Thursday, December 23, 2010


Western drama

Hailee Steinfeld: 14-year old Mattie Ross
Jeff Bridges: U.S. Marshal Rueben J. “Rooster” Cogburn
Dakin Matthews: Col. Stonehill
Matt Damon: Texas Ranger LaBoeuf
Josh Brolin: hired hand Tom Chaney
Barry Pepper: “Lucky” Ned Pepper, leader of the gang
Elizabeth Marvel: 40-year-old Mattie

Once again the Cohen brothers have assembled their “team” (cinematographer Roger Deakins, costume designer Mary Zophres, sound designer Craig Berkey)
having worked with them in earlier films (Fargo and No Country for Old Men to name a few). The results are to be expected: a big budget movie that looks and feels just right.

Set in the Old West at the turn of the 19th century this tale of vengeance for the murder of her father as played by Hailee Steinfeld. She really nails it and steals the show from such accomplished actors as Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

With great attention to detail (except for one instance as noted below) there are amusing moments to lighten things up and crisp editing to keep things moving along.

for intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.

LaBoeuf hands Mattie a photograph which she places on top of a book on her bedside table. Although she does not touch it again several scenes later it has changed orientation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Pychological thriller

Natalie Portman: Nina Sayer. ballerina with the New York City Ballet
Barbara Hershey: her mother Erica
Vincent Cassel: Artistic Director Thomas Leroy
Mila Kunis: Lily, a dancer new to the Company
Winona Ryder: prima ballerina Beth Macintyre

With the lead ballerina pushed to explore her dark side this is not your traditional performance of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake".

To begin with it borders on soft-core pornography what with the vulgarity of some of the dialogue and frank sexuality including masturbation and groping as well brief lesbian sex.

And if that’s not enough the scenes of self-mutilation and stabbing are bound to shock viewers who are unaccustomed to sitting through a horror movie.

for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Sports drama
Based on a true story

Mark Wahlberg: professional boxer Micky Ward
Christian Bale: his older half-brother and sparring partner Dicky Eklund
Melissa Leo: their mother Alice Eklund, Micky’s manager
Jack McGee: Alice’s second husband George Ward
Mickey O'Keefe: Lowell police Sgt. Mickey O'Keefe, Micky’s trainer
Amy Adams: barmaid Charlene

Central to a movie about a boxer trying to make it to the top, there are a lot of fight scenes. But they are not nearly so violent as other films about this sport with more emphasis on his career and how he overcomes adversity.

Fantastic performances by Wahlberg, Bale, Leo and Adams makes for riveting stuff.

for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.

During the end credits the real brothers ham it up a bit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Romantic comedy

Jake Gyllenhaal: sales clerk Jamie Randall
Josh Gad: Jamie’s younger brother Josh
Oliver Platt: Pfizer Area Manager Bruce Jackson
Katheryn Winnick: Pfizer sales rep Lisa
Hank Azania: Dr. Stan Knight
Anne Hathaway: 26-year-old artist Maggie Murdock
Gabriel Macht: Trey Hannigan, top salesman for Eli Lilly's Prozac

Much of the film is squarely targeted at teenagers and it should satisfy the wet-dream of even the most horny of them. And they don’t have to wait very long before the first tantalizing scene: about two minutes after the opening credits we get to see two people “doing it”.

But that is only the first of many similar encounters, sometimes within 10-minutes of meeting for the first time, providing ample opportunity to view topless women and bottomless men. The requisite masturbation scene is there as is the clueless rich boy, even a pajama party with everyone pairing off.

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

• Set in 1996 the grey-market electronics store where Jamie works has nothing but large flat screen televisions. Although these were invented two years earlier by a team at the University of Illinois it was not until 1997 that Sharp and Sony introduced them to the marketplace.
• The first large flat screen televisions sold for more than $15,000 making them well out of reach of most people. Consequently they were available only in high-end retail stores not the kind of store where Jamie was a sales clerk.
• Although Dr. Knight never touches the stethoscope slung over his left shoulder it moves by itself from one scene to another.
• In the same manner, the straw in Maggie’s drink changes location by itself.
• And so does Jamie’s roller-bag when he sets it down beside the dumpster.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Some dialogue in French with English subtitles.

