• I Am Ali 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 17 Oct, 2014

    This documentary is an intimate look at the first 40 years of the life of Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali. Its recounting of his boxing career is spotty and somewhat confusingly non-chronological (that story has been done better in previous bio-docs). Rather, the focus of the film is on his personal life as told by numerous tape recordings he made of conversations with his children, and interviews with his close family and acquaintances. The result is a well rounded portrait of a fascinating individual, quite different from the braggart persona he so carefully cultivated in his public presentation. Watching this film it occurred to me that I have no idea who the present world heavyweight boxing champion is; but hardly anyone in the world was unaware of that status when Ali was active.

  • The Immortalists 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 16 Oct, 2014

    Can we live forever? This documentary examines the longevity theories of two interesting research scientists, Aubrey de Grey and William Andrews. De Grey is an eccentric Englishman who now runs a Silicon Valley facility devoted to prolonging life. Andrews is an American PhD researcher who is into running super-marathons and solving the puzzles of cell aging. They decry the prevailing paradigm which is "blind to the tragedy of old age." They both seriously believe that virtual immortality is a real possibility within their lifetimes. The film occasionally plays like a parody of crack-pot mad scientists; but these men are serious. And they do make their case here...this entire important area of study is underfunded and ignored by the medical establishment.

  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 16 Oct, 2014

    In 2011 the fine C&W troubadour and TV personality Glen Campbell announced to the world that he had Alzheimer's. Despite this, along with three of his musician children and his third wife, he embarked on a last road tour with over 100 play dates. This documentary tells his life story as singer and guitarist, and covers in detail his last triumphant tour...and the gradual diminishing of his faculties along the way.

    This is one of the most enlightening films we've seen yet about the progressive nature of Alzheimer's. But it is also a testament to Campbell's pluck and musical genius that he was able to continue to perform despite the disease. Entertaining as well as edifying... that is a winning formula for a biographical documentary.

  • Happy Valley 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 15 Oct, 2014

    Happy Valley is the ironic name for the area which contains Penn State University. This documentary examines what happened in a college town devoted to the culture of football in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation conviction. The emphasis is on the gradual destruction of the reputation of hero-worshiped, former head coach Joe Paterno, who, along with college officials, allegedly ignored the ongoing crimes for years. The film implies that Paterno, who died early in the process, was unfairly stigmatized without due process. But the film also delves into the consequences of former assistant coach Sandusky's crimes...especially with regard to his molestation of his adopted son Matt. The film is well edited and structured to gradually reveal behind the scenes stories that were ignored at the time in media-infested Happy Valley.

  • The Hadza: Last of the First 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 15 Oct, 2014

    The Hadza are a small hunter-gatherer tribe that inhabits a decreasing in size highland area of north Tanzania. They may be the oldest continuously existing tribe on earth. Their history in the area and unique language stretch back tens of thousands of years. They continue to practice a lifestyle which is totally environmentally sound, living on animals they hunt, the honey collected from Africanized bees, and roots and berries which grow wild in their habitat. However, civilization and other agrarian tribes are ruthlessly encroaching on the Hadza's lands.

    This documentary illustrates with beautiful cinematography the current lifestyle of the Hadzas. It utilizes computer animation to show their myths, old B&W footage about the Hadzas from previous documentaries stretching back to the 1930s, and interviews with the committed anthropologists who study and live with these people of the bush. This film is informative and impassioned about the tribe's plight without feeling preachy. It is an indispensable travelogue into mankind's history.

  • Nightcrawler 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 12 Oct, 2014

    Jake Gyllenhaal completely immerses himself in an anti-hero role which will undoubtedly startle his fans. In this contemporary thriller he plays Lou Bloom, an up-and-coming, freelance news stringer who drives around Los Angeles with a police scanner and video camera to shoot bloody sequences to sell to sensationalistic TV news shows. Gyllenhaal plays Lou as a wide eyed, emaciated sociopath...and it is a role that elevates his acting cred, somewhat reminiscent of what Christian Bale did in The Mechanic.

