Saturday, December 25, 2010

Zola's Intermission Take 17 - December 25th, 2010

Happy Holidays to all my loyal readers. Yes I've been away for many months now but that doesn't mean I haven't been watching my movies. Sorry to not be posting my reviews in a while but starting January 1st, look for Zola's Movie Pics to be back in full swing. I'm working hard now at scheduling one a day so there will be no interruptions in posts and so far I have the first three weeks of posts ready to go up. Weeeeeeeee!

Let me take this time to wish each and every one of you a very Prosperous New Year - 2011 and looking forward to some great movie viewing.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Encounters at the End of the World (2007) G - 4½ Stars

Now if you want to watch something that is totally cool, literally, and you can appreciate how insignificant the human race really is in comparison to mother nature, you will absolutely love this movie. It's breathtaking and a little peek into part of the world most will never see in their lifetimes. Werner Herzog, with his ironic humor in his commentary, takes a delve into the human psyche and allows us to visit places most have little knowledge of. It's not a National Geographic, look how pretty documentary, but a real feeling of connection to the opposite end of the world.

I was truly in awe at the living conditions and work being done by scientists that are drawn like a magnet to this world. It's not an action packed Jacques Cousteau and does take some time to lead into this isolated world, but I found myself just drawn in like a magnet as well. From experiencing life underwater against an iceberg, the Pink Floyd symphony of the seals, the eerie steam formed ice caves of the active volcano at Mt. Erebus and even the disoriented Penguin who will walk himself till death in the wrong direction because he is that sure of himself, the film makes you feel tiny.

Filmed entirely at the South Pole in the Antarctic community of McMurdo Station, located on Ross Island, at the headquarters of the National Science Foundation. Even the lessons on survival training, show just how rough it is for this men and women to live, work and call this place their home. Absolutely hauntingly stunning! Thank you Werner Herzog.

ThinkFilm, Image Entertainment
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Producers: Andrea Meditch, Henry Kaiser
I viewed 1/10

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film (2006) NR - 2 Stars

Being the movie lover that I am, I felt in appropriate to educate myself more about key players in the industry. You're only going to enjoy this documentary, on the life of Hunter S. Thompson, if you're interested in learning more about the man behind the "Gonzo" journalism style. Gonzo style roughly involves the reporter writing himself as a central figure into whatever he's reporting on.

With touching tributes from Thompson's good friends like, Johnny Depp and Sean Penn, taken after his death, I felt the love they had for him from other's in the industry but I don't feel like I learned much more about him like what made him so anti establishment. Instead, I found the film a bit on the boring side more like a tribute than an insight. An old sounding Nick Nolte narrates while Tom Thurman directs. "Buy the ticket, take the ride," was also how Thompson lived by. He believed when you start something, you finish it no matter where the journey takes you and staying true to your course.

Thompson was a strange bird and his quirkiness will be etched into the archival pages of journalism for ever. When I first saw his film, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," I thought it was about one of the most bizarre films I'd ever seen. Bill Murray perfectly captures Thompson down to the fact he doesn't move his mouth or lips when speaking making it hard to listen to his dialogue. For me, closed captions is the only way to go if you want to understand what he has to say. I've added "Buffalo Roam" to my list of movies to rent, more out of curiosity. I have another film at home to view, "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," so stayed tuned for that review soon.

Starz Original
Director: Tom Thurman
Writer: Tom Marksbury
Producers: Christopher Black, Tom Thurman
I viewed 4/10

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wetherby (1985) R - 2½ Stars

I have to say, this movie lost me so many times, I constantly was wondering what I just saw and what was the relevance to the movie. In fact, the only part of the movie that made 100% sense to me was when Morgan takes out the gun and blows his head open. It does come together, well sort of, at the end but the journey to get there, takes the longest possible route. The movie constantly flashes back to an earlier time, but it was not clear who's lives we were watching. It would have made more sense to me if I knew the lady who witnessed the suicide, was the same lady who watched her lover go to war in the 50's, only to be murdered at a card game there. It got very good ratings on, but I just have to call this movie bizarre and I didn't like the sound reproduction at all.

Jean Travers (Vanessa Redgrave) has spent her whole life in the quaint small town of Wetherby. In her golden years and unmarried, she teaches school to to pre-teen students. 35 years prior, she had a passionate love affair with young service man that was put on hold when he shipped out to Malaysia for war. In Malaysia, he is murdered at a private card game, along with another young soldier. Her dreams of marriage ended when she heard the news of his tragic death.

To this day, Jean is active in her community and volunteering. She decides to throw a dinner party for a group of her friends. Two other couples join her and also a young man named John Morgan (Tim McInnerny). John had entered the house with one of the couples so Jean just assumed it was them who invited him. The couple just assumes he know Jean and is one of the invitees, so nothing is said and the total stranger fits right in with the crowd. The ceiling tile starts to leak over the dinner table and John graciously offers to help repair it. The night ends after political topics of Nixon and other political concerns of the era.

The next day, John Morgan returns to the home of Jean. He thanks her again for being so kind to him in opening up her home and explains that he was an uninvited guest. While she feels completely baffled in disbelief of his presence at her party, John pulls a gun out of his pocket, stuffs it in his mouth and kills himself. While the police try to uncover the motive behind this senseless loss of life, Jean opens up a whole new can of worms shes had tucked away on her shelf for quite sometime.

