Sunday, January 30, 2011

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole (2010) PG13 - 3½ Stars

Beautifully created animation of some of my favorite creatures, the owls. The animation in the owls faces and feathers are really great and so real looking. In some cases it looks like the faces match the voices that bring them to life. However, I am not sure this movie is for small children but more for a mature audience. The conversations between owls, is a little too complex for small minds and it actually is pretty violent in the fighting scenes. Not having children it's hard for me to critique what your choice should be, but I think the animation can still allow them to enjoy the movie. Also, I was unable to see it in 3D and it looks like it has some neat special "in your face" effects. All in all, a cute little movie, beautifully done, about good winning out over evil, faith and family rivalries.

Two young brother owls Soren, (Jim Sturgess), and Kludd, (Ryan Kwanten), are just learning to "branch," flapping their wings to practice flying. Mom and Dad tell them of stories about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole to help them fall asleep. Soren always stares in awe over the stories and dreams about becoming just like them. After their parents have gone to find food, Soran and Kludd who should be in bed, keep practicing. But they haven't yet mastered the art of flying and find themselves on the ground below, leaving their young sister Eglantine, (Adrienne DeFaria), alone in the nest. This is one place an inexperienced owl does not want to find himself as many dangers lurk in the dark on the forest floor. From out of the dark flies a pack of the dreaded Pure Ones who snatch Soren and Kludd up taking them far away to St. Aggie's, St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, where owlets are moon struck, brainwashed and trained to comply. The Pure Ones are trying to eliminate all owls of the forest and use them as Soldiers or Slaves. The Soldiers will be trained to defend the army of the Pure Ones while the Slaves will pick through regurgitated pellets to find sparks to add to the giant energy field that defends them. Soren and Kludd get separated as Kludd decides he wants to join with the enemy and denounces his brother sending Soren to the depths of the pellet pile. Soren and his new friend Gylfie, (Emily Barclay), escape with the help of one old owl Noctus-Grimble, (Hugo Weaving), who's hoping someone can finally get away. They head towards the sea in search of the guardians of Ga'Hoole to warn them what evil Metal Beak, (Joel Edgerton) and Nyra, (Helen Mirren), are doing with young captured owlets. While stopping to rest, Soren and Gylfie meet Digger, (David Wenham), and Twilight, (Anthony LaPaglia), who have just settled down to enjoy a meal of Soren's good friend and snake, Mrs. Plithiver, (Miriam Margolyes). Soren convinces Twilight not to eat Miss Plithiver and instead join them on their quest to find the guardians.

Arriving at the tree of Ga'Hoole they meet Ezylryb, (Geoffrey Rush), the old wise guardian who sees something special in Soren. He trains Soren for a great mission to rescue and save the kidnapped owlets and stop the Pure Ones from their wrong doings. Soren finds the strength to become as great as the guardians he looked up to.

De Line Pictures, Village Roadshow, Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Emil Stern, John Orloff, John Collee
Producer: Zareh Nalbandian
I viewed 12/10

Saturday, January 29, 2011

You Don't Know Jack (2010) - 3½ Stars

Al Pacino is excellent and very believable as Dr. Kevorkian. Looking like him, Pacino emulates perfectly the quirkiness of Dr. Kevorkian and had me drawn to the movie with curious fascination.

Kevorkian was a brilliant doctor who created a way of assisted suicide for the terminal ill. He invented a machine to inject the proper amounts of chemicals, at the users discretion, directly into their blood stream to painlessly, effortlessly and humanely end their lives thus giving the terminal ill a way to die with the dignity they deserve. With the help of his sister, Margo Janus, (Brenda Vaccaro), and eventually trusted friend Linda, (Deirdre O'Connell ), Kevorkian continued to find clients to assist i their deaths. Even though he was ordered to stop, Kevorkian continued to help those who reached out to him. He eventually became known as "Dr. Death," and spent much of his aging years defending his procedures in the courts of law. Convinced a patient has the right to die, he was willing to go to jail to defend his beliefs. I have to respect anyone who has as much passion as he did.

Working at an animal hospital, I see pets almost everyday brought in for euthanasia. My opinion is that, if faced with a terminal illness, euthanasia should be an option available to you. Perhaps added as a condition of your will that can make your departure easier. Originally made for HBO, "You Don't Know Jack," is an very interesting and recommended film on a little piece of our history.

Bee Holder Productions, HBO Films, Royal Oak Films
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Adam Mazer
Producer: Scott Ferguson
I viewed 11/10

Friday, January 28, 2011

Oceans (2009) G - 3 Stars

With approximately three fourths of our earth covered in water, it's fascinating to learn about the creatures that live there. I took a class in marine biology, to learn more about these unique creatures that inhabit the oceans of our world. Jelly fish have got to be one of my favorite as well as the playfulness of the dolphin and whale. My class also taught me about creatures that roam the black depths of the sea. I was hoping to plunge a little deeper for a glimpse of some of these elusive fanged phantoms of the deep. So for me, it was somewhat disappointing because you don't get to see them. I've been lucky enough to view most of these creatures before. Having said that, there are outstanding images taken with the latest underwater camera technology making a perfect visual documentary. Oceans is Narrated by Pierce Brosnan and I think it's a great film to watch with your children, teaching them the importance of maintaining a healthy planet to protect all it's creatures no matter where they live.

