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Top Gear

Yet another version of Top Gear for America misfires on pretty much every level:

It's so slick your attention slides off it.

Its so fast more times than not I have no idea what I'm watching- who won what competition?

And worst of all two of the presenters are dead fish with only William Fichtner coming across as watchable.

How did this get on the air? It is absolutely awful most of the time and easily the worst Top Gear I've ever seen

First Winter

One of the worst films ever
One of the worst films ever to play to the Tribeca Film Festival had the press corps stumbling out of the screening with pained looks on their faces.

The film is about a bunch of hipsters in a retreat farm house during some apocalyptic event trying to survive. They do it badly and a bunch of them die.

This was the one of the first films where I realized that official synopsis lie about films and often give you information that isn't in the film- for example there is no mention of Brooklyn in the film but the synopsis says that's where everyone is from. Additionally it's never clear what the event is, we get bits of a radio broadcast but it isn't clear. There is talk of a blizzard but there is so little snow you can see the grass under foot.

The film is a mess and it might have worked if there were aliens or zombies.

Avoid at all costs unless you want to see a man with the longest mustache hair on record- its longer than his beard

Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle

The only danger comes when it isn't used correctly
This is an examination in to the safety of tasers. The film examines the creation of the weapon and it's use by law enforcement. The film looks at several cases of death and injury as a result of their use.

For the most part this is everything you want to know about tasers. It goes into every thing you could ever want to know about the weapon, then men who created it and the company that manufactures it. The film also questions whether Taser's are safe to use...

...the problem is that if you watch the film and listen to what it's saying all the questioning about the safety is wrecked when you realize that all of the deaths and the result of misuse-the injured and killed were either tased repeatedly or for tased for much longer than is recommended. I don't know about you but I can't really question the safety of something if it's being misused.

I saw this at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015 and you could feel the air go out of the audience when everyone realized the film was essentially cutting it's own throat.

Worth a look, but take what it's saying with a grain of salt.

The Invitation

This film makes no sense
The premise of the film has a man and his new wife/girlfriend going to a dinner party thrown by his ex-wife (who has just returned from a long time off the grid in Mexico) at his old house- where their son had died. Once they get there some ominous things begin to happen and the happy reasons for the party are fund to be rather quite dark.

I am puzzled that this film is getting a solid buzz when the people I saw this with were kind of left scratching their heads. I absolutely hated the film finding it the sort of film where you have to not only suspend disbelief but kill it to have it make sense on any level what so ever. This is the sort of film filled with moments where you can't believe that anyone would be so stupid as to actually go along with any of it beginning with returning to a house haunted by memories to be with a woman you left on questionable terms. Once the cult leader locked the door I lost all respect as no one batted an eye to the obviously ominous way it was done.

If you've seen any number of horror films you've been here before, especially anyone that involves a life changing new way of thinking.

This was one of the worst films I saw in 2015 largely because it makes no real world sense-with a final denouncement that is beyond ludicrous.


You have to go with the film until the film flips
Very dry dead pan comedy has a deeply moving sting in it's tale.

The plot of the film has a sad sack samurai trying to make a prince laugh. He has 30 days and 30 attempts to do it or else he will have to commit suicide. What looks like a one note film flips in the final minutes to be revealed to be about something else entirely The whys and wherefores are of what is going on is not what you think at the start.

Like the directors earlier film SYMBOL (and his other films as well) this film requires that the audience member be patient and wait for the whole film to unfold. If you get bored or give up the pay off will be lost. The fact that the directors films are not easy to explain I think keeps people away.

On the other hand if you are willing to work with the film and wait for the pay off I think you'll be greatly rewarded. I was moved to tears.

A truly great film.

Verbotene Filme

Not what it should be
This examination of Nazi produced films that are still banned in Germany and elsewhere is a mixed bag. While it does highlight the films considered too dangerous to show, the film also operates in a vacuum failing to connect the films to the current real world or to each other.

Looking at the 40 films still banned, down from an original 300 titles, the film talks about the films and their popularity with out really explaining what the films are or giving them context. Saying that the film THE GREAT LOVE had more people see it in Germany than AVATAR is all well and good but considering there was no TV, internet or many of today's entertainment choices is misleading, especially since more people went to the theater in the 30's and 40's than they do now.

The film also doesn't really explain what any of the films are about. What is UNCLE KRUGER and what makes it so dangerous especially considering that Hollywood was going to produce a version of it? Thats a problem that pretty much every film discussed faces- what the heck are the films and why are they dangerous? (yes things like JUDE SUSS are put into context but the rest aren't.

