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(25 Msgs in forum)    LastPost: May-29 2014 2:56 AM
ET, The Extra-Terrestrial Click here to view ONLY this message
{Bulletin Board Photo4} (IMDB) (Netflix)
A boy and his alien ("I'm keeping him"). This is the 20th anniversary edition, with an new scene or two, some small fixes of special effects that didn't work so well back then, and a kow-tow to political correctness (guns are replaced with walkie-talkies). As with his earlier Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg's government starts out as a menacing, ominous force and ends up a mostly benign, if not particularly effective, presence, requiring the boy, Elliott, to take matters into his own hands.

Worth seeing again, and taking the kids, who will enjoy their movie counter-parts conquering their fears and enriching the lives of others, whatever their DNA looks like. Drew Barrymore's second picture, and the cute little girl that Elliot kisses in school grows up to be Playboy Playmate and Baywatch babe Erika Eleniak.



Lawrence of Arabia Click here to view ONLY this message
{Bulletin Board Photo4} (IMDB) (Netflix)
An epic's epic, nominated for ten Oscars, winner of seven, re-released for at least the second time. Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Claude Rains, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer and Anthony Quayle. Written by Robert Bolt ( Dr. Zhivago, A Man for All Seasons) and directed by David Lean ( Dr. Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai). Surprising relevance to today's events.

Not taking advantage of this opportunity to see this on the big screen verges on the criminal, but take a nap and pack a lunch; it's 227 minutes long.



One Hour Photo Click here to view ONLY this message
{Bulletin Board Photo4} (IMDB) (Netflix)
Following the disastrous Death to Smoochy and the well-regarded Insomnia, Robin Williams completes an exploration-of-the-dark-side triptych with this mesmerizing character study of a lonely, tightly wrapped photo shop clerk (he would say "craftsman") who covertly adopts the Yorkins. They're an iMac'd, Mercedes-driving, stainless steel kitchen brand of perfect nuclear family, or so Williams has believed, but as he gets closer, he discovers a flaw under the veneer, causing him to respond the only way he knows how.

While many of Williams's roles have been overly sentimental or "too Robin," he's well-restrained here, and submerges under the make-up to truly become Sy the Photo Guy. The creepiness and tension ratchets up smoothly and smartly, and while it's a reasonably challenging film, there's nothing gratuitous about the action. Will do for photo stores what Fatal Attraction did for extra-marital affairs and Marathon Man did for dentists. Me, I've switched to digital.



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(5 Msgs in forum)    LastPost: Oct-29 2011 10:22 PM
Beat the Devil Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (BMW Films)
    You won't find this nine-minute film in your local theater listings, but you might see it before the next feature you attend, and it's a great reason to get there on time (you can also download it at the BMW Films link above). After last year's successful marketing campaign, carmaker BMW has commissioned another set of "shorts" by top-shelf film directors like John Woo, Ang Lee and the late John Frankenheimer. The point of this largesse is to sell Bimmers, but calling these efforts "commercials" is a minor unjustice. Tony Scott ( Top Gun, True Romance, Enemy of the State) directs this one, which features Clive Owen as The Driver, Gary Oldman as The Devil, singer James Brown as himself, the Godfather of Soul, and a shiny brand-new BMW Z4 roadster. The hardest working man in show business wants a new soul, and will drag-race the devil to get one.

    Director Scott empties his very large bag of tricks to make this hyper-active onslaught, and while one's head would explode if it were a full-length feature, here the barrage of music, quick cuts, special effects and subtitles (Brown has enunciation trouble) is powerfully effective. There's no letup, right through the last scene, which is best left as a surprise. I've seen it three times, and could easily see it another three, and hope that its success will bring shorts back to the theater, and give us more of our money's worth.

Comedian Click here to view ONLY this message
{Bulletin Board Photo4} (IMDB) (Netflix)
Jerry Seinfeld makes his way back to stand-up comedy after his hit sitcom has ended its phenomenal run. The challenge is that he's not recycling old material, but building up his act from scratch bit-by-bit, showing up late at New York City comedy clubs and asking for a few minutes to go on, try out some jokes and get back the funny. There's also a parallel story of still-struggling Orny Adams, who's working the same spots, asking Seinfeld if he should hang it up at the age of 29.

