Thursday, November 29, 2012


While, I'm still a ways off from reaching my goal of getting 100 participants in my "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME" poll, I'm a lot closer than ever before. From begging friends to submit one ballot every couple weeks, I'm now getting, about handful or two, every time I post an update. Also, now, I'm getting a lot of last-second ballots as well, as news has quickly spread that I'm counting the latest ballots. (News spread by myself, but I'm good at spreading news, relatively anyway.) Anyway, it's starting to feel like, my dream of finding a "Sight & Sound"-style poll to find out the Ten Greatest TV Shows of All-Time" is starting to take shape. There's been a few rough spots. Three people have tried to pick "Saturday Night Live, Original cast only" or "SNL in the '70s".I appreciate the attempt, but the whole show in that case, gets counted. However, somebody tried to vote for every version of "The Twilight Zone" as one vote. That, I couldn't allow because they were three different series, unless he knocked off a couple other shows, and voted for them separately. Well, I'll go over any other rules clarifications as needed. In the meantime, here are the latest ballots that have been entered into the poll, and I want to personally thank them for participating as well as "AD's TV Critic" and "AD's You're the Critic" where many of the participants posted their ballots. Oh, and special thanks to Greg Taglienti for submitted his ballot, thanks Dad!

1. Seinfeld
2. The Sopranos
3, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
4. Star Trek: The Next Generation
5. The Cosby Show
6. Deadwood
7. St. Elsewhere
8. All in the Family
9. The Twilight Zone ('59)
10. Game of Thrones

The Newsroom
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Angel ('99)
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The X-Files
Blossom ('90 Series)
True Blood
All That

Boston Legal
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Mission: Impossible ('88)
Star Trek: The Next Generation
House, M.D.
Modern Family
30 Rock ('06)

Happy Days ('74)
The Rockford Files
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (aka The Wonderful World of Disney)
Cheers ('82)
Davey and Goliath
Star Trek ('66)
Speer Racer ('67)
Barney Miller

Dallas ('78)
Two and a Half Men
Cheers ('82)
The World at War
L.A. Law
All in the Family
Saturday Night Live

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Law & Order
60 Minutes
The Tonight Shows with Johnny Carson
Saturday Night Live
The Carol Burnett Show ('67)

1. Columbo
2. Have Gun, Will Travel
3. The Jeffersons
4. Dallas ('78)
5. Perry Mason
6. Kojak ('73)
7. Mission: Impossible ('66)
8. Sanford and Son
9. Criminal Minds
10. All in the Family

1. All in the Family
2. M*A*S*H
3. Crime Story ('86 TV Movie---> '86 Series)
4. 12 O'Clock High
5. The Time Tunnel ('66)
6. Dragnet ('67)
7. The Twilight Zone ('59)
8. Monty Python's Flying Circus
9. The Untouchables ('59)
10. Nip/Tuck

Well, this is interesting. A few days ago, I was prepared to talk about how "Seinfeld," which had been in the lead, for last two updates, was extending it's lead over everybody. But, a lot of ballots came in late, and suddenly, not only did one show catch up to, it passed "Seinfeld," and now, "M*A*S*H", is the new leader, with 9 total votes, one vote more than "Seinfeld. Right now, the top of the poll, looks like it's taking shape. There's six TV shows, with at least five votes each, "Seinfeld", "M*A*S*H", "Cheers", "All in the Family", "The Sopranos" and "The X-Files". After that, it's a clusterfuck. 9 different shows, have four votes, and 1,2,3... 9,10,11,... 18 shows, that have 3 votes, and 155 different TV shows, including two versions of "Mission: Impossible", and yes, there are two versions of "Mission: Impossible". Oh, and here's new twists, more people are submitting unranked ballots than ever before. Some of you know that the average rankings determines tiebreakers, but nothing else, (For ties, I take the average show ranking, with shows on unranked ballots I count them as having a #10 ranking) so there's no need to rank, but it's led to a few oddities. "Game of Thrones" for instance, one of the TV shows with four votes, has a 10 average ranking. It keeps showing up on unranked polls. Odd.

Well, for those new to this Poll, and what we're doing, this is about the sixth or seventh blogpost where I'll be talking about it, but here it is, again. This all started shortly after "Sight & Sound" magazine came out with their once-a-decade poll to name the Ten Greatest Movies of All-Time, some of you may remember this was the first time fifty years that "Citizen Kane" was beat for #1 by "Vertigo". (A decision I have strong opinions on, but I've written them somewhere else on this blog.) Anyway, when that poll started, it was about 60, 70 or so years after the invention of moving pictures, which is about how long, depending on how you want to count that television has been around. So, I thought it was time to come up with a poll to determine the "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME". Now, I'm not the first try to do something like this. People Magazine tried something similar earlier, but they separated by genres and gave us a limited amount of pre-selected shows to choose from. I didn't like those things, and I didn't like how other lists had been compiled either, for other reasons. So, I constructed this poll, to be done, under the same qualification that "Sight & Sound" uses. Well, not quite. They have critics and directors to do to participate in their polls. Well, I wouldn't mind having other critics and TV filmmakers participating in my poll, as well, but for the sake of, not having to try and contact about, 500,000 or so people who work regularly in television, most of whom, would surely reject participating in a poll conducted by a blog that gets about 2,500 hits a month. So it's open to everybody, although no anonymous ballots though. I publish all ballots, with the names, just like "Sight & Sound" does.

So, anyway, that's the origins of this project. Eventually I set a goal of getting at least 100 participants, which I think is not only a reasonable and achievable goal, but a large enough sample to make the poll, somewhat legitimate.

So, if you haven't participated yet, first of why haven't ya, and second, here's the rules of the poll, which are based on "Sight & Sound"'s rules for their poll.

Rule #1: As long as it originally aired on television, it's eligible for the poll, regardless of genre. This means that literally, everything is eligible for the poll. Sitcoms, reality, dramas, variety, talk shows, soap operas, news magazines, documentaries, TV movies, miniseries, cable, animation, children's shows, etc. If you want to vote for "The Joy of Painting", you're allowed to. As long as it originated on TV, it's eligible. (Now, I've a few questions about this, so just to be clear here, some shows might have been based off of an idea, in another medium, for instance, "M*A*S*H" was originally a movie, but then became a TV show. You're not allowed to vote for the movie, because it was originally shown in movie theatres, but you're allowed to vote for the show "M*A*S*H". Now if you wanted to vote for "Our Gang," that might not be allowed. Most of them, originally aired in movie theatres as short films. Same with most "Three Stooges", and Looney Tunes. So, with some things, be careful.)

Rule #2: You must select 10, and only 10 shows. No voting for 9, and no voting for 11.

Okay, that's it. Everybody can submit their ballot, by posting it in the comment section of the blog, or on my Facebook, either through messaging, me, or commenting on one of the links to my blog on facebook. You could also tweet me if you want, but I don't recommend it, but the blog's twitter is @DavidBaruffi_EV, just put that on your tweets, with your ballots. Might take more than one tweet, unless none of your show have more than seven characters in them, which would be odd, but not impossible. Or find, some other way to get ahold of me. Alright, 28 people have voted so far, that means I need 72 more to meet my quota, or else, I'm just gonna keep writing periodic updates until I get there. (Evil laugh) So, take some time, come up with your Top Ten, and submit them to the poll. Relax, it'll be fun, and you can pick any 10 shows you want!

Oh, and as for the "Dallas" clip, above. I just needed to post a video, and thought that since the great Larry Hagman recently passed away, I'd post one of the most famous moments in TV history, in honor of him, and television. Thought it was appropriate. Unfortunately, it's a moment where he's almost getting killed that's the most famous moment of his career, which is somewhat inappropriate, but.... It was a toss-up between or another clip of "M*A*S*H", so I picked that one. (I realized later tt I wasn't allowed to embed the video here, but so you can watch it on, but not on the site. I hate when that happens.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I'm still mulling over the Independent Spirit Award nominations that were announced this morning, and for some bizarre reason, I can't find, for the life of me, a video of the press conference announcing the nominees. I always enjoyed watching that one, 'cause the actors never get any of the complicated names right, so it's usually funny. Anyway, looks like "Bernie," "Beasts of Southern Wild," and "Moonrise Kingdom," are in some kind of three-way race for many of the Awards. I'm reviewing "Bernie" here, and many of you know how much I've praised "Moonrise...", so that's good. What's more important is that, this is the real start of Award season. Time to search for all the movies that get nominations that I haven't seen yet, and try to watch them ASAP, my favorite part of the year. I'll be doing some Netflix shuffling, real soon.

Another entertainment news story I found interesting, other than the Kevin Clash, underage sex story, which not only doesn't seem to go away, it keeps getting worse, (There's a third kid now.) but the news that Disney Channel or ABC Family, one of them, I don't remember which, (They're both the same anyway) have chosen to make a sequel TV series to "Boy Meets World". Yes, that's the sound of all four people, who are incredibly excited, at the possibility of Cory and Topanga, and yes, Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel has signed on, being back on TV, however this time, they're the parents, or a nine-year old girl, who is now, meeting the world first-hand. Now, I'll make the confession here that I did indeed have that giant crush on Topanga for much of my puberty, but this is a questionable and strange idea, if I've ever heard one. However, if we're bringing back our kids' sitcoms from childhood, to see what the characters are up to now, I think I can speak for most everyone that, I'd like to see what "Clarissa Explains It All", is doing now, and if she can explain Melissa Joan Hart's career choices since that show, it'd be a load off my mind. Oh, and nobody, and I nobody, do a new "Family Matters"! I don't want to know at all, what Urkel is up to now.

Alright, enough memo work. I've got a lot of reviews this week, starting with a SPECIAL REVIEW of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," so let's get to the reviews!

LINCOLN (2012) Director: Steven Spielberg


There's a lot of things I envy about Steven Spielberg, but his ambition is not one of them. The daunting task of even attempting a film, any film on "Lincoln".... Spielberg has always been a far more ambitious filmmaker than most would like to admit, whether it's shooting a horror film, out on the water, or trying to portray the Holocaust as accurately as possible, (or WWII in general) everything Spielberg does is big and grand, and suddenly, with arguably his most daunting project yet, he makes a movie that's rather small and low-key most of the time. Spielberg is right to do so. There's no point in matching the grandeur of "Lincoln", the best you can do, is find the best actor you can to play him, and find just a piece of his story to focus on. He found the best actor for Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis), and he found his small story. The movie credits even note that it's only based on part, of Doris Kearns-Goodwin's "Team of Rivals". I tried reading that book, I can understand choosing to focus on only a part of it; I could only finish a bit of it. (Accordingly, he apparently only shot about 1/5, of Tony Kushner's 500+ page screenplay.) The time period he focuses on, is January 1965, they're winning the war against the Confederacy, and are about to take out Wilmington Port, which would cripple the South. It's a lame duck Congress in, right after Lincoln won reelection, and Lincoln takes this time, to rush through ratifying the 13th Amendment, despite too many Democrats and conservative Republicans in the House. His Secretary of Defense William Seward (David Straitharn), works on finding trying to convince some of the more unwilling members, by bringing in some lobbyists from the north, W.N. Bilbo (James Spader), meanwhile, unbeknownst to Steward, Lincoln, made arrangements for secret peace talks with the Confederacy through Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), at the same time, although Lincoln wisely starts putting off the meetings and delaying their arrival in creative ways that involve everything from arriving to the wrong place, and sending in Grant (Jared Harris) to instruct them to rewrite their terms of agreement. In the house, they have to convince longtime Abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) to begin running back his boisterous rhetoric, as he gets in some amazing debates on the House floor, the kind that would make C-Span, the highest rated cable channel if they actually fought like that now. The most interesting part of the film is seeing Lincoln, the politician, making backroom deals, and strategizing, even at one point, getting into that little meeting with Bilbo and Seward, and really start maneuvering. He even promises a Congressman that his close reelection bid, which was in recount, that should've led to his defeat, would swing to his victory, if he came onboard, by convincing his Governor to let the House decide the results of the election. We do get to see a full side of Lincoln. There's one great argument he has with Mary Todd (Sally Field) that would've fit right in with any modern domestic melodrama. The movie is a smorgasbord of the best actors alive, even in the smallest of roles it seems. There's a very brief cameo by S. Epatha Merkerson, that couldn't have lasted more than two minutes of screen time that I couldn't imagine anybody else playing. I also can't think of any actor who could've tackled Lincoln better than Daniel Day-Lewis, who's sure to get an Oscar nomination, as should Tommy Lee Jones. There's small but pivotal roles for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Bruce McGill, the names keep going on an on. Lincoln has some flaws. The movie ends with his death, which is, in some ways, inevitable, but it wasn't done great, nor was it necessary. There's a perfectly fine ending to the film with Lincoln walking down the hallway, into the history books. I wonder if Spielberg thought he was obligated to end the film with his death? Even still, it's hard to deny the film up until then. It's intimate and small, with only occasional sidetrips into the wreckage of the Civil War. If there's another small criticism, it's that the movie has a few too many awkward exchanges of exposition dialogue. Normally a drawback on a film, but, if there's one thing I learned about exposition dialogue, it's that you make sure they're delivered by the best actors alive.

