Rewind Review: Easy A

The first thing that needs saying about Easy A is the following: I for one am not the kind who is off-put by listening to dialogue that is so witty and on point that it seems too good to be true. Unrealistically rapid, witty dialogue is part of what made Film Noir and many classic films work.  Lip service need only be paid to reality when absolutely necessary to preserve suspension of disbelief. Especially when dealing in the comedy genre dialogue will be unrealistic in one way or another what matters is, is it good? The dialogue in Easy A is fantastic from beginning to end and is the best I’ve heard since Whatever Works, which is saying something because Woody Allen can talk circles around most.

Part of what makes this seemingly sitcom-style dialogue work is that this film is never, not even for a moment insincere, whether about the points its trying to make or its characters. The parents in this film played brilliantly by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are oddball, California liberal stereotypes, however, even when consoling their daughter and actually playing parent they do not suddenly change persona but rather do their variation of this person being sincere which is still a little offbeat.

The bottom line is that this film is hysterical an that is what matters most when it comes to comedy. It may not quite be up to snuff with The Hangover, which would need to be re-viewed but now there have been two comparisons made to the two best comedies of 2009 so you get a sense of the quality of this particular film.


What helps to elevate this film is the performance turned in by Emma Stone. While Stone already has many credits to her name this is indeed a star-making turn and it’s little wonder that her name is already being bandied about for two very high profile roles now. Her performance in this film is nothing short of a revelation. Her delivery and reactions are always spot on and when she needs to get emotional, even in the context of this tale, you believe it.

While playing a high school tale which is essentially a self-conscious and modern day retelling of The Scarlet Letter the film still manages to avoid didacticism which is quite a feat. This is likely due in part to the influence of John Hughes which can be felt in this film not only in the dialogue but the usage of music throughout including blatant The Breakfast Club references.
There is through the jokes also a reverence for cinema particularly the classics there is also quite a bit of adherence to the comedic rule of three. One particular example comes to mind but it’s best kept a surprise. The film is also told in a frame of a webcast. While frames are a classical technique the webcast is a current/forward-thinking.

 Easy A, if you’ll excuse the cheesy critical pun, earns an Easy A as one of, if not the, funniest films of the year and one of the better most complete comedy experiences you’re likely to find in contemporary cinema combing intelligence, heart and laughs.


Rewind Review: Avatar

Avatar is probably the most amazing piece of eye candy that moviegoers have been allowed to unwrap in quite some time. It includes fantastic vistas, wonderful conceptions, phosphorescent and vibrant images that are always intriguing and some are downright awe-inspiring. As just a film to look at it may be the most amazing film this critic has ever beheld.

The effects are truly tremendous in every way. The creature-work done in this film is unparalleled. There is a very unique and enthralling ecosphere created on the fictional planet of Pandora which is just incredible. All the creatures are fascinating, effective and memorable which cannot be said for all sci-fi films.

The sound design was also fantastic in helping to create the world’s animals but also in making the battle scenes hit harder. There is creativity in conception and excellence in the edit.


As any good sci-fi tale does it comments on our society, our world, through the subterfuge of a far off place. Sometimes the commentary is subtle or nearly non-existent. What was surprising about Avatar was how very present the commentary was.

There is an aspect of colonialism to the way humans displaced from earth now occupy this planet in a very uneasy equilibrium. The people from earth are after a precious mineral and looking to get the Na’vi, the natives of the planet, to abandon their land so it can be excavated.

In the mineral lies the only issue of the film’s construction and plot. Firstly, the mineral is called Unobtainium. Really? This is a film that from what we can tell created a people and a bestiary but this is the best name they could think of for the rock? The other issue is that we never find out what purpose it serves except that it’s valuable. Is it just precious like gold or can it be harnessed as a fuel – what is the attraction?


That all being said the hunt for the Unobtainium brings other things to light. Giovanni Ribisi’s character, although it is never made clear, appears to make an unspoken comment on the Military-Industrial Complex. He seems to be there just urging the army to obtain it by any means necessary and is never addressed as a dignitary so it seems his power is inferred and not one of rank.

Some have commented that this is a Pocahontas type tale and while the parallel can be drawn from the Native-outsider relation in this film there is a very distinct difference. In relationships between Native Americans and Europeans it was the native who would leave with the other, here it is the outsider who literally becomes a member of the tribe. The tribal commentary seems very general and shouldn’t be interpreted wrongly whether you read it as an African or Native American tribe the point is this: the people belong to the land and vice versa, they treat it with respect and they care for it due to the abundance it gives them and that ought not be taken lightly, and certainly not destroyed, by so-called civilized peoples.

