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talltale's reviews view profile

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Murder Most Fuel -- er, Foul  
on November 18, 2006 - 5:12 PM PST
  of Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)
7 out of 8 members found this review helpful

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? strikes me as the very model of an intelligent, provocative, agitprop documentary that scores its points (and there are a LOT of them) with precision and honesty. And the "car" in question turns out to be an almost perfect subject: an example of an idea whose time has come but stands no chance against the power and venality of government and the automotive/petroleum industries, and the stupidity and lack of inquisitiveness on the part of consumers.

Now, more than a decade since the care was with us, we need it--given the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels--even more. Watching the film, as everyone from the car's sales staff to the people who "leased" it (GM wouldn't allow anyone to "own" an electric car) speak out about its benefits, the story approaches tragedy. Yet, by the end, hope is still held out for the new hybrid cars. This is a wonderful, informative, necessary film, and I hope its very being will help us farther down the road toward an intelligent energy policy.
The View  
on November 18, 2006 - 1:26 PM PST
  of Uncut (2003)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

For a sexploitation stunt, the 78-minute UNCUT is relatively short and sour (with a couple of sweeter moments tossed in along the way). The biggest problem here is the fact that someone in charge of the English-speaking DVD distribution dumbly decided that providing an entirely new soundtrack in English ought to work just fine. "Hell," he probably mused, "it's not really 'dubbing' because you can't see anyone's lips moving, anyhow." True, I answer, but now you've got an obviously Italian movie that sounds just like New Jersey-on-the-Tiber.

Writer/director Gionata Zarantonello has imagined here the sexist pig of all-time (or maybe he represents "straight" manhood at its finest?), bed-bound with a broken pelvis but still horny as hell and dialing up every ex-girlfriend to get a little head, hand, ass--whatever. Some of his conquests are more compliant than you might imagine, given the guy's amazingly "sophisticated" attitude and patter. And Zarantonello has come up with some inventive ways to keep things moving, considering that his camera (supposedly the actual medical camera that tracks the patient) is held stationery and focused on Mr. Right's rather juicy, uncut penis--which we see once at attention but mostly half-mast or less.

You won't necessarily be bored, and if you last until the credits, you'll enjoy some funny looks behind the scenes, including a much broader view of the actor who plays the gay male nurse Bruce, whose own member makes the lead actor's look pretty puny. If only they'd kept the Italian dialog intact, I'd have gladly read the subtitles and even upped the rating a notch. As it is, I'll remember this one as maybe THE "dick" movie of all time. I can imagine women appreciating the chance to see an MCP put in his place (whoa--haven't used that Male Chauvenist Pig appellation in decades!), and gays will probably get off on the visuals. But straight guys? They'll stay away in droves.
Raging Hormones, German Style  
on November 17, 2006 - 12:56 PM PST
  of Summer Storm (2004)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

"Is EVERYTHING about being gay?" screams the coach of the rowing team more than halfway through the hormones-gone-mad German movie SUMMER STORM. "Yes" is definitely the answer to his question, at least as far as this cast of characters is concerned. The boys are either gay, getting there or scared to death of the possibility, and the girls--the two we get to know, at least--are in their own revved-up state because of all this.

Yet the film, directed and co-written (with Thomas Bahmman) by Marcos Kreuzpaintner, manages to remain this side of over-the-top due to very good performances and a savvy sense of how this particular late-teen, raging-hormone time of life can be. The place--a beautiful rowing camp, complete with lake and forest--is captured well, too, and the cast is as lovely to look at it is talented. While the situation is fraught, the resolution is probably as pleasant as can be expected under the circumstances of gay life in a straight world. Even if Europe appears to be light years ahead of America on this score--and it does--"light years" still somehow manages to be behind the eight ball.
The News Story for Our Time?  
on November 12, 2006 - 8:06 AM PST
  of Nobody's Life (2003)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

Well photographed, edited and acted, NOBODY'S LIFE is the prettiest and most lush of the three films (there may even be others, but these are the ones I've seen) based upon the news story of 1993 about the European man who, though holding no job for years, had managed to convince his family and friends that he was an important businessman. The real story had a terrible ending for all concerned--one that only the French film directed by Nicole Garcia and starring Daniel Auteuil ("L'Adversaire," 2002) makes clear. In the 2001 Laurent Cantet/Robin Campillo version (titled "Time Out" in the U.S.), the moviemakers used the situation of unemployment and fabrication to question work, leisure, time and money in western society--without the extreme violence that real life unfortunately provided.

