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A Standout Film of The McMartin Preschool Trial of the 80s and 90s.
Let me begin by writing, one would hope not to be so close to many of the deemed sensational trials of the latter part of the 20th Century, - but I was one of those folks who got to be around two - The Menendez Brothers and this one, The McMartin Preschool Trial. One happened two blocks of where I was living at the time, the other a few blocks from where I worked. And this movie drama enactment was top notch for it's time.
There is no doubt about it, this was the most horrific thing I had ever heard of, and it was scary. It was scary because of the victims, the children and everything they were exposed to. I can write from first hand that this was a trying time in that area. No one was 100% in agreement with everything. Everyone had an opinion. People I was working with knew the accused and the accusers first hand. Those that lived in Manhattan Beach (and Hermosa and Redondo the adjacent beaches)absolutely had their views and you could NOT remove them from it. It was volatile. And the more the accusations came out, the more precarious it got. And this whole McMartin Preschool Trial...was almost a DECADE and 13 Million dollars of taxpayer of money (yep!) for acquittals ... and this HBO film hit the nail on the head.
This was well written, made your skin crawl, and that is how many were feeling. This did a great job of showing the jockeying between the children, the McMartins, the Attorneys, the child therapist, the teachers(!), the media (ugh!), the parents of the children. What I liked so much about this film --was it did NOT take sides, it presented it as it was, and the end still leaves you to...wonder. Make no mistake, this was real...this happened. And what happened...is more questions and accusations than answers.
HBO was starting to make its wonderful reputation of "HBO Films" diving into subject matter Networks were attempting to show but sugar-coated many because of Network Standards, HBO was being raw about their approaches. Actor Henry Thomas as Ray Buckey gives a standout performance. It is cold, chilling...scary. Actor Sada Thompson as the owner of the McMartin Preschool also takes you out of any comfortable place as you are wondering about the grandmother of Ray Buckey and her also as the mother of Peggy Buckey, Ray's mom portrayed by Actor Shirley Knight and it's a performance to behold). It was a family affair. James Woods gives another one of his best performances as Ray Buckey's Attorney Danny Davis against Mercedes Ruehl's spot-on performance as the Prosecuting Attorney Lael Rubin and this is something to watch --and keep in mind this is BEFORE the Menendez Trials and the OJ Simpson Trial in Los Angeles. This is how Los Angeles was...and this HBO film captures it's first case that (in my view) opens up a whole can of judicial worms to come).
The film shows also shows how the McMartin Preschool trial also became a web of mass hysteria and yes, 15 minutes of fame that ruined any real judicial hope of getting to the bottom of this. There were victims and they were the children (scared, abused, manipulated), and in this movie you will see that the child victims may have been victimized -- twice. This film does not display any easy answers (there really wasn't any) and you just can't leave it thinking there was a conclusion - the film is clear in stating there was not. Still isn't.
In 2017-2018 I am sure people notice that filmmakers are bringing these trials to cable/streaming/movies for this generation -- and they should because it is a not too distant past that no one has made a decent conclusion of. I know the McMartin Preschool Trial will be getting a re-do as well in the future. But before that, please watch this film first. Great performances, great writing, keeps you glued. Rent it, stream it -- as it is one of HBO's 10 best and as relevant today and it was in the 1980's. That is how good this is.
White Famous (2017)
Another...'this is how Hollywood Works' Show
After watching the first episode, I was ready to put it into the "stop wasting my time file" as I didn't find the main character's situation at all interesting --only because the premise has been done over and over and over again. The other reason for me is that when I "look" at this program starring Jay Pharoah, I am taken back to a film I absolutely loved from Robert Townshend called "Hollywood Shuffle". There was a scene in the movie where there was a casting for a film, and they were seeking "an Eddie Murphy-Type". This was because "Eddie Murphy" was "80s hot" and "bankable" then, and so that was what they wanted from budding African-American actor/comedians. NOt their individuality. In the audition room were actors all dressed up, mimicking, "Eddie Murphy" waiting to audition for the role. This is what "White Famous" reminds me of. And that is not a bad thing entirely, but hard to grasp for the main character in 2017.
This comedian wants to show how it would be to be "White Famous" defined as to be known and respected across the board (a cross-over artist) and get paid equally for it. This program, "White Famous" is not just for this African American comedian, but also 'the wish' for the people in his orbit trying to get him there, no matter what their racial background. It's the 'tag description' for ANYONE wishing to 'make it in Hollywood', and this show is letting the viewer know that's the "in-phase".
For this struggling comedian getting into acting in Hollywood, has his ideas, and they have theirs but the bottom line is both are seeking the fame and money in making this work. Is this a new premise? No. However to make it appealing to audiences will be the "likeability" of the characters. Jay Pharoah is at the decision-pinnacle of such a career, as we are all getting to know him, and are on the same journey as he juggles career, being a single dad, relationship whoa's and more.
For programs like this, the ultimate test of whether it works or not is if the viewer cares and roots for the subject to succeed. Currently, I am not getting a feeling either way. He's not very likable, but he isn't a horror either. His agent(s) aren't very interesting as they are stereotypical of Hollywood Agents and Manager and the Hollywood scene has been done over and over -- so I am not picking anything too interesting out of it above the norm in this show about them. I do somewhat like the "crazy-movie" producer/director played by Michael Rappaport as that character combines Hollywood's craziness into one ball as he too is looking to be "white famous". The fear is that this character needs to be taken in dribs-and-drabs as it is. More of a character like this would be overkill.
The relationship between his 'baby-mama' (and BTW, I dislike that phrase so much, it's a big turn off for me)and he isn't interesting beyond what is already established, and his comedy isn't making me stand up and cheer. As it has been said many times by other comedians -- 'stringing a bunch of curse words together for a laugh, isn't always funny'. I'm not familiar with his stand up, and this show doesn't quite move me to want to see it with any urgency -- meaning -- if I see it in passing, I may or may not stop to look.
There's some potential here, but I don't know if it will bring in enough viewer interest for people to want to witness it develop before it is canceled.
For Free TV...it's Okay
I had no idea who "The Inhumans" are, what MARVEL Comic series it came from, etc., etc...so this is just someone reviewing this with only the knowledge that it was from a comic book of MARVEL characters. The episodes I've seen so far is doing what it needs to: introducing you to the characters and conflict of these ..."Inhumans". It's not horribly bad as I expected from many of these posts I read on IMDb. But I think the advantage I had with it was to "binge watch" the episodes so far, and that helped.
In 'binge-watching' The Inhumans, it got my curiosity, and I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know the players and of course, "The Inhumans" and the conflicts, where they fit, and there are questions I am left with such as I don't think the King (Black Bolt) and Queen (Medusa) of Attilan had such a great Kingdom up there on the Moon. You do get early on that there are class struggles (people working in the mines who don't have any special powers, etc., etc.), entitlements of the Royal Family of Inhumans and those who want to pretend to be inhuman and that is before the conflicts of debating (or escaping, or...?) to Earth to be with 'humans'. Round and round it goes. However, this is very much to be related to the "times" (as I did have a hard time watching the street scene where Black Bolt was captured on Earth by the human police. Yikes).
And then there's the character of Ramsay Bolton...errr...Maximus. Well, therein lies another distraction in this series for me so far, The wonderful actor Iwan Rheon and yes, 'that character' has many similarities here. Maybe the casting people wanted that 'vibe', but every time Maximus sits on that Iron Throne..oh, darn there I go again! This could be a good thing or a bad thing, and I want to stick with this to find out.
My review (and criticisms) of The Inhumans also have a tad to do with...TV comic book series nostalgia. This series reminds me of the initial TV 'Batman' series of the 1960s. I am sure if it were done today, in the same way, there would be an uproar! I get it but get this: I was 'that audience' that TV series of the Caped Crusader was made for.
