Sunday, October 19, 2008


War, romance

This map of the area around the small town of Ypres, Belgium (shown as the red symbol at the midway point) indicates the frontline at various stages from just east of the town progressing to the line on the right encompassing the village of Passchendaele. The assault was the first major international battle for the contingent of Canadian troops. The distance between the two solid lines is a mere 5 miles. It cost the lives of 140,000 Allied troops, roughly 2 inches of territory gained per dead soldier.

Paul Gross: Sergeant Michael Dunne
Caroline Dhavernas: Nurse Lt. Sarah Mann
Joe Dinicol: her brother David

No war story would be complete without some element of romance: this film devotes most of the time to just that and far less to the battle scenes. This may come as a disappointment to anyone looking for more action. For me it was enough because not since Saving Private Ryan has hand-to-hand fighting been so realistically presented on screen. It’s enough to make you want to stop all wars now.

This film is about Canadians during the First World War both at home and on the battlefield. The producers have gone to great lengths to accurately portray the battle scenes. It has that authentic look and feel about it. The acting is fine and the cinematography first-rate.

for war violence.

Actual black-and-white film footage and photos accompany the end credits. No one even moved while these were being shown. Having that many people stay after the end of a movie is rare indeed

Saturday, October 18, 2008



Josh Brolin: G.W. Bush, forty-third President of the United States
Scott Glenn: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Jeffrey Wright: Secretary of State Colin Powell
Thandie Newton: National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Richard Dreyfuss: Vice President Dick Cheney
Toby Jones: Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove
Vincent Kartheiser: speechwriter David Frum
Elizabeth Banks: the president’s wife Laura
James Cromwell: former President George Herbert Walker Bush
Ellen Burstyn: his wife and mother to W
Bruce McGill: C.I.A. director George Tenet

This is a straightforward biography of George W Bush ending in 2004, a year after the invasion of Iraq. It has a ring of truth about it despite skipping over some major issues (his service with the Air National Guard for one). The official website indicates that some “creative liberties were taken for the benefit of the narrative” but for the most part it seems consistent with well-documented facts.

The acting is uniformly excellent and casting has done a great job. Many of the actors physically resemble the real personage although we do have to make a mental shift for some (Rumsfeld and the elder Bush for example). But the one who’s bang-on is Dreyfuss: he has mastered the voice, the facial tics and even the sinister look of the real thing. Brolin comes a close second in his portrayal of the President.

Although a tad long at two hours and nine minutes it doesn’t seem like it. The one word I heard most frequently mentioned by others upon exiting was “interesting”. That it is.

for language, sexual references, alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing images of warfare.

 During the roundtable meeting while everyone else is eating pecan pie the President’s glass is less than half full except for one scene when it fills itself only to revert to the previous level in the shot following.
 Although he had given up drinking in several scenes after that W has a beer in hand: this could have been a dandy nit-pick except for the fact it’s a non-alcoholic brand of beer called O’Doul’s…drats!

The person maintaining the movie marquee got a break on this one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Mostly in English with subtitles as necessary

The title is obviously a made-up word combing RELIGion with ridicULOUS which says a lot about Maher’s view on “organised belief systems” in general. Combining his dual persona as a stand-up comedian and political commentator, Bill Maher pokes fun at the principal tenents of all three major religious groups (Christian, Judaism and Islam) as well as some lesser known ones.

It is funny at times. Often the humour comes from the subtitles, movie clips and the music which act as counterpoint to what the interviewee is saying. Not everything works though and some will find Maher’s irreverent stand to be offensive and sacrilegious.

Overall it has that low-budget look about it what with some sloppy editing and the boom microphone intruding into the picture frame on several occasions.

for some language and sexual material.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Romantic comedy

 500,000 rupees is worth approximately US$10,000 (4,000 rupees about US$80)
 MPI (Minutes Per Incident) is the company’s key performance indicator
 In India a person’s so-called "good name" is their first name
 Cardamom is a ginger-smelling spice

Josh Hamilton: Todd Anderson, Manager of a customer call center
Matt Smith: Dave, the big boss of American Novelty Products
Asif Basra: Todd’s replacement Purohit N. Virajnarianan
Ayesha Dharker: Asha, the call center’s most experienced employee

Lower labour costs are the prime reason most companies enter into an agreement to subcontract jobs offshore to a third-party. Obviously there is nothing funny about the practice of outsourcing to the person who has lost their job so the humour in this little film comes about from the situation and not at the expense of those out of work. But it is funny in a “small-smile” way rather than the “laugh-out-loud” sort. This is far more real than the usual sit-com type. And speaking of real, the romantic part is just that too.

