Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not Easily Broken (2009) PG13 - 3½ Stars

I'm marking this movie in my religious category because it does carry the message of keeping yourself connected to God. I'm also putting it in the family category because I feel the movie sends a good moral message about competition, anger, friendship, getting along in your relationships and staying focused on what's important, without shoving religion down your throat. My favorite quote from the movie is "Sometimes the world has to turn you upside down so you can learn how to live right side up." This new married couple is having to do just that after an terrible accident that stressed their marriage vows.

I think Morris Chestnut is a great looking co-star as well as a very convincing actor. Taraji P. Henson plays the good bitching housewife, caught up in the rat race of life, too involved to see what's happening around her. Jenifer Lewis plays an irritating, scorn, mother in law who holds her own failed marriage as a sign that all men are evil and never good enough for women.

This is not an action packed movie but the message is strongly delivered with great direction and heart. Dave Johnson, (Morris Chestnut), has just married the love of his life Clarice Clark (Taraji P. Henson), and the two couldn't be more happy. As they were married, Bishop Wilkes (Albert Hall), places "a threefold cord is not easily broken," around the couples shoulders. He tells them that two of the cords represent their love and the third cord is keeping God close in their hearts. As they will learn, the world will throw obstacles at them but as long as they remain true to themselves and God, no one can ever tear them apart.

After a terrible accident, Clarice is forced into home rehabilitation and her divorced mother Mary (Jenifer Lewis), moves in to take care of her. As Clarice struggles with walking again, their marriage is about to be put to the test. If the couple is to succeed with their marriage, they must find their way back to their "not easily broken, threefold cord."

TriStar Pictures, Duke Media
Director: Bill Duke
Writer: Brian Bird
Producers: Aaron Norris, T.D. Jakes, Bill Duke
I viewed 11/11

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Spy Next Door (2010) PG - 3½ Stars

Cute family movie with plenty of action, drama and laughs. Nice to see Jackie Chan using his talents in a fun way. He plays a Chinese International spy working with the CIA while trying to fit into a normal suburban neighborhood. He lives next door to a single mom raising three children, a cat, a turtle and a pig. As the mother and he get closer, the kids do everything possible to sabotage their relationship as they fear getting close to another father figure.

Even though the villain's are Maxwell Smart silly, their characters and stunts are fun and entertaining. The children are believable as Chan teaches them the art of love and respect. He goes from being super boring to super cool, winning their trust and love. But mom's not to thrilled with his antics that have put her children in harms way. Now it's up to the children to pull the group back together. Fun for the entire family.

Bob Ho (Jackie Chan), is a somewhat retired International spy. He's secretly on loan to the CIA, working with Agent Glaze (George Lopez) and Bob's best friend, Agent Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus). Trying to lead a normal life, he lives next door to the girl he is seeing, single mom Gillian (Amber Valletta), and her family of three, stepdaughter Farren (Madeline Carroll), son Ian (Will Shadley), and Nora (Alina Foley). The kids don't think Bob would make a very good mate for their mother or a father to them as he dresses boring and doesn't seem to have a lot going on. When Gillian's father becomes ill, she must leave unexpectedly, flying to Denver and Bob steps up to the plate to watch the children. This gives them a perfect chance to get to know one another better. With Halloween quickly approaching, Bob must prepare the children and the home for the upcoming event. He'll have to wing it to prove his love and support for Gillian. Completely out of his league, Bob resorts to his super spy gadgets to help keep the kids in order.

Poldark (Magnús Scheving) and Creel (Katherine Boecher), Russian spies are developing a chemical to destroy the world's oil. They've just perfected their technique and found that their information has been mistakenly downloaded by young son, Ian. Now Russian spies surround the family and will stop at nothing to get back their secrect code.

Relativity Media, Robert Simonds Company, Reel FX
Director: Brian Levant
Writers: Gregory Poirier, Jonathan Bernstein, Jim Greer
Producers: Ryan Kavanaugh, Robert Simonds
I viewed 11/11

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Children Underground (2001) NR - 3 Stars

Based on the true life story of thousands of run away and abandoned children on the Romanian streets of Bucharest. This documentary follows five young children and their dangerous fight for survival. Mihai Tudose - Age 12 and her younger brother Ana - Age 10, Cristina (II) - Age 16, Marian - Age 8 and Macarena - Age 14. These young girls have had to disguise themselves as boys in order to be tough and survive living on the streets.

