Monday, March 31, 2008

Eighteen (2004) NR - 2½ Stars

A coming of age story, Pip Andrews (Alan Cumming), is a young trouble teenager about to turn 18. Trouble with his family finds him homeless and on the streets. At nights he listens to tapes of his grandfather Jason (Ian McKellen) made on the war and being trapped behind enemy lines. The comparisons between his survival on the streets and his grandfathers, help him to discover who he is and what he wants to do next.

Art House & International
Director: Richard Bell
Writer: Richard Bell
Producers: Cari Green, Dennis Tal, Harry Sutherland
I viewed 8/06

Walking Tall (2004) PG13 - 3½ Stars

Based on the true story of Buford Pusser, sheriff of Tennessee's McNairy County from 1964 to 1970.

Chris Vaughn, Jr (The Rock) is a member of the special forces of the Army. When his time is served, he decides to return home to help in the family business. Once home, the town he remembers has completely changed. One of his old classmates Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) has set up a club and gambling casino in the center of town. Along with the gambling also came drugs and working girls.

Chris is disgusted by the fact the police take kickbacks in order to look the other way. He vows to make a difference in the town and runs for sheriff with the help of his friend Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville). But even after he wins, Jay finds ways to retaliate the closing of his casino by going after Chris's family, friends and even the woman he has fallen in love with.

MGM Distribution Company
Director: Phil Karlson
Writer: Mort Briskin
Producers: Joel Briskin, Charles A. Pratt, Mort Briskin
I viewed 8/06

The Thin Red Line (1998) R - 3½

The beginning of the movie was nice to look at but I found the narration confusing at times and I was lost. But once the ships land, its action packed and so much better than it started. Strong preformances and action.

Private Witt (James Caviezel) has gone AWOL from the Navy. They find him living on an primitive island with the natives in the Pacific. He's captured and sent him back to ship for immediate deployment to what would be known as the Battle of Guadalcanal.

First Sgt. Edward Welsh (Sean Penn), Sergeant Keck (Woody Harrelson), Sergeant McCron (John Savage), and many more named stars, race uphill towards their doom facing off against the Japanese, who already have a strong hold on the mountain top. Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte) is a man set on earning himself another metal no matter how many lives it takes to do it. [I thought he was going to pop a vein in one scene where he orders the men up the hillside to their immanent death.] Even though the men are tired, thirsty and warn out from night and days spent on the hillside, Colonel Tall pushes them on and on. When Sergeant Keck, a strong influence on the men, accidentally blows himself up with a grenade some have had enough and start loosing their minds.

The troops clear the mountain top where they find the Japanese soldiers as warn out and stir crazy as them. Victory is achieved but was it worth the price?

Geisler Roberdeau, Phoenix Pictures
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Producers: Robert Michael Geisler, John Roberdeau, Grant Hill
I viewed 3/08

Stephen King's The Mist (2007) R - 3 Stars

I think this movie had the potential to be better but to me it looks like a typical Stephen King book come to life. Obviously made for T.V. with the perfect climax then fade to black, the acting is more like reading a book than a movie. Not to say the actors don't preform well, it's maybe the dialogue they are given to say, in Stephen King's style. However I do love the ending and I did not find that typical at all.

In a small community where everyone knows each other's name, rumors spread fast about people's personalities. After a storm that causes havoc on the town and cuts power, many flock to the local grocery store to stock up on supplies. While shopping, a mist engulfs the community and anyone caught outside is brutally killed.

The military base has been experimenting with other dimensions and accidentally left a door open allowing alien blood thirsty creatures into our world. Tensions flare inside the store when one woman riles up the crowd and turns them against each over her beliefs thats it's a sign from God. A small group decide they'd rather flee by car than stick it out in the store. With a full tank of gas,food and supplies, 5 set out to find the edge of the mist.

MGM Distribution
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer: Frank Darabont
Producers: Liz Glotzer, Frank Darabont, Martin Shafer
I viewed 3/08

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Knocked Up (2007) R - 4 Stars

Now really, how many one night stands do you know turn out this way?
But the film kept me laughing and for a comedy I thougt it was pretty good. One of the better ones out there.

Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a journalist for an entertainment company. She is moving up the ladder quite nicely when one night in a drunken stoopper, she sleeps with Ben Stone (Seth Rogen). Seth is just an average joe with no ambitions. When Alison finds out she is pregnant, she must bring the news to Ben. Ben wants no part of fatherhood as he's not grown up himself but he decides he must stand by her and take responsibility. Having nothing in common the two attempt to build a relationship for their baby.