This is a thoroughly entertaining movie about a business practice usually seen in a negative light.

for some sexual content.

 When Todd arrives at the rooming house the wide shoulder pad has slid down the strap attached to his briefcase. Following a brief view of the landlady then back to Todd we see that the pad has moved up on its own where it should be.
 Todd calls his boss and after a brief conversation Dave hangs up and all we hear is the dial tone. But when a call is terminated the line simply goes dead; we would hear nothing. The dial tone is heard before dialling.
 From the shot over his shoulder it is evident that Todd has taken a really big bite out of his hamburger. However when the camera shifts so we see Todd face on, the hamburger has yet to be bitten into.

Friday, October 10, 2008



Jeremy Irons: Randall Bragg, leader of an outlaw gang
Timothy Spall: Townsman Phil Olson
Ed Harris: Virgil Cole, one of two “guns-for-hire”
Viggo Mortensen: the other one, his long-time partner Everett Hitch
Renée Zellweger: Allison (Allie) French

Just one look at the cast and it will come as no surprise that there are stellar performances by virtually everyone.

Along the lines of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid it is rather slow paced with the emphasis on character development rather than a lot of fighting and shooting. At almost two hours for some it will be seen as a tad too long but I can’t recall any really dull moments.

There is uncompromising attention to period detail: the crinkled panes of glass, the house being constructed in timber framing style (and not today’s stick framing method using dimensional lumber), vintage style handcuffs, authentic period costumes sometime realistically frayed on the edges.

for some violence and language (which seems out of line as the violence is just the usual cowboy stuff and the language is only a half dozen swear words…PG would be more appropriate).

It has been my experience that a movie with one person holding down more that 3 principal roles results in a lousy film. Ed Harris has four key positions (as leading man, Director, Producer and Writer) which only serves to prove there is an exception to every rule.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Based on a true story

Greg Kinnear: college professor and part-time inventor Dr. Robert Kearns
Lauren Graham: his wife Phyllis
Dermot Mulroney: Gil Privick, Kearns' best friend and business associate
Mitch Pileggi: an executive with the Ford Motor Company
Alan Alda: Gregory Lawson, Kearns' lawyer

The producers have wisely chosen to keep it real. As a consequence there is none of the emoting so prevalent in movies about one individual struggling against a large corporation. Even the courtroom proceedings are devoid of the usual bombastic screaming seen so often. How refreshing.

The acting by Kinnear demands of him to play a wide range of emotions and this he does well. Although Alan Alda’s screen time is rather limited he pulls it off beautifully. He’s come a long way from “Mash” and has matured as an actor.

The pacing is fine but things drag on a bit with the result it is almost 2 hours long. Cut out half an hour and they get one more star.

for brief strong language. They got to be kidding: the only thing I remember hearing that was even remotely “strong language” was when one of the kids says to his sister “you’re a dips _ _ t” and when questioned by his mother if he had said a dirty word the kid lies and says “no…I called her a dipstick”. For that they give it a PG-13?

 As a gesture of reverence Catholics genuflect when passing in front of the tabernacle. They don’t make a sign of the cross as Bob does. This is done only at the start of saying a prayer.
 Bob drives up the company driveway and stops the car quite some distance from the Ford engineers, I’d say 30 or 40 feet, then walks up to them. When he is asked to turn on the engine seen from the overhead shot the car has conveniently moved closer and now he only has to walk a short distance, about 10 feet.
 While Bob is brushing his teeth Phyllis comes up and stands behind him leaning on the left hand side of the door frame. Bob turns around and goes to her. The point of view changes so we see them from behind but they have magically switched over to the other side of the doorway.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Crime comedy

John Malkovich: CIA analyst Osborne (Ozzie) Cox
Tilda Swinton: his wife Katie, a pediatrician
Frances McDormand: Linda Litzke, an employee at Hardbodies Fitness Center
Brad Pitt: her colleague Chad Feldheimer
George Clooney: Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer
Richard Jenkins: Ted Treffon,the manager of Hardbodies gym

Promoted as a “comedy thriller” it is anything but. There are several mildly amusing moments amidst a proliferation of swear words and there is absolutely nothing thrilling about it. Makes you wonder if it’s the same movie they are talking about than the one I saw?

