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Mysterious Skin (2004)
As I've read other reviews of this movie I've learned that I was apparently supposed to be horrified by it. I wasn't though. Sure there are some tough moments, but overall I just loved the story, the way it was told, the excellent acting, and more. There was no bad acting, nothing in the story seemed contrived, and there was nothing to nit-pick. The only weakness was in the commentary track on the DVD, where the director kept saying that every scene was his favorite (lame) and the poor lead actors had to keep finding something to chat with that dork about. Regardless, that would not be worth a negative score.
The most impressive thing about Mysterious Skin was the amazing performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He did a wonderful job, and his performance was all the more impressive considering he was previously known mainly for his role in the sitcom Third Rock From the Sun. His performance here was so impressive that it hardly seemed like acting, and any award nominations he receives are well deserved. If he doesn't win then maybe he needs to truly show full frontal next time, which for some voters seems to tip the scales. I'd have gladly watched him go full frontal physically, but watching him go "full frontal" emotionally was so compelling that it would be tough to expect anything more. Bravo, Joe, bravo!
Grande école (2004)
Familiar unrequited love story
From reading other reviews this may be one of those movies that seems to be about whatever is most important to the viewer. To some it is mostly about capitalism and class / social castes. To others it is more a love story. To me the love story seemed central, with it feeling like a movie by gay men for gay men. We start with two decent looking guy roommates, one of which clearly is into the other, who seems to return friendship only. Both men are dating women. A working class love interest MÃ©cir, played by Salim Kechiouche, comes into the life of the obviously conflicted gay lead, Paul. Paul is torn between apparently unreturned love for his male roommate, his sociality acceptable relationship with a woman, and an openly gay lover who doesn't easily fit into the life he feels expected to lead.
Being a French movie, English speakers must be prepared for subtitles. There is a fair amount of frontal male nudity in the film, and being a French film, yes the men are naturally uncircumcised. The nudity is always incidental and mostly in a single locker room scene, a scene which perfectly captured the discomfort I felt in gym class myself as a gay teen. The fear of being caught looking at the other guys contrasted against the potential delight of being surrounded by dozens of fit nude peers. It is tough to understand people being uncomfortable with the frontal nudity when it isn't used in a sexual way. Still, if frontal male nudity bothers you, perhaps you shouldn't watch. There is minimal female nudity. Since questions are raised about what is the perversion, homosexuality, or the insistence on fitting into societal norms despite one's feelings, it seems strange to find reviewers debating something as basic as casual nudity.
Stories of unrequited love and love triangles have been told many times before, and probably told better. But as a gay man, the conflicts Paul felt were very familiar and real to me, and the story took me back to an early time in my life. I could certainly sympathize with his situation. It was easy to be drawn to the character of MÃ©cir. Not only is he a feast for the eyes, I also found myself trying to will Paul to wake up and realize that MÃ©cir was the only choice of the three with a likelihood for long-term happiness. As in life though, nothing is quite so simple. If you want to know more, you might well enjoy the movie. Feedback on this review is welcome.
The United States of Leland (2003)
A philosophical discussion but little else
Not much actually happens in this movie. There are a few pivotal moments, and everything else is talking about a crucial moment that takes place before the movie began. The primary mechanism used in the story is the flashback. Flashbacks can be used very well, but they aren't here. There is zero indication when flashing back or forward, and there are only weeks separating the events, so context as a scene unfolds is the only way to know when something happens. Perhaps this was intended to add a sense of mystery in places, but it was largely annoying.
If you are interested in watching a 100 minute on-screen discussion of the why's of things and a lame questioning of good versus evil, enjoy. If watching close-ups of a mostly vacant stare on Ryan Gosling's face for much of the movie appeals to you, you're in luck. Sadly, I can find no reason to recommend this movie. Oh, and as another review indicated, Spacey really is only in a cameo role here, and plays with a disinterested detachment that you've probably already seen.
*** The rest contains spoilers though a few big points are held back ***
First, the killing of the so-called retarded boy happens before the movie opens, and we never learn what happened exactly. The implication is that he was killed to stop the deep sadness that was communicated through the boy's eyes. There aren't many other unanswered questions as the characters beyond the boy and the lead are very one-dimensional.
