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Reviews Written by
LGwriter "SharpWitGuy" RSS Feed (Astoria, N.Y. United States)

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DVD ~ Meredith Bishop
Price: $6.85
47 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than I expected, November 5, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Klepto (DVD)
After having seen two really miserable crummy indie films back to back, I was really surprised by how good Klepto is. Thomas Trail co-wrote, directed, and edited the film and has done a great job. The editing is very crisp. He gets solid performances from all his actors, and the writing is overall very strong. Sure, there are formulaic elements here--guy gets in way too deep owing a crime boss a whole pile of money, for example (the most obvious formula issue)--but this can be forgiven because of all the other strong elements of the movie.

The premise is original--a girl in her 20s is a kleptomaniac and meets a security guy of about the same age who, rather than punishing her when he catches her stealing stuff in the store where he works, hooks up with her for more than one reason. The girl's mother, played well by Leigh Taylor-Young, lends just the right element of emotional superficiality to the proceedings to add another interesting part of the story.

Overall surprisingly very good and recommended.

L.A. Dicks
L.A. Dicks
DVD ~ Anthony Guidera
Offered by SourceMedia
Price: $5.23
41 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Michael Madsen? I don't think so., October 31, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: L.A. Dicks (DVD)
Madsen shows up at the very beginning of the movie in one scene for less than two minutes and at the very end of the movie in another scene for less than one minute. Obviously the filmmaker(s) knew him and asked him to do them a favor, which he generously did. The rest of the film is weak--mediocre acting and writing. Not a good use of your time at all. Don't even rent it; it's not worth it.

Reversible Errors
Reversible Errors
DVD ~ William H. Macy
Offered by Perception Products
Price: $19.99
34 used & new from $1.43

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slowly gathers steam, October 25, 2008
This review is from: Reversible Errors (DVD)
The first hour or so of this near-three hour TV movie is really slow, but luckily--thanks to a combination of interesting plot twists as well as the intriguing character and great acting of William Macy--the movie really picks up steam after that first slow section.

The plot centers on a triple murder; the central question is who actually committed this crime. One guy is behind bars and sentenced to lethal injection for it. Another guy is in prison for another crime but is very closely connected to the crime. A third guy is out of the slammer but also closely connected to the crime. On the law side, we have Macy as a lawyer, his real-life wife Felicity Huffman as a judge with whom he gets romantically involved, Tom Selleck as a cop on the case, and Monica Potter as the prosecuting attorney who's married but also involved with Selleck.

Yes, it's pretty soapy, but Macy's great acting, as well as solid support from Huffman, Selleck, Potter, and the bad guys (James Rebhorn and Glenn Plummer, especially) make this more than watchable. If you can get past the first very slow hour or 75 minutes, then settle in for an enjoyable remainder of the movie.

Once Around
Once Around
DVD ~ Richard Dreyfuss
Price: $8.75
55 used & new from $3.48

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, but downer ending, October 25, 2008
This review is from: Once Around (DVD)
The script is excellent. The acting is great. The characters are strong. And the plotting, for a family drama, is certainly good. But the ending here is a REAL downer. If you don't mind such a bummer ending, this is a really worthwhile film.

The first two-thirds of it are superb. It's not that the last third is bad; not at all. It's just that in the last third real tragedy strikes and yes, we all know that's real because that's what life can do. But don't expect this movie to make you feel good when you're finished watching it. You can admire the acting and the script and the direction, all of which are first-rate. But the story ends on a very low note.

Just a word of warning. OK, we all know not every story has a happy ending. But this has the exact antithesis of a happy ending.

Just to let you know.

Margot at the Wedding
Margot at the Wedding
DVD ~ Nicole Kidman
Offered by newtownvideos
Price: $6.37
43 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Razor sharp, complex, and dour, September 9, 2008
This review is from: Margot at the Wedding (DVD)
I almost gave this five stars but the film's overwhelming negativity and dour nature prevented that. I can understand that writer director Noah Baumbach did not want to make a Hollywood movie--in fact, in this film, he essentially bends over backwards to make an ANTI-Hollywood movie--but surely there might be some shred of hope or positivity to identify with. But that's not the case here.