My older, very knowledgeable comic book weaned brothers? They were so angry at how Batman was developed for TV as they were the comic book, DC die-hard fans. They hated the "silly" portrayals of The Joker, The Penguin...etc., and absolutely hated the "wall climbing", the "made up villains" and a host of things.
Again, I knew nothing of those and was a child (okay, I was 4) who just enjoyed the weekly fun (yeah, and the merchandise that came with it I had to have!). The Inhumans kinda reminds me of another broadcast TV attempt to "walk the line" towards an updated updated comic book series made for TV, watered down but not so watered down to add in current relevance (well -- the 1960's Batman TV series did too with music and dance any even psychedelics of its time, it was the 60s...!). Although I wouldn't recommend this for 4,5 and 6-year-olds as it isn't as corny as the 60's Batman. Yes, the Inhumans had some corny in the pilot. But...it is broadcast TV, not cable, not streaming, etc., but 2017 broadcast TV with budgets getting lighter and lighter so the CGI and choreography aren't too polished --and the series shouldn't be deemed "horrible" because of it. However, by the 3rd installment, things got better. And that corny can either get more -- or fade away as the series continues. THe point is...I'll just stick around a bit more to find out.
Frankensteinish for Snakes
I saw this on regular TV in the 80s, and then recently saw it on one of the cable channels uncut. This is one of those 70s horror films that came out that experimented with the way out genre. I think if there was some idea to experiment with mixing this with that kinda thing, they tried it and made a movie out of it in the 70s with small budgets. Come on, it's too much to take seriously - but for some, it can be scary because of the theme of snakes and especially towards the end.
Strother Martin plays the 'mad scientist' that has lost his mind in his ambition to make people into snakes. He gets a new research assistant after the other one 'goes missing', played by Dirk Benedict and proceeds to turn him into a snake. The 'mad scientist's' daughter, played by Heather Menzies, falls in love with the new research assistant, of course.
The thing about these low-budget 70s movies is that they do not have a happy ending. This one doesn't either. The town seems to be populated with people who are very dense, and films like this defy folks realizing the worst is happening until the worst has happened. And the police? Always arriving at the last minute--unable to 'save the day' but scratch their heads and wonder what has been going on right under their noses. So yeah, this film is formulaic in that sense. It could be a thrill for those who like all kinds of snakes, as this film shows them. I'm not a lover of snakes, however, I could not help but cheer for the Cobra near the end, and feel really, really bad for the mongoose.
The acting is 70s overacting - and you find yourself thinking how different this film would have been with more money and a script where people would have at least a gun or garden hoe to save themselves - but that's how these films went. Not very bad, but not very good either, looks more like a 70s movie of the week instead of a 70s feature film, but its just enough to keep some interest and a good entry for those reviewing the 70s history of inexpensive, "what were they thinking' horror films. Don't take it too seriously.
A Prequel to a Prequel
I'll admit, I watched the film a few times before rendering a vote, but I found it to be a decent entry in the "world" of Harry Potter. I am one that hasn't read the books but saw every movie and became a decent fan of it that way. If you've seen the films and paid attention to little details, "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them" actually ties in pretty well. The problem is, many will miss that.
This movie has a big cast, and several stories running through it. Some I liked, some I didn't. The story I could do without was the election one (with Jon Voight), it seemed to weigh the story down. I understand it was meant to expose an element, but it wasn't that necessary to do so in such a convoluted way. If they just nixed this all and took a few sentences to explain it instead, it would have saved 20 minutes of the film.
I liked the story of Jacob (the aspiring baker) and how he happened upon Newt (played by Eddie Redmayne) and Porpentina (played by Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (played by Alison Sudol) and those 'Fantastic Beasts' - and 'where to find them'. The 'beasts' were okay, some very colorful, some not really fully realized as I would have liked to see them.
Creedence (played by Ezra Miller) was a bit of a letdown for me -- maybe because of the unveiling wasn't "dark" enough of a creature for me, but a CGI puff of smoke and even before that, I was trying to get a feel for the character and was all over the place on it. I've seen scarier more threatening ones in PG movies and I think this movie needed a better one. And Creedence's story overall needed to be better fleshed out.
The story that confuses folks the most is the one of Percival (played by Collin Farrell). This is why I watched the film a few times before it dawned on me that this is what will connect it to the franchise. When I finally 'got it' was when I thought this was a good prequel to a prequel.
The 'Percival' story just got really bogged down and drawn out to get to the point - and I would think the die-hard Harry Potter fans got it immediately --in the end, and that was the unfortunate part. I would have liked more clues THROUGHOUT the film leading to the reveal at the end. Why? Because of those somewhat Harry Potter fans like me, it took a minute to 'get' -- but after I realized what was going on, I am looking forward to the next installment. What is it, I think..? Well (And warning -- here maybe a BIG SPOILER!!!)'Percival' wasn't really 'Percival' but ... the dark arts master Gilbert Grindenwald! Wow!!! If you're now still wondering who Grindenwald is, then I can understand why the whole thing is still confusing. However, what is important to know is that Grindenwald and eventual Hogwarts Professor Dumbledore have a huge...and I mean HUGE ... history before Harry Potter. This is an exciting prospect.
I think this was an attempt to bring the Grindenwald/Dumbledore story into the Harry Potter franchise/world. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them", introduced you to those that will be important to Harry Potter's world, but this now is their World. Don't discount this film. There are so many hints to what is to come. But ya gotta go through this first. And don't miss the'subtle' but interesting barb of the two competing best Wizardry Schools, one in North America, Ilvermorny and Hogwarts! Two Wizardry Schools?!?!? Wow! For me, this film is getting to some very excellent upcoming stories was longer and got convoluted than need be to get to (or understand for some) and made what could have been a really great film entry into the next side of the Harry Potter world, a longer one than need be.
The Deuce (2017)
So Far, It's Exactly As it Was in the 70s but it needs to get to the point quicker
In reviewing "The Duece" at this point, I have a slight advantage in looking at it and that is, I can easily spot the influences of real people some of the work is based on. On that alone, they are doing a great job in setting up New York porn/hustling in the early 70s. I just wonder how much they are throwing at the audience at once, and if it is something that will keep their interest as the story unfolds.
The 'obvious' part of "The Duece" is that it is about the streets in the early 70s --the women who 'walk it' and the pimps who profit off of it, and the OTHERS that are not as obvious who profit from NY porn as well. It is already established that it is not pretty for these women, not glamorous - as neither are the women walking those streets and the men they service to make that living - and it is a gritty, abusive living that these pimps are exploiting. For those tuning in for the "sex" and "nudity" - they will miss the point. None of this is to titillate, it is to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, and that it does. And that it should.
What may be bogging the series down is introducing important arcs that I am sure later on will come together for many of the viewers. I already know how this will play, but for those who don't, it will make the show slow and boring if not confusing at points. But it is a good story, I'm just concerned as to how long it will take to get to it! For example, the show has introduced the male twins, to whom this story will actually revolve around (and there is much material there). James Franco plays both characters, and it is interesting to watch him bring the bar owner and gambler/hustler to life. It's just slow getting' there.
We have had a taste of the crooked police, the mob, the gay bar scene, the ladies (from all diverse backgrounds of being highly educated (this is very important for one of the classic porn films in 1972) to those who were FORCED to do it (this is important for the other classic porn film of 1972), being mothers/duel life and co-eds all hitting the streets for their various reasons), the pimps, the investigative journalist, the underground sex reels, and the cash generated for...whom? That's going to be important as the series moves on -- all coming together to tell a tale of (lucrative) underground porn that will become very commercial in America in a very short time (1972, with two porn films that break this whole thing wide open).