BERNIE (2012) Director: Richard Linklater

3 1/2 STARS

Jack Black has a bit of an outside shot at getting an Oscar nomination for his work in "Bernie"; he got a Spirit Award nomination earlier today actually. I'm actually a little more torn on Richard Linklater's latest film however. This black comedy, which is based on an true story, surprised me with the way the movie was told, using a mockumentary approache similar to some of Woody Allen's work in "Take the Money and Run," and "Zelig", where the majority of the film is told through interviews of the townspeople as they discuss Bernie (Black), the local mortician's assistant, who moved to Carthage, Texas years ago from Louisiana, and absolutely delighted and charmed the town. He was an amazing mortician, who would do everything from dress the body to sing Loretta Lynn at the funeral to comforting the relatives. There's a funny scene explaining where Carthage, Texas is, and how Texas has about five different states inside it. (6 if you count the panhandles, which apparently doesn't) Nobody could be more helpful or thoughtful or helpful to people than Bernie. Everybody likes him, even Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), the town's local cranky rich old woman who everybody hates. Her kids never come to visit her. Her grandkids have sued her in the past to try to get ahlod of her money. Nobody particularly likes her, and for good reason, she's a mean old bitch, but Bernie tries smothering her with niceness. Soon, they're seen hanging out together a lot, even vacationing together often. Some in the town wondered whether or not he was romantically involved with her. Others swear that Bernie was gay. He does become very helpful running the high school theatre department, acting, directing and even writing some of the plays. He's extremely cultured for someone in the area, but he's also very nice. Soon, she starts working part-time from Mrs. Nugent, helping to run her life, where she begins to get quietly on Bernie's nerve. He's more than willing to help her out, on everything from talking to her pesky stockbroker Lloyd (Richard Robichaux), to accompanying her to trips to New York. Soon, she writes in her will that she bequeths her money to Bernie. He already has a habit of spending it, but even when he spends it, he usually gives much of it away. He even buys houses for people. He is a compulsive shopper who buys everything in stock of something he likes, and then gives them away. Suddenly, Bernie kills Mrs. Nugent, and the camera-hungry town D.A., Danny Buck (Matthew McConaughey), who's naturally suspicious of everyone and extremely tough on crime, is determined to convict, but frankly, nobody like Mrs. Nugent, and everybody in the town liked Bernie, and maybe their okay with him shooting her in the back and stuffing her in a freezer. Apparently, the case marked the first recorded incident in which the D.A. asked for a Change of Venue, because he didn't think he could try him fairly. "Bernie" is a good film, but I'm not entirely that the mockumentary format worked here. I think the movie tended to work best, when it just showed regular scenes of day-to-day life, like when Bernie first comes to town and comments on the mortuary's new green pews, or the musical numbers he directs, or even the subtle moments with Mrs. Nugent, and how he wins them over. I think it would've been funnier to actually see Bernie doing these things, then to hear others talk about him doing them. I still like the movie, and I'll say this, this might be the first time where we get to see, all of Jack Black's acting range in one movie. That is something I appreciated, 'cause I think we all like Jack Black, and he's great in a lot of movies, but we really haven't seen him in a really tricky part before, where he really had to completely create a character. You know, now that I think about it, you know what I'm really I'm complaining about with the film's structure is that, I didn't see enough of Jack Black's performance. I wanted a lot more of Bernie than "Bernie" gave me. I can't fault the film too much for that, but at least they gave me some, so I'm recommending it.

THE DICTATOR (2012) Director: Larry Charles


The genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's earlier films, "Borat..." and "Bruno," were that they weren't far more pointed in their satire, which has immensley helped by the documentary-style shooting that combined improv with more tightly scripted scenes. That's not to say that "The Dictator," isn't funny, I think it is actually, but it rather scales down a lot of it's satire. Who exactly are they making light of in this movie? Other outrageous dictators maybe? Our behaviors towards them? Dictatorships vs. Democracies, specifically the American democracy? That's what I thought about after watching "The Dictator," although, most of the time, I was laughing, even at times when I know I really shouldn't be. General Admiral Aladeen (Cohen) is the ruthless dictator of Wadiya. Raised by the previous dictator, after his mother died at childbirth, when she was smothered to death. He spends his days paying for sex with the most famous of women, and building nuclear weapons, and basking in the greatness of being a dictator, and occasionally sending a few pesky people to their death, including a lookalike who was a victim of a failed assassination attempt. His older brother, and Premiere of Wadiya, Tamir (Ben Kingsley, a nominee for the what-the-hell's-he-doing-in-this-film Award) is the one preparing the assassination, and all seems to go as planned, as he recruits Aladeen's newest lookalike, Efwadh, (Cohen, again) to pretend to be the General as declare the signing of the new Wadiya Constitution in a few days, after they get hire a torturer, Clayton (an uncredited John C. Reilly), who manages to shave off his beard and steal his clothes, but fails in killing him. Aladeen is now unrecognizable on the streets of New York, with no money and power. He manages to reluctantly find some work at an uberfeminist vegan store run by Zoey (Anna Faris). He finally wanders into Little Wadiya, where he finds his Nuclear Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) at a Wadiyan restaurant filled with everybody who he sentenced to death. Apparently, none of them were ever killed, and were just, sent to America. Nadal, was sent away after an argument over whether a missile should have a round tip or a pointy tip. Anyway, he promises to try to help Aladeen out, in exchange for getting his job back. He finds an opening as the vegan place is doing the catering for the hotel where the Wadiya delegation is staying, as Premiere Tamir begins working on a new Constitution to help sell their rich oil reserves to China. I don't think "The Dictator" is as biting as his other films, nor is the comedy as long-lasting, however, there's a lot of good humor. There's one funny speech about all the things that a dictatorship offers, which is really good satire, although it lasts too long. The movie's helped by having a lot of different kinds of comedy, the physical comedy was quite funny, including a couple jokes about Anna Faris's boyish appearance. (She's almost unrecognizable in this role actually) It's definitely worth recommending, but I kinda missed the unpredictability of the other two films Cohen and his director Larry Charles did. This movie is almost classical, a combination of the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup," and Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator". It's not as great compared to those films either, but you know, you have make some really funny movies for me to be disappointed at one that only, not-as-funny as the others.

TAKE THIS WALTZ (2012) Director: Sarah Polley

3 1/2 STARS

It seems a little strange to me that Sarah Polley's second directorial effort, "Take This Waltz," would somehow not get a proper American theatrical release. Not only does the movie star such great and big actors as Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman, but Polley, who is herself an underrated but more-than-well-established actress and name in her own right, had gotten an Oscar nomination for writing her previous film, the wonderful "Away From Her". I wonder if the worry was that, "Take This Waltz," doesn't exactly have a storyline that can easily be promoted or advertised. The movie begins with Margot (Williams) at one of those Colonial Williamsburg-type places, called Louisbourg, which is in Nova Scotia. (Polley is Canadian, and this film, mostly takes place in Toronti). She's there to write the planners for the place, which she does, after participates, unexpectedly in a flogging of one of the townsfolk. On the plain, she runs into a man she saw at Louisbourg, Daniel (Luke Kirby). On the plane, she asked for a wheelchair, because she has major panic attacks about traveling. It's clear that there's an instant connection between them, and that both of them, seem to think that they know the other from somewhere else before. They both learn later, that they live right across the street from each other. At her house, Margot's husband, Lou (Rogen) is busy cooking chicken every night for a cookbook he's working on. There's nothing wrong with Lou. He's sweet and charming, and Margot really is in love with him. However, she's quickly falling for Daniel. She doesn't want to cheat, but she starts meeting Daniel for numerous non-dates, where they discuss their obvious attraction. In a coffeeshop, she recommends one scenario where they'll meet thirty years from now, back in Louisbourg, where despite being unequivacably faithful, she'll kiss him, thinking that, after thirty years of faithfulness, she will indulge in one kiss. Soon, she finds herself snapping unexpectedly at her husband, and unamused by his jokes and his constant cooking of chicken. "Do you know how much courage it takes for me to seduce you?" she tells her husband, after a failed attempt. He's almost puzzled by her question, as he should be. During an anniversary dinner, Daniel, who Lou only sees as the neighbor at this point, gives a ricksaw ride, which he does to earn money when not working on his art, to the restaurant for an exquisite dinner. At the dinner, Margot wonders why they haven't talked for minutes. Lou thinks it's natural. They're married, they know each everything about the other, and they know what's happening in their lives. At least he thinks he does. Rogen has a wonderfully sad speech later in the film, involving a prank he pulls on Margot every morning, where she throws cold water on her while she's in the shower, that subtlely reveals just how much he loves her, and thinks about her. Yet, it's not enough for Margot to be admired and loved. She needs a passion that Lou seems to give her. There's an old saying that a woman marries a man, thinking she can change him, while a man marries a woman, thinking that she won't. Well, neither Margot or Lou married each other, thinking the other wouldn't change, they married each other hoping to evolve, but it still didn't work, at least not for Margot. Michelle Williams, I am convinced, is the best actress of my generation, and her willingness to take such challenging roles, only convinces me I'm right. This film is almost all inner conflict, and nobody is able to play a part like this, better or more convincing than Williams. Also, you'll notice, I've avoided mentioning a supporting role that Sarah Silverman plays, as Lou's sister Geraldine yet, and I want to focus on it a bit. She's a recovering alcoholic who for most of the movie, is sober. She's married, with a kid, but her character, comes in and out of the film, periodically. There's a party thrown for her to celebrate a year of sobriety even. Now, I don't want to give anything away, but there's a scene, late in the movie, where she falls off the wagon, and she's clearly drunk. Now Silverman, is one of the funniest women alive, a unique and revolutionary stand-up comic, and she's known for being outrageous, but a lot of people don't realize, she's a trained actress, first, by the way, she's also a comic, and she plays this character, in a very particular way, especially at the end, when she's drunk, that's really amazing. This is a different drunk character than we've seen in most other films, and it's a really tricky acting job and she is very good in these scenes. I think people who don't realize how good an actress she is, are really gonna be surprised by this performance of hers. Now her character is really there to be a parallel Margot's as she struggles with fidelity and she struggles with sobriety. It's subtle, but both performance really play off each other well. "Take This Waltz," is a true actors film. The story is simple, the plot's almost non-existant, the conflict isn't even a grand conflict, Margot's stuck between two fairly good guys, but really strong performances, elevate all the material, to make a really wonderful little film. This is one of those movies, where you can tell, there's an actor behind the camera, as well as actors in front.

THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (2012) Director: Rob Reiner


If you were ever wondering, just how far Rob Reiner has fallen as a filmmaker, well, let's start with the fact that I wasn't even aware he had made a new movie, nor had I heard of "The Magic of Belle Isle," until it entered my Netflix. I went to check Roger Ebert's website to see if he had written on the film, which is something I sometimes do anyway, but this time, instead of finding a movie review, I found he had posted, apparently a review by Chicago-are DVD reviewer, and occasional Huffington Post contributor Donald Liebenson. I don't normally do this, but I'm re-post everything Liebenson wrote on the film in the paragraph below.

Rob Reiner's "The Magic of Belle Isle", is an Easy Button of a film, as generic and conventional as its title. If you ever wondered what a Hallmark Channel original movie would be like if you threw some A-list talent at it -- namely Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen instead of, say Jeffrey Nording and Kristy Swanson -- here's your answer."

After seeing "The Magic of Belle Isle," that Mr. Liebenson, has seen the movie. There's nothing in this movie that's remotely offensive, and everything in the movie is relatively mundane. Saturated beyond reality, and existing in a world that's too perfect to be credible. Exactly how old does a daughter has to be, before she stops getting annoyed at her father's inability to come to her birthday party? Depends, I guess, on the amount of kids who's parents are divorced, over the age of, let's generously say 10, who've apparently never seen another movie before. On Belle Isle, which, I don't know where that is, but on this little island, an alcoholic old westerns writer, Monte Wildhorn (Freeman) is dogsitting for some friends of his son, Henry (Kenan Thompson), for the summer, who's hoping that he'll start writing again, instead of drinking himself to death in his wheelchair. Monte, has only one good hand, and since his wife passed away, he's had little interest in writing. Next door to him, is a beautiful single mother, Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann), Willow (Madeline Carroll) and Flora (Nicolette Pierini), who all start to get acquainted with the odd new neighbor. They help him with the dog, and then run into at a gathering for a funeral after one of the other residents died playing basketball. He's constantly asked about his books, by everyone, including his agent, Joe Viola, (Kevin Pollak, and I'm almost certain there's an actual agent named Joe Viola btw. How can there not be?) who's trying to convince Monte to sell the movie rights of his books, and there main character. He begins by helping out the daughters. He tries teaching one to tell her own stories for instance. "The Magic of Belle Isle," and this was an interesting fact to me I might add, marks the first time in a 50-year plus+ career where Morgan Freeman has a romantic relationship. Virginia Madsen apparently bragged about that, and now that she said that, it is something that's rather remarkable. I watched "The Magic of Belle Isle," and that's probably the most anybody will do regarding the film. It's amazing to me that the same guy who brought up "This is Spinal Tap," "When Harry Met Sally...", "Misery", "A Few Good Men," "The American President," to name a few, can make such a cliched and dull, and frankly boring movie, as "The Magic of Belle Isle", and saying that as someone, who relatively enjoyed the film. There's nothing even in the film, that's worth not liking, and maybe that was a problem. I can't imagine such a passionless film by Rob Reiner. Even his bad movies could stir us with hatred. (If you don't know that story, go read the aforementioned Roger Ebert's review of his film "North".) Now, Rob Reiner has become, bland and ordinary.

THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012) Director: Kirby Dick


I remember shortly after 9/11, me trying to run into my friend _____, so I could talk her out of joining the military. I knew she'd be stupid/crazy enough to join, as sure enough, by the time I got her, it was too late. She had signed up for the Marines. She's still in the Marines by the way, currently stationed in Japan. She's had multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, and there's no probably no person I'm more prouder of. When I first tried to stop her from joining the armed forces, it wasn't only because I didn't want her getting swept up in post-9/11 hysteria and go off and fight in a war, it was because I was afraid of what some of the other soldiers might do to her. I had heard horror stories, even then about how prevalent rape was in the military, and how poorly it was handled. There had been a few major rape scandals in the military, including the nighthook scandal involving the Navy, back in '91. The great Documentarian Kirby Dick, interviews one of the victims as well as numerous others for "The Invisible War," a powerful and disturbing documentary about just how poorly and inadequate the military is at fighting off the rape epidemic, and talks with some of the victims, and how their have been changed. One that really stuck with me was Kori Cioca, a member of the Coast Guard, who was the only woman stationed at her base. She was beaten and raped by one of her fellow coast guarders. Later, it turned out, he had displaced her cheekbones and broke her jaw. Even with that, she's a pretty young girl, a mother who's married to another former Coast Guard member, who soon quit after seeing the crap his wife went/goes through. Her rapist is still in the Coast Guard, and despite the fact that she was injured, she was denied V.A. insurance for her medical claims. That stern facial expression that's permanently emblazened on her face won't get out of my mind, as you can tell how much it hurts her to talk. She's hardly the only one, members of every branch, going back decades, are interviewed, rarely do their stories end well. Often, they end with them being court-marshalled and accused of some crime like filing a false report, or adultery of all things. (Usually adultery gets added on, when their assailant is married.) Rape kits, mysteriously disappear, and cases are often closed too early, too often. The military structure is clearly inadequate to deal with rape cases. They often have to file the complaint with their C.O., who often is friends with the assailant(s), or may be the assailant, and with the structure of the military, the higher in command, the more respected an officer's word is, and it's not like they have the detective skills to even properly investigate rape claims to begin with, even within NCIS. Some of the statistics are frightening. 20% of women in the military become victims of rape, 15% of the military have committed rape. A lot of them still live near their assailants. One of them mentioned that he assailant was recently promoted to Lt. Colonel. Male victims are even starting to come out. What little the military has done to prevent this, is comical at best. Companies seem to spend money on ludacris advertising, like "make sure you're walk with a buddy", PSAs, as though the only way to assure a woman doesn't get raped is that she's got a bodyguard. One court recently ruled that rape, was an "occupational hazard" in the military. Just another one of dozens of facts that are frankly outrageous at how the military's macho attitudes have dismissed rape. "The Invisible War," is startling, and should be mandatory viewing for any teenage who even thinks about joining the military, particularly girls. I have to say though, the movie has a hopeful ending card which says that 2 days after Leon Panetta say the movie, he made a direct order that all rape charges, will now not go through the military chain of command. It's a good first step into ending this travesty. Oh, one more thing, a lot of these victims had in common. A lot of them, have a second story about the traumatic effects of rape that goes something like, "I took a bunch of pills, and to my surprise, I woke up." Oh, P.S. as far as I know, my friend _____ has never had anything like this happen to her. I'm sure she doesn't think about it, but I consider her lucky, on top of every other adjective I can use to describe her.

THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS (2011) Director: Alexander O. Philippe


Well, clearly the timing of my review of "The People vs. George Lucas," is just coincidental, and somewhat eerie. I couple days before I finally viewed this film, it was announced that Lucas had sold "Lucasfilm," and herein, "Star Wars," to Disney, for $4.5 billion dollars, which I'm sure, none of these, Lucas superfans and superhaters will approve of. I've lost count of how many digitally redone photos of Darth Vader at Magic Mountain I've had posted on my Facebook at this point. However, this love-hate relationship Lucas has had with his fans, is strange. Now, before I continue any further, personally, I like "Star Wars," but I would not consider myself a fan. I haven't seen the last three prequel movies for instance. Probably should at some point, I actually have some still-in-their-case action figures from the three movies, somewhere in my garage, that are probably worth, (Shrugs) maybe $20 each to the right collector. (They were a gift, I think they were originally about $50 each.) Anyway, "Star Wars" fans really love "Star Wars", and love George Lucas, and they all seem to hate what he's done to his own franchise. The movie takes a look at the fans' complaints, and give the opposing view, approaching this like a court case. They make some interesting points about Lucas's hypocrisy at changing the original movies, in ways that do drastically alter the original films, while he himself testified before Congress against colorization of old films. They think, and possibly rightly so that he's become dismissive of the fans reactions, for instance, the use of Jar Jar Binks in the second run of "Star Wars" films. They're a little sympathetic to him. He is one of the few filmmakers who is totally okay with people creating and mocking his work, even making sure everything like sound effects are available to them. There's no more bigger fan fiction overuse than there is in "Star Wars". Everything from Lego recreations, (and let's not forget the famous shot-by-shot recreation of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," that teenagers in Mississippi took seven years to complete, Lucas and Spielberg created Indiana Jones) to highly sophistocated parodies and satire. He also pretty much invented movie franchising. At one point, Star Wars products were so popular and in demand, they couldn't make them fast enough, so they sold boxes with a I.O.U. notes instead of the toys. While I think some of their points are valid, I think I tend to not be so sympathetic to the fans. For one thing, there was nothing that said that they had to become fans of "Star Wars", and that the fans seem to be cultlike into their absolute devotion. Just because they're fans of Lucas's work, doesn't inherently mean that Lucas owes the fans anything. It's his vision, whatever that vision is. I think that the fans loyalist nature to "Star Wars", more or less could never be adequately made, and that they're outspokenness against Lucas, is more their rage that they devoted so much of their life to a movie franchise, that ultimately disappointed them. Maybe they'll appreciate the fact that Disney promising to make three new movies and having already signed Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt to the projects will satisfy them. Maybe not. This might be an interesting panel discussion at ComicCon, but I don't think it really adds up to a movie, so I can't really recommend "The People vs. George Lucas".and if this really was a court case like the title indicates, I'd say the evidence is about even, and I'd give the advantage to Lucas, the defendant. Sorry, "Star Wars" fans.
DILWALE DULHANIA LA JAYENGE (1995) Director: Aditya Chopra

3 1/2 STARS

I've been told that "Dilwale Dulhania La Jayenge," might just be the biggest of all Bollywood movies. It apparently broke numerous records, including the world recording for longest initial theatrical run, lasting over 11 years. I've seen a few films from India, I especially am partial to the films of Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair (Although Nair works overseas about as often as she does in India) I haven't seen too many Bollywood films. The structure of Bollywood is curious, especially from afar; they seem to make movies the way Hollywood did back in the Studio System era. When a couple are popular onscreen, they make lots of movies together, and there's a lot of music and musicals. In fact, at that time, movies were made, with the intention of appealing to everybody, so movies would tend to have a little bit of everything in them. Musical numbers, love stories, comedy, romance, That kind of movie-making, outside of Bollywood, isn't too popular now, we tend to appreciate a more independent voice, and vision. Plus, it really only works when everything is up to the same level as everything else, and that can be difficult. Like watching a later Marx Brothers movie, where you have to sit through some teenage romance interludes, while we're waiting for the Marx brothers to come back on. (Well, normally now I just fast-forward, but you get the idea). Another thing I've noticed is that, the few Bollywood movies I've seen, are really, really long. Like, they have an intermission, long, and that's not just limited to Bollywood either. The must also be inspired by the classic Hollywood epic. Well, some of those are my initial thoughts after finishing "Dilwale Dulhania La Jayenge," I'm having a little trouble translating from Hindi, but I think it means, "A Generous Man will Bring a Bride"?, or something along those lines, begins in London, where Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) and Simran (Kajol) have a meet-cute during a Eurorail trip through Europe Simran is taking, that turns into the two, going on a catastrophe-filled comic journey through Europe. Eventually, they end up falling in love by the end of the journey, however, back in India, Simran's father, Chaudhry (Amrish Puri) has already arranged Simran's marriage back in India. Raj, decides to press on, and try to win her over and crash the festivities, and they restart their affair in secret, however a previous meeting with her father, at the convenient store he owns in London, could make his attempts to marry Simran, even tougher. Marriage is really important in India by the way. Nearly every Indian film I've seen deals with it, and not just the marriage, the wedding in particular. There's a lot of songs in the movie, got to be at least a dozen, maybe two. On the DVD, they had a section where you could just skip to the songs, I wish I took more advantage of it. Some of them were better than others, but all of them were well-shot, sometimes they felt like more traditional movie dance numbers, othertimes, some of them resembled the editing style of a music video though. I liked the first half of the movie, with the two youngsters falling in love while stumbling over Europe, and not-so-much the second half, which almost seemed like a second movie entirely. Still, a lot of good music, enough of it was good on it's own, and for importance, I guess it's a mandatory viewing. Still need to study up on Bollywood a bit more, but, it's fair to say that "Dilwale..." is a good introduction to Bollywood.

