Sunday, April 30, 2006



Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Brendan Frye, a smart high school student not into drugs
Emilie de Ravin: his ex-girlfriend Emily
Matt O'Leary: Brenda’s friend Brian (aka The Brain)
Richard Roundtree: Assistant Vice-Principal Gary Trueman
plus others I didn’t get to see

A teenager sets out to find out who killed his ex-girlfriend. This kind of murder mystery patterned after the movie style of the ‘40’s sounds like an intriguing idea. But the mystery to me is why anyone bothered to spend money or time making it?
Who wants to listen to potty mouth dialog, rapid-fire hip-hop slang and watch frequent fights amongst the males while Brendan goes about solving the mystery. After four bloody fights I had seen enough and left.

for violent scenes and drug content

Saturday, April 29, 2006


True story
Some dialog in Arabic with English subtitles

Before September 2001, screeners, who were then hired by the airlines, often failed to detect threat objects located on passengers or in their carry on luggage. The principal causes of the screeners’ poor performance were rapid turnover and insufficient training. In fact, turnover rates exceeded 100 percent a year at most large airports because of low wages, limited payroll benefits and the repetitive, monotonous work. This left few skilled and experienced screeners.

The film uses mostly unknown actors and non-professional actors playing themselves. Very few of the passengers and crew are referred to by name and so they remain anonymous. People like Todd Beamer (who uttered the famous “let’s roll” command), Mark Bingham (who told his mother on the phone “we’re going to do something”), and the flight attendants who made calls to alert the authorities are all portrayed as just part of the group that reacted to the situation faced them. Consequently there are only a few of the cast that need be signaled out for their involvement:
Ben Sliney playing himself as FAA National Operations Manager
Maj. James Fox playing himself as commander of NEADS

Obviously this is not a film for everyone. Some will find it too painful to even contemplate going to see a film about a tragic event that has changed our lives forever.

Those who chose to see it will be rewarded with a superbly crafted movie that shows the behind-the-scenes activities that transpired that day. We get to see how things evolved from different perspectives: those aboard the plane, the personnel in the airport tower, air traffic controllers, military command headquarters and the cable “news” networks.

Every effort has gone into recreating the events that took place the morning of September 11, 2001. The feeling of “being there” is enhanced by not editing out the normal mistakes people make when under stress, like stumbling over their words or talking too rapidly to be easily understood. The use of a hand-held camera adds to the sense of realism with its blurry out-of-focus images.

For many this is a “must-see” movie.

for some language and brief violence.

The United States Government in 1958 created the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to be responsible for the safety of civil aviation. The safe and efficient use of navigable airspace is one of their primary objectives. They operate a network of airport towers and air route traffic control centres. The FAA develops air traffic rules, assigns the use of airspace, and controls air traffic.

A transponder is a wireless communications device that picks up and automatically responds to an incoming signal. The term is a contraction of the words transmitter and responder. Transponders can be either passive or active. Active transponders are employed in location, identification, and navigation systems for commercial and private aircraft. An example is a radio-frequency identification device that transmits a coded signal when it receives a request from a monitoring or control point. In military jargon this is called squawking. The transponder output signal is tracked, so the position of the transponder (the aircraft) can be constantly monitored.

In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where and how force shall be used. The US Department of Defence officially defines ROE as:
"Directives issued by competent military authority which delineate the circumstances and limitations under which United States forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered."

The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) is a bi-national United States and Canadian organisation charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace military control for all of North America.

With its headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, 1st Air Force is one of four assigned to Air Combat Command branch of NORAD. It has the responsibility on ensuring the air sovereignty and the air defence of the continental United States.

NEADS: NORAD's Northeast Air Defence Sector

It was Ben Sliney’s first day on the job which is the reason he was given a standing ovation by his fellow workers when he first enters the control room.

Thursday, April 27, 2006



Aaron Eckhart: Nick Naylor, spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies
Cameron Bright: his 12-year old son, Joey
Maria Bello: Polly Bailey, lobbyist for the alcohol industry
David Koechner: Bobby Jay Bliss, lobbyist for the firearms industry
Robert Duvall: The Captain, aging tobacco tycoon and principal financial supporter of the Academy
Sam Elliott: Lorne Lutch, the original Marlboro Man formerly featured in print advertising
Katie Holmes: Heather Holloway, reporter for The Washington Probe
William Macy: Vermont Senator Ortolan Finistirre
Rob Lowe: Jeff Megall, Hollywood executive

This is a very entertaining movie with a lot of amusing bits and a couple of laughs. The writing is first class as is the acting for the most part (Katie Holmes being the exception) and the editing are bang on. Unlike some satirical movies, this one is not too nasty but nevertheless makes the point .

for language (the f-word mostly) and some sexual content (but pretty mild stuff)

During one of their lunches, Bobby orders apple pie with a slice of cheese. It comes with a little American flag stuck in the middle of it. When Polly reaches over to take a bite, she knocks the flag off. The camera shifts to Nick briefly then back to Bobby who is sitting in front of a beautifully presented piece of apple pie with an American flag on it.

