Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Casanova (2005) R - 3½ Stars

What a fun playful movie this is. Set in 1753, Venice, the world was a different place where honor and chivalry were proper ways to court a woman. That is until Giacomo Casanova, who waltzes in and out of ladies bedrooms while their husbands are away, stimulates and seduces the women of Venice. I really enjoyed the movie, the set design and costumes and Heath Ledger does a great job in the lead role.

Giacomo Casanova (Heath Ledger) is a notorious playboy who leaves a smile on the faces of the women he seduces. When he is caught leaving the bedroom of a nun, the ruling government make it their goal to put an end to his immoral behavior. Luckily The Doge (Tim McInnerny), is a friend of Casanova and is able to help save him from being prosecuted by the Inquisition's, Pucci (Jeremy Irons), when he makes him promise to take a wife and promise his love to just one woman.

But which woman will he choose. Victoria (Natalie Dormer), is a young virgin who is eager to find herself a husband. When she finds out that Casanova is interested in her, she begs her father to allow him to take her. An easy task except that Giovanni Bruni (Charlie Cox) has been admiring and watching Victoria for a long time now and has fallen in love with her. He vows to not allow Casanova to take his bride from him. Casanova is challenged to a duel to the death for the hand of Victoria. During the challenge, Casanova learns he is really exchanging swords with Giovanni's sister, Francesca (Sienna Miller). This fascinates Casanova more as he turns his attention to winning her heart of Francesca and leaving Victoria behind. However, Francesca has already been promised to Papprizzio (Oliver Platt), a wealthy man she's never met. Casanova even goes as far as pretending he is Papprizzio in order to get closer to her. In this cat and mouse game of love, seduction and honor, the two will learn they have each found their soul mate.

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Jeffrey Hatcher, Kimberly Dimi, Kimberly Simi
Producers: Mark Gordon, Leslie Holleran, Betsy Beers
I viewed 12/08

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008) PG13 - 3 Stars

Anyone who is a big fan of the X-Files, is usually eager to see Mulder and Scully working together again. It's been six years since the show and the fans have been anxiously awaiting to see their heroes together once again. And the movie is okay but not what I was expecting. While it deals with the supernatural, it's not the same sort of alien forces that made the popular series such a hit. I don't think it's because of our stars, but more the script just isn't that exciting to warrant the return of the X-Files team. While it was a decent movie, I don't feel Mulder and Scully needed this role and could have been played by anyone else.

Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) has been called in to help solve a case with his supernatural observations. A woman has been missing and with the help of a priest with physic abilities, he has told the police where the girl is being held. But they don't feel he is being truthful and enlist the help of Mulder to help find the woman before it's too late. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is comfortable in her life as a physician and tries to convince Mulder that he needs to let go of his obsession. Eventually she is drawn back into Mulder and finds she is the only one that can help save him too.

20th Century Fox
Director: Chris Carter
Writers: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Producers: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
I viewed 12/08

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) PG13 - 3½ Stars

Just how many sequels can they make, well 3 so far and it's already left open that yet another Mummy adventure will be created after this one. One thing that is a highlight, is Jet Li playing a lead role as the Emperor. But it gets confusing as the leading lady changes with this episode. Lots of special effects and action to keep you entertained. In my day, this movie would have been rated R based on it's violence but I guess in this day and age, it's a good action packed movie for the family with older children. Great special effects, I especially like the skelton army and the "Yeti" abominable snowmen are really cool additions.

Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Maria Bello), have retired from their lives of digging through ruins and are settled in their new huge mansion. Their son Alex O'Connell (Luke Ford), is a young archaeologist who's just discovered a huge find. In the ruins, he's unlocked the door to the tomb of the famous Emperor Han, who ruled over 2,000 years ago in China. Along with his army entombed in terra cotta clay, Hans was cursed by Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh) for killing the man that she loved. Alex is tricked into awakening the emperor so that Han may carry out his plan of world domination. Unable to stop the power he's unleashed, Alex turns to his parents for help. Together the O'Connell's must stop Emperor Han from reaching eternal life, while trying to protect their own.

Universal Pictures
Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Producers: Sean Daniel, Stephen Sommers, Jim Jacks
I viewed 12/08

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tape (2001) R - 2½ Stars

I have to give this a 2½ Stars because Uma Thurman's in it and I thought the ending was decent but leading up to her arrival, well it's hard to sit through. The acting is good but the long dialog between the two so called friends is really drawn out leading up to the point of the movie. Even if you are an Uma Thurman fan, you don't get much of her till the end when she is the highlight. Filmed entirely in one location, in a small cheap motel room, which has it's challenges in itself, and low budget I guess you get what you can while trying to give that confined feel cozy.

Johnny (Robert Sean Leonard) and Vince (Ethan Hawke) have been friends since the days of high school. While Johnny has made something of his life by becoming an up and coming filmmaker and about to be featured in a film festival in Lansing, MI., Vince hasn't seemed to grown up much and sells drugs to make ends meet. The two meet up in Lansing, MI. where the boys are originally from.