Brenda Blethyn: Guernsey Island farmer Elisabeth Sommers
Roschdy Zem: London shopkeeper and landlord
Sotigui Kouyaté: African migrant worker Ousmane
Francis Magee: London Police Inspector

Following the bombings in July 2005 two parents meet up in London while searching for their respective children. Characterized by two fine performances this small budget engaging film is for the thoughtful serious viewer.

for brief scenes of disturbing images.


Historical drama
Based on true facts

Michael Gambon: King George V of England
Claire Bloom: the queen consort Queen Mary
Colin Firth: their second son Prince Albert the Duke of York
Helena Bonham Carter: Albert’s wife Elizabeth
Geoffrey Rush: speech thearpist Lionel Logue
Guy Pearce: Albert’s older brother Prince David the heir apparent Duke of Windsor
Timothy Spall: First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill
Derek Jacobi: the Archbishop of Canterbury
Eve Best: Mrs. Wallis Simpson

I sat mesmerized by two fascinating performances, that of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Each in their own way had a difficult role to play and they both nailed it. The rest of the cast are no slouch but these two are the best of the bunch.

An extremely enjoyable film the well-written script has quite a few humorous quips to keep the proceedings from getting too serious. The director has wisely chosen to allow adequate screen time for some scenes albeit at the expense of adding to the running time of nearly two hours: like a good wine, some things cannot be hurried.

The British are the best at period pieces and this is no exception with beautiful cinemaphotography, elaborate sets and perfect costuming.

(in Canada) for some language.

Because there is one scene in which the future king is encouraged by his therapist to let loose with a string of obscenities as a form of liberating speech therapy the Motion Picture Association of America has slapped a R rating on the film. This puts it in the same category as scary horror movies and blood-soaked pornography-torture films like Saw 3D for example. How silly is that?

The British Board of Film Classification at first imposed a 15 certificate on the movie, thereby denying youngsters under that age the right to see it, but then relented by giving it a 12 A rating, which is the equivalent of a PG-13 in North America.

One thing to keep in mind: there is not one teenager out there who would be offended by this language and very few adults.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Animated adventure

Donna Murphy: the old crone Mother Gothel
Mandy Moore: beautiful 17-year-old Rapunzel
Zachary Levi: the handsome rogue Flynn Rider
Ron Perlman: his comrades the Stabbington Brothers

In typical Disney fashion they’ve taken a well-known fairy tale and not only given it their own twist but they’ve made a musical out of it with lots of songs and some dancing. Not that this hampers the telling of the story but it was not something I had expected.

The CGI is right up there with the very best including lovely rendering and great facial expressions, particularly by Maximus, one of the king’s horses, who steals the show every time he appears on screen. There are more than a few chuckles and things move along at a pretty good clip. All in all, a very entertaining outing.

for brief mild violence.



Eliot Spitzer, former New York State Governor, talks freely about his life experiences and answers most questions in a frank and direct manner. His political opponents and others opine that he is not the man popularized by the media. So we have something of a balanced look at the man once many thought was to become “the first Jewish President of the United States.”

Although he was a numbered client Spitzer did much more: as Attorney General he uncovered financial improprieties involving companies such as AIG and Bank of America which provide some insight into the subsequent total meltdown of the American economy. By not dwelling too much on the scandalized nature of his life we get to know the man for what he really is.

for some sexual material, nudity and language.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Based on a true story

James Franco: 27-year-old Aron Ralston
Kate Mara: a young hiker Kristi
Amber Tamblyn: her friend Megan

The cinematography is great from the opening split-screen to the glorious panorama while soaring above the remote golden canyons of Utah. And the music helps to set the scene of a experienced mountain climber out for a day of adventure.