GODS AND MONSTERS (2012) Director: Bill Condon

3 1/2 STARS

Bill Condon won an Oscar for the screenplay to "Gods and Monsters," so far, the only one he's ever won, and now, he's known for being on something of a losing streak since then with "Kinsey", his best film, and "Dreamgirls," both underperforming at the Awards, and Condon. He also lost for writing "Chicago," too. "Gods and Monsters," is a touching tale about the last years of Director James Whale (Oscar-nominated Ian McKellan), who was most know for directing the "Frankenstein" movies, although he made others as well, like "Showboat," but didn't make a movie for the last fifteen years of his life, after his last one bombed. He was one of the few people in Hollywood who was openly gay. He was born in England, very poor, from a broken family, and fought in World War I, from which he still has nightmares. Occasionally, he takes an interview with some young film scholar/fan, who he mostly likes to amuse by making him strip in exchange for answers. His longtime maid, Hanna (Oscar-nominated Lynn Redgrave) seems to be the only person that looks over him much of the day. They hire a temporary gardener one day that catches Jimmy's eye. His name is Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser) and he's tall, muscular and attractive. He's straight, in he has a girlfriend, Betty (Lolita Davidovich), but soon, they start connection as Jimmy convinces Clayton to start posing for sketches and paintings for him. Whale pained and drew for much of his life. He's attracted to him. Clayton is curious about him. He's no longer the capable man he once was, and now he just spews off occasional ramblings of George Cukor's (Martin Ferrero) pool parties, He ends up invited to one last one late in the film, which he can't understand why, but he takes Clayton along, who seems as fascinated at Hollywood lifestyles as anything else. "Gods and Monsters", is a good film, but I often found myself detached from it. There are powerful scenes, especially near the end, after Whale has suffered from many strokes that can't seem to be able to stop his mind from racing from one thought to another. There's a minor parallel that seem to insinuate that he's trying one last ditch effort to create a lover for him, using Clayton as his Frankenstein monster. He did also direct, "Bride of Frankenstein," which a lot of scholars consider the best of the films. (The title is from a famous line from that movie) I enjoyed "Gods and Monsters," but it didn't really stick with me, the way I thought it would, especially considering the great praise and awards it originally got. That's disappointing, but their are strong performances, and the Jimmy/Clayton back-and-forth friendship is rather intriguing. I guess as a Gay Icon, in Hollywood, James Whale probably should be more well-known and appreciated, but other than that, I'm not quite sure, why this movie had to be made. I'm glad it was, and I'll recommend, but I wonder if I could've gone about my day without seeing it, would it have bothered me.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006) Director: J.J. Abrams


I mentioned a little bit about "Fan fiction," in my earlier review of "The People vs. George Lucas," well, there's something similar among pro wrestling called "fantasy booking". (Guys, just hang with me on this, I'm getting to my point, but it's got a couple weird detours so, just stay with me, you're gonna like where I'm going, I promise.) This is when, fans take a scenario in pro wrestling, preferably one that wasn't really done that well, the 2001 WCW Invasion comes to mind pretty quickly, and they would rewrite the wrestling angles, with the same wrestlers and talent, available, and try to come up with better matches and payoffs, then what actually happened. Now, I think the "Mission: Impossible" movies, are actually a filmmaking equivalent to this, let's call it "Fantasy Filmmaking". You see, let's bring in a talented director/filmmaker, and give them a scenario, and see how they would make that movie. Then, they give the same scenario, to another director, see how they would make that movie, under the same exact conditions. It's a little bit like the Auteur theory, but that's more of a philosophical idea, you don't really ever get to see this play out. So, here are the conditions, #1: It has to be "Mission: Impossible", based off of the original TV series, now you can be as faithful or not, to the original show as you want, but it has in some way, recognizable as "Mission: Impossible". That's condition #1. Condition #2: You have to use Tom Cruise, as IMF member Ethan Hunt. That part's non-negotiable. You're stuck with him, and his salary, but he's a good actor, he's box office, and he's a good hero. There's a probably a couple other conditions, X amount in the budget, maybe have a fake face that comes off, I don't know all of them, but this is essentially the scenario. Okay, now first we asked, Brian De Palma, and he did one of filmmaking exercises, where a lot of things we're confusing, kinda close to the series, but he was mostly on his own, running from IMF, I think. It was entertaining, but it was kinda jumbled. The second person, to tackle this was John Woo, and really deconstructed it. Through in a lot of action, a very simple plot, change the Ethan Hunt character into a free-spirited action-loving loner, and a lot more action and special effects, didn't resemble "Mission: Impossible" that much, but it was "Mission: Impossible". Okay, "Mission: Impossible III", the third attempt. This time, J.J. Abrams, creator of "Lost," "Fringe", and a few other shows that sucked. You produed "Armageddon," you're next up on this fantasy filmmaking scenario. What is your version of "Mission: Impossible"

(Pretend I'm J.J. Abrams for most of the rest of this review.)
Okay, here was one of the big problems with the first two films, is that, they started in the middle of action. First one, they're in the middle of a sting or whatever they call it, the second one also,- basically their wasn't any character development in the first two. That was a real problem, because you couldn't care about any of the characters really. Tom Cruise basically just played Tom Cruise the movie star, and that's not that interesting. So, it's been a few years since the last film, we might bring some stuff in from them, but what we need to do first, is establish a realistic normal world, for Ethan Hunt, and that way, we can't start caring, when the really unrealistic crazy explosion things happen. So, in this version, Ethan is newly married.


Yes, not to the chick in the second film. That 2nd film Ethan Hunt, doesn't exist anymore. He's been dating, being normalized, modernized, whatever-you-want-to-call-it,-

Who's gonna play the wife?
Good, question. You don't need a big movie star for that role, but you need a good actress, good-looking, but one who can play, anywhere from 20-45, and do anything we need her to do. Cause it'll seem like a thankless role in the beginning, but we'll tie her into it. I was gonna say Jennifer Garner, and she'd do it, too, but let's get Michelle Monaghan. Now that normal life, is gonna be interupted, and he's gonna reluctantly, go on another mission. That's another change, it's a little reluctant, but he's really good, and it's an emergency, they need him. And, we're bring back, Ving Rhames and Billy Crudup, from the 2nd film. It's interesting, 'cause he's on, on-hand, trying to walk away from IMF, but he's started essentially, getting comfortable with his crew. So, on one, hand, he got Rhames, and he's got Crudup-


Yeah, maybe another guy or girl has joined his crew, but they're really, starting to form a real group, but it's at the same time, that Ethan's wondering whether to keep going with IMF at all. Anyway, they're gonna go on an emergency mission, to save another agent let's say, from the bad guy, don't know who yet they're saving a yet, probably a girl, but it's gonna fail. And we're get inside IMF headquarters this time, and there's gonna be a boss, who may or may not, be a double agent, or he might be a red herring. Somebody really, known by the audience, who's presence seems established as trustworthy, so it could be a real shock, when "Oh, fuck, he might've screwed him over,"-type reaction. Okay, my first thought was Morgan Freeman, but I can't waste extra money here, for a superstar actor, 'cause I'm gonna use it somewhere else.


This actor will be, I think we can get him too, will be Laurence Fishburne.


That'll work. I haven't decided yet, if he's actually a double agent or just a red herring, but we do need a recognizable person there, who the audience would instinctively trust.

Is there going to be, a lot of action and special effects in this one? Where is that money going?
We are, but not as much as before. Definitely, not as much as "...II", because here's the other thing, the series has been missing, it needs a villain. A good villain. Yeah, the first had Jon Voight, but that was more about the style and look, and not the acting or the story, but what we really need, is somebody who can go head-to-head with Cruise. Be as powerful as him, be as conniving, really get under his skin. Literally and figuratively, 'cause I do like the masks, and the masks-ripping, that'll be in there somewhere, but a really vicious villain, for him to go against, and this is where I'm spending my money. Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Ooh! That's good.

Whatever it takes, we're getting Philip Seymour Hoffman, the best actor of this generation, against the biggest movie star of this generation. Now, it's not just a complicated, breaking-and-entering, it's not just a good scheme, or something, it's having to do all that, and beat, this guy, this vile, evil, mastermind, who really could just might knock out Ethan Hunt. Obviously, he won't but you gotta make it believable, and Phil Hoffman, is believable. I don't have all the details yet. Hoffman will probably kidnap Ethan's wife at some point, there will be some globetrotting, and other stuff like that, but we haven't gotten it all, figured out, but you put all these pieces in place, and you should be able, to get a really good movie, that really is "Mission: Impossible", and a lot better than the other movies

(Okay, I'm back to me now)
Well, now I've caught up, and I can't wait to get to Brad Bird's fantasy filmmaking experiment of fantasy filmmaking "Mission: Impossible", later, but so far, I like J.J. Abrams's version, the best so far, and by a mile. Next time, I want Ron Howard to do this. I'm told it's Christopher McQuarrie instead, that might be interesting to, but still, let's get Howard to this, I bet he'd be good with it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I haven't written a lot of "Good on TV?" blogs lately, but in one of my FB groups, AD's TV Critic, I got into a discussion over "America's Next Top Model". Well, not so much a discussion, but well-, okay, maybe I could've simply kept my big mouth shut, but since I have an entertainment blog that updated multiple times weekly, there's little chance of that happening, but anyway, somebody posted a rather innocuous comment about the show have it's season finale that night (Which, I didn't know), and wanted to know who we thought might win or want to win. Well, I decided to ignore that question completely, but I did have something to say about the show, so I decided to play a little devil's advocate, and propose a theory, that "America's Next Top Model," isn't simply bad, which it is; I'm not sure that's really debatable, but it's bad, but I proposed that the show is in fact, irrelevant. I'm gonna copy my original reply to the post below, so you can see exactly what I said:

"I’m sorry, does anybody really care? I mean, let’s forget that it’s a stupid show, when’s the last time a model has been remotely relevant? Does anybody know? There was a time when it was. I can recall when Kim Alexis was the biggest model in the world, and Crawford before her, than Kathy Ireland, then, Tyra, Heidi Klum, Kate Moss, a couple others, but that was last Century! I can’t name one model in the last decade that’s been remotely culturally important? Can anybody? Not a model who became an actress or something, somebody famous, just for being a model, can anybody name one? I’ll let you throw in Playboy models, name one important model, from the last decade? You know where to find an accurate portrayal of models, “Project Runway”. They all line up on the runway, in the same black slip, all looking a little alike, a few minor difference, which give some of the designers an occasional challenge, but they’re basically canvas. Small canvass, small painting, slightly smaller canvas, slightly smaller painting, or outfit. That’s all they are now, and that’s all they should be. Why anybody would do or watch “ANTM”, in this day and age is beyond me. There’s nothing more irrelevant than a model."

