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All reviews - Movies (8)

Under the Skin review

Posted : 5 years, 2 months ago on 28 July 2018 05:57 (A review of Under the Skin)

Cliff's Notes

This is one of those movies that is hard to understand how it ends up actually getting made. It's one of those that goes over the top in trying to be "different" and "artsy". There was virtually no plot, no MacGuffin, nearly no dialog. And nothing is ever really explained. The audience is left almost entirely in the dark essentially the entire time, and almost none of the questions ever get answered.

At least David Lynch and Stanely Kubrick offer compelling scenes to get lost in, even if the viewer doesn't understand fully what's going on, or know what they watched by the end of the film.

This was like an immitation of them, but without the good stuff they bring. Every scene was way too long and slowly paced. In fact, the entire movie could have easily been a short film and the audience wouldn't have lost anything.

Good stuff

I will admit that the cinematography was pretty good, and I liked the locations and some shot choices. And the lack of dialog wasn't all bad, as the simple sounds of nature and the city added a nice element. Kind of like what was done with Cast Away (2000). The creepy music was nicely done and well placed, and was a welcome addition as well.

Scarlett Johansson was fine in her leading role as the female, and let's face it, if not for her presence (and her nudity), this film wouldn't have gotten a fraction of the tiny attention it did get.

Bad stuff

The slow pacing and lack of plot and character development and all the other issues that make this hard to watch are actually all tolerable in film...if we're given something entertaining. But this was just a pain. There was never a moment I was unaware I was watching this movie. There was never a moment I wasn't annoyed with the unnecessarily long and repetitive scenes, or the fact that so much is never explained.

A lot of people like this aspect because it gives them an opportunity to pretend to be intellectually superior to everyone else who admits that they don't get it. It's like [Link removed - login to see]. When people are faced with something that is largely dumb, but is presented as a serious piece of art, many think that they'll come off as sophisticated and superior if they call it "brilliant." That's how a movie like this gets called "best film of the year" by some critics.

Bottom line

Ultimately this film functioned as basically a test of one's patience...how many minutes of meaningless scenes filled with characters you don't care about, doing things you don't understand for reasons you are unware of, can you sit through...just to see Scarlett Johansson naked?

Of course a celebrity going full frontal for the first time is certainly an initial appeal, and it is no doubt the only reason a large portion of the viewing audience for this film bothered to watch. But even aside from that, it almost became kind of a challenge in itself just to see how much of this film could I sit through.

But without the promise of A-list star nudity, or at the very least ScarJo or an equivalent attractive star lead, it's tough to say how many viewers would last for the full runtime.

I give it a 3.5 (rounded up to 4) for the visuals and Scarlett Johansson and nudity.

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Another jerkoff to the LAPD

Posted : 9 years, 2 months ago on 29 July 2014 09:02 (A review of End of Watch)

Cliff's Notes
There's not a whole lot to say about this film. The trailers are kind of a lie, as they make it seem like there is actually a plot...but there isn't.

That may sound like hyperbole, but literally, there is no actual plot to the movie. There is no MacGuffin, there is no real storyline, there is no arc...nothing. The supposed plot that the viewer is fed during the trailer is that the two protagonist cops accidentally meddle in high level Mexican cartel business and in turn get marked for assassination.

This sounds good enough to drive a movie, but in this script it is at best a side interest. It does not dominate the "story" and is not even introduced as an element until halfway through the picture.

Instead the entire film acts as little more than a Hollywood-dramatized ride-along, simply following these two cops around as they go on calls. It's basically one long episode of Cops, if the TV show aired private conversations in the squad car between partners and offered a reality show glimpse into their home lives.

Much of the film is even displayed through the now-tired "found footage aesthetic," with diegetic hand-held and otherwise portable cameras providing much of the visuals.

Good stuff
To the filmmaker's credit, the "found footage" gimmick was done probably as well as it could have been. The footage did not dominate the picture and did not really feel forced, despite making up at least half of the visuals, if not more. It did add a bit to the overall experience, giving a more authentic sense to what was going on (an effect which could probably be predicted, given the success of the Cops tv show.)

Also surprisingly, despite having essentially no plot, the film is able to hold the viewer's attention, even if just out of interest in what might happen next. Personally I found myself at least partially interested simply because I was waiting for a plot to pick up.

The acting also helped make up for that slack, as the leads Gyllenhaal and Peรฑa were certainly believable as their characters, and offered a realistic portrayal that felt genuine.