Vince confronts Johnny over why he slept with his ex girlfriend. Rumor has it that Johnny rapped his ex girlfriend after she and Vince broke up. All he wants to know is why'd he do it. As old wounds get rehashed, the "ex" herself Amy (Uma Thurman), shows up to set things straight.

2001 - Tape - Venice International Film Festival - Special Mention

Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Stephen Belber
Producers: Alexis Alexanian, Gary Winick, Anne Walker-McBay
I viewed 12/08

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chronicles of An Escape (2007) R - 4 Stars

Aka Crónica de una Fuga, aka Buenos Aires, 1977 Chronicle of a Flight, in Spanish with subtitles, Wow!!, this is one intense movie. From 1976 to 1983, over 30,000 people were killed by the Argentinean military authorities ruling the country. Many were brought to the Sere Mansion, an unofficial holding station in Moron, Argentina, to be questioned, interrogated and tortured. Many men, would even sell out their innocent friends, in order to buy themselves a chance to stay alive.

This is the true story of 4 of these men whom after being kidnapped, tortured and held captive for 121 days, finally find their freedom. Though the movie starts out with the focus on an innocent goalie, with no connections to any organization, you'll eventually find yourself pulling for everyone to escape, guilty or not. Very strong performances from the entire prisoner cast, which makes the story feel that much more realistic. Be prepared to face full frontal nudity but, if you love true stories of courage against the inevitable, I recommend watching this one.

It's winter of 1977, and Claudio Tamburrini (Rodrigo De La Serna) is playing soccer (football), as the goalie with his team, in a minor league game. When he returns home, he finds his mother and sister have been taken hostage while awaiting his arrival. He is immediately labeled a "terrorist" after finding a cloth baring a military guerrilla insignia in his home, and taken away by blindfold. Kidnapped and beaten, he arrives at Sere Mansion, run by Lucas (Diego Alonso) and thrown into a holding center with other beaten and blindfolded men.

Many other captives, Tano (Martin Urruty), the one who gave the guards Claudio's name, Guillermo (Nazareno Casero), Vasco (Matias Marmorato), and Gallego (Lautaro Delgado), are also being tortured for information. The men are beat daily and terrified, and almost willing to say anything to make the pain stop. Claudio is tortured repeatedly for the names and information of his militant friends. But even after all the interrogations, beatings and humiliations, Claudio who's innocent, can not offer any information.

Some of the prisoners are taken at random, moved and even returned in order to keep the others scared silly. When Tano is taken to be, "sent to prison", the other men fear their days are numbered. With death imminently awaiting, Claudio plans a daring attempt at freedom. In the middle of a rain storm, Claudio, Guilermo, Vasvo and Gallego, open their only window climb down two stories and escape naked into the woods while they watch new recruits coming in. Though a seemingly easy target to find, the men are able to slip away into neighborhood, finally escaping their prison.

First Take, IFC Films
Directors: Israel Adrián Caetano, Adrián Caetano
Writers: Estevan Student, Julian Loyola, Israel Adrián Caetano
Producers: Hugo Sigman, Oscar Kramer
I viewed 12/08

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fred Claus (2007) PG - 3½ Stars

Finally!!! A decent holiday movie that has something for just about everyone. There's the scrooge, the good guy, the bad guy, naughty, nice, family, love, loyalty and a good helping of holiday cheer. I have to say that it was quite refreshing to watch a holiday film that was funny and still approved for children. I really enjoyed the movie and found it a good holiday pick for today, Christmas day's, movie.

Life was good for Fred until his little brother Nicholas was born. "Why can't you be more like your brother" is usually the words coming out of his mother's (Kathy Bates), mouth as Nicholas was a very loving giving child and Fred the rebellious one.

As adults, Nicholas (Paul Giamatti) and Fred (Vince Vaughn) are total opposites. Nicholas is a perfect saint and spends his entire life with his wife Annette (Miranda Richardson) living at the North Pole with one goal in mind. To ensure the children of the world all get at least one toy on Christmas. Fred, on the other hand, is a repro-man with a fast talking tongue that steals most of what he repossesses. Out of money, and in jail, Fred turns to his brother for help. Nicholas agrees to allow his brother to come to the North Pole. Nicholas agrees under the condition that Fred will assist him in his toy shop, to make toys needed for the holiday while paying off his debt. Problem is, Fred is hardly cut out for this line of work and doesn't take it very seriously. Between his acting out in the toy shop and Clyde's (Kevin Spacey) the inspector, trying to shut the toy shop down, Fred could help cause Christmas and Santa Claus to come to an end.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: David Dobkin
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Producers: David Dobkin, Joel Silver, Jessie Nelson
I viewed 12/08

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) PG - 3½ Stars

My complaint about the movie is how they got back to Narnia. I don't mean the special effects, but for someone who had not seen the first in the series, it's sort of confusing. One moment their sitting in a subway talking and the next, they suddenly know to hold hands and be taken away. Maybe it's been too long since I've seen the first but it didn't explain much why after 1 year the children's time and 1,300 years in Narnia time, the connection was made. But then again, I've never read the books so I'm sure somehow it all may tie in? All and all, it's a good action, adventure fantasy but not so sure for the whole family as I thought it was pretty violent and graphic with even a beheading.

