Sunday, March 30, 2008



Charles Nelson Reilly (January 1931 – May 2007) was an American actor, comedian, director and drama teacher known for his comedic roles in movies, children's television, animated cartoons, and as a panellist on the television game show Match Game. Most of his work was on Broadway until the ‘60’s when he appeared regularly on television in different roles and as a guest on late night shows.

It is never a good sign when you are the only person in the theatre prior to the start of the movie.

Although I was unfamiliar with the man, I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn something about a world famous actor. This one-man play "Save It For the Stage” was filmed in 2006. He must have packed the audience with all his friends because just about everything he said or did evoked gales of laughter. Actually it sounded very much like a laugh track from one of those TV comedy shows. In any event it is very annoying when everyone else is breaking up and you’re sitting there with a quizzical smirk on your face.

Reilly has his own unique delivery: it’s called shouting at the audience. This he does to make his point, at frequent intervals and it is always unsettling. I decided that if he did it one more time I’d walk out. He does so I did.

for some strong language (= some four letter words)

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Original title: O Ano em Que Meus Pais Sairam de Férias
In Portuguese, Yiddish and German with English subtitles.

The República Federativa do Brasil is the fifth-largest country in the world by geographical area. The official language is Portuguese. Catholicism is the predominant religion. Republican democracy ended on April 1, 1964 with a successful military coup d’état. Anti-government manifestations particularily left-wing resulted in brutal repressive measures. Return to a democratic constitution officially began with the inauguration of a President on March 15, 1985.

In politics the left refers to those who advocate social equality as a political end. In the Western World the term left-wing is most often associated with social democracy. In other parts of the world including Brazil it takes the form of Communism or anti-imperialism.

The most prestigious international football competition is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup held every four years. This event is the most widely viewed in the world with an audience twice that of the summer Olympic Games. This football competition is known as soccer in some countries and in 1970 was the first ever held outside South America and Europe. Mexico hosted it. The Brazilian team featured the likes of Pelé, Carlos Alberto, Gérson, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Tostão. Together they are regarded as the greatest attacking World Cup team ever.

São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil with a population in excess of 10 million people. As in all of Brazil, people of different religions and cultures mix with each other producing a multi-ethnic society. Today, people of 100 different ethnicities make the city their home. The Bom Retiro borough is typical comprising both a large Jewish and active Italian community.

Michel Joelsas: 12-year-old Mauro
Eduardo Moreira: his Jewish father Daniel
Simone Spoladore: his Catholic mother Bia
Paulo Autran: Mauro’s grandfather Mótel, a barber
Germano Haiut: Schlomo, the grandfather's elderly next-door neighbour
Daniela Piepszyk: a young girl (11-year-old?) Hanna, the upstairs neighbour
Liliana Castro: Irene, a pretty waitress
Caio Blat: her boyfriend Ítalo, a politically active university student

Low-budget movies have their place amidst the mainstream offerings. Often set in foreign countries they provide a window to another way of life and offer a different perspective on the world as we see it. When combined with a touching story and some really fine performances this kind of movie makes for a pleasant diversion.

However it could benefit from some editing with too much of Mauro just hanging out in his grandfather’s apartment. There are other ways to convey the passage to time without subjecting the audience to lengthy expositions.

for thematic material, mild language, brief suggestive content, some violence and smoking.

Hebrew and Yiddish term for a non-Jewish person; synonymous with "gentile." Usually neutral, despite persistent untrue rumors that it is derogatory.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Original title: Sukkar banat
In Arabic and French with English subtitles

Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. There are wide-ranging estimates of Beirut's population, from as low as 938,940 people to a high of 2,012,000. The lack of an exact figure is due to the fact that no "comprehensive" population census has been taken in Lebanon since 1932.

It is usually referred to by Lebanese people by its French name, Beyrouth and is one of the most religiously diverse cities in all of the Middle East. There are nine major religious sects in Beirut: Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim, Druze, Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, and Protestant. Family matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance are still handled by the religious authorities representing a person's faith.

Travel and Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards for 2006 ranked Beirut the 9th best city in the world, falling just short of New York City but coming ahead of San Francisco.

Nadine Labaki: Layale, 30-year-old owner of the Si Belle beauty salon
Aziza Semaan: Lili, a bit of an odd-ball
Sihame Haddad: her younger sister Rose, a seamstress
Adel Karam: motorcycle policeman Youssef
Yasmine Elmasri: hair stylist Nisrine
Ismaïl Antar: her fiancé Bassam
Gisèle Aouad: aspiring actress Jamale
Joanna Moukarze: the shop’s shampooist Rima
Dimitri Staneofski: an elderly gentleman Charles

A film about women providing support to one another is not that unusual. What sets this one apart is the fact it takes place in a foreign country where the usual raft of problems is exacerbated by cultural and religious values.