Minor vague points aside this film is an incredibly enthralling experience that does build slowly but it uses that added half-hour of running time to its advantage. The battle scenes at the end are also very well-executed.


This is one of the top 15 films of the year based on its technical merit, advancement and engaging story-line alone. There are some head-shaking flaws that just make you wonder but it does not taint the overall experience.


Rewind Review: Killing Kasztner

The main objective of a documentary is to inform and illuminate subject and bring it to a larger public’s attention. More often than not the subjects of a film’s investigation will be one that is greatly unknown. It is generally in learning new things and in examining difficult questions that the best documentaries are made.

Killing Kasztner is just such a documentary as it brings to light a largely unknown, suppressed and unexplored chapter of the history of World War II and the infancy of the Israeli state. It examines the polarizing figure of Rezso Kasztner a Hungarian Jew who negotiated with Adolf Eichmann for the release of more than 1,600 Jewish prisoners. It investigates the controversy that exists surrounding the negotiation itself, the postwar implications, a trial Kasztner faced in Israel and his subsequent assassination at the hands of a young extremist Ze’ev Eckstein. Even walking into the film knowing all this beforehand you will still learn a great deal and it will provoke much thought and emotion throughout.

The film is an interesting one in as much as you not only hear the director/interviewer, Gaylen Ross, ask certain questions but also see the director on occasion, typically accompanying voice over she wrote and performed. It is most definitely an auteur’s approach to documentary film wherein the director is not an invisible hand but is to an extent involved and invested in the tale being told not unlike Werner Herzog is in some of his works. This involvement, however, is never obstructive and both sides of the story are presented and certain questions asked are never answered because they have no answers and so one could leave the film with either opinion of the man based on the facts presented. Moreover, this involvement works to the benefit of the film as just getting a little taste of what the story means to the person behind the camera raises the stakes for us as an audience a bit.

It is a film that tackles its subject matter from as many different angles as possible talking to many people on all sides of the tale from Kasztner’s family to his assassin, from the son of the man who tried him to the survivors who were saved by him and also journalists who covered him and were against him. A very full picture, in terms of participants, is painted of this very intricate story.
One of the truly great things about watching this film at Theatre N was that there was a Q & A with director/producer Gaylen Ross via Skype after the screening, where I was able to ask her about her handling visually of some of the interview footage with the assassin Ze’ev Eckstein. There was a different visual approach to him than all the other interview subjects. The shots were more close-up, sometimes extreme-close up on his mouth or eyes. Ross said she didn’t want him looking too “natural or dramatic” and that she wanted to “separate him from the others in the story as just a force that’s present.” Thus, he’s differentiated from both those for and against Kasztner but he is not commented on by the filmmaking process itself, which is preferable.

It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking film that brings to light a story which should be part of common knowledge regarding the holocaust. The change in attitude regarding Kasztner even as Ms. Ross was in production is rather impressive. It is a well-crafted and well done documentary. It is also one with an evocative, haunting and moving score which is well-placed throughout.
It’s a sprawling tale that does deserve our full attention it uses just about all of its two hour running time to its advantage. It also deftly avoids sensationalizing potentially combustible confrontations and renders the situations with calm, insight and art.

To keep tabs on where this film is playing next please visit their official website.


Favorite Film Discoveries of 2015

This is an idea I first saw on Rupert Pupkin Speaks. The idea is to list your favorite films from the past year that you saw for the first time, but exclude new releases. This allows much more variety and creates a lot of great suggestions if you read many of them.


Favorite Film Discoveries of 2015
This list kicks off with three disparate short films by Carol Ballard that I watched on the Criterion Collection release of The Black Stallion:

The first is…

The Perils of Priscilla (1969)

The story of a cat told from its POV.

Crystallization (1974)

With amazing technique and engineering this film shows the process of crystallization bigger than life.

Seems Like Only Yesterday (1971)

A series of interviews with centenarians about the changes they’ve seen in the world.

Frankenweenie (1984)


Seen as one of my few 61 Days of Halloween selections this one was long overdue, but well worth the wait. Not what I’d call a discovery but rather a confirmation. This is Burton at his finest and weirdest.

Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935)


The gags in this short, unlike some of their shorts, are varied and plentiful: there is a monkey shoeshining, cross-dressing, animal hiding in a bodice, things go wrong and it’s live, hiding in hay, running skull, gunshots at boots, and animated eyes.

It’s no wonder there was a sequel was a sequel to this short a few years later. This version is well done and allows great variety in scenes, different talents to be displayed and many jokes.

Mr. Boogedy (1986)


This is another Disney viewing during 61 Days of Halloween that I saw thanks to TCM’s new Disney Vault special programming block. This is another mid-’80s title from Disney, this one playing on The Wonderful World of Color and at current is available digitally or thru Disney Movie Club. Richard Masur, David Faustino of Married …. with Children and Benji Gregory of ALF are the standouts.
Historien om en Gut (1919)

The movie has a simple thru-line:

After being accused of stealing the teacher’s watch, Esben escapes with a ship and gets work at a farm. He then works his way back home, to get justice.

So this is an old one and curiously is listed as a 90-minute run time but this version runs about 48 (not sure if there’s anything missing) but it seems complete. One of my pet projects may be to put more proper titles on it and upload it.

Francesco (1989)

Francesco (1989, Film Movement Classics)

Francesco is a film I had not even heard of, much less seen, and one I was glad to have a gander at. I’m also thankful this is the first full version of St. Francis’ life I took in. While any one can identify with his naturalist tendencies and love of birds, this earnest devout portrayal; a man fighting peaceably for a belief in conducting oneself he firmly believes can inspire all and I can see why he continues to have such a following.

Francesco is a wonderfully re-presented title that should delight viewers for secular and holy reasons alike.

Galloping Bungalows (1924)

Being a Mac Sennett comedy the to-be-looked-for staples are slapstick comedy and insane chases, this film most definitely has both. The runaway house trailer being chased by any number of police and fire engine is breathtaking and frequently hilarious. Much of this hilarity due to Billy Bevan whose milieu when he headline was the wild marital farce, per Wikipedia,  and this title certainly fits into that realm

Tom und Hacke (2012)


Transplanting a story to another culture, especially a classic like Tom and Huck doesn’t always work. This German rendition does.

The Legend of Rockabye Point (1955)

The old fishing boat captain tells the story of Chilly Willy, a singing polar bear and a bulldog who quickly falls asleep when he hears a lullaby.

Did a lot of Woody Woodpecker watching in the early part of 2015, but Chilly Willy will always be my favorite in that gang and I loved this one and don’t think I’d seen it.

The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)

The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975, Disney)

Not entirely dissimilar from Bedknobs and Broomsticks here you have adults that are not necessarily altruistic, but the lead Russel (Bill Bixby) does change and come to genuinely care for the kids. Meanwhile, Dusty (Susan Clark) does come to care for Bill even though she ends up with him only for the kids’ well being at first.

The Apple Dumpling Gang is a humorous enjoyable tale that looks brilliant in this Blu-ray upgrade. If you are a member of the Club and a fan of the film it is definitely recommended for the picture alone even though it offers no extras.

The Playful Pelican (1948)

Another Walt Lantz title, this one features Andy Panda and a Pelican. The creativity seemed to break out when Woody wasn’t there.

The Tin Drum (1975; Director’s Cut in 2012)


As I mentioned here I have a long history with The Tin Drum. However, I agree with Schlöndorff’s assessment that this version is almost like another movie and superior to the version we al got to know, and many of us appreciate greatly.

I loved this film before and I love it more now with the longer cut, much in the same way the TV cut of Fanny and Alexander is better than the theatrical.

Knick Knack (1989)

I honestly cannot remember if saw this one before or not. It seemed new at the time, either way it’s really neat.

Miami Connection (1987)


Is Miami Connection a good movie? Not at all, is it more readily embraceable as something asa bad movie I love than much of Rifftrax’s fare? Absolutely.

Alfie the Werewolf (Dolfje Weerwolfje, 2011)

Alfie the Werewolf (2011, Attraction Distribution)

Perhaps what’s most refreshing about this film, from a production value and aesthetic standpoint, is the fact despite being a 2011 domestic release in the Netherlands it does not shy away from practical effects work. Yes, CGI is use where it’s truly beneficial like making the lycan child run about, but for more settled scenes he’s in a suit and make up. It is very well-done indeed.