Bad stuff
Ultimately however, the film was still little more than an aimless reality show. It can't even really be called a character study, as, despite getting glimpses of the personal lives of the cops, we never really dive very deep into the characters themselves. The generic point of "cops are people just like you" was made early on, but the viewer is continuously bashed over the head with it right down to the final scene.

Given his past work, it's obvious writer/director David Ayer has an incredible fascination with police and the LAPD in particular, and this film only further cements that.

It functions as little more than yet another adulatory blow job for the boys in blue. This is made unmistakably clear from the opening voice-over monologue in which Gyllenhaal identifies himself as a cop and goes on to self-describe in an almost hagiographic depiction of the profession and anyone in it.

And this really set the tone for the whole film. The movie felt less like a story about particular characters that the viewer is supposed to care about, and more like a propaganda piece for the police profession. There was nothing particularly interesting, extraordinary, memorable, or even significant about the two main characters, despite what seemed like a couple of attempts to portray them as exceptionally heroic by having them receive official praise and recognition from the department.

And while it may be argued that the generic "every-cop" nature of the characters was precisely the point, this simply supports the notion that it's not so much an actual story but rather just a feel-good statement about cops in general.

Needless to say, with no plot, an overused and predictable premise, and simplistic and repetitive character development (we get it, "cops are just regular guys like you and me"), it's no surprise that the film felt a full hour longer than it really was.

Without end credits the run time is barely 100 minutes, but had I not looked, I would have sworn it was closer to 200.

Bottom line
In the end I still found myself giving the film a 6, as despite getting slightly frustrated with the pacing and lack of plot a few times, I still was interested enough to keep watching without feeling the need to fast forward.

If you're into cop movies or even just the TV show Cops, you'll definitely like this film. Otherwise, it's possible you'll be bored and/or uninterested much of the time.

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Was there even a script?

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 30 October 2013 06:45 (A review of The Canyons)

There really isn't much to say about this movie. Despite it being from Bret Easton Ellis, there wasn't much to this film...let alone much that would make it interesting.

I think it settles the question of "Can the novelist write for the screen?"...and the answer is a resounding "No."

First of all, the plot sounds a lot more interesting than how the film actually played out. And the two trailers were a total tease. Evidently you can make anything look intriguing with a trailer. [Link removed - login to see], done in a retro campy exploitation style, complete with poor shaky video, over the top music, and sensational onscreen text, was really clever and well done. A nice teaser for the anticipated return of Lindsay Lohan and the next "mind freak" from Ellis as well as writer/director Paul Schrader.

[Link removed - login to see], for the film's release, was also great. Nicely edited, and again, very intriguing.

But the film itself came off as if it thought it was way more sophisticated and edgy than it actually was. Sure it included some unusual cinematic choices, as you might expect from this writer-director pair...odd lighting, unnecessary but fun long takes...that sort of stuff. Even in the opening scene, for the first three or four jump cuts, the character the audience sees on screen is not the one talking. For a minute you think the audio is out of sync.

But even with artsy filmic tactics, the script and overall story were beyond saving. The dialogue is just dreadful. If I had a dollar for every time an actor repeats the exact same thing they just said, I could probably have covered the film's budget. This redundant effect (which occurred throughout the film), combined with the diction, made almost every scene feel scripted, but without dialogue. As in, you felt like these were people playing pretend because what they were saying came off as forced, and unnatural. It's difficult to tell how much of it was actually in the script and how much of the film was ad-libbed. People just don't talk this way. It was like watching a student film.

The story itself wasn't any better. The plot reads:

"When Christian, an L.A. trust-fund kid with casual ties to Hollywood, learns of a secret affair between his girlfriend Tara and the lead of his film project, Ryan, he spirals out of control, and his cruel mind games escalate into an act of bloody violence."

Sounds like a psychological thriller, with the common love triangle element included. And that is basically what the film is about...but this is one of those rare moments where the plot is more like a real estate ad than a story summary. More often than not, it's a bit difficult to distill an entire feature film into a sentence or two. What you get is usually a decent synopsis capturing the core of the narrative, but leaving all detail, and even a significant sub-plot or two completely out...so that when you see the film, it's a fuller meal than what you read on the menu.