However the director didn’t have much to work with: for most of the film it’s one location, one actor. Yet he pulls it off beautifully, in large measure because we are privy to the innermost thoughts of an individual while trying to extricate himself from a perilous situation. Franco’s performance is worth the price of admission alone. Although the movie title gives some hint as to how long he will be in the predicament he’s found himself in, we are not at any point sure of the outcome.

It’s riveting stuff.

for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images.

Full disclosure: I’m not sure this is a nitpick or not. But it might be so here goes. The letters REC in the corner of the video camera screen are in green. I always thought the only colour used to indicate a camcorder was in the recording mode was red.

There is one scene that the squeamish like me will want to avert their eyes (something I didn’t do this time!) because of the realistic portrayal of Aron taking extreme measures to deal with his situation.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Based on a true story

Chris Pine: young train conductor Will Colson
Denzel Washington: veteran railroad engineer Frank Barnes
Ethan Suplee: yard shunter engineer Dewey
Lew Temple: shop welder Ned
Rosario Dawson: railroad yard manager Connie Hooper
Kevin Dunn: her boss Galvin, VP of Operations
Kevin Corrigan: Federal Safety Inspector Scott Werner

Anyone who has ever sat at a railway crossing watching a long freight train as it lumbers past can only be impressed with the awesome power of the engines and the tremendous bulk of the cars passing by. This movie effectively captures that display of force by viewing the train in question from various angles. The accompanying sound serves to enhance the experience.

However as with any suspense thriller, the less said the better other than to mention that the acting is terrific, the characters are convincing and by incorporating television news reports we are always kept abreast of the unfolding story. The crisp editing keeps things moving along at a good clip.

for sequences of action and peril, and some language.

This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation Frank’s daughter hangs up and he is left listening to the dial tone. In reality the dial tone is only heard after picking up the phone before dialling. That’s why it’s called a dial tone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010



With beautiful animated graphs, insightful interviews and comprehensive voice-over the complexities of the global financial crisis of 2007 are a little less daunting. What is still impossible to understand is how so many well-respected senior company officers and government officials allowed this to happen. The producers offer one suggestion: human greed.

for some drug and sex-related material.


Political drama
Based on a true story

Naomi Watts: high-ranking “non-official covert operative” C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame
Sean Penn: her husband former ambassador Joseph Wilson
Liraz Charhi: Zahraa, a physican
Khaled Nabawy: her brother Hammad
Michael Kelly: Valerie's immediate supervisor Jack
David Andrews: Irve Lewis "Scooter" Libby, aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney
Adam LeFevre: White House Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove
Sam Shepard: Valerie's career military dad Sam

We all know “you can’t fight city hall”. How about fighting the administration of the most powerful political body in the entire world, the United States government? In a word: you ain’t got a hope in heck!

Back in 2003 there was some dispute whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not. Anyone suggesting that the White House misled the public in its justification for going to war would have to be dealt with in the most effective manner.

With great attention to detail (except for one teeny miscue noted below) it all rings true. Both Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are outstanding but this has to be one of Penn’s very best performances ever.

for some language.

This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation Joe hangs up and Valerie is left listening to the dial tone. In reality the dial tone is only heard after picking up the phone before dialling. That’s why it’s called a dial tone.

I have yet to figure out how the first scene relates to the rest of the movie.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Road trip

Robert Downey Jr.: architect Peter Highman
Michelle Monaghan: his wife Sarah
Zach Galifianakis: struggling actor Ethan Tremblay
and others no doubt

Right from the get-go it is pretty dull, contrived and seems to drag on forever. Desperate to inject some sort of humour in it, the producers rely upon getting laughs from such things as a man “pleasing himself” (and to garner even more laughs, his dog does it too). At that point I had seen enough so I walked out.

for language, drug use and sexual content.

