Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Romantic comedy

Ryan Reynolds: 30-something advertising executive Will Hayes
Abigail Breslin: his 10-year-old daughter Maya
Elizabeth Banks: Will's college sweetheart Emily
Isla Fisher: April, copy girl with Clinton’s election campaign
Rachel Weisz: Emily's old school chum Summer

The quirky title gives a hint as to what might follow: a different slant on the traditional romantic comedy. Usually there three people (one guy and two girls or the other way around) but this time there are four people involved. And we are supposed to figure out the correct combination of the two who finally pair up. Trouble is it takes far too long (almost 2 hours) and by that time a lot of us really don’t care anymore.

Although the acting by several of the women is pretty good the same cannot be said of the Will Hayes character. Nor is the movie very funny. Both these things are so-so at best.

for sexual content including some frank dialogue, language and smoking.

 Will begins relating his story to Maya by telling her this all started “back in 1992, before cell phones and email”. The very next shot belies that statement as we see someone talking on a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. This so-called “brick” was first introduced in 1983, weighed almost 2 pounds and cost a mere $3,995. As a matter of fact, the NEC Cellstar 500 series was much in use back in 1992 and was fairly small, only about twice as big as current cellphones.

 Regarding email, it started back in 1965, albeit in a limited fashion, as a way for multiple users of a mainframe computer to communicate. By 1977 email was so popular the US Postal Service said it posed a significant threat to First Class mail volumes and revenue. And by 1992 people already had to deal with the ugly side of email: SPAM, fraud, and phishing so it was well and truly part of our world back then.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


2008 Best foreign language picture

Fact based drama
In German with English subtitles

Collotype is a photographic process used for large volume mechanical printing before the existence of the cheaper and less complicated offset lithography method. The collotype plate is coated with a special dichromated gelatine and set at a controlled temperature then it has to be carefully washed and dried without heat for 24 hours before using it.

Karl Markovics: master forger 45-year-old Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch
Devid Striesow: police superintendent Friedrich Herzog
August Diehl: left-wing activist and collotype specialist Adolf Burger

Some fine acting serves to keep this thriller moving along at a good clip. Shot in monochromatic greys, attention to detail is much in evidence. Unlike most movies about events that took place during World War II, this story is not that well known despite the fact it was the biggest operation of its kind ever. Given that it’s a thiller not too much more need be said.

for intense violence and some scenes of brief nudity.


In Mandarin with English subtitles

With the stated aim of generating much-needed electrical power and alleviating dangerous annual flooding, construction of China’s mammoth Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River began in 1993. It is the biggest engineering endeavour in the world since the Great Wall. Upon completion (scheduled for 2009) it will be the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

Critics have alleged that corruption has led to potentially lethal construction shortcuts and that insufficient care has been taken in flooding nearly 400 square miles, some of which contained old factories and accumulated toxic chemicals.

The dam will displace more than a million residents (flooding 137 cities and towns, 1,000 villages) and destroy numerous cultural and archaeological sites including 40,000 gravesites. The flood waters will contain the refuse of at least 178 rubbish dumps containing 3 million tons of garbage in addition to the radioactive debris from more than 100 different sources.

As predicted the river is silting up due to the reduced flow of water and the human and industrial waste gathering behind the dam is causing water quality to deteriorate. Of most immediate concern is erosion, with the hillsides suffering a series of landslides and the Three Gorges Reservoir's shoreline collapsing in more than 90 places, according to one study. In early 2008 a government report admitted: "There exist many ecological and environmental problems concerning the Three Gorges Dam. If no preventive measures are taken, the project could lead to catastrophe."

100 yuan = $15 (approximately)

16-year-old Yu Shui aka Cindy
19-year-old Chen Bo Yu aka Jerry

The filmmaking crew has purposely ignored dwelling upon the negative aspect this project is having on the country. Although there are several brief references to some of the criticism levied by others, the main theme is that of the impact the Three Gorges dam has on one family. And by extension, how it affects the lives of others.

