Monday, February 28, 2011

Easy A (2010) PG13 - 3½ Stars

Here's a movie I thought would be another mindless teen comedy. Pleasantly surprised, and not just a chick flick, it's a very cute story on how rumors get started. If I gave 3 3/4 stars, I'd give this an extra 1/4 point just for it's charm and creativity. Embracing high school life with it's awkwardness and diversity, Emma Stone plays the perfect goodie two shoes gone bad. I just love her parents attitude. Lisa Kudrow brings her quirky persona to the guidance office while Amanda Bynes gives a good annoying performance with her pretentious religious attitude. Easy A takes a simple girl next door and brands her with the modern day Scarlet letter. She goes from the girl no one notices to the girl everyone is talking about. Why not play the part, right?

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), is a smart student with good grades and a loving open minded relationship with her parents Dill(Stanley Tucci), and Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson). But she's not real popular with the opposite sex and spends most of her weekends at home. Her best friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), is always ragging at her for not wanting to go out so Olive concocts a juicy story of spending the weekend with an imaginary man. Marianne (Amanda Bynes), the schools cheer leader for religion, happens to be in the bathroom as Olive tells Rhiannon. She instantly convicts Olive for her lucrative behavior, labeling her a promiscuous. Olive notices the next day at school, everyone is staring at her and boys are approaching her. Since this rumor has already condemned her, Olive decides to give them something to really talk about.

She starts acting out, landing her self in detention where she meets Brandon's (Dan Byrd), who's also in detention for fighting. Brandon is gay and picked up regularly so Olive helps his reputation out by pretending to sleep with him at a party where everyone could hear. Brandon is now the man on campus and Olive is the girl everyone wants to know. She attaches deep blood red A's to the front of her clothing to signify the way it feels to be labeled. Olive's English teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church), tries to explain she is receiving the wrong kind of attention and sends her to see his wife (Lisa Kudrow), the guidance counselor but once this ball starts rolling, it's hard to make it stop. Olive must find a way to redeem her reputation while still making her point.

Olive Bridge Entertainment, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Releasing
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Bert V. Royal
Producers: Will Gluck, Zanne Devine
I viewed 1/11

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And the 2011 Winners are...

Well by now most of you know the big winners at the 2011 - 83rd Academy Awards. Even though, Inception, The Social Netwrok and The King's Speech were the big winners, I love the fact that so many different movies won awards instead of one movie walking away with everything.



















The Karate Kid (2010) PG - 4½ Stars

OMG, I hate when a movie can make me cry. Must be that tough exterior I try to uphold and this movie brought tears to my eyes anyway. Even though I loved the original 1984 version, this new story of a young boy being taught the ancient art of Kung Fu, feels so much realer. Great inspirational movie for the entire family. If my rating seems so much higher than others around, it's because this 54 year old woman really loved it. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan really shine and work so well with one another. This is not your typical Jackie Chan Kung Fu movie with bodies flying all over the room or I wouldn't even rent it. Here he plays a much calm, patient teacher to a small non disciplined boy. The location is outstanding against the beautiful backdrop of Beijing China. Rent it - it's okay to admit you've seen it - you won't be sorry.

Sherry Parker's (Taraji P. Henson), job is relocating her to Beijing, China. She must pack up what seems important and convince her young son Dre (Jaden Smith), it's the right thing to do. Once in China, Sherry settles in well and Dre has some what made a new friend with a young girl Meiying (Wenwen Han), from his neighborhood. As he tries to speak with her, a little martial art punk, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), knocks Dre to the ground. For the next few days, Cheng shows up in Dre's face no matter how hard he tries to avoid him. Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), is the maintenance man where the Parker's live and he over hears Dre complaining to his mother, he wants to go back home. Though Sherry doesn't get the real reason Dre wants to leave, luckily Mr. Han does. Cheng and his gang of his bullies, ambush Dre causing bodily harm. But Mr. Han steps to his rescue and with little effort dodges their blows and sends them running. It seems these boys are learning Kung Fu from a teacher who's attitude is, never stop, never let up. Dre is now eager to learn Kung Fu too and begs Mr. Han to show him some moves. Though Dre lacks focus, a lot of hard work, dedication and the teachings from Mr. Han, Dre begins to learn the true respect of self control and meditation. But it seems the only way to stop Cheng from pushing him around is to stand up to him at the upcoming Kung Fu competition. There, the lesson of true Kung Fu will be witnessed, learned and respected by all.