• Peter tells Ethan they’ll have to put in “16 to 18 hour days for three maybe four days of driving” to reach Los Angeles from Atlanta. According to MapQuest the distance is 2,176 miles and the driving time required is 32 hours not 48 to 72 hours as estimated by Peter.
• He’s also off when he says it will take 8 hours to drive from Phoenix to LA: it is only 380 miles and can easily be done in less than 6 hours.


Animated action/adventure

Will Ferrell: evil genius Megamind
David Cross: his sidekick Minion
Brad Pitt: Metro Man, protector of Metro City
Tina Fey: TV news reporter Roxanne Ritchi
Jonah Hill: TV cameraman Hal

Lacking any originality and hampered with a script devoid of any semblance of humour it provides little in the way of entertainment. The story seems like a rehash of similar recently released superhero films but with the predictability of the ending a sure thing.

Speaking of sure things: this one will not win any awards. You heard it here first!

for action and some language.

Hal’s t-shirt incorrectly reads “Error 404 … Request not found”. This HTTP standard error response code states only “Not Found”.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Crime drama
Based on a true story

Sam Rockwell: Kenneth “Muddy” Waters
Hilary Swank: his younger sister Betty Anne
Loren Dean: Betty Ann’s husband Rick
Conner Donovan: their oldest son Richard
Owen Campbell: the younger brother Ben
Minnie Driver: law student Abra Rice
Melissa Leo: Ayer Police Officer Nancy Taylor
Juliette Lewis: Kenny’s ex-girlfriend Roseanna Perry
Peter Gallagher: Attorney Barry Scheck
Ari Graynor: Kenny’s daughter Mandy

Despite the flashbacks-within-flashbacks somehow it all makes sense as the story unfolds of a sister determined to prove her brother is innocent of the crime he is serving time for. The relatively slow pace allows for character development of the key players in this riveting account that spans more than 16 years.

All of the cast do remarkable work but three are outstanding and they alone are worth the price of admission: Swank, Rockwell (in a supporting role) and Lewis.

for language and some disturbing images.

The producers great attention to detail resulted in my being unable to find even one real nitpick. The closest I came was when one of the boys says to his mother “Hurry up, it’s 8:15 and we have to go”. The wall clock behind her showed it to be 8:16. That hardly warrants being a nitpick. But at least I tried.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Science fiction drama

Carey Mulligan: 28-year-old Kathy
Andrew Garfield: her longtime school chum Tommy
Charlotte Rampling: Miss Emily, headmistress of Hailsham Academy
Isobel Meikle-Small: 12-year-old young Kathy
Charlie Rowe: young Tommy
Ella Purnell: young Ruth
Keira Knightley: older Ruth
Sally Hawkins: new teacher Miss Lucy

After the opening scene the rest of the movie relies upon flashbacks to an earlier time when we learn that the students of this British co-ed boarding school have a special purpose in life. At the same time some of them have to deal with the teenage problem of a love triangle.

Things move slowly enough that no one will get left behind and viewers of British persuasion can better understand the various accents and will get more of the one-liners while we less fortunate ones sit and wonder what’s so funny?

Although she doesn’t get as much screen time as some of the others, this is Knightley’s best performance in years.

for nudity, sexual encounter and language.

Friday, October 29, 2010



Aaron Johnson: 15-year-old John Lennon
Kristin Scott Thomas: his aunt Mimi
David Threlfall: his uncle George
Anne-Marie Duff: his mother Julia, Mimi’s younger sister
David Morrissey: Julia’s boyfriend Bobby
Thomas Brodie Sangster: 15-year-old Paul McCartney

This is quite an insight about the teen-aged John Lennon. The film covers three short years but has a lot to say about the troubled life he led before he became famous as one of the Beatles.

There are excellent performances from the three principals and lots of rock ‘n’ roll. As with many British films, the f-word is used with abandon.

for language and one scene of sexuality.

Seen from John’s perspective Julia offers her left cheek for a kiss but in the side view it is her right cheek being offered.