xjavporn

Willie Osterweil



The Last Continent Review

It’s a disturbing reality, an inconvenient truth, but the global warming documentary has practically become its own subgenre. Documentary film crews spread across planet earth to record, film and investigate every island, cave and cove of our blue planet. These documentaries are usually sincere in intention and noble in goal. They vary greatly in quality. The viewpoints range from shrill moral outrage to pensive simplicity, but what really distinguishes them is the drama, both natural and human, that is encountered, and the quality of the filmmaking and voiceover scripting. The Last Continent, a Canadian documentary about scientists researching Global Warming’s effects in Antarctica, is a decent, but not great, foray into the ice bound land.

Apr
27
2011
Read more

Scream 4 Review

Not many franchise reboots have the good luck to be made by the same director, writer, and stars of the original- but then, not many horror franchises are as witty, successful and frightening as Scream. Though most of the good horror reboots have just taken the theme of the original and run in a different direction (Dawn of the Dead, The Crazies) that wouldn’t fit with the Scream style, now would it? The Scream series is all about self-parody, commentary, and being self-aware about its existence as a film. Luckily, Scream 4, despite reiterating the themes and arc of the original trilogy, succeeds in being a funny, scary, and well-delivered horror film.

Apr
15
2011
Read more

Scream, Scream 2 & Scream 3 Review

Big horror fans know that Wes Craven’s Scream, released in 1996, is the final real slasher film. A parody of all the excesses and absurdities of the genre, it is about a serial killer obsessed with slasher movies, a masked murderer who kills his victims while making reference to Scream’s predecessors, unable to differentiate between film and reality. But a generation of teenagers, unaware of the history, adopted it as their own, making the film a big hit but totally missing the joke. As such, it revitalized the very sub-genre it destroys, spawning two sequels, numerous rip offs (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, etc), reboots of long dead series (Jason X, Seed of Chucky, the Psycho remake, etc.), merchandised Scream costumes at Halloween parties across the country, and, in a pinnacle of only-in-Hollywood total absurdity, a franchise of parody films (Scary Movie), or rather parody-parodies. And now, eleven years after Scream 3, our new-idea averse Hollywood is blessing us with Scream 4, and in the build up rereleasing all three original films on Blu-ray.

Apr
13
2011
Read more

Teen Wolf Review

What if there had been no Back to the Future? What if, in 1985, Michael J. Fox, the little known young actor, stars in Teen Wolf to mostly critical derision. The film flops, Michael J. Fox recedes into obscurity, and his potential as a leading man is never recognized. But that’s the premise of a Back to the Future parody, maybe on Robot Chicken. Instead, Teen Wolf came out a month later than Back to the Future, which was still the number one film in America, and became a hit despite itself. You might well have seen it sometime on Comedy Central in the middle of the day.

Apr
10
2011
Read more

Charlton Heston Presents the Bible Review

It seems almost ridiculous to review this DVD. Christian media production is so well targeted, so carefully marketed, and so thoroughly niche, that when it appears in front of us laymen, it's hard to know what to make of it. Charlton Heston Presents the Bible is no different, although the concurrence of the movie star with the subject matter may give it slightly wider interest than your average Christian DVD. Still, if you have to ask if this is for you, then it’s probably not.

But here we are anyway, so let’s get into it. First of all, I was going to talk about how Heston went from a scenery chewing leading man into a narcissistic right wing crazy, but I think I’ll just leave it to him, as he is quoted on the inside of the DVD case: “Ever since playing Moses in The Ten Commandments I’ve felt a deep, personal connection with the Bible which remains as vivid and vital today as when it was told around campfires centuries before there was any written language.” That pretty much sums it up: Mel Gibson syndrome (although Heston was probably less of a raging alcoholic homophobic girlfriend beating psychopath).

Apr
03
2011
Read more

Upstairs, Downstairs: Series One (1971) Review

If, like me, you grew up in the 90s and were weaned on Public Television, then you’ve seen shows just like Upstairs, Downstairs, if not the show itself. At the very least you know the type: low budget British dramas from the seventies, with one set, a large ensemble cast, simple camera work but a high minded conceit, clichéd characters going through powerful storylines. If you’re like me, you find this kind of television show very comforting, like an old blanket. If not, you’ll probably find it in turns charmingly naïve, embarrassingly old-fashioned and powerfully insightful.

