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Lawrance Bernabo RSS Feed (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)

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Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek
DVD ~ Son Hyun-joo
Price: $19.49
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Think more mystery than horror film when you play "Hide and Seek", May 21, 2014
This review is from: Hide and Seek (DVD)
The prologue of "Sum-bakk-og-jil" ("Hide and Seek") offers a woman who is creeped out by the guy who lives next door in their squalid little apartment complex, especially since he has showed up wearing a motorcycle helmet that makes him an ominous figure in black. As is usually the case in horror movie prologues, the woman is dead by the time we get to the title of the movie, but then we are treated to a voice over by a young girl who says, "There's a weird rumor going around in my neighborhood. It's about squatters hiding in others people's homes and secretly living there." That seems to run counter to what we have just seen, but we know that by the time the credits role this 2013 South Korean film from writer-director Huh Jung is going to connect the dots, because this one plays up the mystery element way more than most horror films.

When we get to the main part of the film we are introduced to Sung-soo (Son Hyun-joo), a successful businessman who lives with his wife Min-ji (Jeon Mi-seon) and their son and daughter in a luxury apartment. There are some odd people in the neighborhood, some of whom are uncomfortably interested in Sung-soo's children, but then he gets a strange phone call telling him his brother is missing. It turns out Sung-soo is estranged from his brother and we have another dot to connect. Then there is Joo-hee (Moon Jung-hee) and her daughter Pyeong-hwa (Kim Ji-yeong), who are worried that his missing brother has been watching them. Then there are all those weird symbols carved by the doors in the apartment building. This is not going to be a simple slasher flick.

Apparently this was an unexpected hit in South Korean, a low-budget film that topped the box office, more on the strength of the mystery element than the horror. This is very much an atmospheric film, relatively sparse on the dialogue and making ample use of Jo Yeong-wook's score (which clearly samples Massive Attack's "Angel" at times). Huh Jung also likes to have characters on their cell phones when one of them is in danger while the other has to listen helplessly. "Sum-bakk-og-jil" creeps you out a couple of times and the payoff comes way more in terms of the revelation of who than in terms of blood or gore. Huh Jung even goes back and shows us what we had missed from a key scene early on, once we know who is the villain.

Sung-soo is a rather bland hero, with a limited emotional range, neither too scared or too angry at any point , although when we find out the why and wherefore for his estrangement from his brother, you have to stop and rethink everything in light of that new information. That being said, the three actresses listed above provide the most interesting performances, with Kim Ji-Yeong doing her level best to enter the pantheon of creepy kids. Sung-soo's kids come across as actually normal kids, but they also have some nice moments of being terrified when things go from bad to worse and a step beyond.

"Sum-bakk-og-jil" stands in marked contrast to all those Japanese ghost story horror movies that have made their way across the Pacific to our shores. It took me a while to key in that this was more of a mystery than a horror movie, so I think that will make a difference to your enjoyment of the movie if you are thinking more along those lines from the start. My only real complaint is that this is another movie where the good guys keep making the mistakes of letting their children out of their sight and, even more objectionable, of trying to take out the bad guys with a single blow. That never works. You have to get to double-figures, people Have you never seen a horror movie?

Forgetting the Girl
Forgetting the Girl
DVD ~ Christopher Denham
Price: $14.49
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "If you're watching this, you've discovered something you shouldn't have...", March 24, 2014
This review is from: Forgetting the Girl (DVD)
Kevin Wolfe (Christopher Denham) is a professional photographer, whose specialty is taking headshots, which means would be actresses and models look deeply into his lenses wearing big smiles, never thinking that the guy behind the camera taking those photos is not the one with whom they are trying to make a connection. He thinks he makes a connection with Adrienne (Anna Camp), but she soon makes it clear to him that he was wrong. A couple of dates with Beth (Elizabeth Rice) give Kevin reason to hope, but by that point in the film we are hardly optimistic that he can find anything remotely like a happy ending, although we could be wrong about that.

Traumatized by the death of his sister as a child, Kevin has trouble remembering much about Nicole beyond the color of her eyes. This is rather ironic, since he struggles to forget the women with who he has failed relationships. Kevin is one of those people who berates himself out loud every time he has once again convinced himself that there is something there with a woman, even if the woman is still in the room. Not surprisingly, Kevin is so busy being drawn to the women he sees through his camera that he is totally unaware that his assistant, Jamie (Lindsay Beamish) is totally into him. She has her own issues, as a recovering addict, but love is a powerful thing. Kevin's blind spot extends to Tanner (Paul Sparks), the creepy guy who hovers around the photographer's life and the women whose pictures he takes.