When the children, Lucy (Georgie Henley), Peter (William Moseley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) Pevensie, arrive in Narnia, to find a lot of time has passed, 1300 years, and things are not the same. At first, they are unsure exactly where they are as the once Golden Age of Narnia has been taken over by the Telmarines under the merciless rule of King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). Miraz has just had a baby boy and he is determined to ensure the throne will someday be his instead of the real heir, his nephew Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). He's forced Prince Caspian into hiding from his uncle as he's learned the threat against his life. Now with the help of these old friends of Narnia, Prince Caspian can restore Narnia to a peaceful and will live once again.

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Walt Disney Pictures
Directors: David Strangmuller, Andrew Adamson
Writers: Christopher Markus, Andrew Adamson, Stephen McFeely
Producers: Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, Philip Steuer
I viewes 12/08

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Man on Wire (2008) PG13 - 4 Stars

Yikes! I guess this movie effected me more than I realized as I lay in bed last night having the fear of falling. Every time I closed my eyes, I got the vision of looking from the roof of the worlds tallest buildings, to the ground. On August 7th, 1974, Phillippe Petit walked across a wire cable he had constructed that stretched between the roofs of the World Trade Center twin towers. At one point he even lays down on the wire on his back and even kneels with a salute. While typing the review, I'm getting back that heebie jeebie feeling I went to bed with last night.

The movie documents real vintage footage from Phillippe, a Frenchman, who dreamt of walking where no man had walked before. He studied every aspect of the building of the towers and even hid on floor 104 in between watched of the guards men. After 6 years of waiting for the towers completion and over 8 months of planning, by dark his equipment was smuggled into the towers, as he preformed the impossible by constructed, erecting and suspending his cable between the two roof tops. Interviews with friends and members of his team, shed some light into just what drove Phillippe to this feat.

Phillippe was promptly arrested after dancing on the wire for over 45 minutes. 1,350 feet above ground, he walked back and forth between the buildings just out of reach from the law. He was arrested and sent for psychiatric evaluation to determine why he was so willing to die. But Phillippe was determined to show it could be done.

2008 - Man on Wire - Alliance of Women Film Journalists - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - Austin Film Critics - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - Boston Society of Film Critics - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - National Board of Review - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - New York Film Critics Online - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - San Diego Film Critics Association - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - Southeastern Film Critics Association - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association - Best Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - Sundance Film Festival - Audience Award
2008 - Man on Wire - Sundance Film Festival - Grand Jury Award for Best World Cinema Documentary
2008 - Man on Wire - Washington D.C. Film Critics Association - Best Documentary

Magnolia Pictures
Director: James Marsh
Producer: Simon Chinn
I viewed 12/08

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hancock (2008) PG13 - 3½ Stars

I was a bit disappointed in the concept of this movie. Not like "Superman" or "Spiderman" seems like reality to me, however this idea was borderline silly. I just loved Will Smith, in his powerful performance in "I Am Legend" but to me this was plain silly. To me, it's more of a comedy than a believable drama but still a decent rental.

Hancock (Will Smith), is not your average superhero. He wants to do good, but the fact that he is an alcoholic, clouds his judgement when it comes to properly addressing a problem. He's sarcastic, crude and doesn't really care much what the public thinks of him. As he saves the life of Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), from being hit by an oncoming train, it costs the tax payers of Los Angeles plenty from all the damage he causes, trying to protect. The people have finally had enough of his shenanigans and Ray, feeling indebted to the Superhero, takes on the mission of giving Hancock a new public image.

Public Realtions is Ray's job and he is sure he can change Hancock's perception by the public. On the other hand, Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron) is not pleased when Ray is brought home and literally dropped off, with his car, in the front yard. But there's a close bond between them all that put's Hancock back on track, to becoming the greatest Superhero the world has ever seen.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia Pictures
Director: Peter Berg
Writers: Vy Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
Producers: Will Smith, James Lassiter, Akiva Goldsman
I viewed 11/08

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tigerland (2000) R - 3½ Stars

Colin Farrell was a young little known actor when he starred in this move and he's great in his role as Bozz, the smart ass, non conforming, young soldier, about to be shipped to Vietnam. Even though he looks like a tough egg with his rebellious behavior, deep inside he has a heart of gold. The film focuses on the training involved getting prepared for war at an advanced infantry training course known as Tigerland, where soldiers have been known to not walk away from.

It's 1971 and a company of draftee's including Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), Miter (Clifton Collins Jr.), Cantwell (Thomas Guiry), Paxton (Matthew Davis), Johnson (Russell Richardson) and Wilson (Shea Whigham) are sent to an Army Infantry training camp in Fort Polk, Louisiana. Bozz presents himself as a troublemaker, thinking the Army won't have much use for him. He encourages the other men to stand up and do what they can to be ejected too. But it does little good for him as the high ranking officials see him as the one with intelligence and ambition that could make him a leader someday. But will anyone be ready for their final test at the mocked up, simulated war zone, wilderness known as Tigerland, their final stop before entering Vietnam.

