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Liu lang di qiu (2019)
Emotionally crude for a simpler audience
No disrespect, but this movie has the emotional depth and sentimentalism of a 1930's American movie, when America was still largely rural and not too educated. The characters are simplistic and their gestures are generic. Americans have learned to watch much more nuanced gestures, much more individualuzed authenticating details. (I mean, the grandfather here waxes on the dead grandmother's noodle cooking, nothing else about her.) Judging from the reviews, a lot of Americans find this movie irritating. It's not subtle. It's predictable. Don't get me wrong. I, for one, find it worthwhile. It's not engrossing or immersive, but it is Big Science Fiction, which I like, and the hokey, corny, and cloyed elements are, for me, anyway, endurable. A nice budget. Decent effects. I've seen a lot worse. And honestly, come to think of it, I'd rather have a movie that was too sentimental than one that was too cynical. One last point, the Chinese, they sure do get the teal and orange color schemes of awesome visuals. Practically every shot. Another overdone but, for me, mostly acceptable aspect of this hulking, lumbering beast.
Crazy Fat Ethel (2016)
Great B Movie Schlock
Inappropriate in so many ways, there is something deliciously satisfying about this junk movie. The acting is actually watchable -- realist/naturalist kind of stuff, with these offhand gestures that really lets you smell the cheese. Maybe i was just in the mood. Nice, clean narrative line. I think these guys could all have done better work if they'd wanted to
Different and Delightful!
Am I the only person to see this gorgeous and charming work? It doesn't have 5 votes yet as of this writing. What a secret treasure. Whimsy, fantasy, offbeat -- it's like Neil Gaimon's Japanese cousin. I found this on an app called Yo! anime -- but wherever you can find it, get it if you want something different and delightful. I haven't finished it yet; I'm savoring it. 12 episodes, total 77 minutes. Imagine if Heavy Metal had been playful and lighthearted, gently humorous. Sort of like surreal little urban fairy tales. ...
Okay, that's all I was going to write, but IMDb wants me to write more. The animation is hand drawn. The first episode is about the projector that plays the night sky, and the projectionists who run the projector, and more. Odd little bits of things on the screen to sample; kind of decentralized images like a Jacques Tati film, and some of his tone, too, sort of. Let me call it playful again. Okay! Now we're good! Go find it!
All the 1 reviews are bandwagon. It's not that bad. 5 1/2 *
Okay, a crap script. Serious problem with that. But some good acting, beautiful sets, nicely shot, good special effects. If you want to see a fantasy movie, and you have seen all the good ones, this is worth a spin. Loads of action. Well choreographed. The trailer movies on the DVD imply you are an idiot man who likes to watch movies for the boobs and violence, which doesn't set the mood, I admit. But there is no exploitation of women in this movie, and some of the women even take up swords. So, okay, this isn't Shakespeare. If fact, prepare thyself for character arcs that are vapid and almost theme-less. It's basically a medieval/supernatural revenge tale. But if you're just looking for a no-brainer fix of non-dragon fantasy and action, especially on a weekend afternoon, you will enjoy this. Jason S. is excellent.
Airlords of Airia (2013)
Visuals worth a look. Clumsy, goofy story, but who cares?
This little film doesn't ask to be taken seriously, so when someone says this is full of bad acting, they're kind of missing the point. It is a gorgeous-looking film with a campy, clumsy little story. The acting is all overblown -- they all know they are hamming it up, which fits perfectly with the rest of the film. In terms of the story-telling, as short as it is, it has long stretches of exposition -- the voice-over just telling us the story. Telling, not showing, is the cardinal sin of narrative art for the last hundred and some years, but I personally don't get worked up over it. I don't need to be "shown" a lot of "concrete details" so I can be "immersed" in a story. Yes, I like being immersed, but I'm fine just gawking at gorgeous visuals while the director and actors goof around with a piece of fluff story line. So, if you want to watch this little film, accept that it is kind of goofy by current standards of narrative art, and try not to judge it for that. You can just enjoy it for what it is, if you want. It's basically just a little short about a steam-punk air battle, and it's meant to be humorous.
