Saturday, May 12, 2018

State of Play (2009) PG13 - 4 Stars

Really enjoyed this intense suspenseful drama with great performances by Crowe, Affleck, McAdams and Mirren. For me, it's one of Crowe's best performances and I also thought Affleck was cast perfectly as Congressman Collins. The story takes many twists and just when you think you have it solved, there's more. It's a "hold-onto-the-edge-of-your-seat" thriller. Crowe gets answers where others can't and the movie does a good job defining the corruption steamed from power, and greed in both corporate and government.

Cal McAffrey, (Russell Crowe), is a journalist for the Washington Globe. He's working on a murder of a homeless man. He arrives on the scene of the crime with coffee in hand in hopes of insider information from detective Donald Bell, (Harry Lennix). Cal has a way of obtaining information that the police aren't even able to find.

U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins, (Ben Affleck), is rising up the corporate ladder very quickly. He's the chairman of a committee that oversees spending habits of the Department of Defense. Sonia Baker, (Maria Thayer), is Collins aide and mistress, and on her way to work falls in front of an oncoming train and is killed. Collins learns of her death just minutes before he's to speak to the committee about his findings of corruption against military contractor, Point Corp. Instead, he tearfully breaks down leading most to believe there is more between these two co-workers.

Junior reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), shows up athe the Globe trying to get information from Cal about Collins. She has learned that the two go way back to college days and figures he can give her the dirt for her blog on the congressman. Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren), editor of the Globe tries to get Cal to make nice with Della but he's insulted by her tabloid intent and refuses.

While Cal is working on the murder story of the night before, Collins shows up with no where else to go. He has to dodge a bullet in the media after Sonia's death as now it looks like a suicide implying killing herself because Collins wouldn't leave his wife. Watching his grand career about to take a dump, Collins asks for advice from a friend from a media point of view.

As Cal looks farther into Sonia's death, he decides to use Della's services and sends her out on tough assignments to prove her worthy of reporting. Together they start to unravel more information that directly connects Senator Fergus (Jeff Daniels), to the corruption at Point Corp as they obtains photos that prove Sonia was pushed onto the tracks in a cover-up.

2009 - Australian Film Institute - Best Actor - Russell Crowe

Working Title Films, Universal Pictures
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writers: Matthew Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray
Producers: Andrew Hauptman, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Buried (2010) R - 3½ Stars

Being semi claustrophobic, I wouldn't last 5 minutes under these conditions. Perhaps that's why this movie made me totally uncomfortable, leaving a knot in my neck. It's pretty hard to make a good movie with just one on screen actor but if you crave edge of your seat thrillers, you'll love this one.

You'll find there are many things you think he should be doing in this situation and at least for me, I found myself yelling at the screen. Also, there are way too many calls and videos sent from just one bar of phone charge left. Perhaps the bag should have shown a spare cell phone battery inside and when he finds the cell phone number, why does he only leave a message for his wife? So don't spent too much energy over analysing what he should or should not be doing, instead sit back and enjoy this intense and horrifying thriller.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a truck driver in Iraq and he's just awakened to find himself bound and buried alive in a coffin. Reaching around in the dark, he finds a lighter to scope out his dyer situation. A sudden ring finds he's also been left with a cell phone. An Iraqi voice on the other end tells him 5 million dollars will get him out. With 90 minutes of time, a limited supply of oxygen, and trying not to panic, Paul must blindly call numbers to find someone to locate and free him.

2010 - National Board of Review - Best Original Screenplay
2010 - National Board of Review - Best Independent Film

Projectes Mevi, The Safran Company, Versus Entertainment, Dark Trick Films, Lionsgate
Director: Rodrigo Cort├ęs
Writer: Chris Sparling
Producers: Peter Safran, Adrian Guerra

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Frozen (2010) R - 4 Stars

I really don't remember hearing about this movie coming out but I have to say, I LOVED IT. The movie made me completely eerily uncomfortable with chills and the feeling of coldness. For that alone, I have to give it 4 stars for evoking that "edge of your seat" feeling throughout most of the movie. Frozen is a simple yet believable story line of 3 teens getting stuck on a chair lift as the mountain closes down for the weekend and everyone goes home not realizing they are still aboard the lift. Though the movie is sometimes slow it manages to raise your blood pressure significantly at times. I really loved the concept of the story line and you will think twice about being one of the last to get on a ski lift.