But in the case of The Canyons, there's so little to work with, the plot summary actually needs to be embellished like a newspaper blurb about the fixer-upper for sale on the edge of town. Notice the emotive and sensational word choices: "spirals out of control", "cruel mind games escalate into an act of bloody violence". This all sounds like a normal movie...an establishment of normalcy, then a catalyst, then escalation, and a climax. The problem is, The Canyons doesn't include any of that. It's all just one long plateau. There is no escalation, there is no climax. The characters are all exactly the same throughout the film, and the audience is never given a reason to care about any of them.

Of course most of the anticipation for the film came from Lindsay Lohan's return to the silver screen after her stint in rehab following numerous arrests. She was "okay" as Tera, the protagonist. (Although a protagonist case could also be made for Ryan.) She still carries a bit of acting talent, and for the most part was believable. Again the script carries most of the blame. However, it's not as if she and the role were made for each other, and it could have easily been done better by just about any other Hollywood actress in the demographic. I could see a Christina Ricci or Evan Rachel Wood filling the role quite well.

Veteran porn actor James Deen was an acceptable choice as the antagonist Christian. He looks the part, and can portray the narcissistic asshole role decently well. But a scene with his therapist in which he exposes vulnerability about not being in control during a sexual encounter did feel out of place and a bit hard to buy into.

Nolan Gerard Funk was perfectly fine as the young struggling actor Ryan. This was a decent choice, and probably the best part of the film.

Overall, the picture was mostly a "good try". It seemed like the film was just trying so hard to be something that it never quite reached. I think Ellis hit the nail on the head: "The film is so languorous. It's an hour 30, and it seems like it's three hours long. I saw this as a pranky noirish thriller, but Schrader turned it into, well, a Schrader film."

While I've never heard of such a thing, I'd be interested to see a "writer's cut"...just to see if Ellis could turn it around. But given the dialogue he wrote, it's doubtful. Directing was certainly not this film's entire downfall.

Basically the only things redeeming about the picture were the halfway decent acting, unusual filmic choices, and the fact that it looked good. This, and the inclusion of Lohan, Deen, and Funk are the only reason you could tell the difference between this film and a total amateur production. I give it between a 4.5

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Falls flat...original franchise was superior

Posted : 10 years, 2 months ago on 24 July 2013 12:32 (A review of The Amazing Spider-Man)

I was looking forward to this film. I honestly was. I love a high-budget superhero flick as much as anyone. Even with the fact that this one is a reboot of a franchise that began only 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, the final product proved a reboot was not only unnecessary, it was a terrible idea. Nearly everything about this film was bad...from the story, to the script, to the casting...as happens so often, the visual effects were the best thing about this film, and they weren't exactly groundbreaking.

From frame one this film just felt off. The opening music didn't seem to fit, and I actually thought I was hearing the wrong audio. The opening scene was just odd...and funnily enough, is never even explained throughout the film. And honestly, that's basically the feel of the entire movie. Just, off.

Andrew Garfield is a decent enough Peter Parker, but he comes off as more of a hipster instead of the nerd he's supposed to be. (I actually think that's more the fault of the script than the actor's interpretation of the character.) Emma Stone is good enough as Gwen Stacy, I suppose...but, for one thing I personally don't think she's pretty enough...not only to be the hot blonde from the comics, but also to even be a leading lady. And there's just something about her that rubs me the wrong way. But again, that's all personal taste, so I suppose I can't hold it against the movie itself. Of course Denis Leary plays the no nonsense cop just fine. And Martin Sheen and Sally Field always do a fine job, but Field is just not what I picture when I think of Aunt May. Neither came off as very convincing. Rhys Ifans was an odd choice for Dr. Conners, and also was at least a minor disappointment.

All in all, I can see that they were going more for an "unknown" main cast, but I think it left a lot to be desired.

This was just ridiculous. The opening scene of Peter's childhood makes no sense, and as mentioned earlier, is never even explained. The character development is very poorly done, and so often the characters just don't come off right. Flash Thompson starts off bullying Peter (as expected), but after Uncle Ben dies, we get a completely useless scene in which the whole school seems sympathetic to Peter, and Flash seemingly comes up to console him? Not only could the entire scene have been left on the cutting room floor from just an importance-to-the-story standpoint, it should have been left out if for no other reason than it didn't even make sense for the character.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, by the end of the film, he's actually buddying up to Peter? WTF?

