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All Is True

Amon g The Best Cinematography Ever
Is it a good thing or a bad thing when you keep noticing the cinematography? Maybe the cinematography should not call attention to itself - but this may be visually the most beautiful film I have ever seen. At times the story moved like a glacier, but maybe that is okay. Maybe we need to slow down. In any case, this is a film I intend to enjoy again.

Blazing Saddles

Does Not Hold Up
I remember laughing through the entire film when it first came out in 1974, but it hasn't aged well. Aside from a very few special moments, it lacks any real wit or cleverness. Much of it could have been written by a group of twelve year old boys, trying to be shocking. But humor that is merely shocking has a limited shelf-life, and the shocks in this film are past the sell-buy date.

Having said that, I will always cherish the scene in which Gene Wilder explains to Cleavon Little that the people of the town are simple farmers, people of the land.... That scene will always be brilliant.

National Theatre Live: Hamlet

I was disappointed, but glad I saw it
This was one of the most heavily edited versions of "Hamlet" I have ever seen. Scenes were moved around, and dialogue from some characters were moved to other characters. I have read that in early performances of this production, the play started out with the "To be or not to be" monologue, but too many people protested, so they moved it, but they did not move it to the place it is in the second quarto and the first folio. (I cannot remember off the top of my head where it is in the first quarto.) In this production, they move it to after Hamlet's fist confrontation with Polonius. (Does that need a spoiler alert?) Cumberbatch played the character as more angry than sorrowful. Maybe that's why I was entertained, but not moved, by his performance.

Much Ado About Nothing

Not What I Was Expecting, But Very Well Done
This review contains spoilers concerning the interpretation.

Joss Whedon has said he wanted to explore some of the darkness in "Much Ado About Nothing" and he certainly did. I was surprised in the early scenes because Beatrice and Benedict are not having a merry war of wits; they seem, at times, to be out for blood - or at least for bruising. This is a legitimate interpretation of the script. The readings are all justified by what is written in Shakespeare's lines, but there were a lot of moments when I missed some of the more comic readings found in other productions. I felt too sorry for Beatrice to laugh at her remarks. But what what is missing in the comedy department is more than made up for in the romance department. By making the early scenes bitter, Joss Whedon was able to make the later scenes all the sweeter. This was a very serious "Much Ado About Nothing," and it was particularly serious on the subject of love. For example, in most productions, when Benedict says, "I will be horribly in love with her," it gets a big laugh, but in this production, it is a simple statement of truth. This is the most romantic "Much Ado" I have ever seen, and the most emotionally compelling. Whenever the performers (and the director) have a choice between playing something for laughs and playing it for love, they always go for the love.

For anyone who loves Shakespeare, you obviously do not want to limit yourself to only one production of this play. I highly recommend this one. SEE IT. DO NOT HESTITATE TO SEE IT. But I also recommend the recent one filmed at the Globe Theatre in London.

Much Ado About Nothing

Best Much Ado I've Seen To Date
I have seen many performances of "Much Ado About Nothing," (although I have not yet seen the Joss Whedon film), and this is my favorite one to date. It was shot live at the Globe Stage, and the rain was pouring down on the groundlings in the first part, but they stayed and enjoyed the performances. I can't recommend this one enough. I have seen the play often on stage, and I've seen the Branagh film and the television one with Sam Watterston (both of which I also recommend), but this one made me feel like time. One of the best things about it is that it made Claudio seem like less of a jerk for the way he treats Hero. The performer plays Claudio as particularly young and naive, so his actions are ALMOST forgivable.


I Was Shocked That I Was So Bored
As a firm believer that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to him, I thought that "Anonymous" would make my blood boil with its myriad historical inaccuracies and its nonsensical conspiracy theories. Instead, it nearly put me to sleep. None of the characters aroused any interest or sympathy. None of the characters had any life, so how could they interest me? None of the characters had a character arc, meaning that no one significantly changes or grew during the film. (Well, that's not completely true. The young de Vere played by Jamie Campbell Bower seemed to be an immature horn dog, while the older de Vere played by Rhys Ifans seems to have no interest in sex at all, but that wasn't character growth - that was an unlikeable character mysteriously becoming a very different unlikeable character with no explanation for the change.) As Edward de Vere, Rhys Ifans attempted to show his poetic soul by looking constipated. He didn't show a shred of humor, which is decidedly odd for a man who supposedly (if he was the real author, as the Oxfordians would have it) wrote more comedies than tragedies. His character claims that art must be political or else it is merely decorative, but he never expressed any political beliefs in the film. He had a personal grudge against the Cecil family, but there is a difference between the personal and the political. (By the way, I find the statement that art must be political or else it is merely decorative to be the most offensive thing in the entire film.)

