Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eden Lake (2008) R - 3½ Stars

Now here's a fairly decent scary movie. It has the same theme along "Last House on the Left," but instead of violently and sexually abusing young teen girls, this one at least picked on someone their own size. The acting is never award winning in most of these type movies, but I liked the fact it used little known actors which made the story more believable. A young couple in love looking for a little privacy on their vacation, encounter a pack of thugs who terrorise their private time together.

Nursery teacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly), and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender), are staying at Eden Lake to get away from it all on a romantic weekend getaway. Steve wants everything perfect as he is planning on proposing to Jenny this weekend. Instead, their quite romantic lake front setting is interrupted by a group of obnoxious teens along with their threatening dog. The group of teens are playing their music too loud and making comments about the couple, provoking Steve to intervene. But this disrespecting mob, steals the couples car leaving them stranded in the woods. But when Steve accidentally kills the gangs favorite dog, the couple find themselves fighting for their lives as Steve is taken hostage while Jenny flees into the woods for help. Little does she know, she has landed at the home of the parents of the boys.

Celador Films, Third Rail Releasing
Director: James Watkins
Writer: James Watkins
Producers: Christian Colson, Richard Holmes
I viewed 12/09

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Last House on the Left (2009) R - 2½ Stars

When my boyfriend wanted to see a good horror movie this weekend so okay lets try this one. Well let me just say this, no wonder people get ideas in their minds about doing bad things to other people. The movie starts out with a young teen girl returning to a vacation home with her parents, only to be kidnapped, raped, her best friend stabbed and her parents take revenge on the killers. This is not the type of movie I am into at all. As a matter of fact, I just created a new category called violence and threw this one in right away. Granted I watched the "unrated version" instead of the "theatrical version" but this is not what I want in a movie, EVER. I guess the moral of this story is GIRLS - NEVER EVER go to some one you don't knows motel, apartment, or WHERE EVER to score some weed.

After practicing for a swimming meet, Mari Collingwood (Sara Paxton), and her parents, Emma (Monica Potter), and John (Tony Goldwyn), retreat to their families lake home. It's been awhile since Mari has seen her best friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac) and the two girls decide to hang out while Paige is at work. Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) comes into the convenience store where Paige works, and tells the girls about some great weed he has back at his hotel. The girls give Justin a ride to the hotel to score some of the "good stuff." But their party is interrupted when Krug (Garret Dillahunt), a recent escapee from prison, and his sidekick thugs Frances (Aaron Paul), and Sadie (Riki Lindhome), barge in the door.

Krug deems the girls a risk now since they can identify him and decides to take them for the ride of their lives. Once in the secluded woods, the girls are subjected to violent torture, rape and left to die in the woods.

As a storm approaches, the psychopaths find shelter down the road by the lake. They are unaware they're venturing into the home of one of the girls. The Collingwood's start out as the perfect hosts and hostess until they discover their new house guests are not victims of a car wreck. Krug and his group now find themselves on the other end of the stick when they are violently tormented in this last house on the left.

Midnight Entertainment, Rogue Pictures
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Adam Alleca
Producers: Wes Craven, Sean C. Cunningham, Marianne Maddalena
I viewed 11/09

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lightning Bug (2004) NR - 3 Stars

I liked this quirky movie with it's outstanding cast of quirky characters. With a sort of a sixth sense of separation feel, the cast entwines perfectly to cause effects on each others lives. The only reason I am not putting this one in my bizarre category is that I don't want to categorize domestic violence as anything else but what it is. This is a sad movie about a good kid who's dreams are to become a makeup artist for horror films. Living in a back road southern country town, he imagines his escape will come from the skills he possesses designing horrifying special effects. Little yet does he realize, the most horrific effect he will encounter is not one of his own making.

Green Graves (Bret Harrison), and his younger brother Jay (Lucas Till), live with their mother Jenny (Ashley Laurence), in a trailer in a small southern town. Jenny can't make it on her own feeding two young boys so she hooks up with Earl (Kevin Gage), in order to make ends meet. For awhile things are better for the family with extra income to afford Christmas's and BBQ's with Earl's cousin Rusty (Josh Todd). But the more comfortable Earl gets with his ready made family, the more his abusive tendencies emerge as he starts yelling at everyone around him.

To escape his living hell, Green talks old man Tightwiler (Bob Penny), into letting him direct this years Halloween Show in Tighwillers barn. Green has found he posses a special skill for creating horror as he almost gives Tighwiller a heart attack with his special effect techniques.

Angevin (Laura Prepon), the local girl at the video store, is also stuck in this run down town who's only escape is to live a glamorous life inside of her own head. Her fanatical religious mother, Ms. Duvet (Shannon Eubanks), has not yet learned to let go of her dead husband, clutching tightly on to him in the form of a large white pillow. Angevin has tried to run away from this miserable life before but always feels the need to return and stand by her mother's side.

Green develops an interest with Angevin as she seems extremely attracted to his dark side. It sure beats hanging out in the fields with his friends Tony Benet (Jonathan Spencer) and Billy Martin (George Faughnan), catching lightning bugs. But when Ms. Duvet finds out that her daughter is seeing Green, she forbids the union, damming Green as a boy possessed with Satan.

