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As Good as It Gets (1997)
I will never truly understand how this film got all the way to the Oscars nor why it receives praises. The movie has its moments of sentimentality but they are few. For the most part, this movie is pretty much a misfire. Jack Nicholson plays novelist Melvin Udall, a misanthropic obsessive compulsive with a lot of venom. He has lunch at a Manhattan restaurant every day and insists on the same waitress to serve him. The waitress is Carol (Helen Hunt), a struggling single mother with a sick child at home and most likely the only one who knows how to handle Melvin. Suddenly, Melvin's world is turned upside down when he is tasked with caring for his gay artist next door neighbor's dog. The neighbor is Simon played by Greg Kinnear who is recovering from a violent burglary and then faces financial troubles after a failed art show. Okay I will cut to the chase and just say that the film suddenly turns into a road movie that leads to self awakening and blah blah blah. What's wrong with the movie? Fourteen years later I saw it again to see if maybe there was something I missed but no its still flawed and clichés. I still dislike this movie. It tries to be a comedy but every one liner from Jack Nicholson is a misfire. It tries to be sentimental but it is not sincere enough to pull it off. It tries to be romantic but there is absolutely no chemistry between Nicholson and Hunt. Jack Nicholson, well, he's Jack. This performance is not groundbreaking and its a role that he has played before under James L. Brooks: obnoxious bachelor with a heart of gold
somewhere. Helen Hunt is lovely and sometimes sympathetic but this is not a performance that was worthy of an Oscar (I am laying it out that Judy Dench was robbed of the Best Actress Oscar for "Mrs. Brown" and even Ms. Hunt would admit it). Greg Kinnear is actually the only character I prefer to have seen more. He gave a performance that was the complete opposite of his usual style. The film is unbelievable, forced, and underwritten. The characters are two-dimensional and the plot is mostly sitcom material that disguises itself as a drama. Also, who the hell would fall in love with someone like Melvin Udall?!?!
Good Old Fashion Fun
I saw this film one evening with my son (who is seven and currently obsessed with all things WWII) and I was hesitant. But to my surprise "Captain America" turned out to be a solid and well made film. Honestly, I am not a Captain America fan and I was under the presumption that the film was going to flop. But the film is fun, well-written, and delightfully three dimensional fun that is reminiscent of old matinée action films but with a deeply felt message. Chris Evans is engaging and well-cast as Steve Rogers a/k/a Captain America, a plucky scrawny kid from Brooklyn trying to join the Army until he is selected for a top secret experiment where he genetically transformed into a superhero.
Armed with a cast of strong supporting actors Stanley Tucci as the brilliant and wise scientist, Tommy Lee Jones playing his usual tough guy as he can only play it, Hugo Weaving as the bad guy, and Hayley Atwell as the lovely and brave love interest (yes, I love a good comic book movie where women are not objectified damsels in distress!).
The Wolfman (2010)
Entertaining At Times, But Could Have Been Better
Dark misty moors, tall trees, and a full moon are the recipe to a werewolf movie such as this film, "American Werewolf In London", and of course, the original Lon Chaney film. Benicio Del Toro (always enigmatic) assumes the role of Lawrence Talbot, a British-born, but American raised actor who returns to his rundown English home after the brutal death of his brother, Ben. Lawrence is reunited with his estranged and eccentric father, John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), and introduced to Ben's beautiful fiancé, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), in order to solve the mystery of Ben's death. While on the trail of searching for the killer, Lawrence is attacked by a werewolf and the curse is passed on to him causing him to be the prime suspect of Detective Frances Aberline aka the Hunter of Jack the Ripper (Hugo Weaving) leading the official investigation. The good news: excellent special effects and make up of the werewolf attacks. Some really good jolt scenes and some good performances. Del Toro is always versatile and it shows in all of his performances including this one which has to rely on special effects and make up. Personally, I loved the scenes he shared with the luminous Emily Blunt, who portrays the character of Gwen Conliffe with sympathy and vulnerability without turning her into a simpering damsel in distress. Blunt and Del Toro to my surprise had wonderful chemistry. The bad news: the direction of the film was choppy and rushed. Anthony Hopkins is still playing the mad old kook who has played before and the story is predictable. To summarize, I was entertained at times, but I was left short of the mystery that the film was suppose to have. However I do have more good news: I would prefer this film over "New Moon" anytime, but I have no intention of spending another 8 bucks on "The Wolfman." I would recommend this film when it is aired on HBO.
Eden Lake (2008)
Intelligent, Intense, and Very Disturbing
Living in America I find it hard to believe that this film was overlooked while American theaters continue to release silly remakes and nothing original with regard to the horror film genre. I rented "Eden Lake" one night because I was in a Michael Fassbender mood and I was absolutely horrified by this film. Taking on the classic story line in the tradition of "Deliverance", "House on the Left", and "The Lord of the Flies", "Eden Lake" is the story of a happily in love young couple, Steve and Jenny, going away on holiday to a lake out in the country. Unfortunately they come across a group of aggressive and obnoxious teenagers who go out their way to pester and harass the couple. Steve and Jenny at first brush them off but all goes to hell when the teens steal their car and the couple attempts to confront them. James Watkins has stepped up to the level of Wes Craven and John Carpenter as a horror filmmaker. The film sets up the characters, Steve and Jenny, as the nicest and most polite people in the world. Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly give wonderful performances as the doomed couple. They made their characters vulnerable and sympathetic to the point that you really feel and fear for their safety. Jack O'Connolly, however, was pure masterful as one of the best horror film villains I have seen in years since "The Devil's Rejects". Brett, the leader of this pack of nihilistic teens is truly frightening because the character O'Connolly plays is very real! He is not possessed by the devil nor is a "child of the corn". Brett is the by-product of years of abuse and neglect. He is bred to be a violent animal like the rottweiler he walks around in the beginning of the film. The most disturbing scene is when Steve is being tortured by the gang because apart from the torture itself is the fact that Brett bullies and intimidates the weaker kids in the group to torture Steve. Some of these kids are very aware that what they are doing is wrong, but Brett makes it very clear of what he intends for the poor couple as well as his accomplices. He is the sociopathic alpha male of the group. I hope to see more of Jack O'Connolly as much as Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly. This film is truly a masterpiece in showing the decline of the underclass youth when not dealt with properly. Highly recommend this to horror film fans.
