Archive for 2010


You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

October 18th, 2010 — 4:15am

***

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger-rm – We have always been willing to see Woody Allen movies if for no other reason then to see where his head is at. He always comes up with an interesting group of characters who are struggling in great angst in which we can some way identify with or at least understand. This time he gives us various configurations of couples who are each having trouble with their relationships and for the most part they each have some very wishful fantasies. The oldest couple has split because Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) feels he should have relationship with hot young blond    (Lucy Punch). His disappointed wife Helena (Gemma Jones) falls under the spell of a forune teller (Pauline Collins) whom she believes hookline and sinker. Helena then falls in love with a widower Jonathan (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) who needs the permission of his dead wife to marry her. Alfie and Helena have a daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) who is married to Roy, a doctor (Josh Broslin) who doesn’t practice but is trying to produce a second novel rather than a family and prefers looking out his apartment window at Dia (Freida Pinto), a beautiful woman whom he is convinced would be the perfect partner for him. The doctor – now writer’s wife really imagines that she would be better off with her art dealer boss (Antonio Banderes). If she can’t have him she would hope that her mother would lend her money to open her own art gallery but the mother doesn’t think the stars are aligned right. There are many more twists and turns in this study of the human psyche. There is also a narrator to the movie (Zak Orth) who really doesn’t tell us very much. Allen has a writing style that gives the audience a feel for who are these people and the dilemmas they face from their own point of view. The problem is that when all is said and done, we didn’t really care that much about any of the characters despite the unique story and a great cast. There were some good comedic moments but overall it is a sad commentary about human nature. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

RED

October 15th, 2010 — 4:09am

***

Red– sp- Retired and Extremely Dangerous is what the title of this movie stand for. This cast of actors, while some are a little long in the tooth, are far from retired but  their characters in this movie are certainly dangerous. While you probably can picture Bruce Willis toting a deadly machine gun can you picture Dame Helen Mirren blasting away with an up to date Kalashnilov or whatever they are called? This is what you get in this delightful fun spoof of all the shoot em up, kill lots of people, blow things up,  smash cars,  CIA , FBI movies that you may have seen in the past few years plus some shades of James Bond. In addition to Helen and Bruce, you have great star power from  John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dryfuss as well as excellent performances by Karl Urban, and Brain Cox.  Basically the plot is that the old team has to get back together because they are all on a hit list related to some “ work “ they did in Guatemala 20 years ago. The plot thickens and involves the modern day CIA and maybe the Vice-President in a not such a good way. The story and the actions are completely unbelievable as they are played out, but  you never know about the real secret lives of secret agents. Malkovich plays a delightful character who appears to be completely paranoid but everything that he is concerned about seems to happen with a vengeance. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, veteran movie producer, was at our screening and took us through how he put together this cast and how much fun they all seemed to have making the movie.  He is hoping that older crowd will identify with the RED component and that the younger crowd will be drawn in for the action. We doubt that it will make the Oscar list but a good time can be had by all. ( 2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Comedy

Conviction

October 8th, 2010 — 7:54am


*****

Conviction sp- This is  a true story of a man convicted of a bloody murder in a Boston suburb in the 1980s .  There are witnesses who say that he told him he did it and there is blood typing evidence (this is before DNA analysis) which strongly suggests it was him. The only thing going for him is his sister who is sure that he didn’t do it. You have seen this relatively simple plot play out many times on television on Dateline, 20/20 or on similar programs. The only difference here is that you have another magnificent performance by Hillary Swank playing Betty Anne Waters who is going to take the next 18 years of her life completing High School, going to college and then law school in order to see if there is way to get her brother his freedom. You also have Sam Rockwell, playing the  brother Kenny,  in a performance that should earn him an Academy Award nomination. The screen play by Pamela Gray and  the direction by Tony Goldwyn gives us pieces of their childhood which clarifies their great devotion to each other. The struggle of Betty Ann to become a lawyer and her determination to find the evidence that would be the key to saving her brother allows us to understand this person. Her interaction with Kenny similarly provides insight into his pain and bravado.  The difficult lives of the people in the community where this happened and the very questionable actions of the police and district attorney Martha Coakley (who subsequently was defeated in the recent  US Senate race in Massachusetts to replace Kennedy)  was brought out by a stunning performance of Juliette Lewis who played one of the witnesses who recounts what really happened to make her testify against Kenny. We had the good fortune to meet at our preview screening Swank, Rockwell, Lewis, the real life Betty Anne Waters and her good friend and fellow law student Abra Rice who was well played in the movie by Minnie Driver. They confirmed that truth is stranger and at times more unbelievable than fiction. I recall reading about the well known lawyer Barry Scheck, who was depicted in this movie, and wondering about his decision to devote his career to  the Innocence Project where the new science of DNA matching is applied to old crimes. It turns out that over 250 innocent people have been freed from prison due to his efforts. There is one particular line in this film stands out in this regard as Swank as Betty Ann remarks that if Massachusetts had the death penalty her brother would have been killed before she had chance to make a case for his innocence. Swank, speaking for herself at our screening told how making this movie allowed her to understand the unique life affirming experience that these people went through. Watching this film also gave the audience the opportunity to share this journey.(2010)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama, History