"Nobody's Life," also from 2002 and the least of the three films, is still worth a watch--if only to marvel at how this single story has captivated and inspired moviemakers of such differing tastes and styles. Led by the fine Spanish actors Jose Coronado, Adriana Ozores and Marta Etura, the cast is excellent, and for awhile the film carries you along gracefully as it slowly begins giving you the creeps. Eventually, though, director/co-writer Eduard Cortes (who's done mostly Spanish television) can't rise above the gorgeous trappings and the slightly soap-opera story he's provided in order to fully enter the heart and soul of this compelling tale of sad characters ill-used by themselves and by their civilization. What is it about this particular news event that so entranced artists and public alike? Watch these films (or at least the two avilable so far), and ponder.
Major Misfire  
on November 11, 2006 - 4:10 PM PST
  of La Commune (Disc 1 of 2) (2001)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

It's a very odd feeling to be totally in-sync with a movie's political, economic and social viewpoint and yet find the film itself an abysmally stupid bore. LA COMMUNE (PARIS, 1871), which I had been looking forward to for what seems like ages, proved to be just such a misfire for this viewer. Instead of offering any kind of rounded characters, we get slogan-spouting cardboard figures. Worse, director/co-writer (with Agathe Bluysen) Peter Watkins had the smart-ass though idiotic idea of using faux TV-reporters to "cover" the characters and events--which turns the proceedings into as cheap and unenlightening a piece of satire as could be imagined. The very point of the 1871 time frame is that no such media--with immediate transmission of news events--existed, thus making what we see doubly dumb.

What initially appears somewhat amusing quickly turns silly and shoddy. I have to admit sitting dumbfounded as reams of exposition about the political, social and economic facts of the time were mouthed by the amateur cast Watkins had assembled (and then scrawled across the screen in lengthy written lessons). Hell, why not just settle in with a good history book? After about half the film had run its course, so had I. Perhaps something came together later on, but I seriously doubt it. According to the IMDB, the French version (555 minutes) was more than twice the length of the content on this DVD. I must conclude that the cutting by half destroyed some sense of veracity and life that was utterly missing from what I saw. Either that or those French are REALLY gluttons for punishment.
on November 11, 2006 - 3:11 PM PST
  of Feast (2006)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Sometimes young moviemakers can just plain be--and then try to communicate this--way too clever for their own (and their movie's) good. FEAST repeatedly threatens to fall into this trap but, by virtue of its fast, smart writing (Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton) and direction (John Gulager) plus an ensemble cast in which everyone shines (even those killed off rather quickly), it takes its place among the better zippy, scary horror movies. Getting down to brass tacks, blood and gore almost immediately, the movie speeds along to its conclusion and should have you alternately snickering and gasping for the entire trip. Good job!
on November 11, 2006 - 2:48 PM PST
  of The Roost (2004)

Low-budget crap that has somehow garnered a following, THE ROOST is about as silly and unwatchable a scare movie as I have encountered in a long while. Rent the Project Greenlight-sponsored "Feast," for heaven's sake, if you want something clever, frightening and often funny. "Roost" sucks even worse than the badly manipulated vampire bats that provide the film with a title and its supposed "menace."
A Splendid Monster  
on November 11, 2006 - 2:07 PM PST
  of Beowulf & Grendel (2005)
0 out of 2 members found this review helpful

Wasn't this one of those awful reading assignments in high school? Or was it college? The past continues it annoying habit of meshing. Whatever: members ought to give this filmed version--via Iceland, Canada and Britain--a look-see, as BEOWULF & GRENDEL is a visual knockout that offers more than the usual acceptance of Mr. Grendel, turning him into a splendid monster brought to wonderful screen life by actor Ingvar Siggurdssen. Gerard Butler makes a thoughtful, butch hero; Sarah Polley a quiet, caring witch; and Stellan Skarsgard a sad and ashamed king. I found Ms. Polley's accent somewhat troubling against those of all the others, but that is a small thing compared to the real achievement here: a movie about a classic myth that honors its source while providing some fine entertainment.
That Icon  
on November 11, 2006 - 1:19 PM PST
  of That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful

Whenever the end of recorded time pops 'round (probably sooner than later), the fellow known as Peter Berlin bids fair to have become the single most remembered and beloved image in the history of gay iconography. Reedy, trim and beautifully endowed, with face and haircut reminiscent of Prince Valiant crossed with the blond of the Dutch Boy Paint ads, Berlin (an assumed name) was and is unlike anyone to come along before or since. And he was only too happy to share his perfect exterior--if not his interior--with us plebes. The sweet and slowly revealing documentary THAT MAN: PETER BERLIN may be hagiography but (as is often the case) ends up showing its subject, warts and all--even if those warts tend toward the inward, never smudging the beauty of this amazing face and body. Narcissistic doesn't begin to describe the fellow's love affair with himself, and yet by its end, the film reveals a richer, more interesting & caring character than you might have expected. Though the movie lets you experience some of the ravages of age, Berlin still looks great for a guy in his 60s. Mostly though, these 80 minutes offer a lovely trip down the memory lane of our misspent youth (even if we weren't lucky enough to have misspent it with the likes of this demi-god). Or perhaps we should say "unlucky" enough, since--as Peter points out--almost all of his old friends are now dead.
Better as a Play  
on October 22, 2006 - 9:20 AM PDT
  of Edmond (2005)
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful

A piece that worked more felicitously on stage, using a younger leading man, EDMOND as a movie is still interesting though less artful. Wm. H. Macy, even miscast, is still a treat to watch and hear, his supporting cast fine and direction by Stuart Gordon ("Re-Animator") appropriate. Perhaps too much time and too many events have piled up, still not dealt with, over the two decades since the play was written, so that its resonance seems muffled.

I do wonder if Mr. Mamet, who lately appears to have found his inner Super-Jew, wouldn't maybe currently repudiate his play, or at least parts of it. People do change, but it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste when they refuse to admit that who they are now must come in part from who they were then: something that so many in our current political administration--as well as in the arts--seem keen on forgetting. Must "born again" include memory loss? Yes, I'm taking more about Mamet than "Edmond," which is worth a look, though with tamped-down expectations.
Romeo & Juliet, Palestinian & Jew  
on October 22, 2006 - 9:16 AM PDT
  of Only Human (2004)

A screwball comedy that gets by due to the absolute honesty of its performers (no matter how outrageous the situation) and a director/writer team who evidently insists on this, ONLY HUMAN does the Romeo/Juliet theme in modern dress, a la "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and countless others, but with more finesse. Here, the combo is Jewish/Palestinian, and it works as well as ever. No great shakes but very entertaining, the movie offers lots of laughs--and those expert performances, including Argentina's great Norma Aleandro--all in a concise 93 minutes, with the he/she belly dance a delightful highlight.
Kids--Sad, Scary, Funny and Real  
on October 22, 2006 - 9:12 AM PDT
  of 12 and Holding (2005)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

A great movie about kids, though not a children's film, TWELVE AND HOLDING (directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Anthony Cipriano) is so much stronger than I expected that I may be overrating it. But I'd not have missed it for the world. The theme here is children growing up too fast and making wrong choices (some reparable, others not) without the necessary adult supervision. While the parents must shoulder responsibility, this is no "blame the stupid adults" kind of movie. The kids try and sometimes do take responsibility, and here is where the film really shines, leaving its characters--and we viewers--utterly chastened. The kids here prove wonderful actors, and so do the adults--especially Jeremy Renner as a trouble young man who's the inappropriate object of one child's affection. They shower awards for work this good---but only if the film is a hit, which "Twelve and Holding," unfortunately, was not. Don't use that as an excuse for not giving it a much-deserved watch.
You've gotta love that "h"!  
on October 11, 2006 - 8:50 PM PDT
  of The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1970)
0 out of 2 members found this review helpful

THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH, an early Italian Giallo, is loads of fun, mostly due to a plot that, toward the end, offers oodles of twists and turns, some of these even a little surprising. The early 1970 fashions are, as usual, a hoot to view, as are the mostly wooden performances, particularly from lead actress Edwige Fenech, who, from the look of things may have been an early silicon recipient.