Overbrook Entertainment, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, Sony Pictures Releasing
Director: Harald Zwart
Writers: Chris Murphy, Christopher Murphey
Producers: Jerry Weintraub, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith
I viewed 10/10

The 2010 Nominees

Later on this evening we will know the results of all the 2010 Academy Award Winners but just to recap some of the top,

The nominies are....

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Javier Bardem - "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges - "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg - "The Social Network"
Colin Firth - "The King's Speech"
James Franco - "127 Hours"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Christian Bale - "The Fighter"
John Hawkes - "Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner - "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo - "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush - "The King's Speech"

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Annette Bening - "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman - "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence - "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman - "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams - "Blue Valentine"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams - "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter - "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo - "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld - "True Grit"
Jackie Weaver - "Animal Kingdom"

Best animated feature film of the year
"How to Train Your Dragon" - Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
"The Illusionist" - Sylvain Chomet
"Toy Story 3" - Lee Unkrich

Achievement in art direction
"Alice in Wonderland" - Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" - Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
"Inception" - Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
"The King's Speech" - Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
"True Grit" - Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Achievement in cinematography
"Black Swan" - Matthew Libatique
"Inception" - Wally Pfister
"The King's Speech" - Danny Cohen
"The Social Network" - Jeff Cronenweth
"True Grit" - Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design
"Alice in Wonderland" - Colleen Atwood
"I Am Love" - Antonella Cannarozzi
"The King's Speech" - Jenny Beavan
"The Tempest" - Sandy Powell
"True Grit" - Mary Zophres

Achievement in directing
"Black Swan" - Darren Aronofsky
"The Fighter" - David O. Russell
"The Social Network" - David Fincher
"The King's Speech" - Tom Hooper
"True Grit" - Joel Cohen and Ethan Cohen

Best documentary feature
"Exit Through the Gift Shop" - Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
"Gasland" - Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
"Inside Job" - Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Restrepo" - Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
"Waste Land" - Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Best documentary feature
"Killing in the Name"
"Poster Girl"
"Strangers No More"
"Sun Come Up"
"The Warriors of Qiugang"

Achievement in film editing
"Black Swan" - Andrew Weisblum
"The Fighter" - Pamela Martin
"The King's Speech" - Tariq Anwar
"127 Hours" - Jon Harris
"The Social Network" - Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Best foreign language film
"Beautiful" - Mexico
"Dogtooth" - Greece
"In a Better World" - Denmark
"Incendies" - Canada
"Hors la Loi" ("Outside the Law") - Algeria

Best makeup
"Barney's Version" - Adrien Morot
"The Way Back" - Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
"The Wolfman" - Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Best Music (Original Score)
"How To Train Your Dragon" - John Powell
"Inception" - Hans Zimmer
"The King's Speech" - Alexander Desplat
"127 Hours" - A.R. Rahman
"The Social Network" - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Best visual effects
"Alice in Wonderland" - Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" - Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
"Hereafter" - Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
"Inception" - Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
"Iron Man 2" - Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Best motion picture of the year
"Black Swan" - Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
"The Fighter" - David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
"Inception" - Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
"The Kids Are All Right" - Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
"The King's Speech" - Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
"127 Hours" - Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
"The Social Network" - Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
"Toy Story 3" - Darla K. Anderson, Producer
"True Grit" - Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
"Winter's Bone" - Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

more Academy nomines

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Animal Kingdom (2010) R - 3 Stars

A winner at the Sundance Film Festival of 2010, Animal Kingdom offers of a close knit family of killers. Though I was confused at the beginning, turning on the subtitles helped me get all the sometimes heavy Australian accented dialog. The movie takes some time to warm up but then you can see how things escalate to drive J to become one of the family. You know somethings off with the mother right away as you see her kiss all of her rotten boys on the lips. Talk about the white trash crazies, this dysfunctional family does have one thing; loyalty! Poor young boy gets caught up in the middle of it when his mother dies of and overdose. He's forced to go live with his grandmother and her pack of trouble makers. Innocent and naive, his only goal now is to stay alive.