The subtle play of contrasts is often apparent and there are moments of brief hilarity. Some of the photography is stunning with the DP having chosen the right moment and making use of the polluted atmosphere has created many beautiful images.

Informative, well researched and balanced the overall impact is quite a revelation. The spontaneous applause by the audience would suggest it’s a must-see for anyone interested in the changing world in which we live.


After the screening, I spoke with Yung Chang, the Director, who said he first got the idea of the film back in 2002 when taking one of the so-called Farewell cruises on the Yangtze to visit the area before it became completely flooded. As he travelled with family members up the river he began to realise there was a connection between the boat and those on shore.

Friday, February 22, 2008



Carrie-Anne Moss: Catherine
Andrew Airlie: her husband Dale
Cameron Bright: their son Brady
Kevin Zegers: 20-something-year-old Jordie
Callum Keith Rennie: Walt Braugher, university professor
Tygh Runyan: his younger brother Dennis
Lauren Lee Smith: Sherri, student and part-time television weather reporter

I may be wrong but it seems to me Carl Bessai saw the movie Crash and said something to himself along the lines of

“I can write a story like that about a group of unhappy people in dysfunctional relationships all linked because of some tragic event. But I’ll have actors who just read their lines and include a couple of really sexy scenes to compensate. And in addition to writing the movie I’ll also direct it, produce it and handle the cinematography ‘cause I’m a one-man-show.”

And he might have added, “I’ll drag it out as long as I can with contrived situations and ultimately end up with a totally unsatisfying ending.”

Nuff said.

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

Catherine is stacking the cereal boxes and although she doesn’t touch the one on the left hand side laying down on its side, it moves from shot to shot.

When Sherri begins her weather report the clock behind her shows it to be 1:02pm. Although she only speaks for a minute or so, when her report is over it is now 1:25pm.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Fantasy adventure

David Strathairn: explorer and scientist Arthur Spiderwick
Sarah Bolger: 15-year-old Mallory
Freddie Highmore: her younger twin brothers Jared and Simon
Mary-Louise Parker: their mother Helen
Joan Plowright: Arthur’s daughter Lucinda (Lucy)

Two things make movies geared to children interesting to adults:
1. The story appeals to the child in us
2. There are double entendres for adults only that leave the children wondering “what are they laughing at?”

Unfortunately this one only meets the first criteria so it is a bit of a bore having to sit through one more version of the classic “children-overcome-monsters” movie.

One thing that is impressive though is the CGI. These computer-generated images are seamlessly incorporated with the live action to the point it’s almost impossible to tell what’s real and what’s pure fantasy.

for scary creature action (but not too scary) and violence, peril and thematic elements.

According to an intertitle the opening events took place 80-years ago which would have been in 1928. But on the bookshelf Jared rummages through there are several books published after that date, one as late as 1933.

The inhabitants are subjected to a serious attack by some of the creatures and the house sustains a lot of damage in the process. But you wouldn’t know it from the overhead crane shot near the end of the movie, as it never looked better.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Crime thriller

Colin Farrell: Ray, a hit-man from Dublin
Brendan Gleeson: his older partner-in-crime Ken
Thekla Reuten: innkeeper Marie
Clémence Poésy: Chloë, working with a movie company
Jordan Prentice: the dwarf Jimmy
Ralph Fiennes: the big boss Harry

Generally there is not a lot of humour associated with crime thrillers, which makes this movie so unusual. Interspersed with some rather smart dialog are a number of good one-liners and a few rather comical situations.

Another thing that sets this one apart is the pace: pretty nearly everything evolves slowly without undue haste, quite unlike most films of this sort that are generally frantic non-stop action.

As an added bonus, the acting throughout is top notch and the charming city of Bruges makes for a lovely backdrop to the entire affair.

for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, and some drug use.

Ken takes several swigs from his beer and the level is below some writing that encircles the glass. Ray enters and sits down on the stool beside him but now Ken’s beer is back to the level it was after the first gulp.