New Regency Productions, 20th Century Fox Distribution
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Michael McGruther, Ross Klavan
Producers: Arnon Milchan, Steven Haft, Beau Flynn
I viewed 11/08

Friday, December 19, 2008

Live-In Maid (2004) NR - 3½ Stars

In Spanish with subtitles, this was a neat little movie on role reversal. The rich lady who has it all who relies on her live in house maid to handle every detail for her. Always snubbing the maid, she now finds herself desperate and unable to pay her bills or her maid. Almost homeless, she now finds her maid the only friend left she can turn to. I'm not familiar with either of the stars but they both fit their characters perfectly.

Ms Bebe Pujol (Norma Aleandro) age 58, was a once well to do woman of Buenos Aires running her own cosmetic company. When he company fails, she now tries to uphold her lifestyle while peddling cosmetics and creams anywhere she can. As she tries to hold onto her status in the community, her bills pile up until she is unable to pay for the finner things in life anymore, like her maid, and has to start doing without.

Dora (Norma Argentina) age 51, has been working for Ms. Bebe for 30 years as a live in maid. She goes home to her weekend boyfriend Miguel (Raul Panguinao), and the money she earns from her job, is helping to build her a home one piece at a time. Miguel works part time but his work is not steady and when Dora tells him she must find work elsewhere as she's not being paid, he is worried he may have to find a job. But as Dora spends her days, looking for work, Miguel is doing repairs of a different kind at the neighbors down the street.

When Bebe must take everything she owns and leave her stylish home, she calls on the only friend she has really ever had and can still not function without. Some bonds just can't be broken.

2005 - Live-In Maid - Sundance Film Festival - Special Jury Prize

Red Envelope Films, The Film Sales Company
Director: Jorge Gaggero
Writer: Jorge Gaggero
Producers: Diego Mas Trelles, Anton Reixa, Veronica Cura
I viewed 11/08

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Into Great Silence (2005) 2 Discs NR - 2 Stars

I hope I am not being sacrilegious when I say this has got to be one of the most boring films I have ever seen. Must explain why I could NEVER sacrifice my life to Christ. Yeah I get it, the monks life is silent and surrounded by prayer and basically uneventful, but watching someone sit in prayer, for minutes on end, with no dialog, over and over again, is just not my cup of tea movie. The entire movie, aka "Große Stille, Die", is without narration, music, interviews, or archival footage. This film creates silence, not just an absence of sound, but a stillness within that I believe I just can't sit still for. For me, I feel I saw what I needed to see in the first hour. I'm giving it 2 stars out of respect for the monastery. With it's beautiful archways, the movie purposely does not glamorise it.

I'm sad to say I did not bother to watch disc 2 and I only watched about 1 hour of disc 1 so if it got better, than I apologize. I just couldn't do it. I'm not sure what I did expect, as I knew the documentary was about for the first time, outside eyes were allowed to view the church as if you were part of the brotherhood. I just was hoping for some sort of commentary explaining why exactly they choose to love this way. The Grande Chartreuse monastery was founded in 1084 and located in a most beautiful part of God's country, the French Alps, and it's the top monastery of the Carthusian order. You can read a pretty good in dept review of the movie here.

2006 - Into Great Silence - Sundance Film Festival - Special Jury Prize (World Cinema Documentary Jury)

Zeitgeist Films
Director: Philip Gröning
Writer: Philip Gröning
Producers: Michael Weber, Elda Guidinetti, Andres Pfaffli
I viewed 11/08

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tideland (2005) R - 3 Stars

Gosh I'm not sure how to describe this movie or even what category to put it in. *Note to self* I just made a new category, "bizarre," after seeing this film as I am sure some other titles in my blog apply. I must say though, Jodelle Ferland gives an award winning performance in her innocent role as Jeliza-Rose, the child of drug addict parents. I love her imagination, well most of it that is, and how she can create a new world to cover up her loneliness. Along with her trusty friends, the talking decapitated heads off dolls, she can take on whatever life has thrown her.

Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is the young daughter of two heron addicted parents, Noah (Jeff Bridges) and Queen Gunhilda (Jennifer Tilly). Aptly named Queen for the drama she engages in when having to deal with her daughter or life. After her mother's overdose, her father takes Jeliza-Rose to the rural farmhouse of her passed on grandmother. The house is old and dirty and miles away from the big city, but the two call it their new home.

Daily, she watches her dad as he drifts away after shooting up. Noah takes one last trip "vacation" with his drugs that he never wakes up from. Living off on an old jar of peanut butter, it doesn't stop Jeliza-Rose from embarking on the greatest adventure of her life.

Jeliza-Rose wanders to the other side of the field and runs into the exentric Dell (Janet McTeer) who even the bees hate. Jeliza-Rose than befriends Dell's mentally challenged brother Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), and while the two become close friends, Dell is busy performing the necessary taxidermy skills on Noah, her long lost ex. Dickens takes Jeliza-Rose swimming across the fields to his submarine. They have to be careful to not disturb the large shark that crosses the tracks and flattens the pennies Dickens has saved up. Dickens has vowed to someday blow that shark up.

Still confused, well let me just say you're either going to love the movie's charming play on innocent fantasy or you're going to hate it because it's offensively disturbing.

