Thursday, March 30, 2006


Viggo Mortensen A History of Violence Directed by David Cronenberg
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


Tom Stall is your everyday regular Joe. He has a loving wife, a son who’s in high school, a preteen daughter who’s as cute as a rag doll, and he owns a local greasy spoon restaurant in middle America.

But things are about to change for Tom ...

Two murderous men hellbent on making a swathe of destruction everyplace they go decide to visit Tom’s little restaurant. Things get ugly real fast. But Tom moves into action and kills both men, thus saving everyone in the place. He’s a hero. His face is plastered all over newspapers and on TV. Everyone loves him.

But then a dark car trundles into town and three men who look very "mafioso" come lumbering into Tom’s establishment. They say they know him, but not as Tom Stall; they know him as Joey, a man with a different and violent past from Philadelphia.

Tom denies knowing them or what they’re talking about. But Tom’s lovely life is about to unravel. Hero status in town puts too much pressure on him and he has to deal with a past he thought he’d left behind. To do so, however, he may have to reawaken a killer instinct he thought long dormant.

Can a man forever change his stripes? Can a man continue to be a loving father if his past catches up with him and turns day-to-day life into a possible bloodbath?

Director David Cronenberg (NAKED LUNCH, 1991) delivers his best film to date. Viggo Mortensen (THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy)pulls in a powerful performance as a conflicted man living a lie but wanting it to be true and willing to do anything to protect his family. Maria Bello (PAYBACK, 1999) plays Tom Stall’s beautiful wife and does so with an understated grace that makes the audience really feel what she’s going through (i.e., living with a husband she doesn’t even know).

Ed Harris (POLLACK, 2000) plays Carl Fogarty, a scummy little mafia man who’s scarred face match his disturbing past. He lives for conflict.

The big surprise, though, was William Hurt (DARK CITY, 1998) as Tom Stall’s real Philadelphia brother. He actually freaked me out when Viggo’s character returned to Philly for a bloody "family" reunion.

This is a really underrated film. Although not the best movie I’ve seen in the past year or so, it is definitely interesting and gripping. The ending alone will leave many speechless. The last three minutes of the film have no dialogue, simply showing a family forcibly coming to terms with what they’re father is/was, and what they realize he had to do for them.

Click here for A History of Violence movie trailer!

Oscar Nominated: Best Supporting Actor

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


The 40 Year Old VirginSteve Carell Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Steve Carell
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

Thumbs Down


THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN is an adult comedy that tries too hard to be funny by infusing vulgarity and crude anti-social male behavior at nearly every turn (ala THE ARISTOCRATS).

It doesn’t miss the mark completely, but the attempts at portraying a message of some significance get consistently marred by foul jokes that pull the viewer away from any true meaning. I realize this is a "comedy", but the message of what it’s truly like to be a 40 year old virgin is never fully realized. All we know is that Andy (Steve Carell, The Daily Show) is a pretty boring virginal guy who collects action figures, works at an electronics store, and has never had sex with a woman in all his 40 years. This seems like a pretty shallow character representation ...and it is.

Where the comedy comes in is when Andy’s fellow male coworkers discover his lifelong secret. They try to help him out by giving advice, introducing him to loose women, and trying to change his body image (the chest waxing was painful to watch, funny, and gross).

Andy finally meets Trish (Catherine Keener, CAPOTE) and falls head over heels in love. But his attempts to get close to her are stifled by his coworkers’ advice and his lack of understanding of sexual behavior. This is where the comedy really could’ve gotten a leg-up on other shallow comedies (ex. DATE MOVIE) but doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Instead we’re given continual bathroom humor obviously directed at the teen movie-going crowd.

After finishing the film I had to ask myself if I really cared whether or not Andy got laid. And the answer was "no."

I also felt that the ending of the film was very forced; a last ditch effort to make the 40 and over crowd somehow feel more connected to the character by putting in a musical number from the 1979 musical HAIR.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

24: Season One TV Series

Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Jack Bauer is the head of L.A.’s CTU (Counter-Terrorist Unit) and he’s just received notification from the higher-ups that a threat to a Presidential candidate --- the first black candidate --- is real and imminent. His job is to thwart the attempt by all means necessary. This will be "the longest 24 hours of his life."

