Saturday, May 31, 2008


Original title: Le Monde selon Monsanto
Some French and Spanish with English subtitles.

In 1901 John F. Queeny started up a small chemical company producing saccharine. Named after his wife, Olga Monsanto, today the Monsanto Company is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. Strangely enough on their website they fail to mention having produced and promoted highly toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange (a defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War) and PCBs (banned in the 1970s due to its high toxicity). Monsanto has aggressively purchased conventional seed companies and is now the largest seed company in the world. And Monsanto is by far the leading producer of genetically engineered seed, holding an astounding 70%–100% market share for various crops.

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. This acronym applies to plants, animals or micro-organisms that have been genetically altered using molecular genetics techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering. This process of genetic engineering was made possible through a series of scientific advances including the discovery of DNA and the creation of the first recombinant bacteria in 1973. The result is a genetically engineered organism (GEO).

BGH stands for bovine growth hormone; BST is the abbreviation for bovine somatotropin. These are two names for the same thing: a protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of cattle.

This protein can be produced synthetically using recombinant DNA technology. The resulting product is called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). It is administered to the cow by injection and used to increase milk production.

The United States Food and Drug Administration granted marketing approval for rBST in November 1993 to Monsanto under the trade name Posilac. The FDA has stated that milk and meat from cows treated with rBST are safe for human consumption. Following nine years of comprehensive review of the effects of rBST on animal and human safety, and consideration of the findings by two independent external committees Health Canada in 1999 announced that it will not approve the sale of rBST in Canada. Subsequently the European Union, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also banned it use. Concerns about rBST have escalated in the USA as evidenced by the food store Safeway and coffee chain Starbucks announcing in January 2007 that they would no longer sell or serve milk from cows treated with rBST.

Written and directed by French journalist and filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin her passion for the subject is probably the reason why it runs a little too long. More than a few interviews are shown in their entirety whereas some editing would have made the point more effectively. Also far too much time is devoted to watching her Google for information on her computer.

However the film is notable in that it brings to light the underhanded tactics used by Monsanto to stifle concerns about their products and how it has resorted to misleading advertising, concealing scientific information and offering bribes to influential government officials.

And the implication of any one company controlling the sale of all seeds in the world boggles the mind. Given their callous disregard for the well being of humanity in the past to think Monsanto could one day control much of the world’s food supply, well that’s downright scary!


Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane is one of the best known synthetic pesticides. First synthesised in 1874, the insecticidal properties of DDT were not discovered until 1939. During World War II it was used for the first time with great effect to control mosquitoes that had been spreading malaria and typhus among both military and civilian populations. After the war it was used extensively throughout the world as an agricultural insecticide.

In 1962 Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson was published. The book catalogued the environmental impact of the indiscriminate spraying of DDT and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health. The book suggested that DDT and other pesticides might cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. The publication of the book resulted in a large public outcry that 10 years later led to DDT being banned for agricultural use, first in the US and subsequently worldwide under the Stockholm Convention. Let’s hope this film has the same impact.

Sunday, May 25, 2008



Harrison Ford: Professor Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones
Cate Blanchett: paranormal research scientist Irina Spalko
Jim Broadbent: Dean Stanforth
Shia LaBoeuf: 20-year-old Mutt Williams
John Hurt: Indy's old colleague University of Chicago Professor Oxley
Ray Winstone: Indy’s sidekick Mac McHale
Marion Ravenwood: Karen Allen, Oxley’s associate

As with any sequel there are certain expectations. For the most part these are met in the latest reincarnation of the Indy series: lots of action, unbelievable escapes, witty one-liners, fights, big explosions, creepy-crawly things.

However two key elements are missing: at no point in time do we think Indy is in danger so there is little excitement generated and the music is a disappointing replay from previous episodes rather than anything original.

The acting for the most part is fine and the production values are high. But it is too long, by about half an hour, as several action sequences drag on to the point of being repetitive. As with most Spielberg’s movies it exceeds two hours. Some movies warrant the extended running time: this one does not.

for adventure violence and scary images.