The musical score is mostly heavy thumping bombastic percussion and often totally out of sync with what we see. Maybe we are supposed to see the humour in that?

There are some viewers who will be offended to see the machine Harry has invented. That kind of thing belongs in a pornographic movie not one for general audiences.

for pervasive language (they got that right: not two minutes into the film we get to hear our first f-word and there must be about a hundred more after that), some sexual content, and violence.

 The video surveillance tape of Linda and Chad at the Russian Embassy shows the date to be May 1st but when Harry checks his cellphone the date shown is 17/9/2008, September 17th.
 When we first see the black car in Georgetown it is parked bumper to bumper with the white car behind it. After a quick shot of Harry’s reaction then back to the car it is now backing up with a space of at least 3’ still to go.
 Osborne pulls part way into the driveway and parks the car with the back end still on the sidewalk. When he comes out of the house to drive away it has neatly parked itself much closer to the wall.

The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, are four-time Academy Award winning American filmmakers. For more than twenty years the pair have written and directed numerous successful films, including No Country for Old Men, Fargo and many others.

I cannot recall any time when I’ve seen the audience leave the theatre so quickly. As soon as the end credits appeared almost everyone stood up and started to walk out. By the time the lights came on the theatre was almost empty. Guess they couldn’t get away fast enough.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Crime thriller
In French with English subtitles
Original title: Ne le dis à personne

François Cluzet: Dr. Alexandre Beck
Marie-Josée Croze: his wife Margot
André Dussollier: her father Jacques
Kristin Scott Thomas: Alex’s friend Hélène
François Berléand: Police Inspector Levkowitch
Nathalie Baye: Elysabeth Feldman, a lawyer
Jean Rochefort: Gilbert Neuville, wealthy owner of race horses
Marina Hands: Alex’s sister Anne, an equestrian
Gilles Lellouche: Bruno, a nasty bad guy
Guillaume Canet: Gilbert’s son Philippe

A good murder mystery should provide enough clues amidst all the red herrings so that the average reasonably intelligent person should be able to figure out “who dunnit”. In this instance you haven’t got a hope in Hades.

There are far too many twists and turns in this convoluted tale of mayhem. Compound that with having too many people to keep track of plus having three or four of the actresses barely distinguishable from one another and you will soon give up trying to figure it out. And if that’s not all, it’s way too long. And if you’re not alert and paying attention during the last ten minutes or so you will never find out “who duunit”. And you will have wasted over two hours of your time.


 When Alex types in the password to his email account it shows up on the screen but that is not what really happens. Instead to maintain the confidentially of the password a * appears for each letter typed in and not the word itself.
 During an equestrian competition the television announcer says the rider is participating in the European championship whereas clearly it is an Olympic event because the logo of five coloured rings is on the last jump he goes over.
 The license plate of Alex’s car ends in 78 when we first see it but the next time around it’s been downgraded to 75.
 While Alex is talking to the police “poof” out of nowhere behind them a delivery person with flowers appears. His approach to the house no doubt remains on the cutting room floor.

Overheard while exiting the theatre:
First gentleman asking his friend: “So what do you think of it?”
His friend: “I fell asleep part way through so when I woke up I was totally confused”
First gentleman: “I stayed awake the entire time and like you I was totally confused too”
Enough said.


Romantic comedy

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet (25 June 1852–10 June 1926) the Catalan architect better known simply as Antonio Gaudí belonged to the so-called Art Nouveau style. He is famous for his unique and highly individualistic designs. His unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, is a massive Roman Catholic church under construction in Barcelona, Spain. Construction began in 1882 and continues to this day. Tall construction cranes hover over the finished towers with more to come. Construction is expected to be completed around 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. According to some experts the likelihood of meeting this deadline is much in doubt.

Rebecca Hall: 20-something-year-old Vicky, a graduate student
Patricia Clarkson: Judy, a friend of the family
Scarlett Johansson: Vicky’s best friend Cristina
Javier Bardem: abstract artist Juan Antonio
Kevin Dunn: Judy’s husband Mark Nash
Penélope Cruz: Juan’s ex-wife María Elena
Chris Messina: Vicky’s fiancé Doug, a New York corporate lawyer

The title seems to say it all: two friends in a Spanish town. But in reality it’s more than that; more friends and more towns. The emphasis is on the romantic and less on the comedy aspect although there are a couple of humorous moments.

A well constructed story with some really good acting and smart dialog; this is an entertaining film about relationships.

for mature thematic material involving sexuality and smoking.