I'd start by bragging a bit, and say that while there were numerous responses to my post, not one person, gave me a single name of a model that was culturally important. Just wanted to say that. (If someone can name a model who fits that description, in the last century, let me know, I'm more than willing to be proved wrong.)

Anyway, this led to a rather elaborate exchange between me and the person who wrote the original post, who I might add, called me a douchebag on multiple occasions, but basically, we were discussing was whether or not a TV show that can be on, for so many seasons, actually be completely irrelevant, in a sociological context of television. At least, that's what I was trying to question. It didn't exactly translate that well to any of the others participating, 'cause this got sidetracked into a strange, wider question on, "Is anything on television relevant?" which, I strongly disagree with. In fact, from my perspective, if it's on television, not only is it relevant, culturally, sociologically, and every other ology you can think of, but that all artistic endeavors are sacred. So, I dismissed any argument that something on television is irrelevant; in fact, I consider the opposite is true, whether it's "60 Minutes", or Triumph the Insult-Comic Dog, everything on TV is clearly relevant.

By that simple description however, "America's Next Top Model," is obviously relevant. However, I'm gonna challenge my own declaration here. If something's on TV, but nobody watches it, does it actually exist? Well, normally the answer would be no, because if nobody watches a show, it gets cancelled, so then it wouldn't be on TV, and that's clearly the major sign that a show isn't relevant. At least that's how it used to be.

I'll start with my claim that being a "Top Model" whatever-that-is, isn't a culturally relevant dream anymore. Well, if that's true, and I believe it is, should that alone mean that "AMNT" irrelevant? No, however, let's consider something it, in comparison to similar reality shows. The singing competition shows for instance, "The Voice," and "American Idol," being the main ones. Whatever one thinks, music is certainly still relevant, and that can't be argued. So is dancing, so "So You Think You Can Dance?" is certainly relevant. It apart of pop culture, who's headlining on the Las Vegas Strip still, I can vouch for that personally, so "America's Got Talent," is pop-culturally important, still. "Project Runway," I can name a bunch of fashion designers, all of whom are current and pop-culturally relevant. Just watch the Oscar pre-shows to find out how major they really are. It's important knowing who the best chefs in the country are. That's new, actually, that didn't use to be the case, but it certainly matters now. I'm sure there's a few other reality-competition shows I'm forgetting, but compared to the best and major reality-competition shows, it's certainly doesn't appear that who the top model in America is, lacks cultural importance.

However, every year, they manage to find about a dozen or so young girls, who are willing to enter the competition in hopes of becoming "America's Next Top Model". So, obviously there must be many girls out there, (and probably men too, btw) who dream of becoming a major supermodel, or at least, be some kind of model. Okay, there's nothing with that. I have some friends who have done some modeling over the years. There's a lot of avenues to get into modeling by the way, and a larger need for models, probably than ever before, especially since the internet exploded. That's one of the reasons why there isn't a prevalent culturally important supermodel anymore, 'cause models are everywhere. When there was only a few magazines and maybe, commercials, billboards, and posters, but now, you can find model jobs for everything. Just on reality shows alone, there's dozens of temporary model jobs, everywhere. Need a pretty girl for a photo, trust me, you can find one. Hell, I can recommend a couple with experience. For a lot of these shows, they are a major and viable outlet to find new young talented artists, of all kinds. Chefs, singers, dancers, fashion designers, etc. Not the only one, but certainly, the credibility they have does give credence to their job, and their cultural relevance. There isn't a major standard anymore for which to determine the top supermodel anymore, because there's more outlets to find models, that it's too commonplace. Not to mention, how models have been devalued over-the-years after widespread reporting of such things as bulimia and anorexia, plus the declining portrayal of models in general in pop culture. I think "Project Runway"'s portrayal of models, has drastically lessened their importance, specifically because they really show the actual work that goes into modeling, and it's drastically deglamourized it. I expressed that before in the FB post I said earlier, but notice how since that show, also parallels, the decline in models' relevance in pop culture.

So, what about "AMNT". It's searching for a pop cultural icon, in an area that isn't pop culturally relevant, but they've managed to search over 19 times, determined to find one. Well, maybe it's a ratings hit. It is, but it isn't. It started on the now-defunct UPN network, and crossed over to CW, when the networks merged with WB. According to, it's been the top rated show on CW, for five seasons, and has consistently been near the top of the channel's ratings. That said, the ratings outside of the channel, are lousy, never ranking higher in the Neilsen's than #106th, and never recording more than six million average viewers. So it's the highest-rated show on a channel, with no ever moderately well-rated shows. Granted, the market is highly-saturated, more television shows than before, ratings are more skewered than ever. A show doesn't have to have particularly high ratings in order to remain on the air anymore. Especially with reality shows, which are incredibly cheap to produce, "AMNT", has had 19 cycles, in nine or ten seasons, so they can run two series a year practically, so it's really cheap to produce, and it makes money, despite the ratings, so it remains on the air. I don't blame CW for doing that, they need to make money, and if that's one of their only cash cows, they might as well make the money from it.

So, we have a show that remains on the air, despite traditional indicators that is shouldn't, on top of it, being a show that searches for a top in a profession, that isn't culturally relevant, which, I guess there's an argument that a reality show shouldn't have to be culturally relevant professions. Personally, after dealing with a crappy garbage disposal over the last week, I'd be interested in a show to find America's Best Plumber right about now (Patent pending), but the show, while having good intentions, is simply outdated. Tyra Banks, was literally, the last time I can recall a model be relevant in pop culture, just for being a model. (I know, she was in "Coyote Ugly," and a couple other minor acting roles, but until she had this show, and then the talk show, which was years later, I think about her being on multiple SI covers, which, once upon a time, actually were important.)

I don't know if this meets my claim that "AMNT" isn't relevant. There are certainly arguments in favor of it, (and if some are willing to make that argument, I'd be glad to post the dissenting opinion, right here) and if I call one show irrelevant, breaking with my own thesis that claims that, by a show being on TV, it's relevant to pop culture, can other shows also have absolutely no relevance? At any case, I think I can certainly claim that "AMNT", isn't as relevant as other TV shows. Even within it's genre, it's not as relevant as the other main shows. Still though, at least I'm talking and writing about it, so it's at least relevant enough to do that.

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Director/Screenplay: John Hughes

At first glance, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” doesn’t have the making for a classic, much less a holiday classic. It stars two of the great comic actors of all-time at its center, and has a plot that’s practically built for comedy, and it’s filled with dozens of funny laugh-out-loud moments, stretching many forms of comedy. Yet, if you ask people to describe the movie, many times, the first word they’ll use is, "sad." The movie isn’t sad, even the ending, by a simple description, isn’t sad, and yet, even as I think about it, I cry. I cry, every time I view. Actually, it’s been awhile since I’ve sat down and watched “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” all the way through. The movie is so familiar to me that I now only watch it in between commercials of other shows or between shows, for about fifteen minutes to half-hour at a time. I recall my first viewing of the movie rather well, and, not to reiterate a point, but I cried, thinking consciously at the time, that it was only my natural reaction to being young and watching this screwball comedy for the first time, thinking that I’m not going to be fooled by it a second time. Needless to say, I was wrong. The movie appears to be is a simple story of a wealthy businessman and a traveling salesman, both trying to get home for Thanksgiving. It’s sly how John Hughes does it, (“The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Ferris Bueller’s…”) It’s absolutely masterful, as we start to empathize with these characters as they go from one outlandishly funny catastrophe to another in their struggle to get home and Neal’s struggle (Steve Martin) to get away from Del (John Candy), both goals which seem to be becoming utter impossibilities. From a car that gets on fire to a plane being rerouted to Wichita cause of bad weather, to… well, I shouldn’t be describing the events of the film. One of the movie’s famous scenes, includes a situation where both men seem to have mistaken each other for pillows while sleeping in a hotel room. Both men immediately respond by getting up from the bed and in manly terms discuss the last Bears game. This scene echoes one of the film’s themes that there’s an uncomfortableness in people letting strangers get too close to each other. Neal, a successful businessman uses his credit cards and passport as a means of getting around in the world while Del knows the tricks of the trade of living day-to-day and town-to-town. He sells shower curtain rings door-to-door, one of those movie jobs that probably doesn’t really exists and no one has ever seen or heard of elsewhere, although the shower curtain rings lead to really memorable site gag as a way of earning money when they’re in a jam. The movie’s R rating, which was ridiculous then, and remains so now, is due to a famous rant monologue Steve Martin gives to a car rental agent (Hughes favorite, Edie McClurg) which involves the word “fuck” used as every part of the sentence. The performance by Martin, and especially by John Candy make the movie though. Del’s unending desire to please other people is what eventually gets him in trouble, and this wasn’t his first time. Although Neal envisions Del as the devil, a careful viewer notices that he in inexorably nice and hopeful even in the most hopeless of situations. So hopeful that he gets on Neal’s last nerves again and again, but eventually, the film’s true theme of empathy reveals itself in simple scenes where Neal lets Del sleep in the hotel and not in the disintegrating car, and other similar scenes. Only when Neal’s single-minded obsession of getting home is no longer problematic does he realize how human Del is, and how his manic politeness covers up hidden pains. I now realize why the film makes us emotional, for it is Del’s desire to help out others and sorrow, so as not to deal with his own pains in private. The movie seemed to grow in significance, after John Candy’s sudden passing in ’94. He goes so far out of his way to be nice, it’s just a natural response for him. Something about that kind of person, makes it all the more sad knowing that he’s no longer with us. “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, shows that true affection and happiness are outward appearances, including those that are genuine, are still a shield to protect inner turmoil. A comedy that’s funny-as-hell, yet remembered as one of the great tearjerkers. There’s a very short list of films that meet that description.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


As I write this blogpost, it's a few hours before the next episode of "The Voice," airs on the west coast, when I'll be watching it, maybe. For the first time, since the show went on the air, I'm seriously considering not watching it at all, and possibly stop watching it altogether after last week's episode. I have been, possibly the single-biggest supporter of "The Voice," since it debuted, and have proclaimed it as far-and-away superior to all other network singing competitions, and I've even explained how and why it is superior in great detail on this blog, particularly on one of my "Good on TV?" posts, where I compared the main three, "The Voice," "American Idol," and "The X-Factor," and explained detail-by-detail, how the minor differences between the shows, that some can easily dismiss as minor, or insignificant, make all the difference between from a show being average to a show being great, and yes, up until now "The Voice," was great. I know people don't like to hear that about reality shows, but "The Voice," until last week, was a great show.

Oh, here's the link to the original post I'm referring to by the way:

And just re-reading my old post, I realized I wrote of all three shows, "I wouldn't call any of these show, 'great'". How ironic and contradictory I have become. That was written after the show's first season, it's currently in it's third, and it's already announced production on a fourth, starting in January. (Yes, there's two runs of the show this year.) I have been the one pushing "The Voice," since the beginning, and now, I'm seriously considering backing off completely. What-the-hell happened that has made me so viciously turn on this show, supposedly when the show is at it's peak of popularity? Last weeks episode, involved drastic and possibly unforgiveable changes to the show's format, the main one being that with 12 contestants still remaining, the show has chosen from here on in, that the show will be determine solely by an audience call-in vote. This was the best reason to watch "The Voice," how it wasn't determine by a call-in vote, and now, well, let's call it what it is, they've chosen to become "American Idol," an it sucks. I'm not a fan of the call-in vote, for any show really, and for the most part, we "The Voice," didn't use them, until they absolutely needed them, and even then, it wasn't used as the sole factor in determining who stays or goes, until it absolutely had to.

