Sunday, April 29, 2007



Roy Dupuis: Detective Conk Adams
Jane McGregor: young archaeologist Catherine Nyland
Gordon Tootoosis: Aboriginal elder Harold and healer

Although ostensibly a murder mystery, it soon becomes bogged down (pun intended) in the healing rituals of Native American bog lands, a subject of disinterest to many and therefore a bit of a bore.

The title gives some hint at what is to come: finding that place where things are better. Well the movie itself would have been better had they not cast such a young attractive woman to be the “tough experienced forensic anthropologist” and “highly regarded university professor”. That’s a lot for a twenty-something to carry and frankly it just does not ring true. She looks totally out of place in this role. And her situation is not helped by having to deliver corny lines like, “I need to know what all this means”. So do we.

for General Audiences.

The end credits always show the catering firm employed for that purpose during the actual filming. This particular production, filmed in remote North Bay Ontario, had to rely on the local Tim Hortons coffee shop for food. I kid you not.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Crime thriller, courtroom drama

Anthony Hopkins: Ted Crawford, wealthy owner of a giant aeronautics company
Embeth Davidtz: his wife Jennifer
Billy Burke: L.A.P.D. hostage negotiator Lt. Rob Nunally
Ryan Gosling: Assistant District Attorney Willy Beachum
David Strathairn: his boss, the D.A. of Los Angeles County, Joe Lobruto
Rosamund Pike: Nikki Gardner, senior corporate Lawyer

Right from the opening golden close up of someone playing with a Rube Goldberg-like device, the cinematography sets the tone and feel of the film. The cinematographer, the person who is in charge of making lighting and camera choices, generally is given little credit for his contribution. Personally I think it should be among the top three or four, not relegated to the bottom of the pack.

Anyway in keeping with the classy look of the movie, the acting is first-rate (Hopkins in particular) and the intelligent story line will keep your interest. The dialog comes across as real and has a lot of clever bits, some of which are rather amusing. All told, a very entertaining film.

for language and some violent content.

Willy is told “a meeting has been arranged for 3:00pm, 15 minutes from now.” At that moment his cell phone rings. The close-up of his watch shows the current time to be 12:02 not 2:45 pm.

When the D.A. comes to visit Beachum at his house, he leaves his car on the street facing up hill. While talking, his car must have done a 180° by itself because when he walks towards his car to drive off it is now conveniently pointing downhill.

Possibly the title comes from the fact Ted Crawford is a specialist in fracture mechanics, the engineering science that studies structural flaws in airplane designs? Perhaps not.

Reuben Garret L. Goldberg (1883-1970), better known as Rube Goldberg, earned lasting fame for his complicated and convoluted devices that perform simple tasks using extremely complex roundabout means. The Official Website of Rube Goldberg employs just such a contrivance for its intro.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007



Simon Pegg: Police Constable Nicholas Angel
Nick Frost: P.C. Danny Butterman
Jim Broadbent: Inspector Frank Butterman
Timothy Dalton: Simon Skinner, supermarket manager

Spoofs of cops-and-robbers movies generally rely upon exaggeration and this one has that component in all of the action sequences. However an unusual combination of British-style of movie making and that of Hollywood sets this one apart from the others.

The “Brits” are particularly good at doing murder mystery movies and of course their style of humour is well known and much appreciated by many. Combine that with the “buddy-type” movie and spectacular action sequences Hollywood does so well and you got one dandy movie.

Just about every known humorous device has been included: sight gags, clever one-liners, outrageous double-entendres, sarcasm galore, deadpan dry wit, charming eccentrics. In itself, the humour is very entertaining although there are some misses. And you get to solve a murder mystery as well.

But there is one note of caution: like a lot of other things in the movie that are being satirised, so too is the “gore factor” and no attempt has been made to keep it to reasonable levels. The squeamish will find several scenes quite repulsive.

One criticism though: it goes on a little too long with a running time of just over two hours.

for violent content including some graphic images (really graphic, gory images), and language.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Drama, comedy

Jean-Baptiste Pouquelin (1622-73) was a French dramatist, theatre manager and actor. He is considered as one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature (despite his own preference for tragedy) and perhaps the best known playwright in French history.

