Movie Template

Posted by schnolis on January 31st, 2011 filed in Uncategorized
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What I liked: Likes.

What I disliked: Dislikes.

Rating: of 10


Dusting off the Cobwebs (Is there Anybody Out There?)

Posted by schnolis on February 4th, 2010 filed in Observations
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Sometime around August life got very busy for me personally. Since the holidays are now past and the immediate concerns at home have abated, I feel the time has come to resume this project.

I have neglected this site for too long. I’m setting a goal for myself to finish the 2009 Movies project within the calendar year of 2010, which gives me just about 11 months to watch 90 movies and write 111 reviews. I’ve updated The List, which now shows all the movies left in the challenge. Many of the films are already available on DVD, so I’ve got no reason to hold back.


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on August 21st, 2009 filed in Announcements
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I’m finally updating the past Friday Updates, so at least the website is up to date. So far so good. I have no way of getting to the theater anytime soon, but I hope to be caught up sometime next month. Wish me luck!


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on August 14th, 2009 filed in Announcements
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Whoa! I am so behind no there’s absolutely no way I’ll catch up by the end of the calendar year. Still, that’s okay. I’m going to get back to the Ritz when I can, and make up the remainder on video.


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on August 7th, 2009 filed in Announcements
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I’ve had a bit of trouble this week at home, and didn’t get to see any of the new films. That means I have to add three more to the unavailable list, and keep going with the ones I can still see. This week there are four new ones to add to the pile:

Wish me luck!


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on July 31st, 2009 filed in Announcements
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The easy times have officially passed. This week the Ritz is trying to give me extra stress by releasing six movies at once. They are:

I’ve seen trailers for $9.99, Humpday and Soul Power, but the others I’m largely in the dark about. The ones I know about all look fairly decent, but none look amazing.


Movie Wednesday

Posted by schnolis on July 27th, 2009 filed in Showtimes
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This week is very simple. Only one movie is leaving, and I’m only seeing it:

Afghan Star, 9:30p, Ritz at the Bourse

My mom is still visiting from Chicago and so we’ll probably just spend some extra time together. We’re planning to attend a daytime showing of the new Ice Age movie for the whole family. This will potentially be the first theater movie for my twin daughters. I’m hoping they enjoy it, though I’m not sure how they’ll handle the 3D. Maybe that’s too much.


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on July 24th, 2009 filed in Announcements
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Only one new film this week:

Afghan Star is about a show like American Idon but set in Afghanistan. I don’t know anything, really, about the other two movies as I have assiduously avoided watching the trailers. Moon spoiled far too much for me and now I’m trying to be careful again.


Movie Wednesday

Posted by schnolis on July 21st, 2009 filed in Showtimes
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As there are no screenings I’m aware of for Wednesday, it’s going to be a simple night. There are only two movies I still need to see and they are:

The Hurt Locker, 7:00p, Ritz Five
Séraphine, 9:50p, Ritz Five

Movie times are pretty simple, though there’s a pretty large gap in between. My mother is coming to visit this week, and arrives only a few hours before. She’s graciously agreed to watch the girls and allow me to continue my movie night, so I’m excited to still be going. Next week remains up in the air, as I’m going to be busy with the family while I’m on vacation. Hopefully I’ll still find time to catch a few films. Stay posted if you’re coming along.


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on July 17th, 2009 filed in Announcements
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Only one new film this week:

I haven’t watched the trailer when it has shown, as I don’t want to learn anything about it.

This week just past I got to see five movies and most of what was out. Even with this release, there are only two films that I haven’t seen which are available in the theater or on DVD. I’m hoping to use this week to finish some of the now 17 unpublished reviews I’ve got in the queue.


Cheri

Posted by schnolis on July 15th, 2009 filed in Reviews
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CheriI’m not a believer in the idealized romantic notion that everyone has one perfect love. People (and characters in films) that believe this to be true are simply selling themselves short. It’s a kind of emotional laziness that isn’t backed by everyday, real world evidence. Plenty of people love and love again, whether after divorce or death, and make the best of it. We love all our children, and parents, and some friends, and our lives are richer for it. Cheri makes this precept central to its story, which restricts my ability to empathize or understand it.