Cosmic Origins 3D (2011)
Finally, Good "Science and Faith"
This documentary explores science and faith, using interviews with Nobel and Templeton prize winners, as well as physicists from Harvard, Cambridge and other universities, who are not only top people in their field but also sympathetic to matters of faith. I've seen so many of these documentaries on science and faith, and they are mostly just junk. They are always light on facts, and they often discredit faith by being intellectually disgraceful or even dishonest. This one, however, not only has the "utmost respect" for the methods of modern physics, but it also goes deep into contemporary physics and its history. Rarely do I watch a science show that tells me something I didn't already know, and this show had lots of bits I hadn't heard before. The animations and graphics were also well done, and the editing really made the ideas flow together. This is an important documentary. It will help skeptics see that the position of faith can be intellectually coherent, and it will help shore up the faithful.
Person of Interest: Baby Blue (2012)
This was one of the best episodes of the series, really great television. It was complex, with two main story lines and a half a dozen or more sub-plots, all smoothly interwoven. Twists and turns. Great pacing. Exciting but not crowded or rushed. A baby is kidnapped, and more or less unrelated to that, a crime boss is released from prison, and his life is threatened. I won't say more, except that every character in the episode is tested and strained almost to the breaking point. It was great to see a wider range of emotions than usual in the two male leads, Caviezal and Emerson. Just a great script. I'm going to follow the writer's credits and look for more that he or she has done. And, as a Veronica Mars fan, it's great to see Enrico Colantoni in this.
Destination Planet Negro (2013)
Humorous, enjoyable spoof and satire
Enjoyable satire of race in America, told as a spoof of 1950's science fiction B-movies.
I saw this twice in the studio in Kansas where a lot of the filming was done. I liked it. Laughed numerous times. Learned stuff.
No budget, but good script, good story, decent to good acting, and pleasant low-budge rockets and special effects.
The story is of W. E. B. DuBois and other prominent African-Americans deciding in 1939 that the only way to solve the race problem in America is for black people to colonize Mars. They plan to make it the Negro Planet. Scouts are sent on a rocket (with radioactive peanut fuel designed by George Washington Carver) to explore, but they fall into a time warp and end up in our contemporary America.
The explorers have various off-beat adventures showing how race relations have improved in some ways but remained toxic in other ways.
Some of the scenes should have been cut to serve the story, but evidently director/writer/actor Willmott decided to place commentary over story at times.
One of my favorite lines was a little throw-away remark when one of the explorers was told that the N-word has been taken out of Huckleberry Finn, because the N-word is so offensive.
The pilot says something to effect that he finds slavery more offensive, and yet you left that part in.
A lot of scenes in the movie show the weird relationship between the way we talk about race and the realities of race.
Other parables and allegories like that throughout. Definitely worth an hour and a half of your time. Reminded me a little of The Brother from Another Planet. It's funny and a think-piece.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
It's worse than you think.
Oh, gosh, just lost two hours and five bucks. I thought, how bad can Jupiter Ascending be? I'll put up with a mediocre plot to get that eye candy. Right?
Oh my stars, every minute was a disappointment. From script to acting to editing, all terrible. Immense plot holes, one after another. The action was over the top, with the dudes dodging tens of thousands of shots and fireballs. In between action there was long, dull exposition. The movie didn't earn one honest emotion. The romance was clichéd and unbelievable. Scenes seemed crammed, chopped off. Everything stunk, except the eye candy (which went by too fast) and Eddie Redmayne (who was super). I got five bucks worth of laughs out of it making fun of it with my friend. Just offering this to save you the disappointment. It's worse than you think. And I'm the kind of guy who usually likes bad sci fi if it's done stylishly and beautifully. I really loved Aeon Flux. I thought Battleship was okay. I was fine with After Earth. See? I'm not that picky.
Okay, that's all I had to say. Thumbs me up or thumbs me down.
