Jason Ratigan

Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.

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Bunohan Charges Respectably but Falters in its Final Act Review

What other way is there?

It isn’t clear what way is being followed, let alone the availability of alternatives in Bunohan (2012).  Adil (Zahiril Adzim) is a fighter who gets in over his head in a Thai kickboxing match and has to be rescued from the fight by his friend Muski (Amerul Affendi).  This gets him in trouble with gangsters (I think).  These gangsters send Ilham (Faizal Hussein), a ruthless hitman, after Adil to take him down.  Meanwhile, Bakar (Pekin Ibrahim) has moved back to Bunohan ostensibly to take care of his ailing father, but actually to close out a property deal concerning the land of his father and the local kickboxing club.  Thus, Bakar has to deal with Adil and Ilham, his brothers, using two-bit gangster Jolok (Hushairi Husain).  Oh, and then there’s Mek Yah (Tengku Azura Tengku Awang) who is like a water spirit or something.

May
24
2013
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Breathe in and Savor "Something in the Air" Review

“Fight’s still on!”

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” sayeth William Wordsworth of the French Revolution (and quoted by all half-educated sentimentals when they want to make a point about youth).  Well 2Pac said “Heaven ain’t hard 2 find,” so I don’t know what to think!  But going into Something in the Air (2012), I had but one requirement—show me life in Europe of the 1970’s.  If you have such desires, then I tell you without hesitation or fear of contradiction that you will be wholly satisfied.

May
03
2013
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"This Time Together" Comes With An Asterisk Review

“From television city in Hollywood, it’s….”

The Carol Burnett Show (1967–78) was a comic variety show that went on for eleven years and 278 episodes. A comedy success if ever there was one. The following, however, is not a joke. The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Favorites (Regular, 2 DVD, 7 DVD Limited Edition, Collector’s Edition, or with BONUS EPISODES), The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers, The Carol Burnett Show: This Time Together (Regular or Collector’s Edition), The Carol Burnett Show: Volume 1-9 (Collector’s Edition), The Carol Burnett Show: Let’s Bump Up the Lights, Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection, and then there are the many, apparently arbitrarily combined collections of two nonsequential episodes (variously called “Volume [Arbitrary Ordinal Assignment]”. All available on Amazon for a variety of prices.  I’d like to point out that the so-called Ultimate Collection has about a fifth of the episodes.  People have been shot for less!

Mar
27
2013
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Will Kids Really Want To Visit "Mr. Buffett's Neighborhood"? Review

“Hey kids, Warren Buffet here.”

Four incredibly diverse friends (Radley, Elena, Lisa, and Jones) are victims of school budget cuts and their 8th grade trip to New York has been cancelled (which dashes their various dreams). Epic fail!  But there’s Warren Buffet there to help out after he gave them his assorted tired platitudes. After some false starts, they get a little discouraged and come back to Mr. Buffet. There, he breaks down the market system for them bit by bit and sets them on a path for making serious cash. Jay Z?! That gives them an idea, to start a club to make money and save the school’s programs and other stuff: The Secret Millionaire’s Club.  One question.  What’s more awesome than saving your local paper?  Nothing!

Mar
19
2013
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Cirque Du Soleil Produces Some More Mind Blowing Moments Review

“Prepare to be amazed terrified, titillated, and amused.  From all four corners of the globe…”

Despite being free from the stage in the film medium, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (2012) clearly feels imaginatively tied to a stage setting.  According to the featurette, that’s precisely where they wanted to be.  They wanted to put us “right in the show” so that we see the wires and the danger.  That’s too bad really.  You’d think one of the most imaginative stage production companies would bring some of their copious vision to film.  Doubly so when James Cameron is executive producer.  So what we get is the filmed version of a variety of Cirque du Soleil shows strung together with a minimal plot—then again, considering Cirque du Soleil, the plot is considerable by comparison.

Mar
18
2013
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"This Must Be the Place" is as Weird as it Looks, But Probably Not for the Reasons You Think Review

“Something’s wrong here.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s something.”