As Green and Angevin continue their relationship, Ms. Duvet, with God's will inside, stops at nothing to protect her daughter. She has Green arrested for a crime he didn't do and destroys the haunted barn before it can open to the public. Now, with everything taken away from Green that is good in his life, he's about to realize the horror that unfolds in his real life will not be anything he creates with his own hands.

Dry Country Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: Robert Hall
Writer: Robert Hall
Producers: Robert Hall, Kevin Bocarde, Laura Prepon
I viewed 11/09

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Run, Fat Boy, Run (2007) PG13 - 3½ Stars

If you are into British comedy movies you will probably like this one. David Schwimmer, directs this romantic comedy about a charming guy who can't seem to commit to anything, including running away from his pregnant bride-to-be on their wedding day. The move starts out slow but warms your heart quickly with its great choice of supporting cast, making you root for the underdog to win his girl back.

Dennis (Simon Pegg), and a pregnant Libby (Thandie Newton), are about to get married when the pressure is too much for Dennis as he turns and runs as fast as he can away. It's not until years later that he realizes the mistake he has made.

One morning when picking up Jake (Matthew Fenton), for his fatherly visit, Dennis is faced with a new man in Libby's life. Whit (Hank Azaria), a wealthy entrepreneur, is slowly moving in and seemingly whisking away his should-have-been family. The more he closes in, the more Dennis realizes he's still in love with Libby. When Whit proposes to Libby, Dennis must convince her that Whit is certainly not the right man for her.

In a subtle competition for Libby's attention, Dennis enlists the help of his friends Gordon (Dylan Moran), and Mr. Goshdashtidar (Harish Patel), to whip him back into shape. His goal, to kick butt on Whit in a New York Marathon.

Material Entertainment, Picturehouse,
Director: David Schwimmer
Writers: Michael Ian Black, Simon Pegg
Producers: Robert Jones, Sarah Curtis
I viewed 11/09

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Murder in the Hamptons (2005) - 3½ Stars

I liked the way the movie is filmed changing up from real life action mixed with interviews and narration of the people who know the characters best. Based on the true story of the 2001 murder of Ted Ammon in the Hampton's, this movie was originally made for Lifetime cable channel.

It's 1995 and Generosa Rand (Poppy Montgomery), a talented artist meets Ted Ammon (David Sutcliffe), a wealthy self made millionaire. Their life seems fairy tale perfect as the couple marries and moves into a huge estate in Long Island. Generosa is unable to have children and the couple adopts two children to complete their picture perfect family. As the years go by, Generosa starts exhibiting strange behavior that causes her to snap and loose control at any given moment. Always trying to reach the same status as her husband, she doesn't take kindly to be ignored or unnoticed, eventually causing a huge stress on their relationship. With divorce inevitable, Generosa does everything in her power to punish Ted by making him pay huge amounts of alimony and trying to turn his children against him. She also begins an affair with electrician Danny Pelosi (Shawn Christian), eventually marrying him. When Ted is found murdered, suspicions point to Danny with his criminal past. But with no evidence to convict, the murder lays unsolved. Generosa is stricken with terminal cancer which brings upon a change of heart causing her to leave Danny and cut him off from any funding. As she dies, she taked any secrets she had with her to her grave while justice is eventually served when Danny is arrested and convicted for Ted's murder.

Muse Entertainment Enterprises, Warner Brothers
Director: Gerard Ciccoritti
Writer: Robert L. Freedman
Producers: Barbara Lieberman, Wendy Grean
I viewed 10/09

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Uninvited (2009) PG13 - 3 Stars

Also known as, A Tale of Two Sisters, I have to say the acting in this horror movie is much better than most other horrors movies I've seen. Emily Browning has the greatest looking innocent face and is quite believable in her role as a emotionally traumatized young girl. Along with her rebellious sister Arielle Kebbel, they struggle coming to terms with their mothers death. I've heard the original Japanese version of this movie is better sort of like the original Japanese version of the Ring. But this movie is no ring and I wasn't happy with the movies ending.

Anna has been hospitalized since her mothers tragic death. Now, her father is picking her up for the return to their home. But things are not the same in her household as when she left. Her mother's nurse Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), has recently become engaged to her father Steven (David Strathairn), and appears to be taking over her mothers place. Tension is immediately felt with Rachel as soon as she walks in the door.

When Anna is visited by her mothers ghost, it points to Rachel being responsible for her mothers death. The only comfort Anna finds is with her big sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel). As strange behaviors start to unfold, Anna and Alex discovers that Rachel is not who she says she is. Now they must convince their father that this uninvited guest has got to go.

Vertigo Entertainment, Parkes/MacDonald Productions, The Montecito Picture Company, Paramount Pictures, Dreamwork Pictures
Directors: Thomas Guard, Charles Guard
Writers: Craig Rosenberg, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro
Producers: Roy Lee, Laurie MacDonald, Walter Parkes
I viewed 10/09

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ask The Dust (2006) R - 3 Stars

I loved the way the movie is narrated where it makes you feel like you are involved in the writing of the story. Colin Farrell is pretty good playing a down on his luck writer living in Los Angeles during the Depression era of the 1930's. The one thing I'm unsure of - Was it Farrell's racism towards minorities that made him treat Camilla with such contempt when he first met her or, was it the fact she's a strong woman while he is a frustrated lonely man? It's a decent pick that shows racism comes in other colors besides black and white.