Funny, Smart, and Dark
HBO continues to air innovative shows reflecting aspects of life whether they be vampires living in the South, Hollywood hotshots trying to survive show business, a polygamous family, or it's latest concept about a man taking on the oldest profession in the world which is "Hung." Ray Drekker (Thomas Jayne) a Detroit high school teacher and basketball coach was once the school's most popular boy with an athlete's scholarship and married the most popular girl in school. All falls apart when he is injured and years later his dream girl wife, Jessica (Anne Heche), leaves him for a well-to-do dermatologist. Being a high school teacher and basketball coach does not pay very well. To make things even worse, his house catches on fire forcing him to live in a tent in his backyard and his twin teenage children move back with their overbearing mother. Ray goes to one of those scam "get rich quick" seminars and finds what he is also good at and the "tool" he has: sex and very...ahem..."hung." He meets failed poet and corporate temp, Tanya Skaggle (Jane Adams), and enlists her as his pimp. The two embark on a business they hope will be successful in "fulfilling" women with happiness...will they successful? The show reflects on the subject of the economy very heavily and it's about time a show finally did. "Hung" is set in the backdrop of the economically beaten down but not out Detroit amidst layoffs and the public school system being federally underfunded. Thomas Jayne is perfect as Ray. He is your typical everyday average Joe trying going through economic hardship and through the profession of male prostitution he begins to have an understanding of women and of the direction of his own life. He continues to go on despite the ex-wife, his uptight next-door neighbor, and the economic hardships. Jane Adams is also wonderful in the part of passive aggressive but insightful Tanya. She doesn't face the same hardships as Ray, but she is lonely and sympathetic. Anne Heche is hysterical at times as Ray's overbearing ex-wife who is also going through hard times when her husband's finances take a huge a hit in the stock market. "Hung" is a show that reflects on the current economy and talks about the subject matter of male prostitution without making it look glamorous or fake.
Near Dark (1987)
Underrated, Great Classic
Long before the fluffy "Twilight" or the brilliant "Let The Right One In" was "Near Dark." During the 1980s vampire films became quite popular in the horror genre. "The Lost Boys", "The Hunger", and "Fright Night" are some examples of the flashy and neogothic romantic vampires. "Near Dark" broke the rules of vampire clichés and became (what I love to call) the rebel vampire film. Directed and co-written by the great Kathryn Bigelow ("Point Break", "Blue Steel", and "Strange Days") "Near Dark" tells the story of young Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) who one night meets the beautiful and mysterious Mae (Jenny Wright). They get along until she gives him the ultimate kiss and love bite that turns Caleb into a vampire. From that moment Caleb is thrusted into Mae's "family" of caravan vampires consisting Jesse (Lance Henrickson), the leader of the group; Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), Jesse's deadly lady; Homer, a little boy who acts as Diamondback's "child and is basically an old man trapped inside the body of a boy; and finally, but not least, is Severen (Bill Paxton) a maniacally enthusiastic vampire. As Caleb travels with this band of roadies his worried father and little sister are on his trail to bring him home. Along the way Caleb also witnesses the horrors of Mae's family and he is placed in the position of proving himself to the group: kill or be killed. Why this film breaks all rules of the vampire genre are the following: 1) not once ever is the word "vampire" ever uttered or even totally suggested; In fact, the use of the word is not even necessary because the characters make historical references and the obvious symptoms of vampirism: they drink blood and sunlight can kill them. 2) the vampires are not the conventional vampires we have seen before or even after. They are grungy and dirty. But they still have the sex appeal only not the Gothic traditional kind we are also accustomed to. Sex for them is entirely meant to lure their victims. 3) the environment and setting of this story is out in the open fields, plains, and roads of the Midwest. Most vampire stories tend to take to the metropolitan or mountainous areas. The desolation and openness makes one feel like there is no where to hide or run from these monsters. The film is brilliantly directed with such honesty and roughness. Kathryn Bigelow is very much a fearless and yet respectful director. She is amazing and one of my favorite filmmakers. It is also terrifying and at times, funny! The acting in this film is also quite striking: Lance Henrickson is creepy as the cold and meticulous leader of the group, Jesse. He is perfect in the role; Jenette Goldstein is sexy and deadly as the vampire vixen, Diamondback. She acts a maternal figure for the young Homer and she is an equal to Jesse. Homer is played by Josh Miller (ironically his older brother Jason Patric starred in "The Lost Boys" released the very same year as "Near Dark) who is also creepy as the vampire child that could most likely scare the hell out of Claudia in "Interview of the Vampire." My favorite performance and character is Severen played with relish by a young Bill Paxton. Watching this film I was absolutely terrified and grossed out by Severen. Watch the scene in the bar which is both bloody and yet silently chilling. There is so much obvious enthusiasm by the actors playing their roles that it carries the film's personality. I highly recommend this film to vampire fans such as myself and to horror filmmakers.
