Wednesday, October 31, 2007



Ian Kevin Curtis (b. July 1956 in Manchester, England) from a young age exhibited talent as a poet. Although he was awarded a scholarship to attend The King’s School in Macclesfield he never pursued academic endeavours. He got a job as a civil servant at the Labour Exchange but his real interest was the pursuit of art and literature, eventually culminating in music.

Sam Riley: Ian Curtis, lyricist and vocalist of the punk band Joy Division
Samantha Morton: his wife Deborah (Debbie)
Craig Parkinson: Tony Wilson, Manchester television personality
Toby Kebbell: Rob Gretton, the band’s manager
Alexandra Maria Lara: Annik Honoré, an employee with the Belgian Embassy

It is so unusual to see a movie in black and white but it is absolutely the best choice: it feels like it was made years ago, it best depicts the dreary inner city of Manchester, it perfectly suits the languorous pace of the movie.

Complementing that is another great choice, that of the actors. Particularly outstanding is Sam Riley. Although I’ve never seen the performance of Ian Curtis, the way he is portrayed looks and feels so authentic I have to believe it really was how he acted both on and off stage. In addition, Morton and Lara both put in excellent performances.

One caveat though: it is long, just over two hours, so it requires a fair amount of patience. But it is well worth the effort.

for language and brief sexuality.

The title comes from one of the band’s best known songs, She Lost Control.

According to the press releases the movie constiutes the first for several people:
 Anton Corbijn: an acclaimed still photographer, this is his directorial debut
 Sam Riley: his first role in a film
 Deborah Curtis: her first book, Touching From a Distance, being the principal source of material

Monday, October 29, 2007


Original title: Durs à cuire
In French with English subtitles

Restaurant Toqué
900, Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, Montréal
According to the owners Christine Lamarche and Chef Normand Laprise “Fourteen years ago, when we created Toqué!, we wanted to showcase Québec products and the people who worked to supply us with them.”
Since then the restaurant has been presented with the prestigious 5 Diamond Award from the CAA and AAA. This rating – the highest there is – highlights the quality of the cuisine, service, décor and facilities of the selected establishments.

Restaturant Au Pied de Cochon
536 East Duluth, Montreal (Quebec)
As the name -- "The Pig's Foot" -- suggests, this is all about slabs of beef, pork, lamb, venison, and duck. Meats are roasted to a falling-off-the-bone turn in the brick oven surviving from a previous pizza joint. Chef Martin Picard prides himself in serving dishes having only four or five easily identifiable ingredients, in balanced proportions.

This could have been a really interesting documentary - but it isn’t.

Rarely do we get the opportunity to learn something interesting about first class restaurants, how they are run, the problems the owners encounter, the fascinating behind-the-scene activities, the amusing incidents, and not so amusing. That kind of thing.

Instead we get a very amateurish hour and half “fly-on-the-wall” perspective as two well-known chefs go about doing things like fishing. Half the time it is by way of shaky hand held shots taken from the back seat of the car as these two friends travel to somewhere. It is very disjointed and a overall a big disappointment.


When they are in Spain on their way to see how the famous dried ham is made I suggest you take a short walkabout outside the theatre. I did not and regret it. With my hands clasped tightly over my ears and humming to myself to block out the sound of the terrified squealing pig I kept my eyes squinted closed as they killed and slaughtered him. Should be mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to become a butcher. For the rest of us, it is disgusting.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Crime drama

Amy Ryan: Helene, a single mother
Madeline O'Brien: her four-year-old daughter Amanda
Casey Affleck: Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie
Michelle Monaghan: his girlfriend and partner Angie Gennaro
Titus Welliver: Amanda’s uncle Lionel McCready
Amy Madigan: Amanda’s aunt Beatrice (Bea)
Morgan Freeman: Boston Police Captain Jack Doyle
Ed Harris: Detective Remy Bressant
John Ashton: his partner Nick Poole
Edi Gathegi: local Haitian drug lord Cheese

An intelligent well-written crime thriller that relies more on a good story line than lots of gore and much noise to make its point. If you pay attention there are clues (but no thunderclaps or zoom-in close-ups to tip you off) but like all good thrillers, not all of them lead anywhere. As it turns out, not everything is straightforward and there are moral issues that need to be dealt with.