His comedies have been performed from his day to ours not only in France, but also around the world. The company he toured with was known as the King's Troupe (for the Sun King, Louis XIV), and later became the most prestigious theatre company in all of France, the Comédie Française. More than likely he used a stage name to spare his father the shame of having an actor in the family.

Romain Duris: Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (better known by his stage name Molière)
Fabrice Lucini: Monsieur Jourdain, a wealthy "bourgeois"
Laura Morant: his wife Elmire
Edouard Baer: Dorante, long time friend of M. Jourdain
Ludivine Sagnier: Célimène, a beautiful, bright, young widow

The film begins with a play being staged before a boisterous audience and your first thought might be “Oh my heavens, what have I got myself into?” But stick around because it soon moves on from the theatre setting and the real movie begins.

Although it is not promoted as an autobiography, the combined efforts of historians have unearthed no trace of Molière between the time of the Theatre Troupe bankruptcy and his reappearance later when he formed a new group and began touring the provinces. So perhaps the movie recounts what really happened in the intervening months?

In any event, it is so refreshing to see a movie that relies on intellectual humour rather than the “in your face” variety that is so prevalent. This is a lavish production with the costumes and acting of the highest order amid sumptuous settings. Although it is two hours long, very little could be edited out and the time passes quickly.

One more thing that sets this film apart: the audience started applauding when the end credits began to roll. That in itself is quite an endorsement.

for General Audiences

Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Bruce Greenwood: Captain Connor Fahey
Josh Hutcherson: his 12-year old son Shane
Steven Culp: Zach Hayden, former firefighter turned politician
Claudette Mink: Captain Presley

Although most people would seriously consider walking out at the beginning, hang in 10 minutes or so until the real movie begins. Despite the fact it lacks in originality and therefore somewhat predictable, it is still a pleasant outing.

There is some good acting by the principals and lots of action to keep our attention. All the requisite rude, offensive body noises are much in evidence for the younger target audience.

for sequences of action peril, some mild crude humor and language.

Partly filmed in Toronto, Canada with the Fairmount Royal York Hotel the site of the awards ceremony (with Union Train Station in the background) while Casa Loma Garden Terrace was the setting for the reception party.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Original title: Italianetz
In Russian with English subtitles

With the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) in December 1991, that part of the union known as Russian is now the Russian Federation. Many socio-economic problems have yet to be resolved including the hoards of children abandoned by parents who have no means of supporting them much less able to feed themselves.

According to Russia's Health Ministry there are some 700,000 children and teenagers living in state-run orphanages. Only 15,000 or so graduate from these institutions every year.

Couples wishing to adopt a child through the state-run adoption agency must complete a home study course, get criminal clearance and provide medical reports along with other forms. There are some age restrictions imposed on the potential adopting couples: they must be older than 25, if they are over 40 years old they can only have a child 2 years and older, if they are over 50 they cannot adopt at all. Not surprising there is an underground illegal adoption process to by-pass all this.

Maria Kuznetsova: Madam, an “adoption arranger”
Nikolai Reutov: Grisha, her right-hand man
Yuri Itskov: Director of an orphanage
Kolya Spiridonov: 6-year-old Vanya Sonetsiv
Denis Moiseenko: Kolyan, leader of some older residents
Olga Shuvalova: Irka, one of the gang

Rather than being a condemnation of the Russian orphanage system, this is really a story about people coping with it. The drab landscape and run down buildings of Russian back in 2002 mirrors to some extent the lives of these orphans. It is not an inviting place at all.

Although centred on one person’s dilemma, we get to see some of the real Russian, not the stuff of glossy pamphlets. Touching at times, it is not in any sense a “weepy” movie but one of thoughtful reflection.

for some sexual content, mild language and some drug references.

It comes up so quickly right at the end that it is difficult to discern that the letter being read is from Vanya’s friend who is now living in Italy.

Saturday, April 14, 2007



Lukas Haas: Will Morrison
R.H. Thomson: Dr. Arthur Bloom, his best friend’s father
Wendy Crewson: his wife Mary
Adam Scott: Daniel Bloom, Will’s childhood buddy
Molly Parker: Maggie Claire, their friend

Getting together at the summer cottage can provide an opportunity to catch up with old friends. With a leisurely pace, we get to see what they’ve been up to the past few years.

There is some fine acting and the scenery is stunning.

