June 16, 2013


* * 1/2

D: Zack Snyder (Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne)

/ C-143m / USA | Canada | UK

Saw this last night in the VIP Room, which had a eerily blue-lit lounge leading into a cozy theatre with 3D, roomy seating and servers to bring food and drink before the show. Very nice for this kind of film, meaning best for epic action films like Iron Man and Star Trek.

I enjoyed this _immensely_. Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel is gorgeous and plays the part well. He's not Christopher Reeve, but he delivered the goods. It would too easy to compare the 1978 film with this one. It isn't a continuation of the original film series, nor is MoS trying to be. It's a reboot of the Superman mythos, like 2012's The Amazing Spiderman. It's about the same character, but not the same guy, if that makes sense.

No spoilers here, but if you ever want to see the film and discuss, let me know. I have nitpicks, but it would be churlish to do it here. In general, it lacked laughs and took itself very seriously. A little more comic book feel wouldn't hurt. More wonder and character development, less explosions and over the top CGI. There were subtle allusions to Christianity if you look for them. I didn't mind that, but it was kind of obvious and unnecessary. I liked the way Clark Kent/Superman is immensely uncomfortable in his own skin, and feels alone in a way that even his loving adoptive parents could never completely understand, although they try. I never thought there would be a down side to having superpowers (which I still would like to have, btw), but it's effectively demonstrated in the Smallville scenes. Young Clark doesn't enjoy his abilities as a child. It definitely isolates him, and he doesn't know how to interact people when, say, he isn't saving his classmates from a sinking school bus. He can never let anyone get too close.

Some characters I would recast, like Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Wonderful actress, but her Lois is a little too likable and soft-spoken. Lois Lane is supposed to be cynical and abrasive. She's supposed to be a brunette. But what I liked was that this LL was not a stupid damsel in distress. You know, Lois stuck her reporter's nose where it didn't belong and got kidnapped... it must be Thursday! One thing I like about Adams' LL is that she doesn't deliberately throw herself into Niagara Falls to flush out her mystery man, like Margo Kidder did in the 1980 sequel. She's smarter than that.

Most film goers just want to enjoy a fun night out, and they'll get it. Purists like me will want to dissect it and compare to the best interpretations of the Superman character. There are too many to list, but my personal favourites are the first two Superman movies directly by Richard Donner before they went to hell with Richard Pryor, and Superman: The Animated Series. I enjoyed Superman Returns (2006) with Brandon Routh, but a lot of people were disappointed by it. It was not bad, just different from the Christopher Reeve series. Yep, I'm a total girl geek.

If you go in without rigid expectations of what Superman is supposed to be, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Christopher Nolan (director of the The Dark Knight series) produced it and I suspect he acted as consultant. No doubt there will be a sequel, maybe even a trilogy. The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the best in recent memory, even if I didn't love everything part of it. For instance, I hated the Rachel Dawes character (played by Katie Holmes in the first movie, Maggie Gyllenhaal in the second). I understand that she was Bruce Wayne's first love and conscience, but to me she was a nag and a bore. Necessary to the plot, yes. But I couldn't stand her and waited impatiently for Catwoman to show up. Worth the wait.
Anyway, I was never bored. The story moves along at a brisk pace and it's great to see big name stars play the familiar characters. I would have loved to see more of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Clark Kent's adoptive parents Jonathon and Martha Kent. They are the heart of the movie, in my opinion. Michael Shannon is no Terence Stamp, but he chews up the scenery like a pitbull and brings the psychotic General Zod to terrifying life.

And that soundtrack kicked it -- just epic and heartstopping.

I look forward to seeing it again, although it'll be in a regular theatre. We VIPs have to save up for the right occasion.


* * * 1/2
D: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen (James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson)
R (brief nudity, comic gore) /
C-107m / USA

While attending a party at James Franco's house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse. When most of them get sucked into a giant hell hole, the survivors (namely the six guys on the movie poster) are trapped in Franco's house, fighting over rations and warding off monsters and Emma Watson.

Great premise and dark humour -- I was all over it like peanut butter and syrup on pancakes. I love James Franco and Seth Rogen in just about anything, and Craig Robinson (NBC's The Office) is so lovable I think he should star in his own movie. He's got the charisma to carry it off.

Basically, it's Clerks crossed with Army of Darkness with a good dose of Ghostbusters. Seth Rogen adapted this from a short film he co-wrote with Jason Stone (Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse). It's a high-budget home movie where Seth invites all his buddies in the business to play at James Franco's house. I kind of wish Bruce Campbell was invited to this shindig. Maybe they're afraid he'll take over?

There are a lot of laughs, especially at the expense of Michael Cera, (which has a great payoff), but the viewer's enjoyment will largely rely upon main actors' films and their public personas. Those who enjoy shows like Army of Darkness, Superbad, Pineapple Express, South Park, or any Judd Apatow comedy will have a good time. It delivers the goods, but only a certain core group will appreciate this. Never truly mean-spirited and a fun "party" movie that goes with beer and pizza, This is the End is good-naturedly crude and comically gory, being set in Hollywood during the apocalypse, after all.