As for what is with the lead character... Another review suggested he is crazy. I agree he isn't 'right', but don't know that I'd call it crazy. It seems that the movie tried hard to convey that he was either autistic or retarded in some way, because he sure seemed slow and unable to grasp the obvious. Either that or they were going for a neglected youth with some detachment disorder and/or who was heavily medicated. As always Ryan Gosling is good at conveying something to the audience, but it seems exactly what was deliberately left up in the air in this case. This movie provides no answers, just questions, but it was a sufficiently bad movie that I really didn't care.
O Fantasma (2000)
Is there a missing scene
I'll admit that for the first hour of this movie I watched the main character like one might watch a dog eagerly sniffing another's rear end; the compelling curiosity of trying to figure out what the point is. Then abruptly, in the middle of a plot-point that called for a clear resolution, there is a hard cut to another scene with no continuity nor explanation. It was like they forgot to put in a scene, or ran out of money to film it. I later listened to that portion of the commentary track for a greater understanding of what I must have been missing, only to discover that the explanation was incredibly lame. I finished watching the movie, which continued going downhill. When it was over I realized that, like the sniffing dog above, I would never understand any motivation that might have existed for this character. What's more, I no longer cared. As for titillation, I've been more excited by much less graphic movies, and agree with others who found the sex and nudity dull and pointless. And I usually love good adult content, even the gratuitous kind. Frankly the plot is too thin to even be the basis for a low-rent porno.
Gone, But Not Forgotten (2003)
Enjoyable if you're prepared to focus on the story
While I agree with much of some other comments, I'm not sure they convey the combined effect of the acting and production values. The short way to say it is very after-school-special. In particular the reading/acting and the tone/mood/arrangement of the musical score reminded me of one. Camera work and the dialogue also had weak spots, though the video and sound quality were quite good on DVD.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie. The story kept me interested throughout. I liked and cared about the characters. And echoing another comment, the lead actors were cute, and heck even shirtless and less at times. Overall I was most drawn to the 'lost' character, but maybe that's just me.
So I wouldn't go out and buy the DVD without seeing it first at least, but as a rental I can recommend it and NetFlix has it. There are only so many gay themed movies, and this is by far one of the best I've seen so far.
More than boring
Okay, as many others have said here, yes this movie is painfully boring. The scenery is the apparent star, and no scenery is interesting enough to watch on a tv screen for about two hours. Maybe in an IMAX theatre it would be awe-inspiring, but as fancy wallpaper rather than a movie.
Comments I've read that talk about great acting seem odd. We rarely see the faces of the actors because almost everything is a long shot. Even with almost no plot, there are huge holes in said plot. It is more like someone shot a lot of film and then semi-randomly pieced it together. When there is dialogue it is pointless, and almost certainly contains the F word. I'm no prude, but just F'ing saying F over and over doesn't pass for dialogue.
This is another of these movies that a select few pronounce as brilliant, and actively look down upon the apparent luddite masses who find it crap. You'll find reviews like that on this site. There is no better example I've seen than Gerry to illustrate that such an attitude is almost certainly an attempt by an overly artsy pretentious snob to impart value into something awful simply to feel above those who "don't get it". So unless you're a pretentious snob, my advice would be to pass on Gerry.
Pink Narcissus (1971)
Pretentious and dull
Think Disney's Fantasia, only not a cartoon, less of a plot, and of course lots of hues of pink. I don't have to worry about spoilers, because I can't thing of an actual plot point one might spoil. Is there a rule that gay films must be pretentious and dull? If so, this film fits the bill. Yes there are moments of male nudity, but if you're looking for that there are far better options. Could only recommend this to someone looking strictly for an 'art film' based on meticulously planned visuals and constant repetitive music.
The Slaughter Rule (2002)
Interesting but poorly executed
Sometimes technical flaws can get in the way of what otherwise could have been a good story. These movie's flaws prevented me from enjoying it much.
First, two key deleted scenes from the start of the film leave the entire premise feeling hollow. The scenes are offered as a special feature on the DVD. If I were to watch this movie again, I'd play these two deleted scenes where they should have been. First, the scene deleted after the conversation about the teen's father that opens the movie. Second, just minutes later the continuation of a scene talking with the coach in his office.
This has been a growing trend, for directors to cut key scenes that explain things at the start of the movie. In at least commentary tracks directors have said they 'just wanted to get on with the movie'. Well of course they might, since they know the story intimately. The viewer won't, and could use the background to make an emotional connection to the movie. Unless the movie is past the two hour mark, why consider cutting valuable scenes?