 I won’t even mention how inadequate would be the protection Indy hides in during the blast…we have to give him a little bit of slack.
 Mutt tells Indy that his mother Mary “was angry and really P.O.’d at such and such”. Although the somewhat vulgar expression peed off was used by Armed Forces personnel during World War II it was not until the early ‘70’s that it became shortened to P.O.’d, some 15 years after these events took place.
 While at the diner Mutt abruptly stands up to fight with someone at the next table and in so doing knocks over the ketchup and mustard bottles. The next shot looking over Mutt’s shoulder shows both bottles standing upright. When the camera reverts to Indy’s point of view the bottles are lying down like they are supposed to so he sets them upright.

Some of Director Steven Spielberg’s movies:
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 135 minutes
Jaws: 124 minutes
Raiders of the Lost Ark: 115 minutes
ET: 115 minutes
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: 118 minutes
The Color Purple: 154 minutes
Empire of the Sun: 154 minutes
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: 127 minutes
Jurassic Park: 127 minutes
Schindler’s List: 195 minutes
The Lost World Jurassic Park: 129 minutes
Saving Private Ryan: 170 minutes
Artificial Intelligence: 146 minutes
Minority Report: 145 minutes
Catch Me if you Can: 141 minutes
The Terminal: 128 minutes
War of the Worlds: 116 minutes
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: 124 minutes
Average running time: 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Crime thriller
In French with English subtitles
Original title: Le Piège américain

Rémy Girard: Night club owner and businessman Lucien Rivard
Gérard Darmon: Paul Mondolini, an associate in the French Connection
Colm Feore: Maurice Bishop, hoodlum

Understanding the complexity of the underworld is never an easy chore. But it is made more difficult when the film purposely tries to hide the connections between these individuals. We are shown snippets of various criminal activities scattered though out the world (in Havana, New Orleans, Dallas, Marseilles and even the jungles of Indonesia) and get to see who is involved.

Then we are left to figure out “who dunnit”. But I wasn’t up to it and left after an hour.

for sexual content, brief nudity, language and drug use.

Thursday, May 22, 2008



Bill Milner: 11-year-old Will Proudfoot
Lee Carter: Will Poulter, troublemaker
Jessica Stevenson: Proudfoot's widowed mother Mary, staunch member of The Brethren
Neil Dudgeon: Brother Joshua
Jules Sitruk: Didier, a French exchange student

This is a little movie that tries hard to be funny. Sometimes it succeeds (even though most of slapstick is telegraphed and unimaginative) but at times it is downright annoying.

Case in point: the character Didier comes across as a crass know-it-all and is completely unbelievable. His antics are totally out of character with the rest of the film and a real source of irritation.

Another thing: making fun of Will’s elderly grandmother is going for the cheap laugh at someone’s expense. I don’t appreciate this type of humour at all.

for some violence (lots and lots of it) and reckless behavior.

The boys have misspelled their hero’s name: it should be Rambo without the w at the end. And you have to wonder why both boys have the same first name; the screenwriter could have been a little more imaginative.

The Plymouth Brethren (more commonly known as The Brethren) is a strict ultra-religious group whose history can be traced back to Dublin in the late 1820s. This non-denominational Evangelical movement is named after the English seaside town of Plymouth, where a sizeable number of Christians gathered during the early years of the movement. This fundamentalist religious sect has strict rules about worldly activities: no TV, no movies (not even educational videos shown at school). It also forbids dancing and music (apart from the singing of hymns). The women cover their heads and dress modestly.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Romantic comedy

Helen Hunt: 39-year-old schoolteacher April Epner
Matthew Broderick: her husband Ben
Bette Midler: TV talk show host Bernice Graves
Colin Firth: Frank, a single dad

If 1 is > than 2 then R is < 3.

This cryptic mathematical formula (better known as Ralph's Rating Rule #1) can be translated as follows:
If any 1 person assumes more than 2 key production roles then the Rating of the film will be less than 3.

In this case the Rating is 1 because I walked out after a torturous 45 minutes hoping it would get better. But it didn’t.

Helen Hunt is the Producer, the Director, Writer and Female star. As such she has total control over all aspects of the film and it is a mess. In addition to the lousy acting evident right from the get go and the unrealistic situations that develop the story is boring.

Even the sex scenes are a disappointment: no one even bothers to take their clothes off.

for profanity and sexual situations.


Some French and Chinese with subtitles in English.

Director/Editor: Howard Goldberg
Producer: Ina Fichman
Director of Photography: German Gutierrez
Original Music: Ned Bouhalassa

The applause began as the end credits first appeared. This spontaneous expression of approval is the most sincere praise any audience can bestow on a theatrical performance and in this case it is truly warranted.

