Marc_Israel_365

IMDb member since January 2009
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Reviews

Yesterday
(2019)

A nostalgia based romantic comedy about music: Bb
Heralded Director Danny Boyle tapped into the endless discography and adoration of everthing Beatles but fails to navigate that long and winding road. Its a rom-com with little twists whose plot is the only surprise which us the premise. Its nit that romantic despite the ever adorable Lily James typecast as the dedicated girl next door. Somebody tell our make lead it should be obvious from the start that there needs to be some tamped down interest which drives their valentine. The audience is left to assume that actually does want her.

The comedy part is mostly delivered through our clowning side kick and the only jokes that struck our audience were delivered by record exec, who was predictable but her comedy was almost too character spot on to be taken as comedic at times.

Written as if a cliff notes version of Love Actually and delivered with British apology, this Beatles cash cow was a tepid reminder that you can mention John, Paul, George and Ringo and hear angels getting their wings!

There was a sweet snd heartfelt fan angle expressed by two longtime fans from different countries who somehow get to say what Mr Boyle wants to say but we have to sufffer through another series of revelations and modern stadium stage lighting to hear it.

Even my daughter left the theater saying, "it could have been so much better"..... with a better focus group because when appealing to that older generation who lived it you cant come across as obvious.

Snd it was completeky obvious!

Clue
(1985)

Milton Bradley never had a Clue!
Genre lovers will tout this as one of the best farces created, and that from a board game spin off. Yes, there are jokes and gags that despite being quite predictable and still funny in the sense that the cast is laughing along with you. That's the binding spirit that floats our New England whodunnit.

I'll admit that I found teh cast to be a mixed bag of interest with a hit or miss response. Martin Mull's Colonel Mustard holds little authority as he appears off of his set of fern wood tonight. TV show also fell short on my list, but that could be my state. Christopher Llyoyd's Professor Plum was equal parts rushed and breach birth delivery that added little to the wit and entanglement. Thankfully Tim Curry's Wadsworth carries us along through the car wrecks, train wrecks of predictability (in a mystery) and the bodies piling up.

Eileen Brennan's Mrs Peacock was noteworthy but outdone by Madeline khans' Mrs. White (dressed in black) and Lesley Ann Warren's Miss Scarlet who seemed to be having a great time coming in and shining as a late replacement for the rehabbing Carrie Fisher. Michael McKeon's Mr. Green was stereotypical and was required and get he gets the best line of the night!

Not a great movie, could certainly fill in as a cult classic or make a little bit of fun out of a lazy weekend afternoon on the couch.

That Thing You Do!
(1996)

1964 as simple as can be and about to be overtaken by effects of the British Invasion
Having just watched "A Hard Days Night", and realizing the separation of good music and fine film making, I went on line to have "That Thing You Do" delivered home to share with my daughter the wide spread cultural effect of the Beatles on America. Having been born in '62, my implanted memories are antedoctal at best only having individual discoveries through the blue and red best of albums.

We start off fast with a quick change of tempo from our drummer and "The Oneders" are off to the world of one-hit wonders! It's the expected arc of a band story, so not much there, but the little vignettes of each next stage launch reminds you of director Tom Hanks previous movie Apollo 13, launching into space, they great unknown.

The higher end of teh music world was so closely tied to TV and film that, now, "The Wonders" made it to West Coast and all its fun in the sun Hollywood charade. All teh while our band mates solidify their stance in what they are after. Our talented songwriter/guitarist, Jimmy, is clamoring for artistic merit, Our other guitarist/clown, Lenny, is there for the party, our bassist is constantly sidetracked by his military ambitions, while our obvious hero from teh start, drummer/jazz enthusiast and older member Guy, is trying to make the most of it all while remaining positive while it slowly begins to fall apart. Once we understand the importance of Jimmys' tag along girlfriend Faye, its obvious that the movie has as much to do about the love of their music and what they all bring as a five person unit, as it does about the story line in itself.

Tom Everett Scotts' Guy exudes the young directors charm and resemblance and the serious Johnothan Schaech brings to Jimmy are equally important. It may have been Fountain Of Waynes' Adam Schellengers' song (title track) but you wouldn't think twice about that until reading the trivia section of IMBD. Liv Tylers' Faye is more band glue that girlfriend/fan and their last band manager Mr White (Hanks) knows it. At least enough to put the whisper in the ear to set up our ending.

