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Monday, August 29, 2016

Wag the Dog (1997)

An American comedy directed by Barry Levinson, starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and William H. Macy.
The current president of the United States of America is having trouble and is not going to be elected for a second term of office. He has his press team hire a Hollywood film producer to help them fabricate stories to make him look good.
One note before I start, we NEVER see the president and he is not named. That is not good writing. The plot seemed to settle on the "fun and games" section for most of the duration. There was minor conflict at the beginning and end, but mostly it was this team making up fake news for TV. Again, bad writing. I liked Dustin Hoffman's part as the film producer who could fix anything. He basically led the film. I didn't notice anything amazing or horrid with the video. Some would say that means it was good. I say not good enough. The audio featured Willie Nelson singing and playing guitar solo, which I liked. Overall, the flaws outweigh the strengths. I have to rate this poor. It wasn't painful, but it's not worth watching.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Toys (1992)

An American comedy directed by Barry Levinson, starring Robin Williams, Michael Gambon and Joan Cusack.
The owner of a toy factory dies and leaves a military uncle in charge. He immediately begins work on military applications of toy technology. The rightful heir must work with his friends to dethrone the militarist.
I liked this way more when I saw it in 1992. The plot was not believable. In fact, it was totally absurd. The characters were extremely stereotypical, although Robin Williams was very good. He's one of those magic men who can shine in any scenario. Most of the dialogue was hokey and none of it seemed natural. There were some very interesting visual elements. The grassy hills was a surreal setting that the machinations of the toy factory expanded upon. The dollhouse room inside the matching real room was genius and I really liked the rolling hills hallway with duck crossing (picture). The audio was not to my liking. I could hear the dialogue, but the soundtrack irked me. The happy workers song and the military "HOO HAH!" was way overdone. Overall, a movie with a cheesy gimmick that was poorly written, but with good visual elements. I rate it o.k.

Tin Men (1987)

An American comedy drama directed by Barry Levinson, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito and Barbara Hershey.
Aluminum siding salesmen get into a car accident that begins a feud between them. One of them goes as far as stealing the other man's wife in revenge. A home improvement commission is also evaluating their sales techniques, which are mostly hustling, lying and cheating.
Pretty normal flick. The plot held my attention and I think it was written well, with twists at the appropriate times. The characters were acted and cast well and the dialogue seemed natural. My favorite video scene was Danny DeVito smashing the windows of his enemy's car. They used fast editing to get a series of climactic moments of glass breaking. The ending shot was framed very well, but I won't spoil it. There was also a repeated shot showing the back ends of a row of Cadillacs at the aluminum siding office. The audio was decent. I could hear all of the dialogue and it was accompanied by '60s music to complete the setting. I believe that the video of musicians playing was actually real, a very rare thing in movies. Overall, a regular flick with some positive aspects in production categories. I rate it adequate.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Humbling (2014)

An American drama directed by Barry Levinson, starring Al Pacino, Dianne Wiest and Charles Grodin.
An aging actor collapses onstage. He spends some time in a recovery clinic and makes friends with a younger female patient who wants to kill he husband. When he gets out, the daughter of a friend contacts him and they have an affair. She is supposedly a lesbian who has had multiple relationships and her past partners show up at the actor's house.
Pretty cool. The plot was complex and left me wondering what was real and what was in the main character's imagination. The characters were cast very well, the dialogue was written well and everyone acted their parts accurately. Video and audio were pretty normal and tame. I didn't see or hear anything that really blew me away. The closest it got was the waiting room scene at the fertility clinic. I like that this played on the edge of drama and psych thriller. Overall, a very nice film to watch. I rate this awesome.

The Bay (2012)

An American found footage horror directed by Barry Levinson.
An independent news reporter covers the 4th of July festival at a small town, but people are becoming sick from something in the water. It turns out that mutated aquatic organisms are eating them.
Not too bad. The plot came together really nice from the multiple sources of footage. The characters weren't anything special, but that's standard for horror films. The poor video quality worked favorably by mimicking what would be shot on a cell phone or security camera. The audio was authentic as well, but could have been normalized for volume better. I thought it was convincing and relatively believable. Overall, a pretty cool horror flick. I rate it good.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tape (2001)

An American drama directed by Richard Linklater, starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
A man lures an old friend to his hotel room to get him to admit to raping a woman 10 years ago. Then the woman shows up.
This took too long to say too little. That would be a plot problem. The characters were believable and well acted, but I think the dialogue was too verbose. The video was all fast cuts and quick editing. It didn't let me become comfortable with any scene before moving on. The audio was not the best. The actors whispered most of the time. Overall, not a very pleasant viewing experience. I rate this poor.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Man of the Year (2006)

An American comedy drama directed by Barry Levinson, starring Robin Williams, Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum.
A comedy talk show host jokes about running for president. Because of popular response, he does so. A woman at the voting machine company discovers a problem with the voting machines that causes him to actually be elected.
This was not too shabby. It had pros and cons like most normal movies. The plot was good and held my attention. The comedian's political campaign being based on honesty and common sense was awesome. I think that casting went awry with the inclusion of The Walken Beast, but Robin Williams almost leveled that out. The audio and video were pretty normal. I could see and hear what was going on, but didn't notice anything noteworthy. Overall, a regular movie. I rate this o.k.