Also odd is the way Spider-Man comes off as less of the snarky intelligent hero that tries to do the right thing, and more of just a simple jerk. The best example is in one encounter with a car thief: Spidey webs him to a wall and proceeds to toy with him in a humiliating way, feigning fear and then laughing at how easy it is to defeat him. It's just not Spider-Man.

Spidey also seems way too willing to expose his identity...web-slinging around multiple times without even his costume, let alone his mask...voluntarily taking off his mask multiple times, and even revealing his identity to Gwen, essentially for no reason.

Something else bothersome was the odd display of Peter's abilities. He's so strong he regularly breaks metal objects just through normal use, yet he can't even leap over a normal height chain-link fence, or from one rooftop to another without having to grab the ledge and lift himself up to the second roof. He even runs through the streets instead of jumping to a nearby building and web slinging from there.

This only added to the overall weirdness. So much of the dialog just felt odd and out of place. For example, when Peter comes to see Gwen after being injured, and they begin to kiss, she stops him, saying she can't...and then proceeds to tell him how since she was young her father always put on a badge in the morning and went to work, and she never knew if he would come back alive. Wha?

The inspiration for the Spider-Man suit is never explained. Peter gets the idea for the mask from a lucha libre poster...but for the suit itself, all we see is Peter searching Bing (shameless product placement, of course) for images of Olympic athletes, saying "all spandex". Okaaaay.

It's also a bit lame the way multiple scenes seem to be replayed. Peter gets into a confrontation with Flash several times. He comes home with bruises that Aunt May notices, and which he won't explain to her several times. So much could have been cut out, or at least written in a more fresh way, so that the audience didn't have to basically relive the same sequences over and over again.

And three words: Peter Parker skateboarding. Seriously?

Bottom line
Overall this film was barely differentiable from the original in terms of visual effects. In terms of everything else, it was a total disappointment, and the original was far superior. In Spider-Man (2002), the characters were more believable, more true to the comic, and better cast. They were more interesting, better developed, and given better things to say. The story made more sense, had better flow, and was better told. That's why over a decade later, it is still the 37th highest grossing film of all time (even without accounting for inflation), and this reboot is barely in the top 50.

This second incarnation just felt like a movie. I was never really pulled into the story...throughout the entire film, I was almost always aware I was watching actors play roles.

I honestly feel like I need to go watch the original series again (or at least the first two) just to get this bad impression out of my mind.

Obviously with a $230 million budget and a top-tier superhero franchise, you're pretty much guaranteed something that is at least visually entertaining...but there were actually several times during this film that I was tempted (and would have been just fine with) turning it off.

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Have you seen Saw?

Posted : 12 years ago on 1 October 2011 08:39 (A review of Nine Dead)

I knew Melissa Joan Hart was in this, but when the film started and I saw the logo screen for "Hartbreak Productions" (her company) I had a much better idea what I was in store for. And it pretty much delivered.

It's basically a poor-man's version of Saw, in every way. The plot is interesting enough, but only if you haven't seen the real mccoy. The acting is barely acceptable, but I can't figure out if that's more because of the caliber of the actors or just the crappy script they had to work with. The dialogue is so poorly written, it just ends up being downright hokie a lot of the time. More often than once, I was taken out of the moment and reminded I was watching a movie with actors pretending and reciting lines...never a good thing for a film.

Some of it was predictable, other parts weren't so much, but even those tidbits you didn't completely see coming were overshadowed by how lame they turned out to be once they happened. Obviously the plot is that they have to figure out why they're in the room, which is a great concept, and the possibilities are endless in terms of what you could do with it. And of course, our Clarissa-turned-hardass-prosecutor vehicle ended up coming up short. Surprise surprise. I don't think I'd be spoiling anything to say they're all related in some way, as of course the how is what they're supposed to figure out. But when we finally find out the answer, in actuality their relationship is so sketchy it barely makes any sense. You end up saying "that's why that guy was there? He fits in because of that? Give me a break."

It also tries to do a nice "all come together master plan" a la Se7en, but they don't establish it enough, and you can't even be sure it was part of the plan.

And the ultimate ending just sucks.