Bossa Nova
(2000)

The beautiful vacation that most are too afraid to enjoy!
Formulatic romantic comedy works here as we have engaging characters, heartfelt moments with a drop or two of drama thrown in to add to the roller coaster ride of just missed chances in this movie based on teh laws of attraction. There are no perfect characters here, despite Amy Irvings' casting as a widowed ESL teacher living in Aproador, directly above Ipanema, who opens up the possibility of love after two years mourning the death of her Braziian husband. The human (and longing) side of our existence has our characters taking chances outside of their comfort zones and trying to make it work, despite the obvious. This is where the comedy really works, as well as the drama.

Almost every character has a love story and to detail it would spoil their reactions to the scenario they've put them selves in. Fun performances by all set to popular Bossa Nova (reworked by Deodado.. I was shocked by the credits!) . I can attest that Rio looks just like the picture postcard as in this 2000 movie as it does the many others venturing into the socio-economic-political aspect of life there that has been so well documented and filmed for a world wide audience. This movie has a limited audience due to that, be get out a little, have some fun, you're not too old.

The Shape of Water
(2017)

The Shape of Your Limitations
The latest beautiful film by the dark fairy tale fantasy director Guillermo del Toro reminds me of hearing 40 year olds talk about what they got out of going to college . It seems that you get what you put into it. I'd claim the same goes for this collective homage film that will certainly open your eyes through many theatrical portals. I found an immediate thought of the French movie "Amelie" due to the quiet nature of our protagonist and the smart and artful use of color. It's a romantic viewing for those who appreciate such things and yearn for a better nature in ourselves. This 1960's period piece, set in Baltimore, Maryland, certainly doesn't look like any John Waters film I ever saw, but the small city with a chip on it's shoulder is carried well by the outsider and monster of the movie played by Michael Shannon. Yes, his characters' depth won't go past wading levels, but the fim isn't about character depth, and the story is the star. The movie has a collective voice of characters who, although silenced by the social indignities of that time, rose above themselves for the greater good. Octavia Spencer is understated but is our eyes as an outsider and our conscience as a friend. The only person who this doesn't hold true is Elisa, our protagonist, part mousey mute and part "quite female" to say the least. She's daring on a number of issues, but it feels as for personal gain, despite the pure heart angle. I will watch this again to see if I come away with that same sentiment.

The "asset" is more reminicent of the Watchmans' Dr. Manhattan in it's perfect masculine form, allowing the romance to be "somewhat" believable, but it does appear one-sided for the majority of the film, so not sure how to handle the folks grabbing their pitchforks about their time with the film. If you love film beauty and are willing to spend time away from your everyday troubles, this flick works in it's own way. Predictable, sure, but vividly engaging!

Get Out
(2017)

Genre "Mash Up" Satisfies
As one who loves mixing it up musically, such as when ska blended both punk and reggae, I love genre mixing when done with bit of sophistication. In Get Out, you know that you are starting with a horror flick base line by the title. I don't know what other conclusion you could draw from that title. But we rally get more racial tension, relationship arm-twisting, family over-compensation, in a forced racial acceptance plot that are our horror droppings. The fun is that it is supplemented by the reality comedy of the overtness of it all. We go from awkward to uncomfortable to jolted in a round robin of social uneasiness called out by our TSA Agent whom we and his authorities just can't take seriously... until the secret is out.

As in the horror genre, the mythology is what carries the film and that actually suffers here in the exposure scenes. We never get a clear explanation of how the big secret was discovered and how it can actually be accomplished, so save some of the salt from your buttered pop-corn, because you'll need more than a few grains to get past it all!

Most of the acting was rewarding once you figure out what's going on which lets you see the racism to the point of absurdity, which is a main point of the film. Many of us have been the blemish in a white room and the gross conversational techniques to attempt compassion and acceptance can feel like horror movie. Take away that portion of the film and it still holds up.

Random left over thoughts:

Surprisingly, I haven't read any "Being John Malkovich" references, and that is besides Catherine Keener, who remains quite a talent here!

How odd that white old folks in bad health look to African Americans as physical specimens yet see them as beneath them in all other ways.

The Director took on a lot and entertained us despite non-traditional ingredients!