Galatee Films, Walt Disney Studios
Directors: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
Writers: Jacques Cluzaud, Jacques Perrin, Stephane Durand
Producers: Jacques Perrin, Nicolas Mauvernay, Romain Legrand
I viewed 11/10

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009) R - 4 Stars

The worker at Blockbuster suggested I watch this movie. I'm told there will be three in the series starting with this one. Based on the trilogy of novels by the late Stieg Larsson. It has a ton of alias names, Maend der hader kvinder , Man Som Hatar Kvinnor, Men Who Hate Women, Menn som hater kvinner, Miehet jotka vihaavat naisia and Millenium.

Even with subtitles, it's easy to stay focused on the action without loosing the story, however you can watch the dubbed English version for easier viewing. Possibly one of the best foreign movies I've seen. I went in with an open mind and uncovered a very dark powerful movie that certainly won't be for everyone. I've not heard of Noomi Rapace before and she gives one hell of a performance as Lisbeth, a young troubled girl eager to get revenge with the men who formed her life. She's the ultimate computer hacker and with Nyqvist, they work on a 40 year old unsolved murder case. Definitely not a family flick as it can be brutally violent at times but also necessary to see inside the mindset of Lisbeth. Acting is powerful from entire cast and will leave a lasting impression in your mind. Full of surprises, twists and turns that keep you guessing. Not sure how close it is to the book having not read any of the trilogy. One note: there is a scene at the beginning with Lisbeth getting out of a woman's bed and there is no tattoo on her back. Then at the end when she rises, she has the tattoo. Glitch or purposeful info I missed - that confused me a little but I'm looking forward to the next two parts. I only hope they are half as good as this one which should take many foreign film awards.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, (Michael Nyqvist), works for magazine Millennium. He and the magazine loose a libel case against Swedish tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerström, forcing  a large sum of money to be paid and Mikael getting sentenced to 6 months in jail. Before he does his time, he's hired by wealthy Vanger family member, Henrik Vanger, (Sven-Bertil Taube), to find clues in the disappearance of his niece, Harriet Vanger, (Ewa Fröling). As he's nearing his own death, Henrik is eager to learn what happened to her before he dies and horrified by the thought a family member is responsible cutting her from his inheritance. The Vanger family owns and inhabits a private island and live their in separate homes. Henrik believes that Harriet was murdered on this island at a gathering over 40 years ago when Harriet was just 16. The bridge that encloses the island to the mainland was closed that day allowing no access in or out so someone in the family must be involved. Harriet's body was never found, and with little to go on, Mikael decides to take the case before he has to do his time in prison.

Lisbeth Salander, (Noomi Rapace), is a talented computer hacker. She spends her time in cyberspace studying rape cases, trying to find overlooked clues. She hacks into Mikael's computer to offer him a clue on the Vanger case. The two become cohorts as they dig deeper into the past, seemingly a bit too close to stepping on toes of other Vanger members. The more clues they uncover, the more their lives seem in danger as the Vanger's will stop at nothing to keep their skeletons tightly locked away in their closets.

Awards include:

2010 Guldbagge Awards - Best Actress & Best Film
2010 Monte-Carlo TV Festival - Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series
2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival - Best Narrative Feature

Momentum Pictures, Yellow Bird Productions
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writers: Nicolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg
Producer: Soren Staermose
I viewed 10/10

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Rain (1989) R - 3½ Stars

Here's an underrated, sleeper movie I don't remember hearing anything about. Also known as "Pioggia Sporca," Douglas is at his finest in "Black Rain." Great little action / drama of a cop determined to get his man. Though it's hard to believe that one detective would be so committed, you don't pay attention to that but more with the honor Douglas wins back, taught to him by a simple Japanese assistant detective. Not your typical cop movie, the acting is superb with great character development and excellent cinematography. It's most definite worth the cost of a rental and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

New York vice cop Nick Conklin, (Michael Douglas), is under investigation for skimming money off the top of a recent drug bust. With an ex wife to pay and a child to feed, investigators are pretty sure they have their man. His partner Charlie Vincent, (Andy Garcia), trusts Nick is not involved in any wrong doings. While consoling Nick at the bar, members of a Japanese mafia enter the restaurant killing two men after the exchange of a small box. Nick chases the bad guys down and captures Sato, (Yusaku Matsuda); a major player in Yakuza mafia gang. Problem is Nick can't put this thug in jail as the Japanese government is holding the cards of extradition and all Nike can do is to be in charge of flying him home to Japan.

Upon landing in Japan, Charlie and Nick are tricked into surrendering their prisoner to the wrong people. Nick is dedicated into recapturing Sato and will stop at nothing, bending the laws and rules of Japan to do so. The Japanese police are unwilling to receive Nick and Charlie's help, remove them of their weapons and assistant detective Masahiro Matsumoto, (Ken Takakura), is assigned to watch over them. In a world of no one to trust, Joyce Kingsley, (Kate Capshaw), offers Nick important yet beautiful assistance.

Paramount Pictures
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Craig Bolotin, Warren Lewis
Producer: Michael Douglas
I viewed 12/10

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Despicable Me (2010) PG - 4 Stars

Once again, little girls have a way of finding the hearts of even the most villainous types of men. Really wonderful animation, cute story line and the greatest yet strangest bunch of minion workers you've ever seen. Together they form the perfect dysfunctional family. You gotta love Despicable Me! It's the perfect family film.