Mephistopheles is a name given to one of the chief demons of Christian mythology that figure in European literary traditions. The name is frequently used as an alternative form of Satan or the Devil.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006



Aniston: Olivia, former school teacher, now a house maid
Frances McDormand: Jane, famous dress designer
Simon McBurney: her husband Aaron
Catherine Keener: Christine, a famous screenwriter
Jason Isaacs: her husband David
Joan Cusack: fabulously wealthy Franny
Greg Germann: her husband Matt
Bob Stephenson: Marty, one of Olivia’s clients
Scott Caan: Fran’s personal trainer, Mike

Any movie that is promoted as a comedy should be funny or at the very least, makes you feel good. This one does neither.

In addition, there is nothing in the film that we’ve not seen before: three couples, all quite well off, all having marital problems. And we have to sit and watch them fight.

Only Olivia’s struggles with the men in her life offer any real interest. But for the most part, these relationships seem so contrived with too many implausible situations that you soon lose interest in the whole thing.

for language (all the women use the f-word frequently), some sexual content and brief drug use, very brief.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


True war-time story
In German with English subtitles

Not everyone in Germany supported the Nazi movement during World War II. There were many plots to assassinate Hitler with the most serious attempt undertaken by a group of German military officers in 1944.

Some people took a less overt course of action despite the very real possibility of being caught by police. Socialists, Communists, trade unionists, and others clandestinely wrote, printed, and distributed anti-Nazi literature. One of these groups was die Weiße Rose (the White Rose) which was founded in June 1942 by five students, all in their early twenties.

Although the exact origin of the name "White Rose" is unknown, it clearly stands for purity and innocence in the face of evil. In total they prepared and distributed six leaflets, in which they called for an end to Nazi crimes and tyranny through active opposition of the German people.

In January 1943, using a hand-operated duplicating machine, the group is thought to have produced between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet, Appeal to all Germans!, which was distributed by their many supporters via courier runs to cities all over Germany. The leaflet warned that Hitler was leading Germany into the abyss; with the gathering might of the Allies, defeat was now certain. The reader was urged to "Support the resistance movement" in the struggle for "Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states". These were the principles that would form "the foundations of the new Europe."

The leaflets caused a sensation, and the Gestapo initiated an intensive search for the publishers. The draft of a final leaflet was in the possession of one of group at the time of his arrest.

Julia Jentsch: Sophie Scholl, a 22-year-old college student at the University of Munich
Fabian Hinricks: her brother Hans, a 24-year-old medical student
Florian Stetter: 24-year-old co-conspirator Christoph Probst
Alexander Held: Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr
André Hennicke: Judge Roland Freisler of the Volkgerichtshof (the so-called People's Court)

Terrific acting makes you forget you’re not watching the real thing. Half the film takes place in the office of the interrogator, and you might think it a big bore, but the cross-examination in fact is riveting stuff.


Although these events took place during a period of unimaginable horror, the producers have chosen not to show anything even remotely unsettling.

Saturday, April 22, 2006



Denis Quaid: newly re-elected President of the United States, Joe Staton
Willem Dafoe: Wally Sutter, his manipulative Chief of Staff
Marcia Gay Harden: the First Lady
Hugh Grant: Martin Tweed, producer, host and judge on a popular TV show American Dreamz
Mandy Moore: Sally Kendoo, a contestant on the show
Chris Klein: her boyfriend William (Willy) Williams
Sam Golzari: Omer, an Iraqi contestant

Although it tries hard to be funny, there are but a few moments when it really is. Furthermore, some things are not funny at all (i.e.: Omer’s associates) and several other things that are said or done could well be offensive to many. Maybe that’s what satire is all about? There is a fuzzy line somewhere and I think they overstepped it.

for brief strong language and some sexual references.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006



During the 19th-century, thousands of African-Americans fled the United States and made their way to Canada where they could live as free citizens. The network of sympathetic abolitionists that assisted in their escape along secret routes and stopping off points became known as the Underground Railroad. This was the first evidence that a group of Americans thought Canada to be more "the land of the free" than the United States.

Throughout the ‘60’s many young Americans fled north to avoid military service or were simply conscientious objectors to the war in Vietnam. To handle the influx of people coming into Canada, in 1976 the Immigration Act defined refugees as a class distinct from immigrants. The act states that an immigrant has chosen to move to another country; a refugee is forced to flee to another country. Americans therefore are regarded as immigrants but because of the strict criteria to be met to attain permanent residence status, many remain in Canada as illegal immigrants.

In 2003 the courts lifted legal restrictions on marijuana and laws were introduced so same-sex marriage was legalised in Canada. Once more there was an influx of Americans heading north to avail themselves of Canada’s liberal views on gay marriage and marijuana use. That same year despite pressure from her military allies, Canada chose to abstain from direct involvement in the Iraq war. As expected, a wave of immigrants entered Canada: anti-war activists, soldiers who have gone AWOL and conscientious objectors who say they were misled by their government in the justification of the war with Iraq.

The main focus of this movie is the recognition of same-sex marriages and the advance towards the legalisation of marijuana in Canada. Comparison of the political and social differences between Canada and the United States is often raised. It makes for interesting viewing.

for drug use, some profanity

Since the film was released, the proposed legislation by the Liberal government to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana died with the dissolving of parliament in December 2005.

Monday, April 3, 2006


Action thriller

Greg Kinnear: Danny Wright, a struggling traveling salesman
Pierce Brosnan: Julian Noble, an assassin
Hope Davis: Danny’s wife, Bean
Philip Hall: Julian’s employer, Mr. Randy

The movie is done very much tongue-in-cheek and has its moments. The juxtaposition of contrasting values (good/bad, success/failure etc) adds to the fun.

for simulated sexual content and language (mostly the f-word)

When Julian and Danny go into the kitchen the clock on the wall shows it to be 5:50. When the camera position changes the clock now shows 5:30.

Although Julian and Danny attend a bullfight, the director has chosen not to include anything that would be disturbing to the squeamish.



The word "bee" has long been used to describe a busy gathering of people who come together for a special purpose, such as quilting, spinning, logging, or raising a barn. "Spelling bee" is an American term that came into use by the 1870s.

The National Spelling Bee was launched by the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal newspaper in 1925. With competitions, cash prizes, and a trip to the nation's capital, the Bee hoped to stimulate "general interest among pupils in a dull subject." The Scripps Howard News Service took it over in 1941. Since its inception, the Bee has grown from a mere 9 contestants to almost 300. Originally an all-American affair, the contest now includes entrants from New Zealand, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Canada.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is open to students under the age of 16 and in Grade 8 or under. There is no minimum age. In 2005, two nine-year-olds were among the 273 invited to Washington for the finals. Each contestant is sponsored, usually by a newspaper in their home city. Each sponsoring paper organizes a spelling bee in its community with the co-operation of local school boards. The winner from each contest gets to go to Washington for the finals.

The process to arrive at a final word list begins almost a year before the annual competition.
A three-person "word panel" puts together several word lists. A series of meetings then follows. Words that are not in the official dictionary are cut, as are words that are judged to be too difficult or too easy, or those that have too many letters or syllables. Eventually, the panel comes up with a rated list of about 950 words that will be used in the final competition. To help contestants study, the National Spelling Bee provides lists of the 23,000-odd words that have been used in previous bees, along with definitions, language of origin, and an example of their use in a sentence. This study aid is 794 pages long.

The finals are conducted over two days and feature a series of gruelling rounds that eventually turn into sudden death elimination contests. Round One requires the contestants to write out the spelling of 25 words and are given points depending on how many they get right. In Round Two, the words are chosen from the bee's official study guide, called The Paideia, as well as the 250 words that appear in two sections of the Sponsor Bee Guides. While these words are often ridiculously difficult, the contestants consider this round to be the easiest because they can study the words and memorize their spellings. In Round Three and subsequent rounds, the words are chosen from among the 470,000 or so in Webster's Third New International Dictionary. If a contestant makes a mistake at this point, there's no second chance. They must leave the stage. The rounds continue until there's only one left standing. Contestants are allowed, even encouraged, to ask questions of the person asking them to spell a certain word. Contestants can ask the questioner to say the word again, use it in a sentence, give a definition, or provide the word's language of origin (French? Latin? Greek?). Obviously "How is the word spelled?" or "Is there a 'c' in that word?" are questions that are not permitted.

Once a contestant starts to spell a word, they can go back and start from the beginning and retrace their spelling. But they cannot change letters they've already said. For example, the moment one has started to spell coiffure with a "k" instead of with a "c" no recovery is possible.

Anyone who makes it to the finals gets a prize pack that includes a commemorative watch, a T-shirt that says "Spelling Ace" a dictionary on a CD-ROM, a $100 US savings bond, and a cash prize of $50 or $75 depending on how many points they accumulated through the first two rounds. Those who make it to the third or subsequent rounds can also look forward to escalating cash prizes: $300 for being eliminated in Round Five; $600 in Round Eight.