The Reign of Romanian dictator Nicolei Ceaucescu had outlawed the use of birth control as he wanted his nation's population to grow. He encouraged his people to have more children and with nearly 20,000 homeless and abandoned children surviving on the streets of Bucharest, his plan went extremely wrong. These children must beg, fight, steal and improvise to get a daily meal. Most have turned to sniffing paint as a recreational way to bare the pain.

My biggest complaint of this documentary comes with the reading of sub titles. The are placed against bright areas on the screen making them hard to read. For me, I found myself spending too much time trying to read dialog than identifying with the children's grim future. However, you don't need subtitles to recognize these children are street tough and already know what it takes to survive in a world that doesn't want them.
Award: 2000 - Sundance Film Festival - Special Jury Prize

Director: Edet Belzberg
Producer: Edet Belzberg
I viewed 11/11

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shuttle (2008) R - 3 Stars

For a B movie, I actually found myself involved in the journey of two single girls, kidnapped by a shuttle driver, fighting for their lives. I think the female characters were decent and I felt myself feeling identifying with them as I have felt vulnerable when traveling taking a shuttle late night by myself. The girls have no idea they have just stepped into a human trafficking ring. Now, they struggle to stay alive as thy are selected to become slaves in another part of the world.

Jules (Cameron Goodman), and Mel (Peyton List), have just returned from a girls getaway on a late flight and where most people have already gone home. The wait for an airport shuttle in the rain and find drivers competing with the prices for their patronage. Matt (Dave Power), and Seth (James Snyder), are also at the airport trying to put the moves on the young girls. They all decide to join the same shuttle to get to know each other. The driver (Tony Curran), seems very friendly and helpful and another man, Andy (Cullen Douglas), is a passenger already aboard the bus. As the small groups heads off into the wet night, they have no idea whats in store for them just around the next corner.

Zero Gravity Management
Director: Edward Anderson
Writer: Edward Anderson
Producers: Allan Jones, Mark Williams, Todd Lemley
I viewed 5/11

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kalifornia (1993) R - 3½ Stars

I love, love, love any movie Juliette Lewis is involved in, She is a great actor and her roles usually get under my skin. A very different side of Brad Pitt and he's fantastic playing a psychotic Early, Adele's deranged boyfriend. He really compliments her well. Laughlin and Kessler are also great as the somewhat naive but trendy couple on a road trip. The movie gives me the creeps and for that alone I think it's well worth the ride. On the violent side, not for all audiences.

Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes) and Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) are boyfriend and girlfriend looking for a new adventure. Carrie is a freelance photographer and Brian is a writer and the two decide to take a trip, touring sights where famous murders have taken place in order to document them. Their journey takes them cross country but with the prices of gas, they offer a ride to a couple to share the expenses with them.

Enter Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis). Early is an ex con who is on the run for just murdering his landlord. Adele is a ditz and copy's the glamour look and behavior of Carrie to the point of obsession. Carrie and Brian soon realize their next chapter could be about themselves as they share this ride through hell.

Gramercy Pictures
Director: Dominic Sena
Writers: Tim Metcalfe, Stephen Levy
Producers: Gregory Goodman, Steve Golin, Sigurjon Sighvatsson
I viewed 4/07 and 11/11

Monday, November 21, 2011

Black Swan (2010) R - 4½ Stars

Natalie Portman gives an unforgetable performance as an unstable ballerina on the verge of discovering herself. She plays Nina, a fragile, up and coming ballerina, trying to win the lead in a production of Swan Lake. Programed by her mother, threatened by a rival, and sexually seduced by a man, she survives in a world of delusion where her true distorted realism allow her to dance to the perfection of what her life's become. The cinematography really gives a good feel of incite into the twisted ballerina's mind. I have to quote something I read that says it all. "It is pure horror mixed with backstage melodrama."

Questions have arisen as to rather her performance alone is worthy of the Oscar she received. Using a professional ballerina Sarah Lane, as a stand in doing a lot of the dancing, many feel would revoke her award as the movie gives you the impression she can dance as well as she can act. My personal opinion is her winning performance was based on her portrayal of this psychotic, neurotic role rather than her dancing. However, I don't understand why Sarah Lane is not even mentioned in the closing credits or on the rental box. Watching the movie, I think it's clear that Porter can stand alone on her performance as most probably realise a stand in was used for the complicated dance movements. After all, this is Hollywood where illusions are masterminded.