Alfie the Werewolf is an enjoyable film for all members of the family, and perhaps most intriguing for parents is that it is a fairly benign way to reach a compromise with your kids on viewing material. It could satisfy the desire to see a werewolf movie but would not be potentially emotionally scarring in the process.

Magicians (Het Geheim, 2010)

The Magicians (2010, Attraction Distribution)

Most family films would only be tasked with resolving the concerns of one family unit. The Magicians decides to take the task of trying to sort out two family situations. There is also the ongoing struggle Sylvie faces in her house with her father living overseas and her mother being detached leaving her mostly to the care of an Au Pair. This dual purpose is most refreshing and combine that with the unusual-though-not-unprecedented disappearing foible it keeps you engaged.

The Magicians is well-edited and paced. It tells its story briskly, in a manner lacking pretension but conversely it’s not devoid of content. The whole family can enjoy, laugh, and learn from this film.

Astro Boy (2009)


Astro Boy has become an increasingly bigger thing for me. It started with many of the graphic novels and now I finally saw the movie and enjoyed it and felt it a very good representation of the character.

So Much for So Little (1949)

Post-War Chuck Jones, and sadly relevant now because it tells you that you should: VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN!

Brother Bear (2003)


This is the Disney movie where you know ahead of time someone turns into a bear. It’s Native American themed which always appeals to me, and when it was out my brother really wanted to see, but it slipped through the cracks for years. Glad I finally got to see it and the better than expected straight-to-video sequel.

The Hand (1965)

I happened upon this film by chance. I had yet to see a film by Jiří Trnka. Having seen many of Švankmajer’s works I always wanted to. The clay-animation herein is quite excellent and the subject matter appropriately surreal. Enjoy!

Rubber Tires (1927)

The way in which this one is a discovery is that I finally found it. I knew that Rubber Tires existed, long before I finally caught it and read Junior Coghlan’s autobiography. This photo has been around a bit teasing its existence.

Rubber Tires

I thought it may have been lost. Then I saw it. Not as mad-capped as I would’ve liked but funny nonetheless.

Blondie Goes Latin (1941)


Thia is a sort of representative pick. Here is how I introduced the Blondie films when I first posted a few of them on my Free Movie Friday post:

Firstly, anyone lamenting that sequels are “ruining movies” today, this is one of the easiest examples to cite proving that everything old is new again, meaning sequels are not a modern scourge. There were about 25 of these films released over a thirteen year period. Also worth noting is that long before the Harry Potter films Larry Simms grew up on film – at least in real life if not so much as Baby Dumpling.

I finally started watching a box set of these short, easy-viewing comedies this year. They are in the public domain, readily available and usually quite enjoyable even if the formula has few variables. The series may bolster this section for quite some time as the completist in me does want to get through all of them.

Of particular interest in this one is that it seems to play right into the Good Neighbor Policy.

Where the Red Fern Grows (2003)

Where the Red Fern Grows (2003, Disney)

This film was noteworthy especially for the casting of a Native American in the lead role. The character is only a few times referred to as having any native blood, this is unique as it had not happened yet. Some of my thoughts on why it’s significant below:

The reason that is, is true inclusion and universality means casting actors from all over, as rounded characters and in mixed films. Having all films be a melting pot is utopian, and I get arguments against films for targeted audience, but for the time being they are sadly a necessity. Roles in general for African Americans, Asians, Latinos, women, Native Americans, little people and other groups are limited. Roles for the aforementioned groups in a dimensional piece they play a part of are more limited still. Roles for these groups are usually reserved, in the US, for race-specific films like civil rights tales.

Therefore, when I was under the impression that Ashton was just in the film I was intrigued. However, that only lasted so long as a fractional Cherokee heritage of his mother was referenced. So it does not meet the Love Actually standard, but one thing it did is fully embrace Billy’s heritage. Another thing it does is cast an actor of Native American lineage in a film not ostensibly about his lineage as The Education of Little Tree was.

Flipper (1963)

Flipper (1963, MGM)

In one regard it acts as the origin of how Sandy and Flipper meet, how Flipper becomes his de facto despite the fact in most regards Flipper is not really held captive. In a rather forward-thinking way he’s only really penned when injured and a short while after that. Beyond that her stays fairly free-roaming and seems to seek human companionship almost more than they seek him.

Santa Claus (1898)

The oldest Santa Claus movie can’t be that bad, can it? It’s short and sweet.


