Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Some of you noticed that I delayed posting my regularly schedule reviews this week by a post. Well, it's frustrating lately, and I wish I was simply behind, but I still haven't gotten my Netflix back, so I've been scouring Roku and everywhere else just to find things to knock off my Netflix, and frankly, most of the films I'm reviewing this week, well, they aren't the newest of releases. I'm already fairly handicapped in regards to my ability to get out to the movies as it is, (I mean, obviously if I can't afford Netflix...) so, let's just say this has not been my favorite batch of RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS this week, and frankly, I didn't want to put out an inferior product. I alright thought the last batch was weak, and I'm so far behind on last year, much less, this year, that not watching enough from last year,- well, I don't like it how it looked.

So, that was already in my mind, and then, there were a couple more bruises to my ego. A couple people on FB complained/made light of the way I use CAPITAL LETTERS selectively, when I post my blogposts on Facebook (And here occasionally), and one person called it ugly, and then blocked me completely, for reasons I will never understand, and after I explained the significance of it. For those who don't know, it's two-fold, part one, it's advertising, so you need to stick out in some ways, and people notice capitalized words better than lowercase, and B, the way I use them, is to imitate the look of a screenplay. Most of you know I'm a screenwriter by trade, but if you never read script, capital letters are used quite often in script, including in the action passages, although most likely, scene locations and characters names are where it's used most, and this varies from screenwriter to screenwriter, but a lot of them, also capitalize important moments of actions or emotions and tones, things that they believe are particular crucial elements to the scene, either for the filmmakers or the actors or whatever, so to me, it's a representation of who I am, to post my blog descriptions like that. I know it's not UGLY, as one condescending person wrote, so that pissed me the fuck off. And as much as I work at this, for some to be, so damn... I don't know.  I also asked my audience, and posted in a few of the more active FB film groups to ask questions to me for a question-and-answer blog, and nobody asked me anything, so that idea went out the window. There's other things going on too, most of it beyond my control, although frankly it's effecting me; so on top of not watching what I want to watch/write about, and the fact that most of the movies I could find elsewhere sucked, and there was a reason they were at the bottom of my Netflix queue and...- (frustrated sigh) I'm rambling. I'm sorry about that.

Listen, my problems are my problems, I just wish it wouldn't effect me so much here, but sometimes I have to vent, 'cause when you have times like these, that make you feel like throwing it all away and quitting, it's great to have an outlet. I know, it gets better; I know that's cliche, but it does, and frankly, good movies will always change my outlook, so here's to a better next week. And I did watch some decent stuff, so here we go, this week's edition of my RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

I'M SO EXCITED! (2013) Director: Pedro Almodovar


I think sometimes, Pedro Almodovar likes to simply dive into film history and make his unique take on a genre. "I'm So Excited!" is somewhere between a sex farce meets "Airplane!". Well, maybe not "Airplane!", probably "The High and the Mighty" or "Airport", without the real drama of whether or not the plane will go down. We're pretty certain most of the way, that the stewardess and pilots and business class passengers wouldn't be talking so much about blow jobs if they were all gonna die. The plane is supposed to go from Madrid to Mexico City, but due to an unforeseen situation on the ground, involving some great Almodovar cameos, the flight's landing gear was properly stored or put away, and it can't come out. So, they circle Toledo, Spain for awhile, while they drug the economy class passengers and try to entertain the sparse but intriguing and often difficult crew. The title comes from the Pointer Sisters song, that at one point, they start the three gay flight attendants, Joserra, Fajas and Ulloa (Javier Camarra, Raul Arevado and Carlos Areces) perform, music video style in the aisles (and the music video is probably Foo Fighters "Learn to Fly") and seats of business class, hoping to calm the passengers. There's numerous storylines to sorta keep track of, like a high-class prostitute Norma Bass (Cecilia Roth), who's afraid that the plane going down might be apart of a conspiracy to kill her because of some of the people on client list and the 600+ clients she has among the elite of society. Meanwhile, there's another passenger who's fleeing the country 'cause of his banking fraud that's about to go down, while there's another who feels this will be an important flight, and will include her losing her virginity, the odds become more likely that'll happen, after they're all drugged with a relaxant that makes them all horny as well, and this leads to one of the strangest orgy scenes in recent history. "I'm So Excited!" is not one of Almodovar's special works, it's really almost a throwaway experiment than anything else. It's got a few good jokes and scenes, but everything thrown together for no real reason, other than to have this little party of stereotypes, and it always seems to back away from really going at it. It's not a bad film, but since we more-than-know what Almodovar is capable of, while it's nice to see him tackle a straight-up fun comedy, he could've gone so much further. I think he might fell in love too much with the characters actually, and instead of the door-slamming farce (Or, curtain-pulling is probably more accurate for a plane ride) instead, we kinda get, glimpses of what the film could've been. It could've been "Noises Off..." on a plane, and instead it's kinda just, Almodovar playing with the idea of a farce and an airplane movie, and in neither case, should the characters be that lovable.

THE BIG PICTURE (2012) Director: Eric Lartigau


I know why some people have been continually comparing Eric Lartigau's "The Big Picture" to "The Talented Mr. Ripley", but, boy that really is the wrong comparison for this film. Both are about people who switch identities and commit murder but that's about where it ended for me. Tom Ripley was a sociopath, whose actions were based on a primal fascination with human nature, and his taking of other peoples' personalities was apart his lone anthropological-like interest, which made him fascinating, because he was an inhuman character, anthropologically fascinated with humanity. This movie, the main character, Paul Exban (Romain Duris) has a fairly ordinary upper class existence as a lawyer, with a wife Sarah (Marina Fois) and some kids, but he's relatively bored with his life. He then finds out that his wife is having an affair with the neighbor Gregoire. (Eric Ruf) He then accidentally kills the guy. He's a professional war photographer, and he then takes over his life, so as to hide the murder, but what he really wants is to be able to reinvent himself, and while, there's a lot of blowing up, and more murdering and nearly getting killed, it's a lot more exciting life for him. Good for him, it wasn't for us. And that's really the problem, this guy isn't interesting enough of a protagonist. The movie this film, should've been borrowing from was Michelangelo Antonioni's great film "The Passenger" with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider where Nicholson, on a random whim, switches identities with a recently deceased man, and his friends think he's passed, and he's exploring his freedom. This guy, back into the identity switching situation, which he ironically knew way too many people to readily help him with to begin with, like the mysterious Catherine Deneuve character, who's almost a female version of the secret agency contact character in "La Femme Nikita", and not that interesting a version either, she mostly sits at a restaurant, eats with Paul, and then says exposition. And then, the ending is rather clumsily an attempt to reverse all this that Paul's done and reunite him with his family. It is rather clumsy in general, but it's well-made enough, that I could've recommend it, had the protagonist, been the least bit compelling to begin with. "The Big Picture" isn't really that big.

ALPS (2012) Director: Giorgos Lanthimos


A lot has been written about the absurd nature of Giorgos Lanthimos's "Alps", and it certainly is, although strangely, certain parts of the film, actually did work on me. I was already somewhat prepared for the theater of the absurd, as this is the same filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated "Dogtooth", which was about a family that purposefully insulated their kids from the outside world, and then trained them,- yes, trained is the right word, as oppose to raise, train purposefully, incorrectly on the ways of the outside world, like the wrong definition of words for instance. "Alps" isn't nearly that-, that- Um,...- (Hmm. I'm gonna have to work on that adjective for awhile), although it can be disorienting, and when you think back on it,- well, if you can think back on.... The film begins with rhythmic gymnast (Ariane Lebed, her, and most of the characters in the film, aren't given names.) who's performing beautifully, but is arguing with her coach (Johnny Vekris), because she wants to perform to a pop song, as oppose to the more traditional and overbearing classical number. When Coach says that he'll beat her over the head and brake her arms and legs for talking back to him, and the next shot takes place inside an ambulance on a close-up of a bloody, head-bandaged victim, we fear that he might literally done it. It was a tennis pro, who was involved in a car accident instead. However, she gets involved through the Nurse (Aggelika Papoulia) with an underground program called "Alps", which is a meaningless title. The group's main objective is to work essentially as surrogates for recently deceased relatives of people and families, in order to help them grieve. We see them in rehearse, and then in practice, as apparently, they're given numerous lines and situation to repeat from the deceased, memories, reimagined in script form, and in many occasions, they occasionally involve other people, and other, they're darker moments. Sometimes, very dark, mentally and physically. Believe it or not, there were two things this actually reminded me of, and strangely they both involve people in the sex industry. One, is sex surrogates, like the one Helen Hunt played marvelously recently in "The Sessions". The other would be dominatrices. A dominatrix will usually meet with a client, who has a prepared list of wants from them, fantasy fulfillments essentially, and like the Alps, their work often involves a script too, and generally don't have sex with their clients; they're just playing a part. (What? I learned about it watching the first couple seasons of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl", it's a really good show, you should watch it. Billie Piper's good in it. I hear she was in some other shows now, but it's that one was really interesting and informative. Besides, I live in Vegas, I have a few friends who...- Nevermind)  The Alps are basically a cross between these two jobs, and switched from arousal to grief, being the-eh, catalysts emotion that the surrogate are there to help cure, so in some ways, while the ideas of the film are certainly in the surreal, it's not as surreal as it looks. In some ways that's disappointing considering the more powerful "Dogtooth", and a lot of it's doesn't really connect, but it's an interesting little film.

DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988) Director: Stephen Frears


No matter how many versions I seem to watch of "Dangerous Liaisons", and I think this one, by far the most famous version, it never totally works on me. It's a good movie, and I think finally know why it doesn't particularly work on me. This version, directed by Stephen Frears was an Oscar-winning adaptation from Christopher Hampton's stage play, and I think the material, does work better on stage, than it does on screen. If this were all, in the intimate setting of a theater, where we really get to see the performers, performing this material and all their actions and nuances, in very close proximity, we would have a much more visceral approach to the events, than we do here, where we get very good performance, but they're edited with close-up and long takes and angles and shadowing. It deflates from their actions and what they're really doing. Instead of the intricacies of why these character are playing these disturbing sexual games. The Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Oscar-nominee Glenn Close) has hired her ex and close confidant Vicomte (John Malkovich) to seduce Cecile (Uma Thurman) a young virgin who's seduce her latest ex-boyfriend, Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny (Keanu Reeves)  because of her virtuousness. They've played and toyed with people for years with such liaisons like this, although this one is a particular challenge, even for the notorious Vicomte. While, he's working on the seduction, he happens to fall for Madame de Tourval (Oscar-nominee Michelle Pfeiffer) another rival of Isabelle, and she happens to be married and also wants to be faithful to her husband. That doesn't stop him, but eventually, something surprising to everyone happens, and that he falls for Madame de Tourval, and truly wants to be with her. These are two characters that barely have any human decency, much less emotions, they're conquerors who rape and pillage, and instead of land, it's other people. So this is a huge disturbance, although Isabelle has always been in love with Vicomte, but refuses to remarry 'cause she loves the power she has over other people more. I always seem to have trouble with a lot of these aristocratic period pieces about how the people behind the thrones are maneuvering the powerful. I think I've always despised most anything involving Henry VIII over the years, and to some extent this is no exception, and I understand that these sort of things did happen, and happen now even, that's why they were so easily able to adapt this story, in any time frame and with any world. "Cruel Intentions" was a remake of this story in high school, and the sad part was that it wasn't that unbelievable. It just feels so petty, that we have a really hard time, especially on film, 'cause I must stress that these kinds of characters work better on stage, caring about any of the characters. Our two leads are disgusting people, and the rest of the cast and small and shallow enough to buy into their actions. I think Uma Thurman gave the best performance of the group; her character was probably the toughest, and she found the right notes for that part, almost like she was the French version of a Tennessee Williams heroine. (Which btw, if anybody's gonna remake this story again, that world would be an interesting location.) It's a well-made film, and it's exquisitely-made, and most of the reservations I have personally are with the story itself, and the trickiness involved in adapting it to film, so I'm gonna recommend it.

EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987) Director: Steven Spielberg


While it has it's fans and defenders, despite six Oscar nominations, "Empire of the Sun" has kinda been forgotten in the Spielberg canon,  and it probably should stay forgotten. It's not a bad film, in fact, in many ways, it's classic Spielberg, but, it pales to his far more compelling films. "Empire of the Sun" takes place during the Japanese-China war in 1941 Shanghai. Young Jim (Christian Bale) is the son of British aristocrats who live in China and have brought over their traditions and culture, which is a stiff upper lip, a mansion, masquerade parties, and lots of servants. Jim has a fascination with airplanes, and plays with a toy one often. He finds a crash airplane in a field at one point, and is just as fascinated and awestruck by the planes as they come roaring over bombarding the town. In traditional Spielberg fashion, he gets left behind, and loses his parents in a crowd, as eventually, the Japanese start rounding up the locals, and even take his home. Eventually, he ends up in a P.O.W. camp, with the help of Basie (John Malkovich) a rather Fagan-like character who's a slick schemer and manages to use his many skills to survive through the war, while promising to get Jim back to his parents. It takes a while though, and at one point, when he confesses that he doesn't remember what his parents look like anymore, we reflect that, we really don't remember either. That's a sad state on the traditional studies in the child caring skills among the aristocracy as it is a sad tale of war. Oddly, the Spielberg film I was surprised this most resembled to me was "A.I. Artificial Intelligence", which is also about a kid trying to get back home. Ironically, that film was so effective, perhaps too effective, because, while the kid in that film, was an artificial lifeform, the family focused and cared for the child and he actually had a family life that, when he lost it, was actually crushing to him, and to us. Jim, is just as interested in the objects of his possible escape from his household, the airplanes, as he is his family, if not moreso. "Empire of the Sun", also had the misfortune of coming out the same year as a truly great film about China and Chinese culture clashing with the growing Western influence, "The Last Emperor", and that film still holds up well. "Empire..." is an interesting curiosity, it was one of the first really ambition Hollywood epics that Spielberg made, but it's uneven and unfocused. It probably made for a better book than a film, as it's a decent episodic story, but trying to focus in on it is painful. I think Spielberg was just as confused by the lack of a through-line story, and I don't blame him; this probably was a stronger book than it could ever have been a film, and Spielberg probably did the best anybody could've. And you know, something else that bothered me, and this is really gonna sound mean, and I'm glad that he's become what he's becomes, and he's one of my favorite actors, but I don't think Christian Bale was all that good in the film. I know that's a weird and somewhat mean thing to say about a kid actor, and thankfully he did become Christian Bale, but he always seems to just, have his a little over-the-top when I think if he was more understated during many crucial scenes, it would've been a stronger performance.

LA RONDE (1951) Director: Max Ophuls


Max Ophuls's "La Ronde" moved up on my watchlist a little earlier than I originally intended awhile back, after I had seen two films in relatively succession of each other. In fact, they were in such succession, that when I reviewed both films, Daniel Meirelles's "360" and Ken Kwapis's "Sexual Life", they both ended up on the same Random Weekly Movie Review blog. The one below in fact.


Both films were direct remakes of "La Ronde". Well, direct remakes is a little bit deceptive, because while there are similar elements to each version, like the conflicts between sex lives and class statuses, but the main seminal aspect of the film, as well as the original groundbreaking play by Arnold Schnitzler was the hyperlink storytelling structure, in the way the film is basically a loose assemblage of short stories, that are all interconnected through characters. So, we'd meet one character, and see what he/she was up to, and then from their, we'd eventually meet another character and get a glimpse at their current experiences, and then another and another and so on, eventually, like the merry-go-round that our narrator, Raconteur (Anton Walbrook, an addition narrative character not in the original theatrical production) stands on as he introduces one story to another. Like all collections, essentially of shorts, only about half the stories really intrigued me, so, for that reason, I'm only partially recommending it, and I also had trouble with the choice of a stageset for the film, as well as this occasional 4th wall breaking and the meta nature of how they occasionally pointed out that we're watching stories, and a movie once in a while. That was probably, not-so-much groundbreaking, but it was certainly unusual for the time, but it doesn't really hold up well on film. When we're watching a play, we can be transformed into other worlds from the acting as well as the sets, so to blatantly set up a theatrical stage, as your theater stage, it takes us a bit out of the experience. Of the versions of this story I've seen, and there are actually more direct remakes, I think Meirelles's "360" was the best accomplishment, not just because of the stories and the hyperlinking, but also because, with that added twist, of location-changing for each story, and all around the world as well, leaves the movie somewhat with a more intriguing metaphor and actually, it's an improvement from the 1800's Vienna that the tales originally took place in. Don't get me wrong, some films with this structure, are great at narrowing their world purview to, cities, like some of Robert Altman's best films like "Nashville" and "Short Cuts" for instance, but this felt like too many layers to me. Which is a shame considering how Ophuls, one of the great romantics of cinema, like his best film, the masterful "Earrings of Madame De...", "La Ronde" really does in their short snippets carry some wonderful little pieces that confront many of our notions of love. "La Ronde" means simple "The Round" in English, and like the ways our emotions and our passions can circulate, so can the world around us, and even us around the world. "La Ronde" is an important film, although it's somewhat problematic, it's still good and still worth watching for the ways it's influenced other, better films.

STEALTH (2005) Director: Rob Cohen


Believe it or not, despite being one of the biggest Hollywood bombs in recent years, "Stealth" actually did make money, earning back its cost in overseas business, eventually. It's become a point of reference when the business side of film in many film classes, and was a constant discussion point in many of my old classes. With a 9-digit budget, that originated as a film version of the video game "Star Fox", "Stealth" deserved to bomb. It had the terrible timing of Jamie Foxx having won an Oscar by the time the film got released, so the American advertising for the film, positioned him as though he was the star, when in fact, not only is he not the star, he's play the worst kind of African-American stereotypes in film, the nice, the black friend/co-worker who dies early. And that's maybe the fourth or fifth worst thing about "Stealth". The film is about the Navy's three best tactical fighter pilots, these guys jobs is to everyday, risk life, limb, and getting exposed by other governments, swarm in, blow things up real good in places like Myanmar and Tajikistan, under the cover of stealth planes, which means that, their planes don't get picked up by radars. There's something offensive about naming those two places btw. "Myanmar" is locked in by it's crazy leader, but they're not stockpiling threatening weapons, and Tajikistan, is pretty secluded and while there's a few crazed ones there, again, nothing the would insinuate military action be needed, but the movie thinks the audience is basically too stupid to know that. The pilot crew is Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Lt. Henry Purcell (Foxx). Kara is the star, and she and Ben are a couple. And now, a new member of their crew is an automated self-contained, self-learning drone plane, who soon begins to have a mind of it's own. At one point, this plane kills thousands, and puts all three pilots lives in danger, basically acting as a combination of Hal 9000, and Joshua from "WarGames". I just run down the list now. The two stars are boring and uninteresting. The special effects are terrible, I've seen "Thunderbirds" episode with better-looking effects. The modern rock music is just way-the-fuck the wrong decision for this movie. Couldn't have picked worst music for this film if they went with-, no they picked the worst possible music for this film. The explosions are even boring. The planes and the flying don't look realistic at all. It's a bunch of bad cliches, and the way everybody treats Henry's death afterwards, never rings true. Foxx is so little in this movie, that his character isn't established really. He's there essentially to be there and then die, and everybody, including the bad guy, is sad about his death, and they don't even really explain why he's worth mourning over. Oh, and he talks about prime numbers being lucky numbers. (Somebody tell that to 13, but what the fuck, that was dumb.) Oh, and the dialogue sucked, everyone's dialogue! Nothing in this rang remotely believable enough to even care. Sam Shepherd's the bad guy, who's putting his career on the line with the EDI, the out-of-control drone plane, even he's the most layered character, and basically his demise, occur in such a way, that, they basically ran out of things for him to do, so they pushed him to the side. This movie doesn't even do the Randy Feldman "Kill the bad guys in ascending order of baddest" rule particularly well. I don't even know why I'm giving this film 1/2 a STAR. You know, I'm not, screw it. I've only given 4 or 5 of these, but I'm changing it to zero. I mean, what was here to defend? It's no even so, it's entertaining. It's nothing. It's title is perfect, that's it really. It's stealth, it comes into your airspace, and you don't even notice it. I wish it stayed that way for me.

SITA SINGS THE BLUES (2009) Director: Nina Paley


Few movies I remember Roger Ebert writing about more than "Sita Sings the Blues", the independent animated film from Nina Paley. It ran around the Awards circuit for a full year, and actually was released on DVD before hitting New York theaters, and getting nominated for the "Someone to Watch" Spirit Award, and it's the most unique animated films I've ever seen. It was caught up in some controversy over the copyright usage of some of the songs, and it a musical. There's three parts of the movie. The first is the story of Sita (Reena Shah) from the Ramayana, which I think I read at some point, but it's a study much more ingrained in Indian culture, although even among the narrators (Aseem Chhabra, Bhavana Nagulapally, and Manish Acharya) there's debate and discussion, and a struggle to recall all of the exact details of the epic. It's a tale of how Sita continues to stay loyal to her husband despite numerous temptations and troubles, but her husband, despite numerous degrading and humiliating tests, he never believed her, and continually treated her more and more coldly. The narration, seems improvised completely, and I'd be shocked if I found out that it wasn't; it feels like it was a long and funny discussion that got animated later. The second part is the animation and is quite special. It's 2-Dimensional, but it done unusually. The cityscapes are different, even the two cats that appear in the film are of two different techniques. The narrator's are shadow puppets that seems like they were animated from Terry Gilliam, and the strange technique of Sita, almost looking like an older wind-up toy, that has exaggerated features that it dance, in a rhythm like it's run on a metronome. And Sita sings and dances. The songs that break up each new part of the story are songs from Annette Hanshaw, an old jazz singer from the '20s and '30s. The film is a musical; it's got as much music as a Bollywood movie, and like those film, despite it's short, short, length, it has an intermission, and it's one of the few intermissions I've seen in a film. The third part of the story, is the autobiographical part where Nina Paley herself, goes through a bad breakup, when her husband, living in San Francisco moves to India for a temporary job. After a few months, she goes to visit and live with him, but he's cold to her, and when she has a work trip to Brooklyn for a few weeks, she e-mails her to not come back. She's heartbroken and depressed, calling desperately to India begging to be taken back. Eventually, she gets on her feet, by reading up on Sita and numerous interpretations and analysis on "The Ramayana", which she obviously feels a deep connection to, relating her personal tragedies to Sita. You think Alanis Morissette would've taught people this lesson by now, but never piss off an artist, it will not end well. "Sita Sings the Blues" is truly a special film, one of the most fun, unique and even personal animated movies I've ever seen. I can see where Roger Ebert was coming from here; I wish I had gotten to "Sita Sings the Blues" earlier, but I didn't have too. The movie was a pioneer in streaming on the internet, and was one of the first films to make it's filmmaker money by being available on as many outlets as possible at once. So, I took my time. I once said that a good movie will be good no matter when you see it, and while I did jump on it earlier, that's because of how good it is.