Director Nate Taylor's first feature film has a story and script by Peter Moore Smith, and was made for only $600K, which leads you to believe they waste a lot of money making movies at major studios. "Forgetting the Girl" lives up to its self-declared "gritty vision" of Kevin and his world. Denham's performance strikes the right balance between sympathy and strangeness, so that we feel for Kevin but are also uncomfortably with rooting for him to solve the problem of his love life. This makes Denham perfect for the main role in this tale, because it is vitally important that we are drawn into the narrative but at the same time have the pesky feeling that there is something wrong that we just cannot put our finger on.

I got the DVD for this movie, put it in the pile of ones I had not watched yet, and played it without knowing any other than the title of the movie, which made for a rather unique cinematic experience these days of knowing nothing about a movie. The opening certainly establishes a sense of foreboding, but no matter how refined your skill at predicting how this one is going to play out, I think you will definitely be surprised by at least one if not more of its plot twists, making this one of the more memorable little horror flicks I have seen in sometime. It was certainly the first one in a long time that I immediately went back and watched again. The special features on this DVD include director's commentary, deleted scenes, and five web videos containing footage not in the film.

The Deflowering of Eva van End
The Deflowering of Eva van End
DVD ~ Vivian Dierickx
Price: $15.99
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A satire in which a deftly dysfunctional Dutch family is changed forever by a German exchange student, January 27, 2014
The title of this 2013 Danish film combined with our introduction to the title character is pretty much guaranteed to result in a raised eyebrow or too. Eva van End is fifteen-years-old and the thought that the lost of her virginity qualifies as a subject of some sort of humor is definitely disconcerting. But the moment promised by the time comes in the final act and by then the viewer is well acclimated to the idea that this is an act to be taken symbolically and as the punch line for something other than a crude joke.

The family van End is, to say the least, dysfunctional in the extreme. Tolstoy's dictum about every unhappy family being unhappy it is own way could certainly have a corollary specific to dysfunctional families. Etty (Jacqueline Blom), the mother, is either yelling at her youngest son,Manuel (Abe Dijkman), for being a dope fiend, or heaping praise upon her oldest son, Erwin (Tomer Pawlicki), who is looking forward to getting married (and away from his mother, one would think). Evert (Ton Kas), the milquetoast father, has plenty to say (or write on memos), but no one pays attention to any of his suggestions. Stuck at the end of the family pecking order is Eva (Vivian Dierickx), who seldom says a word, and when she does, nobody pays attention. Not even when she informs the family at dinner one night that a German exchange student is coming to live with them for a while. You might be inclined to equate Germany with Nazis and Hitler--certainly Eva does in her presentation on the country to her classmates--but in terms of continental Europe the Germany economic machine is admired and when Veit (Rafael Gareisen) arrives, looking like a young Aryan god, he and his culture seem to represent all that is good about the present, with nary a look at all that unpleasantness in the past.

Viet is only staying with the van End family for two weeks, but in that fortnight their interactions with the visitor sparks each in turn out of their lethargy. Certainly when they look at Viet they can see nothing of themselves and it becomes clear that they find themselves wanting after making such comparisons. We sense that Viet's apparent perfection is too good to be true, mainly because we want the character to be more than a Mary Poppins-like figure that comes in and saves the children, saves the father, saves everybody and goes his merry way. I do not think I would go so far as to see this film as a parable regarding Germany hegemony, but the evidence for such a critique is certainly there on screen.

Ultimately, "The Deflowering of Eva van End" has to be taken as satire rather than as a tragicomedy, and for me it was impossible not to see director Michiel ten Horn as a kindred spirit to Wes Anderson, although certainly not as creatively audacious. Our assumption is that the family van End will be better off from having known Viet, even if it means their old way of life is burned to the ground, because, let's face it, they have nowhere to go but up. But when the credits role, you will have to ask yourself if you truly believe that to be the case.

