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A Quiet Passion (2016)
A Quiet Passion, is a quiet success.
A gem in dialectic within a well-written scenario, the cast of this film greatly helps it. It stars Cynthia Nixon, who is both extraordinary and memorable as the notable American poet, Emily Dickinson. Her resemblance to Dickinson is uncanny. Keith Carradine, an actor whom I have not seen enough of, heads up the able supporting cast.
As opposed to nit-picking a quality production that is miraculous simply for having been made in today's movie industry, it seems to me that just sitting back and marveling over it is more appropriate and certainly more suitable. The periodicity in costumes, sets, properties, music and upscale 19th Century behaviors all felt spot on.
Many years ago, the late, great film director, Frank Capra, whom I had met, sent me a poem by Emily Dickinson. Her work was, by then, only dimly lit way in the back of my mind, as an English (and psychology) major in college. I was so taken by the poem (her work does this to most readers) that I researched her biography and eventually traveled all the way to Amherst, Mass., where her house still stands. Providence saluted my choice with wonderful weather for the journey.
My hopes are for this films' recognition, one that it well deserves.
The OA (2016)
An unpolished gem
This series is a fair effort but fails at the script level. A script is the foundation for all cinematic presentations in any language, even wordless ones. The basic continuity needs refining and polishing. Not being smooth, it tends to jump and has gaps.
Viewers follow a film due to their attachment to the characters in the story. Here, the protagonist, despite much presence, remains blurry throughout so we have only a nodding interest in her. The antagonist, on the other hand, is clearly obsessed but we never get deep enough into his character to understand why this is so. As a result, again, we have only a mild regard for him or perhaps, a mild disdain. Since his role is so pivotal, his motive should have been deeply etched and not tossed off with a superficial excuse for his brutal and bizarre violence on a group of complete innocents. He is not depicted quite as we must privately assume what he is, a psychotic who has lost touch with reality. Like the colleague he kills, he is a linear comic book character and so, frustrated, we cannot really care that much.
As it stands, the filmmakers are asking the audience to use their various, different imaginations to fill in gaps. This is not good filmmaking. To see a fine example of screen writing, find The Night Of, by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price. This superb series stars the talented Riz Ahmed who plays Elias Rahim in The OA. The writers grab you by the collar from scene one and never let go until the end. The suspense is created by an old fiction writer's technique called The Chain of Promises.
The one outstanding feature of this series is its casting. Nearly every one of the players is at their top game. This starts with Alice Krige and the venerable Scott Wilson as the mom and dad. Ultimately, the makers of The OA do show promise, especially in locating fresh ideas, such as the hunt for ontological meaning in the NDE, to bring interest to a tired kidnapping plot, so we would like to see them continue to see what they can come up with after acquiring more experience and insight. ###
Ex Machina (2014)
As a writer and visual concept artist, I was designing a new book cover for an author friend of mine, so in the process I recommended the movie, Ex Machina, to her. She said she was not going to bother with it --- and I found out why, the trailers caused her to believe it was about humans having sex with robots.
I told her, "not even close" and that if you blink, you might miss even the mention of sex in the picture.
Once again, the pinheads in advertising thinking they know how to sell a movie but in fact, destroying its release in the process. In fact, the film has one of the few multi-level-of-meaning, brilliant scripts I have seen in many years and everything else that follows, casting, production values, all superb. It would be a shame to see this one not make back its investment. Ex Machina is one of the best films I have seen in years. It is a study of human consciousness and the possibility of consciousness without conscience. For me, that is brilliant time and money spent on a movie.
Not that bad
I rarely expect to see every unusual show with a $200M budget these days, especially TV fare, so my expectations were not high. I find the production engaging and particularly love the sets of an ancient Hellenic period with heads of giant statues half buried in the Earth and the stands of even trees. They have an otherworldly feeling that adds substance and context to this unusual production.