1985 - Wetherby - Berlin International Film Festival - Golden Bear

MGM Distribution Company
Director: David Hare
Writer: David Hare
Producer: Simon Relph
I viewed 1/09

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Death Sentence (2007) R - 4 Stars

Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) is living a normal perfect life. A wonderful wife Helen (Kelly Preston), two great kids Lucas (Jordan Garrett) and Brendan (Stuart Lafferty), and a good job. His oldest son is a star hockey player and the pride of the family. One night while driving his son home, he stops for gas and his son goes inside to get a drink. While he watches in horror from outside, his son is assassination in the name of a gang initiation hazing. While the murders try to escape, Nick grabs the mask of the one Joe Darley (Matthew O'Leary) that killed his son , and looks him dead in the eyes.

He is now able to identify Joe and does so sending the case to court. But he changes his mind and decides to let the man go free as he has a plan of his own. He tracks Joe down and does the unthinkable and now considers himself even. But an eye witness sees him and warns the rest of the gang who did it. Now Joe's older brother Billy Darley (Garrett Hedlund) tells Nick he's just bought himself a death sentence.

Nick needs weapons to defend himself and takes to the street to find a vendor Bones Darley (John Goodman) who, unknowingly, just happens to be the father of two of the gang members. The war has begun and now Nick fears for his families safety. He tries to get help from the agents who were first helping him but they tell him it may be too late.

When the gang comes after his family, they kill his wife, put his other son in a coma and send Nick to the hospital. He checks himself out to take matters into his own hands.

20th Century Fox Distribution
Director: James Wan
Writers: Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin
I watched 1/08

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) R - 3 Stars

I don't even remember this movie coming out in the box office and it must have not lasted long there when it did. I'm also noticing a trend when a movie has the word "Bad" in it's title, it's usually just that; bad. While Nicholas Cage is really good in his portrayal of a corrupt cop gone junkie, unfortunately even he can't carry this movie all alone. I feel a lot of the film was wasted trying to put an artsy edge on it. Scenes that should have made their point in a few seconds on screen, like close up of Iguanas, aligators or souls dancing, are overly crammed in your face allowing the storyline to drift far away and confuse. I'm just barely giving it 3 stars mainly for Cage's good performance. This role is perfect for him even if he does take it over the top.

Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage), is a hard working detective from New York recently relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He's good at his job, receives many honors and even risks his life jumping in to save a prisoner from uprising water levels, against his partner's Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer), wishes. In doing so, he causes damage to his spine now requiring Vicaten on a regular basis. But the drug just wets his appetite and he finds himself wanting more. He uses his badge and gun to hassle small time users where he knows he can score. This one clean cop now steals the drugs he's supposed to turn in.

Terrence is assigned to a crime scene where a family was brutally murdered. He uncovers one witness that can identify the killers. Problem is, there is no evidence to pin the killers to the crime so he desperately needs to find this witness who manages to evade him. He knows he's looking for "Big Fate" Donald Godshaw (Alvin Xzibit), but now that his only witness is gone, Terrence decides if you can't beat them join them. He'll help Godshaw out by alerting him if the police are on to him. This way Godshaw can run his business safely and Terrence can score his drugs and some extra dough to pay off debts with his bookie (Brad Dourif).

In love with a hooker named Frankie Donnenfield (Eva Mendes), Terrance also supplies her habit while she supplies his needs. Together he and Frankie, have robbed some of her clients in order to supply their addictions. But they may have just messed with the wrong person when money and drugs are taken from one of Frankie's clients, a hood named Dave (William M. Finkelstein). But working with Godshaw, dodging thugs, feeding his addiction and trying to do his job might be too much for even this bad lieutenant.

Awards include:
2009 - Toronto Film Critics Association - Best Actor

Nu Image/Millennium Films, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, First Look Pictures
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: William M. Finkelstein
Producers: Gabe Polsky, Stephen Belafonte, Edward R. Pressman
I viewed 4/10

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Lesson Before Dying (1999) PG13 - 4 Stars

Another great but sad movie staring Don Cheadle. Based on the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, this movie was originally made for television. Powerful performances by the entire cast, Cicely Tyson, Mekhi Phifer make you feel the pain of one mans plight behind bars, convicted of a crime he did not commit. A school teacher is sent to the prison to help restore his dignity before he's to be executed. Irma Hall emits such a great emotional portrayal of Miss Emma.

It's the 1940's in the south and Jefferson (Mekhi Phifer), just wanted to spend his day fishing. Instead, two old friends drive up and offer a ride to the river with one quick stop for alcohol at the corner store. Jefferson tags along into the store when suddenly tensions flare and his friends end up shooting the white store clerk owner. Both friends lay dying on the floor with Jefferson left standing to take the blame murder. To try and plead his case, Jefferson's attorney compares him to a hog, just an animal who doesn't know any better. Jefferson rebels against everyone who cares about him, growing that much closer to the animal he was named.

Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle) is the local school teacher giving lessons to a small time community of African American children. He's hoping he can keep just one of them out of trouble and jail. When the women who helped raise him Miss Emma (Irma P. Hall) requests his services at the prison with Jefferson, it's hard for him to say no. Miss Emma needs Grant's help to restore Jefferson's dignity to that of a proud black man who's not afraid to die. She turns to Sheriff Guidry (Frank Hoyt Taylor), who she has worked for many years to allow Jefferson visits from Grant. Along with Tante Lou (Cicely Tyson), their last wish is to have Jefferson gain some dignity before he is put to death.


1999 - A Lesson Before Dying - Academy of Television Arts and Sciences - Outstanding
Made for Television Movie
Prism Leisure Corporation
Director: Joseph Sargent
Producer: Robert Benedetti Writer: Ernest Gaines
I viewed 10/09

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Silence Becomes You (2005) NR - 2½ Stars

Here's another one that goes in my bizarre category. Bizarre, because I really have no idea what the movie is trying to say. But yet, it visually and seductively draws you into this pair of sisters behavior, that appear to be up to no good. Most men would think this looks like their fantasy, being taken prisoner by two beautiful women. But the direction of the movie is all over the place. While it holds you sexually captive, it doesn't do a good job at showing you where it wants to take you. I guess the point of the movie is Grace becoming one with child, though it makes no real sense to me. Was she just trying to pass her craziness onto the next generation? What did their parents really do to them as children and how did they die? What do the secret paintings represent? As a matter of fact, the whole movie does little to lead you in any direction and just has to be labeled bizarre. Though I did have to watch it till the end hoping for something more. The colorful visuals and the innocence of Silverstone with her seductively pouty lips, probably makes the movie.

Grace (Sienna Guillory), and Violet (Alicia Silverstone) are two sisters living isolated in an enchanted looking mansion deep in the forest. Their parents are dead but memories of their presence still fill the house. The girls have little contact with the outside world and instead love playing dress up in their mother's old clothing. Violet is in the village one night and makes eye contact with Luke (Joe Anderson) who is with another woman. But something in Violet's smile completely overwhelms Luke and before he knows it, he is leaving with Violet back to the mansion. Luke thinks he's hit the jackpot when the other sister Grace appears and they two tempt and tease him with their seductive movements. Before long, Luke is living in the isolated world with them. But when Violet becomes close with Luke, Grace becomes jealous and tries to break the two apart.

First Look, Sequence
Director: Stephanie Sinclaire
Writer: Stephanie Sinclaire
Producers: Stephanie Sinclaire, Karl Richards
I viewed 4/09

Friday, April 23, 2010

Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009) PG13 - 3 Stars

The movie's cute just not one of my favorite comedies. It has it's moments and a nice romantic and happy ending, I just didn't find myself laughing that much. Sarah Jessica Parker is one of my favorites but this wasn't the role for her. There were times I didn't feel sorry for her at all about her husband having an affair. Her attitude was so whiny and snobbish, it took me a long time to warm up to her instead of wanting to fight and stand up for her. I found myself much more sympathetic with Hugh Grant as even though his character was predictable, it was more enjoyable to listen and make you want to root for. Did the director do that on purpose to force you to take the "cheaters" side?

Meryl Morgan (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Paul (Hugh Grant), are separated as Paul has slipped up and had sex with another woman. Both are top executives and the only way Paul can talk to Meryl is through their personal secretaries Jackie Drake (Elisabeth Moss), and Vincent (Michael Kelly). Paul's been trying to get Meryl to see how truly sorry he is but Meryl refuses to listen. The last thing Merle wants to do is spend time with Paul but as they witness a murder and the killer sees their faces, they only have each other to rely on. They head straight to the feds who place them in a witness protection program located in the small town of Ray, Wyoming. Their gracious host Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott), along with his wife Emma (Mary Steenburgen), will keep them safe and comfortable till another arrangement can be made. But a few days rest in the country might be just what the doctor ordered to save their failing marriage.

Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, Castle Rock Entertainment, Banter Films, Sony Pictures Releasing
Director: Marc Lawrence
Writer: Marc Lawrence
Producers: Liz Glotzer, Martin Shafer
I viewed 4/10

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Avatar (2009) PG13 - 5 Stars

In honor of Earth Day, I am reposting a perfect movie for the occasion. Also because I saw it again last weekend and today it goes on sale to the general public, "us." I actually talked my boyfriend into going to see the "little blue men movie," so he could experience the films greatness in 3D. I think he changed his opinion of the movie after viewing it.

The only word I can think of to describe this film is In-Fuc*ing-Credible!!! I guess I haven't gotten out much to a movie theater lately to realize how far technology has taken us in 3-D. Awesome, truly awesome as the entire movie clings all around you. Even down to the smallest details of a spark or ash seeming falling into your hands. Visually stunning, I swear they looked inside my head and produced my magical places I go to in my head, and made them even better!! The seed pods look like jelly fish one of my extreme favorites. And the story is amazing too, as it reaches out and touches every sense of your being. I hope everyone walks away with it's powerful message. We can't continue to destroy all the natural beauty on this planet or any other planer or drive any type of life form to extinction for the sake of any mineral or ore.

I had a hard time catching my breathe and cried at the sad ending and I don't think I have ever been as entertained by a movie before. Bravo, James Cameron, Bravo. Everything you can want in a movie and more. Yes it was long, almost too long, but an Academy Award Winner hands down.