The Spirit (2008)
I Have Seen Worse Films This Year...The Spirit Isn't One of Them
The film is not perfect and the story took a more pointless turn in the end and some of the dialog is cheesy but other than I found the film quite enjoyable and amusing. I am someone who can appreciate this film for what it is and what it is not which is Sin City. The film was not trying to be Sin City. It was being what it is: goofy, sexy, and comical. Kinda like watching Jayne Mansfield in celluloid. Gabriel Macht is quite charming and easy on the eyes as the elusive Spirit battling crime against The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson who seems to actually getting a kick out playing this character) while sweeping the ladies off their feet. The film gives a film noir with a tribute to the serials of the 1940s. I had fun watching this movie as opposed to seeing the exhausting film adaptation of "Watchmen." If you love film noir and dark comics with a little side of silly I recommend this film. I for one wouldn't mind seeing this again.
Fascinating graphic novel. movie droning and too long, but more Rorschach
I am a fan of graphic novels and some of the films inspired after them. I loved Sin City, 300, and yes, I enjoyed The Spirit. I never have high expectations for films but I left the film slightly disappointed. Based the graphic novel and made the filmmakers of Sin City and 300, "Watchmen" is the anti-hero comic book/graphic novel film. I don't mind lengthy films but I do mind lengthy films that drone! "Watchmen" is visually striking and action sequences are graphic but exciting however the film had too many subplots and kept jumping back and forth between stories within the main story itself which is suppose to be about solving the murder of a superhero, Edward aka The Comedian Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and the reemergence of the heroes called the Watchmen. Narrating the story (or stories) is Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) and he attempts to reunite the other Watchmen: Nightowl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and the main hero, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Cruddup). The only saving grace this film has are the performances by Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Haley as the deep-throated and enigmatic Rorschach is absolutely remarkable and exciting. He became the only character in the whole film that I actually cared about. About two hours into the film I begged for the film to reach a conclusion. I think after Watchmen I will lay off the comic book inspired films until a third Batman movie comes out. This one really will wear you out and not even the stunning visuals will help except for the performance of Jackie Earle Haley. I would definitely love it if the filmmakers made a film about Rorschach only.
Gritty, Disturbing, and Brilliantly Acted
I saw this movie back in '96 around the time of "The X-Files" and I was (still am) a David Duchovny fan. I was absolutely startled and in awe of the sheer terror of this film and blown away by Brad Pitt's performance. David Duchovny plays Brian, a struggling journalist writing a book about serial killers and their victims. He lives with his art photographer girlfriend, Carrie (Michelle Forbes), and both decide to take a trip to California to document and research the book. Unable to afford the gas and lodging Brian puts up an ad to get travel companions to share the costs. Unfortunately the ad is answered by white-trailer trash Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his child-like girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis). As the trip goes on, Carrie becomes increasingly suspicious of Early and has every right to be. Early is a sociopathic, dirty serial killer leaving a trail of bodies along the way and under the noses of Brian, Carrie, and Adele. The film builds up with increasing speed to a violent and frightening climax that has our two characters, Brian & Carrie along for a ride to hell. There is a moment in the film when Brian asks Early why he kills and Early never answers and continues to toy with Brian. Brad Pitt, an actor who continues to sacrifice his good looks for the grittiest of roles and although Duchovny is a good actor, Pitt can act circles around him. He is so frightening and the nightmare for any woman. Early is unyielding and unflinchingly real. We see what really makes his character tick and how he reacts to his violent urges. Earlier in the beginning of the film we see his treatment towards Adele: he controls her with violence and tenderness. Adele who is touchingly played by Juliette Lewis is vulnerable, naive, uneducated, and a true victim of men's violence. Adele is the victim that Brian fails to notice. It is also startling to see her in this film and that a year later she would portray a violent female prototype in Natural Born Killers. Michelle Forbes' Carrie is the opposite of the naive Adele. She is liberated, educated, and not at all blind to the brutal animal that Early is. Carrie is the true observer compared to the optimistic and analytical Brian. I was more in tuned to Carrie's character and I was fascinated by the compare and contrast of Carrie and Adele from a feminist perspective. By the end of the film, Carrie becomes the victim to Early's violent nature and Adele while meeting a tragic end becomes strong and stands up to Early no longer blind by her own naiveté. "Kalifornia" is quite the psychological character study.
Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
Pan's Labrynth Meets Nosferatu...Beautiful, Innocent, and Horrifying
It is hard to find a good and original horror film let alone in the vampire genre. I had seen the film Twilight and 30 Days of Night, but neither one captured the mystery, Gothic romance, nor the chilling horror of the vampire genre. And tonight I saw Let The Right One In a film that follows all the vampire rules and breaks away from the campy and clichés of casting beautiful people, pumping corn syrup and sex simultaneously. Let The Right One In (a reference to the myth that a vampire cannot enter a mortal's home without being invited) tells the story of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12 year old boy who is horribly bullied at school and alienated by his divorced parents. One night he meets Eli, a "12 year old" girl who moved in next door and forms a strong bonding friendship. They fall in love but not in the way that adults do. Their relationship is childhood love. In between, Eli kills to satisfy her hunger for blood. Let The Right One In is a love story but it isn't perverted or downgraded into cheesy romance novelty. It's a horror film without the serial killer jumping out of the closet. The film is amazingly chilling and terrifying yet the film draws you in because of the love story between Oskar and Eli played beautifully by Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. The scenes between them are sweet, haunting, and more importantly, innocent. This film was both moving and chillingly scary without having to succumb to the clichés of typical horror films. The film's horror is that it sneaks up on you and yet drawn more and more into Eli's world. She is not an evil character, but she is a creature of habitual survivorship: "I live on blood" she tells Oskar. Let the Right One In is the missing answer to the film Twilight and I highly recommend to those who are fan of horror, film, and the vampire genre.