Famed Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), will be directing the theatrical production of Swan Lake. Many ballerinas try out but one in particular, Nina (Natalie Portman), will catch his eye. But jealous Lily (Mila Kunis), is set on the becoming the Swan Queen also. The duel roles of the White Swan and Black Swan are two different personalities and Nina can't completely allow herself to freely let go. As her mother pushes harder and jealousy increases, and the director must training Nina in the art of seduction where she finds it hard to distinguish fantasy from reality. The more she dances her way to the darker side, she begins to become one with it.

Awards include:
2010 - Art Directors Guild - Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film
2010 - Austin Film Critics - Best Picture
2010 - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Cinematography
2010 - Screen Actors Guild - Best Actress

Protozoa Pictures, Phoenix Pictures, Rodarte, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz
Producers: Arnie Messer, Brian Oliver, Mike Medavoy
I viewed 4/11

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Circle of Eight (2009) NR - 1 Star

Can someone please tell me why movies like this are made? These eight people are all dead and still invade the apartment building they died in due to a fire. All thanks to Jessica, who can't seem to make the right decision to break the cycle of their souls lingering around the hallways. Why make half of the characters a bit on the freaky side and the rest all yuppy's living in a scummy run down building. They all should have been freaks. And just one day after New Years countdown, Jessica is already back moving in. Confused, you're not alone. Almost like a bunch of your friends got together and made a film for a school project.

Jessica (Austin Highsmith), moves into the seemingly fair shaped Dante apartment building where a twenty something crowd resides. She quickly is advised by the manager Ed (John Bishop), of the rules and how to make nice with the other neighbors. Jessica notices one creepy tenant Randal (DJ Qualls), holding a camcorder and filming her every move. Out of the dark halls, appears a very artistic Evan (Ryan Doom) to somewhat save her. She also meets Elaine (Katie Lowes), Bale (Josh Kelly), sexy India (Natashia Williams), and Pretty boy Damon (Jesse Johnson). As Jessica becomes more adjusted to her new home, she finds her neighbors are brutally dying all around her. The more she tries to make sense of it all, the more she discovers her connection to the Dante.

Bronson Avenue, Milchan / Van Eyssen, Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment
Director: Stephen Cragg
Writers: David Brewman, Brian Horiuchi
Producers: David Van Eyssen, Alexandra Milchan
I viewed 4/11

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sex and the City 2 (2010) R - 2½ Stars

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for girl power and everything, but please no more sequels in this series. I've always been addicted to Sex in the City series and when the 1st movie was out, I had to see it. At least this time, I didn't have to pay anything cause I'm sorry to say, the girls have grown up and the freshness is gone. Yes Keri still makes the point about relationships that sometimes you have to step away from your situation to really see how good you have it. I know the movie is just for fun but seriously folks, the girls are going to the Middle East to be treated like royalty and bring girl power to there? Singing "I am Woman" up on stage well that's just seemed absurd and so far fetched and forced. There are a few funny parts and I guess I liked that Samantha is the reason the girls must flee their stay early. Though, I have to say, it couldn't hurt putting a couple bowling alleys, pool tables or night club in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran etc. I think it may get people to loosen up and have some fun instead of always thinking about war and revenge. Okay back to the movie, I enjoyed the second half more feeling a closer connection with the old series as Keri discovers what's really important in her live. For a free rental, I don't feel so badly wasting my time.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) still make a point of getting in touch with each other even though their lives have taken different directions. Carrie is married to the love of her life, "Big" (Chris Noth), Charlotte is still married to Harry (Evan Handler), and her second child is in her terrible twos, Miranda is still married with a young son and Samantha is still playing the fields happily unmarried. But a prince from the middle East mistakes her for a woman of class and invites her and the girls for a vacation of their lives to the Middle East. With Carrie feeling sort of like an old married couple, and Charlotte and Miranda in desperate need of a break, they gladly accept Samantha's invitation. From the moment they arrive they're treated like royalty, with little cares in the world. The become so comfortable in their surroundings they get on stage and belt out a version of "I am Woman." But leave it to Samantha to take it too far in a world condemning the sight of a woman's face in public. Before you know it, the girls are on the run to get out of the country if only to return to their traditional luxurious roles.

Village Roadshow Pictures Entertainment, HBO Network- Home Box Office, New Line Cinema Director: Michael Patrick King
Writer: Michael Patrick King
Producers: Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Melfi
I viewed 10/11

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Syrian Bride (2004) NR - 3 Stars

Living my whole life in the United States and growing up with traditional American customs, it always enlightens me to watch movies that take me out of my comfort zone. The Syrian Bride is a reality check on my traditional values of what marriage means to me. The thought of an arranged marriage to someone you've never met, I just can't see how that is done. But here, it happens all the time. The problem for this Syrian bride is once she crosses the border to wed her husband, politics will never allow her to return home to her family. Her small village of Majdial Shame, has been under Israelie occupation since the 60's and the border is highly protected. Good movie at giving one an insight into living in the Middle East.