Shichinin no samurai
(1954)

Beyond the cine-history...
Many film historians point towards Seven samurai as the genesis of the great western and inspiration of countess story line and plot reinventions. That's great, but watching other "firsts", such as Citizen Kane, have failed to create that sense of disbelief that allows one to lose themselves in the experience. Not so with Akira Kurasawa's Seven Samurai.

Each character has their own personality allowing the details of their emotions infiltrate the experience. This is not a WWII soldier story when everyone and then some die for their country,. This is not war time... or is it? That's the point of teh film that there is no end to transgressions against humanity and doing the right thing is both honorable and hard.

I see some overplayed parts by the villagers and wonder if the Japanese audiences thought them more funny or silly, or simply disposed of them as the weak link of the movie, as I did. That is in contrast to the faceless enemy of the bandits, portrayed as poachers with swords... Can you imagine working so hard for so little and having it stolen without protection? You can feel for these farmers as if they were somewhere out in the American West, one of our own.... yes, the story is quite sympathetic.

But movie is about our crew of seven and their joining to defend a defenseless group by means of preparedness that is more military strategy than you would have expected. I loved this aspect of the film the best, but would have felt rushed if we didn't know our group and who they were there to protect.

This artifact of cine-history remains a masterpiece!

Dunkirk
(2017)

A WWII story inside the Inception studio makers minds
Juxtaposed human stories of being trapped inside the ticking time bomb of German occupied France. The Christopher Nolan recreation of this famous English story is a noble effort and will entrench you in the three storylines filled with the brutality of wartime death, nightmarish never ending fear, and that elusive feeling of hope. But not to be forgotten, this is a movie about an almost mythical story, as reminded in the conclusion.

But as a Nolan film, much like his peer Tarantino, you can only compare their films to their previous films and not genre based comparisons. Here, the forced juxtaposition of the stories further enforces the pending doom and with the same Hans Zimmer score master as Inception, the films' experiences seem more than familiar. Inception has a small number of personal stories to attach yourself to amidst the confusing time lines and ever ramped up volume and here is where Dunkirk suffers.

Like many war epics, the sheer numbers of uniformed soldiers pushes away the audiences' ability for character introspection and attachment to their experience beyond surface level. But this is a story of a people of valor, honor, compassion and sacrifice. It's also a story that ends in the tattered threads of misunderstanding and unfounded guilt and I'd like to think that is what wartime's stories should bring us. It's never about individual persons but the greater picture of people.

The Simpsons Movie
(2007)

TV portion outstanding - Movie portion needs more salt!
The Simpsons TV show that many of of love dearly because it says what we, as humans, would be ostracized for saying publicly, looks its turn at the big screen and starts off where the shows humor roams wildly and successfully. We have short character re-introductions and societal lampooning that strikes the nail on the head repeatedly to the point where there is nowhere else for that proverbial "nail" to go.

Enter the silly plot and Homeri-sms that carry the bulk of the film with spattered success but mostly simply escorting the audience around and through the plot that feels tedious and an undoing of the glorious opening sequenced. The new characters are awkward, sans our Simpsons' President whom has the best lines here, but no spoilers!

The first 25 minutes worth a epic and everything else is a movie length justifying plot that come off as a bit more than could be chewed. either that or my mileage varied considerably from the customer claims!

Star Trek Beyond
(2016)

Star Trek takes the X-File route....
Trust no one! This is the Trekkie reboot message of the film despite it's overt unity propaganda, which is to be expected. But what's "Beyond" that? A Federation that abandons its military hero and his hostage who is allowed to appear as a representative of a species in need of Star Fleets' hi tech and military rescue help on the other side of a nebula (actual uncharted space!) that took less than 5 minutes to get through... confused yet? The other (original) Spock died and Kirk wants out, and that's our beginning... and how do you tie in our opening hilarity with an unwanted piece of a weapon that was presented as a token of "peace". How do you keep a reboot a float after two massively fun, popular and entertaining blockbusters?

That's a lot one the plate of writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin, but they went for it and, if you can get past the worst female sub plot in the series history (Jayla: who delivers cliches the way Dominos delivers pizza: uncooked and often!) then it's what passes for todays' hit movie.

Still loving our recurring characters and there slow development which trumps the original series... The adventures' circle was, once again, completed, and we do that Trekkie retrospective thing and then different actors read that famous post movie soliloquy.