What the hell happened?
This is truly sad: when something has so much potential and then it just fades away and dies. Heroes was the rose in the desert of NBC and then it lost it's bloom so quickly. It began with the characters waking up with the question of what purpose do they have in the world and the quest to search for that meaning while these individuals realize that they have supernatural powers: Peter Petrelli, the kind hearted and gentle nurse has the ability to absorb powers; His brother, Nathan, a politician, has the ability to fly; Matt Parkman, an LAPD officer with marital and career problems is telepathic; Nikki Sanders, a Las Vegas showgirl and single mother with a dual (and deadly) alter ego; Her son Micah, a young prodigy with the talent of manipulating technology; Hiro Nakamura, a Japanese nerd who can time travel and teleport; Isaac Mendez, a NYC artist and heroin junkie can see the future and depicts them through his art; and of course, Claire Bennett, a teenage girl and high school cheerleader who has the amazing ability to heal and even come back from the dead. While these individuals slowly begin to realize their awakening powers and that their destinies will meet there are also evil shadows lurking from the giant company led by Noah Bennett (Claire's adopted father) that wants to control and harness their powers to the soulless villain, Sylar, who kills people with special abilities and acquires them for himself. The first season of Heroes had me hooked and the show came at the perfect time when people wanted to see a show about heroes and escape from war and a looming economic recession. But then I saw Season 2 and I was disappointed but I didn't give up because of the Writer's Strike. And I waited for Season 3 and I stopped caring. The characters went from three dimensional to one dimensional; Plot holes were laid out to trap clichés; Too many new characters were introduced and viewers were never allowed to get to know more of the characters we knew from Season 1. The writers killed off key characters like Isaac Mendez, the prophet; And some and interesting characters from Season 1 and Season 2 disappeared (what happened to little Molly, the little girl who can pinpoint the location of others like herself); Why did the show become so dark so quickly? It seems that the writers and creators of the show stopped caring and so did I. It's a shame and it's sad. I loved this show and I miss it for it was...so has it's fans.
Good actors...decent casting...but the screenwriter and director should have been fired!
I recently became a fan of the Twilight series and a fan of Stephanie Meyers books. What I loved about the books was how the characters were beautifully developed and how they were intricate to the stories. For those who have never read the books or are familiar with the story, Twilight tells the story of Isabella "Bella" Swann, a seventeen year old girl who moves from the sunny state of Arizona to the drearily depressing small town in Washington to live with her police sheriff father. Bella is the new girl in the small high school and attracts attention. She is awkward, shy, and lonely but she manages to make "friends" and gets along with her classmates and attracts some of the boys. Enter the Cullen family. They are pale, they keep to themselves, they are wealthy, and beautiful beyond words.
Bella becomes drawn to the Cullens. Specifically, she is drawn towards the "youngest" son Edward. He is handsome, brilliant, strange, but socially withdrawn. In addition, like his "family" he is also pale and never appears under direct sunlight.
Bella later discovers the family secret and his hidden talent: Edward and his family are vampires who have lived for centuries by feeding off the blood of animals and controlling their thirst for human blood. In addition, Edward has the gift of telepathy however he can't read Bella's thoughts.
Bella and Edward start off bitterly and distant, but become attracted to each other and fall in love.
Everything is alright until a group of nomadic killer vampires enter town threatening the humans and soon Bella's own life.
The books are amazing. I would also like to point out that I am twenty seven years old and have read my share of teen novels in the past. But Twilight is one level above the typical teenage novels filled with melodrama and angst. Twilight allows readers to connect with the characters and their lives. The Cullens I found to be a very fascinating family of characters because of their loyalty to each other and that they are not this cult. The characters are more developed. In addition, Bella Swan is the girl that many young women such as myself identify with.
The casting of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in the leads was well done. Both actors brought these two characters from the series to life despite of the material that was provided to them. The rest of the cast was also decent and nicely done, but the adaptation of the novel to screen by Melissa Rosenberg was a complete and total shame. For one of the writers and producers of a masterfully successful show "Dexter" it is a disappointment but when it comes to romance she went back to "Step It Up" a film of many clichés. Melissa Rosenberg and Catherine Hardwicke had many opportunities from the novel to avoid the clichés of cheesy teen romance films, but they missed and caved into the studio pressures of making this film as far away from the books style.
The film was rushed, boringly cliché, and heartbreakingly disappointing.
The cast led by Pattinson and Stewart did their jobs by bringing these characters to life, but the director Catherine Hardwicke and writer Melissa Rosenberg failed to theirs by giving Twilight series and its characters there full purpose.
I cringe at the idea of them teaming up again to make any more.