This is a tough one. I can recommend this to some people, but warn others to stay away (or rent the DVD). I'm glad I saw it, but I'd rather see it on the Movie Channel in the comfort of my own home. It just didn't have enough of what I'd hope to see, namely movie stars from different genres outside the Rogen comedy universe. I would mix it up a bit. How cool would it be if Judy Dench or Helen Mirren decided to crash the party? They could get ignored by the younger crowd because nobody saw Shakespeare in Love or The Queen. Look, there's Harrison Ford sulking in a corner, growling at everyone to leave him alone. Meryl Street and Daniel Day Lewis have a fist-fight over who can do the most accents. Next-door neighbour Justin Bieber calls the cops to complain about the noise.

But, unfortunately, Seth Rogen won't take my calls. Darn restraining order.


January 19, 2012

Quickies - short reviews (Updated)

These reviews originally appeared in my Facebook page and may be expanded upon when I have time. These are my initial impressions of the films below. If and when I select any for further analysis, I will try to be fair, and less emotional. For now, here they are in alphabetical order.


AN AMERICAN CRIME (2007) * * *

(Drama / Biopic / Horror)

D: Tommy O'Haver. Ellen Page, Cathleen Keener, Michael O'Keefe
R, C-97m, USA
Tagline: This has been the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana.

Based on the horrific torture and murder of Sylvia Likens (Ellen Page) in 1965, this movie shows how mother-of-four Gertrude Nadine Baniszewski (Cathleen Keener) becomes ringleader of a mob of children in the neighbourhood, including her own offspring. Despite Sylvia's screams in the basement, the neighbours dismissed it as 'none of their business', thinking that she was just being spanked for misbehaving. For truly terrifying reads based on this tragic case, I recommend Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door and John Dean's The Indiana Torture Slaying: Sylvia Likens's Ordeal and Death. I've read both, and cried for that poor girl's suffering. You will never see children playing in the yard the same way again.

ANIMAL KINGDOM (2010) * * *

(Crime / Drama / Suspense)
D: David Michod (Guy Pearce, Jackie Weaver, James Frecheville, Joel Edgerton)
R (drug use, violence, sexual scene); C-113m / Australia

Australian film about an orphaned 17-year-old boy finding himself in a family of criminals, including a scarily cheerful grandmother (Weaver, who seems to be half Bette Davis, half Ma Barker). Will be compared to The Town, but this is grittier and less Hollywood.

THE APARTMENT (1960) * * * *

(Romance / Comedy / Drama)
D: Billy Wilder (Jack Lemmon, Shirley McLaine, Fred McMurray)

PG (mature themes) / b&w-125m / USA
Movie-wise, there has never been anything like it - laugh-wise, love-wise, or otherwise-wise!

Wilder directed this cynical but sweet love story about an weak-willed executive who is bullied into letting his philandering bosses use his apartment to take their mistresses. McLaine is an elevator girl that he falls in love with, unaware that she's seeing his boss. Won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture.

THE ARTIST (2011) * * * *

(Drama / Silent)
D: Michel Hazanavicius (Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle)
PG-13 (for a disturbing image and crude gesture) / b&w-100m / Belgium/France

Set in 1927 Hollywood, a silent film star fears that his career will grind to a halt when talking pictures arrive. Energetic and heartfelt, with old school technology and beautiful black-and-white photography. Fine for all ages, (provided they can read and don't imitate the crude gesture) and appreciate cinematic history. Loved it.


THE BAD SEED (1956) * * *

(Drama / Suspense)
D: Mervyn LeRoy (Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Eileen Eckhart
PG (mature subject matter, off-screen violence) b&w-129m / USA
Tagline: For little Rhoda, murder is child's play.

Based on a hit play and novel by William March (the book is GREAT) about an 8-year-old girl who kills to get what she wants. Violence is implied, not shown. A little stagey, but there's no doubt that the evil movie child began with Rhoda Penmark. Both corny and disturbing.

BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984) * * * 1/2

(Action-Adventure / Comedy)
Martin Brest (Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Ronny Cox)
(coarse language, some violence) / C-105m / USA
Tagline: The heat is on!

Fast-talking cop Det. Axel Foley (Murphy) leaves his precinct in Detroit for a "vacation" in Beverly Hills - to pursue a murder case, much to the displeasure of his captain and everyone else. Fun action picture with a great dialogue and an awesome soundtrack.

THE BIG CHILL (1983) * * *

(Drama / Comedy)
D: Lawrence Kasdan (Glenn Close, William Hurt, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Kay Place, Kevin Kline, Meg Tilly, Jobeth Williams)
PG (coarse language, some suggestive scenes) C-105m / USA
Tagline: In a cold world, you need your friends to keep you warm.

A group of college friends are reunited by the funeral of another, then spend the weekend talking, smoking pot, talking, evaluating their lives, talking... Sometimes funny and well acted, but a lot of people might find it slow. Great soundtrack.