The Social Network

October 3rd, 2010 — 6:13pm

*****

The Social Network-rm – Every aspect of this story and film is handled just about as well as it could be done. The subject matter has to be of interest to the 500 million people who are on Facebook or the millions who are not and are wondering how did all of this ever get started. The captivating story comes from a book titled Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich but the brilliant dialogue comes from the screenplay of  Aaron Sorkin who also wrote the great TV series West Wing. We get a very realistic trip back a few years to the Harvard campus where the very contemporary version of the great American dream is being hatched in a college dormitory. Mark Zuckerberg somewhat of a social misfit himself, is developing this idea for what will ironically become the greatest social networking concept of all time. He is played extremely well by  Jesse Eisenberg whom we remember as the older son in The Squid and The Whale, plays Zuckerberg. The fascinating part of the story is that a bunch of other guys  at Harvard also had some roles in stimulating and developing what was to become a world wide phenomena. While Zuckerberg clearly is the genius here, the Winklevoss brothers and Divya Naregra provided some of the nuclei of the ideas and Eduardo Saverin one of Zuckerberg’s friends actually started off as the business manager and then CFO of the fledgling enterprise. Saverin initially invested the $1000 to start it and then another $18,000 before several the big venture capitalists found it.  In contrast, this movie, about their story cost $50 million. But we digress here because the essence of the story, which will suck you in, is how all these Harvard students plus Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), a Stanford dropout who himself invented Napster, became entangled ultimately in a multimillion lawsuit at the time that Facebook was worth billions of dollars. The film is directed by  David Fincher, who knows how to transition episodes of time, having directed The Strange Case of Benjamin Button. He cleverly moves back in forth from the high stakes deposition of a law suit being waged about who owns Facebook and how much do they own, back to the events of their college days a few years previously. Zuckerberg is the center of attention here. This film is successful in giving us a good glimpse under the hood of this determined person who is one of those 21st century people who is changing the world as we know it.  (2010)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History, Uncategorized

Let Me In

September 30th, 2010 — 5:54pm

****

Let Me In- sp You probably don’t want to see this movie unless you like Vampire films with all the blood, gore and death, so they can live another day. But if you like this genre you will get a lot more than just the horror show. It is a very touching story of the coming of age of two 12 years old kids (even if one is 250 years old in a 12 year old’s body) which beautifully shows the innocence of adolescent awakening. There is a very vivid and painful depiction of  bullying by young people which reminds us of the dread that a kid who is the victim of it will feel every day. When there is revenge for this type of treatment, you can imagine what a Vampire. can do. The audience also experiences a palpitating anticipation, which is served up in this type of a movie and greatly helped by a music score with appropriate sound effects which reverberates through your body.  This is all the work of Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay based on the novel  Let The Right One In and a Swedish movie by the same name. Reeves who made Cloverfield, was a guest speaker at our screening of this film. He was very clear on what he wanted to achieve, apparently keeping true to parts of the novel, paralleling the European film and writing from some of his own childhood experiences. He used two excellent child actors, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and allowed them to teach him what a 12 year old might feel in these  unusual situations (of course this required them to rev up their imaginations to the fullest). They really did an outstanding job as did Richard Jenkins who was put in the role of a most evil person and yet the audience almost wanted him succeed in his grim tasks. Be aware that about 20 % of our screening audience which probably didn’t know what the subject matter was going to be, walked out on the movie during the first 15-20 minutes. There certainly was no one under 40 in those walkers. If they had stayed until the end they might have appreciated the thoughtful writing, excellent acting and a top notch Vampire film.(2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Horror, Romance, Thriller

