Monthly Archives: February 2014

Color1

 

Please don’t misunderstand:  I’m just as thrilled as the next Al Bundy to watch attractive young actresses in the buff.  (Who am I trying to kid – I’m probably more thrilled than Al Bundy.)  But after suffering through the interminably dull, critically adored, After School Special called Blue Is the Warmest Colour, I was ready for something a bit more stimulating, such as a pile of needlework and an episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Blue, now streaming on Netflix and Amazon, won the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and enjoys a 90 percent “fresh” rating on the Web site, Rotten Tomatoes.  This near-universal acclaim mystifies me.  I would chalk it up to the fact that most film critics are horny, middle-aged men, were it not for the fact that I am a horny, middle-aged man (well, sometimes).

 

Color2

 

This overhyped, NC-17 version of Dawson’s Creek does have a few positive attributes:

The lead actress, Adele Exarchopoulos, is cute, in a Bugs Bunny-overbite kind of way.  She is fine as a French high-school girl discovering adulthood and sexuality courtesy of an older lesbian, played by Lea Seydoux, who is superb.  Both actresses excel at the actual craft of acting and at performing pornographic, lesbian “scissors” techniques in bed.

No, the fault here lies with director Abdellatif Kechiche, who was badly in need of 1) a strict mother on the set, and 2) an even stricter film editor.  Kechiche, obviously in love with the youthful Adele’s face, devotes roughly 45 minutes of his movie to close-ups of Adele as she pouts, looks pensive, looks sad, looks confused.  The explicit sex scenes are at least a respite from the endless face shots.

 

Color3

 

Again, the main actresses are good and certainly photogenic, but they aren’t interesting enough to sustain such a wispy story for an excruciating three hours.  It’s just girl meets girl, girl loses girl, blah blah blah.  The perils of young love.  Tears and heartbreak.

At the Telluride Film Festival in September, Seydoux and Exarchopoulos were asked what it was like acting for porn direc— uh … the great auteur Kechiche.  “It was horrible,” said Seydoux.  When I realized, about two hours into Blue Is the Warmest Colour, that I still had to endure another hour, I felt exactly the same way.

Grade:  C-

 

Color4 Color5

 

(Editor’s note:  For all of the Al Bundys out there, we are including lots of screen captures from the infamous lesbian-sex scene, thereby sparing you the chore of actually watching the film.)

 

Color6

 

Director:  Abdellatif Kechiche   Cast: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurelien Recoing, Catherine Salee, Benjamin Siksou, Mona Walravens, Alma Jodorowsky   Release:  2013

 Color7

 
Watch Trailers  (click here)

 

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Fallon9


Yawn.  Now that the late-night audience has fragmented and shrunk, hosting The Tonight Show is no longer such a big deal.

Jimmy Fallon’s a talented guy, but after five minutes of listening to him and Will Smith gush about how wonderful they are, I had to switch channels.  Fallon does a funny monologue, and he shines in skits, but his interviews are often mind-numbingly kiss ass.

 

*****


Oscar Predictions:

The show will be long and feature a hokey, god-awful musical number.

 

 
*****
 


60Min

 

For reasons known only to the ghost of Edward R. Murrow,  60 Minutes continues to do puff pieces on Hollywood actors.  Lesley Stahl interviewed Cate Blanchett, and I learned that Blanchett’s first love is the theater – something I’d never heard from any other film star.  I also learned that she likes to stretch herself as an actress, even though that can involve “risk” – something else I’d never heard from any other actor.  And I learned that Cate loves her children and even brought them to the set of Blue Jasmine.  Fascinating stuff.

 

*****

 

Hannity2

 

“the upcoming blockbuster movie” – the prophet Hannity, conferring “blockbuster” status on Son of God, a movie that hasn’t even opened.
 
 
 
*****
 

Some people believe that great writers are born with the talent; others believe its an acquired skill.  The Grouch recently discovered the following masterpiece, written when he was but a child of eight years.  Strong evidence, indeed, that literary giants attain that status at an early age:

 

1966

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Bosch1

 

Amazon is asking customers to vote on a slew of new pilots.  I watched five of them:

 

       Bosch2

 

Bosch:  It’s handsome and smooth and atmospheric, but it’s another cop show.  The cop (Titus Welliver, top and above left) is sullen and misunderstood – in other words, hes just like 99 percent of the cops on other cop shows.