Ken and Ray arrive together on the train platform. The digital clock behind them shows the time to be 11:45. Ray gets on the train and they chat for a couple of minutes at most then the train pulls out of the station. The round clock at the end of the platform reads 12:00, about 10 minutes earlier than it should be.

Sunday, February 10, 2008



Egyptologist Dr. Bob Brier
DNA researcher Dr. Angelique Corthals

IMAX presentations frequently rely upon stunning visuals and keep any serious comment to the minimum. In this case the narration is informative and appropriate although we are left hanging about the discovery of a cure for malaria. Perhaps the subject of another IMAX movie to come?

For some there are moments when it is necessary to look away as the camera lingers on the 3,000 year-old mummies. But hopefully not for too long because making use of impressive CGI we get to see how the Egyptians built their monuments first hand. Truly amazing.



Crime thriller

Lorraine Stanley: street prostitute Kelly
Georgia Groome: 12-year-old Joanne
Johnny Harris: Kelly's pimp Derek
Sam Spruell: mobster Stuart Allen
Alexander Morton: his wealthy father Duncan

Too often the technique of flashback is overused and serves only to confuse the issue. Such is not the case with this gritty movie about some very unsavoury characters. Shot in washed-out, grainy, muted colours that perfectly match the dark, dirty seamy side of life. We are spared the actual event but the after effects of whatever brutal action took place are very evident. And it ain’t pretty.

With tight editing, excellent performances and fast paced action it sure holds your attention. Not a feel-good movie but one you’re not soon to forget.

for scenes of sex, nudity, graphic violence, profanity, drug use and underage smoking.



Vince Vaughn, organizer and show emcee
The four stand-up comedians:
Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebasrian Maniscalco

If you can hang in long enough to get past the opening silly improv comedy routine the rest of the movie is quiet entertaining. Most road trip movies are just that: tagging along watching the scenery go by while a group travels from one place to another doing their thing. This one is different in the sense the group members provide an assessment of their act and other uniquely personal thoughts. Few of us have any idea of the difficulties a comedian encounters not just performing every night for 30 nights but the insecurities they face.

Offsetting that of course are snippets from their on-stage acts, which provide enough hilarity to keep things on an even keel.

for pervasive language and some sex-related humor.

Saturday, February 9, 2008



African American step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant's entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. It is rooted within the competitive schoolyard song and dance rituals practised by historically African American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the mid-1900’s. It's aggressive, assertive style of dance emphasises beat over all else and actively resists the graceful or the traditionally beautiful.

Though stepping may be done by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations. Stepping draws upon elements of gymnastics, tap dance, march, African and Caribbean dance. Stepping includes semi-dangerous stunts as a part of individual routines such as backward flips. Some forms of stepping make use of props such as canes, rhythm sticks and/or fire and blindfolds.

Rutina Wesley: Raya, 20-year-old boarding school student
Dwain Murphy: Bishop, leader of the all-male step troupe
Tre Armstrong: Michelle, leader of the Fem Phatal Dancers

Despite the poorly written script it is fairly easy to figure out this “coming of age/overcome all adversity-type” movie just from the gist of it. Most of the dialog is peppered with unfamiliar teenage street slang and spoken with heavy immigrant accents but enough snippets of dialog can be understood to follow the story.

All the principal actors are unknowns but there really is not much asked of them other than to just be themselves. That they do well enough. The more demanding aspect of their performance is the actual dancing which they do superbly.

for some drug content, suggestive material and language.


With English subtitles as required

There has been any number of stories and movies about the systematic pillaging of art treasures by the Nazis during WWII. But none have presented it as clearly and truthfully as this film making use of original filmstock (as opposed to the grainy ones generally presented) and insightful narration by Joan Allen, an acknowledged expert in the field.

Interviews by some of those who were affected by this plundering also provide little known information about what else the Nazis were up to. Riveting stuff.


In ancient Greek mythology Europa was a Phoenician princess abducted by the god Zeus and taken to the island of Crete. By 500 B.C. Europa had transitioned from being the name of someone to that of a geographical designation, which by then had been expanded to encompass the region to the north of mainland Greece, the area known today as Europe.