Thursday, May 31, 2007

Life + Debt (2001)

In 1962, Jamaica won its independence from the United Kingdom, and the island nation, which had long struggled with poverty, attempted to use its agricultural resources in order to create a sound economic base. As Jamaica's financial problems grew more severe with time, prime minister Michael Manley struck a deal in 1977 with a consortium of economic institutions through the International Monetary Fund, who would loan money to the nation in exchange for removal of trade restrictions and subsidized exports. Twenty-five years later, most Jamaicans would agree that the deal drove a stake through the island's agricultural and industrial economy; imports from America have ruined the island's dairy industry, interference from growers and merchants in the United States and Latin America have effectively ended the growing of onions, bananas, carrots, and potatoes as cash crops, the value of the Jamaican dollar has plummeted, and the island is now seven billion dollars in debt to the IMF, with interest driving that figure higher each day. Filmmaker Stephanie Black examines the sad state of Jamaica's economy in the face of "free trade" in the global economy in the documentary Life + Debt, which includes interviews with Michael Manley and IMF director Stanley Fischer; the Jamaica Kincaid novel A Small Place provides some of the text for the film's narration. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Most of the film is narrated by

Well so far it is an attack on the IMF-as expected. But for them to say the IMF made them devalue their currency denies the reality of the situation. If their currency did not indicate a devaluation then the reserves of the country would have increased substantially but I am safe to say that that never happened in the 25 years. And like usual, the IMF does not go out of its way to loan currencies at below market prices; the countries seek out IMF support not the other way around.

According to the film the IMF was built to loan short term loans to members of the winning side at the end of WWII. But then why did nearly all nations of the world become members. Aside from North Korea, Cuba and a couple of small islands, all nations of the world are members now.

MM describes the oil embargoes of the 70s as merely oil price increases. It is not like any country besides oil exporters that really benefited from the oil embargoes. The faced stagflation and slow growth for a decade at least. So it is not like Jamaica was targeted. It is interesting that close to the end of the film that there was riots over subsidized gas prices. I wonder if this was going on in the 70s also. That would explain a lot...

Jamaica first tried the private banks, and of course in a world wide melt down very few sources of free capital was available. Then he tried going to the IMF and asked for long term loans (5 years). Since 1977 they have established different lending modes that allowed for longer term loans, but initially the IMF was set up for SHORT-TERM loans to correct Balance of Payments issues-especially with respect to the current account balance. Yes, he is correct IMF was not interested or even has expertise in long term development as of the 70s.

As of December 2005, Jamaica owed nothing to the IMF and is a current member. Jamaica: Financial Position in the Fund
as of April 30, 2007
and a link to the latest Jamaica: 2007 Article IV Consultation - Staff Report; Staff Supplement; Public Information Notice on the Executive Board Discussion; and Statement by the Executive Director for Jamaica, which is always a good read. Note that the IMF thus did not consider them eligible for HIPC debt relief. Well that proves to me that Dr. Michael Witter (Professor of Economics University of West Indies) is wrong that the IMF set "conditions that the government could not meet". He also assumes that health and education is the only two components of the Fiscal budget. And the IMF then is saying you have to cut these programs. Of course in the last decade some of the more stringent rules have been changed, as in Silva cutting defense budget and actually increasing health and human services.

But he is right that the terms of trade get worst for a country that devalues. And maybe the IMF should have considered the Absorption approach to the Balance of Payments effects.

A girlfriend of mine and myself did visit Jamaica and yes we did visit all the touristy places and enjoyed the beach. But she was Puerto Rican and so did slip away and visited with some natives. No revolution but she did smoke some weed. The resort that they show even looks like the Sandal resort we stayed at. Why would it matter where the food came from?

They talk about globalization and that they wanted their "own markets back" but then do not recognize that their massive tourist business is a derivative of globalization. I guess they would rather be like Haiti and not try to use their comparative advantages. Nothing says anything about have no restrictions on imports only they can't be arbitrary about the rules.

Those bad consumers decided that powdered milk was better than fresh milk? Something seems wrong with that picture. In the USA they can't give away powdered milk. It was claimed that the subsidy on powdered milk was 137% from the USA. They should have complained the WTO. ***

The Lome agreement (ACP countries) they state gives Jamaica a tariff free guaranteed market. Boy globalization sounds good to me.

Jagdish Bhagwati has shown that industrial free zones grow faster and develop faster than other parts of the countries that he has looked at.

Spring Valley Chicken Plant Jamaica, lost the market share since the US market has a high demand for chicken breast but this leaves a surplus of dark meat on the market which is sold on the Jamaican market.

Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Not too long after, it was settled by human rubbish from Europe. We used enslaved but noble and exalted human beings from Africa to satisfy their desire for wealth and power. Eventually the masters left, in a kind of way. Eventually the slaves were freed, in a kind of way. Once you ceased to be a master you're no longer human rubbish, you're just a human being and all that adds up to. And so too with the slaves, once they are no longer slaves, once they're free they are no longer noble and exalted, they are just human beings.

Good creation of binary oppositions.

