Subscribe: Talking Movies with The Patriot-News
http://blog.pennlive.com/talkingmovies/rss.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
apos  bruges  carlitos  cast  director  film  good  harry  love  make  movie  night  pretty  story  vantage point  youth 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Talking Movies with The Patriot-News

Talking Movies with The Patriot-News



Movie news and reviews by the Patriot-News



Last Build Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2011 5:18:14 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2016
 



Cool colors are red hot at the Academy Awards

Mon, 28 Feb 2011 04:57:11 UTC

2011-02-28T05:18:14Z

"Black Swan" co-stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis are among the red-carpet hits View full sizeMATT SAYLES, The Associated PressNatalie Portman's burgundy Rodarte was one of the finest looks on the red carpet Sunday night. Non-colors — nude, dove gray, white, palest pink — were the order of the day on the red carpet Sunday, and seemed to look the freshest. There was shockingly little black (Reese Witherspoon, Sharon Stone, Marisa Tomei), probably the nicest development. Red or even shades graduating into purple (Anne Hathaway, Penelope Cruz, Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman) were a powerful presence. Strapless looks were still popular, but short sleeves, or at least the illusion of sleeves, were the height of modernity. Jewels and accessories in general were less apparent. There were some who broke out the mega-carats, but there were many more who opted for little or no jewelry. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights.      Natalie Portman: Maternity has never looked better with her choice of lush burgundy Rodarte with a draped, discreetly beaded off-the-shoulder neckline and a bodice that flowed sweetly over her baby bump. Her gently waving hair was in keeping with the whole soft look, as was her makeup. But she did chose a strong blush that made for a unique twist. Mila Kunis: The hot young star of “Black Swan” was blazing in lavender lingerie-inspired Elie Saab that wrapped about her slim figure with goddessy, peek-a-boo bits of chiffon and lace. The neckline was just short of scandalous, with small swoops of lace barely maintaining her modesty. It was a dress that would have looked trampy on someone more voluptuous, but it suited Kunis beautifully. She kept the sexy theme going by sweeping her dark hair fetchingly over one eye and ringing her eyes in smoky shadow. Michelle Williams: The platinum blonde with the adorable pixie wore a sleek, straight, dove-gray Chanel with short sleeves and just the right amount of sparkle. Simple is perfect for her and she knows it. She never reveals too much or goes too far — her impeccable taste is solidified with each red-carpet appearance. Hailee Steinfeld: The “True Grit” youngster really nailed it on the red carpet. She looked like a princess in an ankle-length pale pink full-skirted Marchesa confection, scattered with sparkles, that she helped to design. Her soft updo was held in place with a plain headband; her makeup was delicate and youthful. That shorter length made it look so fresh, modern and young. Cate Blanchett: Ever edgy, ever fashion-y, the Aussie star was a major smash yet again in beautifully intricate lavender Givenchy Couture trimmed in bits of yellow pom-pon with a crisscross back. Her gown, too, had short sleeves (or at least the illusion of such), and her roughed-up, asymmetric bob — in that very expensive shade of blonde she favors — was the perfect final touch. View full sizeCHRIS PIZZELLO, The Associated PressMelissa Leo ("The Fighter") may have won best supporting actress, but her wardrobe choice was, well, regrettable.Melissa Leo: A giant fashion don’t, she channeled Elvis in all the wrong ways. Her high-collared, doily-like, short-sleeved Marc Bouwer gown, in white interspersed with gold blotches, fit horribly, hanging around her waist and hips unflatteringly. Her gently-curled hair and subtle makeup helped a little, but the matronly awfulness of the dress was just about irredeemable. Bouwer is famed for his sexy, body-conscious designs, but this looked like it was whipped up by his grandma. Anne Hathaway: She went back to her ingenue roots in body-conscious Valentino red with a massive train and a jaw-dropping diamond collar. I was wishing she would have kept the sexy going as she did at the Golden Globes (remember the nearly backless burnished gold Armani?), but she does do classic as well as anyone. Her matching red lips may have been the obvious choice, but they were the best one. S[...]


Media Files:
http://media.pennlive.com/talkingmovies/photo/9332371-large.jpg




We've Moved!

Thu, 31 Jul 2008 12:55:39 UTC

2008-07-31T12:56:59Z

For more movie news and reviews, visit www.pennlive.com/movies

For more movie news and reviews, visit www.pennlive.com/movies




Don't be so quick to judge: "The Strangers"

