Saturday, December 17, 2011


In French with English subtitles.

Mohamed Said Fellag: Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant
Émilien Néron: Simon
Sophie Nélisse: Alice
Danielle Proulx: School Principal, Mme Vaillancourt
Brigitte Poupart: classroom teacher Claire Lajoie

Once in a while there’s a small scale movie that makes an impact: this is one of them. This well-written story about the interplay between a teacher and his students has none of the overly dramatic scenes so often imposed on the audience.

Instead, the emotions ring true in large measure because of the fine performances of Simon and Alice. But Fellag is no slouch either, giving us an insight to the problems faced by new arrivals to our country.

for mature thematic material, a disturbing image and brief language.

The distance between Montreal and Algeria is 6,241 kilometres, not 4,000 as stated by Monsieur Lazhar in response to the question posed by one of the students.

Saturday, December 10, 2011



Martin Sheen: Dr. Thomas Avery
Emilio Estevez: his son Daniel
Yorick van Wageningen: Joost, a Dutchman
Deborah Kara Unger: Sarah, a Canadian divorcee
and others no doubt

Ralph’s Rule of Redundancy: any film where one person (Emilio Estevez) takes on more than 2 key positions (Director, Writer and Actor) has a major shortcoming: in this case it is lack of independent judgement thinking we can sit through two hours and be inspired by someone who impulsively decides to put aside his profession and walk 800 kilometres to honour his son.

I for one did not buy into it and left after the first half hour of this plodding pilgrimage and so opted for finding the way out rather than "discovering the way".

for some thematic elements, drug use and smoking.


MBS is a mortgage-backed-security that represents a claim on the cash flows from mortgage loans.

Penn Badgley: Junior employee Seth Bregman
Zachary Quinto: Junior Risk Analyst Peter Sullivan
Paul Bettany: Senior Trader Will Emerson
Stanley Tucci: Peter’s boss, mid-level executive Eric Dale
Kevin Spacey: Will’s boss, Head of Sales Sam Rogers
Demi Moore: Head of Risk Sarah Robertson
Simon Baker: The Firm’s C.O.O. Jared Cohen
Jeremy Irons: C.E.O. John Tuld

In the span of 24 hours we witness the inside workings of a large investment firm as some key employees discover back in 2008 what they have on their hands: what we now know as toxic assets. I can’t be sure how factual it is but it sure rings true.

And you don’t have to be an investment wiz to understand what is taking place. Not wanting to confuse the situation the chief executive officer asks them “to speak in simple terms” so he can understand the problem. The rest of us can benefit from that as well.

As usual Kevin Spacey puts in a believable performance and young star Zachary Quinto does an even better job but Jeremy Irons outshines them all. It is probably his best performance ever. And that’s saying a lot.

for coarse language.


Animated action/adventure

Georges Prosper Remi (22 May 1907 – 3 March 1983), better known by the pen name Hergé, was a Belgian comics writer and artist. His best known and most substantial work is the 23 completed comic books in The Adventures of TinTin series, which he wrote and illustrated from 1929 onwards. The notable qualities of the TinTin stories include their vivid humanism and a realistic feel produced by meticulous wide ranging research. Adult readers enjoy the many satirical references to the history and politics of the 20th century.

Jamie Bell: boy journalist TinTin
Daniel Craig: sinister Ivan Sakharine
Simom Pegg: Detective Thomson
Nick Frost: his partner Detective Thompson
Toby Jones: Aristides Silk, a pickpocket
Andy Serkis: Captain Haddock

Once it gets going the non-stop action can be a bit overwhelming. Unlike earlier Steven Spielberg movies such as the Indianan Jones series that had brief moments of reflection, this one never stops moving. Just in case you miss the point, the heavy handed pounding musical score underscores the on-going peril and drama.

The producers have retained the comic book look in that all the characters have smooth skin so they are halfway between hand puppets and humans in appearance. The scenes are beautifully rendered in exacting detail and several approach works of art they’re that good.

