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Rating History

The People Vs. Larry Flynt
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Milos Forman's "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" is a masterpiece, perfectly combining comedic and dramatic elements with an overall political statement that is vital to our understanding of the First Amendment and as a result a deeply humanistic meditation on morality in an environment wherein sexuality is considered to be worse than violence. Larry Flynt himself is absolutely no saint which makes his argument somehow even more relevant. We may not like each other because we may or may not all be good people, but we all deserve the same rights. That is one of the deepest levels of understanding for the story, but the story itself is so ferociously entertaining that it doesn't feel like any amount of work. Statements and conversations made by Flynt are the heart of the film such as the following to a reluctant photographer:

"Are you a God-fearing man?"
"You believe God made man?"
"Then you believe God made wo-man, right?"
"Then the same God must have made her vagina, and who are you to defy God?"

The film is about the rise of a pornographic magazine, Hustler, which comes to existence for the reason that Playboy, as Larry Flynt describes, is mocking poor people. His magazine contains material to help men jerk off as well as having content in terms of parody ads and comedic pictures that are graphic. He is selectively prosecuted on charges of pornography and bullshit like organized crime connections. Larry as played by Woody Harrelson is a genius character full of stubbornness, childishness, and perhaps too much power. That he uses it to spend time arguing that free speech is not limited to certain tastes is vital. He seems to morally digress as he doesn't have to worry much about work as Hustler magazine seems to run itself during his many absences/arrests/incarcerations. The supporting cast to Larry of Courtney Love as Larry's wife, Althea, and Edward Norton as Alan Isaacman, his lawyer, are more than just perfect in their roles. I cannot actually imagine other actors taking the roles and doing as well. Althea is a fascinating character played by Courtney Love perfectly. Norton plays the uptight First Amendment lawyer Isaacman as a great counter to the large personalities in Larry and Althea, not to mention Larry's behavior in court.

Milos Forman has directed movies with main characters who seem to be something of rock stars. In "Hair," the characters were mostly hippies in a musical that was about in many ways the Vietnam war and how it destroyed a people. In "Amadeus," Mozart fights various powers such as when he's told that one of his pieces has "too many notes." "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" had a rebellious mental patient rallying up his people to fight. Flynt isn't much different than a Mozart, McMurphy, Berger, or Andy Kaufman. He's imperfect but also perfect in his situation as a character seemingly outside of his environment. Flynt and Mozart in his films strike me as characters who perhaps had the handicap of being born in the wrong time period. Their thinking was so far beyond others in the same time that it was natural for them to be ostracized.

The comedic and the dramatic intertwine into a perfect web. Hustler goes from many different areas including a strange conversion into Christian porn. Larry also changes dramatically, a moonshine-selling kid "just tryin' to make an honest buck" to the owner of the Hustler go-go clubs in Ohio. His idea to make a newsletter to better communicate sex to others eventually ends up as Hustler magazine. Larry himself changes dramatically with the story, eventually inhabiting an L.A. mansion only to stay inside of his bedroom and his panic room. Maids and guards inhabit much of the house with Flynt and Althea barricaded inside the one room. Flynt eventually releases a tape relating to John DeLorean and his trial. As Flynt says to his lawyer, "I'm your dream client. I'm the most fun, I'm rich, and I'm always in trouble."

The movie moves about itself in a strange way much as Flynt's life went from extreme to extreme. Going from the backwoods in Ohio to a run-down strip club, a mansion, Los Angeles, various courtrooms, a mental facility, Ruth Carter Stapleton's home (and church), various Flynt Publication buildings, all unique, and many other locations. That the movie goes from event to event with ease while remaining on topic is truly magnificent.

Eventually, this comes down to a single trial in which Reverend Jerry Falwell sues Larry for an obscene ad which offended Falwell for $40 million. It was a parody liquor ad where Falwell says his first time was with his mother in an outhouse. It eventually ends up in the Supreme Court with a ruling that while criticized heavily at the time was the right choice. The movie hits every nuance perfectly, and the facts behind this struggle make this story a truly remarkable one. This is one of the best films ever made.

Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek (2005)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

It's undeniably effective and creepy, but it is still an exercise in torture porn. I have to say that the effective parts were so just because of the natural human desire to not see seemingly good people be tortured and mutilated. Stabbed in the spine, one becomes a 'head on a stick.' Another almost escapes but is somehow located and killed in addition to an innocent bystander. Another has nails through their hands, and the movie graphically shows us what it would look like to pull your hand out of a nail. Everything before that is obligatory and rather uninteresting, truth be told. That the movie takes its time is admirable, but that doesn't change the fact that there are serious horror movies (The Exorcist among others) that I would much rather be watching than this. In the end, I felt depressed and kind of hopeless. Even "The Exorcist" left me feeling invigorated, as if good will always triumph over evil despite some sacrifices that must be made.
In the end, I was squirming and frowning during scenes because I would be upset at these things happening to most people, not because I cared deeply for the characters here. They're shallow and don't have much of interest to say. I was mostly just sad, watching people get mutilated in various ways. The villain was well-played, but his motivations are totally unclear.
Although movies typically try to be successful on their own terms, I couldn't help but compare this to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, another movie I didn't like for similar reasons (yeah, yeah, I know it's "a classic," but that doesn't mean I have to like it). In the end, as a horror movie I can't recommend it. The atmosphere is only kind of creepy due to dramatic irony when the trio spend a night with the killer (of course, they don't know he's a killer yet).
I kept wondering why I'm watching this. The women in particular are treated horribly, making me feel as if I was watching some misogynist fantasy from a particularly cruel person. Honestly, I was just very sad the entire movie. When it was over, I didn't reflect on the events positively. I wanted to vomit the movie out of my body. Given that I love horror films and have enjoyed gorier, there is a really terrible thing happening when I think of this as a slightly dialed-down Austrailian "Saw" or "Hostel." Of the three movies in which I compared this title, not one warrants a recomendation from me. Why? Because I find them to be dehumanizing exercises in misery for the sake of making us feel terrible. There is no joy here, and if you find the gore funny then an argument could be made that you could use psychological help. I guess when you aim your sights at "Texas Chainsaw," "Saw," and "Hostel," you're bound to end up in the same pile of blood and organs with flies all around. If the aim had been for a much better slasher like, say "Scream" or "Halloween," then we might have something. But this is a movie that wants you to feel bad and thank the filmmakers for giving a truly miserable experience with no redeeming qualities. My advice is to avoid this one and find any of the numerous horror films that actually have content. There is perhaps one laugh (I'm sure you can find a Youtube clip of it and save yourself 90 minutes of despair), but there are absolutely no redeeming qualities to this. Movies like this make me fear for what is happening to the horror viewing public. Are we supposed to get desensitized and root for the villain? I didn't care what the movie was trying to do. I really just hated it.

Little Children
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Brad: You have a pretty nice place here.
Sarah: Richard does well for himself.
Brad: What does he do?
Sarah: Lies.

