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.

Monday, October 25, 2010



Noah Reid: 17-year-old Farley Gordon
Olivia Newton-John: his mother Hope
Marc Jordan: his father Edgar
Allie MacDonald: their 17-year-old neighbour Eve
Stephen McHattie: owner of the Brampton Blades hockey team
George Stroumboulopoulos: the rink announcer

Oxymoron –noun
• A figure of speech in which two words with opposing meanings are used together intentionally for effect
• a contradiction in terms.

That best describes this movie about hockey with most of the dialogue presented as a song. But is it any sillier a notion than a musical about two teenage street gangs (West Side Story) or one about a baseball team (Damn Yankees) or one about a cowboy falling in love with a farm girl (Oklahoma ! ) ?

The main difference between these Broadway musicals and SCORE is that they included memorable songs that have become part of our culture; no such luck here. Instead we get to see a corny musical with many songs sung in a droning manner but with very few upbeat numbers.

Between the songs there are the requisite dance numbers as a prelude to the rousing on-ice finale which is rather well done given the limitation the players have, dressed in full gear.

So how does it fit in with others? It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen and certainly is not the worst. Just somewhere in the middle.

for crude locker-room humour and some hockey violence.

• The coach tells Farley the game will start at 2 pm but during the pre-game interview the clock shows it to be 4 o’clock.
• While Eve is talking with Farley her sweater on her right shoulder changes location between shots although she never touches it.
• The team owner gets thrown off the tread mill and it stops by itself. In fact that only happens if you press the red stop button otherwise it continues going at the pace set.

Sunday, October 24, 2010



Jim Sturgess: Soren, a little barn owl
Ryan Kwanten: his older brother Kludd
Hugo Weaving: their father Noctus
Joel Edgerton: Metalbeak, leader of the “Pure Ones”
Helen Mirren: his mate Nyra
and others no doubt

I’m glad these books were not around when I was reading children’s literature: what a dreadful, awful experience that would have been. As far as the movie version goes if I had a young child I would not let him/her even look at the poster much less go see the movie.

Here’s the premise; you judge for yourself:
A cute little barn owl named Soren in learning to fly winds up on the ground along with his brother Kludd. After being attacked and scared to death by a Tasmanian devil they are then captured by menacing looking owls who swoop down and take them to an dark evil looking place brimming with smoke and fire. They are told they will now become soldiers whereupon they are pounced upon by a very realistic bat with big teeth who will be their guardian.

All this in the first half hour.

With that I got up and left.

for some sequences of scary action.


Romantic comedy

Katherine Heigl: Holly Berenson, owner of Fraiche bakery/café
Josh Duhamel: Eric Messer, sports network technical director
Hayes MacArthur: his best friend Peter Novak
Christina Hendricks: and his wife Alison
Josh Lucas: pediatrician Dr. Sam
Sarah Burns: Child Protection Service representative Janine Groff
Britt Flatmo: preteen baby sitter Amy

As long as you don’t set the bar too high and don’t expect too much out of it, this is a pleasant outing. Given that the premise is not all that original (the godparents of a one-year-old are put in a position of having to take care of her) there’s a sense of déjà vu with predictable results. The sight gags and one-liners provide some amusing moments and the romantic element plays out as it should.

Certainly not the best movie ever but it’s not that difficult to sit through despite being a tad too long.

for sexual material, language and some drug content.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Some dialogue in French with English subtitles

Cécile De France: vacationing French television host Marie LeLay
Thierry Neuvic: her producer/lover Didier
Frankie McLaren: 12-year-old Marcus
George McLaren: his twin brother Jason
Lyndsey Marshal: their mother Jackie
Matt Damon: factory worker George Lonegan
Jay Mohr: his older brother Billy
Richard Kind: Billy’s business associate Christos
Bryce Dallas Howard: George’s cooking class partner Melanie

After a spectacular opening sequence the stories of three people whose lives have been impacted by death begins to unfold but without any obvious connection with one another until the last twenty minutes or so. Telling three separate stories takes a lot of time, in this case over two hours. And frankly, none of the stories is that compelling so it seems to drag on far too long.

