Commentaries

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

RUSSIAN DOLL



Film Review by FIORE

RUSSIAN DOLL is a film made primarily to showcase female lesbian characters, according to the producers Ed Gaffney and Suzanne Brockmann.  They have an affinity for writing for the LGBT community because their son Jason is a homosexual and working in theatre.  They want to share his trials and tribulations.  Frankly, I can’t see how there would be many; afterall, the theatre population is eighty percent homosexual, indicating Jason should be in his element.  Nonetheless, if all films with an LGBT theme were presented in this fashion, I don’t think they would alienate the majority of film viewers.

RUSSIAN DOLL is primarily a story of family abuse, plagiarism and murder spanning some thirty years.  The lead detective on the case is Viola Ames, played by Melanie Brockmann Gaffney (the producers keeping things in the family).  She is a lesbian, but her sexual orientation is secondary to the movie’s plot.  You can insert any type of character for her role, and the story still works.  In this manner, RUSSIAN DOLL is not preachy or sanctimonious about homosexuality.  That helps the movie work.  It also features a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE type ending, which provides a neat twist.

In addition to producing, Gaffney also wrote and directed RUSSIAN DOLL.  It is his second feature since 2013’s THE PERFECT WEDDING.  The prepublicity for RUSSIAN DOLL brags the producers opted to use cast and crew who were either members of, or sympathizers to the LGBT community.  It shows.  The movie plays very much like an Indie film.

The acting is stiff.  Lines are often read well, but with no emotional content.  Everything seems forced, especially with the producers’ daughter.   A scene were two detectives confront an uncooperative lawyer is proof.  The scene is crucial to the story, but is awkward and badly staged.

The audio sounds as if it were recorded in a tin can.  The dialogue echoes and sound effects are not simpatico with the actors.  Perhaps, instead of ensuring the technicians were members of the LGBT community, the producers should have hired more skilled crew members. 


The story is decent, but the production values of RUSSIAN DOLL immediately state it is not a Hollywood production.  It’s not bad for a view, provided you lower your watching standards.  Gaffney shows promise as a writer.  If he and his wife concentrate more on selecting quality cast and crew, rather than those who agree with their personal ideologies, they could produce high quality entertainment.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

BAJA



Film Review by FIORE

I have found that, as a general rule, Independent comedy films tend to be funnier than the big studio efforts.  The Indies cater more to comedy, than agendas and are often more ribald.  Unfortunately, that is not the case with BAJA, a romantic comedy from Producer, Writer and Director Tony Vidal.  His third film feature, Vidal attempts to cram so many comedy templates into his plot line, that none is ever exploited to its true humorous potential.

For example:  There is the comedy set up of driving with friends to Mexico in the family RV; connecting with a girl who is a hooker; running afoul of sketchy business/crime lords; discovering your own voice and not being ruled by others; having your best BFF attempt to break up your new romance; misunderstanding of a romantic situation; a young girl with dreams of singer stardom; a peasant who is actually a princess; a poor town that needs a spark to remain vital; a father trying to reconnect with his daughter; a bizarre wise man who is seeking an apprentice.  Any one, or two of these have the potential to create a funny caper.  Vidal incorporates all of them, creating a rushed and frantic film that never has time for laughs.

BAJA stars:  Jake Thomas; Chirs Brochu; Adrienne Mandi; Michelle DeShon; Zoe Corraface; Mark Margolis; Kurt Fuller; and Cynthia Stevenson.

Full disclosure; I watched this film while battling a severe head cold and was heavily medicated at the time.  For a comedy, this should have been an advantage.  But even my drug induced state could not elicit more than a few chuckles.  The funniest part of the film was the lyrics for the song “I Love You More Than Tacos” played during the movie credits.


BAJA had possibilities.  I wish Vidal success on his future endeavors.  Comedy is the most difficult genre to script.  If I may, allow the professor to suggest narrowing the theme, not making every character the main character, and following the KISS method of scriptwriting.

Friday, April 13, 2018

RAMPAGE



Film Review by FIORE

Grab a jumbo tub of popcorn and get ready for a celluloid thrill ride.  RAMPAGE is a chock full of fun, action, laughs, thrills and prodigious special effects. 