My experience in production design, directing and writing helps me to come to an objective view of this show. What also helps is the mere fact that someone is attempting to bring unusual fare to the screen. It is not easy and yes, it does take an ungodly amount of money to bring a show like Game of Thrones to the tube. This is not a G.O.T. production but that is fine as far as I am concerned. They all do not have to match G.O.T.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
The One and Only Apes Fest
PLANET OF THE APES (1968) This original production, inspired by the 1963 Pierre Boulle novel, La Planète Des Singes was cast well, with a screenplay co-written by none other than Rod Serling. However, someone marred it by injecting period politics. It still stands out as the "one and only", primarily because it was the surprise evolutionary reversal that made it great and launched it into the Pantheon of Classics.
The ensuing milking of the original in the following years was nothing more than various filmmakers attempting to cash in. The first sequel was somewhat interesting but it takes the story beyond known and theoretical science into metaphysics, thus, shattering the original concept. In my humble opinion, it is not a true sequel in that it varies wildly from the original concept, creating its own plot line and becoming silly, actually, with the introduction of malicious, telepathic super humans. That is like a bad pastiche on good art. The following "sequels" are not worth watching.
The 2001 re-make of the original, with a bizarre script and completely incomprehensible ending that essentially tells audiences they have just wasted two hours of their lives and a few dollars, was stillborn, mostly because Tim Burton, who can claim some merit for other movies, such as Mars Attacks, is still no Franklin J. Schaffner.
If you have not seen this original obtain a good copy of it and stick with it. You will be disappointed with anything that follows it.
Sorry but I march to a different drum.
It is not just the impossible science in the script, for example; the fact that a gravity sufficient to slow down time by a factor of 60,000 (one hour equals seven years) would make it impossible to land a ship using our known technology. It would instantly crush the vehicle along with its crew. Not major but contributory, the title itself, "Interstellar" is a misnomer since the lead character travels beyond dimensions, not just between stars.
The script begins to fall apart when it is actually less than half way through. By the end, it is out of control and wildly bizarre. The intelligence alluded to as "they" is far too nebulous and ranges into incoherence. A murky plot and the use of often-mumbled tech-babble move it all to the realm of the juvenile scenario. As a literary device, the use of babble instead of coherent language is as silly as Bugs Bunny pulling a large hammer from behind his back, out of nowhere.
The scene where Coop finally meets his daughter, Murph, as an old woman was touching, but the casting of the highly recognizable Ellen Burstyn, albeit, a wonderful actor was, however, inappropriate since it tends to destroy suspension of disbelief.
Those critics that do not wish it revealed that they do not understand it will give it rave reviews in order to convince others that they do understand it. Some of the audience will go the same way. Such is our contemporary Hollywood scenario.
Angels and Insects (1995)
For the tongue-in-cheek coffee-sippers among us.
We humans come in so many different mind-sets that, astonishingly, a film like this tedious, annoyingly mundane and meaningless churning can actually have value to some.
For me it was a time for slapping my face to stay awake, looking for gummed tape to hold up my eyelids. But then, there was such a marvelous pay-off, again, not for all of us but for those with iron clad stomachs. What was it? The boring protagonist discovers that all his children are really the offspring of his wife's long time sexual relationship with her brother. Indeed, he walks in on them slapping loins, at some point.
One looks for meaning in all forms of literature only to find that, perhaps, life might very well be devoid of meaning. Maybe that is what those given to this drivel have objectified.
Man of Steel (2013)
Unfortunately, greatly disappointing
For me, this new Superman epic, Man of Steel, where the name Superman seems to be verboten, was greatly disappointing. The trailers, at least the early ones were filled with promise and hinted at intelligence, substance and story instead of yet another gross-out treatment of today's over the top violence that has begun to show up in blockbusters.
What story there is, was swamped and drowned out with the excessively loud noise of a sound track that has not been equalized and drifts from normal to painfully loud, all to keynote meaningless, superfluous and excessive violence. Here, the villain, Zod, is a cardboard, two dimensional character without enough subtext for audiences to be able to identify with him beyond anything but a machine that has broken down.
