli (JAKE M. JOHNSON) urges him to go out & get “over” his upset, such as “living every guy’s dream” by getting a “friend with benefits” rather than getting involved in anything “serious”.  That’s heartily endorsed by their mutual friend Wallace (LUDACRIS)…

…  Ashton was reluctant to take their advice.  But, their idea seems to be moved “forward” by the way he gets drunk at a party & wakes up NAKED in an apartment with four people, unable to remember how he GOT there or what "happened": 

...  Emma (NATALIE PORTMAN) gives him a little info.  A bit more is learned from her roommates Shira (MINDY KALING, from “THE OFFICE”), Patrice (GRETA GERWIG) & a gay guy--  all of whom are nurses…

…  It turns out that Ashton & Natalie had met each other 15 years before, in a summer camp.  Even then, she was RELUCTANT to have serious relationships with guys, & that same basic situation is true now…  But, what she IS interested in is an enthusiastic PHYSICAL relationship with Ashton, who’s initially reluctant to do that (having been so hurt by his previous lover)…

…  But, Ashton’s pals encourage his “beneficial” actions with Natalie, & he soon gives IN to that idea…  But, where he would like to “cuddle” & get into an EMOTIONALLY-close situation with Natalie, she continues to reject that, just contacting him when she has some physical “needs”…

…  In time, we learn that Natalie’s sister Katie (OLIVIA THIRLBY) is soon to be married, & Ashton is in time introduced to her family--  who’s pleased to meet him, until Natalie tells them he is NOT really a “boyfriend”… 

…  Ashton wants to be a WRITER for the video production company where he works, but is afraid to SHOW anyone there his work, preferring to just quietly work as an assistant to the producers such as  Lucy (LAKE BELL) & Sandra Kurtzman (TALIA BALSAM)… 

…  When Ashton starts getting emotionally “attached” to Natalie, that makes her fearful & annoyed at his actions, which starts her making efforts that pull them APART.  She starts to consider possibly getting involved with doctors at the teaching hospital, such as Dr. Metzner (CARY ELWES)…

…  Will Natalie REGRET her avoidance of emotional closeness with Ashton?...  Will her actions turn him off so much that he seeks OTHER girls to spend time with?...  Will things “work out” between Kevin & his young girlfriend?... 

…  Will the unattached ”String” BREAK between Ashton & Natalie, or is there some “hope” for them?...  Will his love of writing ever “GO” anywhere?...  Will some UNEXPECTED relationships develop between some of the OTHER characters in the story?...

…  Most of the Romantic Comedies recently have been fairly POORLY done.  This one actually SUCCEEDS on a number of levels:  it’s often FUNNY (tho not side-splittingly so), sweet, & WELL-ACTED (even by Ashton, who’s serious & “restrained” rather than his frequently-overly-“bombastic” self)…

…  So, because it’s satisfying, generally “believable” & “WORKS” as a rom-com, I rate it as 7.5 out of 10 stars…

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review of film: "BARNEY'S VERSION" (with Paul Giamatti as a boorish businessman)

Review of film:  “BARNEY’S VERSION

He’s blunt, irritable, self-centered, and hard-to-get-along-with in many ways.  I’m talking about Barney Panofsky (PAUL GIAMATTI) in this film based on the novel by Mordecai Richler about a man’s life and loves… 

…  As the story begins, Paul is in Italy with a bunch of friends--  Boogie (SCOTT SPEEDMAN) --  who is obsessed with using “pot” and avoiding finishing a novel he’s been writing;  artist Leo (THOMAS TRABACCHI);  and black American Cedric (CLE BENNETT)…

…  Impetuously, Paul decides he wants to marry a pretty woman in Italy--  & promptly does so…  But, he’s quickly DISINTERESTED & gets “rid” of her in his life…

…  Back home in Canada, Paul runs a TV production company called “Totally Unnecessary Productions”, which specializes in sort of soft-core “implied” porn including a show about a Canadian Mountie & his “love” Solange (MACHA GRENON) ... 