I definitely liked the second half more than the first when things started to come together. If the movie would have started out as good as it ended, my rating would be higher. I did however, like some of the slow motion filming during the boys arrest, but the film never really explains how they all got started. The acting is above average and a decent suspenseful drama if you can hang in there.

The scene opens up with Joshua 'J' Cody (James Frecheville), waiting for the ambulance to see what's happened to his mom. She has just overdosed on heroin and dies. With no where else to go, J calls his grandmother Janine 'Smurf' Cody (Jacki Weaver), who comes to pick him up. J hasn't seen his grandmother or his uncles in quit some time as Smurf and his mom had an argument, separating them many years ago. He's not really sure where he fits right now felling like a stranger with his relatives. His girlfriend Nicky Henry (Laura Wheelwright), helps keep his mind off it. But J senses that his new close knit family is evil. Though it's unspoken, he senses Smurf and his uncles are involved in the crimes he see on television. Bad things are going on and deep inside, he knows they are responsible. Trying to not make waves, he does what the uncles ask without question.

Barry 'Baz' Brown (Joel Edgerton), looks out for the families interests and money but he's been trying to convince Smurf to go straight. He is the stable one in the family keeping everyone out of jail. But when he is murdered by a cop, Andrew 'Pope' Cody (Ben Mendelsohn), the oldest uncle steps in to take over. J over hears Darren (Luke Ford), Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and Pope discuss what to do with J. Pope asks J to steal a car, leaving it in the middle of the street at 2:00 a.m., which he does to avoid problems at home. He is then instructed to go home and forget what he's done. He knows that everything happening in the news, is a direct result of his new family. When J sees on T.V. two cops have been killed, the knows why the police have shown up on his doorsteps. In police custody, the family fears J is weak and will not stand up through questioning. Smurf and her tough love practices think possibly J must be taken out to keep the families secrets safe. After Nicky is silenced by the hands of Pope, J silently decides if it fits in with detective Nathan Leckie (Guy Pearce), who offers him safe witness protection, or should he return to the family and settle his score.

Awards Include:

2010 - L.A. Film Critics Association - Best Supporting Actress
2010 - National Board of Review - Best Independent Film
2010 - National Board of Review - Best Supporting Actress
2010 - National Society of Film Critics - Best Supporting Actress (Runner-up)
2010 - New York Film Critics Circle - Best First Feature

Porchlight Films, Sony Pictures Classics
Director: David Michôd
Writer: David Michôd
Producer: Liz Watts
I viewed 2/11

Friday, February 25, 2011

Midnight Run (1988) R - 4 Stars

Really fun comedy drama with DeNiro at his best. Aka, Prima di Mezzanotte, it's one of those movies you have to see at least once and possibly even add to your collection. For those of you who specialize in memorable quotes from movies, this one should fill your pockets. DeNiro plays an ex cop turned bounty hunter trying to get the "Duke" back to Los Angeles. Grodin is also outstanding and the two play off each other well. On just a side note, Yaphet Kotto, is good as the FBI agent but it bothers me watching him speak. You never see his teeth and it looks like he barely moves his mouth with sounds coming out. My own idiosyncrasy.

Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro), used to be a good Chicago cop but now he's become a bounty hunter. A sleazy bails bondman, Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano), offers him $100,000.00 if he can bring in Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin), the "Duke" an accountant turned embezzler, from New York back to Los Angeles in 3 days. One thing Walsh doesn't know is Chicago mobster Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina), is also looking for the "Duke." It seems Mardukas embezzled $15 million from Serrano and gave it away to charity. Serrano has two of his finest thugs, tracking Walsh down. FBI Agent Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto), is also looking for the "Duke" and when he learns Walsh is after him too, he's determined to not let a two bit bounty hunter get the upper edge. Enter Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton), yet another bounty hunter, who's receiving tips on Walsh's next move. He too wants to get in on that large sum of cash offered in L.A. It's a race to see will make it there first.