Curiously, there was also no stimulating or illuminating musical score to unify and bring inspiration to the entire procedure. This was not a well made film. I am reminded of the awful corporate blunder, in 1985, by the Coca Cola Company when they replaced a drink that had become an American tradition given impetus by WWII, with carbonated pancake syrup.
In my view, the expenditure of more than $200 million on a production carries social implications and at least the responsibility of the social impact. Beyond that, an opportunity to bring a bit of literacy and decency to the millions who will see the movie. This was not to be in this outing.
If the rumor mills are correct they are doing a sequel. Well, perhaps they should start by trying to find where Kal El's red shorts disappeared and then hire a professional screenwriter and director with at least some semblance of consciousness.
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
A film unique in the annals of motion pictures.
In terms of gross, this entry seems to cover just the re-release of this film in one theater, back in may of 1999. The film actually released in 1981 and it enjoyed a national release so I suspect it grossed a lot of money against its budget. As a filmmaker I can state with no exaggeration that I could have produced the entire film to answer print for less than $5,000. It earned more than that in its one-theater re-release in 1999.
At the bottom line, this film is what I believe to be the ultimate reason for the invention of the motion picture.
Summary: two bright men in conversation across a table, inspires, educates, beguiles,intrigues, and entertains all at once. The shocker is that all this is done without a written script, as far as I can determine. The subjects discussed are far ranging and delivered like bullets from a Thompson submachine gun. You can start watching but if you have any level of intellect at all, you cannot stop watching.
The film is a great, novel idea, one unique as far as I know, to the motion picture industry, an industry to which this movie brings no small amount of grace.
The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956)
Brave little movie.
At the time of release of this film from the book, The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956), the concept of reincarnation was virtually unknown to the masses in the Western World. Today, some 56 years later, it has become fact to many scholars and researchers in this part of the world. Internationally known physicians, specializing in psychiatry, now spend their lives in its research and work in its further exploration. The real miracle of this little, low budget film is that it was made at all at a time of fear and ignorance of one of the basic keystones of ontology.
The book itself is rather shallow as the film but this is probably due to the lack of comprehension of not just the subject of reincarnation but hypnosis itself, which was then not a widely practiced form of psychotherapy. At that time, religionists and their authoritarian scripture heavily controlled the subject of human consciousness much as it is in the Middle East today.
At this writing, schools teach self-hypnosis. It is understood to be a method of focusing and nothing fearful, reprehensible or a dangerous practice of some mysterious Rasputin. In addition, it is known that regression itself is a simple guided focusing and not some bizarre scheme of being controlled by someone else. No one can control anyone else through hypnosis. They can only suggest and persuade. It is up to the subject to accept or reject the persuasion.
Edgar Cayce, who is briefly mentioned in this film, is now honored for his life's work and anyone can join the internationally important Association of Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia to study his life and work as well as research into consciousness.
The movie barely introduces the subject but it does so in a very believable way and with a lot of courage.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Iris Hitomi Yamashita, who wrote story and script for this production, is certainly to be honored and not overlooked as we remember this great movie. This approach, an American movie from the point of view of the enemy, is not quite new. Erich Maria Remarque's semi-autobiographical novel drawn from his time as a German soldier in WWI (Im Westen nichts Neues), All Quiet at the Western Front, (1929) comes to mind. The American movie, directed by Lewis Milestone, released in 1930. It, too, was powerful and so much so that it changed the life direction of its star, Lew Ayres.
What is new, however, the story and script are by an American (Yamashita was born in Missouri). Her two degrees are from American Universities in California.
The Japanese language approach, in my opinion, now in the contemporary Hollywood milieu, would not have taken place without Mel Gibson's amazing The Passion of the Christ, (2004) which while written in Latin and Aramaic, two languages long dead, grossed in excess of $600 million. To Hollywood suits, that is serious business. Thus, many us of eagerly awaited an American film in contemporary Japanese language without any hesitation.
Like many, I am a long time Clint Eastwood fan and watched his continuous growth on screen from the gritty little Rawhide TV show to the Spaghetti Westerns, and on to the Dirty Harry series. His first movie as a director, Play Misty for Me, which he made while still under the wing of Don Siegel, is actually one of my favorite Eastwood movies. However, Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) stands as his masterpiece.
