Saturday, April 25, 2009



I had such high expectations: a nature film produced by Disney with the support of the BBC and the Discovery channel. What could go wrong? Plenty.

To start with there is no real story, just a haphazard series of pictures showing wildlife around the globe with an emphasis on three “families”.

The monotone vapid narration doesn’t provide any life to what little is being said, most of pretty insipid anyway. And perhaps worse still, too often there is no narration at all so we have no idea where the falls are located or the name of the animal, things like that.

However all this pales with the many scenes of animal violence which to my mind are not suitable for anyone who cares about animals.
Some examples:
• A wolf chases down and catches a young caribou that’s been separated from the migrating herd
• A cheetah outruns a baby antelope half its size then bites down on its neck until it slowly dies
• A lion pounces on a fleeing baby elephant, hanging on with his claws imbedded in the elephant’s hide until the calf stumbles and is attacked by the rest of the pride
• A starving polar bear attacks a walrus pup and then its mother with his teeth firmly in her neck before laying down to die
• A great white whale feasting on a seal (in slow motion no less) and for good measure it’s shown twice

And if that’s not enough we see the dire straits of a baby elephant who is following his mother’s scent along a path, but going in the opposite direction to her and directly to its ultimate demise by predators.

The only thing the movie has going for it is the glorious photography, especially the time-lapse and aerial shots.

how they managed to get this rating is beyond me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Conspiracy thriller

Definition of quid pro quo:
Latin for "something for something" indicates a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services.

Russell Crowe: Cal McAffrey, investigative reporter for The Washington Globe
Rachel McAdams: Della Frye, the paper’s blog-reporter
Helen Mirren: its Editor Cameron Lynne
Ben Affleck: U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins
Robin Wright Penn: his wife Anne
Jason Bateman: P.R. man Dominic Foy
Jeff Daniels: U.S. Congressman George Fergus

It used to be that you left the theatre after seeing a conspiracy thriller pleased that you had figured it out before all is revealed in the third reel. Not today you don’t.

For reasons known only to screenwriters, nowadays movies of this sort have to be really convoluted with unexpected twists not even hinted at so that the viewer has to struggle to understand what is going on only to be left wondering “who dunnit?”

And it’s not like they ran out of time: it’s already more than two hours long so another five minutes wouldn’t make a big difference.

Apart from that there are several fine performances (apart from Affleck as usual), the cinemaphotography is excellent, the editing and musical score are both well done. And the scary part is that the conspiracy plot is plausible.

for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content.

1. Ms. Lynne calls a meeting. The office clock shows it to be 9:05 but by Cal’s wristwatch it is 2:45 and 10:30 on the clock behind them.
2. His nameplate should have read Sen. Collins not Mr. Collins and as the head of a U.S. Senate Congressional hearing into PointCorp his title as Chairman is missing.
3. Dominic drives a 2009 Cadillac CTS-V. This high performance version of the standard CTS was introduced to the market in the 4th quarter of 2008 some 8 months after these events took place.
4. Cal rattles off some of the car’s specifications but gets the horsepower all wrong: he says it has 320 whereas the car actually produces a whopping 550 horsepower
5. While taking notes in the hotel room the top of Della’s pen moves by itself about the table.
6. Dominic takes a swig of his beer and sets it down with the brand label towards the window. But the recorded image shows the beer label to be pointing the other direction.
7. When Cal rushes out of her office, Della immediately runs after him. When she catches up to him, the necklace he had just put on her has disappeared.

Haven’t yet figured out what the title is all about, what it has to do with this film.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Based on actual events

On December 6, 1922 the entire island of Ireland became the Irish Free State. As such Ireland was granted dominion status within the British Empire equal to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Two days later Northern Ireland opted out of the Irish Free State in order to establish a republican form of government completely independent from Britain.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army took up the struggle to end British rule in Ireland and according to its constitution, "to establish an Irish Socialist Republic, based on the Proclamation of 1916”. By this they sought to end the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and bring about a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion. As such the IRA is classified as a terrorist group in the United Kingdom and as an illegal organization in what is today the Republic of Ireland, better known simply as Ireland.

In July 1972 all prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes were granted Special Category status, effectively treating them as a prisoner of war having some of the privileges for POW’s as specified in the Geneva Convention. This meant prisoners did not have to wear prison uniforms nor do prison work, were housed together with their comrades, were allowed extra visits and food parcels. Four years later the British Government rescinded this special status.

The immediate response of the Republican prisoners was the so-called “blanket protest” whereby they refused to wear prison-issue clothing and wore blankets instead. Two years later this escalated into the “dirty protest” with the prisoners refusing to wash themselves and smeared the walls of their cells with their own excrement and spilled their chamber pots under the cell door into the hallway. All uneaten food was dumped into a rotting pile of refuse.

Stuart Graham: Ray Lohan, guard at the Maze Prison
Brian Milligan: IRA member, Davey Gillen
Liam McMahon: his cellmate Gerry Campbell
Michael Fassbender: 27-year-old Bobby Sands
Liam Cunningham: Father Dominic Moran

A well crafted movie has a beginning, a middle and an end. This film has no beginning as such. So unless you are a scholar familiar with the Irish “troubles” (or take the time to read the F.Y.I. above) for quite some while you will be totally lost trying to figure out just what is going on. The absence of any real dialogue for the first half of the movie doesn’t help either so for 45 minutes or so you can only guess at what it is all about.