It has in the bonus section a slide show on anti-globalization movements.
While the mainstream media readily focus on the confrontations, they rarely examine the critical issues that join such a rich cross-section of voices together in global protest. these images reflect a worldwide affirmation by millions of the need to make equality in economic opportunity an international priority.

But do these images conveyed any thought beyond "Bush is evil" and globalization is bad? No deep thoughts here is anyone was looking. It is amazing that I am sure 90% do not understand what they are protesting against.

From the interview with MM in the extras, said that he tried to use a couple of approaches to their massive oil debts by first going to OPEC and asking for the development funds for the third world countries. He said only Algeria and Venezuela were interested. Well yes if not for Venezuela breaking the back of the oligopoly the world oil prices could have stayed higher for a lot longer time.

He said they also asked the Soviet Union for some money. They were in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). I think Cuba was already their lady in waiting. No need for two mistresses.

But I have to admit that he does explain the reasons for IMF intentions and actions fairly well but it never set them back 50 years as he claims. Does he honestly think that his path was going to lead to be a 1st world nation by now?

Michael Manley and some lessons from the IMF CLAUDE ROBINSON Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

La Vida Que te Espera (2004)

La Vida Que te Espera stars Juan Diego as Gildo, a farmer who becomes the prime suspect of the authorities when an associate of his is murdered. His rural life does not appeal to his two daughters, and their lack of enthusiasm is compounded when the son of the dead man arrives with motives of his own. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

A couple of plot twists in this nice film about a single parent father. But really the two daughters were slightly different in their attitude toward the farm. The youngest one obviously did not want to be there but the older one was willing to sacrifice some of her freedoms for the younger one and for stability of the family. Even in the end the two daughters enter their cow in the contest.

"What goes unsaid gets undone."

Pasiegos in Spanish. Pas and Miera valleys.

Rating: 3 (/5)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blood Diamond (2006)

A South African mercenary and a Mende fisherman find their fates forever intertwined as they embark on a quest to obtain a rare and highly coveted pink diamond in director Edward Zwick's frantic adventure drama. Ripped from his family farm and forced to toil away in the sweltering South African diamond fields, Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) discovered an extraordinary rough stone of immeasurable value. Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a hired gun who specializes in the sale of so-called "blood diamonds" that are used to finance rebellions and terrorist organizations, and is currently serving time for smuggling. As a bloody civil war rages in Sierra Leone and Archer learns that Vandy has safely hidden the diamond in a place where no one would ever suspect, the pair enlist the aid of disillusioned American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) in recovering the treasure that has the power to save Vandy's family and provide the desperate Archer with a much-needed chance for redemption. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Other than a slight barb at the USA for purchasing diamonds, the movie was pretty fair in its representations. But it does show how Leonardo is a versatile and talented actor.
BLOOD DIAMONDS/keith harmon snow

Borat (2006)

Yes a politically incorrect film. It has the "Running of the Jew" near the beginning that has a man in an outfit with an oversized Devils head.
"Whoaaaa... He nearly got the money there."
Mrs. Jew has a giant meat clever and lays a giant "Jew Egg".
And the kids attack it to kill the Jew chick before he hatches.
Master of disguise Sacha Baron Cohen hits the road to explore America as the crude Kazakstani reporter Borat in a feature mockumentary that brings one of the Da Ali G Show star's most popular characters to life on the big screen. Sent by the Kazakh Ministry of Information to gain a better understanding of American culture and bring his findings back home, Borat and faithful producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) set their sights in New York City. When the citizens and interview subjects of the Big Apple seem less than receptive to Borat's distinctively unrestrained approach and the curious Kazakh television personality stumbles across an episode of Baywatch while channel-surfing in his hotel room, he becomes instantly smitten with screen siren Pamela Anderson. Now confident that the only way to discover the true essence of America is to travel to California and make the bikini-clad beauty his bride, Borat purchases a ramshackle ice-cream truck in which he and Azamat will make their way across the Great Plains and on to the sunny West Coast -- all the while coming into contact with a wide variety of "typical" Americans. Within this loose, scripted framework, Borat engages in his usual misbehavior with unsuspecting strangers, from accidentally releasing a chicken from his suitcase on a New York subway ride to a formal interview with Alan Keyes. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

He ends up in a bed and breakfast run by a Jewish couple with pictures of Jews on the walls. After thinking the couple was trying to poison them, supposedly they turned into two cock roaches and crawled under the door. So Borat threw money at the cock roaches.

Overall a funny movie, even if nearly the most politically incorrect film I have seen.
Rating: 3 (/5)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Devil's Miner (2005)

The forsaken world of Bolivian silver miners is brought to the screen in this powerful documentary. Basilio Vargas is a 14-year-old boy living in the impoverished Cerro Rico region of Bolivia. Since the death of his father, Basilio and his younger brother Bernardino are the breadwinners in his family, and they support their mother and siblings working in the Cerro Rico silver mines. Basilio is one of 800 children who regularly work the mines, and it's indicative of the danger and physically punishing nature of the work that the miners swear fealty to "Tio" -- the Devil -- because it's believed God would never enter such a place. Cerro Rico's silver miners have an average life expectancy of 40 years or less, thanks to the poisoned air, the constant heat, the use of explosives, the primitive and unsafe equipment, and the long hours demanded of the laborers (most are sent into the mines for 24-hour shifts, and both children and adults often chew coca leaves to ward off hunger and fatigue). While Basilio's more fortunate classmates make fun of him when he's able to attend school, he realized his family need the money and he's willing to endure the agony for the small wage he makes every day. The Devil's Miner chronicles several days in the life of Basilio Vargas as a document of the inhuman conditions he and his fellow miners face, as well as the young man's bravery. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Yes, showing bravery for the young men comes out in the documentary.