Chances are, even if Eastwood was half the age he is today, he would never again find the happy conjunction to create anything quite as powerful, memorable and spiritually triumphant.
For me, this is one of the best Hollywood movies produced in the past half century.
Some corrections on faulty data passed on by some reviewers
This lovely little film is based on the Ambrose Bierce story first published in 1890 for the San Francisco Examiner and not "first published" in the Bierce anthology of a year later, (1891) Tales of soldiers and Civilians.
Note that the film is based on the story and not exactly the story. The film takes a right turn in focusing on the illusory aspect of the story, while missing a few sharp impacts in the story itself. I was a friend and co-worker of Rod Serling's and know, also, that the film was discovered by one of the TZ producers, William Froug, not Rod himself, and it cost $25,000 for American TV rights (not the reputed $10,000). This was still a great saving as well because the typical original production budget for this series was $65,000.
The film was also released in the U.S. (theatrical, limited) before it appeared on TZ a year later (1964). For all those who love this film I strongly suggest that you might also enjoy the short story by Ambrose Bierce upon which it is based. This is not to say that the film is not good. When it comes to great cinematic story telling, the French are usually found in the front row.
The good and the not so good of Brave.
Without one iota of exaggeration, this new Pixar production, Disney release, is visually stunning. It has artful, clearly defined characters that loom off the screen, literally and especially so, in 3D. Some of the scenic movement is reminiscent of the great Ratatouille of a few years ago. That is saying a lot.
To its credit, Brave depicts a young woman who fights for the right to live out her own life. However, that did not quite snatch the gold ring for me. It was just not enough substance. The production budget on this animated film was $185 million. In decades past, the shallow, somewhat sluggish script, seen here, would never have obtained a green light. It was difficult to watch all of the superb, brilliant artistry (actor voices included) and production values, design elements, wasted on that flat, empty script.
Real literature, with its varied levels of meaning, and the old, sage, scenarist's secret, best embodied by the works of Frank Capra, Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling, the "Spiritual Payoff" is now absent from the big screen. Take note how their works have survived through the decades.
Most of today's studio suits do not appear to be aware that films structured at that level have the best word of mouth and the best legs. Today, they aim only at the child mentality where Walt Disney aimed at the widest audiences. His Pinocchio, for example, is still vital today. Indeed, some of its music has become the signature Walt Disney logo theme. That said, one blessing in current animated feature films, they no longer break continuity for Broadway type song and dance numbers, tedious nonsense that clung on to animated features like a giant fungus, for decades.
Is it very difficult to come up with a soul for these scripts? I think not. In Pinocchio, for example, the log line is simple: A wooden puppet earns the right to his most ardent wish, to become a real boy.
The Captains (2011)
A fine documentary by William Shatner
Even some of the most enthusiastic Trekkies do not quite understand the unprecedented success of the original Star Trek as created by Gene Roddenberry. The original show, as we all know, ran only for three seasons in a far less literate world. However, its impact was such that it was followed by five successor series, eleven movies, a mountain of merchandise, and a multi-billion dollar industry collectively known as the Star Trek franchise (currently owned by CBS Television Studios, which now owns television properties previously held by Paramount Pictures.
There is only one reason for this, and creative people in the entertainment industry like Rod Serling and Frank Capra who also left legacies on par with Gene Roddenberry, knew the reason. Much like Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and other literature at that level their stories spoke to the sanctity of the human soul and the problems of human progress on Earth. As in the case of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, it masked these problems in allegorical science fiction in order to slip them through entertainment suits whose primary interest is in making money.
Although in his fine documentary, The Captains, William Shatner barely touches on this core mission of Star Trek, his purpose for making the film was to come to terms with the role of Captain Kirk and his latter day realization that it was not a frivolous role, nor superficial. Sir Patrick Stewart is also on hand to help him in this realization.