Gosling and some of the other performances were great. Of course Gosling does great even in rotten movies like Murder By Numbers.
The wide screen was an overly wide aspect, I guess meant to highlight those beautiful outdoor scenes over the actors. It leaves barely enough room for actors' heads in places, and it made the brief shower scene no fun at all. To echo another comment, the sound was very poor in places. More than accents, it was bad mixing where sound jumped from soft whisphers to loud music then back. My finger ended up fiddling with the volume throughout.
In hindsight, I might watch The Slaughter Rule once, but it won't be worth watching even a second time.
Chuck & Buck (2000)
And people say how realistic this movie is... why?
This movie was neither worthy of loving or loathing, it just kinda 'was'. I found it more interesting trying to understand its writer than the characters. Had rented it on DVD, and after watching hoped that the commentary track with the star/author would illuminate. Not even. I couldn't begin to suggest if someone else will like this movie, since clearly everyone has their own reaction and some love it. While watching it wasn't boring, I can't say I liked it, despite being comfortable with off-the-wall material. But if you happen to have serious issues with homosexuality, you will probably NOT want to see this movie, even though it isn't about being gay in the ordinary sense. I never understand people who'll go to a movie like Threesome and then groan at two men kissing. Grow up already.
All the C&B men we see in any depth are disfunctional. Chuck and his bride-to-be barely communicate apparently, since she never knows anything until almost the end of the movie. Chuck is barely able to communicate period come to think of it, he's a man of actions not words... so I guess he really is straight. Buck is what the other reviewers say: creepy, pitiful, pathetic, etc., but I fail to understand how one would get stuck at 11 years old going through the US school system. If you go to middle and highschool, you WILL come out different than you went in. Too much happens, especially when combined with the hormone cocktail that is puberty. Did Buck just sit in the house until he was 22 when his mom got sick? There was little effort to explain all that either. I know guys who are stuck at 18, Hell *I* may be a guy who is stuck at 18, but 11? Just don't buy that.
*** PROBABLE SPOILERS BEYOND HERE ***
Its seems much more interesting things could have been done with this story. One of the cool things about Indies is that they can go out on a limb and aren't subject to test audiences, a requirement for happy endings, etc. And remember Fatal Attraction? Now there was a stalker! Buck a stalker? Eh. Kept waiting for him to do something extreme, but he never did really, unless the firecracker thing with little Tommy wasn't an accident. They could have had an interesting story arc if Sam had at first allowed Buck some latitude then got cold feet later, but they didn't do that. Or if Sam had been willing, but only for a one way 'relationship'. The actors playing Sam and Chuck are brothers in real life by the way.
And the ending is as rotten as could be. Did Chuck only let Buck do the one thing, or did they complete the lil 'Chuck and Buck, S--- and ----' rhyme all the way around? Did Chuck do it because he really thought it would end it all, or because he was many martinis deep and horny? Considering the kiss, one would think he really wanted to, since even when a lot of guys 'experiment' with other dudes, kissing is rarely on the menu.
In a deleted scene on the DVD, Chuck throws Buck out of his office, after their deal, so the deal couldn't have worked very well. If Sam didn't want Buck's advances, and knew he was sick (the stunted mental state, not any reference to being gay), why would he want him next door? What was the source of Buck's sudden emotional transition in the last minutes? Finding a new guy to obsess about just one door down? Finally getting that one (adult) sexual experience with someone he had powerful feelings for? At least I can relate to wanting an intimate connection just once when having a powerful crush on someone, but don't think that getting it physically would suddenly make it all better... probably the opposite. Or was his final awaking being threatened with bodily harm (again, the deleted scene)?
Even for somewhat disturbed people, all this does not make sense. If there is a message here, it is too jumbled to be useful. If I'm going to watch realistic disfunctional people with real problems, I'd much rather watch Six Feet Under on HBO. There's more depth in one episode than in this. Of course I might continue to watch a show with a rarely shaven, often shirtless Peter Krause even if it didn't have depth.
Chuck & Buck... Damn the luck. Mostly yuck. Did Chuck really suck? Why was Buck so struck? I'll never know, and come to think of it, I don't give a f---! If you haven't seen it and still want to, I wish you luck.