Twice as Exciting and Thrilling as the First
"Prince Caspian" takes a step up from "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." "Caspian" is a little more for pre-teens now considering the ages of the Pevensie children. One year after their adventure in Narnia the Pevensies siblings, Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Shandar Keynes), Peter (William Mosely), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are adjusting to life in post-war London. Lucy is as adorable as she was in LWW; Susan has grown into a lovely young woman attracting boys, but she is less inclined; Edmund has become a little more mature than LWW while Peter has the conflicts of growing into a young man and is fed up with being treated like "a kid" after being a warrior and king of Narnia. They are called back to Narnia by Caspian (Ben Barnes), exiled prince and heir of the Telmarines. The Telmarines are a race of humans who have taken over Narnia and have driven out the magical creatures and animals into the brink of extinction. Although the Pevensies have been away from Narnia for a year in Narnia 1,300 years have passed since their "reign." It is now up to Pevensies, in the absence of the great Aslan, to restore peace and unity to Narnia with Caspian as the rightful heir. "Prince Caspian" is much more for pre-teens and teens and the spiritual journey is more complex than the first. The theme emphasized in this story is faith. Here the eldest Pevensies, Peter and Susan, are growing up and faith is something that is hard for them to grasp now than when they were younger. Whereas Lucy and Edmund are younger and more inclined to faith. I would have liked to know just a little more about the Pevensies life in post-war London (i.e. Did their father return from the war?). This film shows more of Peter's and Susan's conflicts as teenagers approaching adulthood: As a King of Narnia, Peter clashes with Caspian, the heir and prince of Narnia, and is forced to make decisions with consequences. It's quite refreshing to see the developing maturity of the two young men as they plan their takeover of Narnia. Susan, now the brave and lovely young lady she is now, catches the eye of Caspian, but the film does not focus on any romance. Susan's maturity is in her bravery and actress Anne Popplewell has the opportunity to show her amazing archery skills. The performances of the actors are consistent and good particularly Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes (his portrayal of Edmund has become increasingly mature and witty). Ben Barnes is stunning as the title character (many young girls and women will be sighing at the sight of him). William Mosely gives his Peter a more aggressiveness and vulnerability. Anna Popplewell's Susan is mature as always, but here she is also coming to terms with becoming a woman: independent and autonomous. Scene stealing characters like the gruff dwarf Trumpkin played wonderfully by Peter Dinklage, and comedian Eddie Izzard as the voice of the swashbuckling field mouse Reepicheep (a la "Puss N Boots" from the Shrek movies). The villains however lack the power of the White Witch from LWW and are more less like the villains from The Lord of the Rings. Sergio Castellito plays King Miraz, the uncle of Caspian bent on killing the young prince in order for his recently born son to become heir of the kingdom. The political motivation of the Telmarines is often compared to current looks of ethnic cleansing which is something that many young readers don't quite understand just yet, but for adults is something to follow. The film is very exciting and enjoyable with some small flaws and questions, but overall it meets expectations with special effects and story. Highly recommended film.
Waste of Time
I found it absolutely remarkable about the many critics who gave this film a four star. The movie had some potential but to be frank here are the following: 1. The movie is no where NEAR the epic poem of Beowulf 2. What is the point of animation? 3. Good actors put to waste
The story is Beowulf and his men are summoned to protect a Nordic kingdom from a psychotic monster, Grendel. He makes goo goo eyes with the queen and she trembles at the sight of his bare chest and arms (she's not alone) and Grendel's mother comes for revenge in the form of the sexy Angelina Jolie.
Trust me it's not worth it but Beowulf himself is a certified hottie for a computer animated character.
Ballet Shoes (2007)
Sweet and Charming Little Film
It is a rare treat to view a film like "Ballet Shoes." It's one of the those films where everyone has a piece of the cake of a happy ending but more importantly the film steers away from fluffy clichés and mushiness. The story takes place during the 1930s in a small house in London. Sylvia Brown (the luminous Emilia Fox), the niece of eccentric, traveling paleotolongist Great Uncle Matthew aka "Gum" who brings along from his travels three orphaned baby girls and it is Sylvia and her plucky Nana (Victoria Wood) that raise the three girls who grow up into fine young ladies with dreams and aspirations. The eldest is Pauline (Emma Watson aka "Hermoine Granger") dreams and aspires to be an actress, Petrova (Yasmin Paige) is the tomboyish one of the three and wants to become an aviator, and finally, Posy, the youngest and boldest one of the three has ambitions to become a ballet dancer. But this small family are facing harsh financial times and set their house for room and board. Enter the tenants that impact the girls' and Sylvia's lives: Mr. Simpson (the expressive Marc Warren), a man with a tragic past but a keen interest in cars and airplanes. He is someone Petrova can talk to; The retired scholarly professors Drs. Jakes and Smith (Gemma Jones and Harriet Walter) who take on the task of tutoring the girls; Theo Dane (Lucy Cohu), a professional dancer and actress, who makes the most profound influences on Pauline and Posy. The film tells how the girls struggle with Sylvia to save their home and at the same time pursue their dreams. To add to their struggles, Sylvia is ill and the girls do all they can to provide for her as well. The words I have to describe this little gem are charming and smart. With a wonderful cast delivering equally endearing performances. Emilia Watson is as always lovely and sweet as Sylvia a woman who selflessly gives and gives without ever once asking for repayment with Victoria Wood as Nana providing as a strong front for her and the household. The girls are wonderful: Emma Watson as Pauline is wonderful. She proved me wrong that she really can act and she definitely is more than the Harry Potter franchise. This is a performance that will hopefully carry her even further. Yasmin Paige as the big hearted and adventurous Petrova is a star in the making. Every scene she conveys such honesty and most of all she is real. Lucy Boynton as Posy is very lovely. She brings her character to life as the bold and daring young lady with such grace and maturity. Her scenes with Eileen Atkins, who plays Madame Fidolia a Russian dance instructor and head of a prestigious dance school, are wonderfully done and acted together. The film is sweet, smart, wonderfully acted and written without the added fluff and mumbo jumbo of made for TV films. The only tragedy was that this film wasn't released in the U.S.A theatrically or at least on HBO. This is a little gem I hope to own on DVD.