Gru, (Steve Carell), has been the leading villain of the day until the great Egyptian pyramids are stolen. He's jealous of Vector, (Jason Segel), the up and coming geek whose antics have surpassed Gru, posing a challenge. For his entire life, Gru has dreamt of building a rocket to the moon even though his mother (Julie Andrews), has always been less than in encouraging. To prove her wrong and get back on top, he only needs to get his hands on an amazing shrinking weapon. Once that's done, he can rocket to the moon shrinking it down to size and stealing it, putting him back on top of the number one villainous list. Bank president Mr. Perkins, (Will Arnett), refuses to loan Gru the money needed to construct such a perfect weapon. Gru learns Vector has the incredible shrinking gun. Even with Gru's enormous team of dedicated half wit minions and a mad scientist Dr. Nefario, (Russell Brand ), Gru discovers entrance to Vector's fort needs a softer approach. Gru visits Miss Hattie, (Kristen Wiig), and adopts three little cookie selling orphan girls, Margo, (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes, (Elsie Fisher), and Edith ,(Dana Gaier), to gain access to Vector's fortress to steal the weapon. After all, who can resist cookies! Now, with shrink gun in tow, Gru pulls off the greatest heist of the century only to find out his mission was really learning the lessons of fatherhood.

Illumination Entertainment, Skywalker Sound, Universal PicturesDirectors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, John Cohen
Writers: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Producers: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri, John Cohen
I viewed 12/10

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Town (2010) R - 4½ Stars

I really really enjoyed this entertaining movie based on the novel by Dennis Lehane aka, "Prince of Thieves." I'm not a huge Affleck fan but he's at his best both acting and directing this modern day classic about bank robbers. With great action, suspense and romance, an award winning cast and the perfect visual costume and set design, "The Town," really delivers one of the best heist movies in a long time. The chase scenes are perfect without being overdone and you'll find yourself rooting for the bad guy. Jeremy Renner is superb. If you didn't have a chance to see it in the theater, make sure you rent it. I feel it's got Oscar written somewhere in it.

Set in the Charleston, MA., suburbs of Boston, Doug MacRay, (Ben Affleck), leads a group of ruthless bank robbers made up of James "Jem" Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert "Gloansy" Magloan, (Slaine), and Desmond Elden, (Owen Burke). His group is very good at what they do getting in and out leaving no loose ends. After all, Doug's learned from the best, his father Stephen,(Chris Cooper) a former Charleston's thief doing time in jail.

On one of their heists, Doug encounters the pretty bank manager Claire Keesey, (Rebecca Hall). Plans start to fall apart as Claire trips the alarm and the gang is forced to take her hostage in order to escape. After letting her go, they discover Claire lives in the same part of town as they do. Even though they pull off their jobs under full costume, they're hoping she won't be able to recognize any of them. Always one step ahead of FBI special agent Adam Frawley, (Jon Hamm), Doug slowly approaches Claire feeling compelled to comfort the residual effects the robbery has etched into her soul. He volunteers to keep an eye on her and forms an instant attraction to her. Jem is eager to see her completely removed from the picture but Doug stops him and is willing to give up all of his bad habits for her. Now if the two can only escape from the town.

2010 - National Board of Review - Best Ensemble Cast
2010 - Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards - WAFCA Award

GK Films, Legendary Pictures, Inc., Thunder Road Pictures, Warner Brothers Pictures
Directors: Adrian Lyne, Ben Affleck
Writers: Chuck Hogan, Aaron Stockard, Sheldon Turner
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Graham King
I viewed 12/10

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tooth Fairy (2010) PG - 3½ Stars

Extremely cute little story about believing. I really do think Wayne Johnson is perfect in these types of movies. Big strong burly guy getting in touch with his softer side at the hands of a little girl. Great for the entire family, good clean honest fun. The children are believable and the movie gives you a warm fuzzy spot inside. I especially like the boldness of making a good family film using an interracial family.

Derek Thompson, (Dwayne Johnson), is a hockey player who once intimidated on the ice. Nicknamed the "Tooth Fairy" for knocking other players teeth out, he's seen better days since injuring his shoulder though he thinks he is still number one. He has the perks that go along with the job, nice home, car and an attractive girlfriend but his attitude has turned sour and his glass always half empty. Even his girlfriend Carly, (Ashley Judd), sees the bitterness in him as he almost ruins her daughter's hopes of the tooth fairy visit. For punishment, Derek receives a summons to report to the higher court of fairies run by Lily, (Julie Andrews.) He's assigned case worker Tracy, (Stephen Merchant), who must whip him back into shape to believe again. Luckily Jerry, (Billy Crystal), will equip Derek with all the latest gadgets this years tooth fairies need to perform their duties.

Blumhouse Productions, Mayhem Pictures, 20th Century FoxDirector: Michael Lembeck
Writers: Josh Sternin, Randi Mayem Singer, Lowell Ganz
Producers: Gordon Gray, Mark Ciardi, Jason Blum
I viewed 12/10

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Polar Storm (2009) PG13 - 2½ Stars

Oh why can't we make a good science fiction with some good acting and special effects. While this made for T.V. movie did have me captivated, half way through the movie things were becoming absurd. The submarine animation was ridiculous and impossible and the fact the world can be in one mans hand, God help us all. The acting couldn't be much worse for most of the star characters, I mean the kids friend and a father dies and they hardly show emotion? But in fairness, it looks like they did the best they could in their budget. It's not a horrible Sci-Fi, I've definitely seen worse. The stories concept is right on for me just not well executed.

