Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pink Panther

Gimmicky and overlong crime-comedy about the mysterious jewel thief, The Phantom, attempting to steal The Pink Panther, a valuable pink jewel. Sellers steals the show as Insp. Jacques Clouseau, the man in charge of finding The Phantom, who's not only held back by the cleverness of the thief but also the clumsiness of himself. Niven is fun as the lead role, but takes up too much screen-time with an uninteresting back-story involving his affair with Clouseau's wife (Capucine) and his punk nephew (Wagner). Many characters grow more and more cruel, selfish and unlikable towards an ending that is more slapstick than witty. Sellers and the Switzerland setting are huge pluses in a heavily dated comedy. A bit of a dull start, but worthy of continuing to A SHOT IN THE DARK which came out only three months after this film's premiere!

Little Fockers

Third installment to a series that was just hanging by a thread at the end of the second film. An unnecessary installment with Byrnes (De Niro) questioning Greg (Stiller) as a father, and also a husband… again! The story revolves around the little Fockers (Baiocchi and Tahan), but there's very little development and involvement from either--all we know is that they're (stereotypically) polar-opposites. Owen Wilson gets an undeserved third billing, and offers nothing new to the story nor his character. At one point Greg asks Kevin (Wilson), "What are you even doing here, Kevin?!" Perhaps the writers should have taken this question literally. Hoffman and Streisand are unneeded, but at least they offer some meaningful continuity. Danner and Polo are great as the supporting characters; perhaps that's the key, they were the two best characters because they weren't an overdose. Alba plays the totally unfunny Andi Garcia (like the actor; ha, ha, ha; not!) who is really there just as eye candy. Dern's appearance is sadly pointless. The film gets much funnier at the end, but still a worthless Holiday film.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer

James Dirschberger's feature-length debut is an astounding portrait of R. Budd Dwyer, the Pennsylvania State Treasurer who committed suicide during a press conference in 1987. For the last 23 years, Dwyer's final moments have been talked about much more than his productive life; so much that it actually has become somewhat of an internet meme despite the event taking place years before people even knew what the internet was. Just three years ago, if you put Dwyer's name into a search engine, all you'd find were suicide related results. Even now it's somewhat difficult to find a picture of Dwyer without the .357 Magnum revolver in his hand… or, in his mouth.

Dirschberger attempts to do the man justice by creating a film that covers more of Dwyer's life than his death. In uncovering Dwyer's life, Dirschberger has brought to light many things that were shadowed during Budd's fight for innocence. The film becomes a tale of an honest man driven to the breaking point.

The 75 minute documentary covers a lot of the man's life and also the story behind the guilty verdict. Dwyer upstaged many of his achievements in life by the way he died, but he made us care enough to look deeper behind how and why he was found guilty… and, even prosecuted in the first place. What's most impressive about the film is that it gives Budd a second chance; it looks deeper into the CTA scandal and it doesn't allow the suicide to center around the plot like some sensationalizing news style article.

To exclude Budd's suicide would deny the impact the CTA scandal had on him, and to include it in its entirety would make the audience focus too much on his death which has already been done for too long. Dirschberger compensates by including the suicide, but taming it down so Budd's story can appeal to more people than just the gorehounds and the morbidly curious.

Interviewees include everyone from family, friends and colleagues to William Smith, the man whose testimony convicted Dwyer. It's a story so controversial and easy to misunderstand; hats off to the crew of "Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer" for making all the right moves.