Friday, March 31, 2006



Clive Owen: ringleader Dalton Russell
Denzel Washington: NYPD hostage negotiator Detective Keith Frazier
Chiwetel Ejiofor: his partner, Det. Bill Mitchell
Willem Dafoe: Captain John Darius, Command Post communications officer
Christopher Plummer: Arthur Chase, Chairman of the Manhattan Trust Bank
Jodie Foster: Madeline White, a New York City behind-the-scenes power broker

This is a beautifully executed, not too “over the top” movie with excellent acting throughout. It is well written having very few totally implausible situations so common with films of this sort. With enough red herrings and some unexpected turn of events, it makes for an enjoyable outing.
One other thing you might note: by removing their masks and being thrown in with the hostages, the gang members later appear to be one of them. This pays off big time later.

for language (the f-word a couple of times) and some violent images (not really that bad). By contrast, the frequent ethnic and gender slurs may be offensive to some people and perhaps a better basis for this classification?

The scenes shot in dark grainy sepia tones are post-action interviews that actually take place following the event.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006



Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Retired NYC policeman Wilton Sekzer
Chalmers Johnson, former Director of the CIA
23-year old William Solomon who wants to join the Army
Richard Perle, pro-Bush administration Pentagon advisor
Retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski
John S.D. Eisenhower, son of the former President
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan
Gwynne Dyer, military historian
Republican Senator John McCain
Gore Vidal, prolific American novelist, playwright, and essayist

Because it spends a lot of time devoted to the war on Iraq, Pro-Bush supporters will probably not like this film. Nor will “hawks” who think the use of military force rather than diplomacy is the best course of action.

Unlike some documentaries, this one is not just a one-sided rehash of well-known facts. It is more balanced, giving equal opportunity to both sides of the debate.

Although some of the views expressed are controversial (Japan’s attempt to surrender was ignored because of a hidden agenda) many are new or at the very least, not that well known: not one of the first fifty strikes by “smart bombs” hit its target during the first preemptive invasion of Iraq or that some defence contracts purposely have suppliers in all 50 states so everyone gets “a piece of the action”.

for disturbing war images and brief language.

The We in the title refers to the United States of America. The title was originally used for a series of propaganda films produced for the military during World War II to justify the involvement of the USA in a foreign conflict.



The expansionist policy of the Empire of Japan in the 1930’s created a great deal of uneasiness in China, particularly in Shanghai and in the national capital, Nanjing. By 1936 the threat of invasion was almost palpable.

Ralph Fiennes: Todd Jackson, a blind ex-diplomat
Hiroyuki Sanada: Mr. Matsuda, an influential Japanese “businessman”
Natasha Richardson: former member of the Russian royalty, Countess Sofia Belinsky
Madeleine Daly: Sofia's daughter Katya
Lynn Redgrave: Sofia's mother-in-law Olga
Madeleine Potter: Sofia's sister-in-law Greshenka
Vanessa Redgrave: Sofia's Aunt Sara

Although beautifully photographed with lovely period costumes, the film tends to get bogged down and proceeds at a snail’s pace. The unhurried manner of speaking and moving about no doubt reflects the manner of upper class society back in 1936, but it results in a movie that is both lifeless and dull.

Even the dancing is done in a very restrained fashion; it looks like they really weren’t having very much fun. Nor was I.

for some violent images and thematic material.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Based on a true story

Ireland had been Britain's oldest unsolved colonial problem. By the beginning of the 20th century, the British political establishment decided it was time to get out of Ireland entirely: militarily, politically and psychologically. But the Protestants in the northeastern part of the country wanted to remain British, so the best Britain could do was to partition the island of Ireland.

Northern Ireland was created by the Government of Ireland Act in 1920 and consists of six counties.

The Republic of Ireland is the official description of the sovereign state that includes the entire island of Ireland except for the province of Northern Ireland. It’s official state name is Ireland.

