Friday, August 31, 2012

54 (1998) R - 3½ Stars

Not a documentary, but a movie based on the true life of Steve Rubell and his exclusive private night club, Studio 54, he co owned and attended nightly. This exclusive disco club of the 70's, attracted the world's elite, to party behind closed doors. Not just anyone could get in this club and Rubell hand picked only people he felt worthy of attending. His arrogance becomes his demise when his bragging costs him the club in exchange for a jail sentence. Once free, he's allowed back for one last night at the club, surrounded by the people who stood by him.

Considering the bad reviews this movie was given, I enjoyed learning a little more about this exclusive club in NYC though not a complete story. I wish the film focused more on Rubell than trying to become a love story. Being myself from this time period in L.A., we knew of Studio 54 and how special it would have been to dance inside. I had to include the Razzie nominations below because I don't agree with the nomination for Ryan Pjillippe.

Shane O'Shea (Ryan Phillippe), 19, and his two close friends, spend their nights at a local club in New Jersey. Shane's mom died when he was 12 and he lives with his strict father and two younger siblings. But he's become bored with this scene and yearns to be where the action is across the river in New York City. He cuts his hair, in a modern do, and sets his sights on how the other half lives at Studio 54. As soon as his father falls asleep, he lifts the keys and his friends head off to the big city for an evening of excitement. When they arrive Steve Rubell (Mike Myers),co owner of the club, peers out into the crowd selecting the unique and beautiful people he wants inside. He spots Shane and motions him into the club. Though his friends are rejected at the door, Shane must go inside, hoping for a chance encounter with his favorite soap star Julie Black, (Neve Campbell), who frequents this club.

Steve Rubell is a eccentric type only allowing the beautiful and the totally unique into his club. One such guest is an elderly woman, known as Disco Dollie (Ellen Albertini Dow), who attends the club nightly. Rubell has just lost his bus boy to a modeling career and takes a liking to Shane, offering him the job. Shane excepts as he immediately becomes infused with the glitter and excitement of this elite crowd. Greg Randazzo (Breckin Meyer), is a bus boy and shows Shane how things work and which drugs go to whom. Greg invites Shane home to his small apartment with his wife Anita (Salma Hayek), who also works at the club. Anita has a great voice and dreams of someday standing on stage at Studio 54. They form an instant bond and invite Shane to stay with them. Shane learns how to work the crowd and eventually makes bartender where the real fun comes in where he meets and falls for Julie. But this type of club can make instant careers if you hook up with the right people and Shane realizes he's been selling his soul for fame and fortune.

Rubell gets cocky as he allows numerous interviews where he flaunts his enourmous monetary intake from the club. He's been evading paying taxes, and the IRS is on to him. They know he's been sending hoards of cash out the back door straight to his partner hide. The IRS closes in and Rubell is arrested for tax evasion, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and the club is never the same. When he gets out, he returns to the club for one last bash with his beloved friends who supported him. He died in 1989 at the age of 45.

Awards include:
1999 - Nominated Razzie Awards - Worst Actor - Ryan Phillippe
1999 - Nominated Razzie Awards - Worst Supporting Actress - Ellen Albertini Dow

Miramax Films
Director: Mark Christopher
Writer: Mark Christopher
Producers: Dolly Hall, Richard N. Gladstein, Ira Deutchman
I viewed 8/12

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dragonslayer (2011) NR - 2 Stars

I usually fill my queue at Netflix with movies that have a rating of 3 and above, without paying much attention to their contents. It was my impression this film would be a sci-fi thriller about dragons as I rarely read the descriptions before watching. I never dreamed this was a documentary following one guy, Josh 'Skreech' Sandoval from Fullerton, and his passion for skateboarding intermixing with his responsibility into fatherhood. I'm assuming someone into skateboarding, and this lifestyle, get this title better than me. However, if skateboarding is your thing, you've probably heard of Skreech as he's been voted the "oddest" in So. California published  skateboarding magazines. He's young and at times irresponsible, with no apparent parental support or attachment (since they're never mentioned) but I say, if you can make money doing something your passionate about, follow your dream even if it means battling the business money making world of pro-skating.
The camera man, Tristan Patterson, does a good job following the day by day excursions of Skreech as he makes his choices, or lack there of them, in life. Though, I didn't learn anything new about the sport from watching the film, I do know many in the close knit community of skateboarders who band together like street gangs, in order to find acceptance and happiness.