The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972)

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972, Film Movement Classics)

The film works sight gags in a fashion that is eternally accessible and hilarious, and does indeed make gorgeous use of visual storytelling from Parisian backdrops, to instrument-adorned apartment walls, ornate opera houses and spy offices.

Add to that the catchy, cheeky score by Vladimir Cosma, the physical virtuosity of Pierre Richard, and the clockwork precision of the script crafted by Yves Robert and Francis Veber and you have an unqualified comedic success.

That’s a wrap!

Rewind Review: The Ghost Writer


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Ghost Writer (2010)

As much as one might try and protest to the contrary every film we see has a pre-life, which consists of our first hearing of it, seeing a trailer and things of the like. While these things may not ultimately color our opinion of the film they do make part of the experience. The fact that The Ghost Writer is a Roman Polanski film is not irrelevant both to the pre-life and to the film itself. The pre-life is even more affected by the fact that this is potentially Polanski’s last film. As sad as it is to admit Polanski’s recent arrest may garnered this film more distribution and attention than it was likely to get. It was picked up by Summit Entertainment and in a move that did somewhat affect the end product they pushed for a PG-13 rating and dubbed over a few F-Bombs noticeably. While this did allow a few open-minded locals who can separate the artist and the man to bring their kids to see it, it is unlikely to boost the audience that much and it didn’t make the film any better.
Another palpable way in which Polanski’s situation affected the film was in filming locations. The film is set mostly on an island off the coast of Massachusetts but clearly it could not have been filmed there. However, having not known that fact it’d be hard to decipher visually. The German locations were scouted perfectly and were fantastic and added an extra dimension to the tale.
The cast of this film is nearly flawless with the noticeable exception of a very small part the Michelle Obama-like US Secretary of State played by Mo Asumang. In this cast you have the small appearance by a legend in Eli Wallach in a spectacular scene, an actor playing against type in James Belushi and a very strong dramatic core with Ewan McGregor easily playing the protagonist unwittingly thrown into political intrigue, Pierce Brosnan as the mysterious former Prime Minister, Olivia Williams as the strong-headed wife, Tom Wilkinson as the cryptic college professor and Kim Cattrall as the PM’s personal secretary. It’s a combination of talent, character and material that is nearly impossible to top.
The Ghost Writer is a film that is truly Hitchcockian, which is a rarity. Hitchockian is a phrase most people will bandy about as irresponsibly as “feel good.” It would seem that almost any suspense film that is successful to any degree in the past 30 years has been given this moniker by one critic or another yet few, if any, ever reach the tension created in a Hitchcock vehicle, which consists of a tautness so palpable it brings to mind the Gene Wilder line from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory “The suspense is terrible…I hope it lasts.”
It is also a film that wastes no time and has the intrigue begin as soon as MacGregor lands job as the replacement ghost writer. First, he has to operate under a ridiculous deadline and then he is mugged and has the wrong manuscript stolen from him on the street. Slowly but surely with increasing tension and rising stakes the routine nature of this assignment is stripped away and the mystery comes front and center and we start getting closer to the truth. Each revelation is more fascinating than the last and nothing is ever apparent each twist and turn in the tale is a pleasant surprise.

Key to the success of a film like this is the scoring and Alexandre Desplat’s work on this film is nothing short of spectacular. It’s not the most overwhelming score but it pulls the right strings and ratchets up the tension at the right moments with the proper effects.
The Ghost Writer is a truly great film and an instantly classic thriller that you should seek out. While it’s too soon to know if this is Polanski’s swan song if it is it is such an incredibly high note to end on. Absolutely top notch.