Hammed (Makram J. Khoury) is a leading political figure in the small Palestinian town of Majdal Shams. A while back, he arranged the marriage of his daughter Mona (Clara Khoury), to the now famous actor, Tallel (Derar Sliman), from Syria. The family is getting together to tend to Mona's needs. Hammed's youngest son Marwan (Ashraf Barhoum), works in Italy and is visiting for the wedding, Hammed's oldest son, Hattem (Eyad Sheety), has come from Russia with his Russian wife and son but has been out casted by his father for leaving his home land and marrying out of the culture. Another daughter Amal (Hiam Abbass), helps Mona prepare for her big day. Marwan dates a woman named Jeanne (Julie-Anne Roth), who works for the American United Nations and will help with the passport arrangement between the countries to transport Mona across the border. But much red tape comes along with this simple task and Mona is not allowed to cross over to her matrimonial destination unless the countries can reach some sort of agreement.

Arte France Cinéma, Eran Riklis Productions (ERP)
Director: Eran Riklis
Writers: Suha Arraf, Eran Riklis
Producers: Bettina Brokemper, Michael Eckelt, Eran Riklis
I viewed 7/11

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Randy and the Mob (2007) PG - 2 Stars

I've seen worse movies and I have to admit this movie did have me laugh a couple of times but seriously folks, I think you can pass this one up. The plot is predictable with a loan shark demanding his money and the character development is weak as people just sort of show up to complicate the story line. Maybe I missed some inside humor somewhere as other reviews I read depict a funnier scenario. The quaintness of a small Georgia town separates it from your other mob movies, but I was hoping for more laughs.

Randy Pearson (Ray McKinnon), is your typical middle class American guy living the American dream. He lives with his depressed wife Charlotte (Lisa Blount) who suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome as she teaches baton class. Randy's into just about every business in town but most of them aren't making any money. He soon finds himself faced with Italian mobster Franco (Paul Ben-Victor), demanding he makes good on his loan. Randy must turn to his wife and estranged gay twin brother Cecil (Ray McKinnon), for help. Now that he's in over his head with the Franco, Tino Armani (Walton Goggins), finds a way to start producing profits.

Capricorn Pictures, Ginny Mule Pictures, Timbergrove Entertainment
Director: Ray McKinnon
Writer: Ray McKinnon
Producers: David Koplan, Walton Goggins, Lisa Blount
I viewed 8/11

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Fockers (2010) PG13 - 2 Stars

Another classic example of over doing something great. The original "Meet the Fockers," was hilarious. Perhaps it was the innocence of the characters or the freshness of a new idea. But, this 3rd in the series, you can chalk off your list. Little Fockers doesn't feature the kids doing zanny stuff, driving grandpa Burns mad. Why does the little girl not want to speak to her father? Is Jack ever going to give it a rest with Gaylor? Oh well, It's the same cliche' lines just more forced and really not very funny. As a matter of fact, the funniest part of the movie is the parity of YouTube videos featuring Gaylord Focker roasting Jack Burns, and that doesn't happen till the closing credits.

Jack (Robert De Niro), and Greg (Ben Stiller) , are still at each other in this third sequel to Meet the Fockers. Even though Jack's daughter and Greg have now been married over 10 years, Jack will never give up control over Greg's behavior. Greg is working two jobs to help support their new twin boys and a grand party is thrown for them just to get in a few more digs at Greg. Kevin (Owen Wilson), still carries a torch for Pam after all these years and Roz (Barbra Streisand) and Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman) throw their two cents into the mixture. Weeeee.

Universal Pictures
Director: Paul Weitz
Writers: Larry Stuckey, John Hamburg
Producers: Robert De Niro, John Hamburg, Jane Rosenthal
I viewed 4/11

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toy Story 3 (2010) G - 4½ Stars

Geeze what a cute movie that seems to end the series while tugging at the strings of your heart. Buz and Woody are back at it in Toy Story 3. This time Andy (John Morris), is all grown up and going away to college. He has to decide what to do with the items in his bedroom before he leaves. Gathering up all his childhood toys, he decides to put them in the attic for safe keeping. But the bags get switched and the toys end up at Sunnyside school where new toys are forced to play with the young children who don't know how to take care of them. Woody leads the gang into a daring escape to find there way back to the safety of the attic. Toy Story is one of those movies where the sequels are as good as the original. I still have some of my very favorite toys from my youth and of course when I look at their tiny smiling faces, I know I could never part with some of them. A great family adventures for the young and old alike. Perfect G rating.