BILLY ELLIOT (2000) * * * *

(Drama / Comedy)
D: Stephen Daldry (Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Jean Heywood, Jamie Drven, Gary Lewis, Mike Elliot)
PG-13 (for language and mature themes) / C-110m / UK/France
Tagline: Inside every one of us there is a talent waiting to come out. The trick is finding it.

In Durham, a small mining town in 1984, an 11-year-old boy discovers a passion for ballet and begins taking lessons in secret. Heartwarming without being saccharine. The language is pretty salty, but other than that, it's a family film, IMO. The trailer alone gives me the sniffles.


D: Richard Brooks (Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Margaret Hayes, John Hoyt, 

Richard Kiley, Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Jamal Farr (later Jamie Farr in M*A*S*H) )

It was really hard to choose a tagline for this entry. They're all wonderfully histrionic:

A DRAMA OF TEEN-AGE Terror! (original print ad - almost all caps)

SHOCKING! (original print ad - all caps)

THE SCREAM IN THE SCHOOL ROOM! (original print ad - all caps)

A shock story of today's high school hoodlums!

I'm a teacher. My pupils are the kind you don't turn your back on, even in class!

The Most Startling Picture In Years!

This was very controversial in its day, and one of the first films to deal with juvenile delinquency (even though the "teenagers" are in their 20s here). Entertaining but dated -- some of the dialogue makes me howl. Sidney Poitier's first film.

BLACK SWAN (2010) * * * 1/2

(Drama / Suspense)
D: (Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Mila Kunis
, Wynona Ryder)
R (for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language, some drug use) / C-108m / USA

Portman won an Oscar for Best Actress, deservedly so. A sheltered ballerina becomes dangerously obsessed with perfecting her role in "Swan Lake". Over the top at times, but it's scary and a lot of fun. The imagery is disturbing sometimes.

BLUE VALENTINE (2010) * * * 1/2

(Drama / Romance)
D: Derek Cianfrance (Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling
NC-17 (for a scene of explicit sexual content) C-112m / USA
Tagline: A love story.

Well-acted and affecting, but might hit too close to home for some. NOT a date movie. Through cuts and flashbacks, we see the beginning and end of a marriage between incompatible people. Neither is a "bad guy", but it's hard not to pick a side.


(Drama / War)
D: Mark Herman (
Vera Farmiga, Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend)
PG-13 (for mature themes involving the Holocaust) C-94m / UK/USA
Tagline: A story of innocence in a world of ignorance.

The eight-year-old son of a wealthy Nazi commandant befriends another little boy on the other side of an electrified fence near his house, not knowing what Daddy really does for a living. Their forbidden friendship has startling consequences.


(Comedy / Drama)
D: John Hughes (
Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony-Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleeson)
PG-13 (language) / C-97m. / USA
Tagline: They only met once, but it changed their lives forever.

Five high school students are forced to spend Satuday in detention in the library. 
They start out as stereotypes (remember the brain, athlete, basket case, princess, and the weirdo?) and get to know each other as people as the day wears on. 
It's often parodied, but I like this movie, though I think tomboyish Molly Ringwald was miscast as The Princess.

BULLITT (1968) * * *

(Action-Adventure / Crime / Drama)
D: Peter Yates (Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bissett, Robert Vaughn, Norman Fell (Mr. Roper in Three's Company), Robert Duval (cameo))

PG / C-114m / USA
Tagline: There are bad cops and there are good cops -- and then there's Bullitt.

A San Francisco cop is determined to find the kingpin who killed the witness in his protection. McQueen has screen presence, but is too stoic to be interesting in this classic action film. Bissett is gorgeous, but little else -- the one corny speech she makes almost made me lose my lunch. The story is rather ponderous and dull. But the famous car chase scene is memorable (McQueen did his own stunt driving).


CARMEN JONES (1954) * * *

(Drama / Musical / Romance)
D: Otto Preminger (Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Olga James, Joe Adams, Diahanne Carroll, Brock Peters)
PG (suggestive situations) / C-105m / USA

The famous opera Carmen is set during the Korean War, with an all-black cast. Dandridge sizzles as the tempestuous woman who seduces an innocent soldier and leads him to ruin. Lots of fun.


THE DESCENDANTS (2011) * * * 1/2

(Drama / Comedy)
D: Alexander Payne (George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges)
R (for language and sexual references) / C-115m / USA

When a land baron's wife has a boating accident and ends up in a coma, he tries to reconnect with his two daughters, deal with his wife's infidelity (just HOW does one cheat on gorgeous George Clooney with Matthew Lillard?!) Set entirely in Hawaii. It was interesting to see how residents live, without the usual trappings of tourism. It's a beautiful, quiet place. The only part I disliked was the soundtrack -- Hawaiian music, all the time. Woodley is fantastic as Clooney's angry, strong-willed daughter. Funny, truthful, and not as depressing as you might expect.

DR. NO (1962) * * *

(Action/Adventure / Suspense)
D: Terence Young (Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, John Kitzmiller)

PG (some suggestive scenes, violence) / C-110m / UK

Tagline: NOW meet the most extraordinary gentleman spy in all fiction -- JAMES BOND, Agent 007!