Some of the shoot locations are beautiful but it is the Swiss Alps that are particularly stunning. The acting by Matt Damon comes across as real , less so by the twins.

for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images and for brief strong language.

• Marie returns from vacation landing at Charles de Gaulle airport; this is not one of Virgin Atlantic Airways approved destinations, not even with code share flights.
• While talking with George in his kitchen Melanie’s locket changes position between shots although she never touches it.
• Marcus highlights his typed entry to a Google search, hits enter and gets the results. In reality when you press enter with text highlighted it disappears so you would not get any search results.

Thursday, October 21, 2010



Educator Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Success Academy
Daisy Esparza, fifth grader living in Los Angeles, CA
Anthony Black, fifth grader living in Washington, D.C.
Six-year-old Bianca Hill living in the Bronx, NYC
First grader Francisco living in Harlem, NYC
Emily, eighth grader living in Redwood City, CA
Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of Schools in Washington, D.C.

By following five students the film highlights some of the reasons for the failure of the public education system in the United States. Graphs and charts are used to show where the country ranks in terms of key subjects like math and reading. Interviews with the students and their parents bring the personal side of the problem to light. Another aspect of the problem that is presented is the strong stand on tenure held by the teacher’s union.

The producers present a compelling argument that so-called 'dropout factories' are the main reason why some neighbourhoods are in such an economic mess, and not the other way around. If nothing else the film adds another dimension to an old problem that will not go away.

for mild language and images of incidental smoking.


In French and Arabic with English subtitles

Although the film does not attempt to identify the Middle East country where much of the action takes place it could well be the Republic of Lebanon, a country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea bordered by Syria to the North and Israel to the South. Lebanon’s location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin has shaped its cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.
The earliest evidence of civilization dates back more than 7,000 years. Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians from 3000 – 500 B.C. and later became part of the Ottoman Empire until it gained independence in 1943 with a unique system of government shared by the various religious groups rather than by political affiliation.
There is no consensus among scholars and researchers on what triggered the Lebanese Civil War between Muslims and Christians which lasted from 1975 to 1990 but it resulted in one million people of Christian descent being driven out of the country.

Rémy Girard: Notary Jean Lebel
Lubna Abazal: Nawal Marwan, the mother of non-identical twins
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin: Jeanne
Maxim Gaudette: her brother Simon
Allen Altman: Notary Maddad

In trying to fulfill her mother’s last wish, Jeanne sets off on a journey that leads her back to her mother’s homeland. Through a series of flashbacks we learn of the events that took place before Nawal left for Canada.

With great cinematography and solid performances all round it is realistic and riveting although not for everyone as there are scenes that will be disturbing to some viewers.

Even with a running time of more than two hours, it is not a minute too long.

for some scenes of graphic violence.

The title translates as Fires.

Where private law is based on French or Spanish civil code, notaries are granted greater legal powers than notaries public, their common-law counterparts.

Saturday, October 16, 2010



Bruce Willis: former black-ops C.I.A. agent Frank Moses
Mary-Louise Parker: social security claims officer Sarah Ross
Morgan Freeman: 80-year old former C.I.A. agent Joe Matheson
John Malkovich: former C.I.A. agent Marvin Boggs
Helen Mirren: former MI6 agent Victoria
Ernest Borgnine: C.I.A. records keeper Henry
Karl Urban: C.I.A. super agent William Cooper
Brian Cox: former KGB spy Ivan Simanov
Richard Dreyfuss: private defense contractor Alexander Dunning

For reasons that are not entirely clear (at least to me) bad guys are out to kill nice guy Frank Moses. So he rounds up some of his old cronies to put an end to their endeavour. Along the way there is lots of car chases, guns and explosions, snappy dialogue and crisp editing.

Not a bad premise but it drags on too long and becomes repetitious serving only to allow cameo performances for a half dozen well known actors, many of whom we’ve not seen for some time. In fact the cast reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood.

for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.