Featuring Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Rex (Wallace Shawn), Mrs. Potato Head, (Estelle Harris), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Barbie (Jodi Benson), and new members like Ken (Michael Keaton) and more.

Awards include:
2010 - Austin Film Critics - Best Animated Feature
2010 - British Academy of Film and Television Arts - Best Animated Feature
2010 - L.A. Film Critics Association - Best Animated Feature

Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Michael Arndt
Producer: Darla K. Anderson
I viewed 10/11

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011) PG13 - 3 Stars

Actually with a touch of humor the Green Hornet becomes a fun movie with good action. I love Kato's character but Reid is good too and always a pleasure to see Cameron Dias even though she really does nothing for this movie. I didn't understand the ending though thus making room for yet another sequel. I wish Hollywood would quit trying to make movies that go on and on and instead come up with movies that can stand alone one time. With a too much violence for young children, this is not your Superman hero sort of movie and basically a comedic spoof.

James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) , has created a media empire Los Angeles' "The Daily Sentinel", with no help from his degenerate spoiled playboy son Britt (Seth Rogen). Britt doesn't take life very seriously, playing video games and drinking all day, it's not until his father passes, living his entire estate to him, that Britt has to grow up fast. Or does he? Britt doesn't know a thing about running the company and asks help from Kato (Jay Chou), one of his fathers best worker. Kato is extremely handy and the two team up to become nighttime vigilantes in a souped up bat mobile known as the Black Beauty. Their take on the names Kato and the Green Hornet. Their efforts are to clean the streets of common criminals and anyone else who threatens to take his company down. Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), is one such criminal and with the help of Britt's secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), the duo must stop him at all costs.

Original Film, Ironhead Studios. W M Creations Inc
Directors: Stephen Chow, Michel Gondry
Writers: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Producer: Neal H. Moritz
I viewed 5/11

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taking Lives (2004) R - 3½ Stars

This is a decent movie though it has a lot of pauses that drag on a bit. I would have to say the story line doesn't flow as well as the acting but Angelina Jolie is pretty good as usual. There's good action in the movie and I think it rates your money on a rental.

Paquette (Olivier Martinez) and Duval (Jean-Hugues Anglade), are two Canadian police detectives that are investigating a brutal murder. The appearance of the body makes them realize this is similar to yet another killing they've seen before in Montreal. Agent Illeana Scott (Angelina Jolie), is a special agent for the F.B.I., with a great record on criminal profiling. She's called in to join the case to see if she can get inside the head of this psychotic serial killer before he strikes again.

Scott determines the way the killer mutilates the bodies, show signs of what sexually turns him on. Scott also determines, his first kill probably involved a car accident where he faked his own death in order to take on the identity of his victim. In her opinion, the killer has been doing the same ever since, by trading his old life for a new one after each murder. Soon, Scott alienates herself from the rest of the team, with her unorthodox methods. But that's the way she prefers to work anyway; alone.

Mrs. Asher (Gena Rowlands), arrives at the police station thinking her son may be the killer, which cause Agent Scott to take notice. Only problem is, Mrs. Asher's son was killed in a car accident 19 years ago. Mrs. Asher claims that she has run into her son as she would not forget his icy stare that looks exactly the same as in the artist sketch. She is convinced her son is not dead but could be the one responsible for these killings.

James Costa (Ethan Hawke) an artist, claims he saw the killer during his last assault. He's the only witness and Agent Scott questions him and accepts his testimony unquestionably when he draws a detailed picture of the killers face. Now, they know what the killer looks like.

Agent Scott uses James as bait to help bring the murderer out in the open but also finds and an unexpected attraction to him. As their steamy love affair grows, Hart (Kiefer Sutherland) is now stalking James and Scott must come to his rescue.

