Sunday, August 30, 2009


In Farsi and French with English subtitles

Farah Diba was born on October 14, 1938 in Tabriz, Iran. She is the only daughter of Sohrab Diba an Iranian Army officer and a law graduate of the Sorbonne and the famed French military Academy of St. Cyr. Her mother, Mme. Farideh Diba, personally supervised her education, first at Tehran's Jeanne d'Arc and Razi schools, and later at the École d'Architecture in Paris, where she was studying up to the time of her marriage to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, which took place on December 20, 1959. In 1967, the Shah crowned Farah empress. Her best-selling autobiography, "An Enduring Love: My Life with the Shah" has been translated into more than 50 languages.

Nahid Persson Sarvestani was born May 24, 1960 in Shiraz, Iran. She is an award-winning Iranian-Swedish filmaker and director. Her most famous documentary films are Prostitution Behind the Veil, My mother - A Persian Princess, The End of Exile, and The Last Days of Life.

Told more or less in chronological order, this documentary about the widow of the former Shah of Iran is hobbled by virtue of the fact the filmmaker did not have complete directorial control over the film. The Empress did.

So the questions asked of the Empress were tempered by the possibility she would once again put a stop to the entire proceedings, as she did when earlier opposition to the Shah surfaced. And the answers given were left pretty much intact even though the Empress sometimes was less than direct, giving inconsequential explanations. Some of this rambling should have been edited out in the interest of brevity as well as being irrelevant to the question asked.

Nahid did not dare offend the Empress or she would not have a film. Not the best way to producing a good independent documentary I would say.




With the discovery of gold in the Yellowknife region in the 1930’s, and the advance of mining and other resource exploration throughout the north, Hay River in the Northwest Territories became the transportation hub of Great Slave Lake. The all-weather Mackenzie Highway reached the lake in 1948, and shipping companies began to use Hay River as their base for supplying northern settlements along the Mackenzie River and the Arctic Coast.

In 1961 construction began on the Great Slave Lake Railway running north out of Edmonton, Alberta primarily to transport fuel used in the mines and throughout the Western Arctic communities. It was completed in 1964.

Craig Olejnik: Martin Bishop, timekeeper for a crew of railway workers
Stephen McHattie: Fisk, the gang foreman
Gary Farmer: Cook
Wayne Robson: Martin's bunk buddy Lomacki
Roy Dupuis: Scully, leader of the outcasts
Julian Richings: Grease, one of the outcasts
Vittorio Rossi: Jeeter, another one

The conflict between good and evil is centermost in this small scale film set in the far Canadian north. With a few unexpected turns, the outcome is never a sure thing.

for disturbing images, some violence.



The Woodstock Music and Art Fair (better known simply as Woodstock) was a music festival held from August 15 – 18, 1969 near the small hamlet of White Lake, about 40 miles southwest from the town of Woodstock, New York.

Thirty-two acts including Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat and Tears, Crosbie Stills and Nash and Jimi Hendrix performed over the course of the four days.

Imelda Staunton: Sonia, owner/operator of a motel in the Catskills Mountains
Demetri Martin: her son Elliot, president of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce
Henry Goodman: Sonia’s husband Jake Teichberg
Jonathan Groff: Michael Lang, an associate with Woodstock Ventures
Eugene Levy: dairy farmer Max Yasgur
Dan Fogler: Devon, leader of a theater troupe
Emile Hirsch: Billy, a Vietnam vet
Liev Schreiber: Vilma an ex-Marine turned bodyguard

Woodstock is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music. So the very mention of the word Woodstock brings to mind music. But the film fails miserably in this regard.

From the end credits I could pick out only 2 songs out of hundreds that were performed during the festival. I’m not suggesting the producers had to have re-enactments of the festival itself but the music could have been heard on a radio playing in the background or just included as part of the musical score. Failing to do so is a great disappointment. It’s like going to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and there is no Snow White.

However the film does offer something of the chaotic behind-the-scenes developments that resulted in this historical event. Although not an entirely accurate reflection of reality we get a good sense of what things were like back then: the free-love movement, protests (war, bras) and the use of drugs by most everyone.