I think we have to ask who is exploiting who? Is the mine owner giving the kids an opportunity to help out the family and is the documentary crew exploiting the conditions of the family as a result of their father dieing and having no better alternative? At least this way the children are having a chance to get an education.

Under an ideal situation then the government would provide family services but the revenue has to come from somewhere. I remember reading a while ago that over 50% of cars in Bolivia are stolen.

The life expectancy is 40 years old, but there are a couple of African countries that is less life expectancy than that, notably Zimbabwe.

It starts out with the following message:
The Bolivian silver mines of the Cerro Rico Mountain have been exploited for over 450 years.

It is estimated that 8 million people have died in the mines.

Today over 5000 Indios work in the Minor-Owned Cooperatives, in search of any remaining minerals within Cerro Rico.

It is known as the "Mountain that Eats Men".

The Devil's Miner (the story of a child's survival) is the official web site of the movie.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

Korean director Park Chan-wook followed up his highly acclaimed Joint Security Area with this tale of a deaf mute named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) trying to help his sister (Lim Ji-Eun) get a kidney transplant. Because his blood type is incompatible and no donors are available, he turns to a group of black-market organ dealers who offer to find one in return for one of his and ten million won. The dealers rip him off, so Ryu conspires with his girlfriend, a political activist, to kidnap his former boss' young daughter and ransom her for the ten million won. But a horrible complication ruins their plans and things begin to spiral out of control as the girl's father (Song Kang-ho) decides to take matters into his own hands with the help of a sympathetic cop. ~ Tom Vick, All Movie Guide

Not to give anything away, everyone dies. Or more specifically all sinners are punished, except for the cop and the strange man that hangs out at the river and likes colorful necklaces.

Rating: 2.5 (/5)

Lady Vengeance (2005) has the same theme of good ransom and bad ransom

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lady Vengeance (2005)

A woman looks for both revenge and redemption after spending 13 years in prison in this offbeat thriller from South Korea. Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) was in her early twenties when she was found guilty of kidnapping and killing a young boy, and though she confessed to the crime under duress, while behind bars she dreamed of one day being able to clear her name -- and even the score with the people who railroaded her, including the police officer who brought her in (Nam Il-woo) and Mr. Baek (Choi Min-Sik), a teacher who wronged her in a number of ways. Lee Geun-ja teams up with a number of friends she made during her time in lock-up, including Woo So-yeong (Kim Bu-seon), a thief with a gunsmith for a husband; Oh Su-heui (Ra Mi-ran), who was saved from assault at the hands fellow inmates by Lee; and Preacher Jeon (Kim Byeong-ok), an eccentric man of the cloth who was struck by her gentle nature in jail. As Preacher Jeon helps Lee seek salvation for all she had to do while in prison, her other friends stand by her side as she gets even with her rivals and searches for the daughter she was forced to leave behind when she was convicted. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (aka Chinjeolhan Geum-ja-ssi) was the third film in a series, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Old Boy. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

This film and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) both have the theme of a good ransom and a bad ransom. A good ransom makes everyone happier in making the family bond much closer.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

H (2003)

South Korean filmmaker Lee Jong-hyeok makes his directorial debut with the psychological thriller H. Head cop Kim Mi-yeon (Yeom Jeong-ah) and detective Kang (Ji Jin-heui) lead an investigation of several copycat murders. It seems that all the recently gruesome murders are mimicked in the style of serial killer Shin Hyeon (Jo Seung-woo), who is locked in prison on death row. After the suspects start getting killed in the same way, Kim and Kang seek the help of psychiatrist Chu Gyeong-suk (Kim Seon-gyeong) to get some answers. H was shown at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

Some quotes from the movie:
Detective Kang, when you face the abyss don't forget you are facing yourself. And when you fight a monster like me be careful not to turn into a monster too.
Someday maybe we'll be able to see the blue sky together.

The killings were based on some morality of the killers. Like in killing an abortion doctor, sound familiar?
A strong resemblance to Silence of the Lamb, in that they interview a convicted criminal that knows about the supposed copy cat killer and he plays mind games with the detectives. The one twist is the use of hypnotism.