Largely this is a lot of people talking about films which we know very little about. While the discussion of the potential danger of films (in general) is extremely well handled and gives you much food for thought. The discussions are spot on and worth seeing.

The problem is since we are never given the specifics we're kind of adrift in deciding if the films really pose any sort of threat. Personally I've seen some of the films discussed over the years and outside of JUDE SUSS, ETERNAL JEW and a few others, I'm left scratching my head about why they pose a danger. Why are these films still banned? We're not told nor are we given excerpts to decide for ourselves.

For me FORBIDDEN FILMS is a missed opportunity. It's an debate about a subject where the person who wants to engage us makes some very valid points in their favor, but at the same time refuses to give us enough information for us to actually carry on a dialog with them.

Ballet 422

If you like dance you'll love this other wise you'll be disappointed
A look at the creation of a new dance (number 422) for the New York City Ballet by choreographer and dancer Jonathan Peck. We watch as Peck goes from commission through creation to performance.

How much you like the nuts and bolts of dance will determine how much you like the film. Personally I'm not a ballet fan so much of the creation segments bored me. I had no idea what they were talking about and watching some things over and over again wore on me.

At the same time seeing the completed piece was magical as was the kicker of seeing how Peck had to create the dance while at the same time maintaining his training as a dancer for the Ballet- his piece premieres as part of an evening of dance and he then had to race to get into costume to dance.

I know many dance fans who saw this, like I did at Tribeca, who loved it. I know just as many people like me who liked bits.

Worth a shot for the dance fans out there, all others its up to you.

Hae-jeok: Ba-da-ro gan san-jeok

Looks great but its stupid as a stick
When the seal of the newly forming Korea is swallowed by a whale the race is one to find the whale and get the seal back. This sets in motion various factions of pirates, bandits and officials in a mad dash to get the seal and win favor.

Great looking film has some great fights, some killer set pieces but not a hell of a lot of logic. Its a weird macho soap opera (with a pirate queen as one of the leads) where everyone ends up screwed over by everyone early on and then brought into conflict later on. Its sound and fury signifying nothing.

To be honest I lost interest 40 minutes in and went off to hang my laundry while the Bluray played on without me. WHen I came back I had missed almost nothing and just settled in for the final hour of constant motion.

Its not a bad film but it never fully grabbed me. I probably would have liked it more had I seen it in a theater. Worth a look if you're undemanding.

While We're Young

A disappointing film
Noah Baumbach's film concerning a documentary filmmaker and his wife who have lost their friends to the baby track is disappointing. The couple, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, meet up with a younger couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, re-spark their lives but questions creep in about what the younger couple is really after, and what is the right path in life.

To be honest the film is enjoyable on its own terms. It has laughs and is occasionally strangely moving.

The problem with the film is that the terms of the film are kind of messed up. The film has a big subtext concerning honesty in documentary films and a quest by Stiller's character to uncover what the Adam Driver character is doing- the problem is the film subverts it and throws it aside in the final minutes. The collapse begins when the Charles Grodin character, a respected documentary filmmaker makes a speech about integrity and then two minutes later says that everything he had just said (and said pretty much in the film up to that point) doesn't matter. Its a wtf moment that had myself and more than a few people in the audience at The New York Film Festival scratching our heads. The film's the collapse is kind of complete at the end of the film which is a kind of out of left field turn for the Watts and Stiller character. The ending kind of throws numerous plot lines aside and is a feel good moment that feels contrived.

When the film ended I was left confused. What was Baumbach going for?

After the NYFF screening someone in the audience asked Baumbach the questions I wanted to. He said that all that mattered was the final bit of the film. That was what he was going for and everything he was doing was for that. He also added that we shouldn't have paid any attention to the integrity/making a documentary stuff since he only put it in so that the Stiller character had something to do. We weren't suppose to have paid attention to that since that isn't what the film was about.


Without that the film really isn't about anything. Without it the film doesn't have a reason to be seen.

Truthfully I don't hate the film, I hate its construction. The film has moments and characters but its as morally bankrupt as the Adam Driver character.

A disappointing film

Tim's Vermeer

Very good but this should have been a short film
Tim Jenison works out how it was possible for Vermeer to paint what amounts to photo realistic paintings with a great deal of ease. He then builds a full scale room that matches one in a Vermeer painting in order to further prove it.

