Mini-Review: Be My Valentine


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Be My Valentine

Yet again, the prerequisite comments that TV movies do count in my world and they have won awards and been nominated in the past in categories both flattering and dubious. Having said that, it doesn’t mean I didn’t venture into this holiday-themed romcom with some trepidation. However, what it does well is not only build its relationships well but it also doesn’t get contrived in adding necessary complications. It also rightly resolves its significant subplot of puppy love prior to the climax allowing that to proceed unfettered. It features good to strong performances from the whole cast most notably Lisa Berry, Natalie Brown and Christian Martyn.


Rewing Mini-Review: Sexual Chronicles of a French Family


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Sexual Chronicles of a French Family

I discovered that this film existed through Instant Watcher, more specifically their Twitter. It is a website that it perhaps the best source for what’s new to stream on Netflix. I was not surprised to see that this film is a popular streaming choice. The title is designed to intrigue and get people watching. Based on the fact that it’s a French film, and the totality of the synopsis, I expected more scenes like the one between the matriarch of the household and the grandfather. So, my expectation of more of a chamber drama was mislaid, OK. I won’t, and can’t, penalize it for that. What I can penalize it for is that for as short as it is, the insightful, charming, touching, intelligent scenes are few and far between. Instead, you get many love scenes which are protracted and only add minimally, sometimes not at all, to the story. The intention of the film is one I understand and respect, and it is successful in a few of its attempts, but ultimately it left me wanting and a bit bored.


Rewind Mini-Review – Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian


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!

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is an interesting film in a couple of ways. The first is that the writers actually felt the need to justify the sequel, which most don’t and they did that in two ways. The second creates a bit of an issue. The exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History are being moved out to make way for holographic exhibits. Why they felt the need to make a point by creating that bogus scenario or why they felt the need to move the story to the Smithsonian is beyond me.

Ben Stiller’s rendition of an infomercial pitchman was rather humorous. What I feared going in was that there would be too many characters in this one and that fear didn’t really come to fruition. A lot of the supporting cast with smaller parts were really good and did a lot with them. It’s truly a case of the actors outperforming the script. Many of them put a lot more into their part than any reasonable person could ever expect to get. Amy Adams especially was breathtaking and took simple dialogue and made it profound and took things that could’ve been cheesy and made them poignant.

Having said all that, the film really does start to drag in the latter half of act two. Alan Silvetsri’s score at many times seems discordant to the action especially the seemingly “Tubular Bells” inspired piece when Ben Stiller is first breaking into the Smithsonian and skulking around.


What does make up for that is that the dialogue remains pretty sharp throughout and despite pacing issues it does stay funny. The device of walking into picture frames, especially having some scenes and even a character or two in black and white, helped keep the film fresh.

Ultimately, it was a sequel that, again, wasn’t altogether necessary but conversely not a complete waste or disappointment.


Mini-Review: Benji


It’s a method I generally try to avoid, but perhaps the best way to discuss Benji is via comparative analysis. After I had seen Benji what occurred to me is that there was some structural similarity to 9.79*, and that being that it is mainly a chronology of events (this one far more linear) but there is a late-in-the-game monkeywrench thrown into the mix. I will not expose details to preserve surprise, but the late revelation here only has one side telling the story period, not just on camera. Furthermore, the revelation, in my mind didn’t really shift the legal burden of blame.

Regardless, for the most part, this is an effectively rendered tale for the most part that reveals a mostly unknown personage now. The film does well to just present its case and not comment upon it. The only other issue it suffers from is that there is a slight lack of ebb and flow. There is a definitive rise-and-fall, but its crescendo and decrescendo. The rigidly linear nature of this tale hinders its efficacy some.


Mini-Review: Christmas Star


Christmas Star (2013)

This may not have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to my tolerance for Hallmark’s formula, but it was the low ebb prior to having to call one quits early. Essentially what you have in this film is an unrealistic and highly predictable scenario, inadequate performances save by one given by the youngest cast member (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), uncomfortable staging and glacial plot movement and add to that, for the most part, really grating country music stylings. It just fails in nearly all aspects.


Mini-Review: District 9

This is a film which deserves praise in several regards and is the kind of breath of fresh air that demands our attention. With that being said the originality within the tale both as sci-fi epic and as social commentary does not, in and of itself, make this film bulletproof.