Even with the private jet that Seinfeld now flies in, it's a terrifying and anxiety-laden lifestyle ("Trying out new material is like working a normal job in your underwear"). Neither of these guys are particularly charming offstage, but the commitment they exhibit to the craft and their uncontrollable need to perform are almost endearing. Adams is incapable of being happy for more than a few minutes, and an awed Chris Rock tells Seinfeld how the venerable Bill Cosby still does two 2-hour-and-twenty-minutes shows a day, of new material no less, just when Seinfeld's proud of reaching the hour mark. While more could have been done with this subject (Seinfeld was the executive producer, and presumably had a lot of say over what got shot and the final cut), it's still a compelling portrait of two people driven to succeed, whether they enjoy it or not.




Die Another Day Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    The latest in a 40-year string of Bond flicks, with Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry, who's recovered from her Oscar meltdown and plays an American agent from the National Security Agency (not that the NSA does this kind of wetwork, but no matter). This time the writers are picking on the non-Islamic leg of the Axis of Evil, the North Koreans, and gene therapy makeovers and death rays from space are the plot-enabling technologies. Refreshingly, the fate of the world doesn't even hang in the balance, just a critical piece of it.

    As with most action films, this one starts out better than it finishes and progressively gets more conventional. The opening sequence is a doozy that Navy SEALs should check out, and not a throwaway one; it has consequences for Bond that set up the rest of film. All the trademark scenes with Q, Moneypenny and M are there, but they're fresher and even inventive at times. The action is mostly stunt-a-licious, with a couple chases across the Icelandic, um, ice, the plot more inventive, and the dialogue far less smarmy than the Roger Moore days. Also, the women have decent spy chops, reminiscent of Michele Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies (Berry's character will be getting her own movie). The final scene doesn't live up to the first 3/4 of the movie, but on whole, a very above-average Bond flick that won't convert the anti-Bond populace one whit but will more than satisfy fans of this venerable genre.

Solaris Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    What would you do, given the opportunity to correct a tragic mistake and re-unite with the one you love, or at least a re-created version of your inamorata? How far would you go, and what would you sacrifice to get there?

    The 1961 classic novel by Stanislaw Lem inspired a highly respected 1972 Russian film (playing now on the Turner Classic Movie Channel and the Independent Film Channel), but this is the first Hollywood version, by director/writer/cinematographer Steven Soderbergh, with George Clooney as the man with the black hole in his life, and Natascha McElhone as the chance to fill it. Although technically in the sci-fi genre, this is really a love story made possible by a writer's imagination, and Soderbergh wisely strips the technology to the bare essentials, keeping the story in the foreground.

    The dialog is equally spare, as are answers to tough questions about the power of human longing. Clooney challenges those who think he's just an empty T-shirt, and McElhone impresses as the too-real and increasingly self-aware apparation. Soderbergh's photography is arresting without being too clever by half, which is more than can be said about Jeremy Davies, who might be one of the most mannered performers short of the early Jim Carrey. You might want it to move faster, and you might leave wondering what the film was all about, but you'll also know that you've been somewhere new.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix) (Soundtrack)
    The musical common denominator of the Motown era wasn't impresario Berry Gordy, but a loose bunch of studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers. Singers like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and others would come into the studio with some lyrics and maybe a concept for the melody, and the Brothers would do the rest. Name a Motown hit from the 60s, and they almost certainly played the music that transcended racial boundaries and made Detroit famous for something other than cars. I remember my parents hosting a party when I was eight or nine years old, and as I listened to the music from my bunk bed, I heard a knock on the bathroom door, and the words "Come on, honey, it's the Supremes."

    This documentary finally gives them the recognition these musicians deserve, through the usual interviews with the surviving members and a reunion concert fronted by modern-day artists like Ben Harper, plus evocative recreations of key incidents. Missing are scenes with almost all of the big-name artists who made millions off the Brothers' talent, which is telling, but we don't really need their opinion, because the music, and its success, speaks for itself.

