Friday, September 5, 2014


 Espionage thriller

Pierce Brosnan: CIA agent Peter Devereaux
Luke Bracey: his protegé David Mason
Bill Smitrovich: Peter’s former CIA boss John Hanley
Olga Kurylenko: valuable witness Mila Filapova
and lots of others

At the risk of giving away anything, this film could easily become the text book example of spy clichés for any up-and-coming movie producer since it includes the following:
  • Former CIA agent lured out of retirement
  • Suspicious mole in the agency
  • Beautiful, intelligent heroine
  • Shoot-outs
  • Car chases through busy city streets
  • Hand-to-hand fight scenes
  • Huge explosion behind the unflinching hero
  • Unscrupulous and evil high-ranking antagonist
  • Convoluted, confusing and completely unfathomable
But for all that it lacks the basic premise of any good movie: a well told story. Characters are not well fleshed out so we’re left to try and figure out who is doing what to whom and why? And there are far too many side stories including several explicit scenes of gratuitous sex. 

for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and drug use.

When Peter is talking with John his watch shows it to be 4:25 when they sit down. After just five minutes or so they are about to depart and his watch is now 4:55.

Even the title is confusing and makes no sense. Apparently it refers to Peter’s nickname when he was an active CIA agent because "when he blew through nothing lived." Really now, is that what November is all about? 

Friday, August 29, 2014


Om Puri: Papa Kadam
Manish Dayal: his oldest son Hassan
Charlotte Le Bon: Marguerite, a sous-chef
Helen Mirren; Madame Mallory, proprietress of an upscale restaurant

This charming movie about people trying to make the best of their lives is not entirely original. But that does not take away from some fine performances (notably Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal) nor the lovely setting in Southern France.

Perhaps a little too predictable, it is still pleasant enough to watch with enough humorous moments to keep the tone light and easy.

for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality.


Original title: Tu dors Nicole
In French with English subtitles

Julianne Côté: 22-year-old Nicole
Marc-André Grondin: her older brother Rémi
Francis La Haye: JF, the band drummer
Simon Larouche: Pat, the band bass guitarist
Catherine St-Laurent: Nicole’s best friend Véronique
Godefroy Reding: 10-year-old Martin

Boring. This one-word-synopsis pretty well says it all.

Showing snippets of her boring summer spent at home, this episodic glimpse at the life of Nicole goes nowhere. Shot in boring black and white, my guess is the script was written on the back of a beverage coaster and probably took less time to complete than consume the aforementioned beverage.

Not only is there no plot, the “events” have been dredged from similar movies so there’s nothing new to be seen. It is just barely watchable, mostly to see if something does happen. At the risk of giving away too much I’ll not say more but you can guess.

for brief sexual situations.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Ellar Coltrane: 6-year-old Mason
Patricia Arquette: his mother Olivia
Lorelei Linklater: Mason’s 8-year-old sister Samantha “Sam”
Libby Villari: Mason’s grandmother
Ethan Hawke: Mason’s father
Marco Perella: Professor Bill Welbrock
Brad Hawkins: Jim, an Afghanistan/Iraq War veteran
Jenni Tooley: Mason Sr.’s new girlfriend
Zoe Graham: Mason Jr.’s new girlfriend

The thing that sets this apart from all the other movies about growing up is the unconventional method used: the same four principal actors play their role during the 12-year period it took to film. Usually actors who look like their younger counterparts are brought in to advance the story.

Episodic in nature, about every two or three years there is another series of events centering around the lives of the four. But the passage of time occurs without warning: from one scene to the next they have aged. Snap! Just like that.

Another thing that sets this one apart from most movies is its length: with a running time of 166 minutes following the usual trailers means a three-hour viewing session. Not everyone has that much time to spend watching a film.

The acting is uniformly good although the kid’s parents are the best of the bunch.


for language including sexual references as well as for teen drug and alcohol use.