What I hope this will get to (quickly) is when this porno-phase hits, the rising popularity of New York porno films beyond the loops, how it will first hurt those street pimps and then, help them to become "rock-stars", how the police got their slice (and their involvement with helping to place these women in these films), how the mob got their slice, the rise of underground gay films (as the men who are in the hetero-films are also being exploited with gay-themed films by the same folks!), the women it hurt to the women who had absolutely no problem in doing this -- and the ONE woman -- yes it's Candy (played by the brave and very talented Maggie Gyllenhaal) -- that will first star --- and then be the first to direct and produce her own successful porn films. Candy's entry into what was a male-dominated industry of porn films will have a different view, then the films the women who were forced into it (by pimps, boyfriends, and police). It won't be easy getting there, a that is a story in and of itself. And really, I hope this is where it's going.
There is much drama to cover here. Many turns, many surprises, but as I mentioned earlier, I know how this series 'can'/'should' turnout. It can be interesting and historical. It's not "Boogie Nights" as the San Fernando porn scene (1977-1983) was different than the grittier New York porn scene (the early 70s before the porno films-commercialism) this is focused on and then, there is San Francisco porn scene that will become popular thanks to two brothers and a 'green door' (1972), but -- oops, maybe TMI and possible spoilers. At least, maybe --I hope to be spoilers as it will make the series even more interesting on the subject. If...it can if it get to the point quickly. Fingers crossed for upcoming episodes to unveil the point(s) and if anyone can attempt to tell the tale it's HBO.
Buying Hawaii (2013)
Scary Hawaii Real Estate
I just found this program and watched 6 episodes and if I did not have any experience of Hawaii and its islands at all, I found myself not wanting to buy Hawaii Real Estate or visiting Hawaii at all. Wild boars, termites, centipedes, lava, earthquakes, rail, tsunamis, little food, outhouses, sumps, banks that will not FUND a mortgage in certain areas (pssst, the areas they are showing!) ...and folks willing to risk life, family, children to buy a home there. Really?!?! I know people with families who have owned property for decades in various places in Hawaii and never have I heard of such disasters! Make no mistake, no matter where one chooses to live there are going to be "natures" problems -- and Hawaii has Islands and land that is still developing. It is not the mainland so yeah, things are going to be exported to it and it will take time to get it, but this program gives you the creepy-crawlies/itchy-witchies and turns one completely off of Hawaii as a place to settle in. And not just that, those who buy any of these showings, you wonder -- "what the HECK are you thinking?!?!" I cannot speak about the 'mispronunciations' of Hawaii destinations claimed as I was too busy wondering what the heck --just what is the program trying to show? It's not positive and sometimes it's good to "see the other side", but this has been downright negative and Hawaii and it's island real estate offerings, good and bad, deserve much better.
La La Land (2016)
LA LA LAND is a lullaby
I am a big fan of Hollywood Musicals (From Busby Berkley ones to Hedwig and the Angry Inch from the Directors, Choreographers and Dancers like Astaire, Kelly, Caron, Fosse, Dandridge, Charisse, Rivera, Nicolas Brothers, Tune, Moreno, etc... even little Shirley Temple) the ones done "back in the day" and some of the more recent ones, which is why I cannot express my disappointment in watching LA LA LAND. So much so, turned to another premium channel that showed the late artist's Prince's "Sign O' The Times" (which hadn't been shown in 20 years) and found that more on track for a "tip to stage musicals" than LA LA LAND (and let me add I was not a big Prince fan, and I know this was a 'concert' stage film of one of his recordings more than a 'musical' so this is making a point).
LA LA LAND tells the old tale of a struggling (jazz) musician and budding actress in Los Angeles trying to make it. Yes, you've seen it over 100 times, and this is just one more telling. They run into each other at 'meaningless but hoping to get discovered while making ends meet' Hollywood functions they are at. They're dreamers in the land where dreams can or may not come true, Los Angeles - or a reasonable facsimile thereof. One of the biggest problems is that I found the leads, 'eh' - no spark for me between the two, no real 'heart' for me between the two, no reason to make me want to root for their success OR failure whether they were in Los Angeles or anyplace else.
The production numbers are -'eh'. The music is - 'eh'. The dancing is 'eh'. The story is - 'eh'. And 'eh' seems perfect for this 'eh' generation that seems to want to like anything that is a way-watered down or blatantly copied (oops, 'sampled' now called 'homage') version of something that was done infinitely better before.
The emphasis on colors throughout this film are like the colors on products from "The Price is Right" - bright, attention-grabbing and staged to where you want to buy them where you can find them. But I didn't buy into this. Want to see good musicals with bright colors, bright music, boy meets girl and dancing..? Bollywood has done it better, much, much, MUCH better and I am as American as apple-pie mind you! I just love musicals.(For example, Bollywood films like 'Jab We Met' or 'Bajirao Mastani' or even 'Cocktail' are done much better).
I would never compare LA LA LAND to ANY the musicals of its past - they are classics and you root for the subjects, tape your feet, get transported to their world, watch amazing choreography and whimsy - even in the more tragic of musical tales. So is LA LA LAND a homage to the old musicals? Tries to be, however just didn't work for me.
Whitney: Can I Be Me (2017)
Whitney: One Perspective
Let me be clear -- 'Whitney: Can I Be Me' is one documentary that I am sure will be one of many, and future movies and films that are all going to come out and present the perspectives of those who participate in them. For example, I have seen the Michael Jackson documentaries, etc., and they all keep coming because there were so many people around him that have different tales to tell, and were exposed to his life in different ways (from family to body guards to ticket sellers, etc.) that they feel their perspectives needed to be told. This documentary on Whiney Houston is similar to just one of those.
In that, Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal have put together a very sad perspective on Whitney Houston told through those they interviewed and archival footage. Right there, it lets the viewer know it will not be complete nor told from those who need to be a part of this. It is not a concert film to celebrate Whitney's talent, but just a micro-one-sided telling of a world wide talent that met with tragedy. Some will feel that is exploitative because it doesn't fully address what it should, just the 'tragic parts' and I will agree that is a fair assessment.
Whitney's fans will like the never-before-seen footage of Whitney in concert in Europe 13 years before her death, the backstage footage of seeing how much of a toll that can take on a performer as popular as Whitney, and getting glimpses of when she was happy being a friend, a mom, and wife. And with the interviews of the few that did speak, we see how that was all a heavy load and much to cope. That's the area it touches on about Whitney being Whitney.
Then it veers into her trials, drug use, questions about her sexuality and how this all contributed towards her demise. In documentaries like this, many Whitney fans will feel as if the documentarian(s) are after the tabloidism of the subject, to kick the subject down after they are gone, get something cheap and tawdry released for ratings. Her fans know she had problems (She had a reality show which was never mentioned, for example). Is there a need for this documentary, then? Not a need, but a perspective that needs to be told, and they told it.
Whitney was huge in the 80s and 90s, and I appreciated her talent very much. I do not think this is the "official documentary" that will be/should be done on Whitney Houston from those who were very close to her and would agree to sit down, look into a camera and discuss Whiney's life in their lives, and I would recommend that die-hard fans stay away from this since the focus is on her downfall and does feel heavy handed on that at times -- they should wait for the 'true'documentary to be done. I expect that it will. But this one is a 'blip' of her life, a very sad tragic telling that actually leaves more questions for fans and non-fans alike who may be interested than it answers.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
A Hollywood Romcom relationship tale that isn't so bad
It took me years to 'sneak' up on this film. I am not a fan of Judd Apatow films, and that is what kept me away from this one. But I found it by coincidence on cable TV and it was not as bad as I thought it would be.