The United Kingdom (often referred to simply as Britain) is a constitutional monarchy comprising a political union of four entities: the three countries of England, Scotland and Wales plus the province of Northern Ireland. In addition, the UK has several overseas territories including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (the RUC) became the police force of Northern Ireland.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (more commonly referred to as the IRA) was founded in 1969. Its stated aim has been the unification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland as a single sovereign state entirely independent of the United Kingdom. They believed this could only be achieved by an armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland. The IRA has been outlawed and classified as a terrorist group in the Republic of Ireland, in the United Kingdom and in many other countries including the United States.

Sinn Féin (pronounced shin-fin) has been a series of political movements in Ireland since 1905. It is the largest group of Irish nationalism and is the political wing of the IRA. They take care of propaganda, raising funds, and speaking on behalf of the movement.

The Troubles is a generic term used to describe a period of sporadic communal violence in Northern Ireland involving the IRA, the RUC and the British from the late 1960s until the mid-1990s.

The Democratic Unionist Party is a right wing party in Northern Ireland established by Ian Paisley in the 1970’s. Its membership is overwhelmingly Protestant.

The Real Irish Republican Army is a paramilitary organisation, otherwise known as the Real IRA, founded by former members of the IRA who opposed any cease-fire and the acquiescence to the terms outlined in the Good Friday Agreement.

The Good Friday Agreement was a major step in the Northern Ireland peace process. It was signed in Belfast on April 10, 1998 (Good Friday) by British and Irish governments and endorsed by most Northern Ireland political parties. The Democratic Unionist Party is the only large party that opposed the Agreement. Both governments were careful not to “rock the boat” in the early months following the Agreement for fear of having both parties revert back to a state of conflict. Consequently they were not enthusiastic about following up on information provided by informants or even persecuting those responsible for any “isolated act of violence”, such was their desire to not upset the delicate peace process.

Omagh (pronouced oh-mah) is a a small town in Northern Ireland with a population of about 25,000.

Gerard McSorley: auto mechanic Michael Gallagher
Michèle Forbes: his wife Patsy
Paul Kelly: their 21-year-old son Aiden
Pauline Hutton: their oldest daughter Sharon
Fiona Glascott: their youngest daughter Cathy
Jonathan Ryan: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams
Brenda Fricker: the police ombudsman

Acts of violence demand answers: among them, who are the perpetrators and what is being done to capture them. Sometimes it takes the efforts of a small group of people to pursue this endeavour, not always with great success. And that’s what the movie is all about. The story is one that needs to be told.
Making extensive use of hand-held cameras, grainy images and poor lighting, it feels like we are watching a documentary. The acting throughout is excellent, particularly by McSorley.

for an intense scenes of terrorist violence, disturbing images and brief strong language.

Friday, March 24, 2006


True story

In 1902 the Indian Motorcycle Company of Springfield, Mass. started up production. By the outbreak of World War One, it was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, producing over 20,000 bikes per year. At one time there were more than twenty other US competitors but the Great Depression forced many out of business and only two survived: Indian and Harley-Davidson.
Both companies supplied large numbers of motorcycles to the military during World War II, but Harley-Davidson managed to negotiate much better contracts, and Indian was left perilously cash-poor by the end of the war. To make matters worse, new management decided that the best bet was to trim the product line and develop others. To fund the engineering of the new models, management borrowed heavily. The new bikes proved to be failures because they had been hastily engineered and badly produced. The company ceased operations in the early 1950’s.

Although he never visited the area, the Bonneville Salt Flats are named in honour of Captain B.L.E. Bonneville, whose expeditions in the 1830's proved this was part of an ancient basin. During the last Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville was the size of present day Lake Michigan. Each winter, a shallow layer of standing water floods the surface. In spring, the water slowly evaporates while winds smooth the surface into a vast, nearly perfect flat plain.
Since 1914 hundreds of speed records have been set and broken in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes. Speed trials are scheduled throughout the summer and fall. The annual Speed Week is usually held in mid-August. Most events are open to the public. Located on I-80 near the Utah-Nevada border, Wendover is the closest city.