LA BAMBA (1987) Director: Luis Valdez


Some people think that, music superstars who are high school age, began with Britney Spears, but that's not true, however the saddest example is also one of rock'n'roll's earliest. I remember watching the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony back in '01, when they inducted Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Ricky Martin went on and performed three songs of his, "Come On, Let's Go", "Donna" and of course, his most famous song "La Bamba", and then Martin inducted Valens, and his surviving family members accepted the award, and the real sad part was that, Martin,  had pretty much sang almost his entire catalog of songs in six-seven minutes right there. Michael Jackson's technically the youngest inductee ever, but Valens only lived to be 17, before dying infamously in the same plane crash that took that took out Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, outside Clear Lake, Iowa, immortalized as "The Day The Music Died". Valens's real name was Richard Valenzuela; he was a Mexican-American from Southern California by the orange groves which he occasionally got work picking, and in some ways, according to the film, he was doomed to die in an airplane. One of his friends from school died on a basketball court when, he happened to be at his grandfather's funeral when two plane collided over the court and he died from fallen debris. He's afraid to fly, although he loves to drive fast. He adores his older brother, Bob (Esai Morales) partly 'cause he drives a fast motorcycle, but at this point, he's become disillusioned with his drinking, and his abusive ways towards his pregnant wife Rosie (Elizabeth Pena). It's probably not the greatest move to focus on the flying for a man who's life was cut so short, but, it was a short life too. We do meet the love of his life, Donna (Danielle von Zerneck), who he wrote the legendary ballad for. She was a middle-class white girl from school, who's father (Sam Anderson) doesn't approve of Ritchie. He begins performing, originally as apart of a band, and mostly for his guitar playing, before proving himself as a singer. He was a self-taught musician, who untrained vocals were innovative, and his guitar playing in some ways was way ahead of its time. (If you ever hear his instrument "Fast Freight", recorded originally under a difference alias, Arvee Allens, it's quite amazing considering when it was made, and his age.) Hey made few performances, although a couple were on television. He conquered his fear of flying for "American Bandstand" a couple times, and performed for an Alan Freed showcase. (There's also a good cameo by Brian Setzer, playing another doomed teenage rock star who died too young, the great Eddie Cochran.) Los Lobos, famously did the music for the movie, and it's their voice heard during the film. His most famous hit "La Bamba", was originally a Mexican folk song he heard on his one trip to Tijuana, although ironically, he sang it in Spanish, but he didn't speak the language and learned it phonetically. I don't blame the filmmakers; I think this was about as good a film that could be made about Valens, but I think I learned about as much as I knew ahead of time going into the film. They don't mention that he was the star on the rise during the Winter Dance Tour that ultimately killed him, and was actually the big headliner as Holly's career, while bigger at one time, was on the decline at that moment. (They still haven't made "The Big Bopper Story" btw. Just saying, I like "Chantilly Lace"; it'd be nice if someone made it.) That's  In one of his early performances in the film, Valens actually sings Holly's "Oh Boy". I don't know if that was true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. "La Bamba" is a good, albeit not a great film. There's some good acting though, although Phillips is very green in this film, his first starring and one of his very earliest film roles; I think he's one of our most underrated actors, but you can see him struggling occasionally, but he's still amazing. I wish I saw him more often in films, but I can say that about a lot of the cast.

WOMEN IN TROUBLE  (2009) Director Sebastien Gutierrez

Sebastien Gutierrez gives us all the look of great lipstick pop pulp imagery made famous by the likes of Tarantino and a few others, but he has none of the ability to make us care about his, "characters". I put that in quotes, 'cause this is the second film of his I've seen after the dreadful "Girl Walks Into a Bar", and both films have numerous caricatures, which, if we're lucky, on the very rare occasion have something interesting happen with/about/by them. They're montage movies, somewhat Altmanesque, or "La Ronde"-esque, where they move from one story and one character to another and another, usually with an unnecessary interconnected web between them. And it's scary to me that he directs these kinds of films, considering he clearly does have the ability to tell a full story straight if he wanted to.This one, was popular, probably because of it's availability on the internet, it's sexy cover and title, and the fact that some of the events revolve around the porn industry. The fact that, one character, a porn star named Electra Luxx (Carla Gugino) would spin off into her own movie from Gutierrez makes me even more convinced that he's actually filming, scripts that, probably weren't meant to be filmed. That seems weird, but occasionally a script like that gets written on purpose; the idea of these scripts is to be a sample or showcase of the multiple talents of the writer/writers. So they, almost surely have multiple narratives threads that interconnected decent enough, show beginning middle and ends, are less than 100 pages, hopefully shorter, and part of the script is dramatic, part of it is romantic, part of it is comedy, part of it is a different kind of comedy, etc. etc. I've seen some myself that range from romance drama to stoner comedies in the same script. They're meant to get the writers jobs or commissions to write other scripts, or possibly for script doctoring on other films. This tells me that, he should've just decided to develop the Electra Luxx character into a feature-length film all along, instead of being, one of numerous side characters in this film. Here, she finds out she's pregnant with her rock star boyfriend, Nick Chapel's (Josh Brolin) kid. He ends up dropping dead mid-orgasm in an airplane while in the bathroom with stewardess Cora (Marley Shelton). She ends up stuck in an elevator with a masseuse, Doris (Connie Britton). There's also another porn star, a younger airhead one, Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki) who's kinda like if Rollergirl was inspired to get into porn because she watched porn, and is now having trouble at the prospects of working with idol, while also balancing a side-career as a part-time hooker. There's also a therapist named Addy (Caitlin Keats) who catches her husband, having an affair with a patience's mother. All of these, hypothetically, could've sounded somewhat interesting but they're not. They're moderately entertaining on the page, certainly not on the screen. So much so, that the only truly memorable part of the movie, isn't even apart of the movie. The only quote on the film's imdb.com page, occurs after the credits, during an parody interview segment feature Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as the reporter of some porno news website. When the best scene in the movie is after the credits....

Sunday, April 27, 2014



Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni, Mark Peploe and Peter Wollen based on the story by Mark Peploe

One of the saddest days in recent cinema history was July 30, 2007, when two of the greatest, most important and most influential European directors, died on the same day.  Arguably the greatest filmmaker ever, Ingmar Bergman died in his home in Sweden at age 89. Among numerous great films, he directed “The Virgin Spring,” “Wild Strawberries,” “Scenes From a Marriage,” “Saraband,” “The Seventh Seal,” “Fanny and Alexander,” and my personal favorite, “Persona”. Than, later, Michelangelo Antonioni died the same day. Along with Federico Fellini, one could argue that two of the three greatest European filmmakers ever had passed. Antonioni loved filming long takes of mostly emptiness, and he loved to use architecture, both manmade and natural as continuing motifs that characters travel through like doors to new thoughts and worlds, and never outwardly reveals the story to the viewers obviously. Everything to him has exceptionally subtle. During a viewing at Cannes of “L’Aventura,” a film that got booed at the premiere, the audience continually yelled, “Cut,” at the screen when a shot ran exceptionally long. Now, that film is considered possibly his best, along with “Blow-Up”. I’ve also admired “L’Eclisse”, although I wasn’t a fan of “Il Grido”; and his work was certainly not as consistent as others  like Bergman, especially with films like the critic-hating “Zabriskie Point”. “The Passenger,” or sometimes called, “Professione: Reporter” was also panned originally, and was actually forgotten and lost for awhile, but starting getting limited re-releases years later, including in America, where it was rediscovered, and clearly now ranks as one of his very best. The movie involves a documentary reporter named David Locke, (Jack Nicholson) who befriends a man named Robertson (Charles Mulvehill) at a hotel in the middle of Africa, where there’s some sort of civil war going on. Then Mulville dies, and Locke, on an apparent whim, decides to switch identities with the man. He knows nothing about him other than a name. He grabs his passports and clothes and briefcase, and moves his body from one room to his. This than begins a journey for Locke, who everyone thinks is now dead, and as his wife Rachel (Jenny Runacre) and producer Martin (Ian Hendry) try to make sense out of the footage that he’s shot (Which was all real footage, including the man burning at the stake), Locke finds himself heading off to, well, basically wherever. He does take a meeting as Robertson in Berlin, where he finds out that the man was a weapons dealer distributing to the leaders of opposition forces. It’s some information, but still very little, and of absolutely no importance anyway. He eventually finds a Girl (Maria Schneider, from “Last Tango in Paris) who for a while travels with him on this journey that seems to have absolutely no guidebook to it, and more importantly, no apparent destination. Schneider’s character isn’t even given a name, and just noted as “Girl,” in the credits. At one point, Locke is almost recognized by someone, which leads to him trying to escape again. But whose is he escaping from, himself? His life? Why did he decide to just switch lives, and what does he think he will gain? These are questions that are addressed, but never really answered. Most theorize that Locke represents humanity and people in general just going from one place to another traveling through life like passengers. I like this theory. I think he saw the dead guy as a chance at rebirth, a fresh start in life, and an attempt to shortcut his way to possible reincarnation, but finds that it doesn’t quite work like that. The famous final shot which is about a 4-6 minutes long shot that starts inside Locke’s hotel room staring at the jail-like bars of the window before zooming in closer and closer, before eventually going through the bars and continuing, and then continuing  still, as the Girl leaves in one car, his wife arrives in another, neither one noticing each other, and then turning back towards the hotel room is one of the most famous shots in film. What does that mean? Antonioni let you question, but he never gave an answer.

Thursday, April 24, 2014



Director/Screenplay: Sofia Coppola

PERSON: Can you believe "Lost in Translation" got all that acclaim.
ME: Yeah, it should've won the Oscar.
PERSON: What, you liked it?
ME: Of course, best film of the year!
PERSON: It was boring. I kept waiting for Bill Murray to get with the girl-
ME: You missed the movie.

That's a version of a conversation I've had numerous times on "Lost in Translation". I've never written about the film until now, and yet, it's probably the film I go to more than any other from the last decade, and have watched and re-watched the most. That was a common reaction people had to the film at the time, there were even reported fistfights in video stores over the film, with some thinking the film's enjoyment depends in a large part on whether one saw it on a big screen, or at home on TV. Those are the literal facts of the reaction, and yet they seem, and they are completely the wrong approach to take when discussing the film.