Jason Segel as Peter Bretter does make the film. It is the story of a musician who scores the mood soundtrack for the show his 5-year girlfriend, Sarah Marshall stars in. Kristin Bell does a wonderful job as Sarah, who isn't as 'wonderful' as she appears. She is a real piece of work. She dumps longtime steady Peter for a current popular rock musician Aldous Snow, played by Russell Brand, who she had been seeing for quite some time. Peter has a rough time with the break-up and to try to forget, he ends up in Hawaii where Sarah and Aldous are also 'vacationing'.
The film has some neat funny moments overall, especially with the all supporting cast members like of Bill Hader as the stepbrother, and I even liked Johna Hill's little bits in the film as the die-hard fan of Aldous Snow. But the work of Mila Kunis as Rachel, the Hotel customer-service rep, glues the situations that occur together. I also did like Russell Brand as the famous-rock musician as every time I watch it, it's a natural role for him not unlike who he might be in such a situation. Aldous Snow is so fair, so even-keeled in his portrayal, it's sickening and Russel has it down-pat. Sarah, on the other hand, is a not--for both men in her atmosphere so that when what happens to her happens, it's a wonderful payback moment of the film.
What I could have done without was the bed scenes of the newly married couple played by Maria Thayer and Jack MacBrayer--even though I like both of the actors. I just saw little need for those scenes but really enjoyed Jack talking about it more than seeing it, as those scenes were much more funnier.
This came out to be better than I expected, kinda falls a bit towards the end with the Peter-Sarah-Rachel triangle summary. I find this better to see uncut rather than on regular TV, and the funny moments with some serious ones made me overlook some of the parts I thought dragged it down a bit.
Room 104 (2017)
Experimental and Great for HBO
I like anthology series like this offered by HBO because of the visions of the individual directors and writers who present their stories. And the more opportunities writers/directors get a chance to make Room 104 work, I believe the better. The question is, will today's audiences wait for it or just believe it may never get there because it didn't meet their perceived expectations of "scary-horror room" to begin with.
It's fair to assume that Room 104 is the star -- not the other way around with "the people" so to speak - which I think is why it is scoring low. Those looking for horror, it's a different kind of horror, from an interesting perspective of something that saw it all. The room.
The stories are somewhat interesting so far, not diving into the scary and unknown and not so chilling as expected, but what has happened behind closed doors in a hotel room. It's HBO so I did expect a "scary, creepy hotel room" as it seemed to be advertised as such, but not this series. It's humanistic through the telling of the hotel room, more or less. I've watched each episode twice, except for two (Pizza Boy and The Internet) twice, and this most recent to date, "Voyeurs" four times so far and I'm going to watch it again -- it's sad and beautiful.
The Episode "Ralphie" was a very familiar story with a tiny change to make it watchable. "Pizza Boy" started off well and had quite the twist, but I've seen enough of it to get it. "The Knockadoo" was the craziest/wildest to me, and I watched it twice because of all the 'cult/ripping off of money for religion' aspects of it that I had no idea it was going to end that way. "I Knew You Weren't Dead" I watched twice because it could have been so much better, more creeper and the story more sinister and it would have been a knock out of the park.
The episode, "The Internet" I watched once because it started out funny. Really funny and seemed to want to take you back to the "good old days" of the computer generation gap. But then it turned serious, but that seriousness let you in on something that questioned the viewer to believe, was it a real story, or something mom would do to motivate her child into something wonderful, and save him from getting totally rejected on something he thought was great. This one takes some thought and anyone who has ever written and wanted to 'make it' will like this story--others, maybe not so much. And there's nothing wrong with that because it depends on where the concentration lies - the old internet ideas of young knowing technology vs. old people set in their ways (Mom tells him, people used to use a pen and paper to write!) or the son-mother relationship -and not knowing is maybe why this doesn't work so much. It is an interesting episode and deserves a closer look.
And finally, so far, the episode that captured my attention, 'Voyeurs'. There is so much beauty and sadness there, and let me admit, I am a fan of ballet and choreography and lighting -- and understand how the body was used to tell the story. It is not going to be a favorite of everyone's, but it is already a favorite of mine. Do you have to like ballet to enjoy this one? No. There's more going on but the ballet and choreography to tell it all is beautiful. I could identify because I don't know how I would react to my younger-self after a lifetime and seeing my younger self at a crossroads that might have changed my direction. The actresses Dendrie Taylor (the Housekeeper) and her younger-self, Sarah Hay (who is accomplished in ballet) are so worth watching. Dendrie and Sarah are just wonderful together in their craft at two different ages/stages - the director Dayna Hanson choreographed this so well and that is what kept my interest.
There are a few more episodes and I hope this is not a canceled series, but one that can invite more writers - the ones who are writing and directing more scary/horror stories to work in as well as these. Those who know this is a room exposing its stories of its visitors that run the human relationships-gambit from weird to melancholy to the audience is what needs to be focused on instead of every episode "scary spooky horror". However, there needs to be some "scary spooky horror" added in as in this first round, there hasn't been any -- yet.
An interesting anthology series for HBO on a Friday evening, I enjoyed it so far, I would ask for those to wipe away expectations and view it again as it is and not as they may have wanted. BUt I also think a few "scary-horror or thriller" ones would be good too.
3 Medieval Tales Not Too Watered Down
This is a "tale of tales", and anyone expecting a Disney version of "Fairy Tales" with happy endings and glorious spectacles probably will not like this film. In the age of Game of Thrones, where we now know not to get too attached to characters we like or wishing they will all succeed, this tale of tales fits right along side of that type of narrative. The production is beautiful, the stories are unsettling, but they do have a moral.
There are three stories, and what keeps you engrossed in the production are the locales, the acting, the music. Even though these are "fairy tales", they are more "tales" that we come to expect - not all whimsical and happy ever after - but to get the idea of what these characters want and why. Could I see Disney do these tales...? You bet, but it wouldn't be a "human" as seen here. Do the characters who long for their happy ever after make mistakes in their judgments? You bet. Do they pay? You bet. Would you do what they did? Of course not - you can see the problems coming a mile away! But that is not what a fairy tale is about, it is about telling the tale of those who could not. And in this case, a telling of the tales do not follow what we've come to expect, and the endings may not be as satisfying in a few of the stories for some, whereas I found them done well.
Because of the production values of the time, it is set (medieval), you easily get swept up in the times of three "Kingdom" stories - A King (John C. Reilly) whose Queen (Salma Hayek) longed for a child more than anything, a King (Toby Jones) who loved his Princess daughter (Bebe Cave) but finds he loves a flea more, and a King (Vincent Cassel) who was a womanizing, sexually deviant cad obsessed with young, beautiful maidens of his kingdom and the sole drive of 'having to have them all'. And yes, in each there is a lesson of getting what you want, and what happens when you get it -- but not just that but who it ALSO effects around them. In other words, your wish -- is not just gonna be about...you.
There is exposure to sex, violence, and rape in these tales so it is told for later teens and adults and not children. The production takes you from full fledged royal beauty to dark, dank and disgusting alleys, caves and streets of the time. I feel it is very enjoyable film to the eyes and a film to challenge your ideas on how different tales can be told. A solid 8 out of 10 for me.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
A Saturday Matinée Kong
It's been a while since I went to the movies just to see an entertaining, Saturday Matinée. I don't even think people use the words anymore, but I will say this is where this version of Kong belongs and fits in well with that type of genre. I am a fan of this kinda stuff and have been ever since I was 6 or 7 years old -- those bigger than life creatures who got that way because of man's environmental foibles or because man never paid attention to "that island over there that popped up outta nowhere, gee, I wonder what's on it. Let's go and see..." Ha! Kong: Skull Island brings all the enjoyment back in films like this. I wasn't looking for a deep message, or outstanding performances, just an adventure to escape for a few hours with friends and movie crowd who like this too.
