Sunday, January 30, 2011



Patrick Huard: tv host Bastien Lavallée
Janine Theriault: his wife Connie
Paul Doucet: gossip columnist Jonathan Aaronson
Raymond Bouchard: record producer and nightclub owner Gilles Lefebvre
Francois Létourneau: his son Daniel
Justin Chatwin: Tino, a waiter in his mother’s restaurant
Romina D’Ugo: Tino's girlfriend Tina
Geneviève Broillette: aspiring singer Mimi
Sarah Mutch: Adriana, a model

Stories about the “underbelly” of a city do not appeal to everyone: certainly not to me, even if it is about the disco days of Montreal back in the ‘70’s. The best thing about this film is the music but that peters out about half way through and the rest is a drag. At 2 hours and 12 minutes it overstays its welcome by about 1 hour and 12 minutes.

There is far too much emphasis on the gay side of the disco scene and the gutter- talk replete with lots of swear words and foul insults I find offensive. With hindsight I should have walked out.

for disturbing images, violence, nudity, language and some drug references.

• After leaving the disco Tino is wearing a light brown leather jacket. Between shots the collar on the right hand side moves about although he never once touches it.
• In Canada beer was sold in bottles called “stubbies” from 1962 onwards until replaced by the long-neck bottle in 1986. During one bar scene there are two long-deck bottles that would not have been available when these events took place in the late ‘70’s.

I took these candid photos of the crew setting up for the scenes inside the restaurant where Tino worked.

Thursday, January 27, 2011



Jim Sturgess: Janusz, a Polish POW
Ed Harris: Mr. Smith, an American
Colin Farrell: Valka, a Russian street thug
Alexandru Potocean: Tamasz, an artist
Sebastian Urzendowsky: Kazik, a 17-year-old Pole
Gustaf Skarsgård,: Voss, a Latvian priest
Dragos Bucur: Zoran, a Yugoslav accountant
Saoirse Ronan: Irene, a 16-year-old Polish woman

This survival film about a group of prisoners is in part a travelogue with stunning vistas as they make their escape “to the south”. As usual Harris and Farrell turn in great performances but the others are equally convincing.

It’s a tad too long at 2 hours and 13 minutes with more than a few opportunities to whittle it down without taking away from the story.

for violent content, depiction of physical hardships, a nude image and brief strong language.


Romantic comedy

Natalie Portman: Dr. Emma Kurtzman
Ashton Kutcher: Adam Franklin, television producer
Ophelia Lovibond: his girlfriend Vanessa
Kevin Kline: Adam’s father Alvin
and others no doubt

It is not likely anyone other than the target audience (women between the ages of 17 to 24-years-old) will find very much to like in this fanciful story about today’s attitude towards casual sex.

For the target demographic there is lots to see including very much of Ashton Kutcher in fact, about 99% of him with only a small towel affording him any measure of modesty. By contrast Natalie Portman manages to keep her clothes on (well at least her undergarments) despite the frequent passionate sex scenes.

The dialogue is sprinkled liberally with potty-mouth references and lots of raunchy situations. I could see where all this was headed so I walked out.

for sexual content, language and some drug material.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Based on a true story

Bob Hoskins: union representative Albert Passing
Geraldine James: union shop steward Connie
Kenneth Cranham: union head Monty Taylor
Sally Hawkins: Rita O’Grady, employee at Ford’s plant
Jaime Winstone: Sandra, the pretty employee
Daniel Mays: Rita’s husband Eddie
Rupert Graves: Peter Hopkins, a senior Ford executive
Rosamund Pike: his wife Lisa
Miranda Richardson: Secretary of State Barbara Castle
John Sessions: Prime Minister Harold Wilson

Things were different back in the late ‘60’s when women were paid lower wages than men for the same work. In Britian the Labour government along with the company’s union agreed with this practice. The film is about what ensued when the women at one plant finally took a stand against this injustice.

An entertaining film in part because I suspect the screen writers took some liberty with the actual facts. However great attention to detail has gone into the costuming that lends it an air of authenticity.

The acting is uniformly good with more than a few humourous moments, some of which went over my head because of the strong British accents.

for language and brief sexuality.

The expression “to be at sixes and sevens” is an English idiom to describe a state of confusion or disarray, of being all mixed up.

Sunday, January 23, 2011



Stephen Dorff: Johnny Marco, a Hollywood actor
Elle Fanning: his 11-year-old daughter Cleo

The movie Somewhere goes nowhere. Essentially that’s the bottom line of what is to follow.

Firstly in keeping with Ralph’s Rule of Redundancy which states “Any film where one person (Sofia Coppola) takes on more than two key positions (Writer, Director and Producer) has at least one major shortcoming.”

In this case there are at least four:
• the complete absence of any real story or plot
• amateurish cinematography techniques: one stationary camera
• extremely long takes: one goes on for more than 2 minutes
• repetitive scenes: for example we see Johnny take 3 showers

for sexual content, nudity and language.

While having lunch on the patio although Johnny does not touch it his beer rotates from one cut to another.