"Little Children" is unapologetic in its laser eye on suburban society and ranks as one of the best in that category as well as being an extremely effective drama with some hilarious moments in it. The story follows Sarah, mother of a young girl named Lucy, who begins to feel trapped inside of her home. She routinely takes her daughter to a park with three other women (a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead, seeming to be waiting for a punch line). Mary Anne, the blonde, believes that the key to happiness lies in a strict time table (she and her husband even schedule sex), and Sarah doesn't want to end up anything like them. But then The Prom King enters with his son one morning. They don't know his name, so in an act of both coincidence and desperation, Sarah reaches out to Brad. It also doesn't help that Sarah catches Richard masturbating to a computer with another woman's panties over his mouth. So Sarah becomes a character like Madame Bovary (if you aren't familiar, don't worry; it's the book of the month in their club), rebelling so her hunger for life won't die. Brad isn't angry with his beautiful wife, Kathy, but her strictness over him, almost like a gender reversal from the 50's, is disheartening. One morning, Kathy leaves a bill for him with three magazine subscriptions (Men's Health and National Geographic were among those) circled with the caption, "Do you really need these?" And Kathy doesn't see a reason for Brad to have a cell phone. Well, if he's bound and determined to get one, she will make sure he knows what sacrifices must be made in detail. There isn't hate in their marriage but a lack of affection. That can be wearing on a person, leading them to seek affection elsewhere. It's not really anyone's fault but is just how things happen sometimes. At once, we see very probable actions that lead to a house wife and a house husband (Sarah and Brad) having an affair.
But there are other tales to be told in this suburban area. Unflinchingly, the character of Ronnie is a man with a psycho-sexual disorder wherein he doesn't know if his actions actually harm people or not. Although an opening news report shows that many townspeople would "be uncomfortable if they saw him on the street," the only one who seems especially concerned is Larry, an ex-cop. Nailing flyers, spray painting EVIL on the driveway, suggesting castration, and using a bullhorn to humiliate Ronnie (not to mention his elderly mother, the sweet and understanding May), we wonder who is the real disturbance to society. Ronnie lives with his mother, and although there are rumors of him 'checking out the kids' and a scene wherein he goes swimming at the public pool (watch the camera here closely- is it fetishising the kids or showing Ronnie's isolation?), he just wants to be normal and to know what normal is. Larry is his bully when he is one person who needs a friend.
These stories intersect wonderfully, keeping the narrative focus not sporadic but almost like watching exhibits in a zoo. The use of a narrator helps us see the story as a parable, feeling like we are being told a vital story about the human condition with more adult subject matter than, say, "Green Eggs and Ham."
The adaptation from book to screen is flawless. The novel by Tom Perotta (Election) is a fantastic examination, but the ending isn't as strong. The book's ending lingers while the movie forces us to look at what happens when talk becomes reality.
The romance between Sarah and Brad feels real, but there is also a connection with Brad and his wife, Kathy.

Brad: Do you feel bad about this?
Sarah: No, I don't.
Brad: I do. I feel really bad.

Such simple dialogue helps fuel the fascination in the story and the 'exhibits' it presents. This is one of the most unique movies I've ever watched in terms of original storytelling, an involving narrative, and stakes as high as sanity and (seemingly) eternal happiness. This movie is dynamite from beginning to end and should not be missed by any human who watches movies for intellectual stimulation. Eight years later, I still think it's a masterpiece.

Fantastic Four
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

While it's not exactly torture, there are dozens of vital things within the movie that go completely overlooked. One can stretch almost indefinitely. Another can turn into flame and fly as well as create a supernova that is equivalent to the sun and can ignite the Earth's oxygen and kill everyone. Another is a giant boulder. And a woman who can, but according to every straight man should not, turn invisible especially when naked. She can also create forcefields and shoot energy from her body and stuff. And the villain has some kind of metallic body and absorbs electricity. But the two scientists (Mr. Fantastic and von Doom; guess who's the hero and who's the villain?) are able to build machines that can replicate the exact effects of the storm which gave them the powers in the first place in just one montage! Is this ever explored? How can these things help human beings who haven't gotten intergalactic cancer? Could Invisible Woman help contain our atmosphere and solve problems with the ozone layer? Can the Human Torch fly in outer space since his fire doesn't require oxygen for some reason (it resonates from 'his core')? Can Mr. Fantastic splice his DNA to help people who have lost limbs? Can Thing use his incredible strength to help us construct next generation transportation? Can the suits made that attach themselves with their ever-changing bodies be used for non-Fantastic people? They and the script don't care about any of that. Nope, we get to see Torch with expensive cars. As for the villain, von Doom is super evil because his company took a big hit (although the fact that his money solely aided in the Fantastic Four existing in the first place isn't relevant for some reason), so he goes postal and decides to kill all the Four and probably enslave humankind or something. Unfortunately, the movie wastes its budget showing Torch at a race track, skiing on a beautiful mountain, digitizing Manhattan, and a lame finale on a corner in NYC. Some of the effects like Mr. Fantastic stretching look more than a little ridiculous. So is the movie, opening a wonderful philosophical can that could effectively fuse comic book characters, science fiction, and questions concerning our existence as a species as well as how we can move forward. The cast isn't bad, but this ended up being too childish, ridiculous, and braindead to do anything other than pass 90-some minutes. It's not a painful experience, but 'fantastic' is way out of bounds for this team. It's probably over near the X-Men.