Kong is CGI'ed and it's okay, not too distracting. You also get to see those rare moments of Kong as at a few points you see the 'sad and lonely side' of Kong's existence on the Island between the fights and pyrotechnics. The film takes place in 1973, and there are references to it, but it really didn't matter to me as it could have been done in any year and still have the same outcome. You also get to see the life on the island which gives you the impression that it is a place outta sync with evolution. An expedition with a military escort comes and that's when all the death and destruction with them starts. I found that entertaining to watch, there were a few 'jump' moments when things happen you don't expect, giggle moments when you think you know what's going to happen and it doesn't quite go as planned.
John C. Reilly is the human star of this to me as a fighter shot down on the island, has managed to live there for 28 years and gets his chance to get out. Tom Hiddleston is the tracker brought along and is fun to watch, especially in the 'gas' scene against other monsters on the Island. Samuel L. Jackson was also interesting to watch as head of the military envoy who goes off the deep end with wanting nothing but revenge against Kong. the John Goodman is the "kook" that gets government approval and gathers all of them, military and scientists, all together to go to the island (so he can prove he's not a kook, of course!). And then there is an assortment of other diverse cast members to keep the movie moving. Again, very good popcorn movie Saturday matinée fare.
There are a few Easter eggs in Kong: Shull Island this I got immediately. They are preparing you for the future of Kong and others. But if you miss them during the film, it'll be very clear after the credits. Please stay. Kong: Skull Island is the beginning of these type of matinée popcorn fares, so just grab some friends, go to the theater and enjoy.
From Straight A's to XXX (2017)
I watched this without knowing any of the background material and thinking that it was just your typical 'Lifetime Weekly Movie'. I couldn't imagine a real young lady turning to porn to pay for College. But this one did.
This character's flaw of bad decision-making was evident when you hear that she did receive offers from several colleges but she was "set on going to Duke". While that is admirable, I think no matter what, compromise and planning could have landed her in a better life decision circumstance. It was a question I am sure that was running through the mind of the viewer.
One big flag in this film for me is that I could not ignore that this woman was offered a full ride to another excellent college, but she was "set on going to Duke". This is a choice that young people need to put pen and paper to and analyze it with their parents. Apply to scholarships, etc. One should not get hung up on "one school". But she did, and the resulting personal decisions to stay in that school is what this is about.
Her parents thought they could afford it, but circumstances dictated they could not. So what does she do...? Figure out she needs a lot of money fast. A part-time job won't cover it either. Didn't seem like a real life choice, but for this person -- it was. As she dives into that world, you discover that she has had major self-esteem problems before that - that were not properly resolved.
Then there is the "women's empowerment" message for the audience. Is it a crutch, a cover for trying to rationalize this with paying for higher education's skyrocketing and out of reach costs, or does she truly think that doing porn is empowerment for the women doing it? She wants the audience to believe women can do whatever they wish with their body, not be bullied about the choices, not know about negative consequences and covering it up under "women empowerment" rather than "a really bad choice when other options were available to ... HER."
If one is to feel sorry for her as her double life is exposed, I couldn't. If I were to get a 'women's empowerment' message out of this, I couldn't accept one. It may have empowered her, but not everyone agrees on that type of choice as an empowerment.
This film is on par with most Lifetime made Weekly Movies - "female watch bait". It a story told from the woman who did it perspective. It wasn't laid out as a cautionary tale, a tale of how college costs are skyrocketing, nor a tale where one should feel sorry for the character 'having to resort to this to pay for school'. It's just a tale of how one woman ignored other avenues of assistance, other schools to attend (or transfer to Duke later, why not?)and how she was shamed by students, etc., students but stood up for the way she acquired the money. Not a good lesson here as many Lifetime Movie Bio-pics try to do, but an interesting film to watch in how it was done.
The Girlfriend Experience (2016)
Cold and detached
I never saw the previous film nor read the book so I went into this series not knowing much about it, and being totally ignorant to it all. What I finally figured out about the Girlfriend Experience is that it was just that, a young woman pushing herself off as giving men that GF experience while trying to find out who she was and wrestling with her self with loving it beyond her advertised GF experience and conflicted by it.
The main character, who goes by as many different names as she would like them to be out of body personas, will come across as a cold, mechanical, bland; and that is the beauty of this. It is played to this type of perfection by Riley Keough. I expected the complete opposite type of acting from the subject matter, but this is so raw, so "everyday", that you have to take notice, and she is doing it very well with quiet enthusiasm - if you were to embrace such a thing - she has in this role.
Christine is an Ivy league trained smart woman, who does...this. Why? She does knows why. We're trying to understand why, and she is trying to understand and do at the same time; it is the psychological and moral battle she is going through which is producing a cold exterior as a calculating call girl emerges.
For those seeking a titillating romp through the woods type of thing, this is not what this is. This is cold. It can be unemotional. This is a 'nothing' is happening when 'everything' is happening around this character. She is trying to sell herself as a GF Experience when it is clear (at least to me) she's a paid call girl. That 'GF Experience' is all she has to justify to herself that she's be "above" that. Until reality hits.
The character cannot shut out the real world around her. And the real world around her is unflinching, judgmental, torrent and easily brands her as the thing she feels she is not. But she is. We are watching her struggle footing between both worlds as she is clearly drawn to one. She's comfortable with it, it pleasures her and she uses that as a reason to separate the two. The production is gray, sterile - not warm at all -- so you are to feel her and her world and her turmoil. The camera angles are deliberately designed not to excite because although the character says she likes this and you would assume to see her liking this, it's still mechanical, boring, lifeless. Just as she is.
This is also showing us how society doesn't buy into her GF Experience ideal. So, the character needs to retaliate by trying to use her ivy league brain against her obvious pleasures. Who knows if it will work or if it will just put a blanket over it while the character learns maybe there isn't a difference between her GF Experience and calling it as it is perceived.
This little series is done really well based on those items mentioned above. For those wanting more on the super-sexy side, this isn't the program for you. It is a program with a character trying to be what she wants and what society makes of it all. You leave this with the conclusion that her life is her own and whatever she decides to do, it is what she has to answer to whether it satisfies her pleasures or not. She is learning that it is not her own closed little world to manipulate, to live in without preconceptions and judgments by her clients, the social internet, by her peers -- and by us, the viewer.
Silent Movie (1976)
Silent Movie was enjoyable
I first saw this film in the 80s during a Z Channel Mel Brooks 'retrospective', and I found it had neat and funny parts, and was a very enjoyable film to watch. I'm wiring this review now because I read so many who absolutely hated and canned this film. I disagree.
Mel Brook's 'Silent Movie' was innovative in the time it was released, 1976, and it had a lot of 1975/1976 geared humor specifically for that audience. Even though there were some actors I didn't know that added to the jokes of this film of that time, it didn't matter, I still found it enjoyable. As the years went on and I found out more about them and it made more sense about watching film.
This was a silent film released in a time where silent films were far from being considered to be financed or released by any studio. This was also the time of the studios realizing films could be "summer blockbusters", and Mel Brook's Silent Movie, DID out-perform to have a great opening weekend an a top summer box office run for 1976. Jaws opened to a $7M weekend just a year before($69.7 in its summer run) and 'Silent Movie' opened to a #1 opening weekend in 1976 with about $3.8M at the box office ($36M in its summer run). The very next weekend, 'The Omen' opened and unseated it with a $5.8M opening weekend ($60M in its summer run, I guess beating evil-horror in the 70s was hard!). Looking at any of these numbers today would be a laugh as we are conditioned to see those numbers during a summer release as a "flop". Back then, these were the blockbusters.