I'm mixed on this film. While I think Tim pretty much proves Vermeer could have used this method to paint the film, I'm still pondering why the film runs 80 minutes especially after 15 he's proved his point.

Yes I completely understand that seeing Tim paint the copy is the point but taking it that far raises more questions than are healthy such as how Tim learned to paint and mix colors and how it would be possible for a regular guy to just do it.

Don't get me wrong but at a certain point I just wanted to know why this film was longer than say a half an hour.

Worth a look but its little more than a Discovery Channel documentary.

Life Itself

Its nice but not deep
This look at critic Roger Ebert is a nice film. It is not deep or very much beyond a friendly look at the man and his work.

Forgive me for taking a less than glowing position on the film but I would have liked something more than what amounts to a warm and fuzzy remembrance of the man. The bad things in his life are sped over and we dwell in the places where Roger was a king. That's all well and good for an in memoriam piece or cinematic eulogy, which is what this amounts to, but it doesn't make for a wholly compelling documentary and somewhere the group hug of the film wore thin.

While I completely understand that this was put together as Roger was dying and completed after his passing by friends and family I would have liked a little bit more meat, especially from director Steve James.

To be completely honest I don't know where this film will stand in say five or ten years down the line when Ebert will be less fresh in people's minds. WIll this film be remembered or will it just be a footnote as a film about a guy who used to review movies?

Girl Walk: All Day

Probably my favorite film of all time
Don't ask how many times I've seen this film-the answer isn't healthy...

Jacob Krupnick's dance film is pure joy. Set to Girl Talk's All Day album the film is simply three people dancing across the New York City interacting with people on the street.There kind of is a story- one girl wants to get the world to dance while two guys try to have her fall in love with them through dance.

Shot on the sly the film is was done via guerrilla filmmaking. Krupnick and his dancers just showed up at a location and shot. The interactions with the non dancers in the film are real (Anne Marsen really is being tossed from Yankee Stadium and the subtitled question about why she was dancing just happened). Some times they used music to dance to some times they just danced. Krupnick then edited it all together using the available for free mash up album (in reality one one hour and fifteen minute long mix) as his soundtrack.

The result is a film that is pure joy on film. There is no pain and suffering, only a call to dance. This is one of the most perfect marriages of film and music I've seen. Trust me I've watched the film with out sound and I've listened to the album without the image and both are not as good.Together they make a perfect whole where the lyrics fall away and we just have the sound and the cadence causing out heroine and her suitors to dance.

Because of problems owing to copyrights with the music the film is not in regular release but can be seen at the Girl Walk All Day website or at its frequent screenings at various events.

However you see it just see it. For get the idea of a plot,forget your troubles and just dance

As I said my favorite film of all time.

(The info on the making of the film came from an interview I did with the director)

Te shu shen fen

You know its not good when the star says bad things about it
Weak action film is far from Donnie Yen's best.The plot has Yen as a deep cover cop battling a crime lord.

I interviewed Donnie Yen when this film played at the New York Chinese Film Festival in November 2013 and before I could say anything about the film, or anything t all, Yen began talking about how disappointed he was in the film. He went on to talk about how the film was put together the wrong way and was doomed never to work. He seemed to be distancing himself from the film, which was strange since no one at the festival had seen it yet. You know a film can't be really good if its star bad mouths it.

Actually the film is't horrible. The plot is a mess but the action mostly works and sometimes that's enough. In the present case it's almost enough, certainly the film would be worth seeing streaming or as a loaner, anything so long as you're not paying much to see it.

Donnie's done mostly better and he's done worse.


You'll either love this hate it or stare in utter disbelief
If you want safe go elsewhere. Anything approaching a normal film American family drama go elsewhere. If you want anything that isn't offensive go elsewhere.

The easiest and least exploitative way to explain the plot is to say a couple is having martial difficulties which explodes and ends up crippling the son. Where the film goes from there is the film.

(Spoilers follow)

Actually where the film goes from there involves castration,rape,incest, masochism ,violence, murder, and riffs on the legendary films PERCY and PERCY's PROGRESS. There are more twists and turns than any sane mind would make.

Oh and did I mention there is no dialog in the entire film?

How is it?

I have no idea. Horrifying? Silly? Strange? I was staring at the screen in disbelief even while I was laughing at the proceedings. Its a whacked out mix of things that kind of almost works and kind of almost doesn't. Its a bold attempt at doing something.