Josh 'Skreech' Sandoval from Fullerton, California is a twenty something skateboarder. Parental guidance seems non existence as his street family has become a band of skateboarding, drug addicted punks. He's a legend around Orange County for his passion for the sport while not surrendering himself to the corporate world of profit. His passion is helmet less tricks done in local and abandoned swimming pools. His young life consists of getting high, drinking then skateboarding. Because of his non obligations, he travels to other states and even countries in the world, entering contests for some extra cash. His needs are minimal, living off cup of noodles and pitching a tent in any ones yard that will allow him. All that must change as he's now got responsibilities with a new son and wants him to grow up in a better environment then he did.

Awards include:

2011 - SXSW Film Festival - SXSW Competition Award
2011 - Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival - Best International Documentary

Killer Films, Animals of Combat
Director: Tristan Patterson
Producer: John Baker, Tom Fanning,Christine Vachon
I viewed 8/12

Monday, August 27, 2012

Aftershock (2010) NR - 4 Stars

The film, aka "Tangshan dadizhen," is dedicated and based upon the true story of separation and loss in families from an earthquake in Tangshan, China on July 27, 1976, killing over 240,000 people. Be prepared for a tear jerker as you witness a town pick up the pieces of their life and try to move forward. The movie starts out with a swarm of dragonflies and the sky turns bright purple at the beginning of the earthquake. I'm unsure if that is suppose to represent eye witness accounts or just special effects to enhance the story. Either way, these actors work their little fanny's off with superior dramatic performances from all. You won't mind the Chinese subtitles but instead be completely absorbed by the story. I would recommend viewing this film to anyone who needs to write a chapter in their gratitude journey.

Fang Da (Chen Li) and Fang Deng (Jingchu Zhang) are brother and sister and twins living with their family in the small town of Tangshan in China. Their father, Fang Da Qiang (Guoqiang Zhang), is a truck driver and takes the children on his errands in his truck. They live a simple life an he's just bought his family a new fan to help cool them off. Their mother, Li Yuanni (Fan Xu), welcomes the new addition as she adores her family so much she is trying to convince dad they need another child. But as they are planning their new bundle of joy, an earthquake erupts and as they fight to get back in their home, it begins to topple. Li Yuanni is pushed back by Fang Da Qiang as he fights his way through the falling debris to get the children. The building can withstand no more and caves in burying him in the rubble. The children are pinned below a piece of concrete that is crushing the boy's arm on one side and pinning Fang Deng completely beneath. Since there is now way to life the heavy material and more aftershocks threaten to crush the remaining pockets of air they have, the rescuers force Li Yuanni to decide whether to swing the concrete in one direction or the other, only allowing one of them to survive and be freed. Though she begs to save both she must utter the fatal words to save her son and Fang Deng is written off as dead along with her father.

The next 32 years of Li Yuanni's life will be scarred with the memory of her daughter and having to make the choice over her son. Even though Fang Da tries to move her into a nice location, she refuses to leave in case the souls of her daughter and husband try to come home. Meanwhile, Fang Deng comes back to life after being pulled free of he rubble and left for dead, surrounded by her father and many more dead bodies. When she awakes, she can not remember anything and ends up in an orphanage where she is adopted by two members of the Chinese army Wang Deqing (Daoming Chen), and Dong Guilan (Jin Chen). The couple raises the child as their own but eventually Fang Deng gets her memory back and the tell her of her adoption. Now, in the back of Fang Deng's memory is the one of her mother choosing to save her brother which she finds unforgivable to bother to try and find her. Even though Fang Deng now lives in Canada and has a child of her won, she must return to her home country when she learns another earthquake has just leveled her small home town. She works side by side in the rescue efforts with a man she will learn is her brother. Little does she know she's about to be reunited with her long lost family.