The first film starring Connery as 007 superspy James Bond is somewhat slow in places, but still a lot of fun. It's easy to see why Connery is considered by many as the definitive Bond. More businesslike and deadly than the Bond I grew up with (Roger Moore) but still with a sly sense of humour. Andress isn't much of an actress, but she makes one of the most memorable entrances of the Bond girls. Also, the technology and chase scenes are quite dated, but there is still tension and startling, sudden violence. When necessary, Bond is coldly pragmatic, which makes him pretty damned scary.



(Drama / Fantasy/ Romance)
D. Tim Burton (Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Anthony Michael Hall)
PG-13, C-105m, USA)

Tagline: Edward lived alone where he could hurt no one and no one could hurt him. Until the day the Avon Lady came calling...

Now a beloved classic about a perky Avon lady (Wiest) who makes a housecall at a remote castle and discovers a most unusual young man (Depp).

Romantic, magical, funny and bittersweet.

EUROPA, EUROPA (1990) * * * *

(Biopic / Foreign / War)
D: Agnieszka Holland ( Solomon Perel, Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Rene Hofschneider)
R (sex and nudity, some violence) C-112m / Germany / France / Poland

True story of Salomon 'Solly' 'Salek' Perel, a young Jewish man who impersonates a Nazi soldier in order to escape execution. Harrowing and exhilarating war epic with occasional dark humour that only underscores the humanity of the people. This is one of those "triumph of the human spirit" stories that will stay with you. It would be a very good film to show high school students, along with Schindler's List.


D: Andy Tennant (Drew Barrymore, Angelica Huston, Melanie Lynskey, Dougray Scott)
PG-13 (for brief language and thematic elements)
C-121m, USA
Tagline: Desire. Defy. Escape.

Drew Barrymore is absolutely radiant as Danielle, a feisty young woman who defies the fate of fairy tale heroines and takes control of her own destiny. Angelica Huston is archly cunning as her evil stepmother.


FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) * * 1/2

(Action-Adventure / Suspense)
D: Terrence Young (Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Lotte Lenya, Daniela Bianchi)
PG (for violence, suggestive scenes) / C-115m / US

Tagline: JAMES BOND IS BACK! his new incredible women! his new incredible enemies! his new incredible adventures!

Bond goes to Istanbul and encounters the usual gang of suspects. Some people consider this the most 'realis
tic' of the series (read: no outlandish character names like Pussy Galore or Oddjob, but it's also rather slow-paced. Titiana Romanova, the latest 'heroine' is not especially memorable. Bianchi was a former Miss Rome and runner-up for Miss World 1960, which explains why her voice was dubbed. I noticed that she was kind of stiff, but as eye candy for Bond, she does fine. Robert Shaw is good as Donald Grant, a big blond assassin with a fondness for the garrote. The scenery is gorgeous, particularly Venice (some reminders of the Venician rats from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which also starred Connery as Indy's father).

Fans of Austin Powers will recognize the enumerated henchmen (Number 3 is especially entertaining). Certain chase scenes reminded me of old Hitchcock movies (esp. North by Northwest). It's okay, but not as action-packed as later films.

Note: First time we see the villain stroking an white cat, first time a Bond film had a prologue before the main titles, and the familiar "James Bond will be back in Thunderball at the end.



(Musical / Comedy / Family)
D: Howard Hawks (Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn,
Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Norma Varden)
General / C-91m / US
Tagline: The Two M-M-Marvels of Our Age in the Wonder Musical of the World!

Two showgirls (MM and the REAL star, Jane Russell) take a cruise to Paris, with the conniving but sweet-natured gold-digger Lorelei Lee (Monroe) wreaking innocent havoc along the way. Russell is her sensible, wisecracking best friend.

GIGI (1958) * * *

(Musical / Comedy / Family)
D: Vincente Minelli (
Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, Louis Jordan, Eva Gabor
General / C-115m / US
Tagline: Thank heaven for Gigi

A fluffy musical about a young girl being trained by her aunt and grandmother to be a Parisian courtesan. Maurice Chevalier's aging rake character is a little creepy these days, but it was an innocent time when released. Caron is adorable and the songs are hummable. Won Best Picture.
This beat out Vertigo?


(Crime / Drama / Action-Adventure / Suspense)

D: David Fincher (Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright)

R (for brutal violence, rape and torture and language) / C-158m
USA / Sweden / UK / Germany

Long-awaited English version of the Swedish hit. Based on a bestselling trilogy of novels about an anti-social goth computer hack who helps a disgraced journalist solve a 40-year-old murder.

GOLDFINGER (1964) * * * *

(Action-Adventure / Suspense)

D: Guy Hamilton (Sean Connery, Bernard Lee, Gert Fröbe, Harold Sakata, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton)

PG (violence, suggestive scenes) / C-110m / UK / US

Tagline: James Bond is back in action! Everything he touches turns to excitement!