Here's hoping the next Star Trek movie goes where no other Star Trek movie has gone before, but if not, I'm betting it won't suck, but will disappoint a bunch of 65 years hoping to see William Shatner in a toupe du jour making our with some green chick while staying within the Gene Roddenbury paradox universe!

Kill Bill: Vol. 2
(2004)

Kung Fu spaghetti western spun in dirty web of mythology
There's a quote by the character Budd in this Quentin Tarantino movie after our now Bouncer is asked to compare his Hatori Honzo sword with others. It is at this time that he hesitates and comments on appropriate and inappropriate comparisons. I would venture that the same goes true for QT movies. As they are genre compilations with their own set of rules of the film realm, that we have come to love and trust, they really stand in their own place.

We picked up here where we left off with The Brides' Viper Assassin Gang Assassination List 40% complete, with another 88 or so Samarai style deaths absolved along the way in the name of avenging the loss of her baby four years earlier. If we were expecting more of the same we would have been selling QT short.

Enter The Western!

It's a dirty, dusty old trail of revenge and nothing is going stop her, except herself... see beginning and ending off the movie for further details. This is countered by overacting, which is purposefully delicious and appropriate. To compare KBII to KB I is miss the point of a continued move. This really isn't a "II" , in the movie sense of franchised adventure. Volume 2 is simply the second half of a movie that was split in two for purposes of audience attention span, studio double dipping into your pockets and, I'm guessing, a bit off QT tom foolery.

... and isn't that what we came for?

La poison
(1951)

Talking your way out of feeling guilty despite being guilty!
More than a plot twist adventure or a statement on marriage,La Poison an honest look at humanity.... and I don't mean the Mother Teresa version! A poor beleaguered simpleton and his battle ax wife go toe to toe demonstrating the bitterness of a bad marriage aged more then the 3 three bottles of wine she drinks to dull their co-existence. As he confesses his hopelessness to his priest and street corner florist, she is overtly buying rat poison. Their daily and end escape lies in their radio. A radio escape of the imagination, no less, then unwraps itself. The local village is poor and lies off the beaten track leaving the radio as their main portal to the big city. They overhear radio drama and mistake it for reality, while the news becomes entertainment which becomes news completing the circle for all.

This is the basic arc with the malarkey about to fully play out. It's more of an honest satire than a dark comedy. Human nature overrules common sense and decency. Michel Simone is brilliant as the quiet victim until he flips his script in a "can't lose" endeavor. We could all root for such a character, but he's a calculated murderer who has the sympathy of his town due to his wife's believed nature (via gossip) and the affection of his town (via publicity). Even the drunken wife puts on a show whose scene with the two played out to a french song about turtle doves is quite amusing.

The fact that the victim of the murder was on trial for her rumored behavior and barrel-esque looks comes across as absolutely appalling through the lens of today's social conscience, but is admitting really funny when viewed in court, along side the children's' play version of the court drama. They repeat what they hear, as do the adults. Everyone is following suit as our anti-hero pulls them through their guilt of admitting that they would turn the other way if his wife made advances towards them because she was so horrid to look at, even justifying the murder. The women were also in humorous agreement.

My only regret is the translation from French to English. Such a farce deserves it's clear language to fully appreciate, as this is a comedy of words, a tragedy of the lack if guilt associated with our actions.

Boiler Room
(2000)

Long Island Big City dreams awash in blind desire
A complimentary film to the big boys of high finance drama (Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street). If all movies are a homage/statement/spin-off of past movies, there should be a reason to make it beyond the desire to recreate/translate/financially benefit from those other films. The Big Short captures not only the testosterone and deceit of Wall Street but tells a story of how the Mortgage failures affected America and beyond. It's actually educational as well as being presented uniquely and interestingly.

Boiler Room attempts to share the rip offs of the trade but fell way short of accomplishing on any of those levels.

Boiler Room has its moments and small points mostly noted by Giovanni Ribisi as new broker dumbstruck by guys who wanted and made money but had no idea what they wanted to do with it. One "millionaire" executives' home is void of furniture and another lives with his grandmother. The hip hop soundtrack is a perfect match for the concept of work put in/money made but whose results are devoid of gratitude/long standing worth/meaning. One characters' persona is acting and talking in gangsta/homeboy shtick which he gets away with due to his place in the firm. But why would a successful businessman ever aspire to achieve that? This is the movies' strong message.

