Saturday, January 26, 2008

Boytown (2006)

At a glance: This ‘small’ Australian comedy isn’t big on laughs, but it does well to combine a unique concept (a middle-aged boy band, catering to mature-age women) with some nice character moments and understated acting.

Benny G (Glenn Robbins) is a happily married middle-aged man with a 14 year old daughter, and he teaches dance at her high school. But every once in a while, he goes down to his den to stare at the album covers and gold records, and to reminisce about his days of stardom in the boy band Boytown (population: 5). Believing that they once again can be stars, and perhaps to make up for breaking up the band all those years ago to pursue a disastrous solo career, he rounds up the former members to pull them away from their day jobs. Carl (Wayne Hope), the one everyone thought was gay, works in construction. Bobby Mac (Bob Franklin) is a college lecturer. Corey (Gary Eck) is a DJ in a small country town. And Tommy Boy (Mick Molloy) is a couch potato who lives with his ‘gran’ and bets on dog races. Their first foray back into music is disastrous, ruined by the flawed idea of older men singing in a genre that is aimed at young girls, and it doesn’t help when the white stallions they were supposed to ride down the beach don’t show up for the music video shoot, and are instead replaced by Shetland ponies. But then Benny comes up with a great idea – aiming their music at the women who loved the band as teens and are now married with children. With songs like Love Handles, Dishpan Hands, Cellulite Lady, and Picking The Kids Up From School, the guys land a number one hit and a world tour. But just as things seem to be reaching the pinnacle, a botched lip-synched concert and conflicts within the band cause Benny to leave. Will the guys patch things up in time to sing live at the Aria Awards Ceremony?

Boytown was written by brothers Mick and Richard Molloy, who also wrote the Australian comedy Crackerjack. Both comedies are similar – played straight, never going for the big laughs, with relaxed, naturalistic acting, and some character drama thrown in (along with some touches and jokes that only Australians will get). Some of the lyrics of the Boytown songs are a little cringworthy, but the guys get away with it because they really seem to believe in the words. It’s not a great film by any means, but the original concept, some unique moments, and the general mood are enough to make it worthwhile.

Behind the scenes: Tony Martin, long-time collaborator with Mick Molloy (he plays the Michael Moore-like doco film-maker) reportedly did make a documentary showing the real story of Boytown. The doco (called ‘Boytown Confidential’), which is rumored to be funnier than the movie itself, which excluded from the DVD release, which has reportedly caused a rift between Martin and Molloy. As of 26 Jan 2008, ‘Boytown Confidential’ has yet to be screened. Rating: 2.75 of 4

"BoyTown is a gem of an idea – something Dave Dobkin or Ben Stiller are going to be kicking each other nuts-first for not dreaming up earlier – that transcends beautifully to the screen."
- Clint Morris (MovieHole)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Walk the Line (2005)

"My problem is that it's 2 A.M. My problem is I'm asleep. I'm on a tour bus with eight stinkin' men. Rule number one: Don't propose to a girl on a bus, you got that? Rule number two: Don't tell her it's because you had a bad dream."
- June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) to Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix)

I’m not a fan of fictionalized film biographies. I’m of the belief that a biography is better served by a well-crafted documentary. But Walk the Line is no ordinary biography. Country singer Johnny Cash chose Joaquin Phoenix for this role, and Cash was right: it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing a better job at portraying him. Phoenix is excellent, easily handling Cash’s quiet turmoil and confusion, but also able to notch it up into pill-popping angry star mode where required. He even pulls a sink out of the wall in one scene, adding his own unscripted touch. As good as Phoenix is, Reese Witherspoon (as June Carter) is even better. Witherspoon plays an extremely complex character and brings every bit of the emotion to the role (deservedly, she won the 2006 Oscar for Best Actress). And of course they both do their own amazing singing (after six months of vocal lessons). The supporting cast is also good, with a special mention to Robert Patrick as Cash’s cold father. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a biographical film. Rating: 3.5 of 4

"Johnny Cash sang like he meant business...Walk the Line, with its dead-on performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, helps you understand that quality."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

"Although the straightforward story feels virtually the same as every other musician of the period, it comes to life in two awards-worthy performances."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

"Are we there yet?"
- Marie Antionette (Kirsten Dunst)

Marie: Where will I be if there’s a rupture between our two families? Will I be Austrian, or Dauphin of France?
Ambassador Mercy (Steve Coogan): You must be both.

Ambassador Mercy : Her majesty would do well to be more attentive. Life is getting harder for the people of France. The bread shortage is grave.
Marie: There must be something we can do to ease their sufferings. Tell the court jeweler to stop sending diamonds.

A young Austrian (Kirsten Dunst) is sent to Versaille to marry a French prince, Louis (Jason Schwartzman). The entire court hopes they will produce an heir, but Louis seems to have no interest. Coppola experiments with the juxtaposition of modern indie music in a Sense and Sensibility setting (and, indeed, the casting and look of Dunst herself is another juxtaposition, made to enhance Antoinette’s position as an outsider), and adds other little touches, like Dunst acknowledging the camera during the opening credits. Coppola accomplishes the almost-impossible: To tell a coherent story by almost solely using striking visual images. The images include: Judy Davis’ haughty nostrils; Marie and three friends watching the sunset while a rock music soundtrack plays, looking like 21st century people dressed up as 18th century aristocrats at a fancy dress party; the birth and death of Marie’s third child, told solely by the hanging, and subsequent removal, of a royal painting. Rating: 3 of 4

"Pouring Coca-Cola in the cabernet, Sofia Coppola's dazzling Marie Antoinette couldn't be more anachronistic if it showed the queen of France saying, 'Let them eat sushi.' Coppola works in weird ways, but the real Versailles was so much weirder."
- Kyle Smith (New York Post)

"Let them eat cake? Sofia Coppola feeds it to us in spoonfuls -- pink, sugary, decadent. The entire film seems to have been squeezed onto the screen from a confectioner's pastry bag..."
- John Beifuss (Commercial Appeal)

"A startlingly original and beautiful pop reverie that comes very close to being transcendent."
- Carina Chocano (Los Angeles Times)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dr Plonk (2007)

In 1907, a clever and eccentric inventor has his calculations thrown off by his careless lab assistant, and, because of this, believes that the world will end in 100 years. He builds a time machine to travel forward, find proof, and warn people in the future. This unique comedy, made in 2007 by Australian director Rolf de Heer, is a meticulous recreation of a silent-era style movie. It combines poignancy, pathos, and slapstick in just the right doses.

