Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hamlet 2 (2008)


Movie quotes:
"Chuy, you're going to have a magical life. Because no matter where you go, it's always going to be better than Tucson."
- Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan)

At a glance:
The laughs are almost non-existent, but the final staged play is entertaining, as the usually very funny Steve Coogan overextends himself in a starring role as a high school drama teacher

Our review:
A struggling high school drama teacher (Steve Coogan) is told that budget cuts mean that his beloved drama department will close – forever – at the end of the semester. His only chance is to produce a play that will change people’s minds. He hand-picks and writes a sequel to Hamlet (aptly titled Hamlet 2) and uses a motley crew of students to play the parts. Coogan milks every soliloquy, dragging out his comic speeches without actually saying or doing anything amusing (unless, perhaps, you are one of his dedicated fans). It’s a shame, really, because Coogan is usually very funny in smaller roles, but here, the writing, and perhaps his ability to convey a range of emotions with sincerity, lets him down. The film is almost devoid of laughs, and yet, because it just doesn’t seem to care about that, it remains captivating and impossible to look away. The play itself is very entertaining, with production values well outside the scope of most struggling high school drama departments. Rating: 2 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Coogan is a master at playing jerks, but Dana is too silly, too stupid, and too unappealing to enlist us on his side."
- Andy Klein (Los Angeles CityBeat)

"Oddly, what's supposed to be a great comedy about a bad play is in fact a bad comedy about a play that looks pretty frigging amazing."
- Amy Nicholson (I.E. Weekly)

"Witless spoof on Hamlet that is more irritating than funny."
- Dennis Schwartz (Ozus' World Movie Reviews)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Movie quotes:Doris (Maureen O’Hara): Would you please tell her that you're not really Santa Claus, that there actually is no such person?
Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn): Well, I hate to disagree with you, but not only IS there such a person, but here I am to prove it.

At a glance:The original Miracle on 34th Street may be occasionally talky and slow-moving by today’s standards, but it still remains one of the all-time great family Christmas fantasy films

Our review:
It’s Christmas eve, 2008. What better time to re-watch and write my review of Miracle on 34th Street, one of the classic Christmas and family movies? We’re talking about the original Miracle; it was remade in 1994 into what is considered to be a very inferior version. I haven’t seen that one yet, but of course I am curious to find out if it is bad and why.

But back to the original: The story focuses on a man who believes himself to be Kris Kringle, the real Santa Claus. Played wonderfully by Edmund Gwenn, he lives in a nursing home, and through circumstances ends up playing Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Soon after, he is hired to play Santa and see kids in the store as well. Putting kids first, he gets his bosses angry when he rejects his job instructions and starts telling people to go elsewhere when Macy’s does not have exactly what the child wants. But this helpful attitude is such a successful public relations strategy that it makes Macy’s immensely popular, and soon, against all odds, major competitor Gimbels follows suit. Problems occur when Kringle gets on the wrong side of company psychologist Sawyer (Porter Hall). When Kris’s battle to convince skeptical boss Doris (Maureen O’Hara) and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) fails, he purposely flunks a psychological test and is committed. His friend Fred (John Payne), who is also a suitor for Doris, convinces Kris to fight the charge, and a court battle ensues, with Fred attempting to prove that Kris is the one and only Santa.

You can see why any remake would fail when you think about the implausibility of that plot. But the movie is carried by the incredible performance of Gwenn. He plays Santa like he is the real thing, and the truth is, whether he is Santa or not, he proves beyond a doubt that the concept of Santa is real. Good supporting work by Natalie Wood also helps – she’s  a joy to watch. Her face looks like a little bonsai version of her grown-up one. The film also remains relevant in its look at how commercialism often interferes with values.

Overall, there are talky sequences and plot problems (Doris’s transformation takes place in the blink of an eye) but this is still one of the best family fantasy movies of all time. Note that this film will probably bore kids under 6, and will also be too slow for older kids (and any adult who lacks nostalgia for this era in movie-making). Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:"You want the spirit of Christmas? It's all right here."
- Christopher Null (Filmcritic.com)

"One of a half dozen Christmas movie classics."
- Steve Crum (Kansas City Kansan)

"Christmas wouldn't be complete without it."
- Kevin Carr (7M Pictures)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Seraphim Falls (2006)


Movie quotes:
Hayes (Michael Wincott): Reckon we ought to camp somewheres else?
Carver (Liam Neeson): Afraid the word of God will spoil your digestion?
Hayes: I never was much for scripture.
Carver: Nothing to fear, Mr. Hayes. Them's just words. Ain't no God out here.

At a glance:
There’s the nucleus of a good man vs man western and some beautiful location filming in Seraphim Falls, but it is ruined by Pierce Brosnan’s overacting, and by a script that veers from reality to fantasy

Our review:
Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) did something really nasty to  Carver (Liam Neeson). I know this, because Carver has hired 4 helpers to track down and kill Gideon somewhere in the snow-covered mountains. Suffice to say, Gideon did a very bad thing, but the film tries to make out like Gideon just kind of didn’t think it through – just a mistake, really. That’s just one of the fuzzy plot points in the uneven Seraphim Falls.

The movie opens as Gideon gets shot, jumps into an icy stream, survives a drop over a 40 foot waterfall, removes the bullet from his arm with his knife, heats the knife and cauterizes the wound, then keeps on running from his attackers. Somehow, he survives all this, mainly by moaning and groaning non-stop. When he is taken in by a ranching family, he changes to mumbling and breathing his lines in a kind of Grizzly Adams slash Godfather style. And yet, even though Brosnan’s acting is lacking, it’s still true that when the story moves away from him as the pursued mystery man, things get a little boring.

The second problem is that the movie can’t decide if it a realistic survivalist documentary (there are plenty of scenes of Gideon lighting fires, setting traps, whittling saplings, etc.) or a mythical story. Toward the end, the mood changes, and the film suddenly becomes dreamlike and all symbolic, populated with supporting characters (Angelica Huston and Wes Studi) that spout prosaic advice. The beautiful mountain and desert locations can’t compensate for the all-over-the-place script.

By the way, the brilliant stunt of falling over the waterfall won Mark Vanselow and Craig Hosking a Best Specialty Stunt - Taurus award. The performer was cabled to a helicopter; the cable was slackened to allow a free fall into the falls, and a bungee was used for retrieval. No CGI was used for the stunt. Rating: 2 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"An unremarkable revenge/chase western, bolstered by its name cast, matter-of-fact violence and Toll’s pristine photography. Eventually a little pretentious – with Anjelica Huston’s cameo the nadir – but if you love oaters, it’s just worth the time."
- Nev Pierce (Total Film)

"An unconvincing attempt at an old-fashioned western, Seraphim Falls works best as a chase thriller but falls apart when it tries to harness the mythic power of the American frontier."
- Jamie Russell (Channel 4 Film)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)


Movie quotes:
Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor): [talking about Krauss] I like the way he takes charge.
Liz Sherman (Selma Blair): You think?
Tom Manning: He's efficient, and precise.
Liz Sherman: Add resistant to that and you got yourself a new watch.

Abe Sapien (Doug Jones): Precisely. All these things do is eat and eat, than poop. Than eat again.
Liz Sherman: [sarcastic] Remind you of anyone?

Hellboy (Ron Perlman): Eh, Mr. Kraut, sir?
Johann Krauss (John Alexander / Seth MacFarlane): Krauss, agent. There's a double s.
Hellboy: SS. Right, right.

[Hellboy and Abe look at Liz, sleeping]
Hellboy: [drunk] Look at her, Abe. She's my... she's my whole, wide w... I would... I would give my life for her. But she also expects me to do the dishes!
Abe Sapien: [also drunk] I would die and do the dishes!

Johann Krauss: Your temper, it makes you sloppy. Try to control it, Agent Hellboy. Before it controls you. [walks away singing in German]
Hellboy: Glasshole.

