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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bordertown (2007) R - 4 Stars

Based on a true story! I Really love Jennifer Lopez as an actress!

She co-produces and stars as Lauren Adrian a reporter from a Chicago newspaper. Though this assignment in Mexico is not her favorite to attend, she is forced by George Morgan (Martin Sheen), her boss, to take it. She meets up her former lover and reporter of a newspaper, Alfonso Diaz (Antonio Banderas) in the small community of Juarez Mexico that has been recently troubled by a series of unsolved homicides. All of the young girls are forced to work in the maquilla plants in order to make small earnings for their families. These plants manufacture electrical components for televisions and monitors that are exported to the United States. Many of these young women are found raped and strangled to death and buried in the mountains but both governments try to cover it up and ignore the problem to keep the trade open. Eva Jiminez (Maya Zapata), is one of these women who manages to escape her grave she is left to die in. Since the corrupt police chose to look the other way, she instead seeks a voice with the local newspaper. Lauren (Jennifer Lopez), gets involved way over her head when she poses as a factory worker. Her passion almost costs her her life as she struggles with who she really is and where she comes from.

I must say this was something I was unaware of and once again makes you wonder how many other wrong doings are going on we never hear about.

Director: Gregory Nava
Writer: Gregory Nava
Producers: Jennifer Lopez, Barbara Martinez-Jitner, Gregory Nava
I viewed 3/08

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Horsemen (2009) R - 2½ Stars

This is so not my cup of tea in a movie with its violent torture and makes it that much harder for me to review. I'm so not into slasher dicer type movies and this one brutally excels at it. It's been said it copies movies like Saw and Silence of the Lambs, and where there are some connections it's no where near on the same excellence plain. Starring Dennis Quaid, and the trailer looking good, it actually started out captivating my attention. But I question why the heck Quaid signed up for this one. His lines are cliche and where did the casting of Zhang Ziyi come from playing a young innocent teen age girl. If his son feels such abandonment from his father after the mothers death, why does he set him up to be gone even more? Lots of family issues going on here and the ending pretty much sucks.

Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid) is an Indianapolis homicide detective that has just lost his beloved wife. He has now pulled away from his two sons, Alex (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Sean (Liam James) while trying to loose himself in his work. After a new set of serial killing, plague the town, all linked by the words "Come and See." As he studies more of the puzzle, he finds the a terrifying connection between himself and the Biblical prophecies of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Famine - Pestilence - War - Death.

Focus Features, Lionsgate
Director: Jonas Ã…kerlund
Writer: Dave Callaham
Producers: Andrew Form, Michael Bay, Brad Fuller
I viewed 7/09

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Exotica (1994) R - 3 Stars

Let me just say if you think you are renting an erotic sexual adventure, you're not. However, the movie does focus largely around an exotic dancers strip club. But for me, the show seems the same as the same dance scenes are shown over and over again. For example Christina's dance scene is exactly the same footage both times they show it. The characters that make up the dance club are pretty much what I would expect behind the scenes at a seedy strip club and they're all loosely connect in an odd manner. It ends rather strangely to me and really never finishes the story fully, perhaps that's the point of the writer Egoyan, but it left me with more questions than answers.

Exotica, is a strip club in Canada near Toronto. It's owner (Arsinee Khanjian), is pregnant and hangs out behind the scenes mainly while her DJ / Bouncer Eric (Elias Koteas), spins the tunes and narrates the dancers performances. He's still bitter over a broken relationship with the clubs main dancer.

Francis (Bruce Greenwood), is an IRS tax auditor who has a large pain in his heart. His daughter was kidnapped and killed and he tries to go through the same motions as if she still were alive. Picking up the babysitter at regular times and having her play the piano in his home gives him normality to help ease the pain of his lost daughter. He also spends most of his time at the club Erotica watching one particular dancer, Christina (Mia Kirshner), do her school girl impression. Always showing the utmost respect for Christina, he feels the need to protect her from the evil that surrounds the world. He is about to meet a gay pet store owner that he must perform an audit for.

Thomas (Don McKellar), has just returned from a long journey about to go through the airports customs department when one officer behind a two way mirror can tell he is up to no good. But he clears customs and it's not until he gets home that you see what he has smuggled back into the country. Thomas owns and exotic fish and bird store and when he opens his shirt, two large eggs are securely attached to his body. Quickly placing them in an incubator, Thomas leaves his shop and ends up sharing a taxi with the customs official from the airport. He gives Thomas two tickets to the opera in exchange for his share of the ride. Thomas has such a good time sharing his seat with another man, that he keeps going back for more offering his extra seat to willing male participants.