The cast stars Nigel Lunghi (a talented street performer) as Dr Plonk, along with Paul Blackwell and Magda Szubankski.Rating: 3 of 4

Note: I was lucky enough to see this film in its third-ever showing at the 2007 Brisbane International Film Festival. After the film, Rolf de Heer patiently fielded questions.

"Rolf de Heer's new film, a silent black & white comedy, is a testament to this great Australian filmmaker's talent, inventivity and versatility - and of course, a love letter to cinema itself."
- Matt Riviera (

Sunshine (2007)

Dr Searle (Cliff Curtis):W’e’re a collection of astronauts and scientists, so we are going to make the most informed decision available to us
Mace (Chris Evans): Made by you, by any chance?
Capt. Kineda (Hiroyuki Sanada): Made by the person best qualified to understand the complexities of payload delivery: our physicist.
Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy): Shit.

"Three out of seven, that’s a lot of short straws."
- Mace

Capa: Icarus, who is the fifth crewmember?
Icarus: Unknown.
Capa: Where is the fifth crewmember?
Icarus: In the observation room.

A ship heads for a dieing sun, with 8 people and a bomb big enough to revitalize it. But when crew error causes major sun-damage to the ship, the mission  and the safe return of the crew is placed in major jeopardy. Ultra-stylized and often violent, this, ambitious, tense film is another feather in the cap for versatile director Danny Boyle. It is at its best in it first 90 minutes, when it concentrates on exploring the dynamics of the crew relationships (and where the action is a vehicle to expand on those relationships). When it changes course and enter horror film territory, it goes a bit downhill, although not enough to negate the good work done before. It’s not only the sudden change in tone, it’s the stupidity of crewman Capa: when he finds out from the computer that there is a fifth mystery person on board, does he inform any of the other members of the crew so they can seal off the area and proceed cautiously? No, he goes there all by himself to check it out!
Rating: 2.5 of 4

"…operates on the level of pure entertainment even as it asks the big questions about the meaning of existence and challenges every assumption, including what constitutes a happy ending."
- Andrea Chase (Killer Movie Reviews)

"It retains a power it rightfully earned, not faltering enough to fully squander it."
- Jeffrey Chen (ReelTalk Movie Reviews)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Death at a Funeral (2007)

Martha (Daisy Donovan): Simon.
Simon (Alan Tudyk): (from behin the locked bathroom door) Simon.
Martha: Simon!
Simon: Simon.
Martha: Sy!
Simon: Mon.

Poor Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen). All he wants to do is give his father a decent, dignified funeral ceremony, but instead things keep going wrong. Bodies are switched, hallucinogenic drugs are taken, and unexpected guests turn up with secrets they want to tell and demands to make. Veteran American director Frank Oz does a good job of creating a British comedy in the same vein as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Waking Ned Devine. If you liked those two films, you’ll love this. British comedies are not my cup of tea; I find the humor too slow and telegraphed, and the jokes (about old age, wheelchairs, gay lovers, and drugs) too easy. Nonetheless, there are a couple of laugh out loud moments, most of them involving Andy Nyman and American actor Alan Tudyk. The cast is more than competent and plays it straight, and the dramatic moments toward the end work because of this. Rating: 2.5 of 4 

"Death at a Funeral finds its comedy in the peculiar human trait of being most tempted to laugh when we're absolutely not supposed to."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

"Set among the perpetually polite and embarrassed British, the film is at least tolerable."
- Jeffrey M. Anderson (Combustible Celluloid)

"Full of tired, sitcom-level gags."
- Josh Bell (Las Vegas Weekly)

Monday, January 7, 2008

12 Angry Men (1957)

Juror Six (Ed Binns): Well, I'm not used to supposin'. I'm just a workin' man. My boss does all the supposin' - but I'll try one. Supposin' you talk us all out of this and, uh, the kid really did knife his father?

Juror Eight (Henry Fonda): Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger! You want to see this boy die because you personally want it, not because of the facts! You're a sadist!
[Juror Three lunges wildly at Juror Eight, who holds his ground. Several jurors hold Juror Three back]
Juror Three (Lee J. Cobb): I'll kill him! I'LL KILL HIM!
Juror Eight: You don't *really* mean you'll kill me, do you?

An eighteen year old boy is on trial for killing his father, with the penalty set at death if he is convicted. A twelve man jury sits to deliberate his verdict, and initially only one man (Henry Fonda) believes he might be innocent. Taut, compact, black and white drama takes place completely in a hot, dank, tiny jury room, with 12 actors all having key roles in the ensemble cast. This isn’t about vindicating an innocent man; it is about prejudice, interpersonal relationships, and the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Standouts are Fonda, and Lee J. Cobb, but the whole cast is good, including a young Jack Klugman. Number 13 on the IMDB top 250 movie list. Unfortunately, missed out on Academy awards in 1958 when it ran into The Bridge on the River Kwai. Rating: 4 of 4 reviewed 12 Oct 2007

"A masterful work of debate and dialogue; of shifting momentum and the ideal of sticking to your scruples in the face of antagonistic groupthink."
- Phil Villarreal (Arizona Daily Star)

"This is a film where tension comes from personality conflict, dialogue and body language, not action."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

War of the Worlds (2005)

"Are we still alive?"
- Rachel (Dakota Fanning)

"Those machines, those tripods they got? They buried ‘em…right under our feet…since before there were even people here. They’ve been planning this for a million years. We’re beat to shit."
- Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins)

A divorced man and loose cannon (Tom Cruise) takes weekend custody of his disgruntled teenage son and younger daughter just as aliens attack the earth. Sending lightning-like electro-magnetic pulses, they quickly disable all machines and communication systems. Initially, this looked like it was going to be another straight ‘hero film’ for Cruise: he nabs the only working car and manages to stay ahead of the aliens for while. But before long, an angry mob takes the car away at gunpoint, and he and his family have to become just another one of the hopeless people, wandering and fleeing. Stevn Spielberg’s ambitious sci-fi epic is flawed but has so much to offer.