The right approach, is to discuss the more emotional side of the movie. This presents another problem, because it isn't the typical emotions of cinema that we're aware of. Instead of love or lost, or desire, it's those, not-so-dramatic emotions, the banal ones. Those generic emotions that we feel day-to-day, alone, privately; the kind that we have when there's no one around to discuss them with, or who can understand. Like being strangers in a strange land, especially one where you don't even speak the language we are alone most of the time with nothing but our own thoughts. That's the situation for our two leads. Bob Harris is one of Bill Murray's greatest creations. Forget about what would've happened if this role fell into the wrong hands, 'cause there are no other hands this role could've come from. He's an aging movie star who earning a quick $2million dollars going overseas to Japan to shoot a commercial for a popular brand of whiskey, and he hates himself for it. (A practice that's actually quite common for Hollywood actors.) "The good news is the whiskey works," he barely quips at one point to Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson), at the hotel bar late one night. She's along for the ride with her husband, John (Giovanni Ribisi) who's a music photographer, shooting a band on location. She's not necessarily in the way, as much as she's not really needed, and spends most of her spare time in her hotel room. She's just graduated from Harvard with a philosophy degree, and still searching for herself and identity, and similar to a later role Johansson played in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", she mostly only confident in knowing what she doesn't want, at least in regards to her husband's career and life. Maybe part of why she went on the trip was to begin searching for herself somewhere else; she's clearly not intrigued by the young waif actress, Kelly (Anna Faris), which represents the other side of fame, that they run into at the hotel, and surprisingly, neither much is John. He's not interested in cheating on Charlotte with her, but not in the same way Bob isn't much interested in cheating on his wife with Charlotte. As a performer, while Kelly might be on, Bob is off. He can be funny, and occasionally is, but he's not interested in being the center of attention. Even the film's most famous comedic scene, the commercial shoot, where a raving Japanese director seems to be giving a lot more direction than the translator gives to Bob. Bob is caught in the center of a funny situation, and is only trying to get make sure he's giving what the director wants.

I think what might confuse audiences is that, the film, strangely, feels like it's going towards something, and at times, a frantic pace. Not emotionally in the characters, but they continue to spend time with each other, hang out, have new experiences, meet up at restaurants and places, or stay in and watch "La Dolce Vita" on TV. Because of past films, we expect these experiences to lead towards a revelation, usually that the two characters are in love, or meant to be together. Yet, sometimes people do all these things with people without sexual expectations, don't they? They would, and they do, and yet, because it's a movie.... That's the real brilliance of the film, in how it quietly transcends those expectations, and then evaporates them completely, as the film won't let itself get caught up in the structure of the plot, and instead, it quietly carves it's own path. Moving slowly and cautiously observing at certain times, while stopping for a small hint of human comedy another. Bob and Charlotte are two people emotionally at the same point and place in time, and emotional feelings and genital emotions have little to do with each other. Sex is of course a possibility, but it is in most instances. Besides, it's a lot easier to find sex, than an actual human connection. When sex does become involved, it takes very little for them to get over it, 'cause there wasn't anything to get over. They don't expressly say what connection the two are to each other, at least not out loud to us. Much is made and rumored of the final whispered line of dialogue that Director Sofia Coppola, didn't write. Whatever it is he said, it's between them, and that's fine with me. Two reserved people who form a makeshift friendship, should have secrets between them.

What is their connection? Two lost souls, strangers in a strange land is good enough for me. One's made decisions and knows what he's gonna do next, and this is a stop in his life. The other has a whole life ahead of her and she has no idea what to do with it yet. "You are at once, both the quiet and confusion of the heart." to quote Franz Kafka. Both Bob and Charlotte epitomize that feeling, and they empathize with each other and the film is a dive into those emotions and feeling in a way no other film has done before. Maybe no other film could. Sofia Coppola won a Screenwriting Oscar for the film, and became the first American woman to get a Best Director nomination. Sonme critics note the father/daughter subtext, and in some ways that she's literally been in the shadow of celebrity and fame her whole, since as a baby, she played the newly-baptized and born Mary Corleone in "The Godfather". Fame is her common motif through all her films and she seems to have been studying it anthropologically all her life, and while her other films are great themselves, this one stands out. Perhaps, there's a lot of her in Charlotte, and the two sides of fame and as she observes it from Bob and her husband's point of view, she's contemplating where she might fit in. Of course, the great thing about "Lost in Translation" is that at the end, it allows for all of us to pontificate on its meanings more, and see things in the characters that we relate to. That doesn't mean that their broad blank canvases, they aren't, in fact quite the opposite, it means that they're deep enough that we can sympathize with them just the same. The same way the aging star, and the young wife can sympathize with each other, even if it's just for a brief time in a foreign country.

Hmm. "...The quiet and the confusion of the heart."- I wonder if that's what he told her?

Monday, April 21, 2014


Some of my earliest childhood memories of television involve David Letterman. And I mean earliest. I recently announce my Top 100 Greatest Films of All-Time, and have talked about my list obsessions over the years, but I realize in many that that started with David Letterman. As far as I'm concerned, he was making Top Ten Lists before Moses, and that Watchmojo.com among hundreds of others should pay him royalties. I once did a Top Ten list, Letterman style, for a school presentation. I was in G.A.T.E. in 3rd or 4th grade, and-, what was it...- oh, I remember now, I was doing a ten-piece report on a mystery of some kind, and for some reason I chose literature, and it really should've been just Sherlock Holmes 'cause about 9 of the ten things were about Sherlock Holmes, but none of that mattered anyway to me, 'cause all I ever cared about with the project was being inventive with the presentations. One of them, I did my Monty Hall impersonations, another time I made the audience search for a piece of paper that was literally right sitting in plain sight in front of them, (That was in reference to Edgar Allen Poe's "The Purloined Letter"), but one of the required reports was a Top Ten, so I did sat down with index cards, named ten random Sherlock Holmes short stories, and after I named each one I threw the card behind me, and imitated the sound of a window breaking as it went through the glass, a stupid joke I laughed at when I was one-year-old and I still laugh at. I don't even think I got a decent grade or anything, my objective as possible from everybody else, and that was my influence. (Oh, in case you're wondering, I didn't go to sleep as a young kid, and when Letterman went on, even after almost falling asleep while watching Carson, I would then hear them announce "...Paul Shaffer and The World's Most Dangerous Band", and boom, I was up and watching Letterman)

Come to think of it,  Letterman's claim-to-fame was the same thing, being as different as Carson and all the other late night (And for a brief moment, daytime) as possible. He's literally been a presence on TV, my entire life. You know, when I remember Carson ending, I thought about how he's been a constant presence my whole life too , and I was only eight. I'm almost thirty now, and he outlasted Carson' replacement, and Carson, if you count both shows. He was one of the first absurdist of television. Re-imagining the late night talk show in ways that hadn't been done before. Stupid pet tricks, and the guy living under the stage, and "Will It Float", "Hairpiece, Not a Hairpiece", these weird, almost non-nonsensical pieces that really redefined comedy. Toyed with the concept of television, pushed the genre forward for the rock'n'roll era. Re-imagined the interview style, in ways that are still copied. You can't help but be influenced by him in some way, even Stephen Colbert said so, on his show, hours before it was announced that he was the one named to take over.

Of course, the big concerns about Colbert taking over is that, he himself has created such a huge legacy reinventing a talk show structure, by creating his character and parodying the conservative talk show hosts on Fox News and such, something that, didn't exist when Letterman started. Hell, it didn't exist 'til Letterman was on CBS really. And frankly, I would've thought at this point, that, with Colbert's fame coming from the coattails on Jon Stewart's, frankly considering how Stewart's broken all the new ground that, perhaps outshines even Letterman's achievement,  I would've imagined that for Colbert, it might've been a step down to suddenly go to the graveyard of network TV. Plus, it's telling that, CBS, for some reason didn't go with Craig Ferguson, who I have been saying for years now is the most underrated host on the talk show landscape, not only for the symbolism of the infamous late shift incident, but also because Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants produces Ferguson's show as well. Letterman put a lot into Ferguson getting that slot after Craig Kilborn left, (Yeah, Kilborn wasn't fired, he decided to pursue other avenues, little known fact.) and I would've simply imagined that Letterman has hand-picked him to be a successor, but then again, Colbert's the bigger name, and let's face it, it is a legendary slot. And to those who think that, Colbert won't be as funny or able to reinvent himself in Letterman's slot without the persona he's created, that's just, stupid. That's the biggest piece of dumbass thinking ever. Anybody who can create a character that well for that long, can also turn it off in a heartbeat, (and with Colbert's Second City acting technique, he can easily take it off, as he often does on his show, by turning down the persona when needed or turning it up full blast as needed) Truly. He'll be amazing he'll be fine, I expect the Fallon vs. Colbert friendly battle to last decades, and for Jimmy Kimmel to be ignored completely for longer than that. (Alright, I know that was mean, sorry Jimmy, but I'm sorry you're second tier.)

Actually, come to think of it, in terms of replacing a legendary television persona, there was a third option for CBS, that I don't think anybody thought about, because, technically, they don't have the legacy that they needed to replace. Not the way that "The Tonight Show" had a legacy that needed to be replaced. I know that seems strange, but when Pat Weaver created "The Tonight Show" at NBC, back in the fifties, first, he found Steve Allen, who had accidentally invented the talk show format we know now, back in the days of radio, when he needed to fill time, he started performing strange skits and coming up with absurd bits of comedy and sometimes, talking to the audience or crew. When he became successful, they moved him to his Primetime variety show to compete with Ed Sullivan, and then Jack Paar hosted, and really perfected the celebrity interview aspects of the show, and and even the monologue is credited to him then, Carson took over in the fall of '62 after he had a couple flop series on other networks and had taken a job hosting a game show, and most of us know the rest of that story. With "The Late Show..." however, there's just Letterman. There were a few random occasions when other networks were competitive with Carson, Dick Cavett and Joey Bishop and Merv Griffin's talk shows come to mind, but those we're years earlier. When Carson retired, I don't think there was a network talk show against him that year, none that were even worth discussing, and even Arsenio who was syndicated, he was after a different audience completely, so he wouldn't even be in the discussion. We're talking; midnight movies, informercials, reruns of soap operas maybe, Pat Sajak was chugging along at his failed talk show attempt, but that slot, is just David Letterman right now. Hypothetically, CBS didn't even have to replace Letterman, at all. Just saying, they could've used that slot for something completely different and let the show's legacy just be Letterman, and that's it. ABC was nothing but "Nightline" forever, CBS could've put a late night drama series on to compete with cable networks or something, or shown reruns, or one of many numerous things. "The Tonight Show" was legacy even before Carson, and dates back to the beginning of TV and the beginning of the genre in fact, but "The Late Show..." dates back to Bill Clinton's presidency. By putting Colbert in that slot, CBS is now trying to create a legacy for "The Late Show" that is, if not equivalent to "The Tonight Show", it's at least, gonna try to set it's own legacy and it's own place in television history. In some ways, that's actually a bigger gamble that picking one host over another, 'cause if Colbert, is a flop, he could tarnish Letterman's legacy, and if that happens, then, what would be CBS's next move?

Now, that said, I'd probably make the same choice as Les Moonves did, especially since Colbert, it turns out, was a viable option. I imagine that CBS figures that, Ferguson can either stay on as long as he's viable, and/or that he's relatively dispensable in much the same way the Kilborn was and figure that , even if he were to get a better deal somewhere else, or just decide to quit, both possibilities I imagine are probable for him in the near future actually, that they can find some other new name to replace him if they needed. (Or not, since, while "The Late Late Show", has it's own legacy, Tom Snyder, Kilborn and now Ferguson, although none of those names rank with Letterman's legacy and that means that show itself is also hypothetically entirely dispensable.) Plus, if they change their mind on Colbert, Ferguson would then be the next logical choice fill-in, at least on a temporary basis. Either way, it's not gonna the same, ever again. With Letterman's upcoming departure, so does the last vestige of what we think of as the legendary and golden era in late night talk. The last remaining pillar from the old era, is at least metaphorically coming down. He'll stand forever on that Mt. Rushmore of the greats, alongside Johnny as the standard that all late night talk will be compared to, and that will indeed annoy the shit out of the Fallon, Stewarts, Colberts, O'Briens, Kimmels, Arsenio's and all other so-called pretenders,- well, at least in enough peoples' minds anyway that it'll still be discussed that way by some.