On the planet of Pandorra lies an extremely valuable ore that a mega corporation is trying to mine. The problems are, the air on this planet is not breathable to humans, the creatures will hunt you down and eat you and if they don't, the Na'vi, hunters of an indigenous tribe, will. Too disturbing and violent for young children to understand.

Ex war veteran Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is wheel chair bound and offered the job of replacing his slain twin brother on the planet for a specific mission. The goal is to become an avatar on the planet and gain trust with it's people in order to relocate them from this precious commodity before the colonel goes in and takes it for himself. The tirck is to make avatars with DNA made from the humans so they can breathe the air and infiltrate the "enemy" for the purpose of production.

A story to detailed to spell out in a review as I would never do it justice, it's just that good and a must see for yourself. Excellent casting also starring, Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez), Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), and so many more. If you see no other movies in your lifetime, you must see this one.

Nominated for 9 Oscar's, Awards include:

2009 - Hollywood Foreign Press Association - Best Director
2009 - Hollywood Foreign Press Association - Best Picture - Drama
2010 - Academy Award Winner - Best Visual Effects
2010 - Academy Award Winner - Best Cinematography
2010 - Academy Award Winner - Best Art Direction

Lightstorm Entertainment, 20th Century Fox
Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron
Producers: Jon Landau, James Cameron
I viewed 2/10, 4/10

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009) PG - 2½ Stars

Oh Alvin, You know I love you dearly and have ever since you came out way back in the 60's. I even liked your first animated movie. However, can you tell Dave, to not allow you to make any more like this one. Or maybe I should say I've gotta stop renting anymore of these. I guess the kids might think it's funny as they like things like farting under the covers, and getting into trouble but you're first one needed no sequel much less a squeakquel.

This time Brittany (voice of Christina Applegate), Eleanor (voice of Amy Poehler), and Jeanette (voice of Anna Faris), join Alvin (voice Justin Long), Theodore (voice of Jesse McCartney), and Simon (voice of Matthew Gray Gubler), in a battle of The Chipmunks vs. The Chipettes. There's a cash prize up for grabs for the school as well as bragging rights on who's the better performers. Dave's (Jason Lee), in the hospital so this time the Chipmunks will stay with Toby (Zachary Levi).

Fox 2000, Regency Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Distribution
Director: Betty Thomas
Writers: Glenn Berger, Jonathan Aibel, Jon Vitti
Producers: Janice Karman, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.
I viewed 4/10

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Code Name: The Cleaner (2007) PG13 - 2 Stars

When am I going to learn that when my neighbor brings over a video and says, "Here, Watch this - It's really funny," to just say no. My opinion is, pass on this one if you are looking to laugh. Okay, there are about 4 funny parts that made me giggle but overall it's more like WTF. I was reading some of the reviews which say how funny this is, non stop laughter and you will laugh till it hurts which has me wondering what the hell I missed. Nicollette Sheridan gets to show off her hot body and I loved her in televisions Knotts landing, but she looks tired and old and just not a good movie actress. At least Lucy Liu held up her part better, as did Cedric the Entertainer who reminds me of a fatter version of Martin Lawrence. They did have a playful chemistry together.

Jake (Cedric the Entertainer), wakes up in Hotel bed with a dead FBI agent laying next to him and a briefcase full of cash. He has no memory of how he got there and what happened so the only thing to do is to run. Jake keep having flash backs of combat and Kung Fu and he believes he must have been some sort of spy for the C.I.A. or F.B.I.. When the cops show up looking for him, he runs right into the arms of Diane (Nicollette Sheridan), who tries to convince him she's his wife. Diane takes Jake back to "their" home which is a mansion complete with his own butler (Robert Clarke). Diane calls a doctor (Robert Clarke), who tells her Jake is suffering from amnesia. She does everything in her power to help stimulate his memories by seducing him though she is really just trying to find out where Jake hid a computer chip.

Jake needs to clear his head and at a diner, he jots down notes trying to figure out who he is. He finds out he also has a girlfriend when the waitress Gina (Lucy Liu), questions where he's been. She takes Jake to his real home in the ghetto and also bursts his bubble telling him he's a janitor at the place he thought he owned. She also tells him she'll help do whatever he needs to get his memory back. The more clues Jake receives, the more he remembers the computer chip everyone is talking about. Now if he can only remember where he hid it in time to save his life.

New Line Cinema
Director: Les Mayfield
Writers: Robert Adetuyi, George Gallo
Producers: Jay Stern, Cedric the Entertainer, Eric C. Rhone
I viewed 4/10

Monday, April 19, 2010

Seducing Doctor Lewis (2002) NR - 3½ Stars

This movie reminded me of "Walking Ned Devine," though not as comically clever, it still cozily invites the viewer into the tiny fishing island of St. Marie-La-Mauderne, and genuinely embraces the people who live there. I love these type of quaint average Joe, feel good movies that you probably didn't even know exist.

St. Marie-La-Mauderne used to be a thriving fishing village where the men were gone for several days fishing, to return with their bountiful catch and eagerly awaiting wives ready to reward their hard work husbands with sexual pleasures. But that was the old days and now with the economy failed and the fishery gone, the last 8 years has seen the town's people waiting in line, for their welfare checks to support them. The only way for this run down town to get back their pride and spirit, is to get a manufacturing plant back where the people can work. But in order to get a factory to move to their island, they must have a doctor living there to take care of the working people. The mayor Germain Lesage (Raymond Bouchard), is convinced it's what the town must do and sets out to find a way to lure one in.