Once upon a time, in a simpler age, movies were made about people and aliens. But of course, nowadays, Hollywood can’t make any disaster movie without making the focal point a totally dysfunctional family that will ‘bond’ because of the experience they go through. Armed with this supposed ‘positive’ spin, movie-makers believe that gives them carte-blanche to torture their subjects wantonly. After all, the more pain, the more bonding, right? And because of that ‘War or the Worlds is sometimes excessively cruel, especially when the victim is a young girl.

On the plus side, it was great to see Tom Cruise show some vulnerability. There are also some great special effects, an effective appearance by Tim Robbins, and a long, nail-biting sequence in a cellar involving various aliens creeping around while Cruise and friends manage to hide.

Are people really that stupid to just move back a few inches when the earth is splitting and massive alien machine/beings are emerging from holes? In fact, this is one of the recurring ‘jokes’ in the film: every time something bad is happening, the characters always stop to watch one or two more bad things happen before running/swimming.

Why is it that when a plane crashes right next to a house, there is still a vehicle-wide path, relatively free of debris, that the car can use to get out? Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 13 Oct 2007

Factual error (from Ray tells the mechanic to change the solenoid, which would be fried if hit with an EMP, due to the fact that it had electricity flowing through it (which is why the solenoid and all solenoids not already installed in cars would work.) The only problem with this is that any car not running during the EMP, wouldn't have been effected by it, and would have started.

"We knew Spielberg had action chops, but didn't know he had this in him. This anti-E.T. is so rigorously realized it makes Independence Day look like Finding Neverland."
- Bruce Westbrook (Houston Chronicle)

"96% of the movie works so damn well that you'll be more than willing to forgive the 4% that does not."
- Scott Weinberg (

Nacho Libre (2006)

"P.S. If we didn’t end up taking our vows of celibacy, we could maybe…get married and have a family with some ninos, but, you know, whatever."
- letter from Nacho (Jack Black) to Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera)

An orphan has lived his entire life in a monastery in Mexico, but dreams of being a professional wrestler. Together with another down and out miscreant, he pursues his dream while still trying to simultaneously put food on the table for the orphans and ignore the charms of a beautiful young nun. Quirky, mildly amusing, and semi-original, with a nice soundtrack; the only thing missing are the laughs, and characters or a story that would make you care. It’s an unfortunate choice to have Jack Black keep his shirt off so much, and to make his sidekick (Héctor Jiménez) so unappealing as well. It’s also hard to parody wrestling, which is already a parody. Rating: 2 of 4 reviewed 19 Oct 2007

"High concept still fails without writers filling in the blank spots, and 'Jack Black in wrestling tights' is funny for about as long as the trailer you've already seen."
- Michael Booth (Denver Post)

"It takes some doing to make a Jack Black comedy that doesn't work. But Nacho Libre does it."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

V For Vendetta (2005)

"People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people."
- V (Hugo Weaving)

"I hope that whoever you are you escape this place; I hope that the world turns and things get better, but what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you even though I may not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. Valerie."
- Valerie (Natasha Wightman)

"Beneath this mask, there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr Cready. And ideas are bulletproof."
- V

In 1605, Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in a protest of Protestant rule. 400 years later, a new terrorist stalks a corrupt and totalitarian British Government. After avenging his personal issues at the hands of a select few in charge of a detention centre, he puts into place a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament by encouraging the oppressed to join him. He already has the support of Evey (Natalie Portman), a young woman who lost her radical parents to Government torture. Powerful, emotional case study of the evil of any government that would use fear to control its people, and a daring defence of terrorism for the good of the state. Portman and Weaving (hidden behind a mask) are both excellent. An evocative soundtrack adds even more texture to the film. Written by the Wachowski Brothers (who wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy)  - and the prose is beautiful - and directed with matching flair by James McTiegue.Rating: 3.5 of 4reviewed 29 Oct 2007

"A visually sumptuous concoction that combines political allegory, bloody action, and a few stunning cinematic moments into a solid piece of entertainment."
- James Berardinelli (ReelViews)

"This is pure post-9/11 Orwell, a great, angry screed against scapegoating and fearmongering in the seemingly endless war on terrorism."
- Chris Barsanti (

The Final Cut (2004)

"There's no place for me with you. You haven't even made room for yourself. You have to separate yourself from that machine."
- Delila (Mira Sorvino)

In the near future, a device called a ‘Zoe Implant’ can be purchased and inserted into a human baby and will record a movie of their entire life. When the implanted person dies, their family can choose to have a ‘cutter’ edit the footage for a memorial ceremony. Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) has a reputation as the best cutter, and is also known for being able to edit those lives that have a lot of ‘ugliness’ that needs to be cut. As a young boy, Alan was partially responsible for, and witnessed the death of, another young boy he was playing with. While processing Zoe footage, Alan comes across someone who appears to be this young boy as an adult. While investigating this, he discovers that he has an implant, and all the dirt he has been hiding will someday be revealed. It’s an intriguing concept that carries about 60% of the film. The only weaknesses are the performances by some of the supporting actors, but when that many performances are below par, I generally blame the director. It’s an interesting point – that sometimes our personal memories that affect every aspect of our life are complete fiction. Intriguing but flawed; is this a slight ripoff of the 1980 film Deathwatch (aka La Mort en Direct)?

