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mkaliher2's reviews view profile

A great American film  
on October 2, 2011 - 10:06 PM PDT
  of Nobody's Fool (1994)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

After viewing this film for about the twelfth time, I have to say it's one of the best American films I've seen, surpassing, I think, even You Can't Take It With You. Jessica Tandy and Paul Newman seemed to bring all of their acting experience and maturity to their remarkable performances here -- she at the age of 85, and he at 69, and Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis, as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman (as a cop, of all things), Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gene Saks, Philip Bosco, and all the character actors really delivered on the Robert Benton script and direction, drawn from the Richard Russo novel.

What's it about? I guess you could say it's about a ne'er-do-well part-time construction worker and handyman in upstate New York. Or is it about a building contractor with a bad heart, money problems, and marital fidelity issues (Who knew Bruce Willis could act?), and his soulful long-suffering wife? Or is it about a one-legged lawyer whose always in a good mood? That's the beauty of the characters and lives Richard Russo sketches: we wind up asking Who's this all about -- perhaps all of us? Everyone seems a bit down with the winter weather in Bath, and all their lives seem somehow forlorn and askew. But the steadfast affection they hold and demonstrate for each other in countless subtle ways keeps them standing tall and moving forward, each with the other's hand at his elbow. If you love great screen acting, and don't mind a little melancholy (the musical refrain on the clarinet and pipes alone will break your heart), check this one out. The script, direction, casting, and editing are all outstanding.
A lovely film  
on August 24, 2011 - 1:16 AM PDT
  of Alamar
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

This film is what I crave in visual storytelling. The short description provided by GreenCine really projects information the film doesn't contain. There is no story line. A man who appears to be a mestizo--and bears a striking resemblance to Bob Marley--has some sort of relationship with a woman from Italy. They have a child together. The child visits the father in Mexico.

95% of the film is a visual description of their time together, fishing and interacting with the man's father (and the boy's grandfather). Although there are hardly any women in the film, it doesn't lack for beauty. A cattle egret they call Blanquita is actually the fifth most prominent character in the film, and she is enchanting.

The cinematographer/director of this remarkable film, Pedro González-Rubio, appears to have a revolutionary approach to storytelling, and deserves greater exposure. GreenCine should acquire his documentaries--Toro Negro, Born Without, and Flores en el Desierto--so we can see more of his wondrous work. In the meantime, give yourself a treat and check out Alamar. It's a gem.
An endearing adventure  
on June 13, 2011 - 11:58 PM PDT
  of Bass Ackwards (2010)

What do we have here? Yet another road movie? Well, yes and no: our would-be hero Linas comes off as rather a lovable loser--evicted from his best friend's couch after sponging off him and messing up his apartment for God knows how long, dumped by his ambivalent lover after her husband finds them out. What's a guy to do? Ever the loser, Linas is lucky enough, we think, to find a job scooping up llama turds in exchange for a place to sleep in a dilapidated one-room shack.

But our hero's turd-scooping career doesn't last long, and our increasing pathetic hero soon heads for his parents home in Boston, to recruit for an unspecified period of time, behind the wheel of a ridiculous chopped 1976 Volkswagen bus that barely runs. Do we have a road movie? Well, yes and no: the characters he encounters on his odyssey defy every road-movie cliché, surprising us with their idiosyncrasy and humanity.

Paul Lazar plays us hard as Vic, a blind and deaf gas station attendant . . . until the phone rings, and he turns out to be perfectly capable. More capable than we might have guessed, as he introduces us to the terminally ill children he lovingly comforts. Then there's Jim, who appears to be a disoriented homeless man--played by Jim Fletcher--until a few conversations on his cell phone reveal a struggling part-time father whose life is, shall we say, a bit of a challenge. And we're introduced to a handsome couple who successfully farm specialty vegetables, but are frustrated with their boy, who straddles the cusp of delinquency. Even the young barflies Linas tries to pick up on the way are endearing. Perhaps Linas begins to realize we all have our trials . . . and our humanity.

If you like really independent indies, check this one out. Linas Phillips, Lazar, Fletcher, and all the actors have put together a unique film, with the remarkable work of cinematographer Sean Porter and film editor Brett Jutkiewicz.
A pleasantly independent indie  
on April 30, 2011 - 2:26 AM PDT
  of Trucker (2008)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Not to be confused with the megastudio films marketed as independents, this is the real deal, folks. Michelle Monaghan's performance is so authentic, in fact, it requires some patience on the part of the viewer. But that patience is certainly well rewarded. We're used to seeing film actors present life-size cardboard cutouts of real people in their performances, but Monaghan portrays the person herself--a woman who happens to drive a truck for a living, and has a challenging family situation. I have lived in towns like hers and known women like her, as well as some of the male losers she associates with. Believe me, it's pretty authentic.