About mid-way though there is a riveting 20-minute, single-camera, single-take conversation between Sands and a priest during which time he explains that the protests so far have not resulted in bringing attention to the extraordinarily harsh conditions in which he and his fellow prisoners are subject to nor to regain their status as political prisoners. Finally we find out what the movie is all about.

Relying on the visual element more than the spoken word there are extremely long takes of a jail guard methodically brushing away urine from a hallway or watching a fly crawling across a prisoner’s hand. Not having the patience to sit for minutes on end through these episodes several times I was about to leave. Some people did.

for disturbing images, explicit portrayals of violence, full frontal nudity, and language.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Road trip

Joshua Jackson: school teacher Ben Tyler
Fiona Reid: his mother Mary
Chuck Shamata: his father Gerald
Liane Balaban: his fiancée Samantha (aka Sam)
Gord Downie: a stoned biker
Emm Gryner: Tracey, a songwriter-singer

For any road trip movie I use the film In the Wild as the benchmark for this genre of film. In it the main subject meets interesting characters, undertakes some new and different things and the fabulous camerawork (unusual camera angles, sweeping vistas) shows off the countryside to its best advantage.

One Week has none of the above: the people Ben meets are just ordinary folks, he doesn’t do anything more than ride his motorcycle and having personally seen much of the scenery in the movie I can honestly say most of the places shown look better in real life than they do in the movie; somehow these spectacular settings come across as bland and most of them are not.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Crime drama

Tom Wilkinson: Howard Tully, CEO of Burkett & Randle
Paul Giamatti: Richard “Dick” Garsik, CEO of rival Equikrom
Julia Roberts: Claire Stenwick, an operative for the C.I.A
Clive Owen: Ray Koval, an MI6 agent

Since for a long time we're not made privy to what's going on, at the risk of spoiling everything just let me say this: with their backgrounds both Clarire and Ray are well positioned to enter the private sector, working for the counterespionage departments of competing consumer-products giants.

Typical of the James Bond-type caper, the action takes place in more than one exotic location with each flashback providing some insight to what has just transpired. All this gets a bit confusing though.

At 2 hours and five minutes it is a tad too long and there is at least one twist too many in this convoluted plot which will leave many wondering “who dunnit?”; me included.

for language and some sexual content.

1. When celebrating their success, the bottles of Stella Artois on the counter change position between shots although no one approaches them.
2. A waiter opens a bottle of champagne and fills Claire’s glass mostly with froth. While filling Ray’s glass the froth settles and Claire winds up with hardly any champagne at all. The waiter leaves and they toast something with Claire’s glass now magically half full.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Crime drama

The Department of Homeland Security was created in March 2003 and charged with the responsibility of protecting the United States within, at, and outside its borders. It absorbed the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and assumed its duties. In doing so, it divided the enforcement and services functions into two separate agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Citizenship and Immigration Services. Additionally, the border enforcement functions of the INS were consolidated into a new agency, the Customs and Border Protection.

The EB-1 form is an immigrant visa which allows foreign nationals with 'extraordinary ability' in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to obtain permanent residency in the U.S.

Harrison Ford: Max Brogan, an agent with ICE
Cliff Curtis: his Iranian-American partner Hamid Baraheri
Alice Braga: an illegal Mexican Mireya Sanchez
Melody Khazae: Hamid’s sister Zahra, an employee in a copy shop
Alice Eve: Claire Shepard, a would-be actress
Jim Sturgess: Gavin Kossef, a would-be musician
Ray Liotta: Cole Frankel, an Applications Adjudicator with ICE
Ashley Judd: his wife Denise, an immigration lawyer
Summer Bishil: 15-year-old Taslima Jahangir
Jacqueline Obradors: another ICE agent
Justin Chon: a Korean teenage immigrant Yong Kim

The list of characters gives some hint to the complexity of the story about the impact US immigration and naturalization policy has on people. The point could have been better made with fewer plot lines perhaps but this grab-bag approach does cover quite a cross section of personal woes.

Although most of it rings true (well as true as movies ring) there are several instances that make mockery of reality (you’ll know them when you see them) that serve no purpose other than dramatic overkill. And some of the acting is a little over the top.

All this means to say it’s not a lousy movie, just a bit too much to handle easily in one sitting.

for pervasive language, some strong violence and sexuality/nudity.

The raid on a garment factory begins at night and takes only 20 or 30 minutes but they all exit out of the building into bright sunshine.



Amy Adams: Rose Lorkowski, cleaning lady with the Pretty Clean company
Jason Spevack: her seven-year-old son Oscar
Steve Zahn: Rose’s boyfriend, Albuquerque police detective Mac
Emily Blunt: Rose’s younger sister Norah
Alan Arkin: Rose and Norah’s widowed father Joe
Clifton Collins: Winston, proprietor of a janitorial supply store

Definitely a little off the beaten track in terms of the central hook (the crime- scene cleanup business) the movie nevertheless provides a fair share of laughs along with some serious moments too. They don't weigh things down, rather they add an element of reality to the goings-on.