It’s sci-fi, so here are the nits: (1) How long would it really take for one man to edit 544,000 life hours into a 20 minute highlight reel? (2) The last scene in the film has rival ex-cutter Fletcher watching the footage of Hakman taken by Hakman’s implant. Hakman brushes his teeth while looking at himself in a mirror. When he finishes, he walks away from the mirror. What we should see is the image of him turning, and then a view of the wall in the rest of the room as he turns. Instead, he disappears, and we still see the mirror! Rating: 2.5 of 4 reviewed 3 Nov 2007

"For a movie that often feels like it's cobbled together from pieces of Minority Report, Blade Runner and other futuristic odysseys, this one is weirdly engrossing."
- Matt Brunson (Creative Loafing)

"Naim's direction is as pedestrian as his screenplay, and his inexperience at working with actors surfaces in the one-note performances."
- Ethan Alter (Film Journal International)

"The plot creaks with wild coincidences, spotty writing, and twists that fail to thrill so much as make the audience groan in the face of yet another cliché."
- Andrea Chase (Killer Movie Reviews)

Proof (2005)

Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow): I saw you at my dad’s office once, do you remember?
Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal): I can’t believe you remember that.
Catherine: I remember you. I thought that you seemed…not boring.

"I feel like I could crack open, like an egg, or one of those really smelly French cheeses that ooze when you cut them.
- Catherine

A brilliant mathematician, Robert (Anthony Hopkins) spends the last 3 years of his life in an unstable mental state, but breaks through with occasional coherence. His daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow), a sharp mathematician in her own right, takes care of him during those difficult years. When he dies, she becomes friends with, and then lover to Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), her dad’s last PhD student. After Robert’s death, Catherine reveals a stack of notebooks scrawled by her father, all containing nonsense formulas. But there is one other notebook. It looks like all the rest, but it contains a possibly groundbreaking proof – and Catherine claims to have written it. Part rom-com, part sibling drama, part A Beautiful Mind (2001) – in fact, the original play was based on the life of John Nash, who was also the subject of A Beautiful Mind. It has moments of pure charm and tension, and also a little bit of repetitive dialogue, especially in the early scenes with Catherine and her sister Claire (Hope Davis). But Paltrow’s perfect performance (reprising the role she played on stage in London’s West End) papers over any cracks. Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 4 Nov 2007

"The emotional heft of Proof is considerable, even with some problems inadequately worked out."
- Susan Walker (Toronto Star)

"[Paltrow's] is a performance that redeems everything else about this film, and allows for the hope that there will be many more to come in this gifted actress' career."
- Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

"Jake Gyllenhaal brings a certain geeky sweetness and enthusiasm to his role as Hal. There's also genuine chemistry between him and Gwyneth..."
- Matthew Turner (ViewLondon)

11.14 (2003)

Buzzy (Hilary Swank): You do what you gotta do, but I'm not going to open up this drawer.
[Duffy (Shawn Hatosy) points his pistol at her]
Duffy: Look at me.
Buzzy: Why, so you could shoot me in the face?
Duffy: C'mon, just look at me.
[Buzzy still refuses]
Duffy: Goddamnit, you're so stubborn!

At 11.14, a young man’s car windshield is shattered by a jumper from an overpass. At 11.14, a group of negligent teen boys in a van hit and kill a young female pedestrian. At 11.14, a father covers for his daughter’s act of murder. To say any more would be to give away the concept of this film. Tense, fast-paced, light, and sometimes funny, it tells its story with a welcome brevity and a compact 86 minute running time. The best scene is in the convenience store, where Buzzy (Hilary Swank, wearing a mean set of braces) and Duffy (Shawn Hatosy) argue about how to do a robbery. It’s marred by a few script contrivances (like Cheri parking her car directly facing and in front of Duffy’s car, which doesn’t seem right, since she should have been thinking of making a quick getaway – but it works out perfectly, since she needs to use his jumper cables without him knowing it). Spirited score by Clint Mansell. Rating: 2.5 of 4 reviewed 5 Nov 2007

"Enjoyable, smartly directed comedy thriller with a clever script and engaging performances from its ensemble cast."
- Matthew Turner (ViewLondon)

"Fast and fairly engaging ... but in the end it feels a bit pointless."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

"It's not terrible filmmaking, but the plot's "cleverness" will hardly knock your boots off."
- Christopher Null (

Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

"Eyes down. Don't smile. Indian bride never smiles. You'll ruin the bloody video."
- Wedding videographer

Jessminder (Parminder Nagra) is an Indian teenage girl living in London with a gift for playing soccer. Her traditional family wants none of it, however, especially her father, whose own dreams of being a cricketer were crushed years ago by prejudice. But her talent and drive eventually win out. Extreme feel-good movie manages to avoid most cliches and remain respectful of the culture it focuses on. Rating: 2.5 of 4 reviewed 6 Nov 2007

"A smart, lively and altogether warmhearted dramatic comedy that blends tradition and modernity on screen as adroitly as teenage Jess does in her irresistibly complicated life."
- Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Deja Vu (2006)

"For all of my career, I've been trying to catch people after they do something horrible. For once in my life, I'd like to catch somebody before they do something horrible, all right?"
- Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington)

"This is tripping!"
- Doug Carlin, driving in the present while wearing goggles that show the past

When a ferry explodes in New Orleans and hundreds are killed in an act of terrorism, ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is called in to investigate. His sharp, quick skills attract the attention of the FBI, who are also investigating, and Carlin is invited to join a special FBI unit which includes Agent Paul Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer, looking a bit like his own version of the latter-day Bill Shatner). The technique they are using is to view a once-only amalgamation of satellite data, always four days behind the present moment – and somehow track the killers before they strike again. The technique that is the focal point of the movie is similar to the concept of the film Minority Report, and another example of our obsessive voyeuristic tendencies.