Beautifully acted throughout but several people stand out in terms of their performance: Amy Ryan and surprisingly, Ed Harris who we’ve not seen do this well in years.

for violence, drug content and pervasive language.

Patrick’s car would not meet the Department of Transport highway code anywhere because it lacks a rear-view mirror. On the other hand, nothing intrudes when viewing the passengers from the front of the automobile as they ride to meet someone.

The decision by Ben Affleck to take up a role behind the camera as Director in my mind is a smart one because I never felt he was very good as an actor. His younger brother Casey continues to show us who is the real thespian in the family.

Banging down rails is street-talk, American slang for someone snorting “lines” of cocaine
A key is a kilo of drugs such as heroin or cocaine

Thursday, October 25, 2007



David Duchovny: Brian Burke, a successful architectural designer
Halle Berry: his wife Audrey
Alexis Llewellyn: their 10-year-old daughter Harper (aka Harp)
Micah Berry: their 6-year-old son Dony
Benicio Del Toro: Jerry Sunborne, Brian’s oldest friend
John Carroll Lynch: Howard Glassman, Brian’s neighbour
Omar Benson Miller: Audrey’s younger brother Neal

Embracing several of life’s tribulations this film is geared for the mature audience. Due to the nature of the subject material, it is not a light-hearted outing. Although a tad too long (despite two people being credited with the editing) there is not a lot that could be eliminated without some loss to the story.

Halle Berry gives a fine performance but is outdone by Benicio Del Toro who turns in perhaps his best effort ever.

Couple points of contention: the frequent extreme close-ups get to be a bit annoying after a while and the situation with Jerry helping Audrey deal with her insomnia does not ring true and detracts somewhat from the overall sense of reality.

for drug content and language.

Jerry reaches over to turn out the bedside lamp but it goes out before he even gets a good grip of the pull chain.

When Audrey calls on apartment 33 we hear the knock a fraction of a second before her knuckle actually strikes the door.

Brian and Audrey embrace while she is working on a window frame and her white gloves are smeared with paint. When Brian leaves she waves goodbye but now her gloves are hardly smudged.

Apparently Micah Berry is no relation to the female lead. Could have fooled me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Based on a true story

Alexander Franklin (Frank) James (b. January 1843) and his brother Jesse (b. September 1847) joined the Cole Younger gang and participated in the robbing of their first bank in 1868. A year later the two brothers formed their own gang and added stagecoaches and trains to their list of victims. Train robberies were typically limited to stealing the contents of the express safe while leaving the passengers untouched. The newspaper accounts fostered their Robin Hood image and soon their escapades were published in comic book novels attracting a huge following.

Brad Pitt: Jesse James
Sam Shepard: his older brother Frank
Casey Affleck: nineteen-year-old Robert Ford, a "wannabe" of the James Gang
Sam Rockwell: Robert’s older brother Charley and gang member
Jeremy Renner: Wood Hite, gang member and Jesse’s cousin
Paul Schneider: gang member Dick Liddil
Garret Dillahunt : another gang member Ed Miller
Mary-Louise Parker: Jesse’s wife Zee

I’m not a fan of long movies. But once in a while one comes along that warrants spending a couple of hours watching it: this is one of them. The unhurried pace allows time for character development and moments for the camera to take in some stunning views of the west.

There are two particularily good performances, one by Brad Pitt (his best effort ever?) and the other by Casey Affleck (so much better than his more famous brother).

for some strong violence and brief sexual references.

Try as I might, sometimes nothing pans out. There were four potential nitpicks:
1. Is one person a safe load on blue ice only 3 to 4 inches thick?
2. Was the Penny Farthing bike invented prior to 1881?
3. Was April 3, 1882 a Monday?
4. When was the song “Oh! Susanna” written?

In each instance the producers have done their homework and there were no inaccuracies. Woe is me.

The great cinemaphotography is not all that surprising given the fact that the film’s Director of Photography, Roger Deakins, has been granted membership both in the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and the British version (BSC). That says a lot about his talent.