La dolce vita (1960)
A Fellini Masterpiece and an Essential Part of Cinema History
I consider myself a film enthusiast. I love films in all forms: drama, foreign language, comedies, romance, etc. And I had never scene a Federico Fellini film. So I rented "La Dolce Vita" for the first time and watched a groundbreaking film of its time and forever. The film has no particular story because it is a series of misadventures of the life and loves of tabloid reporter Marcello Rubini (the great Marcello Mastroianni). He goes from parties to parties from story to story with hounds of paparazzi photographers at his heels covering the mundane and frivolous drivel of Roman high society and celebrity. He did not start out that way. He wants to be a serious writer but became lost in the glitz and glamour of the high society of Roman life. In his life there is Emma (Yvonne Frenneaux), his suicidal and possessive girlfriend, who he neglects and cannot stand but he goes back to her every time out of guilt or fear of loneliness. Then there is Maddalena (Anouk Aimee), a high class billionaire's daughter who is Marcello's friend and sometime lover. She is bored with her life and finds no contentment yet she enjoys Marcello's company. They understand each other and there is no pretense of romance between them. Marcello meets several celebrities and attends many parties and clubs to cover the latest dirt until he meets Sylvia, a Swedish-American actress (the beautiful statuesque Anita Ekberg): playful, child like, beautiful, fun, and free spirited. She is pretty much everything he looks for in life and in a woman but she is unattainable. She goes back to her abusive and neglectful boyfriend (a mirror image of Marcello). There is also his mentor and friend, Steiner (Alain Cuny in a memorable performance), an intellectual philosopher and writer who is successful and seems happy. He is married with two small children and a beautiful home. Steiner is everything Marcello wants in life until a horrible tragedy occurs and Marcello is slapped back into reality and afraid. The film is a statement about life and course we take. Marcello confesses to Steiner that he once had "ambitions" for his life and now is "loosing and forgetting everything". He is desperate to not fall into a life of superficiality and lies. He wants so much to live a respectful life where he is a successful serious writer with a wife and children and happiness. He struggles but it is so much easier to be superficial and unreal. "La Dolce Vita" is a ground breaker in film-making and a statement of the celebrity world and media. But more importantly it is a look at life and the direction we take. There are amazing moments with Marcello: the classic scene in the Trevi fountain with Sylvia where she jumps in with her stunning flowing gown and he joins her. She takes water and trinkles it over his head like a baptism. Just when it seems he is about to kiss her dawn has come and the moment is over. Reality has come back to Marcello. The scene with the two "miracle children" at the tree in the outskirts of Rome who claim they have visions of the Madonna (or Virgin Mary) and the crowds of media and people that tear the tree for souvenirs. But my two favorite scenes are the following: Marcello goes to a beach side restaurant where he tries to write and he gets into yet another fight over the phone with Emma. At this place he meets and flirts with a beautiful young waitress named Paola (Valeria Ciangottini who was about fifteen years old in her feature film debut). She is young, innocent, and untouched of the superficial life Marcello leads. She leads a very simple life without the complications and only wants to go home to her little hometown in Umbria. He compliments her beauty as an Umbrian Angel. He doesn't write and goes back to Emma. The scene was so sweet in a way that he almost wishes that he was her age again: to be young and start over and maybe even marry her. But that is not the case for Marcello. He would see her again at the very end of the film (a devastating scene and great acting on both sides by Mastroianni and Ciangottini): he is drunk and on the beach with his "friends" and is now completely lost of his ideals and ambitions. She is on the other end of the gulf asking him to walk with her. He doesn't hear her because of the loud waves crashing and he walks away with his "friend". She looks at him with such sweetness and no judgment but with hope. It is a heart breaking ending. This film is essential to future filmmakers out there today. Fellini and Mastroianni will be remembered and missed forever.
Deep and Dark Love Story
Every once in a while or perhaps every year there comes your usual epic love story. What I loved about this one is that it doesn't play like an epic. Here is a story that is about making amends and a love that was so strong it became an individual's redemption. The film opens in London circa 1935: 13-year old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan, who can break your heart with those eyes) is a blossoming writer who one day misinterprets a series of events that occur between the affair of her older and determined sister, Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightely) and the housekeeper's son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy, a pure hearted leading man). But one night, Briony accuses Robbie of a horrible crime he did not commit and is condemned for. Five years later, the love between Cecilia and Robbie is as strong as ever and they correspond while he fights the second world war. Meanwhile, Briony grows older (Romola Garai, an true star in the making) and realizes the mistake she made, but can she make things right again? The film lapses between the points of view of the sisters and Robbie as they go through their own struggles between the war and the home front. This film is definitely worth seeing and on my top ten favorites of 2007.
Tell Me You Love Me (2007)
FINALLY! An Show About Relationships For Adults
HBO has finally won me over after canceling Six Feet Under and Deadwood. "Tell Me You Love Me" is a one hour show on the lives of three women and their significant others: Meet Jaime (Michelle Borth), a young chef with commitment fears and trust issues. She has ended her engagement to Hugo and tries to move on with her life. Now meet, Katie (Ally Walker, who is amazing) and Dave (Tim DeKay), a suburban married couple with two children and the passion has run out of their marriage. And then there is Carolyn and Palek, a yuppie married couple with no children and plenty of passion in their marriage and trying to have a baby. In fact, Carolyn (Sonya Walger) obsesses about getting pregnant to the point that Palek (Adam Scott) is now doubtful of his ability to be good husband and a good father. The show is very graphic in sexuality, but that is the point. It is often times painful to watch because (for myself especially) there are moments in the show that you can actually relate. From the desperation of bringing passion, joy, and fulfillment into the lives of our characters to emptiness and loneliness they feel. It is heartbreaking to see Katie and Dave become so faraway when they do love each other still. What these people have in common? They are seeing therapist, Dr. May Foster (the formidable and incredible Jane Alexander), who has issues of her own with her long time marriage to her husband but still is adult enough and knows better. The show is honest, raw, and real with amazing performances from the cast. Truly the best dramatic series HBO has put out.