Philip Seymour Hoffman: Günther Bachmann, head of an anti-terrorist team
Nian Hoss: his assistant Irna
Grigoiry Dobrygin: Issa Karpov, an illegal immigrant
Rachel McAdams: civil rights lawyer Annabel Richter
Homayoun Ershadi: Dr. Faisal Abdullah, Muslim philanthropist
Willem Dafoe: Tommy Brue, banker
Robin Wright: C.I.A. officer Martha Sullivan 

True to fashion, this spy-thriller makes it difficult (impossible?) to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth, who is covering up and who is not. Heading up the cast with a remarkable performance (one of his best ever) Hoffman leads us through the murky world of bad guys (and the murky world of good guys too) as he pushes his own agenda against some very strong resistance.

Without the usual car chases, the fisticuffs and general mayhem so often seen in movies of this sort, the film requires some mental commitment on the part of the viewer. But it is worth the effort.

 for language.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


In Polish with English subtitles

World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. More than 6 million Polish citizens died during the war. In 1944 a Soviet-backed Polish provisional government was formed as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Renamed the People’s Republic of Poland this Marxist-Leninist government was not overthrown until the Revolutions of 1989.

Agata Trzebuchowska: 18-year-old novitiate nun
Agata Kulesza: her Aunt Wanda
Dawid Ogrodnik: Lis a saxaphone player

It has all the earmarks of an art film aimed at a small niche market:
  • no costly celebrity actors
  • modest sets, no expensive special effects
  • fairly short, shot in black and white

In addition, to set it apart from mainstream blockbuster films, it was filmed in the so-called Academy ratio, the squared-off aspect ratio of 35mm film that went out of style with the introduction of widescreen movies back in the ‘50’s.

It is a simple story with the principal cast member having very little to say: her near-silent character relies upon facial expression and a dozen lines to tell her side of the story so there’s very little acting required for the role. The pacing is ponderous, slow and the outcome often predictable. 

This one is certainly not for everyone.


 for thematic elements, some sexuality and smoking.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Jenny Slate: part-time comedian Donna Stern
Jake Lacy: an unlikely bar patron Max
Gabu Hoffman: Donna’s BFF Nellie
Gabe Liedman: their friend Joey
and others no doubt

I am not a big fan of humour that relies upon getting laughs about day-old female underwear and intimate details about the stand-up comedian’s sex life. And from the opening scenes it is apparent the patrons of the sleazy smoky bar are of the same opinion as no one laughs. Other than that the jokes are of the potty-mouth variety including reference to noisy bodily functions, the sort of gags that appeal to 5 and 6-year-olds.

Given that the film is promoted as a romantic comedy the comedy side is practically nil. As for the romance it is basically a one-night stand and there’s not a lot of romance in those type of encounters. So that aspect is practically nil as well.

It didn’t take long before I realized this is a big waste of time so I walked out.

 for profanity, sexual situations, crude humour.


Vincent Piazza: Tommy DeVito, one of the Varitones trio
John Lloyd Young: his friend 16-year-old Frank Castelluccio
Christopher Walker: mob boss Gyp DeCarlo
Johnny Cannizzaro: Tommy’s brother Nick, the trio’s bassist
Michael Lomenda: their friend Nick Massi
Renée Marino: Mary Delgado
Erich Bergen: Bob Gaudio, songwriter of the hit “Short Shorts”
Mike Doyle: music producer Bob Crewe
Elizabeth Hunter: Frankie’s 7-year-old daughter Francine
Donnie Kehr: loan shark Norm Waxman
Erica iccininni: Journalist Lorraine
Freya Tingley: 17-year-old Francine

Perhaps it is not a fair comparison but having seen the stage version this film is far less entertaining, prone to go off on tangents that add little or nothing to the narrative and it is too long, far too long. Using the narrative device of some band members directly addressing the camera from time to time, I find jarring: a reminder of the fact we are sitting watching a made-in-Hollywood-movie rather than simply being swept up in the story. Voice-over would have been a much better technique as it is less intrusive.

Another thing I found unsettling was the confusing side-story about Tommy’s money problems, presumably from gambling or playing the horses or partying? That was never made clear. And the band’s commitment to helping him out is pushing the “code of honour” a bit too far given the amount involved.

But the chief shortcoming in my view is too much talking between the musical numbers, the reason why this group was so well know. Knowing a bit about them is fine but that should not bog things down.

 for language throughout.