The Town

September 27th, 2010 — 6:45am

****

The Town rmThe Boston Police Department is not going to like this movie. Ben Affleck obviously dove head first into this film, being director, lead actor and co-writer. His character Doug MacRay is a home grown product of Charlestown section of Boston where there have been more bank robbers per capita than any other place in the U.S.A. He and his buddy James Coughlin played by Jeremy Renner and a bunch of other guys blast open the movie pulling off one of those heists. There is plenty of action in this movie including one of best car chase scenes that we have seen since Gene Hackman in The French Connection quite a while ago. You really get to know and understand MacRay and can’t help caring about him and rooting for his relationship with Claire Keesy (Rebecca Hall) the bank manager of the opening robbery who end up being sympathetic bed fellows. Casting Jon Hamm    (of tv Mad Man fame) was a great choice as the opposing FBI agent along with Titus Welliver (the “bad” DA in The Good Wife tv series) who is his trusty assistant. The entire cast of characters is quite believable which is a tribute to their great acting, fast pace and the outstanding directing by Affleck who kept us on the edge of our seats. There also is a sensitive insight into how in some communities and families, young people get drawn into a life of crime from which it is very hard to extract themselves. The question is whether you can suspend reality and swallow the story line when the band of thieves faces down the entire Boston PD including  their SWAT teams and our hero ultimately attempts to do a payback to his beloved town.(2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Crime, Drama, Romance

The Bicycle Thief

September 23rd, 2010 — 7:26am

****

The Bicycle Thief- nf- We decided that we would use Netflix to reach back more than 60 years ago and view this classic award winning (a special Oscar) Italian film made by legendary filmmaker Vittorio De Sica. When it was made in 1948, it was originally more aptly titled Bicycle Thieves. Antonio Ricci played by Lamberto Maddiorani was one of the many unemployed in post war Rome, however he is luckily chosen for a job hanging posters around town (such as those with Rita Hayworth’s picture on them). He desperately needs the job and it requires that he have a bicycle but his is in the pawnshop. His wife sells their sheets and pillowcases from their little apartment so he can get back his bike. We meet his son Bruno played by seven year old Enzo Staiola who was literally plucked from the streets for this role. The bicycle is stolen before Antonio’s eyes and despite a chase he sadly doesn’t catch the thief. He embarks on a search for the bicycle accompanied by his young son through the back alleys and busy streets of Rome. The movie is shot in black and white, which enhances the depression, and poverty, which the film conveys. Credit must go, as it did, to De Sica for the great performances of his two main stars who were both in their first movie. You see and feel the desperation of Maddiorani’s character as well of that of the entire city. The young son despite his age is shown working in a gas station but joins his Dad in their futile search. Bruno who is wise beyond his years but yet clearly looks up to his father and depends on him. This is what leads Antonio to his fateful decision. When “ Fini” comes up on the screen, we realize we have had a realistic but poignant glimpse into a piece of European history which we will not forget. (1948)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

A Single Man

September 15th, 2010 — 2:24am

***

A Single Man – nf-  This is one of those films which tries to explain what life is all about. It is set in 1962 and George Falcon  (Colin Firth)  is a gay English Professor at a college in Los Angeles. Very early in the movie we learn that his partner of 16 years has died in car accident while visiting his family in the north. The funeral is only for  “ family” and George is not welcome to attend. The movie proceeds to show a subsequent meaningful day in his life, albeit with various flashbacks, while he is drowning in his grief. It is a meaningful day because we see that George is planning for this day to be his last one. Many of the people whom he meets in his usual day seem to detect that he is unhappy and do seem to care about him. There are two people who are capable of moving him   We meet Charley (Julianne Moore) whom he first knew in England, was briefly a former lover  and now lives nearby and is a very good friend. She seems to mirror his struggle trying to find the meaning of life and their interaction is warm, intimate and provides rich insight into both of them. However he seems to be able to leave her behind. As determined, as George is to make this his last day, his order of things seems to be shook up as Kenny (Nicolas Hoult) one of his students seeks him out and makes a connection with him. This is very complicated connection, no doubt, and this relationship makes the point of the movie about the meaning of life. This film is based on book written by Christopher Isherwood more than 25 years ago and appears to have had a very special meaning to director Tom Ford who wrote the screenplay with David Scearce. In the commentary on the DVD, it is clear that Ford clearly identifies with the main character. He describes many of the complicated symbolism and imagery, which he used in the film which certainly did not come to mind while watching it.  On  the other hand, it is the total effect that really counts and Ford has put into the film a musical score that parallels the mood being developed, as does the changing tints and colors that have been used . Whether or not you get caught up in the message of the movie, it is easy to see why Colin Firth was nominated for an Oscar for this performance. In his British understated manner he conveys usually just with his facial expressions a range of emotions from unmitigated grief and sadness to the subtle joy of caring and being cared about. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Crazy Heart