DVD ~ John Hawkes
Price: $19.49
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lyrical film about a young girl on a cross-country trip, July 22, 2013
This review is from: Arcadia (DVD)
I was immediately worried about Harrison, the stuffed rabbit that 12-year-old Greta (Ryan Simpkins) constantly carries around when we meet her at the start of writer-director Olivia Silver's "Arcadia." In the opening minute of this 2013 film it becomes clear that Greta is the focal character, that her stuffed animal is a symbol of her youthful innocence, and that whatever is about to happen, it is not going to be good. Early one morning her father loads Greta, her older sister and young brother, plus all their wordly possessions, into a dented blue station wagon to drive across the country to California, a new job, and a new life, one in which he promises their absent mother will be joining them. This sounds like a good thing, but the father's words ring hollow, because Silver is providing subtle clues that create a sense of unease. Plus, the whole idea of a family driving to the promised land in California reminds me of the Joads in "The Grapes of Wrath," and we all remember how well that worked out.

As Tom, the father, John Hawkes is able to make the mercurical changes from being charming to being on the verge of exploding, similar to what he did in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Such characters are well established creatures, but Hawkes is able to pull off both parts of the equation well enough, especially the charming part, that for once I am willing to indulge in the possibility that there might actually be some good in him. But his constant explosions over everything from the amount of wine in his glass to the cost for visiting the Grand Canyon make both us and Greta wary.

There is sort of Goldilocks and the Three Bears subtext to the interaction between Tom and his kids as he tries to weave his magic. For Caroline (Kendall Toole) his constant stories and perpetual promises are too little and for Greta they becoming too much and more so by the minute and the mile, while for Nat (Ty Simpkins, Ryan's brother), the youngest and who eats up each and every syllable Dad utters, they are just right. Greta is the middle child, not just in terms of age, but in terms of making the transition from the innocence of youth represented by Nat to the already world weary Caroiline.

Ryan Simpkins has over a dozen film credits on her resume already ("Gardens of the Night," "Sherry Baby,"
Revolutionary Road)," which matters because this movie hinges on her performance as Greta. I would not be surprised if she has the least amount of dialogue of any of the four family members in that station wagon, because Silver's approach in this film is to show rather than tell, which requires Simpkins to say little but observe much. We, as the audience, invest her silent looks with significance, but both the character and her creator are loath to provide too many details as to what she is actually thinking, although her absent mother is a major part of the equation, especially as every mile driven seems to be lengthening rather than shortening the distance between them. Simpkins' performance is on a par with those in her age group that have been nominated for Oscars, such as "Whale Rider" and "Beasts Of The Southern Wild," where the ability to deliver a line takes a secondary importance to being able to evoke authentic feelings in the audience.

What is clear, is that Greta is growing up and that when she gets out of that station wagon in California she will not be the same girl who began that trip. As you might suspect, her personal Rubicon comes in the latter part of the journey, and involves Harrison. Silver is able to do much more with the symbolism of that rabbit with that one moment, with which she is able to offer up the sort of lyrical grace note you want to have in a story where you have such great sympathy for a young girl growing up faster than she should have to.

The DVD includes "Little Canyon," the 20 minute short by Silver that was her thesis film and the basis for "Arcadia." My recommendation is to watch this after you see the movie because I think it is more interesting to go back and see the basis for the movie and to consider in retrospect the way Silver fleshed out the narrative and went beyond the original ending, rather than constantly being aware of all that has been added. Either way, what you will find is that Silver preserves the lyrical essence of the original.

The genesis of these films was an assignment Silver's first year of graduate film school at UCLA where she was asked to sit down and write the first dream or memory that came to mind, and she wrote down a memory of arriving in California after a five day cross-country trip in the family's run-down station wagon. The importance of memory is established at the start of "Arcadia," and our sympathy for Greta is such that we hope by the time we get to the final credits that she will have some good memories of her family or the trip or just something in her life.

