Saturday, September 29, 2007


Murder mystery

Tommy Lee Jones: Hank Deerfield, retired military police officer
Susan Sarandon: his wife Joan
Jason Patric: Lt. Kirklander, officer at Fort Rudd army camp
Jonathan Tucker: Mike Deerfield, veteran of the Iraq war
Wes Chatham: one of his platoon buddies Corporal Steve Penning
Jake McLaughlin: Specialist Gordon Bonner
Mehcad Brooks: Specialist Ennis Long
Charlize Theron: police detective Emily Sanders

What sets this movie apart from some of the others is the terrific acting by the three principals (Jones, Sarandon and Theron) coupled with a well-developed story that provide clues on a piecemeal basis.

Although there is one subplot involving a woman who’s dog got hurt, for the most part things stay focused on the main task at hand, finding out who done it. And that they do in a most satisfactory manner.

for violent and disturbing content, language, some sexuality and nudity.

According to the National Flag Code, chapter 10, section §176 governing the display of the United States Flag:
“it should never be displayed upside down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

Friday, September 28, 2007



Venetian merchants traded extensively in silk and encouraged silk growers to settle in Italy. By the 13th century, Italian silk was a significant source of trade. Italian silk was so popular in Europe that Francis I of France invited Italian silk makers to create a French silk industry, especially in Lyon. In the late 19th century China, Japan, and Italy were the major producers of silk.

Michael Pitt: Hervé Joncour, young military man
Kenneth Welsh: his father, the mayor of Lavilledieu
Alfred Molina: local businessman Baldabiou
Keira Knightley: schoolmistress Hélène
Koji Yashuko: the village leader

This movie is not a complete write-off but almost.

First the good things about it.
1. Stunning cinematography (consistent with the high production values)

The not-so-good things about it:
1. Way too long (almost 2 hours)
2. Ponderously slow (takes forever for anything to happen)
3. Thin story line
4. Unbelievable story line
5. Amateurish acting (by the lead actor)
6. Repetitive scenes (same long trip shown three times)
7. Repetitive piano score
8. Unnecessary clutter that goes nowhere (the Dutch guns trader etc)

for sexuality and nudity.

The same painted background scene of the mountains is used more than once. Most set directors go to great length to make sure the illusion of reality is not compromised in this manner.



Richard Gere: Simon Hunt, TV correspondent
Terrence Howard: his cameraman Duck
Jesse Eisenberg: Benjamin, recent Harvard school graduate

The role taken on by Gere calls for a wide range of thespian skills, some of which he handles well (the flippant attitude, his hard-drinking, tough talking manner) but the more heartfelt emotional scenes come across as fake.

Speaking of fake: supposedly based on a true story, the whole premise is shaky and brings into question how seriously one should take this film?

Answer: Not very.

for strong language and some violent content.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007



Gulag (an acronym for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i kolonii) was the government body responsible for administering prison camps across the former Soviet Union. These camps are primarily known as a place for detaining political prisoners and as a mechanism for repressing political opposition to the state. But they also housed criminals of all types. During Stalin’s dictatorship a new system arose, the vory v zakone which is roughly translated as the "thieves in law". The members adopted a code of "complete submission to the laws of criminal life, including obligations to support the criminal ideal, and rejection of labour and political activities."

In order to be accepted prospective members must demonstrate considerable leadership skills, personal ability, intellect and charisma. Once accepted they are given the title vory and must live according to the code. The penalty for violation of this code is mutilation or death. Acceptance into the group was often marked by extensive tattooing. The tattooing would often be indicative of rank within the society and/or noteworthy criminal accomplishments.

Under the code of the vory, each member must...
 Never, under any circumstances, work or live only on means gleaned from thievery.
 Keep secret information about the whereabouts of accomplices (i.e. dens, districts, hideouts, safe apartments, etc.).
 In unavoidable situations (if a thief is under investigation) to take the blame for someone else's crime; this buys the other person time of freedom.
 Have good command of the thieves' jargon ("Fenya").
 Not gamble without being able to cover losses.
 Teach the trade to young beginners.
 Not lose your reasoning ability when using alcohol.
 Have nothing to do with the authorities, not participate in public activities, nor join any community organisations.
 Not take weapons from the hands of authorities; not serve in the military.
 Make good on promises given to other thieves.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 the vory assumed a leading role within the Russian criminal hierarchy, the so-called Russian Mob (aka the Russian Mafia) and has now extended itself beyond the frontier of the country.