Silent Movie is a film-within-a-film. Silent Movie tells the tale of a down and out director, Mel Funn, looking to score a big movie with big stars (of that time) to revitalize his career. He sets out on a trek with his studio support system (Dom Deluise and Marty Feldman. However a competing studio realizes that if he does this and gets the stars to do it, the film may be a 'blockbuster' so they go all out to stop him.
This is a premise for many films, and is something I'm sure studios, directors and producers face when pitching films to be made. I find this type of premise was done better and funnier years later with Steve Martin's "Bowfinger"; but again Mel Brooks presented a "silent" film which relies on sight gags, double entendre names and titles, facial and body expressions--and years latter I figured out, if the actors didn't talk, they wouldn't have to pay them as much! If so, that made the film funnier to me as these were huge stars of that time, and them not speaking must have been quite a challenge. I can imagine those that turned him down because they couldn't speak.
Much may not connect so easily with audiences of today, or a year or two ago as it did for those in 1975/1976, and if they were expecting something like Mel Brook's more brilliant fare like "Blazing Saddles", "Young Frankenstein" or "The Producers", it's not. It stands on its own as something fun, something different. Just a nice piece of slapstick that hits a great deal of the time, but for me, I like watching this and looking back on those days of the 70s and think about those days when silent movies were the thing too.
Making Love (1982)
It was ahead of its time
I don't remember the theater release of this film, however I saw this film first, as well as films like Personal Best, Spetters, the 4th Man and many others on the Los Angeles "Z" Channel. That too was way ahead of its time in showing films that were made to be seen no matter what country they were from or what the subject matter was. And even being a teen to young adult at the time these films were shown, I wasn't sure I could process 100% then what I was looking at, but I was sure I was being exposed to something that was happening, that was important to know.
When I saw the film on Cable TV, it resembled a TV movie to me more than a feature film. I think that was deliberate as the film's female lead was a rising TV executive. Upon reflection, I'm sure her perspective of the recollections of this relationship played out to her like a TV drama. Here she was married to a Doctor, thinking she had everything going great like a good marriage, good communication, getting upwardly mobile as a young couple in the 80s, a great career and now ready for a baby; the days went on day after day -- as she had dreamt her life to be. Except her husband was struggling with all of this with coming to terms with his own sexual identity.
He was secretly going out, cruising gay bars and streets taking himself up to the point of contact, but then running away seemingly at the last minute until he meets a promiscuous, unapologetic gay writer that he falls deeply for. That's when his marriage and his new gay relationship makes him come to terms with each. He needs to come to terms with both, what he really wants and be truthful with who he is.
This theme was not shown in American Cinema in this manner for a major studio with major USA distribution. Today, we can look and question things we know now. But I do want to add something about the 80s AIDS crisis as one of those things. I'm going to assume this film was conceived around 1980/1981 before it's 1982 release and there wasn't that much mass information known about AIDS to the masses. However, there was some information known in the gay community by then as a mysterious spread of a cancer affecting gay men. It seemed like the film really wanted to mention this, but skirted the chance.
What struck me curious in the film, the gay promiscuous writer went to the doctor to "get checked out". His concern was due to a "growth" on his face. Why would he be so medically concerned? He knew he was running through nightly anonymous sexual partners, and he seemed to be "over-regularly" getting checked out at clinics "just to be safe". Sure, there were the known STD's of that time, but he pointed out a "spot" in his neck area; not problems in his groin. I believe that the film seem to consciously dodge that issue. Maybe because another issue the film dodged was not brought up, and that was the health danger to the wife by what her husband was doing -- and whom with. That would have taken the film into more serious territory than the more soapish-melodrama it turned out to be. By the time I first saw this film in 1983, there was more information about AIDS, but I felt an opportunity was there in the film (and probably nixed for final cut?) back then.
And that's the point. This is filmed in a TV-'soapish-melodrama' manner, and for the early 1980s which was featuring TV soap-opera dramas with controversial subjects like 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty' as way to work, not just for the commercial audiences to accept, but all audiences to accept the tale(unlike the grittier movie 'Cruising' which was released by a major studio, just a year or two before showing a more seedy side of the homosexual community). And yes--scare heterosexual women with Cinderella complexes to death about wondering do they really know who they are 'making love'..to?? But by no means should it ever be dismissed as it was way ahead of its time with the adult subject-matter. This was happening. And this triangular relationship recalled from each had experiences that woke up/changed/became truth for many. I just saw the film recently on M!,Movies! Channel and thought -- even with the way the story was told, it needed to be...told.
Bold and a Must See
HBO Documentaries are coming out of the gate swinging in 2015 and this one is no different. Doing a documentary on Scientology by just letting people who were a part of this, talk and present clippings and facts and even make clarifications of claims, for the viewer to draw their own conclusions -- well, this documentary hits it out of the ballpark. And I can personally attest that there are "two" different Scientologists. I had two different experiences with Scientology, three years apart.
The first scared me half to death, when the church was on Hollywood Blvd. One of their people came up to me as I was checking out the stars on Hollywood Blvd. and asked me to take a "Personality Test". I thought it must've been a touristy thing and so I did. I thought knowing this would also be good for jobs (little did I know it was NOT that kind of personality test!) I scored very high and this blonde haired guy came out and said I "needed" to be a member. He was in my face telling me I had to pay $300 immediately. I said I didn't have that on my, that I had to go get on the bus to go to the bank and get it. I was so scared of the place and him I just wanted to get out. He said he'd get on the bus with me, go to the bank with me and stay with me till I got the $300. He said he had to because as soon as I would pay it, my life would be so much better within the Church and it would help me let 'everything go' and reach the highest level. I convinced him that I had several stops and I would be back. He finally let me out, watched me get on the bus on Hollywood Blvd. I NEVER went back, I was shaking on the bus - I really thought I was going to get violated and end up on the 6 o'clock news. I was so scared of those folks.
The second time was VERY different. It was sorta a trick. A friend invited me to the "Celebrity Center" in "Hollywood Hills" for a theatrical play. I thought what the heck. When I got there, it was the Church of Scientology! I was ready to run until I met so many celebrities and musicians that evening who seemed...sane. A million times different than the guy on Hollywood Blvd. I actually told them about that. They apologized. They gave me a free book, Dianetics, asked me to read it and if I was interested, come back and they'd talk to me further- and was sure I'd be an asset (not member) of the church. I never came back, never read or kept the book, but I couldn't believe how different this was.
One person, two different introductions, two 'different' Scientologies in Hollywood. My thoughts of the Church of Scientology was duel. This is what these folks believed and obviously many are treated differently than others. The documentary really goes deeper into this than even I thought I was was certain about. Never did I get that "church" feeling about the place, or "religion" and the documentary shows me, and the viewers, why. It's "money" for the top, drones for the bottom, brainwash as much and as deep for those with a lot to give to...them. Lot's of figurative "Kool-Aid" drinkers, and some who were so devoted that if offered, they'd blindly follow. Which makes Scientology more cult-like than anything else. And yes, this documentary answers many of questions about that too.
Whatever one thinks, this is a compelling documentary for those who know, those who don't, and those who are still trying to figure out what this is. After this documentary, you'll know.
The Normal Heart (2014)
What passion looks like, and what bureaucracy did to stop it.
Make no mistake, what this film is about, is a human being's one man crusade of passion -- Ned Weeks passion. What you'll see throughout this film, is those who care more for politics and bureaucracy than hard, gut-wrenching, passion. What do you do when you know what you're saying is right, and those around you know its right too..but just want you to 'calm it down' to be heard. Ned Weeks friends were dying all around him, even those he didn't know were dying, and he wanted those in power to take action -- the people in his own circle -- but they felt the way he was projecting "the message" was diminishing their strides for acceptance and freedom to "the group". What to do? Ryan Murphy directs a film version of an off-Broadway play of the mid 80s from Larry Kramer who knows of what he speaks (and a Broadway Tony winning revival a few years ago), as he also helped/founded many AIDS groups. His main character Ned seemed to be a voice in a time where this type of voice was not listed to, given a platform, even shunned against to try to bring attention to what was happening to gay men at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. When nobody in your group listens to your valid points to stop death as well as the local, State or Federal government -- imagine the hell you'll face! That's the hell Ned faced.