• Frank has an early morning cup of coffee. The kitchen clock shows it to be 6:59 whereas his wristwatch says it’s 5:00.
• Frank heats up some bullets that eventually explode. That’s not how it works at all.
• While in the airport control tower the middle of three blinds is almost completely pulled up but in the following scene just before the attack, it is down like the others although no one touches it.
• Frank punches a hole in the dry wall and proceeds to open the locked door. Once inside there is no damage to the wall.
• Alexander has a white bit of fuzz on his right shoulder but in the next scene it’s gone.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Teenage comedy

Emma Stone: East Ojai High School student Olive Penderghast
Aly Michalka: her best friend Rhiannon “Ria”Abernathy
Amanda Bynes: Marianne Bryant, active member of the local church group
Thomas Haden Church: English class teacher Mr. Griffith
Dan Byrd: Olive’s new friend Brandon
Malcolm McDowell: the school's principal
Patricia Clarkson: Olive’s mother Rosemary
Stanley Tucci: Olive’s father Dill
Carn Gigandet: Marianne's boyfriend Micah
Lisa Kudrow: school guidance counselor Mrs. Grifffn
Penn Badgley: Olive’s first crush Todd Woodchuck

Taking a rather different twist on the age-old problem facing teenagers (do I or don’t I?) can lead to some unforeseen circumstances. All in good taste mind you despite the nature of the, how do I put it?, going-ones.

With 95% of the cast under 20 it’s quite remarkable how much talent there is out there. Mind you they’ve been given a well-written script that garners the laughs but they have to pull it off. And that they do in spades.

for mature thematic elements involving teenage sexuality, language and some drug material.

Sitting behind Emma, her dog changes position from one shot to the next, sometimes closer to the end of the bed, other times further away, sometimes with a chew toy, sometimes not.


Sports drama
Based on a true story

Diane Lane: housewife and mother Penny Tweedy
Dylan Walsh: her lawyer husband Jack
Dylan Baker: Penny’s brother Hollis, a Harvard professor of Economics
Scott Glenn: Penny’s father Chris Chenery, owner of Meadow Stables
Margo Martindale: Miss Hamm, Mr. Chenery’s Personal Assistant
James Cromwell: Ogden Phipps, owner of Wheatley Stables
Fred Thompson: Bull Hancock, owner of Claiborne Farms
Nelsan Ellis: Eddie Sweat, Horse Groom
John Malkovich: veteran horse trainer Lucien Laurin
Otto Thorwarth: jockey Ronnie Turcotte
Nestor Serrano: Pancho Martin, owner of Secretariat's chief nemesis Sham

This unhurried telling of a Denver housewife who takes over her father’s horse farm and how her determination led to a notable sports triumph has the likeness of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie: the highest production values, excellent acting for the most part and great attention to detail. In addition, it feels authentic.

Since not everyone is that well acquainted with the sport of horse racing, the timely expository material is welcome so we can all understand and appreciate what unfolds on the screen.

The producers have wisely kept the race sequences to a minimum since a camera following a group of horses running around an oval track can quickly become very boring. Instead using different camera angles, tight close-ups and crisp editing they have captured the excitement without overdoing it.

for brief mild language, very brief.

Miss Hamm is called into the room with others and stands near the threshold. As she is about to leave the camera angle changes to show the entire group but somehow she has magically moved in by 5 or 6 steps.

Friday, October 8, 2010



Michael Douglas: Gordon Gekko, disgraced former Wall Street corporate raider
Carey Mulligan: his daughter Winnie, creator of the website
Shia LaBeouf: her live-in boyfriend Jacob “Jake” Moore, a Wall Street trader
Josh Brolin: Bretton James, CEO ??? of Churchill Schwartz Securities
Frank Langella: Jake’s boss Louis Zabel, CEO of Keller Zabel Incorporated
Susan Sarandon: Jake’s real-estate agent mother Sylvia
Eli Wallach: Jules “Julie” Steinhardt, Bretton’s boss ???

