This provocative and alarming documentary focuses on Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, a medical doctor and biochemist who, back in the 1970’s, discovered a treatment for cancer that leads to more cures than surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments lead to. His patented, gene-targeted treatment involves the use of Antineoplastons which help to activate tumor suppressor genes. Numerous patients of Dr. Burzynski come forward with their testimonies of how his treatment has improved their welfare and, most importantly, saved their life even from some previously incurable cancers. Pharmaceutical companies together with the FDA, used fascist tactics, including fear-inducing tactics, to have Dr. Burzynski’s medical license revoked and business shut down because, to them, his treatment serves as a threat to pharmaceutical profits. To their greedy, morally corrupted minds, he’s subversive, so they even went to the extent of filing a lawsuit against him that would have sentenced him with 290 years in federal prison if he were convicted. The FDA has revolving door policies with pharmaceutical companies, accepts money in the form of added fees from those companies, and doesn’t seem to mind undermining public welfare for the sake of pharmaceutical profits. Someone ought to be bold enough some day to either disband the FDA or to charge them with crimes against humanity for their malicious actions that have led and continue to lead to preventable deaths and suffering among the American public. Director Eric Merola interviews Dr. Burzyinski’s cured patients, shows their medical records and interviews Dr.Burzinski himself as he gives his own account of his battles against FDA and struggles keep his business running. It’s equally riveting and moving to watch clips from the trials where his future was in the hands of a jury who weren’t even allowed to visit his facilities. Admittedly, though, there’s not enough balanced perspectives here because Merola doesn’t including interviews with those whom his treatment did not cure. Skeptics of alternative treatments won’t be convinced so easily and will probably continue to simple-mindedly assume Dr. Burzynski to be a quack. It would have been interesting had Merola sat Dr. Burzyski down with another brave cancer-curer, Dr. Charlotte Gerson (www.gerson.org), who went through similar ordeals with the FDA and rightfully considers them to be worse than the Gestapo. Why, after all, do you think food and drugs are regulated by the same administration and not separate ones? At a running time of 1 hour and 46 minutes, Burzynski manages to be provocative, eye-opening and riveting, but not well-balanced or thorough enough to persuade simple-minded skeptics of alternative treatments.
Please click here for information about the cover-up of hidden MSG, another microcosm of the FDA's greed and corruption.
This dull and unenlightening documentary follows employees of the Denver mayor’s office, protestors, and members of the press from the Denver Post as they participate in the 2008 Democratic National Convention held in Denver where Barack Obama became nominated for the Presidency of the United States of America. Everyone involved goes through an incredible amount of stress, including Denver Post staff writer Allison Sherry who even cries at one point. She, as well as press members, struggle to get the appropriate press passes to get the coverage that they need. Security is so tight that getting into the Denver Post building at night turns out to be more complicated than she thought even with her credentials. The Lead City Planner for the Democratic National Convention, Katherine Archuleta, along with her staff, has a lot of work to do as well while under pressure. Meanwhile, a group of anti-war activists, Recreate 68, lead a peaceful protest and, not surprisingly, have to face the possibility of being arrested. Director AJ Schnack, who previously directed the immensely entertaining and illuminating documentary Kurt Cobain: About a Son, fails to include any kind of footage that’s powerful, provocative or truly revealing for that matter. While it’s beneficial that he avoided voice-over narration to comment on the footage, it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t stop to ask these hard-working people provocative questions or at least to interview them after the convention finally comes to an end. Merely observing all the headaches that the government and newspaper employees along with the protestors had to go through eventually becomes mundane and requires more much more insight or analysis unless, perhaps, there’s some meatier footage left somewhere on the editing room floor for some reason. At a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, Convention is a tediously dull, facile and lazy documentary that fails to engage viewers intellectually. It offers too many potatoes and not nearly enough meat.