Hundreds of mailers are sent to the doctors of Quebec, all to be rejected until one young Dr Christopher Lewis (David Boutin), finds himself in an unfortunate incident with a traffic cop and the next thing he knows on his way to St. Marie. But now the town must find a way to convince him to want to live there. They start by tapping his phone to discover things about him so they can make sure he loves the island. For example, his love for the game of Cricket and the taste of Beef Stroganoff are things the towns people have to make happen.

As the town masquerade's as a competent Cricket team, though they no idea how the game is played, they must convince Dr. Lewis, St. Marie is where he wants to be. They even leave money along his path to find in order for the good doctor to think the island is lucky for him. But, they must watch what they say in order to not get caught with their true intentions revealed.

2003 - Seducing Doctor Lewis - Genie Awards - Best Cinematography

Max Films
Director: Jean-Fran├žois Pouliot
Writer: Ken Scott
Producers: Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal
I viewed 12/08

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Good Life (2006) R - 3 Stars

Written partially about the director / writer's experiences in real life, the movie really makes you think of the sadness and loneliness some people try to cover up. It's not the most exciting movie but it sends out a loud message of friendship, betrayal, innocence, love and compassion. I'm not sure I totally get the ending though.

Taking place in the late 1970's, in a small town in Lincoln, Nebraska where football is the king, Jason Prayer (Mark Webber), is a quirky teenage boy, born with an affliction of loosing his hair. He wears a hat and covers his head a lot so people won't notice or stare. His father committed suicide and leaving Jason with the responsibility of taking care of his mother (Deborah Rush). Having not been close with his father, he is afraid to open a package that is given to him after his father's death. Jason works at the local gas station and gets harassed a lot by the local jocks due to his condition.

Gus (Harry Dean Stanton) runs the local movie house, that only shows old movies, as he feels they are the best. But his mind isn't what it once was with the onset of Alzheimer's disease he needs Jason to help him out setting up reels and reminding him to make the popcorn.

Frances (Zooey Deschanel) befriends Jason after the local bad boy football jock Tad (Chris Klein), takes a beating to his face. She's sees more into Jason for who he is, not how he looks but doesn't tell the whole truth while she claims Judy Garland's lines as her own. Though everyone seems alone in their own misery, they find temporary comfort in each other.

TGL Productions LLC, Image Entertainment
Directors: Steve Berra
Writers: Steve Berra
Producers: Patrick Markey, Lance Sloane, Devin Sloane, Bill Paxton, Phyllis Laing
I viewed 12/08

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Codebreakers (2005) NR - 3½ Stars

For April 15th, "tax day," I thought I'd choose a movie all about cheating. Based on a true story of the 1951 cheating scandal that tarnished the academy. I thought this was a pretty good film. With a good cast, the story line was fascinating to see who would end up turning on each other. In this military type school and you never knew who you could really trust, and what's more important; a bond or the truth.

Earl "Red" Blaik (Scott Glenn) is the football coach at the West Point academy where his son Bob, (Corey Sevier) attends. Coach wants to make sure his job is secure by tightening up on the cadets about their grades. Some of the boys decide that cheating is the only way to keep up their grades and still have time for their practices. But eventually too many find out how they are maintaining their grades, including the higher ups, and the cadets are questioned one at a time. Eventually 83 cadet in all are implicated. When Brian Nolan, (Zachery Ty Bryan) thinks he is doing the proper thing by telling the truth, he learns first hand where his code of ethics gets him. It's not always right to do the right thing.

Orly Adelson Productions, ESPN
Director: Rod Holcomb
Writer: G. Ross Parker
Producer: Frank Siracusa
I viewed 8/06

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Escapist (2009) NR - 4 Stars

There's a lot going on in this movie and I suggest turning the close caption or subtitles on as it's hard to understand the low foreign voices thus missing out on meaningful dialog. It's the type of movie you probably have to see again to fully understand. It can get confusing with the direction flashing back and forth so make sure your in the mood to really watch it. Great realism with the cinematography showing the dank areas of this London prison. With a lot of character building at the beginning, the film eventually involves you with the inmates. Excellent acting by everyone which helps make the movie very suspenseful and thrilling but I also found it sad and depressing. The ending is not what you expect and somewhat disappointing unless you accept that imagination is everything.

Frank (Brian Cox), is serving a life in prison sentence with no chance of parole. Having admitted his own quilt, he's accepted being away from his wife and young daughter and has found life to be very comfortable behind bars. Frank receives a letter informing him his daughter is extremely sick from an overdose. His only thought is to escape and get to her as soon as possible. But this is too large of a task for Frank alone so he enlists the help of fellow inmates Lenny Drake (Joseph Fiennes), Brodie (Liam Cunningham), and Viv Batista (Seu Jorge).

But some pretty low life inmates Rizza (Damian Lewis), the prison bullie and his brother Tony (Steven Mackintosh) almost ruin the plans when Tony sexually assualts new inmate Lacey (Dominic Cooper). Frank will have to become the man he once was to carry it through.