Fri, 06 Jun 2008 16:32:35 UTC

2008-06-06T16:48:44Z

The horror genre has become almost a punch line to movie goers seeking a well produced film. Awful Japanese remakes, ridiculously pathetic psychological thrillers and eye-gougingly sick splatter flicks have completely tarnished the already discolored perception owned by horror films, making it hard to even consider seeing an example from this genre. Unfortunately, this dark view has become a... The horror genre has become almost a punch line to movie goers seeking a well produced film. Awful Japanese remakes, ridiculously pathetic psychological thrillers and eye-gougingly sick splatter flicks have completely tarnished the already discolored perception owned by horror films, making it hard to even consider seeing an example from this genre. Unfortunately, this dark view has become a critical review/death sentence for all horror films in general, leading to many premature and unfair critiques of well put together examples from this genre. The most recent instance of this is the totally misclassified slasher film "The Strangers." Director Bryan Bertino's first feature length film is being labeled by many as a psychological horror/thriller, much in the same vein as the recent horror flicks "Dead Silence" and "Wolf Creek." This is incorrect. "The Strangers" instead, is an archetypal slasher flick; as pure horror a film can be without having ghosts, vampires or some other ghoulish creature. The story is centered on what has to be the unluckiest man of all time, James Hoyt (Scott Speedman), and his girlfriend Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler). Before any sinister characters ever show up James is already having a night that most men would love to never experience. First, Hoyt has planned a romantic evening with his girlfriend, which will include a marriage proposal. Ultimately he is totally unsuccessful. As you probably can guess Kristen answers James's proposal with four of the most diabolical words that can complete that question, "I'm not ready yet." Kristen and James still must spend the night together in the secluded love cabin that James had secured the night, making the beginning of the film painfully awkward. Some light conversation, and plenty of champagne, eventually loosens up the tense atmosphere. However, just as the two seem on the brink of getting back together there is a fateful knock at the door. What ensues is a horrific game orchestrated by three masked villains. With seemingly no rhyme or reason the terrifying triumvirate torture the hopeless couple like a cat would a wounded mouse. However, this is not "Hostel" mind you; "The Strangers" never uses blood and guts to shock its audience just well shot framing and frightening displays of heartlessness by the three unnamed interlopers creates almost all of the film's terror. Bertino wants his killers to be pure evil and executes this goal perfectly, making the final result both obvious and shocking. While the acting is okay and the direction is pretty good what really ties this picture together is its phenomenal sound design. The film uses typical, non-diegetic tension building sounds that all classic slasher flicks love to use but "The Strangers" separates itself by making superb use of its diegetic sounds. Random creaking, knocking and shuffling sounds make for a chorus of creepy background noises and the addition of a ridiculous record player makes even the most familiar and non-intrusive Joanna Nesom music frightening. Of course these noises set up the film's real moments of terror, the silent ones. All of which are executed perfectly. My favorite thing about this film is that it remains loyal to what it establishes in scene one, never twisting or straying from its obvious arc. Ever since the success of "The Sixth Sense" Hollywood producers have felt that a good horror film needs to contain a good twist ending but often this is not the case. "The Strangers" is incredibly open about what it is and what it[...]



Romance and murder: "Married Life"

Mon, 19 May 2008 16:55:40 UTC

2008-05-19T17:08:45Z

As a bachelor, Hollywood has been rather damaging to my perception of marriage. Maybe it's an actual reflection of conjugality or possibly it's because producers stereotypically go through wives like potato chips, but in any case, Hollywood over the years has really taken a sledge hammer to one of our more sanctimonious institutions. From the original "Chicago" way back... As a bachelor, Hollywood has been rather damaging to my perception of marriage. Maybe it's an actual reflection of conjugality or possibly it's because producers stereotypically go through wives like potato chips, but in any case, Hollywood over the years has really taken a sledge hammer to one of our more sanctimonious institutions. From the original "Chicago" way back in 1927 to "The Squid and the Whale" in 2005 the message about marriage from the movies has been made abundantly clear; matrimony is painful and will cause you to do crazy, sometimes horrible, things. Ira Sachs's new flick, "Married Life," takes this subject to an absurd level. At the heart of "Married Life" is the marriage of Harry (Chris Cooper) and Pat (Patricia Clarkson) Allen. Harry is unhappy. He believes marriage should be based on the absolute affection two people have for one and other, while Pat, in a reversal of traditional gender stereotypes, is only interested in the sexual aspects of a relationship. NOT SO HAPPILY MARRIED: Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper. Harry certainly cares for Pat but her lust has left him empty and unfulfilled romantically. However, Harry has found his savior from this unhappy life in the young and beautiful Kay (Rachel McAdams). Kay is everything Harry has been looking for in a partner; she is caring, trusting and innocent. The one problem for Harry is that he's still married to Pat. Harry does still have feelings for Pat and knows that leaving her would almost certainly crush her spirit. Unwilling to be responsible for Pat's pain, and using some pretty creative rotary logic, Harry concocts a plan to release Pat from her future suffering -- kill her in the most painless way possible. Because, after all, that would be the best course of action for all parties involved. Unfortunately for Harry, his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) has also fallen in love with the pure and innocent Kay. Ever since Harry confided in Richard about his new love, Richard has made it his primary goal to claim Kay for himself. And while Harry has been plotting the best way to relieve Pat from her "agony," Richard has slowly been winning over Kay, one night on the town at a time. Pierce Brosnan and Rachel McAdams in "Married Life." Also unbeknownst to Harry, a third wrinkle in this nightmare of a love story is taking place. Pat, being primarily interested in sex, has been sneaking behind her husband's back to fill her lustful needs by having a love affair with a friend of the family, John O'Brien (David Wenham). Pat still cares for Harry, though, instead of murdering him she decides to never let Harry know of her secret romance. The three acts of backstabbing don't remain secret for long and soon Harry, Richard, Kay and Pat become tightly tangled in a romantic web destined to hurt someone. Set in 1949, "Married Life's" retro, almost Victorian, feel creates a truly hilarious set of ironic storylines. Brosnan's nonchalant narration only adds to the picture's absurdity. However, not all is fun and games with Sachs's look at married life from yesteryear. While the first half of this flick looks an awful lot like a Woody Allen romantic comedy, the second half feels almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. Such a dramatic shift may be too much for some viewers and if you want to see a strict, by the numbers comedy, this isn't it. In spite of the change in spirit midway through this film, "Married Life" is a very pleasant departure from mainstream comedies. The cast is excellent, the story [...]