Warner Bros Pictures
Director: D.J. Caruso
Writer: John Bokenkamp
Producers: Bernie Goldmann, Mark Canton, Bernie Goldman
I viewed 3/07

Friday, November 11, 2011

Catfish (2010) PG13 - 2½ Stars

Social networking can be a positive experience for those unable to communicate properly or in a normal fashion. But stuff like this goes on all the time. Who are you really chatting with and think you know? Some people live in a virtual world built solely on fantasy and this story is about one woman who paints a portrait of Nev Sculman, mails it to him and concocts a fantasy world around it. This film documents what he thinks may be the beginning of a love affair. Myself, I didn't feel the documentary was totally true. It gives me the impression that it's made up though I wouldn't accuse anyone of that. But it does go to show you, the influence of social networking has on today's society.

Nev Schulman is a photographer in New York City. He receives an email from Abby, an eight year old girl in Michigan, that wants to paint a portrait of him after she has seen him in the newspaper. Nev develops an on going conversation with this young girl until his painting arrives in the mail. The art work is amazing and he is very intrigued how such a young girl can paint so masterfully. In future conversations, Nev is introduced to more members of the family including Abby's sister, Megan whom Nev finds attractive. They speak on the phone and develop a romantic bond. But as his friends Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, begin to document this love story, things don't add up. The three young men decide to pay a surprise visit to the family to get behind the mystery of who is who.

Rogue Pictures, Focus Features
Directors: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
Producers: Andrew Jarecki, Henry Joost, Marc Smerling
I viewed 1/11

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Knight and Day (2010) PG13 - 3 Stars

Here we have an all star cast and I scratch my head as to why this movie. Aka, a "Troubled Man", it's not a bad movie, it does have good action and of course Cruise and Cameron are great. It's just not the kind of epic movie worthy of their names. Filled with cheesy and cliche lines, I found it pretty unbelievable. But if you're looking for an action adventure with stunts equivalent to Bond movies, you might like it a lot.

June Havens (Cameron Diaz) is on her way to fly home for her sisters wedding. Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) is also ready to board a plane and they literally bump into each other twice. Is this fate, Roy thinks so as June is allowed to board a plane she is told is full to capacity. Once on the plane a puzzled June notices how empty it is and sees Roy so the two make small chat for the duration of the flight. As she gets up to use the restroom, she returns to find everyone on board, including the pilots, dead. To her astonishment, Roy has survived and is able to crash land the plane in a dark field. He explains to June that men from the government will visit her soon but she should not trust them. The next day, she is visiting by this group of governmental thugs who are under siege by Roy as he offers June an escape. Before she knows it, shes thrust into the roller coaster ride of her life as she tries to decide who she can trust.

Broken Road Productions, Tree Line Film, 20th Century Fox Distribution
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Laeta Kalogridis
Producers: Steve Pink, Kathy Conrad, Todd Garner
I viewed 12/10

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The American (2010) R - 3 Stars

Aka: A Very Private Gentleman and L' Americano. While this is an okay action adventure, I felt it just didn't tell a good story. Too many questions go unanswered for example, why did the first girl have to die? With a James Bond sort of feel, Clooney is decent playing the American assassin but sort of boring too. There is no character development with him to make a connection and the movie just adds a lot of other stuff in to burn film. First he looks like a loving husband, then he hires strippers for no commitment but asks for the same girl and he allows a priest to ask a lot of questions about him. I don't blame the bad direction on Clooney's performance it just never feels convincing to me. Reminded me too much of so many other movies and I'm generous with 3 stars. It is filmed in a cool little town.

On assignment in Sweden, Jack (George Clooney), is on the run after an assassination attempt gone wrong. Barely escaping with his life, mob associate Pavel (Johan Leysen), helps him flee to a small Italian town to hide. Jack has decided he wants out of the business and Pavel gives him one last assignment; to build a high tech long range gun that can fit in a small case for a Belgian marks woman Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). As he works on the project, he finds himself becoming more comfortable to living around people as he befriends Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli). The town is small and Father Benedetto is a wise priest with common sense. Jack also starts frequenting a local stripper named Clara (Violante Placido). He returns to her often and even sees her outside of work. This once private man finds new romance with Clara if he can pull off this last commitment.

Focus Features, This and That, Greenlit, Smokehouse Production
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writer: Rowan Joffe
Producers: Ann Wingate, Jill Green, Grant Heslov
I viewed 1/11

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winter's Bone (2010) R - 3½ Stars

I love Lionsgate films especially when they use a cast of unknowns. Jennifer Lawrence is one hell of a young actor. She's cast perfectly as Ree and she totally sales the role as does everyone. You really get that "Deliverance" type of feeling peeking into the lives of "white trash" living deep in the Ozark woods. Lawrence touches your heart in her desperate situation to take care of her family.

