Saturday, June 4, 2011

Burlesque (2010) PG13 - 3½ Stars

I always love Cher in anything she does and she still looks great and can belt out a tune after all these years. Also starring Christina Aguilera, I've never been one of her biggest fan but this movie gave me new respect for her. That girl can sing her heart out, and dos a pretty good job of acting too. Aguilera plays a girl from Iowa looking for the chance to make it big in Hollywood. She buys a one way ticket to Los Angeles and walks into a Burlesque bar, feeling completely drawn in. So much so, she grabs a tray, starts waiting tables for free, all just to be close to the experience while she dreams of her chance to get up on stage. I love the title song and gotta put this one in my musical category. It's not a musical but it has so many good songs and singing, it's gotta go there. Nicely done.

Ali, (Christina Aguilera), is a small time girl from Iowa working a dead end job in need of a change. She packs up her things and gets a one way ticket to Los Angeles in search of a venue to strut her stuff. She stumbles upon The Burlesque Lounge on the Sunset Strip. Intrigued with the show, she can visualize herself on stage if given half the chance. She feels it so bad, she grabs a tray and begins to wait tables at no charge, just to be close. Club owner Tess,(Cher), sees her persistence and eagerness, and hires her as a waitress. You never know if another girl is needed as one of Tess's best girls Nikki,(Kristen Bell), has been screwing up a lot. The burlesque club is Tess's passion and it's financially struggling to stay afloat. What Tess needs is a miracle.

When Nikki pisses Tess off for the last time, Ali comes aboard to fill her shoes. Surprisingly to all, Ali has a ginormous voice that fills the house. Even Jack, (Cam Gigandet), the engaged bartender, sits up to take notice. But it's a little too much too late and Tess and Ali are forced to put their heads together to save the club before the doors are closed for good.

2010 - Hollywood Foreign Press Association - Best Original Song

De Line Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing
Director: Steve Antin
Writers: Steve Antin, Susannah Grant
Producer: Donald De Line
I viewed 5/11

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lemon Tree (2008) NR - 3½ Stars

Inspired by a true event in the Palestinian West Bank, here's a human interest story with many layers to it. It's a story about division between the Palestinians and Israelis, the power struggle between the "have and the have nots", politics vs. humanity and an invisible bond that is formed between two women.

Selma, 45, has been a widow for over 10 years and her children are attending to their own lives, neglecting their mother's love. When the defense minister moves in next door, she faced with loosing everything dear to her in the name of politics. A slow paced movie, it's a good insight into the traditional living in Palestinian West Bank. Hiam Abbass is very good in her role and you embrace her way of life. Though I would have liked a better ending, it's a good little movie for those who seek compassion for the rest of the world.

Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass), lives in a meager home within a lemon grove her great grand parents started. At a young age she lost her mother leaving Selma to be raised by her adoring father. After his death, her life's work is to tend to the grove stayed which is said to have the tastiest lemons around. But when Defense Minister Israel Navon (Doron Tavory), and his wife Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael), move in next door, Selma's treasured lemon grove now causes great conflict between the neighbors. Assumptions are the Defense Minister's home and life will be in jeopardy from anyone trying to sneak up to his property using the lemon grove for cover. His advisers decide their only recourse is to cut the grove to the ground, clearing their view.

As her children are content in their own lives and no one else to turn to, Selma hires and attorney, Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman), to help protect her lemon grove from destruction. But Selma is only a poor Palestinian woman, forced to do battle against a more powerful, male, political system she can not afford. Ziad vows his commitment to help Selma in her plight while also developing true feelings of love for her the two try to ignore. Even the Defense ministers wife, Mira, feels for Selma's situation. Already having lost two battles against the powerful judicial system, Selma's last chance is to be heard by the Supreme Court. As Mira becomes more bored over her husbands lack of attention, she joins in the cause to help support Selma salvaging her dream.

Awards Include:
2008 Awards of the Israeli Film Academy - Best Actress
2008 Berlin International Film Festival - Panorama Audience Award

Eran Riklis Productions (ERP), MACT Productions, Riva Filmproduktion GmbH
Director: Eran Riklis
Writers: Eran Riklis, Suha Arraf
Producers: Martine de Clermont-Tonnere, Michael Eckelt, Bettina Brokemper
I viewed 5/11

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Conviction (2010) R - 4½ Stars

What a wonderful movie about the love and devotion shared between two siblings. How on earth did this movie get passed up on by the Academy? I had not heard of this movie until watching previews for it on another rented DVD. The previews looked excellent and the movie better than I'd hope for. Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell are outstanding and so believable in their really heartfelt roles. I can't recommend this movie enough.

Kenny Waters received a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit. His loving sister Betty Anne, sacrificed her life and marriage to work her way through law school, becoming a lawyer for the purpose of freeing her brother from prison. It took over 18 years, but she finally obtained blood samples, previously reported destroyed due to age, that could be tested for a DNA match. She also found out the eye witnessed were bullied into lying under oath by the only female officer in the department, Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo), who was making a name for herself in a mans world.

The story...
Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) and her brother, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), were the best of friends growing up despite their screwed up childhood. Raised by an incompetent mother who eventually lost them and split up through many foster homes, the children shared a tightly knit bond. They used to break into expensive homes, not to vandalise but only to lay on the beds, imagining a better life for them someday. But Kenny was a smart mouth lad which followed him through is adult years. Basically a nice guy, he faced his share of run-ins with the law thus making him an easy target to pin a murder conviction on.

The two siblings were so close that when Betty Anne got word of Kenny's arrest, she stayed exclusively by his side, vowing her complete devotion to find a way to set him free. She got her GED, went back to college, got her degree in law, enrolled in a legal college, passed the bar and became an attorney. She did this to gain information off limits to her before, helping to build a case, proving her brothers innocence. But this devotion took it's toll on her marriage and relationship with her children. She still refused to give up hope her brother would someday soon become a free man. Even when 18 years later, DNA evidence clearly stated Kenny was not the suspected criminal, it still took more than a year to clear his name. Along with the help of her only friend, Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), and a legal defense for the wrongly accused, with leader Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher), the same as in the O.J. Simpson case, almost 19 years later, Kenny was finally acquitted and set free.

2010 - National Board of Review - Freedom of Expression Award

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Omega Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Writer: Pamela Gray
Producers: Tony Goldwyn, Andrew Sugerman, Andrew S. Karsch
I viewed 4/11