Friday, November 30, 2007


Crime thiller

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Andy Hanson, a payroll executive
Marisa Tomei: his wife Gina
Ethan Hawke: Andy’s younger brother Hank
Albert Finney: Charles, the owner of a mall-store
Rosemary Harris: his wife Nanette

Using a rather unusual device of each scene being played out from someone’s point of view (as noted in the on-screen label) then later seeing it again from someone else’s perspective the movie advances then retreats a bit until it catches up where we left off. In this way the story unfolds in bits and pieces, which keeps you interested in the developments. Being a crime thriller the less said about these developments the better.

What needs to be said is the acting throughout is excellent, the editing crisp, the other production values first rate. In other words, a really good movie.

for a scene of strong graphic sexuality, nudity, violence, drug use and language.

 When Andy and Hank meet in a bar, the lemon twist in Andy’s drink flip-flops. Seen from Andy’s perspective it floats vertically but when looking over Hank’s shoulder it is horizontal.
 When first seen there are three gunshots some minutes apart. In the replay mode these shots occur within seconds of each other.
 When Hank is in Andy’s office the sun is coming diagonally from the 1 o’clock position. In the replay it is from 5 o’clock.
 Charles gets in his car and before he is even settled and has yet to reach forward to insert the ignition key the engine starts.
 The recorded message from the car rental company says to call 555-???-????; the sign outside the office shows the number to be 212-967-????
 Furthermore there is no such area code as 555.

The title comes from the Irish toast “May you be in heaven a full half hour
before the devil knows your dead.”

Friday, November 23, 2007


  • War drama

    Meryl Streep: cable television journalist Janine Roth
    Tom Cruise: Republican Senator Jasper Irving
    Robert Redford: political science professor Dr. Stephen “Doc” Malley
    Andrew Garfield: Todd Hayes, one of his gifted students
    Michael Peña: Ernest Rodriguez, recently enlisted soldier
    Derek Luke: his buddy Arian Finch

    A well structured anti-war film seen from three perspectives: that of a Senator, as seen by soldiers engaged in fighting the enemy and viewed by the intelligentsia. However, the latter only serves to muddy the waters (except for one brief flashback) and it really just showcases Redford’s acting abilities. But it’s not needed.

    Another thing not needed is the static approach taken with the Senator and also with the professor. In both cases, two cameras are plunked down and the shots simply flip-flop back and forth so we can see the speaker. The cameras hardly move so it makes for a monotonous visual experience. The action shots in Afghanistan aren’t much better.

    The acting is fine with only Meryl Streep coming across as making any real effort. Although there are a lot of words, thankfully the movie is fairly short so we’re not totally overwhelmed.

    for some war violence and language.

     The right drawstring on Todd’s hoodie has a mind of its own: a single thread hanging off the end comes and goes between shots.

     So do Doc’s glasses. They simply will not stay put, moving about on his desk pretty much at random.

    The name of the film is derived from Alexander the Great’s proclamation,
    “I am never afraid of an army of Lions led into battle by a Lamb”

Thursday, November 22, 2007


In French with English subtitles
Original title: Dialogue avec mon jardinier

Daniel Auteuil: a middle-aged Parisian artist
Jean-Pierre Darroussin: an old school friend
Fanny Cottencon: the painter’s wife

Talk about dull: there is no action, no plot, no violence, and no joviality. No nothing. It can best be described as a talkathon because that’s all they do.

Sittings listening to two people reminisce and chat amicably about a variety of topics may well be of great interest to some. But not for me, I left after half an hour.


Monday, November 19, 2007


In French with English subtitles.

Marie-Ginette Guay: Lucette, a housewife
Réal Bossé: Louis, an insurance salesman
Fanny Mallette: Chantal, hotel front desk clerk
Gilbert Sicotte: Marcel, a pawn shop employee

If they ever have an award for the strangest movie title, this one would surely win. The direct translation is Continental, a film without guns. I’m not sure why this name was chosen; perhaps it’s an inside joke. Whatever.

In any event this is essentially a movie without any real story, just a collection of vignettes about four people who have basically one thing in common: they are lonely. How they deal with their situation (and in some cases with each other) often prompts quiet chuckles but for the most part it’s pretty boring stuff. Everything evolves at a snail’s pace and with hardly any emotion. That doesn’t mean the acting is lousy. The script does not require them to do much more than act themselves. So that’s what they do. Oh hum.

for mature themes and sexual situations.

 I think the city of Laval should buy more buses. At the beginning of the movie a man gets off the bus and goes around behind it and we can see the bus to be number 6104. Near the end of the film a lady takes a bus ride and when she alights guess what? Good ol’ number 6104.