    That the film creeped me out is sort of irrelevant. The action sequences (especially a super-charged car chase) and the superb color cinematography which brings a whole new dimension to portraying Los Angeles, compensate for the stomach churning crime footage. But make no mistake, this is Gyllenhaal's film and he runs with it.

  • Pride 2014

    ★★★ Watched 12 Oct, 2014

    In the 1980s the coal miners in England declared a general strike for better working conditions. Prime Minister Thatcher played hardball, and the strike continued for over a year causing much hardship. This film tells the little-known story of a group of London gays and lesbians who raised money for the cause (L.G.S.M. - Lesbians and Gays in Support of Miners), and the group's interactions with a town of Welsh miners who initially illustrated all the anti-gay prejudices of the time.

    This film falls squarely in the genre of recent British based-on-true-life, feel-good comedies like The Full Monte. There are the cliched oddball characters and predictable plot arc. Still, even with some cringeworthy sequences, the film worked for me...I found myself tearing up at the triumphant conclusion. This is not a "gay film." With its large cast of fine English character actors (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Russell Tovey, a strangely miscast Dominic West), and several unfamiliar fine young actors comprising the L.G.S.M., this film stands a chance of finding a general audience.

  • The Hacker Wars 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 12 Oct, 2014

    This hyperactive documentary recounts the history of "Anonymous" and hacker culture, concentrating on the plight of three outed individuals at the forefront of internet visibility (and facing or serving prison time at this point), in addition to the mysterious hacker snitch who helped run a long running FBI sting operation (i.e. Occupy Wall Street, if one takes the film's claims seriously.)

    There's no doubt that there is a war for freedom of information going on, with the government and entrenched corporate entities on one side and some brave journalists and hackers on the other. This film sympathizes with the anti-government side and makes a strong case. The film is mainly comprised of snippets from hacker internet uploads along with interviews with the principals (the FBI and government side is missing, no attempt at balance here.) The editing style is frenetic...I'm not sure I followed it all. But the sum total of the material is a convincing indictment of a government which has all but abandoned the Bill of Rights. The hacker wars are still ongoing. Stay tuned.

  • Kill the Messenger 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 11 Oct, 2014

    Gary Webb was a respected journalist working at the San Jose Mercury News. In 1996 he broke a story that the CIA was involved with a Los Angeles crack cocaine dealer in a deal to use the money gained from pushing drugs to fund the Contras fighting against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The CIA fought back with disinformation and character assassination. That is the set up for this based-on-a-true-story, edge of the seat paranoid thriller. Jeremy Renner played Webb, and he is superb as usual. In fact, this is a well cast, well directed film. If this film doesn't quite become another All the President's Men, it wasn't Gary Webb's fault. The implication of the film is that by 1996 the government had learned how to stage a successful cover-up. Hollywood thriller? Or shocking truth? In either case this is an important film.

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day 2014

    ★★★ Watched 11 Oct, 2014

    Clever script, nicely cast, fun family film. My 4-year old great niece sat through it attentively and announced at the end that there was more in the film than in the book. I sat through it attentively, too. The problem for me was that there really wasn't much grownup subtext there that appealed to anything but the 4-year old in me.

  • Getting to the Nutcracker 2014

    ★★★★★ Watched 11 Oct, 2014

    The Marat Daukayev School of Ballet is a 400-student Los Angeles dance school for children of various ages. Daukayev himself was a Kirov Ballet star, now living in the U.S.; and his school puts on elaborate performances featuring his young students, some of whom are professional grade dancers. This utterly entrancing, gorgeous and entertaining documentary film shows the preparation for and performance of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" in November, 2013. It is centered on several of the young, dedicated ballet students, unexpectedly more boys than girls. They are a lively, talented bunch; and their struggles and triumphs are nicely collected here. Everything about this film is close to perfect: interesting cast, beautiful wide screen cinematography, fine organization of material and editing, and a culminating performance that knocks the socks off (although it is the back-stage preparation that is stressed over the on-stage dancing, that too is well presented!) This is a fun entertainment documentary...but far from fluff since it demonstrates that love of the fine art of classical ballet is still alive and well (at least here in Los Angeles.) It joins a relatively few number of documentaries lately that I wish were even longer than its fast paced 98 minutes.