Naomi Watts: Anna Khitrova, a midwife in a London hospital
Jerzy Skolimowski: her uncle Stepan
Armin Mueller-Stahl: Semyon, owner of the Trans-Siberian restaurant
Vincent Cassel: his son Kirill
Viggo Mortensen: Semyon’s driver and bodyguard Nikolai

Being a thriller not too much can be said about it without giving away the whole thing. With great acting throughout and a good story line coupled with crisp editing it makes for a fine movie. Adequate time has been given so the characters can reveal themselves in bits and pieces as to who they really are. Yet it is only 1½ hours long. On that basis it’s probably a 4 star movie.

However the violence is just a little too much. The first instance occurs within 5 minutes of the opening credits which more or less sets the tone of what is to come. Anyone who flinches at the sight of blood had better think twice about going to see this movie. The violence culminates with a fight in a Turkish bath which so shocked some people in the audience you could hear audible gasps from the more squeamish (me included).

for strong, brutal and bloody violence (and they ain’t kiddin’), some graphic sexuality, language and nudity (mostly male).

When Nikolai pays for “services rendered” he lays a card on top of the money and then we see him make some remark. When the camera returns to her we see she has not moved but the card has and is now no longer on top of the cash.

Monday, September 24, 2007

3:10 TO YUMA


Christian Bale: rancher Dan Evans
Russell Crowe: outlaw gang leader Ben Wade
Ben Foster: his right-hand man Charlie Prince
Peter Fonda: bounty hunter Byron McElroy
Logan Lerman: Evans's 14-year-old son William
Dallas Roberts: Pinkerton man Grayson Butterfield

It certainly meets all the criteria of the classic Western-type movie: lots of gunfights, quick paced action, spectacular western landscapes, good guys and bad guys.

But beyond that the movie brings into play issues of morality and honesty and character. Food for thought.

The acting is first rate and the casting just perfect. Everybody looks the way they should. Production values are uniformly high. Although it’s nearly 2 hours long, the editing is crisp and there is not a lot that could (or should) be cut out.

for violence and some language.

The doctor removes the bullet from McElroy’s stomach but does not touch it with anything other than the forceps yet it comes out all nice and clean, in pristine condition, without any sign of blood.

When he drops it into a round metal bowl the sound of the bullet hitting the bowl is too late by at least a half a second.

It passes by so quickly so I’m not 100% sure but I think the sign above the entrance reads Besser's Parlour. The correct spelling in the United States is parlor (ie: without the u).

There is no spout protruding from the round wooden water tower used to replenish the steam engines.

In the mid-1800’s the U.S. Federal Government posted a $200 reward for the capture of anyone accused of robbing the U.S. Mail. For a cowboy who earned $40 a month this was a huge amount. In terms of today’s currency, the reward would be about $2,400.

The end credits for some strange reason use Russell Crowe's character’s name rather than his own when crediting his makeup artist, his hairstylist, etc

Sunday, September 23, 2007



Jim Sturgess: Jude, a Liverpool ship welder
Joe Anderson: Princeton college student Maxwell aka Max
Evan Rachel Wood: his sister Lucy
Dana Fuchs: up-and-coming singer Sadie
Martin Luther McCoy: Jo-Jo, a guitarist and singer
Bono: Doctor Robert

Few will have the patience to sit through the 2 hours and 15 minutes of this movie unless you are a big fan (I mean really big fan) of the Beatles music. The simplistic plot serves only to provide an opportunity to fit in another song, even if it is out of place and/or inappropriate to the situation. Consequently every 10 minutes or so the story is put on hold while another song is sung and frequently the lip-synching is poorly done.

The acting is only so-so: Jude in particular seems to have been selected more for his singing ability than his other thespian talents. And Maxwell’s father is almost ludicrous.