A Tough Sell: "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days"

Mon, 12 May 2008 16:21:57 UTC

2008-05-12T16:46:44Z

With the 2008 Cannes Film Festival just days away, last year's Golden Palm winner, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days," finally has started to make itself known in U.S. theaters. This Romanian film has been almost universally hailed as a masterpiece by critics for its gritty and uncompromising nature. And with a budget of less then a million... With the 2008 Cannes Film Festival just days away, last year's Golden Palm winner, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days," finally has started to make itself known in U.S. theaters. This Romanian film has been almost universally hailed as a masterpiece by critics for its gritty and uncompromising nature. And with a budget of less then a million it's easy to see where this rough visual design came from. Lately, Romanian cinema has come of age on the film festival circuit. In the last two years this usually quiet Western European nation has produced such short-run, but impressive, examples of art house cinema such as "12:08 East of Bucharest," "The Way I Spent the End of the World" and "California Dreamin'." However, what all of these recent Romanian "successes" have in common is their limited impact on American audiences. Now that "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days" is getting its chance at a wider release, the question is, can it play in America? While it's certainly an impressive film visually, I think the answer to that question is, unfortunately, no. By subject alone many movie patrons will decide against seeing this film and I can't really blame their decision. "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days" rolls back the clock to a Romania before the fall of communism and follows Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) as she tries to organize an illegal abortion for her somewhat dimwitted friend Gabriela (Laura Vasiliu). Both girls are college students who put their worlds on hold as they deal with the very real risks of performing such a dangerous medical operation. Otilia, being possibly the most dedicated friend of all time, borrows money, fights with her boyfriend, risks her own freedom and even performs a less then angelic favor for the abortion "doctor," all in an attempt to help her friend Gabriela. This is not an overtly political film, in spite of dealing with illegal actions committed by its major characters, instead it's a film more centered on devotion, decision making and fear. It's an unrelenting look at an incredibly sticky subject, a film that makes no promises to its audience about redemption or righteousness and gives no reprieve when describing the shadowy underworld of back-alley abortions. It's a story that definitely isn't easily swallowed and one that's even more difficult to digest. The subject isn't the only hard step made by director Cristian Munigiu. As any good arthouse director should, Munigiu tries some rather bold camera moves to create a fairly unique feel for his film's visual design. The result is a mix of both stunning scenes and convoluted, almost failed ones. Ultimately though, above the subject and the visual design, the most fundamental thing barring this flick from mass appeal is its payoff. Every great film has to have a great payoff, and while "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days" certainly has a climax and a resolution to that climax, it's constructed in such a foreign way to how many American films are made it might have difficulty working on this side of the pond. Even though in recent years a few foreign heavy hitters from the arthouse realm have prospered using unique structures, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days" is not built like those critical acclaim juggernauts, this is no "Children of Men" or "City of God." While I won't say that "4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days" doesn't deserve the collective awe that it has received from the critic community, I will warn movie goers that it's a film that approaches an extremely hard subject in an incredibly di[...]



Under the Same Moon

Fri, 02 May 2008 21:59:25 UTC

2008-05-02T22:19:00Z

Inevitably, "Under the Same Moon" (La Misma Luna), a film dealing with the hotly contested issue of illegal immigration, will be dismissed by many as more left-wing propaganda produced by that bastion of liberal thinking, Hollywood. And in some small sense this is right; the film's major likable characters are technically criminals and the film is interlaced with pro-immigration... Inevitably, "Under the Same Moon" (La Misma Luna), a film dealing with the hotly contested issue of illegal immigration, will be dismissed by many as more left-wing propaganda produced by that bastion of liberal thinking, Hollywood. And in some small sense this is right; the film's major likable characters are technically criminals and the film is interlaced with pro-immigration ideas. However, this isn't another "Syriana" or a Michael Moore documentary. "La Misma Luna," in the end, is not simply a political statement but, a film about the unwavering love a son has for his mother and vice versa. It's a film with tremendous heart and character and truly worth the price of admission. "La Misma Luna" is the story of Rosario (Kate del Castillo) and her son Carlitos (Adrian Alonso). When Carlitos was five Rosario made the difficult decision to cross the Mexican-American boarder, illegally, in order to seek employment. Four years later, Rosario is working as a maid for several wealthy home owners in Los Angeles, sending much of her weekly earnings back to her son and sickly mother in Mexico. Carlitos, now nine, has not seen his mother since she left but keeps in contact with her through weekly phone calls made at the local pay phone. Carlitos desperately wants to see his mother again but, he must wait until Rosario is able to apply for U.S. citizenship. Conditions change when Carlitos' grandmother finally succumbs to her illness, leaving Carlitos basically alone on the Mexican side of the border. Using what money he has saved over the years, which turns out to be a significant amount for a nine-year-old, Carlitos decides to join his mother in America and gets two American students (one you'll recognize as America Ferrera of "Ugly Betty" fame) to help smuggle him past the boarder guards and into the U.S. Things don't exactly go as planned for Carlitos. He makes it across the boarder, but without his American protectors and without his money. Stuck without any direction, Carlitos almost falls into the dark underbelly of border society until he meets Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), another illegal immigrant, who, though initially he tries to avoid Carlitos, eventually surrenders to the boy's insatiable spirit and takes him under his wing. All the while Carlitos and Enrique are risking life and limb to reach Rosario, she has decided that it might be best to turn herself into the authorities and be deported back to Mexico to be with her family. It then becomes a race against time, to see if Carlitos can get to L.A. and find his mother before she mistakenly goes back to Mexico. "La Misma Luna" is a well edited, two sided process, interweaving the stories of Rosario and Carlitos perfectly. Overall, however, it's a film with a very basic narrative and really is only brought to life through the superb performances of its cast. Kate del Castillo and Eugenio Derbez create two extremely deep and interesting characters but "La Misma Luna" is really driven by fourteen-year-old actor, Adrian Alonso, who is phenomenal as Carlitos and gives one of the truly magnificent child acting performances of recent film history. "La Misma Luna" is a heartwarming story of a mother's love and a child's devotion, and if you can put aside the politics you will have a very enjoyable experience. [...]