All eyes are star gazing a massive comet passing closer to earth than ever before. Dr. James Mayfield, (Jack Coleman), is taking calculations from a post in Alaska when a peice breaks off and heads straight towards earth. Mayfield is able to download his data before the comet collides proving his therory that the earth has been thrown off it's axis disturbing the Earth's magnetic field.

Mayfield's wife Cynthia, (Holly Dignard), and son Shane, (Tyler Johnston), are left to fend for themselves as they try to get out of the electrical pulse zone. The President, (Roger R. Cross), must enlist the aide of Dr. Mayfield, his father the General, (Terry David Mulligan), and a group of Russian sailors to try and save the planet.

First Look Studios, Cinetel Films, Insight Film Studios
Director: Paul Ziller
Writers: Paul Ziller, Jason Bourque
Producer: Breanne Hartley
I viewed 12/10

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

World's Greatest Dad (2009) R - 3 Stars

I'm not sure everyone will like this dark comedy that turns tragedy into opportunity. Viewers hoping to see the whimsical comedic side of Williams will be disappointed with this non politically correct adaptation. Though Williams gives one of his best dramatic performances, the subject matter, language and topic might be disturbing to some, especially dealing with suicide. Sabara gives a very convincing performance as Kyle, the kid you will definitely want to hate.

Lance Clayton's, (Robin Williams), life has taken a turn for the worse. After a nasty divorce, he is awarded sole custody of his teenage son Kyle, (Daryl Sabara). Lance dreams of becoming a famous writer but he can't get published and resorts to teaching a poetry class at the same school Kyle attends. Even his poetry class is threatened to close due to low attendance and enthusiasm for his class. All he can do is try to form a quality relationship with his son but that proves to be a struggle in itself.

Kyle is not your typical teenage son. His only friend, Andrew, (Evan Martin), seems nothing like the rude, foul mouthed boy that Kyle is. Constantly insulting his father every time he speaks and spending free time spying on neighbors undressing, Kyle's main focus is watching video and Internet porn. One day as Lance enters Kyle's room, he is horrified to find Kyle masturbating to porno while asphyxiation chocking himself with an elastic rope. Lance tries to stress to his son how dangerous this is and forbids him from ever trying this again.

Back at school Lance is attracted to, and somewhat dating the art teacher Claire, (Alexie Gilmore), but he soon adds more to his insecurity watching Claire befriend English teacher Mike, (Henry Simmons). Mike is the proud recipient of having one of his pieces published in the The New Yorker, and Lance feels he's being ignored yet again. It isn't until Lance sadly discovers his son dead from his quirky sexual release, that his writing is finally discovered. While trying to cover up the lude acts preformed by his son, he writes an award winning suicide note giving his sons death some dignity. This turns out to be the writing that finally gives Lance the voice he deserves but how can he stare victory in the face knowing how he got there.

Darko Entertainment, Gradient Effects, Magnolia Pictures
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Producers: Richard Kelly, Sean McKittrick, Ted Hamm
I viewed 12/10

Monday, January 17, 2011

The White Countess (2005) PG13 - 3½ Stars

This movie really captivated my artistic sense. I don't know if it was the time period, set and costumes or the acting, but it drew me in and consumed me. For me, the cinematography was excellent. I liked the way the characters, all from different cultures and monetary levels, intertwined in a sort of harmony. A Russian woman becoming a dance hostess to support her family cast out by war. A once diplomat, now blind man trying to see the world through rose colored glasses of his mind. And a Japanese power head that underneath his noted exterior, has a true heart. It's set in Shanghai during the corrupt yet glamorous days of the late 1930's. Slow at first and over two hours long, the movie appears historically correct leading to the Japan's invasion of China and World War II, Though it ends as a love story, I didn't feel as much chemistry between the stars as I would have liked. I think Hiroyuki Sanada gives an outstanding classy performance as Matsuda.

Todd Jackson, (Ralph Fiennes), has closed himself off to the world after losing his wife and children at the hands of political turmoil. He's also lost his sight. A once American diplomat, Jackson has retreated to a life behind closed doors in the underworld of brothels, disillusioning himself to the world outside. While drinking at a bar, Sofia Belinsky, (Natasha Richardson), a refugee Russian Countess reduced to working as a dance girl and part time prostitute, comes to his aid fearing men in the bar are about to take advantage of his loss of sight. Jackson finds himself drawn to her kindness while aware of the woman she's become working as a hostess. He envisions in his mind, one day becoming the owner of a fabulous establishment suitable to the likings of optimistic beauty of this Shanghai town and making her the center of the club. He's so sure he will have it someday, he shares his dreams with his new friend Matsuda, (Hiroyuki Sanada), a high ranking Japanese officer, that frequents the bars.

As war forges it's way closer to Shanghai, Sofia's family, packs up and moves leaving Sofia behind as Aunt Sara, (Vanessa Redgrave), and Olga, (Lynn Redgrave), are ashamed of her profession and question the effect it's having on Sofia's daughter, Katya (Madeleine Daly). But Jackson finally decides to see again what he's been missing out on in life and comes to Sofia's rescue.