 From the hallway the door hinges to Louis’ room are on the left-hand side. Viewed from inside the room they should therefore be on the right-hand side. But instead they are on the left.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Musical documentary
In Romani, Spanish, Macedonian, Romanian, Hindi and Marwari with English subtitles.

The Romani or Romany people (as a noun the singular is Rom, plural Roma) are an ethnic group living in many communities all over the world. The Roma are often referred to as Gypsies or Gipsies, a term that is sometimes considered pejorative and is based on a mistaken belief of an origin in Egypt. In actuality, the Roma have their origins in India.

The Roma are generally considered to be wandering nomads despite the fact that today the vast majority live in permanent housing. This widely dispersed ethnic group lives across the world not only near their historic heartland in Southern and Eastern Europe but also in North America and the Middle East.

Roma music plays an important role in Eastern European cultures such as Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Hungary, Russia, and Romania. The style and performance practices of Roma musicians have influenced European classical composers such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. One traditional form of Roma music is the genre of the gypsy brass band. The distinctive sound of Roma music has also strongly influenced jazz, bolero and flamenco.

Esma Redzepova, the "Queen of the Gypsies”
Sayari Sapera, superb dancer with the group Maharaja
Antonio El Pipa, a flamenco dancer
His aunt, Juana la del Pipa

Back in 2001 a group of musicians did a 16-city tour of the United States. This film travels with them for the 6 weeks they were on the road. About equal time is given to the actual concerts and to the principal performers. In doing so, we get a comprehensive overview of Roma music as well as some understanding of the people themselves.

The camerawork is particularily good and the editing first rate.


Saturday, November 17, 2007


2008 Best Picture
Best Actor in Supporting Role
Best Directing

Crime drama

Javier Bardem: Anton Chigurh (pronounced "Sh-gurr")
Josh Brolin: Vietnam vet and hunter Llewelyn Moss
Tommy Lee Jones: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell
Garret Dillahunt: Deputy Wendell
Kelly Macdonald: Llewelyn’s wife Carla Jean
Woody Harrelson: Carson Wells, a bounty hunter

The outstanding production values come about from the unmistakable touch of the Cohen brothers (of Fargo fame) who wrote and directed the film coupled with the cinemaphotography of Roger Deakins (most recently The Assassination of Jesse James). Add to that the superb sound effects, great acting, a suspenseful well-constructed story and you get one dandy film.

Although it is over 2 hours long, it does not seem like it as it moves along at its own pace. There is not a lot that could be edited out, except for the last two or three minutes. Change the ending and it gets one more star.

for some language and strong graphic violence (and they ain’t kiddin’).

I couldn’t figure out how the title related to the movie itself. Turns out it comes from a line in a poem and I quote:
“As a literal paraphrase, the first stanza consists of the speaker describing his former country, a place that is not oriented toward the aged.”

Sailing To Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees etc etc

Friday, November 16, 2007


Romantic comedy

Ryan Gosling: Lars Lindstrom, computer programmer
Emily Mortimer: his sister-in-law Karin
Paul Schneider: his older brother Gus
Kelli Garner: Margo, one of Lars's co-workers
Patricia Clarkson: Dr. Dagmar, the town physician

If nothing else, this is an original. Some would say “a bit quirky” but call it what you will; it provides a new slant on the meaning of relationships. Hilarious at times (not the laugh-out-loud type, more the big-smile sort of funny) there is still a serious side to it.

Evident from the get-go is the feeling of kindness and understanding family and friends have towards Lars and his situation. Something we can all learn from.

for some sex-related content.

 While having dinner at his brother’s house, Lars has a full glass of milk on his left hand side. The shot turns to his sister-in-law then back to Lars and we see him with knife and fork in hand lean over and take something off his friend’s plate. His glass of milk is now on the other side of his plate. Back to Karin and then to Lars once more and his glass of milk has returned to its place while he still holds on to his knife and fork.
 Dr. Dagmar is sitting on a couch with her hands in her lap while talking to Lars. The scene shifts to view her from Lar’s position and although she does not change position, her left arm in now up on the back of the sofa.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


In French with English subtitles

Monique Mercure: Madeline, an elderly woman
Suzanne Clément: Zoé, a younger woman and part-time musician

The onset of sickness often prompts us to stop procrastinating and get moving. This is the premise for what is essentially a road trip around Quebec. Slow at times and somewhat drawn out, the main reason for taking in the movie would be to see a really fine performance by Suzanne Clément. She alone is worth the price of admission.

for some drug use and brief nudity.

The license plate number on Madeline’s car is OGJ 587 but when she parks in front of the restaurant the number ends with 3992. However by the time she arrives in Gaspé, the car once again has the correct license plate back on it.