City Lights Films, Universal Pictures
Director: Martin Brest
Writer: George Gallo
Producer: Martin Brest
I viewed 12/10

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unthinkable (2010) R - 4 Stars

Wow, Samuel L. Jackson gives an over the top performance as an interrogator gone mad in this war thriller. A Muslim extremist has placed three nuclear bombs in unknown U.S. cities and it's Jackson's job to make him talk. Warning, some of you are not going to like his methods but don't think that didn't happen in the days following our invasion of Iraq.

Yusuf, formally named Younger, (Michael Sheen), is a Muslim extremist who states he's planted three nuclear bombs in major cities across the United States that are set to go off if his demands are not met. FBI's Special Agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) is sent to work with "H" (Samuel L. Jackson), a special interrogator, to get the information of the bombs locations. When traditional methods don't work, "H" is authorized to go to work on Yosuf. He takes out a small hatchet, chopping off one of Yusuf's fingers to show he means business thus horrifying Agent Brody. Yusuf has been trained to resist torture while maintaining his silence so "H" thinks Yusuf may be faking his claim. Yusuf agrees and gives an address that sends them on a wild goose chase only to find a bomb exploding in a nearby mall, killing over 50 people. This angers "H" to increasing the strength of his interrogation as Yusuf demands the withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East. The United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists so "H" must now do the unthinkable in order to achieve the needed locations of the bombs.

Senator Entertainment
Director: Gregor Jordan
Writer: Peter Woodward
Producers: Marco Weber, Caldecot "Cotty" Chubb, Vanessa Coifman
I viewed 10/10

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Thin Blue Line (1988) NR - 3½ Stars

Though this documentary was made a while ago, it still is a fascinating look into the murder of officer Robert Wood, in Dallas Texas in 1976. Based on a true story, this documentary helped free a convicted man, Randall Adams, sentenced for the murder of officer Wood. Though a tragic story, it's a good film that sucks you emotionally over the almost comical eye witnesses perception of the truth. David Harris was allowed to walk free while Randall Adams was convicted based on this eye witnesses testimony even though the witnesses had a hard time getting their stories straight.

Errol Morris's documentary is so powerful, it helped free Randall Adams from death row, changing the power of documentary film making forever. Morris allows you, the viewer, to form your own opinion while pointing out all of the errors in judgment by the Texas police department and their star witnesses. It will anger you as things like this happen today leading to the wrongful incarnation of the wrong person. Makes you want to take off your shoe and throw it at the screen. Also features Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson, and Marshall Touchton, Dallas Homicide Detectives, Attorneys Dennis White, Edith James and Judge Don Metcalfe.

The story briefly:
Randall Adams was driving in Texas and ran out of gas. 16 year old David Harris, a runaway, offered Adams a ride. The two drifters became friends and even attended a movie together while drinking and smoking pot. While Adams claims he was then dropped off at the motel he was staying in, Harris says the two were together and Adams shot officer Robert Wood who stopped them and approached the car. In the heat of things Woods's partner couldn't remember if the car was a Vega or a Comet or if the driver had bushy hair or perhaps was wearing a coat lined with fur. As eye witnesses stepped forward, it clouded the evidence even more.

David Harris ended up being a witness against Adams. It seems more people thought Adams looked like a killer than Harris and with the many erroneous eye witness testimonies, a jury still convicted Adams of the murder. In a rush to judgement Adams was sentenced and the case closed. Later, David Harris would confess to the crime and is now on death row. This film was made for under $18,000 proving once again it doesn't take big money to make a good movie if you've got a great story. Original music score by Philip Glass.

1988 - Edgar Allan Poe Awards - Best Screenplay
1988 - National Board of Review - Best Documentary
1988 - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Documentary
2001 - Library of Congress - U.S. National Film Registry

Vanguard Films, Sound One, Third Floor Productions
Director: Errol Morris
Writer: Errol Morris
Producers: Lidsay Law, Mark Lipson
I viewed 11/10

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Takers (2010) PG13 - 3½ Stars

With an Ocean's Eleven sort of feel, Takers is also after big money but targeted against the police system trying to stop them. Filmed in Los Angeles, at first I didn't have too much belief in Dillon's character. Probably for not having much faith in our L.A.P.D. force being that on top of things. Dillion comes off as having most of the answers instantly and fairly effortlessly and I just didn't buy that. Also, he risks his daughters safety, chasing suspects down the street but at the end he's casually driving around consulting with his partner. The beginning also was a little confusing connecting all the players but once they come into play, it's a good action drama with "Mission Impossible" technology. I especially like the filming/editing of the shoot out in the Roosevelt hotel. It was extremely effective without being over the top.