Awards include:
2010 - Asia Pacific Screen Award - Best Film
2010 - Asian Film Awards - Best Actress Fan Xu

Tangshan City Government, China Film Group, Huayi Brothers
Director: Xiaogang Feng
Writers: Wu Si, Ling Zhang
Producers: Yanhong Guo, Xiaofeng Hu, Sanping Han
I viewed 8/12

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rampart (2011) R - 1½ Stars

I gotta say this movie is pretty bad and very boring and after watching it I couldn't care a less for the main character or not. Woody what were you thinking by taking this gig? It's not his acting that ruins the film while playing a dirty cop with a bad attitude. It's the horrible cinematography, the horrible musical score, and even Harrelson's dramatic performance isn't enough to save the day. The movie feels completely pointless and the ending doesn't explain any better. There is not one person in the entire movie that I cared two cents about. Here's the story...

A cop has two daughters and he'll do anything to protect them and his image in their eyes. The children are from different mothers who are sisters, therefore they are first cousins/step sisters. They all live together under one roof and Harrelson sleeps with both sisters as well as any other female he chooses. The oldest disrespects her father calling him "date rape" for short. This cop has everyone watching him because of his irratic behavior on duty and if they can pin their division scandal on him, there free and clear in the public eyes. But he continues to clear the streets of public scum, gaining no respect in his children's eyes. Hey wait, maybe that's the story! We're supposed to hate this overworked, under loved and unappreciated, dirty cop that is tarnishing the reputation of the L.A.P.D. Are there cops like this in the system? We'd like to think not but there are those who think that putting on the badge gives them the right to harass and take down bad guys by any means. I guess this movie is trying to show one in particular that worked at Rampart Division. I walked away with nothing from this movie except a quick review for my blog.

Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), is being watched by his Rampart Division of the L.A.P.D.. He has allegedly killed a serial date rape which in his eyes is part of doing his job. Internal affairs Joan Confrey (Sigourney Weaver), goes after Brown while Kyle Timkins (Ice Cube), investigates him after video shows Brown brutally injuring a black unarmed civilian. Brown's cash flow begins to run low so he dips his hand in the bad guys cookie jar once last time. You decide the ending.

Lightstream Pictures, Waypoint Entertainment, Amalgam Features, The Third Mind Pictures
Director: Oren Moverman
Writers: James Ellroy, Oren Moverman
Producers: Clark Peterson, Ben Foster, Ken Kao
I viewed 8/12

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Drive (2011) R - 2 Stars

I feel this movie had potential to be really great but not executed well at all. Gosling gives a almost wordless yet dramatic performance as a stuntman, mechanic and nice guy but we never learn his name. He's Driver and the best at what he does. When he's not working for the studios, he moon lights for thief's and other criminals that need a get-a-way driver. After moving into a new apartment, he gets involved with a heist gone bad, people are killed, and with a million dollars at stake. Now every one's looking for him.

Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling), spends his free time playing get-a-way driver for anyone who can afford his skills. He moves into a new apartment and meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos). Irene has been forced to become a single mom while her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), awaits his release from jail. When Standard gets out, he decides he wants out of the business but has to pull off one last job to release his ties from criminal life. The Driver offers his services as he's become attached to Irene and Benicio and wants to protect them from Standard's questionable business arrangements. The robbery goes awry and Standard is killed, leaving a million dollar haul behind in Driver's car. Turns out New York crime boss Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), and his partner Nino (Ron Perlman), want their money back and this Driver must come up with a plan that protects them all.