September 15th, 2010 — 1:58am

**

Crazy Heart- nf–  A self centered , has been,  country music singer by the name of Bad Blake  ( Jeff Bridges ) is an , alcoholic , big time smoker, overweight who is reduced to playing with the local band in dinky  bars. He   rolls into a small town and meets a young women  (Maggie Gyllenhaal)  with a four year old son  who interviews him for a local newspaper.  They end up in bed together and our has been country singer with four failed marriages and son he hasn’t spoken to in 24 years wants  immediately decides that he has to be with her. He gets  inspired to write some new songs, which he hasn’t done  in many years, for his former protégée ( Colin Farrell )  who is now big time star. Bad Blake also wants to change his ways so he isn’t so bad. Don’t worry that some of the plot is revealed. If you see decide to see the movie you shouldn’t be doing it for the storyline which is hackneyed and not very believable. Both Bridges and Gyllenhaal were nominated for Academy awards for their acting and Bridges actually snared the award.  He was outstanding as he actually made this fairly obnoxious character almost likeable. He did his own singing as did Farrell although there may have been a little lip syncing. If you have any inclination towards enjoying country music that is the best part of the film and there also was an Oscar for one of the original songs. The great  acting, the enjoyable  music and even a supporting role by Robert Duvall who was a producer for the film and  played  a friend and a bartender, can’t make us say we were glad we saw this movie or recommend it  (2009)

1 comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Musical, Romance

Heartbreaker

September 9th, 2010 — 9:47am

Heartbreaker* * *
Heartbreaker
– sp – When you see a romantic comedy especially when it is a “farce”, you have to be able to suspend your expectation for realism and just enjoy the film. One of us was able to do that right away and the other took a little longer to give into the premise. Romain Duris is Alex the young, suave, bearded Frenchman ( the film is in French with subtitles ) who works with his sister and her husband in a unique business. A client who believes that a particular woman should not be romantically involved with her boyfriend or fiancée hires them. This team will research this woman and determine her special likes and dislikes. They will arrange a scenario where Alex will happen to meet her, charm her and when she falls in love with him, he will not be emotionally available but she will realize that she should not be with her current boyfriend. The job is completed and the con team gets paid. They often use high tech to set up their ruses. It should be noted that Alex has scruples in that he will never accept a job unless he really believes the girl shouldn’t be with her current lover. It is an interesting premise and the trio of screenwriters and the direction of Pascal Chaumeil creates some very clever and funny scenes. Needless to say, things don’t go according to schedule on one of these capers when Juliette played by Vanessa Paradis is the target of their latest job. The conclusion is a little reminiscent of the ending of The Graduate You will have to decide if you believe that she is now falling in love with the perfect man for her that Alex has created or does she now see his true love for her which she believes she also has for him? One of the screenwriters of the movie is a Harvard educated, AFI graduate Jeremy Doner who obviously has a good feel for the French sensibilities of love and humor. He was a guest at the screening we attended and told us that this film was one of the most financially successful films to be shown in France in the last several years but there usually can only be limited expectations for a foreign movie with subtitles in the United States. Perhaps for this reason, he is currently working on an American English version of this story which has been set for production in the near future. A romantic comedy , even one that is a farce usually ends with a warm feel good sense about the ultimate relationship of the lovers. ( Think Tracy and Hepburn) . The fact that Juliette’s feelings for Alex were based on the con job pulled off by Alex may take away a bit from the audience’s feeling good about the lovers as the movie concludes. Perhaps they can fine tune the ending of the English version so there is no doubt that they are right for each other. 2010

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

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