Sunday, August 31, 2008

Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008) NR - 1½ Stars

No, not the Brendan Fraser version but believe it or not there were three movies produced this year all named Journey to the Center of the Earth. And having not seen the other two yet, please tell me there's something better done with the original 1959 classic movie by Jules Verne. This one is pretty lame and was produced for cable TV rather than the big screen, for good reason. First off nothing in the movie remotely looks like it was filmed in the center of the earth. Instead, this version looks like it was filmed in the Santa Monica mountains, complete with blue sky and the foliage that grows along the mountainside.

A team of 6 women are getting ready to be beamed from where they stand to another location to engage in combat. Sort of like in Star Trek "beam me up" and I'm sorry I don't remember the term for this type of transportation. Well something goes wrong and instead the team is transported to the center of the earth complete with hungry dinosaurs and large spiders. The girls have conflicts with the beasts as their numbers are being eaten away.

Meanwhile, the crew (ha ha), that sent them there by mistake, get in a huge machine and travel to the center of earth to rescue the girls. They make it just in time to bring four back home alive and live happily ever after. All they had to do is put some fake CGI background with it and it could have raised the rating for the film. You can avoid this one from the three.
Starring Greg Evigan, Dedee Pfeiffer.

The Asylum
Director: Scott Wheeler and Davey Jones
Producer: David Michael Latt, David Rimawi, Paul Bales
Writers: Steve Bevilacqua and Scott Wheeler
I viewed 8/08

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Noise (2007) NR - 3 Stars

Personally I have experience a ringing in the ears for almost a month so I know how annoying it can become when you can't shut your brain off due to the noise and struggle to not think everything you hear sounds alien to you. Our star is an Australian policeman, with tinnitus (ringing of the ears.) Because his life is made up of confusion, with the noise playing out in his head, the movie choose to add that effect to drive the viewer mad too. It's not crazy mad, it just gets annoying to listen to, as I'm sure it does to anyone that has tinnitus. Thus the title of the movie.

One night a young girl, Lavinia Smart (Maia Thomas), is taking the train home with her new prize possession, a photo just framed of herself. When she enters the train, she finds it filled with a gruesome murder scene. Though she sees the killer, and even has a gun put to her head, the murderer spares her and flees with her photo instead. Since her name is on the photo and she can identify the man, she fears for her safety as she thinks she was spared only for the killer to come back and finish her off.

At the same time, Melbourne police officer, Graham McGahan (Brendan Cowell), has a hard time concentrating on his work as a patrolman with all the noise going on inside his head. He collapses while riding the escalator and is taken to the hospital. When released, his commander feels he is no good anymore to his squad and assigns him to a desk in a trailer in a quiet community that sees little action. His girlfriend Constable Caitlin Robinson (Katie Wall) and he are fighting constantly and he takes a liking to Lavinia as he gets information about her case. He starts to take her seriously when the killer leaves a message, while returning the photo to his quite office. Christmas Eve alone, Graham will have to overcome his tinnitus to determine what is real and what is noise, when the murderer confronts him at his doorsteps.

Director: Matthew Saville
Writer: Matthew Saville
Producer: Trevor Blainey
I viewed 8/08

Friday, August 29, 2008

Yellow (2006) R - 3 Stars

I must say this girl has the skinny body perfectly made for dancing. Almost too skinny. Roselyn Sanchez, co writer, also stars as Amaryllis Campos, who's danced all her life but finds herself falling apart when her father / dance teacher Franco (Jaime Tirelli), commits suicide. The movie has an erotic twist when Sanchez works as a stripper temporarily trying to make ends meet. I liked her relationship with with her new neighbor Miles and I wish the movie would have touched on that a little more. Especially when Mile's son comes to visit, but all and all, I thought the acting was fairly decent all the way throughout. The movies starts out in Spanish with English subtitles but ends in English for all of you who can't do a "sub-titled" movie, this one is really only at the beginning.

Amaryllis Campos (Roselyn Sanchez) is a dancer from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her father is a proud man and has trained Amaryllis in her dancing, all her life. When he can no longer bare his life in a wheel chair, he takes his own life with a bullet. When Amaryllis walks in on her fiance and her mother involved in some dirty dancing of their own, she flees town to New York City, where she hopes she can make it big. She's housed next to a funny old man, Miles Emory (Bill Duke) whom she listened to his tales for hours. But she wants more and heads to the streets to find a dancing job.

Amaryllis applies to a flyer only to find out it's not the type of dancing she's used to. At this gig, she has to undress undignified, to make ends meet. But she'll never be happy till she can make it in the Big Apple, as her father did. It's her way on honoring her father, even if it means turning away from her true love, Christian (D.B. Sweeney).

Hannibal Pictures
Director: Alfredo de Villa
Writers: Nakoma Whobrey, Roselyn Sanchez
Producers: Stephen J. Brown, Roselyn Sanchez, Dennis Murphy
I viewed 8/08

Thursday, August 28, 2008

21 (2008) - 4 Stars

I must say I liked this movie a lot. Kevin Spacey is one of my favorites and he is great in this movie and even involved in it's production. Actually most of the characters were believable after you get to know them. The movie is based on the true story of a group of smarties who took Vegas for millions of dollars. I've always been fascinated about people counting cards and the methods they use and this scheme seemed pretty high tech yet simple. What I didn't understand is why keep hitting the same casino? Why not travel to each and every casino and take them all for a chunk of change instead of causing suspicion at the same one?