Some of the acting stands above the rest, in particular both of Elliot’s parents and Vilma. There are frequent funny moments, the costuming and sets are top notch. But that is not enough to compensate for leaving out a huge part of what has become one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll according to the magazine Rolling Stone.

for graphic nudity, some sexual content, drug use and language.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


War action/drama
Portions in German or French with English subtitles

Christoph Waltz: Colonel Hans Landa of the Waffen-SS
Denis Menochet: French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite
Brad Pitt: U.S. Army Lt. Aldo Raine, commanding officer First Special Service Force
Eli Roth: Sgt. Donny Donowitz, one of the squad
Mélanie Laurent: Emmanuelle Mimieux, owner of a Parisian cinema
Daniel Brühl: German sharpshooter Private Frederick Zoller
Michael Fassbender: British Army Lt. Archie Hicox
Diane Kruger: German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark
Alexander Fehling: German Cpl. Wilhelm Wicki
August Diehl: SS Major Deiter Hellstrom
Jacky Ido: Emmanuelle’s assistant Marcel

“Once upon a time ... in Nazi-occupied France,” the title card informs us so right away we know that what follows may not be consistent with fact. What we get instead is a fast paced, exciting, action adventure war movie. Told in five chapters at times often utilising the spaghetti-Western technique(especially the music) including some very clever dialogue.

The performances are uniformly good (although Waltz’s is the best), the costumes and cinematography top notch.

One word of caution: there are quite a few grisly scenes that may require you to avert your eyes. Generally these can be anticipated but some will catch even the wary off guard.

Although at two hours and 35 minutes it is longer than most films, the time passes so quickly I was surprised when the end credits began to roll. I was not surprised with the applause.

for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality (very brief: about 3 seconds worth)

• Moving at a pretty good speed the two motorcycles and car approaching the farm house would travel much farther than they do during the cutaways to LaPadite and his daughters.
• Col. Hans Landa says the Bubonic Plague was caused by rats. This infection of the lymphatic system resulted from the bite of an infected flea, not from its host.
• Colonel Landa fills his pen from the small ink well which remains in place at first in bright light, then in shadow and back again to bright light.
• Although we hear the ticking throughout Col. Landa’s visit, the hands of the clock remain stuck at 11:40.
• The card Major Hellstrom sticks on his forehead changes positions even though he doesn’t touch it: sometimes it’s vertical or at a slant at eyebrow level and other times it’s part way down the bridge of his nose.

Sunday, August 16, 2009



Hugh Dancy: 29-year-old software designer Adam Raki
Frankie Faison: his friend Harlan
Rose Byrne: elementary school teacher Beth Buchwald
Mark Linn Baker: Adam’s boss Sam Klieber
Peter Gallagher: Beth’s father Marty, an investment consultant
Amy Irving: Beth’s mother Rebecca

Relationships are never easy and definitely far more complicated if one person is socially inept. Dealing with a sensitive subject can be tricky but this little film pulls it off beautifully, largely because it comes across as real.

Acting by both principals is uniformly good and the chemistry between them believable. Although the movie could get “mushy” it never does.

for thematic material, sexual content and language.

• Beth comes out the front door of the apartment building but leaves it slightly ajar. She then sits down on the steps beside Adam and behind her the door is now closed. When she stands up to go back into the building the door once more is ajar.
• Beth’s father calls her Bethany but she tells Adam her full name is Elizabeth.


Science fiction action/adventure

Sharlto Copley: Wikus Van Der Merwe, employee of MNU a private security firm
David James: Colonel Koobus Venter, head of the military unit
Vanessa Haywood: Wikus’ wife Tania

Shot as a docudrama we learn from television news clips and the on-air interviews that extraterrestrials have travelled to our planet. Things evolve quickly enough what with crisp editing and rapid fire developments. There’s hardly a pause in the action until midway through.

The CGI effects are remarkable and the acting by Copley first-rate.

The squeamish like me will have to avert their eyes for some scenes. However coming in at almost two hours, it is a tad too long. For that it gets one star lopped off.

for bloody violence and pervasive language.


Animated action/adventure

Zach Galifianakis: Ben, the human handler of the G-Force team
Kellie Garner: his assistant Marcie
Sam Rockwell: voice of the squad leader Darwin
Penelope Cruz: voice of Juarez
Tracy Morgan: voice of weapons expert Blaster
Nicolas Cage: voice of Speckles, the team's computer expert
Bill Nighy: consumer-electronics magnate Leonard Saber
Jon Favreau: voice of Hurley, a pet shop guinea pig
Steve Buscemi: voice of Bucky, another pet shop rodent

With five people being given credit for the screenplay you would think it’s a dandy. It is anything but: the principal story line is confusing, the love interest part unfathomable, the plot structure is all jumbled and the dialogue dull and uninspired. An example: “get your face outta my butt”, “no, you get your butt outta my face”. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Obviously geared to kids but with no double entendre for parents to enjoy. In fact there is nothing even remotely funny despite the requisite rude bodily sounds. Truth be told, there is no fun at all having to sit though this mess.

for some mild action and rude humor.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Based on a true story

Cobb salad was invented in 1926 at The Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles. It is named for its creator, a Mr. Bob Cobb. This is a "composed" salad, meaning the ingredients are arranged on the plate as opposed to all being tossed together. Originally it was a way for the restaurant to simply use up leftovers, but it soon became the Brown Derby's most popular dish. The main ingredients are boiled eggs, crisp bacon and diced chicken.