Route 30, the movie, opens in Gettysburg

Mon, 28 Apr 2008 21:34:10 UTC

2008-04-28T21:41:42Z

Filmmaker John Putch announced today that he'll premiere his indie comedy "Route 30" -- filmed in and around Franklin and Adams counties last fall -- September 27 at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg. Admission to the event will be $16 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor and Totem Pole Playhouse, Inc. Tickets will...

(image) Dana Delany as "Amish Martha."


Filmmaker John Putch announced today that he'll premiere his indie comedy "Route 30" -- filmed in and around Franklin and Adams counties last fall -- September 27 at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg.

Admission to the event will be $16 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor and Totem Pole Playhouse, Inc.

Tickets will be available beginning in May through Totem Pole Playhouse, Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and The Majestic Theatre box office.

"Route 30" is based on his father's slightly exaggerated stories and tells the remarkably interconnected stories of the Amish, Civil War casualty Jennie Wade and a Christian Scientist.

The "Route 30" cast includes Dana Delany, Curtis Armstrong, Christine Elise McCarthy and Robert Romanus.

A Chambersburg native, Putch is the son of the late William Putch, the longtime artistic director at Totem Pole Playhouse, and the actress Jean Stapleton.

Now based in Los Angeles, Putch is a television producer and independent filmmaker.

That latter occupation brought him to Franklin and Adams counties in October to film scenes for "Route 30," a comedy he wrote, produced and directed.

"Mojave Phone Booth," "Valerie Flake," "Bachelorman" and "This Is My Father," a documentary about William Putch, are his previous films.

His directing credits include "Ugly Betty," "Scrubs," "The Poseidon Adventure" miniseries, "The Tracy Morgan Show," "Son of the Beach" and a trio of Hallmark Channel movies.




"Prom Night," it could've been worse

Mon, 21 Apr 2008 22:04:20 UTC

2008-04-21T22:17:23Z

You have to feel at least a little sorry for Nelson McCormick. Primarily a television director, McCormick's first big shot at a major motion picture gig comes in the form of a loose remake of the 1980 stinker "Prom Night." The project, also entitled "Prom Night," must have looked like a death sentence to Nelson, remaking a film that...

(image)


You have to feel at least a little sorry for Nelson McCormick.

Primarily a television director, McCormick's first big shot at a major motion picture gig comes in the form of a loose remake of the 1980 stinker "Prom Night." The project, also entitled "Prom Night," must have looked like a death sentence to Nelson, remaking a film that never had any support to begin with; it's an assignment that would make any big time directorial talent cringe.

Unfortunately for Nelson, as a director trying to break into the movies from TV land, any project looks like a blessing.

The film itself, is centered on a group of students going off to enjoy their senior prom. Specifically, the film focuses on Donna (Brittany Snow) who three years earlier was attacked by a psychotic former teacher (Johnathon Schaech), who ended up killing her entire family before being apprehended and incarcerated. It took the bulk of those three years for Donna to begin the process of leading a normal life again and the prom is meant to be a culmination of her success.

Unbeknownst to Donna and her friends, the psycho has escaped from prison.

Of course the mad teacher will try and find Donna, Detective Nash (James Ransone) deploys a unit of policemen to guard the hotel where the prom is taking place and instructs them to make sure that the night of fun stays fun.

Unfortunately for some soon-to-be dead high school students, the teacher has already checked into the hotel under a false name and is orchestrating a master plan to finally get Donna.

The night now becomes a race against time; either Detective Nash can reach Donna and her friends before the teacher does or the teacher is successful in his sinister goals.

(image)

So, "Prom Night" gets remade, albeit very loosely, with a fairly young and inexperienced cast, most of whom come from television like McCormick.

The producers make and market the picture for the bargain price of $20 million. With enough marketing push to ensure interest in the first week the movie opens with $21 million in box office receipts domestically, good enough to take the top sales spot, but equally predictably, the film is ripped to shreds by critics who call it "tired" and "pathetic."

It's not exactly "pathetic" but "Prom Night" is cliched, thinly written and has a cast that is mediocre at best. It's a film that has all the makings to be a disaster and yet somehow the direction of this pretty standard slasher flick saves it from being a total loss.




When flowers attack

Thu, 10 Apr 2008 21:29:48 UTC

2008-04-10T21:41:45Z

"The Ruins" is another quintessential example of a fortuneteller movie. For those who don't understand what that is, it's a film so blatantly obvious with its twists and turns that far before the flick has reached its climax most of its viewers already know the outcome (a type of picture popularized by Lindsay Lohan and Ben Affleck flicks). The... Amy (Jena Malone) and Stacy (Laura Ramsey) on the worst vacation EVER. "The Ruins" is another quintessential example of a fortuneteller movie. For those who don't understand what that is, it's a film so blatantly obvious with its twists and turns that far before the flick has reached its climax most of its viewers already know the outcome (a type of picture popularized by Lindsay Lohan and Ben Affleck flicks). The best advice for a movie like this is to turn it into a game. Try to pick the ending within its first ten minutes and see if you get close, unfortunately with "The Ruins" this won't be that difficult. Marketed as "an exciting new horror film with the heart of a Steven King novel," which I'm sure was meant to be a compliment, but it's hard to get excited about a movie being compared to someone who has had as many misses as King. "Lawnmower Man," "Night Surf," "Firestarter," there's a lot of examples that King should be disappointed in and a billing that compares your work to this should probably be looked on as a detriment and not praise. After seeing "The Ruins" I can faithfully say the marketing was spot on, this is a film with "the heart of a Stephen King novel" and that's a bad thing. The film itself is a combination of the narratives of "The Descent" and "Indiana Jones" (with the strengths of neither) that tells the story of a group of vacationing kids who decide to leave the safety of their Cancun hotel rooms to explore some Mayan ruins that are way off the map. When they arrive at the foot of a massive pyramid, almost completely overgrown with a bizarre Mexican vine, natives appear out of the jungle strapped with all sorts of menacing weaponry. After the natives kill a member of their party the kids run to the only safe location close to them, the top of the great pyramid. Unfortunately for the party, the natives were just trying to stop any foreigners from accidentally exploring the temple because it has a dark and ancient evil dwelling within it -- a massive carnivorous, and very intelligent, plant. I know, I know people being attacked by giant foliage seems like a very B-movie type device but bare with me for a second. Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore in a rare peaceful moment in "The Ruins." Quickly the kids figure out their deadly mistake and as the natives encircle the temple to stop anyone from leaving, the group trapped at the top of the ruins is being picked off slowly by the devious vegetation. Eventually, crazed and desperate, the remaining tourists devise a half forlorn plan to escape the ruins and get away from the deadly plant. Surprisingly, with all of "The Ruins'" problems the casting isn't all that bad. Jena Malone and Jonathan Tucker, as the most seasoned members of the cast, deliver fairly good performances; not earth shattering mind you but worth noting. The lesser known actors Laura Ramsey and Joe Anderson are the most surprising, giving not just decent jobs but actually remarkable ones. Anderson in particular, who as an Englishmen plays a very believable German. Not everyone is good, however. Shawn Ashmore, best known for his role as Iceman in the recent "X-Men" movies, is very flat and ultimately unbelievable. In spite of Ashmore though, this is a well crafted cast worth giving a measure of praise. However, it's a cast whose performances turn out to be wasted on a film that never had a chance from the get-go. "The [...]