Couple of useless trivia bits I noticed...one is that Melissa's character is named "Kelley", which she spells out with the two e's for everyone to see in the film. However in the credits it's spelled in the more popular form "Kelly". (I told you it was useless). The other one is that Melissa still looks pretty much the same as she always has in the face (although she's much paler in this film, but that could be partly because of the lighting in the dungeon room)...but she's certainly developed herself a decent size lady pooch. (For those who aren't familiar, this is the the fat pouch above a woman's vagina that looks like a fanny pack under her pants. It is most commonly seen covered with "[Link removed - login to see]".) However, in this film MJH plays a district attorney, so of course she's all business, and happens to be wearing a blouse tucked into a wool skirt. This of course is one of the worst possible ensembles for a woman with a lady pouch, as instead of hiding it, the outfit works to accentuate it and make it even more prevalent. This is exacerbated even more by the overhead lighting of the dungeon room, which forces a shadow to appear on her upper thigh and crotch area.

Why do I mention all of this? Because it's the only logical explanation I can think of as to why Melissa's character all of sudden decides to untuck her blouse 30 minutes into the film. The act is even given special attention by the camera, so that it can be assured the audience sees her do it (I suppose to avoid any thoughts of script discontinuity). But even with that kind of attention given to authenticity, no reason (stated or implied) is given for it. Are we just to assume she didn't feel the need to be "business" any more, and wanted to be more comfortable before she died? I'm not buying it. I'd be willing to bet the film's budget that that move wasn't in the script, and Hart wasn't just trying to be a lively actor and give her character something to do. I think she knew exactly what she was doing. (And I'm not saying she did or didn't die, I'm just saying getting killed was the expectation of all the characters in the room).

All in all it was a decent enough movie, I was entertained through most of it, even if I did come away with a disappointed taste in my mouth. I give it a 6, but I might have gone lower if it hadn't been so long since I'd seen Saw.

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Could have been better, still pretty good

Posted : 12 years ago on 18 September 2011 01:19 (A review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

There's really not to much to say about this one, it's about what you'd expect it would be.

It's definitely fun to watch and delivers pretty much what you're looking for. And the apes look great. They did an excellent job making them humanistic as well as realistic.

My only complaint is that the majority of the film felt almost palpably rushed. I realize they had a lot of story to cram into a single film, but I would have gladly sat through a 2-hour picture to have it a bit more fleshed out and not have such bothersome pacing. It's not like they leave holes in the story โ€” you can follow it okay โ€” but there are plenty of times I felt myself thinking: "Okay, I see what you're saying here, but jeez. Slow it down a notch." Especially in the beginning, when it's all moving so fast that things that would usually be relayed quite subtly, instead become obvious information cues. A quick camera shot on the father's teaching award, and now we know he used to be a great piano teacher. Even the camera shot didn't seem to linger as long as it normally would in a different film.

It's possible this was at least partly done on purpose, to give an added feeling of uneasiness or anticipation, but I doubt it. This isn't the kind of film you necessarily need to feel rushed. Shooting something like Catch Me if You Can in 52 days makes sense. I think in this case it was either time constraints, budget constraints, rookie direction, or any combination of those and other things.

I was also kind of surprised the Frida Pinto role wasn't bigger, but then again, there wasn't much of any character development. (There wasn't time for it, apparently).

Still, the pacing does slow down a bit as the film progresses and is a good cinematic experience. Fun, and leaves you wishing the next one was available to watch already. I'd give it a 7.5, but for this whole-number rating system, I suppose that has to get rounded up.

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Yes Men Offer Plenty of Problems, No Solutions

Posted : 12 years ago on 17 September 2011 10:53 (A review of The Yes Men Fix the World)

The Yes Men Fix the World is an interesting setup. The film basically charts the exploits of two self-righteous hoaxters (who call themselves "The Yes Men"), as they con their way into speaking events and news broadcasts while posing as everyone from spokesmen for Fortune 500 companies to high ranking government officials, all in the name of supposedly "raising awareness" for problems they see in the world.

The film begins as the two are preparing to appear on a BBC news broadcast, with one posing as a Dow Chemical spokesman named "Jude". The man's real name is Adam, and it is immediately revealed that he defrauded the news network to get there, and is about to lie to 300 million people live on the air. After the broadcast takes place, it is quickly discovered by the media that the whole interview was a farce, and the men are called back to the station to explain why they perpetuated the scam. After you've seen this first segment of the film, you've basically seen the entire movie. This is no exaggeration. The film is literally nothing more than following these two men around as the defraud organizations for invitations to speak at events, and then lie to whatever crowd is in attendance.

It is made obvious from early in the film that these men aren't just jokesters looking for cheap thrills, but actually self-important ideologues with a political agenda...Basically younger versions of Michael Moore, or Bill O'Reilly. In fact, much of their tactics appear to be lifted from Moore's own on-screen antics.

