Friday, March 25, 2011

Left Behind: The Movie (2000) PG13 - 2½ Stars

It's sort of ironic my sister and I were just having this conversation about if she suddenly disappears, I should not be worried because I will know where she has gone. With everything that is going on in the world right now, we have much debate into it's destiny. I choose to look at the world in more of a pragmatic fashion and entertain prophecies of the bible, Nostradamus predictions, and the Mayans calender as they are all open to interpretations of their content. I than prefer to form my own beliefs based on open minded and factual information. However, I can not dismiss the deep feelings I have that the world is headed for a major disruptment. I look for answers from the earth itself just getting tired of mankind taking it's toll on her over time. I feel she's ready to do something major to kick a bunch of us off. Reversal of the magnetic poles or something catastrophic to wake us up. My sister on the other hand, 100% believes in the bible and everything that is happening is just as it says it will. She constantly urges me to take a stand with God and avoid the horror that will be left for the non believers and sinners left on the planet. This movie is based upon a series of books written explaining Revelations and the Antichrists that will visit before Jesus makes his return to earth. Though in looking at some of the reviews, I fear the movie leaves a lot out.

I spent one entire weekend with the History Channel watching these different interpretations played out. First few hours was religious prophecies of the bible. Next few hours all about the Mayans and their calender that is suppose to show the world ending on Dec. 12, 2012. And then the predictions of Nostradamus. I choose to form my own opinions based on education and not faith. Maybe that is my problem too. I have no faith in much other than that of what I place in myself for my determination to get something down. Perhaps that is why it's sort of strange for me to keep finding myself renting movies that unbeknown to me, carry a religious content. Is something trying to tell me something? I am a spiritual person and do believe in a higher power that created us all and I do believe Jesus Christ did exist. I've even prayed to God many times for purely selfish reason, "PLEASE GOD, get me out of this one!" But it takes faith to believe in Adam and Eve, the rising up of Jesus from the dead, and that 12 virgins that are awaiting the Ala believers. For me, who's religion can possibly be the right one?

It would appear that organized religion is the cause of most problems in the world today. Ask a Muslim, a Jew, a Catholic, Buddhist or Christian and they all think their religion is the truth, just as my beliefs tend to come more from the earth itself. I guess I have more Mayan, Pagan, Indian belief that what we do in this world will come back to you. So now let me step off of the preachers box and get back to this movie regarding the "Rapture." It does seem a bit scary when you witness the scene at the United Nations where the Antichrist uses mind manipulation to gain control over the members. They walk out the door speaking a different tune then what was just played out. Basically the movie is about surrendering our lives to Christ before it's too late. I think "Left Behind" is a fair movie of the beliefs of the Christian faith. Though it was made 11 years ago, it sure fits into what the world is becoming today. I think it did a good job at taking the story to the big screen. At least giving me one more thing to rack around in my head regarding the return of Christ.

Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron) is a journalist headed to London where pilot Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson) is at the helm. Without warning, some of the passengers awake to find their loved ones are missing. All that is left in place is their material belongings, clothes, jewelry etc. But on a plane flying over 37 thousand feet, this is impossible. So where could all of these children and people go? Pilot Steele turns around and heads back to Chicago where he finds the same occurrences on the ground. It seems millions of people and all of the innocent children have vanished without a trace. As he arrives home, he finds his wife and son also are gone and the only thing remaining are the clothes left exactly as if they had melted out of them. Now, feeling extremely guilty over the affair he's been having with a flight attendant Hattie Durham (Chelsea Noble), to make up for the time he's felt his wife was wasting devoted to the church, he is beginning to take the bible more seriously.

Buck, being the journalist, is determined to get to the bottom of these disappearances as he ponders over reports about Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig (Colin Fox), an Israeli scientist who can turn the soil into the Garden of Eden making anything easy to cultivate in the soil of the earth. Dr. Rosenzweig is just ready to make his announcements to Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie), who's taken over as head of The United Nations after some of the world leaders have vanished. Buck believes that Nicolae might is the Antichrist and that Revelations has begun. God help all us non believers now.

Cloud Ten Productions, Angel Studios, Namesake Entertainment
Director: Victor Sarin
Writers: Paul Lalonde, Alan B. McElroy, Joel Goodman
Producers: Ralph Winter, Peter Lalonde, Joel Goodman
I viewed 2/11

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Grocer's Son (2007) - 3 Stars

In French with subtitles, aka Le Fils De L'epicier, this is a movie that will grow on you. The story of a 30 year old man, learning to reconnect with himself in the country side. At first, it's hard to relate with Antoine as he seems so unemotionally attached to life and Claire who he secretly has a crush on. He hides his feelings from everyone and treats everyone coldly. I am still unsure of how they met other than by being neighbors, but it would have been nice to delve deeper into Claire's past to see why she has become so recluse herself. I loved the old village people Antoine is forced to deal with.

Antoine Sforza (Nicolas Cazalé), is living in a small apartment in the big city after leaving his families business 10 years ago. But his boxes are still packed and he really hasn't been living at all. Working dead end jobs to survive, his waiter position in a Parisian restaurant is taking a toll on his spirit. Claire (Clotilde Hesme), lives across the hall and at 26, she's chosen to go back to school and get her degree. But she too is restless and bored. Antoine is called by his mother Mère d'Antoine (Jeanne Goupil), that his father Père d'Antoine (Daniel Duval), has suffered a heart attack. She needs his help running the family grocery store back in their small village of Provence. Antoine encourages Claire to come home with him and spend the summer in the country to forget all the worries of the big city.