For me, if the film was more directed on Ned's strong arm advocacy, I might've scored it higher because that was the important point I took away from the film. Mark Ruffalo did fine, but I think he would have been better if he had more of the 'advocacy' to work with. It upset me to see Ned Weeks battle against those he was trying to help. I didn't see him as an egotistical, self-centered, know it all as they claimed, but as someone who was pushy, loud and told the truth to gay men when the truth was hard to take; and he had no problem getting into the face of those who cold spread that message as he felt, it would save lives. Even the one that eventually hit home.
I appreciate Director Murphy's unflinching realness associated with behaviors at that time, from the clandescent gay sexual encounters to the monogamous ones, all under the beginnings of a real impending health crisis. There are a few stories of men who were treated like dirt as the disease consumed them in life and death, and it is heart wrenching to watch that's to Murphy's direction. And by the way, this is not fiction, and you re-live what many did back then. Julia Roberts as Emma was to show the very, very few people in the medical profession who 'tried' at that time only to get ignored (shunned, treated ignorantly, etc.) as well, and she was quite New York 80s in her portrayal which made her performance quite believable.
It's hard not to compare this to the other films about the early days of AIDS, but this is a different tale, and should be seen as such. Some may not because the advocacy focus get's played down at points when it should have been the hard focus. It's an advocacy and bureaucracy tale, and there is where the film falters as it does skew a bit away from that at times. To focus on Ned Weeks struggle really comes when he goes head to head with what he thought was his compatriots, comes in the latter part of the film. New York bureaucracy and politics was hell, even moreso than Washington at that time, but even worse than that, is the in-fighting. Joe Mantello as Micky really sums this up very, very well and is one of the best performances here. Dennis O'Hare brought a chill to my spine as an "Ed Kotch" representative, a small but pivotal part for this story -- and I bring this up because I wanted more seen of this too to drive this story home.
Matt Bonner takes on the part of Ned's lover Felix who becomes infected with AIDS, and goes through one of the most heartbreaking metamorphoses seen in film as the disease progresses. The thing is, after all the other films one may expect this type of part, but it is Director Murphy along with Bonner that makes this one go the distance as it doesn't flinch from every gory detail. There is nothing romantic about this, it is a disease shown that just doesn't affect his life, but the life of those around him -- like any other terminal illness. Again where the film breakdown is in this ending, which I think was more "contemporary" (2014) than taking the hard line of Ned and his 'beating himself up' for not being more of an advocate to 'save' his lover.
Let me also add that Jim Parson's role as Tommy is another great performance as someone caught in the middle. There is a line Tommy says at a funeral that just brings me to tears, and if it doesn't touch anyone out there, then maybe...they don't have a normal heart. I hope everyone gives this a look because it's not over, and we have much to learn from the past.
The 1980s RoboCop was more bleak and devious, this suffers from too much PC
I believe this goes into the pile of "not so bad, but could have been great" remakes. Much of this could have been settled in the editing room for me, story second, as the story was there - why move so fr from it? There was too much PC and government, not enough deviousness and big business.
The main problem I had is with the addition of the 'family' story line, as it is an "always used" device in films to "get the women" interested in a film, which tells me this production thinks little of women and their advancement even 26 years later. In the 80s version, I loved seeing women fight right along side of men (Murphy's partner in the 80s version vs. Murphy's partner in this one), equal to men, not dragging their children around sobbing about their husbands, etc. That was a downer for me.
They could have ditched the sappy family line story, and they should have left in the heartbreaking one where his wife and family didn't know, that this took so long that the family was gone when Murphy started recalling his human side. More importantly, that began to show the human side was "still" there for Murphy. Murphy had NO idea what they did to him, did not authorize it, and that made the story even more sad and horrific.
Another storyline in the 80s version that I thought should have stayed, the New Detroit police department was not liking a "Robocop" and had to "warm up" to the idea. They never really did, but the animosity towards this 'machine against the human' police force was an underlying current that helped drive the film back then. RoboCop was a cop and they were cops in a violent society and they knew they were all there for the common good. The problem was not with the police department and never should have been.
This one 'threw in' the family of Murphy and the force knowing and that dragged down all the better updated elements of this film which happened to be in the update of politics vs. humanity. The film was much kinder to the greed and money aspect of why there was a RoboCop. In the 80s version the mash-up of big business-corporation (employees vs board of directors)-money-reed-street hustlers all becoming one is not very apparent in this version. The 80s version mash-up of all of this was the villain(s). This one was all over the place trying to make a villain (A weak attempt with Washington politics, RoboCop technology makers, police department) but never connecting it like the 80s one did.
The 80s RoboCop really focused on greed, senseless violence and had one heck of an ideal of a bleak future of gangs and street gang leaders working with Corporate business America in "New Detroit". RoboCop was no longer in question, but a need.
This, while a good effort in technology and CGI, (and the warehouse scene looking just like a FPS video game) was more milquetoast -- like the studio was "scared" for this to be even more bleak and violent, put women as equals, and underhanded as the original. The elements of change were there, and it should have been presented.
A movie that's a story
Nebraska is a story that was wonderfully done and made me wonder -- with all the shoot up, bang up, blow up, young-naked Hollywood films making so much box office, how this ever got done. Alexander Payne is how it did, he directed a wonderful story. It's not for everyone, and I think that some people who watch it now and disliked it, will see it 30 years from now may not dislike it so much as they may see it in a different perspective.
The easiest thing to 'get' about Nebraska was that it is about an older man Woody, played wonderfully by Bruce Dern, who believes he's won a million dollars through a mail marketing program. He's headstrong as he wants to claim his prize and nothing will stop him from doing so, but there may be more going on there such as a degenerative order like Alzheimers or Dementia. His son, played by Will Forte, knows what this program is about, but cannot convince his dad it is not what it seems. So the two sets off on a road trip to claim the prize.
What we get is a road trip mixed with all sorts of people, some quirky, some jealous, and for me, some a few overblown (the cousins, for example) but it did not ruin the film for me. They all worked as some folks that reminded me of real people. The multi-layers come in when it gets out that Woody may be a million dollar winner. Some people are happy about it, some people want to take advantage. While we know the mail marketing company may have taken advantage, people can too especially where any hint of money is concerned. So besides going through Woody's ordeal, the film also goes through his family's, the town, his so-called acquaintances and a father-son bond that by the end of the film becomes heartwarming.
This is filmed in black and white, but a very sharp black and white which I think enhances the film. The supporting performances by Stacy Keach (as Ed Pegram) and June Squibb (as Kate Grant) were stand out as well. It's not a film for everyone, but for those who just want to see a story being told that will make you think after it's over, Nebraska is for you too.
Clear History (2013)
Make no mistake, this is a Larry David film with Larry David being Larry David. The thing about Larry is, it would be hard pressed for him to act into any other character, and that is a great deal of his charm.
Here, he takes on the role of a marketing genius who was hired for his expertise in making a product a part of the consumer idiom. Nathan is apparently excellent at doing just that. However, he gets hired by a boss, played by Jon Hamm, who is very obnoxious and egotistical and names the product, an automobile, after his son, Howard. Nathan's marketing instincts tell him that is a bomb of a name for the automobile, which will make the marketing of it very hard to consumers, and he tells his boss so. His boss takes it personally, so Nathan does what he feels is best, quit. Even though he owns a percentage in the stake of the company, he gives it all up.