At a glance:
Guillermo del Toro’s sequel to Hellboy (2004) is even better, with stunningly original character design, ambitious action sequences, and multiple story threads and supporting work, all anchored by another solid performance by Ron Perlman

Our review:
In this sequel to 2004’s Hellboy, Ron Perlman is back as the horn-shaving freak who battles against the darker forces of nature. Here, he is pitted against the passions of Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), whose goal is to crush humans for their violations of treaties against the mythical world. To do this, Nuada needs three pieces of a crown to be joined so that he can awaken and command an invincible Golden Army of mechanized, self-healing killer machines. Hellboy teams with love interest Liz (Selma Blair), Abe (Doug Jones) and new team leader Johann Krauss (John Alexander / Seth MacFarlane). Their paths cross with an endless array of dream/nightmare creatures, all imaginatively realized. Not since The Fifth Element have I seen such incredibly original character design – and this far surpasses that effort (Mike Elizalde gets the screen credit for this). Amid scenes of epic battles and one-on-one combat, there are also moments of hilarity and touching emotion. My favorite scene might be the fight between Hellboy and Krauss, featuring a series of slamming locker doors, but I also enjoyed the side story of the love affair between Abe and Princess Nuala (Anna Walton). Only Guillermo del Toro is capable of making an action/horror/comic book movie into a love story of exquisite beauty. Co-written by del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, and with music by Danny Elfman, this is just about as good as it gets in the genre of graphic novels realized for the screen. I’m ready for the sequel if one is forthcoming! Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Some the magical images conjured here are absolutely unforgettable."
- Leigh Paatsch (Herald Sun [Australia])

"Prepare for some devil worship. Hellboy is the hottest, strangest and most fun comic book hero around."
- Sun Online

"At times the creaky dialogue can be cliched, but it can’t change the fact that Hellboy II is a hoot, aided considerably by star Ron Perlman’s wisecracks and laconic surliness, and Del Toro’s imaginative storytelling and intricate Faberge-egg visuals."
- Jarrod Walker (FILMINK [Australia])

"Playful, offbeat and with a decidedly droll sense of humor, Hellboy II’s a richly rewarding superhero film with moments of gleeful comedy that films like Get Smart can but dream of."
- David Edwards (Daily Mirror [UK])

Monday, December 15, 2008

Session 9 (2001)


Movie quotes:
Doctor (Lonnie Farmer): And where do you live, Simon?
Mary Hobbes (Jurian Hughes): I live in the weak and the wounded... Doc.

Henry (Josh Lucas): [motioning to Jeff's blaring stereo] Mikey didn't tell you about these?
Jeff (Brendan Sexton III): What?
Henry: Rule one: Music creates sonic vibrations. Vibrations jiggle spooj dust into the air. It gets into the air, it gets into your lungs. This music you plannin' on listening to?
Jeff: Yeah...
Henry: Yeah, you tryin' to kill us all? Either turn it off or put on something else. Like Yanni, or John Tesh or something.
Jeff: Who's Yanni?

At a glance:
Things start going wrong when an asbestos removal crew, led by an overstressed boss, is tasked with cleaning up the rotting interior of a creepy derelict mental hospital

Our review:
An asbestos removal crew takes on a rush job to clean up the spooky abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital, and finds themselves driven mad by the ghosts of the horror that happened there. Cruises along, all portentious for much of its running time, before exploding into something that is truly horrible (at least, on a psychological level, as little actual gore is shown). This is my second Brad Anderson film (he directed, and co-wrote with Steven Gevedon, who plays Mike) and he seems to like to hold back on the gruesome stuff until right near the end – hope I’m not giving too much away. Some good red herrings will keep you guessing about who the baddy or baddies really are. Every dollar is used effectively in this low-budget, no-star horror film starting with the selection of Danvers Hospital for filming. In the end, it’s a small, good movie that is far from great, but it serves to show the potential of the director (realized in Transsiberian (2008)). Rating: 2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Playing to a classier tune, the film is one that is immersive even in its understatedness, weaving a tale that is all the more effective because of how believable it is."
- Dustin Putman (TheMovieBoy.com)

"Atmospheric chills and some solid performances ... keep the tension up for a while, until the nasty and disquieting finale."
- Sean Means (Salt Lake Tribune)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ghost Town (2008)


Movie quotes:
Bertram (Ricky Gervais): Look at Pappah. They buried him with everything a dead guy doesn’t need: household pets, money. They even put his penis in a big jar. Why would they do that?
Gwen (Tea Leoni): You saw that penis; it wouldn’t have fit in a little jar.

At a glance:
How you react to the abrasive Ricky Gervais will determine whether or not you enjoy this satisfying high-concept rom-com about a dentist who talks to dead people

Our review:
During a routine operation, dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) dies for seven minutes. Afterward, his cloistered New York existence is constantly mobbed by dead people needing him to resolve outstanding business. One of them, Frank (Greg Kinnear) convinces Bertram to break up the pending re-marriage of his wife Gwen (Tea Leoni). But Bertram ends up falling in love with her. Off-beat rom-com successfully contrasts the abrasiveness of Gervais (and Kinnear) with the grounded sincerity of Leoni (who, by the way, just keeps getting better and better with each film appearance). As good as Leoni’s performance is, too much of the film is spent in proving that Gervais is unlikeable, while too little of the central concept is mined. Waits a long time, perhaps too long, to redeem Gervais, but when it happens, it feels very good. Writer/director David Koepp adds to the many strings in his bow with this dabble into romantic comedy – most of his other efforts (like the screenplays for Panic Room, Secret Window, War of the Worlds, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) have been more in the genres of action/suspense, but they always are strong in the area of characterization. Rating: 2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Enjoyable as it is to see Gervais trying (and often succeeding) to make something of the mediocre dialogue, it’s not enough."
- David Jenkins (Time Out)

"Ricky Gervais and mainstream Hollywood rom-com are initially uneasy bedfellows but ultimately, and largely due to co-star Téa Leoni, it's a match made in its star's brand of comic purgatory."
- Leigh Singer (Channel 4 Film)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Duchess (2008)


Movie quotes:
Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes): This will be the mistake of your life.
Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley): No, I made that many years ago.

At a glance:
Keira Knightley leads us through the tormented life of the Duchess of Devonshire, as she tries to balance her dreams and desires against the obligations of the wife of a Duke

Our review:
I’ve got a couple of very good friends – let’s call them Ron and Jan – who watch a lot of movies. They are movie lovers, and they generally like – or at least appreciate – almost every movie they see. But they have one secret to this formula: they don’t watch period dramas.

Maybe I should do the same.

I watched The Duchess, but, like I say when I am reviewing a horror or martial arts film, I’m not qualified to review these types of films – certainly, I am not qualified to review these films for those who love the genre and watch lots of these types of films. But I’ll review it anyway.

The Duchess is the based-on-a-true-story of Georgiana (Keira Knightley), who realized her life dream when the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) chose her as his young bride. Although she appreciates the affluence this affords her, she soon learns that the Duke is a cold, unfriendly husband of little words whose only real interest is in fulfilling his duties by fathering a son. Instead, she gives birth to two girls (and is also mother to a third girl that the Duke fathered in another relationship). The Duke spends a lot of time in affairs with various other women, and even maintains a long-term relationship with Georgina’s live-in friend, Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell). When Georgiana proposes a deal whereby she could also have an affair with Charles Gray, the man she truly loves, the Duke simply says no. When she does so anyway, he threatens to take her children away and ruin Gray’s political career.

Knightley is excellent as she inhabits the life and emotions of the Duchess, and Fiennes plays the cold Duke as a man who is also a prisoner of the society in which he lives. And there is my question for the day: why must we see story after story about this backward time in British history, where aristocracy was king, men ruled with an iron hand, and strong, intelligent, passionate women had to give in? I just don’t want to see these stories, nor do I feel like I take anything away from them, other than a warm feeling that we no longer live in those times.

My second question is: I wonder just how accurate these period dramas are. Viewed through modern eyes, the sadness and torment of the Duchess (and Duke) trapped in the mores of their era makes sense, and there is some drama in seeing what choices they will make, but was there the same sadness, torment, and drama at the time? Somehow, I think not; in most cases, it would have been a no-brainer that the Duchess had to be subservient to the Duke, or her life would be ruined. She would know nothing of 21st century equality, and therefore would not be missing it as much as the current audience.

The final question (that you might ask) is, why did I watch this film? Well, as a reviewer, I feel somewhat obligated to review all major films, regardless of genre. Secondly, it allowed this duke a shared experience with his duchess. (Ironically, if this was the 18th century, I as Duke could have dictated the movie we would watch, and I would now be reviewing Hellboy 2) :).

Anyway, back to the review: I thought it was a good period drama, played very straight – no added humor, self-referential moments, or distractingly modern camera angles or jump cuts. This purity helped ground the story and give it plausibility, while perhaps taking away a little fun. Rating: 2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"The film's real power lies with Knightley. She easily could have gone over the emotional top, but instead gives a measured performance that increasingly draws you in."
- FILMINK (Australia)

"It’s a curiously inert, workmanlike production: a whole lot of pomp and incircumstance."
- Kimberly Jones (Austin Chronicle)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Into the Wild (2007)

Movie quotes:
"I read somewhere... how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong... but to feel strong."
- Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch)

"I'm going to paraphrase Thoreau here... rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... give me truth."
- Christopher McCandless

"The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences."
- Christopher McCandless

At a glance:
The true story of a young man who travels led him to seek truth in the harsh Alaskan wilderness is presented artfully by director Sean Penn, and features a stunning and emotional performance by Emile Hirsch and Chris McCandless

Our review:
I’m an advocate of compacting storytelling, and I believe that most stories can (or should) be told on film in under two hours. Almost any yarn can be improved with proper paring and editing.