And who can blame them considering all that Letterman's done. And here now, from the home office in Omaha, Nebraska, tonight's Top Ten List! Top Ten things that made David Letterman so special. Top Ten things, and there's a lot of them, but the Top Ten things that made David Letterman so special.

10. Cause Letterman knew that while the tricks may have been stupid, the pets we're of above average intelligence.

Yeah, a very crucial distinction there. Very crucial. Subtle, very subtle. But crucial. Some people, still don't get that subtlety.

9. That all food is funnier when being thrown off the roof.

Very true.

8. That no matter how little comedic performing skills someone had, that everyone always get laughs being a guest Top Ten list presenter.

Hey?! Just because I'm doing, doesn't mean that I couldn't get laughs elsewise. That was mean.

7. That when Carson had a new joke, he called Dave.

6. That he never got a new phone at his desk.

Yeah, that was always strange. He must have the very last of those old phones. Old microphone that he doesn't even need, that's peculiar too. I guess you can chalk that up to tradition.

5. He was gap-toothed, before gap-toothed was sexy!

What? That-that's just weird. I don't know what to make of that one.

4. Cause you never knew what would happen, especially when (INSERT Andy Kaufman, Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, Kathy Griffin, Bill Murray and/or about 30 or 40 other NAMES HERE) was on.

3. Knows that when stuck, call Regis, he's always available for a quick laugh.

Yep. Good comic advice there.

2. Let's face it, you know Drew Barrymore would never have flashed Leno.

Yeah, that's-eh.Yep! By the way, for you younger readers, if you want to know what the '90s were about, that clip I posted above there, eh, that's a good metaphor for them. Pretty much, wouldn't you say? Yeah, that happened, and-eh, we were all fine with it. That was the nineties folks.


And, the #1 thing that makes David Letterman so special.

1. Let's face, these Top Ten Lists are friggin' awesome!

(Drumroll ends, music plays off into commercial)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Alright, already! My 100 GREATEST FILMS of ALL-TIME picks. By popular demand.

Per multiple requests, I have finally conceded to public demand and peer pressure and made a Top 100 Films list. This was not a process I enjoyed or was looking forward too, and frankly, normally I wouldn't do it. Frankly, I don't like doing it. While I personally am list-obsessed, maybe moreso than others, it seems so vain to me. I associate the process of compiling a collection of best or favorites, particularly those who do it without any real provocation, with the worst aspects of egoism. That seems weird from me, but I've also been compiling lists of films for a very long time. I recently watched my 4,000th film recently, I know, 'cause I posted my list of Every Movie I've Ever Seen recently:


And you know what I found out about having seen 4,000 films? It's a lot of movies, especially when you are put in a place where you have to narrow them down to a penultimate minimum. 100, seems like a lot, but out of 4,000, that's, narrowing it down to less than 2.5%, and if I do this, in the future, it's gonna be narrower and narrower. Frankly, I would've rather made a Top 500, if I could've. Seriously, I could've made three or four other lists of films, and made completely legitimate Top 100s without a repeat, so sorting through all that....

In case you're wondering why I don't have a list at the ready for a challenge like this, especially since I'm a list-obsessed Aquarius like I am. Well, I did originally, when I started doing this, but that didn't last too long. How can it? How can you continuously order and rank among every film ever made? Figuring out if the latest Judd Apatow-produced comedy is the 1,849th or the 1850th best film you've ever seen, is just,- insipid. No, it's insanity! You can't do it, frankly. So, eventually that list, became lists, first separated by decade, and then, once those lists, became too long, by years now. It just makes it simpler. Not necessary better or preferable, and simpler.

And even then, lists change. New movies keep getting made, and you keep being introduced to older ones, and your ideas change, and your perceptions change. Your tastes change. Back in 2012, I compiled my own hypothetical Top Ten for Sight & Sound's poll, and I had "Pulp Fiction" on that list, and as I was thinking through every film on my list, I seriously wondered if I was even gonna include "Pulp Fiction" on this Top 100. That's just two years. It's a movie I loved, but how do you compare it to other films? Is influence or innovation the big factor, or are there others? Do I just pick films I like or love? I can't do that, people wouldn't take me seriously. Or can I? Or what if I pick just old movies or just new movies, or make sure I have at least one for every director, I mean, there are hundreds of way to go about this, and none of them are foolproof and none of them are preferable to another. And what's worst, when I finished the list, oh, when I finish the list. Now I have it documented. No supposed room for error or change, or mistakes, these are MY Top 100. No matter how much I try to take out any preference on taste, or how much I praise about the differences between something I like vs. something's that good, that list is there. Remaining there, and my name's signed on it as a declaration. What a torturous thing to have done. It really is. It can make me rethink my whole being just compiling them, and sorting through those analytically and personal thoughts. It's an experience to realize your self and determining these things, and to have them be so permanent, it's daunting.

So, this isn't a permanent or definite Top 100. That's my first warning. This is the Top 100, as I feel on this date, April 18, 2014, and only on this date. I compiled the list, but unlike all my other lists, this one, will not be saved or constantly re-edited. In fact, I will be deleting all my personal notes from this list-making process, and the list itself. This will be my only document of it. If and when I have to compile such a list, in the future, in the far future hopefully, for any reason, I don't want the things I did here, or the way I felt today, to have any influence over me. No, if it's going to be a true list of the greatest films of all-time, you have to start fresh each time, and then, see if you think and feel the same way or differently than before.

I had two rules for myself on this list. One was to include only features, 'cause I don't think it's fair to compare shorts and features, and besides no shorts would've made my list anyway. The other, was to only include films from 2012 and earlier, because I'm still going through 2013's films and I didn't want to make such a judgment on the newest films anyway. That rule, was broken. I had to break it. 'Cause if I didn't it would've been betraying my own personal self not to include, so that rule went out the window.

"And this above all, to thy own self be true." At least for today, this is my truth. "Tomorrow is another day," and my truth tomorrow may be very different. But for today, by popular demand, my picks, for the 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL-TIME!  

100. Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg

99. Juno (2007) Jason Reitman

98. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990) John McNaughton

97. All the President's Men (1976) Alan J. Pakula

96. City Lights (1931) Charles Chaplin

95. Man with a Movie Camera (1929) Dziga Vertov

94. The Sting (1973) George Roy Hill

93. The Killing (1956) Stanley Kubrick

92. Souls for Sale (1923) Rupert Hughes

91. Princess Mononoke (1997) Hayao Miyazaki

90. In the Heat of the Night (1967) Norman Jewison

89. The Conversation (1974) Francis Ford Coppola

88. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

87. Wall-E (2008) Andrew Stanton

86. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Steven Spielberg

85. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976) Barbara Kopple

84. Rocky (1976) John G. Avildsen

83. The Apartment (1960) Billy Wilder

82. American Beauty (1999) Sam Mendes

81. La Dolce Vita (1960) Federico Fellini

80. Before Midnight (2013) Richard Linklater

79. The Hustler (1961) Robert Rossen

78. On the Waterfront (1954) Elia Kazan

77. 3 Women (1977) Robert Altman

76. Boyz n the Hood (1991) John Singleton

75. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) Woody Allen

74. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call--New Orleans (2009) Werner Herzog

73. Life of Pi (2012) Ang Lee

72. Hoop Dreams (1994) Steve James

71. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) George Roy Hill

70. Imitation of Life (1959) Douglas Sirk

69. The Philadelphia Story (1940) George Cukor

68. Amadeus (1984) Milos Forman

67. Once (2007) John Carney

66. Being John Malkovich (1999) Spike Jonze

65. This is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner

64. M*A*S*H (1970) Robert Altman

63. Broken Blossom or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919) D.W. Griffith

62. The Seventh Seal (1957) Ingmar Bergman

61. Some Like it Hot (1959) Billy Wilder

60. The Producers (1968) Mel Brooks

59. Airplane! (1980) Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker

58. Mulholland Dr. (2001) David Lynch

57. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Stanley Kubrick

56. Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock

55. The Third Man (1950) Carol Reed

54. The Social Network (2010) David Fincher

53. All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz

52. Sideways (2004) Alexander Payne

51. Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder

50. Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg

49. Minority Report (2002) Steven Spielberg

48. Mean Streets (1973) Martin Scorsese

47. City of God (2003) Fernando Meirelles

46. Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey

45. Pierrot Le Fou (1965) Jean-Luc Godard

44. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen

43. Sullivan's Travels (1941) Preston Sturges

42. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) David Lean

41. Good Will Hunting (1997) Gus Van Sant

40. Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Stanley Kubrick

39. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee

38. Schindler's List (1993) Steven Spielberg

37. The General (1926) Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton

36. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino

35. The Godfather Part II (1974) Francis Ford Coppola

34. Almost Famous (2000) Cameron Crowe

33. Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski

32. Adaptation. (2002) Spike Jonze

31. The Rules of the Game (1939) Jean Renoir

30. Stroszek (1977) Werner Herzog

29. Three Colors: Red (1994) Krzysztof Kieslowski

28. Goodfellas (1990) Martin Scorsese

27. 12 Angry Men (1957) Sidney Lumet

26. My Dinner with Andre (1981) Louis Malle

25. Magnolia (1999) Paul Thomas Anderson

24. The Tree of Life (2011) Terrence Malick

23. Modern Times (1936) Charles Chaplin

22. Ikiru (1952) Akira Kurosawa

21. Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman

20. Day for Night (1973) Francois Truffaut

19. El Topo (1970) Alejandro Jodorowsky

18. 8 1/2 (1963) Federico Fellini

17. The Graduate (1967) Mike Nichols

16. Raging Bull (1980) Martin Scorsese

15. Lost in Translation (2003) Sofia Coppola

14. Nashville (1975) Robert Altman

13. Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock

12. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Arthur Penn

11. Rashomon (1950) Akira Kurosawa

10. The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston

9. Wings of Desire (1987) Wim Wenders

8. Metropolis (1927) Fritz Lang

7. Sunset Blvd (1950) Billy Wilder

6. Apocalypse Now (1976) Francis Ford Coppola

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick

4. The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola

3. The Decalogue (1989) Krzysztof Kieslowski

2. Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles

1. Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz

I assume most of you will probably want to debate and/or discuss this with me, or others, and feel free to do so. I was planning to actually post a photo and have a little two-sentence explanation underneath each choice, similar to the feel of an AFI special, but that became too much work, and just wasn't feasible.   Besides, I really want to rid myself of this, ASAP, but if you're interested in my decision making process, I'm more than happy to answer any question. I wish I had more westerns and musicals, but I also wish I had more than 100 films to pick but.... As to my number one, while I don't know how I will rank any/all of these films in the future, I will admit, that I can't imagine any real scenario where "Casablanca" doesn't own the top spot, and that is the one and only film I ever call a "favorite". (At least in public) Well, there. I've caved into pressure and presented my Top 100. Now, to delete my trash folder.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Well, it's been a dismal week for me. Exhausted, chaotic, broke. Especially broke, I couldn't afford my Netflix this week, so instead of the movies I planned on watching, I was scouring through my Roku for any and all titles, I could quickly kick off my queue this week. Considering that I have 500 movies in my queue, and there's about, 100+ channels on my roku, you'd be surprised how often I couldn't even find a movie available, and it was particular rare for me to find them for free, which I could barely afford. There's a few holes in the story that I won't reveal quite yet, but let's just say, it's been a frustrating week all-in-all. So, I wish I could pontificate a little bit on the death of Mickey Rooney and Letterman's retirement and stuff like that, I might do the latter later, but for now, let's keep it short and sweet, folks and...,

