May Summary

Less movies reviewed this month, but once again here are the links broken apart by genre and alphabetized. And as always, I like to talk some more so I'll give you my picks for best and worst of each genre.


Best: "No Country for Old Men" and "The Hurt Locker"
Worst: "Iron Man 3"


Best:"Breathless"—the first of its kind and "All the King's Men"—uncompromising and brutal
Worst: "The Best Years of Our Lives" words describe how boring and preachy it was


Best: "Red"...though it's not strictly a comedy I found it the most enjoyable of these movies.
Worst: "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" isn't bad (a guilty pleasure for me) it's just not as good as the rest.


Best: "The Thin Blue Line" 
Worst: "Crumb"


Best: Every one of these movies is incredibly good, but I think that "Elephant" is the best.
Worst: "The Prestige" didn't deliver like the rest of Nolan's movies.


All by itself: I really found "Oldboy" freaky and's not worth the hype.

The Help (2011) (PG-13)

There seem to be several subjects that can be made into books and movies again and again—simply because of the material they cover. The Holocaust and WWII are such topics, civil rights is another. Tensions between white and black people has long been a subject that novelists and film makers have enjoyed covering. The Help is one such novel. Kathryn Stockett made a story about a few women in Mississippi who decided to try to make a change in their community. Once penned, the novel saw huge success and week and week on the bestseller list. It was inevitable that it would be made into a movie...which it was.
"The Help" was adapted from the book by a childhood friend of Stockett, Tate Taylor. His touch is perhaps not the most professional, but altogether effective.
There are three main characters in "The Help"—"Skeeter" Phelan, a young white girl who is an aspiring writer; Aibileen Clark, an older black maid who is incredibly crafty and smart; and Minny Jackson, a smart-mouthed maid who gets in trouble because of her sass.
Each of these women presents a different side to the story in "The Help". The movie is narrated by Aibileen (a perfect role for the incredibly talented Viola David) so her perspective is the most important. The way the book handled the three characters was a shifting narration. Skeeter would narrate for a while and then Aibileen would take over and the Minny would—but even in the book, Aibileen was the central character.
Skeeter's writing talents get her a job as a newspaper columnist, writing a home improvement-ish column. This brings her in contact with Aibileen and she starts to empathize with the black maids known as 'the help'. She begins to conceive an idea for a book—tell stories from the point of view of 'the help'.
It's Mississippi and it's the 1960s, so you can imagine how well the black community is treated. The abuse is much more subdued for "The Help" and it even was for the book. The book and movie aren't about evoking some change in politics are recalling the heroic acts of one person in protest—it's about a community, three women, and the risk they took.
"The Help" is much less graphic than it could be—that's not to say it's not poignant, because it is.
There are only a few movies that celebrate females roles more than "The Help" does. Only two or three males characters appear in the entire film, and they are not crucial to the plot.
Needless to say, without many special effects or large chase sequences—"The Help" has to be a movie that succeeds in its story and its actors. The cast is sensationally good—Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer round out the three main characters and they are supported by an evil Bryce Dallas Howard, a southern Allison Janney, and the magnificent Jessica Chastain.
The Help is a rich book, it has so many levels and is one of the better books that I've read. Not surprisingly, the movie is not as good as its paper equivalent. There are some flashback scenes that don't work and it does get a little preachy after a while—sometimes the drama is too dramatic for its own good. Yet for its slight imperfections, I can't help but think that this movie is one that will stick around for awhile. It has a classiness to the way that it's composed and a simpleness that will leave it in the history of cinema for a little bit at least.
Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain are the best parts of the movie, they deliver their sometimes awkwardly worded lines with poise and accuracy. Octavia Spencer (in an Oscar winning role) is a delight as Minny. Her sass is what gives the movies its humor and its heart.
"The Help" may not be a masterpiece, but it is emotional, touching, and enjoyable.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Amadeus (1984)

"Amadeus" is a risky movie—this much has faded from the time it was released. What remains today is an incredibly solid period piece that chronicles the lives of Mozart and his competition Antonio Salieri. But what we fail to see is how brave and risky the elements of the movie that make it work—the story of a wife whose willing to do anything for her husband, the madness that parallels the mind of the men, the politics that musicians had to just through, and (possibly the most courageous move) the casting of Tom Hulce as Mozart himself.
When you think of Mozart, you think of think of the stiff man you see in his portraits. He's never smiling or laughing, quite placid actually. But then there's the Mozart of "Amadeus", who's crass and manic (his laughter is one of the iconic sounds from this movie).
The movie begins and ends with Salieri, he is the main character of "Amadeus". Why then a movie about and named after Mozart? Because Mozart fills Salieri's mind and he becomes the object of his obsession.
"Amadeus" has so many levels to it—you can be one of the best at your trade, and yet there is always going to be someone better than you. This is how Salieri feels at least, he was the premier composer in the country and then a young, crude, and vulgar boy shows up with a huge talent and Salieri is left out in the cold.
Instead of waiting and asking himself why, Salieri immediately takes the actions of Mozart as a message from God, banishing him from the privileged few that will be in God's inner circle.
Hubris is a large part of "Amadeus". The pride that both Mozart and Salieri have is so great that it blinds them to their surroundings.
What works with "Amadeus" is the madness within the film. Everything starts out formally, with pomp and circumstance. Then, things start to tip down as the characters are faced with their inner demons.
"Amadeus" takes its viewer on a ride—but, it's a smooth ride, you dont' feel forced into corners.
Mozart's music is the score to the movie, and this is the power of the film. When you see Tom Hulce being crazy and whatnot, you assume that he is a caricature—but with the backdrop of Mozart's works, you can see that this man was disturbed.
Milos Forman seems to like the crazy side of film, his last venture "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was even set in a mental ward.
"Amadeus" gives a more artistic side of the insanity—poetic and haunting.
When the music swells and the sweat pours off the sleep-ridden head of Mozart as he tries to finish a piece, you forget everything else. "Amadeus" is immersing, it pulls you into its world and doesn't let you go.
"Amadeus" stormed the Academy Awards, winning eight Oscars and blowing the competition out of the water. This is one of the better movies to come out of the 1980s—it's daunting and epic.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

The Prestige (2006) (PG-13)

A magic act has three parts: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. It’s not enough for a magic act to only have two, anyone can show an object and then make is disappear, but it takes a true showman and magician to make the object come back—forcing the observer to assume in the object’s permanence. 
Magic is something that always interests people—it’s not the vaudeville setting or the cheap tricks that could be as realistically grotesque as sawing a person in half—but magic hold its intrigue by being astonishing, believable (and unbelievable), and entertaining. An audience has to assume that there is some rational explanation for the trick that they just saw, yet the trick has to be clever enough for this audience to be left with only one answer—magic.
Most people only see the glamorous outside of a magic act and at the beginning of “The Prestige” we are warned that we might not want to know the ending of the trick—the explanation could be more disturbing than the actual trick.
“The Prestige” tells the story of two magicians who become adversaries near the beginning. They are always on a mission to one-up the other. The audience of people has vanished, they are really playing for each other. Each one is a brilliant showman and their acts only increase in complexity and magnitude until it all boils down into madness and obsession.
Christopher Nolan has long been one of my favorite directors, he throws philosophy in Batman—what more could you ask of a man? But I feel that “The Prestige” is his weakest movie, simply for its reveal.“The Prestige” is a movie that relies on its third act reveal—heck, it’s even named after the final part of a magic act...needless to say: the viewer needs a satisfying ending. What doesn’t work about the ending is that it takes itself too seriously and it’s too smart for its own good. A second viewing clarified this point of view. 
While at first “The Prestige” seems like it’s about a reveal—it’s actually about war and obsession, and for this I commend it.
But the ending is a reveal of sorts, which is supposed to carry the weight of the building themes and emotions—regrettably, it doesn’t.
The actors are all in their places—Hugh Jackman does a really great job as does his opposite Christian Bale. Nolan regular Michael Caine is—well, Michael Caine. These three compromise the entire core of the movie. The supporting cast while good and big-named (Andy Serkis and David Bowie make small appearances) they don’t enforce the point of the movie. The best acting job in the movie lies with Rebecca Hall as the distraught lover.
I found myself enjoying the drama of the movie when I saw it “The Prestige” for the second time, but I also found that I didn’t believe in the magic.
At its core—the reveal is unbelievable, and not in a good way.
The stylization of the movie is very appealing and the score is reflective of “Inception” which would come later.
It’s a good movie, the ideas are crystal but the execution isn’t fully developed enough for the movie to be powerful.
It’s an exploding firework, showy and pretty—and then, it disappears in the night sky.
It’s fascinating, but not enthralling—mysterious, but not gripping. 
Nolan could have picked a better background to frame his obsessive tale—this one doesn’t feel natural. There’s references to Edison and another scientist being enemies (much like the two magicians) but that felt silly. Edison, though never shown, sends out men to spy on his competition and they act like shady government agents.
“The Prestige” isn’t grounded enough in the time period that it’s representing.
Perhaps the most enjoyable item in the movie is the opening line: “Are you watching closely?”