One of the best Bond films starring Connery. Any Austin Powers fan will see the source of many parodies in the latter franchise. This movie is a lot of fun: Over-the-top villains, including the elegant Oddjob with the deadly derby, Pussy Galore and her fleet of fly
ing femmes. Galore is interesting because she's not anyone's moll. "I'm a pilot, and a damned good one" she asserts and is initially unmoved by Bond's flirting. Goldfinger could be a Batman villain easily -- he's eccentric, fixated on everything gold, cheats at cards and golf -- and is a really poor loser. He's hilarious -- and dangerous.


THE HANDMAID'S TALE (1990) * * 1/2

(Suspense, Sci-Fi, Drama, Romance)

D: Volker Schlondorff
(Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Victoria Tennant, Robert Duvall, Blanche Baker)
R (nudity, mature themes, some violence) C-109m / US/Germany

In this cautionary tale, the Religious Right have taken over the world in a dystopian society. Most of the world has become sterile, so fertile women are kept as "handmaids" (sex slaves and forced bearer of children to keep the human race going). I liked it, but it's not for all tastes. Thoughtful, with some interesting ideas, but a little too restrained. Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood.

HUGO (2011) * * * *

(Family / Drama / Comedy / Adventure / Fantasy)
D: Martin Scorcese (Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Asa Butterfield)
PG-13 (for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking) / C-126m / USA

Absolutely lovely adaptation of the children's novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret". An orphan in 1930s Paris lives within the walls of a train station. He endeavours to solve a mystery invaliding his late father (Jude Law) and an automatron. It reminded me of Dickens, as well Edward Scissorhands, Beauty & the Beast, Coraline, and others. Breathtaking cinematography. See it in the theatre.


THE IDES OF MARCH (2011) * * *

D: George Clooney (Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Paul Giamati, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
R (for language) / C-101m / USA
Ambition seduces, power corrupts.

An up-and-coming press secretary (Gosling) for a presidential candidate (Clooney) discovers the underbelly of dirty politics during his campaign. Whether you're into politics or not, just enjoy the fantastic performances and get sucked into the intrigue. Clooney looks good.



McCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971) * * * *

(Drama / Western)
D: Robert Altman (Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall)
R, 120m, Canada/USA

Robert Altman film about a gambler (Beatty) and a prostitute (Christie) who start a business in a desolate mining town and struggle to survive their environment. A character study that is darkly poetic and sad. And worst vacation ever. If I lived here, I'd probably kill myself. The west was a very dangerous, primitive place, especially for women.

MACHETE (2010) * * * 1/2

(Action-Adventure, Comedy, Pulp)

D: Robert Rodriguez (Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez,
Robert DeNiro, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey, Lindsay Lohan, and Don Johnson)
R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity, 105m, USA
Tagline: He was given an offer he couldn't refuse!

Trejo is one ugly anti-hero, but has his own stoic brand of screen presence and the quietly coiled menace similar to those of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey and Cheech Marin, who are featured in the fake trailer in Grindhouse (2007), reprise their roles for this film as well. Deliberately cheesy dialogue, flying body parts (often to hilarious effect), and lots of in-jokes make this a "party film". It doesn't pretend to be anything but a silly, bloody good time.

Anyone who enjoyed Grindhouse, Kill Bill, Sin City, or anything by Sam Raimi or Quentin Tarantino is likely to get a kick out of this. You know who you are.

MAD DOG AND GLORY (1993) * * *

(Comedy / Drama)
D: John McNaughton (Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray, Uma Thurman, David Caruso
, Kathy Baker, Richard Belzer (cameo))
R (for sexual content, language, violence and drug use) / C-97m / US
Tagline: A cop who'd rather be an artist. A mobster who'd rather be a comic. And a woman who would rather be anywhere but between the two of them.

Shy copy Wayne "Mad Dog" Dobie (DeNiro) saves gangster's (Murray) life and finds himself the unwilling recipient of the crime boss's "friendship" and his "gift", a bartender (Thurman). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Beneath his genial demeanor, Bill Murray's Frank Milo is one scary S.O.B.

MARTY (1955) * * * *

D: Delbert Mann (Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Joe Mantell)
PG, b&w-90m (94m in extended version)/USA
Tagline: It's the love story of an unsung hero!

Won Academy Awards, including Best Director (Mann), Best Writing (screenplay) (Paddy Chayefsky), Best Supporting Actor (Mantell), and notably Best Actor (Borgnine) and Best Picture of 1955.

A plain, lonely butcher despairs of ever finding love until one fateful night when he meets his possible soul mate. One of the loveliest romantic movies I've ever seen. Marty and Clara dance and hesitantly get to know one another. I usually hate stories that throw people together just because they're both unattractive, nerdy or whatever, just so their pretty friends (the starring leads) can be happy without feeling guilty. But this was done right.

Marty calls a girl and "gets the brush". When he closes his eyes in pain, I just want bake him a batch of cookies. The story of Marty and Clara's journey towards happiness is sweet, painful, and joyous. You just know the outcome, and look forward to it anyway.