TF1 Films Productions, Shanghai Film Corporation, Merchant/Ivory Productions, Sony Picture Classics
Director: James Ivory
Writer: Kazuo Ishiguro
Producer: Ismail Merchant
I viewed 12/10

Zola's Movie Pics Reaches 50,000 Hits

Hey everyone

I just wanted to toot my horn a little bit and acknowledge my 50,000 hit this morning. It may not seem like much to some, Facebook probably gets that many hits an hour, but for little old me, It's great news!!! It means you are reading my reviews and I want to thank you all for that. Now let's see how fast we can make it to 100,000.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stomp the Yard: Homecoming (2010) PG13 - 2½ Stars

I rented the movie because I have great respect for anyone who can move their feet like some of these actors can. My biggest complaint about this movie is the editing or so called direction. You never get to see the dancers completely perform. I'd like to think it's not because they can't stomp without mistakes OR the director thought it would be clever to jump around instead of staying with the characters. It would have been nice to see one or all performers do a routine all the way through from one angle. I recognized "Nikki" right away from daytime soap opera and I have to say the acting for the most part wasn't too bad.

Truth University has many sorority clubs. The Theta Nus sorority has been working all year on perfecting their techniques for this years Homecoming annual Step Competition. They seem to be a "shoe-in" if they can just get their star performer Chance Harris, (Collins Pennie), aka "Rock Star", to stay focused. But things are falling apart for Chance. Since Chance's mother just died, he's been finding it harder to stay focused on anything but his dancing. He gets himself involved into a rigged dance competition that has a gang of thugs tracking him down for money. He's torn between his current girlfriend Nikki, (Tika Sumpter), and his ex Brenda, (Kiely Williams), and his family restaurant needs his attention. Can Chance bring it together in time to win the competition and becoming the man on campus.

Gotta Step 2 Productions, Rainforest Films
Director: Rob Hardy
Writers: Meena Payne, Albert Leon
Producer: William Packer
I viewed 12/10

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stolen (2009) R - 3½ Stars

Based on a true story, aka, The Boy in The Box, Stolen starts out really slow. So slow and with poor acting of the opening character Hamm, it almost lost my attention. However, if you can stay with it, the story finally develops and embraces you with the touching side to the tragic lose of a child. The story travels back and forth to 1958 with the loss of another young boy in the same area. Lucas, from the past, gives a much more compelling performance giving it a suspenseful "who done it," until the very end. I found myself caring more for his character.

Detective Tom Adkins, Sr., (Jon Hamm), life is changed when his 10 year old son Tommy goes missing at a 4th of July festival at the local park. Panicking, Adkins pulls out all the stops to help find his son. But eight years later, he is still unable to face his loss and it's taking a toll on his marriage to Barbara (Rhona Mitra). 

Construction workers at a local sight, uncover a wooden box containing the remains of small child and Adkins is called to the scene to see if it might be his child. When the remains are determined to be over 50 years old, Detective Adkins remains dedicated to solving the mystery behind both cases, while trying to save the whats left of his sanity and marriage. Also starring Matthew Wakefield, (Josh Lucas), Diploma, (James Van Der Beek), John Wakefield, (Jimmy Bennett), and Lea Adkins, (Joanna Cassidy).

Code Entertainment, 2 Bridges Productions, A2 Entertainment Group, Boy in the Box
Director: Anders Anderson
Writer: Glenn Taranto
Producers: Al Corley, Eugene Musso, Anders Anderson
I viewed 12/10

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Donner Party (2009) R - 2 Stars

For such a simple movie, surprising enough it received an "R" rating. Probably for the violence in cannibalism this party of pioneering American emigrants endured on their quest to settle in California. Though the movie is severely flawed in both acting and no real character development, Crispin Glover gives a believable performance. It's no "Alive" but along with the forsaken sounding musical score, it held me captive. Knowing the movie is based on true events, is also hard to imagine the grim reality of drawing sticks to eat a friend or loved one for survival.

In the 1840's a group of pioneers, with their sights on California, are reaching the last of their supplies in the small encampment they call home. With blizzard winter conditions in full force, William Hastings enlightens the group their supplies are running out and tells them of a stock pile of supplies close by. Some of the men, women and children stay behind in hopes of supplies returning soon. The rest head off in search of food and finding a rescue team to go back for the others. The group known as "Forlorn Hope" takes Hastings suggestion to cut through the Sierra Mountains in order to shorten their journey. Truth be told, no supplies ahead as Hastings made the story up to get the group motivated to leave, giving them some hope of survival. The group lead by William Foster, (Crispin Glover), and William Eddy, (Clayne Crawford), trek further into the mountains only to find blinding snow without shelter. As members of the party fall ill, the others must make a gruesome decision to eat their fellow travelers in order to survive.

On January 19, 1847, 42 survivors from the Donner Party were rescued. Little did they know, they were only 5 miles from civilization at the time of their rescue.

Anacapa Entertainment
Director: T.J. Martin
Producers: Mark Costa, John Emerson Moore, Ted Meyer
I viewed 12/10

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Run Lola Run (1998) R - 3 Stars

Do you were wish you could have a "do over" in your life? Where if you could go back just 20 minutes and do it again, you could alter the outcome. Well, Run Lola Run, aka "Lola Rennt," does just that. But has Lola imagined the possible scenarios in her head before acting out, or does she really get a do over; you get to decide. Franka Potente, with her fiery red hair, gives an outstanding performance as Lola. The movie, relatively short and in German with subtitles, is a fun and simplistic offering of three scenarios for Lola to get the money. Each offering adds subtle differences, effecting all the people surrounding her. First, she helps Manni rob a store, Second, she asks her father (Herbert Knaup), and Third, she wins it gambling.