After that, awards are handed out by final placings; third place, for instance, is worth $3,500, second is worth $6,000. The winner gets $28,000 US in cash, savings bonds and scholarships along with live coverage on cable TV networks, a brief mention on national newscasts, pictures and stories in the local paper. The winner's school gets a plaque.

Keke Palmer: Akeelah Anderson, an exceptionally bright 11-year-old girl
Sahara Garey: her best friend Georgia
Angela Bassett: Tanya, Akeelan’s single mom employed as a nurse
Curtis Armstong: Mr. Welch, principal of South L.A.'s Crenshaw Middle School
Laurence Fishburne: his friend Dr. Joshua Larabee, a former English professor
J.R. Villarreal: Javier, an experienced spelling bee competitor
Sean Michael Afable: Dylan, last year’s winner of second place
Tzi Ma: his father

This “feel-good” type of movie has lessons to be learned (or recalled) as the under-dog faces real challenges in pursuit of her dream. It’s entertaining, sometimes moving and the positive messages it sends are an added bonus. Good family fare despite the odd off-colour word.

for some language (couple of mild swear words)

Since 3” X 5” index cards are made of heavy stock, their weight is significant. 5,000 of them would weigh about 40 pounds, far too much for a 11-year-old girl to easily pick up and carry off without help.


Action adventure

Antarctica is the southernmost, coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on Earth. No one owns Antarctica and no one needs a visa to visit. Ninety-eight percent ice and 2 percent rock, it is the planet's fifth largest continent with no indigenous human population. It is home to several species of penguin, seal, and in the summer, several bird species. During the three months of summer (mid-November to mid-February) there are 20 hours of sunlight a day and temperature sometimes rises to a “balmy” –5º F.

McMurdo Station on Ross Island, founded in the 1950s, is America's largest base on the continent. It is part mining camp, part Navy base, part scientific facility. The National Science Foundation frequently funds projects of interest to the scientific community.

Paul Walker: Survival guide Jerry Shephard
Jason Biggs: his best friend, cartographer Charlie “Coop” Cooper
Moon Bloodgood: bush pilot, Katie
Bruce Greenwood: Dr. Davis “Doc” McLaren, geologist

A simple story based on real events that took place in the ‘50’s where the sled dogs outshine the humans in terms of compassion and understanding. A tad too long at two hours and sometimes repetitive, it is still nice to see how people cope in one of the most brutal environments in the world. The acting is low key and for the most part quite believable.

for some peril and brief mild language.

When Jerry approaches the chief Naval officer he addresses him as Commander. In the Navy, the rank of Commander is indicated by three stripes on the epaulet, not four.

The Aurora Australis (Antarctica’s equivalent to the Northern Lights) occurs in the upper atmosphere. These displays of light are not bright enough to cause reflections on earth some 60 to 70 miles below.

Jerry takes a cab to Dr. McLaren’s home. The telephone area code in Pasadena is 626 not 370 as shown on the taxi’s rooftop ad carrier.

Although the dogs are a joy to watch, the movie is not one for young children since some dogs die and others get hurt. Also, there is one “heart-stopping scene” when the dogs approach the frozen corpse of a a killer whale.

Saturday, April 1, 2006


IMAX documentary

The Tour de France has been called the world’s most physically punishing sports event. The riders are all exceptional athletes who have honed the skills required to survive the 3,000-km race, and maybe even win it. As such, they are good examples of how the human brain can “learn” a new activity until it becomes second nature. In other words, our brain becomes “hard wired” over the course of time.

Jimmy Casper and Baden Cooke, two riders for the FDJeux team, illustrate how the brain deals with pain. Although we are presented with lots of “dry” scientific facts and figures, the film also captures the majestic mountains of the alpine route. In particular the spectacular soaring shots from the helicopter of the riders are much better than anything seen on television.



Animated cartoon

Chris Wedge: Scrat, the sabre-toothed squirrel
Ray Romano: Manny, the male woolly mammoth
Denis Leary: Diego, the saber-toothed tiger
John Leguizamo: Sid the Sloth
Jay Leno: Fast Tony, the con artist armadillo
Will Arnett: Lone Gunslinger, the vulture
Queen Latifah: Ellie, the female woolly mammoth
Seann Scott and Josh Peck: the possums Crash and Eddie

Following the original “Ice Age” which came out in 2002, this sequel has all the right elements: a logical extension of the story line, the return of the principal characters, the same look and feel as the original.
For the most part, the fun comes from the antics of Sid and the two possums. Except when Scat appears; like in the original, he steals the show in his never-ending quest to capture an elusive acorn. There should be more of him.
The humour is straightforward with very little “over the head of kids” geared solely for the adults in the audience.

for some mild language and innuendo.