Black Christmas (1974)
Classic, Non-cliché, Underrated Thriller
Watching this film gives me the chills! The story is about a killer who breaks into a sorority house and hides in the basement while killing the women in the house. You have Jess (the always beautiful and heartbreaking Olivia Hussey), a young woman facing an unexpected pregnancy and facing up to her high strung, emotional boyfriend, Peter (2001: A Space Odyssea's Keir Dullea). Then you have outspoken, drunk, Barb (Margot Kidder, who is excellent in her earlier role). The atmosphere is perfectly set: like the weather it is cold and chilling. It is a horrible nightmare of the idea that a homicidal nutjob is not only killing but hiding in the place where the murders are taking place. The film has a Hitchcock quality to it and more frightening is that we never see what the killer looks like and we see him killing through his point of view. It is such a shame and an embarrassment that they had to make a remake of this when certain filmmakers in Hollywood are not clever enough to come up with originals. Great thriller: intelligent, disturbing, and amazingly well acted by the cast.
La môme (2007)
Marion Cotillard is a TRIUMPH
My God! I just saw the film an hour ago and I am just floored! What a beautifully realized biopic on the life of the greatest French singer of all time, Edith Piaf. The first time I had ever heard of her was when I was seventeen watching "Saving Private Ryan" and being drawn to this voice. In "La Mome" the film takes us back and forth between Edith Piaf's final days and her past: as a child she was abandoned by her drunk mother, her father later takes her only to be dumped in a brothel when she was five. It was in the brothel where she was raised by the prostitutes and paternal grandmother and she was exposed to song. She overcame illness that left her blind briefly as a child. Her father comes to claim her once again and drags her around the country as a circus performer and one day he pushes the little girl to sing and she captivates an audience. By the 1930s Edith Piaf sings for her supper on the streets, in nightclubs, and cabarets until she debuts in a music hall and she is a hit. Marion Cotillard is the winner! For those who do not remember she was the beautiful woman who played Russell Crowe's love interest in last year's lackluster "A Good Year" but she is triumphant here in the role of a lifetime as Edith Piaf. She captures Edith's energy, faith, passion, and sorrow. I couldn't even recognize her. She is definitely up for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress! For years Edith was an alcoholic and a drug addict. She died young at the age of 47 from liver cancer. Her life paralled Billie Holiday and yet she survived Billie by three years. An amazing, powerful, and beautiful biopic of France's greatest voice of the century.
Beauty and Eroticism At Its Most Horrorfying
What is more scary than a serial killer? An individual deprived and devoid of love and all human feeling yet in the case of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille the only existence and feeling he knows is his astonishing sense of smell. Based on Patrick Suskind's novel "Das Parfum", "Perfume: Story of a Murderer" tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw, a revelation) an orphan born into poverty and the lowest filth who was almost left to die underneath the fish stand immediately after his mother gave birth to him. From the time he was born to his adulthood, Grenouille has the gift of smell. One night, he smells from a mile away a beautiful young woman (Karoline Herfurth) selling plums in the streets of Paris. He becomes obsessed with her scent and her beauty, but accidentally kills her. He now becomes obsessed with learning how to preserve scent forever. He is soon taken in as an apprentice for once famous perfumist Guiseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) and learns the art of making perfume. Grenouille is pure talent but his need to capture scent is far greater. He goes on a journey to learn the meaning of scent and to create the greatest perfume of all. On his journey, he sees and it is captivated by Laura Richis (Rachel Hurd-Wood, who is absolutely a vision of loveliness), the daughter of Merchant Antoine Richis (Alan Rickman). Grenouille goes on a killing spree targeting beautiful, innocent, young virgins and collecting their scent but his main goal is Laura Richis.
Directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) "Perfume: Story of a Murderer" is tale of loneliness and longing, but in the case of Jean Baptise-Grenouille he will fight against it in a terrible way. Unable to feel or understand love because he has never known it he only understands scent. Beauty is something he has never had and he will go to every lengths to obtain it. Ben Whishaw is amazing as Jean Baptiste Grenouille. His expression is gaunt and close to pitiful. He plays a young man who has known ugliness, darkness, and bitterness. When he sees the girl played by Karoline Herfurth he was unable to communicate his feelings for her. To him words and speech are useless to describe the beauty of what he can only smell. Her beauty and innocence was what he smelled and to him it was arousing. The tragedy of Jean Baptiste Grenouille was his inability to love. Had he been adopted by Baldini as a baby Jean would have been a different person. The photography of the film is absolutely sumptuous and sensual. Of course there is also the gentle beauty of then seventeen year old actress Rachel Hurd-Wood (Peter Pan and American Haunting) who is the epitome of all that is Grenouille's inexpressible desires. She is everything that he had never seen or had. A sad, beautiful, but also disturbing tale of longing for beauty and for love.
Showtime Takes Television To A Whole New Level With "Dexter"
I used to watch "Six Feet Under" and I am still mourning its loss after HBO nixed it after five seasons. Then when I heard that Michael C. Hall was set to play the title role of "Dexter" I was intrigued: a forensic expert who is also a dangerous serial killer. WOW! I ordered Showtime on Demand, etc. and I am now hooked! One of the best shows on television besides Heroes, Lost, 24, and Weeds.