Lola, (Franka Potente), is not having a good day. Her moped is stolen causing a delay in meeting up with her boyfriend Manni, (Moritz Bleibtreu). Manni is not have a very good day as well. He has been given a "test job" to fence some stolen goods. All he has to do is bring the cash back to Ronnie, (Heino Ferch), to prove he is worthy of doing the job. While riding the subway, a homeless man bumps into him causing Manni's sack of cash to be accidentally left behind on the train. This is not good as he needs to meet Ronnie precisely at 12:00. He phones Lola who insures him she has it under control. Lola takes to her feet and runs across town to make it to Manni in time.

Run Lola Run - 1999 - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Foreign Film

Bavaria Film GmbH,X-Filme Creative Pool
Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Producer: Stefan Arndt
I viewed 12/10

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Steel Toes (2007) R - 3 Stars

While you may not find this movie in a Humanities class, I loved the endurance concept. The radical white Neo-Nazi supremacist being taught tolerance by his enemies, the Hindu and the Jew. Powerful storyline and performance by both Walker and Strathairn though the movie suffers in direction. While it voices powerful statements, it loses weight by not going deeper into the character development. For example I would have like to be involved more the Mike's background as well as the relationship between the Jewish lawyer and his Hispanic wife. For me, the dinner scene should have been cut out in order to compassionately let the viewer fall deeper into both men's plight.

Mike Downey, (Andrew Walker), is a soldier in the white supremacy Aryan movement. After a concert, he and his girlfriend are making out in the streets when an immigrant kitchen worker exits to throw out a bucket of dirty water. He mistakenly throws in the direction of Mike causing an eruption of emotions that puts the worker in the hospital where he eventually dies from his injuries. Mike is incarcerated and charged with his murder.

David Dunkleman, (David Strathairn), a liberal Jewish attorney, has been assigned the case. The two men historically are enemies and while Dunkleman must support the law and rights of a man he loathes, he reaches deep in his soul, recalling the teachings of his father, to save the life of one of societies worse nightmares.

Galafilm Productions, Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC)
Directors: Mark Adam, David Gow
Writer: David Gow
Producers: Francine Allaire, David Gow

I viewed 12/10

Monday, January 10, 2011

Miracle at St. Anna (2008) R - 3 Stars

After I watched this movie, I was sort of surprised to see Spike Lee's name on it. Having seen many of his movies before, it's a much more subtle message of racial hatred he loves to spread. I think it's a fair depiction of what it meant to be an African American solider, fighting for a country that hated you. Set in 1944 Italy during WWII, is about a group of soldiers who hold onto faith in the darkest of times. The story changes dialog often and varies from Italian, German and English so you have to be prepared to read subtitles that speed too fast across the screen, if you are to stay on track. It's overly long at almost 3 hours and it moves too slowly but it does finally come together in the end. It's loosely based on the true story of the 92nd Infantry - Buffalo Division, and the soldiers who not only had to brave the tragedy of war but did it enduring racial hatred because their skin was black.

The movie jumps back in forth in time and starts out on December 19, 1983, with Corporal Hector Negron, a postal worker for over 30 years, shooting a Peppi Grotta, (Pierfrancesco Favino),  trying to purchase a stamp. Detective Antonio 'Tony' Ricci, (John Turturro), and Tim Boyle, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), are interviewing Negron, trying to understand how this quiet man did such a thing. If you can get past parts that are truly unbelievable ie; Negron having a loaded Luger pistol at work everyday, waiting for revenge on a traitor from his past and a soldier toting around a 30 pound marble bust on his belt while in combat, and try to walk in the shoes of these brave African American soldiers, then I think you can enjoy it as a good war movie.

When the Germans blow up a bridge in Florence, Private First Class Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller), retrieves a marble bust. He wraps it in netting an attaches it to his hip, and rubs it's head constantly for good luck. Along with 2nd Staff Sargent Aubrey Stamps (Derek Luke), Sargent Bishop Cummings, (Michael Ealy), and Corporal Hector Negron, (Laz Alonso), the men begin to believe it does have magic powers as its kept them alive behind German lines. The men, Buffalo Division of the 92nd infantry, have a mission to capture a German soldier and bring him in for questioning.

Private Train, sees a young boy Angelo Torancelli,(Matteo Sciabordi), who wonders into a barn that is blown up. Train is compelled to take this helpless boy with them as they cross the Tuscany's Serchio River, to the Italian village of Colognora. It is there, they discover true humanity in the small village of St. Anna di Stazzema and a girl named Renata (Valentina Cervi).

Awards: 2008 - Houston Film Critics - Best Original Score

Touchstone Pictures, On My Own, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: James McBride
Producers: Luigi Musini, Roberto Cicutto, Spike Lee
I viewed 5/10

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Life Is Hot in Cracktown (2009) R - 2½ Stars

The ending of this movie reminded me a bit of the movie "Crash," but on crack. It's a brutal epic of surviving life in the hood. I have to say the acting was pretty intense for the little known cast, which gave the story a bit more believability. Troubled families who don't have the means to get out,  must survive in their darker side of reality. From a mother pimping her daughter, the little punk, macho, packing, hoodlums, trying to get even for the anger their young lives have experienced already, to daily struggles with drugs and personal sexuality. I almost gave it 3 stars.