This is an engaging first film, a rough little gem with some nicely polished moments. This speaks well for Silver's future as a filmmaker, because the history of Hollywood seems to clearly indicate that it is better to establish a foundation upon which to build rather to go super nova with your first effort and have a slim chance of going in any other direction than down.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2013 12:46 AM PDT

VSonic GR07 MK2 Pro Dynamic Noise Isolation Earphones Earbuds IEM new model with multiple ear tips
VSonic GR07 MK2 Pro Dynamic Noise Isolation Earphones Earbuds IEM new model with multiple ear tips
Offered by ByBuy

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Less is more--a lot more--with these earphones., April 23, 2012
I do not like to use earphones because they keep falling out of my ears. In recent years the only times I have used them is at Vikings cames to listen to the radio broadcast while watching the game, which means the sound is cranked up as high as it can go and still you cannot hear everything, but I am not about to resort to headphones in that situation. But this semester my office mate and I are in the office at the same time and I like to listen to music a lot, not just for the background but because I am always listening to new albums to pick songs for my radio show, whereas he prefers things to be quiet. So I needed earphones if I was going to listen to must as often as I want without disturbing him, and I was leary about what would happen when they would fall out of my ear with the volume cranked up so high that once they fell out you would thought I had my laptop speakers on instead of muted.

To my surprise, the VSonic GR07 Pro Dynamic Noise Isolation Earphones have proven ideal for my circumstances. First, they stay in my ears the vast majority of the time. I will not say they never fall out, because I forget I'm wearing them and will get up to get a book or something and they fall out when I walk away. But I have a minimal level of frustration with that happening. More importantly, with these earphones, less is more. I no longer have to go way beyond 50% on the volume level to hear music the way I want to hear music. Actually, I usually have the volume set under 30% when I am listening to music in my office. Plus, when I take them off without turning off the music, you cannot hear what is playing. That takes a little getting used to, but I am happy to do. Consequently, less is more because I am hearing music and whatever else I am listening to way better than I ever have Dbefore with earphones. I cannot wait to try these out at the Metrodome next season.

Do no not expect me to get into technological details regarding this product, because I have no idea how these earphones do what they do. I just now that they greatly exceed my requirements for staying in my ear and providing clear sound without everybody else around knowing exactly what I am listening to. It also comes with a nice supply of extra ear pieces, which I have not even begun to play with because I am happy with what I've got at this point. The carrying case is convient, once you get the hang of how to open it (must first confrontation with a CD box was akin to being stumped by a Chinese puzzle box, which just reinforces my technological ineptness). After tolerating headphones and earphones for many years, it is nice to actually find one that I genuinely like. What a pleasant surprise.

Golden Hits of The Smothers Brothers
Golden Hits of The Smothers Brothers
8 used & new from $3.99

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Smothers Brothers offer new versions of several classic routines, August 19, 2011
Of course, there is no "Golden Hits of the Smothers Brothers, Volume I," so do not both time trying to find it. That is because the idea behind this particular comedy collection was not to pull the best routines from the first nine albums put out by the Smothers Brothers during the previous five years of touring and performing, but rather to include new versions of of those routines. Consequently, with the exception of "Intermission Bit," every bit you find on this album (finally released on CD this summer!) has was done previously on an earlier album. You have to admit, this is a rather unique approach to a "greatest hits" album.

The piece de resistance is the 10-minute opening routine for "Cabbage," in the traditional song "Boil That Cabbage Down" becomes a point of contention between Tom and Dick on the responsibilities of a folk singer to "take it." Until they appeared on the Boston Pops and destroyed "Quando Claiente El Sol," I considered this performance of "Cabbage" to be their quintessential comedy routine. It also has the virtue of being their longest recorded bit of nonsense. Previously Tommy Smothers had just sung a simple version of "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," but this time it turns into a misguided effort to get the audience to participate in singing the song. This becomes the second best track on the album, especially when Tommy references "The Smothers Brothers Show," the one-season sit-com they did that has the distinction of having an actor (Tommy) play "himself" as a dead person (albeit, an angel).

Those are the two new and improved routines that stand out on this album, with the Brothers Smothers offering only minor variations on "Church Bells," "My Old Man," "I Talk to the Trees" (Note: there is a third version of this song from "Paint Your Wagon" available on the Smothers Brothers Sibling Revelry CD that does a hysterical twist on the usual routine), and "Hangman." The sing along for "Pretoria" that closes the album is more enjoyable than when it was the opening salvo on their debut album, but I would not call that a significant improvement.