"In Bruges" -- the darkest comedy of the year

Thu, 03 Apr 2008 21:08:48 UTC

2008-04-03T21:33:14Z

Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh, in his full length directorial debut, certainly pulls no punches when employing the very complicated scenario he has created for "In Bruges." Billed as a comedy, "In Bruges" certainly has its hilarious dimensions, most notably a raciest dwarf and an inept Belgian thief who is easily disarmed with a gun full of blanks. But these... Colin Farrell in Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges." Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh, in his full length directorial debut, certainly pulls no punches when employing the very complicated scenario he has created for "In Bruges." Billed as a comedy, "In Bruges" certainly has its hilarious dimensions, most notably a raciest dwarf and an inept Belgian thief who is easily disarmed with a gun full of blanks. But these moments are fleeting and definitely not the main focus of the flick. Ultimately, "In Bruges" is not about making its audience laugh at off color jokes and awkward situations instead, McDonagh's film focuses on the very difficult themes of principle, honor, redemption and damnation. Even compared to other so-called dark comedies "In Bruges" has no equal. Like a round-house kick to the face the film delivers its message, never far from humor but also seemingly never in the right proportions normally associated with this kind of comedy. McDonagh makes it clear to his viewers, he is not out to balance humor with the film's darkness. Instead, "In Bruges" only uses comedy to lure movie goers into a false sense of security, making the film's profound moments even more emotionally jarring. Simply put, "In Bruges" is a more organized "Pulp Fiction" or maybe a Darren Aronofsky flick with some humor. The problem is "In Bruges" really isn't like any film that has come out recently, a quality that makes the movie definitely tough to see but also makes it one of the best films of 2008 so far. The story is this -- two Irish hitmen, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendon Gleeson), arrive in Bruges, Belgium after a job done at the request of their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). While Bruges is definitely not London or Dublin, the older hitman, Ken, begins to like their new surroundings, agreeing with Harry's observation that Bruges is "Like a f-ing fairytale." Ray is not nearly as enthusiastic, bemoaning every minute they stay in the tiny ancient town as unbearably boring. Bruges isn't the main thing bothering Ray, however. The job Ken and Ray have just completed didn't go completely to plan. Ray, in the heat of the moment, accidentally shot a young boy and has been struggling to cope with this mistake, often scaring Ken with his depressing thoughts. Eventually though, Ray finds the city's charm and a way to forget his troubles in the form of a beautiful Belgian drug dealer named Chloe (Clemence Poesy). Clemence Poesy as Chloe. However, Harry hasn't sent the two Irishmen to Bruges just to hideout. Though ruthless and sadistic, Harry has strict principals and to him there in no redemption for those who kill children, accidentally or otherwise. Harry tells Ken that Bruges is meant as one last gift to Ray, a gift not totally appreciated, before he must pay for his mistake. Then he instructs Ken to "take care of" Ray and come back to London. What Bruges experiences next is a bloodbath I'm sure it hasn't seen since the 12th century; with Ken refusing to kill his friend, Harry infuriated with Ken and Ray, still slightly suicidal from his mistake, trying to make his new romance with Chloe work, all to the familiar tune of handguns firing. While the film is expertly written, directed, edited and shot what really brings "In Bruges" together is its phenomenal cast. Both Fiennes and Gleeson are perfect complements, who move seamlessly fr[...]