Here is the story of four troubled families heading for collisions in their lives. Pre-op transsexual Marybeth, (Kerry Washington), works as a prostitute to save enough money for her final surgery. Her line in boyfriend Benny, (Desmond Harrington), pulls small time burglaries to help pay for their expensive crack habit. Manny, (Victor Rasuk), works security in a run down apartment complex where Willy, (Ridge Canipe), a ten year old boy, lives with his sister Susie, mother (Illeana Douglas) and her short tempered boyfriend.  With a mother strung out, Willy begs for money on the streets to insure he and his little sister are taken care of.  At night, Manny work at a 24 hour convenience store where all the freaks solicit. After almost getting shot one night, Manny now keeps a gun in the store for protection. His wife, Concetta, (Shannyn Sossamon), stays home and tends to their small infant boy who seems to always cry tugging on their last nerves.  Romeo, (Evan Ross), is a young thug terrorizing anyone in his path as he searches for his younger brothers' killer. Gabriella, (Hope Olaide Wilson), is still in the closet but about to make her debut to her mother. But in an instant, all their lives will be tragically changed as that's just how it is in Cracktown.

Lightning Media, Magic Film & Video Works, Streetwise Films
Director: Buddy Giovinazzo
Writer: Buddy Giovinazzo
Producers: Larry Rattner, William Fisch
I viewed 12/10

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Inception (2010) Pg-13 - 4 Stars

Aka "Oliver's Row", this is a movie you really have to pay close attention, especially at the beginning. My sister and I started to watch it and got about half way through and turned it off because we were lost. We weren't paying enough attention and talking to much. Watching it alone, listening, and really understanding made it much more enjoyable for me. As a matter of fact, it really got me thinking about the power of the subconscious mind long after the movie was over. I really love the "totem" they all keep with them to remind them of reality.

Inception is an extremely complex idea with similarities to The Matrix. I so loved Momento from Christopher Nolan and I'm always amazed on what his dreaming up next. Movies that mess with your mind are my favorites, and the terrific special effects don't hurt. I was really into the movie until the dream scene with the snow. That scene didn't hold my attention as well as the rest, perhaps because of the monotone effect in white. The more I think of it, that is probably why it's like that as a lot of people do not dream in color.

Dom Cobb, (Leonardo DiCaprio), is the worst type of thief. He steals from your mind. The best in his field in corporate espionage, he uses his abilities to extract secrets from deep inside the subconscious mind. It's cost him dearly in his past and when Saito, (Ken Watanabe), offers him a second chance on redemption by pulling off one last assignment, he must accept. But this is no ordinary request of stealing an idea from the mind. This time, he must plant the seed of idea and make it grow, tipping the natural course progression.

Cobb assembles a team of specialists including Ariadne, (Ellen Page), Arthur, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt),  Eames, (Tom Hardy), and Yusuf (Dileep Rao). The plan is to invade the mind of  Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Cobb can have it all and return to his normal life but his past Mal, (Marion Cotillard), still haunts him and keeps getting in the way.

2010 - Hollywood Film Festival - Hollywood Movie of the Year
2010 - Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards - Best Art Direction & Best Original Screenplay -Christopher Nolan

Legendary Pictures, Inc., Syncopy Films, Warner Brothers Pictures
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
I viewed 12/10

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blood in the Face (1991) NR - 3½ Stars

I love documentaries because they force me take a look into another real world. Having an open mind, I try to find the logic in what is portrayed to form my own opinions. Seeing the passion of how some feel, opens my eyes and in some cases, enlightens me. But personally, cults like these are the main reason I am against organized religion of any kind. In my opinion, spirituality doesn't need to be found by joining a organization.

This movie does make a good point about something, being a Caucasian, I've often thought about and that is the white race will someday be a minority due to the breeding ratio Caucasians have adhered to. But, it's the only thing I agree with in this film. To me. this is exactly how radicals started, racism grows and continues and wars are made. This is America, and everyone has a right to give their opinions no matter how ignorant it sounds.

"Blood in the Face," is a documentary featuring archival footage intertwined with live interviews from the late 80's and early 90's. The title literally means to blush or draw blood coloring to their face, feeling shame. These groups believe that only white people can have this reaction to their face, thus making white people the superior chosen ones. The movie gives a small peek into the beliefs of the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Aryan Nation of white supremacists. Live footage of David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell plus Michael Moore is an off screen interviewer in the film.

First Run Features
Directors: Anne Bohlen, James Ridgeway, Kevin Rafferty
Writer: James Ridgeway
Producers: Charlie Arnot, Anne Bohlen, James Ridgeway
I viewed 12/10

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Invictus (2009) PG13 - 4 Stars

Morgan Freeman is wonderful in his portrayal President Mandela. Such a soft spoken President, yet a true leader of his people.Invictus, from Latin, (unvanquished) is a poem written by William Ernest Henley as he lay in bed after having one leg amputated in 1875.

Nelson Mandela, (Morgan Freeman), drew from these words as he spent 27 years prisoned in his fight against apartheid. Just at the close of apartheid in South Africa, he was elected president spending his first term as president of the country. The first thing he knew he must do as president to unite the country was to forgive the oppressors he was so against. Tension and mistrust now divided the country by race and poverty level. Mandela's main objective was to unite both the blacks and whites through the universal language of their sport, Rugby.