You know when a movie ends and you think to yourself, “Wait, what?”  That happened to me after I watched This Must Be the Place (2012).  I thought I understood basically everything that was going on and then right there, right at the end, I wondered whether I’d missed something.  I hadn’t.  Instead what happened was a would-be profound ending shoe-horned into a narrative arc that wasn’t really going anywhere.  In my mind, a defender of the movie is saying, “But that’s when he realizes [this and that] and the movie’s really about [such and such].”  I get it, don’t think I don’t get it.  That’s not the problem.  Ask yourself this, though.  Why does she get it?  Right?  Right?  What’s that?  Haven’t got any clue what I’m talking about?  You just saw the poster and thought you’d give it a miss.  Yeah, that happened with a lot of people.

Mar
17
2013
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"Doomsday Volcanoes": The Coast (Of Everywhere In The World) Is Toast Review

“Thor Thordarson is a volcanologist.”

So about a thousand years ago, Vikings decided to populate the most volcanically active region on the face of the planet. In 1783, a volcano erupted and killed a fifth of Iceland’s population. But it’s Katla, that’s the one to worry about or is it Laki or is it Eyjafjallajökull (which blew in 2010)?  So these crazy guys spelunk into the crater of a volcano to study the volcano from the inside. Later, they “are standing on the Laki lava flow…which covers a territory ten times the size of Manhattan.” Nova recreates the hellscape created by Laki in 1783 which looked terrifying. But it turns out that this eruption created a deadly fog of sulfur dioxide which, combined with water vapor, turns into sulfuric acid that swept through Europe.  But that’s nothing. These crazy bastards drive up Katla, which is about fifty years overdue and will basically end our way of life on this planet, and drop some equipment to measure the volcano’s movement. That's Doomsday Volcanoes.

Mar
11
2013
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It's A Beautiful (If Plotless) "Planet" Review

‘Life is good, but good life is better.”

The Loneliest Planet (2012) is bookended by one of the strangest openings and unsatisfying endings I’ve ever seen. Based on the short story “Expensive Trips Nowhere” by Tom Bissell, never was a story more aptly named in the source material.  Writer/director Julia Loktev has created a very odd feeling movie. Alex (Gael García Bernal) and his fiancé Nica (Hani Furstenberg) are backpacking around Georgia and the Caucus Mountains with their guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze). Everything is going by beautifully and boringly until three natives cross their path and things turn sharply. Cowardice. Contemplate that.

Mar
06
2013
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"Terminator" Gets A Nice Chrome Polish Review

“Come with me if you want to live!”

There have been some pretty good titles over the course of human fiction. Consider this one: James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984). How pleased were they when they came up with that title?  It’s no wonder that the word became, within a very short period, a ubiquitous point of reference when discussing the action genre. And yet, it is forever known as the only film to be rated, by consensus, as worse than its sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Happily, the release (or is it re-re-re-release?) of The Terminator as “newly remastered” gives me the opportunity to review the film and reflect on the propriety of consensus opinion. 

Mar
04
2013
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"Thorne" Is Just Sharp Enough Review

“I don’t like pain, it hurts.”

In Thorne: Sleepyhead (2010), DI Tom Thorne (David Morrissey) is a detective that works on instinct. It was said of his first big collar, a serial killer named Frank Calvert. DI Tughan (Eddie Marsan) is more of your traditional, witness-grilling copper. There’s medical examiner, and Thorne’s best gay buddy, Hendricks (Aidan Gillen) and the rookie Holland (O.T. Fagbenle) who mumbles. It comes to police attention that there may be a serial killer out there who manually induces stroke. One victim, Alison (Sara Lloyd-Gregory), survives but is left in a locked-in coma and struggles to communicate with Thorne. Eventually, though, Thorne’s past comes back to haunt him when this killer somehow knows his secret.  Also on offer is a snarky doctor (Stephen Campbell Moore) and a beautiful doctor (Natascha McElhone).

Mar
04
2013
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"Nobody Gets Out Alive", Or With Their Dignity Review

“I just want to clarify that I don’t have Down’s Syndrome.”