Yes, there's still 4 teams,- actually no their isn't anymore, really. They're gonna pretend that there's some kind of competition going on, because the judges did pick and work with the favorites that they chose, and they do care about whether their contestant(s) stays or goes, but there are no teams anymore. Two of the teams, have 3 members, while the others only have 2, after last week, and the two people who got the least amount of votes overall were eliminated. I hope I'm not the only one who gets that now, that it's doesn't matter who's on what teams now, it's simply a competition between twelve people, and America gets all the vote, and again, why? I have Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee-Lo Green, and Adam Levine, not only judging, they're teaching and working with these amazingly talented competitors, why should I even care, who the American Voting Public thinks is the best? Could I have four more qualified people telling me who's good and who's not, why should I trust a bunch of people who are probably not as experienced or knowledgeable about music as these four, and who probably aren't determining winners based on talent anyway? That was the problem with "American Idol," and all the other shows, and the reason I love "The Voice," was specifically because that was completely taken out of the equation, so why are they putting it back in, especially since, "American Idol," is at the weakest ratings it's ever had. Last year, it fell from number 1 in the ratings to number 2, which doesn't sound horrible, but considering that it was number 1 for the last eight years, (No other show has ever spent more than five years at number one, much less, eight in a row.) so obviously the people, are getting a little annoyed at this weekly audience vote that the show is now insisting on. (And I'm personally disgusted by, but that's not a recent development)

Well, maybe that's not true. Last week, more people voted on the results of "The Voice," than ever, even more than they did, for last year's finale episode. Needless to say, I didn't vote. Normally, I do. I vote online, usually for the maximum amount for the contestant(s) I want to win, and the reason I voted is because, I knew that my opinion was going to count, the exact amount that my opinion should matter. It mattered as a fan of music, and as a member of the general public, but not nearly as much as the people that have about 20 or so Grammys between them. I know my place in the world, and that, my opinion should matter only as much as I have one, and can express it, but also, that I'm not the person people should trust to make determinations on artists, no matter how right or wrong I may be. Still, why they've chosen to alienate their fanbase, which watched "The Voice," because it was, essentially the Anti-"Idol," by making the show more like "Idol," is at minimum, questionable, and at most tragic. NBC, in the future, for your next season, I want "The Voice," to be "The Voice," next time, keep it that way.

Note: After I finished writing this blog, I ended up watching this week's episode, and sure enough, I loved it, because, well, the talent level is too so superior to all the shows, and nearly everybody gave an amazing or at least, memorable performance. I'm haven't come around to letting the audience vote mean this much, so early in the show, and I probably never will, but at least, even with this complaint, "The Voice," is still miles better than all its competition. I have chosen not to vote in protest for the rest of the season however, and NBC, I still demand that this be a one-season anomaly.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Well, I gotta say a couple words about the Kevin Clash controversy that's suddenly come up. Clash of course, is the puppeteer behind Elmo, who was earlier this week accuse of being a sexual relationship with a boy, who claimed he was underage at the time. This was startling, in light of last years documentary on Clash, "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey", which I reviewed on this site recently.

Clash admitted to the affair, and to being gay, which is somewhat striking considering that Clash was married to a woman,  although he has been divorced since '03, and has a kid, . (Although if I'm being completely honest, I did suspect that he might be gay after watching the movie, but I don't particularly trust my gaydar, so I never brought it up in my review. [Besides that, I don't reveal stuff like that anyway]) Later the man retracted his statement about him being underage at the start of the affair, (He's 23 now)  however earlier today, TMZ reported that a settlement between the parties involved a retraction that apparently the victim has denied in private, despite his public retraction. I don't know quite what to make of that but, it does put the movie in a different light now. I still recommend it for what it is, but now there's the question of, what exactly is it now, a profile of a caring puppeteer, or a profile of a puppeteer, who may technically be a pedophile?

Oh, before I forget, I didn't write a review last week for the film "How to Die in Oregon," because it originally aired on HBO, and not in theatres after it's Sundance premiere. It's a powerful documentary about assisted-suicide, following the lives, or end of lives of many people in Oregon who suffer from terminal illnesses and have chosen to end there lives through physician-assisted suicide, which was first legal in Oregon. I highly recommend the film, granted, it's cerrtainly not the most entertaining of films, or the most enjoyable of subjects, but it's definitely worth watching.

Okay, that's all from me, on to this week's Random Weekly Movie Reviews!

A CAT IN PARIS (2011) Directors: Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol


At only 64 minutes in length, and that's including five minutes of credits at the end, "A Cat in Paris," has to be one of the shortest feature-length films to recieve an Oscar nomination. Definitely the shortest in the coveted Animated Feature category. The title cat is Dino, and he lives a double life. During the day, he live with Zoe, a little girl who's mother Jeanne, is a cop, who's determine to capture a notorious heartless gangster named Victor Costa, who killed Zoe's fatherearlier. Costa is currently preparing for an elaborate heist involving, involving a famous statue, and Jeanne and the entire police force is after him. Zoe's cat has become her only solace since her father's death. She's also become quiet, and rarely speaking, especially to the new housemaid Claudette, who wears a nauseting perfume. At night, Dino escapes through a window, walks along a dividing wall, and joins Nico, who's a local jewel thief. Dino works with Nico to pull off a few crimes. Even one time giving Dino a little jewel fish bracelet. Quickly all these elements will soon come together, especially in the last half-hour of the movie, which is basically elaborate chase and cat-and-mouse game between the gangsters, who've taken Zoe, the jewel thief, and Jeanne, the police chief, and in one amazing sequence, there's even a wonderful scene that takes place, in the dark, which is very unusual for an animated film, it's one of those scenes, where the lights have all gone out and a character is using the distraction to save another character, and the way they did they, it's not the difficult animated trick in the world, but it's really cool, and it does give this movie, which is basically a typical, kids crime film pretty much, but it did give it a nice twist here. "A Cat in Paris," isn't much, but what little it is, it's quite enjoyable. I think it's basically a long short film, as oppose to a feature, but it was fun. The animation, is handdrawn, and quite stylized and unique. Has some cool uses of Paris in it, so it's definitely a recommend. It's a little under-ambitious, but if that's all you need to make a good movie, than it shouldn't be any longer then, should it?

PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011) Directors: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

4 1/2 STARS

I've long heard about the West Memphis 3 in passing over the years, but I honestly never actually saw the two previous documentaries about their supposed crimes, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills," that originally aired on HBO, or the sequel "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations". 17 years after the murders, 11 years after the second film, and 15 after the first, we get "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," the first of the series to earn an Acadamy Award nomination for Best Documentary, is hopefully the final tale told of the West Memphis 3. Again, I'll reiterate that I haven't seen the first two documentaries, so I'm a little behind the eightball here; I did make attempts to try to watch them before I got around to this film, it just didn't work out that way unfortunately, but they do give us a couple good recaps on the stories so far. In 1994, three eight-year-old boys, were found brutally tied-up, naked and murdered, near a small creek in West Memphis, Arkansas. There were no apparent suspects at the time, but after a month, three teenagers, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley and Damien Echols were arrested for the crime. The reasons themselves for the arrest are strange and murky. A lot of it involved a confession by Jesse Misskelley, which was taken after 12 hours of interrogation, and even then, included numerous discrepancies originally, and blatent leading by the police. (Misskelley also has mild retardation, another reason to discredit the tale) A lot of the evidence focused primarily on the supposed satanic worship of the three men, in particular Damien Echols, who dressed in goth clothing, listened to heavy metal music, and often drew demonic symbols in his notebooks. I found it fascinating to learn that his jailhouse wedding with Lisa, a former architect, who moved to Little Rock to fight for their release, was a Buddhist ceremony. The neighborhood was deathly convinced of their guilt. One of the kids' stepfathers, John Mark Byers, even burned a mock effigy at the site of his son's death for them. When "Paradise Lose 2..." was released, he actually was becoming a major suspect, considering his behavior in that documentary, and some of the facts of the case, including him possessing a knife that he handed to the filmmakers, with the statement, "That could've killed my son". Even Echols at one time, accused him. Now, Byers has long-been cleared, and now, he's become their biggest advocate for the West Memphis 3's innocence, believe it or not. DNA evidence nearly completely left all doubt behind. Now a new suspect has emerged, in Terry Hobbs, another one of the kid's stepparents, who wasn't investigated originally. A small sample of his hair, has now been identified on one of the kids, not enough to be sure or be convincing, but more than enough for reasonable doubt. He divorced his wife, shortly after the murders, and he has a long history of violence, including domestic abuse, and gunfire. His alibi witnesses have never confirmed any of his statements, that he spent the entire day of the murders looking for his son. Then, in a bizarre twist to this case, Hobbs filed a defamation lawsuit, against Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks, after she said publicly said how she was convinced he was guilty of the murders. (Many celebrities and groups have worked to free the trio since the beginning of the story, Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, being two of the first to jump aboard) This sounds funny, but what it ended up doing, was giving a rare and possibly one-time opportunity to have Hobbs give a deposition, of his account of the crime, and all of his criminal past. I couldn't claim that the evidence would convict Hobbs at trial, although I'm completely convinced he's guilty, as is a lot of people, including Byers, who made a posterboard comparing the evidences against the WM3, and Hobbs. Right before the movie was scheduled to be released, an Arkansas Supreme Court overtuned the judge's ruling on the trial (The same Judge, David Barnett, had until now presided over every aspect of the case, and had all his rulings upheld, despite some clear biasness on his part in the case.), and a new judge finally came in, as an evidentiary hearing was planned for the new DNA evidence, as well as jury tampering claims, among other evidence. A deal had been reached, where the West Memphis 3, were released, after pleading Guilty Alford pleas, where they proclaim their innocence, but must concede guilty verdicts anyway. Leave it to a case that began on satanic rumors and Salem-like atmospheres, to end in a way, that strange. Justice wasn't exactly done, but the West Memphis 3, after 17 years, are finally released. "Paradise Lost 3..." is going to make me look harder to search out the previous films. It belongs on this long list of documentaries, that started with Errol Morris's "The Thin Blue Line," that reveal how investigate journalistic efforts can not only make incredible movies, but also reverse such grave injustices of the law, at least as much as they can. In the meantime, those three little boys, must be in an eternal purgatory, as their killer still walks free. At least the three boys, falsely convicted of their deaths, have finally left their purgatory.