Big Eyes (2014)
Ultra-passive 1950's wife with Mad Man husband.
Highly enjoyable dramatization of husbandly plagiarism. The story is efficiently yet artistically told, and both lead performances are terrific. Tiny bits of Burton weirdness fitted in like footnotes, and not noticeable unless you're looking.
It was clear how the predicament came to be. A man with a maniacal chutzpah and an ultra-passive wife of the 1950's. She's the talent; he's the marketer. Add a little bit of luck, and her work starts getting popular. He takes credit for it. She goes along with it, at first out of financial need and later out of momentum, but always out of 1950's female deference. Finally it's a feminist tale; he goes way too far, and she battles to take credit.
Great acting. Christopher Waltz's performance is dynamic and inspired, reminding me of George Segal + Mania. And forgive me for finding Amy Adams so appealing. It may be in part that she's so darn pretty, and it may also be that the soft-voiced female fluff was the sort of ideal female beauty I was trained to like as a boy and which has all but disappeared. But mainly, I like to think I enjoyed her so much because she gives such a stunning performance; all kinds of nuance and insight into the character as she gets shoved aside, hurt, and finally pushes back. Really, I liked her just tons.
Nice little bits enriching the movie. For instance, in the grocery store, before she comes to the display where her prints are being sold, she passes the Campbell's Soup shelves. Marketing, Mass Production, Spectacle. Andy Warhol's art is Mm-mm good. Another one, when the husband is losing it into booze and craziness, scaring wife and daughter: his eyeball at the keyhole staring into their fear, like Jack Nicholson's in The Shining. Probably a dozen or more of these that I missed tucked in there.
No surprises in the story; well, one. But very little in the way of spoilers are possible. Touching all the right notes. Great look; loved the photography. Loved the tone and the pacing. My wife and I and our teen–twenty-something daughters all enjoyed it. They're all artists; I'm not.
Amazing Stories: Fine Tuning (1985)
Spielberg has two or three ideas, and this episode uses them all
A really poorly executed version of E.T. and Close Encounters. High school kids soup up a TV antennae and find aliens obsessed with 1950's TV comedy shows. That's it. The aliens harmlessly come to Earth and the high school boys show them around Hollywood. Fifteen minutes of goofiness while the aliens seek out Milton Berle, etc. It's done the way that Spielberg has of trying to push your buttons, this time with cuteness and warmth. Sometimes in his career he does it, but wow, this one is such a blunder. Dunderheaded, chortling oh-so-cute aliens (dwarfs in costumes like ET- potatoes with rubber-nose-mustache-glasses on). I guess that's how Spielberg made his career, by using the main tropes of science fiction and freshening them up a bit, but sometimes, like here, it seems he thinks that all he has to do is just use them and the magic will work. I did love the old Vaudevillians. They're great. You get about two minutes of those guys around the twenty minute mark. Otherwise it is super bad. Sloppy.
Quietus: To the New World (2004)
Good looking, cryptic
I liked the look of this sci fi short quite a bit. It is quiet, like the title, and solemn even. A lot is suggested--a leaving of a desert Earth. All done by showing, without words, images of people, masked and wearing long robes, as they move across the desert and do cryptic things. Interspersed with some cool still-life shots of geometric space ships. The director Lowery is deeply indebted to 2001, but that's not so bad a debt. Also a bit of Dune and Indiana Jones stirred in. If you're not into sci fi, you'll need to be into at least art house I would assume to enjoy this little gem. It's well done-very professional looking. You can find it on YouTube, currently in two parts. (Running time on YouTube is about 17 minutes, not 22 asstated above.)
A Night Out (1915)
Surly, Gauche, Sadistic ... What's funny?
Honestly, I don't get it. A lot of violent slapstick humor. Chaplin's character is a mean drunk. What's funny about that? I don't think we can even ascribe it to the times. Oh, surely, some of it, our simple, uneducated ancestors. Yeah. But if we saw this kind of film come out of, say, China today, we'd be worried that a sadistic bunch of lunatics was on the rise. Were the good ol' days more cruel? I don't get it. I have a theory that there just simply wasn't much film entertainment being done, so a guy like this can move into the Classic status more easily. Whoever gets to the gold rush first gets the biggest haul. In this case, fame.