Oh the horror. Low budget movies. This one is titled Nobody Gets Out Alive (2013) written and directed by Jason Christopher. Will anyone get out alive? Yes. So much for titles. Jenn (Jen Dance) is just out of the hospital after having a nervous breakdown or something and her friend Michele (Chelsey Garner) organizes a trip out to the woods. Michele hopes to be proposed to by Mike (Shaun Paul Costello). They’re joined by a poor man’s Jay Mohr named Deron (David J. Bonner), a Zack Galifinakas impersonator Jared (Chris Ready), a Tara Reid hopeful called Angie (Nikki Bell), and a pointlessly aggressive jerk called Danny (Matthew Nadu). For some reason, the murderer, Mr. Isth (Brian Gallagher)—worst evil name ever—kills the people who run a convenience store. Anyway, the gang go out to the woods and pick up groceries at the unattended convenience store and will eventually be killed (but for one possible survivor).

Feb
27
2013
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"The Master" May Very Well Blow Your Mind Review

As a scientist and a connoisseur, I have no idea the contents of this remarkable potion.  What’s in it?

There are movies that blow your mind.  Is it because I didn’t get it or because I did get it and this is exactly what Paul Thomas Anderson wanted The Master (2012) to do to my fragile mind?  I recall on my first viewing, I left the theater and all I could think was, “Thank God I’m seeing it again tomorrow.”  I think that means I liked it.  Right?  Well I did see it that next day and again on Blu-ray.  I’m still pretty sure I liked it.  If nothing else, it is a movie of incredible acting, writing, and direction.  So, of course, it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.  No, you’re right, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) was a better movie, I mean, were there any cute little girls in The Master?  Uh, no.

Feb
25
2013
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PBS Aims Low with its Special on Omelettes Review

“This is a program about going out for breakfast.”

I hate small talk. I can’t stand it. “Hey, how was your weekend?” people say to one another in apparently genuine interest. Why is that of interest to you? Humanity has tens of thousands of years of bloody, emotional, interesting history to tell and you want to know whether I ordered from Papa John’s or a local pizza place last night? Well, PBS is there to ask that burning question on the human condition, “What do you think of breakfast?” in Breakfast Special 2: Revenge of the Omelets. And the strangest part is that they’re asking it for a second time. PBS is going to blow the lid off of your breakfast special. Wait, no they aren’t. They’re not even claiming that they’ve found the best! The lack of ambition is incredible.

Feb
25
2013
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"Special Forces" Is, How You Say, Kind Of Silly Review

"Elsa’s been abducted by the Taliban."

You’re aware of the French, are you not? They are an odd set if you ask me (and probably just as odd if you didn’t). They project to the world a kind of sophistication of the Detached School born of Existentialism and being unbearably rude and smelly. I’m thinking here of Jean-Luc Godard and concierges the world over. Then, out of nowhere, you come across Luc Besson and the French Action film, which bears a resemblance to the kind of beast you’d find in the Galapagos or Madagascar where there are thematic similarities but presented in a way that suggests convergent evolution. Take note, if you please, of the strange bird that is Special Forces (2011), newly released on Blu-ray. A film that diligently applies every cliché out of the action film genre but in a way that doesn’t quite feel the same. Presumably that’s what people were saying when they thought they were biting into their Royales with cheese. Nay?

Feb
25
2013
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"Perry Mason" Plays The Long Game Review

“Della, I’ve just run into something that’s a Perry Mason case if ever I saw one.”

We begin with one of the best theme songs (by Fred Steiner) outside the big screen. Perry Mason (1957-66) stars Raymond Burr as the man himself, a Los Angeles defense attorney who is always engaged by an innocent suspect in a murder case. He’s aided by investigator Paul Drake (William Hopper) and assistant Della Street (Barbara Hale). Mr. Mason then digs deeply into four others related to the case and goes through the trial for long enough until true culprit to confess from the gallery.  If you’re looking for calls of “Hearsay!” or “Character Evidence!” you’ve missed your mark. If courtrooms actually practiced in this fashion, I daresay there’d be a backlog deeper than it already is.  Instead, we’re typically treated to something like a half measure of Agatha Christie to while away the winter nights. And poor D.A. Burger (William Talman)! The Washington Generals did better in court.