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

All the King's Men (1949)

Netflix recently shocked its audience and much of the television world by releasing a streaming series "House of Cards" which exposed the rotting underbelly of politics. The tangled web of tricks that Frank Underwood, the main character, weaves to accomplish his nefarious purposes is a reflection on the current mind about democracy. But what can I say? "House of Cards" was ridiculously good, and Kevin Spacey knocked it out of the park. This is recent, popular, and sleek—so what does it have to do with a 1940s movie? Good question...
"All the King's Men" begins with Jack Burden, a reporter, being sent up to Kanoma County, in the middle of nowhere to write a story about Willie Stark, supposedly the only honest politician. Burden gladly does so and soon finds that Willie Stark is a very likable, honest man who is being held back in his race for county treasurer. He's not that keen on being the treasurer, he's just trying to make a difference in his community.
When Burden gets to Kanoma County, Willie Stark is on the side of the road, advocating his position to those few who will listen to him. He's also criticizing the powers that be—and those powers quickly break up his little speech and throw him into jail, just because they can. Burden tries to photograph the injustice but his camera is confiscated and then the picture is "accidentally" compromised.
Stark soon lets Jack know that he's all about justice and truth—he really is a honest man.
Jack writes up a few stories about Willie Stark, who looses the election, and then goes on vacation—back home, in a secluded town. At home is his mother and step-father. His step-father is the villainous type, greedy and full of tricks—surmising that all men can be bought for a price. But Jack doesn't buy into this, he thinks that the world has some form of moral compass.
Meanwhile, back in Kanoma County, during a fire drill the cheap staircase in a school collapses and kills several people. Many people realize that Willie Stark was right all along (Stark in the meantime has gotten a degree in law and is a practicing attorney) and he becomes all the rage in the little community—spilling over into major newspapers.
Jack's boss directs him back up to Kanoma and tells him to cover Willie Stark again.
And then—politics happens. Willie Stark is roped into a run for governor just to split the votes. He's insurance, insuring that the man with the money wins.
When he realizes that he's being set up, he drops his monotonous style of campaigning and goes for the, metaphorical jugular. In short, he becomes the people's person.
"All the King's Men" is shockingly ahead of its time, addressing issues that are still popping up—therefore the "House of Cards" reference.
Willie Stark is a character that evolves and regrettably, we're there to see it happen. His evolution never feels fake or contrived, but out of the depth of his circumstances.
Jack is another character that changes, though his change is less drastic than Stark's.
"All the King's Men" exposes the seedy side of politics that we would all like to think doesn't exist. It's a huge movie, showing no shame and holding nothing back.
It sidesteps so many cliches from the time period in which it was made—take Sadie Burke for instance. She's involved with the Stark campaign, yet she is nothing like the "typical" woman from film of this age. She strong, cunning, and ruthless. She is played by Mercedes McCambridge who won a well deserved Oscar for her role.
There are some stereotypical actions in "All the King's Men"—like the shaking of women who won't listen. This is another reason why I love Sadie Burk—she is shaken, but she is not stirred. Her defiance is shown in her eyes and by the sentences she speaks. Even when the cliche slap across the face comes, she laughs at its I said, way ahead of its time.
I was shocked by how much I liked "All the King's Men". It doesn't have the huge score that swells at emotional times, and the crying scene, and the romantic kiss in the moonlight—and herein lies the movie's strength.
"All the King's Men" is not perfect, it falls into a semi-preachy format...but for what it is—you simply have to admire its guts.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Up (2009) (PG)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"Up" is Pixar's finest movie. That's not to say that the studio's other movies haven't been good—on the contrary, I don't think that there has been a bad movie released from Pixar. But "Up" is virtually flawless in its design, script, and execution. It's the culmination of years of computer animation and genius storytelling (can you think of another movie that compares with a rat that wishes to become a chef?).
Carl Fredricksen is an explorer in the making, but with his tenacity to explore comes timidity and shyness. He's not the most outgoing person, but he's young so maybe he'll grow out of it. He's inspired by Charles Muntz whose exploration of South America resulted in a life determined to find an extinct species.
Then there's Ellie, as equally as enthusiastic about exploring and adventures as Carl (probably more so) and exponentially more outgoing. Ellie and Carl make a vow to one day go to South America and have adventures there.
Then—love happens. They gets married and start to take on responsibilities and soon their childhood dreams of exploring and adventuring fade into the background...not forgotten, but put on hold for now.
It's these moments, when we observe the evolution of their marriage that "Up" shows the strength of silent communication. The most powerful scene in the movie comes at the beginning and there are no words spoken—just Michael Giacchino's breathtaking score. This montage has been heralded and praised, but no words could truly do it justice—just watch the movie.
"Up" is a tale of one last exploration, it's also a way of keeping promises. What "Up" manages to do is condense the intimacy and love of a marriage and the heartbreak that comes with it into a children's movie that is digestible for both adults and kids.
There's the deeper meaning for adults who can understand and empathize with Carl better; but there's also some very fun and clever moments that include dogs that talk and fly planes.
The animation of "Up" is stunning and the story is outlandish enough to be plausible.
"Up" became the first animated movie in years to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and it's a shame that it didn't win. The winner was "The Hurt Locker" which is a hard movie to compete with—after all, the two are apples and oranges. I'm not sure that one is better than the other.
But "Up" can reach a broader audience than "The Hurt Locker" can. It's just as emotionally impactful as the war movie and without all the violence and suspense.
It's nice to see, at the core of "Up", a movie that represents elderly people as the heroes. There is no horror that is paralleled with Carl's aging, he does it as gracefully as he can.
Pixar's "Up" is a masterpiece—simple and complex in the same breath.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Mud (2013) (PG-13)