Apatow Productions, Universal Pictures
Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Producers: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson, Clayton Townsend
I viewed 11/07

Drugstore Cowboy (1989) R - 3 Stars

(Matt Dillon) plays Bob the leader of a bunch of druggies that rob pharmacies to support their habits. His group includes his wife Diane, (Kelly Lynch) a teen junkie Nadine (Heather Graham) and his friend Rick (James Le Gros). When one of the group dies of an overdose, it's a hrash wake up call for Bob who struggles to get clean while Diane just can't seem to bring herself to try to do.

Image Entertainment
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: Dan Yost, Gus Van Sant
I viewed 11/07

Stand and Deliver (1988) PG - 4 Stars

Zola's pic for one you should see at least one time or own in your collection.

Based on a true story of Jaime Escalante, here is another movie that belongs in your collection. (Edward James Olmos) plays Jaime Escalante, a mathematics teacher in East LA high school. His assignment is to turn a bunch of gangster type misfits into students. The class ignores and makes fun of him till he starts relating to them from his own cultural background. He takes their street names and give them new nicknames of great warriors and achievers in the Latin community. The children find that class becomes something they want to achieve at if they ever are to leave the barrios they come from. Some of the parents feel threatened by him but he eventually wins them over and the class goes on to be one of the smartest in the history of the school. When they all score high on their SAT's the educational system strips them of their title as they must have cheated based on who they are. Jaime goes to bat for the kids and demands they be retested so he can prove the class is full of winners.

Awards include:

1988 - Stand and Deliver - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Supporting Actress
1988 - Stand and Deliver - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Screenplay
1988 - Stand and Deliver - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Director
1988 - Stand and Deliver - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Picture

Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Director: Ramon Menendez
Writers: Ramon Menendez, Tom Musca
Producers: Andrew Scheinman, Ray Gideon, Bruce A. Evans
I viewed 11/07

Phenomenon (1996) PG - 3½ Stars

George Malley, (John Travolta) is celebrating his 37th birthday with his friends Nate (Forest Whitaker) and Doc (Robert Duvall), at a local pub. He goes outside for some air and while gazing into the night, a bright light comes out of the sky and knocks him to the ground. When he comes to he discovers he has incredible powers for knowledge. At the library he checks out every book he can get his hands on and speed read them. He also discovers he now has the power to move things, predict earthquakes learn a different language in minutes. Some deem George the hero of their town where others are still spooked by his new powers. He meets Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick) and a romance begins. But as word gets out of George accomplishments the FBI wants to know more about him.

I read from Karl Williams - All Movie Guide that "Scientology, led to charges that the film was veiled pro-Scientology propaganda."

Buena Vista Pictures
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writer: Gerald Di Pego
Producers: Barbara Boyle, Michael Taylor
I viewed 11/07

Secret of the Cave (2006) PG - 2½ Stars

This movie looked like it was going to start out pretty cool. Filmed in a great location and great looking characters, I was hoping for a little more charm and storyline.

A small boy Roy Wallace (Kevin Novotny), is sent to Ireland to live with his uncle Patrick (Patrick Bergin). As soon as Roy arrives, strange things start to happen. Rumors are spread that the town is now haunted. While Roy is exploring the rocky mountain side, he hears strange noises coming from the cave below. There is no easy way to get to the cave itself as it is below a cliff and the tide rushes into it's entrance. But Roy is determined to put the town to rest and explain the mysterious events.

First Look International
Director: Zach Gray
Writers: Zach Gray, David George, Aaron Adams
Producers: Benjamin Keith, David George, Mark Thomas
I viewed 11/07

Black Book (2006) R - 3½ Stars

Based on a true story, Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten) is a Jewish woman living in German occupied Holland in the 40's. Her and her Jewish family members are promised a way out of the country by boat. They show up with all of their money and enter their names in the German's black book in order to get on board. But these men have other plans and rob and brutally kill them. Rachel escapes by diving into the water and wet and all alone must find a way to survive. She meets up with a resistance movement where she dies her hair blond to pass as a Dutch woman and blend in. She learns the language and when a German commander takes a fancy to her, she must learn how to play the role of her life. German with English subtitles.

2006 - Black Book - Netherlands Film Fest - Best Film.