Along with the engaging backgrounds of other Star Trek Captains, all who came from fine backgrounds as actors, Shatner acknowledges that the role, along with the series, was life changing to millions. Many of the ardent followers of the Star Trek phenomenon are people like the rest of us. We all live a daily life of struggle. Here, show business people whose sole purpose was not just to make money but to make life, pass on a little hope.
The Corporation (2003)
A superb documentary
This excellent documentary accurately depicts, through factual reportage, the nature of a corporation, often a destructive force when it comes to the human consciousness, that is, when in contact with human consciousness, often toxic, when placed under considered scrutiny and in historical perspective.
In my view, a corporation is not an "entity," nor a "person," despite judges in courts who have ruled it that, judges, perhaps bought and paid for by corporations reaching for control of and over civilization in the United States. A person has consciousness, compassion, and morality. A corporation does not. What it does have: "strategy." What the corporation is: a system, often with a singular objective, to make profits. It is the embodiment of greed.
It is a strange phenomenon projected by human behavior. It was isolated, analyzed and described in Truman Capote's 1966 seminal work, In Cold Blood, a "non-fiction novel" first serialized in The New Yorker in 1965. This behavioral revelation is about the formation of an overriding singular force that is either tyrannically destructive or in a few cases, constructive, when two or more humans are present in a scenario. In Capote's book, two petty thieves create a singular, malevolent force that destroys an innocent family. By themselves, neither of the two thieves could or would have been capable of the murder.
The positive or negative nature of the corporate force is created from the combination of top management, sometimes boards, if the board is in close control of the corporation. In most cases, since the objective of most corporations is profitability, the bottom line becomes the most powerful arbiter of the corporate behavioral history. In too many cases, the results are destructive to human health and welfare.
Top management typically walks in a chain-lock-step, especially when members receive the obscene amount of compensation published in today's business journals. As a result, whistle blowers who report malfeasance, crime or destructively bad management are disposed of, and in the case of existing within a modest municipality controlled by the corporation, also black-listed.
Malefactors are usually promoted and rewarded, often in spite of the corporation itself, as it begins to decline and eventually go out of business and close its doors, moving hundreds or thousands of employees and subcontractors who had grown dependent, out into the street to search of new employment.
The greatest danger today (at this writing) is the takeover of governments by corporations who buy entire political parties, government institutions and more or less cause great human suffering and destruction of human well being and in too many cases, life itself. Untrammeled, the corporate system or force, has the potential to destroy all human life on Earth. This documentary clearly shows this possibility. It is the most insidious specter today, soon to come out of China in vast dimensions, presently inconceivable.
Rookie Blue: Heart & Sparks (2011)
Up to segment, Heart and Sparks, Rookie Blue was standing up to anything produced out of Hollywood. in this script the usual, bright, mature characters dissolved into immature teenagers incapable of processing a logical stream of thought. It's like the usual writers and director went out to lunch and let fans write and produce the show.
First, the plot takes on the trappings of a bad soap opera and not the on-going experiences of green (albeit bright) police officers. Then we see several of the characters make decisions not on considered logic but emotional jumps. This includes the wife of an apparent victim of a burned out building who inexplicably runs into the building even though the fire has already been out for some time and curiously not roped off and taped off from the public.
Emotional characters, supposedly mature law enforcement officers, become involved in jealousies that erupt in violence. In one character thread, one of the officers is enraged by his childhood assumption of what took place in his boyhood, meets the man he feels responsible and does not talk to the man or engage him in any conversation requesting an explanation. This is left up to his girl friend who receives the reasonable answer but fails to pass it on the the outraged officer. There's more but my point is made.
The show should continue to be a well written drama of law enforcement (with the additional interest of being a Canadian production shot in a Canadian city environment). Personal issues are good but they should not be allowed to dominate the production. It's likely that if the show is allowed to disintegrate into a soap opera, it will fail.