The work that "Mud" closely resembles is Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; which, in of itself, isn't that much of a kid's book. Twain's unyielding tendency for the sardonic and unflinching dark humor aren't exactly the best material for a children's novel—yet the protagonist is a child. For children see things differently than adults and using that perspective, Twain was able to convey his points. The same goes for "Mud"—a young boy is the main character who finds himself in adult situations.
"Mud' is a story that is about a loss of innocence, not in the Huck Finn sense though. The innocence of youth has already been lost when the movie opens, the two boys that we see are both into puberty—well aware of how unfair the world is. But Ellis, the main character, has yet to experience any of this unfairness to its fullest potential. He's been sheltered from it all, and one chance meeting brings it all down, crashing on his head.
Ellis's best friend is named Neckbone, a lovely Southern nickname that sticks with the character. These two enjoy going off and exploring and they hear about a boat that is stuck in a tree on a deserted island in the middle of the river that they live on. The last time that the river flooded, it dropped the boat in the tree, and it's been there ever since.
The opening scene is the exploration of the boat and the finding of the title character, Mud. 
Mud is a man who lives on the island where the boat is. He's homeless and a hobo, but he demands not to be called a bum. This man is superstitious, he has nails in the shape of a cross on the bottom of his boot and he's obsessed with not disturbing the ghosts of the past. Perhaps it's because he's running from his past. Ellie and Neckbone, on first encounter, don't want to get too involved with this strange man. 
Mud asks them for food, and his request lays heavily on Ellis, who eventually caves in to his conscience and brings the strange man some food. 
A relationship forms between the two of them and they both share secrets. 
Set on the banks of a river in Arkansas, "Mud" is distantly reminiscent to "Beasts of the Southern Wild"—simply for the youth of the protagonist and the physical setting of the story.
"Mud" is great because it asks so many questions that get the viewer thinking: What defines manhood and by that definition, what makes a man good? Is it right to break the law? 
The cruelty of the world starts to weigh down on Ellis, and it's through his eyes that we can recall the first time that we knew that our world wasn't perfect.
Ellis is raised in a "typical" Southern home. He has to "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am" even when he knows he's right. Respect is drilled into him and he expects everyone to have a certain level of respect for one another—which we all know that they don't.
Love is another foreign object that Ellis comes in contact with. The nature of love is described to him and, like most, I don't think that he ever really understands it.
Matthew McConaughey plays Mud and he's been getting all the praise from the movie, rightly so—it's the best performance of his career. But the real praise should go to Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland as Ellis and Neckbone, because they are the reason that the story works. Sheridan in particular is outstanding.
The river itself plays a large part in the movie, it is home to many of the characters, and yet some shots make it seem so vast and lonely. The river can hold secrets and supply materials for people's living, and it can also flood and kill. The natural world is unpredictable, like the circumstances that Ellis encounters.
This is writer/director Jeff Nichols's third feature and he brings a very smart drama/thriller to the screen. The script allows the viewer to stay one step ahead of Ellis and yet not lose interest in his actions. We know what's around the corner which is more impactful when Ellis finds out. 
Nichols doesn't try to define humanity because he would be pretentious to do so. Instead he invents Ellis, the character that symbolizes one act that changed our lives. Ellis is a turning point.
"Mud" is just about flawless, it's not for tiny reasons that don't add up to much. 
The performances are all great (a very good job done by Reese Witherspoon is seen in "Mud") and the story itself is compelling.
Nichols reminds us that you don't have to have explosive special effects and high production values to make a great movie.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) (PG-13)

There's something about "2001: A Space Odyssey" that makes you believe that you are in space. It's the deadness that you hear in the air—the silence that slyly smothers you. That movie was released in 1968 (over 40 years ago, for those of you keeping score) and still it remains frustratingly enigmatic and visually impossible. I found myself wondering how they managed to do some of the effects that they did...I still haven't figured it out. Then came Ridley Scott's "Alien" and George Lucas's "Star Wars" and eventually we had the technology to produce "Avatar". From then on out, we have been making great science fiction movies that look stunning ("Prometheus" for example), but don't capture the essence of space as "2001" did.
In "Star Trek Into Darkness" there was one moment that I was convinced that I was floating in space, soundless and helpless. This moment lasted less than three seconds and then the high quality sound technology blared their special effects and the movie's high-paced action resumed. Perhaps it was an homage to "2001" or just great decision making, but in that one moment, the newest installment in the "Star Trek" franchise reminded us that it has a brain as well as a huge budget.
For those of you who don't know, here's a quick run down on "Star Trek": Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise travels around space and has adventures...the end. Of course, it's a little more glamorous than that, but it's the gist.
In the 2009 "Star Trek", Kirk was faced with a time traveling Romulan, bent on vengeance. In "Into Darkness", the villain takes much longer to show his face, which makes for better drama.
We open to a mission that our merry, little crew is completing on a far away planet with aboriginal type people inhabiting it. Naturally, something goes wrong and it's up to Kirk and the rest of his crew to figure it out.
From then on out, "Into Darkness" lines up one bad circumstance after the other, and our heroes have to overcome all of them.
Usually these things are easy to predict—not so with "Into Darkness".
Kirk is played by Chris Pine, whose college student cockiness is sometimes overbearing, but still true to William Shatner's rendition of the character. Frankly, for a main character, he's the weakest part of "Star Trek Into Darkness". The supporting cast members surrounding him are so good that they overshadow him.
Zachary Quinto, easily steps back into Spock's clothes and embodies the Vulcan so well. He's really fantastic in this movie. Then there's Zoe Saldana as Uhura, somewhat reprising her multilingual performance in "Avatar". This movie also features Anton Yelchin as Chekov and John Cho as Sulu. Perhaps the most enjoyable part was Simon Pegg as Scotty who is given more lines and treats them with humor.
Karl Urban as Bones is an underrated role, he's given some pretty awful lines and has to make them work—and he does.
But wait—there's Benedict Cumberbatch. As far as scene stealing abilities, there's no comparing with this man. He could be silent and still capture your attention, which he does. Cumberbatch, along with Michael Fassbender, is rapidly becoming one of the most sought after rising actors—for good reason. The strange, feline quality to his face and the passion he puts into his lines make him stand out in a striking way.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is epic. The massive expanse of the CGI is staggering. Even to those not fans of the original series, it's inspiring to see how far technology has allowed film to expand. The special effects themselves are beyond critique, but their application is not. Sometimes it felt overdone and even disorienting.
Michael Giacchino's score is quite fantastic near the beginning of the film, but does go downhill as the movie plays out.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is sleek and wonderful to watch. It's the most purely entertaining thing I've seen all year. It is better than it's predecessor; but it's not great enough to be perfect—yet it made a valiant effort.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Crumb (1994) (R)

I'm not sure that I've seen a movie that is more disturbing than "Crumb". This movie received its recognition when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert named it as one of the best movies of the year on their television show. This documentary interviews Robert Crumb, an American cartoonist whose haunting past and controversial comics are anything but funny.
Robert grew up in a dysfunctional family, by the time he was five his collar bone had already been broken by his father and his mother was addicted to amphetamines. Growing up in this environment made all the Crumb children interviewed for the movie, disturbed.
Charles Crumb who started Roger out on this cartoon adventure, tried to kill himself by drinking a bottle of furniture polish and washing it down with a bottle of sleeping pills. Charles's last job was in the 60s as a phone solicitor, but after that he became agoraphobic and moved back in with his mother and was still living there when "Crumb" was filmed.
Then there's Maxon who became a molester in his teen delinquency years. When "Crumb" was filmed, he was practicing meditation and frequently sat on a bed of nails to calm himself.
But "Crumb" doesn't narrow in and focus on the horrendous things that happened to Robert, Charles, and Max—it seems to be saying that greatness can come from anywhere.
There's a huge amount of Freud in "Crumb"...comments are made that Robert's cartoons are his way of unearthing the "id" in everyone.
One thing that stuck me about "Crumb" was how graphic Robert was on paper and how tame he was in a one-on-one conversation. Many of his cartoons are disturbing and frightening...and that's putting it mildly. At one point in the movie, Robert is interviewed by a young, lady journalist who tells him that when she stumbled across one of his comic books when she was young—it scared her and confused her. When told this, Robert shyly scuffs his feet and tries to mumble out an apology underneath his blushing. He clearly feels bad for the girl but then he says that can't not paint the characters.
Robert is misogynistic, he admits to it himself. Many, if not all of his cartoons have something to do with women and debasing them in cruel and unusual ways.
Robert Crumb is unsteady in his head. If you couldn't tell that by just looking at his drawings then you will find out by the end of the movie. But his ghosts make him a haunted genius. He has an undeniable talent.
My problem with "Crumb" is how much I didn't care about Robert and his brothers. A documentary is supposed to pull you in and educate you—I was educated, but against my will. I couldn't care less about the man and his hardships and trials...I didn't connect with the man.
Perhaps it's because I found his cartoons repulsive and offensive...that would seem logical. Although I do admit that Robert has a talent, it's more of an adult version of Disney and Gary Larson combined.
All I was thinking during the movie was "Ooh, that looks like The Far Side".
Whether releasing his own personal demons, or satirizing the society; Robert paints his dark pictures without care of how they will affect the viewer.
In the interview with the aforementioned journalist, Robert tells the story of how he tried to make his young daughter watch "Goodfellas". She was scared of it, he admits that this is how his work could come across to people. Some people get a lot out of Martin Scorsese, but his daughter wasn't one of them. A lot of people could really like Robert Crumb, but he isn't everyone's favorite.
I agree with him on this, because I was one of the those people who didn't care for the cartoonist.
"Crumb" is well-done, it has all the right elements to be a great documentary—but for me, it wasn't. I can understand the appeal, I just don't find "Crumb" appealing.