Sure, some of the physical comedy is actually very deft, but I don't see how people hurting each other is very funny. I suppose there is still some of that today, low brow stuff, in some rude sitcoms. But isn't Chaplin a darling of the high brows? The Three Stooges look like they're having tea with the Queen compared to this piece.
Science fiction AND fantasy
This episode is packed with Klingon religious mythology. While B'Elanna is in a near death experience, she has visions of the Klingon afterlife. She comes out changed. Tom Paris asks her "Why have you become a born-again Klingon?" If you are the kind of fan who hates fantasy or anything religious or mythological in your science fiction, steer clear of this episode. But, if you believe, like Chakotay says here, that, "not everything in the universe can be scanned with a tricorder," you might find this episode worth a look.
Without going into the storyline, it has some good dramatic tension in it. The reality of the mythic appearances is ambiguous; and at a deeper personal level, this episode is about B'Elanna coming to terms with her Klingon identity, as well as resolving—or at least making a decisive turn—on some big internal issues she has about her mother.
In some ways this episode is a couple of scoops of the California Religion, but in other ways I found it interesting. While Karen Austin, as B'Elanna's mother, is given some really horrible pieces of script to deal with, we see Roxanne Dawson doing some of her best work, at least that I've ever seen. And I have to say, drawbacks aside, Ronald Moore & Co. were trying to deal with some big and serious issues here, and got a lot done in 45 minutes. I think that fans who dissed this episode by giving it low stars did so because of the Klingon religious elements; without that, I think they would have easily bulked the stars up to 8 on this one, for its acting, storyline, and even for the special effects.
The Office: Turf War (2012)
A couple of laughs and a glimmer of hope
*** Slight bit of SPOILER hints about story arcs****** If you're reading this in the spring of 2012, then you must be a fan, and you know what an up and down struggle this season has been. I think most fans will agree that this episode wasn't too bad, and suddenly at the end it gives a glimmer of hope that they might actually find some solid footing for this series to continue on. I found most of this episode amusing and actually laughed out loud once or twice. There is a funny chase scene with Dwight and Jim versus a salesman from a different office, and Pam and Nellie have a bit of bonding. What this episode did most, though, was to bring us back to a realistic basis for the show. For me, the humor of this season didn't hold up too well, because we had moved the Office into a goofball alternative universe, Robert California style. But in the closing moments of this episode, when we lose all sympathy for Robert, they suddenly open the door to a much more plausible future. During this season this series has repeatedly tried to jump the shark; suddenly, against all odds, they look like they might rally and bring it back. At least for a couple of decent seasons. I hope so. Let's see.
Midsummer's Night Star Trek
This one's a little hard to watch at first, but if you yield to the premise, as I finally did after fifteen minutes of being irritated, you might find it enjoyable. Otherwise, it's a pretty far departure from the show's norm. The story is about a big festival day with a lot of lovers reuniting. But for some funny reason, love runs amuck, and many unusual crushes and flirtations appear. I chose to watch this episode for Majel Barrett, who proves she is still one of the best TV actresses from 1960's, if you like that exaggerated style. Majel's character (Counselor Troi's vampy mother) has a romantic fixation on Oto. Many other characters get fixations, too, and things get topsy-turvy as love goes out in all directions. Love, love, love—too much love, and none of it quite right. There are a lot of fun twists in this Midsummer's Night Star Trek, and some viewers will like it while others will hate it. I will say this, Nana Visitor never looked prettier.
You won't go into outer space, but you might love the Camp.
What a fun, campy episode this one is! It takes place on the hollodeck in a black and white parody of a 1930's Buck Rogers serial. A photonic alien life form from outside of Voyager has accidentally gotten into a battle with Paris's hollo-nemesis, the evil Prince Chaotica. That battle is holding Voyager in a subspace riff, and it's losing power. So members of the crew dress up and ham it up in the hollodeck.