In the early part of the 1930's, Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) comes to Los Angeles, California, from Colorado, as he feels it will inspire him to write a great novel. Settling in a Bunker Hill neighborhood, Arturo frequents the local coffee shop to creatively think of what he should write. While he spends his last nickles, drinking coffee served to him by a Mexican waitress, Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek), the two became enraged with each other. Arturo treats Camilla quite rudely, while he complains about the service and the coffee. In return Camilla reacts the in contempt, feeling snubbed and put down by him. But even after six months, of this bitter cantor between them, both find themselves having each other on their minds. Every time Arturo and Camilla form more of a bond together, something happens to tear them apart again, mainly due to her nationality.

Arturo hangs on to his dreams of writing, by small advance checks given out by his publisher, Hellfrick (Donald Sutherland) and eventually will go on to write his great novel. But will Arturo and Camilla be able to save their love affair?

Paramount Pictures
Director: Robert Towne
Writer: Robert Towne
Producers: Don Granger, Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise
I viewed 12/08

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adaptation (2002) R - 3½ Stars

This movie really gives you a different perspective at looking at life. Meryl Streep is such a wonderfully adaptive actress and here she plays a writer for The New Yorker who discovers passion in an unlikely source. Nicolas Cage has a hard role to pull off, playing two different characters as twin brothers and I must say, he does a great job. Though the movie lost my interest a few times, with it's many slow turns, it's hard to stay focused on other characters besides Streep's. But, it did manage to pull me back in quickly. For example, it wasn't clear to me at first that Cage even had a twin brother. I was more convinced this second Cage was the conscious of the first one.

Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is a screenwriter who just won an academy award for his script, "Being John Malkovich." He is hired to adapt "The Orchid Thief" a nonfictional book about John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a passionate toothless thief who navigates the Florida Everglades stealing Orchids to call his own. Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) is the author of the book traveling along side John to discover his passion for the flower. This should be the perfect opportunity for Charlie to excel in his work but due to his paranoid nature and major depression, he can't seem to bring words to paper.

Charlie's identical twin brother, Donald Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), comes to town and wants to move in and take after his brother. These two twins couldn't be more different from each other. Donald can easily talk to women, he's overly confident, and can be plain out loud. Donald takes up screen writing, under the tutoring of Robert McKee (Brian Cox), and after finishing a script about a serial killer, his story sells for major bucks, making him the new hot writer in town. This frustrates and depresses Charlie even more. Donald seems to be on top of the world, even landing a new girlfriend Caroline (Maggie Gyllenhaal). This aids to make Charlie struggle more getting his words to paper. Charlie develops an obsession with Susan as he stares at her picture on the books back flap. His passion for Susan grows while Susan develops a passion for John Laroche. When Charlie is given the opportunity to meet Susan face to face, he's too terrified of actually speak to her and sends his brother Donald, in his place. The thought comes to him that he will structure his screen play after his own pathetic life and as the words begin to flow, every one's life will be changed in the process.

Awards include:

2002 - Adaptation - American Film Institute - Top Ten Movie of the Year
2002 - Adaptation - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Screenplay
2002 - Adaptation - Toronto Film Critics Association - Best Picture

Clinica Estetico, Magnet Entertainment, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group
Director: Spike Jonze
Writers: Donald Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman
Producers: Vincent Landay, Edward Saxon, Jonathan Demme
I viewed 9/09

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Soloist (2008) PG13 - 4 Stars

Very touching movie about humanity, based on the true story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, an inspiring cello prodigy who once studied at Julliard, only to wind up homeless on the streets, stricken by schizophrenia. Excellent acting by both Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr..

I'm listing this one in my racism category because most of society frowns and looks down upon the homeless population. Granted, many of the homeless population have just gotten too lazy. They have options to make a change in their lives, but for others who struggle with mental issues, they have a harder time achieving their full potential in life. And every now and then, you will meet one like, "The Soloist," who has great potential to become something better in life if only the voices inside his head would go away.

Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) is a journalist for the Los Angeles Times but he's bored with his life and his marriage has suffered because of it. While looking for an interesting story on the streets of Los Angeles, he stumbles upon a homeless African American man Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Jamie Foxx), playing a violin, missing most of it's strings. But even with only two strings, Ayers is able to pluck a symphony out of it. Once Lopez hears Ayers play, he goes out of his way, almost making it his new goal in life, to get Ayers off the street and back into a concert hall.

Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, Universal Pictures
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Susannah Grant, Steve Lopez
Producers: Russ Krasnoff, Gary Foster
I viewed 10/09

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

U-Turn (1997) R - 4½ Stars

Here is one of those movies I really got into and liked so much so I gave it 4½ stars where other critics rate it around 2½ stars. I love Sean Penn and Jaylo for actors so maybe I am biased too.