(Major Spoilers Alert) After an overlong opening montage that makes the explosion and investigation into a kind of extended dialogue-free music video, Washington gets to start speaking, and the movie immediately improves – though not so much to overcome the ridiculousness of the concept. Except, the ridiculous concept is a lie – they are actually folding time to look back into the past!

Carlin focuses the viewing on Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton), a young woman who was killed before the explosion and made to look like a bomb victim.

The juxtapostion of past and present creates some tense scenes, such as when Carlin, armed with a mobile tracking device, pursues the killer in the past, while dealing with a menacing present as well. When the killer is caught, the FBI closes down the investigation despite the protests of Carlin, who still has 7 hours (in the past) to save Claire. With no other alternative, the team agrees to try to transport Doug back into the past. His goal is to save Claire and to stop the bomb. Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 9 Nov 2007

"Déjà Vu impresses with both the complexity of its storyline and its willingness to allow things to develop at their own pace without interjecting a lot of needless action scenes into the early proceedings to keep viewers attentive."
- James Berardinelli (ReelViews)

"Deja Vu gets mighty close to goofy from time to time, but Washington pulls it all back together -- sometimes, it seems, just by being there."
- Liz Braun (Jam! Movies)

"If you can surrender to the film's crazy convictions, it's a popcorn-munching wild ride worth taking."
- Peter Canavese (Groucho Reviews)

One Point 0 (2004)

"Hello Simon. It is Adam. I am worried about your condition. I have learned many systems of human logic. I know bad and good. Bad equals zero. Too many zeros can make a device stop. You are in danger of being zeroed."
- Adam

"There are good people and there are bad people and they’re on their way and they want you, Simon. The bad people could save you – but they won’t. The good people – they want to save you – but they can’t."
- Howard (Lance Henriksen)

Simon (Jeremy Sisto) is a cloistered computer programmer who lives in a garish, nightmarish building, and who keeps receiving empty packages delivered directly into his dank apartment, despite locking and then padlocking his door. He suspects…everyone, but especially his landlord and his bizarre neighbors. One is a porn king whose scenarios blur the line between fantasy and reality. Another (Derrick, played by Udo Kier) has created a talking robot head whom he has named Adam. Derrick convinces Simon to use his voice to create Adam’s speaking ability. The downside of this is that Adam keeps calling Simon, leaving cryptic messages in his own voice. Can he trust Trish the nurse (Debra Unger) or his long-time messenger friend Nile (Eugene Byrd)? Highly stylized nightmare film treads the same ground as David Lynch but has fewer pretensions and greater visual style (virtually every scene is oversaturated and over/underexposed). Although there’s definitely a shallow feel and a pointlessness to the proceedings, the stylistic touches and creation of mood more than make up for it. Not for all tastes, but some will enjoy the ambiguity and how much is left up to the imagination. Sisto is a capable leading man who is in every scene and never seems boring. Rating: 2.75 of 4 reviewed 12 Nov 2007

"A sci-fi thriller of uncommon creepiness, One Point 0 makes inventive use of a low budget, and clever story and a terrific cast."
- Tim Merrill (Film Threat)

Close Your Eyes (2004)

"Should we try Australia?"
 - Clara Strother (Miranda Otto)

A reluctant hypnotist (Goran Visnjic) agrees to help a fiesty policewoman (Shirley Henderson) to track down a serial killer, using the dreams and memories of a little girl who was abducted but escaped. Despite a clumsy script, uneven acting, unimaginative lighting, and frustrating characters, the story is still intriguing and director Nick Willing moves things along more than competently. There’s something, well…ironic about a stressed out hypnotist who can get anyone into a relaxed state – except for himself. Visnjic is an interesting actor to watch, and Miranda Otto adds some acting class in a small role. Be warned: for the most part, nothing happens, but there are moments of severe cruelty and brutality, with the lives of not one but two little girls threatened. Also known as Hypnotic and Doctor Sleep. Rating: 2.5 of 4 reviewed 14 Nov 2007

"It's nowhere near innovative, but it scares you as you rarely get scared in movies these days."
- Gene Seymour (Newsday)

"If you can overlook its TV-episode look, occasional lapses in logic and detours into lurid overkill, this old-school psychological thriller, which marries a tracking-the- serial-killer narrative with occult themes, is a creepy diversion."
- Megan Lehmann (New York Post)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Enduring Love (2004)

Joe (Daniel Craig): You’re mad.
Jed (Rhys Ifans): That’s what they said about Jesus once.
Joe: They also said it about a lot of mad people.

Frank (Justin Salinger): I’ve seen Natasha stop traffic – actually stop traffic just by walking across the road. She doesn’t even know she’s doing it. Bikes ride into the back of buses. Buses miss their stops. Dog walkers plow unsuspecting dogs under cars. They can’t help themselves. They can’t stop staring at her.
Claire (Samantha Morton):Why? What’s wrong with her?