There was a smattering of applause at the showing I attended, mostly by the pre-teen boys in the audience. Not surprising, that seems like the target audience.

for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.

Latitude 37 degrees North (as referenced on the scroll) crosses the world at the level of Athens, Greece not somewhere in England.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


84th Academy Award for Best Original Score

Musical comedy

Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan (voice of Peter Liz)
Jason Segel: his brother Gary
Amy Adams: Gary’s schoolteacher sweetheart Mary
Chris Cooper: evil oil baron Tex Richman
Kermit the Frog, spokesman and leader of the Muppets (voice of Steve Whitmire)
Fozzie Bear, perfomer with a tribute band called the Moopets (voice of Eric Jacobson)
Gonzo, plumbing magnate (voice of Dave Goelz)
Animal undergoing anger management counselling (voice of Eric Jacobson)
Jack Black as celebrity host
Emily Blunt: receptionist at Vogue magazine
Miss Piggy: plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris (voice of Eric Jacobson)
Rashida Jones: television network executive Veronica Martin

Getting the old gang together to put on “The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever” to raise $10 million provides lots of opportunities for the many song and dance routines leading up to the big event. Although things start off a bit slowly once Walter and his friends get to Los Angeles we’re on a roll. And what good fun it is.

The producers have retained several of the essential elements of the original television series: high-profile cameos (including Mickey Rooney, Alan Arkin, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez and a host of others) as well as witty dialogue and occasionally breaking the fourth wall.

As one movie-goer was heard to say “Jim Henson would be pleased with what they’ve done”.

for some mild rude humor.

Miss Piggy may be the prettiest of the bunch but her geography is a bit off as she said she had travelled 5,000 miles to get to Los Angeles from Paris. In fact these two cities are over 6,000 miles apart.

A short film called Small Fry precedes the movie and is an added bonus. Also I suggest you stick around for the closing credits to see "Mah Na Mah Na" sung by various cast members.

In a traditional stage setting of three walls the so-called fourth wall is an imaginary one between the performers and the audience. Speaking directly to the audience through this wall breaks the established parameters between the two and as such generally is to be avoided.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


84th Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects

Fantasy adventure

Asa Butterfield: 12-year-old Hugo Cabret
Jude Law: Hugo's father, a clockmaker
Ray Winstone: Hugo's Uncle Claude
Sacha Baron Cohen: the Station Inspector
Ben Kingsley: Papa Georges Méliès, toy shop owner
Chloë Grace Moretz: his goddaughter, 12-year-old Isabelle
Christopher Lee: elderly bookseller Monsieur Labisse
Emily Mortimer: flowershop girl Lisette
Helen McCrory: Papa's wife Mama Jeanne

A family affair best seen in 3-D, this fairy tale about a boy who lives alone in a Paris train station is but half the story. Midway through we get to learn about one of history’s original filmmakers. Some of the old movie recreations are repetitive with the result the running time exceeds two hours, about a half hour too long in my view.

Apart from that interlude there is a magical quality about the film in keeping with traditional storytelling and it is engaging enough to keep even the youngest movie-goer attentive throughout.

for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.

• From the opening scene as the camera swoops in from above we see that the train station is one with a clock tower. The Gare de Lyon train station is one of six large railway terminals in Paris. Most notable is the large clock tower atop one corner of the station which has 13 lines leading into the station, not six as seen in the opening shot.
• An exterior close-up of the clock shows it to be exactly 7 o’clock but moments later seen from inside the clock it is 7:15.
• The clock face has Arabic numbers whereas in reality they are Roman numerals.
• A steam train did indeed crash though a Paris train station in 1895 but it was the Gare Montparnasse not the Gare de Lyon.
• Until the Empire State Building was constructed in 1939, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure on earth so Hugo and Isabelle could not have looked down on it from inside the clock tower.