Rewind Review: Inglourious Basterds


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

There are some mild spoilers within, forewarned is forearmed

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s delightfully twisted and decidedly Tarantino retelling of World War II. Sticking with his rococo chapter structure tales of disparate intrigue are told that are bound to collide – and they do with fantastic and explosive results.
Already prized at Cannes, all the hype and buzz surrounds Christoph Waltz’s performance, and it is certainly deserved as he is fabulous. However, the hype machine overshadows several standout performances in this film, and the film itself. 
Other standouts include:
Mélanie Laurent, as Shosanna Dreyfus: an actress I was unfamiliar with, but who in a surprising turn literally carried herself and acted like a 1940s starlet.
Brad Pitt, as Lt. Aldo Raine: who is one of the more frustrating movie stars working today because he can turn it on when he feels like it but doesn’t always feel like it. He is on in this performance, and very funny.
Diane Kruger, as Bridget Von Hammersmark: was great as a drunk, a flirt and in agonizing pain.
The smaller parts are also very well cast even though Tarantino’s choices might make you do a double-take work brilliantly. Eli Roth as the so-called Bear Jew is hilarious and effective, as is Mike Myers, as an aging British General. It was great to see him get this character work and do well after having a bad 2008 in some people’s opinions this critic notwithstanding. 
There are several touches Tarantino adds to an otherwise very straightforward story: two cuts to back-story/explanation with Samuel L. Jackson narration, a cut to Goebbels being intimate with a translator, cut to a Hitler monologue and a few other things. 
The cinematography in this film is great starting in the very first scene where Landa (Waltz) is interrogating a man accused of harboring Jews. It starts with very well-framed shots and then gets more intricate with a beautiful circle shot that moves down below the floorboards to those being hidden.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Tarantino’s dialogue is tempered not overly-profane, verbose or arcane, things he can be even in a good way. It was always on point. The only scene that might’ve run a little long was the rendezvous in the bar because the German officer wasn’t immediately questioning them and then when the interrogation finally began anew we didn’t know he was caught. The dialogue told us. It is the kind of scene that does need to be reexamined as it likely works better on second viewing so it can’t quite be faulted. 
All in all it’s an excellent film you should go out and see especially if there’s nothing new out compelling you. I personally want to see it again. It is a movie that you keep thinking about, and it gets better with time.


Rewind Review: Law Abiding Citizen


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

This is a film filled with plot holes but what was ultimately most distressing was that it actually sent this critic back to Syd Field’s Screenplay seeking a citation as if arguing a legal case and seeking precedent. The reason for this is that it seems like a film confused about who its protagonist is.

The answer ended up being found in Robert McKee’s Story “A protagonist is a willful character,” “The protagonist has a conscious desire,” “The protagonist has the capacity to pursue the Object of Desire convincingly,” “The protagonist must have at least a chance to attain his desire,” “the protagonist must be emphatic; he may or may not be sympathetic” all of these things seem to describe Gerard Butler’s Clyde. Until we think about this point – “A story must build to a final action beyond which the audience cannot imagine another.” Herein lies the ultimate failure, in part, somewhere along the way even though we started the film with Butler’s character it wants us to shift allegiance to Jamie Foxx’s character because to have Clyde win would be politically incorrect. The film sells a bad bill of goods dressing itself up as a modern day Death Wish but ultimately it doesn’t have the guts to be so. In part because he targets authorities and in another part because he doesn’t use hand guns. Ultimately, it was made worse for it. Also, Clyde’s failing was avoidable and uncharacteristically stupid, which is a direct contradiction of McKee’s last axiom.

Even accepting that we should switch allegiances as a given, what added incentive is there? Foxx’s character is just as superficially drawn, if not more so. He and his wife fight because he works too much and he misses his daughter’s recitals. Sounds very common. Aside from Clyde sending the DVD of the first kill to their house and his daughter watching it, for too long, there was never a direct threat made against his family. A bigger scare would be required to make the switch easier.


Granted considering both protagonist and antagonist are family men Foxx’s family is never truly threatened but there were other possible end games, however, the other problems with the film are already inherent before the end game.
Identification with Clyde’s character and his plight is short. In fact, if you’ve seen the theatrical trailer you’ve seen a majority of the first act and had the most effective kills spoiled in part already. Both characters end up being rather simplistic. So much of the film was heavy-handed in terms of dialogue such as Darby’s, the man who plea bargained, dialogue when he was sentenced. Some events are odd and hard to swallow like Foxx forgetting Darby’s name after attending the execution of his accomplice, Clyde having tunnels into practically every prison cell from a nearby industrial building and how Clyde’s holdings are all found so easily and so on and so forth.

It’s possible to go on listing problems of this nature but after a while it becomes pointless. Butler and Foxx are fine but they never have enough to really work with to elevate this tale. It’s ultimately a cheap action film with easy ill-defined answers for everything and an anti-climactic ending regardless of where an audience member’s allegiances are. This film also adds to a legacy of writer Kurt Wimmer that seems to prove that Equilibrium, one of the best films of 2002, was the exception and not the norm in his work.