  • Evolution of a Criminal 2014

    ★★★ Watched 10 Oct, 2014

    Texan high school student Darius Monroe masterminded an armed bank robbery at age 17. Sentenced as an adult to five years in prison he turned his life around, studied and got his GED, and upon release from prison, graduated film school at NYU. This documentary, directed and narrated by Monroe himself, re-creates the crime with young actors, and shows Monroe trying to make amends for his crime to several of the victims. Through interviews with his family and co-conspirators in the robbery, he examines the background which led to that fateful crime. The film making is occasionally amateurish; but the message is loud and clear that Monroe's contrition is real. The unique aspect that this film comes directly from the horses mouth (so to speak) sets this film apart.

Hanna Ranch 2014


Kirk Hanna was the second son of the third generation of Colorado ranchers and cattlemen. He believed in ecological ranching, and was one of the exemplary subjects of a previous book: Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation."

This documentary film tells Kirk's story, which is one of family discord and the myriad problems of modern ranching as the land is eaten away by the encroachment of city dwellers and their pollutants. This is a tragic story; but also a hopeful one in that Kirk's legacy seems to be catching on nationally. This is interesting material and well told; but I felt its interview structure didn't quite get below the surface to explain why the subjects of the film acted the way they did. Still, the plight of this family is symptomatic of much that ails this country nowadays, so the film is recommended viewing.


The Great Flood 2012


In 1926-27 the entire Mississippi River watershed flooded, breaching 145 levees and inundating entire areas, both rural and urban, to a depth of up to 30 feet. It was the worst flood in American history. Filmmaker Bill Morrison collected a great deal of contemporary B&W film, much of it water damaged or in various states of disintegration. He edited a silent, more or less chronological documentary of the destruction, cleanup and aftermath (mass migration of homeless Blacks to cities like Chicago.) The entire film is scored with a droning 4-instrument jazz track by Bill Frisell.

Frankly this film is boring. Its footage is repetitive, the music seems mostly too light and inappropriate for the visuals. Only a non-sequitur sequence of quick cuts of the entire 1927 Sears Robuck catalogue stuck in middle of the film held any special visual interest for me. Certainly this was an important historical event, and the film coverage was extraordinary. But with a minimum of interpretation (only an occasional title to give any context), one is left with an impression of randomness and poor editorial judgment. I had an overwhelming desire to watch the film in 2X fast-forward mode. I stifled the impulse; but at the end I rewound and watched some of it this way. The intolerably mundane musical score was silenced, and suddenly the editing rhythms seemed right and the powerful imagery made more of an impact.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden 2014


In the 1930s two German families and a mysterious Baroness (and her two lovers) moved to the deserted island of Floreana in the Galapagos island chain west of Ecuador. They arrived separately; and they apparently lived in disharmony until some of them mysteriously disappeared, died or escaped the island. In any case, what really happened remains a mystery to this day.

Using a surprising amount of actual film footage from the time along with interviews with some of the children of the original group and others, the filmmakers have strung together the makings of a mystery thriller. Occasionally they would intercut ludicrous metaphorical scenes of animals in nature to heighten the mystery. But mostly this is an entertaining, stranger-than-fiction murder mystery. Or maybe not. One thing is certain...at this point nothing is certain about what happened back then and all the eye witnesses are gone. Bottom line: this film occupies the border area between documentary and fiction film; but either way it is diverting.