Sweet Revenge (1976)
Entertaining and well-acted and MIA
Haven't seen Sweet Revenge since the early 80s. I remember finding it very entertaining, and was really drawn into the two lead characters: The thief and the investigator. Perhaps the premise is thin, all the effort just for a car, but surely many people have obsessions with cars. I know people who seem to love their car more than their spouse.
Stockard Channing was amazing, as was Sam Waterston. I'd love to see it again.
Sadly this movie is not available on VHS/DVD nor on cable. Any interest in reviving it for a discount renter have probably gotten thwarted by the fact there are 6 other movies by this exact name listed on IMDb, so just knowing which Sweet Revenge one is talking about is tough. The 1984 movie of the same name plays on cable all the time, but never this 1977 title. Like other movies from the slightly pre-VCR-boom era that I'd like to see again, including 'A Man, a Woman, and a Bank' and 'The Manitou' (which was bad/silly but worth a rewatch), it may not pass this way again.
If you should actually come across it, it's worth checking out. (And then let me know where the heck you found it!)
Like watching paint dry
I just don't understand this movie having such a high overall rating. Unless having been in the military adds to the experience, it seems inexplicable. This movie is certainly not about action, it is character driven. Unfortunately the characters were largely cliches, I didn't find myself caring about any of them despite usually liking Charlie Sheen's movies of the era.
I watched this with friends, and the pace was so slow that there were several times that we literally sat throwing glances at each other wondering when something interesting would happen or be said. We waited the whole 90+ minutes, and nothing ever did. After seeing Cadence, it is clear why it won no awards and got no theatre play.
I visited IMDB hoping someone else's comments might give me a hint if there was something there my friends and I missed. After reading other comments, unless these actors made two different movies titled Cadence, I'm baffled.
American Psycho (2000)
Psycho alone isn't all that
The first five minutes of this movie summarise 90% of it. A bunch of people talking pointlessly about nothing special. The worst were the commentaries on 80's music during supposedly key scenes. Christian Bale does a fine acting job with the material he is given, and if you enjoy an actor doing the best with weak material, particularly when he has a well-maintained body that is shown off a fair amount, there may still be something to look for here. Put him in a suit and have him yammer endlessly and I'd confuse him with other faceless drones just like some in the movie do.
But this movie really isn't all that, it isn't that shocking or disturbing, and we never even really get to know any of the characters... especially the lead. Frankly I know more interestingly psychotic people in my everyday life, though as far as I know none of them have killed. The most interesting person in the movie to me was the guy's assistant, and halfway through the movie discovered I'd much rather hear her story.
I've heard some say they don't like how this movie ended. I liked the ending just fine: The credits rolled, I put my hands in the air and said 'Thank God it's over!' and turned it off. Not the worst movie I've seen I'm sure, but seemingly the longest 1:43 minute movie ever. Maybe if Mr. Bale had shown off his well-sculpted form throughout the whole feature it would have been worth a few more stars.
It does bug me though -- why do so many directors think that mental illness and having a character exercising in the nude go so well together? At least a half-dozen movies right off have used that connection. So you out there, if you've recently found yourself doing your morning stretches in the nude, get some therapy before its too late!!! :-)
The Telephone (1988)
Like being a fly on the wall in a lonely woman's life
While I won't reveal major plot points here, some plot issues are mentioned, so consider this a spoiler warning. If you want action, lot's of human interaction, romance, or explosions, this movie is probably not for you.
It is largely Whoopi Goldberg talking on the telephone (of course) and to a neighbor's wall. But if you've seen Whoopi Goldberg's early on-stage work, she draws heavily on her ability to become a unique character in a moment with apparent ease. At times she can almost seem schizophrenic her demeanor changes so fast.
What this movie boils down to is a mostly lonely woman, who's only strong connection with the outside world seems to be the telephone. If you've ever gone through a lonely time in your life, you may identify in some moments with her character. And I totally got the humor, and thought it was great.
This is one of those movies that is definitely better when watched with someone though. If only to have someone to turn and give puzzled looks to at some of the odd happenings.
Something Evil (1972)
It doesn't get any slower than this
I was all set for a early 70s horror/thriller genre movie... and was prepared for the slower pace of a 70s movie, hopefully in exchange for a strong plot and character development. But this movie was so excruciatingly slow that finishing it was a chore. 'The Ghost of Flight 401' is another movie from the same era that, while a bit slow, manages to creep the viewer out pretty well. This movie is far slower with no real suspense, no characters to care about, and certainly no horror. Blah!