Once they arrive, Claire meets Antoine's brother François (Stéphan Guérin-Tillié). François is deeply depressed over the recent failing of his marriage but doesn't let on to anyone but Claire. As he goes off to work each day, Antoine takes over driving the van to the top of mountain to service the elderly people of the hillside. The quirkiness of the old people start to drive Antoine mad, many who remember his antics as a child. They do not want to spend their money with him and Claire hitches a ride the next day to show him how to sell. Père d'Antoine comes home from the hospital only to criticize the job Antoine's been doing. After learning Claire will soon be leaving for Spain to attend her college, Antoine must make a decision to become like his father or return to the big city which holds nothing in his favor.

TS Productions, Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, Filmmovement
Director: Eric Guirado
Writers: Sara Prim, Eric Guirado, Florence Vignon
Producers: Milena Poylo, Gilles Sacuto
I viewed 2/11

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) R - 2½ Stars

While I actually liked the first "Paranormal Activity" better, this one also makes you walk away with that creepy feeling, looking behind your back. I thought the first one was scarier perhaps because the concept of how it was filmed was new. For me, this one takes way too long to get into the film and other than the kitchen scene with the wife, it isn't that scary. Supposedly this one is really the prequel to the first though I somehow missed the connection. It is however suspenseful as you scan each image looking and waiting for something to happen or become out of place.

One thing I never understand is at the first sign of something strange, especially when you have it on film, call 911 and they will answer and say, "What's you're emergency!" These people all seem to love pretending the problem doesn't exist and instead walk into it open armed. Tell ya what, if I was sitting in my kitchen and that happened to me, I'd be out of the house so fast and I'd never return without 20 people with me in the daylight only. So having said that, if you're dying to see a paranormal activity on film, rent the first one.

Kristi (Sprague Grayden), and Daniel Rey (Brian Boland), have recently been married and just had their first son Hunter (William Juan Prieto). Daniel already has a teenage daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim), from his first marriage and now they all live in a nice upscale home in Los Angeles. Martine (Vivis), is the nanny and house keeper and she senses something lurking in the home. She's constantly smudging the home of it's evil spirits which costs her job as Daniel doesn't like all this nonsense talk of ghosts. Katie (Katie Featherston), is Kristi's sister who comes by from time to time with her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat), to help her sister out. As the girls are looking through an old photo album they come across a photo of when they were young. It instantly brings back bad feelings of fear the sisters have choose to block out of their lives. But as strange events begin to take place inside the home, their entire family is rudely awaken to the fact they're not alone.

Blumhouse Productions, ROOM 101, Inc., Paramount Pictures
Director: Tod Williams
Writers: Tom Pabst, Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon
Producers: Oren Peli, Jason Blum
I viewed 2/11

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unstoppable (2010) PG13 - 3½ Stars

Denzel was pretty good in this one. I don't always like some of the roles he picks but I think he played a good 28 year veteran train driver. Inspired by the true story of CSX 8888 "Crazy Eights," it is possible something like this could happen. Especially when you have a cocky lazy worker more interested in his comfort than doing his job. I hope things are a lot more automated these days.

Though there are a things you just know wouldn't happen in real life, and silly things like the train guards coming down after the train is going by, just ignore all that and enjoy the movie. It's a good edge of your seat thrilling wild ride. I think it would have been nice if Connie had known of Denzel before the wild train ride so when they meet, new sparks of romance would instantly flow for them.

Will (Chris Pine), is young rookie conductor who has been assigned to meet up with Frank (Denzel Washington), for his first on hands training session. He's not having a good day as he's just learned a misunderstanding with his wife Darcy (Jessy Schram), has escalated into a new 30 day extension on the restraining order against her and his son. Now all he can do is bury himself into his work while his personal life is falling a part around him. When he meets Frank, the other drivers are against him for being so young. Some of these men are getting forced into early retirement notices while when they are still qualified to work longer. But today will be no normal day for both young and old.

Dewey (Ethan Suplee), is put in charge of moving train 777 with it's 39 cars, off the main track. Against company policy, he leaves the engine to get out and trip a switch to the other track. As, his brake slips loose, the train picks up speed and he is unable to get back into the cab. Now literally turned into a high speed missile, the train reaches speeds of 75 miles an hour with no way to stop it. Connie (Rosario Dawson), is in charge of operations for the trains routes and learns of the coasting train. With not many options she phones Ned (Lew Temple), and begs him to drive to the next stop and throw a switch to get it off the main track. Ned arrives but he's too late as the train has already sped by. Meanwhile Frank and Will are headed on a collision course with train 777. As company owner Galvin (Kevin Dunn), learns the train is carrying hazardous material, he decides to derail the train before it gets to the next major city, Scranton Pa. Will and Frank have to race to get their train off the main track before they run head into their worst nightmare.

Scott Free Productions, Prospect Park, 20th Century Fox Distribution
Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Mark Bomback
Producers: Tony Scott, Ian Bryce, Mimi Rogers
I viewed 2/11

Monday, March 21, 2011

Death Race 2 (2010) Unrated - 2½ Stars

Now you really have to use your imagination here. Island housing prisoners, okay, I'll buy that. Fights and unrest breaking out at the prison, okay, I'll even buy that. All these pretty woman locked up for life taking part in the Death Matches and Death Races, NOT! Pretty game show host calling all the shots in the prison, getting really hard to buy and if anywhere in the U.S. allows prisoners to kill each other well just think of the housing costs America could save. Since this is supposedly happening in present day, well enough said. It's not my type of movie however having said that, the acting is fairly good from a few of the men. If you love action, weapons and wrecking cars, then you're going to love Death Race. Be forewarned, it looks like Death Race 3 is in store.

It's 2012 and private corporations now own and manage the prison systems. Terminal Island houses some of the most violent criminals in the world and the Weyland Corporation, now hosts a show called Death Match, a televised pay per view competition, with it's unscrupulous producer September Jones (Lauren Cohan), from the island. Death Match does just what it says. It films the battle of two of the strongest inmates who fight to the death. Rating levels have been dropping off and Summer is looking for something new to put her ratings back on top.