Upstairs, Downstairs follows the lives of the wealthy Bellamy family, owners and residents of 165 Eaton Place, and their live-in servants and cooks (who, as in the British townhouse style, work in the servants quarters downstairs, hence the title). The series entire takes the family and its employees from 1903 to 1936, but season one (reviewed here) covers the years 1903-1910.

Mar
09
2011
Read more

Psych:9 Review

It’s not very entertaining, very scary, or even very good, but I have to give Psych:9 credit for being a hallucinatory little bit of horror cinema. Most twist endings or last minute revelations make no sense, or call into question the entirety of the movie that’s come before.  Psych:9, on the other hand, makes little narrative sense from the get go, a very ballsy thing for a mainstream movie to do.  It’s disorienting, full of surreal scenes whose reality or unreality is in serious question. That would totally be to the film’s credit, if it had more going for it than a weird sense of plotting.

Feb
28
2011
Read more

Chaplin Review

Chaplin_12236113362_500No sub-genre is so rife with mediocrity as the celebrity bio-pic. The plot structure is absurd: portray a star from their birth to their death while hitting every famous moment they’ve ever had, their childhood, their love life, and their art/sport/money making, oh, and do it all in 2 hours. Every life, reduced to 2 hours, looks the same. It’s not that you can’t make an interesting film about a popular figure (although I’ve never seen a great one), but you have to either pick a single defining moment in his life (Capote, Good Night and Good Luck), or just get weird with it (I’m Not There, Last Days). But honestly, Ray, Walk the Line, Amelia, Ali, Finding Neverland, or La Vie En Rose? They’re all the same movie.

And don’t try and tell me about the lead actor’s great performance. That’s the only value to these movies: cheap star vehicles in which one famous person imitates another famous person’s famous idiosyncrasies. “But he sounds so much like the real David Bowie!” Shut up. How hard is it to imitate a man or woman of whom there are hours upon hours of recorded material in a series of over-determined clichéd scenes either about heartbreak or creative genius?

Right, so anyway, Chaplin completely falls into all these traps of the celebrity biopic, but is still pretty good! It is the perfect expression of this sort of film. Robert Downey Jr. nails Charlie Chaplin’s signature waddle and physical comedy, and plays Chaplin with his trademark irony and charm, but also fills him with a boyish naivete that makes Chaplin at once vulnerable and more impressive (see, I’m complimenting the star’s performance right off the bat. It’s just the natural response). And by having a clever framing device, in which a 70 year old Chaplin happily talks about his (actually existing) auto-biography with his (created for the film) book editor (Anthony Hopkins), the film undercuts the bullshit “it’s so lonely at the top” narrative that always defines this garbage genre.

And the cast, oh man, the cast. So many stars! Kevin Kline, David Duchovny, Milla Jovovich, Dan Aykroyd, Marissa Tomei, Geraldine Chaplin, Diane Lane, and one of my all time favorite screen actors, James Woods, all have decent turns. Chaplin’s Oliver Twist-esque childhood in London and his start in early Hollywood avoid total “birth of the star” cliché because director Richard Attenborough (and some excellent art design) fill the locales with character and charm.

The film really boils for the first half, but when it comes to focus on his later career (in particular the making of Modern Times and The Great Dictator) it falls into the trap I knew it couldn’t avoid. The fact is, Charlie Chaplin was a committed leftist, strongly opposed to Nazism and the economic conditions that caused the Great Depression. He was no communist, but the film makes it seem that he acted out of a sort of weak, liberal humanism rather than true conviction. But what did you expect? A bio-pic that truly reflected a person’s political commitment? Go watch Carlos or Che or Hunger you hippy. (No, seriously, go watch those movies. They’re awesome.)