Suffice to say, the car actually becomes a success to consumers regardless of the marketing used/needed, and Nathan is branded 'the stupidest person' in the world for giving up his stake which would have made him extremely rich. Years later, Nathan has moved to a small, quiet "island", changes his name and gets a menial job to live the rest of his life out to try to forget his biggest mistake, but his ex-boss and his wife moves to the island and proceeds to build a 'McMansion' Nathan is hell-bent on revenge and precedes to exact it.
Now, that sounds like an entertaining premise, and it is. However for me, the execution at points became uneven and really over worked. Larry brings his humor and pathos to the character of Nathan, but unlike other characters Larry has developed, I didn't want to root for Nathan. I became uninterested and this got grading as it went along.
Also the sub-sub-sub plot of Larry finding out about the goings on of a girlfriend he had ions ago, and her association with the band Chicago could have been excluded. It was over wrought, over used and unneeded. I do appreciate hearing Chicago's music, but not as part of this film as it didn't seem to "flow" to enhance the story in any way as soundtracks can/do. It just seemed like a bunch of their wonderful materials placed in a film haphazardly. Didn't do them justice at all.
Clear History was a 50/50 for me as I like watching Larry David because only he can bring a perspective to a character that you can 'get' every now and then, even if his character makes stupid decisions or makes stupid moves. Larry's characters have an interesting way of overcoming shortcomings. It fell short in Clear History, but surely didn't have to. Larry is also good at producing ensemble pieces that revolve around his character's bad decisions, etc. Here, he had a small ensemble piece, but drifted away, trying to add material not really needed.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Sparking memories of childhood...
Pacific Rim is meant to pay homage to those who grew up around the time of "the other" ToHo films and ToHo type films entering the market like what Del Toro saw while growing up. It's been decades since these movies got the big screen treatment, and this is a nice re-entry piece decades later that I hope gives the green-light to others as well.
What's the story? Well, the story is simpler than most, but this is not a film presented to complicate your mind. It's easy to get, the characters are easy to understand. You'll get the feeling that the filmmakers are give homage to those 'kaiju' films before it, the plot, humorous scientists, those who want to make a buck off of tragedy and monsters. The 'kaiju' were all that one expects them to be: huge, menacing, loud and armed with a few surprises. And so are the man piloted robots.
The robots aren't Power Rangers or even Transformers. These Robots, called Jaegers in this film, do not transform into anything. They cannot hide or blend into the scenery. The Jaegers in this film don't throw karate kicks. The Jaegers do not give any moral messages or speeches. They too are big and loud, piloted by humans and are just battle equipment. They are "fighting machines" against the kaiju coming up from the pacific rim.
This is one of those rare films were it doesn't posses your typical movie tack-ons to lure one in (i.e., a star name, a love story, teens, etc.), and that may be one of the film's major downfalls. Audiences may be so used to this so that when its missing, they may think the film is a failure. Not necessarily. It's monsters vs. robots. The only thing I would have liked to have seen are more of the international robots & pilots and their stories, as some were mentioned but had too little screen time for my tastes.
Pacific Rim is what the old 'popcorn' movie is all about. It's monsters-from-the-deep matinée genre. It is fun, nice action fight scenes with nods to the models and scales of those old 60s films, and man within robots to save the Earth from getting taken over.
It is a movie, though.
As soon as I saw this, I read some reviews and I wonder if folks really watched this film. And the ones who did, I wonder how old they are because if you haven't seen Independence Day, Armageddon, Transformers (I, II, II, etc...at this point) and Real Steel, then I can understand the kudos. Ye,s the special effects catch your eye. And yes, you can see similarities to the Battleship game in this film. To me, that was the best part about it. But to pay $15+++ to see it, isn't worth it unless you are really bored.
The acting isn't all that great for a "pre-summer blockbuster". This is a January 5th movie at best and that is being too kind. I don't have anything good to say about any of the actors performances really so I'll just move on. Except this: Why in the heck did the filmmakers feel they had to throw in the stereotypical blonde actress with the ever bouncing chest-line that doesn't do a darn thing type in this? And the ending alien-human fight was just too ridiculous for words (and you wont be too surprised with the looks of the aliens, let me tell you. Very cheaply done). The filmmakers should be ashamed of themselves. The music isn't all that great either. It sounds like it too has been pieced together from several movies. And that screeching-transformers sound to make it more exciting, just got very annoying to me about 47 minutes in.
Sadly, I can see the razzies in this film's future.
Life 2.0 (2010)
The Next Big Cyber Thing..
This is an interesting documentary that could have gone further, but it fell into the trap of featuring the "unique", because the day to day is pretty standard. Standard yields little interest, exciting makes something go from the obscure to mainstream. I bet Second Life wants to go as mainstream as possible and become part of the vernacular like Facebook, etc. And why not? Its had quite the quite giant decade, now its time to let others know it's the "next big cyber thing".
I heard about this documentary on the radio as a promotion for the Oprah (OWN) channel's documentary feature segment. I happened to catch it via DVR. OWN did something that HBO did (and does) and scored a documentary of something that will be curious to many but of huge interest to the rest of us who know nothing about it. I'll say kudos to OWN for acquiring the documentary property. HBO may now have competition in the bidding wars of TV networks to air documentaries like this. Thank goodness, the rest of us can now see more of how the other half lives.
That being said, I never knew about Second Life, and I find it is aptly named. Reading what others have wrote about it where they have run into folks who are vampires, vamps, and the like, that is trendy and will come and go just as in anything - first or second life. I find Second Life like The Sims, but anyone can get on Second Life and not "buy" it per ce, but buy into it.
I gathered that this is what many folks feel that this is what they want their 'second life to be, or what they ARE, without face to face daily interaction with real life judgments - that is unless you WANT to go there. I think many second lifers do not want to go there, they want to become lost in virtual reality and be this new person as their real life is not so three dimensional. Is second life just another virtual escape or another chance for opportunities?
I feel that just like anything introduced into the masses that this can be a hoot, lots of fun, and an escape; your 'second life'. That is as long as you do not lose grasp of your FIRST life. If you have an addictive personality, this can get the best of you. Also as with everything, many folks will take it over the top (such as the adulterous couple profiled in this documentary), some folks will come out of that cocoon and be the butterfly they always wanted to be, and some folks are just negative a-holes because they can be. If you want to be a negative force to disrupt everyone else's fantasies, like in real life, those folks are at second life too - so there IS no way around them.
But what gets me that became clear in this documentary, is that the carpetbaggers that always find a way to buy and sell anything everywhere. It doesn't matter what bare land you discover, in comes the advertisers, commercial goods, money makers, and they are making bucks in virtual reality. You cannot escape them. Such as with Facebook (Friendster is something that didn't gel I think because it DIDN'T advance into the world of advertising/PPC, etc.) when opened to the public, the moneymakers latched on and now we have what we have. (In other words, don't kid yourself, if Facebook was just about exchanging stuff to friends and family, it wouldn't last and Zuckerberg and gang wouldn't make a dime, wouldn't be millionaires and the toast of the world. It's about that 'dime' more than anything else.) Secondlife will be/is no exception and in the next year or two, this will go big. Not because of the wanna-be Vamps, fuzzy folks, etc., but because it will make money. It IS making money, as the balance sheet shown on the documentary indicates year after year.
After watching this documentary I'm now wondering, why am I sitting here writing this? I'm curious and will go on SecondLife to see if it's for me, I mean, isn't that the point? I too am a consumer, and I too want the dream of owning my own business, and being the next Warren Buffett. Because it seems like here is where I can do it, and that may be the real point where my first life and second life will morph into my third life. Documentary or not, this was one big commercial for the site, and one should never lose sight of that.