Don’t go to see the movie expecting to get a better understanding of the 2008 worldwide financial meltdown or the predatory trading practices that contributed to this crisis since these topics are dealt with at breakneck speed, not in layman terms but that of an Economics major. And keeping track of all the people who keep popping up is next to impossible, especially given that their role is not that well defined to start with. The parallel story line of an estranged daughter trying to deal with her father is equally muddled and rambling.

Once more a film where one person (Oliver Stone) takes on more than 2 key positions (Director, Producer, Writer) has a major shortcoming: in this case the storyline needs rewriting. And it also needs some editing because it goes on far too long at 2 hours plus.

There are some good things to be said about it: the high production values and great acting by Michael Douglas. But apart from that it offers very little of consequence.

for brief strong language and thematic elements.

• The scroll at the top of the NBC television program showing the Dow Jones average remains unchanged at 10,917 even though in real life at one point in time it dropped below 7,000.
• Gordon and Jake are in the taxi for quite some time before we get to see the meter: it reads $2.90. Given that the drop for a New York cab is $2.50 and increases 40 cents every 1/5 of a mile it should be much higher than that.
• Gordon says he was locked up for 122,000 hours; in fact his incarceration was only 8 years for a total of 68,352 hours.

I checked it out and Gordon’s story about Tulipmania actually happened as he described it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010



A Final Club (often misstated as "finals club") is an undergraduate social club at Harvard College. Currently there are eight all-male and five all-female clubs at Harvard.

Jesse Eisenberg: 19-year-old Harvard University sophomore Mark Zuckerberg
Rooney Mara: his girlfriend Erica Albright
Andrew Garfield: Mark’s best friend Eduardo Saverin
Armie Hammer: members of the Harvard Rowing Club, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss
Max Minghella: their business partner Divya Narendra
Justin Timberlake: Napster founder Sean Parker

It is almost as though this role was meant for him: Jesse Eisenberg gives his best performance ever as the key person behind the development of the internet website known as Facebook. Mind you, the rest of the cast are no slouches: it’s just that he really nails it.

Despite a run time of two hours it is not overly long because it has a lot of ground to cover in what is a complex story involving many people and a raft of different situations. The script is tight with believable dialog, often delivered at breakneck speed, and the editing is crisp so the time flies.

Not only is the film well acted throughout, it is beautifully shot, informative and downright entertaining.

One other thing: the musical score is just perfect. I cannot recall the last time I said that of any movie I’ve seen. Now that’s quite a compliment.

for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Crime thriller

Ben Affleck: gang leader Doug MacRay
Jeremy Renner: his childhood friend James "Jem" Coughlin
Rebecca Hall: Bank Manager Claire Keesey
John Hamm: FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley
Blake Lively: Jem’s sister Krista
Pete Postlethwaite: mob kingman Fergus Colm aka “Fergie the Florist”
Chris Cooper: Doug’s father Stephen

It has been my experience that there is a relationship between the number of key positions any one person has and the quality of the movie. As one goes up the other goes down. But this film goes against the grain in that Ben Affleck not only co-wrote the story, he directed it and stars in it yet the result is a first class effort. Not only is the film well acted throughout, it is beautifully shot and downright entertaining.

Despite running just over two hours it is not overly long with sufficient time given to the development of personal relationships and the actual bank and armoured car heists themselves. Unlike most films of this sort, the car chase scenes are not overdone. How refreshing.

for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use.

• A title card states that “There are over 300 bank robberies in Boston every year.” According to the FBI there were not that many statewide when these events took place in 2008.
• Although she doesn’t touch her glass the level of Claire’s drink when she’s at the outdoor restaurant changes from one shot to the next.
• The diamond necklace given Claire, supposedly from Tiffany’s Jewellery, is in a black box instead of their signature Blue Box®.
• Despite unloading an arsenal of ammunition in several scenes by experienced qualified police officers and SWAT teams no one is killed much less injured. A reminder that films do not always reflect reality.
• S.A. Frawley removes a note from under the antenna on the back window of his car. In the next shot the antenna is in a different location.