Aspic is a savoury clear jelly prepared from a liquid stock made by simmering the bones of beef, veal, chicken, or fish. The aspic congeals when refrigerated by virtue of the natural gelatine that dissolves into the stock from the tendons. Commercial powdered gelatine is sometimes added to ensure a stiff set. Aspic is used to glaze foods such as cold meats and fish, eggs, poached or roasted poultry, and vegetables; plain aspic chopped or cut into shapes often garnishes cold dishes.

Meryl Streep: 36-year old Julia Child
Stanley Tucci: her husband Paul, a Foreign Service officer
Amy Adams: 29-year old government employee Julie Powell
Chris Messina: her husband Eric
Mary Lynn Rajskub: Julie's best buddy Sarah
Linda Emond: Julia’s coauthor Simone 'Simka' Beck
Helen Carey: the other book collaborator Louisette Bertholle
Jane Lynch: Julia’s sister Dorothy

Jumping from one to another, the parallel stories of two women very much removed from each other (both in time and class) but having two things in common, the love of cooking and writing about it, is entertaining and educational. There are frequent amusing bits and although the acting is uniformly good, Meryl Steep stands out above all the others (what else is new?).

Just over two hours long, it does not have to be: some scenes can be eliminated entirely while others could easily be pared back. For that “transgression” it loses a star.

A smattering of applause as the end credits rolled indicated that many in the audience enjoyed the film; I did too. And I don’t even cook.

for brief strong language and some sensuality.

Julie says she has decided to cook all 524 recipes in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". In fact there are 536 recipes in the book.

Fans of the long running television show Saturday Night Live will recognize Dan Akroyd doing his famous parody of Julia Child.

Julie Powell's archived blog "The Julie/Julia Project" can be found at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Romantic comedy

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Tom Hansen, a greeting card company employee
Clark Gregg: Tom’s boss Vance
Zooey Deschanel: Summer Finn, Vance’s new assistant
Geoffrey Arend: McKenzie, one of Tom’s associates
Matthew Gray Gubler: Tom’s best friend Paul
Chloe Grace Moretz: Tom’s younger sister Rachel

Right from the opening scene we’re told this will not be your typical love story. But in many ways it really is because relationships do not always turn out the way one would want it to nor does this film.

For starters it does not follow the conventional timeline: it jumps around back and forth with title cards indicating which particular day it is. These short vignettes are presented at a fairly rapid pace so thing move along smartly.

And best of all, it does not subject us to dumb corny jokes for laughs relying instead on the situation and clever dialogue to elicit laughter. How refreshing.

for sexual material and language.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Action, thriller
Based on a true story

Jim Sturgess: 22-year-old street hustler Martin “Marty” McGartland
Natalie Press: his girlfriend Lara
Kevin Zegers: Marty’s best friend Sean
Conor MacNeill: Frankie, another of Marty’s mates
Tom Collins: IRA Belfast Brigade leader Mickey Johnson
Ben Kingsley: British Special Branch interrogations officer code-named Fergus
Rose McGowan: senior member of the IRA

The situation in Northern Ireland is confusing at the best of times so it takes more than a dozen on-screen captions identifying some people and the occasional voice over to sort things out. Furthermore the thick Belfast accent often makes it impossible to comprehend what they are saying. I was fortunate in that the screening I saw had French subtitles which I used to “translate” the on screen dialogue. But one should not have to rely on a lucky happenstance to be able to understand what is being said.

A lot is going on and it’s not always clear what is happening nor why. So there are huge plot gaps. For example what was Marty’s motivation for his actions (revenge for what happened to his friend?). We should not have to guess at important things like that.

There are some fine performances by the main cast (well maybe not McGowan’s) and excellent work by the makeup department. The squeamish like me will have to avert their eyes about half way through when the IRA Internal Security Unit attempts to get a confession from a suspected “tout” or squealer.

for disturbing images, explicit portrayals of violence and language.