Read My Older Blog Posts here

Visit my previous Blog "Movies and More: Positively Personal Reviews" for my earlier (pre-May 2011) reviews and ramblings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Documentaries keep getting better and better!  This one, about the famous and successful Paul Williams, song writer of such top ten hits as "We've Only Just Begun" (Karen Carpenter), and Barbra Streisand's rendition of his "Evergreen," which won them an Academy Award, not to mention (but I will) "Rainbow Connection" soulfully delivered by Kermit the Frog, this film was wonderfully put together by his lifelong fan, Steven Kessler, who was thrilled to discover that Paul was still alive after seemingly disappearing for a couple of decades.  During the '70's, Williams was so popular (and witty) that he appeared on numerous TV shows, most notably 50 guest spots on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  During the eighties, Paul did the whole drug, booze thing, but  fortunately came out alive, cleaned up, and became a counselor and effective spokesperson for groups promoting being clean and sober. His most recent accomplishment, President of AFTA.  No longer young, but still sharp, and certainly wiser, he's been married a couple of times, and fathered some children.  Because he was given obviously wrong growth hormones as a kid, though his voice deepened, his bones were stopped from growing, and so he remained painfully short as an adult.  Always feeling alienated, "inferior," his music revealed the aching loneliness that reached from his soul to his listeners, and brought his songs so much recognition, including numerous Grammys.  Brash, rude, self-effacing, albeit seemingly narcissistic, Williams is a fascinating subject for a documentary, especially seen through the honest lens of Steven Kessler, whose affection and appreciation for this icon is obvious.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


If I were an artist, or a painter, I would probably be more enthused about this film, whose title tells it all.   It is a documentary showing Gerhard Richter  painting. He is now using a very unique technique. (He experimented with other techniques in his long career.) He admits to being uncomfortable being "on camera," explaining that painting is a very personal, subjective process, and being filmed makes him feel self conscious and ill at ease, and somewhat inhibits his process.  Nevertheless, he has allowed Corinna Belz, the writer, director of this exceptionally well done (it was not like watching paint dry for 97 minutes), and actually fascinating documentary to photograph him creating (and then sometimes seemingly destroying) the paintings that have earned him great renown (and huge prices!).   I, not being one of the knowledgeable art crowd,  had never heard of him, but apparently among the cognoscenti, he is considered one of the most important and best. He slathers paint from buckets on to to large boards, which he then uses (with both hands - and a lot of strength)  to smear on huge canvasses.  Then he repeats, using a new color. This happens several times.  Then he may leave the canvas alone for a day or two.  And then do some more slathering. (He has a couple of assistants who mix the paint for him ahead of time.)  He may finally use a normal brush, but not often, for some finishing touches. What you see is mostly subtle layers upon layers of muted (usually) colors, without discernible patterns. Richter seems very likable, and obviously deeply in love with his creative process.  Born in Germany, 1932, he studied there.  Left East Germany (never saw his parents again because of the war) and now lives in Cologne.  Not much in this documentary about his personal life, though I did some research and found he's been married a couple of times and has some children.  This was like "Art Education 101" for me, and as such, quite successful.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Apparently it took three Directors and two Writers to "create" this disappointing third episode of the Madagascar series.  I seem to recall enjoying the first two, but this one was 99 percent painful to watch.  The one percent that was almost fun came about half way through the noise and stupidity when the animals (trying to get back home to New York) pretend to be an American Circus troupe in order to get a ride on a circus train headed there (via Rome and London). Stupid dialogue, but delivered well by the good cast (same as usual), Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, etc. etc.  The children in the audience seemed to like it, but though I claim to be a child at heart, this was just a boring, noisy, failure of an animated film.  What a waste!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


True to the Critics comments, this was not a great film. It could have been worse, but it should have been better.  Anyway, it was worth seeing just to watch the inimitable, excellent, Jane Fonda as the still "hippie" Grandmother whose daughter, played by Catherine Keener (also very good) and her teen age children  (Elizabeth Olson and Nat Wolff - perfectly cast) come to visit for the first time in 20 years.  It seemed,  unfortunately more of a cliche of the Woodstock era, played "over the top," than it needed to be.  The plot included several romances (various age levels), and interactions among generations which seemed pretty accurate. (The actors all seemed very good.)   Shall we blame Bruce Beresford the Director, that the film still  just didn't make it?    Sigh.  