Bobby Cooper (Sean Penn) is not having a good day. After his finger is cut off for not making good on a loan in Las Vegas , he flees the state towards Arizona. Broke and on the run, his car takes a dump in the middle of the desert in Superior Arizona, where he's forced to spend time waiting for parts.
(Jon Voight) plays a homeless blind man in the city who offers Bobby sound advise whether he wants it or not. He also meets a hot Latina woman Grace McKenna (Jennifer Lopez) who offers to keep him company. She takes him home where she sexually seduces him until her husband Jake (Nick Nolte) walks in. Secretly Jake has wanted his wife dead and offers Bobby a large some of money to help him. Along the way Bobby also has to deal with a flirtatious Jenny (Claire Danes) who's trying to get her infamous boyfriend Toby N. Tucker (Joaquin Phoenix) jealous. This is one town where Bobby is wishing he could just U-Turn out of.

TriStar Pictures
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: John Ridley
Producers: Clayton Townsend, Dan Halsted
I viewed 2/07

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rosewood (1997) R - 5 Stars

Based on the true story of events taking place in Rosewood, Florida in the 1920's. I really liked this movie though I have to admit, I gave it an extra 1/2 star rating because it's based on a true story and I absolutely love Don Cheadle in these types of movies. The idea that one white woman's lie can cause the murder of an entire black community, is appalling. It's one of those movies that should be mandatory in humanities classes. It embarrasses me as a Caucasian woman to see how ignorant some of these white people were, reacting by enraged hatred of their racial tension. Everyone is outstanding in their role its a shame not to be able to mention them all.

When a stranger, Mann (Ving Rhames), rides into town, he causes a lot of people to take note. Mann is interested in buying property across the street from John Wright's (Jon Voight), store. Wright is one of the only white men in Rosewood and he makes a good living from his store serving the people of his community.

Sylvester (Don Cheadle), is the music teacher of the town and along with Scrappie (Elise Neal), they teach and keep the children in line. But life suddenly takes a turn for the worse when a white woman, who has been sleeping around on her husband, unjustly accuses a black man of raping her. Being too embarrassed to admit that her lover beat her senseless, she instead announces to Sheriff Walker, (Michael Rooker), that a black man came into her home, raped and beat her up. This causes a uproar of built up hatred against the black community by the opposing white men who literally wipe the town off the map, murdering, lynching and burning it down. It will be Mann and John Wright who guide the children and rest of the town to safety but not before more than half the community is killed.

Warner Bros. Pictures International
Director: John Singleton
Writer: Gregory Poirier
Producer: Jon Peters
I viewed 10/09

Monday, October 12, 2009

Management (2008) R - 3 Stars

I love the characters that Woody Harrison portrays and his role as Jango is no exception. Though, this one has got to be labeled a "Chick Flick", it's a cute romantic comedy drama that has enough laughs, men may enjoy too. Steve Zahn is cute in this movie, Anniston shows off her acting skills and Tzi Ma, a new comer to me, helps bring some laughs. The message is good about what it's like to "settle" rather than to take the risk at finding true love.

Mike Crenshaw (Steve Zahn), is the night manager at a motel owned by his mother Trish (Margo Martindale), and father (Fred Ward). Mike's normal routine is instantly shakin up when Sue Claussen (Jennifer Aniston), an art dealer, checks in. Mike's attracted to Sue and must find a way to talk to her. He goes through his old stash of gifts and finds a bottle of wine, dresses it up, and takes it to her room as a complimentary welcome gift. Sue is playing solitaire and feeling pretty lonely herself so she invites him in to her room. Mike attraction is obvious and she allows him to touch her ass, thinking it will give him a thrill and he'll be on his way. What the heck, she is leaving in the morning anyway. But all that does it make the attraction stronger and before she knows it, she's having a sexual encounter with him before she drives away.

Mike can't get Sue off his mind and scrapes together every cent he's got and boards a plane to New York in effort to find the women he loves. Showing up at her office, Sue is taken back by Mikes bold initiative as she views Mike as a man who doesn't have much to offer her. But she's somewhat flattered by his jester and allows him to stay the night. The next morning she puts him on a bus to return home. After all, Mike could not possibly offer Sue anything but love.

Meanwhile Jango (Woody Harrelson), Sue's well to do, ex-punker old boyfriend, comes back into her life and offers her the security she needs. But Mike can't get her out of his mind and once again goes to extremes to find her. Once in town, he is befriended by Truc Quoc (Tzi Ma), who also offers him a job. Together, they put their minds to work, seeking a plan to attract Sue away from Jango and back into Mike's life.

Samuel Goldwyn Films, Image Entertainment
Director: Stephen Belber
Writer: Stephen Belber
Producers: Marty Bowen, Sidney Kimmel, Wyck Godfrey
I viewed 10/09

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Line (2009) R - 3 Stars

The Line, aka La La Linea, is a fairly decent drug lord film but I found it extremely confusing in direction. It did manage to hold my attention through many parts but it left me with so many unanswered questions. For example, what happened to the blond guy smoking the cigar from the beginning of the movie? I didn't understand his involvement. Was Pelon brothers with the bastard son? What was this "big test" for - to see who could be trusted to run the "Line" or to see who was a backstabber, full of greed? And the pills Mark was taking, were they to ignore his past or was he hallucinating because of them? I must say the head butts look very real making one feel the pain.