 

**

 

Mozart

 

Mozart in the Jungle:  It has a unique setup – backstage with New York City classical musicians.  Score one point.  It seems to be intelligent.  Score another point. For a show billed as a “comedy,” it has very few laughs.  Subtract one point.

 

**

 

Transparent:  Great title.  Intriguing premise (dad is closet transgender; adult kids don’t know).  But the kids are painfully self-centered; do you really want to spend much time with them?  Side note:  For a show featuring attractive young actors who are often naked, it sure has some unflattering butt shots – or maybe it’s just me.  You be the judge:

 

Transparent2

Transparent1

 

**

 

Rebels

 

The Rebels:  Have you seen Wildcats or Major League or any other comedy in which the team is owned or coached by a woman?  Then you’ve already seen this.

 

**

 

After3After2

 

The After:  I don’t care if creator Chris Carter (The X Files) is revered in sci-fi circles; dumb characters doing dumb things make for a dumb show.

 

*****

 

Giamatti                Louis3

 

It hasn’t been a great month for paunchy, balding celebrities.  Louis C.K., who in recent years could do no wrong in the eyes of the media, got torn a new one by Dylan Farrow for, apparently, guilt by association because he appeared in a film directed by Farrow nemesis Woody Allen.   Next, a film Louis made back in 1998 and which he is now hawking on his Web site was branded “amateurish [and] unfunny” by Entertainment Weekly.  According to EW, dropping five bucks to stream Louis’s old movie up to three times is “less a value incentive than a threat.”

Meanwhile, character actor Paul Giamatti is slated to make a much-anticipated guest appearance on Downton Abbey.  “Much anticipated” by you, perhaps, but not by me.   Frankly, I am so sick and tired of listening to Giamatti lecture me about “humans” on his omnipresent Liberty Mutual commercials that the only thing I’m anticipating is his early retirement.

 

*****

 

              Chamoun

              Chamoun2

 

I’ve been unable to muster much enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics, but lately I’ve taken an interest in alpine skiing (above).

 

 *****

 

Ralph Waite died this week, which brought to mind one thought and one image. Waite played a beloved father on The Waltons, as did Robert Young on Father Knows Best.  Both were Hollywood drunks.  Lesson:  Best not play a beloved father on TV.  The image:  If you have a fear of heights, the opening scene of Cliffhanger is terrifying.  Almost as terrifying as this crazed expression on Ralph Waites mug:

 
 
                Waite2

 

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Sumatra1

 

Watching The Act of Killing, I learned that septuagenarian Anwar Congo, a genial-looking grandfather who lives in North Sumatra, has trouble sleeping. Anwar, once a prominent member of an Indonesian death squad, has bad dreams about a man he beheaded, and whose lifeless eyelids Anwar neglected to close before he drove off into the night.  Anwar estimates that, beginning in the mid-1960s, he personally executed 1,000 people.  But Anwar can take comfort because in much of Indonesia he and his elderly comrades are much respected.

These death-squad men are bad enough, but for me the most frightening aspect of The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimers Oscar-nominated documentary, is the society in which aging gangsters – men who carried out mass killings, supposedly with the goal of fighting communism – are not just tolerated, but often celebrated. Just as in Nazi Germany, this type of genocide couldnt happen without the approval, tacit or overt, of the society in which it occurs.  It seems to be a nasty trait of the human race that, although we might not perpetrate violence ourselves, we get a vicarious thrill from watching others do so.

 

Sumatra2

With the help of a friend, Anwar Congo playfully re-enacts one of his killings

 

Congo says he has nightmares about the atrocities and, apparently, he does get physically ill in the film while revisiting a killing ground.  But at other times, he seems just as unconcerned about his past as does most everyone else.

Oppenheimer apparently tricked Congo and his friends into discussing their sordid past by leading them to believe that they would, with the filmmakers help, create a Hollywood-style movie.  Everyone in Indonesia loves the movies, and Anwar is especially fond of John Wayne and The Godfather.  The movie-making scenes in this film – including re-enactments of Anwars nightmares – are surreal and disturbing.

