Satisfaction. Defined by the Oxford Dictionary as " the feeling of pleasure that arises when you have the things you need or want or when the things you want to happen have happened". The feeling of harmony or contentment you experience after the perfect meal or the result of a flawless film where all the elements are in pristine alignment and you exit feeling completely satiated, satisfied; knowing you have been entertained.
"Rampart" does not inhabit this category. Woody Harrelson, as "Date Rape Dave" gives an exhilarating performance as a cop gone rogue; playing by his own rules in 1999 Los Angeles (reminiscent of the 1991 Rodney King brutal beating by Los Angeles police officers). Dave is living in a world that, because of cell phones, instant videoing, is plummeting into the archaic. He has been married twice to sisters, (Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche) fathering a daughter with each; residing in a guest house, their stifling proximity breeding toxicity.
The "Rampart" Division is revamping its ethical code and Dave is the obvious scapegoat; he is on tape, administrating his own street justice and now must fight or face punitive action; he is also a lawyer who has failed the bar and the best scenes scintillate with his adroitness in quoting legal precedents: he is intelligent, tragic, lost, looking for "satisfaction" in casual intimacy and profound drinking.
Perhaps the theme has become too redundant: "Serpico", "Bad Lieutenant", "Training Day", "L. A.Confidential"; my favorites "Leon:The Professional" , "The Usual Suspects". I am weary of witnessing the foibles of men who should know better; we are exposed to these nonfictional protagonists routinely through the media, so Dave's self-destructiveness, ineptitude in owning his errors left me with cloying, unsettling indigestion.
"Rampart" is negligent in answering salient questions; serves an above- average entree, sans dessert, leaving a residual of an unsatisfying, unappetizing "cop out".
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
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It is tragic that most of us live in cities where foreign films are rarely shown or featured after the Academy Awards are presented. I have tried and will continue to strive diligently to alter this travesty.
"In Darkness" is an exceptional film (an Academy Award contender) based on a true story which occurred in 1942 in the town of Lvov, Poland. A Polish Catholic sewer worker, "Leopold Socha" and his young friend "Szczepek" conceive a brilliant concept, hiding Jews in the sewers of Lvov, an ingenious plan to supplement their incomes. This is a powerful psychological and transformative study; Socha thinks and treats Jews as less than human; people deserving of their plight; as long as he is paid they are nothing but a commodity. His involvement, at times risking his own life and that of his family's leads him to self-discovery, as his prejudices disappear he rises to a level of goodness, greatness that he would never have envisioned; ultimately his relationship with the sequestered Jews gifts him dignity and overwhelming strength and courage. His wife "Wanda" also becomes a "convert".
The movie is assiduous in depicting the deleterious, desultory conditions of life in the sewers: hunger, filth, boredom; rats, initially terrifying, become pets; human nature struggles to prevail: intimacy, holidays, playing children rise above parsimonious hurdles. Desperation, exacerbated by darkness is a key element in the success of this fine film; suffocation is palatable.
Miraculously the "worst of times" can manufacture unlikely heroes; out of grime and detritus, war and destitution blossomed a nonfictional character worthy of the accolades he eventually received; there is special place in the hereafter for Leopold Socha. Generations of Jews dispersed throughout the world, forever in his debt. It is edifying watching a mortal reaching, touching and eventually surpassing the immortals.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!
"RA ONE" is the most expensive movie in Bollywood history. Starring Bollywood icons: Shah Rukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Kareena Kapoor; based on the Ramayana epic. "Ravana" is the villain, the demon-king of Lanka, vanquished at the conclusion.
This supercilious mimicry of the beautiful Ramayana revolves around the creation of a video game where evil (aka "Ra") remains undefeated; predictably, like Frankenstein, he becomes a life-force (Rampal), searching for his arch- enemy "Lucifer", the moniker for the ten- year- old son of the game- creator (Khan). The film is a vehicle for the rhythmical, undulating abs of Rampal, Kapoor, and Khan; the only successful arena in almost three hours of digitalization. "Ra One" and its inane scenario kept sleep at bay minutes longer than "In Time" and earns...
ONE & 1/2 STARS!!
"IN TIME". A ridiculous film starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried where "time" is money, literally; predictably the rich survive; poverty results in an early demise. There is a nonsensical death; a falsely accused victim; a mindless, meandering, idiotic chase, a tepid romance. In essence a deleterious waste of "time".
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Glenn Close and Janet McTeer give vastly credible performances as women disguised as men. The novel "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs" by George Moore has been a project of Ms. Close since she played the lost but dignified "Mr. Nobbs" off Broadway almost thirty years ago; she should be applauded for her tenacity and the actualization of her mission.
But I found the movie colossally problematic. It takes place in Dublin, Ireland in the late 19th century, in a refined, but frayed, Hotel. "Mr. Nobbs" (Ms. Close) is a diminutive, constrained waiter, so entrenched in her male masquerade, that the slightest aberration, untoward gesture could trigger a massive shattering of the vitrine she has entombed her shunned, stunted femininity ; her frigid rigidity is detrimental to the development of her character.
Janet McTeer as "Hubert" the painter is totally mesmerizing and imminently comfortable as a man; every glance, movement, stance resonates mammoth warehouses of testosterone; "he" is the core, the axis of the scenario; his confidence opens a door for Mr. Hobbs and frees him to dream the impossible dream: marriage.
Here is where the film stumbles. Hubert is happily married to a lovely seamstress "Cathleen" (delightful vignette by Bronagh Gallager); Mr. Nobbs fantasizes that a "wife" was the final piece composing a blissful future: owning a tobacco store and living above the establishment in peaceful harmony. Mr. Nobb's targets the culmination of his matrimonial goal upon the hapless "Helen" (Mia Wasikowska) who is enamored with the feckless, handsome "Joe" (Aaron Johnson) ;their "courting" scenes are awkward, unsuccessful, embarrassing.