POLISSE (2012) Director: Maiwenn

3 1/2 STARS

"Polisse" seems a little bit like those occasional rare, anomaly episodes of "Law & Order," where instead of one case, we get to see about five or six in a particular episode, and see the day-to-day goings on of the police station, except here, it's the Paris CPU, Child Protection Unit, where instead of random murders, or even just run-of-the-mill robberies, they're dealing with a long line of child molesters, usually family members, who so casually discuss their behavior as though it was in some way justified and understandable, and numerous underage girls with webcams and photos posted everywhere, and 14-year-old prostitutes, ones who are being forced into it, and others who hook because they can. There's raids occasionally, and set-ups, as well as some powerful scenes where it's amazing that people can actually do such a job, and do it so continuously, without losing faith in all of humanity. There's a light moment near the end of the film, where all the police come in as a young girl explains that she was giving blowjobs to a bunch of kids, because they had stolen her phone, and finally, all the cops begin laughing uncontrollably. The girl replies, "It was a smartphone", like it's justification, and they laugh again. "Polisse" (Which is simply a child's incorrect spelling of Police) is best when it plays like this never-ending episodic series of events, all dealing with some of the nightmare kids scenarios we've all heard and known about. It's a little disenchanting that so much of this takes place in Paris. A couple of the police are married, and occasionally we get a look into their private lives. You know, the more I think about the movie, the less-impressed I am with it. It's quite powerful as you're watching it, but much of this is stuff we've seen numerous times before. The smallest of twists to the story involves Melissa (the director, Maiwenn) who plays a photographer for the Ministy of Interior, who is documenting their work. At a certain point, she ends up having an affair with one of the cops. There's also several scenes showing the comraderie of the cops. They have affairs themselves, and go on, several cases. One follows a cop named Iris (Marina Fois) who watches as a teenager who has a miscarriage. After, the take the baby, who's so small, they put her in a plastic ziplock, to test her DNA to find out the guy who raped the girl. Another scene, involves a sting operation at the shopping mall, where kids are being transferred, that ends in a shootout. These scenes continue happening one after another, however there isn't anything more than that. "Polisse", won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, it didn't get a theatrical release until earlier this year, but it does come off as a strangely monotomous and empty choice. It's the fourth film directed by Maiwenn, who was supposedly the inspiration for the Natalie Portman character in Luc Besson's film "Leon (aka The Professional)". That alone is an intriguing. Also peculiar is that she had a child with Besson, when she was only 16, something that makes the subject matter for the film particularly curious. There's a note that all the incidents portrayed in the movie are from actual cases they deal with, on a regular basis. Unfortunately, if they didn't tell me that, I would've guessed it. As for a movie, "Police," is a well-made, well-executed portrait of a police house, and unfortunately, despite everything, that's all it really is. I have to recommend the movie, because of it's skillfulness however, but after watching it, you'll come out entertained, but wondering why we've become numb to such atrocious people and behaviors. Bad enough that the cops have, why have we?

THE GREY (2012) Director: Joe Carnahan


I don't quite know how to describe the emotions I had while watching "The Grey," because, well, I didn't have any real emotions watching "The Grey". I barely remember watching it at all. It was at the local library, which for reasons no sane person can understand, the city of Henderson, Nevada voted not to fund last week, because they didn't want to raise a tax to do that, which, is dumb on so many levels, and I'd rather talk about how dumb that was than I would talk about "The Grey". It's kinda like if "Alive" meets, wolves, and they all got killed by them. (Oops, sorry, I meant to write "SPOILER ALERT" but I forgot.) Liam Neeson plays Ottway, who's the only character that seems to somehow know how to survive in the thundering cold Alaskan wilderness where the plane went down, because, he's being played by Liam Neeson. These are a bunch of oilworkers why fly up to work most every morning, and this time their plane crashes, but even worse, there's a bunch of wolves, who have apparently made it their life's mission to play "Ten Little Indians" with the survivors. I don't know what these oilmen did to these wolves beforehand to make them so bloodthirsty now, from most of what I've heard about wolves, it isn't in their nature to be so aggressive, but it is fucking cold out there, and everybody else seems to be going a little bit crazy, so why not the wolves? Some try to survive, others don't, and no one cares, either way. There's a beginning sequence at the oilrig the day before that insinuates that Ottway might have been a little suicidal the day before, but what that has to do with anything, other than possibly the ending, but, other than that- (Ah, dammit, I did it again "SPOILER ALERT", sorry.) This movie was a void to me. Some movies, I watch, I can soak them in, even bad movies, I can sit through and experience, and have real effects on me, and this movie had almost no effect on me at all. Instead of watching "The Grey," I could've gone about my day, and not noticed anything different. Oh, there was one character who was cocky and stupid, and talked a lot of wanting to survive, but was against every survival technique that Ottway was trying, I remember that. I think I remember that. It's a fairly good assumption that there was a character like that, there always is in these kind of movies. The director was Joe Carnahan, who made a really strong feature film a decade ago called "Narc," but since then has made one forgettable Hollywood action crime/thriller blockbuster after another, and this film is no different. I don't know why I'm giving it 2 STARS, now that I'm thinking about, maybe I happen to watch this empty vacuum of a movie, while I was in a good mood that day. It's also competently made, I guess.

NEWLYWEDS (2012) Director: Edward Burns


Edward Burns's "Newlyweds," is a little like Woody Allen meets the Duplass Brothers. Burns shot the movie on a $9,000 budget, and apparently shot it in a hurry so as to make it's debut at last year's Tribeca Film Festival. Believe it or not, it's actually the 11th film he's directed, although outside of a few notable triumphs, like his wonderful debut film "The Brothers McMullen", they've been fairly mediocre romantic comedies. "Newlyweds," is one of his better films, and probably more interesting because of what he was doing with the budget restrictions. Using the popular 1st person narration, similar to sitcoms like "The Office," and "Modern Family," where a character is almost always photographed, and aware of it, while occasionally being interviewed, the movie begins with one of those dinner that couples go to, where they talk about their relationships with each other, knowing that these couples relationships are soon heading towards disaster. The "Newlyweds" are Buzzy and Katie (Burns and Caitlin Fitzgerald). It's their second marriage for each of them, and they're claim for a successful marriage is that their work schedules are such that they actually rarely see each other, so, ironically, they never get sick of each other. Marsha and Max (Marsha Deitlein and Max Baker) are the older couple, who've been married for 18 years. Max is a music producer who's trained by Buzzy. (Buzzy's a personal trainer), and Marsha is Katie's annoying older sister. They got married because Marsha was pregnant, and now that their kid has gone off to college, their isn't much reason for them to be together. Meanwhile, Max's flighty younger sister Linda (Kerry Bishe) has arrived very unexpectedly, and has practically invited herself over to stay with Buzzy and Katie. She's a California girl, who's trip was so sudden, and her focus so single-minded, she showed up to New York in the winter, without a coat, (or much clothes at all for that matter) and finds nothing particularly wrong, with going out on her first night in town, and coming home to have sex with a random guy, on the kitchen table. Her brother's kitchen table. That's the beginning with her, although her real purpose for coming is to run into Miles (Johnny Solo), who she broke up with almost a year ago, but now wants him back, after finding out that not only has he moved on, he's getting married soon. He still is in love, to some extent with Linda, but he's definitely become conscious that her erratic behavior is more of a warning flag than a personality quirk. Meanwhile, she quickly begins to get on both Buzzy and Katie's nerves. Starting with her, losing Katie's coat that she "borrowed," and it gets on from there, but Buzzy is reluctant to completely put out Katie, because he's much older than her, and kinda wants to know his sister better, and on top of that, at her age, he was a bit of a wildman. Meanwhile, Marsha and Max's marriage, dissolves, suddenly, although not unexpectedly, over another one of the couples' dinners, and now Marsha, is also insisting on moving in with Buzzy and Katie, just as their marriage, is starting to hit a road block, over Linda's appearance. You know, on other days, I might just dismiss "Newlyweds," as just another unsuccessful Edward Burns movie, but I think I appreciate the movie enough, especially considering the budget, and the way it was shot. Yeah, it could be more refined, and possibly the story could've been a little more thoughtout, this movie looks, feels and was in fact, really rushed to be made, but maybe all of this helped out a lot, and I think it's one of his strongest films. Sure, it basically a throwback to Woody Allen films, ("Husbands & Wives," could be the complete unedited script for this film) but it's a totally different aesthetic for Burns, and frankly, I was impressed and enjoyed the change. I also want to note Kerry Bishe's performance, really critical to the film, and she's quite good; she was the star of the last season of "Scrubs," that "Med School," season, of which, I am literally the only person who not only watched that season, but loved that season, and I think more people should know about her, not only from that, but in general, so I'm a little bias, but I'm glad she got a fairly cool role, that shows some range from her and she hits quite a few good notes here.

THE FLOWERS OF WAR (2011) Director: Zhang Yimou
2 1/2 STARS
Legendary Chinese Director Zhang Yimou chose "The Flowers of War," to be his first movie that's at least, half-spoken in English, and an elaborate well-made film about the Rape of Nanking, back in '37-'38. It's got good acting, amazing special effects, way he's able to recreate the scenes of violence and destruction left after Japan came in, is quite startling. They came in and murdered over 30,000 civilians, including most of the women, who they systematically raped, before killing. So why can't I recommend it? There are a few reasons, one is that, it actually doesn't need to be in English, but really, it just gives us such a gigantic and broad-stroked perspective, that frankly, it had very little effect. It's one of those almost David Lean-esque sprawling war epics, but it's certainly not in the "Lawrence of Arabia," model, it's unfortunately closer to the overrated "Doctor Zhivago", a bunch of random sound and noise, without a real connecting thread. In fact, to a certain extent, this movie, might have been told, if you actually took out the entire war, and it might have actually worked a little better. That's a strange thing to say, but listen for a second, the movie follows John Miller (Christian Bale) a rogue American, who seemed to find himself drunk and passed out at the wrong place at the wrong. He ends up in a church, in the middle of Japan's attack, and wakes up to find himself dress as a priest, which he then disguises himself as, so he can go from place-to-place without causing to much attention. That it of itself, is actually kinda interesting. It also ends up, being a good from during this whole thing, to hide a school of young girls, as well as a brothel, full of prostitutes. How these two ended up together, I couldn't begin to explain, but somehow, with Japan pillaging everything, they're now, for all intensive purposes, trapped inside the church, and now, the visiting drunk, has to save them by being a priest. I swear to God, there's a Marx Brothers movie, somewhere in this concept. I'm making the movie sound like a comedy, but it's quite a serious epic, with some graphic violence. Miller is help by a squirmy little guy named George (Huang Tianyuan), who also seems so innocuous that the Japanese find him relatively harmless. This story, in case you're wondering is entirely fictional by the way, which gives credence to my theory that this story might well have taken place, almost anywhere. WWII would've been interesting. I'm not even sure, you need a war, just hiding prostitutes and little girls in a church, alone would be a tough undertaking, anywhere. Basically, as well-made as the film is, I just couldn't take it seriously. Also, there is no real reason for Bale's character to be an American. Usually in movies like this, which are usually made in America, a lone white protagonist is used to infiltrate the world, so as to make it easier for us as an audience, to have someone we can look up to. Some cases, really good films can be made from this formula, like "Glory" or "Dances With Wolves", but there something odd a Chinese director doing it, in a Chinese film, especially. I wonder if this was just an exercise for Zhang, to see if he could actually make an American-style film if he wanted to. I think he can, but not this one. Admittedly, it's kind of an interesting mess, but it's still a mess. I expect more from Zhang Yimou.
ORANGES AND SUNSHINE (2011) Director: Jim Loach
4 1/2 STARS
I've spent the last five or ten minutes trying to start this review. "Oranges and Sunshine," is not an easy film to talk about. The main purpose of filmmaking, first and foremost, is to entertain. I was entertained by "Oranges and Sunshine". The second goal, if possible, is to teach. I already long knew that to some extent, it's been tradition in England to send their undesireables to Australia. There's an old joke about how British TV stars, go to Australia when they aren't successful in Britain, so even today, this practice is still occurring, albeit more symbolically than ever before, and that's a good thing. For decades, a secret deal was reached between the countries, for England to send their orphans to Australia. Except, they weren't always orphans, and they weren't always given up for adoption by their parents, who they all were told were dead, before being suddenly rushed onto a boat, and sent to live in some church-run boot camp. After seeing "The Magdalene Sisters," recently I already know about some of the abuses of the Catholic church done in that part of the world, but this whole thing, which by the way, the practice only ended within the last forty years or so. Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) was the first person to begin such a practice. She was a social worker who dealt mainly with people who were adoptive, and looking for their original families, and suddenly, many people were telling the same story about being sent away to Australia on a boat, often at ages as young as 5. The title "Oranges and Sunshine," refers to what was promised to at least one of the kids, Jack (Hugo Weaving), when he suddenly found himself on the boat to Australia, being informed that his parents had died, which they hadn't. A sister he was separated from at the time, later found him. There were dozens of others, in Australia, with the same story, and many had nightmare stories of working as slave labor for a church, who swore that they had owed them money for them taking care of them all those years. As she continually pursues the endeavor, she naturally gets more persistance resistance from people, mostly the governments, organizations and especially the Catholic Church, for the claims that some of the children, now mostly grown men are making. She even begins getting legitimate death threats, and breakins to her room, at the foundation she finds, to help reunite the children with their families. This is where the movie begins to run into the typical cliches of the one solemn voice of reason, fighting back against the big, giant, wrong governtments, and organization, who simply want this part of their despicable past to be forgotten, and swept under the rug, under claims like "You have to understand, at the time...". There's no real way to get around that, and frankly, it probably did happen like that. In 2008, both Australia, and Great Britain formally apologized to everyone for the forced migration of children. The movie starts by the way, in 1986. It's hard to judge on an entertainment level, but on the same token, as something that I'm happy to have seen, and "Oranges and Sunshine," is quite powerful. I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen, and one story and atrocity came after another. Emily Watson, one of our most underrated actresses gives a wonderful performance, here. I guess the older you get, the less things can shock you, but this one, this did shock that such a thing could, and did happen, and happened, this recently. Maybe it shouldn't have, but it did, and even if I did know going in, I'd still highly recommend "Oranges and Sunshine".
KINYARWANDA (2011) Director: Alrick Brown