At the bottom of the frame we see the roofline shadow of Johnny’s car with what appears to be a slot for attaching tie-downs. A Ferrari has no such protuberance.

Las Vegas as far as I know has the most strict laws in the country regarding children. For example unless accompanied by an adult, anyone under the age of 18 is not even allowed out at night after 10pm. Very strictly enforced is the rule that minors are not allowed in the casino gaming areas yet 11-year-old Cleo is right by his side as her dad shoots craps.

Cleo in most scenes does not have braces on her teeth but they appear from time to time like when in the living room with Johnny’s pal Sammy.

The first film Ms. Coppola directed was Lost in Translation. My review for that one pretty much mirrors my feelings about her latest effort:
“I have tried really hard to see why so many critics are raving about this one. I’m still not able to reconcile the two: they think it’s great, I think it stinks.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011



Leighton Meester: former beauty pageant queen Chiles Stanton
Gwyneth Paltrow: country music superstar Kelly Canter
Tim McGraw: Kelly’s husband/manager James
Garrett Hedlund: rising young singer-songwriter Beau Hutton

We’ve seen it before but better done by others: fallen mega-star on the comeback tour that’s fraught with problems. This one comes across as a soap opera; there is hardly anything that rings true. Everything seems so artificial (including the outfits Chiles wears on stage) and predictable. Overall believability score? maybe a two.

And the acting? over-the-top by Paltrow and Meester. The others are OK but don’t get your hopes up too high that anyone will win an Academy Award for this effort.

One more thing: it drags on far too long at almost 2 hours (even if you are a big fan of country music).

for thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content.



Ryan Gosling: Dean, a house painter
Michelle Williams: his wife Cindy, a family clinic nurse
Faith Wladyka: their 5-year-old daughter Frankie
John Doman: Cindy’s father Jerry
Jen Jones: Gramma, Cindy’s mother
Mike Vogel: Bobby, one of Cindy’s old flames
Ben Shenkman: Cindy’s employer Dr. Feinberg

The beginning stages of the couple’s relationship is revealed in flashback but done so seamlessly the first few times you’re not sure what’s going on. After a while you get to recognize that the younger Dean is not wearing glasses and the younger Cindy always wears her hair long.

Two things set this one apart from similar films: there is an air of authenticity about it and the excellent performances of the two protagonists. That’s a winning combination.

Just a word of warning: there are several steamy, very explicit sex scenes that some would deem as soft-core pornography.

for strong graphic sexual content and language.

I haven’t been at a movie and heard so much sniffling and blowing of noses for years.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Superhero adventure

Christoph Waltz: Russian mobster Benjamin Chudnofsky
Seth Rogen: 28-year-old playboy Britt Reid
Tom Wilkinson: his wealthy father James, Editor-In-Chief of "The Daily Sentinel"
Jay Chou: Kato, one of the household staff
Cameron Diaz: 36-year-old journalist Lenore Case
David Harbour: Los Angeles District Attorney Frank Scalon

Not wanting to be disappointed I lower my expectations for this type of movie. I should have lowered my sights even further as this one is a “stinker”.

Although it tries hard to be funny, it is not. Mostly because Rogen a comedian, he is not. Instead he’s a pompous egomaniac that most people will find impossible to love. As a superhero, he is not.

This good-guy, bad-guy battle is presented as a series of kerfuffles to show off all the exotic firearms and clever car modifications. There are lots and lots of car chases culminating in one gigantic destruction sequence that’s probably the best part of the whole thing. Trouble is, you have to sit through an hour and a half to get to the good part. Hardly worth the effort.

for sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content.

• Kato says he was born in Shanghai to which Britt adds something to the effect “I always loved Japan”. Even though this is written to show that Britt is a bit of a clod being totally unaware of China’s most populous city, I have no pride so I’ll count it as a nitpick!
• In the first car chase the police car bangs Britt’s side of his car and the headlight goes out. Moments later the police car flips up and over but with the headlight fully functional.
• Lenore lays her purse down beside her when she sits down on the couch. Without touching it in the next shot it is upright and neatly tucked in behind her.
• Britt and Kato hit a beachball which follows them as they plunge into the pool. But then it disappears never to be seen again.
• While talking to Britt at the back door of her house, Lenore’s hair changes position practically every scene although she never once touches it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011



Nicole Kidman: stay-at-home mom Becca Corbett
Aaron Eckhart: her husband Howie
Tammy Blanchard: Becca's younger sister Izzy
Miles Teller: high school senior Jason
Dianne Wiest: Becca’s mother Nat
Sandra Oh: Gaby, member of a support group

Too often films about people reacting differently to tragedy quickly become maudlin resulting in the whole experience being a downer. This one is neither primarily because it is a character study and not an over-emotional treatment of the subject material. The paucity of the usual sickly-sentimental musical pieces attests to the emphasis being on a well-told story instead.

Kidman really nails her role in this one and Eckhart handles his part beautifully. They both give convincing performances.

for mature thematic material, some drug use and language.

Becca is driving to a birthday party not wearing her seatbelt until she has to stop abruptly to avoid an accident. It is only then we see the seatbelt properly attached.