It's the end of the world like we knew it

Fri, 28 Mar 2008 11:00:00 UTC

2008-03-28T11:04:34Z

What I've learned from watching movies from the 1980s -- high school is hard (unless you're a wolf), every successful businessman must do coke, and in the future the world will be almost totally destroyed, leaving the dregs of society to battle it out using football pads and leather chaps for protection. While waiting for the apocalypse, however, the... What I've learned from watching movies from the 1980s -- high school is hard (unless you're a wolf), every successful businessman must do coke, and in the future the world will be almost totally destroyed, leaving the dregs of society to battle it out using football pads and leather chaps for protection. While waiting for the apocalypse, however, the ideas about how the human race would finally go changed in movies. Doomsday flicks now took on a slicker and more philosophical face with films like "The Matrix", "Dark City" and even "Children of Men" leading the revolution. Gone was the dazzling brutality prophesied by 1980s cinema, where weapons were fashioned out of old kitchen utensils but cars still could go 120 mph. However, nearly 20 years after this fateful decade ended director Neil Marshall's latest project, the aptly named "Doomsday," returns to this brutally bleak version of the future creating a movie that would make Snake Plissken proud. For all intensive purposes "Doomsday" is a remake of the iconic Aussie series "Mad Max." There are some notable differences: a deadly virus replaces nuclear war, Scotland replaces Australia and Max himself is replaced by the very attractive Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra). However, right down to the crazy S&M costumes, the over-the-top Mohawks and the black muscle car, "Doomsday" doesn't seem to give much of an attempt at distancing itself from the famous Aussie flicks. The movie, itself, is based 27 years into the future, in what is left of the United Kingdom. Years before, the exact date was April 3, 2008, a deadly illness called the reaper virus broke out in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Unable to contain the disease, British officials built a massive wall around Scotland, leaving those on the wrong side for dead. Now, that is 2035, British officials have discovered containment has failed and the reaper virus is now showing itself in London. Containment seems like the only option again, but while martial law is being implemented in the streets of London the crooked right hand man of the British Prime Minister, Michael Canaris (David O'Hara), informs the London police chief (Bob Hoskins) that, improbably, there are survivors behind the Scottish wall. He instructs the chief to give him his best "man" in order to lead a military group over the wall and bring one of these survivors back. With the survivor they hope to be able to finally find a cure and avoid having to abandon London. There's one more major difference between "Doomsday" and "Mad Max" - production style. A student of Wes Craven flicks and a good friend of famous slasher director Eli Roth, Neil Marshall has always erred on the side of bloody when directing movies. With his 2005 breakthrough hit "The Descent," Marshall impressed many by creating a fantastic horror film with a great deal of violence and gore but also a film with immense depth and meaning. Fans of "The Descent", however, may be disappointed with Marshall's use of violence in his latest film. "Doomsday" has really no deeper meaning, so the addition of blood and guts, instead, creates a very grindhouse feel to the film, very cheezy and over-the-top. This grindhouse feel continues in its acting performances as well. Although the film is headlined by some pretty highly acclaimed actors, most notably Hoskins and O'Hara, all the characters seem[...]



10,000 BC

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 22:00:23 UTC

2008-03-21T22:21:42Z

For a film that takes as many liberties with fact as "10,000 BC" the number 10,000 seems pretty arbitrary. Why not 20,000 BC? Or 100,000? Or even one million? For that matter, why can't this be re-titled "Cavemen from Planet X?" Don't get me wrong, I support a director's right to employ creative slants on history as much as... For a film that takes as many liberties with fact as "10,000 BC" the number 10,000 seems pretty arbitrary. Why not 20,000 BC? Or 100,000? Or even one million? For that matter, why can't this be re-titled "Cavemen from Planet X?" Don't get me wrong, I support a director's right to employ creative slants on history as much as the next guy, sometimes the facts need adjusting, but if you're going to be this totally off why not go all out and open with a crawling title card that begins with "a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?" Director Roland Emmerich has never been known to shy away from fudging reality a little. The creator of such unique visions of the facts as "Independence Day," "The Patriot" and "The Day After Tomorrow," Roland has proven his distrust for high school textbooks but, with "10,000 BC" he goes a bit overboard. Emmerich centers his prehistoric world around the fictitious Yaghal tribe, specifically the hunter D'Leh (Steven Strait) and his love Evolet (Camilla Belle). After Evolet, and a large portion of his tribe, is taken captive by a group of foreign barbarians, D'Leh decides he must go on an epic odyssey across the known world to find and reclaim her. Along the way, D'Leh passes across many ancient lands, meets many bizarre tribes and eventually realizes his destiny to become the savior of his people against these cruel foreigners, who turn out to be Egyptians. This film is pretty typical in its Hollywood approach to prehistoric man; combining stereotypical Native American spiritualism, African tribalism, Egyptian mythology and a conspiracy theorist's head and heart to form a totally improbable and unintentionally racist depiction of early humans. However, in a bizarre move, the film tries to break with its B-movie roots and constructs itself in such a way as if to plea, "Please take me seriously." Sorry, can't do it. Even after the film tries to update the caveman movie image by using themes from "The Clan of the Cave Bear" and the modern version of "The Mummy" it still mashes these aspects together and spreads them over the CGI heavy visual design of "300," creating just a Ray Harryhausen flick with updated special effects. Unfortunately, the film also borrows one more thing from "300," its terrible acting performances. In a comic book-like style, "10,000 BC's" characters lack both depth and subtlety. Strait, fresh off his "dazzling" performance in "The Covenant," delivers such a cartoonish character that I half expected him to utter the words "This is Sparta!" at some point within the film. As for Belle, I would have rather traded her slightly more believable performance for Raquel Welch in a rawhide bikini; at least that way viewers will have no false hope that her performance might get better as the movie progresses. With these two flat and plastic acting jobs leading the way, no amount of Cliff Curtis is able save the doomed "10,000 BC." Ultimately, "10,000 BC" occupies that dreaded gray area between a well written narrative and a hysterically terrible one. Sometimes filmmakers ask you to check your history at the theater door and I have no problem with that but, "10,000 BC" also asks you to leave behind your desire to be entertained and your ability to process information, a request that goes a little too far. The film was boring, [...]