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(8 Msgs in forum)    LastPost: Nov-21 2011 8:15 PM
Analyze That Click here to view ONLY this message
{Bulletin Board Photo4} (IMDB) (Netflix)
The sequel to Analyze This, the movie that for better or worse brought out Robert DeNiro's broadly comedic side. His wiseguy character is acting up in prison, alternately singing show tunes and going catatonic, which drags Billy Crystal in to see if he's really crazy. Of course, he's not, but the ploy springs DeNiro and sets him up as Crystal's house guest from hell, and an outplacement firm's worst nightmare. The rest of the loosely constructed story turns on DeNiro's coping with the real world: will he go straight despite the threats on his life, or build on his core competency, competitive threat mitigation (whacking people)?

From the outtakes running alongside the closing credits, this was fun movie set, and there were a fair number of laughs, particularly early in the film. Crystal excels at this kind of humor, which, despite the R rating due to the strong language, is pretty middle-of-the-road, easy "I'm hosting the Oscars" stuff. Seeing DeNiro cry is still a little creepy (where have you gone, Mr. Taxi Driver?). There's mirth, but it's not all that memorable.



Barbershop Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    What was the fuss all about, that brouhaha about one of the characters saying that Rosa Parks didn't do anything special that day on the bus? It was a barbershop for Pete's sake, a free speech zone where any nitwit can have an opinion, like the corner bar, the op-ed page or a sports call-in show.

    Fortunately, the movie is more than the controversy it engendered, and more than guys spouting uninformed opinions. There's a story here, about one of the rapping Ices--in this case, Cube--who owns a struggling South Side Chicago barbershop and makes a business decision he soon regrets, and a couple of mooks who steal an ATM devoid of money. And while the characterizations aren't always the most imaginative, and a little too much explicit telling instead of just implicitly showing, there's plenty of heart. Cedric the Entertainer is also such a font of slightly outrageous opining that the film chugs along to a satisfying conclusion. Not destined to be a comedy classic, but an endearing little movie that gently humanizes a part of society that's closer than we sometimes want to admit.

Far From Heaven Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    (Warning: this review is rated "C" for Cranky, due a exercise/caf (IMDB) (Netflix)
    It's 1957-1958, the International Geophysical Year, when life was simpler and more genteel, a seemingly idyllic time of family values that some wish we could return to. But probably not Julianne Moore's character, who's got an alcoholic husband (Dennis Quaid) trying to "cure" his latent homosexuality, a "colored" gardener (Dennis Haysbert) with whom she feels a special kinship, and scandalized friends who are no help whatsoever.

    This is a restrained, thoughtful melodrama that re-creates a period in America when the tension between personal desires and societal norms bubbled beneath the surface, waiting to explode a few years later in the 60's. It's the semi-modern American version of a Jane Austen novel, and tricky stuff that could easily have become clichéd in the realization. Fortunately, the writer-director and actors keep a lid on the material, creating just enough pressure to rattle the pot but not blow its contents all over the ceiling. The Moore and Haysbert characters are a little too saintly, but not so much that you can't feel for their plight, and Quaid's performance is brave without being ostentatious. A film for the thoughtful adult.

    feine/sugar hangover, combined with viewing the film from a front-row seat only 8 feet away from the screen)


    Harry's back with all his friends from the first movie, which did $965 million worth of business (#2 all-time), dodging danger and doping out mysteries that elude the Hogwart's braintrust, who seemed less concerned with their in loco parentis responsibilities than a drug-addled foster parent. There's a chamber of secrets that may or may not have been opened by this or that person, kids being petrified, and the school's in danger of closing, and so on.