Get right to this week's edition of our RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

IN A WORLD... (2013) Director: Lake Bell


When you hear Stockard Channing of John Krasinski's voices on a commercial for sub-prime mortgage companies or something like that, something that you might not realize is how those actors had to really fight for those roles. I know a few people in the voiceover world, and it's very competitive; and in many ways, it's actually heavily closed off from the rest of Hollywood to some extent. A lot of actors actually have separate agents and managers, just for their voice over work in commercials and trailers, and the agents work in that field exclusively, and they can be just as ruthless as regular agents, and the world is just as insular. People who get jobs doing voiceovers, of some kind, tend to get a lot of work, doing the same kind of voiceovers. Some people get animated characters, others get commercials, and the really special rare ones, they get the movie trailers. The title, as most of you should know already, is the famed trailer opening lines used by the legendary voice artist, Don LaFontaine. The line, first becoming infamous for action film trailers, before his voice became so cliche for them, that eventually, he usually ended up doing mostly comedy trailers that parodied his old action trailers. He passed away a few years back, (And that was a sad day in the industry btw) and since then, "In a World..." hasn't been used. There's a very limited number of people who get the voiceover work, and they keep those jobs for years. Carol (Lake Bell, who also wrote and directed the film) is the daughter of the biggest name in the business, since LaFontaine left, Sam Sotts (Fred Melamed, himself a major voice over artist for work like "The NFL Today" on CBS). She's a bit of a mess, who mostly works as a voice coach for people, especially for actors/actresses who have to work on re-dubbing their lines when they don't hit them perfectly in on stage, like in the wrong accent or inflection, or sometimes they just mumble so much that their recorded sound is useless. (Marlon Brando used to do most of his work in a sound studio, not even bothering to remember lines on the day, and then, essentially did most of his later performances, in the sound booth). There aren't a lot of female voices used for film trailers. In fact, I could only think of one, for a film called "Mr. Stache", and that was just a short film that won an American Express contest, and the voiceover was an integral part of the film to begin with. So, when she sneaks in and takes a job from her father's protege Gustav (Ken Marino) for a film trailer, granted, it's just a bad children's rom-com, it's a big deal. and she begins to get more gigs. Now, Sam and Gustav don't realize that Carol's the one who took his job, when Gustav throws a party, and Carol sleeps with him. She's not really interested, in him, but it's a realization for everyone. There's also a subplot about her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) who's a hotel concierge who almost has an affair with a Irish visitor Terry Pounder (Jerry O'Mara) who Carol wants Dani to record his voice, because she's needs to get an Irish accent right, and the more kinds of voices you can do, the better. (One of my friends who does voice over work has dozens of voices and characters. She plays six or seven different traffic reporters in town, a different one for each station.) Her husband Moe (Rob Corddrey) himself, was worried about a neighbor girl using a shower, when Carol walked in, to sleep on their couch between work and homes. I'm recommending the movie, but there's issues with it. A lot of these subplots, sorta just flutter in, and really don't have great arcs of any kind, so they seem like filler. Even the potential romance between the two voice over actors, is quickly diminished by Carol's recordist, Louis's (Demetri Martin) crush, who finally gets the nerve and control over his vocal abilities to ask her out. It's a cute little movie, with some nice cameos from Geena Davis, Eva Longoria, and Cameron Diaz, and we get an inside look at the voice over world that we haven't really seen much of before. The ending comes at the Golden Trailer Awards, (Yes, they're a real thing btw, and their award for Best Voiceover is named after the late LaFontaine) where Sam is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award and a trailer for "The Amazon Games" is premiering and all three voices inevitably submit work for the trailer, competing for it. I think, this could've been explored a little better, and that the plotpoints, really needed to either be more crucial to the film, or be dismissed altogether. The pacing of the movie is off, and the dramatic tension is really lacking for much of the middle. I still enjoy it enough to recommend it, and it's always good to see a new writer/director with a distinct point of view, and giving us something to think about, as there really is no logical reason why there aren't more female voiceover artists working trailers, and elsewhere ever. I always liked Bell, I remember her from "Boston Legal" among other series and shows she's shown up on sporatically, this is her first feature film and a director, and she's occasionally done voiceover work as well, most notably as a witch in "Shrek Forever After". I liked the idea of "In a World..." than I did, the execution, but there is something here; I just wish there was a bit more. That's the kind of response I'd rather get out of a trailer, than a film.

SNITCH (2013) Director: Ric Roman Waugh


In the six or seven hours after I've seen "Snitch"; I've been, basically doing whatever I can to delay writing a review about it. Watched some old British episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway" on youtube, fell asleep watching old pro wrestling, played a few games on Facebook and Pogo. Re-watched that old BBC Top 100 Greatest Cartoons List, I'm in the middle of that now actually, I don't know what's weirder that "Looney Tunes" was only 20th, or that people voted for "Legends of the Overfiend". Anyway, I was trying to figure out what or why I should write about this movie. But I finally think I did stumble onto the film's problem. When you're doing this kind of action-hero led movie, you can only really go about this genre, in two different ways. There's one way where, plot is almost inconsequential, and has no real meaning other than, getting the action star in a position to, basically, kill or destroy everyone. I guess, almost like a video game essentially. Or, the other way is to make the movie, too far the other direction where you're striving for much more than an action movie, something transcending the genre and having a message or being overly important. "Snitch"'s problem, is that it tries to have it both ways, and kinda, be in the middle too much, and when that happens, it won't come out right, and the audience is sorta, either gonna like one aspect or the aspect, if they succeed at anything they'll like one or the other, and half the movie is already down the tube to begin with. John Matthews (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) owns a construction company, and his son, is incredibly talented, but ever-so-slightly hung out with the wrong people after his divorce, and now is in jail for accepting a package full of ecstasy that his roommate was gonna get, and now the roommate turned on him, in order to avoid the mandatory minimum jail sentence of 20-30 years. This is outrageous, and they make a point about it being outrageous that this kid, about to go off to college, is ruined by this. (And that's a real thing btw, mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes) It's the kind where Susan Sarandon, plays a prosecuting D.A., who outright says, tactlessly "I'm in favor of mandatory minimums," despite the evidence they just stated doesn't work. Hell, most of the police and the justice system don't like mandatory minimums anymore, and I'm not sure anybody's like them since the mid-90s. Anyway, Josh strikes a deal with Joane Keeghan (Sarandon) by promising to go undercover into a drug cartel and eventually turn on a kingpin, or some other higher-ups, in order to give a lighter sentence to his son Jason (Rafi Gavron). He manages to uses an ex-con employee, Daniel (Jon Bernthal) to set up a meeting and eventual, he's provided transportation for transferring drugs, and eventually money. There's a few explosion and car crashes and fight scenes, not as many as you'd think, that's a little different, but there was still very little surprise in "Snitch"; I could basically predict every plotpoint from a mile away, plus they laid it on so thick, and so badly-written dialogue, especially in the beginning, somebody has to study exposition for closely, 'cause this is simply a terrible example of it. It takes you out of the movie completely, you lose the subtlety of Benjamin Bratt's performance for instance, or Barry Pepper's under that makeup; it just turns into, every other drug dealing action film. There's no real surprise or compelling twist that makes "Snitch" into anything more than an action film, and even when it tries, like when Daniel's wife Analisa (Nadine Velazquez) is frustrated that her husband's back in the trade, even though it's against his will, that she gets upset, it more-or-less comes off as another convention of the tired old plot. "Snitch", is nice to put on, if you want something on that will help you in getting other things done like housework perhaps, or a high score at spider solitaire, 'cause you don't miss too much when you're distracted not watching it.

JUG FACE (2013) Director: Chad Crawford Kinkle


If you've never seen a face jug, they are usually creepy and googly-eyed, and otherwise disturbing. I've seen a few on "Antiques Roadshow" and "History Detectives" and other PBS programs over the years, they date back, probably to the slave culture in America, although it was probably somehow adapted from African tradition, and I believe the South Carolina-Georgia border, around there, is where most of the earliest examples can be traced back to, but other than those few facts or suspicions, they're a bit of a mystery in terms origins and use. Some suspects that the face jugs, or ugly jugs as they were also called, were intended to thwart off spirits, which is why they were purposefully designed to be so hideous-looking. The mystery about them does leave them open for interpretation and use in literature, although "Jug Face" is the first film I can think of where the mystical factors about them play a role. It's a southern gothic horror actually, although, it might as well have originated in a Shirley Jackson world. It's a secluded southern community that's aware of the outside world, but mostly lives in fear and trust of something called "The Pit", which is, a ghastly, pit, that seems to be both a life and destructive force of the world. Basically, it's that volcano on ancient tribal islands that virgins used to be sacrificed to in order to keep it from blowing it, although instead of a virgin, per se, it's an image created on a face jug that's also thrown into the pit. When Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) sees that the new face jug has a resemblance to her, she takes and hides it before it can get thrown into the pit, and soon, unusual deaths and disturbances begin to haunt the community. Ada herself, a teenager is in a bit of trouble, having been secretly having an affair with Dawai (Sean Bridges) which has led to her getting pregnant, this she finds out, after having been setup to marry Bodey (Mathieu Whitman) in an arrange marriage. This isn't something that's appealing to her mother Loriss (Sean Young, yes that Sean Young, and I can't remember the last time I saw her in anything other than in a catsuit on "The Joan Rivers Show" either.) but as deaths start occurring, and it becomes clearer and clearer that whatever's happening is because of her, she and the rest of the community.... Well, I think you can guess from there. Larry Fessenden plays Ada's friend who makes the local face jugs, and the film's from a first-time director named Chad Crawford Kinkle, who's from this obscure area of the country, so he gets a lot of the tones. The violence and gore, is minimal but effective, he's good at building some tension. The film, gets a little bit too convoluted and messy at the end, at it seems to screech towards an inevitable end, so the scares aren't there, granted he's going more for mood, so he's effective. I can't quite recommend it outright, there's enough flaws to worry concern me but it's a talented first-time filmmaker, who, maybe could be better in a different, more slice-of-life drama in this world instead. This idea of the closed off inbred-cult society in most of America, even parts of the Deep South, is a bit old, even for horror, but "Jug Face" is a promising debut for him, and there's some pretty good acting in this film, especially from Carter. A lot of promise all around, I hope soon we'll get the upside with Kinkle's next project.