  • Frankie and the rest of the group arrive at Gyp’s house in two Cadillacs, and park with the blue one in front of the red one. When Bob leaves and gets in the red one, he could not have driven off the way he did without first moving the blue one out of the way.
  • This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation the other party hangs up and Frankie 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.
  • After performing at the Ohio State Fair the group is approached by a police officer who says “Welcome to Cleveland”. The state fair is held in Columbus, Ohio not in Cleveland.
The aging makeup for the last scene is so poorly done it is almost comical. 

Friday, June 20, 2014


Jon Favreau: Chef Carl Casper
Scarlett Johansson: hostess at Gualoises, an upscale LA restaurant
Emjay Anthony: Carl’s 10-year-old son Percy
Dustin Hoffman: Ravi the restaurant owner
John Leguizam: Martin, line cook
Bobby Cannavale: Tony, sous chef
Sofia Vergara: Carl’s ex-wife Inez
Oliver Platt: food critic Ramsey Michel
Russel Peters: a Miami cop

There is something to be said about taking a hard look at what is important to you and follow through. That is but one aspect of this humorous tale combined with some realistic father and son bonding. Add in a road trip across America and there’s lots to like. And did I mention food: close-ups of the preparation might prompt you to order in, even before the final credits.

The acting for the most part is uniformly good, the dialogue snappy and often funny but the one thing there is too much of is the swearing: there is no need to include the f-word in every second utterance. That simply detracts from the story line making it less plausible. And losing a star as a result.

 for language including some suggestive references.

  • The wall clock shows it to be 2:32 and remains unchanged during a spirited discussion between the Chef and Ravi which took at least 5 minutes.
  • While having a shooter in a bar and without touching it, Martin’s beer bottle rotates from one scene to the next showing the brand label.

Subtitles would have been useful for those not fluent in Spanish to get the implication when Martin asks the workers if they will help lift the heavy equipment “or I can call immigration.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014


 Romantic comedy

Shorim (Hebrew for watchers or guards) are Jewish civilian patrols set up in Hasidic neighbourhoods in the United States and England. Their primary role is to combat anti-Semitic attacks, burglary, vandalism, mugging, assault and domestic violence. The volunteers are unarmed and do not have the authority to make arrests. They ride in vehicles that look like regular police cars.

Woody Allen: former bookstore owner Murray Schwartz
Sharon Stone: Murray’s dermatologist Dr. Parker
Sofia Vergara: Dr. Parker’s friend Selima
John Turturro: Fioravante, Murray’s former employee
Tonya Pinkins: Murray’s wife Orthella, an African-American
Vanessa Paradis: Avigal, the widow of a Hasidic rabbi
Live Schreiber: Dovi, a volunteer with Shorim

Preposterous, ludicrous and vulgar. Other than that this film about a male escort does not have much going for it. The surprising thing to me is the fact Woody Allen is involved with such a trashy, pulp-magazine type movie. The fact that his role is so unbelievable and totally out of character begs the question “why?”.  

Although there are a few bits of comic relief, mostly of the slap-stick sort, the acting somehow feels wrong and does not ring true. And there is one other thing.

Once more Ralph’s Rule of Redundancy applies:
“Any film where one person takes on more than two key positions has a major shortcoming: the absence of independent critical judgement that results in something less than it might have been.”
In this case John Turturro stars in and is also the Writer and Director.

 for some sexual content, language and brief nudity.


 True life drama

Mia Wasikowska: 25-year-old Australian naturalist Robyn Davidson
Adam Driver: National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan
Roly Mintuma: Eddy, an aboriginal elder

Based on a true story that took place in the 70’s, it is left to the viewer to decide why someone would undertake such an adventure on their own. Her solo walk across the desert of Australia with four camels and a dog as her only companions will seem to some as a waste of time.

However it is lovely to look at and plays out with very little melodrama, much like a documentary. 

 for thematic elements, some partial nudity, disturbing images and brief strong language.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Since the 16th century European fishermen have been fishing for cod in the waters off Newfoundland along with the locals in the area known as the Grand Banks. Approximately 8 million tons of cod were caught in the 100 years from 1647 to 1750. With the introduction of factory fishing in the early 1950’s that amount of cod was caught in just 15 years.