Instead we have a film of tremendous intelligence in that it does a masterful job at portraying the neurotic complexity of a number of characters--primarily Margot, her sister Pauline, and Pauline's fiance Malcolm--played respectively by Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jack Black. Black is so totally different in this film from anywhere else he's shown up that for my money, he's a real standout. He plays a woefully immature unemployed artist--very smart, but very lacking in emotional depth--who's engaged to Jennifer Jason Leigh's Pauline.

There's an interesting parallel structure here as well. Margot has a son Claude; Pauline has a daughter Ingrid; both are about the same age (roughly 11 or 12). Margot's lover Dick has a somewhat older daughter Maisie. Margot's estranged husband Jack has a somewhat similar relationship to her that Malcolm has to Pauline; both men are in some way distanced from their mates. In this film, no single character appears to have qualities that endear the viewer to him or her; Baumbach, it seems, wanted to insure that everyone here is perceived as neurotic enough to warrant some degree of distance from overt identification.

Thus what we really have here is not so much a linear film at all as a complex multi-character portrait in which the characters are revealed through different incidents and exchanges of conversation, all of which, as mentioned previously, are done with very high intelligence indeed. You can't help but admire this braininess, even as you cringe at the lack of heart that blasts through the film in one scene after another.

It could very well be this lack of heart that has given this a three-star average rating here. At least in Baumbach's last film, The Squid and the Whale, there was some evidence of warmth. Here there is bascially none.

At the very end, when Margot finally does catch the bus, you realize it's not because she wants to be with her son as much as it is not wanting to be with her sister, the option she would have if she stayed where she was. (I'm not giving anything away here because in essence, there's really nothing to give away).

Claude has problems, not only with his mother but also in how he relates to the world. When a neighborhood kid does something nasty to him, he runs to his mother. While this is not completely unexpected, at the same time, the viewer begins to see how much emotional immaturity is on display here and how this is the real essence of dysfunction, which is the essentially the point of this film--the display of neurotic dysfunction. Again, it's only because it's done with so much subtlety and finesse and smarts that I gave this a four-star rating.

Baumbach is very smart. But maybe he needs a little more sunshine in his life.

Certain People (Coffee-To-Go Short-Short Story Series)
Certain People (Coffee-To-Go Short-Short Story Series)
by Roberta Allen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.95
30 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes effective...sometimes not, August 16, 2008
Roberta Allen, a visual artist, turns to prose here for the second time (after her initial collection, A Traveling Woman) with mixed results. While occasionally there is recognition of the power and uniqueness of the flash fiction form, at other times, her writing is too literal to be truly effective in this form.

There are some truly interesting images and psychological insights, from time to time, but the flash fiction form demands a sensitivity to language that Allen does not always convey. It is a hybrid form, bordering on poetry, and so must be able to communicate some quality of this kinship. Once in a while, Allen understands this and it does come across. But all too often, there is too much forcing of the language, as though trying to prove the author can do flash fiction. This forced quality does not allow the essence of flash fiction to emerge.

There must be some degree of metaphor in flash fiction--at least some, anyway--and Allen does not really bring this across consistently. Hence in many cases these pieces read like incomplete short pieces, not really flash fiction pieces, which are wholes rather than pieces per se.

A much better bet in the Coffee House Coffee-to-Go short-short story series (flash fictions) is Jessica Treat's A Robber in the House, which is real flash fiction and superb.

Unlucky Lucky Days (American Readers Series No. 9)
Unlucky Lucky Days (American Readers Series No. 9)
by Daniel Grandbois
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.95
50 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Following in Edson's footsteps, August 10, 2008
With this collection, Daniel Grandbois shows himself to be the heir apparent to Russell Edson, premier American prose poem surrealist. Many of the surreal non-sequiturs Edson's so fond of are in evidence here--not, of course, the same material, but the same kind of startling jump cuts that Edson is so well known for.

Of course Grandbois has his own style, and it is quirky and scintillating. But it is strikingly evident that he has read a lot of Edson, which is certainly not a bad thing at all. A prose poem that can somehow combine ice cream and spider legs is one example. Here again, of course, it's hard to know if these should be called prose poems or flash fictions. I tend to think of Edson more as a poet, so likewise Grandbois.

Of course on the other hand, there are the two brilliant collections of pieces by W.S. Merwin, Houses and Travellers, and The Miner's Pale Children--and these to me read more like flash fictions (most of them). But back to Grandbois--for a stimulating reading experience that parcels out surprising juxtapositions of surreal events and objects in small doses, you can't do much better than Unlucky Lucky Days. Put this next to Russel Edson's The Clam Theater and The Reason Why the Closet Man is Never Sad.