Finding Vivian Maier 2014


I guess many people know the Vivian Maier story; however it was all new to me. She was a French born nanny to a series of Chicago families, who in her spare time roamed the streets of that city and the world taking photos with her Rolleiflex camera. But she also created a trove of 8mm movies and audio tapes. Few of these photos were printed and many rolls of film were never developed. Still, maybe 150,000 images were shot, most of them proof of a genius photographer at work. And it was only when contents of her abandoned storage garages were purchased and exploited for their value by some people (including John Maloof, the co-director of this self-serving but fascinating documentary) did the strange and unique life and works of Maier come to light.

The highlight of this documentary are the photos themselves, hundreds of them edited into montages. They are, in my opinion, brilliant...a mid-20th Century album shot with an amazingly observant eye. But Maloof and his co-director Charles Siskel (son of the late Gene Siskel) have also done a fine job of reconstructing the life of this mystery woman through copious interviews with her charges and their parents, and a trip to the small Alpine village where Maier was born. If it all raises more questions than it answers (for instance, how could a nanny afford all those rolls of film?), the documentary still fascinates.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia 2013


This documentary answers the question: can the collected media history of one brilliant raconteur, novelist, screenwriter, failed politician and gadabout sustain an entire film? It can if the subject in question is as smart and interesting as Gore Vidal. It also helps if one shares Vidal's liberal bent and pessimism about the path that the United States has taken during Vidal's lifetime. Just the sequences of the William Buckley-Gore Vidal debates on television during the 1968 presidential conventions are worth the price of admission; but there is much additional food for thought that Vidal expressed during his well observed life. This film is a prime posthumous example of what Vidal himself said are the four most satisfying words in the English language: "I told you so!"

Fed Up 2014


The best advocacy documentaries find a problem, show its importance, prove its case, suggest a solution. And most importantly manage to be entertaining as well as informative. Fed Up does all this effectively and skillfully, if just a tad too repetitively.

Problem: obesity, especially childhood obesity, is an epidemic worldwide, but especially in the United States.

Reason it is important: the effects of overweight and obesity, and the resultant diabetes epidemic, will resound though future generations with increased health care costs...making the current generation of children the first in American history that will live shorter lives than their parents.

Prove its case: Fine graphics and great interviews with doctors, overweight children and concerned politicians illustrate the fact that the current paradigm of more exercise and reduced fat calories is false. Instead the film offers irrefutable proof that sugar and sugar substitutes are the real culprit, aided by the fast food industry and their lobbyists fostering a takeover of the school lunch program (e.g. pizza is made a vegetable by regulatory fiat, junk food commercials still rule the airwaves in children's tv shows) and eviscerating government regulations. The film makes the point that if a foreign power were to cause such mass destruction of our populace we'd undoubtedly go to war. But where is the war against the processed food giants?

Solution: See the film. I'm convinced. Anyway, eliminating processed food and sugar carbs sort of works for me, even though I remain stubbornly overweight. I'm weak. But I feel compassion for the helpless youth.

Elena 2013


Elena was a pretty Brazilian girl who went to New York to be an actress. At the time she left her 7-year old sister Petra behind and disappeared. When Petra grew up, she traveled to New York to try to find her sister and direct this documentary. That is the set up for this impressionistic film, heavy with pensive voice-over and smeary cinematography.

I can't rate this film because I quit watching half-way through. As some may know, each year I try to watch all the documentaries that are submitted to the Academy of Motion Pictures to qualify for the Oscars. It is my calling in retirement...and last year I watched all 145 submissions (and was written up in an article in the Hollywood Reporter for having achieved that feat.) But very occasionally, and feeling guilty, I give up on a doc after watching at least 50%. It isn't so much that this particular film was not a worthwhile one - it was very arty and mysterious. Rather, it just didn't engage me. I'm quite sure that there is an audience for this film. But like last year's uniquely impressionistic documentary Leviathan, it's just not for me.

  • Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 03 Aug, 2014

    Tanaquil Le Clercq (Tanny to most) was a prima ballerina, muse of George Balanchine (the love of her life whom she married) and Jerome Robbins - until she was struck down by paralyzing polio at age 27. Admittedly my knowledge of the ballet when I was young is non-existent, so I'm ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Le Clercq before this film.

    The filmmakers had the advantage of plenty of performance kinescopes and films covering the active career of this unique talent...plus ample coverage with photos and interviews of the remainder of her life (she proved the doctors wrong and lived to age 80.) The film is even edited like a ballet: for example a striking montage of her dancing, whirling and collapsing made from sequences of varied dances which signaled her illness. The only reservation I had was that the film runs too long, runs out of steam in an effort to impose additional meaning to Le Clercq's life path after the illness.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2014

    ★★½ Watched 02 Aug, 2014

    This amiable space opera is like watching a truck careening down the highway at full speed and barely in control. You know that the gigantic smash-up is coming and that it will be all noise and mangled bodies. And yet you're supposed to laugh. I admit I'm not the ideal audience for this film. It's technically competent, the special effects are fine, the acting (amazing in the case of Bradley Cooper as a smart-ass raccoon) is comic book quality okay. The story is like Star Wars on helium...high pitched and dumbed down. Honestly, I disliked the film...but I'm giving it an extra star because it is so, well, amiable.

  • A Most Wanted Man 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 27 Jul, 2014

    Of course Hoffman is excellent playing a German spymaster pitting his wits against Islamic terror in this post-cold war thriller. I was even able after a while to stop trying to recognize the symptoms of what ultimately did him in (although his corpulence and heavy breathing indicated significant health problems.) This is a cerebral modern spy story, very much true to the spirit of original novelist Le Carre's oeuvre. It is bleak and dark and Germanic. This isn't a film for action junkies, its thrills derive from more subtle examples of modern spy craft as the cat-and-mouse games between dimly perceived forces proceed and the moral ambiguities mount. It worked for me.

  • Lucy 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 26 Jul, 2014

    This summer has actually brought us two amazingly "smart" action films. And like the other one, Snowpiercer, this is basically hooey, with a ridiculously unlikely concept...yet loads of fun. At least Lucy is superficially intellectually challenging, which is a nice change from the run-of-the-mill Marvel and Richard Bay brain freezes. In terms of special effects, sound design and editing, this is Luc Besson's best film. If it truly was made for $40 mil, then this is a miracle of the filmic arts...it plays like a $200 mil blockbuster. And Scarlett Johansson makes a dynamite action hero. Now all that remains is the ultimate feminist action flick pitting Johansson against Angelina Jolie.

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 2014

    ★★½ Watched 08 May, 2014

    The good:
    The best special f/x of the series so far. Andrew Garfield still has a likability index that is off the charts. The plot doesn't suck...there's just too much of it.
    The bad: Marc Webb is a lousy director of actors, although he's pretty good at action scenes. It's another stupid, nonsensical comic book flick, and the marking-time, middle film of a trilogy to boot.
    The ugly: All three major villains (Electro, Green Goblin and Alexei) are ugly and overdone; but Paul Giamatti leads the field.


  • Our Heroes Died Tonight 2013

    ★★½ Watched 25 Apr, 2014

    This is a B&W noir-ish film set in Paris in the 1960s. It's about two ex-Legionaires who are semi-professional wrestlers. They inhabit the seedy environs of the gym, the ring (where they mostly fake the wrestling for maximum drama) and local low-life bars. The film is heavy on atmosphere; but I didn't find much to involve myself with the characters.

  • Not My Type 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 24 Apr, 2014

    One can count on Belgian director Lucas Belvaux to deliver a film of uncommon sensibility no matter what the genre. Here he is doing the bitter-sweet romantic dramady genre about as well as it can be done. It's the story of Clément, a Parisian philosophy teacher and author who has commitment issues. He has been exiled for a year working as a teacher in a small provincial town; and there he meets a vivacious blonde woman named Jennifer, a single mother who cuts hair and is every bit the hick that he abhors. But there's this undeniable mutual attraction...