Rating: 2.5 (/5)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spider Forest (2004)

Kang Min (Gam Woo-seong) wakes up in the middle of a forest and wanders toward a nearby cabin, where he's shocked to find the scene of a brutal, bloody crime. A man lies hacked to death, and Kang Min's girlfriend, Su-young (Kang Gyeong-heon) lies dying of stab wounds nearby. Kang Min sees a dark figure fleeing the cabin and gives chase. Eventually he winds up in a tunnel, where he is struck down by a speeding SUV. In the hospital with a head injury and suspected of murder, Kang tries to recall what happened for his policeman friend, Choi (Jang Hyeon-seong). In flashback, we see Kang, a TV producer, try to deal with the tragic death of his wife. As he sinks into a pit of alcoholism and despair, Su-young, a co-worker who shares a secret bond with him, tries to rouse him out of his funk. When Kang is assigned to investigate rumors that Spider Forest, the remote wood where the murder took place, is haunted, he asks a girl from the region, Su-in (Seoh Jung of The Isle), to tell him all about the local legend. As it turns out, Kang has his own mysterious connection to the ghost story. Spider Forest, written and directed by Song Il-gon (Git), was shown at the 2005 New York Korean Film Festival. ~ Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Rating: Horror Vision 5, Story and Plot 1 (/5)
Definitely not for the faint of heart-even if in just black and white. Starting off with self mutilation in the opening scene of someone slicing open his thigh to insert a electrical conduit.
An hour-long feature from Japanese director Shinyu Tsukamoto, Tetsuo (also known as Tetsuo: The Iron Man) tells a horrific, cyberpunk-influenced science fiction tale about the intersection of man and post-industrial technology. The central character is a Japanese salary man, an average office worker who is transformed by a brief encounter with a metals fetishist, a man who has purposefully implanted pieces of scrap metal in his body. The salary man soon begins sprouting pieces of metal from various parts of his body, a change which is accompanied by increasingly nightmarish visions and bizarre, metal-filled sexual fantasies. As the man evolves into a strange hybrid of man and machine, he also develops a telepathic connection with another of his kind: the metal fetishist, who has been undergoing a similar conversion, and may indeed be the cause of the salary man's transformation. The two engage in a violent, destructive battle throughout the streets of Tokyo, accompanied by an appropriately industrial soundtrack. Shot on a small budget in 16 millimeter black-and-white, Tsukamoto reprised many of the images and plot elements of Tetsuo in a higher-budgeted sequel, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. ~ Judd Blaise, All Movie Guide

Warning if your husband ever becomes a mechanical man and has a twirling member of steel blades, run, run, and run. Too many montages of rapidly sequenced random shots.

"Let me show you a new world"
It ends like any good Monster Movie with two monsters fighting out for control of their small world.

The main character in the movie for some reason wanted to combine man with machines. Thus a creation of the H+ man. He starts by cutting open his inner thigh and inserting an electrical conduit. Then he goes out and runs.

Eventually he combines with more and more metal stuff including some car parts he acquires in an accident. This iron man creates another iron man and in the Godzilla like battle scenes the main character combines with his antithesis to become an even bigger Iron Man that then goes out to destroy Tokyo (actually not sure city).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Días de Santiago (2004)

A 23-year-old Peruvian Navy veteran struggles to re-integrate himself into society only to hit a series of roadblocks both societal and psychological, in the feature directorial debut from Peruvian filmmaker Josue Mendez. Santiago Roman (Pietro Sibille) has just returned to Peru following six years of military service. Coolly received by his parents and unable to find a stable, well-paying job, the dejected Santiago's attempt to further his education is quickly squelched when he discovers that his military pension doesn't offer the money needed to pay his way through school. Though Santiago eventually lands a low-paying job as an inner-city taxi driver, his disdain for the scum of the city finds the formerly virile young soldier sinking into a deep-rooted depression. When a group of Santiago's former military buddies hatch a plan to rob a local bank, the conflicted veteran must choose between an honest life of poverty and an act of desperation that could end in tragedy. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

The plan for the bank heist is actually hatched before he starts taxi driving and does help him pay for a computer class (individual study on a computer). His handicapped friend gives him the car before his friend commits suicide.

It is interesting the various filters the director uses to convey feelings and the most prominent is when it seems that he is most torn internally that the screen is black and white with a prominent grain texture but not distracting in the least. So good technique even though it could have been a cheesy stunt.

Peruvian reality in Dias de Santiago
Dias de Santiago is the opera prima of a Peruvian director that with very low budget managed to tell the stressful story of Santiago. It is a strong movie... I think that people that like independent movies will love this one.

The plot: Santiago is a 23 year old retire marine that returns to Lima after 3 years from fighting in the Peruvian jungle against drug traffic, terrorism and a conflict with neighbor country, Ecuador. Although Santiago was constantly attacked by guilty feelings of the abuses committed by the Peruvian Armed Forces while he was in service (women, children and old people were assassinated with no apparent cause; young women were rapped by members of the armed force; under-the-table negotiations were made with drug mobs, etc.) he was proud of who he was back then. Back in Lima, Peru's centralized capital, things are very different. This chaotic concrete jungle has its own rules, mostly unwritten ones. Santiago is obsessed in trying to decipher the codes, but he fails because his family, friends don't live like structured way he learned in while he was in service.

Yes Santiago is deeply disturbed with thoughts going back and forth from homicide and violence to suicide. But the major theme is not the bank heist but his inability to have a stable relationship with any women he meets.