Two brothers Jesse (Chris Brown), and Jake (Michael Ealy), Attica along with A.J. (Hayden Christensen), Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez), and Lt. Carver (Steve Harris), are known as the "Takers." They plan big robberies with skill and clockwork precision. If there's a big haul to take, this gang can get in and out without leaving a trace of evidence against them. After hitting a bank and coming out over 2 million ahead, they decide to lay low. That is until Ghost (Tip "T.I." Harris), is released from jail showing up at their doorstep. A former member, Ghost feels he's done time and kept his mouth shut so these takers owe him one last heist. He convinces the gang he has inside information taken from inside the joint. It involves the use of high tech explosives available from a group of black market Russian dealers.

Detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon), and his partner Gordon Jennings (Idris Elba), are still trying to solve the bank heist when Welles gets the urge to follow Ghost and see what he's up to. Word on the streets is a new heist is about to go down with a way bigger take than the bank. Welles and Jennings are determined to crack the case and stop this group from taking anymore.

Screen Gems, Rainforest Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing
Director: John Luessenhop
Writers: Avery Duff, Peter Allen, John Luessenhop
Producers: William Packer, Jason Geter, Tip "T.I." Harris
I viewed 1/11

Monday, February 21, 2011

Goodbye Solo (2008) R - 3 Stars

If you like good Independent films, I think you will enjoy this one. Though I wasn't happy with the ending, I feel a better one might have been the three returning in the car together, helping Solo studying for his exam. It seems strange that Solo and Alex drive home without discussing anything. I love Souleymane Sy Savane as Solo and you'll find yourself rooting for him. He's the kind of guy you want for your friend with such a positive attitude. He tries to win over William's depressed side but can't seem to get through.

If the directors goal was to have William, played by Red West, be the crustiest grumpiest old man you've ever met, he succeeded. But it also didn't make one want to like him or have much sympathy for him. You're not going to see a lot of action or breathtaking cinematography, but it's a great simple story of human compassion between the oddest of couples.

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), a Senegalese native, is trying to eek out a living as a taxi driver. He dreams of one day hanging up his keys and acing the test for becoming a flight attendant. His relationship with his Hispanic wife Quiera (Carmen Levya), and his stepdaughter Alex (Diana Franco Galindo), has been shaky lately. Quiera wants Solo to maintain his Taxi job and give up his silly dreams of becoming anything else. Family is very important to Solo as where he comes from in Africa, everyone lives together and pitches in to take care of the elderly.

William (Red West), is in need of a taxi to take him from his home to the movie cinema. Solo happens to be the driver that picks him up. Over the next few days, Solo becomes William's driver, taking him back and forth to the movies. William makes an financial arrangement with Solo that on the 20th of the month, he will drive him 2 hours one way to a rocky cliff known as Blowing Rock. With Solo's vibrant personality he tries to find out way William will not be returning from this trip. The more Solo pursues the questions, the more William's angry disapproval grows. As Solo takes William to the bank to close his account, the date of the fateful trip arrives closer. William is starting to almost care for Solo so he fires him and hires another cabby named Mamadou (Mamadou). But Solo feels the need to be with William on the last final trip and regains his trust to drive him there.

2009 - National Board of Review - Best Independent Film

This Is That, Gigantic Pictures, Noruz Films, Lucky Hat Entertainment
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Bahareh Azimi, Ramin Bahrani
Producers: Ramin Bahrani, Jason Orans
I viewed 1/11

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Angels & Demons (2009) PG13 - 3 Stars

This sequel to The Da Vinci Code feels more like watching a new movie than connecting to the first other than they are both about breaking a secret code. While this seems extremely challenging, it's almost too complex to stay on top of. You have to go along with what happens instead of being a part of it in your head. It reminds me of National Treasure. Hanks is probably the best thing about the movie as he's in a believable role exposing a conspiracy involving the Catholic Church.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has constructed a Large Hadron Collider and has captured three vials of antimatter. Father Silvano Bentivoglio (Carmen Argenziano) and Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), are over seeing the project. After the capture, someone breaks in and steals one of the vials, killing Father Bentivoglio who tries to stop them.