Warning: some people might be shocked at the frank use of some sexual terms and/or the brief porno scenes on the television.

for mature themes, sexual situations, vulgarity and language.

With his hands clasped together at the dinner table while talking about his recent travels, Will doesn’t touch his unfinished meal. But his fork moves from pointing straight at us or off to one side.

Maggie sits down to have a drink out of a nice decanter. Viewed from the side the liquid level is up to mid-shoulder of the bottle whereas seen from the front it is one-third empty and she hasn’t touched it yet.

During dinner Danny is eating directly from the salad bowl on his right-hand side. The camera shifts momentarily to get Will’s reaction then right back to Danny. The salad bowl is now no where to be seen.

Maggie puts her bag in the boat, which is pointed towards the back of the boathouse. She says goodbye to Danny and we hear the motor start. The viewpoint changes and we see that the boat has done a 180 by itself as she drives straight out.

The title apparently comes from a song by that name which we never get to hear. Strange.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Original title: Romanzo Criminale
In rapid fire Italian with English subtitles

Pierfrancesco Favino: Lebanese, the leader of the group
Kim Rossi Stuart: Freddo, aka Ice
Claudio Santamaria: Dandi

If you got 2½ hours to spare and want to see a litany of criminal activities including terrorism, kidnapping, corruption, drugs, prostitution, murder and hit-jobs all executed with heavy-handed tactics holding back none of the gruesome details then this is the movie for you.

It’s not for me and so I walked out.

for disturbing images, violence, nudity, language and some drug references.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Action, political thriller

Mark Wahlberg: Bob Lee Swagger, ex-United States Marine Corps sharpshooter
Danny Glover: C.I.A. agent, retired Colonel Isaac Johnson
Michael Peña: rookie F.B.I. agent Nick Memphis
Alan C. Peterson: police Officer Stanley Timmons
Kate Mara: Sarah Fenn, widow of Swagger’s ex-Marine partner
Ned Beatty: U.S. Senator Charles F. Meachum

Certainly not the worst of its kind, once it gets going this non-stop action thriller is entertaining enough. Of course an essential requirement for viewing any movie like this is a suspension of disbelief and a willingness to forgive plot contrivances.

It would have been better had they cut out some of the action sequences to keep it under two hours. This is a problem common to these kinds of movies: if one explosion is good, four is better. Well, not for everyone.

for strong graphic violence and some language.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007



Louis Durand: Greg, supposedly a funny guy
Thomas Michael: his buddy,Gentillon, the other half of the act
Paolo Mancini: their stay-at-home agent Paule-Émile

Any movie promoted solely as a comedy should provide some measure of amusement otherwise it is a rip-off. After 45 minutes without anything to even smile at I realised I had been took and walked out.

But not before three others who preceded me. The movie played on with only one person still hanging in.

At the risk of giving away too much of the story, the best joke I heard was when one of them describing the name of their comedy stand-up act to a prospective agent as “G2, two G’s, Greg and Gentillon…get it?”
I could hardly contain myself.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Drama, thriller

Sandra Bullock: Linda Hanson, homemaker
Julian McMahon: her husband Jim
Kate Nelligan: her mother Joanne
Nia Long: her best friend Annie

I don’t think they should shoot a movie based on the first draft of the screenplay. Especially when the main premise is about time-shift. There has to be some logic to it so we, the viewers, at least have a chance of figuring it all out by ourselves.

Had they done a rewrite, the movie would have been less convoluted and without so many loose ends. As it stands, it’s a mess and you walk out with that unsettling feeling of “wot happened?”

for some violent content, disturbing images, thematic material and brief language.

When Linda is speaking with the priest his left arm is either draped over the back of the pew or bent in front of him depending upon which point of view is on screen.

Product placement is so blatant: every shot of Linda in her SUV lingers on the Ford crest on the grill and when she goes to her husband’s office I swear every car in the parking lot is a Ford SUV, all nicely lined up facing us so we can see the crest. If you will excuse the pun all I can say is how pedestrian.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Drama, true story

Howard Hughes was born in 1905. His father made his fortune by designing a special drill bit that enabled speculators to reach the large pockets of oil lying beneath hard rock. The Hughes Tool Company held the patent for the new drill bit and leased them to oil drillers.