Into the Wild is an exception to this rule. Director Sean Penn waited ten years to gain permission from the McCandless family to film the true story of their son, whose long journey to truth began as an escape from a dysfunctional family and ended in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. You as a viewer will spend almost 2 ½ hours to make the same journey, and by virtue of Emile Hirsch’s remarkable acting transformation (he lost 40 pounds while making this film), and Penn’s artful direction and deep understanding of the subject, you will feel like you have traveling within and without this incredible young man. This is not an expose of mistakes; instead Chris McCandless is treated almost as a deity. The film is at its best when it concentrates on the inner workings of McCandless’ mind and motivation, and at its worst when it attempts to make the story more interesting by introducing a parade of eccentric, overly dramatic fictional ‘characters’ for McCandless to meet along the way (but this diversion is brief). Based on Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book. Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Sean Penn deserves huge credit for the gentle hand he has used in telling this incredible story. "
- Brian Webster (Apollo Guide)

"Often too concerned with how smart he's being, Sean Penn gets the quiet moments right while some of the more dialogue-intensive come off poorly."
- Wesley Lovell (Oscar Guy)

"Penn's best movie to date rests on a brilliant performance by Hirsch, who gets under the skin of the fascinating character at the centre of the piece."
- Jamie McLeish (Channel 4 Film)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hellboy (2004)


Movie quotes:
"In the absence of light, darkness prevails. There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Myers. Make no mistake about that. And we are the ones who bump back."
- Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt)

"I wish I could do something about this. But I can't. But I can promise you two things. One: I'll always look this good. Two: I'll never give up on you... ever."
- Hellboy (Ron Perlman) to Liz (Selma Blair)

Abe Sapien (Doug Jones): Remind me why I do this again.
Hellboy: Rotten eggs and the safety of mankind.

[nearby phone rings as Hellboy fights Sammael]
Hellboy: It’s for you.
[Hellboy hits Sammael with the phone]

Hellboy: Hey Myers, you're a talker. What's a good word, a solid word for "need"?
John Myers: Well, "need" is a good, solid word.
Hellboy: Nah. Too needy.

"What you having? Six library guards, raw, plus belts and boots. Man, you're gonna need some heavy fiber to move that out."
- Hellboy (to Sammael while he is eating)

At a glance:
Director Guillermo del Toro creates a lower budget and basically perfect take on the comic book hero movie, with Ron Perlman brilliant as an unlikely but appealing horn-filing devil beast named Hellboy

Our review:
A Nazi plot to open a rift and invite in seven evil demons is foiled, but not before a little red horned devil baby with an oversized rock-like arm makes it through. 60 years later, ‘Hellboy’ (Ron Perlman) is a prisoner/volunteer for a secret American paranormal branch of the FBI, where he fights the good fight against evil, including the same diabolical enemies that opened the rift the first time. Perlman is probably the best-suited (perhaps only-suited) actor for this role, and he makes Hellboy not only believable, but appealing. Hellboy’s action hero wisecracks are top shelf, too – the script has lots of memorable quotes. Director Guillermo del Toro uses lighting to great effect, softening some scenes to create what at times is a very beautiful film – even when tentacled monsters are attacking. del Toro also has a welcome feel for pacing; the film moves along briskly, flowing from scene to scene in a way that makes it smooth, palatable, and yet still exciting.

Note: For years, I avoided this film, basically because I assumed that any movie titled "Hellboy" would be too violent for my taste. As a matter of fact, the violence is toned down to avoid an R rating, and it was well within the range that I can tolerate. And so, because of this misunderstanding, I denied myself for many years my first glimpse at director del Toro – and of Selma Blair. Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Del Toro, in love with his source but never overawed by it, keeps things moving; Perlman ties it together with some of the driest witticisms this side of Indiana Jones. Like we said: fun."
- Time Out

"Del Toro and Perlman essentially make you forget that Hellboy's this bizarre creature because Perlman invests him with such humanity. And maybe what makes him most human are his flaws."
- Beth Accomando (KPBS.org)

"Perlman has not only the towering body, sculpted face, and commanding voice for such a role, he exudes a very humane heart."
- Steve Crum (Kansas City Kansan)

"Perlman, at age 53, strides in like a hungry young actor itching to prove something, only with 22 years of experience lending him charisma and confidence."
- Rob Gonsalves (eFilmCritic.com)

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Edge of Love (2008)


Movie quotes:
William (Cillian Murphy): No harm will ever come to you, not from me; not from anyone else – not when I’m here.. No word of mine will ever hurt you.
Vera: (Keira Knightley): Sounds like a vow.

At a glance:
This British World War Two story of the lives and loves of Dylan Thomas suffers from an emotional detachment led by the ice queen herself, Keira Knightley, who once again seems unable to play an aloof character that can still connect with the audience

Our review:
Dylan Thomas’ first love, the detached singer Vera (Keira Knightley) is the focus of this British World War II drama about lives, loves, and poetry. Accurately evokes the period including having basically everyone smoke like chimneys); the snippets of Thomas poems are captivating, but if you are unfortunate, as I was, to not connect with any of the main four characters, the first 40 minutes of the film will seem tedious. Knightley is beautiful as always, and her character is supposed to be aloof, which is a perfect role for her. The problem, as with all her performances, is that all she offers is porcelain-doll aloofness – eventually, her character does unfold, but early on she gives the audience no emotion to latch on to. Where is does succeed is in telling the deterioration of returning war hero William (Cillian Murphy).

I found the ‘multiple funhouse mirror’ love scene both confusing and conflicting; I wanted to be aroused, but was too afraid that I might find the arousal was being caused by a bit of Cillian Murphy’s body, and not Keira Knightley’s – so I opted out. :) Rating: 2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Dylan Thomas's life is represented here, but John Maybury's hollow romantic drama is more interested in his women than in his literary art."
- Des Partridge (Courier Mail [Australia])

"While the period drama has several redeeming features, tonally it's all over the map, veering between artsy stylization and hum-drum, sometimes almost twee melodrama."
- Leslie Felperin (Variety)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Kill Me (2007)

Movie quotes:
Laurel (Tea Leoni): What do you do?
Frank (Ben Kingsley): I’m in personnel.
Laurel: Hiring?
Frank: Firing, more like.

"It isn't that I'm sorry I killed them; it's that I'm sorry I killed them badly."
- Frank

Stef (Marcus Thomas): Look, I know you think you know Frank pretty well, but there's probably a few things you're not gonna wanna hear.
Laurel: Like that he came back to Buffalo to kill Edward O'Leary so he could stop him and the rest of the Irish from getting into bed with some Chinese sugar daddy and wiping your family off the map? Oh, and he's a really big drunk.
Stef: [pauses] Wow. He's really opening up.

At a glance:
Ben Kingsley adds value to this light, slight, but extremely effective and enjoyable black comedy about an alcoholic hit man who is forced to change his ways

Our review:
Frank (Ben Kingsley) is an alcoholic hit man who finds drink is starting to compromise his job performance. When he sleeps through an important hit and it leads to the downfall of the Polish snow plowing mob he works for, he is banished to San Francisco to get sober. His path back is aided by his gay mentor Tom (Luke Wilson) and by love interest Laurel (Tea Leoni). There’s an almost clumsy divide between Kingsley’s quieter scenes in the film (he’s in a separate city for the most part, with Leoni and Wilson) and the inferior ‘mob’ scenes, but this just enhances Kingsley’s status as outsider. This would be a forgettable film if Kingsley and Leoni were not in it…but they are. Bill Pullman reappears as a sleazy, face-screwing real estate agent; if you’re accustomed to his charmingly bland roles from ten years ago, you’ll be impressed. Director John Dahl even evokes a beautiful, naturalistic performance from Luke Wilson. Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"An uneven black comedy-thriller that’s nonetheless worth catching for Téa Leoni’s bracingly sharp performance and the inspired idea of putting hit man Ben Kingsley into AA. Just focus on the well-etched characters and don’t worry too much about the plot."
- Tom Charity (Total Film)

"The film isn't without its flaws, but in defying Hollywood convention, it manages to reach parts other comedies cannot reach."
- Stella Papamichael (BBC)

"Not a masterpiece, mind you, nor the funniest thing you could see on a lazy summer afternoon; but a fine motion picture."
- Tim Brayton (Antagony & Ecstasy)

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Winnipeg (2007)


Movie quotes:
"Every day, the show runs at noon. The same over-sensitive man takes something said the wrong way, climbs out on a window ledge and threatens to jump. And every day, his mother appears at the nearest window and tells him to remember all the reasons for living. By the end of each episode, the son is convinced to come into safety. But the next day, he is back out there again."
- Narrator (Guy Maddin) describing the fictional Winnipeg television show ‘Ledge Man’

At a glance:
Guy Maddin’s semi-autobiographical documentary of his home town, Winnipeg, doesn’t always work, but there are some incredible gems of history and insight

Our review:
This documentary by writer/director/star Guy Maddin features archival and recreated footage of old Winnipeg, as Maddin documents his supposed attempt to leave his place of birth, despite the strong psychic ties that keep him from doing so.  In black and white, and combined with linking segments of a nodding-off man on a train ride, Maddin delivers the narration in a sleepwalking monotone. Some viewers may think he is trying to put them to sleep, too, but every time you start to nod off, there is a flash of outrageous history or modern wit to jar you back awake. Highlights include: Ledge Man, Sleepwalkers with keys, the Drowned Horses, Maddin’s ability to film in the style of old cinema, and the true (and somewhat true) history of Winnipeg. Meant to be seen not on home video, but in the darkened hollow of a theater, amid an open-minded film festival audience. Rating: 2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"(1) Shot for shot, Maddin can be as surprising and delightful as any filmmaker has ever been, and (2) he is an acquired taste, but please, sir, may I have some more?"
- Roger Ebert

"Given its unusual blend of fact and fiction, the film is a real head-scratcher. Like most -- if not all -- of Maddin's films, it's as bewildering as it is visually arresting. And yes, that means it's an acquired taste."
- Jeff Vice (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

"It's sometimes uneven, but it's glorious, too, with constantly churning invention and the guarantee that you have never seen anything like it before -- unless it came from Winnipeg and Guy Maddin."
- Shawn Levy (Oregonian)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sleuth (1972)


Movie quotes:
Inspector Doppler (Alec Cawthorne): Is there nothing you would not consider a game, sir? Duty; work; even marriage?
Andrew Wyke (Lawrence Olivier): Oh please, Inspector! Don’t include marriage. Sex! It's sex! Sex is the game - marriage the penalty.