ThinkFilm, IFC Films
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers: Daniel Hardy, Rupert Wyatt
Producers: Alan Moloney, Adrian Sturges
I viewed 2/10

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000) G - 4 Stars

Based on the book by Caroline Alexander, this documentary tells the survival of 28 men aboard the Endurance. In 1914, Ernest Shackleton set out to be the first man to ever cross the continent of Antarctic. He placed an honest ad stating the "low wages and miserable conditions," and the fact they may not return at all. Over 5,000 men answered the call.

Yes it feels like an episode from the History Channel but I really enjoyed this film showing the spirit of human survival. Taken from journals and actual footage by cameraman Frank Hurley, director George Butler shifts between his retracing of the voyage to that of Ernest Shackleton's in 1914, blending back and forth from B&W to modern day. With Liam Neeson narrating, the film gives an eerie depiction of men facing treacherous conditions, freezing temperatures, starvation and the ice floes that consumed their ship. And when you think their luck can't get any worse, the crew faces nothing but more obstacles. Very sad to see the pack dogs that had to be shot in order to survive, with some even eaten. Once they had lost their ship, the men were forced to march onward pulling as much as they could along with them. As the ice cracked below their feet, the men were the forced to seek refuge in the only three tiny life boats that were salvaged. As they nearly escape their frozen death, the tiny life boats are tossed into a violent ocean with the only solid land close enough being Elephant Island. The men rejoice thinking they've been saved but with it's high cliffs and limited shelter, the men could not survive much longer. Shackleton and two others set sail on a course of 800 miles set to South Georgia Island. With primitive navigation methods these men could not afford to go off course. As they land on South Georgia Island, they are on the wrong side of the whaling community and now must cross by land over ice packed cliffs in order to get to the other side. Once these three were rescued, their attempts took over 4 months to be able to approach Elephant Island and rescue the other men. Despite every odd against them, the courage of their "boss," turned out to be enough to keep their spirits just above desperation. 28 men would set sail aboard the Endurance that day and almost 2 years later, 28 returned.

Awards Include:

2001 - Chicago Film Critics Association - Best Documentary
2001 - National Board of Review - Best Documentary

White Mountain Films, Nova Entertainment, Cowboy Pictures
Director: George Butler
Writer: Joseph Dorman
Producer: George Butler
I viewed 4/10

Monday, April 12, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010) - 4 Stars

These 3D movies are growing on me and had to make sure I saw this one opening Easter weekend. The original Clash of the Titans is one of my very favorite all time movies so I was interested in seeing what could become of it today. The movie has great entertainment, action with my biggest complaint of why show Bobu, the mechanical owl, if you're not going to take it on their quest. I didn't care for the witches makeup, as I feel it could have been done a whole lot creepier. For me, the battle with the scorpions was filmed too close up. I suppose that was for the 3d surround effects but made it hard to stay focused on the battle. I loved Medusa but where was the two headed creature that protected her entrance. I feel the suspense of that scene wasn't there and way more intense in the original. While I feel the director should have stayed closer to the original story, it's still definitely an enjoyable and entertaining remake. I think seeing it in 2D is the way to go.

Perseus (Sam Worthington), the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), survives the banishment of he and his mother from the Heavens. Cast away to earth, and raised by man, Perseus is considered the Demigod with the power to defeat the underworld God, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), before he unleashes his wrath of hell on earth.

It seems man has become too independent with little need for prayer thus weakening the God's strength as prayers gives them their power. Hades convinces Zeus to instill the fear back into man by unleashing the Kraken and destroying the City of Argos. Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), will be sacrificed unless Perseus can defeat the Kraken sending Hades back to his hellish underworld. But in order to defeat such a great power, Perseus must survive a maze of challenges and learn to except the gifts of the Gods.

Thunder Road Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Inc., Warner Bros. Pictures
Directors: Steve Norrington, Louis Leterrier
Writers: Travis Beacham, Matt Manfredi, Phil Hay
Producers: Kevin de la Noy, Basil Iwanyk
I viewed 4/10

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Brothers (2009) R - 3½ Stars

Very strong emotional movie on the effects war has on families. Good performances by Maquire and Gyllenhaal, you feel for both brothers and try to put yourself in their shoes. Maquire does a great job of showing the torment war has instilled upon him. It makes you think about how much more is going on behind the scenes of war you didn't realise.

Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), has just received orders to ship out for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. His supportive wife Grace (Natalie Portman), is apprehensive to see him go knowing the dangers he faces ahead. The couple has two small children leaving Grace uneasy about their separation. Hank (Sam Shepard), is very proud of his sons devotion to duty and considers him a hero. On the other hand Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), Sam's older brother has just been released from a prison for robbing a bank. In Hank's eyes his son Tommy has become the black sheep of the family but they try to sit for one last meal before Sam ships out.

Grace never cared for Tommy, mainly due to the behavior that landed him in jail, but she welcomes his help in stepping up as Uncle Tommy while Sam is away. But when the family gets news that Sam's helicopter has been shot down and Sam killed, he takes on an even bigger role comforting Grace. The two become very close and on the verge of a relationship when suddenly Sam returns from the grave. Having endured a major mental shock in Afghanistan, Sam returns in body with his brain scrambled and confused. He accuses Tommy and Grace of having an affair, becomes a mean father and must make the choice of returning to Afghanistan or mending his soul for the sack of his family.