Well acted throughout with plenty of funny situations and lots of love, even if it’s not the kind they were looking for. Some of the camera work is very unusual, a fresh look so to speak.

One minor complaint: Jamale is called upon to play the wanna-be actress almost as a cartoon character and her screen test goes on far too long.

for thematic elements involving sexuality, language and some smoking.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Political thriller

Sigourney Weaver: GNN News producer Rex Brooks
Dennis Quaid: Secret Service agent Thomas Barnes
Mathew Fox: fellow agent Kent Taylor
William Hurt: William Ashton, President of the United States
Forest Whitaker: Howard Lewis, an American tourist
Eduardo Noriega: Spanish cop Enrique
Ayelet Zurer: his girlfriend Veronica
Saïd Taghmaoui: Suarez, one of Veronica's friends

At the risk of alienating the audience completely the same event is replayed four or five times. With each showing from a different vantage point there are additional clues to help solve the riddle of what is taking place. Not a bad way to start.

As with all movies of this genre some suspension of disbelief is required for it to work. But it shouldn’t be with the acting: both agent Barnes and Lewis give it a little too much. There are enough plot twists and turns, unexpected developments and the like to keep things moving along. The requisite car chases are well done and the action fast-paced.

All in all not a bad movie but not one likely to become a classic.

for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language.

 Agent Barnes sustains a cut and when first seen extends from his sideburns and runs down his cheek at a 45° angle. During the scenes that follow sometimes it does not touch his sideburns, other times it is at a more acute angle.
 Anyone on the 7th floor of the hotel would not be looking directly down into the large public square where these events take place, as it is quiet some distance away.
 Although the blue car strikes any number of vehicles in pursuit of the ambulance, it remains pristine with undamaged fenders looking like it just came out of the showroom.
 The driver too. Pristine that is.

Agent Barnes shoots off at least a dozen rounds without reloading while running after the bad guys. I thought I had a nitpick since the last time I checked the maximum number of bullets in a magazine clip was just nine in this type of gun. However I now find out that now the make of semi-automatic pistol most commonly carried by law enforcement in the USA is a Glock. The Model 22 magazine holds 15 bullets and the Model 23 has a capacity of 13. You can’t win ‘em all.

Monday, March 24, 2008



Woody Harrelson: "One-Eyed" Jack Faro, owner of the seedy Rabbit’s Foot casino
Michael McKean: an evil developer
David Cross: Larry Schwartzman
Cheryl Hines: his sister Lainie
Gabe Kaplan: Larry and Lainie’s father
Ray Romano: Lainie’s husband
Chris Parnell: Harold
Werner Herzog: "The German"

Set in Las Vegas, the self-promoted gambling capital of the world, I wouldn’t bet on it (ha, ha…get it?) but my guess is that this movie will only appeal to those
a) Who are poker fanatics
b) Who think someone describing their home town as the “Frostbite Amputation Capital of the Midwest” is a really funny one-liner.

For the rest of us this televised poker competition is not only boring it is a complete waste of time.

for profanity and frequent drug use.

Sunday, March 23, 2008



Anyone who has read a newspaper or watched a newscast since the Bush Administration’s so-called war on terror began knows full well that certain liberties with the truth have been taken at the highest echelon of authority. And we know also that the leaders of the world’s greatest military power have exercised their “right” to ignore their own laws (as well as International agreements) regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and they do pretty much as they see fit.

But this film does more than rehash what has already been said. There are photos and film clips never previously seen along with interviews with some of the people who took part in these events. It is the most severe condemnation of the Bush administration to date.

for disturbing images involving torture and graphic nudity.

Saturday, March 22, 2008



Chris Cooper: middle-aged executive Harry Allen
Pierce Brosnan: his best friend Richard Langley
Rachel McAdams: Harry’s friend Kay Nesbitt
Patricia Clarkson: Harry’s wife Pat

All four leads turn in excellent performances and the story about relationships (in and out of marriage) has enough nuances to keep you engaged. Consistent with the movie making style of the period, the film editing generally comprises long takes which slows down the pace a tad. Certainly entertaining enough, it is probably not one you would chose to see a second time.

for some thematic elements and a scene of sexuality.