…  Paul is pretty much a tyrant to work for, as shown by the way he treats his underlings such as his Director # 1 (ADAM EGOYAN)…  His main interests are hockey (being a fanatic for his home Montreal Canadians team), cigars, & finding ways he can “use” other people for his own immediate gratifications…

…  On a typical “whim”, Paul meets a rich Jewish woman (MINNIE DRIVER) & decides to marry her (as his 2nd wife)--  to the chagrin of her father who finds Paul to be amazingly BOORISH & unworthy of his loud-mouthed & spoiled daughter…

…  Paul’s father Izzy (DUSTIN HOFFMAN, in a fine warm-hearted role) is currently single, frequently horny & happy for his son’s finding someone to be with in life…  But, at the wedding reception, Paul sees someone he’s even MORE interested in as a wife, a pretty lady named Miriam Grant (ROSAMUND PIKE)--  who’s very “TURNED-OFF” at the outset by the way he starts to pursue her at the reception…

…  Barney, as usual, is an unreliable partner to wife Minnie, & she soon grows weary & TIRED of him & his “ways”…  When he goes away to be with his friend Scott at a lakeside cabin Paul owns, he’s displeased at the way Minnie FOLLOWS him there…

…  Paul is even more upset when he later finds Minnie in BED with Scott--  tho more angry at Scott whom he soon threatens (& is later accused of KILLING)…  After his initial jealousy over Scott’s liaision with Minnie, he’s soon pleased about it in that it gives him a way to get an easy DIVORCE from her without having to pay “thru the nose” for what he’s long wanted…

…  Since Paul is now divorced, Rosamund is more “OPEN” to his pursuing her in New York where she works, & eventually agrees to MARRY him…  In time, they have 2 KIDS--  Kate (ANNA HOPKINS) & then Michael (JAKE HOFFMAN--  a son of Dustin)…

…  In time, once the kids are grown, Rosamund is especially interested in returning to being a radio interviewer.  In that, she’s helped by a friend named Blair (BRUCE GREENWOOD), whom Barney soon grows jealous of…

…  Will self-absorbed Paul SCREW-UP some more in his latest relationship with Rosamund?...  Will detective O’Hearne (PAUL ADDY) be able to prove his long-held contention that Paul KILLED Scott?...  Will Paul be able to overcome what appears to be deep MEDICAL problem that arises in his life?...  Will we ever be able to see a “THOUGHTFUL” side to him?...

…  This is a FASCINATING & finely-acted story of around 40 years in the life of an ill-mannered & loutish man… Just when you think the story is about to end, NEW elements keep arising that continue it onwards…

… Paul (who’s onscreen almost constantly in the movie) recently won a GOLDEN GLOBE award as Best Actor in a comedy for his role in this.  The award is DESERVED in that it’s a wonderful performance--  tho the film (while funny in parts) is far more a DRAMA (or even dramedy) than a real “comedy”…

…  There are so many absorbing “levels” to the people in this intriguing story, I am rating it as 8.25 on a scale of 10…

Review of film: "BLUE VALENTINE" (the story of a decaying relationship)

Review of film:  BLUE VALENTINE

Relationships are never easy--  & that situation is deeply explored (on many different levels) in this new film… 

…  In a stream of flash-backs & flash-forwards, we see how Dean (RYAN GOSLING) has no particular goals in life, just “drifting” along using alcohol and other drugs & not caring about much of anything…  In time, he starts to work handling other peoples’ posessions for a moving company named Steinway…

…  Ryan is not a bad guy, in fact, he has a kind of SWEETNESS about him,  as shown by his concern for an old man he moves to a sort of Assisted Living residence…  There, he chances to meet a pretty young woman named Cindy (MICHELLE WILLIAMS) who is visiting her grandmother Gramma (JEN JONES) in that home…

…  In time, we learn facts about what’s “MADE” Ryan & Michelle the “way” they are as their characters in this film…  Michelle had an abusive upbringing, which leaves her “wary” in relationships and hesitant to make strong “decisions” in life…

…  Ryan is “taken” by nurse Michelle, who’d had an unpleasant relationship with a young guy named Bobby (MIKE VOGEL)…  In time, Ryan marries Michelle & they bring up baby daughter Frankie (FAITH WLADYKA), who Ryan is crazy about and devoted to (tho he seldom seems to take care of “business” properly as a responsible dad)…

…  Michelle has been offered a new “position” by the Dr. Feinberg (BEN SHENKMAN) she works for, but she’s generally indecisive as to what she should do…  Meeting an old flame leaves her “distressed”, & learning about it leaves Ryan especially JEALOUS, which causes even more friction in his life with Michelle…