The Ben Aflac character is a poor rip off of Alec Baldwin and Nicky Katt is a one dimensional piece of wood, although quite believable if you've been around high financier wanna-bes. but did not resonate with this viewer as having a purpose in the film other than to be the bad guy. Throw in his treatment if the secretary to ensure we have no pity for him.

Much like Wall Street, the female angle is inserted to allow our broker to express remorse to a women who had previously been played by the boss but got paid for it. Why isHollywood so fixated on prostitution?

The family element of the Federal Judge was not as bad as others stated and offers up our brokers reasons for attempting to go legit. Every son wants to impress his Dad at some point, right? We even had the Mother as enabler of the Fathers' tough treatment if his son.

Once past the film set up, it does begin to breathe and is more enjoyable and the back and forth between the Jewish and Italian pit bosses worked well. The mystery of what was going on is not clarified to the point that it needed to be and the a Wall Street ending of some redemption has its dramatic purpose but overall this film doesn't come across as original, much like The Wolf Of Wall Street which came out decades later about the same story.

Yes, a sale is always made, just like an opinion about a movie. If you don't understand the game being played then you, as a viewer, feel like it's you who was the latest mark.

Kong: Skull Island
(2017)

King: Outtakes set to Millennial entertainment levels
To be clear, I wasn't expecting Shakespeare or anything close to the 1933 version. My expectations were purely set on seeing a 104 foot Kong and losing myself into a sense of disbelief for the length of the feature. So, Kong, you get a solid 6 for that, and you delivered!

Now for the humans…. << crickets >>

To be direct, every line appeared to be written and delivered in a way that made me ponder, "they had to get a better take than that, right?" While such action films are satiated with such issues, here they were highlighted for me, because I wanted to follow, capice? They had a satellite over view of the island but could have used one for the plot! They were going to meet on the north side of the island in three days because that was some original plan but they had little confidence of even penetrating the storm to start. The camera babe, has a camera in her hands but take like, what, 5 shots? Then she is saved by Kong, cajoled in his hand, but appears to have gone through the car wash grade blow dryer at the end and lazes about on the boat with a perfectly pressed generic T shirt and no memory of being in the biggest heavyweight fight since Ali-Frazier?

The editing was so focused on carnage that they missed story telling, but the story is on an island, and what happens on the island, stays on the island because we really don't know WTH happened anyway? Those Skull Crawlers can kill an ENTIRE SPECIES but for the benefit of Mr K, they just can't put that ape away?

The obvious complaints aside, I am really glad I saw this at home and will watch again, just like Titanic. For a few hours, I truly believe what I am seeing happening and can forgive the silliness of the punchline drama. It's not made for me, so got to remember that!!!

Their Finest
(2016)

Missed opportunity about English WWII film propaganda and those diligent folks striving to deliver their finest.
This reviewer "so" wanted to love this film. A light comedy about script writers writing and improvising on the fly while WWII crashes all around them, They are making a propaganda film and must keep the message positive despite what we all see. This experience mirrors the audience. The light or even sweet moments are fluff more than strikingly poignant, To be clear, our lead is adept at being sweetly (I said it again) stoic in the face of sexism, infidelity and in the midst of the blitz, but she hardly falters and seems almost unaffected. It may be the English way, bust as they said about Americans, we like our action, even in the script. Gemma Altertion is beautiful but is left to remind us about the woman' perspective in ways that make men seem incompetent. This could have been more of a light comedy to balance the war deaths, but the comedy is too lite, and the drama ineffective. The Germans were more on target then this film, full of potential, but eventually full of itself.

Silver Linings Playbook
(2012)

The Laws of Attraction
Director David O. Russell brings us a movie about the laws of attraction and tells us as much about those folks who fight the forces of nature as those whose gravitational pull is strong enough to bring others into their world. The variety of characters fighting societal trends spreads outside our little circle of two, each fighting their own forced separation from their former spouses. It is blunt and sweet, it is both frustrating and rewarding, and all the time we know that we are watching a formula romantic comedy.... and we don't fight it!