There are several rather innovative visual elements and some of the dance numbers are well done. It is also a bit of a historical overview of the Vietnam era but there are far better sources of history than this somewhat distorted view.

for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language.

With the introduction of Tide detergent in 1949 sales of Rinso brand soap-powder plummeted so it was revamped and reintroduced as Sunshine Rinso. Consequently when Jude and Lucy are in a laudromat, the shelves would not be stocked with boxes of Rinso since the product had been off the market for years.

While Jude is walking in the Stanley Docks area of Liverpool, a yellow and white commuter train can be seen passing by on the other side of the canal. These British Rail Class 507 trains were not put into service until 1978, some 12 years after his walkabout.

A shot of a newspaper dated April 28, 1968 shows it to be a Friday. In fact that was a Sunday.

The first outdoor CCTV surveillance camera was not installed in the United Kingdom until 1985 but we can see an orange one above the door when Jude leaves the Shipper’s bar, some 20 years before its time.

As Jude stands on the rooftop contemplating the situation the long shadows would be consistent with late afternoon, early evening. He then approaches the microphone and begins singing but now the shadows are those seen at noon with the sun almost directly overhead.

The principal cast members are named after some Beatles songs which is most appropriate. But what’s with this Jo-Jo when Mr. Mustard or even better, Rocky Racoon could be used instead?

Saturday, September 22, 2007



Jodie Foster: Erica Bain, a 40-something NYC radio talk show personality
Naveen Andrews: her fiancé David
Terrence Howard: NYC Police Detective Sean Mercer
Nicky Katt: his partner Detective Vitale
Mary Steenburgen: Erica’s boss Carol

The trouble with any review of a thriller is not to give away too much. With that in mind several things need be said:
 this is Jodie Foster’s best performance in quite some while. The role calls for a wide range of human emotion and she pulls it off big time.
 the supporting cast is first rate
 the production values are top notch (cinematography, costume design etc)

Despite the fact it runs almost two hours, there’s not a lot that could be edited out. In fact time goes by quickly enough since there is a certain element of uncertainity that keeps you attentive.

One cautionary note: there are some scenes of violence but it’s not something most people can’t handle.

for violence, profanity, sexual situations, brief nudity.

When Detective Mercer is shot he shouts into his walkie-talkie “10-13, 10-13”. This is the police 10-code requesting weather and road conditions. It seems entirely out of place. A 10-43 (call a doctor) would have been more appropriate given his circumstances.

Friday, September 21, 2007



Astronauts Jim Lovell, Dave Scott, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean and others.

Although the American space program has been thoroughly covered before, somehow this movie puts a new slant on things. In part because it is the retelling from the point of view of the astronauts themselves and also because new footage from NASA files is being shown for the first time. It's riveting stuff.

for mild language, brief violent images and incidental smoking.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007



Rowan Atkinson: Mr. Bean
Karel Roden: Emil Duchevsky,famous Russian film director
Max Baldry: his 13-year old son Stepan
Willem Dafoe: American film director

The trademark comical facial expressions and the harmless slapstick can be too much sometimes. But more often than not these provoke a chuckle if not outright laughter. The sight gags for the most part are predictable and can be seen coming a mile off. Maybe that’s the fascination with Atkinson?

Often compared to Charlie Chaplin for his frantic style of humour, you either love him or hate him. There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to how you perceive Rowan Atkinson.


Saturday, September 1, 2007



The title pretty well says it all: we are running out of time to effectively deal with global warming. Not subtle, but neither are the poignant comments from some 40 or 50 experts who offer their collective opinion that something needs to be done. The trouble is there is far too much information. The film is very much like a university-level lecture with only brief interludes to give the brain a rest before the next onslaught of facts and figures. It is sometimes simply overwhelming.

Narrated and co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie does offer some new theories for thoughtful consideration but for the most part it’s a regurgitation of material found elsewhere. There is an interesting attempt to balance the ugly images of pollution by some of the most stunning shots of nature I’ve seen in quite some while.

for some disturbing violent imagery, which I presume, is the 3-second clip showing the clubbing of a baby seal since nothing else would warrant the classification.