According to the film, Edward's consummate goal was to install Essex on the throne rather than James. But why did he care? Was it some sort of prejudice against the Scottish? Was it out of some sort of affection for Elizabeth? He lusted for her as a youth, but we never see him show any affection for her as a woman, rather than as sex object (when they were young). (And if he had felt any deep affection for Elizabeth, one would have to question why he would care for such an empty-headed libertine.) Did de Vere actually think Essex's political policies were superior to James's political policies? If so, why didn't the film ever differentiate between their policies? Does this mean that Oxford would have thought the screenplay of "Anonymous" was merely decorative?

As played by Ifans, de Vere didn't seem to have a passion for anything, or any joy in living. He didn't even enjoy writing – he wrote to keep his "voices" from troubling him. (At the very end of the film, he shows some love for his son, but by that point it was too late for me to care about this cold fish.)

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised that I was bored. I have long thought that it would be difficult to make a film with Oxford as the hero of an "Oxfordian" movie, because you would either have to portray him as a prig who was ashamed of writing "Hamlet," or as someone who would like to have taken credit, but was too big a wimp to say anything. This film manages to portray Oxford (at least when he is Ifans) as both a wimp and a prig.

The film did not bother me primarily for the way it treated William Shakespeare. It bothered me primarily because it was so damned boring.

Even if you accept the premises of the film, it doesn't make sense on its own terms. Queen Elizabeth is not presented as a Puritan (quite the opposite) and she clearly enjoys plays. Why, at the very end of the film, does she suddenly insist that de Vere's name never be on the plays? That comes completely out of left field. And Robert Cecil is supposed to be an ultimate political games-player and spy master. Why doesn't he know that the man he installs as King likes plays? Why did de Vere first learn about the power of plays to move people when he was a mature man (played by Ifans) who attended a public performance of a play by Ben Jonson? According to the film, de Vere had already written "Romeo & Juliet" and the "Henry IV" plays and had them performed at court - wouldn't he have already known about the power of plays to move people???

The second most offensive thing in the film (i.e., after the statement that art must be political or it is merely decorative) was changing the line "that can sing both high and low" to "that can kiss both high and low" - turning it into a cheap oral sex joke.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

What A Waste of a Good Novel
I enjoyed Tim Powers' novel "On Stranger Tides," and was hoping that Disney Studios would find a way to turn it into an decent "Pirates of the Caribbean" film. I was horrendously disappointed. They scarcely used anything at all from the novel. The film had no virtually no plot (and for those of you who may confuse plot with action, they are NOT the same thing), no rooting interest, and the least chemistry between the two leads that I have ever seen in a film in my entire life. It wasn't just that Depp's character and Lopez's characters did not seem to care about each other, they barely seemed to have met. They managed to make Blackbeard the pirate dull and nonthreatening. They made the life of a pirate slightly less thrilling than the life of a certified public accountant.

The Tempest

Am I Going Deaf, Or Was The Sound Muddy?
As I get older, I have more and more trouble hearing the dialog in films. Do people now know how to mix sound anymore, or am I going deaf in my old age? When filming Shakespeare, I would think it would be particularly important to record the lines so that you can hear what the actors are saying, but I had trouble hearing about 30% of the dialog. Or maybe the speakers in the theater where I saw the film were bad.

As to the rest of the film, I thought it worked for the most part, although I didn't care for the actor playing Ferdinand. He seemed more like a stable boy than a prince.

SPOILER ABOUT THE ENDING: I did not think the ending worked, but I'm not sure what I would have done differently. Instead of having Prospera say the epilogue, she had it sung over the closing credits. The film ended with Prospera throwing her staff off a cliff toward the sea, where it shatters on the rocky shore. It seemed an abrupt ending.