Still, Chaplin’s strength reveals the core weaknesses of this sub-genre. It too greatly reduces the meaning of Charlie Chaplin’s life (especially by having the film end, in one of the worst decisions I’ve ever witnessed, with Chaplin appearing at the Oscars to accept his lifetime achievement award) by necessity of covering too much ground. Though it gets closer than any other celebrity bio-pic I’ve seen, it still fails to really convey the contextual importance of Chaplin’s work. Most importantly of all, though, it didn’t say anything important about Chaplin the man as he relates to Chaplin the artist in a way that makes me reconsider either.

Because the fact of the matter is, when you make a film about someone, you have to make choices. What part of their life do you want to portray? What do you want to say about this person? The myth of the birth-to-death biopic is that you don’t have to make those choices, that you could truly capture the meaning of someone’s life by portraying scenes from beginning to end. But that’s the whole trick of Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud.” The profundity of a man’s life is not found in his childhood, or his last words, which end up more often than not an absurd nothing. No, a life cannot be so easily captured, perspectives are skewed by personality and the man’s own perception is meaningless in the face of the effects he has on the world.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

A featurette talking about how great Downey Jr. was as Chaplin, a featurette about how great Charlie Chaplin was, a featurette about how great a star Charlie Chaplin was, and a great little home movie of Chaplin’s. Theatrical Trailers. It will look good on your HDMI cable for sure.

 

Feb
23
2011

You Again Review

Here is a list of things I hate: the idea that high school is fate. Incredibly contrived romantic comedy plots. Elderly people hyper-sexualized to the point of “comedic” disgust. Hollywood’s perpetuation of the ‘beautiful jock/ugly nerd’ cliché. Ugly characters who become beautiful when they take off their glasses. Characters incapable of forgiving others for tiny past missteps. Women portrayed as deceptive irrational fools. The idea that love is the high-stakes maintenance of a series of illusions of perfection. Adults who are just hyperactive egomaniacal idiot children with credit cards. Oh, I’m sorry, I meant here is a list of things in You Again.

Feb
09
2011
Read more

A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop Review

Say what you will about Zhang Yimou, the man can build a beautiful extreme long-shot. Otherwise not fit to make their trailers, Yimou’s vast landscapes are as moody as Antonioni’s or Andersen’s, his sprawling back streets as mazelike as Welles’ or Mellville’s, Hero’s grand palace as foreboding as Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel. In A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop, Yimou shoots mountainous desert ranges with an eloquence evoking equal parts Sergio Leone and Ansel Adams. It’s just too bad he can’t tell a story as well as he can shoot a panorama.

Feb
04
2011
Read more

Zorro: The Complete Series Review

Before DVDs, there was the VHS rental market, syndication, and the occasional art house or revival, but really, the industry was sitting on a whole lot of unmonetized content in their archives. Then along came the DVD: people started collecting, studio archivists got assistants, and suddenly everyone was making money (and making-of featurettes). Fifteen years on, well, you can only release Seinfeld so many times, so here we are, with the Family Channel’s thoroughly mediocre Zorro in hastily produced box set form.

Jan
26
2011
Read more

Animal Kingdom Review

Maybe it’s the heat, or the criminal ancestry, but there’s a violent nihilistic bent in Australian independent cinema. Blood-soaked, sundrenched flicks come stateside to plop down in art houses with little popular fanfare but great critical acclaim. Though none of them perfect, and none for the weak of stomach, Wolf Creek, The Proposition and The Square are among the most brutal films of the last five years, and will stick like a burr inside your brain.

Jan
23
2011
Read more

Baseball's Greatest Games: 1960 World Series, Game 7 Review

Do you love classic baseball, and, in particular, are you a hardcore Yankees or Pirates fan? Does sitting down in front of a 50-year-old baseball game define the phrase "Sunday Afternoon"? Does your heart race at the thought of watching watch Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roberto Clemente and Roger Maris play? If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you already know the drama of this game and may well want to own it.