Taking on The Dark Side:
Eliot Spitzer is a marvelous human being. He is exceptionally brilliant, literate, intellectual, and on the side of light. What he is not, according to the known record and this documentary, an exceptional piece of filmmaking, is a great chess player. In 2006, he began to associate with a "call girl ring", a term that, for me, currently, feels and sounds ludicrous. The idea that consensual sex between adults is still illegal, even as a trade, in this day of comparative enlightenment is to me rather bizarre. A man who "cheats on his wife" --- This is no one's business since the relationship and contract is with his wife and not the public.
Before becoming Governor of New York, Spitzer had taken on Wall Street and The Dark Side, and did it with such success and gusto that only Alfred E. Newman could not have known that the Dark Side would not begin to gather around a knife sharpening ceremony.
The Dark Side used our basic American hang-up and continuous obsession with sex against Spitzer because they could. Indeed, I agree with the Governor that he is fundamentally to blame, after all, it was Spitzer who created this vulnerability.
Ultimately, however, it was our immaturity as people obsessed with sex and infidelity that has probably ended Spitzer's sure climb to the presidency. We have all placed that nonsense over every good, productive and constructive thing the man had ever done and he did it for us, the public.
Super 8 (2011)
When I saw the title, "AMBLIN" with a bicycle silhouetted by the moon, as the film started, I said, "Oh, oh." I was right to be apprehensive. The film was filled with dumb, illogical plot devices, non-sequitur scenes, childish, hokey writing and the most absurd plot device I have ever seen in a movie.
A high speed train being hauled by a diesel locomotive weighing in excess of 15,000 tons is caused to entirely crash, derail and have its cars spread out about half a mile by a small pick up truck. The crash continues for about ten minutes. Is that stupid enough? No. Guess what? The driver of the small pick up truck survives ... with some injuries. The driver is later murdered by the Air Force, giving no meaningful or logical explanation for the murder.
It's Sci-Fi as seen from the eyes of early teenagers. The dumb things we saw in some of the Spielberg films from years ago, such as a boy hammering away at his breakfast dishes at his breakfast, with a large plastic bat, while his parents ignore him, all intact in this film.
I cannot believe this is a JJ Abrams movie. The film was one "HUH, WHAT?" moment after another. Going further would contain too many spoilers. If you can ignore all the dumb moments, you might enjoy it.
Disney and company at their very best...
--- is the best animated film ever to come out of the Walt Disney studio, bar none, including the later Pixar division features. This is because of a great writer (Ted Sears, 1900-1958) they had at the time and because of Walt Disney who could recognize a good story.
Ted Sears's source was a nearly forgotten periodical serial originally written in Italy by 19th Century children's fairy tale writer, Carlo Collodi. (Birth name, Carlo Lorenzini). Lorenzini wrote Storia di un burattino ("The story of a marionette"), Sears assembled the best stories from the serial first published in Il Giornale dei Bambini (The Children's Journal) the first periodical for children, and created the script for Pinocchio. This was a time when Disney, still working on Snow White but seeing what was about to manifest in the world, pulled out all the stops and with his top flight, hand selected staff that included today's well-known animation artist's names, created Pinocchio. Fortunately, Walt Disney wisely refused to use well-known voices of the period so the characters remain freshly unfettered by latent image conflicts with real life images.
Popular artist, Thomas Kinkaid, recognized the perennial greatness of this film and followed his Snow White painting with one the Pinocchio. That painting will be important as long as the film remains popular...for at least one hundred years or more from today. The painting consists of and depicts every major scene and character in the film.
//Raúl daSilva, author, first place national book festival prizewinner, The World of animation (Kodak, 1979).
A brilliant documentary on the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan.
A friend in Paris, France, and fellow filmmaker sent me a copy of this new Reagan documentary. Not a great fan of Reagan or his presidency, I set it aside.
My friend persisted and pushed me to watch it. I finally did. The film begins with the death of Ronald Reagan after an extended bout with Alzheimer's disease. Then, it returns to his life, starting with his childhood and covering every step of his career from radio announcer to actor to union president and on to his dazzling political career, one that was not easy any step along the way.