Cheri (Rupert Friend) is a young man not quite 20 years of age. He was born to a very successful prostitute., Madme Peloux (Kathy Bates). He was a relatively normal child but into adulthood became more confused and angry. Ultimately he is eventually taken in by Lea de Lonval (Michell Pfeiffer), also a prostitute, and many years older. The women have done very for themselves, but are social outcasts in an era and culture where it mattered more. Cheri is drawn to Lea’s kindness, and the two become romantically involved despite the difference in age. She takes care of him, trying to draw him out of his petulent shell while instructing him on societal ways. But when Madame Peloux arranges a marriage with (you guessed it) another prostitute’s daughter, the six year arrangement with Lea must come to an end. This sends Cheri and Lea into depressive states, though neither is willing to refuse the arrangement. They don’t acknowledge to themselves or each other the love they feel connecting them; instead they perfunctorily live their livers, all the while harboring desires to be back with their old lover.

One frustrating fault with this film is the way information is presented. The realizations aren’t shown to us by the actions of characters themselves. We’re instructed via a third-party audio overdub of the rudimentary foundations of the culture, and in the end of Cheri’s ultimate despair and suicide. It never fails to astonish me that film makers can’t be bothered to show us viewers a story and allow us to come to our own conclusions. We’re capable of understanding the complexities of love and despair without direct explanation, and deducing what led to actions the performers made. I found myself asking why I should care about any of them? The ridiculously overvalued Victorian sensibilities coupled with the faulty one-true love premise combined in Cheri for an exasperated experience, quite distant from any form of enjoyment.

What I liked: Some of the dialog was interesting, and the costumes extravagant. The performances of Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend were fine by themselves, but the deplorable characters and the uninteresting story diminished any appreciation. It’s always amazing to see the incredible castles and estates the excessively wealthy people in the world inhabit.

What I disliked: The overdubbed narration was annoying. There was some information provided about the history of courtesans and their rise in popularity in history, but was otherwise strange in so far as it appeared early in the film but disappeared until the very end. I got the impression it was added late to the mix to explain certain points that failed to get adequate descriptions in the film. The characters weren’t likable, and not because of their being prostitutes. I wanted to like the characters, but how could I when they never acted worthy of care?

Rating: 3 of 10


Moon

Posted by schnolis on July 14th, 2009 filed in Reviews
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MOONMoon is a better than average science-fiction film that works fairly well despite not being able to explain away the logical holes in the story. Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is just finishing up a three-year contract maintaining a mining facility on the dark side of the moon. He’s ready to get back home to his wife and child, who he has only been able to talk to via taped messages since the live connection to Earth was lost years before. His primary duty is gathering canisters of fuel from harvesters that run continuously and shipping them to Earth for Lunar Industries. He spends idle time watching old television reruns, jogging on the treadmill, playing ping-pong, and carving intricate miniatures with a magnifying glass and scalpel. His is a contempletive existence, which has mellowed the angry Sam into a more mature and well-adjusted person.

Before he’s finished his time, though, strange things start happening to Sam. He’s become more brittle. He has periods where he cannot focus and has even begun hallucinating. When he crashes a rover into one of the harvesters, things don’t look good. Even after GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) patches him up, things aren’t quite copacetic. Sam goes out to find out what’s wrong with the harvester, only to find someone who looks just like himself, barely alive, in the wreckage. GERTY doesn’t provide any answers, so the two Sams work together to reason out what’s going on. They conclude they must both be clones, activated when the old clone no longer worked.

This is where the film begins to go someplace interesting. The relationship between the clones is touching and awkward. Initiaully neither one wants to admit he is the clone. This leads to a few scuffles and confrontations. But the older Sam has experiences the younger Sam doesn’t, and even though their common memories of before are set, they are two different people. They each learn from the other, and quickly adapt to the unexpected. The question of whether clones deserve to be treated as humans clearly comes into question. What makes someone a person, worth of respect and individual freedom? What are the ethical and moral implications of creating another person, and then deceiving them through more technology? Our society is headed in this direction, faster than we’re able to keep up and answer those difficult questions. This is what good science fiction does, and Moon is certainly that.

What I liked: The stunning lunar landscapes and perspectives. The set of the station was really cool and was a great locale for the story. Sam Rockwell did a terrific job, too, in a subdued near solo performance that I think is potentially award worthy. The tech was gritty and simple, almost like something extrapolated and envisioned in the Apollo lunar landing era for what the middle of the 21st century would look like.