And his family is actually more morally bankrupt than him. The Peruvian women in the film were very nice on the eyes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Blind Chance (1982)

Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blind Chance was originally titled Przypadek. Boguslaw Linda plays a middle-aged man at a crossroads of his life; whatever choice he makes for his future has the potential of ending in disaster. A sudden accident forces Linda to choose immediately. In keeping with the transcendental nature of his best work, director Kieslowski contrives to permit Linda to sample each of three possible "futures" from three different points of view. Like many of Kieslowski's films, Blind Chance was officially banned when completed in 1982 (the plot was set in motion by the government clampdowns of 1981) and not permitted a public showing until 1987. The film is also known as The Accident. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Strange that I usually like a good story about multiple paths in life, but this one never got me into a real choice between the outcomes. The three different scenarios was a random act of whether Linda gets on the train or runs into a police officer or meets a former friend by missing the train. These events were caused by the drop of his coin and how he interacts with a drunk that picks up the coin to buy a beer.

So I rated it: 2 (/5)

Metropolis (2001)

Playing like a candy-colored hybrid of Fritz Lang's film of the same name and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis borrows its plot liberally from numerous legendary sci-fi sources (despite the fact that the original manga was released in 1945, certain cinematic aspects can't help but appearing overly familiar), all the while dazzling viewers on the same cutting-edge visual level as such anime classics as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. The common anime practice of combining amazingly rendered backdrops and more traditionally hand-drawn characters continues here, though with such nuances as beautifully flowing hair and soulfully expressive faces, it becomes obvious that painstaking detail was paid to making the characters both visually and emotionally involving. However, as expressive as some of the central characters may be, it's the elaborate tri-level industrial labyrinth that encompasses the world of Metropolis that forms the film's central character, and it is a kalidescopic animated marvel to behold. Director Rintaro's beautifully composed visual design is so awe-inspiringly colorful and complex that, from the opening frames, the viewer is fully absorbed in the environment, with plot and characterization almost coming as an afterthought. And that is precisely where the film's ultimately forgivable main weakness lies. In between scenes of wide-eyed, jaw-dropping visuals, the story of human and android tension set against the backdrop of a futuristic city borrows from so many sources that it borders on cliché. Thankfully, writer Tezuka's characters are given a depth and sense of purpose that, while not altogether unconvincing or original, consistently connect with the viewer's sense of recognition and sympathy. Viewers will no doubt attest that Metropolis works almost flawlessly on a purely visual and asthetic level within the opening frames of the film. Thankfully, Tezuka's storytelling skills compliment that on a level which, while not entirely new or original, is at the very least genuinely sincere and thoughtful. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Man of the Year (2006)

Good Morning, Vietnam duo Barry Levinson and Robin Williams re-team to tell the tale of a quick-witted radio talk-show host whose fanciful bid for the presidency becomes a surprising reality in the one political comedy that truly speaks for the people. When talk show host Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) makes an offhand comment that he would be a better president than the leader who currently occupies the White House, a grassroots campaign conducted by his legions of fans finds him unexpectedly ushered into the Oval Office and forced to live up to his promise. Unfortunately for Dobbs, the revelation that his surprise victory was actually the result of a voting computer glitch and not majority vote leaves the outspoken funnyman struggling with the decision to stay the course in the Oval Office or head back behind the microphone where he is truly in his element. Laura Linney, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, and Lewis Black co-star the satirical comedy scripted and directed by Levinson. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

It had the usual Robin Williams as his stand up comedian, which was some of his good material. While it was an excellent film, I still think it could have been over the top funny. I guess that is the problem with a film that advertises so much that you have heard all the good punch lines already.

Lewis Black had a nice monologue about how TVs equalize everyone in the same lens. Thus when Noam Chomsky debates Jagdish Bhagwati (about globalization) they are treated as equals even though one is a known economist with many books on the subject and Noam is a linguist.
Rating: 3.5 (/5)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006)

Nicole Kidman assumes the identity of visionary photographer Diane Arbus in a film that draws inspiration from author Patricia Bosworth's best-selling biography to tell the tale of a once-shy woman who becomes one of her generation's most strikingly original visual artists. Diane Arbus was a typical wife and mother whose morbid interests stood in stark contrast with her decidedly conventional existence in 1950s-era New York. Upon making the acquaintance of her eccentric, newly arrived neighbor, Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.), the once-content housewife soon embarks on a creative journey that will forever change the way both she and her legions of fans view the world around them. By blending factual aspects of Arbus' life with a fictional narrative, Fur weighs the domestic expectations of the 20th century housewife against the irrepressible drive for an artist to create and explore the world around her in her own unique way. Scripted by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Steven Shainberg (Secretary), Fur weaves a fictional romance with intimate details from the iconic photographer's life to offer a fascinating look at Arbus' artistic development. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

For any movie script writers out there, please do not end a movie with "OK".

Talking about nudist camps: Nudists Seek to Attract Younger Members
The median age is 55 at Solair, where a yearly membership is $500 for people older than 40, $300 for people younger than 40 and $150 for college students.

Yes other than health care few things get more expensive to join as you get older.

