Monday, June 29, 2009


Romantic comedy

Sandra Bullock: Editor-in-Chief Margaret Tate
Ryan Reynolds: her Administrative Assistant Andrew Paxton
Denis O'Hare: Mr. Gilbertson
Mary Steenburgen: Andrew’s mother Grace
Betty White: Andrew’s Grandma Annie (aka Gammy)
Craig T. Nelson: Andrew’s father Joe
Malin Akerman: Andrew’s ex girlfriend Gertrude
Oscar Nuñez: Ramone, a shopowner by day

To be honest with you, movies of this genre are not my thing: too often the romance is missing and the comedy non-existent. So I entered the theatre with certain, shall we say, lowered expectations. I left entirely pleased and thoroughly delighted with what I had just seen.

Although just about every romantic comedy cliché ever invented has been written into the script, there is enough of a twist to make it interesting. The acting is uniformly good, the laughs genuine and the “chemistry” between the two principals seems real enough. How refreshing.

for sexual content, nudity and language.

Andrew says he planned on going to his Gammy’s 90th birthday party. That would mean she was born in 1919. Later Annie mentions that in 1929 she had the family heirloom gown altered for her own wedding. Somehow I doubt she got married when she was just 10 years old.


Crime thriller
In French with English subtitles
Original title: Pour Elle

Vincent Lindon: High school teacher Julien
Diane Kruger: his wife Lisa
Lancelot Roch: their 5-year-old son Oscar
Liliane Rovère: Julien’s mother
Olivier Pemier: Julien’s father

Unlike so many films of this type, Julian’s plan is so well laid out that there is no confusion about what is going on. That does not mean to say everything is foreshadowed, just enough to keep us in the loop.

Another thing that differentiates this movie from so many others is the fact the twists and turns are plausible, even believable.

The last half hour is well done; the tension is almost palpable.

for brief violence.

Julien breaks the rear light not the car’s headlight when backing out of the alley.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Romantic comedy

Larry David: retired quantum physicist Boris Yellnikoff
Evan Rachel Wood: 20-something-year-old Southern belle Melody St. Ann Celestine
Patricia Clarkson: her mother Marietta
Henry Cavill: an upcoming actor Randy James
Ed Begley: Melody’s father John

You are going to have a wonderful time if you enjoy watching an ill-tempered, cynical, pessimistic, misanthropic, egotistical man strut his stuff. The rest of us should give it a pass.

Some of the things he says, makes me cringe: I do not find it funny when a self-grandizing narcissist demeans others. And that sort of behaviour is pervasive.

One other thing: although research has also shown that direct address has the potential to foster stronger bonds between viewers and the characters on screen I find it distracting, a reminder that what we are watching is not real, that it is all play acting.

for sexual situations including dialogue, brief nude images and thematic material.

• While sitting with his buddies at an outdoor cafe the napkin in front of Boris’ buddy changes positions between different camera angles as does the spoon in front of their friend.
• When the lady is mouthing off at her child’s chess teacher she flubs her line; this is something that should have wound up on the cutting floor and replaced with a second take.

Direct address: when one of the characters gazes directly into the camera and, in essence, speaks directly to the viewer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Crime thriller

Denzel Washington: MTA New York Transit subway dispatcher Walter Garber
John Travolta: Ryder, the leader of the gang
John Turturro: NYPD Lt. Camonetti
Luis Guzman: subway motorman Phil Ramos
James Gandolfini: mayor of New York

At the risk of giving away the plot let me just say this is a exciting crime thriller with great acting, superb camerawork and crisp editing to keep things moving along. And that they do, with gusto. Along the way, the tension mounts and the outcome is never a sure thing. Riveting stuff.

for violence and pervasive language. They got that right: seemingly bad guys must have a potty mouth with every third utterance being the f-word.