Carl "Luke" Lucas (Luke Goss), is the getaway driver for a robbery requested by crime boss Markus Kane (Sean Bean). Luke is working with two new guys who botch up the robbery and Luke ends up killing one of the cops in order for the men to escape. He drops off the two rookies in the midst of being chased and eventually is caught and sent to Terminal Island as a convicted cop killer. Summer has seen how well Luke drove to evade the police and decides to start "Death Race" to get her ratings back on top. In this case, inmates will compete in death races till only one remains and that one is given his freedom back into normal society. She is eager to get Luke to race right away. Luke's pit crew consists of Lists (Frederick Koehler), Goldberg (Danny Trejo), and Rocco (Joe Vaz). Luke is paired up with Katrina Banks (Tanit Phoenix), a woman on death row and now it's a fight to the finish. The two battle to stay alive and possible win their freedom.

Impact Pictures, Capital Arts Entertainment
Directors: Roel René, Roel Reiné
Writer: Tony Giglio
Producers: Paul W.S. Anderson, Mike Elliott, Jeremy Bolt
I viewed 1/11

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Unknown (2006) R - 3 Stars

With a great plot, I really enjoy movies like this that screw with the mind. Here we have a little independent movie chocked full of drama and suspense. Though I don't think the acting is great at the beginning, it seems to get better as the story progresses. Strange concept of 5 men waking up in a locked warehouse with no memory of how they got there or who they are. After breathing a caustic chemical, there found in different positions and locations unaware of what has happened. As they start to gain parts of their memory back, they begin to question each others motives and withhold information to serve their best interests.

The story starts out in a warehouse with a man in a jean jacket (Jim Caviezel), waking up and looking around at 4 other men. (Joe Pantoliano), is tied up in a chair, (Greg Kinnear), lies face down with a broken nose, (Jeremy Sisto), has been shot and hanging handcuffed from the bars of the second floor. (Barry Pepper), blond hair and flannel shirt awakens from the second floor. The men have no idea of why they are together and until they find a newspaper on the bathroom floor. They read about a kidnapping that happened 2 days earlier. Convinced they are involved somehow, the men struggle to work together in an effort to free themselves not knowing if they are the kidnappers or the kidnappies. Meanwhile in the outside world, Detective Anderson (Clayne Crawford), helps a nervous wife (Bridget Moynahan), arrange to get the ransom money to the crooks, setting her husband free.

First Take (IFC)
Director: Simon Brand
Writer: Matt Waynee
Producers: Rick Lashbrook, Darby Parker, John S. Schwartz
I viewed 2/11

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Secret (2002) N/R - 3 Stars

This movie originally made by the BBC airing in the U.K. Even though it flows extremely slow, it somehow managed to pull my interest back in where I couldn't pause and walk away. It's not a fantastic movie, rated about 2½ stars, but I still gave it 3 for the fact it kept me interested till the end. Though somewhat predictable, the suspense is there and finally when the movie ends, you almost feel let down. The three main characters are good actors, not well known to me, and I like that.

Emma Faraday (Haydn Gwynne), is a simple woman, mother of two and married to Alex (Robert Bathurst.) One would never know she's been carrying around a secret that she's chosen to suppress deep inside and function normally. She seems to have a stable and happy relationship with her family. That is until her old childhood friend, Nadia (Stella Gonet), reappears in her life threatening to take it all away.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), October Productions
Director: Alrick Riley
Writer: Lucy Floyd
Producer: Paul Rutman
I viewed 10/10

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Final Destination (2009) R - 3 Stars

While this isn't the type of movie I normally reach for, it was a better horror movie than a lot I've seen. The director seems to have a knack for making the death scenes pop out in your face. I hear the 3D version amplifies this effect.

A teenage boy has a premonition that he and his friends will be killed watching a car race. He urges them to leave before the accident occurs but now discovers each will meet their own demise, exactly as it should have been in the first place.

Nick O'Bannon (Bobby Campo), and his girl friend Lori (Shantel VanSanten), are attending a car race at McKinley Speedway with their friends Hunt (Nick Zano), and Janet (Haley Webb). While sitting in the audience, Nick gets a strange premonition that an accident will happen causing many injuries in the area they are sitting. As he notices other people in the audience like the racist Carter Daniels (Justin Welborn), and his wife Cynthia (Lara Grice), the cowboy Jonathan Grove (Jackson Walker), a mechanic Andy Kewzer (Andrew Fiscella), his girlfriend Nadia Monroy (Stephanie Honore), MILF Samantha Lane (Krista Allen) and her husband (Phil Austin), all interacting around him, he gets a vision that one of the cars will loose a wheel, hurling it straight into the crowd. He convinces his friends and the security guard George Lanter (Mykelti Williamson), to leave just in the nick of time. But two of the survivors end up dying and Nick starts retracing the time frame of the event to see who's may be next.

Practical Pictures, Parallel Zide, Soundelux, New Line Cinema
Director: David R. Ellis
Writer: Eric Bress
Producers: Craig Perry, Warren Zide
I viewed 10/10

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) R - 3½ Stars

A simple kidnapping for ransom goes wrong when the girl is not willing to go along so easily. It's a pretty good little Independent thriller with only three characters. A twisted story, that will hold your attention when it takes it's many turns, some very unexpected. You're not going to see a lot of action, but it's made up with plenty of emotion that will keep you drawn in.

40 something Vic (Eddie Marsan), and 20 something Danny (Martin Compston), are two ex cons that come up with a perfected plan they religiously stick to. First they sound proof a room and bathroom and bring in a bed attaching it firmly to the floor. Next, they professionally install restraints to the wall and many pad locks on the doors, always wearing protective covering for their clothes. Now, all they need is a victim to kidnap and hold for ransom. Danny suggests a girl Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), he's been watching, who comes from a wealthy family and should bring in a pretty price. But Alice is not ready to go easy and puts a strain on their perfect plan.