At a glance:
Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine perform brilliantly in this sometimes stagey, occasionally over-the-top, and often incitefully clever battle of class, wit, humiliation, and murder

Our review:
Anthony Shaffer wrote the stage play and adapted it for the screen. Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine bring it to life. It’s a simple structure – for the most part, just two men in a house, having a battle of wits. One man (Caine) is sleeping with the other man’s wife, just to complicate matters. The other man wants some sort of revenge for this. But it goes much further than that. Olivier is brilliant, although the part he plays naturally calls for him to be hammy. Caine is, well, more than brilliant. His character is that of an up-and-coming hairdresser who owns two shops and has made the jump from poor Italian immigrant to someone who is a part of the British upper class, and he effortlessy slides back and forth between cockney and cultured. In fact, suffice it to say that the brilliance of Caine’s acting here will only be appreciated well into the film.  Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Joseph Mankiewicz directs this deft satire on the detective genre of literature that is both a metaphysical thriller and a psychological cliff-hanger."
- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat (Spirituality and Practice)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Machinist (2004)


Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh): Are you okay?
Trevor (Christian Bale): Don't I look okay?
Stevie: If you were any thinner, you wouldn't exist.

Ivan (John Sharian): You shootin’ coke or somethin’? You look like a dope fiend to me. No offense.
Trevor: I don’t use drugs. Normally, I don’t even drink.
Ivan: How ‘bout abnormally?

At a glance: Christian Bale produces a terrifyingly haunted, must-see performance as an emaciated insomniac living in his own personal nightmare, in this dark, moody, and effective film by talented director Brad Anderson

Having recently seen and been wildly impressed with Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian, I was interested in viewing this, his earlier work. In this film, Christian Bale is Trevor Resnik, and emaciated, lonely machinist. To call him an insomniac would be slightly understating his condition. His isolation, lack of sleep, and perhaps his life history combine to place him in a endless purgatory of existence, one in which the only escape may be to disappear – or face the truth. Bale is as haunted by his portrayal as we are; he is also frighteningly skeletal. I’ve seen many an anorexic woman, but I haven’t seen a man’s body this skinny since I gazed at photos from World War Two concentration camps. Reportedly, Bale dropped 60 pounds, from 180 to 120, for the role. Bale’s build looked especially shocking since just a couple of days ago, I saw him all bulked up in The Dark Knight. Brad Anderson’s compact and picture-perfect direction turns a somber, brooding story into images of dark poetry. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"An absorbing and eerie study of paranoia and psychological torment."
- Chuck O'Leary (Fantastica Daily)

"Anderson's use of lighting, editing, sound design, and score hit just the right nerve endings, creating a film that keeps turning over in your mental gears for days afterward."
- Brian Mckay (eFilmCritic.com)

"[Bale's] is a great performance, full of commitment and sacrifice, and The Machinist is one of the year's best films."
- Roger Moore (Orlando Sentinel)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The House Bunny (2008)


Shelley (Anna Faris): They're kicking me out?
Marvin: Maybe it's because of your age.
Shelley: But I'm 27.
Marvin (Owen Benjamin): But that's 59 in Bunny Years.

"Shell – just a quick little sidenote – uh, I don’t think some of the girls in this house have even seen their own bodies naked, so they probably don’t want to see your perfectly engineered boobs."
- Natalie (Emma Stone)

[After the mute Lily suddenly delivers a long soliloquy]
Natalie: Lily, you talked!
Carrie Mae (Dana Goodman): And you’re British?

At a glance: The story of a rejected Playboy bunny who becomes the House Mother for a misfit college sorority doesn’t have much going for it in either the plot or comedy area, but it somehow manages to be light and charmingly inept, and will be a pleasure to watch for any man who enjoys women dressed as hookers

Shelley (Anna Faris) is an orphan girl grows up into a beautiful woman and is ‘adopted’ into the Playboy mansion, where she becomes the ‘House Bunny’, the social organizer in a world of glitz, glamor, and parties. But all that ends abruptly when she is kicked out for being too old. Her next gig is as the house mother of a failed college sorority, when the 7 female members are tops as campus misfits and the target of jokes. Shelley’s new job is to make these girls appealing and save the doomed sorority. Lighter than a feather, the film occasionally shows no respect for the intelligence of the audience (it is no surprise that Adam Sandler’s name pops up on the production side), but on the positive side, it gives a talented cast of female comic actresses a chance to shine, and, or course, there are the multitude of women in bikinis and ‘lady of the evening’ attire. Faris’ performance varies from clumsy to brilliant; in a better director’s hands, she may very well shine in another film (but not this one). Hugh Hefner gets a C+ for his acting, as he proves that he’s much better at assembling a houseful of overendowed blondes than he is at delivering lines on camera. By the way, if Oliver’s face looks familiar, that could be because he is played by Colin Hanks (son of Tom). Rating: 2 of 4

"It's computer-written stuff, stiffly directed by first-timer Fred Wolf, but it's light and fun and sports a decent quota of passable gags."
- Jim Schembri (The Age [Australia])

"Depressingly for a film written by two women, it's relentlessly sexist in its insistence that, in order to attract men, women must appear brainless and dress like a hooker."
- Christopher Tookey (Daily Mail [UK])

"It is not a classic and it’s not going to win any awards but it is great, simple, stupid fun - it does exactly what it says on the tin."
- Heart 106.2

"There's a sublimely goofy tone to this profoundly inept film that keeps us smiling from start to finish."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)


Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale): [after running into Harvey and Rachel at a restaurant] So, let's put a couple tables together.
Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart): I'm not sure they'll let us.
Bruce Wayne: Oh, they should. I own the place.

Bruce Wayne: I need a new suit.
Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman): Yeah, three buttons is a little '90's, Mr. Wayne.
Bruce Wayne: I'm not talking fashion, Mr. Fox, so much as function.
[hands him a diagram]
Lucius Fox: You want to be able to turn your head.
Bruce Wayne: Sure would make backing out of the driveway easier.

"Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight."
- Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) [last lines]

At a glance: An A-grade cast, an epic story, and a very dark and evil villain (played to perfection by Heath Ledger) mark this long, intense, violent, and wildly successful  Batman film – the second time Christian Bale has donned the cape.

Batman is pitted against a brutally evil foe: the Joker. Christian Bale is back at Batman and Christopher Nolan is back to direct; for both, it is there second outing (Batman Begins was the first). This is an amazing action film with an amazing cast: read the first seven names, for example: (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman…and then further down to Cillian Murphy. This was, of course, Heath Ledger’s final performance before his untimely death. Ledger’s amazingly evil, thoroughly psychotic, and naturally quirky Joker provides a more than ample adversary for Bruce Wayne / Batman. It’s somewhat sad to think that Ledger’s very fate may have been shaped by his tendency to allow his roles to bleed into his real life (reportedly, he spent six weeks alone in his apartment studying and honing his performance – so sad to have lost an actor with his talent and dedication). Christian Bale brings a suave nonchalance to the role and could easily make James Bond green with envy. It’s established early on that this Joker is not a flamboyant jokester: he’s a sick, cold-blooded killer with some serious psychological problems. This is a darker, more violent Batman film, and this is not cartoon violence – people get shot in cold blood and don’t get up again (although it must be noted that almost all the violence happens off-screen). Rating: 3 of 4

"Can one great character carry an entire movie? ....the answer is obviously yes. Ledger does it."
- John J. Puccio (DVDTown.com)

"An amazing piece of filmmaking that rockets the Batman legacy to heights never imagined, fueled by Heath Ledger’s amazing re-invention of The Joker."
- Pete Hammond (Hollywood.com)

"The movie is two-and-a-half hours of almost non-stop action, which while often enthralling, eventually gets tiring. It's just go-go-go."
- Brie Beazley (Reel.com)

"Nolan gives in a bit to bloated-sequel syndrome ... but this is still one of the most riveting, trilling and wrenching movies of the year."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

"You will exit the cinema with an enhanced respect for Nolan's intelligence, for Wally Pfister's pin-sharp cinematography, and, sadly, for an acting talent tragically curtailed."
- Anthony Quinn (Independent)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pineapple Express (2008)


"It makes everything better! It makes food taste better; it makes music better; it makes sex feel better, for god’s sakes! It makes shitty movies better!"
- Dale Denton (Seth Rogen)

Saul (John Franco): Just sit back and get ready to enjoy some of the rarest weed known to mankind.
[he lights a joint and inhales]
Dale Denton: It's really that rare?
Saul: [exhales] It's, like, the rarest.
[he examines the joint]
Saul: It's almost a shame to smoke it. It's like killing a unicorn... with, like, a bomb.