The Atlantic coast fishing industry collapsed entirely in 1992 owing to this overfishing coupled with a lack of oversight and poor fishery administration. The Canadian government declared a moratorium but even after 20 years the cod population has not returned. The effect on the local economy has been disastrous since fishing represented their livelihood. Most now live on Government welfare cheques.

Brendan Gleeson: Murray French
Gordon Pinsent: his buddy Simon
Mark Critch: bank teller Joe
Liane Balaban: Kathleen, the postmistress
Cathy Jones: Murray’s wife
Taylor Kitsch: Dr. Paul Lewis
Mary Walsh: telephone operator

This is something of a rarity: a feel-good movie with no violence, no swear words, heart-warming and wholesome with only mildly suggestive situations done in good taste.

I was smiling the whole time while the laughs just kept coming. The acting is uniformly good and the cinemaphotography beautifully show-casing the rugged beauty of the area.

 for some suggestive material and drug references.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Marion Cotillard: Ewa Cybulski, a young Polish woman
Angela Sarafyan: her younger sister Magda
Joaquin Phoenix: Bruno Weiss
Jeremy Renner: Bruno’s cousin Emil
Yelena Solovey: Bruno’s boss Rosie Hertz
Maja Wampuszc: Ewa’s aunt Edyta
Ilia Volok: Ewa’s uncle Voytek

The more mature discerning viewer will appreciate that this is a reflection on how things were for some immigrants back in the 1920’s. Not only starting a new life, in many cases it was starting a life they had not foreseen. Unscrupulous people are everywhere of course but seeing how one innocent person is exploited is difficult to watch.

It is a sad story characterized by excellent performances all around (Cotillard especially) and with great attention to detail that gives this period piece a feeling of authenticity.


 for sexual content, nudity and some language.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Colin Firth: WWII veteran Eric Lomax
Nicole Kidman: Patti Wallace, a retired nurse
Stellan Skarsgård: Eric’s best friend Finlay
Jeremy Irvine: the younger Eric
Sam Reif: the younger Finlay
Tanroh Ishida: Japanese army translator Takashi Nagase

Based on a true story, it hammers home the dreadful after-effect the war had on some people and the difficulty they had in dealing with it. Both Firth and Kidman put in terrific performances (you could add Irvine to that list too) as the story unfolds in gripping detail using the flashback technique.

for disturbing war scenes.

The Burma Railway crossed over the infamous bridge on the River Kwai.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Much of what is presented is not new in this documentary about the problem of growing obesity rates. However it does raise the awareness of the influence the processed food industry has with setting health guidelines in the United States.

Case in point: sugar is the only ingredient with no indication of the recommended % of total daily intake. Some of the other statistics are worth noting: for example the % of the half-million processed food items that contain sugar and the % of people considered obese in the USA.

Certainly food for thought.

 for thematic elements including smoking images and brief language.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


 In German and Spanish with English subtitles

Alex Brendemühl: the German doctor Helmut Gregor
Diego Peretti: Enzo
Natalia Oreiro: his wife Eva
Florencia Bado: their 12-year-old daughter Lilith
Elena Roger: librarian Nora

Based on a true story it is not really a thriller as the promotional material would have you believe because the identity of the German doctor is revealed during the opening credits. Apart from the musical sound track that hints at pending doom from time to time, there is no sense of suspense. Instead it is a straight forward telling of how someone can meld in with others and live a normal life while harbouring awful secrets.

for thematic material and brief nudity.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Vivian Dorothea Maier: February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009

A fascinating documentary about a nanny who had a private side to her which only came to light after her death: she was an accomplished photographer who did not exhibit her work.

Although the question of “why not?” is not really answered we are provided some insight to the woman from people she cared for or those who employed her. Interspersed with these interviews are many of the 100,000 still photographs and snippets of 8-mm home movies she took over the years.

As one movie-goer has so succinctly put it “Interesting photos from a most unusual/troubled woman. Interesting film.” I agree.