But the film isn't simply about strong women or truckers, or men behaving badly. It's about a woman who has emotionally isolated herself, and her relationship with her son and ex-husband. Monaghan's performance is exceptional, as is that of eleven-year-old Jimmy Bennett, who plays the son, and Benjamin Bratt, the ex-husband. If you like the kind of slice-of-life films Alan Arkin seems to prefer, I'd highly recommend this one.
post-grad exploitation both fresh and interesting  
on April 18, 2011 - 2:45 PM PDT
  of Adventureland (2009)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

This film about college grads who seem to be suffering from arrested development is complex. Although they hardly seem ready for college, most have already graduated, but have taken a summer job in an amusement park in order to earn some money for their first year of grad school. Think teen exploitation in which the teens are old enough to drink.

Personally, it took me some time to get used to Jesse Eisenberg's habit of talking fast without moving his lips, but once I got past that--and the shadow of his portrayal of the unpleasant Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network--I was able to buy into his character.

All the acting was quite good, and Kristen Stewart (apparently of Twilight fame, although Ive never seen it) was quite convincing as a wan, yet attractive 21-year-old who is confused and vulnerable, still searching out her adult identity. Eisenberg's skill as an actor, which wasn't exploited in The Social Network, is obvious here.

While it may be mumblecore, the film has a distinctly independent feel, and tells an engaging story well.
Nicholson at his best  
on April 15, 2011 - 11:07 PM PDT
  of About Schmidt (2002)

So many have submitted their responses to this truly exceptional slice of Americana, I'll keep my reaction brief. If you've ever wondered, as I have, whether Jack Nicholson can really act--or whether he's been riding for decades on his celebrity from Easy Rider, and his middling, yet overrated performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest--this film will definitively answer your question. This film has to be one of the best American films ever made, and Nicholson's performance is, quite simply, outstanding. If you haven't seen it, by all means check it out.
Military industrial comedy  
on April 10, 2011 - 2:55 AM PDT
  of War, Inc. (2008)

On first viewing, this update of Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb seemed disjointed and disorienting. But the second time around, Dan Aykroyd's sight gags as a character quite similar to Dick "F**k off" Cheney, recently retired vice president and chairman of a Halliburton-like death empire seemed more amusing. Then there's the Islamic bimbo pop star, played by Hilary Duff, who's really quite good, and her idiot Islamic hip-hop wannabe boyfriend who is so lame he manages to shoot himself in the butt . . .

But, really, I think the director was trying to deal with a serious subject -- the idea that we're killing off or turning into terrorists half the population we're trying to convert to democracy; bombing Libya, rather than Syria, our good buddy -- who actually trained the terrorists who bombed the G.I. disco in Germany; and decimating Iraq -- when fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, our good buddy -- rather than seeking retribution from those actually responsible or, better yet, pursuing peace and truly democratic ideals.

But it was brave attempt on Hollywood's part, and -- I'm very sorry to say -- probably the best we can hope for. As Neil Postman wrote back in the 1980s, we're amusing ourselves to death -- and, I might add, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other innocents since the end of World War II. In any case, it was great to see Marisa Tomei, and John C. and his clever sister Joan working together, after their outstanding performances in High Fidelity.
This is a Woody Allen film?  
on March 15, 2011 - 9:08 PM PDT
  of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
0 out of 1 members found this review helpful

I realize the Woody Allen franchise will rake in the money, and his reputation will survive, even if the film is a dog. But you've got to be kidding. After Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I expected something at least clever and entertaining. But VCB had a script, the chemistry of Penelope Cruz with Javier Bardem, and newcomer Rebecca Hall if that wasn't enough.

But You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger has none of that, and doesn't even measure up to Match Point, light weight fare that was saved by Emily Mortimer and the element of suspense. All we get is a tortured script that seems to be chasing its own tail, and paper-thin characters--pretentious, self-absorbed, whining elites as Allen apparently imagines middle class people like see them. And the clichés! The thirty-something novelist anxiously waiting to hear from his publisher. Will he recreate his earlier minor success? And the codger who turns sugar daddy for a floozy half his age so he can start a second family (and, get this, father a son to replace the beloved one who died). Will the Viagra and his bank account be enough to keep her, despite his waning virility?

Can you let up on the clichés, Mr. angst-ridden TV comedian-turned-auteur? Can we please have a real script? And some talent like Cruz, Bardem, Hall, and Mortimer, who know how to make a real script work?
Something different and fine  
on March 10, 2011 - 11:29 PM PST
  of Quiet City (2007)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Finding Quiet City resembled finding a special, but unknown book while browsing a hole-in-the-wall independent bookstore on a rainy spring afternoon. To try and describe what it's about really doesn't do it justice. More important is how it makes you feel after you've watched it. The film's timbre is reminiscent of John Carney's Irish film Once, another terrific performance by non-actors, but Quiet City's non-actors had never met prior to the filming, and Erin Fisher and Cris Lankenau's fresh and spontaneous contributions to the script are what makes Quiet City work.

I recommend checking out the New York premier's Q&A in the bonus material, and the (non-)actors' commentary version. They offer some curious insights into where the crew is coming from. But the audience at the New York premiere should have demanded to hear from Erin Fisher during the Q&A. In my opinion, she quite carried the film; it would have been interesting to hear how she felt about it. She is pretty, but don't hold that against her: she has a natural talent--if you don't believe me, check out the scene in which she talks on the phone with her boyfriend in Atlanta--that is disarming. Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie could learn a thing or three from her.