Rewind Review: Legion


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Legion (2010)

If Legion had been released in 2009 it might have dominated the Most Asinine Shots of the Year list. It still might get to have its moment in the sun with doozies like: a flaming cross burned into the side of a building, the Incredible Stretching Ice Cream Man Demon, The Old Woman Crawling Up the Walls and an armored Gabriel walking through a glowing doorway. However, there are the occasional positives and conversely worse things than just those shots in the mix.
It’s a film which tries to walk the tightrope between blasphemy and gutsiness and falls off onto the wrong side. When there’s an overtly religious theme in a movie, and you challenge the conceptions that even the most lapsed Christian might hold, then you’re fighting an uphill battle and you’d better execute the story to perfection and make people forget that they have a hard time accepting the scenario you’re trying to portray. This is the ultimate suspension of disbelief because you’re taking one citation (Psalm 34:11) at the head of the film and asking the audience to accept that as the only gospel truth, for lack of a better term, when it’s about to change a lot.
Considering the story issues that exist, the execution both technically in terms of the edit, cinematography and on the part of the cast is rather good. It wasn’t great, especially in terms of the edit as the film could’ve been tightened up a bit but it certainly wasn’t as bad in that regard as it could’ve been.

The theology of this tale is ultimately very flawed, and yes it’s a fictional tale, however, when considering the implications it makes it’s hard to deal with. There are some spoilers ahead.
The story is about the Archangel Michael disobeying God’s order, which is to assist in the annihilation of mankind, including the murder of the woman who is the bearer of The Second Coming. It is certainly not unprecedented within the pages of the Bible to have gruesome and bloody stories, however, this tale not only portrays God, who is not seen but he is heard, as cruel but as one who is indecisive. Think of it eight months before He decrees this young girl will bring His son to the world anew, and then he decides “You know what? Never mind, people don’t deserve Him. I’m going to end the world instead.” This is literally end it, no Noah, no ark, nothing. This is problematic for one seeking to engage and be lost in this story.
As a side note where is the Vatican’s review of this movie? It seems like this is the kind of film they would want to deter people from viewing more so than Avatar. I mean there is a compulsory happy ending but the plot does infer that God Himself is trying to kill an unborn child, which last I checked, is a sensitive subject.

There are other shots and images that are blasphemous but considering that the whole plotline is dubious at best, in those regards, they are hardly worth mentioning in detail.
Smack dab in the middle of the movie there is an overly-long expository sequence where the characters that are trapped in this Diner at rest stop are talking in pairs and exchanging their life stories. Granted I will not knock the film for trying to build character, however, this was a clumsy and uninteresting way to go about it. When a film is supposed to be horror/action a very long lull is harder to deal with than under-developed character.
The casting of this film was rather interesting full of people who left you wondering “What are you doing in this movie?” There is Dennis Quaid who is still as good as he ever was but has not done a really good film in a while and did this on the heels of last year’s painful Pandorum. There’s also Lucas Black, who was last seen by many in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but is more well known from Sling Blade. He is still quite good and never got a breakout and this might not be helping. Then there is Paul Bettany as good as ever as Michael but again “What are you doing here?” was what came to mind. Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton are also rather good in this film. Of course, the casting can’t be perfect with the inclusion of the freakish androgynous kid and the more-over-the-top-than-she-should’ve-been Old Woman.
In conclusion, this was a better film than expected but still had too many issues with the plot and concept that execution could not overcome. Even with that execution being better than average it’s still well worth missing.

Backstage Blogathon: Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935)

Our Gang Follies of 1936

When considering the Backstage Blogathon, as to whether or not to participate in the first place, there was very little to consider. As it comes to wanting to choose topics that allow me a more personal approach than most this theme does well.

Being the Backstage Blogathon it allows me to talk about my relationship with one of the performing arts. In this case, it is the theatre. This history is one with deep infatuations and long absences.

My first exposure to theatre really was in grade school, where, as most children have been, I was involved in two school plays. First, there was a version of Peter Pan, where despite my willingness and desire to be Pan, the older, predicted actor was chosen. Later, I was in something called The Wishing Well. Though I have since found cast pictures I have not as of yet tracked down which play this is and who exactly is the playwright.


These sojourns in grade school were the only ones until after I was in college where by chance I got involved in a community theatre, and over the course of four years did sort of a self-run education in theatrical arts where I eventually wrote and directed some plays of varying lengths

My stage work may be one of the next projects I tackle in my aims to self-publish a great number of my works. More about these shows can be read here and even seen in part here.