Be Kind, Rewind

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 22:17:49 UTC

2008-03-13T22:30:08Z

I think my sister framed the new flick "Be Kind, Rewind" perfectly when she turned to me and in a kind of cautious voice said, "That was nice, I mean it had its moments." You're exactly right sis the film was "nice", nothing more and nothing less, just "nice." A surprising result from director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine for... I think my sister framed the new flick "Be Kind, Rewind" perfectly when she turned to me and in a kind of cautious voice said, "That was nice, I mean it had its moments." You're exactly right sis the film was "nice", nothing more and nothing less, just "nice." A surprising result from director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep"), who always seems to inject his projects with a large amount of polarizing whimsy. Instead "Be Kind, Rewind" is supremely average, not terrible but certainly nothing that reaches beyond mediocre. "It had its moments" indeed but, all this film becomes is a good 101 minutes; easily enjoyed, digested and forgotten. "Be Kind, Rewind" takes place primarily around a vintage rental store that is left in the willing but maybe not so capable hands of Mike (Mos Def). This is Mike's first time running the store and he desperately wants to prove to its owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), that he is a capable captain, a goal that is constantly threatened by Mike's natural disaster of a best friend the not so swift Jerry (Jack Black). In a failed attempt at sabotaging the local electric company Jerry is magnetized and when he enters the store he inadvertently erases all of the tapes, another good reason to make the switch to DVD. Now in a massive bind, Mike and Jerry concoct a half-brained plan to remake all the movies themselves. Unbelievably, their low quality remakes become a hit, propelling them into local stardom and the store into unprecedented success. I had high hopes for this story, a movie about remaking famous oft quoted movies into crappy 20 minute versions, how could that not tickle that wannabe filmmaker in all of us? Mos Def and Jack Black in "Be Kind, Rewind." As it turns out it does, sort of. Gondry seems to try to create some type of false nostalgia in order to make a really warm and comfortable flick, but in the end he struggles with juggling his very reality based story with his very fantastically based directing style. Again, it's pretty warm and pretty comfortable but, nothing to write home about. Adding to the averageness of this film is a very "B" grade group effort by the cast. Solid jobs by the leads, the regularly misused by Black and Mos Def, solid job by the secondary supporting cast, new comer Melonie Diaz and veteran Glover, and solid performances by the other ancillary characters. However, with everything being so solid there's no real one performance that illuminates the screen. So, without someone to carry the movie I can't in good conscience give this cast a top grade. Don't get me wrong a "B" is not terrible, in fact it's above average, it's just nothing to put on the fridge. To be honest going out and seeing "Be Kind, Rewind" isn't a terribly bad idea for a night's entertainment. After all it does "have its moments" and would be an O.K. addition to a night's schedule. Know, however, that this isn't a main course by any stretch, only an appetizer at best. Don't expect this film to be some sort of catalyze for a great conversation between friends and whatever you do don't plan on this being at all a good centerpiece to a date. A movie worth checking out maybe, but it's not something worth killing yourself over to find. "Be Kind, Rewind" is[...]



My Blueberry Nights

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 21:40:09 UTC

2008-03-13T21:52:40Z

"My Blueberry Nights" is a film that touches on an issue I'm quite familiar with, something that has tormented me, and probably many of you, since the sixth grade -- the inability to learn a foreign language. The film is art-house cinema heavy hitter and Chinese citizen Wong Kar-Wai's first attempt at a film in English. Wong long ago... Norah Jones in "My Blueberry Nights." "My Blueberry Nights" is a film that touches on an issue I'm quite familiar with, something that has tormented me, and probably many of you, since the sixth grade -- the inability to learn a foreign language. The film is art-house cinema heavy hitter and Chinese citizen Wong Kar-Wai's first attempt at a film in English. Wong long ago established himself as one of the great auteurs of his generation, creating such masterpieces as "Chunking Express" and "In the Mood for Love", and while no one will deny his obvious skill at direction Wong's recent foray into the English-speaking world will leave film goers talking in tongues. "My Blueberry Nights" is a brilliant display of directorial style; a perfect adaptation of Hong Kong cinema norms to the American version of the media. Movie patrons not used to the South Asian way of filming will love this new visual flavor. However, Wong is a true student of art-house cinema and likes to write what he shoots. This was never a problem when Wong was filming in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In his native tongue Wong has proven over and over again his ability to write a pretty good romance, but with America as his backdrop and English as his chosen tool for expression, "My Blueberry Nights" is a faulty product from a director out of his element. The story itself follows the wanderings of a young woman (Norah Jones) as she tries to find her next step in life. It starts in New York with the girl's discovery of some relationship-ending type actions perpetrated by her now ex-boyfriend in a small cafe. Now lonely, the girl finds comfort only in the blueberry pie and pleasant conversation supplied by the owner (Jude Law) of the aforementioned cafe. The owner himself is lonely and secretly in love with the girl but before he can work up the courage to tell her his true feelings she leaves on an odyssey to reinvent herself. Along the way the girl meets a slew of oddball characters, each responsible for helping the girl discover what she is actually looking for, which leads to the girl having a revelation of where she should be. Jude Law as the tortured cafe owner in "My Blueberry Nights." Cute story, but ultimately too poorly constructed to hold its meaning. The narrative has trouble shifting between moments of fantasy and brutal reality, creating a stopping and speeding feeling reminiscent of riding with a student driver; it's enough to give the willing viewer whiplash. There were some good surprises, however, from an iffy cast on paper. With the film's leads being Jude "I ruin everything I've ever been in" Law and singer Norah Jones my initial reservations about the acting was merited, but I'm glad to report I was wrong. Law is pretty good as the meek cafe owner who is trying to express his feelings for Jones and I can't say enough about Jones' job, who proved that she might be a true double threat. Unfortunately, while David Strathairn gives his always fantastic performance the rest of the supporting cast, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz, fall noticeably short of passable and make the total cast's performance kind of a wash. This is a sad result for a usually very good director. Most likely the pressure to reach the coveted English speaking audience was too much for Wong Kar-Wai an[...]



