Archive for October, 2009

Turning Green
Randy, Not Raunchy

In the end, I was won over in spite of juvenile “Turning Japanese”-inspired porn-winkiness and the numerous cinematic punches pulled to avoid excessive violence (and added production expense, no doubt). Filmmakers Aimette and Hofmann have assembled a truly artistic product and experience with a low-budget (if not guerilla) approach. If you’re looking for something unique (if not morally uplifting) in the way of R-rated coming-of-age stories, you’ll probably enjoy Turning Green. In a way, it’s almost a low-budget two-bit-Irish-hood remake of Wall Street—and about as cynical.

Michael Jackson’s This Is It
The King of Pop Still Had It

While at a press conference in London, the late Michael Jackson announced that his final concert tour was going to be for his fans. Well, I’ve considered myself a fan for as far back as I can remember. I nearly wore out my parents’ LP of the Thriller album and when I first purchased an iPod, my favorite Jackson tunes were the first to be imported. Despite all the scandal and controversy that followed Jackson later in his life, when he passed away on June 25, 2009, I chose to remember him solely as the entertainer I grew up loving. I chose to remember the King of Pop. This Is It does little to impress as a movie, but flashes of that pop genius run throughout.

Eleventh Hour
Ho Ho Hum

I had a hard time figuring out if there was any over-arching story tying the episodes together. I never learned why Hood was working with the FBI or why Agent Young was assigned to work with him. I couldn’t even figure out why they called it Eleventh Hour. This coupled with Sewell’s lack of charisma in the character of Hood and the absence of any sort of chemistry between Hood and Agent Young lead to a rather shallow and two-dimensional story. It’s hard to get interested, much less care. Still, if you liked the series when it briefly aired before being canceled you might like the DVD set.

Thou Shalt Laugh 4
Christian? Well, Family-Friendly

In my opinion, the best comedy does challenge us. It’s not just about laughing, but about getting inside our natural defenses and causing us to look at a situation from a new perspective. I’m not sure that watering things down really accomplishes much apart from a few chuckles. But maybe that’s just me. My personal soapbox aside, you’re probably wondering if the comedians on Thou Shalt Laugh 4 are funny. The answer is at least a qualified yes. As I mentioned earlier, comedy is subjective so at best this is a mixed bag. So, despite my grumping about regarding the idea of “Christian comedy” I still found something to like here. If the idea of “salty language free” comedy is something that appeals to you, chances are good you will find some entertainment value here as well.

Race Across the Sky
An Almost Unfathomable Event

Sports documentaries are a dime a dozen. Every once in a while, though, one comes along that offers something truly unique and leaves a lasting impression. In August of 2009, Lance Armstrong returned to the Tour de France with a remarkable third-place finish—as a mere warm-up for his second stab at the Leadville Trail 100. Race Across the Sky is the story of Armstrong’s rematch with six-time victor Dave Wiens, in a bid to break the six-hour mark for finishing the grueling Colorado mountain-bike course. The film did not turn me into a biking fan—but I’m sure turning into an even bigger fan of Fathom events. They’re distinctive, well-produced, intelligent, and mature.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
Apparently a Mundane Position

As it is based on the second in a series of junior adult novels, the obvious assumption about Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant would be that it would serve as the jumping off point for a series of films adapted from the Darren Shan novels. Although the thought of a series of films about the events surrounding a circus of freaks and supernatural beings may be intriguing, it will take a high wire act to convince anybody that this movie deserves a sequel.

Fails to Take Off

The word that comes to mind while thinking about Amelia is ambitious, but probably not in the way you would think. Ambitious is what you would expect the most high-profile biopic of legendary flier Amelia Earhart to be: ambitious in the way that movies like Ray, Walk the Line, and, more fittingly, The Aviator were. Everything about the film screams ambition, from the fact that it was based on not one, but two biographies to the fact that it cast two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as the famous aviator and feminist icon. Unfortunately, whereas there may have been a high level of ambition put into the project, it fails to come across on screen.

Good Hair
Chris Rock Searches for Answers

The documentary Good Hair is the result of a caring father’s journey to answer his young daughter’s simple question: “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” That simple question takes that father on a fascinating and somewhat revealing journey into the world of African-American hair products. Fortunately for us in the audience, that father is popular comedian and actor Chris Rock, making the journey just as much fun as it is revealing. There’s probably more that can be mined from the idea of the hair being sold on the black market or the dangers of “relaxer,” but Rock does well to touch on every aspect.

Mr. Art Critic
Small-Gallery Solid Work

Brauer has managed to do what hasn’t been accomplished in years: harness the comic genius that is Bronson Pinchot without goading him into overdone mugging. In fact, if the outtakes are any indication, Brauer was constantly asking Pinchot (and others) to pull things back—a lot. It works. This is gentle comedy of the Rob Reiner / Gary Marshall class, not the broad Carl Reiner / Mel Brooks style nor their crasser and more recent progeny. If you’ve ever been longing for the Bronson Pinchot comedy that you never saw… well, this is it.

Done Better Elsewhere

In short, the story is like a dumbed-down Dangerous Liaisons, minus the grand moments of come-uppance and the courtesy to dramatize the epilogue as part of the narrative proper. Still, so far so good. All of the talent that’s brought to bear on the story is still sufficient to be of interest; Friend is suitably appealing for young ladies, and Pfeiffer, even looking her age at 50, is good enough eye candy for men and women of all ages, I imagine. What’s off, though, is the tone. It feels as if the producers weren’t content with a downer romance and sought to make it more whimsical—which compromises the performances.

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