CinemaNX, Isle of Man Film, Anchor Bay Films
Director: J Blakeson
Writer: J Blakeson
Producer: Adrian Sturges
I viewed 12/10

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) PG13 - 3 Stars

I think if you have a good understanding of wall street stocks, trades and Wall Street, you might enjoy this movie more than I did. It requires paying close attention to everything unfolding or you may become confused. Michael Douglas gives a solid performance as a once big time trader, just released from prison. I can't give too many details away about what happens or it will be really boring for you.

It's 2001 and Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), has been released from prison after spending the eight years for money laundering, racketeering and a list of other sins. This once great Wall Street giant, used to expecting a car to pick him up, finds himself alone at the gate. Gekko quietly slips away and out of the public eye. Seven years later, he released a book; Is Greed Good? His daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her boyfriend Jacob 'Jake' Moore (Shia Lebouf), see Gekko on the T.V. as he's being interviewed. Angerly, Winnie throws the remote as she never wishes to speak to her father again.

Jake is one of his firms top brokers at Keller Zabel Investments. He's been working on alternative sources of energy, including a fusion technique for the future. His company is in trouble and when Lewis Zabel (Frank Langella), can't arrange a bailout because of crossing former businessman Bretton James (Josh Brolin), of Churchill Schwartz, he gives Jake a 1.5 million dollar bonus and tells him he should marry Winnie. The next morning Zabel jumps in front of his morning train. Jake buys a ring and proposes to Winnie.

Since Winnie won't talk about her father, Jake attends a lecture Gekko's giving and approaches him about marrying his daughter. The two share a train ride where Gekko shows Jake a photo of Winnie as a child. He tells Jake the trouble at his company started when rumors were spread and if Jake will give him a recent photo of Winnie, he in turn will find the secrets of who profited by Keller Zabel collapse thus helping Jake turn the tables. Jake will soon learn Gekko is in full use of his finest manipulation skills.

Charlie Sheen makes an appearance as Bud Fox a multimillionaire from Blue Star Airlines.

20th Century Fox
Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Stephen Schiff, Allan Loeb
Producers: Edward R. Pressman, Eric Kopeloff
I viewed 1/11

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In the Loop (2008) NR - 2 Stars

I have to say that most of this movie bored me. Could have something to do with it's all about politics which is something I often disagree with and I didn't think the punch lines were all that funny but more foul mouthed and unrealistic. It was hard for me to stay with the dialect with heavy British accents through most of it as I guess most of the humor is above my head. Do people really talk like this? I was surprised to see James Gandolfini in this playing a US general as I always love him in a movie.

British Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), casually tells a reporter "war is unforeseeable." Later in a statement he says, "to walk the road of peace, sometimes we need to be ready to climb the mountain of conflict". Judy (Gina McKee), personal Director of Communications, now tries help control the situation along with British Communications Director, and a nasty mouthed Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Damage control expert Toby (Chris Addison), comes into play as US Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy), and US Lieutenant General George Miller are up against State Department US Assistant Secretary for Policy, Linton Barwick (David Rasche). They fake meetings, and leak information all in manoeuvring the vote between nations.

Awards include:
2009 - National Board of Review - Best Independent Film
2009 - New York Film Critics Circle - Best Screenplay

IFC Films
Director: Armando Iannucci
Writers: Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche, Jesse Armstrong
Producers: Adam Tandy, Kevin Loader
I viewed 12/10

Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome (2009) NR - 3 Stars

Touching story about a young teenage Kurdish refugee from Iraq, who meets a French swim instructor to learn to swim. Bilal, has lead a rough life, escaping from Iraq and coming all this way only to be separated from his girlfriend. Her family has moved her to England and Bilal is unable to get across the border to join her. All he can see is Dover, England across the channel and know he is stuck looking across the water. The only thing he can set his sights on is to learn to swim well enough to cross the English Channel and get back to his girlfriends arms. In French with subtitles, the story is good and the acting superb. However, I wish the film would have showed more about Bilal's life before he reached France and got separated from his girlfriend. Questions weren't answered like, why does her father forbid their relationship? I think that may have helped me root for him a little more.

A 17 year old boy has spent the last three months trying to get to his girlfriend Mina (Derya Ayverdi), who's family has relocated her to England. Bilal (Firat Ayverdi), is now stuck in Calais, France. Without papers, he is unable to cross the border into England. He's tried stowing away in passing trucks, but ended up getting caught and sent back to the harbor. He meets Simon (Vincent Lindon), a retired swim instructor who's won many metals in his sport. Bilal has a small amount of money and pays Simon for lessons to teach him to swim. He believes it is his only way to get back to Mina is by swimming across the English Channel to get to her. Simon is going through loss of his own as he and his wife Marion (Audrey Dana), has just divorced him. Needing to fill the void in his life, he hides Bilal in his house for a few days. But Simon is now in trouble for harboring an alien. Bilal does not want to cause any trouble for Simon who's been so nice to him so when the police come back, Bilal is gone and so is Simon's wet suit. Since Mina's father is forcing her to marry another, Bilal makes a quick decision to attempt the 10 hours of swimming to make it across the channel into England.

Director: Philippe Lioret
Writers: Olivier Adam, Philippe Lioret, Emmanuel Courcol
Producer: Christophe Rossignon
I viewed 2/11

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trade (2007) R - 3½ Stars

Most people are ignorant to the practice of human trafficing going on in many parts of our world today. This movie will sicken you to these facts while taking you on a journey of one young Mexican boy who will go to any length to get his sister back after she is abducted. Young girls, boys and women are kidnapped everyday and if you can't find them within the first 24 hours, chances are they've been sold at auction to the highest bidder, and turned into a sex slave, never to be seen again. Many times it's just for old rich fat men buying themselves a virgin. Gross! This story does have a happy ending but sadly in most cases, they do not.