At a glance: Judd Apatow’s normally reliable comedy hand wavers with this occasionally funny but mostly loud, violent, and annoying story of two potheads on the run

Two potheads are plunged into peril when one of them witnesses a drug-related gang murder. It’s rare for me to find a comedy that I want to fast-forward through. Usually, I don’t mind if there are unfunny stretches, as long I get a few good laughs from time to time. Pineapple Express delivers zero big laughs, and lots of dead stretches, making it unbearable. Occasionally, it is mildly funny (especially early on, when it nails the drug dealer / drug buyer relationship perfectly), and in its rare quieter moments, I could appreciate the chemistry between Seth Rogen, John Franco, and Danny R. McBride. But often it is  excruciatingly loud, unfunny, annoying, and ultimately violent – with lots of scenes where Dale and Saul yell in yet another one of their hysterical paranoid weed-induced frenzies. I would have appreciated less mindless noise and dribble, and more Amber Heard. This is a baby that Judd Apatow should have sent back to be rewritten, re-shot, or just rolled and burned. Rating: 1 of 4

"The theoretically fail-safe team of the writer/actor Seth Rogen and co-writer/ producer Judd Apatow – the Knocked Up duo – deliver a funnybone- clobbering spree with more energy than wit."
- Nigel Andrews (Financial Times)

"The first half-hour floats by on a cloud of mildly funny lines ("couscous – the food so nice they named it twice"), but then slumps into a derivative action caper that's weirdly and unappealingly reminiscent of Eighties dross like Beverly Hills Cop."
- Anthony Quinn (Independent Reviewer)

"Though there are funny one-liners early on, the script becomes increasingly lazy, while the violence which takes over the second half feels as if it belongs to a different picture."
- Christopher Tookey (Daily Mail [UK])

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Man on Wire (2008)

"If I die, what a beautiful death!"
- Philippe Petit

At a glance: James Marsh directs this compelling documentary about Philippe Petit, who, in 1974, walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center; Petit is mesmerizing, and the ups and down of his sometimes motley crew adds to the suspense

If you heard that a man desired to walk a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, you might think he is a psychotic with a death wish. Philippe Petit might be psychotic, but he developed his skill so completely that he was the only man capable of safely walking between the towers. And that’s just what he did in 1974, for an amazing 45 minutes and 8 crossings. This documentary about Petit is not only the study of a dedicated performer with a burning passion for his art, it also serves as a nice homage to the now-deceased World Trade Center. Copious footage of a young Petit and his crew are melded to good effect with current interviews. It perhaps bogs down just a little during the relatively long sequence dealing with setting up the required  equipment. Rating: 2.75 of 4

"James Marsh's documentary is the story of the dreaming and scheming that went into the walk, which I hesitate to call a stunt. It seems too glib a word for a feat that inspired the poignant complex of emotions uncovered by Marsh's narrative."
- Sandra Hall (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Marsh uses a combination of interviews, film of Petit as a young man, authentic newsreels and enacted reconstructions to produce an unforgettable experience."
- Evan Williams (The Australian)

"The simplicity of Philippe's vision is intoxicating, as is his self-assurance."
- FILMINK (Australia)

"It's a hell of a story, and Petit is a mesmerising storyteller, with an extravagantly poetic turn of phrase and the glittering eye of the Ancient Mariner."
- Jake Wilson (The Age [Australia])

"It's a story worth telling, yes -- but after 90 minutes, it's hard not to wonder if the storyteller can talk about anything else."
- Noel Murray (Onion AV Club)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)


Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf): You’re - a teacher?
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford): Part-time.

Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen): I'm sure I wasn't the only one to go on with my life. There must have been plenty of women for you over the years.
Indiana Jones: There were a few. But they all had the same problem.
Marion Ravenwood: Yeah, what's that?
Indiana Jones: They weren't you, honey.

At a glance: Despite his age, Harrison Ford stills seems naturally suited to playing Indiana Jones in this invigorating remake/homage that benefits from an ambitious, clever script and Steven Spielberg’s loving direction

Harrison Ford returns after a 19 year hiatus as an older, but still spritely Indiana Jones. This time, he is involved in a Russian plot to steal a crystal skull that may have special powers. The story takes place in 1957’s climate of communist hysteria that affects Jones too; despite his record as a hero, he is suspected of being a sympathizer. His adventure begins in a military warehouse that made an appearance in the first film (and there is a quick homage to that) and ends with Mayan ruins and spinning saucers. In between, Indy fights, wisecracks, and jumps from moving vehicles just like the old days. Of course, Indy needs an obligatory wise-cracking slacker teen-age sidekick (Shia LeBeouf) to appeal to the younger movie-going demographic. Other talented supporting cast members Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, and John Hurt help to lift this beyond the typical action film, as does the obvious huge budget. But it’s Ford, seeming so much at home in this role, who makes it worthwhile. Quite frankly, it is by far the best work that Ford has done in a long time (his latter-day efforts and films have often been disappointing). Ford got himself into excellent physical shape so that he could do many of his own stunts.

Steven Spielberg again demonstrates his talent as an action director; the long action sequences (except for the last one, which, for some reason, is too ambitious to work) are as good or better than the best of the other Indy films. Perhaps because the action sequences are so good, the talky scenes in between often seem a little boring, especially some of the early ones. Rating: 3 of 4

"Fun, entertaining, genuinely amusing, and made with an abundance of what appears to be honest-to-god warmth, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is a worthy addition to one of the great movie franchises."
- Erin Free (FILMINK [Australia])

"In spite of an over reliance on CG, and one too many obvious moments of George Lucas-involved tomfoolery, this is a great piece of studio-produced escapist entertainment."
- Garth Franklin (Dark Horizons)

"At its best, sublime. Overall, the great moments make up for the mediocre."
- Michael Adams (Empire Magazine Australasia)

"While we can never go home again completely, 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' reminds us of why we fell in love with Indiana Jones in the first place."
- Lori Hoffman (Atlantic City Weekly)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)


"When an individual acquires great power, the use or misuse of that power is everything. Will it be used for the greater good? Or will it be used for personal or for destructive ends? Now this is a question we must all ask ourselves. Why? Because we are mutants."
- Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)

At a glance: The third X-Men movie has many moments of high drama and action, but they come at the expense of violating the X-Men canon; and, once again, some viewers may find it difficult to feel empathy toward our heroes. But it’s still a lot of fun to watch

When a ‘cure’ is discovered that can make mutants normal, it becomes a rallying point for Magneto to amass an army. Among others, he enlists Jean, whose violent personality (known as Phoenix) has been unleashed, resulting in the deaths of some of our familiar gang of mutants. I have the feeling that this movie branched away from the established canon of the comic to make it a better film. It worked for me, because I am not familiar with X-Men canon, but I am familiar with canon in Star Trek and how some fans writhe in pain when it is not adhered to according to their standards. It must have been terrifyingly disgusting for those that are and that care about such things in the X-Men universe.

I’ve never been able to fully connect emotionally with X-Men. I’m not sure why that is. All the elements are there – drama, action, a name cast performing and directed well – although Brett Ratner is inferior to Brian Singer. But somehow, I can’t make myself care about the characters as much as I’d like. Nonetheless the powerful ending sequence did finally grab my emotions just a little.

By the way, here’s another Star Trek-related comment: when Xavier visits Jean early on in the movie, Patrick Stewart is made to look younger  – perhaps around 30 - using digital technology, and it works. So if anyone has any doubt of his ability to keep doing Star trek movies…he looks like he could keep going for 20 more years. Too bad this isn’t going to happen – I love listening to his delivery. As I’ve said many times before, he can even make bad scripts sound like Shakespeare. Rating: 2.5 of 4

"Whilst those involved didn't save the best for last, they have delivered a film worthy of the title and an entertaining little vehicle to boot."
- Garth Franklin (Dark Horizons)

"It has no passion, no connection to where we are now, and in a series whose stories have heretofore spoken dark truths about American intolerance, that matters."
- Rob Gonsalves (eFilmCritic.com)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Burn After Reading (2008)


Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand): Does he look like he would have a sense of humor?
Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt): Looks like his optometrist has a sense of humor.