But the terrorists are aware of Jack and know he’s assigned to root them out. We quickly learn that Jack’s wife and daughter are in danger. They’re swooped up by splinter cells of the terrorists and locked away. Now they have some leverage against Jack, and they’re going to use it. But they underestimate him. Having been trained in Special Forces before moving into law enforcement, Jack doesn’t like being pushed against the wall. Fighting back is his only chance, for him, his family and the Presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, other storylines are coalescing with this one. The office of L.A.’s CTU may be rife with undercover agents for foreign terror groups. Jack and his wife were once on the outs and Jack became involved with Agent Nina Myers (Sarah Clarke) — the second in command at CTU — for a very brief time. Senator David Palmer (the candidate) and his family are having a rough time; they’re in the middle of the California primary and Mr. Palmer’s wife is enamored with becoming the first lady much so that she’s willing to risk just about everything to get there. Palmer’s son may also have been involved in the murder of a boy who raped his sister, and the news is just now beginning to break. Palmer’s enemies are closing in, trying to kill him and to kill his run for President. And as this unfolds, we learn that Jack Bauer and David Palmer were once involved in a military operation (as subordinate and leader respectively) that killed a Kosovo terrorist ...and, by accident, his family. Or so they thought.

The family of the "murdered" man (Dennis Hopper) may have infiltrated CTU and are prepared to do anything to get Senator Palmer and Jack Bauer.

This first season of 24 developed almost a cult following. And there’s good reason for it. This is acting well done and nonstop action at its finest. Just when a storyline starts winding down, they pump it back up with adrenaline. Keifer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) was a good choice for the lead character and all of the supporting cast are just as perfect for their roles (from Leslie Hope who plays Jack’s wife to Dennis Haysbert who stars as Senator David Palmer, the Presidential candidate.)

The complaints surrounding the series are justified if a bit unrealistic. Most have centered on the lack of realism when it comes to travel times in L.A.; the 24 hour screenwriters put everything at 15 minutes away from everything else in the big city. This is true, they do. But when you have to cover one hour per episode, you can see why they did this; they only have so much time to get new plots across and keep the story moving at a decent pace.

It’s great to see a quality TV series making its way into mainstream America. It’s so rare for something like this; I was stunned to find so many people (mainly my friends, coworkers, and family) were equally enamored with the program.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Richard Dreyfuss Close Encounters of the Third Kind Directed by Stephen Spielberg
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Whether you’re a Steven Spielberg fan or not, this is one of those films that has dominated the science fiction film industry and set the bar incredibly high for visual effects. Cursed by some as "too slow", CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND is one of those movie’s that focuses on the main character so prominently (Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary), it is truly more a human story than anything else. There are no action sequences or shoot ‘em ray-guns. Instead, Close Encounters takes us into the pure character and eye-candy realm.

Re-released with Dolby Digital Sound and high grade digital visuals, this DVD should not be passed up by any film-o-phile.

The story starts out interestingly enough: Lost relics are "returning" in odd places: a squadron of WW II planes in the Sonoran Desert, a steamer ship in another desert. A group of scientists are sent out to try and discover where, how, and why these things suddenly reappeared after so many years. And why they’re all still in the same condition they were when lost decades ago. Strange things are afoot.

Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) is a family man who works for a local electric company in the Midwest. But when a chance encounter with a strange flying object happens on a lonely stretch of road, an image is implanted in Roy’s head. A strange mountainous image that he can’t explain. He feels compelled to sculpt it and sees the shape in everything (from mashed potatoes to shaving cream). His family leaves him. He loses his job. He’s ready to give up ever finding this place when he suddenly sees it on TV. Devils Tower in Wyoming. He must go there. He drives to Devils Tower only to find that the military has isolated the area after a "toxic spill." Not believing the military’s cover story, Roy risks everything to get to Devils Tower and find out what lay behind it. His life will be forever altered and aliens will swarm around him like fireflies toward a flame.

The beautifully colored spaceships (especially the "mother-ship") are stunning in their brilliance and scope. The inclusion of music, color and hand movements are also well pulled into the story, giving us a very reasonable understanding of how communication with a truly alien race might happen.

Spielberg and Dreyfuss apparently liked to work together (this was their second collaboration, the first being JAWS in 1975) and it’s a good pairing. The two seem to respect each other as actor and director. And although this was their second film together, it wouldn’t be the last. ALWAYS with Holly Hunter made it to film in 1989, too. But Close Encounters would be their first and only SF film.