Torquay, Devon is a town of about 100, 000 on the eastern coast of England yet Roger Deakins, Agatha Christie and 16 other well-known people in the arts were born here: must be something in the water.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Original title: Se jie
In Mandarin with English subtitles

Imperial Japan invaded China in July 1937. The Japanese had neither the intention nor the capability to directly administer China. Their goal was to create a friendly puppet government favourable to Japanese interests. From these actions Japan would obtain a secured supply of raw materials and a market to ensure the prosperity of the Japanese home islands. However, the atrocities committed by the Japanese army made the governments that were set up very unpopular.

In conjunction with its military campaign in World War II, Japan invaded Hong Kong the day after the Pearl Harbour attack of December 7, 1941. The Battle of Hong Kong ended with the British and Canadian defenders surrendering control of the colony to Japan on Christmas day, December 25. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong civilians suffered from widespread food shortages caused by imposed rations and hyperinflation due to the forced exchange of their Chinese currency for military notes.

Tang Wei: Wang Jiazhi, the wife of Mr. Mak, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman
Tony Leung: Mr. Yee, security head of the puppet Chinese government Wang Leehom: Kuang Yumin, young leader of a resistance group

The one thing you need to see this one through is patience. It is long, way too long at 2 hours and 40 minutes. Case in point: the first half-hour is devoted primarily to watching four ladies play mah-jongg while they rattle on about the world around them at such a rate it’s hard to keep up with the subtitles flashing by. Good editing would cut this down to a couple of minutes to include the telling glance Wang Jiazhi gives Mr. Lee. That’s the essence of it. There is no need to drag it out for 30 minutes, when 3 minutes will suffice.

Having set the pace, it continues to advance ever so slowly including lengthy scenes from a student play and a couple of musical interludes that really have nothing to do with the plot. They serve no purpose other than to showcase the talent of these people. But that’s not what we came to see.

Buried in all this is some fine acting, a lot of which is non-verbal. But the overall impression is one of being too long and too weighty.

for several explicit, graphic, prolonged sexual encounters, the hallmark of hardcore pornography.

Some viewers will find it difficult to watch the extended sequence of the knifing about three-quarters of the way through.

Saturday, October 20, 2007



Maria Bello: Jocelyn, a spinster who breeds dogs
Kathy Baker: Bernadette, the founder of the group
Amy Brenneman: Sylvia, recently seperated
Jimmy Smits: her ex-husband Daniel
Maggie Grace: their daughter Allegra
Emily Blunt: Prudie, a young high school French teacher
Marc Blucas: her husband Dean
Hugh Dancy: a sci-fi fan Grigg

It is pretty heavy going having to deal with pithy excerpts such as “Is not general incivility the very essence of love?” and then try to keep up with the rapid-fire views of the six club members as they express their divergent opinions about the quote. It makes my head hurt.

There’s nothing exceptional about the acting nor the story line in general but it does seem to go on forever (just short of two hours) and comes across very much like a soap opera.

for mature thematic material, sexual content, brief strong language and some drug use.

Shots from directly in front of Bernadette sitting with the others on the porch have a strong shadow behind her right shoulder. Side-angle shots do not.

Friday, October 19, 2007



Bill Murray: not sure who he is
Owen Wilson: Francis, the oldest (and bossiest) of the three brothers
Adrien Brody: Peter, his brother
Jason Schwartzman: Jack, the third brother other cast members I didn't get to see

I read somewhere that “Director Wes Anderson's films are an acquired taste.”
Obviously I have yet to attain that level of appreciation since I walked out after half an hour of what I consider to be absolute drivel.

Perhaps it got better but I have little patience with a comedy that goes nowhere (inside joke since virtually all the action at that point in time takes place on a train going somewhere in India). Other types of movies often build slowly but not a comedy: the funny stuff as to be there right off the bat or what’s the point?

At the risk of giving away the plot, perhaps I have a rather strange perception of what constitutes comedy but frankly I did not find any of the following funny at all:
 Bill Murray’s character runs after his train as it leaves the station but can’t catch up to it but Peter does
 In the restaurant car, Francis orders the meals for himself and his two brothers; they sit there demurely without comment
 Jack remarks that Peter is wearing his father’s glasses and “his prescription was not even the same as yours”

for language. That's a misake. It should be rated
F for Fergetaboutit!