Bold Films, Odd Lot Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions, Motel Movies Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Hossein Amini
Producers: Gary Michael Walters, Marc E. Platt, John Palermo
I viewed 8/12

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beat the Drum (2003) NR - 4 Stars

I normally can't stand when I allow a movie to make me cry but this one got to me. Based loosely on a true story, this film is a very compassionate look at AIDS in Africa. Your journey follows a young boy, Masu, who has lost both his parents to AIDS and the elder in the village, he calls grandmother, whom at her age, can no longer look after more children. Before his father died, he gave Masu a drum, called him a man, and told him that one day he will beat this drum in a beautiful celebration of his happiness and journey into manhood. At only 9 years of age, Masu leaves his tiny village and travels to Johannesburg to earn money and search of his uncle he hopes can help. Instead, he meets a truck driver named Nobe, and together these two find a way to get people to speak the truth about what's happening, uniting them in their private battles against AIDS.

Junior Singo will tug at your heart as he does the heart of Owen Sejake, when the pair meets. They interact perfectly together to form a great story of a tragic statistic. Fabulous acting by Singo, really everyone, as they tell the story of what's killed so many African citizens leaving so many children to fend for themselves. At the time this movie was made in 2003, over 30 million people in Africa had already died from AIDS leaving over 12 million children orphaned. Partly because many people are uneducated and believe this disease was a curse from their ancestors or some type of witchcraft. Rather than speak about it out loud or learn how to protect themselves against it, many prefer to never discuss it at all. It takes this one boy's determination to help spread a message of prevention and in doing so brings understanding and courage to a place where people have very little to be grateful for. The film is suitable for children to watch who've had their sex education lessons. And, don't let the foreign subtitles at the beginning scare you away. The do not last very long.

Musa (Junior Singo), lives in the small town of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. His mother has recently died of a strange disease that's been killing off most of the village. As his father lays feverish, awaiting his same sentencing, he gives his son a small drum, telling him he's now a man and must step up to his calling. He tells him one day he'll rejoice and beat this drum in celebration of his hearts content. As his father passes, the eldest grandmother Ntombi (Mary Twala), can no longer manage the children she's been left with. She gives her blessing to Masu who vows he'll find work and the last of  his family in the big city. As he leaves for his dangerous journey, his cousin Thandi (Dineo Nchabeleng), begs him to please find her father.

After walking for days, Masu sneaks into the back of the truck belonging to Nobe (Owen Sejake). Though Nobe objects at first, he quickly takes a liking to the young boy having only girls back home as his four children. But when Nobe's boss objects when he brings him back to his job and Masu is forced to the streets. Soon, he's in for a major cultural shock when an thug running gang of orphaned children teach him the hard way to live on the streets. He meets a young girl named "T" Letti (Nolunthando Maleka), who's also orphaned but chooses to steal to survive. She's constantly beaten up while the other street kids try use her for sex. Masu teaches her to not steal and prays for the strength to protect her as he promises to take her to a better place.

Z Productions, Virgil Films
Director: David Hickson
Writer: W. David McBrayer
Producers: Richard Shaw, W. David McBrayer, Karen S. Shapiro
I viewed 8/12

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kidulthood (2006) R - 3 Stars

Taking place in London, the strong British accents might throw your sense of comprehension for a loop, but stick with it and you'll find you don't really need to hear correctly. Even though I had a real hard time understanding the dialog, btw there are no subtitles, for some reason it didn't bother me. In this case, actions speak louder than words. One should realize right away this movie is about all different forms of bullying. From the young girl who commits suicide, to those who'd rather look away than make a difference, to the prejudice of quilt by association and even teen pregnancy. The film offers a hard look about a variety of behavioral problems of 15 year olds growing up in the hood of west London. Though, not a family film I think it's worth a watch on Netflix. It's not my idea of a quality musical score, however it mimics the on screen chaos well. The acting is surprisingly good.