1. While Harry and Pat are sitting on the couch in the living room the camera is on Pat while idly stoking a dog by her side. She asks Harry a question and the camera position is now further back so we can see his response but no dog…it has vanished.
2. Pat keeps a blue bottle of Digestive Powder on the bedside table. From one shot to the next when Harry first comes in the bedroom it moves about the tray, although no one touches it.
3. The two male leads show their cultured upbringing by standing when a woman arrives at their table and their table manners are impeccable. So these two gentlemen would know it is considered proper for a man to remove his hat while on an elevator yet they fail to do so. Character flaw or nitpick? You know how I would vote.
4. Harry calls the telephone operator to report a problem with his home phone and tells her the number is 432 92. This can’t be right because the telephone number of Mrs. Walsh, his neighbour, is Radisson XXXX so you would dial 7XX XX not 4XX XX.
5. Also that telephone exchange was for the Duluth Minnesota area and not used in New York City where these events take place.

When they give out awards for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design this one has to be a contender. The “look” about the film is absolutely exquisite. And they have gone to great length to make it historically correct, even to the props. Upon seeing the big 20” television screen I thought I had a nitpick because the size of most TV screens back in 1949 was so small it could be entirely hidden with the current edition of Reader’s Digest magazine. But it turns out big screens were available, just not everyone could afford one.

Friday, March 21, 2008



Charlize Theron: 30-something-year-old Joleen Reedy
AnnaSophia Robb: her 11-year-old daughter Tara
Nick Stahl: Joleen’s younger brother James
Woody Harrelson: his friend Randall
Dennis Hopper: the father of Joleen and James

If you’ve had a bad day yourself, pass on going to see this film. The central theme is simple enough: the choice one makes impacts not only ourselves but also others. And of course some people are prone to making bad choices more often than good ones. However all this reality can become depressing.

On the other hand it can provide an opportunity to see some really fine acting by a young person (Robb as Tara) especially during the time she is out on the farm.

The film editor has done an excellent job as virtually every shot we see advances the story, albeit at a rather turgid pace. Hardly anything can be edited out without some loss of story development.

Very little screen time is given to the more experienced actors (Theron and Hopper) but both pack a wallop in their performances.

for language and a scene of violence.

Anyone a bit squeamish will want to avert their eyes during the episode in the barn of the very bloody birth of a stillborn calf.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Animated cartoon

Jim Carrey: Horton the elephant
Seth Rogen: his pal Morton the mouse
Carol Burnett: the Kangaroo
Steve Carell: Mayor of Who-ville
Amy Poehler: his wife Sally O’Malley
Isla Fisher: Who-ville scientist Dr. Mary Lou LaRue
Will Arnett: Vlad the vulture
Narration by Charles Osgood

You could do a lot worst on a Saturday afternoon than going to see this one, especially if you have young ones along with you. But it lacks certain required elements both from the kid’s point-of-view and that of the adults. The result is somewhat disappointing despite the quality of the CGI and a good story line.

For starters, it has only a few amusing moments and just one really good laugh-out-loud joke. Kids all love the rude bodily sounds and giggle knowingly whenever they hear them but there are none. Nor are there any double entendres, clever dialog “for adults only” that make the kids ask, “what are you laughing at mommy?”

There is the requisite fast-talking sidekick but the little fellow has very limited screen time so really plays a minor part in the scheme of things. And there is hardly a happy tune to be heard the whole time which runs a tad too long.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Crime thriller
Based on a true story

During the First World War British secret services were divided into numbered sections referred to as Military Intelligence, number X. For example section MI-1 was devoted to code breaking. Section MI-5 was made responsible for internal UK and overseas British territories intelligence. Section MI-6 was responsible for external intelligence. Both MI5 and MI6 operate abroad and at home, but in different ways: MI5 concentrates on protecting British citizens and British interests wherever they might be in the world, whereas MI6 concentrates on gathering intelligence which might be of use to the government.

In 1912 before the outbreak of the First World War, the British Admiralty and the War Office decided that they needed some means of preventing the press from publishing information that might be of value to a future enemy. Consequently the Defence Advisory Notice system was implemented. Each D-Notice was an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects, for reasons of national security.

