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Greenberg

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***½

What could you possibly know about the world?

At least Ben Stiller is trying.  He really inhabited the role of the out of a pysch ward carpenter.  His clothing fit like regular people clothing fits.  Rhys Ifans’ English accent made him harder to understand than in his other films (Danny Deckchair & Notting Hill).

I found Greenberg to be very realistically awkward.  Like a frequent kvetch starting a complaint with, “I’m not usually one to write letters complaining of…”  He’s like a future version of Jesse Eisenberg in so many ways.

I also really enjoyed the presentation, even if for only a few seconds, of Hasidim to contrast with Greenberg as a “Jew.”  Particularly since he does not consider himself one, citing his mother’s Italian-ism.  His portrayal as someone suffering from anxiety is a bit strong, but his attitude still seems real.  At least he’s not going after some amazing “hottie” like in most movies.

The ending might be a bit crazy for some people, people like me.  But it’s kind of an anti-Garden State.  This was the middle chapter between a an uplifting and a romantic tragi-comedy.  There are only a few locations and very little action, but it’s certainly interesting.

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The Town

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****

Go fuck yourself.

I cannot believe that I did not go see this in a theater.  It’s so badass.  I really enjoyed the performances and recognizing some of the returning actors from Gone Baby Gone.  I heard some criticism of the generic nature of the film, but I found the story to have pleasant surprises.  Of course, those surprises tended to be on the more badass side, but I find that pleasant.  That said, many of the notes the film hits have appeared in the better heist films–films like Heat and Inside Man.  I cannot wait for Ben Affleck’s next film, but I must admit that Ben Affleck the director is still better than Ben Affleck the actor.

The Sweet Hereafter

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****

I mean, I’m a wheelchair girl now. And it’s hard to pretend that I’m a beautiful rock star. Remember, Daddy? That beautiful stage that you were gonna build for me. You were gonna light it with nothing but candles.

I did not recognize Bruce Greenwood (most recently in Star Trek as Captain Pike), but he just inhabited the Dakotan with a mustache.  I was surprised that sex played a role in this story.  Particularly since it’s told half before and half after a tragic school bus crash.  All of the intimacy and happiness comes before, while the after seems as cold as the snowy North can make it.

Ian Holm did a magnificent job of playing a class action plaintiff’s attorney.  He comes across as heartless and even when he performs a speech to convince non-litigious parents about their anger and justice.  But he has something else in him, something that can come out.  But the film keeps you on your toes, showing you the bus, preparing yourself for the crash, but then nothing happens.  Until it does.  Then it leaves you waiting for a return to the past.

What I took away from this film was how immoral and corrupt small town America really is, and how you cannot even trust the pretty, sweet ones.  On balance, this film would probably be less frustrating from non-legal standpoint–still, it was a very balanced movie that did not demonize anyone.

Sparkling Cyanide

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**½

This appears to be a 1980’s made for TV update of an Agatha Christie novel.  It’s opening reminds one of the opening scene from Log Jammin’ (a series of shots of someone driving into Los Angeles, not the cable man arriving to fix the cable).  It’s alright, nothing to write home about, but for what it was it’s not bad.  They spent the money on the actors instead of special effects or film for second takes.

Loathing

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I do not mind expressionistic films, or others that are not realistic.  For instance, I gave Sin City 4½ stars, and that’s not a realistic film.  Still, it had a reality.  It was based on a series of comic books and its characters remained true to the reality that the director created.  On the other hand there are many films that betray that trust–the acceptance of a film’s reality.  The worst offenders are those that purport to exist in our reality.  The reality.  “Based on a true story.”  A Beautiful Mind exemplifies this.  I used to criticize Forrest Gump, as if it were the worst, but A Beautiful Mind far surpasses it with just that simple phrase, “based on a true story.”  When you read that, you begin to trust the director and what you will see.  Ask yourself, at what point did Nash’s homosexual friends or lovers come into the film?  Never?  That seems odd, since he’s bisexual and that might have impacted the marriage that figured so heavily in this bullshit story.  How about the his anti-semitism?  Gee, Ron Howard seems to have skipped past that for some reason.  I guess that makes our tormented protagonist a total piece of shit with whom only racists would sympathize, oh well.  On the bright side, he did have that rousing and touching Nobel Prize speech, right?  Oh, that’s fabricated too?  In all fairness, it’s based on a true story like Rush Limbaugh’s opinions are based on “facts.”

Other movies are guilty of this too, so it’s not as if I hold that overrated pile of crap as the only offender.  The last three Star Wars movies, particularly The Phantom Menace violated the rules of the Star Wars universe left and right, with characters failing to react consistently within the reality that George Lucas created.  Literally millions of people understood how that universe works, but somehow its creator forgot.  Or did not care.  I believe that a major reason for this recurring flaw comes from a lack of respect for the audience.  It was his world, so he could change it.  Except that is not true, since once he released the films they stopped being under his control.  His intended message may help inform the viewer, but in the end it’s irrelevant if he failed to convey it.  A director can reserve the rights to a film, but  it’s not just his once others watch it.

Insomnia

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****

Say what you have to say.

Insomnia – the opening of the film seems like a Nosferatu/old German-style silent horror film:  the lack of camera movement, the faded color, and the eerie minimalist music.  The tone never becomes particularly light, but the tension really pervades at other times.  Using northern Norway’s permanent sunlight made the situation seem totally inescapable, even as the Stellan Skarsagaard manufactured his own darkness.  He could close his eyes, cover the windows, wrap things up, but then he could not figure his way out of his odd policing dilemma.  I see why Criterion decided to release this DVD.  Now I am excited to see Christopher Nolan’s remake.

Talhotblond

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***½

The biggest human addiction is love.  It’s the master addiction, the one that nothing can replace.  She was feeding that addiction and the only one feeding it.

Well composed–I really liked the opening credits/music.  This guy was rivetingly disturbing.  Like a non-threatening Hannibal Lecter.  It’s interesting how the narrator tells the story from the dead young man’s perspective.  How the director opted to use music and almost a split screen background on top of which the IM text scrolls up before fading out.  In a nutshell: this is a messed up story about real, regular people, who used the internet to use each other.  This is not a family appropriate documentary, despite the lack of audible cursing or nudity/sex.  Just the level of discomfort would be off the charts.  The movie deserves credit for having strong 3rd & 4th acts, despite the total run time of only 75 minutes.  The pace sets you up to believe that act 2 is the end of the story…but oh lord it was not.

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