Trife (Aml Ameen), used to hook up with Alisa (Red Madrell), but now he's turned off after Sam's (Noel Clarke), told him he's been with his girl. That is, right after Sam has just kicked Trife and his good buddies Jay (Adam Deacon), and Moony (Femi Oyeniran), asses. Alisa has just found out she is pregnant and now Trife rejects her, thinking he's not the dad. Meanwhile entire school has been given the day off in out of respect for the memory of one of it's students, a young girl named Becky (Jaime Winstone). Becky has been tortured by other girls and boys at the school and has hung herself when she can no longer endure the constant bullying, mainly by Sam (Noel Clarke). Just about everyone is afraid to confront Sam or the mean girls. These next 24 hours, with the kids turned loose on to the streets of west London, will put them at risk to the same society that has shaped them.

TMC Films, Cipher Films, Stealth Films
Director: Menhaj Huda
Writer: Noel Clarke
Producers: Menhaj Huda, George Isaac, Damian Jones
I viewed 8/12

Friday, August 17, 2012

Body Heat (1981) R - 4 Stars

Great suspenseful story starring Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. In Turner's first film debut, she is outstanding playing Matty Walker, a greedy relentless and sexy wife to a very wealthy man. She wants her husband dead and will stop at nothing to see her plan through. She tries to convince Hurt, also fabulous in his role, to kill her husband.

The musical score can't work any better to enhance the suspense. Just when you think you've been handed the last plot, you'll be surprised there's still more. If you're looking for a extremely seductively and enticingly sexy movie, this should wet your whistle.

Ned (William Hurt), is an attorney living in a coastal town of Florida. He meets Matty (Kathleen Turner), who seductively lures him into the thought of killing her very rich and much older husband (Richard Crenna). Matty figures with all the expertize Ned has in the legal field, it can insure they can carry out their plan get away with it. Ned is so taken to Matty that he instinctively follows her every wish. Just when it seems they can now be together, Matty has one more surprising twist up her sleeve.

Ladd Company, The Panavision, Ltd., Technicolor
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Milan Steindler, Vaclav Matejka
Producers: George Lucas, Fred T. Gallo, Lawrence Kasdan
I viewed 11/11

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Boot Camp (2008) R - 2½ Stars

Aka Straight Edge, this movie tells a decent tale of romance while revealing the story of terror at some teenage boot camps. Based on a true story, this tough love camp goes way overboard when it comes to teen rehabilitation. Though I jokingly say I know a few "at-risk" teens who could benefit from a trip to this island, places like this really exist and troubled teens are sent to these environments every year. Mostly from rich parents who don't care or can't be bothered and involved in their child's life. If and when they do eventually return, most are worse off then when they left. Mila Kunis does a good job in her role as Sophia making you feel her contempt and pain. The story is about a teen boy who sacrifices his own well being to be sent away to rehabilitation camp in order to find his girlfriend, who's already a member. At this camp, the punishments can be as rough as doing jail time. These young inmates have less rights than prisoners on death row.

When drug addicted Sophia (Mila Kunis), gets sent away by her parents to rehabilitation camp on a tiny island in Fiji, she has no idea what's in store for. Camp Serenity, run by Dr. Arthur Hail (Peter Stormare), runs his island more like a penitentiary than a rehab and young teens are treated as if they were in jail. Dr. Hail's prison like setting operates by a strict set of rules filed with brainwashing and ultimately breaking down these teens spirits.
Sophia's straight laced boyfriend Ben (Gregory Smith), finds a way to get himself into trouble sending him straight to the island. His goal is to find his girlfriend and get her out of there. They both soon learn that Logan (Tygh Runyan), enforces the laws Dr. Hail sets forth and Ben and Sophia though determined to escape realize they are surrounded by water.

Metro Goldyn Mayor, Nomadic Pictures, Edgey Productions
Director: Christian Duguay
Writers: John Cox, Agatha Dominik
Producers: Christian Duguay, Michael Frislev, Chad Oakes
I viewed 1/12