    It's no accident that her name is Jennifer (pronounced with an English "J". ) Her hero is plucky Jennifer Anniston (and of course the professor has never heard of that actress.) Along with her best buds from work, Jennifer does disco karaoke...and she's really good, in an enthusiastic amateur fashion. As portrayed by lovely Émilie Dequenne, she's a fireball of enthusiasm, a ray of light.

    Handsome, 30-ish actor Löic Corbery plays stalwart Clément...and he's quite good here. I don't think I've ever seen him in a film before; but I expect this to lead to other film roles. The film is notable for its resolute anti-Hollywood take on the rom-com genre. However, maybe there's a good reason for the traditional Hollywood ending, since I was prepared to rank this film much higher until the closing scenes. Also, despite holding my interest throughout, the film could use a little judicious pruning. At two hours, it seems a little padded. Still, the superb central performances and the smart script make this a film to watch for.

  • Fanny 2013

    ★★★★½ Watched 22 Apr, 2014

    This is the second film of Daniel Auteuil's remake of the 1930s trilogy which takes place in Marseille between the world wars, and is based on the psychological romance by Marcel Pagnol. I reviewed the first film, Marius previously. The third film, César, has yet to be made (but reportedly is planned for.)

    However what we're able to view so far is definitely worth it! Auteuil himself plays César, owner of a dive bar at the Marseille harbor and father of 20-year old Marius (Raphaël Personnaz) whose desire to escape his humdrum life and go to sea is in conflict with his love for the poor, but beautiful, 18-year old Fanny (lovely newcomer gamine Victoire Belezy) who is also being courted by a much older rich man (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). That's the set-up for this richly mounted period piece which gets everything right, from the Marseille accents to the convincingly bustling waterfront to the old-fashioned morality of the time.

    With the exception of Personnaz, the acting is nigh on perfect. For me, it was Darroussin in the difficult position of being the unsympathetic older man in this arrangement, who is especially poignant as he becomes the moral center of the story. Ingenue Belezy is lovely and talented, with a great future career ahead of her. And the elderly actress Marie-Anne Chazel also stands out playing Fanny's dotty but strong mother.

    What was unexpected for me was how emotionally involved I became as the story of the second film approached its (more or less predictable) climax. I'm an easy cry...but rarely does such an emotional catharsis occur without an ongoing tragedy. Instead, this film succeeds by finding moving truths about the human condition which defy expectations. This is great writing, and Auteuil makes the most of it.

  • Marius 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 22 Apr, 2014

    Daniel Auteuil hails from the south of France and shares an affinity for the picaresque plays and novels of Marcel Pagnol. Auteuil cut his directoral spurs with a superb job on a Pagnol story, the 2011 film The Well-Digger's Daughter. Here he embarks on the first film of Pagnol's "Fanny" trilogy, the third time this story has been committed to film (first in a 1930's era French trilogy, then a single Hollywood film in 1961). I saw both previous versions...and Auteuil has yet to start on the third film of his projected trilogy. However, I did watch the first two films together: Marius and Fanny. And they were glorious.

    Well, not so much the first film, which introduces the story of young love thwarted by circumstances. This is a good starter film; but it is marred by a bit of bad casting in the central role of Marius. Raphaël Personnaz is pretty enough; but lacks shall we say the acting skill needed to make the character's actions convincing.

    Still, it does start the ball rolling, culminating in the emotional wringer of the second film, Fanny, which deserves a second review coming to this spot momentarily.

  • Piégé 2014

    ★★½ Watched 22 Apr, 2014

    This film played at COL/COA as Trapped. Briefly it is the story of a French army platoon that gets all but wiped out in an Afghani ambush, leaving (mild SPOILER) one soldier who has inadvertently stepped on an old WWII Russian mine alive, who must remain standing immobile for many hours to keep the mine from exploding.