Pelon (Esai Morales), is a major drug lord dealing cocaine and operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. When he finds a source for buying heroin from the Afghans, his greed takes over and he starts thinking of himself as the boss, cutting out anyone who gets in his way. Mark Shields (Ray Liotta), is a hired hit man, sent to Tijuana to take Pelon out. But Mark's own demons cause him to freeze before taking the shot and Olivia (Valerie Cruz), must rescue him off the streets and nurse him back to health so he can finish the job.

Maya Entertainment, Project One Films, Ronin Films
Director: James Cotten
Producer: R. Ellis Frazier
Writer: R. Ellis Frazier
I viewed 10/09

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Speak (2003) PG13 - 3½ Stars

I bought this as a whim to make up the 4 for $20.00 special at Blockbuster. It was great to find out I now own a pretty good movie. Great story line and Kristen Stewart gives a genuine performance. I fear there are a lot more teens out there than we may realize, suffering from the same affliction possibly camouflaging it a different way.

Melina Sordino (Kristen Stewart) is about to enter high school as a bright focused student with a decent relationship with her family and good attitude on life. At a party before school starts, Melina is violently raped by a jock from school. Rather than telling anyone about what happened, she instead retreats into a silent world, pushing her mother (Elizabeth Perkins) and father (D.B. Sweeney) away. Her mother is so wrapped up in her own problems, she barely realises her daughters estrangement. As she enters high school, she has become an outcast with no friends and her grades begin to suffer. This once positive young girl is now rejecting everything that once made her happy. Even when she tries to tell her best friend (Hallee Hirsh), who is now dating the jock, she thinks she's making it up for attention. But one art teacher is about to change her life.

Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn) encourages Melina's silence to be expressed in the form of art. He gives her an assignment to draw a tree, that produces some very deep dark effects. Rather than trying to verbally dig out the trenches that block Melina from feeling, he sets out to help her find herself from within by expression of the tree.

Speak Film Inc.
Director: Jessica Sharzer
Writers: Annie Young Frisbie, Jessica Sharzer
Producers: Fred Berner, Matthew Myers
I viewed 12/08

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where The #$&% Is Santa (2008) R - 1½ Stars

I've gotta stop borrowing movies from my neighbor when he says, "This is funnier then hell - you've got to watch it!" Shouldn't I have learned by now that means it's totally tasteless and sucks. It at least that means we have totally different tastes in what's funny. But hey, if you like watching someone eat a reindeer's eyeball and then poop it out later so someone else can can step on it to show it went in almost the same way it came out, well then this may be the movie for you. Are these Jack Asses the same guys from Jack Ass the movie series? If not, they should all hook up.

Bam Margera, his wife Missy and family all join together with Bam's friends to make a video about traveling to the Artic Circle to capture and bring back Santa Claus for Christmas. Their trek takes them across Lapland Finland by bus, sled, helicopter and foot. Along the way, they trash cars with Christmas trees, use slow blowing machines to chill buns, have an indoor snow and flour fight, and some close ups of one of the knuckleheads defecating. This is NOT a Christmas movie for children of any age.

Sonar Entertainment, Bam Margera Productions, Capital V Productions
Directors: Bam Margera, Joe DeVito
Writers: Bam Margera, Joe DeVito, Joe Frantz
Producers: Terry Hardy, Bam Margera
I viewed 9/09

Monday, September 21, 2009

Burn After Reading (2008) R - 4 Stars

OMG Brad Pitt is great in this, playing a half witted, high spirited jock who's goal is working out. Clooney is perfect as the con artist, cheating husband. Malkovich is incredible as a man slowly being driven mad. McDormand plays a great obsessed woman about to strike it rich. The movie didn't get that great of reviews but I really liked the fresh approach to this comedy. Very well executed in everything.

Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA agent who is about to be downsized from his position due to his drinking problem. In retaliation, he quits his job and sets his sights on writing a book loosely based about his experiences. When he comes home to tell his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) about the decision he's made, she is furious with him as that throws a wrench into her plans of leaving him and taking his worth. You see Katie is secretly sleeping with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) and is instructed by her attorney to get information from Osborne's computer showing his assets before slaps divorce papers on him. She burns a CD of the important looking files she can find.

Meanwhile, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) work in Hardbodies, a fitness gym, where they have just found a CD on the floor of the woman's locker room. It contains what appears to be top secret documents and the two decide there must be a way to capitalize on their find. Through the help of a computer geek, they learn the documents belong to Osborne Cox and demand $50,000 to return the CD to him. Cox can't understand why someone is trying to blackmail him for his manuscript and while he is being driven mad deal with the two gym exploiters, these two are intent on cashing in.

2008 - Burn After Reading - St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association - Best Comedy

Focus Features
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Producers: Joel Cohen, Tim Bevan, Ethan Coen
I viewed 1/09

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saints and Soldiers (2003) PG13 - 3½ Stars

I love seeing movies about all those things I learned way back in high school, that seemed important but didn't impact my life at the time. Now when re-enacted in a good movie, I will never forget the Malmedy Massacre of WWII and the Battle of the Bulge.