A wayward hot-air balloon, carrying a solo teenage boy, is briefly tethered by a group of passers-by, including Joe (Daniel Craig). But a gust of wind forces the balloon skyward, and all the would-be rescuers release their hold, except for one doctor, who continues to rise, dangling from a rope, and then falls to his death. Joe is haunted by the failed rescue and what could have been, and is stalked by Jed (Rhys Ifans), one of the other men involved in the attempt. Joe initially feels sorry for Jed, and probably has some interest also in bonding with someone else who took part in the tragedy. But as time goes on, Joe realizes that Jed is quite obsessed, mad – and in love. By that time, Joe also is spiralling down. Unusual and well-written film discusses the meaning of life and love, then makes you squirm as the situations get more serious and you feel as if you are being stalked. Joe gets everything he deserves (and the film requires some suspension of disbelief) as he consistently handles the situation incorrectly, Craig, Ifans, and Morton are all superb. Jeremy Sams unobtrusive soundtrack provides a perfect accent. It was a revelation to see Craig show his acting chops in this emotion-baring role, since my only other previous (and recent) exposure to him was as the steely James Bond in Casino Royale (2006). Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 21 Nov 2007

"Wholly absorbing... subtly trapping us in the perspective of a beleaguered protagonist, who himself is trapped in an inchoate state of grief and fantasy."
- Nick Davis (Nick's Flick Picks)

 "Enduring Love contains impeccable performances, especially by the frightening Ifans."
- Lou Lumenick (New York Post)

"The premise may sound ordinary on the surface, but it's far from a mundane thriller on the screen with its obsessions and paranoia and a very creepy stalker."
- Cherryl Dawson and Leigh Ann Palone (

"This slender, increasingly monotonous stalker plot feels ludicrously overintellectualized -- full of hot air. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a balloon is just a balloon."
- David Edelstein (Slate)

"It's not entirely satisfying, but it's too intriguing to dismiss."
- Robert Denerstein (Denver Rocky Mountain News)

"One of those outrageous stalker thrillers in which so much trouble could have been avoided if the characters had only thought to call the police."
- Peter Debruge (Premiere Magazine)

Casino Royale (2006)

Dryden (Malcolm Sinclair): How did he die?
James Bond (Daniel Craig): Your contact? Not well.
Dryden: Made you feel it, did he? Well, you needn't worry. The second is...
[Bond shoots Dryden]
James Bond: Yes... considerably.
Vespa (Eva Green): It doesn’t bother you, killing those people?
Bond: I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did.
Daniel Craig returns as the newest James Bond in an adventure that moves from Madagascar to Miami to Montenegro. This is a rougher, tougher, less polished, less suave Bond than we are accustomed to. Frankly, I identify Roger Moore as the quintessential Bond, and he always seemed to be slightly surprised at what he could do. Daniel Craig’s Bond is much more arrogant and not at all amused, giving the movie a serious and even a mean-spirited feel. Could you imagine Roger Moore’s Bond being naked and tortured? Poorly structured script starts with some imaginative action scenes (where we probably need a little more of an introduction to the newest Bond), has too many boring card playing scenes, and then throws in a sappy romance! Still, there’s those great classic Bond locations, a suitable score, and an epic feel. Note that most reviewers gave this movie a high rating. Rating: 2 of 4 reviewed 3 Nov 2007
"By the end of a curiously back-to-front film, when he finally gets his theme tune and introduces himself -- 'Bond. James Bond' -- he, like the creaky franchise itself, seems profoundly unsure whether he is coming or going."
- Tim Adams (Guardian - UK)
"This is a Bond with great body but no soul."
- Richard Corliss (TIME Magazine)
"Spectacular action -- and a cool new Bond. But the film goes long and an important romance isn't quite sold. Nor is the plot terribly solid."
- Ross Anthony (Hollywood Report Card)
"Who wants to see Bond learn a lesson about ego, as if he were Greg Brady in his 'Johnny Bravo' phase?"
- John Beifuss (Commercial Appeal - Memphis, TN)

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Joan (Laura Linney): You're early.
Bernard (Jeff Daniels): Hi, Joan.
Joan: Don't feed him the generic stuff.
Bernard: What?
Joan: Frank says you're feeding the cat generic food. Get Purina, it's what he likes.
Bernard: It's the same damn thing, Joan.
Joan: OK. It's not, but...
Bernard: He's my cat, too. Remember when he got stuck in the wall in New Hampshire and I rescued him? I know how to handle him.
Joan: It was a radiator.
Bernard: What?
Joan: He got stuck in a radiator. You trimmed your beard.
Bernard: Yeah, it was starting to get a little feral. You look well.
Joan: Yeah? Thanks.
Bernard: Things are good here. Teaching is going well. And I'm playing the best tennis of my life. Maybe that's an illusion, but... it feels that way.

Two young boys, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline) deal with the unexpected divorce of their parents in different ways. The father (Jeff Daniels) is a once-successful writer who has become cold and unfeeling, perhaps because of his loss of success or talent. The mother (Laura Linney) is a newly successful writer who is beginning to feel stifled. The dry humor in the first 30 minutes, particularly as delivered by the snobby but clueless Daniels, is the highlight, as is the resolution. At a short running time of 88 minutes, it wastes no space, relying on crafty dialogue to portray the character’s feelings. The gentle, Michael Cera-like performance by Eisenberg is the focal point, with Walt the focal character. Unusual and worthwhile; an impressive semi-autobiographical effort by writer/dreict Noah Baumbach.Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 5 Jan 2008

"One of those rare films in which everything feels right ... [with an] underlying witty melancholy that suggests a filmmaker fully locked into his groove."
- Andrew Wright (The Stranger - Seattle, WA)

"Baumbach crams an impressive amount of characterization and humor into 82 minutes."
- Pete Vonder Haar (Film Threat)

"A literate, sharply observed film that juggles tragic and comedic elements to achieve a wonderfully distinctive tone."
- Frank Swietek (One Guy's Opinion)

"Baumbach still feels such word-inflicted wounds and draws on them to create some wrenching drama, speckled with touches of caustic comedy."
- Phil Villarreal (Arizona Daily Star)

The Proposition (2005)

"I will civilize this land."
- Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone)

"You got me, Charlie…what’re you gonna do now?"
- Arthur Burns (Danny Huston)