Immortal Beloved

Idiotic Premise
After Beethoven died, love letters he had written to his "Immortal Beloved" were discovered. The name of the Immortal Beloved was not included in the letters. That all makes sense.

However, in this film what is found is not letters but a will - in which Beethoven leaves his estate to his Immortal Beloved, but does not tell anyone who she is. Does that make sense to anyone? If he really wanted to leave her his estate, wouldn't it have occurred to him that it maybe it might have been a good idea to identify her by name?

Are we supposed to think we was an idiot? Are we, perhaps, supposed to think he wrote the will while suffering from dementia? I can't think of any other reason why he would make a bequest to someone he declined to identify.

Hitler, ein Film aus Deutschland

Absolutely the WORST film I've ever tried to sit through
"Our Hitler" is, without question, the very worst film I have ever tried to sit through. I have to admit I did not sit through the entire 7 or 8 hours. I left shortly after a man who claimed to have been Hitler's valet gave a very long speech about Hitler's underpants. At that point, I decided someone must have been playing a very cruel practical joke on me. Apparently, there are a number of people who think very highly of this film. I cannot understand why, unless they are masochists - or unless it really was some sort of surrealistic practical joke. Seriously? You liked seeing someone talking about Hitler's underpants?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

In an early draft of the script, there were no abductions
I saw an early draft of the script in which there were no abductions. The film ended with the very first contact ever between earth people and aliens. It was a lot more dramatic, and made the aliens a lot more sympathetic. In the version that was shot, the aliens had been interacting with abductees for years. Why were we supposed to like aliens who had separated from humans from their families for years and years? Why are we supposed to like aliens who would take an baby away from its mother? The script that I read did not have the character portrayed by Francois Truffaut and had nothing about the devil's triangle. I'm sorry they didn't film that script.


James Barrie would hate this film
One of the main points that Barrie stresses in his "Peter Pan" is that childhood is a special time, but eventually there comes a time when everyone (except for Peter Pan) has to stop being a child and assume the responsibilities of adulthood. At the end of Barrie's play, Wendy cannot return to Neverland, even though she would like to, because Neverland is reserved for children.

This film is typical of the selfishness of many in the "Boomer" generation. They steal the specialness of childhood from their children by refusing to give it up themselves.

Barrie would have hated this abomination.

Shutter Island

A Horrible Movie
This review contains major spoilers. Please do not read any further if you have not yet seen this film and you have any interest in seeing the film at any time in the future.

This film makes no damned sense, unless the point of the film is supposed to be that the people running the insane asylum are more insane than the inmates.

For this film to make any sense, you have to accept the premise that psychiatrists who actually care about a mentally ill patient would try to cure such patient by doing things that would drive a sane person crazy; that they would play cruel head games that encourage delusional beliefs. How can any sane person believe that giving Teddy/Andrew evidence to support his delusions is going to cure him of delusions? In fact, as the film progresses, we see Teddy/Andrew getting more deluded, more paranoid, more violent. The role-playing is clearly counter-productive.

Giving Teddy/Andrew reasons to believe his delusions would not cure him. This is proved by the fact that there are numerous people on the IMDb boards who believe Teddy was sane all along, throughout the film. If the role-playing can't even convince these viewers of the truth, how is it supposed to convince Teddy/Andrew?

And for this film to make any sense, you also have to believe that these same doctors would give a startling degree of freedom to one of the asylum's most violent killers. Andrew/Teddy attacks a patient and knocks out a guard. He blows up a car, for goodness sake! That alone should prove it was insane to give him any freedom to wander alone, even for a short time.

The movie was set up as a mystery - what is the secret of Shutter Island? But the resolution (that Teddy/Andrew was insane all along, and the doctors were pretending to be evil because they thought that would cure him of his delusions) makes no sense. There is nothing worse than a mystery where the solution breaks all rules of logic. It reminds me of the following joke:

Dennis Lehane: What is furry, has four legs, purrs, and reads the newspaper every day? Richard Nathan: I don't know. Dennis Lehane: A cat. I lied about the newspaper.

I thought that joke was annoying the first time I heard it, and it's annoying as the basis of the mystery in "Shutter Island."