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Tony Grisoni, Terry Gilliam
Producers: Jeremy Thomas, Gabriella Martinelli
I viewed 11/08

Monday, December 15, 2008

Diminished Capacity (2008) NR - 3 Stars

Boy sometimes I feel diminished capacity and maybe I should start using that term instead of senior moments. Alan Alda is so cute in his role of an aging men beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's. I feel in love with his priceless theory on communicating with fish. I almost wish the movie contained more of it to shape his character that direction. Cute little movie showing how theirs safety in numbers.

Chicago newspaper editor Cooper (Matthew Broderick) has been demoted to merely proof reading comic strips after being injured in the head. He's got amnesia symptoms in certain situations that hopefully will right itself as time goes by.

His Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda) on the other hand, is starting to show early signs of Alzheimer's disease and can not be trusted living on his own. Cooper, by his mother's request, takes some time off to visit his uncle in his rural home town of Missouri, to help ensure Rollie doesn't burn the house down.

Cooper runs into his childhood sweetheart Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and begins to remember their feelings. Charlotte has recently gone through a divorce and focuses on her son and his baseball catching abilities. Cooper begins to feel something again.

Back at Uncle Rollie's, a burglar trips the trap that Rollie has laid for him. It seems this same burglar has regularly trying to break in. All because of an extremely rare baseball card that his Rollie's grandfather gave to him. Even though the card brings back the memories of his grandfather, Rollie is convinced to sell it and make money needed to keep him independently in his home, before the burglar succeeds. Charlotte and her son join, Cooper and Rollie on a trip to Chicago, to find a buyer for the car.

IFC Films
Director: Terry Kinney
Writer: Sherwood Kiraly
Producers: Pamela Hirsch, Edward Hart, Bruce Lunsford, Bill Benenson, Scott Hanson
I viewed 11/08

Sunday, December 14, 2008

City of God (2002) R - 4 Stars

Pretty disturbing look at the poorer part of town in Brazil. I've seen Children of Men based on the same scenario but with an older crowd. I liked this movie better as I felt a truer absorption of the young boys. Based on a true story, it's sad that these boys in their poverty level and lack of education, turn to drug running and controlling the streets with no regard for life. The acting is so good, I almost thought I was watching a real life documentary rather than actors.

In Portuguese with subtitles, City of God (Cidade de Deus) is a housing project built in the 1960's in the poorest part of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The children of the town, quickly learn it's survival of the fittest when gunfire constantly fills the sky and causes them to take cover at any given corner. In the 1980's the city erupted into one of the most violent places in Rio de Janiero. The children, some supporting their families at the age of 10, were running rampant in the streets only knowing how to steal, rob and fire a gun. The movie is filmed mostly through the eyes of Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues), aka Rocket, who basically a good kid, mixed up in a world of outlaws and bandits. He's in search of finding something better to leave the City of God.

The streets are run by the gang with the most power, drugs and money. As the older boys are killing each other off, the younger boys are growing to follow in their footsteps. Rocket gets an unusual chance at a camera and photographs one of the notorious gang, lead by Zé Pequeno (Lil' Zé) (Leandro Firmino da Hora). Lil Ze' wants his claim to fame spread over the front pages. Rocket again is in the right place at the wrong time and takes photographs of the gangs, at war, bringing attention to their story.

Awards include:

2002 - City of God - AFI Fest - Audience Award
2003 - City of God - Chicago Film Critics Association - Best Foreign Film
2003 - City of God - Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Foreign Language Film

Miramax Films
Directors: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Writer: Braulio Mantovani
Producers: Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Mauricio Andrade Ramos
I viewed 11/08

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) PG13 - 4 Stars

Aka, Pitch Black II, it's a good action packed adventure for the video game fan, based on the computer game of same name. I remember playing the old Doom game when it first came out and the movie takes that same viewer angle at times, making you feel like you are, or want to, pull the trigger. It has it's cheesy moments and some of the acting lacks, but I'm giving it a slightly higher rating based on the elaborate production scenes, like the dark planet where the sun will fry you.

The story begins with our star under attack from a bounty hunter looking to make a high price. Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) just wants to be left alone in the universe, but knowing someone wants him dead, he escapes to the planet Helion. More an more planets are being taken over by the Necromongers, under their leader Lord Marshall (Colm Feore) with the simple plan of convert or die. But converting means giving up all desires and memories and becoming a sort of clone to protecting his rule. Usually working on his own, he pairs up with Kyra (Alexa Davalos), and Aereon (Judi Dench), the leader of Helion's "elementals", to finish one last battle in a duel to the finish with Lord Marshall.

Universal Pictures
Director: David N. Twohy
Writer: David N. Twohy
Producer: Garrison Jackemuk, Vin Diesel, Scott Kroopf
I viewed 11/08

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nature Unleashed: Avalanche (2004) PG13 - 3 Stars

Even though the acting can't get much cheesier, even though the special effects are far from special, even though the story is possible but oh not practical, I still found myself somewhat engaged in the movie. I guess there is just enough anticipation of "the event", to keep me wanting of more. Not your greatest disaster movie but then most aren't, it gives just enough to cheer on the crowd, searching for those buried alive. Problem is, they sure didn't search for many and of course there's that one villainous bad guy that you want to see bite it first. You can probably bury this one unless you like snow or disaster movies.