Ordinarily I don't enjoy singers who "wail." But the sound coming from Rita Chiarelli, known as "Canada's Queen of the Blues," is fantastic!!! It's as if it comes from the very depths of her powerful, sweet, loving soul!  Genuine love pours forth. In this documentary (Directed by Bruce McDonald) it shows Rita with inmates of Angola Prison (Louisiana State Maximum Security Prison) not just giving a concert, but singing with the men, hugging them, talking to them.  They obviously accept her reality and share her love for Blues, Jazz, Rock, and Country. The history of the transformation of the  prisoners from violent, unruly behavior to the calm, you might even say repentant (with some religious commitment involved, too) is explained and described as the result of the music she brought to them.  What a remarkable woman, with a remarkable God-given gift for communication, soul to soul, heart to heart. 


What is it about French leading men that makes them so lovable? I refer, of course, to the amazing Francois Cluzet who plays "Philippe," the  wealthy (really rich!),  paraplegic ( caused by a hang-gliding accident), who hires "Dris" (marvelously played by  Omar Sey), a black Muslim ex-con - surely the most unlikely candidate,  as his care-giver. "Philippe" chooses him primarily because he sees the guy has no pity or even compassion. He definitely doesn't want to be pitied.  "Dris" didn't really want the job, or expect to get it, he only applied so that he could show the folks that dole out the "unemployment" $$$ that he had made an effort to get a job.  It sounds trite to say that the two men, (from diametrically opposed backgrounds) "bond," and become really excellent pals, who have fun together.  But the way the friendship unfolds makes for a delightful,  fascinating, entertaining story.  Oh, and it's based on a true story. -- At the very end, you see photos of the real people on whose adventures the film was based.   I loved this film, flawlessly Directed by Eric Toledana.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Charlize Theron is gorgeous, (at least to start with) doing excellent justice to her role as the evil (truly, nasty, awful!) queen who has married (and killed) Snow White's widowed father so she can rule the kingdom. How Kristen Stewart ever got the part of "Snow White" is beyond me!   She's definitely no match for Charlize in the looks department, though the story requires that she be "fairest of all." Sorry to say, in my humble opinion, she doesn't have the acting skill that might have compensated.  Chris Hemsworth (fresh out of "The Avengers") was great as the "Huntsman," who becomes the friend/protector of Snow W, saving her from all the dangers of the Dark Forest.  At over 2 hours and seven minutes,  I was gettingt tired of the whole thing before it was over, but felt obligated to see it through.  The special effects were to die for, and from!  I'm not usually a fan of s.e. but these were marvelous.  I loved the Mirror apparition, and of course all the nasty, lethal stuff that the Evil Queen generated.  Rupert Sanders was the Director.  The Cinematograpy was superb.  The dwarfs (dwarves?) were not very cute or enjoyable. And there was way too much violence throughout. Battles scenes went on, and on, and on.  Noisy and exhausting. Movie was a big  disappointment overall  -- except for  Charlize performance, which was notably fine. (Costumes looked pretty good.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012