Sony Pictures Releasing, Lionsgate
Director: Jim Sheridan
Writer: David Benioff
Producers: Joni Sighvatsson, Michael De Luca, Ryan Kavanaugh
I viewed 4/10

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009) PG13 - 4 Stars

Never watch a movie when you are cranky, tired and irritable. That's what happened when I viewed Sherlock Holmes the first time. I was bored instantly, paid little attention and fell fast asleep. But I'm so glad I decided to re watch it once awake in a different frame of mind. Never being big into the Sherlock Holmes series, I still knew of the legendary detective. Whom, in a moments glance of a room, could uncover the slightest detail, giving insight into the cases resolve. Planing precisely his every move in advance, while never missing a beat, I think Downey Jr. had the unique quirkiness to make a perfect Holmes. But I've heard fans of the detective think his character was changed too much. For example, Rachel McAdams looks great in her Indiana Jones portrayal of mystery and suspense, but if Holmes and Watson were on their own originally, I'm not sure they needed to bring a female on board to romanticize the moment. However, I really enjoyed her presence as I felt she's just the thing to enhance Holmes true personality. Judd Law was great and both couldn't have been better hand picked for their roles. Complimenting each so well, they make the ideal inquisitive duo you want to root for. Mark Strong, with his cold villainous stare, reminded me of the old Dracula movies with Bela Lugosi lurking in the darkness. The costume and set design make you feel you're back in the day of playing a game of clue. A good action/adventure movie perhaps better viewed with closed captions to allow full enjoyment of the vocalized banter. This playful film leaves an opening for a sequel which I would certainly see.

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Dr. Watson (Jude Law), are back together again, involved in stopping the evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), from claiming another life. Once behind bars and scheduled for hanging, Holmes goes back to his solitary existence of never ending Inquisitions. That is until Watson must bring Holmes back to reality to grant Blackwood's last request. After hung and laid to rest, Blackwood arises from the dead to carry on his killing streak. Holmes dives back on the case trying to entice Watson to join him. But Watson is eager to start a new life with Mary (Kelly Reilly), and leave the detective days behind and along comes past love Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams),throwing yet another wrench into Holmes plans.

Awards Include:
2009 - Hollywood Foreign Press Association - Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Directors: Guy Ritchie, Neil Marshall
Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Guy Ritchie, Michael Johnson
Producers: Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Dan Lin
I viewed 4/10

Friday, April 9, 2010

Blindness (2008) R - 2 Stars

Giving this two stars because Danny Glover is in it and I love Danny Glover. But Danny, what the heck are you doing in this one? What seems weird to me is I stayed with the entire movie all the way to the end. It had a way of attaching me to it maybe because I was waiting for something exciting to happen. Well, I'm still waiting and the ending is horrible. They never tell you why everyone went blind and why one lady is the only one who can see. I guess the dark drab cinematography is to make you blinded yourself and perhaps claustrophobic.

One person (Yusuke Iseya), suddenly becomes blind seeing everything white instead of black. He is helped out from behind his drivers seat while another man takes over to avoid a traffic jam. When he returns home to his wife (Yoshino Kimura ), he's missing his eyesight, car and keys. They see the doctor as well as the man who stole his car, who also can not see now. The doctor (Mark Ruffalo ), has never heard of anything like this and starts to research into it further. The doc returns home to his wife (Julianne Moore), and suddenly the doctor is blind too along with everyone who's been in contact with him and so on and so on The entire city, possibly the entire world as no one ever explains, is blind except for the doctors wife who fakes it to be allowed to stay with her husband. They are driven to a holding area and quarantined since it appears to be a contagious virus. But the government treats them as if they have the plague, locks them away where they must fend for themselves to stay alive.

Rhombus Media, Inc., O2 Filmes, Bee Vine Pictures, Miramax Films
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Writer: Don McKellar
Producers: Niv Fichman, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Sonoko Sakai
I viewed 4/10

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (2008) PG13 - 3 Stars

This was a simple yet great documentary on the use of performance enhancing drugs; steroids. Directed by Christopher Bell, it accounts the life of himself and his two brothers who went from overweight boys, to muscle thriving men. The boys grew up watching their heroes like Hulk Hogan, in wrestling matches, striving to be just like them. As they take extreme measure of religious work outs, they find themselves unable of achieving "greatness." Two of the brothers Mark "Smelly" Bell, and Mike "Mad Dog" Bell, turn to steroids to enhance their performance. Christopher Bell, believing the usage of the drugs is just like cheating, does a good objective job researching into anabolic steroid use and where do we draw the line of what's fair and not fair.

The film focuses on the hypocrisy in our American culture as we strive for perfection. If you don't compare to the man or woman on the magazine cover, you're nothing. The movie gives a fair comparison between both sides of the debate including clips of the political congressional hearings on the subject of steroids in all Sports including the Olympics. America's need to win mentality can tend to overlook the obvious until it's exposed as a bad thing. Bell gives us a small look into athletes lives such as Barry Bond, Lyle Alzado, Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Lewis heroes to he and his brothers while growing up. Society looks up to these iconic stars as the greatest in the world trying to ignore the facts on how they got there. I liked the analogy of Tiger Woods having eye surgery to enhance his vision to 20/15 and why is this not looked upon as the same type of advantage. Should this be considered cheating as well? There are many legal substances such as creatine, and protein, that enhance performance but not giving the same attachment.