Furthermore, the resolution is not the result of any actions taken by the protagonist. The role-playing game doesn't lead Teddy/Andrew to discover the truth himself. He is merely a passive listener as the solution is explained to him. The breaks several major rules of screen writing.

And what about the very end? Most people interpret Teddy/Andrew's last line as meaning Andrew is only faking his regression, so that he can get a lobotomy and avoid facing the truth. But if he were faking it, why would he give this away to the doctor playing Chuck? And why are so many people moved by this act of cowardice? Can there be anything more cowardly than someone choosing to get a lobotomy to avoid facing the truth about himself? Are we supposed to empathize with someone who chooses to destroy his own intellect because he doesn't have the guts to face the truth?

I cannot understand how anyone can think this is an intelligent screenplay.

Hamlet 2

Waiting for Entertainment
I have been trying to puzzle out why I disliked this film so much, while "Waiting for Guffman" is one of my favorite films. Both films make fun of powerless, unhappy people -- which is something I usually don't care for. I think that the filmmakers behind "Waiting for Guffman" had a basic affection for their loser characters - while in "Hamlet 2" the filmmakers do not seem to care at all about the witless, talentless drama teacher. Furthermore, the characters in "Hamlet 2" undergo far more pain and humiliation than the characters in "Waiting for Gumman." The filmmakers behind "Hamlet 2" are like the Gods in King Lear, they treat their creations like flies and kill them for their sport. This goes beyond black comedy - it is theater of cruelty, to be enjoyed by bullies. Furthermore, the jokes in "Waiting for Guffman" were a hell of a lot funnier.

Get Smart

The audience barely chuckled
The audience sat in silence through almost the entire film, with only a few, rare, occasional chuckles. The character of Maxwell Smart was so inconsistent, I felt whip-lashed. When it is convenient for the plot, Smart behaves like a master spy. At other times, he acts like an imbecile. They lift many classic lines from the television series, but they don't work in this version. The classic "missed it by this much" is funny if it is spoken with attempted braggadocio by someone who is an obvious failure - but it loses all humor when spoken by someone who is qualified. To a slightly lesser degree, many of the other characters move at a dizzying pace from skilled to cartoonish incompetent. Siegfried, the main villain, would seem to be intelligent, but he makes decisions that make no damned sense at all. Still, none of the characters in the film is as incompetent as the writers of this mess. I am utterly depressed that so many IMDb users think this was good.

Charlie Wilson's War

I Hated This Film for political, moral and aesthetic reasons
SPOILER - This film gives away plot points and discusses the ending. I hated this film - mostly for political reasons, but also for moral and aesthetic reasons. Politically, this film glorified war and military technology - blowing things up real good. We are led to cheer as the music swells and the Afghans use our weapons to blow the Ruskies to bits. And no U.S. soldiers put their lives on the line - so it's a fun war. Aesthetically, there isn't a touch of real human emotion in the film, just smug, privileged people being sarcastic, feeling superior, and doing whatever they want regardless of the consequences. And speaking of consequences, the film only makes a few small hints at what the arming of the Afghans actually led to. I had read an earlier draft of this script, and it ended on 9/11 - with Charlie Wilson realizing that things had gone horribly wrong. But that wouldn't leave the audience feeling good. This is a feel good movie about killing Ruskies. And it made me sick.

Michael Clayton

It's great entertainment, but not as intelligent as it pretends to be
SPOILER ALERT This is a very entertaining film - and entirely enjoyable while you're watching it - but the plot really does not make a lot of sense if you give it close scrutiny. SPOILERS AHEAD - While the document that Clayton finds is certainly damaging evidence, given the facts of this case, the plaintiffs should have been able to win it without that document. If the defendants wanted to hush things up, I don't think a car bomb would be the way to go. There are a number of ways the bad guys could have killed someone and at least made an attempt for it to look like an accident. Finally, the woman in charge of the law firm was not the type of take charge, confident, shark-type she would need to be to rise to that position. Yes, MICHAEL CLAYTON is a very entertaining firm to watch - but the "logic" falls apart if you think about it afterward.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I suppose the biggest problem was Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent. He played Arthur as a nice guy, but not a FUNNY nice guy. No comedic timing! Where was the resigned annoyance the character has had in all the other incarnations.