Saphron Burrows: former model Martine Love
Richard Lintern: her lover Tim Everett, a MI-5 agent
Jason Statham: Terry Leather, garage owner
Stephen Campbell Moore: his drinking buddy Kevin
Daniel Mays: their friend Dave
David Suchet: Lew Vogel, owner of a sex club
Peter De Jersey: Michael X, a Black Power revolutionary

Perhaps some liberties have been taken in the telling of this story but for the most part it rings true. Unlike most movies of this type, it evolves in a straightforward chronological manner without the usual flashbacks. Just as well because it is complicated enough with several sub-plots as the principals get involved in other people who have their own problems. And it is always a good idea to remember that government agencies sometimes resort to criminal methods, often having others do the dirty work. Watergate comes to mind.

for violence, profanity, nudity and sexual situations (they got that right!)

 The leather goods shop named Le Sac has the Barclaycard/VISA decal stuck on the window. Although it was the first credit card introduced in the UK back in 1966, Barclaycard did not become part of the VISA network until 1977, some six years after these events took place.
 The date on the tombstone written in Roman numerals ends with XV not IX which means the year 15 not 9 as stated by one of the guys when he sees it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Romantic comedy

Frances McDormand: Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle-aged nanny
Amy Adams: American actress/nightclub singer Delysia Lafosse
Tom Payne: Phil, a producer of London musicals
Mark Strong: Delysia’s employer, nightclub owner Nick
Lee Pace: penniless piano player Michael
Shirley Henderson: Edythe, owner of a boutique clothing store
Ciaran Hinds: her fiancé Joe, a lingerie designer

Right from the get-go it is apparent this is not a serious film that will become a classic. Instead it comes across as a stage play with everyone emoting rather than simply acting. Once you accept that premise things work out fine since this modern-day fairy tale is a pleasant diversion. The high production standards and glorious costumes add to the theatrical-look of the whole thing.

for some partial nudity and innuendo.

 Surveillance of public areas by Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) was developed in the United Kingdom partly in response to the IRA bombings in the ‘70’s. Consequently the camera high up on the wall to the right of the Savoy hotel main entrance would not have been there in 1939 when the movie takes place.
 The living room clock shows it to be 10:16 as Delysia starts to put on her fur coat which takes no time at all but when she is done the clock shows that 6 minutes have transpired.
 During the sustained bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany during World War II searchlights were used extensively in defence against these nighttime aerial bomber raids. Generally searchlights in pairs were used to ascertain the altitude of the enemy bombers so that the fuses on anti-aircraft flak shells could be set appropriately for maximum effect. However all this took place at least a year after the movie since the Blitz did not began until September 1940.



Gabe Nevins: 17-year-old Alex
Taylor Momsen: his girlfriend Jennifer
Jake Miller: Alex’s best friend Jared
Daniel Liu: police Detective Richard Lu
Lauren McKinney: Alex’s friend Macy

Including several very long takes in this instance serves only to extend the length of the movie unnecessarily. The fact that the Director and Film Editor is one and the same person might explain why some scenes are dragged out to the point they become boring.

But that criticism aside, the film has a lot going for it. For starters, no one seems to be acting. They all come across as just being themselves. How refreshing.

Making use of flashbacks we gradually get to figure things out for ourself about what happened at the park. But enough said.

for an extremely graphic, unflinchingly brutal image of a dying man.

Never did figure out the connection between the hardly audible mumbling in French while we see the grainy 8mm shots of the skateboarders doing their thing.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Mostly in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles

Sasson Gabai: the band’s leader Lt.-Col. Tawfiq Zacharya
Khalifa Natour: clarinetist and wannabe conductor Simon
Saleh Bakri: violinist and the band’s newest member Khaled
Ronit Elkabetz: Dina, proprietor of the town's only café
Rubi Moscovich: her friend Itzik
Shlomi Avraham: their friend Papi

A very low-key simple story about a group of people who spend one evening with strangers in a foreign country. This is not a big production number with casts of thousands and budgets of millions. Instead it is very laid back, slow paced film relying upon some really good acting and several unexpected humorous moments to propel it forward. Not that very much happens mind you but it is a pleasant experience to sit back and watch what’s going on.

for brief strong language (one solitary f-word: that’s it!)

Petah Tikva (“Doorway to Hope” in Hebrew) is a city of 175,000 in the center district of Israel north-east of Tel Aviv. It sounds very much like Bet Hatikva (“House of Hope” in Hebrew).