Friday, December 2, 2011


84th Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

Dramatic comedy

George Clooney: Matt King, a real-estate lawyer
Patricia Hastie: his wife Elizabeth
Amara Miller: their 10-year-old daughter Scottie
Shailene Woodley: Scottie’s 17-year-old year sister Alexandra
Mary Birdsong: Matt’s neighbour Kai Mitchell
Rob Huebel: her husband Mark
Nick Krause: Alex’s stoner friend Sid
Robert Forster: Matt's father-in-law Scott
Beau Bridges: Matt's cousin Hugh
Judy Greer: Julie Speer
Matthwe Lillard: her real estate husband Brian

Carefully balancing comedy with family drama provides for a very enjoyable film experience that mirrors real life. And so we buy into it. With a well developed story line, the complexities of the situation never get muddled nor confusing.

It’s nice to see Clooney actually do some real acting for a change rather than just being himself in some mindless caper with his buddies. The man can do it. However the supporting cast are no slouches either, especially Miller and Woodley. Hopefully we’ll see more of them in the future.

As an added bonus we get to see the real Hawaii, not just the stunning locations such as the iconic Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background but also the more mundane downtown Honolulu, surburbia and the undeveloped rural areas. You can see why it’s called “paradise”.

for language including some sexual references.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Animated fantasy

Ramona Marquez: Gwen, a little girl
James McAvoy: Arthur, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause
Hugh Laurie: their oldest son Steve
Jim Broadbent: Santa Clause
Imelda Stauton: Mrs. Santa Clause
Bill Nighy: Grandsanta, Santa's 136-year-old father
Ashley Jensen: Bryony, an elf from the Giftwrap Battalion

A rather creative and entirely new approach to the traditional Santa Clause story, this is about his two sons and their efforts towards getting the job done. In this case, the job is to deliver presents to all the boys and girls. Something the target audience of youngsters are all too familiar with and this keeps them enthralled.

Along the way there are a few laughs and a rip roaring trip to various continents until things get sorted out. The animation is first rate with the colours bright and lively.

One quibble I have though is the plot premise that Steve, the Operations Manager and heir apparent to Santa, is quite satisfied that most kids have got their present so there’s no need to get excited about one little girl that got overlooked. The fact Santa does not step in and insist this be rectified does not fit with the Santa of old.

for some mild rude humor.

The Toronto skyline is missing the iconic CN Tower.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Animated action/adventure

Elijah Wood: Mumble, an Emperor Penguin
Alecia Moore: his wife Gloria
Ava Acres: their son Erik
Robin Williams: Ramón and Lovelace
Meibh Campbell: Eirk’s friend Roadica
Lil P-Nut: their friend Atticus
Hank Azaria: a puffin, The Mighty Sven, ruler of Adélie-Land
Sofia Vergara: Ramón’s love interest Carmen
Brad Pitt: Will the Krill
Matt Damon: his friend Bill the Krill
Richard Carter: Bryan the Beach Master, an Elephant Seal
Hugo Weaving: Noah the Elder

Not a total mess, but close to it, this sequel doesn’t come close to the original. Just one look at the list of characters gives you some idea what you’re in for, a rambling storyline intercut with musical numbers. In fact, it plays out more as a musical than a traditional kid’s movie. And what a musical mix it is, from hip hop and rap to an operatic aria solo.

Along the way there are wholesome lessons about hope and self-confidence even though some will question the wisdom of promoting the idea about “achieving what you want by willing it to happen”. Try willing to fly and see what happens! Giving unrealistic expectations to young ones is bound to cause some difficulties in life.

All the characters are beautifully rendered and some images of Antarctica are simply stunning. The two krill buddies provide some comedic relief as most of their puns are real “groaners”. Thankfully the producers have kept the requisite rude bathroom noises to a bare minimum.

for mild peril and some rude humor.

