Wednesday, February 24, 2010


War action\adventure

Igal Naor: Iraqi Republican Guard General Al-Rawi
Khalid Abdalla: Freddy, a native Iraqi
Matt Damon: U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller
Amy Ryan: Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Lawrie Dayne
Michael O'Neill: the units commanding officer Colonel Bethel
Brendan Gleeson: C.I.A. Station Chief Martin “Marty” Brown
Greg Kinnear: Defense Intelligence Agent Clark Poundstone

Set during the early months of the Coalition occupation of Bagdad it starts slowly enough but once the action begins it hardly ever stops. The main question being raised is whether the stated justification for the war, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, was an honest mistake or was there a more sinister explanation?

The extensive use of hand-held cameras conveys the almost out-of-control energy of the action sequences but the quick cuts often make it difficult to understand exactly what is going on. Fortunately the narrative structure at the end of the action clues you in to what has transpired.

The acting is uniformly good and the pacing fine although they could chop a half hour or so from the running time without losing a lot.

for war violence and language.



Leonardo DiCaprio: U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels
Mark Ruffalo: his partner Chuck Aule
John Carroll Lynch: Deputy Warden McPherson
Ben Kingsley: Dr. John Cawley, Chief psychiatrist at Ashecliffe Hospital
Max Von Sydow: Senior physician Dr. Jeremiah Naehring
Michelle Williams: Teddy’s wife Dolores
Patricia Clarkson: patient Rachel Solando

This is Leonardo’s show: he really gets a chance to show his acting skills and pulls it off beautifully. Perhaps his best performance ever? Not that the others are far behind mind you except for Ruffalo: he plays his character as a B-movie mob guy gangster that comes across as less than real, almost cartoonish.

The music is a strong element in setting the scene, even before the opening credits we know we’re into something mysterious. The camera work and overall look of the film is notable as well.

However with a running time approaching two and a half hours many will be anxious for this mystery thriller to end as it seems to go on forever.

for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity.

• While travelling by boat to the island Teddy and Chuck are standing in the corner of a railing. Although they do not move, when they arrive part of the railing is no longer there.
• Dachau, a World War II concentration camp seen in flashback was liberated on 29 April 1945, well after the winter snow had melted.
• Although supposedly dead, the young boy laying down on the grass on the right hand side moves his left foot ever so slightly.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


In German with English subtitles.
Original title: Das weiße Band

Burghart Klaußner: the pastor
Steffi Kühnert: his wife Anna
Maria-Victoria Dragus: their oldest daughter Klara
Leonard Proxauf: her brother Martin
Rainer Bock: the village widowed doctor
Roxane Duran: his daughter Anna
Susanne Lothar: the village midwife
Ulrich Tukur: the baron
Ursina Lard: his wife the baroness Marie-Louise
Leonie Benesch: Eva, nanny to their children
Christian Friedel: the school teacher

At the risk of giving away too much of the plot let me simply say that the three men who rule over the village are each in their own way sadistic, cruel, detestable, despicable people. Consequently often what they do and say is disturbing and difficult to watch to the point at times I cringed at what transpired on screen.

With strange events happening in a small closed community and clues that are not easy to discern you really have to work at it to “solve” the mystery.

At times the action slows to the point that there is absolutely nothing happing on screen. Case in point: the camera is pointed at a closed door and perhaps 15 seconds later a child emerges, walks pass the camera and about half a minute later walks back past the camera and re-enters the room and only 15 seconds later do we hear a scream. In the absence of any attempt at editing the film drags on interminably for two and a half hours. A lot of people do not have the patience for this technique frequently seen in “art movies”. In fact I cannot recall the last time I saw so many patrons leave the theatre part way through.

One more thing: many will be unhappy with the way it ends but relieved that it does.

for sexual content.



Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (September 1828 – November 1910) better known as Leo Tolstoy was a Russian writer widely regarded as among the greatest of novelists. His first book, War and Peace about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was published in 1869. His next novel, published in 1877, was Anna Karenina about a love affair set amidst Russian high society. Today they are regarded as masterpieces of historical fiction in terms of their scope, breadth and vivid depiction of 19th-century Russian life and attitudes.

Tolstoy had a profound influence on the development of anarchist thought. His closest friend and confidant, Vladimir Chertkov, formed a small group of followers of Tolstoy’s philosophical and religious views. This quasi-religious, quasi-political movement advocated celibacy, pacifism and a generalized love of mankind within a framework of agricultural socialism. Tolstoyans were Christian pacifists and practiced absolute nonresistance rather than any form of self-defense.

Paul Giamatti: Vladimir Chertkov, Tolstoy’s most trusted follower
James McAvoy: Tolstoyan Valentin Bulgakov
Kerry Condon: Masha, a devout Tolstoyan
Christopher Plummer: Count Leo Tolstoy
Helen Mirren: his wife, the Countess Sofya
Anne-Marie Duff: their daughter Sasha

Set in 1910, the film provides an insight into the final year in the life of the Russian writer and philosopher. Obviously geared to the discerning viewer this intelligent, adult piece of entertainment tells us a lot about Tolstoy that is not common knowledge.

The acting alone is worth the price of admission: Helen Mirren pulls off what I think is her best performance ever (and that is saying a lot) while Christopher Plummer shows what an accomplished actor he is.

for one scene of sexuality and nudity.