THE STORY OF LUKE (2013) Director: Alonso Mayo


A word of advice to writers, if the characters don't know why they're telling something to another character, so much so that they continually tell him such things as, "I don't know why I'm telling you this...", then, well, don't have them tell him. Not only was that such poor exposition in "The Story of Luke", a lot of it was, not just arbitrary, some of it was just; I mean it barely needed to be a plotpoint. Actually no it didn't, there's a side plot in the story involving the conflict between Paul and Cindy (Cary Elwes and Kristen Bauer van Straten) that basically, boils down to, they're a couple with two kids, and they're both frustrated because they're not having sex. I mean, they're frustrated with each other, and it's getting in the way of things, but that's basically it, they're two parents of teenagers, and they're in a dry spell sexually at the moment. That's weak enough, and now, both of them will talk to their nephew Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci) who's a high-functioning autistic, who's grandmother just passed and his grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) isn't able to take care of him, or their house, and now he's living temporarily with them, until they figure out what else to do with him. He's graduated from high school, although it was a home-schooling, and he's a very good cook; he knows 23 dinner recipes, and the way Rain Man used to watch "The People's Court" and "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" he does with cooking shows, although, he knows that, in order to live on his own, he needs a job, and that might just mean sacrificing the cooking shows in order to search. He also wants to get laid and do other things that normal people his age do. While he stumbles his way through a couple pseudo-sexual adventures, he gets a trainee job with the verbally-abusive Zach (Seth Green) who's also a little bit damaged mentally, but he is a computer genius, and Luke manages to keep up with him, and hold his own. The main climax of the story involves Luke's mother who abandoned him years earlier, another thing that gets brought up to him often through unnatural exposition to him. They almost treat him like a bartender at times, I swear. Despite some of those problems there's enough here to recommend actually. The film is the first theatrical film from Documentarian Alonso Mayo, he needs some work to do with dramatic films as a writer, but the directing isn't awful. The acting helps save this movie, and Pucci, he's okay at this kind of autistic character. It's a bit of an acty-showy performance, and with my personal biases, I'm always a little iffy in regards to autistic characters  and roles, but he's not too unbelievable here. It's an average indy film, so I can't recommend it too highly. It wasn't nearly as funny as it tried to be, but-eh, I guess I'm in a decent mood today, so I'm recommending it.

HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (2012) Director: Takeshi Miike


I know what he's trying to do, and I know that to some extent, Takeshi Miike's latest "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai', succeeds, but, I gave it two shots all the way, and I'm not completely sold there's as much here as it seems. Far wand away, his least violent effort year, Miike's attempting to channel the great Masaki Kobayashi, who directed numerous Samurai movies that were more about the emotional trevails of the characters than about the fighting and other more typical aspects of samurai films. Even the title, "Hara-Kiri..." is borrowed from one of Kobayashi's most beloved films. I've only seen one of Kobayashi's movies, "Samurai Rebellion", and that one, while also well-regarded, didn't have much effect on me either, so maybe it's a taste thing, but I think the issue with Miike's film is the structure. It begins with Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa) arriving in town to request an audience so he can partake in the Ancient tradition of seppuko, the famed ritualistic Samurai suicide method, where a man slices up his stomach with his knife. His reasons, are solid; he's unable to care for his family after his tribe as his house was poverty-stricken and he can't take care of his family. The feudal house warriors, suspects a bluff, as many former samurais from other defeated tribes in the battles, have been arriving to threaten suicide, as an attempt to extort money. Then, there's two stories told, one by the warriors about a previous bluff attempt, where the man was forced to use a bamboo sword to kill himself, unsuccessfully. Then, Hanshiro tells a tale of his own, and somehow, these two stories are related to each other as we see that same man's family, teetering on survival and failing, after the man they sent, didn't arrive back from his desperation claim. I found it really tricky, trying to relate the two tales, I couldn't grasp how they viscerally came together, and when the movie, ended in a final battle, I more of less begrudgingly wondered why he went that direction, when he didn't need to. I think the film, was trying too much. It was doing these multiple stories, inside the main story, I guess a la "Rashomon", or maybe more recently, something like "Hero" I think, the Jet Li film, kinda did that, and they devolving as the story gets told, to the inevitable fight scene, but I think because it was done in this peculiar, that I couldn't really get into the film. I kept feeling like, I was being shifted through, flashbacks against my will, and it didn't really answer any greater truth or ask a new question. Because we got these, two perspective on the truthfulness of the Samurai requesting hara-kiri, that are both, relatively equal perspectives, at the end, I didn't have an opinion one way or another what happened to him, and that was ultimately depressing for me. There's a lot of skill and talent on screen; Miike is a great director; I've argued that his "Audition" is the best of the Asia Extreme films, even ahead of "Oldboy"; his "13 Assassins" was a great exercise in kinetic action, but I felt less for this film, the more I watched and considered it. I guess I'm going against the prevailing winds considering the standard we're at, but despite some good stuff here, it doesn't come together for me....- I'm definitely reluctant on this, 'cause I still feel a little like I'm missing something, but I just can't recommend it all the way, 'cause I don't think it really leads to much, when you try to construct the entire story back, and he's set such a high standard for himself here, maybe I'm being tougher but, it just doesn't really work the way this film was constructed.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) Director: Timur Bekmambetov


Well...,  if Solomon can be a master of demons, then I guess, Abraham Lincoln could've been a vampire hunter in his spare time. ("Testament of Solomon," it's in the Apocrypha; one of the gospels that didn't get canonized in the Bible, he was a mystic who fought off demons, when he wasn't threatening to slice disputed babies in half. Oh nevermind, it's not relevant.) Anyway, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", um, yeah. That's basically it. I don't know what to say about this film. Is it good, no. Is it supposed to be, probably not in the traditional sense. The movie begins with a young Lincoln, (Benjamin Walker) witnessing the murder of his mother at the hands of a vampire, as well as saving a young slave, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) from the vampire as well. Apparently, the whole Civil War was basically inevitable because of this moment, and Lincoln's determination to win it came from here too. While, he's not railsplitting, or taking his 3rd grade education to become the most successful lawyer in Illinois, he spends his nights killing vampires under the tutelage of Henry Burgess (Dominic Cooper), himself a vampire, but one of the few on the side of the North-, I mean, on the side of Good. He trains him, and eventually, with the law and politics and a guise, Lincoln kills over 60 vampires, but has yet to kill the one he really wants Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), the one that killed his mother. I don't know, there's a half-decent idea of inserting the supernatural into history, but that rarely works under the best of circumstances. Here, the movie, is too ridiculous to be truly taken seriously, and it takes itself too seriously and for it to be appreciated as absurdist camp. It's kinda like, a bunch of dead air on the screen really. That's the real problem with the movie, it doesn't go far enough in any direction; it feels like, despite all the logical reasons not to, the film tries to treat the scenario as possible, and then, try to dive into Lincoln's life too much. Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) starting to lose it after vampires took their young son, and then, add the politics events that correspond and how his frustration with vampires led him to double down on Gettysburg, and- I don't know. I don't know; I don't know; I don't know! I've said that about a dozen or so times during this review, and really that's basically what they give us to make of the film. From conception to execution, the movie plays it right down the middle so much, that amazingly, the movie not only turns boring, but safe and indecisive too. The movie was based on the novel from Seth-Grahame Smith, who also wrote the hit novel, "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies", which is also being adapted into a feature film. He likes this idea of inserting the supernatural in familiar stories. The key word there is stories, 'cause here, he's messing with history, and there's only so much you can interpret and re-imagine, without being tired of going, "Oh, that's from that. That's about that. That's cute how they tied that in, sorta....." Still, the movie, it's so ugly and dark; there's nothing really fun about it. It was boring!; I mean, how can this movie be boring? It's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", and the worst sin of all, is that they made it, as boring as they could've made it. It could've been anything with an idea, this fucking ridiculous, but not boring, and somehow they pulled off. I guess it's sorta an achievement, but I wouldn't want to brag about it.

MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (2012) Director: Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre


Marina Abramovic's work-, no, that's not the right way to describe it. I don't know what is either. Yes, art will do, but,- to the far extent that all art, is essentially performance art, and to the barest extent, there's performance art, and then there's, performance art. And Abramovic, might've been the inventor of the latter to some extent. Just reading about her work and those who witnessed it is disturbing, much less seeing much of it here, in old footage, and new in "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present". The film chronicles her for almost a year as she prepares a display of her most famous work at the Museum of Modern Art, the MoMA in New York City, which is considered a career achievement for her, and a sign of the general acceptance of her work. She's doing one part of the performance herself, a piece where she sits still in silence, at a table, across from her audience, during the entire exhibition, which was running for a couple months, only taking occasional breaks at closing. Other artists were brought in, and trained to recreate her most famous works, like of the two naked people standing in the doorway entrance, which visitors must be walk between to enter; the symbolism of life and birth is powerful, and one of my favorites. Other times, she's beating, whipping herself, cutting herself on stage, or letting the audience do things to her. One infamous performance, involved her standing still, with a table full of objects that the audience was allowed to use against her, for the six hours she stood passively. Objects included everything from items of pleasure and nourishment to weapons, including a loaded gun. Her body is her canvas, and whether alone, or working together for a time with her lover Ulay, another performance artist, she is unusually strong-willed and determined a person, able to force much torture and self-mutilation and other punishments against herself for long period of time. Ulay and Marina's final performance "The Lovers", involved them walking along the Great Wall of China for three months, from one to the other, until they met in the middle, ironically, to say goodbye to their relationship. As people as famous as Lady Gaga and James Franco would view her exhibit, and sit with her, the more the performance gained public notoriety. She had a tough live, born out of a violent and broken home from Yugoslavia, it's clear that she's capable of numerous kinds of art, (I actually viewed a short film she directed for a controversial conceptual collection of films called "Destricted" called "Balkan Erotic Epic". She even discusses a possible collaboration with David Blaine for awhile, before it became clear that, the world of illusion is the exact opposite of her art. She wants us to witness her bare her soul, body, and everything else on display, and we see that in the performance, and in the film. She let's us in, seemingly forgetting we're here when not being interviewed, but an artist like her, is always on display, so it's difficult to tell where Marina the artist begins and Marina the person ends, which is the point of her work. When Ulay sits across from her, after having not seen each other in over a decade before, she ever-so-slightly reaches for him, the only time she remotely breaks from the part. Even she can be effected when her, as the audience, is challenged. This is a very good documentary on a very important artist of our times, and seeing her process and work behind the scenes is quite stirring. It's nice to see her, just cutting vegetables for guests and cooking, and laughing as she plans out the exhibit. The documentary was in theaters for a couple weeks in New York, before it debuted on HBO; it's one of the better documents of artist in recent years, and having watched it a couple times, the power of the film, and of her art, is something, you kinda just have to experience, 'cause analyzing it is okay, but, that's the thing with performance art, you kinda have to witness it somehow. Probably participate too in Marina's world.

THE GENERAL (1926) Directors: Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman


While I'm glad to finally get it off my shame list, Buster Keaton's "The General" is usually listed as his best and most important work. I'm not so sure I share that opinion actually. Oh, it's an amazing film, and the feat of athleticism and comedy he manages to pull off are quite special, but ironically, something I notice with this film is how simple it actually is. Some of his other works, like "Our Hospitality," seem to be more elaborate, and filled with taking pieces of humor to some absolute zeniths. The worlds were more imaginative too, where he would be reacting to the strange things going on as much as anything else. "The General" on the other hand, is really, Buster Keaton, minimalism oddly enough. It's him, and a train basically. Yeah, the Civil War comes into play, and Keaton, always the buff, always loved his Civil War pieces to be in Kentucky, which is the area of the country most divided by the War, and by divided, I mean, brother against brother, literally. When the war breaks out, he gets rejected, Johnnie Gray (Keaton) and this disappoint Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), who mis-believes that he didn't enlist, when in fact, he did everything to enlist, but being a train engineer, it was determined that he was more important here. Then, his train, "The General" gets stolen by the north, who this begins a second act, that seems to be just one long elaborate train chase. Multiple chases act, and they are elaborate. The movie was actually based on an actual incident in the Civil War, and there advisers on set, who were actually involved in the incident. Maybe that's why it doesn't rank as one of his more laugh-out-loud films. Maybe that's it's secret. It was one of the most elaborate and expensive films of its time. The train, that Keaton is nearly run over by multiple times, is a real train that nearly ran him over. So it the car that's set on fire and abandoned in a tunnel that Johnnie Grey heads straight towards. And the other, on the bridge that eventually collapses, actual train, long before David Lean did it. He manages, some of his other favorite conceit, like switching uniforms to sneak back into Kentucky and help foil the Northern advance, and a few different gags with canons, one on a train, another during battle. Keaton's best work here, isn't so much, the comedy, it's his acting strangely enough. He always played his roles seriously, to make the comedy even more hilarious, when they occurred, as he often stood as counter to it. Roger Ebert's Great Movie review notes that "We don't laugh at Keaton, we identify with him." It's true actually, we don't laugh as much at "The General" as we do, his other works. Perhaps, if we did, we wouldn't get so caught up in it. It wouldn't be the epic war story that it really is. The music is driving and pushing battle music; it almost reminds me of the score for "Stripes" of all thing, which is probably the kind of music that film was parodying. The film isn't parody or satire, it's actually based out of the smarts and know-how of the engineer, who may or may not be army material, but he knows trains, and how they can be manipulated and how he can use that knowledge to outsmart the Northern Army. The lowly workingman, who manages to be craftier and more determined that most of the rest of the military. "The General" is certainly essential viewing, although I don't know if, that film alone, is a good piece to get the entirety of Buster Keaton; I'm not sure it's the synecdoche for Keaton's career that other might claim. Of course, that's a good thing, since that means, we have to go through the rest of his work, which is almost always great. It also reveals just how talented Keaton actually was.