Jorge's (Cesar Ramos), younger sister, Adriana (Paulina Gaitan), is celebrating her 13th birthday in their small village near Mexico City. Jorge is very excited he has been able to get a new bike for Adriana to ride. But Jorge and his friends robbed a tourist, so he would have enough money to afford it. Jorge's mother knows he could never have that kind of money to buy it and forbids Adriana from riding it. Adriana sneaks out anyway and takes it for a ride. As she notices a car following her she peddles faster trying to get away but the truck catches up to her and pulls her into the truck, joining others already inside like Veronica.

Veronica (Alicja Bachleda), and a friend had just arrived in America and without knowing much English, they were tricked into going with men promising to take them to Los Angeles. As her girlfriend tried to get away, she was hit by a car and Veronica was stuffed into the back of a truck. Adriana unwillingly joins this group of hispanic women and a small boy.

Meanwhile, Jorge sees a boy riding Adriana's bike he thinks the boy has taken it. The boy shows him where the bike was found and Jorge finds Adriana's shoe. He knows someone has taken her and franticaly looks for people to ask. His world is drasticaly uprooted and he feels partly responsible for stealing the money and getting the bike. A man tells Jorge his sister was probably taken by a Russian network of human trafficers, that operate all over the world. He explains, this gang sells women and children at auction over the Internet where they usually end up as sex slaves. He thinks they operate somewhere out of New Jersey.

As a truck approaches for another pick up, Jorge sees his sister inside and steals a car to follow it. When the truck stops, Jorge sees two corrupt police men take bribs and rape of one of the women, Veronica. Jorge follows the truck to Juárez, Mexico and eventually finds the ranch the victims were taken, but he's gotten there too late. Suddenly a car drives up to the property and a Texas lawman Ray (Kevin Kline), gets out. As Ray enters the ranch, Jorge hides in his trunk. His hope is to cross the border into the United States unnoticed. Along the way, he reveals himself to Ray in hopes Ray can help find his sister. Ray takes Jorge straight to the closest police but Jorge flees not trusting the police for help after what he's seen. Ray manages to find Jorge again and this time he offers his personal help to Jorge. Ray too is struggles constantly for clues on what happened to his daughter. She too was kidnapped, never to be seen again. The two form a bond and head off on speculation to New Jersey. With no time to spare, they must find the Internet source and stop the auction before Adriana is gone forever.

Centropolis Entertainment, Claussen & Woebke Filmproduktion
Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner
Writer: José Rivera
Producers: Rosilyn Heller, Roland Emmerich
I viewed 10/10

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time (2006) N/R - 3 Stars

Wow, talk about a couple playing games with each other. This is my third Korean subtitled movie and all of them have been pretty good yet so bizarre. Here's one that offers a taste of obsessive love with a lot of crazy thrown in.

"Time" is a totally bizarre look at a woman obsessed with her face. So much so, she mysteriously leaves her boyfriend and reappears with a new face. She works her way back into his life only to find he is not totally into this new woman as he is still in love with his ex. When he finds out what she has done, he is so devastated, he visits the doctor and does the same thing to his face. But he plays around with her now, not revealing himself right away. I don't want to give away the ending, lets just say bizarre. Gripping performances by the three leads. Nice backdrop, someday I want to photograph "Sculpture Bay" where the ocean becomes part of the artwork!

Seh-hee (Park Ji-yeon), is a pretty girl but she constantly thinks her boyfriend Ji-woo (Ha Jeong-woo), is not happy with her and fantasizes about being with other women. Instead of seeing the happiness she brings to him, she turns to a plastic surgeon to become more of the woman she thinks Ji-Woo wants. But it backfires on her as she reappears as See-hee (Seong Hyeon-aah), begins to work her way back into his life and is rejected when she tests him to see if he will stay true to her.

Happinet Pictures Co. Ltd., Kim Ki-duk Film Company, Lifesize Entertainment
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Writer: Kim Ki-duk
Producer: Kim Ki-duk
I viewed 1/11

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Messenger (2009) R - 3 Stars

I'm putting this one in my "Based on a True Story" category even though the movie is not based on any one particular solider, it's based upon the necessary assignment of notifying families of the human cost of war. Something I am sure most of us haven't thought about, is the special unit of the military who's assignment is to inform families of causalities of war. The "Messengers" duty is to non emotionally, break the bad news to the NOK (next of kin), when there's a death of an American soldier. Foster and Harrelson do an great job portraying these officers who specialize with quick "in and out" procedures of notification. A strict script is practiced and preformed leaving no room for any emotional deviance. I found their service to be deeply moving and realistically felt.

However, for me the movie is lacking in character depth of it's main stars. Harrelson is a tough, dedicated Captain taking newly appointment decorated war hero Foster under his wings to whip him into shape for the Army's Casualty Notification program. You get a small taste of Harrelson's personality with his take it or leave attitude towards love and his resentment of not seeing active combat duty while in Desert Storm. He's dedicated to the Army and follows protocol to the letter. Foster is actively coming to grips with injuries he suffered in Iraq. The fact he's deemed a hero by all but his own eyes, his mind is still at war and he easily dismisses the love of his life while he comes to terms with mental and physical injuries. While informing a woman of her husbands death, Foster feels an instant attraction and the need to make things stable in her life again. The correlation between their growing relationship and Foster's own personal anguish was really not explained well. But it's definitely worth the rental to feel the pain the families left behind grieve through with the loss of their child.