And this reminded me of a recent event:

Thousands of naked volunteers pose for U.S. photographer Spencer Tunick at Mexico City's Zocalo square May 6, 2007. A record 18,000 people took off their clothes to pose for Tunick on Sunday in Mexico City's Zocalo square, the heart of the ancient Aztec empire. (Daniel Aguilar/Reuters) Yahoo News

But in reality this was more than an artist gone wild and curiosity, it was a fetish film. Nicolw Kidman has done some bizarre films already, and this just adds to that collection.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dreamgirls (2006)

Director Bill Condon brings Tom Eyen's Tony award-winning Broadway musical to the big screen in a tale of dreams, stardom, and the high cost of success in the cutthroat recording industry. The time is the 1960s, and singers Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) are about to find out just what it's like to have their wildest dreams come true. Discovered at a local talent show by ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), the trio known as "the Dreamettes" is soon offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening for popular singer James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy). Subsequently molded into an unstoppable hit machine by Taylor and propelled into the spotlight as "the Dreams," the girls quickly find their bid for the big time taking priority over personal friendship as Taylor edges out the ultra-talented Effie so that the more beautiful Deena can become the face of the group. Now, as the crossover act continues to dominate the airwaves, the small-town girls with big-city dreams slowly begin to realize that the true cost of fame may be higher than any of them ever anticipated.

~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

I guess if you like musicals then yes a nice flashback to the 60s.
Rating: 2 (/5)

Amélie (2001)

One woman decides to change the world by changing the lives of the people she knows in this charming and romantic comic fantasy from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Amelie (Audrey Tautou) is a young woman who had a decidedly unusual childhood; misdiagnosed with an unusual heart condition, Amelie didn't attend school with other children, but spent most of her time in her room, where she developed a keen imagination and an active fantasy life. Her mother Amandine (Lorella Cravotta) died in a freak accident when Amelie was eight, and her father Raphael (Rufus) had limited contact with her, since his presence seemed to throw her heart into high gear. Despite all this, Amelie has grown into a healthy and beautiful young woman who works in a cafe and has a whimsical, romantic nature. When Princess Diana dies in a car wreck in the summer of 1997, Amelie is reminded that life can be fleeting and she decides it's time for her to intervene in the lives of those around her, hoping to bring a bit of happiness to her neighbors and the regulars at the cafe. Amelie starts by bringing together two lonely people -- Georgette (Isabelle Nanty), a tobacconist with a severe case of hypochondria, and Joseph (Dominique Pinon), an especially ill-tempered customer. When Amelie finds a box of old toys in her apartment, she returns them to their former owner, Mr. Bretodeau (Maurice Benichou), sending him on a reverie of childhood. Amelie befriends Dufayel (Serge Merlin), an elderly artist living nearby whose bones are so brittle, thanks to a rare disease, that everything in his flat must be padded for his protection. And Amelie decides someone has to step into the life of Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), a lonely adult video store clerk and part-time carnival spook-show ghost who collects pictures left behind at photo booths around Paris. Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amelie Poulain received unusually enthusiastic advance reviews prior to its French premiere in the spring of 2001, and was well received at a special free screening at that year's Cannes Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Yes a very cute and admirable film but just as easily forgettable. Like a lot of films it can be a bit longer than the normal US film at 122 minutes.

Rating: 4 (/5)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Psy (1992) (The Pigs)

It is funny to see when the translation for the subtitles are wrong. Like "when did your wife live you?"
One question that arose when Poland changed from its communist form of government to a more open model was what to do with its thousands of secret policemen. Clearly, some of them couldn't be integrated into the regular police force, and some of them could. In this police thriller, Olo (Marek Kondrat) is a former secret policeman who has joined an illegal drug cartel, and he soon comes into conflict with one of the men newly integrated into the regular police force. Despite his being a "regular" policeman, Franz (Boguslaw Linda) refuses to play by the book, and uses many of his old techniques and contacts to track down whoever is killing so many of his new colleagues. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

...and I thought Natural Born Killers had a high body count.,
I was surprised to see that a sequel to this film was made. Not because Pigs isn't well crafted, but because I didn't think there was anyone left in Poland by the time the credits rolled. I don't think I've ever seen so many heads exploding or bodies convulsing as they're pumped full of bullets. The plot revolves around the antics of a group of seriously hard police adjusting to a more restrictive life, where their utterly depraved past behaviour is now frowned upon by society. It's definitely interesting, with good performances (although those who enjoyed the wonderful Janusz Gajos in Three Colours: White may find him less charming here) and weirdly beautiful cinematography, but let's just say it's not a good choice for a date movie unless you're dating Aileen Wuornos.
Was the above comment useful to

Starting with a man hanged upside down beaten to death in plastic bag, the movie was fairly violent-although not the most violent I have seen. In the end it was a story of betrayal.

