Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Nope this is not Seal Team Six as widely believed. None of these “Seals” are even human. It is a posed picture of 1:6 scale U.S.Navy SEAL “Skull Infidel” military action figures created in October 2009 by a Malaysian blogger identified as “Nerdpride” aka “Crazy Children”.

Big Miracle is a perfect example of a RAVE family film. RAVE=Respect, Appreciate, Value, Everyone. The diversity coming together and striving to overcome the whales path to freedom includes the Greenpeace activist, the native Eskimo tribe, Big Oil, the national media, politicians from the governor to the President, the Coast Guard and the Soviet Navy- some there for the PR, some for the politics, others for the business opportunity and some simply because it is the right thing to do. It is all heartwarming and effectively told. And one of those moments in life when the world briefly believed the schmaltz. It gets a B.

It’s Groundhog time. So we are all not due for an early spring. There is no better way to celebrate G-day than by watching Groundhog Day twice. Or even better, repeating something your bad at until you get it perfectly right.

My favorite Groundhog Day quote:

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

Fred Claus– Seen at the Bijou

Posted: November 18, 2007 in Uncategorized

  Fred Claus (2007)

The Review:

Any holiday movie that features Santa Claus gets an automatic pass from this critic.   I don’t like being on anyone’s naughty list.   Besides I have a fetish for striking full-size fays (the correct term for a female elf) in short tight red dresses with white fuzzy trim.   One has been on my Christmas list consecutively since 1965.  Maybe one day she will come. 

Santa Claus fay assistant in Fred Claus is Charlene played by the delightfully leggy and delectably proportioned Elizabeth Banks who is given as many low angles up the skirt camera shots as possible since she has a “secret Willie.”   That is how one child in the row in front of me described the elf that is her secret admirer.  Willie (John Michael Higgins) is Santa’s indispensable right hand and tool. 

Fred is Santa’s older brother played by the half sleepy-eyed, half grumpy-pussed, sometimes just right Vince Vaughn.   Fred and Santa (Paul Giamatti looking as red nose as Rudolph) have been on the outs ever since Santa mistakenly chopped down the tree that contained Fred and the blue bird of happiness.   That was hundreds of years ago, before Santa became a saint, and time became eternal youth for St Nick and his relations— one of the perks of sainthood. 

Fred was present when Santa was born— as big as a turkey and two Christmas hams, his eyes all a twinkle, his dimples very merry, his cheeks like roses, his nose not quite a cherry.  He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook as he shivered off all his maternal jelly.  He looked at his mom and called her a “ho”, followed by two more before Fred up the stairs he did go.  (With all apologies to Clement Clark Moore.)

Fred is a two bit hustler with big dreams, a heart of gold and a posse of bill collector on his trail.   In his latest scheme he needs fifty thousand dollars to open an Off Track Betting parlor right across from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange— and has only three days to get it. 

So Fred does what any black sheep brother with a mythological sibling would do— he steals himself a little red pot of money from a Salvation Army Claus.  In jail after being unkindly pummeled and piled on by thirteen of Santa’s red-suited Brethren, Fred calls the only true miracle worker he knows. 

Soon Fred is at the North Pole stamping endless naughty and nice files, having massive disco parties on the factory floor of Santa’s toy shop and causing work slow downs that put the elves behind on their Christmas quota.

Fred is probably the least of Santa’s problems.   The jolly old elf is fighting morbid obesity caused by the endless generosity of the world’s little one leaving out too many milk and cookies for him to eat.   Corporate already having given the Easter bunny his notice, has sent an efficiency expert Clyde (Kevin Spacey dressed in a Clark Kent costume but still acting like Lex Luthor) to hopefully shut him down permanently.    Santa is only one strike away from being replaced by Chinese labor. 

Guess who will have to step in to save Christmas?

To make a Bad Santa type movie with an actual bad Santa would be box office poison.  So Fred Claus can’t help but to be a homogenized Elf spread served on a crusty bagel— something that is just barely good though not quite kosher. 

It lets the rest of the religious universe crash what is normally a large and loud private party of one sect.

Fred stamps every naughty file as nice.  “Every child deserves a Christmas present,” he says, to a flustered Santa trying to patiently explain to Fred that the factory can’t make enough gifts for everyone.  

As Santa’s surrogate on Christmas Eve Fred passes out gifts to even Muslim and Jewish families. 

If Clyde (read Lex Luthor) had gotten a Superman cape many Christmases ago when he was number one on the naughty list he wouldn’t be such a pud.    The right gift, at the right time can turn an evil genius to good— it can transform the world. 

Fred Claus is a Christmas movie that comes close to suggesting that the world be better with less of the Kris and more the Kringle spirit.  It wants a universal Santa Day that will celebrate the diversity of the world.

It is the only Christmas movie I know which wants to win a Nobel peace prize.  Movies can come up with the weirdest subtext when a bored director (Kevin Dobkin of Wedding Crashers fame) tries to shake things up a bit.

 Fred Claus is not naughty enough to deserve coal in its stocking, but not nice enough to produce visions of dancing sugar plums.  It gets a B, because there are no truly naughty Christmas movies. 


The Credits: 


Directed by David Dobkin; written by Dan Fogelman based on a story by Jessie Nelson and Mr. Fogelman; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Mark Livolsi; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Allan Cameron; produced by Joel Silver, Ms. Nelson and Mr. Dobkin; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 107 minutes.