Casualty Notification Senior Officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), has just been told to take Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), under his wing and show him the ropes in proper protocol for delivering the words of a soldiers death. Montogomery has lost his former girlfriend and is still reliving the war in his head. Stone makes it very clear to Montgomery the importance of not getting emotionally involved with the NOK. As the two men show up at Olivia Pitterson's (Samantha Morton), home, they must tell her the sad truth about her husband. Even though the officers are to go in and get right out, Montgomery feels a deep need to take care of this woman as he watches her crumble. He goes against protocol and becomes involved with Olivia trying to ease and comfort her needs. Having the death of his own relationship, he can relate to grief for loss. Montgomery tries to teach Stone that sometimes life is more important than the rules.

GOOD Worldwide, Mark Gordon Company
Director: Oren Moverman
Writers: Oren Moverman, Alessandro Camon
Producers: Ben Goldhirsh, Christopher Mapp, Matthew Street
I viewed 6/10

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Departures (2008) PG13 - 4 Stars

A very touching look at honor, dignity and respect for the dead. While everyone frowns upon a job in the mortuary field, it's a normal part of life and some might just be a natural at it. Daigo is one such man that goes from revolt and disgust to having the greatest admiration for the work done, preparing bodies for their departure. Not only is it about respecting the life that used to be, but also comforting the family who are all engaged in the process. His music provides the meditated strength to connect during this time of need. The film also shows the traditions of other cultures as they send off their dearly departed to their next destination. In Japanese, koodoos for making the subtitles so nice and large so I could watch it on my normal T.V. without glasses. The film is actually pretty funny at appropriate times. Tasteful and thoughtful giving the viewer a new window into death that makes one think about life. I'm very thankful for the enlightenment into Japaneses traditions and ceremonies regarding death.

Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), is following his dream by investing in a fine expensive cello and playing in an full orchestra. But when the director comes in and says they must dissolve immediately due to lack of audience attendance, Daigo's dreams are chattered in an instant. His understanding wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), agrees to move back to his childhood home where they can live in his mothers old home rent free. With great hesitation, he sells his cello as they start their new lives. An ad in the paper needs help in "departures" and it sounds perfect for Daigo, thinking it's a travel agency, he applies. He meets with the owner and is hired on the spot, given an advance and sent home while still in shock over what the position entails. He is to become "Nokanashi" other wise known as an "encoffineer." Daigo can not find the strength to tell his wife exactly what his will be doing.

The next morning Daigo and his boss Ikuei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), go to a scene where police have discovered and elderly woman, dead for at least 2 weeks. Daigo can not stomach a decaying body as he watches his mentor respect and gently preform the proper rituals. Daigo is angry and wants to quit the position but Ikuei sees his predecessor in Daigo's soul and encourages him to stay with it.

Daigo must eventually tell his wife what he is doing and others in town find out and look down on him, telling him to get a respectful job. It isn't until a very special woman of the small town, Tsuyako Yamashita (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), passes and Daigo is called to preform the ceremony. They now see the importance of his very special gift, giving way to great admiration from his wife and friends.

2008 - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Best Foreign Language Film

Shochiku Company, Ltd., Regent Relasing, Here Films
Director: Yojiro Takita
Writer: Kundo Koyama
Producers: Toshihisa Watai, Toshiaki Nakazawa
I viewed 1/11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Green Zone (2010) R - 4½ Stars

Very real feeling and intense movie, aka Imperial Life in the Emerald City, it had me paying close attention because it's a fascinating account of what happened in Iraq. For me, it's probably a very close rendition of how we got into the war with Iraq. War is good money. It keeps a lot of people employed, gives the government and excuse to do what they may in the name of war, and sponsors many other corporations to build the stuff to take there. I have a good mind to put this in my based on a true story as it's such a believable concept. We never should have been there in the first place and now, after hundreds of men and women have lost their lives, how the hell do we get out.

Damon is really really good in this movie. Unlike his Bourne character, he plays the a completely believable Chief Warrant Officer, determined to find the WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in the Iraqi desert. The concepts are believable and probably true and I liked it more than the "Hurt Locker."

Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon), is in Iraq with one mission; to find Weapons of Mass Destruction that Hussein has been stockpiling and hiding. After visiting many sights and coming up empty handed, Miller is convinced these stockpiles are lurking just around the corner at his next stop. Instead, Miller uncovers evidence there's been an elaborate cover up and no WMD's really exist.

Working Title Films, Universal Pictures
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Brian Helgeland
Producers: Paul Greengrass, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan
I viewed 7/10

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Last Kiss (2006) R - 4 Stars

From reading all the other reviews, it sounds like you are either going to love or hate it this movie. I think the ones that hate it are the ones that aren't in a committed relationship. For me, I loved it and it's a good story of how relationships work. It's probably not a 4 star movie but I'm taking into consideration it's relationship category and giving it the extra 1/2 star for being such a true and refreshing comedy/drama. The situations feel much realer and the dive a little deeper into making you think a little harder about whether you should be in a relationship or not.

We all think the grass is always greener on the other side and our curiosity steers us off course. If you don't go sow your wild oats first, you'll always have regrets about what might have been. No relationships are perfect and cheating happens for these very reasons of human nature. The key is appreciating what you already have and communicating with one another to make a solid foundation. With that, the rest is easy. My boyfriend even said, "Not too bad for a chick flick."

Michael (Zach Braff), just turned 30 and even though he has the perfect girlfriend, Jenna (Jacinda Barrett), he's feeling confused and scared when she announces she is pregnant. First, he's excited but as he thinks about his life suddenly becoming pre planned with no surprises in store, he begins to panic. He can't even think of three ideal couples to relieve his doubts. His friend Izzy (Michael Weston), is still in love with a girl who has moved on. Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen), is all about having sex with no strings attached and Chris (Casey Affleck), is on the verge of walking away from his marriage as his bitchy wife makes even his baby afraid of her. Jenna gets a call that her mother Anna (Blythe Danner), has just walked out on her father Stephen (Tom Wilkinson), proving once again even long lasting relationships don't work. He's really got cold feet now about the direction his life is taking.