With under a year to go till the 1995 Rugby Word Championships, Mandela brings courage and strength to a already defeated "Springboks" rugby team. He empowers team captain of the "Springboks", Jacobus Francois Pienaar, (Matt Damon), into believing in himself and turning the team around to win the 1995 Rugby World Championship for South Africa.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Awards include:
2009 - National Board of Review - Freedom of Expression Award
2009 - National Board of Review - Best Director
2009 - National Board of Review - Best Actor

Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Tony Peckham
Producers: Lori McCreary, Robert Lorenz, Clint Eastwood
I viewed 12/10

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Fall (2006) R - 4 Stars

I knew from the first time I saw the image on the DVD box, I wanted to see it. The movie lives up to it's cover, jammed packed full of fantasy and visual stimulation. You could almost turn the sound off to watch the film and still obtain the journey. The cinematography is so breathtaking, I pushed the movie up from 3½ Stars to 4 for the stunning visuals alone. It's not your typical family fantasy and given it's "R" rating due to it's content of drug abuse. Parents should decide in sharing with smaller children. The little known cast does an outstanding job blending in the perfect stew of emotional and diverse illusion.

The story is of a little girl who has a broken arm after falling and now inhabits a very unusual 1920's hospital, in the Los Angeles area, as she recovers. I absolutely love Catinca Untaru as Alexandria and her tiny accent wonderfully rounds out the innocence of her character. Traumatized from her childhood, she befriends a patient, Roy a paraplegic, who failed at suicide. But in his morphine stage, he becomes a fabulously creative story teller to help them both pass time. The two develop a close bond where Alexandria will do almost anything Roy requests to keep his stories alive, like sneaking into the dispensary to obtain more morphine. But there's a fine line between reality and fantasy that are turning Roy's stories into Alexandria's nightmares.

Alexandria, (Catinca Untaru), is a curious girl recovering from a broken arm that has her in a full body cast. She suffered the injury from picking oranges on her families ranch. Since recovery is slow, Alexandria has been at the hospital for a while and most have become to know her name. She meets Roy Walker, (Lee Pace), who's a paraplegic stuntman recovering from his attempting suicide over the death of his girlfriend. Desperate and feeling story for himself, he greatly enjoys the company of Alexandria and begins a epic storytelling adventure for her that mixes from their real lives into fantasy. Their fantasy warriors include (Jeetu Verma), the Indian, Charles Darwin, (Leo Bill), the Orderly, (Julian Bleach), the Mystic, Sinclair, (Daniel Caltagirone) as Governor Odious, Otta Benga, (Marcus Wesley), the ice delivery man, the doctor (Kim Uylenbroek), as Alexander the Great, Luigi, (Robin Smith), the one legged man, nurse Evelyn, (Justine Waddell) as Princess Evelyn, (Ketut Rina) as the Chief Mystic and (Emil Hostina) as the Bandit. Roy's imagination grows as does his self pity while he convinces Alexandria to find more morphine to ease his pain before he will carry on with his tale.

Awards include:
2008 - Austin Film Critics - Best Cinematography
2007 - Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival - Best Film

Absolute Entertainment, Googly Films, Radical Media
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writers: Nico Soultanakis, Tarsem Singh, Nico Soutanakis
Producer: Tarsem Singh
I viewed 12/10

Monday, January 3, 2011

Food, Inc. (2008) PG - 4 Stars

Food Inc., is a very eye opening movie that everyone should see and hopefully respond, forming a stronger unit of American consumers. If we ever want to see Agricultural and Industrial standards changed, our collective voices must be heard. We all need to answer the questions of why it is cheaper to feed your family fast, over processed food than it is to eat healthy. It appears this whole agricultural automation might just be what kills us. Instead of celebrating less people visiting hospitals, big business uses their control to send us there faster.  Small farmers have been forced to work for big corporations that put profit ahead of consumer health. After all, pharmaceutical, health, and insurance companies all feed off this political corporate business of America. Please watch this documentary, get angry and help do something about it to insure the health of future generations The part that was the scariest to me is when it shows how many people we have put in the White House that have solid ties to our USDA and FDA regulations. Follow one woman's journey to reform the system after her young son died of E. coli from consuming hamburgers at a fast food restaurant. He died 12 days later and in his absence, "Kevin's Law" was born.

2009 - Washington D.C. Film Critics Association - Best Documentary

Participant Media, EFilm, Film Finances, Inc., DeWitt Stern Group
Director: Robert Kenner
Producers: Elise Pearlstein, Robert Kenner
I viewed 12/10

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Killer Within (2004) R - 2 Stars

With horrible acting right from the start, it was not hard for me to leave the room a few times without pausing the action, if you can call it that. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen and the storyline finally does come into play, but getting there was a ride I almost got off before it started. But it actually does have a plot and has an ending I was not exactly expecting.

Dallas attorney Addison Terrill, (C. Thomas Howell), works long hard hours to have a luxurious home and a trophy wife he adores. However Becky, (Sean Young), is bored with motherhood, drinks too much, acts like a spoiled brat and really doesn't like their child too much. When Addison has to work late one night, he arrives home to find his wife has been brutally murdered. With his son in the hospital as the only eye witness, Addison becomes the prime suspect. With time running out against clearing his name, he must request the help of best friends Sam, (Ben Browder), and wife Sarah, (DeDee Pfeiffer).

Fireside Entertainment, FilmCor Pictures, LLC
Director: Brad Keller
Producers: Joey Stewart, Anthony Bologna
Writers: Chris Peirson, William Peirson
I viewed 12/10