Get Him to the Greek
Jen Kornfeldt (Katherine Heigl) recently experienced a bad break up, so she reluctantly agrees to go on a vacation with her mother (Catherine O’Hara) and father (Tom Selleck) to the city of Nice, France in the French Riviera. At the hotel, she meets the shirtless Spencer Aimes (Ashton Kutcher) in an elevator and flirts with him. Little does she know that he’s working as an assassin for the CIA. Three years later, they’re happily married and living in a nice suburban home in a quiet neighborhood. Complications arise when Spencer’s boss contacts him for a new mission and, soon enough, Jen tags along with him as they both try to stay alive. Killers arrives after two other romantic comedies with action, namely, The Bounty Hunter and the far more entertaining Date Night, but comes closer to the inanity and dullness of the former, especially given that there’s virtually zero chemistry between Jen and Spencer to begin with. She seems attracted to him on a purely physical level from the get-go and barely got to know him in Nice, so why would she suddenly trust him so easily and even get married to him after just coming from a bad break-up? Co-writers T.M. Griffin and Brad DeRosa throw plausibility right out the window and aim for dark comedy, but they’re aim is way off when it comes to providing laughs. How many times do you really have to watch Mrs. Kornfeldt sipping alcoholic beverages during the daytime? The few plot twists add even more to the film’s implausibility and lead to unintentional laughter because of how everything progresses in such a rushed and oversimplified manner that will eventually leave you feeling frustrated. Director Robert Luketic, who’s also responsible for such dreadful romcoms as The Ugly Truth and Monster-in-Law as well as wittier and funnier comedies like Legally Blonde, at least moves the film along at a brisk pace and includes slick cinematography so that you’re not completely bored. For a far superior blend of action, comedy and romance, please do yourself a favor and check out the hilarious and intelligent classic True Lies. At a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Killers is banal, asinine and frustratingly preposterous while lacking chemistry, laughs or even a modicum of cleverness.
Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders
When Phil Winslow (Lee Pace) accepts a job as the new marketing chief of an organic pet food company, he moves with his wife, Debbie (Judy Greer), and three kids, and two pets to Orange County, California all the way from Kansas. Their dog, Marmaduke (voice of Owen Wilson), a Great Dane, struggles to adjust to his new social life at the dog park, the same place where Phil has his business meetings with his boss, Don Twombly (William H. Macy). Marmaduke befriends Don’s dog, Mazie (voice of Emma Stone), before going from the group of Mutts to joining the cooler and tougher group, the Pedigrees, headed by Bosco (voice of Keifer Sutherland). He flirts with Bosco’s girlfriend, Jezebel (voice of Fergie), a Collie, so now he must choose between her and Mazie as his true love interest. George Lopez provides the voice of Carlos, the Wilslow’s pet cat that’s close friends with Marmaduke and even helps him to join the Pedigree clique letting him beat him up in front of all the other dogs. The screenplay co-written by Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio goes a little too far with the anthropomorphism which feels rather silly and awkward more often than amusing, especially when Marmaduke hosts a party at the Winslow’s home while they’re away in order to impress the Pedigree clique. Adults will cringe as they watch all the pets talking while moving their mouth, and, worst of all, when the jokes turn to toilet humor as a means of generating cheap laughs. Not surprisingly, there are tacked-on, corny messages thrown in as well as a bizarre, cheesy musical number involving the dogs dancing around together. Watching Marmaduke knocking things over isn’t particularly funny the first time nor is it funny the 900th time either. At a thankfully brief running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, Marmaduke manages to be somewhat amusing, but often cringe-worthy, cheesy, silly and, worst of all, fails to engage kids and adults simultaneously.