Parker O'Neil, (Emma Bell), her boyfriend Dan Walker, (Kevin Zegers), and his best friend Joe Lynch, (Shawn Ashmore), are all looking forward to a full day of snowboarding on Mount Holliston. Unfortunately they don't have enough money to all afford the lift tickets so they talk Parker into sweet talking the lift operator Jason, (Ed Ackerman), to let them ride for a flat cheaper rate. Jason agrees to pocket the extra money and look the other way. Parker is just learning how to snowboard so much of their day is spent with her practicing rather than racing downhill. Right at dusk, the three decide to take one last ride up the lift and give it everything they have coming down. Jason again lets them on the lift one last time but is called away after they depart and his replacement is told to look for three last kids coming down the mountain. As he sees three youths make their way down the slope he turns off the lift unaware these are not the three just sent up. Mount Holliston is in a small town and only open on weekends and now they are closing down until next weekend leaving Parker, Dan and Joe dangling in mid air. With a snow storm approaching, their cries going unnoticed and the trio must find a way off the lift before frostbite and hypothermia set in. That won't be an easy task as other unknown obstacles are in their way.

A Bigger Boat, ArieScope Pictures
Director: Adam Green
Writer: Adam Green
Producers: Peter Block, Cory Neal

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Treeless Mountain (2008) NR - 3½ Stars

These tiny girls are great little actors! In Korean subtitles, this is the touching story of two little girls, who's mother's financial difficulty and can no longer afford taking care of them. She brings them to their father's sister's urban house and begs her to take the children in until she can get on her feet, reconciling with their father and then can return for them. She gives the children a piggy bank and tells them everyday the aunt will give them a coin to fill the bank. Once the bank is full, she will return. What starts out as an okay living arrangement turns badly when the aunt grows tired of minding the "bratty" children and finds passing out drunk a comfort rather then feeding the girls. The girls feel loss and abandonment and are oblivious to the dangers of the outside world, but quickly become survivors as they discover the trick of BBQing grasshoppers to peddle the streets, making extra coins to fill their bank. They discover that smaller change fills the bank faster so their larger coins are exchanged for 1 cent pieces. This subtle change fills their bank to capacity. But as they wait each day at the bus stop for their mothers return, they sense she is not coming back.

A letter arrives from their mother saying no changes in her life have been made and the girls are forced to be uprooted again to the farmland of her parents. The grandfather denounces their arrival but they make friends with their grandmother who teaches them great lessons of contentment and respect as they await the return of their mother.

Six year old Jin (Hee Yeon Kim) and her three year old younger sister Bin (Song Hee Kim) , live with their mother (Soo-ah Lee), in a tiny one bedroom apartment. Jin loves attending school while her younger sister wait at home for her arrival. One day when Jin arrives home from school, her mother is packing their belongings as they take a long bus ride into the urban ghettos to be dumped off at their Big Aunt's (Mi-Hyang Kim), home to live. The children are left feeling abandoned as they try to make due with the Aunt as they await the return of their mother. But their loss is great and Big Aunt has never had children around and in her drunken stoop, neglects the children to fend for them selves. Jin and Bin must decide what their next move is to hurry up the process of their mother returning. They roam the dangerous streets, peddling grasshoppers they have cooked, in order to gain more coins for their bank. They are certain if they fill their piggy up, mom will come back for them sooner.

The days pass and their mother never shows only sending a letter of their once again movement to their grandparents farm. As the girls feel no one wants them, their kind hearted grandmother (Park Boon Tak), takes a quick liking to them and shows teaches them the virtue of patience.

Oscillscope Laboratories, Parts and Labor, SoandBrad
Director: So Yong Kim
Writer: So Yong Kim
Producers: Bradley Rust Gray, Lars Knudsen, So Yong Kim

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Control Room (2003) NR - 3½ Stars

The Vietnam war gave the public a glimpse behind the scenes of the ugliness of war. With Kuwait and Iraq wars, society was media-managed as to what we were to see and not to see. There's only so much reliable information on the Internet, which is mostly biased, to form an objective opinion. Watching this film shows how easily American propaganda takes over in our media as opposed to how media allows the people of the middle east to complete reality.