A new hotel is just about to open at an elite ski resort in the small village of Dubruz, high in the Ural mountains. Satellite pictures are reported to avalanche specialist, Katya (Kate Henry), that the ice is cracking and giving way underneath a glazier high atop the mountain, and it's about to cause major problem for the town below. Two brothers Thom (Adam Croasdell) and Jock (Andrew Lee Potts), who run a snowmobile business, many vacationers, and other snow seeking adventurers, take heed to the warning signs that the mountain is about to swallow them alive.

Nu Image Films
Director: Mark Roper
Writer: John Sheppard
Producers: Avi Lerner, Iliya Sotirov, David Varod, Jamie Brown, Gary Howsam
I viewed 11/08

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) R - 3 Stars

Now this has got to be about the craziest Western I have ever seen. The American one liners they come up with just don't seem right coming out of these Asian men. Plus, I'm still unsure what time period this is suppose to be as modern weaponry displayed just doesn't go. I'm also putting this one in the comedy section, though it's not labeled that way. It's in English to boot so I hope I don't offend anyone by saying it just doesn't fit unless it's a comedy. However, it's also a blood bath so I don't recommend it to just anyone looking for a laugh.

Two Chinese clans left over from the Battle of Dannoura, the Genpei Wars of the 1100's, have been formed and taken over the small town of Yuda leaving the Sheriff (Teruyuki Kagawa) defenseless. A new sharp shooting stranger (Hideaki Ito)has come to town and both sides want him. The Minamoto and Taira have been formed to represent the ancient clans of the Genji with their leader Yoshitsun (Yusuke Iseya), the Whites and Heiki with their leader Kiyomori (Koichi Sato), the Reds.

This is rumor of a great treasure that both gangs want and they try to get this new powerful man, who doesn't seem to miss, on their side. Each gang wants to find the treasure first but this powerful stranger wants to make sure he finds it first, even if it means he takes out the entire town.

First Look Studios
Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Masaru Nakamura, Masa Nakamura, Takashi Miike
Producers: Masato Osaki, Koji Yoshida, Hirotsugu Yoshida
I viewed 11/08

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008) PG13 - 3½ Stars

The movie was still good in getting it's message across of friendship, bonding, and being there for each other, but this time around it was not so much about the pants. The pants still enter the picture and are taking from place to place and mailed back and forth to each other and the concept of wearing the pants and good things that happen I feel only really come true for Tippy. I don't think the pants helped out the other 3 girls but all and all it's worth the rent even though a little more like a chick flick than the first one.

Lena (Alexis Bledel), Bridget (Blake Lively), Carmen (America Ferrera) and Tippy (Amber Tamblyn) are back at it again but three years older. The girls have still remained close but as they are growing up and making their own decisions in life, their paths are eventually taking them farther apart from each other.

This summer, Lena is going to Providence, RI, to take an art class in nude drawing. Bridget is traveling to Turkey on an archaeological excavation, Tippy will once again spend summer at home, this time with her boyfriend Brian (Leonardo Nam), while she works at a video store chasing away more customers than she's bringing in. Carmen feels this year she is the one left out with no where to go until she is invited to Vermont with an actress friend she works with. Eventually, the journey of the pants will bring them to Greece where new bonds of their friendship are born.

Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Director: Sanaa Hamri
Writer: Elizabeth Chandler
Producers: Broderick Johnson, Kira Davis, Debra Martin Chase
I viewed 11/08

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) PG - 4 Stars

Men might consider this movie a chick flick as I know when I wanted to see it, I was talked out of it for something more gender tolerant. However, I think the movie is a great story of friendship, and bonds that are made between people, or in this case young girls. These relationship touch lives, men and women alike. So as silly as a concept for a movie sounds, I rented it and I loved it. Sends off a good message, for the entire family, of faith and friendships that last over a life time.

Four friends, Carmen (America Ferrera), Bridget (Blake Lively), Lena (Alexis Bledel), and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), have been childhood friends since their mothers all met in a prenatal aerobics class. Their mothers were close allowing the four children to grow up together. Even though there lives start taking them in different directions, the four have remained close. One day as they were discussing their plans for summer, they came across a thrift store and found a very special pair of pants. The fabulous thing was that while each girl was different in sizing, each was also able to where the pants with a remarkable fit. Since there was only the one pair, the four vowed to stay in touch by sending the pants to each other to wear one week at a time.

Lena is off to a Greek island to stay with her grandparents and get a taste of the Greek culture. Carmen is off to see her father, who she hasn't seen in many years after her parents divorced while the rebellious Tippy stays in town working on her project, a video "suckumentary"at a local discount store. Bridget is off to Mexico to attend soccer camp. As the girls send the pants to each other along with reporting the progress of their summer, the notice a strange sort of luck shows up as they put the pants on. It's the one way they are still able to share and stay close as these teenage girls become young women.

Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Director: Ken Kwapis
Writers: Elizabeth Chandler, Delia Ephron
Producers: Broderick Johnson, Debra Martin Chase, Andrew Kosove
I viewed 2/06

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mongol (2007) R - 4 Stars

I always grew up thinking Genghis Khan was an evil bad ruler of ancient Mongolia. Perhaps it was his name or my own lack of knowledge as to who he really was. He would go on to conquer Russia and good part of the world, in 1206. I'm not sure how much liberty the movie takes in actuality of events, but the film is visually stunning and captivating and why I am giving it such a high rating. It's also a great romantic epic. I don't think anyone can be completely accurate in recreating something from 1162, but perhaps it's changed my impression of how this ruler really was.

Filmed in China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan, the imagery is breathtaking. My only complaint of the movie is the way it cuts off and changes scenes and years so quickly before you realize what happened. Since the film is in Mongolian with English subtitles, at first it was hard for me to keep track of who was who. With all the horse back riding getaways, I almost wanted to label it a western. The acting is fantastic and it's based on the controversial writings of Russian historian Lev Gumilyov.

Born Chinggis Khaan in 1162, Temudgin was taken by his father to find a bride at age 9. Borte is a young girl of the village eyes Temudgin who will return to make her his bride at age 16. But life for Temudgin would be tragic when his father is killed in front of him and the Merkit's vow to return for Temudgin when he grows up. The family, now very poor, has no status in the valley and eventually they return for him.

Jamukha (Sun Hong-Lei), saves Temudgin from certain death and while he hides him, they two pledge with their blood to be brothers for ever. As the two grow older, they talk about becoming the next Khan of the people and both have different ideas of who that will be. Years later, Temudgin's (Esugei Tadanobu Asano), most important goal is to make his way back to the village to retrieve his bride Borte (Khulan Chuluun), who has been anxiously awaiting his arrival. The two return back to his village and mother, to be married.

Jamukha, now a Mongol chieftain and quickly obtaining the status of Khan will have to choose between his status, and his brother, while Temudgen quickly gains support of the Mongols who elevate him to greatness.

Director: Sergei Bodrov
Writers: Sergei Bodrov, Arif Aliyev
Producers: Anton Melnik, Sergei Bodrov, Sergei Selyanov
I viewed 11/08

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tropic Thunder (2008) R - 4 Stars

At first I didn't think I was really going to enjoy this movie as I thought it would turn out at yet another lamb attempt at laughter. However, the story line really took me by surprise and I thought it was not only a good comedy, but a good action / adventure film and everyone fit their roles. Great cast of names and RD Jr. is great in his role, Stiller made up for my let down of "Night at the Museum" and Cruise was funnier than I've usually seen him. Movie starts out great but fizzles out and gets a little cheesy towards the end Some pretty funny lines like RD Jr's, "I'm a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude." I recommend this funny poke at Hollywood and some of it's pompous actors.

It's been called a racist movie due to Robert Downey Jr.'s character. What about the movie, White Chicks, which I didn't think was near as funny, but I don't recall any mention of racism with that film... lighten up. I think we need to stop labeling things so precisely as it aids in keeping racial tension active. It's just a funny flick for EVERYONE, white, black and all alike.

Producer, Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), and director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan), are making a film taking place in the jungles of the Vietnam war. Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte), is a self proclaimed Vietnam vet and offers advice on where the direction of the movie should head. Production has slowed way down as the actors are too busy pampering their gi-normous egos, and don't take the filming seriously. Four Leaf suggests to Cockburn, the actors be taken to the middle of the jungle and filmed fighting their way back out. Cameras could be hidden throughout the trees, to give the film a more realistic "Gorilla style" look.

Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), is just a little to full of himself. As he constantly tries to direct the film, he extends the movie way past it's budget. Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), has gone to the controversial extent of dying his skin dark, in order to play the role of an African American soldier. Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), is the overweight comedian of the group, only thinking about where he will get his next fix, out in the middle of nowhere. Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), great name btw, is the African American soldier that has to deal with Lazarus trying to think he's his "bro"and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) is the slower one that everyone seems to pick on or look to as the man with any military training. Along with Damien and Four Leaf, the group are dropped off in the jungles of Vietnam, not knowing a secret drug production operation is lurking right next door.

As they all start to whine over their predicament, they realise, the sooner they continue through their scenes, the sooner they can get back to the set and go home. As they move along, with exaggerated Rambo techniques, each new trail leads them to a new scene of the movie. Even when the find stumble upon a heron production plant, thinking it's part of the movie, they ad lib through their lines. Next, the group of ego baring, misfitted, irritating actors must keep themselves from being killed by the bad guys so the can bring the film to it's end.

Red Hour Films, DreamWorks
Director: Ben Stiller
Writers: Etan Cohen, Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller
Producers: Eric McLeod, Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld
I viewed 11/08

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) PG - 4½ Stars

I once sold a old comic book of Hellboy on Ebay back in 1995 and I couldn't believe the fight two bidders had over it. Now after seeing the movie, I know why as I loved this movie. I'm giving it a 4½ Stars for the costume design, special effects, action and strange characters alone. It's one of those movies that's fun and has everything - action, adventure, fantasy, and even romance. The scenes are fantastically rich in detail and, at least for me, make up for the story line that sometime lags a bit.