Spielberg’s films have become the stuff of legends (the aforementioned JAWS, as well as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, E.T., THE COLOR PURPLE, JURASSIC PARK, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and MINORITY REPORT) but he has had a few "stinkers", too — most notably GHOST TRAIN, THE TERMINAL, and the remake-turned-flop WAR OF THE WORLDS.

Still, it’s nice to revisit a time when Spielberg was emerging as a Hollywood force, and Close Encounters may have been his science fiction pinnacle — some might argue that E.T. was better, but my money’s on this excellent film.

Click here for the Close Encounters of the Third Kind movie trailer!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Emperor Penguin March of the Penguins Directed by Luc Jacquet
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


In a place as inhospitable as the Antarctic, almost the entire planet will never know the treacherous nature of this continent during its long winter months. There are no land based mammals that could possibly survive here ...except for the Emperor Penguins.

Why they still choose to nest here is a mystery (personally if I were them I'd be sucking down drinks poolside in Hawaii or something), but nest they do. And they come by their thousands, leaping out of the chilly ocean and marching (in March) single-file to their favorite breeding spot, the exact same location where they were born years before.

They must have an amazing internal compass.

They hike over 70 miles, never eating or drinking, just so they can match up with the opposite sex and produce one egg. And if their egg survives the blistering 80-plus degree below zero temperatures, the shuffling from one parent's feet to another's, the bustling and jostling amongst hundreds of other penguins, they might have a fighting chance. But even if they do survive this, the chicks still have to evade predator birds and other pitfalls that take lives so easily in this nearly lifeless land.

Narrated by Morgan Freeman's wonderful voice and filmed in unGodly cold conditions, this documentary deserves all the praise it has received.

My only beef with the film is that, at times, it seemed to be too anthropomorphic, using words like "love", etc. to describe how the parents' cared for each other and their chicks. Whether this is true or not, we'll never know, but what it does do is get the viewer into these animals' lives very intimately (uh-oh! There I go, too!)

This is a great, short film that the entire family can enjoy. And oogling a the cinematography on a big screen is a major bonus as well.

Click here for the March of the Penguins movie trailer!

Oscar Winning Film: Best Documentary

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Anthony Rapp Rent Directed by Chris Columbus
Starring Anthony Rapp
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

Thumbs Down


Musicals (and Operas) aren’t my forte — although I did enjoy CHICAGO and MOULIN ROUGE — so I was hesitant to check out RENT. But after reading about its notable comparisons to La Boheme, and how consumption was replaced by HIV/AIDS, I was intrigued enough to pick up a copy and find out what director Chris Columbus (what an unfortunate name) did with it.

I guess I should’ve stuck with my original movie-musical/opera instincts.

RENT is exactly what it claims to be, a musical; and perhaps a bit too much of one. At every opportunity — whether it seems justifiable or not — the cast breaks out into song. I know, I know. It’s a musical. What did I expect?

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the two aforementioned postmodern musicals. They told a story through both good narratives and great songs. And they didn’t force feed the audience musical number after musical number after musical number. Let me explain further...

RENT is a modern parable about bohemians living in New York’s East Village. They’re either all struggling artists, lovers, or victims of the HIV epidemic ...or, sometimes, they’re all three (depending on which character you choose to follow). They all live in a substandard building and are having trouble paying the rent (begin opening chorus here). Anthony Rapp (TWISTER, 1996) stars as Mark Cohen, a failed movie-maker who’s coming to terms with the loss of his overtly sexy — and apparently bisexual — girlfriend Maureen (Idina Menzel). He’s also been filming all of his friends lives and it is this that gives most of the movie its emotional weight. Adam Pascal (SCHOOL OF ROCK, 2003) plays Roger, Mark’s roommate. Roger is dealing with his HIV status by remaining a shut-in after having lost a girlfriend to AIDS. But then Mimi (Rosario Dawson, SIN CITY, 2005) moves in downstairs and Roger is tempted to fall in love again. But his HIV status and his broken heart keep them apart addition to the fact that Mimi is a drug addict and is HIV positive, too. Jesse L. Martin plays Tom Collins (ha-ha), an out of work MIT instructor who returns to the Village to find his friends self-destructing and, amazingly, to find love in the arms of another HIV positive man, Angel (played by an excellent Wilson Jermaine Heredia).