Monday, August 13, 2012

25th Hour (2002) R - 2½ Stars

Edward Norton is pretty good in this movie that really takes a long time to get going. A few different scenarios happen right away but you'll be damn if you know what they mean. Even after you do know what's going on, it makes no sense. I mean truly if the FBI comes into your house and finds kilos of drugs in your couch, bottom line is you're going to jail immediately. I don't think the movie explains well why he gets another 25 hours of freedom before they send him to jail. It's a decent film about relationships and since Spike Lee directed it, he manages to get in a few racial messages of his contempt.
Montgomery "Monty" Brogan (Edward Norton), Jakob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Francis Xavier Slaughtery (Barry Pepper), have all been best friends for ever. After school, Jakob went off to become a well respected high school teacher and Frank headed off to Wall Street. Monty makes plenty of money too but his craft took him in a different direction as he makes his living selling drugs. His life is thrown out of balance when the FBI barges into his house and discovers a large about of drugs. Now, he has just 25 hours to enjoy this last day of freedom before going away on a seven year jail sentence. In an effort for redemption, he tries to make amends with his father James (Brian Cox), who put his Queens bar up against Monty's bond. He then goes out for a night on the town with his best friends where they drink to happier times. As he thinks about where he went wrong he suspects his girlfriend Kostya Novotny (Tony Siragusa), might be the one who turned him in. He comes up with a plan that brings a shocking ending to this tragic story.

40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks, Industry Entertainment, Gamut Films
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: David Benioff
Producers: Edward Norton, Jon Kilik, Tobey Maguire
I viewed 5/11

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sensation (2010) NR - 3 Stars

Here's a quirky little Irish film of a shy sexually frustrated boy turning becoming an online pimp. Gleeson plays the perfect sexually disturbed farm boy that you don't really know if you should trust completely as he looks as if he could snap. Gordon also is good with her subtle charm that never lets you in on if she's scheming Donal or somewhat cares about him. A nice little drama with a touch of comedy thrown in, full of unfamiliar characters.

A lonely farm boy has a new fixed sensation on a call girl he meets via the Internet. His father has recently died leaving him a nice inheritance consisting of a farm, sheep and everything on it. He decides to give it all up to be with an online whore. When she suggests setting up her own call girl service, he gladly fronts the money to do anything to be near to her. But business is too good and the neighbors catch on eventually bringing the cops to their door.
Donal (Domhnall Gleeson), is a 26 year old young man living on a farm with his father. His life consists of cleaning poop, hauling food and attending to a large herd of sheep. Life is dull and boring for Donal still he's very passionate about satisfying the urge between his legs, considering sheep for his partners. While in the field satisfying in needs, his father is left unattended and dies waiting in chair on the stair lift. His best friend Karl (Patrick Ryan), tells him his fathers death might just be the best thing to ever happen to him. Now Donal is free to do whatever he pleases and gains a nice chunk of change to boot.

He immediately uses his free time and the Internet to turn up a beautiful call girl named Kim (Luanne Gordon), "Courtney," as shes known on line. He fantasizes about her until he gains the courage to book her for an appointment. Then he's conveniently available when she needs help. These two lonely people discover an odd partnership when Courtney dreams up running her own escort business and Donal has the money needed to back her. Their relationship is awkward and jealously erupts as Donal is not having his sexual needs met, eventually pitting the two against each other in a court of law.

Irish Film Board, Blinder Films, River Park Film
Director: Tom Hall
Writer: Tom Hall
Producers: Cathleen Dore, Katie Holly, Herman Slagter, Kieron J. Walsh
I viewed 8/12

Thursday, August 9, 2012

127 Hours (2010) - 3½ Stars

Can you imagine spending 127 hours trapped deep in a hole and no one knows where you are? This is the real life story of an adventuring risk taker named Aron Ralston who takes off on a hiking trip in Moab, Utah without telling anyone where he was going. While hiking, he slips, falling deep into a slot canyon where his forearm becomes trapped by a large boulder that falls in after him. With a limited water supplies and facing certain death, his desperate situation forces a choice between losing his arm and/or losing his life. Equipped only with an extremely dull pocket knife, Aron must do the unthinkable in order to escape this quite dark tomb.