Michael C. Hall plays Dexter Morgan, a forensic and "blood splatter" expert for the Miami Police Department. By day he helps solves crimes and by night he stalks and kills individuals who are just as dangerous as he is or worse. Dexter was adopted by Harry Morgan (James Remar), a decorated police officer, who was the first and the only one to identify Dexter's sociopathic nature. Harry disciplines Dexter into succumbing into his urges by only going after those that are just as dangerous as he is, or those that have escaped justice rather than Dexter going after innocent people. In between solving crimes along side his adopted sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter, a total change from The Exorcism of Emily Rose), who is also a police detective and spending quiet evenings and weekends with his girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz, who is rather lovely in this role and well suited), a single mother and victim of an abusive ex-husband, Dexter is also killing. Wonderful characters surround him: Sergeant Doakes (Erik King) is the only one in the whole series that senses that something is not right with Dexter at all; Lt. Maria Laguerta (Lauren Velez), who is obviously attracted to Dexter; Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee, who is hilarious!), Dexter's forensic sidekick; and of course Detective Angel Batista, (Andre Zayas). This show is so amazing and incredibly addicting; Smartly written and beautifully acted led by Michael C. Hall, who is without question an actor that is severely underrated and worthy of more attention; He is so daring in his choice of roles and does not ever fall into clichés. He presents Dexter as a character that we both are frightened, sympathize, and identify with. Michael C. Hall also reminds us through his performance and delivery that Dexter is not Batman; Dexter is a monster; The only difference that distinguishes Dexter from other serial killers is that he is disciplined. The pilot episode says it all when he kills a pedophilic killer: "I have standards." This performance is a total 180 from the departed gay funeral director, David Fisher, of "Six Feet Under." The cast is also exemplary: Jennifer Carpenter is strong as Dexter's ambitious sister; Julie Benz is lovely and vulnerable as Dexter's damaged girlfriend (they have really wonderful scenes together; he could be killing someone and he answers her phone call pleasantly like a real boyfriend would; James Remar is also excellent in flashbacks as Dexter's adopted father. Without question Showtime is about to put HBO out of the spotlight with this show and it's comedy "Weeds" and "Sleeper Cell."
Jane Eyre (2006)
Modern, sexy, and holds true to Bronte
I had read Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" in high school and had seen many versions of the novel on film, but this version was without question the best one I have seen. Adding a little modern spin and beautifully filmed world of Bronte's Gothic love story our beloved heroine Jane Eyre, governess to Thornfield Hall, and falling in love and capturing the heart of the dark, brooding Edward Rochester with secrets hidden behind the doors and echoing in the halls of Thornfield. Ruth Wilson, the loveliest of Jane Eyre and there have been many, shines as Bronte's heroine. She is alive and glowing in every scene especially with her handsome co-star, Toby Stephens. As Edward Rochester, Toby Stephens is sexy and intense as our brooding love interest. Ladies, you will literally swoon and sigh in scenes between him and Wilson. Both actors are passionate and have such amazing on screen chemistry that transcends any of the previous performances before. They put a little modern twist to their characters and yet still true to them as written by Bronte. I loved this movie so much that I ordered the DVD and started reading the novel again (although I prefer this adaptation over any other). Romantic, dark, and beautifully acted by our leads...this film is highly recommended.
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
The Missing Answer To "Lady In The Water"...an adult fantasy told through the eyes of a child
Guillermo Del Torro once again tells a story set during 1940s Spain during the dictatorship of Franco. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother move into their new home with her stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Ofelia also meets and befriends Mercedes (Maribel Verdu), the housekeeper whose brother is fighting in the Spanish resistance. Ofelia discovers a labyrinth in the garden of the house where Faun (Doug Jones), keeper of the labyrinth, tells her that she is the long lost princess of the underworld and she must complete three tasks before the full moon in order for her to take her place in the underworld. Meanwhile, Mercedes smuggles food, letters, and supplies to her brother's resistance army under the nose of the psychotic Captain Vidal. Once again an adult story told and seen through the eyes of a child. Like "The Devil's Backbone" the child's innocence is what protects them from the horrible world of war and political suppression. This film is so visually stunning and the story really takes you in and never lets go. Ivana Baquero is a star in the making! Lovely and innocent as Ofelia she carries the film so bravely and with the genteel of a young lady. Maribel Verdu is also lovely and wonderful as the woman whose own journey mirrors to that of the little Ofelia. Sergi Lopez is absolutely the villain that you do not love to hate...he plays his character with the sinister and sadistic manner that is similar to that of Ralph Fienne's Amon Goethe in Schindler's List. This film is without question a top ten film to see in time for Oscar season.
Children of Men (2006)
Harrowing, Intense, Real Science Fiction
The film is set in the very distant future of 2027 where technology is still advanced, but here is a science fiction film with no flying cars or laser guns. Here is a future that is depicted as bleak and all too real. Here is in this future women are infertile, children do not live past the age of eighteen, and the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Theodore Faron (Clive Owen) is a man unalarmed by what is happening around him since the death of his young son until he is called upon by his former lover and mother of their deceased son, Julian (Julianne Moore). She needs him to help smuggle a young woman named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who is the first to become pregnant in almost twenty years. But in a world where fear and paranoia is amidst young Kee is also in so much danger because she is also an illegal immigrant where harboring immigrants is illegal. The film is graphic in violence, but no more than any film released this past year. Alfonso Cuoron has a style in which he takes us in and doesn't let go until the film is over. This is not the kind of science fiction film in which the heroes solve the problems for us the audience. It is us that determine what the solution must be and here is a film that is a wake up call for peace and placing humanity first.