MONSOON WEDDING (2001) * * * 1/2


(some subtitles, some spoken English)
R for language and some sexual references
114m, India/USA/Germany/France/Italy

Absolutely enchanting family drama about the frenzied preparations for an arranged marriage in India. It's very interesting to see what goes into preparing this elaborate ceremony. I loved the lovestruck wedding planner - he's like a clown in love with a princess (a shy young housemaid). Filmed in 30 days.

MY NAME IS BRUCE (2007) * 1/2

(Comedy / Horror / Pulp

D: Bruce Campbell (Bruce Campbell, Ted Campbell, Taylor Sharpe, Grace Thorsen
PG-13, 86m, USA
Tagline: Fearless! Unstoppable! Ready For His Close-Up!

Silly but fun little goofball of a film starring/directed by Bruce Campbell, king of the B movies. Campbell plays himself as a jerky has-been actor who finds himself in a crummy small town called Goldlick. The locals mistake him for Ash (the hero of the Evil Dead movies) and expect him to save their town from a monster who's eliminating them one by one. Starts out strong and kind of peters out. Special effects are okay, not great, and the monster is not scary at all - the costume could have come straight out of K-Mart. For die-hard Campbell fans only - lots of in-jokes and a few cameos from the old Evil Dead movies.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) * * * 1/2

(Drama / Biopic)
D: Simon Curtis (Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Dench, Julia Ormond, Emma Watson)
PG-13, C-99m, UK/USA

In 1956 England, young assistant director Colin Clark finds his life changed by his experiences on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl" starring Lawrence Olivier (Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Williams). There is tension on the set, due to Olivier's frustration over MM's habit of tardiness and forgetting her lines. She's troubled, manipulative, and extremely lonely. Speaking as one who is sick to death of the question of whether MM committed suicide or was murdered, I was pleasantly surprised to see a fresh take of what it was like to make movies in the 50s. This is a slice-of-life, not a documentary. And it's a lot of fun, especially seeing Kenneth Branagh as a the temperamental actor/director. Based on the diaries of filmmaker Colin Clark.


NEVER LET ME GO (2010) * * * *

D: Mark Romanek (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling)
R (for sexuality and nudity) / C-103m / UK/USA

This reminded me of Orwell's 1984. In an alternate universe, a British school for "very special children" breeds them for a simple, chilling purpose. Not violent, but still one of the creepiest films I've seen in years. Hogwartz this ain't. Creepy and sad, but fascinating. Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I now want to read.


OFFICE SPACE (1999) * * *

(Comedy / Crime)
D: Mike Judge (Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole, Stephen Root)
PG-13 (for language, brief sexuality) / C-89m / US
Tagline: Work sucks.

Do phrases like 'team work', 'action items', 'TGIF', 'Sounds like someone has a case of Mondays!' drive you insane? Mike Judge directs this cult favourite that hit a nerve with office workers everywhere. The satire work culture is brilliant and true. Uneven at times, but when the jokes work, they hit bull's eye.


PLEASE GIVE (2010) * * * 1/2

(Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet)
R (for sexual content and nudity)
C-90m / USA

An upscale New York couple who buy and sell antique furniture (when people die, they buy the deceased's antique furniture for a song and then sell it in their upscale store. It's a humourous, painful, but real look at giving, how insulting charity can be if you assume the wrong person is in need. Shabby attire doesn't always mean 'homeless'.


(Suspense / Romance)
D: Tay Garnett (Lana Turner, John Garfield)
PG, b/w-113m, USA

Tagline: Their Love was a Flame that Destroyed!

This is an excellent adaption of the controversial 1934 potboiler by James M. Cain, which was banned for its frank depiction of adultery and violence. There were other adaptations, including the 1981 version starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, but this is the best one. Though toned down for 1946 audiences, this tale of forbidden lust and murder is even more effective. There is so much restrained sensuality, from the hard-boiled dialogue to the Lana Turner's ironic white outfits.


THE QUIET MAN (1952) * * *

(Drama, Romance)
D: John Ford. (John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, Francis Ford)
General, C-129, Ireland/USA
Tagline: Action... Excitement... Romance... Fill the Screen!

Newcomer Sean Thornton (John Wayne, in one his most understated performances), an American ex-boxer, arrives in the little town of Innisfree to claim his birthright and find inner peace after an unspoken tragedy. Naturally, the villagers are suspicious of strangers, but soon warm up to him after he buys them a few drinks at the local pub. Two obstacles get in the way: The beautiful and fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), a red-haired lass who catches his eye when she herds sheep in a field. And her brother, the town bully.


RADIO DAYS (1987) * * * 1/2

(Comedy / Drama)
D: Woody Allen (Mia Farrow, Seth Green, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker, Dianne Wiest, Wallace Shawn, Danny Aiello, Larry David)

PG (language, some suggestive scenes) / C-88m / US

Woody Allen directed and narrates this nostalgic story of how radio entertained and affected the lives of a family and performers in the medium. If you liked A Christmas Story (1983), this might be up your alley. Funny, wry, and touching.