The addition of a moral lesson ("carpe diem") seemed out of keeping with the theme of the work. As Marvin might have said, "Seize the day? Don't talk to me about seizing the day. The only point to seizing a day is to throttle it." I know Adams himself went all gooey in "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish" - so maybe I should re-read that one, and try to look at this book in a different light, a rosy light.... oh God, I hate Rosy Lights.

The Adventures of Hiram Holliday

One of My Favorite Shows When I Was A Child
This was one of my favorite television programs when I was a child. I was delighted when I recently found some episodes on home video. It holds up well. Wally Cox does a magnificent job of portraying a loner with a deeply romantic soul. I found something melancholy about his performance that I certainly didn't see when I was a child. The film was based on a series of short stories by Paul Gallico, written in the late 1930's, in which Hiram Holliday fought Nazis. The character in the book was described as slightly overweight, and seemed much less of a bookwork than the character Wally Cox portrayed. I would like to see a feature film remake with Kevin Spacey in the lead, but I'm sure it will never happen.

Femme Fatale

One Of The Most IDIOTIC Films Ever Made
This film was idiotic. Some people tell me I shouldn't dislike films if they don't make any sense. They tell me I should just enjoy the ride. Sorry, I can't turn my brain off. It is particularly important in a caper film that the film make some sort of logical sense.


We have to believe that the guys planning the heist at the beginning of this film are willing to risk a huge amount of money, not to mention their own personal safety, on the premise that a female photographer is absolutely certain to be able to lure a complete stranger into a toilet stall for a round of hot lesbian sex. Now it turns out at the end of the film that the stranger isn't a total stranger after all - but this is a big surprise to the guys who planned the heist. They actually planned the heist based on the premis that their photographer would absolutely, without doubt, be able to lure a stranger into a toilet stall during a film premiere.

How stupid is that????

And don't tell me I shouldn't expect logic because it's all a dream. That wasn't part of the dream. And here's another moment that wasn't part of the dream. We learn at the end that the woman lured into the toilet stall kept the real diamonds, but told the police they were the fake subsitutes. You think the police wouldn't want to examine whatever she had for clues?????

Sorry, I can't turn my brain off -and this was an IDIOTIC film.

From Hell

The Ending Makes No Sense
The most frightening thing about this film is that there are so many people who believe that the conspiracy theory presented in this film could be the truth. But it makes no sense if you actually think about it. If you were enormously wealthy and powerful, and you wanted to hush something up, would you ask a NON-PROFESSIONAL to kill those in the know? Would you allow the amateur to continue after he demonstrated he was completely insane? Would you allow him to continue to jeopardize your secret by taking OVER A MONTH to kill off all the people you wanted him to silence?

The Meateater

Hey, I was in this movie - and I wasn't all that terrible.
To everyone who's been writing about how awful this movie was - did you think everyone was terrible? What about me? I played Raymond (the projectionist). I hadn't realized this film was released, until I found it on the IMDB. When they were shooting it, it was known as "Phantom of the Bijoux."

Intikam Melegi/Kadin Hamlet

Low Budget, Updated, Female Hamlet from Turkey
I saw this film at Filmex, a Los Angeles Film Festival, in the seventies. It was selected for the festival by Buck Henry. It was one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen. Hamlet was a female, so were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Instead of taking Hamlet to England, as they do in Shakespeare's play, in this version they take him to the beach, where they all play volleyball in bikinis. I would love to see this film again.

The Anniversary Party

I never forgot I was looking at actors acting.
There wasn't a moment during the film that I felt I was looking at the characters, rather than the actors playing the characters. The actors were all so proud of how clever they were, they forgot to stop being proud and actually step inside the characters they were supposed to be portraying.

Laughing It Up

I like the script - but I'm prejudiced because I wrote it.
I wrote the script for "Laughing It Up" (also known as "In Search Of A Woman"). I'm not 100% pleased with the how the film turned out, but I'm very pleased with much of it. I do wish the producer/director taken out the vaudeville sketches I'd originally written about a cat and replaced them with the new vaudeville sketches about "Romeo & Juliet." But the director didn't agree with me.

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