Dealing with a subject matter not previously embraced by the movie industry this documentary brings to light the discrimination people have towards short statured males.

Replete with little known facts, including statistics that economists have known for a long time, as well as revealing names of those we might have suspected to be short it is both informative and often humorous. Some of the things are downright funny, others less so because discrimination is not something to laugh at. Crisp editing keeps things moving along.

for some language (couple of swear words).

Following the screening I had a chance to speak with the Director. He told me that in addition to wanting the film to be entertaining and educational he also saw it as a springboard for short men to “come out of the closet”.

In parting he gave me a pass for two people for any show at the Montreal AMC theatre. If you’d like to go see the movie for free drop me a line…first come, first served of course.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


In Greek, Yiddish and German with English subtitles

Robbie Kay: 7-year-old Jakob
Rade Sherbedgia: Athos, a Greek archeologist
Stephen Dillane: the older Jakob
Rosamund Pike: his girlfriend Alex
Ed Stoppard: their neighbout Ben
Ayelet Zurer: Ben’s girlfriend Michaela

Although it promises to be an interesting film about survival after the war, making use of flashbacks within flashbacks and short snippets soon dooms this to the category of “It’s too complicated and I don’t care anymore”. There are simply too many pieces to sort out. After a while only the lovely Greek islands are of any importance. And it’s not supposed to be a travelogue.

for sexual situations, nudity and violence.

Thursday, May 15, 2008



Ellen Burstyn: 90-something-year old Hagar Shipley
Dylan Baker: her eldest son Marvin, a doctor
Sheila McCarthy: his wife Doris
Christine Horne: the young Hagar
Cole Hauser: her boyfriend Bram Shipley
Devin Bostick: the young Marvin
Kevin Zegers: his younger brother John
Ellen Page: John’s girlfriend Arlene

I certainly don’t have a problem with any film making use of a flashback or two to tell the story. But this one over does it. Just when you get settled in to the present day Hagar thinks of something that took place in earlier years so off you go to that time frame. After a bit you’re transported back again to the present but not for long as another memory-jogger sends us once more into the past. What a ride. There should be a law against using flashback more than 2 times in any one movie.

This would have been a far better movie had they chosen to tell the story in one long flashback instead of this flip-flop method. It’s too bad, because there are some good performances if you can hang in long enough to see it through.

for some sexual content, brief nudity, mild language and some drug use.



Richard Jenkins: Sixty-two-year-old economics Professor Walter Vale
Danai Gurira: Zainab, a costume jewellery designer
Haaz Sleiman: her boyfriend Tarek, a musician
Hiam Abbass: his mother Mouna

Terrific acting is but one of the things that sets this movie apart. The low-key, unhurried pace is another but the main thing is the story about random encounters and the impact they can have on our lives.

Taking a simpler approach to story telling, there are no flashbacks, no parallel developments, in fact none of the more sophisticated filming techniques seen so often. By contrast the director takes an unusual approach like showing a discussion being held behind closed doors without our hearing what is being said or having people speaking in a language other than English without subtitles being shown on the screen. He relies on the fact we are smart enough to figure it out by ourselves. How refreshing.

Oh by the way: did I mention the superb acting?

for brief strong language.

The Republic of Senegal is a country on the Atlantic coast of western Africa. Senegal has a population of over 11 million, about 70 percent of whom live in rural areas. Dakar is the capital city. French, which was inherited from the colonial era, is the official language although there are 35 other languages spoken throughout the country.

The Syrian Arab Republic is a country in Southwest Asian sandwiched between Turkey and Iraq, bordering Lebanon to the South. The capital city is Damascus. Arabs make up over 90% of the population. Formerly a French mandate, Syria attained independence in 1946, but can trace its roots to the fourth millennium BC. It is one of the fifteen states that comprise the so-called “Cradle of Civilisation". The Euphrates, Syria's most important river, crosses the country in the east. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and has maintained a controversial military presence there ever since.

You won’t be bothered by kids when viewing this film in a movie theatre. Children will not have the slightest bit of interest in it.