With the way they were parcelling out the Smothers Brothers albums on CD, which was at a pace of one every 2-3 or three years, I was worried the boys would be dead and gone before we got everything on vinyl available on CD. But as of the dog days of Summer 2011, the year when the boys finally stopped performing, their first ten albums are now all out on CD and all that is left is "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" (with their twisted take on "The Impossible Dream") and Dick's solo album, "A Saturday Night at the World." What can I say? I crave completeness and I crave it sooner rather than later.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2016 3:18 PM PDT

Will You Marry Me?
Will You Marry Me?
Price: $22.66
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Singer-songwriter Rachael Kilgour sings about relationships, May 3, 2011
This review is from: Will You Marry Me? (Audio CD)
I have now seen Rachael Kilgour in concert more often than any other artist; she moved ahead of Sarah McLachlan in that regard last year. So it will not surprise anybody that I am also a big fan of her second album, "Will You Marry Me?" The title track strikes me as being the quintessential Rachael Kilgour song, and for a while I was thinking it was my favorite song off of her first album since it debuted at the CD release party and I have heard her sing it at all of her concerts. Of course, it is not on that first album, but it remains a favorite because there is something so endearing in Kilgour's voice on this one, especially in the chorus when she sings, "You're my favorite after all, dear."

"Now a million kisses later
We've got children all around us
And though life and love surround us
Still there's bills we've gotta pay
I know that you are worried
And I know you're in a hurry
But children' ain't your mother purty when she smiles?"

The song is really about Kilgour's grandparents, Phyllis and Rudy, and not another paean to her wife, Adeline Wright, who sings harmonies on many of the songs, but none of that matters because you want it to be about your own spouse. The same applies to "I Do," which is about a relationship that "still drives me insane."

This second album is more about relationships, while the first was more introspective. Many of the songs touch on marriage, but Kilgour insists on pointing out that, "This album is more about what marriage is actually like when you have been doing it for a while and you see that it is really a big thing." The dark side of relationships is covered in "Warrior Games" and "Galalee." On the former the music is more in the forefront than most of Kilgour's songs, forcing her to be stronger vocally, which fits the anti-violence message of the song, which ends with the question "Oh but who's to blame for the boys playing the warrior games?" "Galalee" is driven by the rhythm section of Jake Hanson on bass and Jeremy Hanson on drums, and gets my vote as the song that benefits the most from the added production values in the studio.

You might anticipate that "Snowplow," the opening track, would be a cute song about Northland winters, but it is actually about the ravages of unemployment during the recession:

"The winter comes and the winter goes and the winter comes again
Broken snowy angels only pray for winter's end
Shoveling out the driveway thinking, what'll we do now?"

In the chorus the snowplow become a potent metaphor, "'cause I don't know how I am every going to dig myself out of this one." Kilgour's rhetorical intentions are more explicit in "He'll Save Me," a rollicking rebuke of the hypocrisy of the holier than thou attitude of Christians who attack sexual orientation and the sins of others while living a material life and defending war and other evils. The song presents such hypocrites singing their belief that as long as they pray, then "I don't have to be nice, I know he forgives me," before offering Kilgour's pointed rejoinder, "Well, Jesus Christ, who do you think you are, telling me I've gone too far?"

I had the opportunity to hear some (really rough) rough cuts of these songs, and I find the unique opportunity to see how some of them have changed in the studio fascinating. I really liked the piano and the old-time sound of the rough version of "I Know I Will," but the closing harmonies are better in the studio version and, more importantly, it is a fitting final track for the CD. "You can see all that I could be," Kilgour sings and each chorus promises "You know I won't make you blue," until the affirmative of the title replaces it in the final chorus. Actually, "Will You Marry Me?" has two "final" tracks, since there is a secret track, "Love You," a short little ditty that is just Kilgour with her guitar and that serves to end this album on an appropriately intimate note.

If you are a fan of Kilgour, then Dolly Parton's "Touch Your Woman" is probably not the first cover song you have heard her do in concert that you would want on an album (my vote would be for "Sister Golden Hair"). The title pretty much gives away why she picked it to include on this particular album, especially once you add the sentiment that doing so "makes everything alright." It will not surprise you I end urging you to catch Kilgour in concert when she is playing in town or somewhere in the area, because one thing I know for sure is that listening to "Before You Leap" on the CD does not give you any real idea of how funny this song is when she performs it live.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2012 1:30 AM PDT

No Title Available

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A better adapation of the novel than the first time around, August 9, 2010
When last we left Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) at the end of Män som hatar kvinnor, she had made herself a wealthy woman after having saved the day and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). In "The Girl Who Played with Fire" the situation gets reversed when Salander is accused of a triple murder and it is the investigative journalist who has to come to the aid of the computer hacker, especially once Salander decides to take things into her own hand. Once again we have the collision of both personalities and parallel investigations in this middle part of Stieg Larsson's triology (and I want to underscore that the three books do indeed constitute a true trilogy and not simply the first three books in a series that will never be finished). It is certainly interesting to see a movie in a theater that is being projected from a DVD, but, hey, that is how things are in the Zenith City when it comes to seeing foreign films. We take what we can get any way we can and we learn to like it.

