Category Archives: G

Gnomeo & Juliet

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011): United States – directed by Kelly Asbury

Rated G by the MPAA – contains rude humor, Borat-style swimsuit, violence, some innuendo

Gnomeo and Juliet.  The title says it all.  Really, what title has ever been more descriptive of a film, other than perhaps The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? This is the tale of Romeo and Juliet, as told by garden gnomes in England.  Naturally, a children’s film such as this cannot end as tragically as the Bard intended, a fact the Bard himself addresses in one of the film’s most humorous moments.  Unfortunately, the rest of the film is as not-particularly-good as the title suggests.

There are humans in the film, but they are never fully revealed.  There is a Capulet and a Montague, and their houses are attached.  But they are also painted strikingly different colors.  There is red on one side, and blue on the other, even down to the shared chimney stack.  The neighbors hate each other, almost as much as their respective garden gnomes hate each other.

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969): United States – directed by Herbert Ross

Rated G by the MPAA – contains a little very mild language

There is a certain charm in this 1969 version of Goodbye, Mr. ChipsPeter O’Toole is sympathetic and occasionally adorable in his naivety, and his academic manners are a perfect contrast to the real world of Britain in the first half of the 20th century.  There are a number of flaws to the film, not the least of which is its excessive run time and a propensity for rather dull moments, but the unique English charm of Arthur Chipping will make the experience worthwhile for Anglophiles and fans of slow romantic films.

O’Toole is Mr. Chips, or Arthur Chipping to his passel of schoolchildren.  He is a school master at Brookfield, a respectable school for boys of reputable families.  He is strict and unpleasant, focused entirely on the education of his children.  At one point he won’t let a child out of class to compete in the tennis tournament because he intends for the class to go an extra hour.  It makes no matter that the boy’s father is Lord Sutterwick (George Baker), an important donor.

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Guinea Pig 2: Flowers of Flesh and Blood

Guinea Pig 2: Flowers of Flesh and Blood (1985): Japan – directed by Hideshi Hino

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, blood, torture, disturbing content

Note: this review contains may contain some disturbing images or descriptions of disturbing violence.  Only mature readers should venture further.

Guinea Pig 2: Flowers of Flesh and Blood may be better than the first entry in the series, Guinea Pig: Devil’s Experiment [review here], by a factor of ten or a hundred or  more, but that still does not mean that it’s worthy of even half a star.  The first film was an excruciatingly dull 40-some minutes of inexplicable and moronic torture, with very little shock value.  The second film boasts slightly improved production values, and has at least one cringe-worthy moment, but any improvement is vastly overshadowed by an incident involving Charlie Sheen.

This is the Guinea Pig movie that Sheen apparently saw in the early 1990’s and reported to the FBI as he thought it was a true snuff film.  Upon further investigation they discovered that it was just a realistic and disturbing film.  The fact that Sheen saw the film (where on earth did he get it?  Why?) is far more interesting than anything about the film itself.  And that it appeared realistic enough to let anyone think it was actually real is fascinating, though the proliferation of fuzzy VHS tapes at the time probably explains much of the phenomenon.

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Going the Distance

Going the Distance (2010): United States – directed by Nanette Burstein

Rated R by the MPAA – contains drug use, strong language, sexual content, brief nudity

On the surface Going the Distance is a perfectly serviceable romantic comedy with an R rating.  It’s aimed at the younger crowd of adults, featuring characters for whom they may feel sympathy, and has enough raunchy scenes that some might accuse it of being a Judd Apatow clone.  But if one were to look a little deeper they might find that the film isn’t actually all that great; some of it is uneven, with certain scenes being almost absolute failures.  But if one were to look deeper still it becomes apparent that these characters ought not be sympathetic because they are, at their cores, rotten.

The film opens as Garrett (Justin Long) is celebrating a birthday with his girlfriend Karen (June Diane Raphael).  His mistake is that he neglected to buy her a present, because she specifically told him not to.  Somehow this 30-ish year old single guy never figured out that girls often mean something other than what they say.

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The Great Escape

The Great Escape (1963): United States – directed by John Sturges

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some violence, intense situations

The Great Escape is a bona fide classic, a film based on a true story of courage, resilience, and prisoners of war.  An all-star cast, perfectly pitched, combine with skillful direction and pacing to make the war epic a joy to watch again and again.  The story has been condensed from the real-life efforts of Major Roger Bushell (named Roger Bartlett in the film, played by Richard Attenborough who would go on to mastermind genetically crafted dinosaurs in Jurassic Park [review here]) and some of the characters have been combined and consolidated.

Roger Bartlett is young, handsome, and headstrong.  He is the last of the Allied prisoners that Nazi S.S. officers escort to their new state-of-the-art prison center.  After months of spending a great deal of money and resources attempting to contain a variety of Allied personnel, the Nazi’s have decided to build an inescapable prison for the worst offenders.  This Luftwaffe base, intended to be for captured Air Force personnel, is headed by Kommandant von Luger (Hannes Messemer), a genteel and sympathetic German officer.  He has been grounded and understands the pain of his charges, who also won’t be able to see the skies again during the war.  The way the film deals kindly and understandably with von Luger provides a sense of humanity to both sides.