Thursday, October 18, 2007



Matthew Macfadyen: Daniel
Keeley Hawes: his wife Jane
Daisy Donovan: Daniel’s cousin Martha
Alan Tudyk: her fiancé Simon
Kris Marshall: Martha's brother Troy
Peter Egan: Martha’s father
Andy Nyman: friend of the family Howard
Ewan Bremmer: Martha’s wanna-be suitor Justin
Peter Vaughan: crotchy old Uncle Alfie
Rupert Graves: Daniel's brother Robert

Is it too much to expect a film promoted as a comedy to be funny? The first smile (not even a laugh mind you) came 55 minutes into the film. Not surprising when you look again at the title: like what is funny about a funeral anyway?
Right from the get-go it is apparent this is no knee-slapper. And it just gets worst from that point onwards despite the inclusion of rude, vulgar potty-humour, attempts at slapstick and pratfalls that are supposed to make you laugh. Well they don’t.

for language and drug content.

Troy puts a bottle of pills on the kitchen table just beside another one. Even though no one approaches the table until Martha does, 6” or more now separates the two pill bottles.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


In French with English subtitles

Paul Arcand as Quebec’s answer to Michael Moore he takes a hard look at the province’s medical system and the preponderance of too many doctors to over-prescribing drugs without regard to the consequences.

However as a documentary it is more a recap of what is generally known with little in the way of new insights that warrant spending an hour and a half watching it. Perhaps to bolster our interest Arcand tries hard to make the situation seem worst than it is.

For example showing us how easy it is for teenagers to buy a couple packages of off-the-shelf products without being questioned by the clerk is of itself not a crime, as he would like us to believe. What is a crime is taking those medications and using elaborate methods to transform these pills into “street drugs” such as crack. I think the bad guys don’t need to resort to sending kids into drugstores to obtain their raw material.


Saturday, October 13, 2007


2008 Best Supporting Actress


George Clooney: Michael Clayton, so-called "fixer" at the law firm of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen LLP
Sydney Pollack: his boss Senior Partner Marty Bach
Tom Wilkinson: Michael’s long-time friend, the firm’s top litigator Arthur Edens
Tilda Swinton: Karen Crowder, Chief Legal Counsel with U/North Chemicals
Merritt Wever: Anna, one of the defendants

I suspect the reason some movies are so confusing is to keep you in your seat long enough for you to figure out what is going on, otherwise you might get up and leave. That’s what crossed my mind as I sat through this rather long telling of one more instance of corporate malfeasance.

Probably those who have been called to the bar will be drawn to this cinematic version of Court TV but for many it will prove to be a bit too much: too much legal jargon, too muddled (especially the sub plot of Clayton’s personal life), too much unsaid.

Which is a shame because the acting is top notch (Clooney’s best effort in years), the cinemaphotography is first rate, the musical score right on and the stand taken by Edens is refreshing.

for language, including some sexual dialogue.

Being familiar with the following legal terms will be useful in understanding what transpires:

BRIEF: A written document that outlines a party's legal arguments in a case.

CLASS ACTION SUIT: A lawsuit in which one or more parties file a complaint on behalf of themselves and all other people who are "similarly situated" (suffering from the same problem). Often used when a large number of people have comparable claims.

COMPENSATORY DAMAGES: Money awarded to reimburse actual costs, such as medical bills and lost wages. Also awarded for things that are harder to measure, such as pain and suffering.

DAMAGES: The financial compensation awarded to someone who suffered an injury or was harmed by someone else's wrongful act.

DEPOSITION: Part of the pre-trial discovery (fact-finding) process in which a witness testifies under oath. A deposition is held out of court with no judge present, but the answers often can be used as evidence in the trial.

DISCOVERY: Part of the pre-trial litigation process during which each party requests relevant information and documents from the other side in an attempt to "discover" pertinent facts.

LLP: Limited Liability Partnership is a corporate enterprise that gives the benefits of limited liability to the principals but allows its members the flexibility of organising their internal structure as a traditional partnership.

PUNITIVE DAMAGES: Money awarded to a victim that is intended to punish a defendant and stop the person or business from repeating the type of conduct that caused an injury. Also intended to deter others from similar conduct.