When Hughes Jr. was just 18-years old, his father passed away. He received 75% of his father's million-dollar estate; the other 25% went to relatives. Hughes soon disagreed with his relatives over the running of the company. But being only 18-years old, he could not do anything about it because he was not considered legally an adult. Frustrated but determined, Hughes went to court and got a judge to grant him legal adulthood status even though he was not yet 21. He then bought out his relatives' shares of the company. Consequently, even though still a teenager, Hughes became full owner of The Hughes Tool Company.

He went on to become a pioneering aviator, engineer, playboy and film producer. Unfortunately during this time he contracted syphilis and much of the strange behaviour at the end of his life — his well-documented aversion to handshaking, for example — has been attributed to the tertiary stage of that disease. He became very much a recluse during the last ten years of his life. He died in 1976, aboard an airplane, while travelling from Acapulco, Mexico to Houston, Texas.

The term “Watergate scandal” refers to a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in the Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C. by members of Richard Nixon’s administration. The cover up lasted two years but the court ordered release in August 1974 of the so-called “smoking gun” tape brought with it the prospect of certain impeachment. Nixon resigned four days later making him the only U.S. President to have resigned from office.

Richard Gere: Clifford Irving, author of several novels and one biography
Marcia Gay Harden: his wife Edith, a Swiss/German artist
Alfred Molina: Clifford’s partner Dick Suskind
Hope Davis: Andrea Tate, Editor with McGraw-Hill Publishers
Stanley Tucci: Shelton Fisher, President of McGraw-Hill

A successful hoax can only thrive on the gullibility of others. And when that gullibility is laced with greed the outcome is often quite spectacular.

A great story that keeps pretty much to the facts combined with excellent acting and crisp editing make this a very entertaining movie. Some would say it’s great just because Richare Gere is in it. That too.

rating just for language: maybe the Rating Board was looking the other way when Nina shows up?

Friday, April 6, 2007


Original title: Le Porteur d'Eau
In French and Bahasa with English subtitles

Indonesia is a nation of about 17,000 islands in South East Asia. It’s capital is Jakarta and by sea neighbours Singapore, The Philippines and Australia. With a population of over 200 million, it is the world’s fourth most populous country and the one with the most populist Muslim-majority.
Indonesia is a republic having a presidential system with power concentrated in the national government. The President is head of state, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and responsible for domestic governance, policy-making and foreign affairs.
Until he was forced to resign from the presidency in May 1998 the country was run as a corrupt dictatorship by Suharto (like most Indonesians, he only has one name) and in 2004, for the first time ever, the people directly voted for the President. Things have much improved for the populace since then.

Gilles Raymond, was active in regional politics when living in Quebec. After spending some time in the Caribbean he eventually wound up on Flores Island in Indonesia. Shocked to learn that many poor villagers had to spend upwards of four hours daily fetching water, he took it upon himself to be the bearer of water with the help of the resident population.

This short documentary (only 50 minutes long) follows him as he organises several communities to bring in potable running water to their village. However his on-screen comments are more about himself than about his project.

for General Audiences

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Historical drama, true story

Triangular trade is a historical term denoting trade between three ports or regions. They have tended to evolve where a region had an export commodity that was not required in the same region where its major imports entered the country. Typically from a British port supplies such as copper, cloth, guns and ammunition would be shipped to a port in Africa and sold in exchange for slaves. For the second leg of the triangle the ship would then make the ten-week journey to the New World and the slaves, having to endure horrific conditions while tightly packed like any other cargo, were sold for a good profit. The ships were then purposely sunk to get them thoroughly clean, refloated, drained of water then loaded for a return voyage to their home port. From the West Indies the main cargo was sugar, rum, and molasses; from Virginia, it was tobacco and hemp. The ship then returned to Britain to complete the triangle.

Thomas Clarkson (1760 –1846) in 1785 while at Cambridge entered an essay competition on the question “Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?” He read everything he could on the subject and was appalled by what he discovered. He became a leading campaigner against England’s involvement in the slave trade. The movement had been gathering strength for some years, having been founded by Quakers who submitted the first petition against the slave trade to the British Parliament in 1783.