This more or less brings us to the present and my selecting Our Gang Follies of 1936 as my title for this blogathon. It was the second time, where I signed up for one of Movies Silently’s great blogathon’s and saw something on the wishlist worth nabbing. In this insistance one motivation was the opportunity to see another title off the Little Rascals box set, while jumping chronologically and also scratching off one curiosity.


The curiosity being that I got to put to bed any misconstrued notion I still carried with me from childhood over what follies were in this sense. My first exposure to the phrase as a child were the NFL football follies – so, I knew of it as a euphemism for a mistake. When ads for revivals of the Ziegfeld Follies and the like came around I was confused. Eventually, I got it by osmosis but onky recently confirmed it’s merely another way to describe a theatrical revue.

So, on to the version by Hal Roach’s Rascals…


MGM’s series of short subjects were, of course, popular for years. These 2-3 reel comedies were later repackaged for television where their longevity was prolonged. This was one of the series of shorts I seem to remember getting some exposure to on Saturday mornings via TCM. That was some time ago and more recently I’ve been wading my way through a large, yet not complete as it claims, box set.

This particular short is later down the line than I’d gotten, and thus, the first of Gus Meins’ directed shorts that I was privy to viewing. In brief, the short deals with the Gang, starting with Spanky as the barker, seeking to gather an audience to watch “6 Acts of Swell Actin’”.

The cast is large and wholly made up of kids. The tale is musical, yet more more enjoyable than most could expect.

Some of the acts include: tap-dancing bellhops, Alfalfa singing “She’ll be comin’ Around the Mountain”, hula girls, a kickline, a trio of singing sisters, Darla singing (sounding better than she has any right to. Voices as young as hers, especially for girls, are usually quite piercing even when in tune), a skeleton dance that hearkens back to silent film days, and the oft-delayed Flory-Dory Sixtett number.

As a side note this was my first time watching the actual Buckwheat in a short. My first exposure to him was Eddie Murphy’s version.

The gags in this short, unlike some of their shorts, are varied and plentiful: there is a monkey shoeshining, cross-dressing, animal hiding in a bodice, things go wrong and it’s live, hiding in hay, running skull, gunshots at boots, and animated eyes.

It’s no wonder there was a sequel was a sequel to this short a few years later. This version is well done and allows great variety in scenes, different talents to be displayed and many jokes.

2015 Neutron Star Award: Dickie Moore


OK, so what is the Neutron Star Award? As I watched older selections through the year, I was frequently compelled to pick a film based on the fact that Vincent Price was in it. When I was younger I was very actor-oriented, more so than with directors. The fact that an actor had that kind of draw, and was one who is sadly no longer with us, made me think there had to be some kind of way I could honor them.

2015: Dickie Moore


Here’s one I thought I wasn’t going to hand out this year.

However, even though I knew Dickie Moore from things like The Little Rascals, Oliver Twist, The Word Accuses, Three on a Match, and saw him in a few titles this year; I thought his star couldn’t grow to me – matching the definition of a neutron star – a star bigger after its death. However, after his passing I started to realize he would fit.

Blonde Venus (1932, Paramount)

In April I covered a movie he was in for the Pre-Code Blogathon, Blonde Venus.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (1984, Harper & Row)

For the Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge I covered his book Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, which is a bittersweet-at-best account of the early days of child stardom, which includes the perspective of many young stars (himself included) from the early days of sound when he caught up with them again in the 1980s.

The World Accuses (1934)

Then less than a month later he passed away at the age of 89. One of the better obits I read was this one.

Bogged down with other things I didn’t eulogize him at the time. I believe the one I did for Wes Craven was the only one this year.

There is precedent for the recipient dying in the year he was awarded.

Miss Annie Rooney (1942, RKO)

So, while there will not be Film Discoveries like there was for 2013 (Miss Annie Rooney and The World Accusses) for Moore this year, his TCM homage is taking up much of my DVR with many titles I was hoping to have seen for quite some time.


So 2016 and beyond will likely feature more of his films. No one perfectly captures all of film’s past as they learn to love and fully embrace the art. For as much as you learn and know about technique and production there is a tendentiousness to things, and everyone develops personal favorites and preferences. Some films and people are inarguably greats, or talented if their films don’t happen to reach you on a visceral level.


Despite the fact that he may not have been a Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney or a Freddie Bartholomew; Dickie Moore is one of my favorites. He was undoubtedly a star in his own right, he was just surrounded by many of them in a crowded system. I look forward to getting to know more of his films that remain with us though he may be gone from this world.