Friday, May 6, 2011

Johnny Skidmarks, 1998 (Grade D-)

Director Joh Raffo
Any Awards?  nope
Cast: Peter Gallagher, Frances McDormand, John Lithgow, John Kapelos, Jack Black, Geoffrey Lower, Charlie Spradling; Michael D Weatherred, Lee Arenberg, David Doty, Michael Beach

plot summary  Crime-scene photographer Johnny Scardino (Peter Gallagher) has become so emotionally detached from his work that he doesn't mind dabbling in blackmail on the side, acting as a hired lensman to catch high-rolling businessmen with their pants down. But when a few familiar faces turn up dead at Johnny's day job, he fears that he may be next.

sez says -- from the opening scene it is obvious something is wrong with the script--and it doesn't gt better.. the acting is up to the task of creating a good movie--but the script keeps weighting it down --the people just sound stupid. It doesn't help that the story lacks spunk.  It is really pretty clear who done it...and who cares. Overall a real waste of time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kolya 1997, Grade C+

Directed by Jan Sverak
Awards: Academy Award Best Foreign Film
Cast: Zdenek Sverak; Audrei Chalimon, Libuse Safrankova

Set at the end of the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia we meet a musician whose mother hates the Russians, whose brother has emigrated, and who has been taught by his family that he cannot have a personal life if he wants to be a great musician.
These conditions have left him alone, lonely, and recently dismissed from his job at the national philharmonic.
And he is broke and randy and spends his days looking for work and his nights chasing after every skirt he sees.
When offered a lot of money to marry a Russian woman so she won't be deported (it is a faux-marriage, no conjugal rights--on paper only) he agrees so he can help his mother repair her home and so he can get an automobile.
His new wife immediately leaves the country and he is left with her five year old boy to raise: a job he does not want.
This is a beautifully done movie. It avoids the sentimental traps it could easily have fallen into. Recommended.

MJC:  so say us all. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fires Within, 1991 Grade (F)

Director:  Gillian Armstrong
Awards: I think not
Cast:  Jimmy Smits; Greta Scacchi; VIncent D'Onofrio
sez says: -- what a sad movie -- not the story but the movie.  I like Gillian Armstrong's work so I rented it. Then I discovered it is an anti-Castro Cuba story -- suspiciously, cautiously I said, o.k. lets see where it goes.  Well the answer is: not far. 
Here is the story: I vocal opponent of Castro is arrested and locked up- he has no regard for the impact of his actions on his wife and child, they suffer terribly.  Eight years later he is released ... meanwhile she has a new boyfriend who really loves her.  Now what will she do?  Play Jeopardy music here.  Can you figure it out?  that is the story--and it is not really interesting.  Grade F

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Les Miserables, 1998 (Grade D+)

Director: Billie August
Awards? I wouldn't think so --none that I know of
Cast: Uma Thurman; Claire Danes; Liam Neeson; Geoffrey Rush; Hans Matheson; Peter Vaughn

sez says: We are watching the various versions that have been made of this famous book.. So far this is the weakest we've seen.  The 1830s and 1940s versions have much to recommend themselves over this version --the 1940s being the best so far. You might call this an abridged version--(lots is left out) and that might be forgiven, because you can't easily get the whole thing in to a 2 hour film. But it is not just abridged, it is modified with changes in action and sequence --it is so much so that so that you might have to call it an attempt to rewrite of the original story--and who thinks they can make it a better story that the original?  The changes seemed to be less for expediency that to make it flashy-film: Coaches overturning, bloody fist fights, love affairs, jumping across rooftops, and such.  Also the LOOK of the film (another pretty picture--and there are quite few of these-- seemed to trump story. SO there is plenty of time to look a soldiers in full dress marching-- because the parade is a spectacle--but not enough time to tell the back story of the police officer, who is a key figure in the story.   If you are looking or a good film version of the book--keep looking--there are better ones available (grade D+)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Insider, 1999 (Grade A)

Director: Michael Mann
Awards nominated for lots of Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and BAFTA awards--but doesn't seem to have won any
Stars: Al Pacino; Russell Crowe; Christoper Plumber; Diane Verone; Philip Baker Hall; Lindsay Crouse; Michael Gambon; Rip Torn
sez says: This is a great movie--beautifully made (thank you Michael Mann)  and with a subject worth thinking about (how the media works) -- It is a thriller without a gun shot fired.  It is all about the cost of principals and how power works to corrupt --not in some fair tale way--but in the most matter of fact-- true story manner. Indeed it is base on a true story--and it is a story we all need to know--just like the story in the moive needed to be broadcast. Grade A 

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Usual Suspects, 1995 (Grade D+)

Director: Bryan Singer
Awards--yes Academy Awards, Independent Spirit, Golden Globe
Stars: Kevin Spacey; Benecio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne; Stephen Baldwin; Kevin Pollak, Chaz Palminteri, Giancarlo Esposito

sezsays: Some movies don't hold up so well.  I had missed this when it came out and someone mentioned it the other day, so I rented it to catch up on famous movies I'd failed to see.  I am not surprised that Spacey and Del Toro won awards for their acting. They both did marvelous jobs. But the story is just hum-drum--there is evil in crime--yea, and what else is new. This seems to me just to be an excuse for a bunch of men to get together and assault each other verbally with threats to do obnoxious sexual acts to each other --or to actually shot each other. Another yawn--but now I know who Kaiser Soze is--so that is something I guess.  (Grade D+)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Glengarry Glenn Ross, 1992 (Grade A)

Director:  James Foley
Awards: Yes- an Academy Award & a Golden Globe for Pachino
Stars: Jack Lemmon, Al Pachino, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce
More Info: David Mamet's play --and screen play by Mamet

sez says: what an amazing play this is --and what a great transition it made to the screen. Mamet is a master of fast dialogue and he tells stories by leaving half  the story untold: the audience has to fill in the missing parts. That is easy enough to do, but it also means we may all be seeing a slightly different story.  I don't know why Jack Lemmon didn't get an award for his part -but what do I know about the who's and why's of Award Giving.  These ageing salesmen take you on ride in a front row seat to view Desperation, Domination and Dirty Dealing in their stressed out, over amped lives that are based on the notion that you have to "Always Be Closing" a deal. Get a signature on the dotted line--or you are nothing, have nothing, and you'll will be tossed out into the dark with no where to go and it is wet (the pounding rain works in the film) and cold and dark.