Archive for 2011

Terribly Happy

November 14th, 2011 — 7:38am


Terribly Happy- nf-  ( In Danish with English subtitles) It is not surprising that this film and cast has won numerous international awards. The direction, acting, photography, lighting is all on the mark and the story is suspenseful and gripping. This film project got started when two men who were friends in their youth growing up in rural Denmark and now were achieving success in their respective fields were able to reconnect. Dunja Greg Jensen a writer, shared a story he was writing, based on some true events in his family, with film director  Henrik Rubin Genz who then collaborated with him in the screenplay for this movie. It is the story of a Copenhagen policeman Robett (Jakob Cedergren) who  is reassigned to small isolated town. The people here are a tough somewhat odd group and John gets drawn into a situation with  a married couple, where the man, by the name of Jorgen (Kim Bodnia)  has been abusing his wife Ingerlise (Lena Maria Christensen). Ingerlise appears to have what we psychiatrists call a Borderline Personality and she succeeds in seducing our policeman Robert. Things then begin to have serious twists and turns which makes this movie a very exciting thriller. The movie succeeds in that the viewer is able to identify and feel empathy with Robert despite the fact that he works  his way into some “deep shit” and does some things that are not very nice. This is not so much of a “who dunnit movie” as it is a “what is he going to do now movie” which, will keep you on the edge of your seat and give you a good ride. (2008)  

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

My Father’s Glory

November 7th, 2011 — 4:48am


My Father’s Glory – nf  (In French with English voiceover or subtitles). The movie is based on the best selling memoirs of French novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol and is directed by Yves Robert. If we had known the story of the movie, we probably would have passed on it. Somehow it ended up on our Netflix queue, which meant someone, or some publication recommended it highly, so we let it roll (so to speak). It is a beautifully framed picturesque film set in the early 1900s. It is seen through the eyes of an older Frenchmen who is the narrator recalling his childhood especially, his view of his father. Most of the movie shows his family’s summer vacation, which includes his mother, sibs, uncle and aunt and their small children in the countryside and mountains in southern France. Being a city boy he is intrigued with  nature and the wide open country experience with mountains, birds and game . He idolizes his schoolteacher father and has some problems with seeing his uncle, an experienced woodsman who is more knowledgeable in shooting and hunting. He encounters a young local boy his age with whom he becomes friendly and even considers sneaking off and staying by himself in the countryside. Aside from being magnificently photographed, it is a touching, heartwarming film with some comedic moments. I think it probably is the perfect movie to watch with a preadolescent son or grandson. (1990)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

The Ides of March

October 30th, 2011 — 8:30pm


Ides of March– rm-  It is not a coincidence that this movie opens in the US as there is a hotly contested primary race in one of the political parties prior to the 2012 Presidential Election.The stories that emerge from behind the scenes of these campaigns usually mesmerizes the public. The people running these campaigns have to be the brilliant tacticians who understand politics and the power of the press. They encounter nosey reporters exemplified in this story by NY Times reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei). They play a complicated chess game as they present their candidates. Everything and everybody is expendable including the campaign leaders themselves. Steven Myers (Ryan Gosling) is  the idealistic very smart staffer working for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) under very wise campaign director Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). The campaign manager for the oppositional candidate is a very crafty (Paul Giamatti). The Governor while politically very principled has some Clintonesque weaknesses and we should mention there is a pretty young intern (Evan Rachel Wood). Mix these ingredients together and you get a suspenseful fast moving screenplay by Grant Heslov with contribution from Clooney who also directed the film. It was based on a play, Farragut North,  by Beau Willimon which having seen it in Los Angeles, we felt the suspense and surprises of the story were slightly muted. In real life, reading the newspapers and various biographies, we get snippets that makes us understand that in big time politics  there can be  deception, lying and compromising of principles. This movie gives us a depressing view how it might go down. This isn’t a pretty picture but it is a great story and an effective movie (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Remember Me