Score: 1 star out of 4

The Thin Blue Line (1988) (Unrated)

I'm not sure there has ever been a movie that is more realistically frightening than Errol Morris's "The Thin Blue Line". This documentary follows a crime that becomes a hazy ethical area for all those involved.
On a cold night in November, in Dallas Texas, a police officer pulls a car over and approaches the car and then is shot down. He is killed on the scene—bleeding out and the car pulls away, screeching and speeding. The officer's partner fires on the car, but is unable to hit it.
The murder of the officer leads to a manhunt that dissolves into a car-hunt. All they need to do is find the vehicle that the man was inside when he killed the officer—then, presumably, they'll have the murderer soon after. Clues piles up and testimonies start to contradict each other and then we are forced to recall the beginning of the movie...
Randall Adams was driving in his car, when he suddenly ran out of gas. The gas station was a far walk off, so he grabbed a gas can and started to trek towards a pump. Along comes David Harris, in a stolen car, who is out for a joy ride. Random coincidence places these two men together and neither of them know it yet, but their lives will forever be changed because of the encounter that they have.
Harris offers Adams a ride and they share a day together—they go get food and smoke marijuana and then go see a movie...and then they're stories differ.
When news of the police officer's death reaches the papers, these two men are trapped in it. Both of them think the other one committed the murder, and the film becomes an exposé of the murder.
It's startling to think that "The Thin Blue Line" is a documentary, it feels to fabricated to have any truth held inside it. But when you see Randall Adams's face and hear David Harris's voice, it's impossible to get it out of your head—this is all truth.
"The Thin Blue Line" could ravage the legal system—it has enough evidence and emotion to do so...but it doesn't. While the viewer is left stunned and unsure of what could happen to them in a court of law, the movie itself is just about the case. There are perhaps five full minutes in the film in which the interviewees rant about the 'justice' system, and how flawed it is. Their ranting is rightly defended, because by this time in the film, the audience fully agrees with them.
Now I'm not saying that this movie is presenting anarchy in a good light—because that's not the case. The movie is a can of worms that, once opened, can never be closed. It's the Pandora's box...if you will. The ideals and comments in the movie cannot be erased from the mind.
Instead of just being about the legal system and the case, something remarkable happens in "The Thin Blue Line"—it reveals a little something about human nature. Perhaps it was unintentional, but both Harris and Adams show us things about humanity that may make us proud...and scared.
"The Thin Blue Line" is not faultless, as fascinating the subject material's not the most exciting movie ever.
"The Thin Blue Line" is one of the better documentaries. The power it has lies in the story it tells.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) (PG-13)

Let's be honest—"Robin Hood: Men in Tights" is incredibly stupid. Not only does it insist on hitting the same visual and long drawn out puns that Mel Brooks made popular throughout his career; it also takes the Robin Hood story, bakes to an unthinkable char and gets served to its viewers—and you know what? It was delicious.
You'd be incredibly naive to think that "Men in Tights" is a smart comedy that relies on the intelligence of its script and the development of its characters. Instead, it's outlandish, offensive, and at times ridiculously funny.
The movie begins with the stereotypical burning of a village, to the annoyance of the villagers. They question the logic of beginning every Robin Hood movie with the burning of a village and then they tell Mel Brooks to leave them alone.
Then we actually get to see Robin Hood, who is being locked up in prison in Jerusalem. He was fighting in the Crusades when things started to go a little South.
Inevitably, he escapes the prison in the first ten minutes of the film. His newfound friend, Asneeze, asks him to look after his son, Ahchoo (bless you), when Robin gets back to England.
Then Robin plunges into the ocean and swims from Jerusalem back to England.
Most everyone knows the story of Robin Hood, or some variation of it. What "Men in Tights" manages to do, is build upon the existing Robin Hood movies and spoof them—with wonderful bitterness. Cary Elwes, of "The Princess Bride" fame, plays Robin Hood and makes a jab about being the only Mr. Hood, capable of speaking in a British accent.
True to form, there is no shortage of double entendres and sexual references (remember that "The Producers" is what put Mel Brooks on the map to being with), many dealing with Maid Marian.
Between the scenes that actually enforce and carry the story; we have time for rapping, racism, and a delightful parody of "The Godfather".
The movie's first third drags, the puns are too drawn out and not clever enough to merit any real satisfaction or humor. But the movie heats up as it plays out and becomes a guilty pleasure instead of a worthless comedy.
Perhaps the most obvious comedic performance can be seen with Roger Rees as the Sheriff of Rottingham. He's over-the-top and manic and absolutely brilliant.
The movie excels when the jokes are faster and closer together, sometimes not even giving the viewer enough time to register them before moving on.
One of the more successful, recurring gags is a mole on Prince John's face which keeps shifting positions as the movie continues.
Tracey Ullman plays the witch character Latrine, and is one of the funnier parts of "Men in Tights".
"Robin Hood: Men in Tights" is mindless entertainment. It does take a little bit before it's funny, but I think that, in the end, it is quite enjoyable.

Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

To the Wonder (2013) (R)

Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" is defiantly plot-less, much like his last cosmic effort "The Tree of Life". His last feature dealt with love, loss, family, and the much loved recurring theme of 'nature versus grace'. "To the Wonder" is much more about love and relationships than anything else. But "To the Wonder" sets itself apart by asking questions and then not answering them—intentionally, I might add. These questions are vast and immeasurable and yet can be condensed into such a slight word as why?
Malick's favorite themes pop back up but only in little ways: loss, the essence of maternity, and (again) a dual nature in people. His favorite techniques are used as well: the stunning cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, the nature shots, and the whispered voice overs.
The natural world has always played a large part in Malick's movies. Recall the scenes of the waving wheat fields in "Days of Heaven" or the exquisite cries of the jungle in "The Thin Red Line" all culminated in "The Tree of Life" which left no doubt that Malick sees something different in nature than the rest of us. It's extraordinarily hard to recreate the beauty of the natural world on screen but Malick does it, time and time again.
"To the Wonder" could be a silent film, the lack of dialogue is staggeringly impressive. If it was just the voice overs, the movie would still work.
When researching the film, I saw that the main characters have names, but thinking back, I don't remember any names (besides one) ever being used in the movie. It's much like an updated version of "Sunshine: A Song of Two Humans". In the 1927 movie, the main characters aren't given names and I feel that it's the same way with "To the Wonder".
So let's be honest—"To the Wonder" is a beautiful film. But is it hollow? Many people seem to think so...but I wasn't one of them.
"To the Wonder" is about life—a daunting undertaking; but I think that in the was successful.
The cast that Terrence Malick employs includes Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams; but the real stars are Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko in a breakout performance.
The characters are going through life, trying to grasp at a meaning. There's a priest, who's questioning his God. There's a woman, questioning about the nature of love. And there's a man, questioning his relationships.
It's the popular thought that demands a rational explanation for everything seen on screen. Malick purposely doesn't give answers—I think I said that before...but it bears repeating.
It's not Malick's finest work—I still think that "The Thin Red Line" has that honor; but it is enigmatically beautiful. It's not for everyone, but for those who liked "The Tree of Life"—you will like this as well.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