    The audience seemed to like it just fine, although many of the youngsters (and some of the parents) had trouble with the 2:21 running time (why do they insist on doing this for kids' movies?). Due to the chemical imbalance, I had trouble concentrating and it all seemed a lot like the first movie, although the kid playing Harry has traded in his continuously wide-eyed "I'm amazed" expression for something approximating grim determination. The other kid characters have far more personality. There's a new digital elf, Dobby, who's not nearly in the same annoyance league as Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars I & II, Kenneth Branagh debuts as a self-promoting empty cape of a sorceror, and this will be Richard Harris's last movie, but beyond these elements and some improved digital effects, not much new. If you have kids, you're going, so suck it up, and make sure they've had their nap first. And you've had yours.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    (Warning: this review is rated "C" for Cranky, due a exercise/caffeine/sugar hangover, combined with viewing the film from a front-row seat only 8 feet away from the screen)

    Harry's back with all his friends from the first movie, which did $965 million worth of business (#2 all-time), dodging danger and doping out mysteries that elude the Hogwart's braintrust, who seemed less concerned with their in loco parentis responsibilities than a drug-addled foster parent. There's a chamber of secrets that may or may not have been opened by this or that person, kids being petrified, and the school's in danger of closing, and so on.

    The audience seemed to like it just fine, although many of the youngsters (and some of the parents) had trouble with the 2:21 running time (why do they insist on doing this for kids' movies?). Due to the chemical imbalance, I had trouble concentrating and it all seemed a lot like the first movie, although the kid playing Harry has traded in his continuously wide-eyed "I'm amazed" expression for something approximating grim determination. The other kid characters have far more personality. There's a new digital elf, Dobby, who's not nearly in the same annoyance league as Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars I & II, Kenneth Branagh debuts as a self-promoting empty cape of a sorceror, and this will be Richard Harris's last movie, but beyond these elements and some improved digital effects, not much new. If you have kids, you're going, so suck it up, and make sure they've had their nap first. And you've had yours.


Nosferatu Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    The 1922 German classic Dracula story, with the names changed (Dracula is "Count Orlock"), but this is the original from which all the other vampire movies have sprung. It played at the local art house, complete with a live organist to round out the experience.

    Eighty years is a long time to ask a film to stand on its own two feet, so Nosferatu has to be seen as a historical artifact--but an important one. It's a movie that not only defined its genre, it now highlights how far we've come technologically and in the language of film. What was a groundbreaking moment of horror then is often a giggle-inducing cliche now, and the young kids in the audience didn't seem to require counseling at the conclusion. Still, there are some compelling moments, and it's a movie that every horror/vampire film buff should see, so they can give props to whom they're due, director F.W. Murnau.

    For a well-done remake from the modern era, try Bram Stoker's Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola, and for an entertaining speculation that Max Shreck, the actor playing Orlock, was so good in Nosferatu because he actually was a vampire, see Shadow of a Vampire.

Roger Dodger Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    Roger Swanson (played by George C. Scott's son Campbell) is an ostentatiously articulate ad copy writer with a utilitarian view of relationships (as does the woman in his life) who suffers a blow to his self-esteem. Fortunately, his 16-year-old-nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) shows up looking for advice on meeting the ladies, and Roger can't resist the opportunity to mold Nick to his cynical world view, taking him on a one-night post-doc seduction seminar through the New York City singles scene.

    There was a recent indie film on the same topic that demonstrated the pitfalls of this sub-genre and never got out of the one town it opened in, but "Roger" shows that you can teach an old premise new tricks. Eisenberg manages to be simultaneously naive, desperate and charming, and Scott is misogynist, tour guide, performance coach and evolutionary psychologist all rolled into one very entertaining and forceful package. The women (Isabella Rossellini, Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley, among others) are neither victims or saints, and manage to pull off some tricky sequences with grace. I could have done without the dim lighting and poorly color-balanced photography, but these are minor flaws in a gem that cuts darkly comic glass.

    Those who liked "Igby Goes Down" should also enjoy "Roger."

The Truth About Charlie Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    A Jonathan Demme remake of the 1963 Grant/Hepburn (Cary/Audrey) vehicle Charade, with the two lead roles going to Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. Newton's cad of a husband, Charlie, gets done in, and Wahlberg runs into Newton suspiciously often all over a very rainy Paris while some bad guys (and a gal), an American government official (Tim Robbins) and an aggressive police detective (Christine Boisson) each manipulate her for their own ends. What's a widow to do, and who's she going to trust?