It is Angel — I think — that is supposed to represent the glue that holds these ragtag bohemians together, but we see so little of him (up until the hospital scenes where he’s dying) that this aspect was nearly lost on me.

There are some decent film moments. Some of the more memorable ones (for me) were during the opening when the power to the building they’re all living in is shut off and everyone burns something to stay warm, then throws the burning embers out the windows of this multi-story structure (nice imagery). I also liked the scenes involving the HIV support group that showed its members gradually disappearing, a reminder to viewers that HIV tends to be fatal to a huge percentage of those that become infected.

But the songs just couldn’t hold the movie together. Most of them had the exact same tempo (with the exception of maybe one or two) and blurred or blended together, making me not really care what they were singing about. And with a musical so packed full of songs, that’s pretty bad.

Click here for the Rent movie trailer!

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Battlestar GalacticaEdward James Olmos Directed by Michael Rymer
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’S first season on TV is the stuff of legends. And I don’t say this lightly. Built (loosely) upon the 1978 version which suffered from subpar acting, scripts and sets, this new and phenomenally improved series gives science fiction afficionados the guts to stand up and shout, "Science Fiction is a valid TV genre!" Although some SF series’ are pretty darn good (FARSCAPE and FIREFLY fans know what I’m talking about), this smart, sexy and twisted series puts an intellectual face on the genre and dares viewers to keep up.

Set in the distant future in a distant galaxy, season one opens with the Battlestar Galactica being decommissioned in favor of larger, more modern battlestars. Cylons and humans have survived by distancing themselves with no contact taking place for over 40 years. But that’s all about to change. The Cylons attack all the human settlements, planets, and military ships, nearly wiping humanity from the universe. But a rag-tag group of fighters aboard the now decommissioned Battlestar Galactica refuse to give up. The remaining 40,000-plus humans cluster their spaceships around the Galactica and flee into the void. With them comes the Secretary of Education turned President (Mary McDonnell), chief military man Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos), the tough but sexy super-pilot Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff, a woman. More on that in a minute), and maybe even a couple of Cylons who now resemble humans.

One of the things that makes this series so engaging is that it’s sexy; the stunningly beautiful Trisha Helfer plays the first Cylon-turned-human and does so by using every excellent curve she’s got. But the sex is justified as we learn it’s not only a tool that the Cylon’s use to gain access to human secrets, but also to help them understand what humanity’s all about. We also learn that the Cylons believe in God — monotheism — while the humans have reverted to worshiping the "Gods of Kobol" — polytheism. And it is a clash of wills between Trisha Helfer’s character and James Callis' Dr. Gaius Baltar (the local genius who has problems discerning reality from fiction) that keeps this story thread extremely interesting.

Another thing that keeps Galactica moving ahead and each episode watchable is that the plots are completely character driven. That’s not to say there’s no science fiction. There is. But it’s just one of the many layers that makes the series sensational. I can’t picture anyone else in the role of Commander Adama besides Edward James Olmos. I can’t picture anyone in the role of Starbuck other than Katee Sackhoff. The casting and acting and scripts and sets and special effects are pulled off with exceptional care but don’t pander to the viewer; if you don’t understand something, they aren’t going to slow down and explain it to you.

I’m going to have to comment, of course, on the fact that Starbuck is a woman. This caused some untempered comments by fans of the original 70s version. But I found it to be an excellent change. Having several strong female leads (Mary McDonnell, Katee, Sackhoff, Tricia Helfer, and Grace Park) added a sense of futuristic realism that was missing in the original series.

There are almost too many great things about this series to comment on and I’m forced to agree with the critics on this one; it is "The Best New Show on TV." LOST has lost its #1 standing in my view. I’m going to be checking out Battlestar Galactica’s second season very, very soon. I’m hooked.

No movie trailer available. Soooorrrry!


Nicholas Cage The Weather Man Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring Nicholas Cage
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


It takes a lot for me to turn a film off. I feel obligated to finish what I start, not to mention losing the hard-earned money I spent on renting a movie or going to the theater and paying up. But I didn’t have to turn off THE WEATHER MAN. It was a close call, though. My finger hovered over my remote’s "stop" button several times.

For me, a film has to have some sort of message (be it of happiness, despair, anguish, social/political, family value ...something), but THE WEATHER MAN appears to have none. For those of you who love pessimism, you might find some enjoyment in this flick. But not me. I have a bit more upbeat look on life.