Rating: 3.5 (/5)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Krotki Film o Zabijaniu (1987)(A Short Film About Killing)

This disturbing and violent feature opens with a scene of a dead rat and a lifeless cat hanging by the neck. As the plot unfolds, Yatzek (Miroslaw Baka) is a 20-year-old drifter who murders a testy taxi driver (Jan Tesarz) in a gut-wrenching scene of excessive violence. Tension continues to build as a newly licensed young attorney (Krzysztof Globisz is chosen to represent Yatzek in court. Much anticipated and well-received at Cannes, the film won the European Film Academy Award for "Best European Film" in 1988. ~ Dan Pavlides, All Movie Guide

A Short Film About Killing (Poland, 1988):
(Krótki Film o Zabijaniu)

Death from the very beginning -- a rat decomposing in the water, a cat hanging from a railing as giggling children run off. In Krzysztof Kieslowski's expansion of the Decalogue: Five segment ("Thou shalt not kill"), the commandment bounds individual and governmental killing into one object of anguished contemplation. Biblical intimations also figure in the bar exam summation ("Since Cain, no punishment has been capable of improving the world") of apprentice attorney Krzysztof Globisz, one of the three Warsaw dwellers whose path ominously converge; the others are a 20-year-old drifter (Miroslaw Baka) and a jaundiced, middle-aged cabbie (Jan Tesarz). The obscured-vision effects of Slawomir Idziak's dirty-sepia filters -- characters encircled by soiling irises -- suggest isolated realities clashing appallingly in the most excruciating murder since Torn Curtain's farmhouse killing: a mid-ride throttling, Tesarz's writhing foot emerging bare from shoe and sock, a heavy body dragged through an almost Tarkovskyan marsh before the final bludgeoning at Bakas hand's. Kieslowski skips over the investigation for the guilty verdict, the better to focus on the defeated lawyer's impotent despair as the young killer awaits the sentence to be carried out. The first half is random details and deliberate choices, a sack falling from above and a devil's head dangling from a rearview mirror, a hooligan pondering whether to throw a rock onto a busy highway and picking one cream puff over another. The second half is implacable fate, precipitated by the past (an angelic photograph points to a pastoral, lost) and streamlined with state-execution efficiency, the reflection of the driver's murder located in Baka's no less protracted hanging. Globisz' optimism crumbles in the face of humanity's potential for brutality, but for Kieslowski a moral revival, much needed for modern Poland (and, in the view of interconnectedness, the whole world), must alarm before it can humble. "You've aged quite a bit today," the prosecutor tells him. Krzysztof Piesiewicz co-wrote the screenplay.

--- Fernando F. Croce."

No last meal but at least an unfiltered cigarette he got before execution.
It was a not the usual sharp and sudden drop of a normal hanging that is meant to break the neck.
But not sure the reason for having the story of his drunk friend and him that ran over his sister in a tractor. So he blames his outcome in his 21 years of life on choosing a bad path in life earlier. At any time during the killing (three distinct acts of violence on the victim) he could have walked away.

Rating: 2 (/5)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Mod Squad (1999)

Police Capt. Adam Greer (Dennis Farina) needs some new cops who can go where other cops can't. Greer finds three young people on their way to jail: Lincoln Hayes (Omar Epps), the black one, is up for arson; Pete Cochrane (Giovanni Ribisi), the white one, is up for robbery; and Julie Barnes (Claire Danes), the blonde one, is up for assault. The three are given a choice: go to jail, or become a special undercover unit that will infiltrate L.A.'s underbelly and bring down the drug dealers and parasites that are preying on the young. Their only rules: no badges, no guns, and no turning in other kids. This "mod squad" encounters a major problem when a cache of drugs disappears from the police evidence locker. All clues point to dirty cops, while the cops want to close ranks and blame the new kids. With their first big case, the squad realize they'll receive no help from the L.A.P.D. and must solve it their own way. ~ Ron Wells, All Movie Guide

I never watched too much of the original TV show The Mod Squad much. But this was a let down by not having that edginess in the script that even for a 70s show seemed to have. The characters were flat and seemed like two bit punks instead of hardened criminals that were street-wise.

Rating: 2 (/5)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Night Watch (2004)

Two bands of warriors, one good and one evil, battle to keep the peace in Moscow in this cat's cradle thriller from Russia. In 1342, the Warriors of Light (led by Gesser, Lord of Light) and the Warriors of Darkness (led by Zavulon, General of Darkness) declare a truce under which each side will form a law enforcement team to monitor the other side's activities. The Warriors of Light, who enforce the powers of good, patrol the Night Watch, while the Warriors of Darkness, who openly embrace evil, staff the Day Watch. Each watch group also contains "Others," mortals with supernatural powers from both sides that include vampires, shapeshifters, witches, and the like. Prophecy suggests that one day, a Great One will surface and permanently extinguish the threat of an apocalyptic war between the two sides by upsetting the balance, lending greater power to either good or evil (depending on his or her choice) and thus determining the future of mankind forever.

In 1992, Night Watch member and Warrior of Light Anton Gordesky (Konstantin Khabensky) discovers he's an "other" amid a sting on a witch. Cut to twelve years later. In 2004, Anton still works the Night Watch, but now he's a vampiric warrior who drinks blood. One night, while on patrol, he rescues a young boy named Egor (Dima Martinov) from a handful of Dark Warriors, but in the process, he encounters Svetlana (Maria Poroshina), a woman who acts as a "funnel" -- a conduit for the powers of evil. Anton reflects on the prophecy regarding "The Great One," and begins to suspect that Svetlana and Egor may be harbingers of this fateful event. As the first installment in a Russian trilogy, Night Watch (aka Nochnoj Dozor) was a massive box-office success in its native Russia, and is followed by the second installment, Day Watch; it was released in the U.S. with a heavy prologue and epilogue, and animated subtitles that alternately scuttle across the screen, dissolve, shudder, and explode.