The Color Purple (1985) (PG-13)

The Color Purple is Alice Walker's crowning achievement. Published in 1982, it only took Steven Spielberg three years to turn the Pulitzer Prize winning book into a film that was nominated for an impressive eleven Academy Awards. Not only is it Whoopi Goldberg's rise to fame in film, but "The Color Purple" also marks the beginning of the softer side of Spielberg's career which would lead to more sensitive works that would reach a peak with "Schindler's List". The book is the predecessor to such works as Toni Morrison's Beloved which was graced with the Nobel Prize for literature. But "The Color Purple" should be remembered for the individual work that it is, not as the harbinger to greater works, nor the beginning of careers.
Set in the early 1900s, "The Color Purple" follows the life of Celie, a young black girl whose life is fraught with abuse and hardships. In the opening scenes we establish that she has a very close relationship with her sister, Nettie.
Celie's oppression comes in the form of her father, whose unspeakable acts of crime will not be catalogued here. The bond between the two sisters slowly becomes unwound as Celie goes one way and Nettie—the other.
"The Color Purple" is a feminist work—not in the sense that it's trying to create in change in politics; but that it's central characters are women victimized by men. But it doesn't celebrate the crimes of the man, nor does it dwell on them longer than it should. It's easy to empathize with the women of the film because everyone of them are fully realized characters.
Besides Celie and Nettie's father, the other main male character is Albert who marries Celie in a detestable fashion that's similar to selling and trading cattle.
She is not Albert's first wife, so there are a plethora of step-children involved and who gets to take care of them? Celie, of course. She is beaten when she talks back and she is expected to clean the house, feed the children, and be quiet.
An interesting perspective that "The Color Purple" is how it addresses white people. This is not a story about slavery like Beloved is, but it does present a female black character as the protagonist as Morrison's book does.
"The Color Purple" is a devastating picture. I'm freely willing to admit that this film makes me cry every single time. Maybe that's why I have such a love for it.
The restraint with which Spielberg shoots the film and with which Goldberg plays Celie, is astonishing.
Whoopi Goldberg turns out a masterful performance that remains one of the best. Her tight-lipped, sorrowful, loving, beaten-into-submission character is so genuine and contradicts most everything else that that comedienne has done.
 There are a few interesting things to note about "The Color Purple": even though it was nominated for several Oscars, it won none (a travesty). The music was done by Quincy Jones and a number of other collaborators instead of Spielberg's usual maestro John Williams.
But while all the things fall into place perfectly—the costumes, the sets, the villainy of Danny Glover, the sass of Oprah Winfrey, and the music—it would all fall apart if it weren't for the lead character. For being so pivotal to the plot, Celie remains silent for much of the movie. It's in Goldberg's eyes that she lives—it's quite breathtaking to watch.
Perhaps I'm biased with "The Color Purple" because it makes me cry—oh well. I still think that it's one of Spielberg's overlooked masterpieces and is sensationally potent and powerful.
I'm not sure a list of adjectives would do it justice. The movie hinges on its simple story line, the beauty of the dialogue, and the tenderness of the characters.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

Room 237 (2013) (Unrated)

"Room 237" is a documentary about obsession and analysis. Technically, that's not what it's about—by definition it concerns "The Shining". I must confess that I did have an ulterior motive in watching the 1980 horror movie yesterday: I wished to see "Room 237". This movie had a lot of hype surrounding it, and spying a chance to see it, I grabbed the opportunity.
If you haven't seen "The Shining", don't bother watching "Room 237"—you will be completely and totally lost. Not only does the documentary spoil much, if not all of the movie; but it dissects the parts that seemed insignificant on the first viewing. This is what makes the documentary so much fun—the outlandish hypotheses that line up one after another are ridiculous, but not without evidence.
There's four men and a woman who voice the movie, never appearing on the screen—each and every one of them is a Kubrick fanatic.
Because the narrators remain faceless, most of the emotions that they are conveying in their voice and phrasings are giving actions with clips of older movies. Much like a story that one of the men tells about going out to his car after seeing "The Shining" for the first time in theaters—his story is mirrored with a clip of Robert Redford coming out of the parking garage from meeting Deep Throat in "All the President's Men".
At first, this style was off-putting to me, but I eventually warmed up to it.
The theories about "The Shining" themselves seem so random and nonsensical that there is a believability to each one. It's the thought that however more bizarre a story gets, the more likely it is to be plausible—after all stranger things have happened.
Some of these theories range in scope from the Holocaust to the genocide of the American Indians. Although the initial piece of evidence is sometimes as trivial as a can of baking powder, the people narrating give their arguments due time to ruminate and eventually bewilder the viewer.
Take one theory for instance—"The Shining" is Stanley Kubrick's confession to helping fake the Apollo 11 moon landing videos. The man who is telling us this is so convinced of it that he claims that the government has it in for him, because of his correctness. Supposedly, he found out how Kubrick faked the videos, and with that technique in mind, he begins to see clues to the moon landing video everywhere. Naturally, I didn't buy this theory but when the man started to line up his evidence, all blinders fell away. The most convincing piece of the evidence was the shirt that Danny wears in a hallway that depicts the spaceship taking off with "Apollo 11" written on it. Compared to the other pieces of evidence that the other narrators were giving—example: a ski poster is actually the Minotaur—this one was overt.
There was another man who was convinced that "The Shining" was Kubrick's way of unveiling the horrors of the Holocaust. He found the number "42" (regrettably not at all related to Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) appearing in several places...on another of Danny's shirts, mind you.
The simple structure of the Overlook Hotel is taken apart and shown to be purposely fraudulent in "Room 237".
The more minute the details of the theories—from Kubrick's face supposedly appearing in the clouds to a phallic image popping out of nowhere—the less credible they seem.
It's interesting to hear the stories of the people who took apart the film just because they were excited about it—good for them.
The thing that makes a documentary work is the interest in the source material. A good documentary will be open to everyone. Can anyone watch "Room 237"?—sure. Will you get more from it if you've seen "The Shining"?—undoubtably.
"Room 237" confines itself to the Overlook Hotel and in that, it has a downfall. It's a very in-depth movie about movies. For the average person not interested in "The Shining", "Room 237" would be tortuous to watch.
"Room 237" isn't that professional either, the narrators are occasionally interrupted by their offspring crying in the next room and it gives us the feeling that we are in their office off of their bedroom—it's a little too intimate for the kind of analysis that the film is trying to achieve.
But for the most part, "Room 237" is a success.
It's fascinating, disturbing, and some times ludicrous.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

The Shining (1980) (R)

Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" redefined horror for decades after its release. Today it still remains one of the most beloved movies of the 1980s. Perhaps it's Jack Nicholson to credit for the film's success—after all, he did improvise the famous "Here's Johnny" line. Or maybe we should applaud Shelley Duvall for her endurance of the infamous "bat scene" which Kubrick rigorously made her do again and again. The credit could also fall to Danny Lloyd whose back of the throat voicing of Tony and repetition of "redrum" gives the movie the child's view of horror it needs. But I think that most people would tell you that "The Shining" succeeded because of Stanley Kubrick—whose perfectionistic tendencies cooked up a pot of boiling madness.
I'll confess that the first time I saw "The Shining", I did not like it. Even after the second time, I'm not a fan. But what struck me about the movie (please note that "The Shining" is considered to be one of the scariest movies ever) was how non-horrific it was. There are moments that are gross and creepy, but "The Shining" doesn't have the kind of terror that leaps out and makes you scream. It slowly builds and builds and then is released in an incredibly famous end sequence.
What makes this movie intriguing is the mystery surrounding it. The end shot of the movie still leaves viewers asking themselves questions.
This movie is based on the Stephen King work of the same name. I read the book as well, and have to admit that I wasn't blown away by the novel either. Essentially the book is about a hotel that makes a man go crazy. For the hotel is alive in the sense that it can influence your judgment. In the book, much of the actual hotel grounds come alive and chase characters around. In the movie, it's much more psychological—the horror is mostly mental.
"The Shining" isn't really a ghost story, although the beginning sets it up to be just that.
Jack Torrance is looking after the Overlook Hotel for the months that it will be closed—October to May. The hotel is situated up on a mountain and the only access to it is via a long winding road that, once snowed in, is impassable. To cut down on expenses, the hotel closes for those months and has one man or family look after the hotel. It sounds ideal, like a very long vacation  But there are warnings: a cabin fever sensation could set in. The manager, Stuart Ullman, tells Jack that there was a man who went crazy in the hotel once and killed his whole family before disposing of himself. Jack considers the story and the audience believes that the hotel is "haunted" which would not be necessarily true.
The hotel is enigmatic, it's not haunted, but it is disturbed. The reason that "The Shining" is not a ghost story is because of the logic with which it is shot. Wide, sharp angles and tracking shots cement the film in reality...and then, things start to happen.
Here's what doesn't work about the film—it's too long. Like most Kubrick works, I found myself bored with his need to drone on. I kept feeling like I was missing something because of the long shots and long pauses in dialogue. Was some great truth about to be revealed? Was there a twist that I missed? I don't know, but I certainly didn't see anything like that.
Kubrick is so deliberate with these shots that I kept thinking that they were infused with a deeper meaning, but finding none—found them boring.
The music of the film begins with a heavy synthesized soundtrack similar to "A Clockwork Orange". Then it transitions into a string screech-fest which makes up most of the middle part. And finally, when the action starts in the last half hour, the percussive instruments create a beating heart sound that pumps until the end.
The music is symbolic of the three acts of the movie: the introduction, the buildup, and the finale.
Again, I differ with most people because I really don't care for the movie and don't see what's so classic about it. The dialogue is never really naturalistic enough to make me believe that these are actual people going through a weird set of circumstances. Also, the actions of the characters are just bizarre. When Jack is going crazy, it's plain to see. There's no big surprise, yet it's not until near the end of the film when his wife begins to suspect anything. So maybe she's just a simple girl—not so. Many comments are made on how cunning and inventive she is.
Scares are actually in small quantities in this movie. Stephen King himself hated the adaptation of the book, thinking that Kubrick did not make the hotel eerie enough and on this—I have to agree.
The hotel is massive, which I guess could be imposing. The 60s design of the carpet is fascinating and intoxicating and all the colors (mostly red) are bright and unforgiving. Yet, all I could think about was how amazing a game of hide-and-seek would be in a place like that. Yes, in some ways, I am still a child at heart.
The hotel needed to be even bigger, and yet once inside, small. You have to be convinced that around every corner there is a pair of creepy twins or a door that leads to a room filled with horror. This is not conveyed in "The Shining". The music is plenty creepy enough for us to assume that something is going to happen, but nothing does. There are few moments in which the music accompanies something of substance. Most of the time it's just discordant nonsense.
Jack Nicholson is insanely over-the-top in "The Shining" and I found that it seemed like he was playing to the camera.
The film could be about how we are haunted by our pasts, but I think it's more about the supernatural. The unexplainable is what "The Shining" is famous for and this is where Kubrick makes a copout. It's easy enough to say that these weird events happened because of the supernatural. It's harder to give reasons.
The hotel is hellish in construct and ideology.
I can see why "The Shining" is popular—I don't understand why it's classic.
Instead of being trapped by the Overlook Hotel, breathlessly eager to escape and horrified at the way people change—I was able to breathe easily because I didn't feel confined. In fact, my breathing was very deep. "The Shining" is a soporific film for me.

Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Iron Man 3 (2013) (PG-13)

This review contains some SPOILERS!
"Iron Man 3" is a movie with no discipline. It plunks away at the same old notes that every other superhero movie has been hitting for years now. The success of the movie in the box-office should be credited just to the Marvel franchise, and also to the huge mega-hit "The Avengers". "Iron Man 3" seems keen to prove that it was just as epic as "The Avengers" (which was not a faultless movie to begin with) by constantly making references to the movie. Every time I heard a reference, I added another five million dollars to the film's revenue.
Tony Stark is a raging insomniac at the beginning of "Iron Man 3"; but like most movies, he can sleep it's just that when he does, he is haunted by the memory of going into the wormhole in New York in "The Avengers". Like most Hollywood movies, not just action movies but dramas as well, sleep is a fitful, violent happening. I really long for the day when nightmares on film are portrayed as the terrors that they are—immobile and unspeaking.
Whenever remarks are made to New York, Iron Man melts down and becomes Soft-Molten Anxiety Attack Man (SMAAM, if you like).
When the movie opens we are told that everyone makes their own demons (too heavy handed on the much overused 'you are your own worst enemy' tangent?). Tony Stark made his back in 1999 when he was rude to a man and had a one-night stand with a botanist.
This botanist was working on a way for plants to heal themselves quickly...or a leafy version of Wolverine, as I thought. But, there's one problem...whenever the plant regrows—it explodes! Yes, a bio-unexplainable bomb. Just cut off a dandelion's head and BAM, you're history, pal. How this occurs, we are never told, only that it's a glitch.
"Iron Man 3" taps into the common-place notion that we only use a certain percentage of a brain. Like many superhero and extraterrestrial movies to come before this one, it would seem that if we could only gain control all of our brain we could heal ourselves...or explode.
Enter the Mandarin, a man who really hates America. I felt that the movie's screenwriters, Drew Pearce and Shane Black, take too much for granted with this villain. Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" made it clear that we are still not over the war in Iraq and why should we be? However "Iron Man 3" just assumes that the audience will buy into the fact that the villain is bad, simply because he's semi-Middle Eastern and he hates America. Remember that comic books were a good source for patriotic propaganda as many of them were being published during WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Here, it just seems kind of racist.
"Iron Man 3" builds and steals on the superhero movies that have come before it. We are led to believe that the villain is as clever as ruthless as The Joker from "The Dark Knight", which he's not. There is a situation much like the conundrum Peter Parker faced in "Spider-Man".
Great superhero movies makes us believe that the good guy is going to lose, that way it's more a pleasure to see him overcome his situation and win at everything (it's secretly what the viewer wants to do in their own life). "Iron Man 3" is not convincing in the least of our hero's doom.
The cast is fantastically mediocre in this film: all of them usually do a good job but for some reason they were all in bad form. Gwyneth Paltrow is usually a pleasure to see on screen, yet here she's annoying—the same goes for Guy Pearce. It's sad when the best part of the movie is Paul Bettany—the voice of Jarvis. The only tolerable on-screen talent was Sir Ben Kingsley.
For someone who supposedly has PTSD, Robert Downey, Jr. just becomes somewhat whiny during his panic attacks and they feel forced and trite.
Questions kept popping up in my mind and I think that I'll share them with you:
Why does the bad guy have some vendetta against America?
Why is Iron Man responsible for the whole country?
If he had all those nifty gizmos, why didn't he use them earlier?
Are we really supposed to believe that a child in Kentucky doesn't have enough common sense to call the police when there's a stranger in his garage? (Instead, in an "E.T." fashion, he brings him metaphorical milk and cookies).
Why does the child go and investigate the intruder armed only with a potato gun?
Everyone else has a gun in Kentucky...why doesn't this kid?
When the villain's motives are explained, it would be kind to say that they were thin. Good guys need good bad guys and "Iron Man 3" lacked a credible villain.
The problem that I had was that (again, in correlation to that stupid exploding plant) the minions of the bad guy were invincible...well, almost. Nothing kills them..."Iron Man 3" has bought into zombies, a fad that is fading fast.
And yes, there's fire-breathing—at which, I pointed and laughed.
"Iron Man 3"'s CGI is really good, it should be by this time in film history. It's just nice to look at and rarely influences the actual plot of the movie.
"Iron Man 3" has an embarrassing script that gives us no real reason besides the main characters to watch the film. All the reveals are easy to spot and nothing is a I said: all the same notes.
I mentioned that the movie lacks discipline for this reason: explanations are needed but dodged. Whether actual laziness set in or if it was ineptitude, neither is a good enough excuse for the lack of explanation (yes, I'm looking right at the exploding plant).
Basically it all boils down to not being rude to people. This could have all been avoided if Tony Stark just had a few more manners.
Now, the movie does have good moments—most of which involve Iron Man's quips and one-liners.
"Iron Man 3" isn't bad, it just quietly hovers above mediocrity with pleasure and some sass.

Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Head (1968)

Following the paths of such rock bands as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, both of which made movies that reached enormous success, The Monkees made a film that is at best, nonsensical.
The movie begins in a straight-forward fashion, a mayor gets out of his car and proceeds to try to give a speech before he cuts a ribbon for a new bridge. The microphone isn't working so he tries again and again and keeps getting reverberations. Finally, he gives his speech which is remarkably shorter than all his attempts and right at the moment when he is going to cut the ribbon, The Monkees come tearing through and jump off the bridge.
Micky is taken down in the water while one of their songs plays and everything becomes high contrast colors, much like the ending of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and mermaids carry him back up to the surface.
Then a few minutes later we are told the point of the movie—there is no point; and if there was, it would  be to try to cram as many genres that people like into one movie.
I'm sure that if you had the time you could glean some meaning from the random cuts of film and the gags. The philosophical argument of being a brain in a vat comes to my mind, and this is reinforced when Peter talks to a guru in a steam room and concludes that both of them know nothing which is why nobody should worry with the random happenings around them.
Let me give you a more tame example of the things that happen to the band members. They tour a factory, don't bother asking why it's not told to us, and Davy notices weird things happening: hot chocolate will pour out a exhaust pipe and dead bodies are carted around but he's the only one who notices these oddities. He tries to point them out to the other band members, but no one listens. Then they are all shoved into a box and the door is locked behind them. Spotlights are then pointed onto them and they travel to what looks like a very large toupee. They are directed to jump up and down because they are playing dandruff in a commercial and they do so, I'm not sure why. Then the product is advertised and they are sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner...nothing could be simpler.
But these weird circumstances are also what makes "Head" so enjoyable. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It reminded me of an older version of "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus". It's the kind of movie that you have to submit to and let it take you here and there as it pleases.
It was a little bit of a surprise to find out that Jack Nicholson had a hand in writing and producing this piece of film, he even makes a small cameo in the film.
"Head" purposely defies explanation and genre, that's what its aim was, and with that in mind—I do think that the movie is a success.
Parts of the movie resemble Monty Python shticks and others feel like "Paris, je t'aime" because of the way it jumbles together in seemingly unrelated ways.
It's a drugged up version of a combination of Mel Brooks and Kubrick...but in the best possible way.
There are moments that spoof product placement and make anti-war statements and other that seem like a parody of "Lawrence of Arabia" and yet one more that pokes fun of Italy's surrender in WWII.
There's a lot to absorb in "Head" and I'm still puzzled by the title, but who cares? I had fun.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars.

Hamlet (1948)

Shakespeare is not one of my favorite writers. His work is undoubtably influential and his prose is regarded as the best to come to page yet; but I find myself not really wanting to read anything he's written. Sure, in school I was forced to read Shakespeare and like most kids, I really didn't care for it. The 1996 film adaptation of Twelfth Night or What You Will opened my eyes to what film could do for Shakespeare. Not only did I understand what was happening because of the ease with which the actors conveyed the bard's lines, but I genuinely enjoyed the movie.  I was hoping for the same kind of experience with "Hamlet".
"Hamlet" begins telling us that one particular vice in a man could outweigh all his virtues. Then we are told that "this is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind". Immediately, we are taken to a fog encased tower, which guards are patrolling. For two nights in a row they have seen a ghost or spirit in the fog and they want a new pair of eyes to confirm it. They bring Horatio, a friend of Hamlet to see the ghost. Right on time, with a witchy precision, the ghost shows up and Horatio recognizes it as the late king, Hamlet's father. The ghost looks like it wants to talk to someone and the vanishes. Horatio and company decide that it's best to tell Hamlet about their midnight visitor.
Hamlet's uncle has married his mother right after the king died. When Hamlet goes out to see the ghost that Horatio and the others tell him about, the ghost of his father speaks to him and tell him that Hamlet's uncle killed the king.
Swearing loyalty and revenge to the ghost, Hamlet gets poisoned with revenge.
Ultimately, what it boils down to is: everyone wants to kill Hamlet. They were too subtle with the Shakespearean language so by the time I figured out that everyone hated Hamlet, I was confused of their motives.
Laurence Olivier plays Hamlet, which is entirely convenient because he directs the picture too. I felt that he needed to go a little deeper into the inner turmoil of the character, because I don't think Hamlet was supposed to come off as a little posh with a temper.
The fair Ophelia has enough crazy to go around for everyone else, but I wanted a deeper emotion to her hysteria. She goes crazy at the death of her father and the failed love between her and Hamlet, but the movie has her carrying around in a "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" fashion. She hums and sings pretty songs and then quietly fades from the story with no real emotional impact to her departure.
The use of fog in the beginning of the film is a little heavy handed. It's hard to even see through all the low lying clouds, but it does create a great moodiness to the picture. The spiritualism and fantasy of the first few scenes then fades and is rarely seen again. Even in later scenes when Hamlet tried to make his mother see the ghost of his father, it's not really believable.
While the film itself is well-done, the acting drags it out. There is no natural cadence to the actor's lines like there was in "Twelfth Night" so I was getting every other sentence's meaning. This is tacked on to the fact that each character takes long "dramatic" pauses that nullify what the scene is trying to accomplish and allow all real meaning to slip away.
Take the famous "To be or not to be" scene. There was no way that I was convinced of the struggle that Hamlet was going through.
If you're going to attempt to pull off Shakespeare, you better do it right. I am, however, looking forward to Joss Whedon's version of "Much Ado About Nothing".
There was a sense of relief when the end rolled around. Poor Hamlet certainly has seen better days and in the end I'm not sure what he couldn't make up his mind about.