I was in a position where as soon as I finished reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" I was able to watch the movie version, at which point I started reading "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and only had to wait a day and a half after I finished it to see this film. Consequently, I am looking at "Flickan som lekte med elden" more as an adaptation of Larsson's novel than as a movie that stands on its own simply because that is not my perspective. I think this is a better adapation of the novel than the first film, mainly because the second novel is more streamlined than the first, which basically means "Män som hatar kvinnor" was at a disadvantage because even at two and a half hours in length it was going to have to jettison a lot of what happened in the novel. They also found a way of fast forwarding the main plot line by having Salander shadow Blomkvist's investigation on his computer. Of course there are some short cuts in this 2009 Swedish film, but nothing that drastically reconceptualized the story. Whether this is true because of the differences in the first two novels, or because this time around both the screenwriter (Jonas Frykberg) and the director (Daniel Alfredson) are different, I cannot say. But the important thing is that I was not as annoyed by the omissions and alterations as the first time around (i.e., they kept all of the violence but cut out a lot of the sex, which significantly gelded Blomkvist's character).

Readers of the novel have a big advantage over those whose exposure to these characters is only through the cinema because a key characteristic of Lisabeth Salander is that she rarely talks and when she does she is not inclined to reveal what she is thinking. But as we know from reading the novels, she thinks a lot, and while it is not the way the rest of us think in a world where the sky is (usually) blue, it is our key way of accessing the peculiar world in which she sees herself living. Having read that book the same week I saw the film meant I was certainly able to fill in the silences and flesh out the story. I have accepted Rapace and Nyqvist as Salander and Blomqvist, even though I keep thinking Salander should be smaller. The main thing is that Rapace has the requisite look in her eyes when her character visually dissects people. I find Nyqvist to be perfectly cast, and as much as I like Daniel Cragi's James Bond, I wonder if he will be able to soften up enough to capture the characters as well in the upcoming Americanization of these Swedish films. My major concern would be that Alfredson's direction is rather bland, especially in terms of the last act when we get to what should be the dramatic action sequence. I also noticed that the film goes a bit beyond the end of the novel, into the beginning of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," but in some ways that hint at some more streamlining. We shall see.

DVD ~ Julianne Moore
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hiring a beautiful call girl to tempt your husband is really not a good idea, July 14, 2010
This review is from: Chloe (DVD)
Dr. Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) is suspicious that her husband, college professor David (Liam Neeson), is doing more than flirting with his students. Given the lack of warmth emanating from her husband and the open disdain of her son, Michael (Max Thieriot), Catherine's best move would be to just pack up and leave. But instead, she comes up with the bright idea of hiring a call girl, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to tempt her husband and report back with the details. Let us just say that things do not go the way Catherine hopes in this erotic thriller. Catherine is a gynecologist and early on she tells a patient that an orgasm is just a series of muscular contractions. The statement strikes me as the type of hubris exhibiting by the doomed heroes in Greek tragedies. The 2009 film begins with a voice over by Chloe, in which she explains how adept she is at giving her customers what they want. Chloe has as much faith in her abilities as Catherine lacks faith in her husband. David's character is a minor figure in the story, with his words and actions being inherently ambiguous, so we are always thinking maybe he did but maybe he did not, but the story comes down to the two women (think Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion," but with Cary Grant playing a minor character instead of the male lead). The key question is what does Catherine want out of this test of her husband's fidelity? Because whatever it is, Chloe is bound and determined to provide it.