Feb
04
2013
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Repetition Helps More Than You're Brain in "Surviving Disaster" Review

People have no concept of risk.

In modern disasters, one’s brain doesn’t always help. It’s trying to save you, but it doesn’t always know best. That’s the premise of Surviving Disaster: How the Brain Works Under Extreme Duress.  So, Doc, how does it work?  Well, (half-quoting,) “the amygdala kicks into gear.  It’s your emergency control center.”  But we aren’t used to operating in that range, so it’s of dubious use.  It reminds me of that Robin Williams joke, he gets close to the mic and says, “I don’t know where, I don’t know when, but somewhere something terrible is going to happen.”

Jan
30
2013
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Make 'Em Laugh: Amy Schumer's "Mostly Sex Stuff"

Amy_Schumer_banner

"I should have started with something other than kid-f***ing."

Amy Schumer is an interesting duck, and I think I’m safe from being sexist when I say “duck” since everything about her is so adorably ducky.  Except, that is, her material in Amy Schumer: Mostly Sex Stuff (2012), which starts off with an animation of two unicorns rough riding and only gets more disgusting.  Taste in comedy is probably the most subjective, individualistic trait there is other than music.  It runs the gamut from plain puns to gross-out, swear-laden awkwardness that goes way beyond “funny because it’s true” to “funny because it’s deranged.”

Jan
28
2013
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Round Out Your Best-Of-The-Year Viewing With "End Of Watch" Review

“Follow me into the house.”

One of the more underappreciated movies by audiences in 2012 was End of Watch (2012) from writer/director David Ayer. When the Academy Awards allowed only five Best Picture nominations, it was easier to accept that a certain movie “just isn’t a ‘Best Picture’ kind of movie.” Now, with ten available slots for nominations—and frustrating film-lovers the past two years by selecting only nine—everything decent is “snubbed”, especially independent films that were teased into believing they now had access. And of all snubbed films, End of Watch is near the top of the list and now available in DVD/Blu-ray. (You can read my analysis of the Oscar nominations and the top films of 2012.) I recommend it to you heartily as both good cinema for the film and good social insight in the story and special features.

Jan
27
2013
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There's Greatness in "Barbara" If You Look For It Review

You can’t be happy here.

Dr. Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss) has been relocated to provincial East Germany in 1980 after attempting to leave the country. She had been a very talented and successful doctor in Berlin, but is now under the eye of the Stasi, the state security service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), represented by Klaus Schütz (Rainer Bock). At any time, they can come into the apartment allocated for her—remember, there is no property in a communist state—and search it and her person without any notice or recourse. She is not trusted by the state. And for good reason. When her application is denied, she puts her plan of escape into action. Dr. André Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld) is the head doctor at her new hospital and tries to gain her trust and affection. This has little effect on her until a series of medical cases become more important to her than her escape.

Dec
22
2012
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Nearly Everything's Coming Up Roses For "Gypsy" Review

"I had a dream, a dream about you, baby."

If you’ve ever been near a theater, you know what a theater mom is.  It’s a woman like Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell). She was born too early and started too late for vaudeville, so she pushes her daughters June (Morgan Brittany/Ann Jillian) and Louise (Diane Pace/Natalie Wood) in her place. She gets these dreams about their destiny, which typically includes a cow and a musical number. Things go fine (so long as she doesn’t pay the chorus boys), but, as luck would have it, a depression and talking pictures just about does in vaudeville. How does Rose respond? She never gives up.  She never quits. Everything’s coming up roses and daffodils for her and her girls (and almost-hubby/manager Herbie (Karl Malden). That tends to increasingly lose any relation to reality as her sheepish daughter goes from back-up, to lead, to burlesque queen.  In this world, honey, ya gotta be a star or you’re nobody.

Dec
14
2012
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