Orson Welles was reportedly furious when this film was cut to… MoreOrson Welles was reportedly furious when this film was cut to smithereens by his studio, and his editor, Robert Wise, while he was elsewhere, filming in South America. He believed that this could have been better than "Citizen Kane," his magnum opus. While it's hard to be conclusive in that assessment, I can say that this film is just as big and concrete as his first. This film too looks at the lives of people through many years, and shows their transformations from idle youths to confident adults. The Amberson family members are comprised of a group of fascinating individuals who each want things they apparently can't have. The Industrial Revolution's evolution of technology leads to the family's undoing, as their neighbor's wealth grows and theirs' dwindles. Their matriarch and patriarch fall, the aunt and nephew often struggle against each other on escalating levels of cruelty, and relationships suffer for it. It's a beautiful film that obviously could have been much bigger, much darker in its take on the family. Sadly the original rough cut of the film was destroyed by the studio, probably to keep megalomaniac Welles from putting his film back together. This is an amazing addition to Welles' canon and is beautiful in both scope and story.
Based off of the titular BBC miniseries from several years prior, this… MoreBased off of the titular BBC miniseries from several years prior, this American production features Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters in the lead roles. The film features dozens of iconic songs from the thirties and forties, several backgrounds painted from the original thirties musicals, and huge numbers akin to the heyday of MGM. Throughout the film the actors lip sync to the iconic singing of people like Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, The Boswell Sisters, and Ruby Vallee. Though the actors in this film do not sing, they are very talented performers. Steve Martin learned tap dancing for six months in preparation, Peters is a Broadway mainstay, and Christopher Walken had been trained in tap dancing prior, giving one of the more astounding performances of his career. The story follows Martin as music sheet salesman Arthur as he cheats on his wife, runs from the cops, and tries to find happiness in Depression Era America. The story is pretty grim, making Arthur's fantasies that much more heartbreaking. The juxtaposition illustrates that musical numbers really are fantasies in and of themselves, and the people going to see musicals during the Depression were trying to escape their disparity and poverty. Astaire reportedly hated this film because he believed that this period was innocent, and showing its realities was tawdry. In reality, this film was eye opening, and beautiful in its assessment of true life.
The first thing that everyone goes to, in lambasting this film, is the… MoreThe first thing that everyone goes to, in lambasting this film, is the performance from vacant eyed starlet Lindsay Lohan as Liz Taylor. I would say that this film actually suffers most from compacting forty odd years into a 90 minute film without any exposition. Most of the film's events happen without clarification to when in time they occur, why they're important, or who the surrounding characters are. I would say that most of the people in this film can be identified by those who know the many loves of Elizabeth Taylor, but for anyone coming in blind, none of this film will make much sense. Characters, places, costume changes, are all thrown at you without explanation. There's a time jump of some ten years that's not explained, and then the film just ends. Lohan isn't the perfect Elizabeth Taylor, but then again Lifetime isn't the best venue for this film, in the first place. Lohan has problems with her accent work, but besides that she seems to be really trying throughout. She and Grant Bowler (Burton) have monologues, (possibly from heaven) and there's one in particular where Lohan shows real emotion and bravado in her acting that I haven't seen from her in some time. That scene gave me hope for Lohan's future endeavors, and showed that beneath the bleary eyed stare she still cares about her work. Bowler also gives his all, even with the corny poetry and his weirdly perverted take on seduction. If you like watching train wrecks, this may be the film for you.
This quirky little gem looks at the subject of being an outsider in a… MoreThis quirky little gem looks at the subject of being an outsider in a world that demands progress, perfection, and its geniuses to be sane. Wannabe musician Jon (Gleeson) joins an alternative musical group headed by Frank, (Fassbender) who wears a large doll head and has an obvious mental disorder. Several other bandmates are also inclined to mental fits, including Don, who sometimes tries to throw himself into the sea. The film itself is very mellow, infusing really strange yet enlivening music into scenes that are often quiet and have bereft, disengaged characters. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a disaffected young woman named Clara who gives Jon and Frank perspective on their choices, and also gives a performance that may be the best of her career. Fassbender is just the right balance between kooky artist and alienated outsider. In the end the message is pretty clear: if you want to be different, that's okay, but sometimes choosing that over reality will hurt more than help you. The middle drags quite a bit, but otherwise I found this entertaining and just the right amount of quirky.