    Demme brings an energy and style to the film that I suspect the successful original didn't have, and the score/soundtrack nicely supports that sensibility, but Marky Mark's no Cary Grant (some vocal cord stretching might help bring his voice into adulthood) and the relationship between him and Newton generates less heat than the autumnal Parisien skies. On balance, watchable, but a good rental alternative would be The Thomas Crown Affair remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.

Treasure Planet Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, animated, plus an assertively dubious interpretation of the laws of physics that my 4th-grade niece and nephew instantly deconstructed. Jim the troubled teen finds a map to Treasure Planet, commissions a voyage aboard a galleon/spacecraft, and does some growing up while searching for the loot and fighting off a ne'er-do-well crew.

    There aren't many surprises, but some decent messages about loyalty, responsibility and selflessness. The voicing cast of Emma Thompson, Roscoe Lee Browne and Martin Short, among others, is sharp and the action well-paced. The kids responded well to the humor. Not the next Disney Classic by any stretch, but you could do worse.


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(2 Msgs in forum)    LastPost: Nov-21 2011 8:15 PM
Auto Focus Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    That a German World War II prison camp could be the setting for a highly successful TV sitcom (Hogan's Heroes) has stood out as an entertainment industry oddity, but but that strangeness is surpassed by the troubled private life of its star, Bob Crane (played by Greg Kinnear). He was a sex addict before there was a term for it, and enabled by hipster John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), makes a long trip down the behavioral rathole.

    Paul Schrader has made a career of writing or directing about people's dark sides, notably Taxi Driver, Hardcore, Cat People, American Gigolo and Affliction. Auto Focus extends that vein, and is a powerful comeback to the smirk that comes to some peoples' faces when they hear that someone suffers from sex addiction. From the cheesy 60s and 70s decor to the watery black-and-white videos Crane and "Carpie" make of their exploits, there's nothing glamorized about the lifestyle, and Dafoe is the poster child for "the wrong kind of people" you could meet along the way. If you go to see skin, you'll get it, but you're much more likely to be repelled than aroused.

Femme Fatale Click here to view ONLY this message
    (IMDB) (Netflix)
    After an impressive string of box office stiffs ( Bonfire of the Vanities, Mission to Mars, Snake Eyes), director Brian De Palma ( Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible) moved to France to lick his wounds, then write and shoot this stylish-but-absurd noir thriller. Supermodel Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is the bad-ass femme and Antonio Banderas the struggling photographer who crosses her path, and as with the recent The Truth About Charlie, there's a McGuffin (Alfred Hitchcock's term for the thing that everyone's chasing after), lots of guns and it's set in Paris, but the movies couldn't be more different.

    The upside of the writer and director living in the same head is that the writer's vision doesn't get mucked up during production, but there's also no one to question his thinking. The metric tonnage of coincidences and glossed-over plot holes would strain the suspension cables on the Golden Gate Bridge, so analytical types with high blood pressure are advised to steer clear (there's a twist toward the end that resolves some of the absurdities, but it'll be far too late for these people, or just tick them off further). Banderas has never overwhelmed with his performances, and Romijn-Stamos is still more supermodel than actor, but thankfully she hasn't picked up any annoying scruples about taking her clothes off (wait until the first award nomination, though).

    Those who appreciate filmmaking bravado and can check their left brains at the door, however, should give this a shot, because De Palma knows where to put and move a camera, build suspense and cut a film together in ways that few others can.

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(1 Msg in forum)    LastPost: Nov-28 2011 9:26 PM
The Good Girl Click here to view ONLY this message
{Bulletin Board Photo4} (IMDB) (Netflix)
Friends' Jennifer Aniston goes indie, with this morality tale of a bored, restless wife in a small Texas town. She gets caught up with a younger co-worker who insists on being called Holden (as in Caufield), and you know there's going to be trouble. Everything that could go wrong with this fling in fact does, creating an ever-stickier web that Aniston seems unable to untangle.

Fellow viewers liked the relaxed pacing, Aniston's performance and less-than-Hollywood ending, but I had trouble with some broad, unflattering portrayals of small-town Americans, some too-easy laughs and the I-see-where-this-is-headed storyline. Aniston does have some acting range beyond what's required in a sitcom, and Tim Blake Nelson's role of the husband's best friend displays edge and texture, but overall it's less than special.



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