Brokeback Mountain
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

What I would consider a modern classic, "Brokeback Mountain" is able to accomplish a few dozen things without seeming to try too hard. That it manages to give us a realistic and believable love story, simply gorgeous cinematography, well-developed characters who aren't as much defined by their actions as their intent behind them, some unforgettable moments and scenes, and a major allegory criticizing our engrained social roles, "Brokeback" is a place people need to visit multiple times. In one viewing, I left feeling slightly underwhelmed. It wasn't until later that I realized that several scenes were stuck in my memory along with a general intrigue about every single frame.
It's a mistake to call this a 'gay movie.' It's not about gay rights (although it doesn't exactly oppose them). It uses its subject matter of two men who fall passionately in love to show us the ugliness in the society in which we force people to conform. These two men were happiest together, but if anyone else found out, they would be dead. At a young age, Ennis's father took he and his brother to see a grisly sight. Two old men, both tough as nails, were murdered because everyone knew what happened behind closed doors. That one died from having his penis tied to the back of a truck and ripped off is a truly disturbing visual of what people will do to uphold these social roles that only demean them. Were these two men better off as lovers or when they married women? They weren't good husbands to their wives and were only so-good to their kids (although never intentionally harming them), so is the depression and psychological damage of forcing them into this situation better than or worse than the two men living together happily? That the story is a tragic one is no mystery. There's no other way for it to end. Still, I found myself fascinated by the cast. Ledger and Gyllenhaal, as I've said numerous times, seem to inject themselves into the roles with the dialogue bouncing off their tongues right when it needs to happen and not a moment sooner (or later). Jack's explosion at his father-in-law at Thanksgiving is a great moment while Alma's words to Ennis the same day ring with forbidden truth.
Michelle Williams gives a particularly brilliant performance as Ennis's wife and mother of his two girls, Alma. Confused and sometimes frustrated at her husband's behavior, she's something of a ticking time bomb that Ennis prefers to ignore (not because he doesn't like her but because he doesn't know how to make her happy). Anne Hathaway gives her best performance to date (although admittedly she was, in my opinion, the best part of "Les Miserables," I think this performance might match "Rachel Getting Married" if one can compare apples to oranges) and seems a perfect match to the goofy Jack Twist, if only he liked women. Ennis probably doesn't understand what the word 'gay' even means, but that's not to say that his character is thoughtless. He was brought up in society with very clear rules on what a man does and what a woman does.
The worst thing you can do is think of this as a 'gay' movie. Yes, the main character could be described as homosexual, but the movie isn't about his sexual awakening but the fears that rattle his very soul. There's a scene where Jack "tries to fix a flat tire" that always causes me to have to look away, usually tears gushing down my face. And how Lureen (Hathaway) handles one matter that should be delicate has a healthy dose of hatred and anger in it.
In the end, we have a movie that is never boring and moves along with great respect to timing and attention to detail. So far, this is one of the most convincing and beautiful romances I have seen since, I don't know, "Casablanca." You will likely feel initially like the movie was overhyped, but it's hard to not do that to a masterpiece.