Sheriff Baskin (Garret Dillahunt), just told 17 year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) , that her house is about to be taken away. Apparently her father put the house up against a bails bond and now he's skipped out on a court date. Ree's grown up in this extremely poor part of the Ozark woods and has no idea where her strung out mom Victoria (Cinnamon Schultz), younger brother Sonny (Isaiah Stone), and little sister Ashlee (Ashlee Thompson), will end up. She determined to track her drug addicted father down before they take away the land.

Others living in the Ozark woods, including kin, are not pleased with Ree coming around asking questions. You know they know something but they aren't going to tell. None of them including Gail (Lauren Sweetser), Merab (Dale Dickey) and Sonya (Shelley Waggener), want to have her snooping around. Ree takes a beating and the only reason she's not dead, is she's family. Uncle Teardop (John Hawkes), comes to her rescue and tires to convince Ree her father's blown up in a one of the many methamphetamine labs in the woods. Ree doesn't want to accept that answer and needs to learn her own truth.

Awards include:
2010 - L.A. Film Critics Association - Best Actress - Runner-up
2010 - National Board of Review - Breakthrough Performance

Roadside Attractions
Director: Debra Granik
Writers: Anne Rosellini, Debra Granik
Producers: Anne Rosellini, Alix Madigan-Yorkin
I viewed 12/10

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Date Night (2010) PG13 - 3 Stars

Though mostly unbelievable, Date Movie is a cute adventure of finding your way back to love. The chemistry between Fey and Carell is believable and even though Carell is funnier than I think he normally is, I wasn't impressed with some of his vulgar lines. The best part of the movie is putting normal everyday people, you can relate with, into extraordinary situations.

Phil (Steve Carell), and Claire Foster (Tina Fey), a couple from New Jersey, fear they are on a path to nowhere as they daily lives consist of taking care of the kids, working and going to bed. The monotony of their daily lives is draining any passion away from them. And now their friends are splitting up, making them realize they could be next. Phil decides to take their "date night" to the next level. He takes Clair to a popular upscale restaurant in Manhattan where they learn reservations are mandatory. As they hear a call for the Tripplehorn's table being ready and no one is responding, they decide to impersonate the missing couple and sit at their table. One thing they didn't know is the Tripplehorns are a couple of thieves and now their mistaken identity has two tough guys Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson), and Collins (Common), showing up at their table asking them to come with them. The Foster's think they are in trouble for impersonating the missing couple and go with them only to get frisked, have their cell phones and ID's taken and a gun pointed at them demanding the flash drive stolen from their boss, Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta). Fearing for their lives, Phil tells them he has the flash drive and it's hiding in Central Park. The four drive to the park where Clair and Phil manage to get away dodging an arsenal of bullets. The next day, the couple goes to the police. They meet with Detective Arroyo (Taraji P. Henson) and as Detective Walsh (Bill Burr), calls Arroyo away, Phil and Claire notice the two men Armstrong and Collins are police men. Now knowing these two are corrupt and want Phil and Claire dead, they decide to take matters into their own hands to save themselves. Now there on the craziest adventure of their lives which just might bring the passion back that they desperately need.

21 Laps Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, 20th Century Fox
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Josh Klausner
Producers: Tom McNulty, Shawn Levy
I viewed 11/10

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Doubt (2008) PG13 - 4 Stars

Taking place in 1964, in St. Nicholas an area of the Bronx, this film is everything you would imagine a strict Catholic school to have been like. What I really liked so much about this movie is the great performances by all three leads. Meryl Streep fits her role playing the principle as an "old school" nun. Amy Adams is a naive school teacher struggling to keep her mind open to the good in all man and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a Priest accused of major wrong doings in the church. Perhaps it's the intent of the director to leave doubt in your mind at it's closure but I think it was a great drama up to that point and then collapses.

Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), is the principle of St. Nicholas Catholic School. Her methods are tough as she believes you can not give the child an opportunity to screw up, as they will take it. She lives her life calculating their next move so she can stay one step ahead of them. Upon visiting the class of Sister James (Amy Adams), she hangs a photo of the Pope of the chalk board proving the wrong doings of the children when her back is turned. As Sister James realizes the children do take advantage of her behind her back, she begins to have doubts of her effectiveness as a teacher and the trust of her students.

Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), head Priest of St. Nicholas, has Sister Aloysius's strong eye watching his every move. She feels Father Flynn is becoming too chummy with most of the boys and feels his behavior inappropriate. Father Flynn has tried to become the children's friend so they have someone to turn to when their young lives have problems. He feels it is important to allow the children to be more free allowing them more happiness. But when she looks out her window and sees the Father grab the arm of a child who flinches away, she is convinced her has crossed the line of friendship. Sister Aloysius puts the word out to keep eyes on Father Flynn in order to catch him in mischievous activity.