Bradley Coopers' bi-polar "Pat" is overly hopeful, blunt, romantically triggered, and is overly everything in all he does which is hard to take at times. Much like bi-polar patients. They drain your energy when you fight their logic and emotions, even though the reaction to solve issues is healthy. We begin to see that we all have issues that need too be addressed, and as a believer in self-help, I backed off my annoyance of Pat.

Pat meets Jennifer Lawrence's personality disorder affected "Tiffany"and fights his immediate attraction due to what he (and society) tells him he should be focused on. He/we judge and repel, despite our attraction. I mean, who isn't attracted by Jennifer Lawrence?

It is Tiffany's (out of) control of her personal issues that leads our story directions t in Philly during football season. There is certain pop-culture pulling us along and rewarding us, but the biggest complaint from others regarding "Pat" keeping it together as the plot boils misses a realism of mentally imbalanced folks integrated into their families and neighborhood's that their illness can sometimes appear to be in remission. An alcoholic is not always drunk, a bigot isn't always wearing a white hood and a patients' illness is not always being publicly aired.

The last point that led others to recommend "Silver Linings Playbook" is that the bluntness and honesty on display were comedic but welcome in todays' land of socially muted folks more concerned with politically correctness than the reality we live in. Call it what it is, that's a part of the playbook that our couple shares that we relate to.

Zwartboek
(2006)

Unbelievable and engrossing WW II story, (heavy on the unbelievable)
A period piece that draws you in despite some questionable plot arcs and convenient gaps in judgment amongst characters. That aside, this is a tense pic that has its hands deep in the oil wells of reality, pumping away to generate tension, excitement, confrontation and some timely duets by the main architect of the Netherlands gestapo despite not being it's head. there are both sympathetic scenes and exaggerated action and rolled up in hard to believe plot where the obvious is overlooked.Mind you, I believe that was the point the director was attempting to make about the reality of the time. Flashes on our starlets breast and bush did nothing to add to either element, if only to add brashness to our character, but to the detriment of suspense of disbelief. Not that sex wasn't used by both sides to get what they wanted or needed, but it was pedaled more than bought and that's a bit hard to swallow. The acting is above par but definitely mixed all along, confusing this viewer and adding to the overall thought that the high cost film was spiraling and had to wrap up before these inconsistencies could grow further.

13 Hours
(2016)

The Alamo for a younger generation
Pulsating, riveting, terrifying and explosive are the words read as reviews of the Michael Bay action film recreating the siege on the American Embassy and the secret U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. The experience is palatable every moment under attack, whether on the foreign city streets or awaiting each attack. Panic with each time asked are we expecting friendlies or wondering if the heavily armed local militia will be taking American lives in a matter of minutes.

The words you won't hear are drama, spirit, reason or sympathy. This story has been retold in brilliant colorful explosion and bombastic sound. You feel like you are under attack every time, which is the draw of war movies. Repeat viewing comes from the experience our the cinematic event. I'm not sure what that is, other than of the six contracted security agents who did what they've been trained to do with honor and GI Joe bravado.

Reducing the Benghazi story to 13 hours doesn't tell the whole story, as we all know and not taking a stand on the issue reduces 13 hours to an experience devoid of meaning for this viewer.

American Graffiti
(1973)

Aways do your best sounds like graduation advise.....
Nostalgia as entertainment usually fails for me due to era glorification, character generalizing and plots that try too hard. American Graffitti pulled off the triple pleasure of all three of these angles by keeping it simple and true. Our ears were leading the way from car to car from vignette to vignette. The matching song to each story line was both careful and supportive to be authentic without being obvious. the start attractions as viewed decades later is not a fair compliment as in 1973, they were not household names, sans Ronny Howard. That being said, it was a blast of recognition of old friends, sound track of the time, cruising and being teens about the step into adulthood. George Lucas seems to have understood his movie from the beginning quite well and viewers can find solace is the extras that show every actor stating they want to do their best in case anyone ever saw this "low budget ($750,000" film. The results are due to the viewer interaction with their pasts on many wonderful levels.