"PC or Mac?"
- Russian diplomat, asking an important question about a CD containing state secrets.

At a glance: The Coen Brothers comedy of intersecting lives in Washington is polished and very well-acted, but is surprisingly meaningless, almost devoid of humor, and is populated by unappealing, stupid characters.

A state department consultant (John Malkovich) gets demoted and quits his job in anger, setting off a series of revealed affairs, divorces, espionage, and other calamities. It’s really a simple, highly meaningless plot of mistaken identity, populated with unappealing and/or stupid characters, but a combination of the Coen polished direction and a truly stellar cast make it worth watching. For me, the Coens recently have walked a fine line: they often create eccentric characters; sometimes, they still respect these characters and make them likeable (Intolerable Cruelty) but other times, they insult their characters, making them so torturously stupid as to be unappealing (O Brother Where Art Thou). This is definitely a case of the latter. And, for a comedy, I laughed hardly at all (mostly at the end, as the patter between the two CIA agents about how meaningless the story was finally got to me). This movie had a slight latter-day-Woody-Allen feel to it: professional, polished, filled with A-grade stars dieing to work with talented writer/directors with a huge reputation, yet somehow still lacking in purpose. And of course, like their previous effort (No Country For Old Men), it has a couple of moments of shocking violence that this time are supposed to be funny, but aren’t.

Movie connections: When Chad (Brad Pitt) meets with Osborne Cox, he uses the code name ‘Mr Black’. Coincidentally, Pitt starred in a movie called ‘Meet Joe Black’. Rating: 2.25 of 4

"Big stars act like darn fools in this broad black comedy, a lesser effort from the Coen Brothers."
- Kevin Lally (Film Journal International)

"Burn After Reading is a disposable lark, and it's treated by the filmmakers as such; Forget After Seeing would be a far more honest title."
- David Fear (Time Out Sydney)

"Even black comedy requires that the filmmakers love someone, and the mock cruelties in Burn After Reading come off as a case of terminal misanthropy."
- David Denby (New Yorker)

"Burn After Reading is untranscendent, a little tired, the first Coen brothers picture on autopilot. In the words of the CIA superior, it’s 'no biggie.'"
- David Edelstein (New York Magazine)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Square (2008)


"We have to take it, Ray. We have to take it."
- Carla (Claire van der Boom)

At a glance: Fine acting and a clever script lift this Australian thriller about an affair and a heist that go horribly wrong.

Ray (David Roberts) is a middle-aged married man having a secret affair with the younger, married Carla (Claire van der Boom). When Carla pressures Ray to follow through on his promises to leave his wife and run away with her, he agrees to steal a bag of cash from her dodgy husband. Trouble ensues, and it’s great to watch how far Ray will go – first, to bring passion to what he must feel is his stagnated life, and second, to try to cover up his sins. This thriller has all the normal plot points of the genre, but, as they say, the devil is in the details, and the Australian actors and setting, along with some clever ways of interweaving the plot (such as Santa having to leave the picnic to fight a fire) make it more than worth watching. Talented director Nash Edgerton elicits powerful, modulated performances from the cast. It misses being a classic only because of an ending that is perhaps not as imaginative as it could have been.Rating: 2.75 of 4

"Though it falls ever so short of being tagged as great, this accomplished and genuinely gripping crime drama is worthy of your time, money and attention."
- Leigh Paatsch (Herald Sun [Australia])

"It’s filled with tasty elements, intriguing characters and a strong sense of place."
- David Stratton (At the Movies [Australia])


Monday, November 3, 2008

Tropic Thunder (2008)


"Man, I don't drop character 'till I done the DVD commentary."
- Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr)

At a glance: Ben Stiller’s over-the-top action/comedy about the making of a war movie is high on volume but low on laughs

A bunch of actors with varying degrees of talent and drug addictions are plunged into the middle of a drug cartel in Asia when their performances in a war movie are not deemed up to scratch. Ben Stiller directs and stars as the semi-talented action hero Tugg Speedman in this ‘comedy’ that is low on laughs and high on loud and gross-out raunchy humor. It works much better as an action movie than a comedy; by those standards, action movies buffs will probably love it. Robert Downey’s performance as a white Australian playing a black man (in full makeup) is both brilliant and offensive; I got a real hoot out of his brief lines delivered in a pretty solid Australian accent. The ‘Scorcher’ trailer that precedes the movie was the funniest moment for me everything went downhill after that. One note: the film is at least partially redeemed by the casting of a big star in a role (and makeup) that makes him basically unrecognizable (I refuse to give any more away and risk that someone reading this will miss out on the surprise). Rating: 2 of 4

"Nothing but mild vulgarity mixed with explosions and entitlement, a piss-take on Hollywood excess that doubles as an example of it."
- Time Out Sydney

"This comedy about movie-making that allows the cast to play knowingly with their careers and public personae. But the film feels only half as funny as it should be, falling back too often on big action sequences that are too ridiculous to work on any level."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

"Stiller can do battles and pyrotechnics, no worries there, Tropic Thunder has more explosions than Krakatoa, yet he can't make 'em laugh - not consistently and not for near on two ponderous hours."
- Chris Laverty (Mansized)

Friday, October 31, 2008

White Noise 2: The Light (2007)


"If you save, you must kill."
- Henry Caine (Craig Fairbrass)

At a glance: Nathan Fillion stars as a man whose near-death experience gives him the power to tell which people are about to die, in this stylishly entertaining but uneven supernatural horror film

Abe (Nathan Fillion) watches his wife and son die at the hands of a deranged gunman. Distraught, he attempts suicide, but is pulled back from the dead. Afterward, he sees strange auras around some people. Realizing that these auras mean the people are about to die, he finds purpose in life again by saving them – but it’s not as straightforward as all that. Fillion is a powerful actor who runs from scene to scene, saving lives, and does his best with a script that occasionally dips into silliness. Katee Sakhoff (Starbuck from the new Battlestar Galactica series) is wonderful to look at and does an admirable job as Abe’s love interest. Nothing bad can be said about the imaginative, stylish direction by Patrick Lussier; he sets the mood perfectly and allows his creative camera angles and beautiful (and beautifully gruesome) images to shine. The scares are mostly generated by the occasional appearance of gruesome walking corpses. They seem incongruous (but effective) in a movie that is mostly a serious attempt to look at the phenomena of near-death experiences. Trivia: Listen closely to find the tiny reference to Fillion’s work as Captain Reynolds in the television series Firefly. Rating: 2.5 of 4

"...Fillion's stellar work ensures that one can generally overlook the film's various inadequacies..."
- David Nusair (Reel Film Reviews)

"A few cheap jolts, a handful of clever ideas, and just enough energy and creativity to make it across the finish line."
- Scott Weinberg (FEARnet)


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)


Nurse (Willow Geer): Doctor! Doctor!
Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly): I'm so cold.
Doctor (David Doty): We need more blankets.
Nurse: We need more blankets!
Nurse: Doctor!
Dewey Cox: I'm so hot!
Nurse: I think he has too many blankets.
Doctor: Fewer blankets!
Dewey Cox: I'm hot and cold at the same time!
Nurse: He needs more blankets and he needs less blankets.
Doctor: I'm afraid you're right.

At a glance: This mockumentary about a fictional Johnny Cash-like musician has high production values and some good quality music, but the jokes are a little thin

In the world of the ‘mockumentary’ (Mock Rock Documentary), This Is Spinal Tap set the bar very high. Walk Hard attempts to compete (in my psyche, anyway) with the great Tap, and comes up a little short. Sure there are great songs and period attire as we follow Dewey Cox’s musical career and personal life from the 50s to the present, but not much of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Dewey (John C Reilly) does do one hilarious duet with Darlene (Jenna Fischer) (called Let’s Duet) where the double entendres slip out due to pauses. But for an unusually long 2 hour comedy, the jokes are few and far between. Too much time is spent trying to lend believability to the story of a very Johnny Cash-like country singer who rips the nearest sink out of the wall whenever he gets upset. I’m not sure if this movie doesn’t work because the script isn’t funny enough, or because John C. Reilly, a talented supporting player, does not have the screen presence for such a demanding role. Or it could simply be that I’m not Judd Apatow’s number one admirer. Rating: 2.25 of 4

"Walk Hard runs down quickly, and suffers further from having the wide-eyed and weightless Reilly as its star."
- David Denby (New Yorker)

"This burlesque of biopic cliches flounders from one setup to the next without the engine that drives the genre: a strong central character."
- Jim Ridley (Village Voice)

"The one area where ‘Walk Hard’ does manage to hold its own against classics of the genre such as ‘This is Spinal Tap’ or ‘Sweet and Lowdown’ is the music, all of which is expertly written and performed."
- David Jenkins (Time Out)


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Transsiberian (2008)



Emily Mortimer and Eduardo Noriega

"Kill off all my demons, Roy, and my angels might die, too."
- Jessie (Emily Mortimer)

"In Russia, we say that with lies you may go forward in the world, but you may never go back."
- Grinko (Ben Kingsley)