1. There is no Line 6 Southbound train that leaves the Pelham Bay station at 1:23 PM; the closest would be the weekday departure at 1:24. But then the movie title wouldn’t have the same ring to it would it?
2. The time of the video of the subway car viewed from the front is 2:03 whereas from the rear it is 18:02.
3. The line symbol of the 6 train is a white six on a green background not a red 6 on a red background.
4. While talking to one of the passengers, Ryder’s watch is clearly visible and the time changes from 20 after the hour to 10 minutes to the hour.
5. The flight on Icelandair from JFK to Reykjavik takes 5 hours and 35 minutes, not 6 hours.

In a bold and visionary move the New York Central Railroad spent an enormous sum to build the Grand Central Terminal and tracks below street grade. When the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was constructed some 20 years later it was directly over the northerly tracks and so a private railway siding was built beneath the hotel. Guests with private rail cars could then have them routed directly to the hotel platform instead of to Pennsylvania Station or Grand Central Station (as it is more commonly referred to). From there they could take a special elevator directly to their suites or to the lobby. President Franklin D Roosevelt among other notables frequently made use of this facility.

Friday, June 19, 2009



John Krasinski: 34-year-old insurance salesman Burt Farlander
Maya Rudolph: his girlfriend Verona De Tessant, a medical illustrator
Catherine O’Hara: Burt’s mother Gloria
Jeff Daniels: Burt’s father Jerry
Allison Janney: Verona’s former boss Lily
Carmen Ejogo: Verona’s younger sister Grace
Maggie Gyllenhaal: Burt’s childhood friend university professor Ellen (aka LN)
Melanie Lynskey: Munch, an old friend from college
Chris Messina: her husband Tom
Paul Schneider: Burt’s brother Courtney

There are few opening scenes to match this one: the explicit depiction of cunninglingus. This sets the tone and might be enough for some to leave the theatre right there and then. I wish I had.

Ostensibly a road trip to find a place to bring up their soon-to-be-born baby, Burt and Verona meet up with the largest collection of people whose behaviour is either inappropriate or bizarre. Sometimes both. Either way it’s difficult to watch and not at all funny.

I left when I could take no more.

for language and some sexual content.

• Bert is nursing his drink (one of those cocktails with an umbrella in it) and gets about half way through before leaving to take a call on his cellphone. With the change in camera angle looking back at his table, we can see that the drink had refilled itself and his glass once more is completely full.
• Upon their arrival in Montreal Bert and Verona take a taxi to their friends house. It’s black and orange; Montreal taxis are anything but.
• While driving down the street they pass several signs indicting parking restrictions which are entirely in English whereas in Monteal these would be in French.
• Remo’s Restaurant is located in Toronto, Ontario not in Montreal.

I was sorely tempted to walk out earlier but I knew that Montreal was on their itinerary and was hoping I could pick up a few Nitpicks when they got there. As you can see my patience was rewarded.


In Italian with English subtitles

Toni Servillo: Italian parliamentarian Giulio Andreotti
Anna Bonaiuto: his wife Livia
and dozens of others but I don’t know who they are

Full disclosure: I did not research the subject material before seeing the movie. Consequently I got completely lost in the maze of unfamiliar events and personages. Even by paying close attention to the subtitles that remain on the screen only briefly, I was unable to truly appreciate what was going on except for three things:
• Servillo is one heckuva actor and his monologue halfway through is a dandy
• the music, an eclectic mix of classical and modern rhythm, fits beautifully with the screen action
• the cinemaphotography is first class

for disturbing images and explicit portrayals of violence.

I read the following comment that might have helped had I known about this before going to see the movie:
“in the first half of the movie we see the events that took place in Italy during Andreotti's reign from his point of view: in the second half we see the same events again but more objectively”

Thursday, June 18, 2009



Mark Ruffalo: thirty-something Stephen Bloom (I think that’s his name)
Adrien Brody: Bloom, his younger brother (who has no first name?)
Rinko Kikuchi: Stephen's girlfriend Bang Bang
Rachel Weisz: wealthy heiress Penelope Stamp
Robbie Coltrane: Melville
Maximilian Schell: Diamond Dog

We get a premonition of things to come when as kids Stephen draws out on paper an elaborate, complicated, convoluted diagram of their next con. Yet even with the “one picture is worth a thousand words” it’s virtually impossible to keep track of what is going on.