Chinatown
(1974)

Reputation outlived the replay...
So this film is not recommended? Not so fast! When noir is mixed with other genres, it is the noir that music be in the forefront, for my entertainment value. If not we have a murder mystery detective film with a dash of old school homage. The story here is both predictable as it is suspenseful and without the big screen presence of jack Nicholson may have not been anything more of a Roman Polanski diversion. The Los Angeles story is a great one to build around, but the "you don't know who you're messing around with" angle has been further exonerated from ingratiating gangster or back story horror plots decades ago and was left with a lack of follow through here. John Huston' villain carried as much weight as Marlon Brandro did in his later years. Big name, hot hair. Faye Dunaway is lost in this role after owning her strong role in Bonnie and Clyde and Network. Possibly my expectations outlived the replay.

Sunset Blvd.
(1950)

Artifacts and old money...
A story right out of Hollywood that some thought sacrilegious, others poetic.

The players are all playing themselves in many well documented ways: Willam Holden, a career dip into mediocrity (failed writer), Erich on Stroheim (discarded director serving his past) and, of course, Gloria Swanson (faded silent movie star) whose reality diminishes down the famed, framed and fated staircase spiral into the bright lights of madness.

Director Billy Wilder understood what he was doing in cinematically putting this all together in every aspect the film offers and yet it is the overly dramatic "Norma Desmond" that haunts afterwards. Film-noir may be hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Others have taken this story concept and soul it as their own, (for me) most memorably in David Lynch's Molholland Dr. which served as my gateway to this film.

Desmonds' museum to herself: of photos, movies, props (both dead, dying and somehow alive) decorate her world trapped in exile (both in career and protection of her mansion). The film experience leaves you wistful, suspicious and awakened all at the same time.

And that's a rare treat to be savored!

The Revenant
(2015)

A cinematic adventure or a revenge movie drawn out across the great Northlands?
While The Revenant masks it's purpose with the realism of the great wilderness, the movie goer "take away" is not as assuming. "Castaway" is another survival movie framing the human spirit in itself, not staked to the ground in preconceptions. Quite simply, revenge is a strong motivator, as are the ghosts of our past that take us down our personal wells of failure. The experience of the film is the star, as is Tom Hardy's "Fitzgerald" a survivor furrier in soldiers outfit, but separated from honor and morality. His survival leaves him with clear decisions, while honor clouds the others. Leo DiCaprios' Hugh Glass is the understated hero, with a history of no-aggression, but the gumption to survive the unthinkable twice to then go on the mission best served cold, or in the directors case, freezing! It's a true dilemma and understandable on another level that, thankfully, you or I will never have to experience. Much like "saving Private Ryan", we start with a gruesome battle of the times before settling in on the great expanse of the powers that be. Where is honor in fighting someone else war on their terms. How does dignity prevail in war? War is a fight without dignity but war movies are in need of a morality that justifies our entertainment. That's one hell of a dilemma for the audience that I've yet to come to grips with, which is why the script calls for Leo to lose the rifle prior to the final battle. That's when the director lost me....

A Streetcar Named Desire
(1951)

Why did I wait so long?
She's a prissy "wannabe sophisticated", but past her prime for the times, and out of men to play. He's her social opposite. He's living in the "now", won't allow dreamy non-sense to be spoken in his castle, which just happens to be a seedy basement apartment in New Orleans French Quarter. Their surrounding are cheap and that's where the confrontations begin. Vulgar and bright, is our testosterone fueled ogre, barely draped in a t shirt so tight that imdv lists it amongst its' trivia! She's a freaking nutcase who attempts to cover up the truth behind her many shameful transgression with endless blabber about a dreamworld that's just as nauseating. This is one of the best dramas I ever had the pleasure of losing myself in. Elia Kazan doesn't let you out of your small corner while you await each confrontation, yet this would have boiled over early if not for our married sister caught in the middle.Marlon Brando was absolutely brilliant and Vivien Leigh, in the later stages of her "Scarlett" genre was completely terrifying in her cover up acting inside of the characters she floated willingly down the Denial River. The sympathetic plight belongs to Kim Hunters' Stella until the censored end. Would get 10/10 if not for those who stole our script and meaning. This is a story of confrontation that could have been even more of a social juggernaut!

La La Land
(2016)

Hollywood Narcism
I went all in to to film despite the Oscar buzz, not because of them. Director Damien Chazelle had wowed me with his story of a jazz drummer student striving for greatness in "Whiplash". It was both parts brutal and honest in its' projection of musicians in training. "La La Lan" is completely a fictional Hollywood tale made for the movies. Different movie but same love of Jazz character unable to commit to a girl. So, here we let the excursion begin.... into a TV commercial on a parking lot (that we only discover is L.A. at the end of the scene)..... Context missing and I was lost...