What I disliked: Trailers ruined the enjoyment of much of the movie for me. I suspected many of the plot twists from the very beginning, just based on the scenes in the trailer, which I saw easily a half-dozen times. While I understand that it wasn’t the whole movie, I don’t think I got enough out of the bits that I hadn’t already deduced to make it really worth seeing. Some of the logical holes in the story are larger than I can easily overlook. Why was the cost of the clones so cheap? Why couldn’t the robots do remotely everything the human did in the film? If they produced so much cheap energy on the moon, why couldn’t they afford to send more people and technology up?

Rating: 7 of 10


The Stoning of Soraya M.

Posted by schnolis on July 14th, 2009 filed in Reviews
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THE STONING OF SORAYA M.I consider myself a bit of a philosopher. I I enjoy learning about fascinating ideas, overarching concepts and the big picture. One topic that often comes up is morality. Morality is a complicated subject that is still studied frequently today. Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist at the University of Virginia defines it thus: “Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, practices, institutions, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible.” At its heart The Stoning of Soraya M. is about our moral systems and how they worked against an individual Iranian woman.

Soraya is unhappily married to Ali. Their family life strained by his desire for a divorce so he can marry a more wealthy girl. Soraya will not accede to this as she would be left unable to provide for the children. She is aided by her Aunt Zahra, the most respected woman in the tiny rural town, but even together there’s little they can do. Women aren’t respected enough in the traditionalist Islamic culture to have a say. Ali schemes to have Soraya accused of adultery, which he succeeds in after intimidating a local simpleton to testify against his wife. Eventually the entire town comes to stand against Soraya, accusing her of violating the will of God, and demanding her death by stoning.

The stoning scene itself is the focus of the film. Soraya arms are tied to her side and then she gets buried up to her waist in the ground. Starting with the people who should have loved her the most, including her father, her husband and her children, they pick up stones and hurl them at her, inflicting bloody welts and open sores on top of what must have been exceptionally painful bruising. The unadulterated barbarism is shocking to modern sensibilities, but this is not a film about ancient times. Stonings still occur in the extremely restrictive cultures still haunting the world, mostly to women.

Soraya is killed due to a cultural preference for males in her society. Their moral systems failed to protect her because she wasn’t deemed to be as important. This is the reason we must fight against discrimination of all sorts. Whenever people are marginalized and deemed of lower status than others, then incredible justifications for wronging those people can be and are made. We must speak out against such barbaric cultures, religions, beliefs, and principles whenever possible. The story of Soraya informs us of the consequences of inaction.

What I liked: The movie was well made, and was beautiful (if heartbreaking) to watch. The women were fantastic and strong despite the limitations of their status, and carried the movie for the men. I thought the portrayal of the stoning itself was a visceral, difficulty scene. It wasn’t a short scene that glossed over the gore or the brutality. It felt painfully anachronistic and chilling to see it occurring in a modern time.

What I disliked: While the movie seemed polished and professional, some of the scenes seemed to be unnecessary movie conflict. There was clearly enough material in the film to do without the trite car chase scene at the end. The men’s roles were too simple, but most likely only because the women’s performances were nuanced, subtle and important.

Rating: 7 of 10


Movie Tuesday

Posted by schnolis on July 14th, 2009 filed in Showtimes
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Due to an unforeseen and fortuitous event, I’m going to get to see a film tonight with my wife Linda. It’s probably just one film, but it’s one that’s leaving this week so it’s a good plan.

The Stoning of Soraya M., 7:15p, Ritz Five
The Hurt Locker, 9:45p, Ritz Five

Linda’s not planning to stay for the second show, but I’ll just stay a little later. I like that I don’t have to leave work early, either. Tonight should be fun!


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on July 10th, 2009 filed in Announcements
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I think the Philadelphia QFest Film Festival is going to slow things down for a couple of weeks. That’s fine, because I have over a dozen reviews still to write. There are two new films opening up:

I already saw Tetro at a screening function last week, so only one new film added to the list this week.


Movie Wednesday

Posted by schnolis on July 9th, 2009 filed in Showtimes
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Movie night is back to Wednesday this week. I’ve got a chance to see a screening of Julie & Julia, and I don’t like to turn down free movies.

Cheri, 4:30p, Ritz Five
Julie & Julia, 7:30p, Ritz Five
The Girl from Monaco, 9:50p, Ritz Five

The times don’t line up well. I’ll need to leave work early to get down to see a 4:30p show, but it will make getting in line for the screening easier. I don’t know if anything else is leaving this week, either. The plans could easily change.