October 28th, 2011 — 8:26pm


Remember Me- nf  – This is a haunting film which will grab you at it’s beginning and will penetrate your heart at it’s ending.  We are introduced to one of the main characters in a tragic New York moment. We then meet the main focus of the film Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) whose parents have split up in the wake of his brothers’s suicide. He obviously has not found himself as he struggles with his anger, his alienation from his father ( Pierce Brosnan) and yet we see  his devotion to his kid sister, wonderfully portrayed by Ruby Jerins).  The relationship bewtween Hawkins and Ally Craig (Emille de Ravin) the now grown up 21 year old young women  who was a  participant in that earlier mentioned tragic moment 10 years previously, is the centerpiece of the film . During their first date at dinner Ally wants dessert because you can never tell when you will suddenly be facing death and wish you had that last dessert and another person would have such guilt if they talked you out that dessert. In one sense that is the story of this movie – unexpectedly life can be ended  with lasting consequences to the people to whom they are close.  This is something that many New Yorkers know so well and this movie is a New York movie. Director Allen Coulter has captured it’s feel whether it be a college apartment around NYU, a house in Queens, a private school on the upper east side , a high rise office overlooking the city, or a taxi that might not want to go to Queens.The characters all have depth which is as real as the grit of the city. There is humor, drama  romance, great acting and a very good screen play by Will Fetters. This movie will stick to you and it will be hard to forget it. (2010)



Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance


October 22nd, 2011 — 2:21am


Anonymous– sp- John Orloff, as an undergraduate was always interested in the question of whether or not William Shakespeare really wrote the masterpieces that have been attributed to him. Orloff pondered this concern during his time in film school and has been pitching various versions of this screen play for the past 15 years. Finally Columbia Pictures put up 30 million dollars (a relatively small sum) for this movie to be made under the direction of Roland Emmerich who is best known for elaborately staged blockbuster films such as Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot, 10000 BC and 2012. This movie as you might imagine is a period piece with lots of 16th century costumes and filled with Shakespearian dialog (or dialog from whomever actually may have written it back then). The setting which encompasses  many streets, buildings including the famed Globe Theater and hoards of people appears quite authentic although they were mostly produced by the magic of computer technology and digitalization. The storyline is that Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, (Rhys Ifans) was the original author but in his royal position he couldn’t acknowledge the nature of his writings. He secretly gave his written works to a young writer named Ben Johnson (Sebastain Armesto) who was too involved in his own budding literary works to want to take ownership or produce them. He instead passed them on to William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), a journeyman actor  who also was sworn to secrecy but gladly took credit for them. Shakespeare who was far from a writer himself began to stage the plays which immediately received great acclaim. Vanessa Redgrave played Queen Elizabeth I and Redgrave’s own daughter (Joely Richardson) had the role of the Queen at a younger age. There of course were subplots and various intrigues including flashbacks in time.   Many fine Shakespearian actors were cast in this film which were a great showcase for their talents. At times we lost track where in time we were or who was who in the secondary characters. History buffs of this period of time as well as Shakespearian aficionados will enjoy the storyline and dialog respectively. Rather than solve  the age old authorship conundrum, in the end this movie made an all out effort to entertain us with a fanciful dramatic well acted story.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Margin Call

October 6th, 2011 — 7:08am



Margin Call sp     Early in this movie, we see that a brilliant junior member of a Wall Street brokerage team has pieced together information that allows him to realize that derivatives that they had put together from which lots of money had been made for their firm have fallen apart. After taking the information to their bosses up the line, the head honcho has to make a decision whether to try to sell everything although they know it has little value. To execute this would mean that supervisors and brokers alike would have convince other brokers to buy what they had figured out was essentially “garbage”. This fairly succinct plot has captured the Wall Street debacle which involved a few brokerage houses, the results of  which we are still struggling with today. J.C. Chandor, whose father apparently had been a big time broker, pulled together the story and wrote the brilliant script. It was the strength of this story and the vision which Chandor had for the film which convinced Zachary Quinto who also acted in  the movie to sign on with his first time producing team to make the movie . The plot is really actor driven as the overwhelming majority of the film takes place in one floor of an office building with a good deal of talking. However, the actors obviously liked the opportunity that the script gave them as they couldn’t have signed on for the money. The total budget to make this independent film was about 3 million dollars and it was done in 17 days facilitated by the use of digital photography and the “Red Camera.”.  J.C. Chandler executed his story quite well in his first feature film. The all star cast who joined him consisted of  Kevin Spacey, Paul Betany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley , Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore. The photography, lighting and the subtle musical score complements the undercurrent of the story. You may not understand some of the financial issues which brought about the crisis but the ethical and personal decisions  that emerged were crystal clear and makes for a riveting movie.  (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Super Size Me