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The Greatest American Snuff Film

The Greatest American Snuff Film (2010): United States – directed by Sean Tretta

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some violence, disturbing content, sexual themes, brief nudity

Note: The Greatest American Snuff Film will appeal primarily to fans of horror movies, and as such this review touches on a few unseemly subjects.  Reader discretion is advised.

Back in 2003 a few guys got together to make a small movie.  Director Sean Tretta rounded up a little money, about $3,000, and crafted a story of a serial killer who enjoyed making films.  The man, named William Allen Grones (Mike Marsh), fancied himself a director, setting up scenarios where he could document the kidnapping and imprisonment of two young ladies before killing them on camera.

The Great American Snuff Film purports to be the true story of Grones’ crimes, reenacted and dramatized.  Then, the story goes, new interview footage surfaced of Grones before his execution.  Tretta evidently cut this new footage into the old film, making it five minutes longer, and has now released it as The Greatest American Snuff Film.  The movie’s strongest selling point is that the filmmakers have created a fiction surrounding Grones, calling him one of the worst serial killers to never get any publicity.  Better yet, they claim to have the actual footage of his crimes, shown at the end of the film with an additional “Viewer Discretion Advised” warning.

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The General

The General (1926): United States – directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton

Not rated by the MPAA – contains a little violence

The General is often regarded as a high point in silent cinema, and rightly so.  The entire production is awe-inspiring, with fantastic set pieces and thrilling stunt sequences, topped with an impressive battle sequence.  At the core, however, is the tale of a small, meek man desperately fighting for his woman, his country, and his train engine.

Buster Keaton, in addition to his co-writing, co-directing, producing, and co-editing responsibilities, stars as Johnny Gray, a train engineer working in Georgia as the war between the states is about to begin.  He loves his train engine and his girl, Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack).  His amorous advances take a sour turn when her father learns that Fort Sumter has been fired upon, rushing out with her brother to enlist.  She asks why Johnny doesn’t enlist, so he rushes to the recruiting office, where he is promptly declined; he is too valuable as a train conductor.

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Gargoyles (1972): United States – directed by Bill L. Norton

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some violent content

One might be forgiven for not having heard of Gargoyles, and their ignorance would be understandable.  Gargoyles is a made-for-TV movie, not a category that I will generally review.  But in this case Stan Winston is responsible for the gargoyle makeup, and it is certainly interesting to see where a legend got his start.

And, while the film is not particularly good, it is a mere 74 minutes long.  One of the most interesting parts of the film is the opening credits, which look like they belong in a Simpsons Halloween special, made of goofy, gooey green letters.  Unfortunately, most of the rest of the film is dreadful.

The movie starts with a girl getting off a plane.  Her outfit is strange, with a bikini-like top thing similar to what it looks like when you take the middle of the bottom of your shirt and tuck it into the neck so as to pretend that it’s a bikini.  It just seems a bit odd, and it is a bad sign when one of the film’s most memorable moments has to do with a strange wardrobe choice.

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The Good, the Bad, the Weird

The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008): South Korea – directed by Ji-woon Kim

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some strong violence, mature themes, language

This movie is as awesome as it sounds.  That’s a tall order indeed, especially since the film referenced by the title is often considered one of the greatest westerns ever.  But now we have The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and it most certainly stands successfully on its own.

One of the first scenes is an amazing and elaborately shot train robbery that also introduces the three main characters.  There is have Park Chang-Yi, the Bad, who’s a terribly evil person.  He’s played by Byung-hun Lee, who has been in some other great Korean films like JSA: Joint Security Area and Three…Extremes (which is only a third Korean).  There is also the Good, a straight up cowboy bounty hunter, who is practically a Korean-looking Clint Eastwood.  The actor, Woo-sung Jung, was the star of Musa, another South Korean/Chinese war epic.  Finally there is the Weird, a slightly crazy train robber and petty thief, played with gusto by Kang-ho Sang.  He has appeared in pretty much every Korean movie I’ve seen, including The Host, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, JSA: Joint Security Area, Swiri, and Antarctic Journal.

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Gummo (1997): United States – directed by Harmony Korine

Rated R by the MPAA – contains profanity, sexual content, disturbing violence, all involving kids

Certain movies are disturbing, including a lot of horror movies, but they don’t depict events that we ever imagine actually witnessing.  It takes something extra for a film to be unsettling.  To be unsettling a film must depict the disturbing aspects about something not very far removed from everyday life.

Gummo is about the town of Xenia, Ohio, not far from where I went to college for a year.  It’s a small town, known quite well for getting destroyed by tornadoes.  Some amateur footage of tornadoes opens the film and shows up again later.  The entire town was upset by a 1974 tornado that killed 34 people and destroyed half the town’s buildings.

This is a small town, pretty much what you could call a redneck town full of white trash.  I’m not sure what anyone in the town does for a living, besides kill cats to sell to a local store owner or deal drugs.  The film never really explains. It never really explains anything, nor does anything happen.  Gummo is basically a series of moving photographs, skits almost, about some residents.

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