Friday, March 7, 2008


Animal adventure

Using voice-over rather than have the real-life beavers talking sets this movie apart from the more common animated version. But in so doing, it comes across like a National Geographic documentary and so would have little appeal to anyone under 6 or 7 because let’s face it, real beavers are not cute and cuddly. Although there were several members of the target audience (my guess, 6 to 12 years old) their lack of enthusiasm at the end of the film probably says it all. In a word, it’s a disappointing movie for several reasons:
 During the first half, the producers have tried to create some measure of suspense (including appropriate dooms-day type music) of the impending demise of the beavers by some of the animals in the area, all of whom have no such intention; this “cry wolf” scenario soon becomes boring
 Since it is a movie about beavers the paucity of information about their diet, their natural defence mechanism, even how their front teeth don’t get completely worn down from felling trees is a huge oversight
 The story is bereft of conventional expectations in the case of the reunion of the little beaver with his mother and how the older male beaver so easily integrates himself with the others
 The narrative is infantile and replete with well used clichés (“neither hide nor hare”, “patience personified” etc)

On the plus side it does have some things going for it, the first being “how do they do that?” because the camera is right there, all the time, so how come these wild animals didn’t turn and run?

In addition, the choice of music is bang on and there are some beautiful but gratuitous shots of the scenery that don’t relate that well to the story.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008


In Portuguese with English subtitles

In a sense this is a continuation of the movie The City of God that was playing five years ago that told the story of poor Brazilian children struggling to survive in the gang-ruled slum-district of Rio de Janeiro known as Dead-End Hill.

Douglas Silva: 17-year-old security guard Acerola known as Ace
Camila Monteiro: his wife Cris
Darlan Cunha: Ace’s best friend Laranjinha, a motorcycle taxi-driver known as Wallace
Naima Silva: his girlfriend Camila

Although the principal story line is about the two close friends, they get caught up in the turf wars of rival gangs. Without taking time to clearly identify and establish these gangs, when the fighting takes place it is impossible to figure out who is who much less on whose side the principals are associated with. Given that half the movie involves these people that is a major shortcoming.

Almost 2 hours long, repetitive scenes such as Ace and Wallace on a motorcycle scooting along a coastal road could have easily been edited out. The acting is so-so and the musical score practically non-existent.

for violent content, language and some sexuality.


Romantic comedy

Christina Ricci: 25-year old spinster Penelope Wilhern
Catherine O'Hara: her socialite mother Jessica
Richard E. Grant: her wealthy father Franklyn
Simon Woods: wealthy suitor Edward Vanderman Jr.
Peter Dinklage: midget journalist Lemon
James McAvoy: poker-player Max
Reese Witherspoon: motorcycle messenger Annie

The target audience is clearly teenage girls who might be having a problem with their own body image and identity. Based on the reaction of several 15-year-old girls in the audience, who giggled and made other audible sounds, they’ve hit the mark. For the rest of us any movie that that opens with the caption "Once upon a time…" immediately sets the scene and the final outcome is no longer in doubt.

Along the way there are a few chuckles but only one real “laffer” uttered by Annie when in the bar.

for thematic elements, some innuendo and language.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Historical drama

The second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, young Henry became heir to the throne of England in 1502 when his older brother Arthur died. With the death of his father in 1509, the 17-year-old became King Henry VIII. He then married his brother’s widow, Katherine of Aragon, the 23-year-old daughter of King Ferninand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

Sir Thomas Boleyn was an opportunistic Tudor diplomat and politician. He married Lady Elizabeth Howard and they had at least five children, three of whom survived their early childhood: Lady Mary born in 1499, Lady Anne born in 1501 and George born in 1504.

Their ambitious uncle Thomas Howard was also a prominent politician.

Mark Rylance: Sir Thomas Boleyn
Kristin Scott Thomas: his wife Lady Elizabeth
Scarlett Johansson: their eldest daughter Mary
Natalie Portman: her sister Anne
Jim Sturgess: their brother George
Benedict Cumberbatch: merchant William Carey
Oliver Coleman: Henry Percy, son of the county's largest landowner
David Morrissey: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Eric Bana: King Henry VIII
Ana Torrent: Queen Katharine of Aragon

With the backing of the BBC you’re pretty sure of getting a well documented, mostly historically accurate, lavish production. The costumes alone are worth the price of admission.

With strong performances throughout, it moves along at a pretty fast clip so you have to pay attention as things evolve because there is a lot going on. For some, perhaps too much but history-buffs will appreciate the wealth of information presented. And maybe even gain a better understanding of those troubled times.

for mature thematic elements, sexual content and some violent images (but thankfully not too violent).

The Boleyn family name is pronounced beau-lynne (or if you prefer bow, the thing you tie, -lynne)

Later in life, Henry VIII became grossly overweight, winding up with a 54”waist. His increased size dates from a jousting accident in 1536 when he suffered a thigh wound which prevented him from exercising.