Monday, May 12, 2008



Tina Fey: 37-year-old Kate Holbrook, a VP with an organic foods company
Sigourney Weaver: agency owner Chaffee Bicknell
Amy Poehler: a high-school dropout Angie Ostrowiski
Dax Shepard: her boyfriend (or common-law husband?) Carl
Romany Malco: Oscar, doorman at Kate’s luxury apartment
Steve Martin: Barry, the founder of Round Earth and Kate’s boss
Greg Kinnear: Rob, owner of a blended juice cafe

It’s not much of a comedy when the best lines are ones delivered by a doorman. Steve Martin can be funny but not when it comes across as forced and repetitive. The white-trash jokes might be offensive to some but Carl’s foul-mouth boorish behaviour will be objectionable to almost everyone.

Despite some respectable performances the whole thing comes across as a sit-com rerun with the funny moments the groan or slight-smile-type rather than laugh out loud sort. And I won't even get into suspension of disbelief requirement.

for crude sexual humor, language and a drug reference.

Kate and Rob stroll down a lane and pass by a fire hydrant then stop beside a lamppost. When they turn to retrace their steps they have been magically transported back some distance since now they are starting off very close to the fire hydrant.

Although product placement has been around a long time sometimes it can be overdone and becomes very intrusive. Not content showcasing products to reduce the cost of production (Audi automobiles, Marriott hotels) there are many products for which they would charge a fee: several brands of beer, sugary snacks, baby products and the like. There should be some kind of law limiting the amount of advertising a paying audience is subjected to!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


In German and Turkish with English subtitles.
Original title: Auf der anderen seite

Tuncel Kurtiz: Turkish immigrant Ali Aksu living in Germany
Nurgül Kose: Yeter Öztürk aka Jessy, a Turkish prostitute
Baki Davrak: Ali’s son, Hamburg University professor Nejat Aksu
Nurgül Yesilçay: Jessy’s 27-year-old daughter using the alias Gül Korkmaz
Patriycia Ziolkowska: Hamburg college student Charlotte 'Lotte' Staub
Hanna Schygulla: her mother Susanne

Exploring relationships between father and son\mother and daughter and their interactions with others can be confusing at first. For that reason it’s a good idea to have the principal cast members sorted out in your mind before venturing out.

Well written and beautifully acted with time taken to flesh out the characters it runs to a little over two hours but doesn’t seem like it.

for some sexuality and violence.

Bremen is a port city in northwestern Germany about 60 km south of the North Sea. In 2005, the population of the city was estimated to be 545,983.

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany and its principal port. It is also the second-largest port in all of Europe after Rotterdam. The Hamburg Metropolitan Area is home to 4.5 million people.

Istanbul is Europe’s most populous city and is Turkey’s cultural and financial centre. Located on the Bosphorus Strait the city extends both on the European and on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. When the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made the city the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire he conferred on it the name Nova Roma ("New Rome") but it soon became better known as Constantinople. The modern Turkish name, in a range of variants, dates back to 1453. The city has a population of 11,372,613 residents according to the latest count as of 2007.

Filyos is but one of many natural and sandy beaches found along a fifty-mile stretch of the Turkey coast on the Baltic Sea.

Raki is an anise–flavoured apéritif similar to other similar tasting alcoholic beverages available in the Mediterranean including the French pastis, Italian sambuca and Greek ouzo.

Friday, May 9, 2008



There are few movies that disappoint because the end credits appear. This is one of them.

During the course of almost two hours we get to know various members of the chorus and can relate to them almost like old friends. Although the average age of the choir members is eighty, they sure don’t act it.

This feel good documentary tracks their efforts under the direction of Bob Sillman, their youthful music director, (he’s just a kid of 53), during a six week period in preparation for the annual show in their hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts. Along with a lot of good music and a few chuckles there are moments of serious reflection (even sadness) that taken together makes for a very entertaining outing.



Comic book hero

Terrence Howard: Stark’s buddy, Air Force Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes
Jeff Bridges: long-time partner of Stark Enterprises, Obadiah Stane
Robert Downey Jr.: billionaire industrialist Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow: his PA, Virginia “Pepper” Potts
Shaun Toub: Yinsen, a scientist held captive in Afghanistan
Faran Tahir: terrorists leader Raza

Fans of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and Robin will certainly enjoy this latest addition to the reincarnation of a comic book hero. Although the demographic clearly is teen and above, even those who are “way-above” and with a couple of hours on their hands will find it an entertaining experience.

As expected there are lots of gadgets, good looking cars (and good looking women too) with just a smattering of romance and some humorous moments the time flies by although it’s two hours long. Production values are first rate as is the acting and the editing is crisp.

for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and brief suggestive content.