In late 1944, at an intersection in the snowy Ardennes Forest of Belgium, over 70 men lost their lives when they were ambushed by German soldiers, in their wintertime offensive known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans rounded up the hostages, took what they wanted from them, and proceeded to massacre the men in cold blood. This blood bath would come to be known as the "Malmedy Massacre."

This movie is based on the 4 men, Sergeant Gunderson (Peter Holden), Gould (Alex Niver), "Deacon" Cpl. Greer (Corbin Allred) and Kendrick (Lawrence Bagby), who survived the incident. Armed with one riffle and no rations, the men band together to stay alive and escape the freezing temperatures of the blizzard covered hills. Along the way, the encounter a soldier who's plane was shot down and now hangs from the trees by parachute. Oberon Winley (Kirby Heybourne), is a British intelligence officer who has secretly decoded information about the Germans, the Americans that will could change the course of the WWII, saving thousands of lives. Against all odds and behind enemy lines, the four soldiers, along with Oberon, fought with their last dying breaths, to get this information through.

Excel Entertainment Group, Go Films, Medal of Honor Productions
Director: Ryan Little
Writers: Geoffrey Pano, Matt Whittaker
Producers: Adam Abel, Ryan Little
I viewed 1/09

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fast Food Nation (2006) R - 3 Stars

Now here is a movie that puts fast food into perspective in today's world. It's all about making the buck while getting a passable product at an affordable cost. But at what expense? We've become such a nation of fast food eaters, myself included. Why, because it's a hell of a lot cheaper than preparing your family a healthy alternative, on a daily basis, purchased from a healthier store like "Whole Foods," or "Trader Joe's." This movie doesn't focus so much on the obesity problem plaguing the world or even what consuming the product is doing to our systems. It focuses more on the actual product itself - meat - and how to get it to the table as cheap as possible, from the laborer preforming the slaughter, to the executive staff working on a new catchy slogan to hustle the product. Mickey's is the popular fiction based fast food chain, but we all know the writer is relating to the McDonald's and Burger Kings of the world. I must say, if I saw much more footage like there was at end of this movie, I would probably have to become a vegan.

Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear) is a top marketing executive for Mickey's fast food chain. It is his team that came up with the catchy title for their most popular product, "The Big One." But when it is discovered that these "Big One" frozen patties have been contaminated with trace particles of fecal material, Henderson travels to the source to get to uncover what exactly goes on in the slaughter houses. Along the way he makes stops at the scientific labs harvesting artificial flavorings and the cattle ranch men as well as the slaughter houses where unskilled laborers risk bodily harm trying to keep up with their production lines.

Also starring Patricia Arquette as Cindy, Ethan Hawke as Pete, Bruce Willis as Harry and Kris Kristofferson as Rudy.

Recorded Picture Company, Hanway Films, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Eric Schlosser
Producers: Jeremy Thomas, Malcolm McLaren
I viewed 9/09

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Human Trafficking (2005) NR - 3½ Stars

INTENSE!!! This was actually a miniseries made for television though I'm sure it had to be show late evening. Based on the true goings on in today's world, most people probably never think about - human trafficking, in that case for sex. I'm glad a movie like this was made to not only get the message out, but it was also an intense drama. The ending is pretty abrupt, but I guess that is the point. Trafficking is still going on at this very moment, and in this case, tied to a very hard to reach and seemingly impossible to stop, multi-billion-dollar worldwide organization. The girls give scary realistic performances.

Young girls, from all over the world, start disappearing right before the parents eyes. Bill Meehan (Donald Sutherland) is on the loosing side of bringing to justice the men and women responsible behind a large sex slave ring. Kate Morozov (Mira Sorvino) is a former police officer, born in Russia, who wants to be involved in this special team in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), agency, to help bring the people responsible to justice. She knows all to well from her young own life experiences what it means to be raped.

A 16 year old girl from the Czech Republic, is tricked into thinking she has what it takes to become a model in America. Leaving a note to her father, she sets out for the adventure of her lifetime.

A single mother in Russia, falls for a man she believes in interested in her that offers her a trip to the United States as his lover. Once in America, she is sold for hard cold cash, and must comply with prostitution or be brutally punished.

A 13 year old girl is taken off the streets in the Philippines, right in front of her mothers eyes. She is defenseless as she runs after the car amidst a sea of people and there is little police can do for the family.

The father of another small girl, maybe 9 or 10, is offered a large sum of money and sold to keep the family from harsh times. Since a female child is not always considered with worth as a son would be, the girl is taken away and entered into the dark world of pedophiles.

Even when the agents get close to bringing down one of the key players, their leads grow cold when the only victim that will speak is taken away from testifying. More information can be found on human trafficking, here.

2006 - Human Trafficking, Outstanding Television Movie/Mini-Series - Directors Guild of Canada

Echo Bridge Entertainment
Director: Christian Duguay
Writers: Agatha Dominik, Carol Doyle
Producers: Irene Litinsky
I viewed 11/08

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aliens of the Deep (2005) G - 3½ Stars

I think a better title for this documentary could have been Wonders of the Deep as it was not exactly what I had pictured in my mind but fascinating none the less. My childhood fantasy was to become a marine biologist. I made it as far as working in an animal hospital, but technology has come so far that now scientists are able to go to unimaginable depths, in order to explore how life survives there.