WITH: Vince Vaughn (Fred Claus), Paul Giamatti (Santa Claus), Miranda Richardson (Annette Claus), John Michael Higgins (Willie), Elizabeth Banks (Charlene), Rachel Weisz (Wanda), Kathy Bates (Mother Claus), Kevin Spacey (Clyde), Ludacris (DJ Donnie), Bobb’e J. Thompson (Slam) and Jorge Rodero (Willie’s body)


“Fred Claus” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). Sexual innuendo and ninja elf violence.


Copyright 2007 by Jonathan Moya


Home |  New Reviews | Now on DVD | Archives


Lonesome Jim (2006)

The Review:

In Steve Buscemi’s second directorial effort "Lonesome Jim", Buscemi takes the sad sack route again. This however, is a sweeter take.  Jim Rough (played with a perpetual moan just short of a whine by Casey Affleck) comes back home when his dreams about being a writer in the Big Apple take a sour turn. Jim, a victim of what he describes as "chronic despair",  is forced to take over responsibility for the family business when his older brother, consumed in his own discontent, intentionally smashes his car into a tree and survives; and his mom is wrongfully  imprisoned when the Feds discover that the business is a front for Fedexing drugs.  In responsibility Jim finds his cure in confronting the mom’s younger brother Evil to do the right thing and confess that he mailed the drugs, by taking over the coaching of his brother’s scoreless girls basketball team– and an angel in Anika (the therapeutic Liv Tyler) a nurse and single mom with whom he has a semi-casual sexual relationship.  Buscemi is great in setting up situations where the barest, sharpest truths can be said and come off as deadpan wit.  He knows that, at least in the movies,  that the medium size despair is powerless in the face of persistent and cheerful innocence. Here, Mary Kay Place is great in providing the subtle cheerful support the plot needs.  She is that piece of optimistic parenting that children want to strangle and then kiss once they realized she has been right all her life.  Liv Tyler doesn’t have to do much but smile and talk soothingly to make Buscemi look good.  It all gets a nice little B.         

The Plot: (from

Jim runs out of money in New York and returns to the small Indiana town he grew up in. He doesn’t enjoy being around his family and doesn’t want to help out at the family business. After his brother ends up in a coma, he is forced to help out at the ladder factory his parents run. He meets his Uncle Stacey who is using the plant to disguise his drug dealing. Jim meets a beautiful nurse with a precocious son and starts a unsteady romance. Love and patience eventually help him to find some happiness in life.

The Credits: (from The New York Times)

Directed by Steve Buscemi; written by James C. Strouse; director of photography, Phil Parmet; edited by Plummy Tucker; production designer, Chuck Voelter; produced by Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Jake Abraham, Gary Winick and Mr. Buscemi; released by IFC Films. Running time: 91 minutes.

WITH: Casey Affleck (Jim), Liv Tyler (Anika), Mary Kay Place (Sally), Seymour Cassel (Don), Kevin Corrigan (Tim) and Mark Boone Junior (Stacy).

Avenue Montaigne (2006)

The Review:

Leave it to the French to turn artistic malaise and artistic discontent into a sunny comedy.   Avenue Montaigne’s three intersecting stories: a burnt out classical pianist wanting to retire, an art collector selling his life collection, and a popular soap actress wishing to do more serious stuff but stuck playing a Feydeau heroine in a comedy that lacks psychological depth– all eventually chuck art for life.  They ramble in and out of concert halls, theaters and bars colliding with the life force that is Jessica (a most winningly sweet Cecile de France).  Fathers face death, sons and fathers quarrel, lovers spate and reconcile, and ultimately life wins out.  Where art fears to tread, life cheerfully rushes in.  Avenue Montaigne covers the basics so well, that its inherent conservatism in a country that is found of the dour pen and the poisoned cocktail seems surrealistically radical.  Comedy is after all just a tragic film run backwards in a projector.  Avenue Montaigne knows that point extremely well.  Catch it in Paris on a rainy day.  It gets an A-.

The Plot: (from

Catherine, hugely popular (and wealthy) from her long-running television soap opera, longs for glory on the big screen. She prepares to star in a Feydeau farce about to open on the 17th, but despite all her success she wonders if her work has any value or meaning. Jean-François, piano prodigy with an international reputation, is preparing for a major Beethoven recital on the 17th, yet he basically just wants to be alone. Jacques, a businessman turned art connoisseur, has amassed an extraordinary, highly personal art collection, but on the 17th it will all be sold off. Catherine, Jean-François and Jacques have all devoted their lives to art, yet what kinds of lives has art given them? They sometimes cross paths and nurse their neuroses at a café where they are waited on by Jessica, recently arrived in Paris on her own quest for fame and fortune.

The Credits: (from The New York Times)

Directed by Danièle Thompson; written (in French, with English subtitles) by Ms. Thompson and Christopher Thompson; director of photography, Jean-Marc Fabre; edited by Sylvie Landra; music by Nicola Piovani; production designer, Michèle Abbé-Vannier; produced by Christine Gozlan; released by ThinkFilm. Running time: 100 minutes.

WITH: Cécile de France (Jessica), Valérie Lemercier (Catherine Versen), Claude Brasseur (Jacques Grumberg), Albert Dupontel (Jean-François Lefort), Laura Morante (Valentine), Sydney Pollack (Brian Sobinski), Christopher Thompson (Frédéric Grumberg) and Dani (Claudie).