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.