Sunday, August 22, 2010



Born Joan Molinsky (June 8, 1933) in Brooklyn, New York to Russian Jewish immigrants she graduated from Barnard College in 1954 with a B.A. in English literature. Before entering show business she worked at various jobs such as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center, a writer/proof-reader at an advertising agency and a “fashion consultant” at several Bond Clothing stores.

She wanted to become an actress and her first agent, Tony Rivers, suggested she change her name: Joan Rivers first appeared in a short-lived play called Seawood. She performed in numerous comedy clubs during the early 1960’s before making her first appearance in February 1965 as a guest on The Tonight Show hosted by Jack Parr. She worked as a gag writer and participant on Candid Camera and was frequently on television including The Ed Sullivan Show.

Known for her brash manner, River’s comic style relies heavily on poking fun at herself and other celebrities.

It is not a complete biography in the sense it skips over the first 35 years of her life and gets right into the woman she is today. Although there are brief snippets of her early career beginning in 1965 the film covers the events in about one year of her life, the year she turned seventy-five.

Warts and all. Well not really warts but bloodshot eyes and Botox blotches. How these unflattering scenes made the final editing cut is beyond me as most “stars” would have them eradicated in a nano-second.

And not just that: there is one other scene when she is doing a stand-up show in Wisconsin that I think most “stars” would have insisted it be removed but it is there for all of us to see and judge.

For those who have only seen Joan on television seeing her night club act shows an entirely different persona, one who will do practically anything to get a laugh. It is a revelation and may change your perception of the lady.

for pervasive language and crude sexual humor.


Live-action family fare

Maggie Gyllenhaal: Isabel Green
Asa Butterfield: her first born Norman
Lil Woods: his younger sister Megsie
Oscar Steer: Vincent, the youngest Green
Eros Vlahos: the kids cousins Cyril
Rosie Taylor-Ritson: and Celia Gray
Emma Thompson: Nanny McPhee
Maggie Smith: the town dry grocer Mrs. Docherty
Rhys Ifans: Isabel’s brother-in-law Phil
Sam Kelly: the local air raid warden Mr. Docherty
Sinead Matthews: two female enforcers Miss Topsey
Katy Brand: and Miss Turvey
Ralph Fiennes: Cyril and Celia’s father Lord Gray
Ewan McGregor: Isabel’s husband Rory

Wonderfully entertaining with five not-too-subtle lessons of life to be learned as the underlying premise for this get together. There are the requisite rude body noises and lots of poo jokes. Parents no doubt will think there is too much of this sort of thing but the kids love it.

Well crafted both in terms of the writing and the very look of it with just a smattering of CGI that adds to the fun. The acting is fine throughout and the English countryside has never looked better.

for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Crime thriller

James Frecheville: 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody
Jacki Weaver: J’s maternal grandmother Janine aka “Smurf”
Ben Mendelsohn: her eldest son Andrew aka “Pope”
Joel Edgerton: his partner Barry “Baz” Brown
Sullivan Stapleton: Pope’s younger brother Craig, a drug pusher
Luke Ford: Darren, the youngest of the Cody brothers
Laura Wheelwright: J's girlfriend Nicky
Guy Pearce: Melbourne Police Detective Nathan Leckie

This is not your typical gangster film: there are no shootouts, no car chases, no lingering scenes of blood and gore. Instead this is one terrific film that comes across as real. That is due in large part because the acting is so good you tend to forget it is a film. Couple that with a well written script providing time for character development and excellent pacing which allows the action to unfold in an unhurried manner.

Because of the strong Australian accent I could not understand all of the dialogue but that was of little consequence. This is one of the best films of this sort I’ve seen in years.

for violence, drug content and pervasive language.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Comic book action/adventure

Scott Pilgrim is a graphic novel series by Byran Lee O’Malley consisting of 6 volumes released between August 2004 and July 2010.