Sunday, November 13, 2011



John Cho: businessman Harold Lee
Tom Lennon: Todd, one of his associates
Kal Penn: Harold’s old buddy Kumar
Patton Oswalt: Kal’s supplier Larry
Paula Garcés: Lee’s wife Maria
Amir Blumenfeld: Kal’s buddy Adrian
Danny Trejo: Maria’s father

Anyone who saw the first in this series would know what they’re getting into. I did not so it was a bit of a shocker to find out it’s about potheads and the humour is the raunchy type laced with vulgarities while relying on crude slapstick to garner more laughs at someone’s expense.

I left at this point as this is not my sort of movie.

for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.

Saturday, November 12, 2011



Leonardo DiCaprio: J. Edgar Hoover
Judi Dench: his mother Annie
Naomi Watts: his personal secretary Helen Gandy
Armie Hammer: Agent Clyde Tolson
Josh Lucas: Aviator Charles Lindbergh
Jeffrey Donovan: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy

In a series of flashbacks this biographical film covers the career of the longest serving Director of the F.B.I. including some speculative details of his private life. But that aspect of the man is not the real focus of the movie. Instead we follow his total dedication and uncompromising approach to the job, as he sees it.

Production values are first rate with particular attention paid to period detail. One thing though, I’m not sure why so much of it is shot in sepia-tones which lessens the visual impact somewhat. The acting is uniformly good with DiCaprio the best of the lot.

However typical of Clint Eastwood’s productions it is overlong running in excess of two hours. If only they had spent a little more time editing out the few tedious segments and spent less time on desaturating the film of its colour.

for brief strong language (brief it is with only two instances of any vulgar words).

The time shown on the Library of Congress clock is not the same from one scene to the next during the brief time Hoover and Miss Gandy are there.

When Hoover is in Robert F. Kennedy’s office the producers have used ADR (automated dialog replacement) whereby an actor in a sound studio repeats their lines of dialogue. If done well there is synchronization with the film action. Such is not the case in this instance.

This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation Hoover hangs up and Robert F. Kennedy 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 can’t recall the last time I saw such a lousy job of makeup but Clyde in his later years looks like he’s been embalmed rather than made to look older.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Animated action/adventure

The original Puss in Boots is a French literary fairy tale about a cat who uses trickery and deceit to gain power, wealth, and the hand of a princess in marriage for his penniless and low-born master.

Antonio Banderas: Puss in Boots
Salma Hayek: Kitty Softpaws
Billy Bob Thornton: Jack, one half of an outlaw gang
Amy Sedaris: Jill, the other half
Zach Galifianakis: Humpty Alexander Dumpty

This is not an updated version of the well known fairy tale. Instead it’s about the Puss in Boots that first surfaced in Shrek 2 and now joined by a variety of characters from the Mother Goose stories but with a twist.

The animation is state of the art and the dance sequences are amazing. The musical interludes don’t add anything to the story line but they provide a much needed break in the frantic action.

The humour is of the smile rather than laugh-out-loud type but I cannot recall anything geared to the adults that is over the head of the children.

One thing that they could scrap is the convoluted story about how Puss and Humpty Dumpty first met up. What really matters is their collaboration now.

for some adventure action and mild rude humor.

Friday, October 28, 2011


In French with English subtitles

Kevin Parent: 40-year-old disk jockey Antoine Godin
Hélène Florent: his ex-wife Carole
Evelyne Brochu: Antoine’s new girlfriend Rose
Vanessa Paradis: single parent Jacqueline
Marin Gerrier: her mentally challenged 6-year-old son Laurent

This is one odd-ball, confusing movie. It’s almost as though the director wanted to do something really different and in that he succeeded. To being with there are two separate story lines, one taking place in present day Montreal and the other in Paris 1969. What they have to do with each other will forever remain a mystery to many although there is some clue during the end credits. Yes, while the end credits are playing and when most of the audience has left the theatre. Told you it was odd-ball.