Without any of the charm or iconic imagery of its obvious predecessor… MoreWithout any of the charm or iconic imagery of its obvious predecessor "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," this film is ugly and dark in all the wrong ways. The director originally wanted something darker, akin to Frank Miller's "Sin City," but was stonewalled into creating a more family friendly venture. What emerged was not only; not family friendly, but was disgusting and gross. The characters are supposed to be outliers who are dangerous and violent, but they're just idiotic stereotypes. The animation in this is horrible, bordering on amateur. The characters engage in all the insane antics of a Warner Bros. cartoon without the charm of a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck. The plot doesn't connect very well, and often relies on stupid logic. The ending especially doesn't make much sense, and the logic to get to it boggles the mind. The main drag is the reliance on three dimensional actors in a two dimensional space, which the set designers get around by creating two dimensional sets that often make it obvious that they don't possess the technology to meld these two mediums. It's just a tragically dull film that tries to make animation into an art, but instead makes you gag.
This is the best representation in documentary filmmaking that could… MoreThis is the best representation in documentary filmmaking that could have come from the life and times of George Takei. The film never undermines its subject, though at times it may poke fun at the often petty fighting between George and his husband, Brad. Otherwise this is a favorably interesting film about all that George has accomplished: he proved to be a reverential and influential Asian American actor on prime time television, a detractor and survivor of internment camps in the forties, and a defender of and activist for gay marriage. The found footage is amazing, Takei's work is great to see all these years later, and the footage for the documentary itself is very telling. Brad and George are the kookiest and cutest older couple that I've seen in a documentary in some time, and their interplay lightens a lot of the film. The one thing I found annoying was; that overly childish score that followed them around like this was an episode of a Bravo reality show. Otherwise, there's a lot of heart and poignancy in this film that may even make you tear up.
This film features a similar storyline to the Pre-Code Hollywood… MoreThis film features a similar storyline to the Pre-Code Hollywood classic "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang," without the drama of it being a true story. This film also adds a fresh faced romantic interest, who powers much of the story and serves as the protagonist's main motivation. The narrative follows the story of former convict Eddie Taylor (Ford) who is finally going straight, as he marries his sweetheart Joan (Sidney) and tries to get a job. Though he tries to do good he's framed for theft and murder, and the rest of the film features him trying to clear his name and get back to his wife. The main moral of the story is not to discount those who are trying to get their lives back together, and the more important lesson is that when you believe someone will commit a crime, eventually they will have to, to be free. This is a narrative that could use more attention in our modern times, when recidivism is at an all-time high, and police brutality is in the national spotlight. While the film overall plies itself with melodrama all too often, it's a classic example of the way Fritz Lang made his films, utilizing the emotions of his audience while also showing a story steeped in violence. This isn't his absolute best film, but it is one of the more memorable, and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly.
The subject of breast feeding in our culture needed an in-depth yet… MoreThe subject of breast feeding in our culture needed an in-depth yet impartial view, but instead of that director Dana Ben-Ari only shows the views of several new mothers. The main narrative of the film is that "breast is best" and all children need to breastfed, but the film doesn't tell us why. It's true that there are advantages to breast feeding, including a lesser chance of ovarian and breast cancer in women, and a lower chance of obesity in children. It's also true that only 16.4% of new mothers breastfeed their children for the recommended first six months. The documentary does not give any of this information throughout, and instead lets naive first time mothers pander to the camera about how easy they think it's going to be, and that they have no sympathy for women who don't breastfeed. There's even a lesbian couple who purport that they don't accept women who say they have low milk production, and they should still try anyway. By the end, none of these women have accomplished their overall goal. If the film serves to show the strength in breastfeeding and its good influence on children's health, it should have been more forthright with that message. There are some interviews with specialists, which are insightful, but they do nothing to link to the overall narrative. This film is jumbled and confused in what it's trying to say. Also, who is its audience: new mothers, pregnant women, breast milk detractors, misogynists? It's unclear throughout just who this is for, or what it's trying to say, making it not just insulting to women and adoptive parents who can't give their children breast milk, but to its audience as well.
From first time director Jennifer Kent comes a terrifying… MoreFrom first time director Jennifer Kent comes a terrifying psychological horror story about what scares us, how we let it affect us, and what causes our fears. Most horror stories come from our own internal problems and fears, which is the basis for this story. Amelia (Davis) is a retirement home nurse who, long ago, lost her husband in a car accident the day she gave birth to their son Samuel (Wiseman). Her son is a very loud, disturbed, often inappropriate child who sees monsters every night, and in the light of day constructs weapons to kill them. His over-stressed, frail mother is at her wit's end with her son, and can't seem to find time to sleep or take care of herself. Essie Davis gives a powerhouse performance as the mother, coming off as a wretched former version of herself, and a possessed woman who is taken over by monstrous forces. Much like "Oculus" this film delves into horror with the ambiguity of its psychological origins, leaving us unsure of whether or not the events of the film actually happened. We remain unsure if this is a classic monster story, or Amelia is letting her son's delusions and her own, meld and evolve, to a point where she believes in monsters. This is a very subtle and yet terrifying film that also boasts some great concept art and gets its scares through good old fashion terror and not incessant jump scares. It reminds me of so many classic horror films, while also feeling fresh and new.