Although the camerawork and sound track are notable, it is the acting by the two principals that really stand out: Amy Adams is one dandy actress and Emily Blunt is no slouch either. Together they come across as real sisters and are very believable.

for language, disturbing images, sexuality and drug use.

When the family is in a restaurant one of the menus has a mind of its own: between shots it moves about without anyone touching it, reorienting itself 90 degrees and even standing up like a tent.

Some of the scenes are a little gross but do not come about as a surprise so can be easily avoided by closing your eyes for a moment or two.

Thursday, April 9, 2009



Jesse Eisenberg: 22-year-old recent college graduate James Brennan
Wendie Malick: his mom
Jack Gilpin: his dad
Matt Bush: his best friend Tommy Frigo
Bill Hader: Adventureland amusement park owner Bobby
Kristen Wiig: his wife Paulette
Martin Starr: James’ older co-worker Joel Schiffman
Kristen Stewart: another co-worker Emily (aka Em) Lewin
Ryan Reynolds: Mike Connell, park maintaince man
Margarita Levieva: the park’s “hotty” Lisa P.
Josh Pais: Em’s father
Mary Birdsong: Em’s stepmother

Casting has done a really good job: these are real-life, believable characters who interact like real people and talk like real people. In addition the acting is bang on in this coming-of-age movie centered around teenage romance. More restrained than many pictures of this sort, particularly the sexy bits, it is also more thought provoking.

One other thing: crude humour involving puking and groin punches to my mind takes it down a notch in trying to meet the expectations of some members of the audience. Mind you it’s not wall-to-wall crudeness and profanity but it has some of these elements that I could do without.

for language, drug use and sexual references.

1. During the party at Em’s house one of the guests is walking about with his sunglasses on top of his head. This fashion statement did not exist when these events took place in 1987.
2. The etymology of the expression “it sucks” is the subject of some debate but was not used in 1987.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009



Paul Rudd: Peter Klaven, a L.A. real estate agent
Rashida Jones: his fiancée Zooey
Jaime Presley: Zooey’s best friend Denise
Jane Curtain: Peter’s mother Joyce
J.K. Simmons: Peter’s father Oswald
Andy Samberg: Robbie, Peter’s younger brother
Jon Favreau: Denise's husband Barry
Jason Segel: Sydney Fife, a self proclaimed investment consultant

Comedy, they say, comes in many forms. This one relies on getting laughs mainly from sexually explicit dialogue about masturbation and oral sex,
vulgar references to parts of the female anatomy and showing raunchy sex videos. To add to the hilarity Peter tries his hand at a beer chugging contest that provokes projectile vomiting all over his friend.

A lot in the audience found all this hilarious and frequently laughed out loud so it is appealing to the right target audience. But not to me as I walked out after half an hour.

for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references.

While talking on the phone, the newspaper Sydney was reading is laying on his chest. Although he doesn’t touch it, between shots it reorients itself 90 degrees.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Animated adventure

Reese Witherspoon: Susan Murphy a young woman about to be married
Paul Rudd: her fiancé Derek Dietl, a TV weatherman
Kiefer Sutherland: General W.R. Monger
Seth Rogen: B.O.B., a blue gelatinous blob
Hugh Laurie: Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D., a mad scientist
Will Arnett: the Missing Link, a 20,000-year-old fish-ape hybrid
Rainn Wilson: Gallaxhar, an evil alien overlord
Stephen Colbert: the President of the United States

The five-year-olds in the audience seemed to be enjoying the non-stop action but the rest of us were waiting for the fun part: it never came. It is not unreasonable to expect some levity in an animated cartoon movie, especially the double-entendre-type of jokes intended for the adults. But no such luck.

The only creature with any sort of personality is a blue blob and it offers the only chuckle in the movie. So disappointing; how sad.

for sci-fi action, some crude humor and mild language.


Science fiction

Lara Robinson: Lucinda Embry, a student in a Boston primary school
Chandler Canterbury: 10-year-old Caleb Koestler
Nicolas Cage: his father John, a professor of astrophysics at MIT
Nadia Townsend: John’s sister Grace
Rose Byrne: Lucinda’s daughter Diana
Lara Robinson: Diana’s 10-year-old daughter Abby

It starts off with a decent premise, suitably mysterious and worthy of being solved 50 years later. Trouble is, as one member of the audience remarked, “John does it all by himself in a matter of minutes and denies the rest of us any opportunity to figure it out for ourselves…what a gyp!”

But that’s not the only problem with the film: it’s too long by at least half an hour with a totally unnecessary trip to an old cabin and a prolonged finale that “goes on forever”. In fact as someone else observed “the ending needs to be rewritten to come to a more satisfying conclusion”. Nuff said.

In all fairness though, the CGI effects are quite impressive and there are several creepy moments, scary enough that the kid sitting beside me jumped out of his seat 3 or 4 inches on two occasions.

for disaster sequences, disturbing images and brief language.