Although Giallo was known in its day for gore and blood, by present-time standards, it's remarkably tame. To learn what the heck that "h" is doing in Mrs. Ward's name, watch the 30-minute Special Feature update with director, writer, producer and some cast members. It, like the movie, is a lot of fun and, boy, does Edwige Fenech still look fabulous, even if she is shot in soft-focus. Who says plastic surgery doesn't help?!
Why We're in Iraq  
on October 8, 2006 - 10:14 PM PDT
  of Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers (2006)
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful

Another "for the converted, but let's hope it reaches a few others" documentary from Robert Greenwald, IRAQ FOR SALE: THE WAR PROFITEERS tells us much that we already knew about the corporations profiting from the destruction of Iraq (Halliburton and its offspring, and several other, lesser-known firms). It also explains how and why this has so easily occurred (lobbyists, connections, malfeasance). It will have you grinding your teeth and spitting expletives rather quickly. Until we can get rid of the current political administration, no change--or hope--is in sight.
What Can Happen When Men Must Do Without Women  
on October 8, 2006 - 10:09 PM PDT
  of Calvaire (2004)
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful

Laurent Lucas sometimes gets a bad rap from America critics, but I find him generally a treat to observe. He makes a particularly good "everyman"--attractive but not gorgeous, with a lean, trim body that's a long way from buffed. Accused of being inexpressive, he is, rather, a subtle actor (perhaps too much so to impress American critics who often go for the obvious). From "La Nouvelle Eve" to "Haute les Coeurs," "With a Friend Like Harry," "In My Skin," "Who Killed Bambi" and "Lemming," Lucas has proven a particular fine partner/sounding board for some of France's best actresses.

In CALVAIRE, he plays opposite a raft of mostly psycho males bent on making his life miserable (they do, they do) and is allowed little more than the opportunity to wear a dowdy dress, cry, run away and scream for help. He manages all this well enough but it is, after a stretch of time, less than interesting. Much better is the opening scene in which, as a second-rate but not untalented singer/dancer/performer in venues like old-age homes, he unintentionally seduces one of the seniors (and, we later learn, a staff member), Lucas uses his pleasant, slightly withdrawn manner just about perfectly.

When this terrific beginning ends and he drives off to down the road toward the rest of this ugly and sodden movie, I'd rather have followed him just about anywhere else. If you continue with the film, watch closely the scene in which his antagonist, nicely played by Jackie Berroyer, pushes his "guest" to sing for him. Lucas starts slowly, stops, is pushed again, then opens up and actually enjoys the number--doing a lovely job, even a capella. "Calvaire" must have some symbolic meaning for its Belgian filmmaker Fabrice Du Welz. Otherwise this--his first full-length work--is mostly unredeemed (not to mention unexplained and unbelievable) unpleasantness. Two of my four rating points are solely due to the talented Mr. Lucas.
Drugs: On 'em, off 'em, on 'em, off 'em...  
on October 4, 2006 - 9:02 PM PDT
  of Down to the Bone (2003)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful

Movies about drug users are usually downers (if they're remotely believable) and a little tiresome after awhile. DOWN TO THE BONE, starring Vera Farmiga (recent New York Times Sunday Magazine cover girl likened to a new Meryl Streep), qualifies on both counts, though it is a relatively good example of the genre without being able to rise much above the unfortunate routine-like lethargy that eventually overtakes most of these stories. (One film that did manage to rise above it for me was Gary Winick's "Sweet Nothing," from 1996, which featured exceptional performances from Michael Imperioli and Mira Sorvino and a hot immediacy from Winick's direction and Lee Drysdale's script.)