It is one of the most extraordinary documentaries I have ever seen, the revelation is not in the massive amount of data packed into this film (Michael Moore, take note, please) but its beautifully organized objectivity and most of all, its subtext, that makes a powerful statement about the impact, often world-changing, of the power of the illusion of ideas. This illusion can create and destroy quickly and with great and lasting power.
It is recommended not just to those interested in a fine example of documentary filmmaking but for historians interested in objectivity, especially so in the life of the 40th president of the United States.
As an important aside, I have had my feelings about Ron Reagan, Jr. (the president's son, who works in the media) confirmed He is a bright, deep thinker who doubtless transcends his own father's intellect and contact with humanity.
Great film, if a bit flawed:
This original Predator # one is extraordinary, even in repeat viewing, for Arnold fans. Its sequels are OK, especially number two with Danny Glover but this one is the best. For first viewers it has a great, slow reveal to terror.
Two future state governors worked on this one and both are interesting to watch, both former athletes with large bodies.
The only two issue I had with this one is
A) In one scene it shows Arnold going for his knife only to discover it has fallen out of his sheath somewhere, back perhaps during his two long falls into water. Later, we see that he has magically found it, somehow.
B) In the final scene, he has escaped the predator. The predator has set up what appears to be a nuclear explosion in attempt to destroy his adversary, who has dealt him a lethal dose of heavy timber. A helicopter shows up on the scene. Inn the middle of the jungle and after the explosion, the helicopter magically locates Arnold.
Giant gaps like this work against my suspension of disbelief. What also works against the grain is that something like that gruesome monster, a brutal hunter, has managed to create the technology for interstellar travel. It's akin to believing that a wild boar has accomplished rocket science and all of its ramifications.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Well worth seeing.
While I cannot agree with some of the critics positing that the script for The Kids Are All Right is "brilliant" I can easily state that it is a well thought out, intelligent script but with a childish resolve. It is also clear that all of the performances are superb
even going beyond my expectations from the three professionals that lead the ensemble. Julianne Moore as Jules, the fem part of the lesbian couple and Annette Bening, as Nic, the butch, are at the top of their game but Mark Ruffalo (Paul) is deserving of special recognition in this production.
In Connecticut, (at least) this good movie is not in wide release. After all, it is not only a movie for grown-ups in an era when teenage movies predominate but also at a time when most exhibitors ignore mature audiences.
The theater that I attended is in Madison, CT and is known to be a "Little" theater that runs movies for thoughtful, intelligent audiences. What I also saw, however, while watching the movie is a few elderly people walking out who are not used to seeing life portrayed as it really happens, especially in the bedroom.
As for the story, all is going well until everyone discovers that Jules has had an affair with Paul, the sperm donor and biological father of both kids who are each the birth children of each of the lesbian women. Jules sees a lot of her birth son, Laser, in Paul (no surprise since he is the boy's biological father) and is attracted to Paul as he is to her, eventually confessing that he loves her. The affair is obviously not a hormone driven adventure but a real heartfelt episode that takes place between two adults who are in their 50s.
Then and only then do we discover that the primary relationship between the two lesbians is just another possessive pairing and not a mature, transcendent love at all a love that might have been given with no expectation of a return. The characters go to pieces with anger, weeping bitterness, pouting and emotional separation. The children also pout.
As a result, Paul is "tossed under the bus" (so to speak) and labeled an "interloper" despite the fact that he is generous, kind, and loving, a decent and honest man. Could we have hoped that when Paul asked this family (that invited him in to begin with) to discuss the conflict, and could they have behaved openly and generously with him to resolve the issue? Yes! What we have instead, is a non-resolved ending where Paul goes off stage and the immediate lesbian couple and their children decide to weather it all out.
Some day, perhaps in the not too distant future someone will write a script that might reflect the idea put forth by Richard Bach some time ago "If you love something, set it free; if it returns to you it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was." The problem, perhaps even discussed by the writers of this film: How many among us would understand it and be emotionally mature enough to deal with the gift of love something that we can all actually do if we can only be generous?
Despicable Me (2010)
The best animated feature thus far for 2010.