As they all attend a wedding, Michael meets a vibrant girl named Kim (Rachel Bilson). He finds talking to her breathes new life back into him making him feel significant again. As Kim turns on her charm, Michael is convinced to sneak out and attend a party with her. He lies to Jenna about going out with one of his best friends, and instead falls into the arms of Kim. As Michael jumps into the deep end to test the waters of another life, will Jenna ever forgive him.

Lakeshore Entertainment, DreamWorks Studios
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Writers: Gabriele Muccino, Paul Haggis
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Andre Lamal, Marcus Viscidi
I viewed 1/11

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teenage Dirtbag (2009) NR - 3 Stars

Based on a true story, this little movie draws you in for a tiny peek into one troubled teens life. I have to admit, I rented the movie based on it's name only. The acting is pretty believable but I don't think the end answers a lot of questions. Maybe that's the point the director wants to make. A social lite and cheerleader couldn't possibly be seen with a dirt bag like Thayer. Surprisingly, after they share a creative writing class, their bond grows stronger. Scott Michael Foster play the perfect dirt bag, a slow moving movie but makes a good point.

Amber (Noa Hegesh), is a well respected and popular cheerleader at school. Thayer (Scott Michael Foster), is the jerk kid at school that causes trouble, acts out and just plain annoys Amber. He is constantly harassing her to get her attention as he mocks her for her social life and being such a goodie two shoes. They find themselves in the same creative writing class where Thayer constantly comes up with words directed at and to annoy Amber. With statements like "Your face brings me death every day," Amber slowly starts to pay attention to Thayer and even though she doesn't want to admit it, she starts falling for the dirtbag. They are also both assigned to a study class where the two act out between each other through the written words in a notebook. But the notebook ends up in the wrong hands now causing trouble as the entire school knows of their feelings. Amber's social life is about to be threatened over the biggest dirtbag in school.

Spy Filmz
Director: Regina Crosby
Writer: Regina Crosby
Producers: Seth Caplan, Chris Aagaard
I viewed 1/11

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Notorious Bettie Page (2005) R - 3 Stars

So "Politically Incorrect" for the times, Bettie Page was the "Pin-Up Queen of the Universe." She brought beauty to boots and bondage, shocking the nation with her provocative photos. Senate hearings heard debates over it's labeling of art vs. pornography. In the end, censors started to ban the distribution, especially through the U.S. postal system.

Gretchen Mol does an awesome job portraying Page in both her innocence and beauty but you never get a look inside what made her who she became. You get a small peek at a situation but the movie doesn't follow through. For example, does she make a lot of money taking these photos, is she really that naive that she doesn't realize men are masturbating to her photos and does she get a divorce from her husband?

At the end, the movie jumps to Page finding religion again but it seemed so sudden and out of the blue. Also, the characters selling the films and photos are portrayed as pleasant chaps you might have tea with. But were these sessions really innocent visions of art? There must have been a darker side to cause Page's overnight transformation to religion. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't tell us. Filmed in B & W, it really adds to the feel of the 50's, slightly turning to color just as the era did.

The story...

Bettie Page (Gretchen Mol), was born and raised in a conservative religious family of Tennessee. Her father was abusive and her mother constantly brought her to church to repent her sins of hamming it up for boys. For fun, she would allow men to take photos of her in bathing suits as she knew this was her asset God had blessed her with. In the late 1940's, after an abusive marriage, she walked out and set her sights on New York City. There she was discovered by a photographer who takes her to the next level of modeling. Also starring Christopher Bauer, Jared Harris, Sarah Paulson, David Strathairn, Lili Taylor and Jonathan M. Woodward.

PictureHouse, Cinetic Media, Killer Films, HBO Films
Director: Mary Harron
Writers: Guinevere Turner, Mary Harron
Producers: Christine Vachon, Katie Roumel, Pamela Koffler
I viewed 1/11

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Edge (1997) R - 4 Stars

Though the movie, aka  "Bookworm," and "The Wild," could have been a little more action packed, I really liked the way it gave me tingles up and down my spine, making me nervous. A 3½ Star movie, I'm pushing it up because of that uncomfortable feeling it gives and it's subtle message of surviving life. Bart the Bear is very intimidating in this movie and remarkably, a great actor. Hopkins, as always, brings his role to the table, first class, playing an introverted millionaire, preserving a mind filled to capacity with trivial, yet important, information. He's married to a younger wife and suspects her photographer, Baldwin, and she are having an affair. Quit by accident, the men are left to fend for themselves when their tour plane crashes, leaving them stranded in the wilderness, fighting for survival. The scenery is awesome!

Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), is an eccentric old millionaire married to a much younger wife, Mickey (Elle MacPherson). She's asked him to go away with her to a lodge in Alaska where she will be doing a photo shot for Robert, 'Bob' Green (Alec Baldwin). As it's his birthday, it would be good for them to get away.

Along with photo assistant Stephen (Harold Perrineau), they arrive at the lodge owned by Styles ((L.Q. Jones). The birthday party is a success but Charles can't help notice the way Bob and his wife look at each other. He tries to put his differences aside when Bob gives him a gift of a sharp pocket knife for his birthday. Mickey gives him a stylish pocket watch, engraved inside of her devoted love.

Bob is looking for something to take his photo shot to the edge and notices a picture of Indian Jack Hawk (Gordon Tootoosis), on the wall. He wants to find Jack and include him in his photo shoot. Jack lives about 70 miles away and the only way to get there is by plane. Pilot (Eli Gabay), arranges to fly Charles, Bob and Stephen, to find Jack Hawk and persuade him to come back for the shoot. As the plane runs into flying geese, the motors are torn a apart, sending the plan into the river below, killing the pilot as the plane goes down. Barley escaping with their lives, Charles, Bob and Stephen are trapped in the middle of nowhere with very limited resources. When a massive grizzly begins to stalk them, it's every man for himself as they try to stay alive.