There is nothing wrong with presenting one's views. I don't even have a problem with someone doing so in an unconventional or even provocative way. But "The Yes Men" have no interest in honestly or directly presenting a point of view. Like Michael Moore (and to a lesser extent, O'Reilly) they are more interested in characterizing and then attacking those they disagree with. The film is nearly 90 minutes long, and in all of that time we are presented with no concrete point of view, let alone a solution for any of the problems they draw attention to. Again the vast majority of the film is the two men posing as people they disagree with, and then doing ridiculous and/or dishonest things.

When they pretended to be representatives of Dow Chemical, and stated the company was giving $12 Billion to the people of Bhopal, "The Yes Men" claimed they were saying the things they'd like the company to say. When they pretended to be ExxonMobil and handed out candles they claimed were made from the human remains of a dead Exxon employee, they claimed they were trying to "wake up" or "shock" the "establishment". It's made very evident the two subscribe unabashedly to an "ends justify the means" philosophy...Which in essence, boils down to "as long as your intentions are good, it doesn't really matter what you do to try and get there."

My problem with such a philosophy is the question of just how far such a person is willing to go. We all know of a famous road paved with good intentions. These "Yes Men" are obviously willing to defraud and lie to people. Are they willing to harm property? Perhaps riot a little? How about killing people? Skinning a few dissenters if it meant their message got out more? Really, if the ends justify the means, is there no "means" off the table? Is this truly "by any means necessary?" Where do you draw that line, and how is that even determined? Is it just by an arbitrary decision of whatever you personally believe isn't "going too far"? I'm not really sure anyone has the answer to those questions. And if you can't even answer that, I don't exactly see how you can justify dishonest means in the first place. And [Link removed - login to see]

Early on the implication is that "greed" is the problem, and that a free market has allowed greed to create the bad things in the world we see...for example, Exxon "speeding up global warming" and causing Hurricane Katrina. (A cause and effect actually implied in the film.) So there is a slight mention of more regulation being necessary. However, we quickly see that the government itself is on the hit list as well, culminating in yet another fraudulent impersonation...this time of a deputy secretary to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The filmmakers point the finger at the federal government (the very federal government that is supposed to be the answer to all this "greed" โ€” because for some reason politicians aren't greedy) and "The Yes Men" admit how it is the people's very own government who has prevented them (in many cases by law) from returning to their homes in New Orleans to rebuild and repair. It is the federal government who set up housing projects, created a class of people dependent on such programs, and then closed the projects down. Yet somehow again, this is called a result of the "free market".

So, as lying to people is apparently all "The Yes Men" are good at, one of the pair presents himself as a HUD official and claims that all the housing projects will be reopened. He even asserts that ExxonMobil issued a statement saying the company was contributing $8.6 billion in restoration efforts, to assure the company "never again has a hand in destroying a large American city." (Still talking about Hurricane Katrina). And again, this was supposed to be something the filmmakers "would like" to hear these people say.

The film ends with the crew printing up and distributing copies of a phony edition of The New York Times newspaper, again filled with headlines they'd like to see (such as: "Maximum wage law has succeeded" and "Nationalized oil to fund climate change efforts"). Favorable reactions from locals reading the paper are shown, with one woman calling it "a dream newspaper".

Of course, it is not hard to imagine New Yorkers being in favor of what amounts to bigger government and socialist policies โ€” which is not an epithet, as there's really no other word for it...maximum wage and nationalized industries, those by definition are aspects of a socialist system. (But, as a side note, one also has to wonder how many people they had to film to get the reactions they wanted). And while a fake newspaper is very clever and a fun way to get people's attention, here again all we're left with is an amusing stunt, and no real articulation of a root of any specific problem, nor any actual proposed course or solution. If free markets aren't the answer, and if regulated markets aren't the answer and require more regulation, and if big government isn't the answer...what exactly is it the filmmakers are advocating?

It is here The Yes Men Fix the World finds itself in the very same predicament as all other films of this kind...hunting for something it never ends up finding, and holding conflicting beliefs simultaneously in a kind of Orwellian doublethink sort of way...demanding more government controls over the economy while at the same time demonstrating that government is largely captured by private special interests. As [Link removed - login to see] about another such film: "They are reduced to looking for ghosts and wishing upon stars."