The title means Twilight.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


In French with English subtitles

The Algerian War (Guerre d'Algérie), also known as the Algerian War of Independence, took place between 1954 and 1962 and led to Algerian independence from France. One of the most important decolonization wars, it was a complex conflict characterised by guerrilla warfare, terrorism against civilians and the use of torture on both sides.

The people of France divided themselves either as pro French Algeria, or maintaince of the status quo, or an intermediate status between independence and complete integration into the French Republic.

Samy Seghir: 9-year-old Mahmoud
Nathalie Baye: Gisèle, a housewife
Gerard Depardieu: her husband Georges, the local postman

The closing credits provide details about the present status of the principals so it would seem the movie is based on a true story. Which explains why the political situation reappears so frequently, most often as an intrusion to the rest of the story.

This is one of those movies that one would describe as “just average”: the acting is passable, the story is not all that original, and the music somewhat limited (all by the same singer) and production values are fine.

But it is too long at two hours and four minutes. The first thing I would edit out is the slaughtering of the pig about three-quarters of the way through. Gruesome.

for brief sexuality, some violence and one disturbing scene.

The casting director screwed up: the fellow being stopped by the police says he was born in 1924 which would make him 36 years old when these events too place. He is definitely much older than that, more like 60.

Saturday, November 3, 2007



Ellen David: Clara, a Montreal housewife
Colin Mochrie: her husband
Caroline Dhavernas: their teenage daughter Bianca
Véronique Le Flaguais: Clara’s mother
Louison Danis: the next door neighbour Ginetta
Adam J. Harrington: her son Michael

We’ve all experienced the discomfort of seeing someone trying to do their best but still making a mess of it. How about watching a half dozen people in that situation? No fun at all.

In a word, the acting is pitiful: apart from Clara’s mother, either they seem to be reading their lines for the first time or they emote in that exaggerated theatrical manner that is so false.

Even though the acting by Clara’s mother is better than the others, she comes across as a bitter, grouchy old woman and that makes it hard to feel sympathy towards someone like that when it’s time to do so. What were the writers thinking when they decided to portray her like that? They weren’t.

In addition the writers did a poor job of trying to include some comedic element to the story. They are either out of place or simply not amusing. No fun at all.

for nudity and some language.


Biography, crime drama

Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (1906–1968) was an American gangster from Charleston, S.C. who moved to Harlem in New York city with his parents as a small boy. He was given the nickname "Bumpy" because of a large bump on the back of his head. He was hired by the Genovese crime family to protect Mafia operations in black neighbourhoods against local Harlem criminals. Johnson was arrested more than forty times and would eventually serve three prison terms for narcotics-related charges. He served as mentor to future drug kingpin Frank Lucus.

Frank Lucas (born 1930 in North Carolina), as the oldest boy in the family he had to put food on the table. He began stealing food and later, mugging drunks. He eventually had to leave home in his teens, after taking $400 from his boss and setting the man's place on fire. Lucas headed for Harlem where he continued his life of petty crime. He took a step up when he caught the attention of mobster "Bumpy" Johnson and became his driver.

Clarence Williams: “Bumpy” Johnson, crime boss of Harlem
Denzel Washington: his associate Frank Lucas
Russell Crowe: New Jersey drug cop Detective Richie Roberts
John Ortiz: his partner Javy Rivera
Josh Brolin: Detective Trupo, chief of the NYPD narcotics squad
Lymari Nadal: Miss Puerto Rico 1970
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Frank’s brother Huey
Ruby Dee: Frank and Huey’s mother

At 2 hours and 37 minutes, it is way too long. I suspect the explanation is a pedestrian as the producers trying to get in the same league in terms of running time as the best of the gendre: “Scarface”, 2 hrs 50 min., “The Godfather”, 2 hrs. 55 min.
They should not have bothered because it simply prolongs a well made, good story past the point where sustained interest remains paramount. As with most movies of this type, the last 20 – 30 minutes are “must see” so you are almost compelled to hang in to the bitter end whether you want to or not. Chop out half an hour (an easy thing to do, starting with the extended court proceedings of Richie’s divorce case) and it gets one more star!

The acting thoughout is top notch with both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe at the top of their game. For that reason alone it is worth seeing.

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

 Frank tells the telephone operator the international country code for Bangkok is 376; in fact it is 66.
 Richie calls in a code 10-13 on the police radio. That is a request for weather and road conditions. Given the circumstances a 10-71 (shooting has taken place) would have been more appropriate.
 When they visit Frank’s brother at his service station, the posted cost of gas is 30 cents a gallon. That was the price back in 1964 and had reached 36 cents a gallon when the story takes place.