…  Ryan tries to do things (like going to a “sex spa” type place) to “rekindle” things with Michelle, since they’d grown increasingly “distant” in their bond…  There are some very strongly graphic  SEXUAL elements shown in their relationship--  but, for the most part, emotionally, the “actions” come from MICHELLE (unless she’s “pushed” into things), whereas Ryan’s character is mainly a “REACTER” to what happens in life (and their deteriorating relationship)…

…  The film has a lot of “POWER”, again, mainly from Michelle--  tho Ryan gives her “highly-charged” elements to “respond” to.  It is NOT a movie for young people, since there are so many adult essentials inherent in it…

…  The way the story “FLIPS” between time lines, it’s often initially confusing to tell just WHAT “period” in their relationship the film is dealing with…  I found the acting to be very STRONG and impressive in general (especially on Michelle’s part), but the story left me overly “up-in-the-AIR” at the end…

…  Because of that & the way it’s intrinsically a MELANCHOLIC and inconclusive tale, I am rating it at 7.5 out of 10 stars…

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review of film "SEASON OF THE WITCH" (re problems in the time of the Crusades)

Review of film:  "SEASON OF THE WITCH"


Oh, the “Dark Ages” were unbelievably DIM and GLOOMY in many respects…  As this story starts, it is during a period of the CRUSADES (which lasted from 1095 to 1291, and into the 15th Century in Eastern Europe), and certain Catholic knights have been fighting Muslims for control of the Holy Land (& not acting all that “Holy” as they slaughter numerous people on the behest of usually-self-appointed religious zealots)… 

…  Our “hero” is knight Behman (NICHOLAS CAGE) and his cohort Felsen (RON PERLMAN)…  Nicholas is deeply upset when he finds a religious leader encouraging the killing of innocent women & children, & angrily LEAVES the area (and the control of the Church powers) to return to an area seemingly around Eastern Europe…

…  It was an exceptionally superstitious time, with those in power (often in the religious hierarchy) periodically using unproven claims to consolidate their political, religious and economic power by making “accusations” against others as an “excuse” to control things as they wished.  That included claiming certain women were “WITCHES” & needed to be killed…

…  Permeating the difficult times were numerous diseases, such as PLAGUES--  which were “conveniently” blamed on people those in power wanted to be rid of.  (The old idea of “sacrificing” 3rd parties for the “Good” of those in control)… 

…  These elements come together in an area where Cardinal D’Ambroise (CHRISTOPHER LEE) is dying of the Plague…  Chris urges Nick & Ron to join with a priest -- seemingly named Debelzaq (STEPHEN CAMPBELL MOORE) – in bringing a pretty Girl (CLAIRE FOY) to a monastery so the monks there can judge whether she is a WITCH who may be the “cause” of the Plague that’s befallen the area…

…  Joining them on their difficult journey is a conscripted guide Hagamar (STEPHEN GRAHAM), an older man Eckhart (ULRICH THOMSEN), and a boy Kay (ROBERT SHEEHAN) who wants to be a knight…

…  The route to the monastery is fraught with danger--  strange occurrences, wild animals, tough traveling conditions, and deep divergences of opinion on whether Claire should be RELEASED from her iron cage, or whether she’s really a witch who can’t be relied on…

…  Who in the travelling party can really be TRUSTED by Nicholas & Ron?...  Can Claire “talk” to ANIMALS or other “unexpected” creatures?...  Why does she seem to have so much unusual physical strength?... 

…  Will she ever arrive at the monastery so the planned ceremonial “ritual” can tell the “truth” about her?...  IS Claire innocent, or a witch--  or “worse”?!...

…  I thought that the film did a GOOD job of setting an ominous “MOOD” & “TONE” for the Age being covered…  It mixes (with varying degrees of success) the superstitions inherent in an “uneducated” populace with the power of “controlling” groups, entwined with various religious and secular interests…

…  It’s not at all any “great” movie, but it has some fascinating elements and decent acting, mixed with some good ACTION elements & SPECIAL EFFECTS.  So, since it succeeded more than one might “expect” such a story line to achieve, I’m rating it 7.25 out of 10 stars…

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review of film: "THE GREEN HORNET" (enjoyable, but action "FLUFF" with Seth Rogen)

Review of film:  THE GREEN HORNET

In Detroit, there was a radio station with the call letters WXYZ.  In 1935, it was controlled by a man named George Trendle, who worked to develop a program called “THE LONE RANGER”.  When that show proved very popular, Trendle worked to create a similar program which he decided should demonstrate “… that a political system could be riddled with corruption and that one man could successfully combat this white-collar lawlessness."…