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is an extremely bright student trying to get excepted in the college of his dreams. He also has his eyes focused on one lovely girl but too shy to do anything about it. His best friends and room mates are involved in a project of building the best robot. And that works fine for Ben until one day he is approached by his math teacher Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), and fellow students, to join in on a plan to make more money than he could ever dream of. Ben just desperately needs 300 thousand to get into medical school to become a doctor. Though reluctant about doing anything illegal, he notices the girl he's had his eye on, Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), a member of the team, seduces him into taking a chance.

The gang meets to decide their plan of action and stage a trial run to make sure that Ben is up to the job. Once he passes, they lot set off for Vegas staying in the finest room and living the life of luxury. The team takes the tables for thousands and then returns back to their homes during the weeks to reengage with school and work. But there's lots of money to be made and jealousy and conflicts break out amongst the team when Ben gets sloppy and bets big loosing a lot in one big hand, eventually getting him busted by Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), of casino security. Cole knows what counting cards looks like as he has tackled with Mickey Rosa years before, and still has a grudge about nailing him.

Sony Pictures
Director: Robert Luketic
Writers: Allan Loeb, Peter Steinfeld
Producers: Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca
I viewed 8/08

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Atonement (2007) R - 3½ Stars

You know how sometimes things gets so much hype, you have certain expectations of them and then you're let down? Well, that is how I felt over this movie. Don't get me wrong, it was a quality movie, however I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped from all the reviews and nominations. The acting is great and the set and costume design and wonderful for the 1935 time period, and the story believable for such the era of sexual taboo.

Briony Taliis (Saoirse Ronan) at age 13, lives with her family and older sister in a mansion complete with all the luxuries. Briony is bored though and spends her time getting into everyone elses business, including her sister Cecilia's (Keira Knightley.) Robbie (James McAvoy) is the housekeeper's son, and Briony sort of has a crush on him or at least, thrives on his attention. But Robbie keeps giving that attention to Cecilia. When Briony sees from her window, Cecilia go into the fountain on their estate, removing most of her clothes to do so, she is in shock that Robbie stood before her sister watching. Later, Briony finds the two about to make love in the house library. When a crime is committed in the woods, Briony decides to become a witness and point the finger at Robbie to remove him from his sister's presence.

It does change the situation, that is for sure. So much so, that Robbie is sent away to do time for a crime he did not commit and also be denied his true love Cecilia. Cecilia's heart is never healed and years later when Briony (Romola Garai) is 18, she returns to her sister's side to tell her the truth. But changing the lives of so many people are some things you can never make up for.

Awards are many and include:

2007 - Atonement - Academy - Best Original Score.
I was going to try and list the people involved in the best original score department but they are too numerous.

Working Title Films
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Christopher Hampton
Producers: Paul Webster, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan
I viewed 8/08

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Planet (2006) R - 2 Stars

I may even be high in rating a 2 on this one, but I did like the big giant electrical being at the end. However, the other beings, the stars of the movie, well they need some serious acting lessons. Talk about cheese. This has got to be one of the lowest budget films I've seen lately. However, I did enjoy the last scene the best.

This is a group of macho heavy accent fighter dudes. After they are involved in a battle on their ship, those that were not killed, telepod away from danger and land on the closest planet. Oh yeah, they had a prisoner on board who got away too and lands on the same planet. The planet is deserted but lucky there is oxygen for them to breath. But the prisoner escapes and wonders off into the distance knowing exactly where to go. There's an evil force lurking on the planet and the prisoner is looking for it to full fill his destiny. Causing havoc on the team, and turning them against each other, their only chance of survival is to send a pod back into space to contact the closest ship for rescue. If they fail, this evil force could infect the rest of the universe.

I really couldn't tell you who is who because I didn't connect with any of the characters but, the movie starred Mike Mitchell as Captain Morgan, Scott Ironside as Vince, Michael G. Clark as Taylor, Graham Robertson as Williams, Ashley Branston as Roberts, Colin Morrison as the Prisoner, Patrick Wight as McNeal, Shawn Paul Hastings as Leyton, Steve Tomas as Marsh, Tim Branston as Mitch and Mark Wyness as Daak.

Charon Film AB
Director: Mark Stirton
Writer: Mark Stirton
Producer: Michael G. Clark
I viewed 8/08

Monday, August 25, 2008

Waking Ned Devine (1998) PG - 4 Stars

Filmed in a quaint little country side of Ireland, this was such a refreshing little movie. The kind of town where everyone knows each other and their business. I don't remember seeing these actors before but they were a great bunch of characters. From Fin who chases away his girl because he smells liked pigs, to Jackie and Michael, the two skinny dipping motorbike riders.

The town, Tulaigh More, consist of mostly elderly people with their grown children and a few kids here and there. Everyone lives a meager live style and visits their church and pub. Jackie (Ian Bannen), and Annie O'Shea (Fionnula Flanagan), are an older married couple living to make ends meet. Everyone in town plays the lottery, hoping for that chance to strike it rich and have the finer things in life. When Jackie learns that someone in the village is holding a winning ticket, he and Annie try to narrow down who it must be. But when Jackie stumbles across the winning ticket, is held by one of his older friends, Ned Devine. Problem is, when Ned looked at the winning ticket, a huge smile came to his face and then he died, but not before signing the back of the ticket.