We known about the Rwandan genocide in '94, right? We sorta do.We've heard about it, we've even seen some good movies revolve around. I thought Don Cheadle should've won an Oscar for his work in "Hotel Rwanda," the famous film documenting the genocide, but even that film looks at it through a magnifying glass, giving us one story out of many. I came out of "Kinyarwanda," the first film reportedly made in Rwanda, and starring Rwandans, believing that many more movies should be made, and many more books should be written on the subject. You can't learn anything about the Holocause, by simply watching "Schindler's List," and nothing else, and the same should go for the Rwandan genocide. Jamaican Director Alrick Brown, tells multiple tales about Rwanda, taking place before, during, and after the travesty. All of them, are to some degree powerful, some more than others, but the cumulative effect, is to get as wide-reaching a view of the genocide as possible, which they accomplished magnificiently. The movie begins, in a re-education camp, where former Tutsi soldiers, are now, years later, being asked to discuss the crimes they committed, and to relearn how to get together with the Hutu. Many of them, when asked how many Hutu's they killed, have lost count. Others tell gripping stories of their actions. I think the best comparison to this scene would be to think of it, as having members of a suicide cult, being retaught the ways of the modern world. Other scenes include a Priest, Father Pierre (Mazimpaka Kennedy) and the Mufti of Rwanda, the head of the nation's Muslims (Mutsari Jean) trying to help each out other, by hiding a group of refugees, while struggling with their own faiths in both the lord, and his people. Until now, I never thought much about the religious aspects of the battle, all I ever knew was that there were the Hutus, and the Tutsis. Actually, there's some question of whether or not their are two groups of people. While there have always been two tribes, it wasn't until Belgain Colonial Ethnic Scientists came around, did they start believing that their were minor differences between them, naming one the Tutsi, ruling class, and Hutu, servant class. The title, "Kinyarwanda," is the language that both tribes share. They also speak a lot of English in the film, and in reality. Another story follows Ugandan peacekeeping group, led by Lt. Rose (Cassandra Freeman), a Rwandan who left for Uganda years ago, to escape the bloodshed, and now, she's returned to begin orchestrated the peace. Other tales range from sweet, like the story of the two young lovers from different tribes, to disasterous and violent. One story, even has a brief piece of animation, as a young kid dreams of being a big futbol star. "Kinyarwanda" is about a country that's confronting it's past, and coming together to try to overcome it together, and this film, as well as hopefully many others, are the first steps in that process. If was only eighteen years ago this happened, and the country is still trying to piece itself together.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011) Director: Julia Leigh


"Sleeping Beauty" is one of the most peculiar profiles of a prostitute I've ever seen, and that's saying something. The prostitute is Lucy, (Emily Browning) and she works at a few different places actually. At an office, she's a temp who gets unwanted calls from her mother, and lays flat on the floor while she's making copies. At a restaurant, she stomps the chairs onto the table after dining hours are done. At a laboratory, she participate in strange experiments, including one that involves a large tube being swallowed down her throat for an inordinate amount of time. At the apartment she rents, she berated by the boyfriend of her sister/landlord because she never pays any rent. At a nightclub, she finds a classmate, (She takes a college course on, something involving that game they played in 'A Beautiful Mind,' with the black and white things,- I don't know what it's called.) and they do some coke in the bathroom. When they come out, a guy mentions how they're talking about who's gonna fuck her, and she suggest flipping a coin. This game gets going for a little while, and sure enough, she's serious about the sex. She occasionally spends time with Thomas (Eden Falk) who's some kind of drug-addict who knows he's about ready to OD any day now. She then answers a strange ad from Clara (Rachael Blake) a quiet madam who's business, I wouldn't say brothel, but business, take place at some out-of-the-way large mansions that has it's own private drivers, and probably holds maybe strange nights and parties that seem similar to the ones in "Eyes Wide Shut". (The second party in that movie, not the first). At first, she works as a waitress at a lavish party, where all the waitress dress in their, what I'm gently calling, underwear; she's the only one who wears white. Then, she becomes a sleeping beauty, which is such a strange form of prostitution that I'm actually doubting that it actually exists. I'd look up it's actual existance myself, if I wasn't at a public library right now, but Lucy takes a drink that makes her remain unconscious for hours, and during that sleep, the johns come in and do,- well, I don't want to say anything, they aren't allowed to penetrate her. Based on the plot, I thought the movie was French, it's actually an American film. It's the first film by written and directed by novelist Julia Leigh. It's a strange profile of a girl, and Emily Browning is certainly a brave actress for this part. According to imdb, she's 24, although she looks suspiciously young in this part, like a teenage Julie Delpy. especially with the flowing reddish brown hair. "Sleeping Beauty" is a certainly a unique and intrigued first film. It's ends suddenly, without any explanation, and the character is set-up too well as a mysterious character, who's passive and selfish in nature, that when she actually does take action, it comes off as strange. Still, quite an unusual film, especially for an American film.

LIKE DANDELION DUST (2010) Director: Jon Gunn

2 1/2 STARS

Somehow, I have a feeling that a reasonable person can adequately guess the way "Like Dandelion Dust," is going to end, maybe even figure out almost all of the plot points that I would leave out of the descriptions that I would make. "Like Dandelion Dust," begins with Rip Porter (Barry Pepper) getting arrested for hitting his wife Wendy (Mira Sorvino). She's got a wrapped hand in this scene. We flash forward seven years later, when Rip is released from prison. Sober and clean, he seems rehabilitated. It's then that Wendy informs Rip that she was pregnant when he wen to jail, and that she gave up her child for adoption. Rip's signature was forged however, and now that he's out, they have a loophole to get their son back, who's been adopted by a well-to-do family, the Campbells, Jack and Molly (Cole Hauser and Kate Levering). Joey (Maxwell Perry Cotton) doesn't know that he's adopted, and overall, his life's been fairly blessed, and is confused by why he suddenly has to travel to Ohio for a week, to stay with these people who he's never known. The transition is supposed to be over three visits. Meanwhile, Jack and Molly begin considering a plan to get Joey back. First, they trying buying off Rip, but after that doesn't work, they begin hatching a last chacne plan to head off to Haiti on a church trip their friends Bill and Beth (Kirk B.R. Woller and Abby Brammell), especially after one of the visits, doesn't go as well as it should. "Like Dandelion Dust", is a fairly ordinary story, that tries to stretch it's inevitability as much as possible through mood, but can only go so long, before you're just waiting for the movie to end. It's sad, 'cause there was a good story here, but somehow, the movie doesn't hold up. It's a well-acted film, although most of these actors can basically play these roles in their sleep, especially Pepper and Sorvino, adequately shot independent film, that's a little bit Lifetime movie of the week. There's nothing particularly special about it, nor is there anything bad about it. Well, other than the title, what-the-hell is "like dandelion dust," and what-the-hell does that even mean?

AMERICAN ME (1992) Director: Edward James Olmos

Some of you know that I will eventually watch any movie that someone asks me too, and I'll write a review for it. About four or five years ago, I was riding on a bus, with a Mexican guy. He was tall, and walked with a limp, and some crutches. He told stories of being shot in the past, and being in jail. The current injury he was dealing with, I believe was from a car accident. At some point, we started talking about movies, and he told me to watch a film I had never heard of called "American Me". I looked the film up, and have tried multiple times to get ahold of it over the years. I borrowed a copy from the library once, but the copy was so scratched up, it was unwatchable. I placed it on my Netflix, somewhere, but it finally came up, and I must say that, I'm glad I've finally gotten around to it. A rare directorial effore by the great Edward James Olmos, the movie begins in the forties, where the parents of Montoya Santana (Olmos as an old man, Panchito Gomez, young) are assaulted during the Zoot Suit Riots in East L.A. Montoya will spend the majority of his life in prison, where he become the local kingpin in the yard. Able to transfer drugs and anything else inside. Life in prison isn't glamourous, but it is successful. There's a note at the beginning of the film, that the movie depicts things that actually occur on a daily basis. I believe the things he was referring to is some of the graphic albeit ingenius ways in which prisoners are able to get outside items suchs as drugs and cigarettes, and how they manage to trade them with the guards not noticing.(Actually Santana runs a major drug operation on the outside, from inside) Outside of jail, once he gets there, he tries to make a play on some of the gang's larger territories, in and outside of prison walls. He also begins falling in love for the first time, with Yolanda (Dyana Ortelli). As he grows older, and stops being the hotheaded youth who killed while in Juvi, he starts to grow weary of the crimelife. The movie is told through his narration, and from prison, where he has once again ended up, shortly after starting a war with the Italians, and Don Antonio (Tony Giorgio), which has drastic unintended consequences, like a batch of pure heroin getting sold in East L.A., which ends up killing dozens one night, all Mexicans, which turned it into a race war, as opposed to a drug war, and before they can reset the war to those standards, the Blacks get into it. It's hard to see what could've happened to Montoya, had things been different. Late in the movie, after his mother Esperanza (Vira Montes) had died, his father tells him about that riot which unfortunately correlated with around the same time his wife got pregnant, and how he was terrified that not only wasn't he his father, but that it was one of the sailors who rape her that night. It seems that only as we soon approach death, as we begin to understand our life. "American Me," is quite a powerful film. I preferred the sequences in the prison, and how they were run, over the scenes on the outside, because that basically was typical gangster movie stories that we had heard many times before, but it was still powerful, all the way through. Olmos, as always is good here, although I'm not sure directing himself helped him out as much as it could've. He's a solemn and quiet actor, who says only as many words as needed most of the time (Not always, but most), and I wonder if that didn't hurt us as much as help us. Sometimes presence isn't all that's needed to convey power, there were a couple times here, where I wondered if it actually did. Still that's a relatively minor quibble. "American Me," is aptly-titled. Yes, it deals with mainly Mexican-Americans in the East L.A. area, but the movie is only about Mexicans-Americans as much as "The Godfather" happens to be about "Italian-Americans". It's a tale that criticizes society as a whole, where gang warfare seems only to be controlled anymore, by those who do the most killing, not for turf, but for the power of killing someone else. I took away from "American Me," that this story, while based on a true tale, could happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of how they're brought up, but that's either way, the worst thing about ganglife, is that the next generation who lives in that world, believes not only that it's an ideal living situation, but that it's the only way out of that run-down neighborhood. There were no Tre or Furious characters in this L.A. neighborhood.