The Mid-Ocean Ridge is underwater mountain range which stretches 46,000 miles around the world. The mountains are created the same as on land when the tectonic plates push on top and underneath of each other. Magma from the earth's crust spews up through forming chimneys of forming extremely hot hydrothermal vents, that house some very unusual creatures. At about 7000 feet deep, and in the vast darkness and pressures of water, these creatures are able to live and thrive in chemical conditions most things could not. Crabs, shrimp and lipstick looking tube worms (Riftia pachyptila), all cling to these chemically poisonous environments. These tube worms can reach heights of 8 feet. With no mouths or stomachs, the Riftia worms have a symbiotic relationship with chemosynthesis. Bacteria live inside of them and use the chemicals that come from the vents to convert the product into food for the worm. Like we depend on photosynthesis for oxygen, these creatures rely on chemosynthesis to get their nutrients. The scientists study these unusual live styles, as a tool for studying what types of life might be forming or living now on other planets.

Walt Disney Pictures
Directors: James Cameron, Steven Quale
Producers: Andrew Wight, James Cameron
I viewed 1/09

Friday, September 11, 2009

Zola's Intermission Take 17 - Where Did Our Patriotism Go?

Sorry, I have been away on a mini vacation and not able to post any new movie reviews, but never fear, I have a list of at least 400 more I have viewed but yet found the time to post. Stay tuned for new reviews coming soon.

I wanted to take a moment, to recognize today - September 11, 2009, America's 8 year anniversary of the horrible tragic act of terrorism that struck our great nation.

Eight years later, it seems we have gotten all too comfortable again and forgotten the patriotism the entire nation had in those days that followed. To me, it appears we've gone back to the daily rat races of our lives instead of realizing what's important in them. On September 11, 2001, we all united together to call ourselves Americans, cars proudly displayed the American flag and kind words were spoken to our neighbors and passersby. Now, eight years later, it would seem we are back to separating ourselves again, calling our American citizenship but other names. Africa American, Asian American, Mexican American, Armenian Americans, Italian Americans, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, etc. We've become separated again causing hatred and prejudices. Will it take yet another tragedy to bring us back together as a nation. If nothing else, for at least today, find the patience in your fellow mankind for a kind word and most importantly, tell somebody you care for that you love them before you do not have the chance to.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning (2009) R - 3 Stars

A happy little semi dysfunctional family tries to turn things around when they go into business for themselves, cleaning up after the dead. Here's a cute little quirky story of having it all and then not. Filled with compassion, the story line is very unique and the characters are down to earth , quickly drawing you into their world. Adams portrays a seemingly real woman with real problems, and along with Blunt and Arkin, they all work well together. The ending just leaves you hanging a bit and I was disappointed in the fact the movie never really explains the relationship between Winston and Rose. It looked like it was going somewhere and then he's gone from the picture, literally.

Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams), was top of the charts in high school. She was head of the cheer leading squad and dated the quarter back of the football team. But now, in her thirties, it's all she can do just to keep a roof over her and her son Oscar's (Jason Spevack), head. She cleans houses for a living while her sister Norah (Emily Blunt), isn't doing much at all. Still living with their father Joe (Alan Arkin), Norah looses jobs quite frequently. Guess she takes after dad, who's been trying to make it rich with a silly get rich quick schemes for years. There's got to be more to life.

However, Rose is still dating Mac (Steve Zahn), the quarter back, now turned police man, as she pathetically sneaks away to cheap motels to be with him now that he's married. Her life seems to be a struggle and when Oscar behaves inappropriately at school, Rose is determined the school must be at fault and vows to get him into private schooling. But, that takes extra money she doesn't have, and Mac is good for more than one thing as he tells her about a cleaning gigs at crime scenes.

Sunshine Cleaning is born and Rose and Norah are now on their way to making it to the big time. All they have to do is go into a crime scene, throw everything away and tidy the place up to pull in the big bucks. In the process, they meet wonderful new friends like Winston (Clifton Collins, Jr.), as the girls discover the closeness of sisterhood and family, all while scrubbing the blood off walls and furniture.

Big Beach Productions, Back Lot Pictures, Overture Films
Director: Christine Jeffs, Karen Moncrieff
Writer: Megan Holley
Producers: Peter Saraf, Jeb Brody, Marc Turtletaub
I viewed 8/09

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smiley Face (2007) R - 3½ Stars

If you have ever been totally stoned, you will relate and love this movie. I have to say the first half of this movie is hilarious as far as stoner movies go. But, if you would be offended by this type of a movie, stay as far away as possible as the entire movie is dedicated to one girls struggle, making it through the day, after consuming cupcakes laced with drugs. Faris does a great job especially as the movie is focused completely on her.