Now if the lottery commission finds out that Ned has died, the money will be forfeited. And with Ned having no family left behind, the only other thing to do is cash in the ticket. With the help of his friend Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly) the two decide to pretend Ned is still with us and claim the ticket.

The lotto man (Brendan F. Dempsey) shows up to meet with Ned Devine and fill out required forms to prepare the winnings and he wants to question the town to make sure Ned is who he says he is. This is something Jackie hadn't thought of. Now with the man coming back in a few days, the two must convince the town to go ahead with their plans and split the money 52 ways with everyone. Everyone, that is, except for the town witch Lizzy Quinn (Eileen Dromey). She's convinced there is more money to be made for her by turning the town in for fraud. Can the town convince Lizzy to go along with their plans in time?

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Kirk Jones
Writer: Kirk Jones
Producers: Richard Holmes, Glynis Murray
I viewed 8/08

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Touching the Void (2003) R - 4 Stars

I'm amazed how real the footage looked to what it must have been like for these two young mountain climbers. At first, I thought I was watching their own documentary of their journey up the mountain. Bravo for such a great reenactment of the actual events of their climb. It's amazing and a miracle that either of the men survived their ordeal.

In 1985, Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Richard Hawking), went to the Andes to climb the treacherous west face of Siula Grande which had never been done before. One thing I learned was the term Alpine Style of climbing. This means that you are attached to the other climber by a rope where if one messes up, chances are you are going to take the other one with you. You really have to trust the person you are climbing with as he can be your umbilical cord to your life line.

The two young men were experienced climbers and decided to climb the face in one move straight up rather than carry extra rope and equipment for making base camps along the way. This way they could reach the summit sooner. Many storms plagued the men and made climbing even more treacherous as the snow would turn to powder and provide no safe place to attach themselves. On the third day, they finally reach the summit of approximately 21,000 feet. After enjoying their panoramic view victory, the men must struggle now to get down the mountain as soon as possible as they have no reserve food, no gas to melt snow for water and no base camp to make it to providing shelter.

On the climb down Simpson fell and broke his leg shoving the bone far up inside of his thigh. In Alpine climbing this usually means certain death as your partner must cut loose and you are left to fend for yourself. However, Yates decided to try to lower Simpson down the mountain by combining their two ropes into one. This way he could lower Simpson down approx. 300 feet at a time and then climb down to reach him and start the process over again. In almost white out conditions, the two make their way down the mountain till Yates accidentally lowers Simpson over the side of a cliff. Unable to grab anything to take his weight off the rope, Simpson lays dangling over the edge. Yates can not see what is happening and the tow can not hear each others cries. Yates struggles to hold Simpson as his make shift seat on the mountain side is blowing away like sugar around him. When he can take no more, his only choice is to cut the rope or risk certain death by being pulled down from the weight.

Yates pulls a small pocket knife out and makes the cut sending Simpson to his certain death. But somehow, Simpson survived the fall as his body was flung deep into a crevasse with no chance of his climbing out of. As he lay there calling for Simon's assistance, he realizes his calls will never be heard. Yates struggles with his quilt and his own predicament as he tries to make it the rest of the way down the mountain. While Simpson barely able to move must find a way to climb farther down the crevasse as he can't go up. After seven days on the mountain, both climbers will make it back to the bottom and that base camp.

2004 - Touching the Void - Boston Society of Film Critics - Best Documentary Runner up.

IFC Films
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Producer: John Smithson
I viewed 8/08

Saturday, August 23, 2008

To Die For (1995) R - 4 Stars

I can't believe I missed this movie when it first came out. No wonder Nicole Kidman won a Golden Globe award for her great performance of a prissy, bitchy, news woman, weather girl, reporter, and even accomplice to murder. All she wants in her life is to become a television anchorwoman and will stop at nothing to get there. The movie is shot in a documentary, "after the fact", format and Larry's sister Janice (Illeana Douglas) is great at recapturing the warning signs she saw from the start.

Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman) lives in Little Hope, New Hampshire and has big dreams of someday becoming a prominent broadcaster, reporter, anchorwoman. She has always imagined she would be famous on TV. Almost living in her own world of obsession, the signs are not apparent at first. She meets Larry Maretto (Matt Dillon), who owns a restaurant and she thinks he can giver her what she needs to help her achieve her goal. Larry works for his father as the manager of a restaurant which someday he will own. Their lives seems pretty great until Suzanne feels Larry is asking too much of her attention, taking her away from her hair brain projects that will make her famous in her mind.

Her determination finally pays off when she gets her foot in the door at the local station and convinces them, she could do the weather reports. That actually starts out well but Suzanne is not satisfied and her growing obsession causes her to venture out in her own way. She gets use of the stations equipment and starts to prepare a documentary about teens in today's world. At the local high school she pitches her idea to a classroom and three sign up.

Jimmy (Joaquin Phoenix), is actually infatuated with her looks and masturbates to her weather reports so he signs up first. Russell (Casey Affleck), signs up as his teacher forces him to after his behavior in class and Lydia (Alison Folland), desperately needs something to do with her life. When Suzanne pays attention to her, she feels important and finally like she is somebody and has a friend.