I’m actually a fan of Nicholas Cage (loved him in LEAVING LAS VEGAS and LORD OF WAR), but in this film Cage and director Gore Verbinski go over the edge and over the top.

Nick Cage plays David Spritz, a weather man for a local Chicago TV station. Living in Chicago and having this kind of a job is not what it’s cracked up to be. Illinois’ weather is some of the most unpredictable in the nation, going from below freezing one day to 80-plus the next. So David gets picked on regularly by citizens of the windy city (mostly they throw things at him sodas, shakes, hot apple pies, etc.). To add to his sour life, he’s in the process of a divorce with his wife Noreen (Hope Davis, THE MATADOR, 2005) and having to deal with his two children who are rushing into adulthood — his 12-year-old daughter smokes and his 15-year-old son just came out of drug rehab. And now, to put icing on the icing, his father (played by the estimable Michael Caine) is dying of lymphoma.

All of these terrible things swirl around David Spritz, similar to the unpredictable weather. But all doesn’t seem hopeless. He’s gotten a job offer on a national TV show (think Good Morning America) but he can’t see the good in it. With life in Chicago falling apart, David is ready to shoot somebody. Anybody. Oh yes, did I mention that he’s been practicing archery and carries around a bow and arrow now? Don’t mess with the weather man.

Labeled as a "comedy/drama," the focus is definitely more on the drama than the comedy. Black comedies do appeal to me (I gushed over THE MATADOR), but they need a pretty defined center that an audience can identify with. You’re not going to find that here. And it’s really a shame, because I felt THE WEATHER MAN could’ve been an excellent film, but as it stands now it’s just a mesh of depressing scenes with no focal point.

Click here for The Weather Man movie trailer!

Friday, March 10, 2006


Starring Mark Zupan
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



MURDERBALL, simply put, is a bunch of quadriplegics in wheelchairs playing full-contact Rugby on a sort of basketball court. But the movie is much more than that simplistic notion.

MURDERBALL the movie is a voyage of discovery, telling its characters (the men in these wheelchairs) that life isn’t over after a debilitating accident. And telling us, those who are fortunate enough not to be stuck in these chairs, that they’ve earned our respect, not our sympathies.

This amazingly little known Paralympic sport is taken very seriously by the U.S. team, who’ve taken home the gold the past 11 times. Their specialized chairs are turned into battering rams for plowing into their fellow players (the speed at which they can travel are impressive and the impacts at the end ear-throttling).

Mark Zupan is one of this documentary’s focuses, a quadriplegic with serious attitude, huge biceps, a scowling face, dark tattoos, and, underneath it all, a heart of gold. Having been paralyzed after an accident caused by his best friend from high school, Christopher Igoe, the two have not spoken in years ...out of guilt, fear, and anger. But as the film winds down we see a softening in attitude on Mark Zupan’s part and the two come together in a offish but very touching way.

The other main focus of the documentary is on Joe Soares, a bitter man who lost his position on team America and now spins his Rugby wheels for the Canadian team their coach. Sparks fly as the two teams meet up for the first time since Joe Soares took over the Canadian team. Joe is also so caught up in what he’s doing that he forgets to remember the most important things in his life: his wife and son. At first, I absolutely hated Joe. But as the film rolled on, and some changes in Joe’s life were forced upon him, I began to understand his position. The viewer also gets to see Joe grow out of his self-centeredness and into a more loving father and husband.

The final focus is on a young man named Kevin, who was newly acquainted with a wheelchair after becoming a quadriplegic from a motorcycle accident. He’s bitter, angry, depressed, all the things you’d expect after suffering such a horrific life-change. But Mark Zupan introduces him to wheelchair Rugby (Murderball) and Kevin is instantly hooked. Life takes on new meaning for Kevin and he obviously decides that his existence still has value. A great set of scenes!

I’ll end this review by mentioning the special features that came with the DVD. Johnnie Knoxville and "Steve-O" from Jackass the TV series, party with several of the members of the U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team and it’s a great thing to behold. Not only does it show how amiable these wheelchair-bound guys are, but it also shows us how their chairs don’t hold them back in the slightest (punching each other, using cattle prods, and jumping off ramps in their chairs and into swimming pools).

(Murderball was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category)

Thursday, March 02, 2006


James Miller Death In Gaza Directed by James Miller
Starring James Miller
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

Just About Average...