DESPICABLE ME has toppled the two giants, Pixar and DreamWorks Animation in this animated feature that is far above this year's animated feature products as we enter the mid-summer releases. Those of us who are grown-ups can forgive the predictable story since we know that we are not the primary audience for this film. Animated features are still made for children although the art form itself has long hungered after adult fare. It is quite capable of being applied to adult stories although very few Hollywood suits have yet to grasp that concept. The one exception that quickly comes to mind was the Ralph Bakshi animated films. Unfortunately, his work was illiterate and vulgar.
Designed beautifully and with whimsical cleverness the characters are matched by superior writing. Although the scenes borrow concept humor from the once great Warner Bros. animation teams, the best-known being "Termite Terrace," the presentation is continuously funny, whimsical and entertaining. Steve Carell does his usually fine comic dialog--- as Gru, the villain that we know we will grow to love. Fortunately, for those who are very familiar with this fine comic voice, he masks it with an odd European accent that sometimes sounds like Bela Lugosi on steroids.
This brings to mind having to sit through three Toy Story movies (thus far) and having to fight the image of Tom Hanks every time the character, Woody, would speak. Walt Disney was, of course, correct when he cast Adriana Caselotti as Snow White instead of the "A" listed movie singers of the time because he wanted his audience not to have to go through that painful exercise. No doubt, greedy agents have sold modern animation producers a bill of goods but the tots who go to see these films could not care less about the names behind the voices even if they knew who they were, which they do not. Known, "A" list voices needlessly pump up budgets for these films.
Above the entire picture is the most amazing fact that DESPICABLE ME comes to us from Universal Animation, which was originally cobbled together from the Sullivan-Bluth efforts and other entities less than ten years ago. Whatever happened to bring this formerly humdrum studio to life let us hope for more we will certainly look for it.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
The Kraken is released (again).
Perhaps the worst thing any of us movie lovers can surrender to is blind trust in film critics. I have always wondered from what dark tank in hell do these (mostly men, for some bizarre reason) so called critics emerge? Very few that I have read appear to have ever set foot on a set much less partaken of one shoot in the production process, for they often irresponsibly toss off extraordinary efforts and artistic triumphs with great expense in blood, sweat, tears and resources as one would pick out an overdone piece of popcorn and toss it.
Thus, having read several critics on the new milling of Clash of the Titans and remembering quite well the awful Second Avenue-second hand budget of the 1981 rendition with its stop motion animated puppets, I dragged myself to the theater with it in mind that I would once again have to hear Liam Neeson shout, "Release the Kraken," after wincing from a dozen or so trailers that followed my favorite news programs on TV.
What I experienced was stunning production values crowned by brilliant Homeric design and art work even to the minutest detail in both sets and costume. There was so much detail that even some of the men's hairstyles were impressive (Sam Worthington Perseus' - "do" notwithstanding). In this marvelous production was one instance where I expected nothing and got everything. The very fine cast is icing on the cake.
As an old fan of Greek mythology I found myself highly rewarded. However, while the script simply nods at the original tales of Perseus and Andromeda there is so much good action here in a strong plot, and done so stylishly that one quickly leaves the original mythology in the vest pocket, perhaps where it really belongs.
The Invasion (2007)
An OK but needless rehash.
The earlier versions of this old chestnut from Jack Finney in his serialized novel, first published in Collier's Magazine, were somewhat superior.
The best of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers was Don Siegel's 1956 edition with Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy. Hollywood seems hell bent to remake good movies, repeatedly, with inferior copies. The stars in this latest version are fine as are the production values but the script seems somehow lackluster and tired compared to the freshness of the original. The original offered an entirely new concept in science fiction and a superb comprehension by an extraordinary director.
The modernization of the alien life form into a microbe is an inferior concept and lacks the impact of the original, a separate, plant-like creation from some mysterious alien world from unknown space.
There is also no real social parallel today as once was when subtle but palpable societal changes created by the cold remoteness of the then, new nuclear age fear had moved into a once comparably innocent world where global epidemic was only partially felt.