Somehow we are supposed to discern that one song, la café de flore, is the common link between these two stories. In the meantime the director cuts across the stories and time periods with wild abandon which serves mainly to confuse things even more. What a headache trying to keep people and events sorted out especially with flashbacks within flashbacks. And to do this for almost two hours. What a waste of time and energy.

for some sexuality and nudity.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


In French with English subtitles
Original title Marécages

Pascale Bussières: farm wife Marie Santerre
Luc Picard: her husband Jean
Gabriel Maillé: their 17-year-old son Simon
François Papineau: Pierre, the town hang-about
Denise Dubois: Simon’s paternal grandmother Rejeanne

With everything playing out in real time it tends to drag and makes it unnecessarily too long. This story of a mother-son relationship provides very few if any light moments. In fact, chances are good you’ll come out feeling more sad and depressed than when you went in. Hardly the kind of thing you’d recommend to anyone.

Along with some editing to get rid of the redundant scenes and the ones that are too long I’d suggest they do the same with all the close-ups of Simon’s pimply face and the actual live birth of a calf.

for disturbing images, explicit portrayals of violence, nudity, and sexual activity.

This is one of my favourites, the product placement rotating bottle: from one shot to the next the bottle rotates without being touched so that the label is clearly seen. In this instance all this takes place while Pierre and/or Marie are drinking Molson Dry.

Not having enough money to pay for all the groceries she put in the cart, Marie removes 3 of them. At most the cost of these three items would be something like $10 not $40 as reported by the clerk.

Never did figure out how the title ties in with the movie. Apart from the opening scene with bulrushes there is no other reference to “an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally.” In fact quite the opposite is mentioned several times as the drought continues.

The nude before the opening credits, the farmhand peeing, the peeping-tom episodes, the kid pleasuring himself all seem to fit the definition of
gratuitous sex: adjective
Uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Police drama

In Gaelic the full official title of the Irish national police force is Garda Síochána na hÉireann. The English translation would be the "Guardians of the Peace of Ireland” but they are more commonly referred to as the Garda, meaning the police.

Brendan Gleeson: Garda Sergeant Gerry Boyle
Rory Keenan: Dublin transfer Garda Aidan McBride
Gary Lydon: their boss Garda Inspector Stanton
Don Cheadle: FBI agent Wendell Everett
Michael Og Lane: 12-year-old Eugene Moloney
Fionnula Flanagan: Boyle’s mum Eileen
Liam Cunningham: Francis Skeffington, boss of the drug smuggling gang
Clive Cornell: the muscled thug Mark Strong
Liam O'Leary: his partner David Wilmot

Set in the western coast of Ireland, this tale of criminals and corruption is unlike others in that the two leads are so different. With clever writing and crisp editing it moves along at a rapid rate. Although Sergeant Bolye’s wry comments and persona elicit most of the humour there are other oddball characters that add to the fray.

One thing I found missing though: the Irish are famous for their quick witty repartee and clever retorts. And there was none of that. Guess you can’t have everything?

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

Monday, October 17, 2011


Political thriller

Ryan Gosling: campaign press secretary Stephen Meyers
George Clooney: presidential hopeful Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris
Marisa Tomei: New York Times reporter Ida Horowicz
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Morris’ campaign manager Paul Zara
Evan Rachel Wood: intern Molly Stearns
Paul Giamatti: rival campaign manager Tom Duffy
Jeffrey Wright: Senator Thompson

It gets off to a slow start with so much talk about political intrigue that I was seriously thinking about leaving. But then things started to look up when two people meet in a bar for a drink. From that point on I was riveted to the outcome as I was unsure of what would transpire in this depiction of politics in America.

Certainly it is a good film, but could have been better had it not fell victim to Ralph’s Rule of Redundancy:
Any film where one person (George Clooney) takes on more than 2 key positions (Director, Producer, Writer and Star) has at least one major shortcoming: in this case it is lack of independent judgement by not editing out much of the first third.

But the strong supporting cast and excellent performances compensate to a great extent.

for pervasive language.

In the early Roman calendar the middle of the month was known as the ides. The best known one (thanks to Shakespeare) took place in March 44 B.C., the day Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Brutus.

Less well known perhaps is that March 15 is the date of the Ohio Primary.