I  watched this movie back in 2007 while the war in Iraq was still active on the ground. The images shown to us were exactly as our government and media wanted us to see. Direct hits on bad guys, front line pushing forward while sheltered from any reality of bombs hitting civilian targets. For me, watching documentaries that show all points of view allow me to form my own opinion of what I believe the truth to be.

We are invited into the headquarters of Al-Jazeera television to see how the news of the Iraq war is reported in the Arab nations. American television avoids the death and destruction where Al-Jazeera focuses on it and they make good arguments on it's benefits. For anyone who wants to see the Iraq war from all sides, search my site under war for the movies I've reviewed.

2004 - Control Room - Boston Society of Film Critics - Best Documentary.

Magnolia Pictures
Director: Jehane Noujaim
Producers: Rosadel Varela, Abdullah
I viewed 11/07

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Puncture (2011) R - 3½ Stars

As I began to watch this film I immediately formed a bad opinion of what I thought was to come. With lots of drugs, not great acting and a confusing mix of the characters, it looked like we were going no where at all and I lost interest. However, after watching for a while, I found myself more engaged and it became pretty interesting. Even the acting improved.

Based on a true story, there was no surprise to learn big players in the health industry are more interested in making money than treating the sick or prevention of disease. I had to list this is my political category because it really is all about the politics of major corporations, and in this case the health industry with the tightly knit circle that surrounds them.  Free trade is definitely kept out of this circle. At the end, I feel the writers intentionally leave you with a doubt as to what happened to attorney Weiss as if they seem convinced of foul play. You just might be convinced too.

Nurse Vicky Rogers (Vinessa Shaw), has an violent emergency patient which she must administer a shot to calm him down. But, in his restless stage, the needle punctures her skin and she becomes infected with AIDS. As she becomes sick, and her insurance is about to be canceled, she seeks the help of attorneys Mike Weiss (Chris Evans), and Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen). She shows them a retractable new safety needle invented by engineer Jeffrey Matthew Dancort (Marshall Bell). Dancort own a company called Safety Point where he has patented and produced this new idea that could potentially save many lives. The problem is, he's unable to sell the product to the any other hospitals besides San Antonio Memorial. This one hospital, San Antonio Memorial, will try his product but it appears the United Medical group stands between Dancort trying to sell his product as they will not allow his product on the market. Mike and Paul soon learn fighting with these big boys, headed by attorney Nathaniel Price (Brett Cullen), and their ruthless techniques, immediately shoot down any attempt they can possibly try.

Cherry Sky Films, Kassen Brothers Production, LikeMinded Pictures, Millennium Entertainment
Directors: Adam Kassen, Mark Kassen
Writers: Chris Lopata, Ela Thier, Paul Danziger
Producers: Craig Cohen, Paul Danziger, Rod De Llano,
I viewed 8/12

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rear Window (1954) PG - 4½ Stars

I can't say enough about one of Hitchcock's best!!! An all time classic that if you have'nt seen it yet, make a point to. A true classic that never gets old. Stewart and Keyy are awesome and, for me, the innocence of the era adds to the excitement of the film.

L.B. Jeffries , (James Stewart) is confined to his apartment after breaking his leg. With not much to do he takes comfort, with his binoculars, watching his neighbors through his window into the courtyard. While watching their normal daily routines and lifestyles, he develops nicknames for his neighbors. But suddenly, he can't believe what he thinks he sees. Could one of his neighbors just have murdered his wife and now trying to dispose of her body in a suitcase?

On the brink of obsession, he can't take anymore and involves his model girlfriend, Lisa, (Grace Kelly). Voyeurism at it's finest.

Awards include:

1998 - Rear Window - American Film Institute - 100 Greatest American Movies.
1997 - Rear Window - Library of Congress - U.S. National Film Registry.
1954 - Rear Window - National Board of Review - Best Actress.
1954 - Rear Window - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress.

Paramount Pictures
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: John Michael Hayes
Producer: Alfred Hitchcock
I viewed 6/07