The characters took me back to the time of watching the bar scene in the first Star Wars movie. I loved the troll city in Hellboy, which reminded me of this Star Wars bar. Great one liners, action and entertainment for the entire family, with older children as the violence and characters might give the younger ones nightmares. Having never read the comic, I can't comment on if it's true to it's that story line so maybe I will have to see the first Hellboy now.

An ancient truce existing between the invisible realm of the underworld and humankind, and it's about to be broken. Defying his father and his kingdom, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) wants to rule over those who are not excepted by mankind, killing off the species. He has plans to awaken a great Golden Army. Problem is, the army is asleep and can only be awoken with the proper pieces of a puzzle to his crown. But Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is not going to sit back quietly and let him do that. He may be large, red and horned, but deep down inside he just wants to do good and be excepted by his fellow man.

Hellboy, along with others from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, like his pyro "babe" Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and his fishy friend Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), band together to seek out Prince Nuada and settle the score once and for all.

Universal Pictures
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Mike Mignola
Producers: Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson, Lawrence Gordon
I viewed 11/08

Thursday, December 4, 2008

No End in Sight (2007) NR - 3½ Stars

Now this is one of those movies that will piss you off after watching it. It's a good insightful documentary that outlines how we got into Iraq in the first place. On March 19, 2003, the United States and a few allied nations invaded Iraq. The goal, to remove Saddam Hussein from power and install democracy amongst the Iraqi people. Where has it gotten us? Is there anyway to get out of this and change how the Iraqi's view us now? It makes me so glad that we are getting some new blood into the white house as I feel the people in the Bush Administration really screwed up. We wonder why the people of the Middle East hate us and groups of people become terrorists yearning to get even with us. Sometimes I wonder, who the hell do "we", the United Sates, think we are?

To me, it's all about the money and I believe that part of the reason we invaded Iraq, was to get revenge on Saddam for almost assassinating George W. Bush, senior. It certainly was no big secret that we were coming but we were suppose to go in, free the people of Iraq for the dictatorship of Saddam, and get right out. Why are we still there then? Because these people of Bush administration think war is good business. After all, it keeps the military heavily funded, while propaganda controls most of the population of the U.S. with it's scare tactics. Iraq had become a dangerous quagmire to our soldiers. Yes I would like to thank the men and women serving there, and in all past wars of the U.S., and value their lives fighting for our freedom. But this war was unnecessary and is doing nothing more than to making more people hate America.

I recommend watching the film and making a judgement for yourself. The film interviews many people involved in the decision planning of the war and also sheds light on some interesting facts that you may not have heard on the evening news. For example, We did not send in enough troops, we allowed large weapon depots to be overtaken because we didn't have the man power to defend them, we allowed the looting of Baghdad, we disbanded the Iraqi military leaving half a million men, now out of a job, to join the insurgency. Mismanagement of funding due to fraud, corruption and waste. Will there ever be a happy ending to this war? Is it possible to leave Iraq and it's people feeling any sort of gratitude from our being there?

Awards include:

2007 - No End in Sight - Alliance of Women Journalists - Best Documentary
2007 - No End in Sight - Florida Film Critics - Best Documentary
2007 - No End in Sight - Los Angeles Film Critics Association - Best Documentary

Magnolia Pictures
Director: Charles Ferguson
Writer: Charles Ferguson
Producers: Jessie Vogelson, Jennie Amias, Audrey Marrs
I viewed 11/08

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gaza Strip (2002) NR - 3 Stars

Gaza Strip - An eye opener. You hear about it all the time on the news. Do you know exactly where it is on a map? Well If the globe were blank, I wouldn't have known where to draw it in but, now after seeing the documentary, I know exactly where it is. It's a 26 mile long, one mile wide strip of land that borders Israel on the North and Egypt on the South and the Mediterranean Sea on the East. 1.2 million Palestinian people live here with a 1/3 of them forced from their homes, living in refugee camps . The West Bank has a buffer zone for Israel that has been closing in and bulldozing the people from their lands. With Israel controlling the borders, roads, seaports, airports, electrical, water and mail, these people have no say in what is happening to them. Any traveling must be done along the coastline only.

The film focuses on the Palestinian Intifada and it's effects on the people from Israeli occupation. It's shown partly from the eyes of a 13 year old boy named Mohammad, who travels to the Karin crossing almost daily to throw stones at the Israel troupes. His father's in prison and Mohammad supports his family by selling newspapers. The one thing I am always so shocked to see is so many children involved in affairs of war instead of just being kids. Mohammad has lost most of his friends to bullets and his heart is full of hate. His people blame Great Britain and the United States, the great "Super Powers", for not coming to their aide. The weapons of the Palestinians are meager in comparison to what Israel uses against them. Israeli armies also attack with tear and nerve gas, causing severe nerve damage and pain.

We tend to only hear about stone throwing and suicide bombings making the Palestinian people out to be terrorists. I'm glad I watched this documentary so I could get a better picture of what life really is like living in the Gaza Strip. With their land stolen, and treated like they just don't matter, these people face a genocide that is reminiscent of what the Nazi's did to the Jews. I don't believe we hear much about that part in the news. I recommend viewing this film so you know the whole truth.

Arab Film Distribution,
Director: James Longley
Producer: James Longley, Mohammed Mohanna
I viewed 11/08