RETAINER: Refers to the up front payment a client gives a lawyer to accept a case. The client is paying to "retain" the lawyer's services.

Friday, October 12, 2007



Emile Hirsch: 22-year old Christopher (Chris) McCandless
Jena Malone: narration by Chris' sister, Carine
William Hurt: their father Walt
Marcia Gay Harden: their mother Billlie
Brian Dierker: aging hippie Rainey
Catherine Keener: his soul-mate Jan
Vince Vaughn: wheat farmer Wayne Westerberg
Kristen Stewart: a teenage singer Tracey
Hal Holbrook: senior citizen Ron Franz

There are few films with a running time in excess of two hours that I would recommend seeing; but this is one of them.

The fact that it is based on a true story only serves to enhance its appeal. Fabulous camerawork (unusual camera angles, sweeping vistas, tight close-ups and lingering sunsets) coupled with some really good acting by most everyone (the border guard being an exception) a great soundtrack and a story about someone who takes the unconventional route makes for compelling viewing.

Using flashbacks always results in topsy-turvy chronological references but generally these are easy to handle, in part because of titles appearing periodically indicating the point in time. One other thing: a couple of times I started to get the feeling that it is running a tad too long then something happens and I wanted to stay on. And did so right to the end.

for language and some nudity (the nudist colony kind).

The squeamish like me will have an opportunity to rest their eyes about ¾ of the way through after Chris bags his first moose.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Crime drama

Jamie Foxx: FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury, leader of the forensic team
Chris Cooper: Special Agent Grant Sykes, the explosives expert
Jason Bateman: Special Agent Adam Leavitt, the intelligence analyst
Jennifer Garner: Special Agent Janet Mayes, the forensics examiner
Ashraf Barhom: Colonel Faris Al Ghazi of the local police

Unlike most movies that jump right into it expecting the viewer somehow to know the background to what is going on, this one begins with a short history of Saudia Arabia that sets the scene.

Although not just big colourful explosions and noisy gun fights, there are enough of them to keep the action going. Acting is adequate, as the roles don’t demand a lot of anyone (except the Colonel) and the story is much like others of its kind.

for intense sequences of graphic brutal violence and for language.

Judging from the shadows, the softball game is being played sometime around noon so it would be too early for school classes in Washington D.C. since the East Coast is 7 hours behind Riyadh.

While being shown their accommodations one of the agents points out they are so tired after their long flight. However the actual flight time from Washington Dulles International Airport to King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is just a little over 12 hours not the 18 hours he mentions.

Monday, October 1, 2007


True war drama
Some dialogue in French with English subtitles

On July 1, 1962, Belgium granted full independence to Rwanda as a republic governed by the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement. Rwanda thus became a Hutu-dominated one-party state. Following a coup in 1973, Juvénal Habyariman was inaugurated as president. For 20 years his Hutu military government ruled with an iron-fist policy against both Tutsis and any Hutus who opposed him. Habyariman resisted calls for free elections and was opposed to long-running demands by Rwandan Tutsi refugees for their right to return.

On April 6, 1994 his plane was shot down above Kigali airport. Within hours, a campaign of violence spread from the capital throughout the country and did not subside until three months later. Between April and June 1994 in the space of 100 days an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed . Most of the dead were Tutsis.

Roy Dupuis: Canadian Armed Forces General Roméo Dallaire
James Gallanders: his aide-de-camp Major Brent Beardsley
Owen Sejake: Major-General Anyidoho, United Nations Chief of Staff
Odile Katesi Gakire: Prime Minister of Rwanda
Deborah Kara Unger: American Reporter Emma

Told from the perspective of the man in charge of protecting the lives of innocent people, this is not simply a retelling of the horrors of the Rwanda genocide. Shot on location and with acting that is first rate (especially by Dupuis) the Rwanda part of it looks and feels authentic. The flashbacks less so.

Perhaps a little long, it is never boring. Some of the scenes are unsettling but manageable by all but the more squeamish.

for disturbing images, violence.

Not to be confused with the Emmy-winning 2004 documentary film based on the book entitled Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire.