Sunday, January 21, 2007



Renée Zellweger: Beatrix Potter, author of children’s tales
Barbara Flynn: her mother
Bill Paterson: her father Rupert
Ewan McGregor: her editor Norman Warne
Emily Watson: Norman’s sister Millie

Great acting by people who seem to fit their roles perfectly, this is a well-written story about a strong-willed woman who has to overcome more than a few difficulties. Along the way there are plenty of humorous moments and some really gorgeous shots of the Lake District in England. The pacing is excellent and unlike most movies lately, it is not too long.

for brief mild language.

Saturday, January 20, 2007



Peter O'Toole: Maurice, 70-something-year old semi-retired actor
Leslie Phillips: his long-time friend Ian
Richard Griffiths: Donald, their buddy
Jodie Whittaker: Ian's grandniece Jessie, a 19-year old would-be model
Vanessa Redgrave: Maurice’s ex-wife Valerie

The 50-year gap in ages is not what makes this tale about two people so unusual. Rather it is the way in which they go about forging any kind of relationship at all. There are tender moments along with a couple of “off colour” remarks and moves. Overall it is charming and frequently funny.

for language, some sexual content and brief nudity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


= zero stars

Drama based on a true story

Bruce Willis: Sonny Truelove
Emile Hirsch: his son Johnny, a teenage drug lord
Justin Timberlake: Frankie, one of Johnny’s gang
Shawn Hatosy: Elvis, Johnny’s gofer
Ben Foster: Jake Mazursky, a neo-Nazi skinhead
David Thornton: his 15 year-old brother Butch
Anton Yelchin: their father Zack
Sharon Stone: their step-mother Olivia

The acting is terrible, the dialogue is infantile and replete with the f-word, the sex is rampant and the violence is graphic. The group’s attitude towards women as merely sex objects is reprehensible. And the tough guy (Johnny) looks like a 10-year old choirboy and completely unbelievable as a ruthless drug dealer who is supposed to inspire fear and dread. What a laugh.

But that alone was not the reason I walked out: I simply do not want to be in any way associated with people like that.

for really strong language, nudity, drug use, extreme violence.

Alpha: First letter of the Greek alphabet often used to describe the highest ranked or most dominant individual of the group particularly the ranking of social animals (chimpanzees, lions, wolves etc). Example, “the alpha male of the wolf pack.”

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Science fiction

Clive Owen: Theodore (Theo) Faron, a government clerk
Julianne Moore: his former girlfriend, Julian Taylor, leader of the militant group Fishes
Claire-Hope Ashitey: 18-year-old Kee, an illegal immigrant
Michael Caine: aging hippie Jasper Palmer
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Luke, unruly member of the group Fishes
Peter Mullan: Sid, a wise-cracking corrupt security guard

This is one heckuva movie with some rather innovative techniques (extremely long 2-minute tracking shots, a hand-held sequence with a long pause in it) that only serve to emphasise how depressing the whole thing really is. Since it is set in the near future (some 20 years from now), it is within the realm of possibility. And it is not a pretty place. You will not the leave the theatre unmoved and it won’t be a cheerful exit.

for strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity.

After being ambushed in the woods, the car’s windshield has a bullet hole in it and one of the side windows is completely shattered. Minutes later when they arrive at their destination, both windows are intact with no sign of any damage.



Judi Dench: Barbara Covett, a history teacher in a London public high school
Cate Blanchett: Sheba Hart, the new art teacher
Andrew Simpson: one of her students, 15-year old Steven Connolly
Bill Nighy (pronounced "Nigh", rhymes with "high"): Barbara’s husband Richard

It’s worthwhile going to the movie just to see two great actresses at their best.
Add to that a terrific story and great acting from several male actors and you got yourself a very entertaining movie.

for language and some sexual content.

While talking with one of the male teachers, Barbara lights a cigarette that goes out yet when the camera shifts to her colleague the smoke from the cigarette is much in evidence.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Based on a true story

Hilary Swank: Erin Gruwell, freshman English teacher at Wilson High (aka Ms. G)
Imelda Staunton: her Department Head Margaret Campbell
Patrick Dempsey: Erin’s husband Scott
Scott Glenn: her father Steve, a successful attorney
April Lee Hernandez: Eva, one of Erin’s outspoken students
Mario: another student André
Deance Wyatt: Jamal, the class-clown

Perhaps because it’s based on a true story and some great acting by Swank as the teacher, the movie has an authentic look and feel about it. There are a couple of really touching moments as well as a few humorous situations.

for violent content, some thematic material and language.

When Erin and a colleague, the “honors” course instructor are having a discussion, the amount of orange drink remaining in the bottle changes depending upon whose perspective it is viewed from.

Since graduation some of the students have created a website at

Friday, January 5, 2007



The A-level (short for Advanced Level) is a General Certificate of Education qualification in the United Kingdom taken by students in the final two years of secondary education. While A-levels are a qualification in their own right, they are often the prerequisite for university-level study as well, making them a de facto university entrance examination.

Both Oxford and Cambridge are universities deemed essential to propelling someone into the ranks of the elite upon graduation. Both require applicants to take their entrance examinations and be interviewed by a panel. The fictitious Oxbrige College the boys hope to go to apparently has the same entrance requirements.

Definition: a small fragment or extract.
Example: he provided only a gobbet of information.

The Carry On films were a long-running series of twenty-nine low-budget comedy films made between 1958 and 1978. An energetic mix of parody, farce and double entendres, they are seen as classic examples of British humour.

Richard Griffiths: Hector, teacher of General Studies at Cutler Grammar School
Dominic Cooper: Dakin, the self-styled class leader
Samuel Barnett: Posner, the “runt” of the group
Frances de la Tour: one of Hector’s colleagues Dorothy Lintott
Clive Merrison: the Headmaster
Stephen Campbell Moore: Irwin, an unorthodox History teacher

Given that 90% of the movie takes place within a classroom of just eight gifted students, it is not surprising that the dialog is replete with esoteric intellectual references. One can get bogged down if taken up too much with these musings and could conclude that the movie is a bore (as one chap did during the filming I attended and he actually fell asleep; his snoring was something of a distraction…but I digress).

Much of the dialog comes across as a stage play (which it was originally) so there are a lot of words, some of which are rather clever but a lot are unnecessary for the development of the story. Some of the performances are rather formal but not all; Hector is much more believable than some of the others.

for language and sexual content.

While returning home on his motorbike, Hector passes by a house with a satellite dish mounted on it. These had not yet been invented in 1983 when the movie takes place.

There is one scene entirely in French with the students acting out roles in a French brothel using only the present subjunctive tense. You don’t have to understand what is being said to see the humour in it, especially what services are offered when you pay just “20 francs”.


Sports drama

Each year on the anniversary of Adrian's death, Rocky takes her brother Paulie on a tour of the old haunts: the pet shop where his departed wife worked; their old apartment; the site of the ice rink where they had their first date.

Sylvester Stallone: Rocky Balboa, restaurateur, retired boxing professional
Burt Young: Rocky’s brother-in-law Paulie
Geraldine Hughes: bartender Marie
James Francis Kelly: her son Stephenson (aka Steps)
Milo Ventimiglia: Rocky’s son Robert (aka Rocky Junior)
Antonio Tarver: Mason Dixon, the current heavyweight boxing champion
Tony Burton: Rocky's trainer Tony "Duke" Evers

There is a message for all of us in this one: life sometimes hands you a raw deal and you have to rise to the challenge and overcome these obstacles. Seen from this perspective, the movie is less of a boxing match than it is of someone trying his best against some rather tough odds.

Although it tends to get overly dramatic at times, for the most part it has its heart-warming moments and a few chuckles, largely at the expense of Rocky’s less than intellectual views of the world.

for boxing violence and some language.

1. Boxers usually wear protective headgear when training with a sparring partner.
2. Combatants are required to wear a mouthguard during competition but neither fighter does.
3. Unlike Championship bouts that go 10 rounds, Exhibition matches are 6 rounds at most.

The so-called Rocky Steps are the front steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art which are well known for the role they played in a famous scene in the first film of the series released in 1976 entitled Rocky and in all but one of the five sequels. As the end credits roll, real-life footage of visitors to the museum are seen mimicking Rocky's famous run up the front steps at the end of his training run. The steps represent the ability of an underdog to rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007



Edward Burtynsky, born 1955, is a Canadian photographer and artist who obtained a B.A. in photographic arts, and later a diploma in graphic arts. His work appears in museums, corporate collections, and books. Burynsky's most famous photographs are sweeping views of scarred or altered landscapes: mine tailings, quarries, scrap piles, rail cuts. He is considered by some as one of the most esteemed environmental photographers in the world.

Not unlike a PBS NOVA Special (not surprising since some of the funding came from TVOntario), the movie combines striking images with well considered voice-over that for the most part remains quite neutral. It is left to the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions.

Some of the photos are beautiful, but others are not. At times the movie drags on a bit; sometimes it moves on too quickly.

One major criticism: the background soundtrack is often very annoying, be it a repetitive noise or simply industrial racket. It would have been better had these been edited out.


Monday, January 1, 2007



Cholera is a water-borne disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which is typically ingested by drinking contaminated water or by eating improperly cooked fish, especially shellfish. About one million bacteria must be ingested to cause cholera in normally healthy adults, although increased susceptibility may be observed in those with a weakened immune system, individuals with decreased gastric acidity, or those who are malnourished. The death rate is generally high due to the serious dehydration caused by the illness.

Naomi Watts: Kitty Garstin, a London socialite
Edward Norton: Dr. Walter Fane, a respected British bacteriologist
Liev Schreiber: British diplomat Charlie Townsend
Toby Jones: Deputy Commissioner Waddington
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang: Chinese nationalist commander Colonel Yu
Diana Rigg: Mother Superior

W. Somerset Maugham's epic love story has been beautifully adapted to film with great attention to making it look and feel authentic. The acting is top notch, done with feeling that mirrors life resulting in real, believable characters. The story is well-paced allowing time for character development and provides more than a few opportunities to linger on many beautiful images, not only of the countryside but also of the actors themselves. Some of the shots are nothing less than spectacular.

for some mature sexual situations, partial nudity, a few disturbing images and brief drug content.

I have no idea how the film title ties in with the movie.