Magnolia Pictures
Director: Christopher Bell
Writers: Christopher Bell, Tamsin Rawady, Alexander Buono
Producers: Alexander Buono, Tamsin Rawady, Jim Czarnecki
I viewed 4/10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Southern Comfort (2001) NR - 4 Stars

I'm really big on documentaries that explore and enlighten me to situations I wouldn't really think about. This tragic story, laced with empathy and compassion, touches gently into the world of trans sexuality. Despite your opinion of it's right or wrongness, Southern Comfort offers an inside peek into a handful of close knit friends who excel in unconditional love, acceptance, and support. I think what I love most about this movie is it takes place on a secluded farm in Toaccoa, Georgia and not on the streets of West Hollywood. For the average person, it may be hard to look at transsexuals with anything other than contempt. I think most of my circle of friends would have no desire to see this film putting labeling into a freak category. But this movie is full of compassion, love and acceptance and I really felt for Robert's story.

Take a small but sad journey into one man's life who's dying of ovarian cancer due to his body being female. For him, the intimacy he shares with other transsexuals touches far beyond the bond some have shared with their genetic families.

Robert Eads (female to male) has one final wish, to have the strength to attend and speak at the annual Southern Comfort conference, to support and show love for small circle of friends in the transsexual community. He meets and falls in love with Lola Cola, (male to female), being a Zola I must say I do love her name, and along with some of their closest friends like Maxwell Scott Anderson, they open up a small portion of their constant struggles of acceptance living as transgendered.

Awards Include:
2000 - Sundance Film Festival - Documentary Grand Jury Prize

HBO Documentary Films, Q-Ball Productions
Director: Kate Davis
Producers: Kate Davis, Elizabeth Adams
I viewed 4/10

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) - 3 Stars

This is the type of movie you almost need to see twice to pick up all the subtle messages that piece together. Even with subtitles on, there's so much to absorb it's hard to stay with the plot which does finally take shape. The biggest problem though, it takes so long to take shape and the direction is all over the place. Along the way you're at least entertained as you discover another great actor taking center stage. Seriously, for such a nutty plot, I wonder how this movie managed to get such a great list of performers. For me, it's the cast that makes it fun and bearable. I love the part when they hit the rock after cloud bursting. No it's not a laugh out loud movie but if you can stay with it, it's fun and definitely unusual.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), is trying to discover what he really wants to be in life after his wife dumps him for another man. He's a reporter and desperately wants to get into IRAQ and write a piece that will launch him to fame, proving his worth to the world. Lately his assignments have been interviewing seemingly quaky psychics he considers insane as they tell their stories. Determined to get to the next level in journalism he sets out for IRAQ only to be held up in cheap motels and lying to others about his first hand accounts on the front line. By chance he meets a man named Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a name he remembers from his last physic interview. That interview mentioned Lyn Cassady as the ultimate physic and here he sits in right in front of Bob.

Seemingly more than a coincidence, Bob immediately tries to make contact with Lyn. After he explains how he knows of his name Lyn tells Bob of an experimental U.S. military unit; the New Earth Army. He comes up with preposterous stories of the Jedi force, a legion of "Warrior Monks," who have the ability to kill a goat just by staring at it. Their psychic powers can pass through walls and read the enemy's thoughts. at it. The small legion of men are led by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), who's practice involve winning the war in a nonviolent approach. Bob becomes fascinated by all the secretiveness of the movement and begs Lyn to allow him to tag along into Iraq on his latest mission. It is there he will also meet another top player of the movement Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), whose jealousy of Lyn's abilities will actually cause the group to end.

Smoke House, BBC Films, Overture Films
Director: Grant Heslov
Writer: Peter Straughan
Producers: Paul Lister, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
I viewed 4/10

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Stepfather (2009) PG13 - 3½ Stars

I'm not big into the -I want to hunt you down and kill you movies- as they're usually full of blood causing me to shut my eyes a lot. But I thought this movie had some pretty good suspense to it with all the bloody gore. It kept me attached to my seat throughout the entire movie with no potty breaks. Even the acting was pretty good which helped make the story more believable. It's not a bad thriller at all.

Susan Harding (Sela Ward), has been divorced for a while now raising her two young children Beth (Skyler Samuels), and Sean (Braeden Lemasters), on her own. Her oldest son Michael Harding (Penn Badgley), has just returned home after being sent away to boarding school. But there's been some changes at home since Michael has been gone. David Harris (Dylan Walsh), has moved in claiming he wants to make the family whole again by marrying Susan and becoming the children's stepfather. Michael was never close with his real father and is very skeptical of David trying to become his friend. When he over hears Mrs. Cutter (Nancy Linehan Charles), the little old lady from across the street, tell Susan she watched an episode of "America's Most Wanted," she thinks she saw a sketch looking a lot like David. Michael constantly discusses his reservations about his new stepfather with his girlfriend Kelly Porter (Amber Heard), who usually makes him realise he is letting his mind wander. But when Mrs. Cutter is suddenly found dead, Michael does a little investigating of his own.

Imprint Entertainment, Granada, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Director: Nelson McCormick
Writer: J.S. Cardone
Producers: Mark Morgan, Greg Mooradian
I viewed 3/10