I don't think its successful- but it is interesting in a kind of road accident sort of a way.

Should you see it?

If you like the real off beat and don't mind disturbing things give it ago. On the other hand if you're sensitive or easily offended stay away.

Tomorrow We Disappear

Disappointing look at the displacement of a community
I saw this at Tribeca and was disappointed. The film concerns the attempt of the Indian government to remove a community of artists and performers so that a fancy high rise can be built. The artists are assured that if they sign off on the deal they will get nice new homes built elsewhere. Of course the deal isn't all that's been promised.

Heartbreaking story is weakly told. After a magical opening where we get to know some of the residents and what they do the film degenerates into what seemed to me to be over an hour of people yelling at each other. A little goes along way. I wanted to see something other than people yelling at each other- I'd have liked a little more clarity about what was happening on all sides.

There is a story here but this isn't it

The Frontier Phantom

Final Lash La Rue is largely made up of from an earlier film
Final Lash La Rue film is pretty much an extended flashback made up most of the earlier film Outlaw Country.

The plot of the film has Lash arrested on suspicion of being a bad guy taken to to the sheriff's office Lash relates the tale of the time he was mistaken for his his brother. The story he tells is illustrated from sequences from the earlier film.

While the final La Rue films aren't bad on their own terms watching them in close proximity to the earlier films makes seeing them redundant. I had picked up the Echo Bridge collection of 12 La Rue films and proceeded to watch them over two or three days. the trouble arose when I moved to the second DVD which is made up of the later films which while fine on their own terms borrow very heavily from the films that had been released only two or three years before. Had I not watched the films more or less all at once things would have been fine, but seeing this film a day after the other one killed any fun I might have had. If you can see this on it's own you'll like it, but seeing it close to Outlaw Country isn't advised.

The Thundering Trail

Good Lash La Rue film despite being made up of pieces of other films
Lash and Fuzzy have to take the new Governor to Capital City in order to set up a new law and order government.It seems that outlaws have been running roughshod all over the territory and the new governor is needed to set the army on the bad guys. Of course the bad guys don't want that the happen and take steps to stop it.

If you think you've seen this film before odds are you're right since many of the sequences were lifted from earlier films in the series. Watching this film as which appears as part of the Echo Bridge release of 12 La Rue films. I realized that I had seen everyone of the action sequences before, in several of the previous 7 La Rue Films I had watched over the previous two days.

Is it a bad film? Absolutely not. Actually if I didn't know that most if not all of the action sequences were lifted from other places I would have liked it even more.

Worth seeing especially if you haven't seen a lot of Lash La Rue westerns.

The Daltons' Women

Less action more musical numbers?
Attempt to do more with the Lash La Rue and Fuzzy series goes kind of sideways as we get a plot heavy film with more talk and music than action.

The plot of the film has Lash and Fuzzy going undercover to try and find the Dalton gang who have moved west and taken up new identities. The pair tracks the bad guys to a saloon where they spend a great deal of time trying to get evidence.

While I applaud the boost in budget but I'm not too sure about the rest. Running about a half an hour longer than most other Lash La Rue films. If there was more action I'd be all for it but instead this one full of music and novelty acts on the saloon stage. Okay yes there is a lengthy battle between singers, but that, like the songs is just filler.

I'm mixed on the film which certainly looks good but never generates much real interest.By the time the film cuts loose in the last 20 minutes I kind of lost interest even with Jack Holt as lead bad guy.

Dead Man's Gold

Lash goes independent
The film's oh wow moment comes early on when Lash whips a shot glass out of a bad guys hand. The kicker comes when Fuzzy catches the glass and remarks "You know lash there was a time when you'd have done that and not spilled a drop." If that were really possible I'd love to see it.

First of the independent La Rue films has Lash more or less playing himself instead of a Cheyenne Davis. Not that you'd really notice the change all that much except that these later films got a tad meaner.

Taking no chances with upsetting the formula that had worker previously the plot is pretty straight forward with Lash and side kick Fuzzy Jones called to help a friend who seems to be in trouble. When the pair arrives they find their arrival unwelcomed and their friend missing. Their friend's niece calms things down. It doesn't take long before Lash and Fuzzy find that all the trouble involves gold.

A solid little film full of action this is exactly the sort of well crafted film that made the program films of the 30's and 40's so popular.