And it doesn’t get any easier when they set about to do one last con job some 25 years later as adults. As expected with any caper movie things are not always what they seem . But the writer and \or director don’t know when to stop; just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something else comes up. Constantly having the rug pulled out from under you soon becomes annoying. And it goes on far too long: almost two hours of non-stop twists and turns will test the patience of many.

for violence, some sensuality and brief strong language.


In Norwegian with English subtitles

The Holmenkollen ski jump located just outside Oslo, Norway was opened in 1892. It was host to the 1952 Winter Olympic ski jump competition and has served as the venue for many world championships, the next one scheduled for 2011.

Bård Owe: 67-year-old Odd Horten, a railroad engineer
Ghita Nørby: Svea Thøgersen, owner of a small B&B in Bergen
Bjørn Floberg: Flo, one of Odd’s old acquaintances
Henny Moan: a tobacconist
Espen Skjønberg: Trygve Sissener, one of Odd’s new acquaintances
Kai Remlov: his brother Steiner

A low key, small budget film with probably the thinnest plot line ever: seemingly random events in the life of one man over a period of a couple of days to illustrate the fact that life in retirement can be very unstructured.

With the deadpan delivery by the principal character and the unusual situations he finds himself in, it is mildly amusing. The result are smiles rather than belly-laughs.

The main criticism I have is the writing: more than once a quick cut from the scene before its climax leaves us with the feeling “What happened? What was that all about?”. These loose ends are oddly baffling; why include them if they do not advance the story?

However that is not all that surprising: any movie produced, directed and written by the same person generally has major flaws with it. Lacking independent judgment of the film elements almost guarantees this will happen.

Not bad enough to walk out of, I was relieved when the end credits appeared.

for brief nudity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In French with English subtitles
Original title: L'heure d'été

Camille Corot (July 1796 – February 1875) was the leading painter of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. He was the first to promote the idea that artists should “submit to the first impression" of what they saw. This was the beginning of the Impressionist school that included among others Cézanne, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Monet and Manet.

Edith Scob: 75-year-old Hélène, the family matriarch
Charles Berling: her oldest son Frédéric, a university economics professor
Dominique Reymond: his wife Lisa
Juliette Binoche: Frédéric’s younger sister Adrienne, a designer working in New York City
Jérémie Renier: Frédéric’s younger brother Jérémie, an executive working in China
Valérie Bonneton: his wife Angela
Isabelle Sadoyan: Hélène’s long-time housekeeper Éloïse

A thoughtful drama without any of the usual histrionics so prevalent in movies of this type so it rings true. Ostensibly about the disposition of their mother’s estate it brings to mind the change in values of objects over the years, from one generation to the next.

The acting is uniformly very good and despite the plethora of words, the editing moves things along at a fair clip. Which is a good thing because truth be told, not a lot happens during the one hour forty-five minutes running time.


Adrienne carefully removes everything from the silver plate on the table, putting the bunch of grapes to her left. After examining the plate she then puts everything back in place but the grapes have moved without being touched and she picks them up from the right hand side of the table.

Monday, June 15, 2009



Justin Bartha: Groom-to-be Doug Billings
Zach Galifianakis: Doug’s future brother-in-law Alan Garner
Sasha Barrese: Doug’s fiancée Tracy
Bradley Cooper: their buddy Phil Wenneck, a high school teacher
Ed Helms: another friend Stu Price, a dentist
Rachel Harris: his girlfriend Melissa

Based on the reaction of the target audience (young 18 + males) this is one heckuv good movie. For everyone else it can best be described as raunchy, gross, crude guy humour with the requisite scenes of projectile vomiting, shots to the groin area, unmistakeable sexual hand movements, foul language, lots of action/bedlam and pretty girls with skimpy outfits.