At a glance: Brad Anderson’s thought-provoking thriller places the viewer on the Trans-Siberian Express, as two Americans chance meeting with a seasoned traveler leads to dangerous destinations

The Transsiberian Express serves as the backdrop for this story of passengers Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer), a couple with marital problems who are heading for Moscow after taking part in a church-sponsored event in Beijing. On the train, they share a berth with Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), a much-traveled free-spirit, and his young companion Abby (Kate Mara). Jessie’s wild past is awakened by the allure of Carlos’s irresponsible, charm…with disastrous results. Ben Kingsley is excellent in a small but pivotal role. The clever script allows Mortimer to reveal her story in pieces, with each piece doled out to different characters, which creates a complex web of relationships. All of the actors are on their A game here, with Mortimer and Noriega as standouts, each managing to convey their characters in intriguing shades of gray that will leave you pondering their actions, motivations, and morals. Even Harrelson’s character, seemingly as one-dimensional as they come, has depth. Director Brad Anderson skillfully extracts these performances, as well as setting the claustrophobic mood of train travel, combined with the sometimes confusing and threatening fish-out-of-water feeling that can engulf the overseas traveler. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"It's not often that I feel true suspense and dread building within me, but they were building during long stretches of this expertly constructed film."
- Roger Ebert

"...a tight and terse thriller."
- Chris Barsanti (Filmcritic.com)

"Like Hitchcock films, however, Transsiberian can engage the audience's intellect even while it sets pulses racing."
- Curt Holman (Creative Loafing)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)


Sean (Josh Hutcherson) What, you’ve never seen a dinosaur before?
Trevor (Brendan Fraser): Not with skin on it!

"I just remembered…I hate fieldwork!"
- Trevor

At a glance: Brendan Fraser is his career-defining persona as a likable adventurer in this lower-budget but entertaining re-telling of the classic Jules Verne story

Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) has more problems than his students yawning during his lectures; he is also about to be kicked out of his lab. It probably isn’t the best time for him to have to ‘babysit’ Sean, the disgruntled teenage son of his deceased brother (and fellow scientist), Max. A little exploration of Max’s copy of the book Journey to the Center of the Earth reveals notes about seismic activity that seems to be occurring again. Excited, Trevor grabs Sean and they head for Iceland to investigate. There, they hook up with Hannah (Anita Briem), the daughter of another deceased scientist. Hannah agrees to be their guide. A simple trip to investigate a seismic sensor leads the trio into a descent toward the center of the earth, where they find unique beauty and danger. Rollicking, light, and good fun, this well-paced adventure yarn is unabashedly targeted toward tweens. It might be a little scary for some kids under 7. Brendan Fraser has made a career from playing these kinds of roles: the funny, lovable adventurer who wisecracks his way to success. Lovely Icelandic actress Anita Briem adds a natural beauty and exotic charm to what could have been nothing more than a sidekick part. The special effects are low-budget, but most kids (and adults) won’t care; you just have to augment them with your imagination, rather than relying on Spielberg. It will awaken the inner Vernian lurking in all of us! Rating: 2.75 of 4

"Fraser salvages his reputation as a solid, matinee-style action hero in this family-oriented fantasy."
- Vicki Roach (Daily Telegraph [Australia])

"Most of the movie, directed by Eric Brevig, is as daft, outlandish, and speedy as it needs to be, and, for all its newfangled effects, touchingly old-fashioned in its reverence for the Jules Verne novel that inspired it."
- Anthony Lane (New Yorker)

"Brendan Fraser's playful force of personality rules, 3D or no 3D, one of the few funny guys who could grab attention away from a dinosaur in assault mode, in the center of the earth or anywhere else on the planet."
- Prairie Miller (NewsBlaze)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wanted (2008)

"This is me taking back control of my life. What the fuck have you done lately?"
- Wesley (James McAvoy)

At a glance: In his first mainstream Hollywood movie, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov goes way over the top with a violent, blood-spurting, often achingly silly film featuring one of the most obnoxious, unredeeming heroes ever seen.

Wanted is about a nervous, downtrodden young man who finds that his true fate is to be the top dog in a fraternity of world-stabilizing assassins that get instructions on who to kill next by reading irregular threads delivered by a ‘loom of fate’. Yes, that’s right, a loom of fate. Why are you looking at me like that? Oh, it’s because I’m not Morgan Freeman – when he delivers the line, he makes it sound credible. There’s in-your-face violence from the get go, as multiple 2-D bullets fly toward your head and into multiple skulls, which explode in a banquet of red. This continues pretty much throughout the picture, culminating in a loud, non-stop bullet bloodfest complete with heavy metal music. The superhero qualities and comic book origins of the assassins perhaps might blend better with comic book violence, but instead we get a more Tarantino/Rodriguez reality. There’s style galore – lots of super-slo-mo, etc. If you’re not grossed out, you’ll be thoroughly entertained. Unfortunately, I did not like the way this film glorified violence. It ends with a powerful call to arms that scarily seemed to speak to the sniper in all of us. Do we really need people to love guns more and to get more riled up?

As if that wasn’t enough, we top it all off with a scene that celebrates animal cruelty in a way that is so far over the top that I suppose someone thought it was funny. But why then use rats? Why not go the whole way and blow up 600 baby fur seals?

Wanted also features a near-staple of many action films: the young, annoying character (usually male), meant to cater to the younger movie-going audience. In this case, it’s James McAvoy, who, it must be said, is very good at being annoying (I’m not sure if that is a compliment or an insult; again, like the exploding heads, this will lie in the eyes of the beholder). Angelina Jolie and Terence Stamp round out the cast. Marc Warren, a personal favorite of mine from the great British TV show Hustle, has a small, virtually non-speaking role, and is killed in a stomach-churning, mindlessly brutal, sick way. Rating: 0 of 4

"Never has a mainstream movie made more of a fetish from splattered brains."
- Stephen Himes (Film Snobs)

"For any red-blooded, alpha male who loves to masturbate while armed - this is your movie."
- Garth Franklin (Dark Horizons)

"The most interesting thing about Wanted is that its protagonist is one of the most unlikable action heroes in memory."
- Bryant Frazer (Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus)

"As the body count rises, so does the portentous tone, and the relentlessness of Bekmambetov's overamped style becomes oppressive."
- David Ansen (Newsweek)


Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Host (2006) (aka Gwoemul)

Young Korean Doctor (Brian Rhee): But, you know, this is not just any toxic chemicals -
US Doctor in Morgue (Scott Wilson): The Han River is very broad, Mr. Kim. Let's try to be broad-minded about this. Anyway, that's an order. So, start pouring.

Park Nam-il (Hae-il Park): Look at that... Isn't that amazing? In this situation?
Park Nam-Joo (Du-na Bae): Wake him up, there's no time.
Park Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon): Let him sleep a minute. He needs to sleep every so often.
Park Nam-il: Should we leave him here? He's no help anyway?
Park Hie-bong: Kids, wait a minute. Sit down. In your view, is Gang-du really so pathetic?
Park Nam-il: Yup.
Park Nam-Joo: Yes.

At a glance: This Korean mutated monster movie scores plenty of points for campily combining scares, laughs, and pathos

Toxic chemicals dumped in the Han River of Korea breeds a mutated version of the Loch Ness monster that seems to have an appetite for humans as snacks. It gets personal when a young dad watches it wrap his daughter around its tail and spirit her back to its lair. You can laugh without reservation at the over-the-top grieving scene, meant to provide a huge hint that there’s probably nothing to grieve about - yet. But there are also strong emotions generated as this family bands together to try to save the missing girl. The unusual script features a young, irresponsible father with an undying devotion to saving his daughter. The missing girl’s sister, a bronze medal archer, spends the entire film wandering the sewers in a track suit, carrying a bow and arrow. The motivations of the beast itself are also cleverly hidden; the optimists in the audience may even believe that it is benign on some level (for awhile, anyway). On a limited budget, SFX company The Orphanage creates a unique CGI beastie, and director Joon-ho Bong uses clever locations and visuals to fashion a unique monster movie. Rating: 3 of 4

"Alternately scary, funny and inspiring, Bong Joon-ho’s first-class monster mash is also a scalding rebuke to U.S. interventionism, profiteering and general developing-world opportunism, and a lovely story of familial bonding. In a word, amazing."
- Ian Grey (Orlando Weekly)

"The creature is aquatic, acrobatic but definitely not angelic, in this idiosyncratic mix of creature feature and horror thriller, with a dash of slapstick, and a pinch of black humour."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)

"A rather tender-hearted, often sorrowful, more often hilarious view on the familial conflicts between generations and between siblings."
- Tim Brayton (Antagony & Ecstasy)

"It packs an emotional kick that we don't expect from a movie where a giant iguana is running around with human legs dangling out of his mouth like stray pieces of linguini."
- Rob Thomas (Capital Times [Madison, WI]


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baby Mama (2008)

Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver): Our surrogacy fee is $100,000.
Kate (Tina Fey): It costs more to have someone born than to have someone killed!
Chaffee Bicknell: It takes longer.