It's a snappy little script, full of jokes and asides, and Janeway is particularly enjoyable as the vampy Queen Arachnia. The story is also highly self-referential, and not all viewers may enjoy that. It's a story about a story, and brings you in full consciousness that you are watching human actors pretend they're in space. You won't go into outer space with the gang in this one, but you will get that feeling like when you're watching a fun play, when all the actors are having a good time and the audience is in on the joke. I love it when series do episodes that are far outside their norm. If you like camp, you'll love this little episode. If not, then you might want to pass.
Jeri Ryan Can Act!
Until this episode I was always a little doubtful about Jeri Ryan's acting ability, wondering if she could only do one note: Imperial bitchiness. Not that I don't like her Borgian disdain for non-scientific and imperfect humans. Or that high-minded carriage of her cat-suited Barbie-doll body. But in this episode, as her Borg implant fractures her into multiple personalities, she gets a huge range of characterizations to perform, and she handles them well. And this script has a handful of clever complications en route to her healing that make it an enjoyable installment. It ends kind of quickly, but it is one of the better episodes, IMHO.
A great episode, for fans and non-fans
Sometimes on this show, when they are working on a bad or mediocre script, the actors remind me of high school actors with a lesson or two. But when there is a good script, like this one, all the actors fall into place and you can see how good they really are. I assumed this episode was going to be just a treat for fans only, with a wink and a nod and the presence of Jonathan Frakes, from The Next Generation. But a person could enjoy this without any knowledge of Commander Riker.
The script builds with a movie-quality dramatic tension. It is a little cramped as a story, it doesn't quite fit into one episode, and you might find it slightly overdone. But it has a lot to recommend itself, with good straight action and lots of character nuances. If you're cruising episodes looking for some good ones, I'd pick this one. And I looked up the writer: it was Ronald Moore.
you might want to pass on this one
As I write, this has a 7.8 IMDb scoring, but it's not a very good episode IMHO. Station goes into lock-down, based on an old Cardassian program in case of a Bajoran worker revolt. Which is a pretty cool idea. Then, for dramatic tension, the self-destruct countdown starts. Sound familiar? And later on, air shafts (aka, utility shafts) come into use. Aah, air shafts, the writer's best friend. There is a very clever complication about halfway through, which I enjoyed, and you might watch it for that. But otherwise this one runs just by the numbers. Just imagine what it would be like and save yourself forty minutes. If you love the show, it will be all right, but I'd recommend skipping to a better episode.
Short Review and a link to this video
This is a funny, rhymed poem spoken by three Indians, immersed in the white world, with tons of little video clips from our past film history. The poem talks about Indians as they are in reality, compared to what they are in the imagination of our culture. Thomas King, the writer and director of this short, is of mixed white and Indian descent. An author, a lot of his writing, as well as this video, mixes the perspectives of the cultures. This short video is "Indian-centric" and it's got this funny, kind of sardonic, tone running under it, like water. If IMDb deletes the link to his video, you can find it in the NSI (National Screen Institute), which is a government agency of Canada, in their March 2012 folder. http://www.nsi-canada.ca/2012/03/im-not-the-indian-you-had-in-mind/
The Office: Angry Andy (2012)
The Last Nail in the Coffin
**** A Slight Amount of SPOILERS****** I hate to say this about a show that has brought me so much for so many years, but this episode was the worst I'd ever seen, a real disaster, and as we've been watching this patient sputter on life support, I think this episode will be the one that finished it off. This is the Jumping the Shark episode. The humor in this show has always relied upon exposing uncomfortable situations and joking about it, but there has always been a realistic tone to the situation. I don't want to go into it, but this episode revolved around Nellie humiliating Andy, culminating in a conference room meeting to talk about his sexual impotence with Erin. The writers, the directors and producers, and perhaps even the actors themselves, have lost all discipline. Utterly slack, sadly out of focus. For the first time ever I was embarrassed for the show as a whole. Really uncomfortable. I will miss this show. I've seen every episode. And I'll probably keep watching until they lay it in the ground.