In a brutally painted Australian outback of the 1800s, an obsessed policeman (Ray Winstone) tries to track down the most murderous of three brothers, by threatening brother number one (Guy Pearce) with the murder of brother number two (Richard Wilson) if he does not kill brother number three (Danny Huston). The heat of the landscape is enhanced by a washed out, yellow-tinted photography. Just as brutal as Apocalypto, but obviously made in a sincere attempt to chronicle the true, violent side of this era with a gritty realism (rather than simply showing exploitative violence). Mean-spirited, but at the same time respectful of its subjects, and beautifully filmed. A stellar cast (Emily Watson, John Hurt, David Wenham) gets to shine, as does the famous Australian aboriginal actor, David Gulpilil, as Jacko. This genre (like horror) is not appealing to me, so I cannot give it my highest marks, but of its ilk, it is excellent. Rating: 2.5 of 4 reviewed 28 Nov 2007

"Murder ballad for the slice-and-dice age, a film of sensitive artistry laced with gore."
- Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle)

"An amazingly rich, vicious Western."
- Jeffrey M. Anderson (Combustible Celluloid)

"Hillcoat creates a vision as nihilistic as any horror film ever put on a screen, but so well acted and carefully conceived that it transcends exploitation."
- Colin Covert (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Play It Again Sam (1972)

Allan (Woody Allen): I have met a lot of dames, but you are REALLY something special.
Linda (Diane Keaton): Really?
Allan: [to Bogart] She bought it!

Allan: I'll get broads up here like you wouldn't believe: swingers, freaks, nymphomaniacs, dental hygienists.

Allan: If that plane leaves the ground, and you're not on it with him, you'll regret it - maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.
Linda: That's beautiful!
Allan: It's from Casablanca; I waited my whole life to say it.

Allan Felix (Woody Allen) is a recently-divorced, self-deprecating nebbish who tries to get his love life back on track with the help of his best friend Dick (Tony Roberts), his wife Linda (Diane Keaton). Allan’s imaginary friend Humphrey Bogart. But when Allan and Linda start to fall in love, complications ensue. 36 years agter it was made, this is still a very funny comedy, with a well-modulated supply of jokes (unlike many comedies that run out of steam in the last 30 minutes), most of which are not dated (especially those regarding relationships, although the silly scene in the biker bar doesn’t work well).  If you’ve subjected yourself to the last ten years of inferior Woody Allen movies and been disappointed each time, do yourself a favor and watch this one again, and see how good he used to be. Rating: 3.5 of 4reviewed 3 Dec 2007

"Woody Allen is one of those rare comedians who understands that humor can be based on pathos as well as sadism. While the high-pressure comics overwhelm us with aggressive humor, Woody is off in the bathroom somewhere being attacked by a hairdryer."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

Australian Rules (2002)

In a small town in Australia, a teenage boy (Nathan Phillips) becomes the inadvertent hero of his local Australian Rules football team in the Grand Final, but that same night loses his best aboriginal friend (Luke Carroll) in a robbery-related shooting. He has to deal with his grief, his mean-spirited, violent father (Simon Westaway), and the prejudice of his team-mates and townspeople when he starts to fall in love with an aboriginal girl (Lisa Flanagan). It’s difficult for me to judge this movie on its own, as it is loosely based on the wonderful first novel Deadly, Unna? by Phillip Gwynne. Gwynne’s book is geared to a teen audience (although it is a great read for adults as well), and is peppered with wonderful prose, laugh-out-loud humor, and subtle ambiguity. Back to the film: the actors are excellent, but the screenplay (which Gwynne, inexplicably, co-wrote) is inferior to the book in every way. Virtually every change to the plot, mood, and characters (and there are literally dozens of changes) weaken the story or change the point. If you haven’t read the book, do so. If you have, stay away – far away - from this filmed version. Rating: 1 of 4 reviewed 4 Jan 2008

"…increasingly conventional, predictable and schematic as it heads down depressingly dark melodramatic avenues in the second half."
- Neil Young’s Film Lounge

"What we're left with however is a somewhat clumsy, uneven film, where overwrought scenes are interspersed with more intimate and realistic ones with better pacing and timing. In a sense, things are almost too black and white in Australian Rules; it's a film crying out for grey areas, the spaces in film where art is made and risks are taken."
- TripleJ Film Reviews

Ensemble, c'est tout (aka Hunting and Gathering) (2007)

Camille (Audrey Tautou) is a troubled, anorexic artist who works as a cleaner and lives alone in a tiny unheated apartment. Franck (Guillaume Canet) is a hard-working, short-tempered chef who shares a big apartment with the sensitive and anal renentive Philibert (Laurent Stocker). Franck’s grandmother Paulette (Françoise Bertin) is dealing with old age and the after-effects of a broken hip: losing her home and cherished garden and pets. Franck loves his grandmother, but he works 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, and drinks heavily is his spare time. As this strange rectangle of lives slowly meld together, the story unfolds patiently, as only a non-Hollywood script can. You never know where this movie is going the turn. The acting by the four leads is excellent. Another unique French slice-of-life film by prolific actor turned directed Claude Berri. Berri is 73 but has still got it. Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 9 Dec 2007

"A charming and uplifting film with engaging performances and a music score ripe for humming, even though it is not director Claude Berri's most complete work."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)

Superbad (2007)

"You know when you hear girls say 'Ah man, I was so shit-faced last night, I shouldn't have fucked that guy?' We could be that mistake!"
- Seth (Jonah Hill)

Becca (Martha MacIsaac): I'm so wet right now.
Evan (Michael Cera): Yeah... they said that would happen in Health Class.

Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse): What's it like to have a gun?
Officer Michaels (Seth Rogen): It's like having two cocks. If one of your cocks could kill someone.

"You know how many foods are shaped like dicks? The best kinds."
- Seth

Seth: Look at those nipples.
Evan: They're like little baby toes. It's just not fair that they get to flaunt that stuff, you know... and like, I have to hide every erection I get. Just imagine if girls weren't weirded out by our boners and stuff, and just like wanted to see them. That's the world I one day want to live in.