SHAME (2011) * * * 1/2

D: Steve McQueen (Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
NC-17 (for explicit sexual content*) / C-101m / UK

Very raw film about a troubled sex addict whose sister comes to stay with for a while. Interesting character study about a tortured man whose demons are only hinted at, never explained. He doesn't enjoy himself and can't form emotional connections with anyone. Despite being a babe magnet, he is very lonely. Hard to watch, but mesmerizing -- You'll never see Magneto (X-Men: First Class) the same way again.


(Action-Adventure / Crime / Suspense)

D: Guy Ritchie (Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry, Jared Harris)

PG-13 (for intense scenes of violence and action, some drug material) / C-129m / US

Sherlock Holmes (Downie Jr.) and Watson (Law) are back for another rousing adventure. I haven't seen the first film, so I wasn't sure what to expect in this interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation. What I really liked was the clever use of language and repartee. It's a smart script.

I also like the way the supporting characters are shown to be as complex and interesting as Holmes. Watson is believably a man of action instead of merely a sidekick. Even his fiancee Mary is more than just a love interest. My only quibble is the Matrix-like warp-speed photography in the fight scenes (though it's fine as a way to show how Holmes' mind works)

I had some doubts about Jared Harris (who I only knew in AMC's Mad Men as milquetoast accountant Lane Pryce) as Holmes' arch-nemesis Moriarty, but here he proves his versatility. Harris looks like an unassuming academic, but cross him and run for your life. He's downright chilling.

SMASH HIS CAMERA (2010) * * *

D: Leon Gast (Ron Galella, Floyd Abrams, Gilbert M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson, Joseph Basile
PG-13 (for language and nudity) / C-87m (some b&w footage) / USA

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sued him. Marlon Brando broke his jaw. And he kept right on going. Documentary about "legendary" paparazzi photographer Ron Galella who stalked celebrities for that perfect shot, especially Jacqueline Kennedy and her children. He was tenacious and talented, but also a ruthless S.O.B. who didn't care about his subjects' feelings and wouldn't stop.

SOURCE CODE (2011) * * * *

(Action/Adventure / Suspense)
D: Duncan Jones (Jake Gullenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright)
PG-13 (for some disturbing images and language) /C-93m / UK/France
Tagline: Make every second count.

Brainy action thriller about a man who is forced to relive a train bombing over and over until he can figure out who the terrorist is. Sort of a mixture of Quantum Leap, Final Destination, and Groundhog Day... with explosions. Terrific!

THE SQUARE (2008) * * * 1/2

(Drama / Suspense)

Thriller from Australia in the same vein as The Coen Brothers' Fargo and Double Indemnity and A Simple Plan. A cheating couple plot to steal several 1,000's of dollars from a hidden cache of money stolen by her husband. Needed subtitles to understand the accents, but other than that, a very solid noir. Really enjoyed this.


TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011) * * * *

(Drama / Romance)

D: Sarah Polley (Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Luke Kirby)
R (for nudity, sexual situations) / C-116m / US

From the Toronto Film Festival (saw it at a local art theatre). Very powerful film about the dangers of emotional cheating. Comedic actors Rogen and Silverman easily keep up with Williams -- they should be remembered for future dramatic casting. This film made me angry (in a good way). I wanted to shake Margot (Williams) and demand how she could even consider cheating on Seth Rogen -- he's much handsomer and more fun than that drippy emo-artist. She was maddening, but a sobering reminder that people like her exist and simply want to self-destruct for the sake of change, even if they have a good life.

TANGLED (2010) * * * *

(Family / Romance / Action-Adventure)
D: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Richard Kiel)
PG C-100/USA
Tagline: They're taking adventure to new lengths.

Loved, loved, loved this movie. It has everything, comedy, sharp dialogue, romance, adventure, even psychological villainy. It was derivative of several Disney classics (you'll recognize them), but I had too good a time to care. I recall my initial misgivings, but this was awesome. All-round satisfying entertainment.

THIEF (1981) * * * *

(Action-Adventure / Crime)
D: Michael Mann (James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Proski, Dennis Farina)
R / C-122m / USA
Tagline: Tonight, his take home pay is $410,000… tax free.

Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Collateral) directed this underrated gem about a professional safe cracker who makes the mistake of working for the mob, intending it to be his last "job" so he can retire and start a family. Caan is at the top of his game here. Proski as the genial crime boss has a chilling speech that completely destroys his grandfatherly demeanor.

* * * 1/2


D: Heywood Gould (Joanna Whalley Gabriel Byrne, William Hurt, Armand Assante)
PG-13 / C-107m / USA
Tagline: For one juror, the question of guilt or innocence is a matter of life or death… her own.

Neo-noire thriller about a woman who is selected for jury duty for a murder trial and targeted as the one to influence the verdict by using her son as leverage by the mob. Better than a lot of films of this type, with a few surprises. All performances are excellent, with stand-outs Hurt as a conflicted corrupt ex-cop and Whalley as a woman who discovers exactly what she's made of.