October 4th, 2011 — 7:21am



Super Size Me- nf  We decided to see this documentary which we had missed when  it  came out 6 or 7 years ago. The topic of obesity in American and what we can do it about it seems to be as relevant today as when this film was made. It also pertains to the  current political dialog as one side of the debate appears to be saying that the government and it’s  regulatory bureaucracy should keep it’s hands off successful business enterprises especially ones that hires lots and lots of people. McDonalds fits that category and millions of people voluntarily eat there and clearly endanger their own and their children’s health. The film showed that McDonalds especially markets to children and cultivates many of them as lifetime customers. Incidentally that life expectancy will probably be lower than if they had chosen to eat healthier foods. At the rate that McDonalds and other fast food businesses are succeeding, one of three children will develop diabetes by the time they are adults. Whenever we drive by a local high school and a local Community College we have been dramatically impressed how many kids walking around are quite obese. Film maker and director Morgan Spurlock with a light touch uses humor, human interest, well documented facts, some credible interviews mixed with a realistic scare tactic to hold the interest of the audience. He also pulls in the viewers with his project to go on a full time 3 meals/day McDonalds diet for 30 days. He is closely monitored by a team of health experts while he diligently pursues this task and even has a rule where he will “supersize” his food item whenever he is asked by his order taker if he wants to do this. While very few people will go on such a radical diet, Spurlock makes his point as he gains 25 pounds in the 30 days and develops dangerously high blood  lipid levels and begins to show liver damage . This film  is really a model in what a documentary should be. It takes an important topic, addresses it with facts figures and  talking head experts but yet has a story line which holds the interest of the viewer with a time thread which moves the film along. Spurlock, the centerpiece is likeable, serious, dedicated but with a nice sense of humor. This film with a few small edits should be shown to kids from middle school through college age if they have not caught the message by then. The DVD includes an interview by Spurlock made after the film came out with Eric Schlosser author of the book  Fast Food Nation which doubles the value of this DVD experience. Scholosser has a whole new set of  facts, figures as well as some very revealing insights into McDonalds and the fast food industry. The tagline on the DVD is “a film of epic proportion”. We would add this is something you can really sink your teeth into. (2004

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary


October 2nd, 2011 — 6:46pm



Contagion-rm  Shortly before we saw this movie we had our yearly flu vaccine. The news of  today happens to be reporting that cantaloupe from Colorado infected with deadly bacteria already have killed 10 people. We know about the SARS epidemic almost 10 years ago that killed almost 1000 people worldwide before being controlled. Certainly we are still in the midst of the AIDS epidemic that has killed many millions of people although our knowledge about this disease and our ability to offer limited treatment has allowed some control over it  (although there is still not a proven vaccine).  So many of us come to Contagion with a mindset that everything that we see in this movie could really happen including the deaths of millions of people. Director Steven Soderbergh depicts the events from different parts of the world as well as the activities inside the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta in a most realistic manner. This almost could have been a documentary film. Perhaps after we have something similar really happen in the future, people will look back on this movie and say they really nailed it . So we certainly  can’t put this movie in the science fiction category. If it isn’t a doc and it isn’t  sci-fi,  it must be a  drama without really much romance or mystery (they know they have  a disease and have to make the vaccine- no real mystery). Despite very fine performances by Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslow and Gwyneth Paltrow, we found we didn’t really care very much about the characters. They were more or less stereotyped or perhaps  “cardboard” without any real dimensions to them. Perhaps that was the idea. They could be everyman or women who lives their lives and then gets a terrible infectious disease or are threatened with getting it. We saw people do desperate things to get the vaccine or food and supplies when they weren’t available but we didn’t really see anyone struggle with any ethical dilemmas. Elliot Gould has a brief appearance in the film as a scientist who was making some breakthrough research and then he was shut down because he wasn’t part of the elite CDC team and we never hear from him again!  Not everyone who may see this movie knows about the potential of infectious disease lurking around the corner that might not be controlled by “the authorities” Others who know better sometimes use a denial mechanism to avoid thinking about the dire possibilities. A movie such as this one might offer a big scare to such folks and who will then feel much better when it is over and they are safe as the walk out of the theater (for now). Perhaps this should be in the “ horror/thriller” genre, which often makes a great movie experience for many people. So if this seems right for you, go for it. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Thriller