Director Aaron Katz and his crew--who made the film with $2,500 and a borrowed HD camera, crashing in friends' New York apartments during the shoot and filming the public scenes without permits during off hours--are definitely on to something. Their light touch, editing, and thoughtful photography and pacing are extraordinary for beginners. Katz's earlier film, the ironically titled Dance Party, U.S.A. (hey, they're young) gently stands the teen exploitation genre on its head, and demonstrates his technique in an even more primitive form. By the way, the film runs 78 minutes; Dance Party, U.S.A. -- Katz's baby steps -- runs 65 minutes.
A truly exceptional film  
on February 20, 2011 - 2:32 AM PST
  of Stealing Beauty (1996)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Why this film has received such a low rating on GC is beyond me. It has to be one of the best films I've ever seen -- and certainly represents twenty-first century storytelling at its very best. I've seen it dozens of times, and it never fails to move me.

Jeremy Irons's performance as Alex, an old family friend who is savoring his last days in their artists' enclave in Tuscany, and his interaction with Liv Tyler's character, Lucy, a young woman distressed by love (or fantasies of love) and yearning, is quite remarkable. They both deliver the best performances I've seen either of them give, and it's due to the superb direction of Bernardo Bertolucci.

I know we Americans like to think directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are accomplished. But they're mere hacks in comparison with Bertolucci. If you don't believe me, watch this film and truly listen to the narrative. It's amazing.

Toward the end of the film, Lucy looks out her apartment window and has a revelation when she finally notices a statue of a Madonna and child. She immediately goes to the sculptor Ian's studio with her newly-discovered intuition. After some equivocation on the subtext of Lucy's paternity, Ian agrees to let Lucy have a look at his statue of her, saying, "If I show it to you now, it must be our secret. . . You can keep a secret, can't you?" And Lucy responds, "Yes. I learned from a master."

This line, and many others equally powerful, are what separates master storytellers like Bertolucci and his co-writer Susan Minot from others. A propagandist can make a lap dog cry; a storyteller invites the viewer to experience what the protagonists are feeling. There is a difference.
A real gem of a film  
on January 20, 2011 - 8:51 PM PST
  of Dear Frankie (2004)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

I viewed this film because I found Emily Mortimer's performances in Match Point and Chaos Theory so strong and engaging that I wanted to see what other films she'd worked in. Her performance in this film, I think, proves she's one of the best actors working today. Trust me, Gwyneth Paltrow's got nothing on Emily.

This film is actually about something, which is rather unusual to begin with, and the acting, direction, pacing, and cinematography are absolutely top-notch. I quickly searched for more Green Cine films by director Shona Auerbach and screenwriter Andrea Gibb, but, alas, there are none. Ladies, would you please, please give us some more films like Dear Frankie?

The primary characters are a single mother and her deaf son; the woman's mother, who lives with them; a neighborhood market cashier, and a sailor.

As much as I appreciate TallTales' reviews, I have to say I think he understated the value and importance of film. I think it's right up there with Zelary, You Can't Take It With You, and Three Colors: Red, and I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates film as a storytelling and art form. But keep the Kleenex handy. This film isn't a chick flick and it isn't manipulative or programmatic, but it deals with real human experience. Check it out.
A blindsider, and a keeper  
on December 4, 2010 - 2:07 AM PST
  of Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

I have to admit, I rented this film just to see Keira Knightley. I wanted to see if she was as gorgeous eight years ago (She was). But this film slapped me upside the head within the first few minutes. Any attempt to describe it is futile. Let's just say that despite the rather programmatic script and the set pieces--a running joke about a mom who's convinced her athletic daughter is a lesbian, and the cliche of the platonic gay friend who saves the day--somehow, it all works.

I had never heard of director Guriner Chanha before I saw this film, but she's good. And the remarkably talented Parminder Nagra absolutely stole the show as Jesminder Kaur Bhamra, a young Sikh woman in London struggling to assert herself in the adult world. Some tacky furniture, Indian girls who act like Jersey girls, and a crazy Sikh wedding help set up a near-perfect mix of humor and pathos that wins you over.

Knightley's role turned out to be a supporting one, but she was typically strong as Jes's best friend and sometime foe, contributing just what Nagra and Chanha needed.
The best film I've ever seen, and the only 10  
on November 18, 2010 - 10:00 PM PST
  of Zelary (2003)
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful

Although I've seen thousands of films in the last 50 years, I have to say this is the best film I've ever seen. Why it was never allowed an Academy Award reveals more about the deficiencies of the Academy than the value of this film. In comparison, "The Barbarian Invasions" was a self-conscious little Canadian confection, unworthy to be included on any list with this film, much less a winner. If you haven't seen this film you haven't seen one of the best films ever made.

Sometimes great work goes unrecognized. In this case, it is more than a pity; it is a shame.

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