From a story by Henning Mankell, known as the "godfather of Swedish crime fiction," featuring the Chief Inspector we've met in previous Swedish detective thrillers (such as "Girl With the Dragon Tatoo"), flawlessly Directed by Charlotte Brondstrom,  "Wallander: The Revenge" lives up to its heritage.  There's something indefinable  - but excellent -  about the feel of this film that is different from the way it would have been if it were an American production.  Krister Henriksson plays the lead role of the 62 year old Chief inspector "Kurt Wallander" who has to solve several very bloody murders at the same time investigating a huge explosion at the power plant, that cripples several towns, plus a few car bombings.  All actors perfectly cast.  ( I couldn't locate this film on  -- maybe they've never heard of it!  Anyway, for me, it rates 100% on the Shakti meter!)    Highly recommended if you like this genre.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


"Les Enfants du Paradis" has been magnificently restored so that a new generation can see one of the most remarkable films ever produced!  Directed by Marcel Carne and crediting Jacques Prevert as Screenwriter, this classic was created under  severely challenging conditions while World War II was still in progress.  (Read the wonderful review by Rene Rodriguez on to get the full back story as well as more of the plot.)  Suffice to say, it hit the big screen in 1945. Set in 19th Century Paris, it has just about everything in it. At 3 hours and 10 minutes it is a tour de force of melodrama, unrequited love,  back stage romance, beautiful women, and my favorite, a mesmerizing performance by a superb mime ("Batiste") white face makeup and all.   There are acrobats and dozens of tumblers shown performing in one theater, plus a scene from Shakespeare's Othello and the murder scene  where Desdamona gets it in the neck taking place across the road in another theater shown in this film all about show biz, and the folks who are in it, and the folks (as well as nobility) who watch it.  Thousands of extras were used in filming the street scenes of Paris. Those were the days (1800's) when affronts were matters requiring "satisfaction"  at dawn. (I'm happy to say the actual duels were never shown, only the results. )
Of course it's in French, with excellent sub-titles (clever dialogue, by the way.)
Because of the length of the movie, there was a welcome ten minute intermission after about two hours.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


When will I learn to ignore the critics? Sigh.... "Elena" got raves from the professionals. OK, granted the acting is flawless, and I appreciated the sub-titles for the Russian (there's very little dialogue in the film), but I am not a fan of dreary, noir, "atmosphere"  pictures, for which genre this  certainly qualifies.  Slow moving (plodding might be a more accurate term); the "action" that takes place goes at a tedious snails pace showing the lead, middle aged (55/60ish?) "Elena" waking up in the morning, going through a detailed consistent, boring  routine day after day after day, after -- (well , you get the idea), waking her affluent husband  "Vladmir" (a bit older), who sleeps in a different bed, and then goes off to the gym, or maybe to his office (though sometimes he grabs her hand and leads her back to bed).  They met ten years ago when he was in the hospital with Peritonitis, and she was his nurse. He has a daughter from a previous marriage, and she has a son from a previous marriage. Their only fights are about the money that she wants to get from her husband for her grown son, whereas he feels the boy (age 30) should be taking care of his own son and not expecting anything from him.  meanwhile, she does bring cash to her son.   Oh, the music, Philip Glass' beautiful Symphony #3 was  perfectly chosen to suit the one hour and 49 minutes of torture I endured.  I can't fault the Director Andrei Zvyagintsev, he knew it was about Russia, and captured it successfully.  No comedy for sure.   (Did I already say the critics liked it?)  But for me,  though I can appreciate a serious drama, I prefer a few laughs. I'd even settle for a romance, but this was a big disappointment.  (In all fairness, I have to report it shows scenes from the poorest sections of Moscow, contrasted with (?) the wealthy areas where Elena and her husband live.  SPOILER ALERT AHEAD:   Did I mention that he has a heart attack, and then, when he plans to write a will (giving his daughter the lion's share of his Estate), Elena gives him an overdose of Viagra which, of course, kills him?  Then his daughter and Elena (and her sons and grandson) all live "happily" ever after in his splendid apartment that she and the daughter jointly inherit.  The  abrupt "ending" simply shows them all gathered around watching television. Well, at least the theater was air-conditioned,  my seat was comfortable, and the popcorn was fresh.