…  That new show was broadcast on radio in 1936 & was called “THE GREEN HORNET”…  The main character (Britt Reid) owned & ran a major metropolitan newspaper.  Over time, due to political “correctness” (and / or fears), his assistant / valet Kato was described as Japanese, then Filipino, and then (in 2 movie serials in 1940-41) as Korean…

…  Starting in the early ’40’s, the character also started appearing in comic books… In 1966-67, the story was used in an ABC TV series starring Van Williams (as Britt) & Bruce Lee (as Kato).  The program can periodically still be seen in re-runs on MY-TV in Chicago…  A Hong Kong “GREEN HORNET” film appeared in 1994, and a French short based on the character was released in 2006…

…  Since the 1990’s, work was done to try to put together an American movie with the character, but numerous problems developed & the project went thru numerous studios and potential actors…  Finally, comedian – writer – actor Seth Rogen came on board to shepherd the movie to completion, & it’s scheduled for national release as of 01-14-11…

…  I’ve seen an advanced screening of this new 3-D film.  As the movie starts, Britt’s father James (TOM WILKINSON) is bullying his son Britt, who responds with fear and anger at the treatment…  Twenty years later, James suddenly dies & the now-“grown” Britt (SETH ROGEN) is left in charge of the newspaper he ran…

…  The city where the paper is headquartered is filled with “apropos” lawlessness and corruption, as  characterized by an outwardly “unimpressive” but vicious megalomaniacal criminal named (“oddly” enough, simply) “Chudnofsky (played by CHRISTOPHE WALTZ).  He eagerly removes anyone (whether competitors, victims or associates) who don’t promptly do his bidding…

…  The man who runs the day-to-day operations of the newspaper is Axford (EDWARD JAMES OLMOS).  He wants to report on the problems of the city, but he keeps being hamstrung by Seth--  who has delusions of grandeur and hoped-for self-importance, but who is inherently lazy, disinterested, klutzy & still very CHILDISH in many ways…

…  At one point, Seth chanced to meet his father’s valet & chauffer named Kato (JAY CHOU).  He’s initially impressed by him because he’d constructed a machine to make a great cup of COFFEE.  When he learns that Kato is a mechanical genius and martial-arts expert, Seth gets the idea that they should work together to fight CRIME, with Jay charged with designing & building the “Black Beauty” car with loads of fancy crime-fighting gadgets…

…  True to the still-unbelievable idea that tiny masks covering just their EYES will somehow “fool” people into being unable to determine who they really are, Seth and Jay roam around Los Angeles fighting lawlessness, while they act as if they themselves might BE criminals (which causes both the police & Christoph’s accomplices to chase them)…

…  Into the mix comes a comparatively bright (but “limited”) secretary for Seth named Lenore Case (CAMERON DIAZ), who is attractive to both him & Jay (which itself causes problems between the guys).  We also meet various henchmen of Christoph--  Popeye (JAMIE HARRIS), Chili (CHAD COLEMAN) & Tupper (EDWARD FURLONG, who’d appeared in the original “Terminator 2 – Judgment Day” film)…

…  Will we find out what (or who) really KILLED Seth’s dad (Tom)?...  Will the police or Christophe succeed in CAPTURING Seth or Jay?...  Who will start gaining real CONTROL of the city?...  What part will the city D.A. named Scanlon (DAVID HARBOUR) play in the overall plot?...

…  The movie actually turned out BETTER than expected in certain respects:  the ACTION scenes are well-done, & some of the numerous “gadgets” are quite “COOL”…

…  But, one of the problems is the CHACTERIZATION:  Rogen (in my opinion) went way “off-track” in trying to combine comedy & violence in his “OBSERVE & REPORT” movieWhile his work here isn’t as egregious, it’s nevertheless periodically OFF-PUTTING to see the “hero” (Britt) so often acting a FOOL, & somehow (with no training) suddenly turning into a badass “fighter” alongside Jay…

…  The OTHER main characters (Jay, Christoph, & Cameron) do a basically GOOD job with their roles.  But, the “comic-relief” of Seth’s character (as written) just doesn’t seem to “FIT”:  he’s just mildly “amusing” (generating chuckles rather than big laughs), & (while “restrained” for Seth), it came across to me as too frequently “CHEESY” & unbelievable (as a man still playing “games” like a little kid) to really “work” effectively with the “ACTION” crime genre inherent in the plot…