One Step Up Inc.,
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writer: David Mamet
Producer: Art Linson
I viewed 2/11

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Case 39 (2010) R - 3 Stars

Case 39 shows the power of letting something get inside your head. You can become your own worst enemy driving yourself crazy with illusions of fear. In this "Orphan" styled case, the fear is the devil himself packaged with large blue eyes and a sweet tender voice. Seen so many times before, its a decent, but still yet another, thriller about the devil lurking close by. My favorite scene takes place inside a bathroom.

Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger), is a social case worker with a big heart and a full agenda. Her boss Wayne (Adrian Lester), just handed her yet another file; case #39. She tosses it aside but can't help opening the cover. A tiny 10 year old girl named Lillith Sullivan "Lily" (Jodelle Ferland), cries out to her from the behind the manilla file. Emily makes an appointment to meet with the family. While being interviewed, Lily confides to Emily that she fears her parents are plotting her demise. Emily gives Lily her personal number to call at the first sign of trouble.

Emily is awakened by a call from Lily saying her parents have drugged her and planning to send her to the fires of hell. Having met the suspicious parents earlier, she grabs her coat and races to Lily's home also notifying Detective Barron (Ian McShane), her friend in the police department. As they arrive, the parents have Lily taped inside the oven trying to set her a blaze. The parents are taken into custody and Lily is allowed to go home with Emily where she can live in a safe environment as the wait for a proper loving home to accept her. Soon after Lily moves in, trouble starts with Lily's suspicious behavior. Emily's small circle of friends, like almost boyfriend and co-worker Doug (Bradley Cooper), and other case loads, are tragically popping up dead. She must now open dark secrets of her past, facing her own fears if she is to stand up to this tiny package of joy.

Misher Films, Anonymous Content, Paramount Vantage Pictures
Director: Christian Alvart
Writer: Ray Wright
Producers: Kevin Misher, Steve Golin
I viewed 1/11

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Edukators (2004) R - 3 Stars

So many great movies out there for those who can handle subtitles. Low budget film with great results. Great performances by the three young actors. German with subtitles, a great foreign film with a rebel message. The movie is a bit drawn out but it allows you to deeply connect with the characters. Two German youths are in a radical group known as the Edukators with their message directed towards the rich for turning their heads away from poverty below them.

Jan (Daniel Brühl), and Peter (Stipe Erceg), invest all of their evenings spreading their radical message for their activist group, "The Edukators." After studying their targets, they break into homes of the rich who are away on vacation. Once inside, they rearrange the entire home leaving fear in their richly protected homes. They also leave their calling card, "Your days of Plenty are Numbered."

Jule (Julia Jentsch), is Peter's girlfriend, and she's had to move in with Peter and Jan after loosing her apartment. In a car accident with no insurance, she totaled a Mercedes and now is paying the $100,000 Euros to replace it. As Peter must go away for a while, Julie stays behind as Peter gets Jan to help her vacate her apartment. Jan forms a close bond with Julie as they realise their beliefs are the same. Jan confides what Peter and him have been doing. As Julie thinks more about her incident with the rich, she encourages Jan to take her to the mans home with the Mercedes. As it would go, no one is home and Julie convinces Jan to break into his home. They bond even closer while they destroy the precise order of the Hardenberg's (Burghart Klaussner), home. In the process they make love in this house, fleeing wearing only towels and robes. Peter returns home making the two uncomfortable about what they've just done. When Julie discovers her cell phone missing, her and Jan must go back to get it. As they find the phone, Hardenberg returns home and recognizes Julie from the accident. Not knowing what to do next, they awaken Peter who joins them. Peter decides they should take Hardenberg hostage buying them time to think. They take him far away in the hills to an isolated cabin of Julie's uncle. As days go by, Peter is agitated with the truth about his best friend and girl. He now gets to decides what their next move should be regarding their fate.

Y3 Film Production, Coop99, IFC Films
Director: Hans Weingartner
Writers: Katharina Held, Hans Weingartner
Producers: Antonin Svoboda, Hans Weingartner
I viewed 1/11

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cold Storage (2006) R - 2½ Stars

Not the worst horror movie I've ever seen, this one at least has a decent story with some very creepy characters. However, if you rent the movie thinking your going to find a dead body under ice, this box is misleading. Basically, a man finds a girl, thrown from her car in the middle of the road. He takes her home where she dies and now he's in love and can't let her go. The movie is chocked full of "Diane Arbus" characters which add to the freakishness. I'm not sure if they should be proud or not but, the actors who play these back wood freaks, really look natural. Scary to think there may be people deep in the woods who live like this. Luther Spoole, played by Brett Gentile, is just about one of the scariest neighbors I would never want to run into.

Melissa (Casey Leet), has caught her boyfriend Daric (Matt Keeslar), cheating so she needs to get away and take some time to think. She's an actress and there's a gig in a small town Tennessee. As she enters the backwoods, a bird hits her windshield sending her car out of control and throwing her from the car. Barely clinging to life, Clive Mercer (Nick Searcy), drives by, scoops her up in his arms, and takes her back to his cabin in the woods. Clive begins to treat her like a queen, vowing to attend to her every wish. One problem, Melissa is dead. When she doesn't report to her motel or the play, her sister Cathy (Joelle Carter), and Daric set off to find her. When they arrive at the town, the sheriff does nothing to help so they set off in the woods to find her alone. But Clive is not willing to give his new bride up and Cathy and Daric are now held hostage themselves.

Synthetic Fur, Lionsgate
Director: Tony Elwood
Writers: Mark Kimray, Tony Elwood
Producers: Tony Elwood, Paul Barrett
I viewed 1/11