If this documentary had been finished, and its primary film maker not killed, I have no doubt it would’ve been a very powerful spectacle to behold. James Miller (documentarian extraordinaire) was killed by Israeli soldiers before he had a chance to finish the film, but before he died Miller had uncovered some startling realities around the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. His focus was to be of the children on both sides of this ongoing battle but his death left the documentary unfinished and, thus, unbalanced.

The entire focus was on the Palestinian children and how the Israeli tanks, daily bulldozing of houses near the Gaza Strip, and the fanatical behavior of militants-cum-martyrs has eaten away at common sense. Although this is undeniably so, the fact that ONLY the Palestinian side was shown gives the film a very uneven keel. Had someone picked up where Miller left it, I feel that the energy of its final impact would’ve been staggering and given even more relevance to Miller’s life and, ultimately, untimely death. This is easy for me to say, sitting here at my computer, typing away, but that’s how I see it as a film, not as a personal assault on any moral values I hold for (or against) the Israeli’s or the Palestinians.

I guess my main problem with the film was that it was trying to show "why" Miller was there (i.e., the effect this "lifestyle" has on a kids), while at the same time showing what a dedicated documentary-maker he was and how that ultimately ended up killing him. This pulled the viewer away from what should have been the focus -- the kids -- and put the emphasis on Miller. Why? I'm not sure.

I’m not going to take any credit away from Mr. Miller or Mrs. Shah. They’re both able film makers and camera-folk. Their shots are often equally incisive, poignant, and gruesome. But the fact that this film remains unfinished is the biggest shame. Perhaps that’s the message they wanted to get across ...that the documentary was left undone, just as Miller’s life was. But this doesn’t translate to film very well, especially when dealing with such a volatile subject matter.

No movie trailer available. Sooorrrry!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


JunebugEmbeth Davidtz Directed by Phil Morrison
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

Thumbs Down


When Madeleine (Emily Davidtz, MANSFIELD PARK, 1999), a bohemian art dealer from Chicago, married George (Alessandro Nivola, LAUREL CANYON, 2002), a true southern beau, life started getting interesting. Their whirlwind marriage occurred only a few weeks after they met (love at first sight) and when they decided to head to North Carolina on business, and meet up with George’s eccentric and challenging family, short circuits were bound to happen.

Madeleine is deposited into this family’s home, meeting such interesting members as the quiet father Eugene (Scott Wilson, THE GRASS HARP, 1995), the domineering matriarchal family leader Peg (Celia Weston, THE VILLAGE, 2004), the angry and loathsome brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie, THE O.C. TV SERIES), and the lonely but ever upbeat — and pregnant — sister-in-law Ashley (Amy Adams, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, 2002).

Battles between small town American values and big city life clash (albeit very quietly) as Madeleine, George and George’s family have to deal with old wounds left by George’s leaving the town three years ago, old wounds that are opened anew within confused brother Johnny, the sexual appetite Madeleine and George have for one another in a household (and community) that has long since lost these passions, and a family that continues to hide its dysfunctions.

I love indie films. Love everything they stand for — little nothing company breaks into film on a shoestring budget, possibly gaining a larger audience thanks to such festivals as Sundance and Cannes. But sometimes these independent films miss the mark.

I’ll probably bring the wrath of reviewers down upon me for saying this, but I didn’t care for JUNEBUG at all. Once again I was fooled into believing what the critics (Ebert and Roeper, etc.) said about a film and decided to rent it.

I guess most of my disappointment stems from the movie's pacing. Although southern life tends to be slow, and this is an interesting fact of life for those that live in the Carolinas and surrounding area, it doesn’t necessarily translate well to film. I found myself yawning far too often.

The other big disappointment is that the movie’s labeled as a "comedy/drama." The fact that I didn’t crack a smile once during the entire flick tells me that either I missed the parts that were supposed to make me laugh (I’m usually a pretty astute viewer, though), or they (the laughs) missed their mark. Looking over the special features on the DVD, I found it puzzling when many of the actors and actresses kept referring to "the comedic portions of the film." Again, I didn’t see it.

And my final complaint is that the characters — with the exception of Amy Adams — were all one dimensional.

I will give some praise to the filming and cinematography. The director caught the unique qualities of the South quite well, so visually I thought the film was well put together. But the acting and pacing? Ugh!

Click here for the Junebug movie trailer!