ContentFilm International
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writer: Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven
Producer: Teun Hilte, Jos van der Linden, Jens Meurer
I viewed 11/07

Beyond the Gates (2005) R - 3 Stars

A good film about the Rwandan genocide. Joe Connor (Hugh Dancy) is a school teacher and has volunteered to spent a year in the capital city of Kigali. In the midst of civil uprising of the Hutus towards the Tutsis, Father Christopher (John Hurt), a Catholic priest holds onto his faith. While thousands of innocent Tutsis's are are being slaughtered, Father Christopher opens his commune to Joe and many of the refugees he brought with him. Once the Belgian peacekeeping forces from the United Nations take up residency there, Tutsis flock in masses for protection. Most Americans have already let the country before the genocide but Joe decides to stay to try and make a difference. But with the Hutus warriors on their way, and the UN fleeing to safer grounds, Father Christopher decides to stay and offer mass for the people he has cared for. Joe tries to convince him to leave as they must evacuate immediately and makes it to the refugee camps along the border but Father Christopher stays and takes a stand with his fate.

IFC Films
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Writer: David Wolstencroft
Producers: David Belton, Jens Meurer, Pippa Cross
I viewed 10/07

Face the Music (2000) PG13 - 3 Stars

I've watched Tyler Christopher on General Hospital for years now and I guess this is why he is absent from the soap sometimes. He's busy playing a rock star. Decent comedy though predictable and silly.

Dan Stone's (Tyler Christopher) is the leader of a rock and roll band. Sales have been okay but the band is sliding downhill. The group gets together and decides a better way get them back on the charts again by faking the death of their lead singer. Well since Dan can't just disappear, he comes back as a woman who knows a lot about Dan.

When a beautiful reporter (Elena Lyons) is assigned to do a story on the band, Dan meets with her and soaks up everything being said about him. He also falls for this reporter and finds out the hard way he can't have his cake and eat it too.

Winding Road Entertainment, New Line Cinema
Director: Jeff Howard II
Writer: Beth Hollander Harris
Producer:Laura Caulfield
I viewed 10/07

Affliction (1997) - R 2½ Stars

Althogh the movie has a lot of great acting in it, it was a less than average to me over all.

Everyone seems to have something bothering them in this small New England town. Sheriff Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) is a alcoholic man troubled by his past with an abusive father, Glen Whitehouse (James Coburn). Margie Fogg (Sissy Spacek) is Wade's girlfriend and seems to be the only one able to get through to him. Both Wade's ex-wife and daughter are scared of his very presence.

When Wade is called to investigate a hunting accident, he takes a passionate look at all angles for foul play. He consumes himself with the investigation to keep from dealing with his own pain. His brother Rolfe (Willem Dafoe), comes to town after their mother dies. Rolfe seems to have not been afflicted by their father's abuse but once around him again, it starts to affect him.

Lions Gate Films
Director: Paul Schrader
Writer: Paul Schrader
Producer: Linda Reisman
I viewed 10/07

The Lives of Others (2006) R - 3½ Stars

German with English subtitles, this is a get under your skin movie. The more you view,, the more you are sucked into this tiny world of voyerism. The acting is good and you feel as if you are spying on the couple as well.

Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent for the East German Secret Police, "Stasi". His job is to investigate anyone who might pose a threat to the state. Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) is a play write and Capt. Gerd has recently seen his work and starts taking a closer look at Georg to see what skeletons lie in his closet. Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), is Georg's girlfriend and while Gerd taps into their conversations and private moments, he learns a lot about the couple. Little do they know that Gerd has his secret surveillance equipment right in Georg's attic.

After months of surveillance, Gerd has learned Georg is a one of the few real loyal citizen. But when he also finds out the Christa is being blackmailed to have sex with a higher up in the Stasi, his loyalties change. Gerd is so caught up in the lives of Georg and Christa than he posts an anti-establishment piece in the newspaper that gets the government all riled up. His beliefs in the Stasi changes and he yearns to live a life like the two he has been studying.

Awards include:

2007 - The Lives of Others - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Foreign Film
2007 - The Lives of Others - Ohio Film Critics - Best Foreign Language Film

Sony Pictures
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Writer: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Producers: Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann
I viewed 10/07

Death Proof (2007) R - 3 Stars

Mike, (Kurt Russell), is a crazy stuntman driver with a thing for speed. He owns a Dodge Charger and has it modified to withstand extreme auto collisions. He looks like the typical cool lady's man. But does Mike have a problem with the women? After taking one woman on the ride of her life, he guns down another 4. Laughing all the way to his next psychopathic urge, this time he tangles with the wrong girls. The adrenaline flows when these thrill seeking hotties give Mike the ride of his life.