Now most of Suzanne's time is consumed with the project and Larry tries to convince her they should start a family. Larry's gotta go and Suzanne starts to flirt with Jimmy in order to enlist his help in her plan. She figures if she seduces and sleeps with Jimmy, she can convince the three teens to take care of business by doing away with Larry. But can use her swift talking mannerism to get away with murder?

1995 - To Die For - Broadcast Film Critics Association - Best Actress.
1995 - To Die For - Golden Globe - Best Actress - Musical or Comedy.

Sony Pictures
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Buck Henry
Producers: Laura Ziskin, Jonathan Taplin, Joseph M. Caracciolo, Jr.
I viewed 8/08

Friday, August 22, 2008

Raising Jeffrey Dahmer (2005) R - 2½ Stars

Fascination into the mind of a serial killer, got me to rent this one. However, it's not what I expected. My vision was more of actual footage of his childhood and his real parents, not actors. But it says the movie was made based on his parents acknowledgement. Not sure how many liberties the movie takes with the truth, but I really didn't find it real informative. If you believe, as the movie tells it, there were many signs the father saw in Jeffrey way before he actually murdered anyone. It doesn't appear he was abused as a boy, though they don't really spotlight on the mother much. More just the father and his new wife, (Jeffrey's stepmother).

As a boy, Jeffrey used to collect road kill of the street and was fascinated by some old smelly bones of a skunk that he and his father dug up from the side of their house. "Fiddle sticks", as he called them. His father was a scientist and Jeffrey's first experiment was pouring chemicals onto some of the road kill, to see how they would react. Now I don't know about you, but hello, that sounds like a major warning sign to me? Poured oil on goldfish and rumors think he also beheaded his dog. Okay so I guess I did learn a few things. But basically on the slow side and just not enough insight into what may have pushed him in that direction besides his alcoholism.

Renegade Pictures
Director: Rich Ambler
Writers: Christopher Ryan, Wood Dickinson
Producer: Wood Dickinson
I viewed 8/08

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Doomsday (2008) R - 3 Stars

I think this movie wanted to be like a Mad Max or Thunder Dome type of movie and though no where near as good, parts of it was worth my rental. I loved the costuming and our macho hero is a chick so that's always a good thing. Though it has some gory parts which aren't really my thing, it's not "constant in your face" gore and I can handle that. Sometimes, just implied.

A pandemic has erupted in Northern Europe. An extremely contagious virus nicknamed "Reaper" has wiped out most of the population of Scotland. The virus was first detected there and now the country is known as a hot zone where no one goes in or out. A great wall has been put around the country to contain the virus and because it is so contagious, automatic weapons will kill anything that moves on the other side of the fence.

But the government has not solved their problem with a new outbreak of the virus turning up in London decades later. Now they must research the conditions of the old hot zone. Images show there are survivors moving around. A vaccination can be made from the right blood.

A team is assembled to go through the wall and find the cure. Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), is returning to her home after she was taken from her mother, 25 years ago and put on a helicopter, fleeing the city. It's made her cold and tough and she knows real well how to take care of herself. On her team is Sargent Norton (Adrian Lester), Bill Nelson (Bob Hoskins), John Hatcher (Alexander Siddig), Kane (Malcolm McDowell) and Canaris (David O'Hara).

Once inside the quarantined city, they are on their own but nothing can prepare them for the flock of wild human survivors lurking inside. Time is of the essence for the team to find a doctor they think may have the cure. Problem is, most of these humans tribal survival instincts are really starting to show.

Universal Pictures
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall
Producers: Benedict Carver, Steven Paul
I viewed 8/08

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Impact Point (2008) R - 3 Stars

Sort of already knew this movie would be cheesy just based on it's story line. I figured it was purely much made just to give the guys some girls in bikinis shots. And yes it was all that but I did actually like it more than I thought I would. An upcoming pro volleyball player discovers she has a stalker that will stop at nothing to get to her. The acting gets cheesy a lot but it's bearable. though the movie came out in theaters only 2 months ago, there is not a production still to be found on line.

Pro beach volleyball player Kelly (Melissa Keller) gets a lucky break when another player is killed and she gets to take her place. Putting her right where she has set her goals to be, Kelly sets out to win the championship with her new partner. However, little does she realize, her lucky break came because a stalker of her aced the player out to give Kelly a chance.

When a reporter, Holden (Brian Austin Green) shows up to do an exclusive interview on her, she also finds herself falling for him. But is he all that he seems to be? People around her start getting hurt and disappearing and as the finals approach, Kelly must decide what is more important. The chance of a life time, or her life.

Sony Pictures
Director: Hayley Cloake
Writer: Brett Merryman
Producer: Marc Bienstock
I viewed 8/08

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Bruges (2008) R - 3½ Stars

The movie takes some time to get used to their accents so you can understand what they are saying and catch everything. You may want to play with closed caption just so you don't miss some of the dialect. I liked the movie in it's quirky form. It's not really a comedy but more a "dramedy." Two assassins are on vacation while awaiting further orders from the boss, in Bruges, Belgium. They are sent there because the boss thinks it's a fairytale land that everyone should see at least one time in their lives.

Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) have just completed a routine hit. Routine that is until Ray accidentally kills a child in the process. It seems there was a small boy standing behind his target and Ray has not come to terms with killing a child. When Ken tries to relax and await the new orders, by touring the countryside, Ray is distracted and becomes a real kill joy for Ken. When boss man Harry (Ralph Fiennes) calls and tells Ken he wants him to ace Ray for killing a kid, Ken decides to carry out the plans. Ray is actually thinking of taking his own life and Ken arrives to save Ray from himself rather than shoot him.

But Ray meets a girl in Belgium Chloë (Clémence Poésy), and thinks that his life may have just gotten some new meaning. Along with Ken's help, Ray makes his escape to another land to carry on his new life. Harry is not pleased and comes to Bruges to take matter into his own hands. When he finds Ken has helped Ray escape, he wants his revenge on Ken. But Ray, who's supposed to be long gone, is returned to Bruges just in time to be delivered to Harry on a plate. It's show down time and who will come out on top?

Focus Features
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Producers: Peter Czernin, Graham Broadbent
I viewed 8/08

Monday, August 18, 2008

2010 (1984) PG - 2½ Stars

WOW did you realize that 2001: A Space Odyssey was made so long ago way back in 1968. Didn't seem like it was that long ago and even when I rented 2010: The Year We Made Contact, it was made in 1984. Well I don't see us doing this type of time travel anytime real soon, but even so, I was disappointed in the movie. Could it be the time it was made and how spoiled we are now a days with such better special effects? I guess the image of space travel was a lot more important to out world at that time.

Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) is in command of a U.S.-Soviet space mission, on their way to find out what happened to the missing Discovery flight. The crew includes Americans astronauts Walter Curnow (John Lithgow) and R. Chandra (Bob Balaban) , the originator of HAL 9000, along with Russians astronauts Tanya Kirbuk (Helen Mirren), Maxim Brailovsky (Elya Baskin) and Irina Yakunina (Natasha Schneider). Equipped with SAL 9000 (voice by Candace Bergen) they crews finds Discovery and is able to get HAL back on line. However, when the world is about to erupt into a nuclear war, the crew has to decide which side to be on and also trust that this time HAL will do the right thing.

MGM Distribution
Directors: Peter Hyams
Writers: Peter Hyams, Arthur C. Clarke
Producers: Peter Hyams, Julia Phillips
I viewed 8/08

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nanking (2007) R - 3½ Stars

Well here is a war that I knew little about. The movie Nanking is about the invasion of Japan onto Chinese soil. On August 14, 1937 in Shanghai, China, over 3,000 people lie dead. Most wealthy people got out of Shanghai before the onset of Imperial Japanese Army in the early stages of WWII. However, the poor had no means to flee and became refugees held up in Nanking at make shift camps. The true life stories of some of the survivors REALLY make you feel for them as they're moved to tears recalling their childhood and the footage is incredible. A real tradegy that could have been so much worse.

On November 13th, 1937 was the fall of Shanghai. This documentary tells the story from some of the people there. Now grown, many of the Chinese survivors, tell their extremly moving tales of being ripped from their mother's arms, or abandoned on the streets while fleeing. Raids were done on large groups of Chinese and all the young men taken away. Even if they were not soldiers, they were taken as well, some beheaded, some set a fire but by the orders of General Matat Sui, "Burn them all!" Most women and young girls were raped and treated terribly inhumane. The movie is also narrated by a group of actors portraying the recollections and diaries of John Rabe (Jürgen Prochnow), Minnie Vautrin (Mariel Hemingway) , Bob Wilson (Woody Harrelson) and George Fitch (John Getz). It's because of these brave people, who with their determination and courage, helped save 280,000 people from certain death by helping to establish a safety zone.

2007 - Nanking - Sundance Film Festival - Best Editing - Documentary.

Directors: Dan Sturman, Bill Guttentag
Writers: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman, Elisabeth Bentley
Producers: Michael Jacobs, Bill Guttentag, Ted Leonsis
Assistant Editor : Martin Alcala
On-Line Editor: Bill Missett
Dialog Editor: Mike Cook
Additional Assistant Editor: Sara Mineo
Editor: Michael Schweitzer, Charlton McMillan, Hibah Sherif Frisina
I viewed 8/08

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nim's Island (2008) PG - 3½ Stars

I just love Jodi Foster is just about everything she does. She's one versatile actress! While I thought the parts of this movie were on the unbelievable side, I guess it could happen? But what father in their right mind would leave his young girl on the island alone while he went on a journey to discover a new species of I'm still not even sure what? But all that aside, it is a cute movie. I watched the "special features" and it was pretty cool showing the filming of the water scenes and with the animals and it appears they worked pretty hard to make it look believable.

On a special note, I think whom ever made the animated opening screen cut outs should be designing children's story books cause I really enjoyed that. The movie starts out in this mood and ends this way through the credits. Also I loved the fact, Nim was so excited to read her novels and use her imagination by reading books. For me, this was the main point of the movie, that reading books can take you anywhere you want to go.