Michael Cera: 22-year-old bass player Scott Pilgrim
Alison Pill: the band's drummer Kim Pine, Scott’s ex-girlfriend
Mark Webber: the band's lead singer Stephen Stills
Johnny Simmons: wanna-be-bass player Young Neil
Kieran Culkin: Scott’s roommate Wallace Wells
Ellen Wong: 17-year-old high school student Knives Chau
Anna Kendrick: Scott's younger sister Stacey
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Ramona Victoria Flowers
Satya Bhabha: one of Ramona’s evil exes, Matthew Patel
Chris Evans: another evil ex, Lucas Lee, movie star and skateboarder
Brandon Routh: evil ex Todd Ingram, a vegan with telekinetic powers
Mae Whitman: evil ex Roxanne "Roxy" Richter, a half-ninja

Fans of the series will love it; others less so.

It starts off with great promise but once Scott meets Ramona things change: to win her affection he has to battle all her seven ex-boy or girlfriends and these encounters play out like a video game.

To many all this might be written off as silly, bizarre humour for younger people whose main source of literature is comic books. I would agree with that assessment.

for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references.

• This is one of my classic nitpicks: when Stacey hangs up, Scott hears a 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.
• Scott and Ramona sit down on swings in the park, he on the left hand side, she on the right. In the next scene they have magically switched places.



Julia Roberts: playwright Elizabeth “Liz” Gilbert
Billy Crudup: her husband Stephen
James Franco: actor David Piccolo
Richard Jenkins: Richard from Texas
I. Gusti Ayu Puspawati: Nyomo
Hadi Subiyanto: Nyomo's husband Ketut, an old fortune teller
Javier Bardem: Brazilian importer/exporter Felipe

Following this woman’s journey means sitting through more than two hours of philosophical discussions about things like “the path to enlightenment” and “finding God within”.

It would be fine as a travelogue about Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love) as it is beautifully shot but that comes at the expense of putting up with a lot of words pertaining to self-gratification, self-fulfillment, and self-discovery. Not everyone’s cup of tea.

for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity.

While talking on the phone a big mosquito bite is much in evidence on Liz’s left hand but no sooner does she hang up do we see it has completely disappeared.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Some dialogue in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles

Mao Zedong (b. 1893) led the People’s Republic of China from it establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. In China he is officially held in high regard as a great revolutionary, political strategist, military mastermind, and savior of the nation. In 1966 he was instrumental in creating the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that resulted in social, political, and economic upheaval transforming the country from an agrarian society into a major world power. Only after the Chairman’s death did relations with the West begin to thaw.

Wen Bin Huang: 11-year-old Li Cunxi
Joan Chen: Li’s mother
Bruce Greenwood: Ben Stevenson, Artistic Director of the Huston Ballet Company
Chi Cao: the 18-year-old Li
Amanda Schull: a fellow ballet student, Elizabeth Mackey
Camilla Vergotis: Mary McKendry, an Australian ballerina
Kyle MacLachlan: Texan lawyer Charles Foster

This true story of a young boy, one of seven children of a Chinese peasant family, who goes on to become a famous ballet dancer is told in chronological order with a few flashbacks.

Definitely a “must-see” for ballet fans but for those who are not, the ballet scenes are kept to a minimum so no one should become bored with the dance sequences and maybe even get to appreciate the fact that are all beautifully choreographed.

The stunning cinematography coupled with a delightful score serve as a wonderful backdrop to this enchanting tale.

for a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking.

Ben gets some money out of an ATM but the American $20 bills he receives are the modern day ones only introduced some twenty years after this event took place.

Monday, August 9, 2010



Nine-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater
Tahitian surfer Raimana Van Bastolaer

While waiting for the ultimate wave to arrive off Tahiti's famed Teahupo'o beach there is a brief history of this Polynesian island and some of the local customs. Making good use of CGI we get an insight into the science of wave mechanics and the formation of volcanic islands.

But the best part are the sequences of actually surfing these monstrous waves. That makes for some spectacular images.


Saturday, August 7, 2010



Michael Douglas: former car salesman 60-year-old “Honest Ben Kalman”
Susan Sarandon: Ben’s ex-wife Nancy, a real estate agent
Mary Louise Parker: Ben’s current girlfriend rich socialite Jordan Karsch
Imogen Poots: Jordan’s 18-year-old daughter Allyson
Jenna Fischer: Ben’s married daughter Susan Porter
David Costabile: Susan’s husband Gary
Danny DeVito: Ben’s long time friend and restaurant owner Jimmy Marino
Jesse Eisenberg: college student Daniel Cheston

Perfectly typecast, this is one of Douglas’ finest performances (not that he has not had others) and one of the best by DeVito. These two polished professionals on their own make it worthwhile viewing. Although they have minor roles, the excellent acting by Sarandon and Eisenberg is a real bonus.