Score: 2 stars out of 4

Fatal Attraction (1987) (R)

This review contains some SPOILERS!
"Fatal Attraction" is what I would call a popcorn movie. There's nothing too special about it—it doesn't have a lot of brains, it doesn't have a lot of heart, even for being a thriller it doesn't have a lot of scares—but it is entertaining if but for one thing and one thing only...Glenn Close.
Alex Forrest is considered one of the best movie villains of all time simply for the nightmare that all men have—what if a one-night-stand turned into a horror show? In fact, Alex Forrest is such a well designed and mastered character that she lands at #7 on AFI's list of best villains. Only six people top her and it's hard to think of a more distinguished group of bad guys to be just beneath: Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life", Nurse Ratched from "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest", The Wicked Witch of the West from "The Wizard of Oz", Darth Vader from "Star Wars", Norman Bates from "Psycho" and Dr. Hannibal Lecter from "The Silence of the Lambs". Beneath Alex Forrest on this list lie several iconic villains including the shark from "Jaws" and Jack Torrance from "The Shinning". It just goes to show that a woman gone wrong can be the most frightening thing in the world.
Let's be honest—"Fatal Attraction" is somewhat misogynistic. It portrays a woman who can't handle not having sole control over a man's life, so what does she do about it? Go see a therapist and cry for two days? No, she stalks him and kills his family's pets. That sounds logically doesn't it? The character, though (as previously stated) well-designed seems to be a reflection of a man's world. Wouldn't it be nice not to take responsibility for your actions by simply having the woman be crazy?
"Fatal Attraction" skips around some big holes. Why doesn't the wife throw a bigger fit? Why is there a happy ending? Why can't he just find a way to get it across that he's not into her anymore? Oh, right! She's crazy!
It's seems convenient but that's the way the film goes.
Now let's put all that aside. Okay so they skipped around the realistic way of how a family would handle the situation even if the woman was crazy, but let's just let it play out.
Dan Gallager is a happy man, he's got the job, the wife, and the kid. But when his wife goes away for the weekend he falls into the seductive nails of Alex Forrest who is just too eager to snatch him up. It's love for her, he fills the hole that she has inside her. When Dan realizes that he's made a mistake and tried to break it off with Alex she gives one of the most quoted lines from the movie "I'm not going to be ignored, Dan!"
Then it's off to kill the pets and kidnap the daughter and pour acid on the car.
The weakest part of the movie is Michael Douglas as Dan Gallager. He really doesn't carry like he should. Glenn Close as Alex however is deliciously evil and iconic in her star-making role.
I can overlook the fact that "Fatal Attraction" puts women down because, even though this one is a little more personal, there have been plenty of scummy men characters in movies as well. "Fatal Attraction" is just trying to entertain, which is does.
It's not the best movie ever but it creates great tension and is a thoroughly 80s movie.
This just makes me so happy that things have been invented since the time of "Fatal Attraction" like caller-id and alarm systems.
Gotta love background checks.

Score: 3 stars out of 4

Rope (1948)

Hitchcock was no stranger to controversy. Most every film he made was infused with Freudian psychology and offensive to some group or another. Take "Rope" for instance, a movie that opens with two men killing another man and stuffing his body in a trunk—and that's just the opening shot.
"Rope" is based on the stage play by Patrick Hamilton which paralleled the crimes of the infamous duo Leopold and Loeb. The pop culture rumors of the two criminals—they kidnapped a young boy and murdered him and disposed of the body before making a ransom demand to the mother who would be paying for nothing since her child was already dead—obviously are infused in the script.
The two villains are Brandon and Phillip who kill a certain David Kentley within a minute of the opening credits. After they stuff the body in a chest they sit for a while and breathe deeply, obviously trying to evoke a feeling of sexuality for the crime itself.
In the minds of the killers, the murder was done because it could have been done. It's the thought that they are superior and David was lesser—a character makes remarks of Nietzsche later in the film and his observations are quite apropos.
But the audience can tell that the murder wasn't logical, the murder was driven by some sexual desire. I take my hat off to John Dall and Farley Granger for playing Brandon and Phillip, because in the time that "Rope" was released, it was a very fearless decision. Brandon and Phillip (much like the rumors of Leopold and Loeb) are played in a very homo-erotic fashion. Neither of them are gay and Brandon has dated women before but in this area, they seem very sexual.
After strangling the body, Brandon smokes a cigarette in a post-coitus fashion and Phillip asks to be left to let the feeling linger for a little while.
They go into the other room and then they ask each other how it was for them. If this didn't make audiences squirm in their seats in the 1940s, I don't know what would.
However the cliches of Hollywood are seen clearly and would remain for long time after, the characters that may not be gay but are more feminine and sexual than a mainstream viewing would like, are the villains—murders at that.
Whether the characters are gay, which is what many surmise, or if they just shared in this one time semi-sexual experience, it doesn't matter. Either way, Freud can be seen. The logic was pushed aside for a moment of pleasure of the flesh. There are other moments in which Hitchcock has his actors 'subconsciously' revealing clues—another nod to Freud.
The acting itself starts off a little melodramatic. I've found that many Hitchcock movies take thirty minutes to really get into. Once the plot has started twisting, the sun sets and drunkenness and madness sets in. The movie gets better as it plays along.
For the time and really still today, "Rope" does not hold back. It's radical in the message that it conveys and stylistically groundbreaking.
To bring a staged sense to the movie and to add to the pressure that builds on the characters, Hitchcock used all eight minutes that a roll of film could record and only has a few cuts in the whole movie. A camera on wheels rolls around in other rooms to capture the dialogue and action. The way the cuts are made, it plays like one long's very effective.
"Rope" isn't my favorite Hitchcock, nor do I think that it's his best. It's it good? It's Hitchcock, why do you need to ask?
James Stewart gets top billing for the movie, though I feel it should have gone to Dall and Granger, because it really is their movie.
It's one of the first psychosexual thrillers and it remains somewhat hypnotic, even to this day.

Score: 3 stars out of 4

Red (2010) (R)

"Red" is a movie that completely surprised me. From the trailer, it looked like a semi-stupid, fun time with actors that I really like. When I was watching the movie for the first time, I remember thinking, "This movie actually has a plot". The sophistication of the movie is what catches you off-guard. This comedy actually has a brain.
Frank Moses is a man whose prime has passed and he knows it. He spends his day watching his avocado grow in a mason jar on his table and ripping up his government pension checks so he can call and complain about it to Sarah Ross, the only person he really feels he can talk to. Frank reads the same books that Sarah does so that they'll have something to talk about other than business and eventually their conversations become personal. They know about each other's live and loves...but not their pasts. And it's Frank's past that comes calling in the movie, which sets off the chain of reaction.
Bruce Willis's finest work is seen in "The Sixth Sense" and "Die Hard"; but unfortunately, the latter condemned him to being cast as the typical action star ever since. It was dramatic pieces like "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" that got overlooked. With "Red" there is a resurgence of Willis's acting prowess. It's a very underestimated role because not many people realize the depth to the character. He's a man whose being held captive by his aging body but his un-aging mind. The character is a combination of action and drama and I do believe that Willis is almost flawless in this role.
Frank has to flee his house and he tracks down Sarah and "convinces" her to come with him and he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding his past.
William Cooper is the man tracking Moses, he's also trying to bring sense to the madness; but in a different way. If Moses is the outlaw to the picture then Cooper is the law.
On the way to knowledge, Moses reunites with old colleagues that include the trigger happy, insane Marvin Boggs, the calmer Joe Matheson, and the deadly Victoria.
Joining Willis is an incredibly talented cast that includes Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren.
There's also a cameo appearance from an actor whose work has been appreciated many times, but that should remain a secret so I won't say anything about it.
"Red" is not just an action movie though it has very funny moments, most of which stemming from either Boggs or Victoria.
In today's youth obsessed society, it's nice to know that a work that is about aging and that presents elderly people in a positive way can be so well received.
"Red" is just charming. It's not too much of anything. It won't haunt you when you sleep and it's jokes will stick with you for a little while before you forget them.
It's not perfection, but it is an incredibly firm movie. It's doesn't give way to rabbit holes and has enough intrigue and reveal to satisfy just about everyone.
The subtleties of the film could go unnoticed. Even through all the jokes and the action and the bullets, there is a love story. It's a romantic movie, in more than one way.
"Red" doesn't try to become a nostalgia piece because all of the characters wish for the old days but are unable to return to them...strikingly realistic.
"Red" should merit multiple views, it's funny and entertaining all the way through.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4