Has Mr.Nobbs totally strangled every fiber of "his" sexuality? How naive to quest a relationship bereft of any conjugal communication; Hubert and Cathleen seem to have chosen an intimate course. This vagueness and obfuscation led to confusion and a lack of harmony; perhaps Mr. Nobbs lived in a prison of his own creation for so long that he had squelched every appetite except survival; incapable of giving or inspiring passion. Tragically, he met Hubert too late.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
In today's world, with the exception of a few pathetic, Paleolithic countries, women are champions of their fate; "captains of their souls". Women shine as CEOs, CFOs, heads of state, professionals on equal plane with their male counterparts; gone are the shackles of prehistoric, nonsensical dictates; no longer confined to two rooms or behind a Purdah, women are free, free to follow their whims, instincts, desires.
"Brave" dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs is an animated film imbued with pungently powerful metaphors and lessons meaningful for all ages. "Brave" is fun, captivating and entertaining for "little" and "big" folks, equably.
Pixar gifts us "Merida" a ferocious flame that no retardant could suppress; she is fire, igniting the sparks on the Fourth of July, May Day, Diwali, Festival of Lights; she blisters the screen with flaming, whirling, twirling tresses; she rides wantonly, with intrepid abandonment, bareback; her arrows pierce the accurate center of every target; she is tireless, eats like a stevedore, and is a princess. A princess, that refuses the role, her loving mother, tries to cast her in; she is intransigent, recalcitrant and sets up the age old ubiquitous mother/daughter dilemma. Herein lies a love story, a provocative narrative of two generations clashing, warring opinions, wishes that disastrously come to fruition.
This fantastical and "brave" tale about miscommunication, mayhem and magic gone awry, resonates with a sage, discerning, simple message: travails of the world could be salvaged, thwarted if parties listened, without roadblocks, prejudices or boundaries to the verbalized thoughts of one's advisory, whether familial, governmental, personal; words have curative, antidotal, alchemical powers; Merida and her mother are transformed and endow the audience a relevant, eloquent, satisfying "happy ending".
The 2011 film "Like Crazy" starring Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin was a delightful slice of fluff that I saw with trepidation; because of the word "like"; robbed of its legitimacy by contemporary vernacular; bastardized, used as a verbal pause, conversations lengthened 50% by its ubiquitous repetition; car alarms, nails on a blackboard, sleeplessness are preferable to its resounding, droning, stupid, repetitious use. The protagonists in "Like Crazy" were intelligent, and even though they strayed from the script, "like" did not spew forth with every spoken thought.
"The Color Wheel" filmed in grainy black and white 16mm, indiscriminate year; follows a brother and sister over a weekend journey to collect her belongings from her teacher/lover; she was studying broadcast journalism. Alex Ross Perry and Carlen Altman co- wrote the script and portray the troubled brother and sister: "Colin" and "JR".
Colin is nerdy, scrappily humorous; wry, slashing wit, masking a mountain of vulnerabilities; his disdainful, caustic treatment of his sister (shunned by her parents) adds pulp and flavor to the first half of the film. JR is moderately attractive; tastelessly dressed in sleazy, slutty guise; not a fragment, or a prayer of ever becoming even a "weather girl" on national TV. ( I harbor no angst against weather girls.)
The movie sinks miserably into a quagmire of "likedom" from the moment we meet the Professor/Teacher/Lover of JR. A Professor of Journalism who cannot complete a 10 â€“word- sentence without 5 "like's"; was this irony on the part of the writers? The disease, "like" the Black Plague spreads from actor to actor, one excruciating scene after another; bombarding, crucifying, sacrificing anything worthwhile on the altar of one four- letter- word. The movie's disturbingly 83 minutes, even with a reel change (first since childhood), easily reduced to 60 minutes with the elimination of --!
The last scene, a monologue, immensely "like-infused" is potently problematic, traumatic, unsettling. But to save you emotionally and financially, will give you a "spoiler" on request!
ONE & 1/2 STARS!
The jewel of this foursome. The iconic Liam Neeson is "John Ottway", devastated, broken- hearted, one of seven survivors of a horrific plane crash (phenomenal, painfully realistic, terrifying scene) in the frozen, glacial, haunting, lethal beauty of the Alaskan tundra. These men are strapping, tough, belligerent outcasts returning from a stint at a gas refinery. They are fearless, impossible to intimidate and herein lies the perfection of the film, survival of the fittest; man pitted against beast, "the grey", monumental wolves, hungry to attack and feed on these human interlopers who have tainted and tread upon their sacrosanct territory, den.
"The Grey" ( Director, Joe Carnahan) is beautiful, even in its horror; the beauty is not just the pristine, celestial landscape but as the film progresses the beauty of each individual is laid bare; their power, resilience, bravado melts as their exteriors freeze; we discover their loves, their losses, their diamond-like dignity. You desperately root for them, given insurmountable odds, hope is never eliminated; herein lies the potency of this unique and spiritual film; struggling to persevere, seeking a power beyond their own, never whining, ultimately controlling, accepting their fate. The viewer witnesses a glorious battle of men whose might survives at all costs.
Ridiculous, improbable plot is saved by the zeal of the actors: Sam Worthington (as the escaped convict on the ledge); Elizabeth Banks (the detective lusting to save him); Jamie Bell (the brother and foil for his escape); Ed Harris (corporate guru without scruples or a conscience). Dumb but fun. Sometimes...
TWO STARS!! (is enough).