GOOD DICK (2008) Director: Marianna Palka

I know, that I have written this into a script before, on multiple occasions even, so it's a bit ironic coming from me, but exactly how often and how much do women watch porn? And even if they do, how often do they masturbate from it? I think a decent portion watch it, almost ironically, the way Janeane Garofalo's discussed it in her stand-up a few times, how she hates sex, but enjoys porn, "Hey, I watch the food network a lot too, that doesn't mean I'm gonna bake a cake!" And, in this day and age, how many still, go to a video store for their porn? Personally, I wish that they did, since, I miss video stores, and since our family's old video store chain, might've been the last one that kept a regular porn collection, I certainly have fond memories of them, but this is more a conceit from a bad writer than based in any form of reality. Somebody has screwed up mentally as "The Woman" (Marianna Palka, the film's writer/director) would most likely be so insular and hermit-ish to spends all her days masturbating to porn and rejecting the outside world, and apparently have enough money to not have a job and live in an apartment her father paid for, and have a trust fund, would probably not go to a store; she's probably just a buy a computer so she can watch her porn more that way. Maybe she prefers the to watch porn the old-style way, as a film, with a bit of a plot like an old Emmanuelle movie or something, but still, there's ways of getting that without leaving the house. I know, I almost took a job once writing reviews of porn on a website, they send you the latest porn titles to review in little envelopes, and there's plenty of company's....- Maybe I'm being snippet about "Good Dick", but it really did frustrate me too much. "The Man" (Jason Ritter) who insists on trying to know her, manages to con his way into her apartment, and together, not much, he just watches a lot of porn with her. Occasionally there's a funny exchange of repartee, and one scene involving Ritter, bent over the dining room table and Woman makes Man experience metaphorically what sex is like from a woman's point of view. He's fallen for her as the clerk at the video store, which is apparently one of the only places she visits, that and the mailbox. Something's screwed up with her, and it involves some psycho-sexual abuse from her father (Tom Arnold, who's cameo is probably the best thing in the film until the scene starts). who she confronts at the end and everything is still vague. Man never gets to the bottom of the problem, and she never reveals it either. Occasionally, we learn one or two unimportant things about the characters, like Man's homeless and sleeps in his car, and apparently an addict of some kind; I guess that the excuse for why he sees a need in her that he's willing to force his way into her life against her will, but he doesn't do much about it either, except try to get in her pants. (And I don't know why his name at least, isn't Dick, if for nothing else to match the title?) Marianna Palka, probably has some talents at acting, and she's got a new directorial effort coming out later this year. Apparently, she's a pupil of David Mamet and Bill Macy, so I suspect that she can do better than this, and maybe a variation on this story might've worked on the stage. Perhaps a two-person show, involving the masturbating woman and the clerk, forcing his way in and the whole thing taking place in that apartment; that might've been interesting, but "Good Dick", just fails at, seemingly everything from the concept to the execution. Todd McCarthy might've put his finger on it, calling it a "Therapy script" that shouldn't have been made. I hope that's the case, and I hope Palka can do better next time in that case. Or at least, give us more of a reason to care about these "characters."

THE LADY (2011) Director: Luc Besson


Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) is one of my personal heroes, and she should be to everybody else for her accomplishment. She won the Nobel Peace Prize, but wasn't able to accept it 'til fifteen years later, as she was in her native Myanmar under house arrest. Her father Aung San, (Phoe Zaw) was the right ruler of Burma, but was assassinated through a military coupe. Suu Kyi would spends much of her life outside the country, even marrying and having kids with a British writer/professor, Michael Arias (David Thewlis), and she wasn't even allowed to visit him, as he died of cancer while she was imprisoned. I've known about her life for awhile, as I'm sure most everybody has. She's only recently had her house arrest expunged and while Myanmar's fragile state inches ever-more-slowly towards, not only diplomacy, but a place in the world scene, she now a member of it's newly-formed Congress. She once won an election for President, but another coupe led to her arrest. She's realizes and loves politics, realizing how it really is the things the government does that effects what happens to the people of her very poor country. Before watching "The Lady", I, had seen a few things on Burma, including some really good, and risky documentaries about the country that's the 2nd most shutout from the outside world, next to North Korea of anywhere. "The Lady" is a decent biopic on Aung San Suu Kyi, although it's a fairly traditional tale about an otherwise revolutionary person. I certainly wish it was more than that though. Luc Besson, interestingly enough chose to direct "The Lady", that's not a typical choice from the director of "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional", but he's certainly competent enough, and we certainly get a good, theatrical overview of Aung San Suu Kyi, we also get a lot of her long-suffering husband, a bit more than we probably should've as I think, her alone or her actions were far more interesting. I think there's better films about Myanmar and Suu Kyi, but most of them are documentaries. I think this could've been better, and won't call it the definitive statement on her, but it'll be a decent introduction for those unfamiliar, not much more than that though.

THE WOMAN (2011) Director: Lucky McKee


Ugh. I'm still a bit nauseous after watching "The Woman", the latest from director Lucky McKee. It's his fourth feature film, but the first one I've seen since his debut feature "May", which was one of the most interesting and charming slasher horror films I've seen in a while. There isn't much charming or enjoyable in this film, although, that might be part of the plan, but still, this one's just disturbing. The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) is some kind of disturbing uncivilized, supposedly tribe of cannibalistic creatures, but it seems more like she was raised by wolves and the Linda Harrison character from "Planet of the Apes", only more primitive and violent. She's spotted by a country lawyer Chris Creek (Sean Bridges) and is soon captured. What a normal script would happen next, would be that, while they may go to a few drastic lengths to keep her temporarily immobile, they'd call the police, scientists, maybe the National Enquirer, perhaps but plenty of applied psychoanalysts and other professors of the humanities at the major universities, and begin trying to turn Frankenstein into Eliza Dolittle, possibly with some gruesome results. That's not what happens however, as she was kidnapped and taken by the wrong country lawyer. Without revealing too much else of the actions, let me say that, Chris, is a family man, with a wife and three kids. The eldest girl, Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter, in the second horror I'm reviewing her in this week) is suddenly and unusually quiet and sick. She was dating a boyfriend recently, but now, her teacher Genevieve (Carlee Baker) suspects that her bouts of illness and distract classroom behavior, are symptoms of a pregnancy. Her younger brother Brian (Zach Rand) is curious by the woman his father's brought home, as he's beginning to have some of the same violent psycho-sexual neuroses that his father has, which have all very suddenly it seems been ignited, or maybe they've been there all along. This is one of those, almost classically is disturbing, a la, "I Spit On Your Grave", or these old early eighties, disgusting anti-women horror films, and there is an effectiveness to it, that's hard to dismiss. This is a skilled filmmaker at work here, and McKee is wise enough, to not spend too much time through the perspective of the villain, so it is a detached film, as opposed to one that praises the material, but it's still, not very pleasurable. Apparently, according to some critics, when they sent out screeners of the film, they sent barf bags with them. You know, part of being a critic is in recognizing the skill involved in work that, otherwise, I don't like. That said, there's a think line between enjoying and appreciation; "The Woman" is really hard to enjoy. I could make just a technical argument, not to recommend it, 'cause those certain problems with the story and the filmmaking even; there's an early error involving the way the desks are set up in a classroom that clearly was illogical, and they basically had to reset the desks a certain way in order to get the shot they wanted, but it means that the room would never be set up that way, but that's minor; the implications of the story and the characters, as well as their actions, that much more traumatic and gruesome, and in many ways, just disgusting. I'm conflicted here, but I can't imagine, recommending this movie for anybody, there isn't really an enjoyment factor in the film, something that you're gonna come out of it with any positive experience. It's a work of art for sure, it's based on a Jack Ketchum novel, and he co-wrote the film's script, but I can't really recommend it.

KANDAHAR (2001) Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf


When "Kandahar" got a surprise American theatrical release back in late '01, the film's timing was not coincidental as it had been rushed into limited release theaters after 9/11 and despite acclaim from numerous film festivals. More of us know now, where Kandahar is, and at least for now, it's not incontrol of the Taliban, unlike the way it was when the film was made. For the geo-politically lacking, "Kandahar" is a disputed territory, generally considered a part of Afghanistan, although Afghanistan and Pakistan have fought over the territory for centuries, and much of the time, it's been a rogue nation-state, that isn't considered a part of either, and until the war, was run by the Taliban. "Kandahar" is about Nafas (Nelofar Pazira) was born in Afghanistan, but hasn't been there since she was young. Her family, went off to live in Canada, but her sister stayed behind. Now, she's returned to the Taliban-controlled region, alone, and has to find her sister and get her out, after she wrote a letter saying she stepped on a landmines and lost both of her legs. The real story, is Nafas's journey behind the cloak and into the world. It takes a lot just to get into Afghanistan. She needs a male to go with her to Kandahar, and eventually finds a young ten-year-old named Khak (Sadou Teymouri), who was thrown out of school for the day, a school where the Qu'ran, is repeated, literally repeated by the students to memory, and they bob up and down, repeating it like a mantra, before getting tested on the basics of modern machine guns and other weapons. The kid, is a hustler, constantly trying to get more and more money out of the girl as they head out across the desert, hopefully to Kandahar. She soon gets sick, and goes to see a doctor, Tabib (Hassan Tantai) who can only treat her by looking through a sheet with an eye hole. He turns out to be an American, keeping a fake beard so as to treat the locals, and Nafas's is the only English-speaking person around. The trip is slowed down at one point, after a skeleton is found. Nafas is flipped out, Khak tries to sell her the ring that was on it. The kid is used to skeletons, I guess. These are the events of the movie, and are essentially  the main point, to show the life of people under the Taliban rule. The film was directed by Iranian Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who switches back and forth from dramatic films and documentaries; it's the first film of his I've seen. I think it's more of a curiosity than a truly effective feature; it gives us a small glimpse inside a world thank, hopefully won't exist anymore, anywhere, although in the thirteen years since "Kandahar" came out, I would've liked to have been able to be able to have been a little more confident about the Taliban's end than that.