"WILD" – w/ Reese Witherspoon -

I thought it was great. Brave, original, and honest, three things sorely missing in most Hollywood movies that I see. I admired almost everything about this movie--the acting, the photography, the scenery, which was not always lovely, BTW, and most of all the character of Cheryl herself. How brave of her to hike in the snow. I would have turned back. My only nitpick is the very end, when the movie wraps up with a little voice-over. I wanted to see more of her transition. But this is a good movie.


I agree with the backpacker online who said her shoes were too clean and her face not sunburned, yet she never wears a hat. But who cares?


"ENEMY" – w/ Jake Gyllenhaal - 10/4/2015

Terrible. Boring. Pointless. Every time I see a slow, boring, pointless movie like this I wonder: Do people watch movies like they watch a fire in the fireplace on a cold winter night? I don't. A flickering fire is way more interesting than this flick. So a lonely, boring, repressed college instructor teaches a boring, repetitive class in which he says the same boring things over and over in his boring lecture. Worst example of bad teaching I have ever seen. But he has a hot young GF who comes over to jump into his bed. He should be so lucky. But he doesn't appreciate her. He reminds me of The Stranger by Albert Camus. But here nothing happens, and then nothing happens. I lasted 17 minutes and that was difficult.



Emotionally distant. The actors seem removed, as if we were watching them through binoculars. I was always aware that I was watching a movie and never got caught up in it. Too much aesthetic distance.

Also, I never quite believe Denzel Washington. He always seems like the same character to me, from one movie to another. It's the same problem I have with some other movie stars, like George Clooney, for example.

For the first hour or so, I found "American Gangster" tedious and hard to watch. It has no soul. Where is the center, the heart? I didn't like the way the story was told. All these little cuts covering all these little plot points left me cold. There seemed to be no through-line. Too much story, yet nobody to identify with and nothing to care about. I was not engaged by the characters. I didn't care about Frank or the cop.

Many of the scenes are familiar. The journey into the jungle to the poppy plantation seems to have been lifted right of a John Woo movie. Maybe I've seen too many cop-drugs-gangster movies and TV dramas, like "The Wire" on HBO. Maybe I care too much about originality. Maybe I'm just too demanding (like the old song).

Finally, after an hour or so, the movie gets better. It has good source material and a good basic story: Smart, ruthless, black gangster takes over the heroin trade in NYC. But it has too many familiar elements, and it never overcomes the emotional distance problem. Also, it lacks character development. It has too many characters, so it is too much like real life. Not nearly as good as it should be. Not as warm as it should be.

Another note: It is ironic that Richie the cop finally becomes Frank's defense lawyer. That sort of kicks the whole thing in the head, but it is not dramatized, so it does not undercut the movie.

(I'd give this movie a C+. 
I don't understand some reviewers 
who loved it and called it 
a great American epic).


A feel-bad movie. You feel bad at first, then you feel worse as it goes on. Annoying and tedious. Ultimately, anti-war propaganda. Lacks drama. Static and unrealized.

Charlize Theron is great, but Tommy Lee Jones is trapped inside his character, who is unrelentingly stoic and wooden. It's hard to sympathize with him or admire him.

The set-up doesn't work; it doesn't provide enough sympathy for the characters, who are too distant. There are no worthwhile obstacles to overcome. Hard to sit through. Only three or four good scenes.

The story is full of the wrong emotions, making us feel bad for the main characters without ever being engaged with them or identifying with them. Based on bad dramatic theory; it's like watching a woman weep, endlessly, in a hospital waiting room.

After the last scene, I was glad it was over. There is no reward for the audience, no insight, no take-away, nothing to win or lose.

(I'd give this movie a D- or two stars on Netflix.)

"WE OWN THE NIGHT" - 3/16/08

What are we supposed to get out of all this? That it's hell to be a cop? That these Russian mobsters are mean as hell? That sounds familiar, like "Eastern Promises" and a dozen other movies. These Russkie bad guys seem to work in more than one movie. I suspect that somewhere there is a Russian bad-guy employment agency.

"We Own The Night" has a good cast, and it puts you through the wringer, that's for sure. But the scenes and the characters are all kind of generic, like a series of drugs you might take to make you feel certain ways. There are the obligatory nightclub scenes, showing the decadence of the cocaine and men-with-ponytail set; the car-chase sequence, exciting enough; the motel hideout that is revealed mysteriously; the best friend who sells out his boss. All these scenes don't seem so much like clichés, but more like prescriptions for mood alteration. Like a kind of police-movie Prozac. They are stock in current cop-killer-drug-dealer dramas.

To tell the truth, I'm tired of the tough Russians, who have taken the place of the tough Colombians, who took the place of the Jamaican posses, who in turn took the place of the tough Sicilians.

There are horrendous consequences for being an honest cop. We know that by now, from all the other movies we have seen over the years. But the cop lives in this movie don't seem much like the lives of cops I have known and interviewed for various articles and books. I don't know everything, but I do know this: These recycled Russians and punching-bag policemen are wearing me out.