I can't even imagine being in this predicament but then again, I would never go hiking like this on my own. Luckily, James Franco does a great acting job being he is really the only star of the movie. Most of the action is spent in a small crevasse focusing on the emotions of what one might mentally go through, faced in this predicament. At the end of the movie, they show the real Aron Ralston and from his appearance alone, he didn't strike me as the same arrogant mountain man as the movie portrays.

Aron Ralston (James Franco), is an experienced avid hiker. No rock formation is out of reach to explore. He sets out on a journey to rock climb in Moab, Utah. After parking his car, Aron jumps on his bike and rides it as far as he can until he has to hike the rest of the way. Along his trail he runs into Megan (Amber Tamblyn), and Kristi (Kate Mara), two lost travelers who he arrogantly lures them into a crevasse that empties them into a large underground pool. After swimming, he puts them on the correct path to where they are headed. The girls are extremely grateful and invite Aron to their party later in the evening. But as Aron confidently skips off, he steps on unsettled ground, sending him down a deep cavern where his arm becomes stuck under a large unmovable boulder. When his food and water supply ends, he does the unthinkable to see the sun shine one more day.

Awards Include:
2010 - Independent Spirit Awards - Best Male Lead
2010 - Utah Film Critics - Best Picture
2010 - AFI Film Award - AFI Movie of the Year
2011 - Nominated Academy Awards - Best Achievement in Film Editing
2011 - Nominated Academy Awards - Best Motion Picture of the Year

Pathé, Everest Entertainment, Cloud Eight Films, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, John Smithson
I viewed 4/11

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

After Innocence (2004) NR - 3½ Stars

This documentary will make you think twice about our criminal justice system and how seriously flawed it is. Jessica Sanders does a great job interviewing at least 10 men who have been wrongly convicted and released. I was surprised that most of these men were not more bitter. On some cases, everything they had, good jobs, nice home and family life, has been destroyed with no more than a "whoops sorry about that!" Even the police themselves can fall pray. One of the men interviewed was a police officer who spent way many years behind bars where even his badge couldn't save him.

I can't even imagine what it would be liked to be yanked off the streets, handcuffed, taken away and accused of a crime you didn't do, spending 20 plus years in jail. Being accused of murder or rape, many of these men have received life sentences and they are totally innocent. This makes me have mixed emotions about my hard stand on the death penalty. On one hand, I believe when one takes another's life in a crime of passion, the good old rule of an eye for an eye should take place. This can save tax payers lots of money keeping someone alive in a jail where they get better health care and services than a lot of our upstanding, yet poor, citizens. Then, on the other hand, what if innocent men or women are executed or sent away for life sentences when they've done nothing wrong. This is the basis of this documentary which profiles 10 men who have been wrongly accused.

Even after DNA has cleared these men of all charges, some were still not promptly released till years later. And what about the cases that are so old, DNA evidence was not taken at the time or was destroyed or become lost in the haystack of chaotic order. To me, it's very surprising that these men still have their dignity even now as they're still considered criminals with records that have not been cleared. Somehow these men have kept their pride. They can never get back the time they've lost, they're not given any monetary compensation, no emotional therapy and not even the basic job training needed to fit back into society. Some families have bankrupted their retirements funds and placed mortgages on their homes, fighting for the justice of their loved one. Shouldn't someone be responsible and do more for these men?

The documentary also talks with "eye witnesses" who wrongly pointed the finger and how they feel today knowing their testimony helped put an innocent man away. Project Innocence was formed with the emergence of DNA evidence and today they are still hard at work looking into an overload of cases of the wrongly accused. I believe more attention should be paid to this as their case load is overwhelming of new clients eager to be heard. Bravo Jessica Sanders for the hard work done.

2005 - Sundance Film Festival - Special Jury Prize

American Film Foundation, Showtime Independent Films, New Yorker Films
Director: Jessica Sanders
Writers: Marc Simon, Jessica Sanders
Producers: Marc Simon, Jessica Sanders
I viewed 6/12

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Skyline (2010) PG 13 - 2 Stars

This movie almost makes me mad for wasting my time as I had such high anticipation of it being a great movie. It's nothing more then a good concept with bad execution. Though it has decent special effects, with a teeny bit of suspense, it does nothing with character development making the viewer not care whether the people are taken or not. The dialog doesn't explain anything and when you factor in the cheesy acting with direction leading all over the place, it's really is a huge waste of time. It looks as if the story was built around the CGI animation instead of a solid foundation to support it. Truly disappointing to me and just plain cheesy from start to finish.