Meanwhile the College of Cardinals' papal conclave is preparing to select their next pope as the Roman Catholic Church mourns the death of Pope Pius XVI. Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor) has temporary control of the Vatican until a new pope is selected. Everyone flocks to Saint Peter's Square to await the white smoke from the conclave which signifies an unanimous vote has been reached. A 400 year old, underground secret society known as the Illuminati, kidnap the four priests in line for the job, threatening to kill one an hour. Illuminati also has the missing vial which must be found before the vials battery life runs out causing the magnetic containment of it's contents to explode. Dr. Vetra works with Harvard University respected symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), after a symbol on the skin of a murdered victim, Langdon has deduced the four priests are hidden in the four altars of the "Path of Illumination." The only problem is to locate these alters in time to save the 4 priests and retrieve the vial before it explodes.

Imagine Entertainment, John Calley Productions, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, David Koepp
Producers: Ron Howard, John Calley, Brian Grazer
I viewed 12/09

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shutter Island (2010) R - 3½ Stars

I do enjoy films that mess with your head and are not predictable. Shutter Island is a good psychological mystery thriller but not one I'd consider owning. With a Twilight Zone feel, it could have been summed up faster as the slow places make the story lag. It also can be a bit confusing if not paying close attention and left me with too many unanswered questions.

Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), are deputy Marshalls taking a ferry to Shutter Island run by Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), where the mentally insane are kept. Surrounded on all sides by water, there is no escape except by boat. But somehow Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), has gone missing and Daniels and Aule are investigating her disappearance. Daniels tells Aule about his wife that was murdered by an arsonists. The two have never worked together before so Daniels tries to break the ice with chat before they arrive at the island.

At the gate they are asked to surrender their weapons to insure no patients can gain access. Three buildings make up the campus. Ward A where the men are kept, Ward B where the woman are kept and Ward C where the most clinically insane are held. While interviewing, Daniels gets the unshakable feeling that Dr. Cawley is hiding something about Ward C and the patients aren't much more help. Also why has the staff physician left suddenly for vacation when a patient is missing? Daniel finds out the arsonist who murdered his wife is being held here though he can't find any paperwork. To make matters worse, a hurricane approaches making Daniels and Aule seek refuge in a cemetery vault. When they return to the hospital,their clothes are soaked and a guard gives them white uniforms to wear while their suits are cleaned. Looking like a patients, Daniels must try to make sense of it all before going mad himself.

2010 - National Board of Review - Best Production Design

Phoenix Pictures, Sikelia Productions, Appian Way, Paramount Pictures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis
Producers: Arnie Messer, Bradley J. Fischer, Brad Fischer
I viewed 10/10

Friday, February 18, 2011

To Save a Life (2010) PG13 - 3 Stars

Though I'm not into watching religious films, I have to applaud this one's effort. While I don't think you need to turn to religion to change your life, I do feel it involves self discipline and faith that a lot of us do not have. The film gives a great insight into what one can do to change a life and the lives of others around them. In the wake of the violence among young adults, I think the film makers have a made a nice little movie showing it just takes one who cares, to make a change. The popular jock takes the time to befriend the quiet boy nobody talks to and lots make fun of. The movie even explores teen age pregnancy. Possibly could have been a movie shown in high schools humanity classes if it didn't have a religious message behind it. There's more to life than drinking, drugs, being the most popular and always trying to live in the "in" crowd.

Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne), is a high school basketball star that gets the best looking chick Amy Briggs (Deja Kreutzberg) and hangs with the other jocks at parties. His old child hood friend Roger Dawson (Robert Bailey, Jr.), shows up to school with a gun and takes his own life. Thinking there might have been something Jake could have done to save Roger's life, he questions what's important anymore. Jake meets a priest named Chris (Joshua Weigel), who speaks at Rogers funeral. Chris tells him of the church he speaks over and invites Jake to attend the youth group meetings. The meetings open Jakes eyes to what he's been taking for granite in life. He reaches out to try and help Jonny Garcia (Sean Michael Afable), who seems like a quiet boy no one talk to and everyone talks about. He invites him to join the others and get to know each other. Then Amy ends up pregnant from one wild night at a party and Jake's parents are on the verge of divorce. It's all too much for Jake to handle who was suppose to be leaving for the school of his dreams on a scholarship. Jake must decide which priorities in his life really matter.

New Song Pictures,  Accelerated Entertainment,  Samuel Goldwyn Films
Director: Bryan Baugh
Writer: Jim Britts
Producers: Steve Foster, Jim Britts, Nicole Franco
I viewed 1/11

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Book of Eli (2010) R - 3 Stars

Like Mad Max and Thunderdome meet the bible. While it was a decent movie, there was just something lacking with me to make it an epic event. The message is purely religious and requires belief in the scriptures. For some, it's their importance of their faith that will rate this movie higher. My open mindedness refuses to believe this is the only ending.

30 years after the final war in the U.S., the cities of America are reduced to crumbled ruins, torn up streets and a handful of survivors. Those left have formed small gangs in desperate search of food, water and supplies and would kill their own mothers to get it. One male survivor Eli (Denzel Washington), carries the sacred tome, the only surviving bible, and protects it with his life as it holds the key to survival of the human race.

Silver Pictures, Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures
Directors: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Writers: Gary Whitta, Tony Peckham
Producers: David Valdes, Broderick Johnson, Susan Downey
I viewed 5/10

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The White Ribbon (2009) R - 2½ Stars

Beautifully filmed in Black & White it's the story of a small village in Protestant northern Germany. The children are excellent little actors and the storyline is full just very confusing and never worked out. In German with subtitles, it's the story of the abused youngsters in the village who seem to be involved in a series of mysterious events. Are these children the future Nazis of the world? The story line shows you how they got this way. Though the movie never proves the children are involved it implies their revolt against authority. I didn't care for the ending as it explains nothing and the movie is extremely slow. The story is narrated by the school teacher many years later.

July of 1913, just before World War I, in a small Protestant village of northern Germany, strange accidents start taking place. In a seemingly peaceful town, but behind closed doors the children are mistreated by authority and the women repressed and treated poorly. All seems almost normal in this repressive fundamentalist society. Starring (Christian Friedel) as the school teacher, Eva (Leonie Benesch), The Baron (Ulrich Tukur), and Baroness Marie-Louise (Ursina Lardi), Martin (Leonard Proxauf), Margarete (Johanna Busse), Klara (Maria-Victoria Dragus) and the Pastor (Burghart Klaußner), to name a few.

Awards include:
2009 - Cannes Film Festival - Palme d'Or
2009 - Toronto Film Critics Association - Best Foreign Language Film
2009 - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Cinematography

X-Filme Creative Pool, Les Films du Losange, Lucky Red, WEGA-Film
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Producers: Veit Heiduschka, Andrea Occhipinti, Margaret Menegoz
I viewed 12/10

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just Another Love Story (2008) NR - 4 Stars

Now here is a case where I think the Danish language and subtitles enhanced my movie enjoyment. They seemed to really fit the story line and it's players. I really enjoyed this riveting mystery about love and deception made under $50,000. The actors and cinematography are wonderfully scripted and the story captivating. Just goes to show you a good thriller can be made for less money.

Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen ), and his wife Mette (Charlotte Fich) have a good marriage and two lovely children Frederik (Daniel Stampe), and Kirsten (Ditte Hansen). One thing they don't have is a reliable car and are constantly joking about it with the kids. When the car stalls in the middle of the road, Julia Castlund (Rebecka Hemse) is driving behind, crying and distracted by her cell phone. She tries to avoid the collision but smashes into Jonas's rear end along into oncoming traffic. Thrown from her car, Jonas rushes to her side.