20th Century Fox not only purchased United States distribution rights for the film, but also announced plans for a Westernized remake. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

A very bloody gory film that ended with the sins of the father being paid back by the sins of the son. I also liked the medieval battle with swords.
Rating: 3 (/5)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Deja Vu (2006)

Adrenaline loving director Tony Scott teams with iconic action producer Jerry Bruckheimer for this high flung sci-fi action thriller concerning a New Orleans based maverick ATF agent named Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) who is brought in on a top secret government program to catch the terrorist (Jim Caviezel) responsible for a ferry bombing that kills hundreds. Able to do what most law enforcement officers only dream of, Carlin is now able to look back in time at the perpetrator's movements, and at the life of the innocent woman whose death would set the events into motion. Carlin's instincts tell him that something is amiss, however, and while the government agent who tapped him for the job (Val Kilmer) and the team of ultra-cool scientists who run the project (Adam Goldberg, Erika Alexander) tell him one story about the quantum physics behind this marvel of technology, the hotshot agent suspects that there is a greater power at their fingertips--one that might not just solve the crime at hand, but prevent it. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Without giving away the ending, yes Denzel does go back into the past to try and save the victims including the woman victim. Yes, a very edge of your seat thriller that delves into some interesting thoughts on whether we could actually change the past and if it did would it erase the branch in history that actually created that branch.

Rating: 4.5 (/5)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Dream of a Warrior (2002)

The time travel drama Dream of a Warrior stars Leon Lai as Dean, a police officer who must travel back in time to save Rose, the daughter of the time machine's inventor. Making matters more difficult is that fact that the brave man loves Rose, who is stuck in the past...and the time machine breaks. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

As Dean goes in the past the film has the following narration.
Dillmoon, The space of Seong-jin's former life. DillMoon was a highly developed state but only to be destroyed due to apathy against the high civilization
It's an imaginary space in the universe of neither the past not the future
Power Football is a sport that everyone can play, regardless of their class, and show off their martial art skills

They live in a strict class stratus called Katro where generals wield power and women are forced into marriages. The Senators (6) make decisions about war in a star chamber. But overall a good shoot'em up sci-fi movie.

Rating: 3.5 (/5)
Sucks-Love HK Film

Autumn Spring (2002)

Fanda (Vlastimil Brodsk� of Larks on a String), an elderly former actor, can't resist playing practical jokes on everyone around him. As Autumn Spring opens, Fanda and his best friend and co-conspirator, Eda (Stanislav Zindulka), have convinced a real estate agent that Fanda is a retired star from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. As they tour an opulent mansion, Fanda pronounces it "very shabby." Fanda doesn't mean any harm with his pranks. He's just trying to amuse himself. But his wife, Em�lie (Stella Z�zvorkov�) doesn't understand his childish behavior, and resents the way he squanders money and wastes his time while she scrimps and saves and makes preparations for their eventual burial. Their selfish son, J�ra (Ondrej Vetch�), wants them to move out of their apartment so that his ex-wife and her kids can move in. When one victim of Fanda's pranks realizes he's been had and demands payment for his time and expenditures, Fanda calmly agrees. Unable to come up with the money, he dips into Em�lie's funeral fund. When she finds out about it, she decides to take drastic action, which has a profound effect on Fanda's carefree existence. Autumn Spring was directed by Vladim�r Mich�lek from a script by Jir� Hubac. It marks the final performance of renowned Czech actor Brodsk�, who committed suicide shortly after the film was made. Autumn Spring won several Czech Lion awards in 2001, and has been shown at festivals throughout the world, including the 2003 installment of New Directors/New Films. ~ Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide

Honestly, I was greatly disappointed by this film. It seemed it had plenty of material but failed to really hit a nerve with me. I did like the ending though as the wife lets down her hair a little.

Rating: 2 (/5)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Promised Land (1974)

Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda adapted his 1975 effort Land of Promise (Ziemia Obiecana) from an 1897 novel by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont. The story concerns three Polish laborers of vastly different social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Unlike many of their recalcitrant contemporaries, the three men are able to overcome their differences and work together. Eventually they create and manage a textile factory, founded upon the edicts of equality, trust, and respect. By concentrating on three individuals, Wajda is able to reflect Poland's 19th century ascension from ancient feudalism to modern capitalism. But this is no sugar-coated "beating the odds" saga; Wajda makes it clear that with progress comes sacrifice and heartache. Also released as The Promised Land, Land of Promise originated as a multipart series for Polish television. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

A boring film for me that bordered on antisemitism. While it is suppose to be a story of triumphs over odds, it had a strong anti-capitalist approach with the three men being heartless bastards.

Rating: 2 (/5)

The Promised Land
Set in the industrial city of Łódź, The Promised Land tells the story of a Pole, a German, and a Jew struggling to build a factory in the raw world of 19th century capitalism.