The genre demands instant suspense of disbelief once the music starts and that opening scene was as memorable as all of the other afternoon traffic jams we experience, albeit with folks certainly outside the ages range of 24 - 32 year old dancers preening for their 15 seconds of screen time. Ad agencies sell washing machines, yogurt, oranges and dish washers this way.

No matter what the stars, the plots, the choreography, the MUSIC has to be the star in a musical! Every top musical has numbers you leave the theater with some new love of song. I say the song, you say the movie, :"Maria", "Consider Yourself", "Cell Block Tango", "Aquarius" off the top of my head. And these are not the classics that were being paid homage to.

That out of the way, I really fell for the Emma Stone character. I didn't need for "Mia" to be singing "American Idol" style, which you'd expect in a Hollywood Musical. Her face alone gave way to multiple emotion, like her audition called for. Emma was wonderful to watch. Ryan Goslings' "Sebastian" is a bit stiff and his "Bogart" doesn't inspire a lot of emotional suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the lark of the adventure. The Hollywood Actress wannabe story line maybe cliché, but we like this story and even have come to expect the predictability of it. It is The American Dream and somewhat universal... just s=needs memorable tunes and for the male counterpart to figure out and buy into his character arc a bit more. I couldn't buy into his "jazz isn't dead/I have a dream/ I'm supporting my girl" miss mash.

So my experience wasn't all that I was hoping for, but much like Los Angeles itself, there's something to visit, but I wouldn't want to invest too much of my entertainment time there.

Long Strange Trip
(2017)

The Grateful Dead as your musical Tour Guides... Brilliant!
Director Amir Bar-Lev has accomplished the impossible. His task was to create a documentary that encompassed all of the facets and angles that created, invigorated and surrounded not only an evolutionary rock band over 50 years, but their horde of tour family and endless supply of fans. I leave this film experience recognizing so much of my personal Dead Head past without having to chase reliving it from show to show.

The history: At the heart of this movie is the history of the Grateful Dead. Just seeing Jerry Garcia and the band in their energetic youth helps the later generation of fans experience them before age and excess had chipped away at the band. It's a documentary, and that's never lost on the film maker. The origins, the acid, the music, the band members, the myths, the travelings.... all explained without further internet search.

The interviews: Sam Culter (Tour manager 1970-1974) appears throughout (filmed outside his van) gives a consistently unique and uncompromising view that is can't miss stuff. Al Franken, Nick Paumgarten and Steve Silberman also give intelligent and hilarious insight to the Dead Head phenomena.

The editing: The documentary works best in it's editing of interviews as if they were an ongoing conversation, much like the bands' musical ideal. The timing of the introduction/insertion of specific songs (of which there are a plethora to choose from) is both uplifting and quite poignant. There are numerous slick vignettes that are almost Tarantino-like. The film moves at a meaningful pace as it covers 238 minutes

The music: Is it me or did I find alternative versions of songs without singing backing a good portion of the documentary? The earlier live practice footage with Jerry leading the are priceless. The studio versus live arguments (mainstream media versus organic growth) is covered throughout, which would be for those not yet initiated. Love the tapers section explained in detail. "These guys completely get me", is something the vast majority of Dead heads who felt unique must be saying about the film makers!

Jerry immortalized: If you had any doubts about who was the leader of the Grateful Dead, doubt no more. Jerry is portrayed as equally a cool dude, childishly idealistic, musically dedicated whose burden of being the leader of The Dead took it's toll. How could it not?

The fans: If you are streaming this on Amazon; Prime, it's Episode V. This is the best synopsis of "what the hell is going on" at a Grateful Dead show. I've tried to explain this to people over the decades, and everything I've attempted to extrapolate from my experience is here, as well as everything that someone with my limitations wouldn't be able to iterate. Wow, was that fun!

The ending: We all know that Jerry hasn't been of this world for decades and it simply hurt all over again. It's like your parents would rhetorically ask you, "Well, how'd you think this was all going to end?" At that point it's clear that this is really the Jerry Garcia story and there was no context to them talking about how the Grateful Dead experience continues.... and yet it does for many...

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