A strength of the film is that Erin Cressida Wilson, who did the screenplays for "Secretary" and "Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," came up with this script from the French film "Nathalie." I have not seen the original, but Wilson has a talent for unusual love relationships, although what we have in "Chloe" is far and away the most normal one she has tackled to date. Atom Egoyan ("Exotica," "The Sweet Hereafter") certainly wants viewers to be ahead of Catherine, so there is a sense from early on of waiting for Catherine to catch up before it is too late. The musical score cues you in that things are darker than they seem. But what sold me on checking out this movie as soon as it came out on DVD when I saw the trailer was the cast. In the wake of "Mama Mia!" it seems Amanda Seyfried is in every other movie, especially if they involve letter writing (i.e., "Dear John" and "Letters to Juliet"), but there are those who want to see more of her and this movie certainly delivers on that score. Chloe is the darkest role she has played to date, and it is no surprise at this point that she can hold her own against Moore, whose character you can see shatter just by watching her eyes.

It is when Chloe reaches her own breaking point in this film that I start questioning a lot of what is happening. The Chloe of the end game is decidedly different from the one we first meet and who becomes part of Catherine's secret conspiracy. As the credits rolled I was going backwards from the end to rethink everything in terms of how things played out, and it did not fit as neatly as I would like it to under the circumstances. A standard problem in most thrillers and horror movies is that the payoff is never up to the setup, and ultimately that is the case here and I ended up rounding down on "Chloe" because of the title character's fate. Still, "Chloe" is well-written and well-acted adult fare, and there is not much out there these days that can meet that standard. Although things could have gotten much worse, just keep in mind that this is not a good date movie.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2010 10:21 PM PDT

2008 PaleyFest: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reunion
2008 PaleyFest: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reunion
DVD ~ Charisma Carpenter
Price: $14.99
5 used & new from $7.55

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but certainly not everything you hoped an event like this could be, July 12, 2010
What you have here is what happened on March 20, 2008 when eleven members of the cast and creative team of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" attended Paleyfest, which is a yearly eventat the Paley Center for Media that connects fans with the casts and creators of their favorite series. The moderator for the proceedings is Matt Roush of "TV Guide," who is pretty much an idea choice, having been a big fan of the show from Day 1 and an equally big advocate for the series as well. On the one hand you get Joss Whedon talking about his show and also Sarah Michelle Gellar saying more about the character than you have actually heard coming from her lips, so that alone is worth the price of admission. I particularly like hearing what Marti Noxon has to say and Michelle Trachtenberg had some interesting things to say as somebody who was a fan of the show before she spent her formative teen years on it as a character. There is an introduction section separate from the actual panel discussion, because in between those two parts there was a screening of the Buffy music, "Once More, with Feeling." That episode is not included on the DVD, but I have to believe anybody who picks up this up is already in possession of the complete "BtVS" on DVD and therefore can certainly switch discs, screen the episode (presumably singing along), and then get back to the proceedings.

On the one hand anything with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in it pretty much qualifies as "must have" for fans of the show, but I have to admit I put this on my Amazon wish list in the weeks before my birthday because I was not sure I wanted to pay this much for what is, all things considered, this little. One of the problems is that there are too many people on stage so Emma Caulfield and Charisma Carpenter, for example, get asked one question each by Roush. Their answers are revealing and memorable, but who wants to stop at just one? So on the one hand you lament the gaps in the reunion, with Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, and David Boreanez not in attendance, but then that would have meant even small slices of pie for everybody. Then you have the competition for comic relief between Nicholas Brendon (who throws a wicked Susan Lucci comment Gellar's way) and Seth Green, who get plenty of laughs but scarcely have a serious word to say during the session. James Marsters is also willing to go for the joke, but also speaks to several of the topics as one of the few panelists who would add to the discussion.

Then there are the questions from the audience, which suffer from a general desire to praise the cast rather than question them, and from the grave misfortune of a first question that requires everyone to answer without having to reference "BtVS." There are several minutes of this panel that you would want everybody to get back. Of course, there is no way anything on this DVD is going to be enough to satisfy any "BtVS" fan, but still, you have to want a little less fat and a lot more meat. The only real DVD extras are some photos from the day and film of almost everybody being shot backstage by the paparazzi, which is interesting if you like watching dozens of cameras flashing repeatedly at high speed (it is amazing any of the photos end up with decent lighting). Final note: there is something of a "spoiler" here if you have not been reading the "Season 8" Whedon is overseeing with the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comic book. My daughters are woefully behind in reading the issues I have been purchasing for them and were stunned to hear what Buffy has been up to. Of course, this should be an incentive for them to get up to speed.

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