TRUE GRIT (2010) * * *

(Action-Adventure / Western)
C: Joel and Ethan Coen (
Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper)
PG-13 (for some intense scenes of disturbing western violence) C-110m / USA

The Coen Brothers directed this remake of the 1969 John Wayne film about a crusty one-eyed US Marshall and a hard-headed 14-year-old girl who hires him to track down and avenge the murder of her father by a stablehand. It's a well-acted western, but I still prefer Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven".

TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL (2010) * * * 1/2

(Comedy / Horror) D: Eli Craig (Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden)
R (for bloody violence, language and brief nudity /C-89m / USA

Tagline: Evil just messed with the wrong hillbillies.

*spoiler alert* - The trailer gives away a lot, so caveat emptor.* 
Independent horror-comedy that became a sleeper hit. Will appeal to fans of the Evil Dead and Scream movies, as it turns all slasher movie conventions on their head. For one thing, the scary hillbillies are the heroes -- well-meaning and completely clueless about how terrifying they are to college kids on a camping trip. Gory but hilarious, and even kind of sweet.

TWILIGHT (2008) *

(Drama / Romance)
D: Catherine Harkwicke (Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner)
PG-13 for violence and some sensuality
113m / Canada/USA
Tagline: When you can live forever, what do you live for?

I've loved my own share of silly movies (mostly because I was a little drunk on the freedom to see whatever I wanted once I was old enough not to ask permission). Still do, actually - so I do not want to sound like a film snob (even though it's somewhat true :D), but those tend to be comedies and schlocky horror films, not romance. Once I hit my 30s, though, I began to want more substantial entertainment. I liked all kinds of silly novels as a kid myself, including the novels of VC Andrews and historical romances. Can't stand them now, but I see the appeal of perfect vampire love for young girls. Never get old, stay young and gorgeous forever with a handsome guy... who would turn that down?





(Drama / Thriller)
D: Lynne Ramsay (Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilley, Ezra Miller)
R (disturbing images, fleeting nudity) / C-112m / UK / USA

Based on the bestselling novel by Lionel Shriver. Eva, whose teenage son went on a killing spree at his high school, tries to deal with her grief and the hostility directed at her by nearly everyone in town. Not gory, but emotionally terrifying and has disturbing images. I like evil kid movies as long as they're not too realistic (Village of the Damned, The Bad Seed, The Omen, Joshua). This one gets under your skin. Not recommended for expectant parents or sensitive viewers. This child is genuinely creepy and unattractive -- I could hardly stand to look at him. When it was over, everyone in the theatre was silent. It has haunted me for days.



(Drama / Romance / War)
D: Peter Weir (
Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt, Michael Murphy
R (violence, suggestive scenes, language) / C-115m / Australia
Tagline: A love caught in the fire of a revolution.

A young Australian reporter's (Gibson), first assignment as a foreign correspondent is fraught with romance, intrigue, and peril in the political turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno in 1965. With the help of Billy Kwan, a half-Chinese photographer and dwarf, he is quickly disabused of dangerous idealism. Hunt won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Billy Kwan. Beautifully filmed.


(Comedy / Horror)
D. Mel Brooks. Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle.
PG-13, BW-106m, USA
Tagline: The scariest comedy of all time!

Mel Brooks' parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is his masterpiece. Filmed in beautiful, crisp black and white, this is a treat for the eyes. As to the question, Is it funny? that depends on your sense of humour. Almost anyone who sees a Brooks comedy knows going in that low-brow jokes were his stock-in-trade. Even at parties, he played the piano, but not with his hands.

For once Brooks' jokes don't wear out their welcome, as they did in Blazing Saddles (for this viewer anyway). There are sight gags, puns, slapstick, and they all work great.

When Dr. Frankenstein, Igor and Inga stand in front of huge castle doors, Frankenstein comments with wide-eyed awe, "What knockers."

The buxom Inga preens, naturally taking this as a compliment. "Oh, thank you, Doctor."

Dr. Frankenstein's grandson (Gene Wilder), who has spent his entire life trying to deny his heritage, inherits a creepy old castle and finds himself doing what comes naturally - mad science.

His assistant Igor (the bug-eyed Feldman) is ingratiating, yet winningly sneaky and steals the show. The shot of him posing alongside a row of brains will remind many of E.T. hiding in the closet of stuffed animals.

ZORBA THE GREEK (1964) * * *

D: Mihalis Kakogiannis (Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Irene Papas, Lila Kedrova)
PG (for occasional language, implied sexuality, violence) / BW-142m / USA / UK / Greece
Tagline: Life. Lust. Love. Zorba.

An uptight writer (Bates) visits Crete on business and meets the irrepressible Alexis Zorba. Zorba (Quinn) is gregarious, irresponsible and has a voracious appetite for life that hides his pain. The writer (Bates) is a humourless bore -- I wanted to smack him first for his dull personality and then again for his cowardice in a scene where an innocent person is mobbed because of him. Greece is a beautiful place, but this film would kill tourism. Lila Kedrova won Best Supporting Actress for her role as a dying prostitute.