Carl (Dax Shepard): My first thought about Angie carrying someone else's baby? I thought... My wife is gonna have sex with somebody else's husband to do this?...
Angie: - Out of the question...
Carl: - that's gonna cost extr - out of the question, right. Out of the question.

Angie: You went out with him?
Kate: I did.
Angie: Why?
Kate: Oh, he's beautiful.
Angie: Where?

Your stupid space car locked me in!
- Angie

At a glance: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler add a twist in this often-funny comedy about an odd couple bringing a baby to term

Its 2008, and every movie has virtually been made before. Many times over. So if you are going to churn out another baby comedy, you need something different to set it off from the rest. Baby Mama has that something different: atypically, it’s got two talented comediennes in the lead roles. Tina Fey, currently right in the middle of her fame boosting turns as the dead-ringer Sarah Palin imitator, stars here as a highly successful corporate vice-president of a health food company, who, at the age of 37, gets bitten by the baby bug. Unable to conceive in more conventional ways, she turns to a surrogate, which leads her to ‘white trash’ Amy Poehler. Circumstances force them to have to live together, which leads to a few more problems, as do a couple of major twists in the story. It isn’t the funniest comedy ever made, but there are more than enough laughs to carry it, especially if you have gone through some of these types of dramas yourself. Good supporting work from Sigourney Weaver, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, and Romany Malco also helps. Rating: 2.5 of 4

"A lightweight romantic comedy that's to be welcomed, if only for the fact it offers juicy roles to talented writer-actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler."
- Christopher Tookey (Daily Mail [UK])

"There are plenty of laughs in this likeable and uplifting comedy that puts its own twist on life, love, relationships and babies."
- Louise Keller (Urban Cinefile)


Monday, October 13, 2008

Zodiac (2007)

Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal): Did he say they got a print?
Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr): A partial.
Robert Graysmith: Whoa. Dude, he wears his gun like Bullitt.
Paul Avery: No, McQueen got that from Toschi.
Robert Graysmith: Does he think that Zodiac's gonna send another code? 'Cause I think Zodiac's gonna send another code.
Paul Avery: Jesus Harold Christ on rubber crutches, Bobby, what are you doing? You're doing that thing. The thing that we discussed, the thing that I don't like, starts with an L...
Robert Graysmith: Oh, looming.
Paul Avery: Yeah.

"Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote... Not that I haven't been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose."
- Paul Avery

At a glance: Director David Fincher’s docudrama about the Zodiac serial killer runs just short of 3 hours, and uses that time recreate a highly detailed, often intense criminal investigation slash period piece

In 1968 and 1969, a serial killer who called himself the Zodiac and ‘distinguished’ himself by writing letters accompanied by coded ciphers, attacked 7 people in Northern California, killing 5. Over the years, the letters continued, with the Zodiac claiming to have killed more than 37 people, although no other murders were confirmed to be done by him. The murder investigation went on for years and yielded some promising suspects, none of whom could be linked to the killings by any more than circumstantial evidence. Zodiac the movie is a docudrama that focuses on three people who tried to track the killer: reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr), Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal). The screenplay is based on Graysmith’s book. Talented director David Fincher takes on much more than just doing a doco of the Zodiac killer: he creates a period piece populated by fleshed out characters where the Zodiac killing is the glue in their stories, but, even without it, the movie would still be a good movie. Carefully captures the history of the period, through sets, music, and topical references (for example, a characters discusses Melvin Belli’s appearance on Star Trek and its subsequent cancellation – which is a nice little homage to Trek, I must say). Rating: 3.5 of 4

"[W]here Se7en, with its stygian gloom and theatrical executions, inflated the serial killer genre to gothic proportions, Zodiac lets the air back out. It is methodical rather than macabre, clinical rather than cruel."
- Christopher Orr (New Republic)

"Not until well into its second hour does it settle on a theme: the need to know the truth, and the dismal toll of that futile obsession."
- Peter Keough (Boston Phoenix)

"David Fincher's sixth feature potently blends the dynamics of the newsroom drama with those of the police procedural."
- Graham Fuller (Sight and Sound)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Visitor (2007)

Mouna (Hian Abbass): Which one is she?
Walter (Richard Jenkins): The one closest to us.
Mouna: The black one? That is Zainab? She’s very black.

Walter: Tariq is teaching me the drum.
Mouna: How is that going?
Walter: Well, I sound a lot better when he’s playing with me.

At a glance: Richard Jenkins understated performance as a grieving husband who reaches out to casual acquaintances in a time of need touches on larger, global issues: immigration law, fear of terrorism, and the need for solidarity amongst peoples of varying backgrounds

Walter (Richard Jenkins), a stodgy professor who is caught within the web of his own grief, has a life-changing experience when he inadvertently becomes involved with a young couple from Syria/ Senegal, both recently arrived in New York. When their life changes for the worst, he tries to help right the wrongs. It starts as a redemption story for a grieving man, and even on those modest terms, it is fantastic, then suddenly the story becomes about so much more: an examination of how the arbitrary boundaries of countries are used to validate atrocities of justice done to innocent people. I was reminded of another, larger idea when watching this film: although the leaders and extremists in various cultures (western and eastern) tend to stress the differences between people and their ideologies, at the heart of it, whether you wear a kufi or a cowboy hat, you basically want and need the same things: food, shelter, and safety for your family, friends and neighbors. Miraculously, writer/director Tom McCarthy is able to present these ideas within the framework of a movie that gently and poetically portrays the bonds of love that bind us. Quiet, powerful, small, and beautiful. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"The beautifully restrained performance by [Richard] Jenkins is the anchor of a film built around complex characters and quiet moments."
- Robert Davis (Paste Magazine)

"Cuts across one of the West's most contentious political issues without ever getting political. And it features a terrific lead performance from Jenkins."
- Rich Cline (Film Threat)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

Penny (Felicia Day): You're not really interested in the homeless, are you?
Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris): No, I am, but... it's a symptom. You're treating a symptom while the disease rages on, consumes the human race. The fish rots from the head, so they say. So I'm thinking, why not cut off the head?
Penny: [pause] Of the human race?
Dr. Horrible: It's not a... perfect metaphor.

Dr. Horrible: Sorry I come on so strong.
Penny: But you signed [the petition]

Dr. Horrible: I’m Dr. Horrible! I’ve got a PhD in Horribleness!
Moist (Simon Helberg): [unimpressed] Is that the new catch-phrase?

Dr. Horrible: I want to be an achiever, like Bad Horse.
Penny: [surprised] The thoroughbred of sin?
Dr. Horrible: I meant Ghandi.

"It’s a good day to be homeless."
- Newscaster (reporting on the news of a new homeless shelter)

"The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it."
- Dr. Horrible

"Billy, You're driving a spork into your leg!"
- Penny

Captain Hammer: This is so nice / I just might sleep with the same girl twice / They say it's better the second time / They say you get to do the weird stuff.
Groupies: We do the weird stuff.

"Justice has a name, and the name that it has, besides Justice, is Captain Hammer."
- Mayor

At a glance: Joss Whedon’s rock opera about an inept wannabe evil doctor is a typical Whedon dark/light comedy, where the line between villain and hero in thin. Released directly to the Internet, it’s funny, clever, well-written – and the songs are great, too.

Back when Joss Whedon was making Buffy episodes, a friend sent me a memorable one: Buffy: The Musical. All the characters did their usual zombie/monster fighting, but sung and danced their way through the episode. The songs were great to listen to, and the episode was fun – and funny. Now, years later, in a way to keep working during the Hollywood writer’s strike, Joss has created a new short film, released directly to the Internet, that uses the same concept. Billy/Dr. Horrible () is an aspiring evil scientist who, more than anything, wants entry into the Evil League of Evil. To do so, he has to apply and get approval from the League Leader, and unseen evil entity named Bad Horse. Each time Bad Horse corresponds (either by letter or phone), his message is relayed by three singing cowboys who pop up into the borders of the shot wearing blatantly fake moustaches. Dr. Horrible’s other goal is to get serious with Penny, a girl he often sees at the laundromat. But standing in his way is Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion) a self-absorbed, misogynistic ‘superhero’. Through circumstance, Penny falls in love with Hammer, which pleases the good on the outside/ bad on the inside Hammer to no end: he’s not only going to get the girl, but his arch-rival Dr. Horrible isn’t. Clever, unique, and fun, it’s not only great to watch, but as soon as it ended, I wanted to start it up again. When the DVD comes out, I’ll be sure to get it, as a way of supporting Joss and his work. Rating: 3 of 4

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a writer's strike baby, and far more interesting than dumb and skeevy reality TV shows like Moment of Truth. It's a 44 minute web musical, done on a low budget. I'd suggest downloading Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog from iTunes, but I have to admit, I'm waiting for the DVD. Why? I'll tell you why. The commentary is a musical, that's why. And that is, undeniably, totally cool."
- Lissa (MutantReviewers.com)