That's what I would do, anyway....

I Carry A Hammer In My Pocket For Occasions Such As These (American Readers Series)
I Carry A Hammer In My Pocket For Occasions Such As These (American Readers Series)
by Anthony Tognazzini
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
34 used & new from $0.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hip, smart punchy flash fiction, August 7, 2008
Here's a guy who knows how to pack a punch in one page, or even less. Read the title piece, for example. Oh, yeah. Interestingly enough, he has a few longer pieces in this collection (maybe 3 or 4) and for me, while they're competent, they just don't have the same oomph the shorter pieces do.

You have to be really inventive to do flash fiction, and for sure, Mr. Tognazzini is in that category. Once you move into longer form fiction, narrative takes over (it has to; no choice in the matter) and that's a totally different type of writing--or usually is, anyway. Flash has its own unwritten 'rules', for lack of a better term, and they're chock full of the need for intense imagination.

Lots of really good stuff here. Two of the author's pieces in this collection were originally in a great flash fiction anthology called PP/FF, which I strongly recommend; another (the title piece) was in the anthology Mammoth Book of Sudden Stories, another superb flash fiction anthology.

Watch for more stuff from this guy; he knows how to do the flash thing, for sure.

Highly recommended.

Evil Roy Slade
Evil Roy Slade
DVD ~ Edie Adams
Offered by Best Bargains Inc
Price: $16.49
45 used & new from $1.96

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funnier than it should be, considering its age, July 18, 2008
This review is from: Evil Roy Slade (DVD)
Although made a whole bunch of years ago (1972), this holds up remarkably well as a comedy, no doubt due in large part to the fact that it was co-written by none other than Gary Marshall, the genius behind Big with Tom Hanks, among other great American comedy films. The casting is perfect; John Astin flashes his teeth a lot as the title character, which is appropriate, and Mickey Rooney is on hand as the stereotypical rich greedy RR tycoon out to take over the entire territory.

Also here are Milton Berle (!) as the owner of a shoe store, Edie Adams as Flossie (half the time called "Floozie", for good reason), Penny Marshall in a small role as a bank teller, and Henry Gibson as Mickey Rooney's numbskull nephew. The "funny boy" bits are hilarious, but there's a lot of other stuff here too that's just as funny. The ending is a real hoot.

Roy's the ultimate Western bad guy--gang and all--but inside he has a heart of gold. Kind of. At least that's what his lady love (Pamela Austin) firmly believes. He tries to go straight to please her, but dag nabbit, just can't do it. His attempts in the shoe store are truly funny.

Lots of fun, and definitely recommended.

Sweet Revenge
Sweet Revenge
DVD ~ Sam Neill
18 used & new from $3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever punchy British black comedy, July 17, 2008
This review is from: Sweet Revenge (DVD)
Taking a cue from American ex-pat Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, playwright Alan Ayckbourn penned the plays on which Sweet Revenge was based, in whith two strangers each agree to bump off the person causing him/her the most misery in their respective lives.

Of course Ayckbourn can't duplicate what Highsmith had already brilliantly done, so he starts things off with both parties being suicidal (definitely NOT part of the Highsmith story), then moves in very different directions from Highsmith indeed.

Malcolm Mowbray, the talented director of this movie, (he also directed another punchy black comedy, but set in the States, Out Cold--with Teri Garr, John Lithgow and Randy Quaid--highly recommended), has done a great job deftly blending wry British humor with black comedy (very black, indeed) as well as romantic highjinks and some outright guffaws.

When you see sparrows blithely flying around a living room, part of a huge mansion in which the younger son rides his motor scooter on a regular basis and the older sister (one of the two parties involved in the revenge pact) changes her appearance in the blink of an artistocratic eye, you can tell there's a lot of fun to be had.

And there is. Highsmith's story has no comedy whatsoever, but Ayckbourn is a master of this mesh of comedy and biting stuff, and that comes across beautifully in this film version. The acting by the three leads (Sam Neill, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Helena Bonham Carter) is great, with the definite nod for scene stealer going to Ms. Carter, who seems capable of doing basically anything in front of a camera (see Fight Club and Twelfth Night for radically different and consistently excellent performances).

A very nice piece of work. Recommended!

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