Saturday, January 8, 2011



Paul Giamatti: televison producer Barney Panofsky
Mark Addy: Police Detective O’Hearne
Scott Speedman: Barney’s best friend aspiring writer Boogie
Rachelle Lefevre: Barney’s Rome love interest Clara
Minnie Driver: Barney’s second wife
Dustin Hoffman: Barney’s father Izzy
Rosamund Pike: Miriam, a wedding guest
Denys Arcand: Ritz Carlton Head waiter
Bruce Greenwood: radio producer Blair

First off, the acting is somewhat uneven: Giamatti, Pike and Hoffman are great but some of the others are not (in the words of one movie-fan, “their performances are wooden”).

Production values are all over the place: there is little or no attempt to accurately portray the time period with appropriate costuming and other less important details (as outlined below). On the other hand the set for the Ritz Carlton ballroom has been built at great cost and looks it.

At 2 hours and 12 minutes it’s a tad too long. There are more than a few opportunities to get it down to a more reasonable length starting with the subplot about the detective trying to pin something on Barney.

Despite these shortcomings the title pretty well says it all: an engaging film about the reminisces of a man in his mid-sixties (Barney) and his version of the facts.

for language and some sexual content.

• Not two minutes into the film and there’s a nitpick and it’s one of my classic all-time favourites: after a brief telephone conversation Barney hangs up and we hear 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.
• Later there are two more instances. Obviously the producers never caught on.
• A title card indicates that the flashback events took place in 1974. In the scene with Miriam sitting on a train the VIA Rail logo is clearly evident. That marketing term was not introduced until 1976.
• Just before leaving the station the on-board announcement over the PA says the “train is now leaving for New York City with stops in Springfield and Hartford.” Neither of these cities is on the route.
• The Quebec license plate on Barney’s car has black lettering (or dark green?) on a white background. That combination of colours was not introduced until 1975.
• Barney gets a phone call and answers on a clamshell flip phone. These only came out in the ‘90’s, long after these events took place.
• Barney hangs out in Grumpy’s bar. Trouble is, it didn’t exist back then.
• Another classic nitpick, the product placement rotating bottle, appears half way through. From one shot to the next the bottle rotates so that the Cutty Sark label is clearly seen. In this instance all this takes place while Barney and Boogie are “having a few” up at his cottage.
• In 1990 Barney is being interviewed by a number of television reporters including one from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with the modern day simplified “exploding pizza” on the microphone. That version of the logo was not introduced until 1992.
• One of the television reporters goes on to talk about “the accident that happened 30 years ago..” Actually it was 24 years earlier not 30.

Traditionally Jews do not leave flowers at the gravesite. Instead they put a little pebble or stone on the headstone as a sign of respect and affection.

Izzy in describing Barney’s second wife says “she makes a flaky kugel”. Kugel is a Yiddish word to describe a sort of pudding or casserole.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The cinematography is great, from the opening split-screen to the glorious panorama while soaring above the remote golden canyons of Utah as we follow an experienced climber out for a day of adventure. One thing though, 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.

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 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.

One of the most difficult types of films to pull off successfully, romantic comedies often lack real chemistry between the two protagonists and rely too often on juvenile slapstick to garner laughs. Well this one is unlike most of them: it is a love story that evolves on screen between people we get to care about. The fact this takes place in Tuscany, arguably one of the most romantic places on earth, the lush cinematography more than does it justice as some of the shots are nothing short of stunning. The comedy is of the subtle sort provoking smiles rather than the “laugh-out-loud” type. The acting is uniformly top notch as are the production values. And it does not overstay its welcome with a run time of only 90 minutes.

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 dance sequences are kept to a minimum so no one should become bored with them since they are all beautifully choreographed. The stunning cinematography coupled with a delightful score serve as a wonderful backdrop to this enchanting tale.

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 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 closeups and crisp editing they have captured the excitement without overdoing it.

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 do an excellent job 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.

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.

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 The Social Network 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.

Modern day families have their own set of problems and issues to deal with. The intelligent, realistic dialogue provides a great deal of insight to relationships forged over the years. The believable characters and fine performances all around make this an entertaining film for the mature viewer.

Although less witty than the first two installments and without the double entendre for “adults only” Toy Story 3 more than makes up for these shortcomings with a more interesting story, one filled with adventure, comedy and romance. As usual the animation is nothing short of perfection, something we’ve come to expect from Pixar Studios. One caveat: the garbage collection center sequence may be too scary for some kids but it’s hard to tell for sure in a darken movie theatre: if so, they all seem to have recovered by the time the end credits appeared.

Once again the Cohen brothers have assembled their “team” (cinematographer Roger Deakins, costume designer Mary Zophres and 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 there are amusing moments to lighten things up and crisp editing to keep things moving along.

This is no walk in the park. For the first fifteen minutes or so you have no idea why we are following the daily activities of some desperately poor people living in the Ozarks Mountains somewhere in Missouri. The pervasive pale silvery-grey colours set the tone with just a hint of what is to come in this gripping rural crime story. The acting is uniformly first rate although that of Jennifer Lawrence is the best.


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.