Nim Ruscoe (Abigail Breslin), is living on a deserted island with her scientist father. Her mother was lost at sea and as the story goes, swallowed by a whale that still watches out over the island. Nim and her father live in a rather open style hut, complete with all the luxuries like electricity, satellite computer access and running water. When Nim's father wants to go on a trip for a few days to find a glowing plankton of some sort, Nim wants to stay home and read her new adventure book by Alex Rover. It seems her hero Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler) comes to life and always finds his way into an adventure, and with his courage, gets out of tricky situations. Nim explores new adventures, in the same manor, with her animal friends on the island.

When Alex Rover is stuck on the final chapter of the next book in the series, she turns to the Internet to seek information on what it's like living along side of an active volcano. When Rover contacts Nim's father through email, Nim jumps on the chance to answer her greatest hero's email. She even climbs the volcano to report accurate descriptions about what she finds, thinking all the time she is mimicking Jack Rusoe. When she slips and falls and puts a large gash in her knee, and all alone on the island, she becomes uneasy of what to do next.

A large storm blows in and Nim's father is late getting back and Nim feels she must defend herself on the island to what ever lands on the beach. Rover becomes anxious to read, Nim is all alone and her father's missing, and Nim's knee has become infected. But never fear, Alex Rover to the rescue as Rover knows the coordinates to the hidden away island. But, the largest problem is, Alex is really Alexandria and she has an extreme fear about going outside of her front door. With her character, Jack Ruscoe, pushing her out her front door, Alexandria sets off for the adventure of her life time. But will her phobia hinder her to get there, and will Nim's father come home? Okay from here, you'll have to rent it and see how the story goes.

Summit Entertainment
Directors: Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett
Writers: Mark Levin, Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur
Producer: Paula Mazur
I viewed 8/08

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blue Vinyl (2002) NR - 4 Stars

In thoroughly enjoy this documentary on vinyl siding. It was both highly educational, as well as eye opening. As consumers, we can do the right thing by making a choice about what products we buy. This is a great little documentary that I found about a product I think we all take for granted. Plastic! We use it in everything we these days but here is something I didn't know. Vinyl Siding is the most caustic product brought to the market in the world today. Not in the form of the actual siding on your house, but the production and disposal of the product. Sitting on the side of your house, causes no immediate harm, that is, unless there is a fire. Inhaling the burning plastic is VERY harmful to everyone and the planet. Think about that one the next time you see neighborhoods on fire. The long term exposure of inhaling that plastics burning can have devastating results.

Just ask Judith Helfand who does a great job co-directing and staring in this film, exploring the product from it's start to it's demise. You can visit the web site here. Or the film production site.

Bullfrog Films
Director: Judith Hefland, Daniel B. Gold
Producers: Judith Hefland, Daniel B. Gold, Julia D. Parker
I viewed 8/08

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Deep Shock (2003) - 3 Stars

When I get my Sci-Fi grove going, I gotta grab a movie with a monster. In this case, gigantic electric eels that also have brains. Yes you heard right, intelligent eels. Aliens from another planet are preparing to take over earth unless a crew of brave men and women can stop them.

There's a great trench that is opening up underneath the North Pole and it's causing the pole to melt at an alarming rate. A submarine is destroyed when they are attacked by giant eels. When Captain Andy Raines (David Keith) joins up with Dr. Anne Fletcher (Simmone Jade Mackinnon) and Chomsky (Mark Sheppard), they must decide what course of action to used against this enemy that seems to be able to read their minds, knowing their intentions to destroy them. Dr. Fletcher avoids disaster by making contact with one of the creatures. Now, will it be enough to save the team and the planet.

Dej Productions
Director: Phillip J. Roth
Writers: Paul Joshua Rubin, Jeff Rank, Brian Mammett
Producers: Jeffrey Beach, Phillip J. Roth
I viewed 8/08

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Meet Bill (2007) R - 3 Stars

This movie started out real slow. I was finding myself loosing my attention span but finally I was able to actually see what the point of the movie was. At first I only heard blah blah blah and then a story line amazingly appeared and it ended up being an okay movie. I way so much better like the man Bill becomes. I wanted to slap the old character as he was so boring.

Bill (Aaron Eckhart) and his wife Jess (Elizabeth Banks) are a middle class family with good jobs and income but lacking any sort of quality fun in their lives. Jess is secretly sleeping with a local television news anchor Chip Johnson (Timothy Olyphant) however, Bill knows about it. He over heard Jess talking to Chip on the phone arranging a meet. Bill couldn't be home though as he had to be on a forced hunt trip with Jess's father who just happens to be Bill's boss as well.

Bill has a real self esteem problem and usually lets everyone push him around. When he finds a video camera in his bedroom with his wife on film getting it on with Chip, he confronts her with the tape, and now finds him self staying with his gay brother and lover while trying to look normal in social functions that involve work and his wife.

Meanwhile, Bill is mentoring and young very over confident student who he's nicknamed "the Kid" (Logan Lerman). Well this kid helps Bill, who's having a mid life crisis, change his life around and become his own man. Along with the help of their beautiful new friend, Lucy (Jessica Alba).

First Look International
Directors: Melissa Wallack, Bernie Goldmann
Writer: Melissa Wallack
Producers: Matthew Rowland, Matthew Roland, John Penotti
I viewed 8/08

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Paranoid Park (2007) R - 3½ Stars

I really liked the innocent look of a coming of age movie. Set in Portland, Or., a terrible accident changes the life of a teenager for ever. My only rant with the movie was it seemed like it has way too many of these long over drawn slow motion periods where after a while it looks more like the movie is being stretched to fit a time slot than actually inner reflection from the teen.

Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a skateboarder, and along with his friends, they skate around town, getting in too much trouble with the law for skating in places that are not allowed. Alex's life is not the greatest right now. His parents are getting a divorce and he and his younger brother now live with mom. Alex has become intraverted and lives for his skating. Along with his buddy Jared (Jake Miller), they decide to visit a skate park known as Paranoid Park. The place was built to give the skateboarders a place to skate without getting into trouble with the police. The kids who skate there are pretty good and Alex and Jared spend time just checking it out.

The next night Alex decides to borrow moms car and take a drive to the park to see what's up. While there, he meets three other kids, one in particular, asks him if he wants to drink beer and ride the rails. Alex is looking for something to stimulate him and agrees that riding the trains just might be what he's looking for. The two go off to jump aboard when a security guard tries to stop them. A terrible accident occurs and the two run seperately away, confused, and in shock. Now can they undergo the pressure of the quilty feeling for being somewhere they know they were not supposed to be.

2007 - Paranoid Park - Cannes Film Festival - Special 60th Anniversary Award.
2007 - Paranoid Park - Independent Spirit Award - Producers Award.

First Take - IFC Films
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Gus Van Sant
Producers: David Allen Cress, Nathanael Karmitz, Marin Karmitz
I viewed 8/08

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dark Days (2000) NR - 3½ Stars

I really got into this movie and even watched the "special feature" part of the disc where I almost NEVER do that. The characters grow on you or maybe it's our fascination as a race in whole, of watching other people struggle. The "looky-lou" syndrome, if you will. Marc Singer bought himself a 16mm camera and went down into the tunnels of Penn Station to capture the living conditions and the people who sustain themselves there, some for over 25 years. He decided to live down in the tunnel with the people, and the rats, in order to observe their daily routines. It's not pretty, shot in B&W for lack of budget, but it touches on the souls of the people who've hit rock bottom. Each character has their own story of how they got there. Dee, for example, was the mother of two small boys who burned in a fire. While in the tunnel she also pissed someone off who burned down her home. Great soundtrack by DJ Shadow.

What I did learn from the documentary was that people have been "squatters" in the Mud Flats of the Hudson River - Penn Station since the late 1800's, early 1900's. The tunnel was built on top of a landfill and stretches from 72nd to 123rd Streets. In 1991, when Amtrak was laying new track, they found 150 people leaving in the tunnel. The documentary helped in negotiating the people from their make shift homes, into section 8 housing with jobs and the opportunity to change their lives.

The only part of the movie that was unclear to me was how did they get their refrigerators, large pieces of plywood, T.V.'s and other large items, down to their living quarters. They tapped into the electricity and could run refrigerators, televisions, hot plates, shavers, many of the conveniences of home. Not everyone has a drug problem, some just ran away from their home lives and found that living in the tunnels was the easiest way to insure no one stole their personal items, and their safety from the non compassionate world who shunned them.

The film won many awards including:

2000 - Dark Days - Independent Spirit Award - Best Documentary.
2000 - Dark Days - L.A. Film Critics Association - Best Documentary.
2000 - Dark Days - Sundance Film Festival - Freedom of Expression Award.
2000 - Dark Days - Sundance Film Festival - Audience Award for Documentary Film.
2000 - Dark Days - Sundance Film Festival - Cinematography Award in Documentary Competition.

Picture Farms
Director: Marc Singer
Producer: Marc Singer
I viewed 7/08

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paris is Burning (1991) R - 3 Stars

While this documentary got pretty high ratings, I found it fascinating but somewhat dragged on. I grew up in Hollywood during the 70's and a lot of my friends were gay and cross dressers so I could identify with the stars of the film. I also remember a whole lot of them of these friends having the crap beat out of them just because of their sexual preference.

Directed by Jennie Livingston , this documentary is an honest look into the gay community in New York, especially the minority drag queens, of the late 1980's. These underground society of boy girls, reveal what it was like to be gay in the 80's and how they all live for the "ball." To these cross dressing gay men, the ball is like the Oscars. They have competitions, representing various "houses," where these men of Harlem, compete for trophies. Categories include just about everything like "realness" how well they can pull off looking like a woman, best "butch", best "voguing," imitating fashion poses from Vogue magazine, "evening wear", the "wealthy" look etc.

Paris is Burning is an in depth look at a society seeking the same things most of us want, like acceptance. These "she males" look for security and self-validation and find it by attending the "ball." Some seeking to look and live like fashion models while others just like the idea of feeling glamorous. I actually did feel bad for Venus Xtravaganza, who was on her way to a complete sexual change but lost her life in a dark sleazy motel probably by someone angered with her male genital.

1989 - Paris is Burning - L.A. Film Critics Association - Best Documentary.
1991 - Paris Is Burning - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Documentary.
1990 - Paris Is Burning - Sundance Film Festival - Grand Jury Prize: Documentary.