Jan
19
2011
Read more

The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete First Season Review

If it had premiered fifteen years ago, The Ricky Gervais Show would have been a critical darling, hailed by fans as a must-see under-the-radar comedy. It’s not that it’s dated, (although it does remind me of the classic animated series Dr. Katz, which, oddly enough, premiered fifteen years ago to critical acclaim and low ratings) but rather that television has gotten incredibly good in the last decade. The Ricky Gervais Show, which I quite like and watched all season, wasn’t even the best comedy on its network, HBO, this season (that would be Bored to Death or, more likely, Eastbound and Down.) It wasn’t even the best new cartoon show in 2010 (Adventure Time with Finn and Jake or Archer). It is, however, funny, low key, well, if simply, animated, and eminently pleasurable to watch.

Jan
12
2011
Read more

Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Review

There’s a group of films, I’ll call them “Unimpeachable Classics”, that show up constantly on critics’ best-film lists, films that have achieved canonical status despite serious flaws or being hopelessly dated. These films get canonized because they A) accurately embody a moment of zeitgeist, B) overflow with pathos, or C) have been so well-loved by past critics that modern ones (a cowardly lot) refuse to dethrone or declaim them. The “Unimpeachable Classic”, not to be confused with an actual classic film, is always overrated, but the individual films vary in quality. Some are good but not great (Chinatown, The Graduate), some are mediocre (Rebel Without a Cause, Ben Hur) and some are just plain bad (Gone With the Wind.)

Jan
06
2011
Read more

Lennon Naked Review

With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles forming and the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, there’ been plenty of Fab Four news coverage and media for sale this year. Lennon Naked is the BBC’s made-for-tv movie contribution, and it fits that most cynical of sub-genres: the cash-in-on-an-important-moment movie. Rather than a fresh, innovative take on John Lennon’s psychology, as the title promises, it tries to show his whole life as a response to daddy issues. However, it does feature John Lennon (or rather, Christopher Eccleston) butt naked. A couple of times.

Dec
08
2010
Read more

Gangland: Season Six Review

I take reviewing fairly seriously, and so it is with some reservation that I admit that after seven of the thirteen episodes that make up Gangland: Season Six I could hardly take anymore. I felt like I was getting dumber. I think I can safely tell you that you really really don’t need to buy Gangland: Season Six. Here's why.

Nov
25
2010
Read more

Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection Review

Growing up Jewish, I didn’t have a lot of Christmas specials lying around the house. But Growing up American, I saw an awful lot of them on TV. A Charlie Brown Christmas was one of the few that didn’t make me feel weird and queasy and somehow excluded from a giant party. That could be because it’s not a hard sell on the total perfection of Christmas (see: almost every Christmas special since) but rather a quiet, reflective movie. It could also just be because I loved Peanuts.

Nov
24
2010
Read more

Mutiny on the Bounty Review

The Academy Awards are so obviously pointless that it’s much more clichéd these days to describe them as a masturbatory gala of self-congratulation than defend them with any seriousness. Well, of course they’re an onanistic exercise: imagine General Mills, Post and Kellogg’s holding a televised breakfast cereal of the year award. Yes, Hollywood movies are sometimes art, but they’re cultural product first and foremost, and, along with television and music, they make up America’s largest export industry.

So doubly irrelevant, you might continue, is the award of “Best Picture.” But you’d be wrong. True, the list of Best Picture winners hardly matches the list of the best Hollywood films, and, especially recently, contains a lot of out and out stinkers (Crash, anyone?) But they show what the industry considered, in any given year, its most serious and important work. It’s an intra-democratic process of self-criticism, and you can learn a lot about a society by what its taste-makers (and, with the increasingly de-industrialized economy, its power brokers) find most attractive when they look in the mirror.

Nov
19
2010
Read more

The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition Review

If you want to make a room full of thirty-somethings smile, you could do a lot worse than yelling “Hey you guuuuuys!”. Perennial childhood favorite of a generation obsessed with nostalgia, The Goonies has a fond place in many hearts, and the 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition is clearly designed with yearning fanboys in mind. Already released twice on DVD and once on Blu-ray, the 25th anniversary of its release is an occasion to squeeze a little more cash out of the beloved classic.

Nov
12
2010
Read more
  •  Start 
  •  Prev 
  •  1 
  •  2 
  •  Next 
  •  End 


Popular