Once again, this is a film based on an arcade game I never played.  Apparently, it doesn’t matter because the film version is so divergent from the game, it is an entirely new concept.  Primatologist, and former spec ops vet Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) is pressed into action when a space station implodes sending its cargo of genetic mutation hurling toward Earth.  The wayward canisters affect several creatures, turning them into giant monsters, including George, an albino silverback gorilla who is Okoye’s friend.  The monsters trek to Chicago, and the fate of the city rests with Davis and George.

Helping The Rock are Pittsburgh native Joe Manganiello, who has a brief, but effective role, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who steals every scene he is in, and the alluring Naomie Harris.

The SFX in RAMPAGE are exceptional.  The final battle of the monsters is worth the price of admission alone.  Director of Photography Jaron Presant, Editors Jim May and Bob Ducsay and Production Designer Barry Chusid combine for a visual sci-fi extravaganza.  I saw RAMPAGE in standard definition, but second time around, I may spend the extra nickel and catch it in IMAX 3D.  It lends itself to the technology.

As good as the SFX are, that’s how absurd the action sequences are; everything in RAMPAGE is over the top.  Impossible stunts and skirmish scenes are the norm.  Scope out the Rock flying half of a helicopter on the top of a building as it collapses for proof.




No agendas, no social aphorism, no propaganda, no holier-than-thou sermons; just solid escapism with battles and big monsters.  So, what’s not to like?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

20 WEEKS


20 WEEKS 

Film Review by FIORE

When women complain about the disrespect they experience in Hollywood for their contributions to filmmaking, they can use 20 WEEKS  as an example for this impertinence.  It’ not that the film is bad, it’s just not entertaining, as it is mired in a feminist philosophy which belittle the family unit and disregards men in society.   Helmed primarily by women, it postulates an ideology of gender superiority, male superficiality and the sanctimonious virtues of single parenthood, all in a pop culture envelope. 

Anna Margaret Hollyman (one of the dreaded three name people) plays Maya.  Maya is a woman who is caviler about children and family.  She falls in love with Ronan, played by Amir Arison.  Ronan is Maya’s antithesis as he loves children and the concept of family.  Arison is best known for his role of Aram, on TV’s THE BLACKLIST.

The couple’s mad love affair encounters a hurdle with an unwanted pregnancy.  They have what passes for a meaningful discussion whether to have the child, based on each character’s ideologies.  The script here is filled with platitudes and not thought-provoking rhetoric.  Those ideologies shift dramatically when a sonogram reveals a possible genetic problem with the baby.

Leena Pendharker directs and scripts 20 WEEKS.  It’s apparent she is too anxious to wave the Helen Reddy banner to rally her sisters globally.  While Maya is a strong and intelligent character, Ronan is a stereotype of the 90’s girlie man.  He is constantly apologizing for everything and kowtowing to the superior woman.  I like Arison as an actor, so I continued to watch 20 WEEKS   through all the feminist propaganda hoping his Ronan would eventually grow a pair.  He never did.   

This film was an affront on many levels.  The couple is comfortable with marrying after the pregnancy.  See, this isn’t how society effectively works.  Marriage comes first, then the family.  This concept is ignored by Pendharker’s feminist bent.  She makes the proposal of marriage similar to a leveraged buyout for the child.

The argument whether to abort the child is laden with feminist mantras.  For those with a strong religious foundation, or even a sense of a stable society, this dilemma is moot.  The film could only occur in California, where abortion is permitted up to the final week of gestation.  Maya dominates the arguments and is bullish on getting her way.  Ronan is too busy acquiescing to give any credence to his viewpoints. 

The film’s conclusion is ludicrous.  Faced with a reconciliation, Maya raises the flag of women superiority, supported by her friends, that raising a child is much better if done by a single mother rather than a cohesive family unit. This is socialist garbage at its zenith.  The first concept to destroy a civilization is to demean the family unit.  20 WEEKS   does it with aplomb.

This film is strictly for the women who are men-haters and spend most of their time confused over why Hillary isn’t president.  20 WEEKS is not thought-provoking, nor controversial.  It is the feminist religion on full display, promoting a female dominated society where men are utilized solely for recreative purposes only.  Skip this one, unless you have already taken the Kool-Aid.