Son of a Badman

Lash and Fuzzy chase a masked man
This time out Lash and Fuzzy are going after El Sombre, a masked bad guy intent on getting his hands on a certain piece of real estate. Sent for by a rancher who is killed by El Sombre the pair are soon on the hunt for the masked villain. Lash knows somethings up when he realizes that the sheriff hangs out in the bar frequented by El Sombre's men.

Solid entry in the Lash La Rue series has the requisite amounts of action and humor. Say what you will about the series they never really seemed to skimp on the action. The humor is also in evidence as a running plot point about Fuzzy's sore wisdom tooth, which he says only bothers him when danger is near.

A great deal of fun and worth a a look for anyone who's a fan of the series or of good western action

Son of Billy the Kid

Okay La Rue film
This time out Lash plays Jack Garret a law man looking into trouble being caused by the Yantis gang which is being led by an old compatriot of Billy the Kid. The gang is trying to control the land which is due to have the railroad pass through. The question on many people's minds is did Billy really die 20 years earlier or is he the brains behind the recent trouble?

It may sound like sacrilege but Lash La Rue playing anyone other than Lash La Rue is kind of hard for me to swallow. Sure there is no real attempt at him being any one other than Lash, but it makes no sense in the course of the plot. The name change kind of forces Lash to try and be something he's not. For better or worse it just makes everything seem off.

Is it a bad film? No. But between the name change for Lash and a really annoying gold digger with her eye on Fuzzy the film just seems off the usual mark.

Frontier Revenge

Solid adventure with Lash and Fuzzy
Lash and Fuzzy are sent into action to investigate Deuce Rago the only man in a small town that hasn't run afoul of the bandits that have been plaguing the area. Taking the identities of two known bad guys from Texas the pair worm their way into Rago's trust.

Solid, if by the numbers western tale is full of action and comedy. While far from the most earth shaking of films in the series, it is one of the most consistent with no low points. The film moves along at a good clip and doesn't stop. If the film has anything working against it is that its extremely by the numbers. You know how it's all going to play out...even so it's still worth a watch with a big bowl of popcorn

Outlaw Country

Not bad but it does go on
Lash and Fuzzy are put on the trail of counterfeiters running five dollar notes over the border by bad guys. Complicating matters is the fact that Lash is constantly being mistaken for one of the bad guys known as the Frontier Phantom.

While the film has plenty of action it kind of suffers in one key area, namely the film is about 10 to 20 minutes longer than a good many of Lash La Rue's other films. I wouldn't mind except that there doesn't seem to be a reason for it except to squeeze in lots of chases and horse riding. While the pleasure of the La Rue films is the non-stop action, I don't count horse riding as action

Worth a look if you see it as part of a collection, but on its own there are better La Rue films.

Mark of the Lash

Lash to the rescue
US Marshall Lash LaRue and his side kick Fuzzy Jones aka Fuzzy St John are summoned to a small town called Red Rock, where one of the ranchers, Taggart, has seized control of the water. If anyone wants to water their cattle they have to pay a dollar a head. On top of it Taggart and his men have been killing anyone who gets in his way, going so far as to use a trumped up charges and kangaroo court.

Action packed film is a great deal of fun. You have really bad bad guys and really good guys and it makes for some dynamic clashes as you can't wait for the bad guys to get whats coming to them.

For me this is almost a truly great western, it falls down in one key plot point which is Taggart and his men have killed off either by gun fire or lynching several law men sent to investigate matters in the town. How this has never managed to cause them any problems or resulted in an army of law men coming to town is beyond me. Yea I know one shouldn't think about the plots of these programmers but its almost too much to let go.

Definitely worth a look.

Rat Pack Rat

Eddie Rouse gives a great performance
Sammy Davis Jr impersonator is hired to visit a woman's sick son on his birthday. The young man is bedridden and can't leave the tubes and wires that keep him alive. What starts out as a simple visit for a song and dance becomes complicated over the course of their time together.

Eddie Rouse give a great performance as the man hired to entertain a sick young man. Its one of those amazing performances that makes you wish that short films would get Oscar's notice because Rouse is as good as they come. He's so good that he makes you feel the complications that are thrown his way.

Sadly the film is done in by a low brow humor involving flatulence and sick noises. Inserted into the film in such away as to undercut the emotion of the film the gross noises almost completely wrecks the film entirely. Do we really need an accompaniment to Candy Man? I think not.

Fortunately Eddie Rouse's performance is so good that he single handedly saves the film from the director's poor choices. Rouse's performance makes this one to see despite the rude noises.

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