John Newton (1725 –1807) at one time had been a master of a slave trading ship. Returning to England in 1748, the ship encountered a severe Atlantic storm. As the vessel filled with water he prayed for God’s mercy. That marked the beginning of his conversion to Christianity. He later went on to become the leading Anglican clergyman of the day and Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth church. He is best known as the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.

William Wilberforce (1759 –1833) in 1787 was introduced to Thomas Clarkson and the growing group campaigning against the slave trade. As a Member of Parliament, he was persuaded to become leader of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

William Pitt (1759 –1806) served as British Prime Minister from 1783 to 1801 under the reign of George III. During his prime ministerial tenure the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars dominated the world scene.

Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 –1797) at the age of eleven was sold to white slave traders and taken to the New World. He was bought by a British naval captain and was afforded naval training. His master sent him to school to learn how to read and write. He was then sold to a Quaker merchant in Philadelphia. With his literacy and seamanship skills, he was too valuable for plantation labour so was set to work in the merchant’s office. In his early twenties, Equiano succeeded in buying his freedom for £40.

appeasement is a policy of accepting the imposed conditions of an aggressor in lieu of armed resistance, usually at the sacrifice of principles.

Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced YO-an GRIFF-ith): William Wilberforce (Wilber to his friends)
Romola Garai: his future wife Barbara Spooner

Benedict Cumberbatch: William Pitt, Wilberforce’s friend
Rufus Sewell: Thomas Clarkson
Albert Finney: John Newton

This biographical recounting of the legislative battle to abolish the slave trade in Britain makes for fascinating viewing if you are into that kind of thing. With first-class production values throughout (Cinematography, Production Design, Set Decoration, Costume Design) it looks and feels real (even to the point it’s raining in 75% of the exterior shots).

The acting is uniformly excellent although with so many people on the screen at one time during the debates sometimes that’s not easy to discern.

for thematic material involving slavery and some mild language.

The title refers to the well-known Christian hymn Amazing Grace. It was written c. 1772 by John Newton. As with other hymns of this period, the words were sung to a number of different tunes before it became linked to the current one when it appeared in American hymnbooks in the 1830’s. The melody is believed to be Scottish or Irish in origin; it is frequently performed on bagpipes and has become associated with that instrument.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007



Adam Sandler: Charlie Fineman
Don Cheadle: Dr. Alan Johnson, a successful cosmetic dentist in New York City
Jada Pinkett Smith: his wife Janeane
Liv Tyler: Alan’s psychiatrist friend, Dr. Angela Oakhurst
Saffron Burrows: Donna, one of Alan's patients
Paula Newsome: Melanie, receptionist at the dental clinic
Donald Sutherland: Judge Raines

This is a mixed bag; it’s good, but could have been better.

The acting is first-rate, the story is one of some interest and it touches you emotionally.

But it is too long (no need to see Charlie playing the same video game time and time again for example) and requires some serious suspension of belief (the whole Donna-thing).

for language and some sexual references.

Alan meets Charlie in a bar and orders a beer that naturally comes full. He speaks with Charlie for a minute or so then turns to take his first swig. Trouble is, the level of beer now is down below the neck of the bottle…must’ve been the bartender that done it!

I held off going to see the movie when I saw that Adam Sandler was in it: he’s on my “no-see” list because I no longer am interested in seeing any more of his infantile, silly, child-like performances as a comedian. But this time he plays a more serious role and does a fine job. I have had to re-evaluate my assessment of him.

The movie title comes from the song title seen on the display of Charlie’s iPod called “Love, Reign O’er Me”.

Not only does he write and direct it, Mike Binder plays the part of Charlie’s financial advisor. Now that’s really getting into it.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Drama, thriller

Joseph Gordon-Levitt : Chris Pratt, former star high school hockey player
Jeff Daniels: his blind roommate Lewis, a telemarketer
Matthew Goode: Gary, an old high school acquaintance
Isla Fisher: a younger high school acquaintance, Luvlee Lemons
Sergio Di Zio: Chris’ friend, Deputy Ted, the small town cop

As thrillers go, this is a dandy. For fear of giving away anything, I’ll say little except there are some really good performances coupled with an unhurried story development. This is riveting stuff.

for language, some violence and sexual content.

After dropping off some donuts, Deputy Ted spends a few minutes chatting with Chris. At one point he turns and looks over his shoulder. The reflection of the cameraman can be seen in the window directly behind him.