Jarrod (Eric Balfour), and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson), have come to Los Angeles to help celebrate Jarrod's best friend Terry's (Donald Faison), birthday. But as soon as they arrive, invaders come to take over the planet.

Rogue, Hydraulx Entertainment, Rat Entertainment, Transmission Pictures
Directors: Greg Strause, Colin Strause
Writers: Liam O'Donnell, Joshua Cordes
Producers: Kristian James Andresen, Liam O'Donnell, Colin Strause
I viewed 10/11

Friday, August 3, 2012

Dead In the Water (2001) R - 2½ Stars

Due to the lack of action and direction with this movie you might find yourself feeling almost "dead in the water" not understanding where the movie is going. I remember mumbling to myself "alright already, let's get on with it," but after hanging in there, the ending did bring that warm cozy feeling of justice. The right idea for a movie just could have been executed better.

Gloria (Dominique Swain), is a spoiled rich girl, living in Rio de Janeiro and seems to have it all going on. A smoking hot body, money and a life style of luxury. When her on again-off again boyfriend Danny (Scott Bairstow), and his best friend Jeff (Henry Thomas), want to go out on her fathers motorboat, her father requests Gloria also take a business associates son, Marcos (Sebastian DeVicente), out with them. Her father confides to Gloria that he is in major financial trouble and this boys father is the only reason he's still afloat. Gloria agrees and they pick this Brazilian looking stud up to take him for the ride. Marcos can't help but notice how attractive Gloria is but keeps his distance, knowing she is spoken for.

The four spend a fun day in the water, swimming, rafting and soaking up the rays. Danny and Jeff take a long swim off towards a close island while Marcos stays behind on the boat. As Gloria ponders over her 4 year relationship with Danny, Jeff has made it known he also desires to be with her. Before she knows it, Marcos too is putting on his moves. As Gloria is enjoying this 3rd eligible man, the boys return and Jeff catches the two involved in a passionate kiss and embrace. Danny runs to her side and throws Marcos overboard then taking off with out him. But when he returns to pluck Marcos out of the water, Marcos is gone. Thinking he has drowned, the three now must come up with a story that will keep them free of trouble from this influential family. Instead, the begin to unravel and as their true personalities appear.

Awards: 2002 - Feature Film Award - New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.

Nuts and Lloyd Films, E.H. Filmes
Director: Gustavo Lipsztein
Writer: Gustavo Lipsztein
Producer: Gustavo Lipsztein, Georg Lipsztein, Evan Astrowsky
I viewed 7/12

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Black Water (2007) R - 3 Stars

Pretty good thriller about what lurks below the surface in the black water swamps of Northern Australia. Two sisters and one boyfriend set off on an adventure exploring around the swamps very few tourists ever see. Their trip turns to tragedy as their tour guide is eaten by a hungry Kroc who haunts the trio as they try an escape. Based on true events, Black Water will put you on the edge of your seat.

Adam (Andy Rodoreda), Lee (Maeve Dermody) and Grace (Diana Glenn) find an ad in they tour book to explore and fish the swamp lands of Australia. But when they arrive to the tour place, the boat has already left. Jim (Ben Oxenbould), is in the office and offers to take the trio on their adventure in the wet lands. But a hungry crocodile capsizes their boat and takes Jim for tasty snack while making it known he plans on returning. Now stranded in a mangrove swamp, they must plan their escape which forces them back into the water.

Territorial Film Developments, ProdigyMovies, The Australian Film Commission
Directors: Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich
Writers: Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich
Producers: David Nerlich, Andrew Traucki, Michael Robertson
I viewed 7/12