Ultimately the filmmakers do not wish to present their point of view in an honest and straightforward way, nor suggest any actual prescriptions for improving anything. My personal guess is because they simply don't have any โ€” they don't have any real notion of what causes the problems they complain about, let alone ways to improve on them. They simply see things they don't like and want someone to blame for it. Their only goal with the film seems to be to point fingers and create caricatures of those they disagree with...so that it's easier to point fingers. I would call it a propaganda piece, but it's more like a "watch us play around while we do things that make us feel like we're better than other people" film.

Again I don't have a problem with polarized view points and using unconventional methods to say what you have to say. My biggest problem with this film is that "The Yes Men" don't really seem to have anything honest or concrete to say. The closest we got to that was the implication that economic freedom is a bad thing and that government is just as bad...and this non-message was relayed by defrauding and lying to people, and characterizing individuals (like Milton Friedman) who were not afforded an honest presentation of their point of view. "The ends justify the means" has to be one of the most dangerous philosophies ever conceived, and [Link removed - login to see].

I give it two stars because 1 star is the lowest rating allowed (there is no zero stars), and from a purely entertainment point of view, it was interesting to see how relatively easy it is to illegitimately give a speech at an event. Other than that, the film is utterly useless.

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Fans are genuine, filmmakers are lost

Posted : 12 years, 1 month ago on 8 August 2011 07:32 (A review of We Are Wizards)

This was an interesting film. It's a shame it wasn't afforded better direction.

It has most everything you need for a good documentary: a subject a lot of people are interested in, some stories to tell, and extremely interesting characters. My problem with the film was that it just seemed to have no clear direction...as if the makers weren't quite sure where they wanted to go with it...or perhaps even what movie they were making.

It basically follows a small group of some (apparently) popular musical groups in the underground Harry Potter film community. You get to hear some of their back story as to how they formed their acts and started playing shows. But it's not a band documentary. We're also told snippets of stories from the girl who founded the website "potterwar.org", a call for a worldwide boycott of all things Harry Potter, other than the books. (This was in response to copyright threats Warner Bros. made against fan websites). We hear from Brad Neely, a guy who gained popularity when he recorded his own audio track synced to the first Harry Potter movie. So the film jumps from the bands to these two, and we hear a little about how intellectual monopoly laws impeded fans from celebrating the characters they loved, but this is not an anti-copyright film. We hear from a woman who ran the major Harry Potter news website and how it landed her a book deal.

We also hear from a woman who made a documentary of her own warning of the dangers the Harry Potter series poses due to its "making innocent" the dangerous world of the occult. This was the only anti-Harry Potter aspect of the film, and the only thing I can figure is this was thrown in there to offer some sort of "other side of the story", but it just ended up feeling weird and out of place. It's not as if the film were making some philosophical or political case, or taking a stand on some issue. It was a film about Harry Potter fans. I have no idea why the filmmakers would have thought they needed to include a "dissenting" point of view.

And overall that's largely how the film felt. It was quite inchoate and seemed to never really know what it was trying to be, and because of this lack of purpose or direction it became slow and boring in some places. As intriguing as it sounds to be able to get into the world of such hardcore fanatics, and as entertaining as it was at times, there were also points at which I was left asking myself "why am I watching this?" Especially in the beginning of the film before I was largely invested, I was extremely close to just turning it off.

I'd say the middle third of it was certainly the most satisfying piece of the film, but obviously the viewer has to be willing enough to sit through the beginning that starts so slowly and doesn't offer any promise in the way of letting you know it's planning on going anywhere. And by the third portion of the film, again it seems like the filmmakers lost any sense of what they were trying to capture and it seemed like they were just out of things to say, and without a clear direction or story arc from the beginning, there was no real way to close out the film.

On the whole I enjoyed the film, if nothing else than for the few laughs the featured characters offered, and it was all due to the natural candid moments, and just how genuinely funny they are. But maybe I'm just a glass is half full kind of guy, because as this overall critical review shows, there wasn't much redeeming about the film.

If you love Harry Potter I don't think it will disappoint you to the point that you'll wish you hadn't seen it, but it's also not necessarily a MUST SEE in the HP canon. But then again, I guess for the hardcore fans, everything Harry Potter is a "must see". As an outsider who knows very little of the series (I've seen one movie and read one book) it was neat to see this fan culture that you always knew existed, but never really got any exposure to.

I gave it a 5 out 10.

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