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