September 24th, 2011 — 7:07am


Moneyball- rm  A major movie which deals with the complexities of baseball stands a good chance of capturing a big piece of the American pie. When you add a star such as Brad Pitt you have the recipe for a perfect dessert. However, this film which emerges on the scene as major league baseball is gearing for the playoff season, deals with more than just our national pastime. It is a metaphor for the problems facing so many businesses today as they realize that in order to win in today’s competitive world, you have to be more than the biggest guy around with most bucks. You have to be smart, understand modern technology and be creative. That is exactly what Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics and his trustworthy Assistant Manager and computer nerd, Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill)  set out to prove when he realized that the meager salary cap that his owner gave him for his team couldn’t hold a candle to the one that the  New York Yankees had available to them. Baseball fans, most of whom understand the fine points of the game will appreciate the logic of the idea that three guys who all together get on base as often as the big gun who makes several times all their salaries combined might be better value to draft or hold on the team. This thesis based on real events is played out with drama, humor and much realism assisted by very realistic actors playing baseball, real baseball video clips and the voices of real baseball announcers. Brad Pitt infuses into Billy Beane the determination, inner confidence and likeability that holds the attention of the audience. We shouldn’t forget a very strong  (as usual) supporting role played by Phllip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe, the A’s manager. The movie is directed by Bennett Miller and the screenplay co-written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, the latter being  well known for producing riveting dialog which also characterized this production.  (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Sport

I Don’t Know How She Does It

September 17th, 2011 — 7:28pm


I Don’t Know How She Does It- rm– Remember the main character of the Sex and The City TV series and subsequent films? Well, imagine that instead of  being Carrie the writer, she was Kate Reddy a financial analyst and try to picture what her life might be like 10 or 15 years after she was running around Manhattan trying to find Mr. Big. Imagine that she is now married with two children living in Boston struggling to be the perfect working mother, trying to meet the needs of her kids as every morning she says hello to her nanny while saying goodbye to her husband before rushing off to her high powered job. We hear the narration voice of Kate (Sarah Jessica Parker  of course) reflecting her thoughts as she  ponders and explains her problems. We meet Richard, her husband  (Greg Kinnear) who is a lovely guy just beginning to get his big break at his job but is beginning to feel frustrated and deserted as Kate is taking trips out of town. She  is on the verge of closing a great deal working with Mr Big (Pierce Brosnan) of the stock portfolios. Her home life is best summed up by her late talking 2 year old finally saying his first words , “Bye Bye mommy” and her mother-in-law suggesting that the kid may have talked earlier if she had been around more. This movie will give at least two generations of working women a great deal to identify with. Maybe if Kate closes her deal she will have enough clout at her job so she can stay home when she wants to be with her kids, make a snowman with them when it snows and take her kids for landmark haircuts etc. But this is certainly not your middle class working family and what about the situation where such couple is forced to work long hours to make ends meet.?  Writers Arline McKenna (screenplay) and Allison Peason (novel) and director Douglas McGrath seem to have mixed feelings on their view of the role women and family today. On one hand despite her loving her career, Kate does strive towards ultimately putting family first. But the stay at home moms seen in this film (Busy Phillipps, Sarh Shahl and others ) are depicted in a self indulgent very unflattering manner which some are bound to find offensive.

If you are inclined to see this film because you are looking for some kind of validation of what your family has been through or is going through now, most probably you will find it fun to watch. Kelsey Grammer will add to the fun as one of her bosses as will Seth Myers as Kate’s nemesis at work. But be advised there is nothing ground breaking or really stimulating that is going to be found in this very light comedy. (2011)  

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

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