Francis shows up at Thomas's pet store to begin the audit. But instead of concentrating on the task at hand, he finds a gun in Thomas's drawer and asks him to partner with him to kill the DJ from Erotica. It was Eric who convinced Francis to put his hand on Christina's leg knowing he would be evicted and banned from entering the club again. Now Thomas must decide if he wants out of the audit bad enough to help Francis with his quest.

Awards include:

1994 - Exotica - Cannes Film Festival - FIPRESCI Award for Best Film in Competition
1994 - Exotica - Genie Awards - Best Costume Design
1994 - Exotica - Genie Awards - Best Supporting Actor
1994 - Exotica - Genie Awards - Best Picture

Miramax Films
Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer: Atom Egoyan
Producers: Camelia Frieberg, Atom Egoyan
I watched 8/09

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bad Santa (2003) R - 3 Stars

Definitely NOT a movie for kids unless you want them to start swearing at you. Instead, send them out of the room, and anyone else who is easily offended. This movie is made for adults as it travels into the darker side of human nature. Billy Bob Thornton was born for this role, playing a cranky, drunk, thoughtless and not so jolly saint nick. He hates kids and everything about Christmas. If you hate all the hype of the holiday season, you'll love Bad Santa. However, if crude, lewd and down out rude, is NOT your thing, stay as far away from this one as you can.

Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), is a thief who along with the help of his side kick Marcus (Tony Cox), manage to get gigs at local department stores each Christmas season, playing Santa and an elf. Their main reason for taking the gig is to have access inside the store with their intentions to rob the safe while it's full of holiday cash. But Willie is just about the worse Santa Claus Christmas has ever seen. He's constantly drunk, hates all types of children, has a horrible attitude about everything and just not what one expects out of Santa.

The mall's manager (John Ritter), is a constant witness to Willie's behavior and notifies the security chief (Bernie Mac), that he thinks the store should let Willie go. But for some reason, Willie manages to hold on even as the Phoenix Security Guard (Curtis Taylor) scopes out his every move. When one obsessive kid (Brett Kelly), meets Willie, he thinks he's found the true Santa Claus and won't let go. Now, can Willie learn something about the true meaning of Christmas from an overweight 8 year old?

Dimension Films
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Writers: Glenn Ficarra, Terry Zwigoff, John Requa
Producers: John Cameron, Sarah Aubrey, Bob Weinstein
I viewed 7/09

Friday, August 14, 2009

In Her Shoes (2005) PG13 - 3½ Stars

Cameron Diaz is one of my favorite actresses and she is perfect for this role. Playing a spoiled sexy girl who gets her way regardless of who stands in it, she's cast well against Toni Collette, who is outstanding as her plain Jane sister. Shirley MacLaine, rounds the family off nicely playing their long lost grandmother who's discipline and wisdom turn Diaz around giving her some traditional family values.

Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) is a party girl who rates high in the looks department but low in her scruples. Maggie goes through jobs like paper towels, and constantly has an excuse as to why she can't hold down the position. Instead, she finds a way to use her older sister Rose (Toni Collette), for financial help when she needs it. The two have been close ever since their mother took her own life. Rose has always kept a protective eye out for Maggie and just can't seem to say no when she needs help. She allows Maggie to sleep on her couch while looking for a new job.

Rose is a successful lawyer out of Princeton, with a closet of the most stylist shoes to compliment any outfit. The problem is, her low self esteem never gives her the opportunity to go in them. Maggie tries to build up Rose's confidence and help her land a man. But when that finally happens, Maggie does something unforgivable and now must leave the house.

Maggie accidentally discovers a bunch of letters that her father has been keeping hidden from the girls for years. The letters are from the grandmother Ella (Shirley MacLaine) they never knew cared. Maggie decides to travel to Florida to see if she manipulative her for awhile. However, Ella sees right through Maggie's tricks. with some tough love Ella eventually brings Maggie to look at life in a whole new way. This new point of view makes her appreciate her new family life and even making amends with Rose.

2005 - In Her Shoes - Phoenix Film Critics Association - Top Ten Film of the Year

20th Century Fox Distribution
Director: Curtis Hanson
Writer: Susannah Grant
Producers: Ridley Scott, Carol Fenelon, Lisa Ellzey
I viewed 7/09

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Inkheart (2009) PG - 3½ Stars

This is a good adventure movie for kids as it's full of strange characters from books that hopefully inspires them to want to read. But myself, having not read the actual book, I have no reference of it's accuracy only hearing that it pales in comparison. Since it IS a fantasy movie brought to life, I was hoping for more of a fairy tale setting. Instead, I was not visually impressed.

Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser), has a unique gift as a "Silvertongue" when he reads aloud from a book. But he hasn't wanted to read lately as the last time he did, his wife Resa (Sienna Guillory), went missing. In her place, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany), a character from another book, appeared along with his pet ferret.

Twelve years later, as Mo and his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennet), are in Germany looking for a particular book from an old book store, Dustfinger appears watching their every move. Little known to Meggie is that her father is looking for rare book in hopes that he can bring Resa back to this world by reading from it's pages.

Dustfinger tries to get close to Meggie waiting outside the book store, as he wants Mo to read aloud one more time to send him back to where he came from. Meanwhile inside the store, Mo finds a rare copy of the book "Inkheart," which he has desperately been seeking. One thing Mo doesn't know is that when Dustfinger was brought to life, so was a greedy dangerous villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis). Capricorn looking for more riches, kidnaps Meggie to force Mo to read for treasures in exchange for his daughters life. Now it's up to the a group of adventurous characters, some real and some imaginary, in order to put everyone back in their place.

Chicken House Publishing Ltd, New Line Cinema
Director: Iain Softley
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Producers: Barry Mendel, Iain Softley, Cornelia Funke
I viewed 8/09

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sweet Sixteen (2002) R - 2½ Stars

For me, this has got to be one of the hardest movies to understand I have ever watched. Even with closed captioning on, it is still hard to make out the dialog between the young teens with their accents. For that reason alone, I may not have gotten as much out of this movie as it had to offer.

In Greenock, Scotland, an almost 16 year old Liam (Martin Compston), is anxiously awaiting his mother Jean (Michelle Coulter), to be released from prison. She's doing time for something her boyfriend Stan (Gary McCormack) actually did. Liam lives with Stan and his grandfather, Rab (Tommy McKee), but soon gets thrown out of the house. He temporarily moves in with his sister Chantelle (Annmarie Fulton).

Liam is determined to buy his mom a trailer to live in so they can be away from all the problems Stan and Rab have got her into. But that takes money, which Liam doesn't have and before long he finds himself meeting people like gang leader Tony (Martin McCardie), and involved in things he really should have walked away from.

Awards include:
2002 - Sweet Sixteen Cannes Film Festival - Best Screenplay
2002 - Sweet Sixteen European Film Academy - European Film Critics Award Prix FIPRESCI

Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Paul Laverty
Producer: Rebecca O'Brien
I viewed 6/09

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Endings (2005) R - 2½ Stars

I like the use of self narration in this movie to help stay on track of what events you should pay attention to. There are lots of characters, loosely interacting and it helps keep you focused. While everyone seems to have a dysfunctional edge to their lives and relationships, the movie is cast well with everyone fitting believably into their characters. I found myself compassionate to everyone. With a good mix of comedy and drama entwined, the three separate plots get a bit confusing. The ending made no sense to me at all of the people who end up together.

Mamie (Lisa Kudrow), and Charley (Steve Coogan), start their teen lives out by sleeping together just as their parents are getting married. These step siblings end up making a baby and Mamie is sent away to supposedly have an abortion. Instead, she carries the baby to term and gives it up for adoption. Charley doesn't know he has a son. 20 years later, a young filmmaker Nicky (Jesse Bradford), shows up at Mamie's door to blackmail her. It seems he won't tell Mamie anything about her long lost son, unless he can film a documentary of their meeting.

Meanwhile, Charley has come out of the closet and is involved in a relationship with Gil (David Sutcliffe). Life is good for the couple until Charley keeps pushing Gil into the possibility that the son of their best friends, is his child. Oh, their best friends are Pam (Laura Dern) and Diane (Sarah Clarke), a lesbian couple. Diane has always said she was impregnated with from a sperm bank, but originally it was Gil who had donated his sperm. Even though the four have been good friends for years now they are engaged in a nasty custody battle of paternity.

Now then there's Javier (Bobby Cannavale), Mamie's boyfriend, who tries to convince Nicky to film his life as a massage therapist instead. And then there is Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who just got thrown out of her cousins house and moves in with Otis (Jason Ritter). Jude tries to convince Otis's father Frank (Tom Arnold), that Otis is not gay. While Frank is relieved to know his son is not gay, he also forms a strong attraction for flirting Jude and before long finds himself
in her bed.

Director: Don Roos
Writer: Don Roos
Producers: Holly Wiersma, Michael Paseornek
I viewed 7/09

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zola's Intermission Take 16 - August 9th, 2009

I just wanted to take some time out and thank all of you readers for your continued support reading my blog. The 700th movie was just posted with at least another 400 movies, I've already watched, just needing to get posted. Awwwwwww so many movies ... so little time ...