 

Sumatra3

Anwar (right) and fellow gangster Adi Zulkadry get the Hollywood treatment

 

Horrifying as the story of these men is, its hard to sit back and be too judgmental. American movies inspired these guys; American propaganda demonized the communists (allegedly the target of the massacres, although anyone who fell into disfavor with the military or the gangsters was subject to execution) and, I suppose, made Anwar and his pals our allies.  But they were poor, uneducated, and without resources, so should we be surprised that in their fight against communism, they used not ideology but rather Brando and Pacino as role models?            Grade:  A         

 

Sumatra4Sumatra5

 
 
Director:  Joshua Oppenheimer  Featuring:  Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik, Yapto Soerjosoemarno, Safit Pardede, Jusuf Kalla, Adi Zulkadry, Soaduon Siregar  Release:  2012
 
 
     Sumatra6
An Indonesian television program celebrates Anwar (standing)
 
 
Watch Trailers  (click here)
 
 
Sumatra7

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Bundy       Manson
Bashir       Dahmer2

 

What do you put on the air when no one is watching your network?  I thought MSNBCs lineup during Sundays Super Bowl was interesting: back-to-back specials on Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Martin Bashir.  OK, just kidding about that last one.

 

*****

 
Amazon premiered a butt-load of series pilots and then asked customers to rate them.  I watched something called The After, which was … blah  silly space aliens and generic characters saying and doing clichéd things.  On the other hand, it did have a gratuitous skinny-dip by actress Arielle Kebbel (or a body double; hard to say, below).  Amazon ought to drop the aliens and feature more Kebbels n bits.
 
 
Kebbel1      Kebbel2

 

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Amour1

 

Reasons you should watch this depressing French drama:

1)  It’s good for you because, unlike most movies, it addresses the issue of death in a realistic manner.  It’s a glimpse at what many of us have to look forward to – and that future ain’t particularly pretty, kids.

2)  It boasts two outstanding performances by French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as married music teachers whose retired lifestyle goes from comfort to trial when one of them falls ill.

3)  If you’re not sure where you stand on the issue of euthanasia, this film might help you make up your mind.

4)  It will remind you that most of the real heroes in life are not found in newspaper headlines.

 

Amour2

Reason you won’t likely watch Amour more than once:

It’s long.  Yes, it’s not the kind of film we are supposed to “enjoy,” but it probably doesn’t require an unflinching two hours and seven minutes to make its point about love, commitment, and compassion.

Movies are usually about escapism.  Amour is anti-escapism, but watching two old people go through their daily existence has rarely been so riveting.          Grade:  A-

 

Amour3 Amour4

 

Director:  Michael Haneke  Cast:  Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell, Ramon Agirre, Rita Blanco, Carole Franck  Release:  2012

 
 
Amour5 
 Watch Trailers and Clips   (click here)

 

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Penthouse North (aka Blindsided)

.         Penthouse1  Penthouse2

 

Michelle Monaghan plays a blind woman who is terrorized in her New York City apartment by criminals looking for illegal goods.  If that sounds familiar, you might have seen Wait Until Dark, in which Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman who is terrorized in her New York City apartment by criminals looking for illegal goods.  No good reason to check out this version, although Michael Keaton is cheekily entertaining as one of the bad guys.  Release:  2013  Grade:  C

 

*****

 

Jug Face

.      Jug1  Jug2

 

Jug Face opens with two hot young people having sex.  Soon thereafter, we learn that these two are brother and sister.  That’s different, I thought.  We then discover that the horny siblings are members of a backwoods clan who worship something called “the pit.”  That’s different, I thought again.  Jug Face strayed just far enough from run-of-the-mill horror that I was intrigued — until cheap special effects and a threadbare plot betrayed its low-budget origins.  (Bonus trivia:  This movie answers the question, “Whatever happened to Sean Young?”)  Release:  2013  Grade:  C

 

*****

 

Chop

 .     Chop1  Chop2

 