It doesn't add up

Wed, 27 Feb 2008 21:23:06 UTC

2008-02-27T21:38:00Z

If you were to introduce calculus to middle schoolers they would come up with something close to "Vantage Point." Being a really convoluted problem of a story, featuring eight primary roles, it was unfair of "Vantage Point's" producers to ask first time director Pete Travis to make this film. Not that a movie with so many leads is impossible,... If you were to introduce calculus to middle schoolers they would come up with something close to "Vantage Point." Being a really convoluted problem of a story, featuring eight primary roles, it was unfair of "Vantage Point's" producers to ask first time director Pete Travis to make this film. Not that a movie with so many leads is impossible, see Kurosawa's "Rashomon" and Anderson's "Magnolia," but any attempt at a narrative this complex needs a strong director. Rookie filmmaker Travis's attempt shows heart but in the end the project loses track of most its variables, coming off as unintelligent and boring. "Vantage Point" is the latest in the long line of terrorism themed films that have premiered over the past few months. Like its predecessors, "Vantage Point" tries hard to be profound and political but ends up being just uninteresting. The film is basically about a terrorist plot to abduct the president of the United States by first distracting the secret service through assassinating the president's public double who is standing in for the president at a historical conference on counter-terrorism. Whew! If that wasn't complex enough for you the movie is told in eight parts, through eight different characters' view points, each necessary to furthering the narrative. Essentially this is an entire season of "24" condensed into 90 minutes, but with no tight narration or Kiefer Sutherland. One thing I have to give "Vantage Point" is its unflinching determination to tell the story of all eight viewpoints equally. With lemming like intelligence the film disregards its audience's needs and reenacts the same sequence over and over again ad nauseum until every unfortunate soul in the theater loses their patience. I see the reasoning for something like this. "Vantage Point" has such a "big name" cast that producers must have deemed it necessary to impress movie goers with what Hollywood wealth can buy. Deep pockets might buy names but not performances and "Vantage Point," with all its recognizable talent, contains a hodgepodge of rangy acting jobs. First, we have the can't miss all-stars, William Hurt and Forrest Whitaker. Both, impressively, manage to give good performances in spite the of the film's weak story. Hurt is extremely believable as the abducted president and Whitaker's performance, though small, contains a surprisingly great deal of depth thanks mostly to the roundness of Forrest's performance. Then we have the other side of the coin, Sigourney Weaver and Dennis Quaid. Weaver isn't on the screen long enough to do any real damage to the movie but Quaid on the other hand becomes the focal point of the film, as the shell shocked secret security agent. Quaid is on my short list of "people who should never play your main character" and again proves that distinction with his performance in "Vantage Point." What's left of the cast runs the gamut between Whitaker and Quaid, some pretty good some not so much, but in a film that relies heavily on eight major characters a couple bad performances becomes really noticeable. "Vantage Point" is a complex equation solved with simple math. The problem -- make the movie too complex and audience leaves confused but make it too easy and the film becom[...]



Very disappointing

Thu, 21 Feb 2008 21:15:11 UTC

2008-02-21T21:39:15Z

"Youth without Youth" is the most disappointing film I've seen in awhile. Not that it's so terrible, I could rattle off hundreds of flicks worse than this tragic romance, but it's initial trajectory is so promising that anything less then an extraordinary triumph is heart breaking. If I was to compare it to anything it would be the severely... "Youth without Youth" is the most disappointing film I've seen in awhile. Not that it's so terrible, I could rattle off hundreds of flicks worse than this tragic romance, but it's initial trajectory is so promising that anything less then an extraordinary triumph is heart breaking. If I was to compare it to anything it would be the severely overrated 2006 film, "The Prestige." Both movies build toward a higher plane of satisfaction that few films in a year can achieve. Great direction, cinematography and acting in these two films give viewers the false impression that they are headed to Hollywood's promised land but ultimately the films fall noticeably short, collapsing underneath the pressure of lofty expectations. Unfortunately for director Francis Ford Coppola, he will most likely take the blame for the problems with this film but this criticism will be undeserved. If you are the director responsible for creating films like "Apocalypse Now," "The Conversation" and "The Godfather" series your reputation as a screen legend is pretty secure. However, if you are also responsible for "Jack," "The Rainmaker" and Bram Stoker's "Dracula" any previous critical acclaim you once held will pretty much be forgotten. This is the story of Francis Ford Coppola, unprecedented success in the '70's gave him a god-like status in Hollywood, but in an industry of "what have you done lately?" his continued struggles since that time have led to doubts about his abilities. Francis Ford Coppola on the set of "Youth without Youth." If "Youth without Youth" is anything it's a statement that Coppola can still direct a film. It's obvious he poured all of his skill and heart into the project, pushing the boundaries of conventional framing and creating a finished product that proudly can be stamped as his work, even if it has other problems. If Coppola is not to blame it must be the cast, right? Surprisingly this is also incorrect. The film employs one of my favorite actors of the last 20 years, Tim Roth, to create the quintessential tragic character, a man unable to accomplish any of his desired goals. What Roth gives is extraordinary, creating not only a believable character but a heart wrenching one. The trick to romantic tragedies like "Youth without Youth" is that the acting can't be a one sided job; the other lead must deliver an equally satisfying character for the movie to work. "Youth without Youth" could not have done better at filling Roth's love interest in selecting the up and coming European actress Alexandra Maria Lara. Seeing her performance in "Der Untergang" I've been very impressed with her abilities and in "Youth without Youth" she continues to shine. What dooms this film is the very spark that starts the movie making process -- its story. What "Youth without Youth" tries to be is a tragedy containing aspects from both Buddhist teachings and "Frankenstein." In essence it's about an old man who has not succeeded in his love life or life's work. The man decides to kill himself but before he can a bolt of lightening, that by anyone's estimation should have killed him, strikes him down and improbably restores his youth. Eventually he comes across a woman who looks like th[...]