    The film is a rather straightforward version of the much more bitingly satirical story in Danis Tanovic's Oscar winning No Man's Land. Trapped is involving enough; but in fundamental ways the unrealistic plot contrivances overwhelm the film's effectiveness. Still, Pascal Elbé's excellent turn as the soldier in jeopardy made the film watchable, if not indispensable.

  • Purple Noon 1960

    ★★★★ Rewatched 22 Apr, 2014

    Back when I was young I watched favorite movies multiple times (no longer, life's too short.) I probably watched Plein soleil five times back in 1961 when it first came to the U.S. A lot of that had to do with the major crush I had for Alain Delon back then. But the story, with its homoerotic subtext, beautiful Italian seascapes and intriguing murder driven plot, also drew me in. So given the opportunity to finally catch it again on the big screen with a newly restored 4K print I jumped at the chance. And, thankfully, my memory of how totally absorbing and thrilling and literally gorgeous this film was has been verified.

    [NOTE: I just came across a letter that I wrote to my family from university in September, 1961 where I actually reviewed this film on its initial U.S. release! Here's what I wrote then: "Tonight we saw another foreign picture called Purple Noon (En plein soleil) which was great! It was sort of a mixture of Tiger Bay and To Catch a Thief. Very suspenseful and Hitchkockian (sic)- and with a murderer as the hero. Of course the guy wasn't as nice as Bucholtz in Tiger Bay. In fact he was a real SOB; but he was so tremendously clever about it all that the audience identified completely. The lead was Alain Delon and this guy is great! Watch him, to say nothing of the female lead. See it if you want to see how much better the foreigners are at portraying typical Hollywood plots."]

    Back to 2014: Of course I watched Minghella's Hollywood version of the Patricia Highsmith novel The Talented Mr. Ripley when it came out in 1999. And as much as I enjoyed it, my feeling back then was that it didn't hold a candle to the earlier French film. I'll still take Delon and Ronet over Damon and Law...but honestly it's a close call. The tone of the two films are so different that they might as well be thought of as two different stories.

    This isn't an all-timer. Its genre thriller plot has a few glaring holes and inconsistencies. But for pure entertainment it holds up remarkably well.

  • Chronicle 2012

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 20 Apr, 2014

    This is something of a miraculous film, written and directed by young guys from film families...but made with an assurance and some kick-ass special effects that would be worthy of the highest budget Hollywood f/x epics. On second viewing the film is even more impressive. The "found footage" concept has never been done better. The teen empowerment, wish fulfillment fantasy script is flawless. The acting is superb. Of course, Dane DeHaan is arguably the most interesting actor of his generation; but Alex Russell, with his more traditional good looks, deserves a chance at stardom, too. I mark this one for future classic status.

  • Transcendence 2014

    ★½ Watched 19 Apr, 2014

    As sci-fi dystopian allegory for the dangers implicit in implanting God in the machine, this film makes absolutely no sense. As pure escapist entertainment with groovy visuals it still makes no sense. Comparisons with the silly tv series "Revolution" are inevitable...and the movie doesn't even live up to that level of achievement. I've seen worse films; but rarely a more misguided one.

  • Draft Day 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 19 Apr, 2014

    I guess two films make a genre, in this case the sports General Manager saga where this film makes an interesting companion piece to the baseball film Moneyball. Personally, I have very little interest in pro football. Yet the way this script cleverly personalized the process of the NFL draft made for a surprisingly entertaining movie. As long as the film stuck to football it really worked for me, with a devious plot that I didn't anticipate. The film only bogged down when it tried to flesh out the main character with an awkward love story involving Jennifer Garner (who is really good here in a largely wasted role). Apparently Kevin Costner has become box-office poison; but I'm not sure why. His deceptively smart, but everyman persona is still appealing (at least to this viewer...but then I'm an old fogey, even older than Costner.)