"Bone" captures well the drudgery of rehab life and Farmiga gives a fine performance as the mom who slips back and forth from trying to failing. She gets good support from Clint Jordan ("Virgil Bliss, "What Alice Found") and Hugh Dillon as the less-than-sterling men in her life. The place (upstate New York) is properly downbeat and the quiet desperation of today's lower middle-class is unsettlingly well-perceived and shown. Debra Granik, director and co-writer (with Richard Lieske) deserves credit for not compromising with the usual needs of the marketplace. Yet, upon finishing this intelligent, honest film, I did hope that I have now seen my last comeback-of-a-druggie tale.
A So-So Third  
on October 4, 2006 - 4:21 PM PDT
  of X-3: X-Men - The Last Stand (2006)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Is X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND? As if. Not only does this third in the series offer the usual last-second hint that all is not quite well, but after the entire credits have rolled we get yet another small scene with a couple of lines of dialog that upends what we have just spent 104 sitting through. For shame. Yet could we possibly have expected any of Bryan Singer's grace, wit and talent ("The Usual Suspects," "X-Men," and X-Men 2") from Brett Ratner, who gave us the "Rush Hour" franchise? Ratner is not untalented but he is generally a crass filmmaker, whose best work so far is probably "After the Sunset."

Here he allows too many would-be clever but actually sub-Bond one-liners to pop from the mouth of Hugh Jackman and other cast members, and the special effects are not that special. The "idea" behind of some of them is quite impressive, less so their execution. And what's this recent trend toward the dreadful "younging" of actors via digital manipulation? Stewart and McKellen look facially fake as their younger selves (as did Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner in the recent "Click"). A quick shot of Botox might have done much better.

What else is new? Halle Berry once again proves too lightweight even for this kind of fluff, James Marsden goes missing in action, Famke Janssen must register everything via her special-effected face, Ben Foster has no character save his wings (though he does look stunning in them), and the one note of charming understatement comes from a woman locking her car door as McKellen looks on, amusedly. Though the general public probably does not perceive it, for gays, this series still commands some respect and emotional response (even in a so-so rendition like the current one) as a metaphoric statement about "the other," "the closet," "cure" and "liberation."
More Like "Over the Head"  
on October 4, 2006 - 10:01 AM PDT
  of Waist Deep (2006)

Shockingly stupid, WAIST DEEP is also full of every cliche in the book, with each one brought home to roost in the most obvious manner by film's end. Were it not for the performances of Tyrese Gibson and Meagan Good, the movie would be unwatchable; even with these two attractive, engaging actors on board, it still sucks. Director and co-writer (with Darin Scott) Vondie Curtis-Hall doesn't bother to make his action scenes remotely believable, plot logic is nowhere to be found, and just about anything the hero wants or needs gets done lickety-split. Other observations you might note as this disaster inches onwards: the musical score by the ubiquitous Terence Blanchard is not among his best, and cute little Larenz Tate has gained some weight.
Sassy (for awhile)  
on October 1, 2006 - 8:31 PM PDT
  of My Sassy Girl (2001)

The beginning of MY SASSY GIRL is so funny, witty and surprising that I held out great hope for this film. As it winds along, telling the love story of two rather mismatched Koreans, the movie takes some potshots at Korean cinema, creates some mini genre pieces of its own and even goes so far as to re-do one film that the characters tells us didn't work so well in its original form. Clever stuff, this!

Somewhere around the second hour, however, invention began to flag. Unfortunately so did the DVD I was watching: It began "pixelating" badly, then starting and stopping with a will of its own. Once I removed it from my player and saw that it was not obviously damaged in any way, I suspected a poor transfer by the originator. Guess I'll never know how the movie ends, but I do have my fond memories of its wonderful beginning.
Way Down  
on October 1, 2006 - 8:15 PM PDT
  of Down in the Valley (2005)

Winner of 2005's "So What?" award, DOWN IN THE VALLEY sports yet another terrific performance from Edward Norton in yet another pointless film. Evan Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin and especially David Morse are also top-notch to no avail in writer/director David Jacobson's ("Dahmer") attempt at.... something or other. Is this a character study? If so, we never learn nearly enough about that character. Is it a thriller? Too few thrills. A message movie? I defy you to decode it. The first half holds your interest pretty firmly, but, as it turns out, decay has already begun to set in and you can leave at any point from then on and not have missed a thing worthwhile. I have not seen "The Illusionist," so I still hold out hope for Norton's finding a movie to match his talents. This one sure ain't it.
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