Dimension Films/MGM
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Producers: Quentin Tarantino, Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez
I viewed 10/07

You Kill Me (2007) R - 2½ Stars

Frank Falenczyk (Ben Kingsley) is an alcoholic hit man. But his alcoholic behaviors ruin his work. His bosses order him to rehab to get his act together. He struggles with staying with the program but eventually lands a job at a mortuary. With this new life he meets and falls in love with Laurel, (Téa Leoni) and shares his secrets of his real occupation. Everything is grand for the two lovers until his past start showing up.

IFC Films
Director: John Dahl
Writers: Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus
Producers: Al Corely, Carol Baum, Eugene Musso
I viewed 10/07

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Holes (2003) PG - 3 Stars

Children are sent to the a juvenile detention camp in the desert. Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) is one of these boys sent to the camp for stealing. But he didn't do it. The tennis shoes fell to his feet after thrown over a bridge as he walking under. Being in the right place at the wrong time, he now thinks it's true what his family has told him his whole life - his family is cursed.

Stanley meets up with a gang of misfits and the children must dig great holes for their punishment and to build character. At least that is what they are told. The warden (Sigourney Weaver) of Camp Green Lake is using the boys to help uncover the mystery that could help break the family curse.

Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Andrew Davis
Writer: Louis Sachar
Producers: Lowell D. Blank, Andrew Davis, Teresa Tucker-Davies
I viewed 10/07

Gas Food Lodging (1992) R - 3 Stars

Trudi (Ione Skye) and Shade (Fairuza Balk) are two sisters growing up in very small town of Laramie, NM. They live with their mother Nora (Brooke Adams) in a trailer park. Trudi is the defiant one and gives her love easily away to any man that will take it. Shade yearns for more of the typical family life with a dad. Trudi becomes pregnant from Dank (Robert Knepper) who is in town studying rock formation in a cave. Shade falls for the projectionist in the movie theater Javier (Jacob Vargas). The girls learn a lot about love and their identities while trying to fit in.

1992 - Gas Food Lodging - New York Film Critics Circle - Best New Director.

IRS Releasing
Directors: Allison Anders
Writers: Allison Anders
Producers: Christoph Henkel, Daniel Hassid, William Ewart
I viewed 10/07

The Memory of a Killer (2003) NR - 3½ Stars

Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir) is a man with the developing stages of Alzheimer's disease. He's been a hired assassin for most of his life and is offered once last job before he looses his mind completely. Even his scruples won't allow him to fire on a 13 year old girl as requested.

But what he won't do, someone else will. With little left of his mind, he vows to take out everyone responsible for the little girls death. In Dutch with English subtitles but easy to stay with. I liked the movie showing even a killer loosing his memory, has a heart.

Sony Pictures
Director: Erik van Looy
Writers: Erik van Looy, Carl Joos
Producers: Hilde de Laere, Erwin Provoost
I viewed 10/07

The Oh in Ohio (2006) R - 3 Stars

Priscilla Chase (Parker Posey) is a middle aged woman working in the public relations field. Jack (Paul Rudd) is her husband, a high school teacher looking for something more out of life. Their home life suffers when Priscilla is unable to achieve an orgasm with her husband. When Jack's ego is bruised he finds comfort in one of his students, Kristen (Mischa Barton). He enjoys it so much he moves out with Kristen leaving Priscilla to fend for herself.

Priscilla used to think her sex life with Jack was fine but after he left with another woman, Priscilla wants to see what the fuss is all about. She seeks medical attention with sex therapist Dr. Alyssa Donahue (Liza Minnelli) who shows her how to pleasure herself. Now she knows what all the hoopla was about and starts having intense sexual urges.

Wayne (Danny DeVito), a salesman, moves in across the street. Priscilla soon learns that Wayne, though not much to look at, has a certain art in the bedroom. Together she finally is able to achieve orgasm every time and when Jack tries to come back into her life, she tells him to hit the road.

Cyan Pictures
Directors: Adam Wierzbianski, Billy Kent
Writers: Sarah Bird, Billy Kent, Adam Wierzbianski
Producers: Francey Grace, Amy Salko Robertson, Miranda Bailey
I viewed 10/07

Boat Trip (2003) R - 3½ Stars

Jerry (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a man in love. He has the perfect girlfriend Felicia (Vivica A. Fox), and wants to take the relationship to the next level. He picks a romantic balloon ride to propose to Felicia and she tells him she can't. She doesn't love or want him anymore.