Philadelphia Qfest

Posted by schnolis on July 9th, 2009 filed in Announcements
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There’s a new film festival starting today. The 15th Annual International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (known as Qfest) runs through July 20 at the Ritz East theater. There will be dozens of new full-length and short films, highlighting lesbian, African-American, Latina/Latino, Youth and Philadelphia filmmakers. Some films are being shown in open theaters, like the Grease sing-a-long.

I will probably not get to see any just due to time constraints, but there are plenty of interesting looking films that I’m going to add to my Netflix queue to screen when they are released on DVD.


Movie Tuesday

Posted by schnolis on July 7th, 2009 filed in Showtimes
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This week I’m moving the movie night to Tuesday, to accommodate a friend who cannot go on Wednesday. I’m planning to see three movies, but I’m not sure which the third will be yet:

The End of the Line, 5:15p, Ritz at the Bourse
Little Ashes, 7:00p, Ritz at the Bourse
Cheri/The Girl from Monaco, 10:00p, Ritz Five

The two options for later are at the same theater at the same time, so that makes it a pretty easy choice.


Friday Update

Posted by schnolis on July 3rd, 2009 filed in Announcements
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This is another pretty normal week for the summer. There are three new films opening up:

Moon is the movie that stands out for me this week. The trailers for it started a long time ago, and I’ve looked forward to it from the first time. The End of the Line is yet another documentary, and I know nothing about the Girl from Monaco.

* One Week Only


Whatever Works

Posted by schnolis on July 2nd, 2009 filed in Reviews
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WHATEVER_WORKSWhatever Works is the story of a writer-director who pumps out three or four movies a year that always seem to have an attractive 18-year old woman who’s somehow attracted to the neurotic megalomaniacal septuagenarian who uncannily resembles the writer-director. Or maybe I’m mixing the plot of the movie with real life? I’m really not sure. After seeing Whatever Works tonight I’m not sure that I’m as big a fan of Woody Allen anymore. Either this film just wasn’t up to par or seeing too many of Allen’s films in too short of a span of time just makes you feel a little creepy and voyeuristic.

Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is a temperamental chess-tutor and self-proclaimed genius whose life we follow over the several year span of this farce. While returning to his apartment he is startled by a young runaway girl who is looking for something to eat. Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood ) pleads with him to take her in, which he does, despite going completely against his curmudgeonly nature. After she stays with him for a while, she starts to have feelings for him, and they ultimately get married, despite the 40-odd year difference in ages. This goes fine until her mother Marietta (Patricia Clarkson) locates her. She pleads with Melodie to come home to Mississippi, but Melodie would rather stay. Instead, Marietta is consumed by the freedom to pursue her interests in the big city, and gives up her convictions and moves in with two men. Until, of course, Marietta’s husband John (Ed Begley Jr.) arrives to reclaim her and Melodie. Boris endures all of this as you would expect (badly) but is moved to desperation one day when Marietta tells him she’s found someone else and is leaving Boris. For the second time in his life he jumps out a window in an attempt to kill himself, only to survive by falling on a passing stranger.

On it’s own there’s nothing terribly interesting about the story. It’s preposterous, true, but it’s meant to be silly. It’s just a vehicle for some of the ideological positions that Boris offers up. His philosophy of life is that there is nothing important, no underlying meaning or mystery, and that you should take any opportunity to enjoy whatever life gives you, because it’s not nearly as much in your control as you could possibly believe. So by doing Whatever Works you at least have some chance at being happy while you’re here. Because you’re certainly not going anywhere else once you’re gone.

What I liked: The philosophical nature of the concepts in the film. I enjoyed the contemplation of the bigger picture, and find myself largely in agreement with the ideas espoused by Boris, though not the the same degree. I found the transformations of the characters from a right-wing stereotype into a left-wing stereotype to be hilarious and irreverent. The witty exposure of the roles we play in our lives was clever, especially with how silly the whole process seemed at the time.

What I disliked: I’m a bit tired of sixty-somethings being love interests of twenty-somethings. It’s too creepy for me. I realize it’s a farce, but it’s wasn’t necessary to the rest of the film. And it took away from it. I didn’t like Larry David in the movie, and while I think that was largely the script and the film and not his performance, I’m not sure he’s free from all rebuke. The movie and most of the performances were just average.

Rating: 5 of 10