Feeling horribly guilty, Jonas arrives at the hospital to check on her grave condition and the family mistakes him for Sebastian (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), her exotic boyfriend. Julia's wealthy father (Bent Mejding), mother (Ewa Fröling), Mangus (Timm Vladimir) and Monica (Josephine Raahauge), all rush to his side and thank him for coming to her aid. Julia is in a coma and they feel if anyone can breathe life back into her, Sebastian can. Dr. Dichmann (Flemming Enevold), is amazed to see Julia come around. Though she's lost 90% of her sight and has amnysia, her vitals are good for her to make a full recovery.

Jonas is finding himself quit attracted to Julia and even though he wants to tell her the truth, he's fallen in love with her. Enough so that he is staying out late on his wife and children to stay with Julia in the hospital. Frank (Dejan Cukic), one of Jonas's best family friends, works with Jonas in the scientific evidence department where Jonas photographs crime scenes. Jonas confides in Frank and tells him of his attraction and how he's eager to learn more about this Sebastian. A colorful trunk, along with Julia's cell phone are discovered in her car at the impoud center. Frank will soon be introduce to Sebastian and Julia will start to remember everything.

Koch Lorber Films, LLC, Thura Film
Director: Ole Bornedal
Writer: Ole Bornedal
Producer: Michael Obel

I viewed 1/11

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Death at a Funeral (2007) R - 3½ Stars

For me, this Bristish version is so much better then the new 2010 version. Funnier performances by more believable actors. My review will be shorter than normal as I hate to give away all of the laughs as they're fun thrown in your face when least expecting them. Definitely a good comedy great for a rainy day when you're indoors needing a laugh.

Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen), along with his wife Jane (Keeley Hawes), are arranging the funeral of Daniel's father at their family estate. Things start out wrong when the funeral home arrives with the wrong body. Robert (Rupert Graves), his older brother and great novelist, shows up to the funeral expecting Daniel to have taken care of all the expenses. This doesn't sit well with Daniel as he and his wife are trying to close the deal on a new home for themselves. Cousin Martha (Daisy Donovan), and her fiance' Simon (Alan Tudyk), also arrive on scene to the dismay that Simon is acting very strangely. It seems while picking up Martha's brother Troy (Kris Marshall), Simon is given what he thinks is a Valium only to find out later it's hallucinogenic drug; acid. Out of his element meeting the family and out of his mind, Simon keeps the entire family on their toes.

Family friend Howard (Andy Nyman), brings Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan),  and Peter (Peter Dinklage), a dwarf, arrive at the service. Peter takes Daniel aside and shows him inappropriate pictures that connect him with his father. In the midst of trying to pay a nice tribute to his father, chaos erupts at the service and now there is one extra body.

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Cinesite (Europe) Ltd., MGM Distribution Company
Director: Frank Oz
Writer: Dean Craig
Producers: Share Stallings, Diana Phillips, Laurence Malkin
I viewed 12/10

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hunger (2008) NR - 2 Stars

WTF! Directed by Steve McQueen -huh? Obviously not THE Steve McQueen just done in 2008. The only thing I can say good about this movie is the incredible performance by Michael Fassbender. How in the hell could his body be put through this performance, unless of course it's special effects? I knew it was based upon the true story of one of the leaders of the Irish Republic Army, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), and his strong belief in the IRA to stage a hunger strike that many other incarcerated men followed suit on. I can only imagine it looked as hideous as shown in this movie.

It's hard to understand Fassbender with his heavy accent and I turned subtitles on with his talk between the priest (Liam Cunningham), in order to understand what was being said. I didn't care for this movie as it is extremely slow and wastes film on scenes of no importance, like smoking in the snow and folding tiny foil packages. With no character development what so ever, the movie assumes you know a lot about the IRA movement and it doesn't explain anything about Bobby's life and how he got there. And who the hell is the guy who gets aced while visiting his mother? Was he the warden - a cop - prison guard? To me, the movie is just made up of shock value with good acting, a horrible story and no enlightenment.

Two other members Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon), and Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan), share a cell together and along with other IRA members, they endure continual beatings in protest of wearing the prison attire. The want to be recognized as political prisoners and allowed to wear their own clothing. When that gets them no further than beat, Bobby decides to stage a final hunger strike to have their voices heard long after the men are dead.

Film4, Blast Films, IFC Films
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: Enda Walsh, Steve McQueen
Producers: Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch
I viewed 1/11