While practicing for the upcoming Christmas pageant for the school, Sister James sees Father Flynn put something into one of the young boys lockers. After he has left the room, she opens the locker and finds a young boys undershirt. Her suspicious grow when one of her students is called away to meet Father Flynn during class hours. When the boy returns, he is sluggish, acts peculiar and puts his head down and Sister James smells alcohol on his breath. She reports her findings to Sister Aloysius who is now positive her acquisations are correct. Along with Sister James, Sister Aloysius decide to confront Father Flynn. After the conversation is finished, Sister James is convinced the Father has done nothing wrong and wants to get back to her regular activities at the school. But Sister Aloysius refuses to believe Father Flynn innocence and begins a one woman crusade to see him fall.

Awards include:

2008 - Broadcast Film Critics Association - Best Actress
2008 - Houston Film Critics - Best Ensemble
2008 - Screen Actors Guild - Best Actress
2008 - National Board of Review - Best Ensemble Cast

Miramax Films
Director: John Patrick Shanley
Writer: John Patrick Shanley
Producers: Mark Roybal, Scott Rudin
I viewed 4/10

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salt (2010) PG13 - 4½ Stars

Angelina Jolie kicks ass and steals the show in one of her best roles. Great action scenes that get started right away. Though I doubt you would see our FBI and CIA officials shooting randomly amongst a road full of innocent civilians, there's enough action to pull you right back in before you're questioning that too much. Yeah okay there are some scenes that are pretty unbelievable however I didn't get caught up on that as the action is non stop. Bottom line is I loved the movie and I have new respect for Jolie as I hear she did a lot of her own stunts. You already know there is going to be a sequel. I just hope it will be as good as this one.

Evelyn Salt, (Angelina Jolie), is an undercover officer for the CIA with a dark secret. When she was young, her parents were killed in an accident and Evelyn was taken in and trained by a Russian man who made her swear allegiance to Russia. That's always sticks in the back of her mind. When a Russian defector Orlov, (Daniel Olbrychski), looking for immunity comes in to tell of a plot to assassinate the Russian president, Salt is the one to interrogate him. He tells Salt, CIA Agent Peabody, (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and her boss and mentor CIA Agent Winter (Liev Schreiber), that Salt is a Russian sleeper spy, and she is the one who will carry out the assassination. Now, with no one to trust she must do everything possible to prove her alliance to the right country.

Relativity Media, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group,
Directors: Phillip Noyce, Peter Berg
Writers: Brian Helgeland, Kurt Wimmer
Producers: Sunil Perkash, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura
I viewed 12/10

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Burden of Dreams (1982) R - 3 Stars

It would appear that I have rented two Werner Herzog films in a row. Though the primitive narration and shooting style of this older documentary almost bored me at times, I couldn't stop watching it. Almost in admiration of the determination of this eccentric German filmmaker, I had to hold on to see if he could achieve his goal. It's captivating to watch his dealings with the natives, the jungles of Peru, the obstacles of designing a boat to withstand the rapids of one river, and another identical boat to be drug over the mountain side to another river. Seeming like an impossible feat to produce the movie, this documentary, shot by Les Bank, features Herzog as he attempts the impossible filming his epic Fitzcarraldo.

With Jason Robards starring as Fitzcarraldo and Mick Jagger as his sidekick Wilbur, there is trouble half way through the movie when Robards becomes ill and must return home. Jagger is also forced to leave beginning concert tours to promote his upcoming album. Herzog decides to start the film entirely over doing away with Jaggers role completely as he feels no one can fill Jagger's shoes. This time casting Klaus Kinski as Fitzcarraldo, Herzog is determined to complete is goal. Despite unpredictable weather, the changing of the rivers water table, and the natives getting restless, some tribes in Peru and Ecuador try shut him down.

The story of the film Fitzcarraldo is about the struggles he has to conquer the Amazon rain forest with it's vicious inhabitants. He takes a large boat up the river and over a mountain to access a river on the other side. The natives untie his boat as it rides the rapids thrusting itself a part, with Fitzcarraldo and his operatic solo fading into the distance.

Flower Films
Director: Les Blank
Writers: Michael Goodwin, Mike Goodwin
Producer: Les Blank
I viewed 4/10