…  I ENJOYED the movie overall--  but it’s actionFLUFF” as constructed.  Thus, my rating is 7.5 out of 10 stars…

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review of film "COUNTRY STRONG" about country singers & their problems

Review of film:  COUNTRY STRONG

A lot of country music is rooted on the trials & tribulations people go thru in life, which provides a goldmine of subjects for the songs sung by the stars in that realm…

…  In this movie, Kelly Canter (GWYNETH PALTROW) is one of the leading lights of country music --  whose glow has “dimmed” due to personal problems which have put her in REHAB for alcohol treatment…

…  Visiting her in rehab is a fan in his mid-twenties named Beau Hutton (GARRETT HEDLUND). He is a scruffy songwriter – musician who seems to sincerely respect her work, & also CARES about her as a person.  They share some music together in her room, which is soon visited by her husband James (TIM McGRAW)…

…  Tim is also Gwyneth’s manager, & he is somewhat leery at having Garrett in her room, concerned there may be something “romantic” going on between them-- although he’s told that Garrett is a “sponsor” in rehab…

…  Tim wants her REMOVED from rehab so she can go back on the road & earn them some more money.  Garrett makes clear he feels she’s NOT READY for release from rehab, but Tim doesn’t care…

…  On a personal level, Tim acts very “distant” from Gwyneth emotionally, clearly hung-up on some things that happened in the past (when she was pregnant, etc.)…  She wants Garrett to perform in her new shows, but Tim prefers using a pretty young Loretta Lynn-looking singer named Chiles Stanton (LEIGHTON MEESTER --  who plays Blake Waldorf in “Gossip Girl” on TV)…     

…  Garrett knows Leighton superficially, & correctly predicts she’s likely to “freeze-up” at a local show that Tim attends.  But, tho Garrett is not very impressed with Leighton’s talent, he joins her on stage to HELP her when she has problems in performing…  That helps convince Tim it’d be safest to take them BOTH on a Texas tour with Gwyneth…

…  As time goes on, it’s clear that Gwyneth & Garrett have a “romantic” thing going on.  In many ways, it seems Tim doesn’t care--  as long as the money-earning tour is successful…  Gwyneth comments to someone that Garrett seems one of those rare men who’s a really GOOD & tender person… 

…  Garrett claims that he’s more interested in performing MUSIC for appreciative audiences (no matter how large) than striving for fame & fortune.  Since he keeps becoming more POPULAR on Gwyneth’s comeback Tour, is that stance likely to stay true?... 

…  Are we “crazy” after all these years-- or does Garrett actually seem to be growing increasingly enamored with Leighton & her abilities?  (And, if that’s accurate, what will “HAPPEN” from that?...  Will he CONTINUE to be an apparently “decent” & sincere person?...)…

…  But, the “main” question is, is Gwyneth really “DONE” with rehab, or is she likely to RELAPSE once she returns to being onstage?...  And, if she has problems, who’s likely to be really SUPPORTIVE of her?... 

…  Yes, there’s a good deal of MUSIC in this film— actually sung (& WELL-done) by Gwyneth, Garrett [who had a guitar coach for his role] & Leighton... 

…  But, mostly, the film is a DRAMA--  &, while some might think of it as a “potboiler” with clich├ęs, it actually comes across as BELIEVABLE in the Country – Western genre, thanks to impressively sensitive performances by the main stars…

…  Because of the unusually good work (particularly by Gwyneth, who has many “downs & ups” during her role) & the unexpected elements of kindliness in a number of incidents, I’m rating this at 8.0 out of 10 stars…

[…  Some “asides”:  Garrett can also currently be seen as Jeff Bridges’ son in “TRON: LEGACY”.  There is such a contrast between his role in that & this movie, I wondered if his very “messy” look here was somehow “related” to a past quote from him wherein he said, I've been told I'm too good looking for certain roles, but that's okay, it just motivates me to go deeper.”…

[…  ACTING-wise, he goes considerably “deeper” here…  And, I’ve since read that his appearance in “COUNTRY STRONG” was purposely based on that of an actual singer-songwriter from Texas named Hayes Carll… 

[…  Another possibly interesting “tidbit” is the fact that Garrett has stated he’d long been a fan of Tim McGraw, & was thus thrilled to have him play his father Charles Billingsley in the 2004 film “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS”… 

[ …  Will Gwyneth remain a country SINGER?...  She can & may DO it--  but I think she’ll mainly concentrate on her ACTING as an entertainer…  ]