Also Zola's Movie Pics has just gotten the 20,000th hit. Wow, you guys are awesome and I am honored to know that someone actually reads my blog and comes back again and again. My goal is to get a new review up every day and even though I have tried, it's still very hard to do just that. We all know that with our busy lifestyles, that is not always possible. But, knowing that you appreciate reading more movie reviews, I'll keep trying to get as many movies up as possible. Thank you for reading and I welcome all of your comments.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Code (2008) R - 3 Stars

Morgan Freeman is one of my all time favorite actors and even though this movie is not the greatest, his acting shines through to save the story. Being paired up with Antonio Banderas is an unlikely, but good choose. The two play well off each other to add excitement to the plot. Aka, Thick as Thieves, it's well worth the price of a rental for Morgan alone.

Ripley (Morgan Freeman), is an experienced veteran thief who owes money to the Russian Mafia and needs to pull one last robbery in order to retire. The payload is two priceless and heavily guarded, Faberge Imperial Eggs. It's a two man operation and Ripley has his eye on a rookie thief Gabriel (Antonio Banderas), as he watches him pull off a jewelry heist on a NY subway. After some convincing, Gabriel reluctantly agrees to join Ripley in his quest. But they don't plan on Ripley's god daughter, Alexandra Korolenko (Radha Mitchell), being kidnapped by a Russian crime boss (Rade Serbedzija), who uses her as a pawn to get the valuable eggs for himself.

With the police and the F.B.I. hot on their tails, Ripley and Gabriel attempt the heist of their lives and put true meaning behind the phrase, "Never trust a thief." Now they just need to make it out alive.

First Look Pictures
Director: Mimi Leder
Writer: Ted Humphrey
Producers: Danny Lerner, Randall Emmett, Lori McCreary
I viewed 7/09

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sex and Breakfast (2007) - 3 Stars

I don't know about you but after watching "Home Alone," it's hard for me to take Macaulay Culkin seriously in a movie that involves sex. The girls do a better job in the acting department but I felt no passion or pity for either couple and considering the dark powerful topic, the movie should have been stronger in making it's points.

Ellis (Kuno Becker), and Renee (Eliza Dushku), are in a relationship that is loosing steam and winding downhill. Though they still care and love each other, their relationship is lacking in any enthusiasm. Renee suggests they spice their love life up but bringing another person into their bedroom. Meanwhile, James (Macaulay Culkin), and Heather (Alexis Dziena). Heather is unable to achieve the big "O" and feels that perhaps opening their relationship up to another couple might bring the excitement back and add what she needs to be satisfied.

Enter therapist Dr. Wellbridge (Joanna Miles), who arranges the two couples to meet in a private setting and swap partners. Jealousy, and insecurity are also in the room and even though Heather is finally able reach full satisfaction, both couples learn there is more to love, than sex and breakfast.

Lightforce Entertainment, Brandman Productions, CinemaLab
Director: Miles Brandman
Writer: Miles Brandman
Producers: Michael Brandman, Steven J. Brandman, Andrew Adelson
I viewed 7/09

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sleepwalking (2008) R - 2½ Stars

Adaptation of when parents do bad things, the children are the ones who suffer. The casting is the only part of the production that is good, especially Nick Stahl, but to me, the movie never takes direction, gets really slow and looses momentum to finish the story. You have to look beyond to find it's true meaning. It could have been a touching movie as you feel for Tara, I just feel better editing may have gotten the message across.

Tara (AnnaSophia Robb), has about the worse type of mom you can have. Joleen (Charlize Theron), had her priorities mixed up and cares more for her boyfriend that has just been arrested for pot, then her 12 year old daughter.
In fact so mush so, Joleen places Tara in foster care so Joleen can run away from her problems. James (Nick Stahl), Joleen's brother, feels for Tara and even though his life is screwed up, he helps by breaking Tara out of foster care. As they assume new identities of father and daughter and no where else to go, James reluctantly takes Tara to his father's (Dennis Hopper) ranch that he and Joleen grew up on. But the farm does not bring back happy memories for James. In fact, James own abusive childhood is what makes him more determined to try and change things for Tara and not have her end up like the dysfunctional wrecks he and his sister have become.

Denver & Delilah Films, FilmEngine, WJS, Infinity Features, Icon Productions, Overture Films
Directors: William Maher, Bill Maher
Writer: Zac Stanford
Producers: J.J. Harris, Rob Merilees, Charlize Theron
I viewed 6/09