Jane (Anna Faris) is an aspiring actress but is not getting much work or going on many interviews because her love for smoking marijuana is getting in the way of her regular life. As she awakens one morning, she is supposed to take care of important tasks in her home life, like paying the electricity bill before the service is cut off, and then going off to an important casting call. She reaches for her bong to start the morning off right and before she knows it, her whole day is consumed with her desire for marijuana.

Her roommate Steve (Danny Masterson), has left her explicit instructions to pay the electricity and not to touch the cupcakes he has baked for his Sci-Fi friends getting together that weekend. Jane, who's started her morning by inhaling her bong, now has the munchies and upon opening the refrigerator sees the glorious display of these tasty treats, ignores Steve's "Keep Away" sign and proceeds to consume the entire lot. What Jane doesn't realize is that Steve has laced the cupcakes with some very intense killer kush weed that is now kicking her butt. But now Jane has to score more weed in order to re bake and replace the cupcakes Steve left, get the electricity bill paid, and put on an impressive acting display, all while being totally lit. Can she handle it?

First Look Pictures
Director: Gregg Araki
Writer: Dylan Haggerty
Producers: Henry Winterstern, Gregg Araki, Steve Golin
I viewed 8/09

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Out of the Blue (2006) NR - 2½ Stars

I feel this drama should have been filmed more as a documentary than a feature film. The first 20 minutes of the movie made no sense, didn't get me involved in the characters or their connection to each other and really I found it somewhat confusing. I guess that was the point showing this group of ordinary characters just going about their daily business when a gun collector goes wild in their small town of Aramoana, New Zealand on November 13th and 14th, 1990. The police force of this tiny town were not equipped to handle anything of this magnitude and it was up to the courage of a handful of isolated neighbors that helped out where ever they could, mostly barricading themselves in their homes as the gunman took his rampage directly to their homes.

David Gray (Matthew Sunderland), was a quiet unemployed gun collector who's life snapped one day. He'd been cashing his welfare checks at the local bank making new checks out payable to the local gun store as he'd been stock piling an arsenal of weapons. On the morning of November 13th, out of the blue without warning, Gray lost it when Gerry (Simon Ferry), his neighbor asked him not to yell at the children. He opened fire on Gerry with his automatic rifle, striking Gerry dead. Gray then went after the children, setting their home a blaze and only Rewa (Jacinta Wawatai), managed to escape after enduring a gun shot to her abdomen. Gray held up around the vicinity of his home, shooting at anyone who came near to help put the fire out. When Rewa ran to her mother's Julia Anne (Tandi Wright), home there was nothing she could do for her new husband to be. Farther down the street Jim (Timothy Bartlett) and his mother (Lois Lawn), co habitat along with Jim's dog, Patch. Jim never comes back from a walk and mom goes looking for him only to be shot at herself, now having to crawl to safety and recovering Patch who'd taken a bullet. By the end of his killing spree, 13 people would loose their lives in this senseless killing massacre.

IFC Films
Directors: Robert Sarkies, Steven Sarkies
Writers: Robert Sarkies, Steven Sarkies, Graham Tetley
Producers: Timothy White, Steven O'Meagher
I viewed 8/09

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Resurrecting the Champ (2006) PG13 - 3 Stars

Based on a true story, Resurrecting the Champ is about a sport's journalist who believes he is doing the right thing, for his career and the newspaper where he works, when he writes an article about an ex-boxer from the 50's. Erik Kernan, meets a homeless man on the streets known as the "Champ." After multiple conversations with him, he believes he had met a one time great boxer, now homeless roaming the streets, and he sees it as an opportunity to give back the glory of his past. Instead, his accuracy is in question causing a possible law suit and dissappointment from his son. But the journey allows him to reexamine what it means to be a good father, son and husband. The storyline is good, Jackson gives a great preformances but the movie is slow in excitment. I'd also like to beleive that the "Champ," was not a liar but perhaps on the streets too long to remember his entire past.

Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett), needs just that one big break in order to jump start something positive in his life. He and his co-worker / wife Joyce (Kathryn Morris), are newly separated and Erik yearns to spend more time with his young six year old son. Living in the shadow of his famed father, a great sports journalist himself, Erik wants to set a image his son can be proud of and look up to. One night after writing about boxing match, he witnesses a homeless man, Bob (Samuel L. Jackson), getting beat up and runs to his aid. It seems the neighborhood kids, constantly pick fights with "The Champ," as he is known on the streets for his walloping punch. Erik thinks he might have just stumbled onto a story that will boost his career, and regain that special place in his sons. Every other time he tries to pitch a story at work, the editor Metz (Alan Alda), shoots him down, assigning him only small time stories but he's determined to succeed.

Battling Bob Satterfield (Samuel L. Jackson), is just the story Erik needs to raise his career to the next level. He breaks a few rules and goes behind backs to get the story, even landing him an interviewing job with Showtime. But it all backfires when he realizes Bob is not who he thought he was. Now Erik must do the impossible to regain trust while saving the newspaper from a damaging law suit and making sure his son still believes in his ability to be a good father.

Battle Plan Productions, Phoenix Pictures
Director: Rod Lurie
Writers: Rod Lurie, Chris Gerolmo, Allison Burnett
Producers: Bob Yari, Rod Lurie, Marc Frydman
I viewed 8/09