Miramax Films
Director: Jennie Livingston
Producers: Nigel Finch, Jennie Livingston, Davis Lacy
I viewed 7/08

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Diamond Dogs (2007) NR - 3 Stars

The movie probably only really warrants a rating of 2 by most people but, I actually liked it. The acting is not the greatest and the story line not entirely believable however, it kept me thoroughly entertained. Maybe it was Ronson's character as he seemed to be the only decent actor and made the movie for me.

Xander Ronson (Dolph Lundgren) is the best of what America's got. An ex-Army officer, he is considered the best in his field, but also the worst when fellow soldiers died by his hands. Ronson has now made his way to China and living there making ends meet by hustling others in fighting, arm wrestling or any way he can. But he's in debt and when the underground fighting ring is busted, Ronson finds himself before a judge facing a long prison sentence. Able to bribe the judge with cash on hand he had just won, he is given two weeks to come up with the rest of the money owed or face prison.

As chance would have it, a group of American fortune seekers led by Chambers (William Shriver), and his step daughter Anika (Yu Nan), enlist Ronson's help for protection and as a guide to help them find an ancient artifact that in the Buddhist religion is known as the Tangka. Supposedly this Tangka has not been seen and hidden away for many years since the Soviets tried to outlaw the Buddhist religion from Mongolia. It is said the Tangka holds many great mystical secrets and it's rumored to be adorned with diamonds totaling over $50 million. This American team is willing to risk everything to find and possess the Tangka. Rosnon also knows that finding the Tangka would solve his financial dilemma and make it so he'd never have to worry about money again.

The team has a map that leads to a secret hiding place deep in the mountains of Mongolia. But unfortunately, the team is not alone in their quest. A group of Russian mercenaries, used to getting whatever they want, have followed Ronson and his team to the mountain. Now it's a match off with each other determination of obtaining the Tangka, as well as dealing with the curse of disturbing the Tangka from it's original hiding place.

Sony Pictures
Directors: Samuel Dolhasca, Shimon Dotan
Writer: Leo St. Pierre
Producers: Louis Liu, Shimon Dotan
I viewed 7/08

Friday, August 8, 2008

Zola's Intermission Take 7 - Olympic Pin Collecting

In honor of the opening ceremonies and the start of the 2008 Olympics games in Beijing China, I'm taking a time out from my movie review post for today and promoting my other passion, Olympic Pin Collecting. I have 5 original 1932 Olympic pins in my collection and you can see them, if you like, on my web page.

Please visit my web page of Olympic pins for trade and/or sale and let me know if there is anything on my page that you would like to trade for or buy. I have not gotten even one Beijing pin yet so come on by and have a look and see if I've got something you need and visa versa. Let the games begin and GO TEAM USA!!!

Long Distance (2005) R - 3 Stars

Most of this movie takes place inside of a young student's apartment. Keena stars as our innocent victim who happens to make one wrong phone call, and finds herself involved in murder and terror. She does a pretty good job of showing all the emotional trauma, experienced when a long distance phone call, leads to murder. I didn't expect or totally undersatnd the ending.

Nicole Freeman (Monica Keena), is a young student who's got the blues. Her recent split up with her boyfriend and everyone she comes in contact with mentioning the fact he's not around anymore, only adds to her wanting to shut herself off from the rest of the world. One night she returns a phone call to her mother but dials an incorrect area code at first. A man answers the phone and flirts with her on the phone. At first she almost flirts back until she questions why she is taking to a stranger on the phone. But this man does not want to end it with her so quickly. He repeatedly calls her back toying with her emotions. The next day, police question her as to why she called a home in another state where a murder just took place. When the police set up surveillance in her home, Nicole is used as bait to flush the killer out. This psycho is not done yet and continues the killing streak each time becoming closer to Nicole. Can police capture the killer in time before Nicole's sanity will be effected?

Image Entertainment
Director: Marcus Stern
Writers: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen, Glenn Cooper
Producers: Tessa Cooper, Glenn Cooper
I viewed 8/08

Thursday, August 7, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) NR - 3½ Stars

The movie gives a good depiction of the way things used to be during Communism in Romania. A young girl becomes pregnant and seeks an illegal abortion. The movie is in Romanian with subtitles and though that is a always a challenge to watch and read at the same time, the imagery alone is what makes the movie powerful. Shot with subdued lighting, you can feel the panic with the girls as they get rid of an unplanned pregnancy. I really felt for Otilia as she had to go through so many emotional stages in order to protect her friend and avoid being caught. Anamaria Marinca does a great job in her role of the good friend Otilia.

It's the late 1980's and Communism still rules over Romania. Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) are two young girls that share a Bucharest flat with other students while attending school. When Gabita discovers she is pregnant, she gets Otilia to help her find a doctor willing to preform an illegal abortion. It's Otilia's job to meet with Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), and work out the details of finance, the when and the where. He makes it very clear what he expects but a botched reservation at the proper hotel is not made and Otilia has to find another hotel, which does not make Mr. Bebe very happy. in fact when he must give up his ID to the desk, he refuses to accept money in return for his services but instead demands sexual pleasures Otilia for payment.

2007 - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Toronto Film Critics - Best Foreign Language Film.
2007 - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Chicago Film Critics Association - Best Foreign Language Film.
2007 - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Cannes Film Festival - Palme d'Or.

IFC Films
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Writer: Cristian Mungiu
Producers: Cristian Mungiu, Oleg Mutu
I viewed 7/08