Crushed and not knowing what to do next, he turns to his best friend Nick (Horatio Sanz). Since Nick's not batting a thousand in the relationship field himself, he suggest the two of them take a cruise, the prefect way to meet women. While making the reservations, Nick pisses the travel agent off and he gets even by sending them off on a "gay" cruise. At the beginning, they are not aware of their circumstances but when they discover the ship is full of men winking at them, they pose as lovers so everyone will think they are taken. Jerry meets a beautiful dance instructor Gabriella (Roselyn Sanchez). After spending a lot of time with her and discovering feelings for her, he now her he really is straight. Jerry learns alot about himself and his sexuality which makes him a better man.

MGM Distribution
Director: Mort Nathan
Writers: William Bigelow, Mort Nathan
Producers: Gerhard Schmidt, Frank Hübner, Andrew Sugerman
I viewed 10/07

Friday, March 28, 2008

Control Room (2003) NR - 3½ Stars

With today's age of media-managed wars, I love watching documentaries from all points of view. We are invited into the headquarters of Al-Jazeera television to see how the news of the war is reported in the Arab nations. American television avoids the death and destruction where Al-Jazeera focuses on it and they make good arguments on it's benefits. It's stange to see the propaganda that American media releases as opposed to the media that is viewed in Iraq.

For anyone who wants to see the Iraq war from all sides, search my site under war for the movies I've reviewed.

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

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

God Grew Tired of Us (2005) PG - 3 Stars

Filmed in Sudan Africa, this documentary focuses on the refugee camps and the many men living there who dream of someday leaving Africa. A few of these men are chose to come to America and try a better life. The film is a study of 4 years of their journey and how they try to adapt to a more civilized world. Or is it?

The men share apartments and are amazed at everything we, Americans, take for granted. Some still sleep on the hard ground as apposed to the beds out of habit. A/C in their rooms and even flushing toilets are items that take some getting used to. Shopping at stores freaks them out and they are just not sure how to act. I thought it was a very interesting take on just how different peoples way of life can be. While some were able to blend right in others struggled to find comfort.

2006 - God Grew Tired of Us - Sundance Film Festival - Grand Jury Prize: Documentary.

Newmarket Films
Directors: Christopher J. Quinn, Christopher Quinn, Tommy Walker
Writer: Christopher Quinn
Producers: Molly Bradford Pace, Christopher J. Quinn, Christopher Quinn
I viewed 10/07

Waitress (2007) PG13 – 2 ½ Stars

Jenna (Keri Russell) is a simple girl with simple needs. She daydreams a lot of her mother who used to comfort her with baked desserts and sing to her when she was young. Jenna is married to domineering, chauvinistic Earl (Jerey Sisto) and she eagerly hopes for the day she can escape him. Meanwhile she comes up with ideas for her new pie concoctions based on what is going on in her life. Andy Griffith makes a guest appearance as the grumpy, finicky, old customer.

When she is not feeling well she seeks a doctor, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) who informs her she is pregnant. Dr. Pomatter takes a liking to Jenna and even though the two try to avoid each other, he breaths new life back into her. Now she write letters to her unborn child and sings song to her while she bakes, just like her mother did. And the story has a happy ending.

Waitress could have been a bit more exciting but Jennas pies are the winner for this movie. Strange note: The film maker, Adrienne Shelly, was killed in her New York apartment a month after her previewed at film Sundance Film Festivals.

Awards:

2007 - Waitress - National Board of Review - Best Independent Film
2007 - Waitress - Southeastern Film Critics Circle - Wyatt Award

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Adrienne Shelly
Writer: Adrienne Shelly
Producer: Michael Roiff
I viewed 1/08

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Miss Potter (2006) PG - 4 Stars

My childhood story books include those from Beatrix Potter, so I especially wanted to see this movie. (Renée Zellweger) portrays the life of Miss Potter, a shy but imaginatively and passionate illustrator / writer. She lives in a Victorian part of England, where her wealthy family wants to see her settle down and marry a rich man. But Miss Potter is much to busy for that. Why she has unbeknown friends to still create. The pages to her books come alive as she write and colors them in. Her series of stories now include a prominent main character, Peter Rabbit which she designs her chapters around.

She takes her sketches to the streets in hopes of finding a publisher.
Though disappointed with the response of many, she finally meets Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor) who takes her project to heart. He lovingly produces Miss Potters storybooks which begin to sell and their passion quickly turns to love. Now she is must to choose between the man in her life or her parents and either way could produce a tragic ending. I still have my story books!

2006 - Miss Potter - Women Film Critics Circle - Best Live Action Family Film

MGM Distribution
Director: Chris Noonan
Writer: Richard Maltby, Jr.
Producers: Corey Sienega, David Kirschner, Mike Medavoy
I viewed 7/07