As a character study of Ben you don’t have to love him or what he stands for but you do begin to understand why he’s a solitary man.

Unusual for most movies is the soundtrack, or absence of one: apart from the title song during the opening credits there is not a lot of music. Instead we hear ambient sounds and often just silence.

Another aspect of filmmaking that does not follow the norm are the many long takes rather than the short snippets and quick scene changes so often employed. How refreshing to see and hear something different for a change.

for language and some sexual content.

Ben tosses a table napkin casually over his shoulder while talking outside the restaurant. From one scene to the next it changes from neatly folded to more spread out.


Drama, mystery

Robert Duvall: Felix Bush, a reclusive carpenter
Lucas Black: Buddy Robinson, Quinn’s only employee
Gerald McRaney: Reverend Gus Horton, Felix’s long time friend
Bill Murray: Frank Quinn, proprietor of Quinn Funeral Home
Sissy Spacek: the widow Mattie Darrow

Right from the get-go it is apparent that Felix harbours a secret. And he hangs on to it until almost the very end.

Along the way there are more than a few humorous moments with excellent acting by both Duvall and Murray. With great attention to detail (except for a few things noted below) it looks good. A most enjoyable film.

for mature thematic material and brief violent content.

• While driving to Felix’s house the car windows are closed but when Buddy steps out he puts his left hand around the window frame that is now conveniently open.
• Felix gives Frank a sheet of paper with the top right hand corner folded over but when viewed from Frank’s point of view it is perfectly flat.

In the parlance of the backwoods “to get low” means to get down to business.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Fansty, adventure

Jake Cherry: 10-year-old David "Dave" Stutler
Nicolas Cage: Balthazar Blake, a thousand year old sorcerer
Jay Baruchel: 20-year-old Dave Stutler, a physics student at New York University
Alfred Molina: Maxim Horvath, an evil sorcerer and Blakes’ arch-nemesis
Teresa Palmer: college student Rebecca “Becky” Barnes
Nicole Ehinger: Abigail Williams, a witch “in the last layer around the Grimhold”
Toby Kebbell: Drake Stone, a celebrated illusionist
and others no doubt

The target audience (children and young teenagers) seemed to enjoy it but I did not. Chances are they never saw the original Walt Disney version of Fantasia with Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice which is too bad because that was delightful whereas this modern day version is anything but.

To start with it is far too complicated to be taken seriously: just keeping track of the characters takes more effort than it is worth. Also it is too loud with lots of banging and crashing and general mayhem. In fact it is nothing but a series of computer generated effects popping up constantly. Hey too much is too much!

I left before losing all my hearing unable to take any more of it.

for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language.

• A title screen at the beginning of the movie says the year is 2000 but when the camera zooms in on the New York skyline the World Trade Center twin towers are not there.
• When Balthazar comes out of the urn he is not wearing a hat but in the very next scene one has magically appeared.


Action, thriller

Angelina Jolie: C.I.A. officer Evelyn Salt
Liev Schreiber: Salt’s colleague and friend Ted Winter
August Diehl: Salt's husband Michael "Mike" Krause, a German arachnologist
Daniel Olbrychski: Orlov, a Russian defector
Chiwetel Ejiofor: C.I.A. Internal Affairs operative, Agent Peabody
Hunt Block: United States President Lewis

Once it gets going, the action never lets up with more chase scenes than any other movie currently in release. Salt proves she is a “one-woman” saviour to the world and capable of almost anything. And she pulls it off without too much assistance from the CGI wizards. How refreshing.

As with most films of this sort the plot is purposely convoluted and full of surprises. If nothing else, this labyrinthine spy thriller keeps you guessing.

for intense sequences of violence and action.

• Following a flashback a title screen indicates we are back to present day. Some time later we see the tombstone of the U.S. Vice President with the year of his death shown incorrectly as 2011.
• Salt gets a scratch on her cheek, just below her left ear. It changes position from one scene to the next.