The lead, Sharlto Copley, is tremendous in probably the tour-de-force turn of the year. The special effects are immaculate and couldn’t be faulted for a second. In terms of furthering the genre it did so in having the hero become the enemy of the people and in how it accomplished that feat.

Its social commentary and partially documentary style were also effective in telling its apartheid tale. Sci-fi at its best is more about humanity than beings from another planet.


However, the partial documentary style is one of the small issues with the film, and with a piece so strong small things are magnified. The first act is very heavy with the documentary angle giving much needed backstory and even a slight MacGuffin, but it vanishes and takes a very narrative approach even losing timecode stamps and caring less about where is this footage coming from in the context of the story. It took a while for the narrative switch to be noticeable but the doc approach could’ve been brought back once or twice in Act II just to tighten things up as it did drag a little.

Slow narrative pace is even harder to stomach when the jerky-handheld cinematography is a constant. The handheld is the one documentarian aspect that remains and may be a bit much for those prone to motion sickness.


The change in character and how his friends become his enemies and he must align himself with the aliens make it very much worth watching. The protagonist’s metamorphosis is realistically and compellingly rendered.

It is a unique moralistic sci-fi tale with great performances, biting and true commentary about humanity, politics and multinational corporations. It is definitely a must-see but by no means a masterpiece.


Mini-Review: Ghosts of Ole Miss


Ghosts of Ole Miss

If it were in anyway possible, it’d be interesting to examine this 30 for 30 entry in a vaccuum. The reason I say that is: as a film about the integration of Ole Miss with a unique subplot about the undefeated football team that played and was overshadowed by sociopolitical unrest on campus during that year, it’s intriguing. However, the film purports to examine the team and be a testament to the team, to memorialize the forgotten squad. While there are plenty of interviews with players about on campus events and quick chronicles of game events and results, the team becomes a subplot in a film supposedly mainly about them. The struggles of integrating the school ought not be overlooked, but when there’s little overlap between the tales aside from time and place structural balance becomes hard to find.

The film does very well to examine the cultural morass that many face, southerners in this case, that exists when you’re trying to balance pride, heritage and also acknowledging past failings and dark moments. Some of the voice over is very well-written and poetic in a way that seems unique to the south, as much as the music is lyrical and local. However, this personal connection also fights for time with the football team’s tale and the exposition of the events surrounding the integration. Ultimately, the film succeeds by giving you barely enough to get by on each angle, but it would’ve been better served by restructuring and/or delving further into each aspect.


Mini-Review: Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked


Now in the interest of full disclosure, which I believe in, I will say “Yes, I am a Chipmunks fan.” These characters without question are divisive. There is no middle ground it seems you love them or you hate them. Being a fan I was surprised to have liked the first film (just barely) and very sorely disappointed in the second installment. Where I feel things went wrong the second time around wasn’t in the introduction of the Chipettes but in doing so spreading itself too thin amid myriad conventional plot devices. That’s not to say that this installment breaks ground with some unconventional plot machinations, however, it does combine a few old hat techniques creatively and it focuses heavily on the Chipmunks and the Chipettes and on their character. Furthermore, while maybe having fewer musical cues than before it functions more like a musical than the prior two installments seeking emotional veracity in spotting songs rather than literal locales. By having the Chipmunks and Chipettes pushed to extremes and assuming different characteristics than expected this is the first tale of the three that feels fully realized especially since it restrains Dave, who was overly-involved in the first two. It’s also interesting that Cross’ somewhat listless turn is somewhat elevated by his recent ranting.


Mini-Review: Pete’s Christmas

This film does feature a Groundhog Day like tale that is unusually, in a good way, heavy in montage and features a good cast Bruce Dern, Zachary Gordon, Bailee Madison and Peter DaCunha. However, given its trappings it doesn’t do anything to special with the formula and does, sadly, meander a bit through the second act taking too long to figure out what its ultimate path was aside from trying to improve how setpieces and tropes are handled.


Mini-Review: The Christmas Ornament

The first thing that needs to be said is that the initial offerings are all Hallmark originals for the holidays. On the rare occasion these can surprise. Those found in these reviews here are not the case. Furthermore, what’s not included here was one that I could not finish watching due to how insipid, and in the end, predictable it was.

All these three have their moments, but ultimately fall short. What’s pleasant in this tale are some of the performances and that some of the obvious realizations are not held off for too long. Certain factors that I thought would only come in to play late are out fairly early here. Other than that nothing special.