Lance is a former drug addict trying to get his act together.  Problem is, he’s offended someone, and that someone has a bone to pick with Lance — quite literally, as it turns out, and Lance’s life soon becomes a nightmare of blackmail, torture, and missing fingers.  For awhile, when Lance is toyed with by a stranger who refuses to tell him what he’s done wrong, Chop is delicious black comedy, and actors Will Keenan and Timothy Muskatell are amusing duelists.  But then director Trent Haaga decides to cater to the gore-lovers in our midst, and the film devolves into a live-action Itchy & Scratchy ShowRelease:  2011  Grade:  C+

 

*****

 

House of Tolerance

.     Tolerance1  Tolerance2

 

A visual feast — and not just because of the female flesh on display.  The bordello sets, art direction, and leisurely pace capture a bygone world (1899-1900) that’s both seductive and soulless, as director Bertrand Bonello concentrates on the cloistered, dead-end lives of a dozen high-class Parisian prostitutes and their indentured servitude to wealthy clients.  The photography is gorgeous and the actors are top-notch, but the movie itself, like transactions in a fancy brothel, is a bit cold.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B+

 

*****

 

Cottage Country

.      Country1  Country2

 

Must be tough living next door to the country that is home to Hollywood, the world’s premiere manufacturer of motion pictures.  That might give the film industry in your own country an inferiority complex.  I don’t know how else to explain Canada, which cranks out the most peculiar movies.  Cottage Country is a black comedy — in theory — about an engaged couple caught up in grisly murders at a rustic lakeside retreat, but its mix of yuks and yuck is a herky-jerky mess.  Release:  2013  Grade:  C-

 

*****

 

Sister

.     Sister1  Sister2

 

Sister is one of those slice-of-life dramas that rise or fall depending on how much emotion you invest in the main characters.  In this case, we watch as a family of two — 12-year-old Simon and twentysomething Louise — struggle to get by in the shadow of a posh Swiss mountain resort, Simon by stealing from rich guests and Louise by, well, not much.  I cared about the two of them, a bit, but not enough to compensate for the film’s slow stretches and a fairly predictable plot.  Release:  2012  Grade:  B- 

 

*****

 

Deep Water

.       Deep1  Deep2

 

In 1968, while competing in a sailing race around the globe, a mild-mannered businessman named Donald Crowhurst encountered problems with his boat.  Buckling to intense personal and professional pressures, and with no hope of winning the race, for a time Crowhurst managed to excite a breathless British press (and the world) by posting false progress reports.  Today, Crowhurst is a historical footnote, but this documentary about an English everyman who bit off more than he could chew, with tragic results, is both sad and thought-provoking.  Release:   2006  Grade:  B+

 

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Bowl

 

Here’s hoping that the weather is really crappy at tomorrow’s Super Bowl.  Nothing like sitting in a warm living room with a big-screen TV and a bowl of chips, and watching rich status seekers in utter misery, to cheer a person up.
 
 
*****

 

Twitter logo

 

I took to Twitter during the Grammys, and I learned something:  A lot of our tweeting celebrities are pretty lame when they dont have a written script.  Im looking at you, Patton Oswalt, Lizz Winstead, and Lena Dunham. 
 
Speaking of the Grammys, my girl Miley Cyrus was robbed.  Im thinking that her a cappella version of “We Can’t Stop” with The Roots was song of the year.  (video here)

 

Roots

 

*****

 

Falling2

 

The Atlanta freeway fiasco reminded me of the movie Falling Down, in which Michael Douglas did not react well to traffic jams.

 

Falling1

 

*****

 

Is it possible to feel sorry for a television network?  I am beginning to pity poor Starz, which keeps churning out dull-as-dishwater series in a fruitless attempt to follow the examples of HBO, AMC, FX, et al.  I tried to watch … (zzzzzzzzz) … Starz’s new pirate show, Black Sails and … (zzzzzz) … I’m sorry – what was I saying?
 
 
Sails

 

*****

 

Something called Esquire Network aired the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day at 7, 9, and 11 p.m. on Thursday.  Someone in the Esquire Network programming department deserves a raise.
 
 
*****

 

Helen Mirren got lots of press for twerking at the Harvard Hasty Pudding awards. But this is old news.  Here is Helen twerking with Malcolm McDowell in 1979’s Caligula.

 

Calig6         Calig4

 

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