Better Quality than a Fan Fiction
After about 40 minutes of waiting for the plot to kick in, I finally gave up and started fast forwarding. I'm always interested in newcomers and outsiders, and while they made a lot of good choices and did some decent work, I couldn't suspend my disbelief for more than about a minute at a time. The acting was pretty decent, (one guy even did a Bruce Willis imitation -- it had never occurred to me that was even possible) but there was too much going on in the story and I couldn't connect to the characters. A lunar civilization conspiracy, an odd religion, time travel, green crystals, the Mayan calendar. On and on. Turns out Elvis, Ben Franklin and Plato were time travelers, to name a few. I kept getting bounced out of the narrative on stuff like that. I just couldn't get into it. Showed promise, though. The initial shots of exploring the swamp were pretty vivid. I encourage them to keep working at film. I think a script doctor could have solved 80% of the problems up front.
Sloppy with an ax to grind.
I'm a long time Terry Jones fan, but a couple of minutes into this and I realized it wasn't a documentary so much as it was a hatchet job against Christianity. And I was really surprised he did such a sloppy job of it. For example, he said the book of Genesis was written around 600 B.C., that Judaism originally had a female goddess, and he says over and over in different ways that the world was a happy place full of freewheeling sex until those mean old Christians showed up and invented shame and guilt.
There's some interesting material on Egyptian fertility rituals, and if you've never seen the sexual artifacts of ancient Greece and Rome, you might find that interesting. Terry is absolutely gleeful about a Roman garden sculpture of Pan having sex with a goat, and he states, without any evidence, that such a thing was normal in Rome and perfectly acceptable, which I don't believe. And he goes on at length about how the age of consent was raised in America from nine or ten up to sixteen and then eighteen. He is so scornful and mocking of this change of the age of consent, I wondered if he was sympathetic with NAMBLO (an organization that wants to legalize pedophilia) and perhaps a bit wistful towards the good old days.
Anyway, his points are good about the busy body control freaks who try to regulate every aspect of life, including sex, but mostly he's just shooting his mouth off in this poorly researched, agenda-driven show.
BBC Play of the Month: Kean (1978)
One of my favorites at the time
I saw this over 30 years ago, and only once, but it has stayed with me all these years. I was in college, and I ranked this Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the actor Edmund Kean up there among my favorite performances at the time, with Derek Jacobi's I, Claudius, Richard Chamberlain's The Lady's Not for Burning, and Jeremy Irons in Love for Lydia.
I think IMDb has the poster wrong, I don't think Chekhov had anything to do with this. As I recall, it was based on a play by Jean Paul Sartre. I remember Alistair Cooke introducing it, asking why Sartre would write a play about an Elizabethan actor, and then answering that Sartre believed one's identity was formed as one chose one's actions, and so in a sense we are all actors, creating our characters as we go along.
This was also the first performance I noticed Anthony Hopkins. He was wonderful. I remember one scene where he crawled under a table, kicking in frustration at the people around him not getting it, the 'it' being his struggle to find authenticity. My favorite bit was when he was on a stage, breaking from script and extemporizing — actor as man as actor, without essence. He said, "I don't exist. I'm not real." and drew out the word 'real' while pinching his thumb and fingers in front of his face, bringing them past his eyes like, oh, say, he was pulling ribbon. I believe his audience was scandalized by the deviation from script, except for one of the nobility, who applauded with enthusiasm. And we at home cheered, especially since at that age we were struggling to come up with our own actions and identities, struggling with the same arbitrariness and lack of foundation.
Well, no telling how memory has changed things. But I think that's basically right, and I apologize for any errors. At the time I write this IMDb has no reviews of it, so I'm trying to help promote this great performance. I can tell you this, with assurance, that Hopkins was full of flair, beautifully dynamic, and complex in ways I found intriguing. I really loved this show at the time and expect I would if I saw it again. Surely somebody has a copy somewhere.