Two teenage boy buddies, one (Seth – Jonah Hill) an overweight hedonistic wise-cracker obsessed with sex, and the other (Evan – Michael Sera), a quiet, shy kid trying to do the right thing, have been closer than close throughout high school. When the girl of Seth’s dreams asks him to procure the alcohol for a wild party to which they are finally going to be invited, they embark on an odyssey which involves nerdy friends like Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and crazy cops Slater (Bill Hader) and Michaels (Seth Rogen, who also wrote the funny over-the-top screenplay). Outrageous and hilarious (especially for guys who remember their adolescence) for the first half-hour, it hits a dead spot in the middle before finishing well. Cera reprises his role from Arrested Development and his deadpan delivery is a highlight. On the surface, it may appear to be another teen comedy, but there’s a little more going on – but not much. Enjoy! Rating: 3 of 4 reviewed 15 Dec 2007

"Bawdy, demented and gloriously­ feel-good, Superbad is as super as comedies get."
- Neil Smith (thelondonpaper)

"A loving ode to the penis."
- Victoria Alexander (

"I hope it's not damning the movie with the wrong kind of praise to say that for a film so deliriously smutty, Superbad is supercute."
- Carina Chocano (Los Angeles Times)

"The fun, misery, insecurity and idiocy of high school are depicted with vulgar, imaginative and almost heroic excess."
- John Beifuss (Commercial Appeal - Memphis, TN)

"Superbad maintains that delicate balance of sweetness, empathy and vulgar comedy. It's so packed with irreverent lowbrow wit that you scarcely notice how it quietly shifts from gross-out jokes to adult themes."
- Colin Covert (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (2004)

Nicole (Sonya Walger): Focus on something else. You must have a girlfriend, right? Big glasses, dendel skirt, makes you watch a lot of subtitled documentaries.

Flynn (Noah Wyle): It was just Portuguese! I was over-thinking it!

Flynn: Shouldn't I be the one dipping you?
Nicole: Technically.

Flynn: At least you didn't fail at your job. He's still alive.
Nicole: No, he just faked his own death and became the head of the very evil organization we've been fighting. That's much better.

Nicole: The Deadly Scorpion League has found H. G. Wells' time machine. We're the only ones who can get it back.
Flynn: The Deadly Scorpion League? What is it with these bad guys and their insect names for their cults?

A 30-ish professional student (Noah Wyle) is kicked out of class and told to experience the real world. He applies for a job as a librarian, but he is no ordinary man – he has an encyclopedic knowledge of facts, and an almost magical ability to observe and read miniscule clues about people and things. This is no ordinary librarian’s job, either. He is nominated to protect some of the world’s greatest treasures, and when the powerful Sword of Destiny is stolen, he must go around the world to find it. He is helped in his quest by the Lara Croft-like Nicole (Sonya Walger). After a slow, painful start, the film successfully combines pleasant CGI, adventure movie cliches, and some above-average scripting full of information factoids to create a pleasant made-for-TV time-filler. It’s all helped by a talented supporting cast of Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Olympia Dukakis, Kyle MacLachlan, and Kelly Hu. Rating: 2.75 of 4 reviewed 18 Dec 2007

"It’s a fun cheesy cable TV flick, a slice of winking B movie giddiness that charms us into smiling through all the nonsense."
- David Cornelius (

"It's all totally lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and never dares to be serious about anything, which is refreshing."
- MaryAnn Johanson (Flick Filosopher)

Thank You For Smoking (2006)

Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe): Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they're looking to make.
Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart): Cigarettes in space?
Jeff Megall: It's the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn't they blow up in an all oxygen environment?
Jeff Megall: Probably. But it's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. 'Thank God we invented the... you know, whatever device.'

Nick Naylor: [out loud] "I just need to pay the mortgage."
Nick Naylor: [to self] The Yuppie Nuremberg defense.

Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner): The way I heard it, D.C. police found you naked, laying in Lincoln's crotch, covered in nicotine patches with a sign across your chest that said...
Polly Bailey (Maria Bello): He doesn't need to hear the details.

Low-key, quirky, humourous drama-comedy, focused solely on the commandingly powerful yet controlled performance of Aaron Eckhart as tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. It’s a triumph of the script that somehow manages to paint Naylor as a man with principles despite the fact that he defends smokers rights. Director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman) introduces his quiet, understated approach to comedy. Rating: 3 of 4  reviewed 26 Dec 2007

"A smart, funny and often perceptive work that bodes well for the future career of screenwriter/director Jason Reitman."
- Jeff Vice (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)

"Perhaps the film's greatest success is in its ability to have us fall so madly in love with such a morally reprehensible lead character."
- Joe Utichi (FilmFocus)

"Thank You For Smoking is not big, or great, or earth-shattering, but it is exceedingly rare -- an astute and witty comedy that will make adults laugh."
- Gary Thompson (Philadelphia Daily News)

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Senator Jordan (Jon Voight): And you bring me rumors and conjecture.
Maj Bennet Marco (Denzel Washington): I started with nightmares. Rumors and conjecture – that’s a giant leap forward.

A platoon in the Gulf War is ambushed, and mostly saved by young soldier Raymond Shaw (Liev Shreiber) who goes on to excel in politics and get selected as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. But the platoon leader Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) is starting to believe that his dreams of a mass hypnosis of all personel involved may be true. After a very slow first 45 minutes, the film gets into high gear with the confrontations between Marco and Shaw. There’s something particularly creepy about the almost robotic actions of Shaw when he is given his directive, and it’s compelling to see just a glimmer of morality despite all the programming. Meryl Streep is truly chilling in one of her most evil roles.
Rating: 2.75 of 4 reviewed 28 Dec 2007

"A picture that purports to have a galvanizing, liberal-minded theme (big business is taking over our country and our lives) but is really just ploddingly pedestrian."
- Stephanie Zacharek (

"Uniformly excellent performances keep this destabilizing tale ticking, yet one can't help wishing Hollywood had combined this cast and these timely themes with a little bit of imagination to come up with something fresh."
- Megan Lehmann (New York Post)