Saturday, February 6, 2010



Jonathan Rhys Meyers: James Reece, personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France
Richard Durden: Ambassador Bennington
Kasia Smutniak: James’ girfriend Caroline
John Travolta: Charlie Wax, special CIA agent

Things start off deceptively slowly but once Charlie Wax shows up it is virtually non-stop action as he one-handily takes on a variety of bad guys who come across his path including terrorists, drug dealers and the like.

His language is peppered with expletives intended to intimidate his foe but can become obnoxious. The mayhem is relentless: shooting people and blowing things up are interspersed with wild car chases though the City of Love. Guess that’s where the title comes from because there ain’t no love from this guy.

Now don’t go cancelling anything important (like picking up your things at the dry cleaners) but if you have a hour and a half to kill (get the pun?) then it’s worth seeing. Otherwise you could easily skip it and not lose any sleep over it. And save yourself a couple of bucks.

for strong, bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language and brief sexuality.

With a break in the action James takes a moment to wash his face and get rid of the splattered blood. He misses two spots, one above his right eye and another below his left ear. But in the very next scene (and for the rest of the movie) these have conveniently disappeared.

Friday, February 5, 2010



Amanda Seyfried: 20-something-year-old college student Savannah Curtis
Scott Porter: her friend Randy
Channing Tatum: Special Forces Army Sergeant John Tyree
Richard Jenkins: John’s father
Henry Thomas: Alan’s father Tim

Fans of the Harlequin romance novels will love it; others probably less so. The female target audience, primarily teenage girls, will be enchanted with this story of young love tinged with some unfortunate circumstance if you believe the title.

This is a big production number with decent acting, a nice score and some fine cinemaphotography. It’s too bad it is so cliché ridden and entirely predictable.

But again, perhaps that is what some moviegoers want ?

for some sensuality and violence.

John said he was born in 1980 and toured the United States Mint at Philadelphia to see them producing coins when he was 8. Trouble is, the coins being struck are dated 1987, a year before he got there.

Savanna has some wine during dinner with Tom. Before standing up her glass is less than half full but by the time she is on her feet it has replenished itself and now its almost right to the top.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Murder mystery

Mel Gibson: Boston Police Detective Tommy Craven
Bojana Novakovic: his 24-year-old daughter Emma
Jay O. Sanders: Whitehouse, one of Tom’s friends
Shawn Roberts: Emma’s boyfriend David Burnham
Danny Huston: Jack Bennett, CEO of Northmoor nuclear facility
Ray Winstone: CIA agent Darius Jedburgh
Damian Young: Republican Senator Jim Pine
Denis O’Hare: his advisor Moore
Caterina Scorsone: Emma's friend Melissa

What a mess: it starts off in a straightforward manner as a murder mystery then adds more and more characters to the point it is very difficult to keep things sorted out. And one of these characters (Jedburg) is impossible to understand what with the combination of a British accent and a propensity to mumble. So most of what he has to say is incomprehensible. Yet he is a key figure in all of this.

There are lots of twists and turns, frequently poorly explained so we are left wondering “what the heck is that all about?” Pretty well describes the whole thing.

for strong bloody violence and language.

• Jedburgh is sitting on bench in bright sunlight coming across diagonally. Tom joins him and after just few minutes together when Tom leaves the sun has shifted 90° and the orange colouration indicates it is near sunset.
• Tom asks to see John Bennett; is name is Jack.
• The make of the semi-automatic pistol most commonly carried by law enforcement in the USA is a Glock. The Model 22 magazine holds 15 bullets and the Model 23 has a capacity of 13. During a shootout beside the parkway Tom fires off at least 18 shots without reloading.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Spy thriller
In Russian and French with English subtitles
Original title “L'affaire Farewell
Based on a true story

The Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) was created in 1944 as a domestic intelligence agency within the French National Police. Its mandate includes counterespionage, counterterrorism and the security of France against foreign threats and interference, including economic.

Guillaume Canet: Pierre Froment, an engineer working in Moscow
Alexandra Maria Lara: his wife Jessica
Emir Kusturica: Serguei Grigoriev
Ingeborga Dapkunaite: his wife Natasha
Niels Arestrup: J. Vallier, Director of the DST
Philippe Magnan: French President François Mitterand
Fred Ward: President of the United States Ronald Reagan
Willem Dafoe: CIA Director Jack Feeney

Making effective use of archival film to set the scene, it is soon apparent that the Cold War-era made men do unusual things. By taking time to develop the characters, we get some insight as to their thinking and rationalization. Along the way the tension becomes almost palpable.

The acting is uniformly good and the great attention to detail makes it all seem real.

for some sexuality and violence.



Ashley Judd: Helen, a music theory professor
Goran Visnjic: her husband David
Lauren Lee Smith: one of Helen’s students Mathilda
Alexia Fast: Helen’s 12-year-old daughter Julie
Alberta Watson: Dr. Sherman

The main reason for going to this film is to see for yourself the acting by Ashley Judd giving a realistic portrayal of someone dealing with severe depression. But the whole thing is painful to watch and there is not one iota of happiness during the overly long two hours.

for mature themes and brief disturbing images.