Anthony Hopkins: Burt Munro, mechanic/tinkerer living in Invercargill, New Zealand
Aaron Murphy: his neighbour’s son, Tom
Annie Whittle: Burt’s girlfriend Fran
Chris Williams: Tina, night clerk at a Los Angeles motel
Paul Rodriguez: Fernando, used car salesman
Diane Ladd: Ada, widowed owner of a junkyard
Christopher Lawford: land speed record holder Jim Moffet

Teenagers probably won’t relate all that well to an old geezer who sets about to fulfil one of his dreams (in fact, his only dream). But to the rest of us this fact based film is entertaining (even if you’re not a motorcycle race fan) although a bit too long. The acting is uniformly good, with Anthony Hopkins at his best.

for brief language, drug use and a sexual reference.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Crime drama
In Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans with English subtitles

Presley Chweneyagae: Tsotsi, the leader of small gang
Mothusi Magano: Boston, gang member, the “smart one”
Zenzo Ngqobe: Butcher, the ruthless gang member
Kenneth Nkosi: Aap, Tsotsi’s friend since childhood
Terry Pheto: Miriam a young mother of a 2 year-old

Although the story is a simple one, the way it unfolds is quite remarkable. With excellent acting throughout and great cinematography, there are moments of hilarity amidst the more serious aspects of the criminal subculture. Not always the easiest to watch, it is still worth the effort.

for language and some strong violent content (one fight scene in particular)

Tsotsi means “thug” in the slang of the Soweto ghetto on the outskirts of Johannesberg



Wetback: a Mexican who enters the U.S. illegally; from the practice of wading or swimming the Rio Grande where it forms the U.S.-Mexico border;usually offensive

Gringo: a foreigner in Latin America especially those of English or American origin; often disparaging

Barry Pepper: rookie Border Patrol agent Mike Norton
January Jones: his wife Lou Ann
Julio Cesar Cedillo: Melquiades Estrada, an illegal Mexican immigrant
Tommy Lee Jones: Pete Perkins, a West Texas rancher who gives him a job tending goats
Mel Rodriguez: Norton’s superior, Captain Gomez
Dwight Yoakam: Sheriff Belmont
Melissa Leo: Rachel, wife of Bob and the sole waitress in his diner

Since the flashbacks are not always that easy to discern, it is somewhat confusing at the beginning. But then things settle down and we’re off on a good old-fashioned story of right and wrong, loyalty and compassion. Adequate time is given to developing the main characters so we get to understand who they are and why they act the way they do. It’s all very well done despite the fact things don’t always turn out the way we figure they should.

for language, brief violence and some sexuality

Melquiades is pronounced “mill-key-ah-dez”

Thursday, March 9, 2006


Action thriller

Bruce Willis: NYPD Detective Jack Mosley
Mos Def: Eddie Bunker, a small-time crook
David Morse: Jack’s long-time partner Frank Nugent

The movie is very entertaining but a tad too long. Some crisp editing would fix that. The acting is excellent and the action pretty furious once it gets going.

for violence, intense sequences of action, and some strong language.

Jack is holed up with Eddie in a bar and gets on the walkie-talkie and says “10-13 here”. That is a request for weather and road conditions. What he should have said was “10-24” in order to get police backup.


Teen comedy

David Boreanaz: Keith Clark, a 32-year old married “hunk”
Amanda Walsh: Glory Lorraine, Keith’s “baby-sitter”
Caroline Dhavernas: her friend, Keira St-George,
Holly Lewis: another friend, Lisa MacDougall

What a piece of junk!
Perhaps some young teens might be interested but for the rest of us, best to just skip it.

for teen sexuality, nudity, language and drug content.

Monday, March 6, 2006


Concert film

Dave Chappelle: comedian and sometime-organiser
Mos Def
Talib Kweli
Dead Prez
Kanye West
Erykah Badu
Jill Scott
Cody Chesnutt
John Legend
The Roots

How much you will enjoy this film is probably best measured by how many of the cast members listed above you can recognise and/or really like. In my case, only the top two were even vaguely familiar to me since I’m not a fan of hip-hop music.

The first half-hour of seeing how this rap concert in Brooklyn was organised was of some interest. But the rest of the movie is just one act after the other of “songs” with expletive-laden lyrics all having the monotonous same beat. Bit of a bore really.

for profanity (lots and lots of it)