Syracuse (Colin Farrell), a divorced father, works as a fisherman in a small town off the coast of Ireland. He takes care of his wheelchair-bound daughter, Annie (Alison Barry), who suffers from a kidney ailment. One day while wishing out in the sea, he finds an enigmatic woman (Alicja Bachleda) inside the fishing net. She claims that her name is Ondine and has no memory of how she ended up inside the net or who she is for that matter. Syracuse believes that she must be a mermaid, a.k.a. a selkie, because he found her in the sea and she ends up bringing him good luck. He gradually falls in love with her, and she, not surprisingly, bonds with Annie. Meanwhile, Syracuse struggles to deal with his alcoholism as he confesses to a local priest (Stephen Rea). Tensions wax when a mysterious stranger, Vladic (Emil Hostina), shows up desperately searching for Ondine, he may either be her Selkie husband or, perhaps, her human husband if she’s not actually a Selkie. Writer/director Neil Jordan, best known for directing The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire, has woven a very compelling narrative that alternates between light and dark elements. On the one hand, there’s the dark mystery surrounding Ondine’s past and her true identity which Jordan wisely chooses to unravel slowly so as to maintain suspense and intrigue. On the other hand, the blossing romance between Syracuse and Ondine feels tender and heartfelt while Ondine herself comes across as not only genuinely easy on the eyes, but also very charming and charismatic. The friendship between Ondine and Annie feels very endearing and, most importantly, uncontrived. Jordan also includes exquisite cinematography as well as a healthy dash of comic relief in the form of dry humor when it comes to the confessions between Syracuse and his priest. Were the screenplay written by a less competent writer, it would have felt uneven, but, fortunately, Jordan finds just the right balance of tones so that you’ll find it easy to be immersed in the narrative even as it takes an unexpected turn later on. At a running time of 1 hour and 51 minutes, Ondine manages to be intriguing, bittersweet, tender and refreshingly unpredictable with beautiful cinematography and a radiant performance by Alicja Bachleda.
Upon his arrival in India after completing his dissertation abroad in America, Samar Pratap (Ranbir Kapoor) struggles to stay away from the dirty politics that his family is involved in. The Pratap family does anything in their ability to remain under governing power. Their fight for power creates many conflicts that arise between Samar, his cousin Prithvi (Arjun Rampal), Sooraj (Ajay Devgan) and Veerendra (Manoj Bajpai). Tensions rise even further when the Pratap political leader, Bhanu, suffers a stroke. In a very contrived subplot, Samar’s girlfriend, Sarah (Sarah Jean Thompson), comes to India from America , and his childhood friend, Indu (Katrina Kaif) still profoundly loves him even though had told her that he doesn’t feel the same way about her and refused to marry her. Director/co-writer Prakash Jha combines political intrigue, action, suspense, romance and drama all in one giant epic that chronicles the saga of the highly volatile and corrupt Pratap party. The main problem here, though, is that the dialogue comes across as very stilted while many scenes veer into melodrama that you’d expect to find in a soap opera. Expect plenty of twists, murders, deceptions, a car chase and even a rigging of votes via remote control. Ranbir Kapoor helps to ground the film in a strong performance, but everyone around him is pretty much mediocre at best---especially Sarah Jean Thompson who gives such a wooden performance that you’ll find yourself cringing whenever she speaks. Was it intentional for her character to mess up Samar’s name by pronouncing it as “Summer”? Morever, the musical score either hits you over the head to the point of annoying you or feels inappropriate, such as a hospital scene with a music score that’s somewhat reminiscent of the horror film Halloween. It also doesn’t help that the subtitles are filled with grammatical errors and, for a two-minute portion of a scene, the subtitles cease to exist for some odd reason. At an excessive running time of 2 hour and 47 minutes, Raajneeti (which translates as "Politics") is a contrived, overlong, convoluted and emotionally hollow political thriller that’s high on production values and style, but low on substance, palpable suspense and poignancy.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead
Clive (Adrien Brody) works at a science lab with his girlfriend, Elsa (Sarah Polley), who’s also his lab partner, as a scientist. They’ve been experimenting with splicing together the DNA of a variety of species of animals and, finally, they successfully discover a way to create a synthetic life form using the DNA of animals combines with human DNA. Their boss, Joan (Simona Maicanescu), refuses for them to continue with the experiment, especially given that their initial experiment without human DNA became quite gruesome and bloody when one of the new creature changed genders and killed another male creature. So, Clive and Elsa take their experiment secretly underground with the assistance of Clive’s brother, Gavin (Brandon McGibbon). They name the synthetic hybrid of animal and human DNA as Dren, learn that she ages very quickly and requires a high-fructose diet after she pigs out on Tic Tacs. Elsa wants to keep Dren alive and becomes emotionally attached to her while treating her kindly as if she were her own child. Clive, though, treats Dren with hostility and prefers that she were dead before the experiment were to get out of hand and exposed to the public, thereby getting them into serious trouble. Director/co-writer Vincenzo Natali maintains suspense for the first half of the film as you’re wondering what will Clive and Elsa do with Dren as she ages and grows more intelligent as well as curious about the world around her. Will Clive learn to treat her more kindly? Dren seems concurrently threatening and fragile, so which of those two characteristics will end up dominating? Nifty special effects along with a clever, tense screenplay make for a riveting, refreshing and captivating ride up until the plot suddenly turns slightly dumbed-down and no longer trusts the audience’s intelligence. For instance, Natali includes an event that serves as a clear-cut foreshadow that pretty much ruins the surprise once the later event does occur. More and more holes show up in the plot as it progresses, and, without spoiling anything, you’ll wish there were less action or cheap attempts to scare you and more intrigue, plausibility and clever twists instead. At a running time of 1 hour and 44 minutes, Splice manages to be a creepy, slick and initially provocative sci-fi thriller that eventually loses steam once its surprises, cleverness and imagination wane midway.
Visionaries: Jonas Mekas and the (Mostly) American Avant-Garde Cinema
This captivating and suspenseful documentary follows three 17-year-old high school students who compete among over 2,000 other students for the grand prize of $100,000 in the Intel Science Talent Search. Only 40 of those students eventually get selected to go onto the next round which sends them to Washington, D.C. where they compete for that top prize. One of the three high school seniors documented here, Ana Cisneros, is an Ecuadorian-American living with her parents in Long Island. She has a passion for botany and expresses it by conducting a science project that involves finding a way of tricking plants to cease competing for essential nutrients with neighboring plants, thereby eliminating the need for using toxic chemicals. Her research and experience includes working as an intern for plant ecologist at Colorado State University. Next, there’s Kelydra Welcker who tests her local water in West Virginia and learns that it’s contaminated with C8, a toxic by-product of Teflon that the chemical company DuPont has been dumping into the Ohio River. She develops and efficient, cost-effective and successful method of removing the toxin from the water. Finally, there’s Harmain Khan, a paleontologist born in Pakistan and living with his parents on Staten Island. His passion for paleontology fuels his research as he studies and attempts to date crocodile teeth. Co-directors Tom Shepard and Tina DiFeliciantonio follow the three impassioned students through their journeys as they struggle to not only attain more knowledge in their specific fields of interest, but also how to express their knowledge and discoveries in a coherent and articulate way, a task that’s easier said than done as some of them learn. It’s quite suspenseful to watch them present their research and try to stand out from the rest of the tough competition. Some tears might be shed or frustrations felt because their realities don’t always meet their expectations. Each of them projects intelligence, enthusiasm, charisma, diligence, persistence and honesty, traits which rarely co-exist within the young, increasingly dumb and apathetic young generations of today. Hopefully others will be inspired to compete in that talent search and be bold enough to study or investigate controversial and sensitive topics which might lead to groundbreaking or, in some cases, perhaps subversive revelations and conclusions. One such courageous study, for instance, which has yet to be performed reliably and independently, is to determine, beyond a scientific and reasonable doubt, the short-term and long-term health effects of MSG on the human body and whether or not MSG is truly safe for human consumption. (Please click here for information about the cover-up of hidden MSG.) The students’ thirst for knowledge along with their willingness to participate in the prestigious, rigorous Intel Science Talent Search represents the hope for many other young students to use their attained knowledge and research as building blocks to ameliorate their future so that they could at least have the chance to find truly successful careers while contributing to society and, hopefully, the environment as well in the long run. At a running time of 1 hour and 22 minutes, Whiz Kids manages to be captivating, suspenseful, inspirational and profoundly illuminating.