In fact some of the slapstick is downright painful to watch…and they call that comedy? I don’t.

for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity, and some drug material.

1. The steak ordered from room service is very soft and floppy when on the plate. But when Alan offers it to the tiger it is as stiff as a board, presumably a prop so the tiger doesn’t leap for it.
2. Alan said he put 5 pills in the steak; in fact it was only 3.
3. Alan's face shows no marks where the Taser probes hit him.
4. The damage to the car keeps changing throughout the movie.

Normally I skip movies like this for obvious reasons but while reading People Magazine I saw they gave it a 3 out of 4 star rating so I figured I’d go see it. In future I won’t rely on People Magazine when deciding which movies to go to.

Thursday, June 4, 2009



Joaquin Phoenix: 30-something-year old Leonard Kraditor
Isabella Rossellini: his mother Ruth
Moni Moshonov: his father Reuben, owner of a NYC dry cleaning store
Bob Ari: Michael Cohen, Reuben's new business partner
Vinessa Shaw: his daughter Sandra
Gwyneth Paltrow: the Kraditor’s new neighbour Michelle
Elias Koteas: Ronald Blatt, partner in a law firm

Love is never easy. But it should not be this difficult. Nor should it take so many words; the dialog goes on forever just like a soap opera filling up the time between commercials while advancing the plot only incrementally.

But then when things finally do start moving, they do so at an incredulous breakneck speed (relation-wise I mean) because too much time has been frittered away up to that point. It needs a rewrite with more balance.

Which is a shame because there are some fine performances but it all seems wasted.

for language, some sexuality and brief drug use.


In Spanish with English subtitles
Original title: Rudo y Cursi
Sports drama

Diego Luna: Beto nicknamed Rudo (rude, gruff, loutish) Verdusco, banana plantation foreman
Gael García Bernal: his younger half-brother Tato nicknamed Cursi (corny)
Dolores Heredia: their mother Elvira
Guillermo Francella: soccer scout Batuta (baton)
Jessica Mas: sexy TV weathergirl Maya

Nicely paced with some good performances (and one really bad one) this is the story of two half-brothers beng exposed to the big leagues in the big city. Not unexpectedly, they have to come to grips with many challenges, on the field and off.

Although their lives are centered around soccer, there is very little of the game actually shown on screen. Mostly it’s the reactions of the coach or the spectators. That gives you some idea where the emphasis is: it’s mainly about things off the field except for the inevitable “Big Game”, an essential component of every sports movie ever produced.

for pervasive language, sexual content and brief drug use.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Animated cartoon

A snipe is any of the 20 bird species in the family Scolopacidae. They are characterized by a very long, slender bill and colourful plumage.

Christopher Plummer: intrepid explorer Charles Muntz
Jeremy Leary: young Carl
Elie Docter: tomboy Ellie
Ed Asner: 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen
Jordan Nagai: 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer cub scout Russell
Bob Peterson: Dug the dog

It has it all: an original well-constructed story for adults that children will enjoy, spectacular CGI animation (Pixar’s best so far), lots of comical moments, great casting with the voices perfectly matched to their character and a wonderful score that fits beautifully with the action on the screen.

The attention to detail is nothing short of amazing: the stubble that appears on Carl's chin becomes more evident as the days go by, the movement of eyes, Carl’s eyeglasses sliding off his nose whenever he hits the door peering out of the peephole etc.

for some peril and action.

When Ellie and Carl are painting their names on the mailbox, Carl inadvertently leaves a purple hand print of his left hand. However when he holds his hands up in a gesture of “oops” there is no evidence of paint on either hand.

I saw the film in 3-D format which serves to enhance the sense of reality but the producers have not employed the usual gimmick of having things fly at you. How clever is that? Making use of movie technology to advance the story not to scare you to death.