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Friday, September 30, 2011

Ryan Reynolds Iraq Contractor ' Buried ' Alive Film Review

Let me know what you think of this idea.  You and I will go see a film that:

1. You see only one character (Ryan Reynolds)

2. The entire film is set with the confines of a makeshift coffin buried beneath the ground.

3. Oh yeah, it's not a comedy either. It's dark

You would probably run away from me.  

Ryan Reynolds stars in the movie " Buried." It is one of the more innovative films I have seen in a while.  Even better yet, the entire film is plausible. This could actually happen in real-life just as it did on film.  

Reynolds character is a truck driver working for a contract firm in Iraq.  At the start of the film he wakes up in a coffin.. He is injured and confused but slowly remembers that his truck convoy was attacked. He is being held for ransom and will run out of oxygen soon.

As you watch this film, you'll be in the coffin with Reynold the whole time. His acting is really tremendous.  This movie is a great breakthrough for Reynolds as he really shows that he can play parts in what I'd call more 'riskier' films and pull it off.

His only means of communicating with the outside (or above ground) world is by cell phone. He desperately tries calling family, friends, US Government, his employer, and eventually gets put through to a service that specializes in locating hostages in Iraq.  During these calls the movie gets really intriguing and complex, yet very easy to follow.  You sense both a loving and broken family history.  You feel paranoia and confusion over who is helping him. You sense a frustrated worker and an uncaring corporation. The frustrations of government bureaucracy.  A few twists along the way and, my favorite, the frustration of being put on hold especially, I suppose, when buried and running out of air.

This movie is great. It is not fun though. Very dark and depressing. Excellent suspense and some great messages.  If you are looking for something very different, watch Buried.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chloe - Liam Neeson Julianne Moore Film Review

The movie Chloe is about a doctor ( Julianne Moore ) who suspects her husband ( Liam Neeson ) is cheating on her.  To find out if he is having and affair, she hires a prostitute ( Amanda Seyfried ) to seduce her husband and report back to her what happens.

Julianne Moore is terrific as always.  I found her performance to be pretty solid. Her emotions of dread and suspicion felt real.

Liam Neeson does a nice job but he does not step out of his comfort zone as an actor. It is the role we've seen before. Neeson plays the older, above middle class, sophisticated, dark, handsome, well-spoken male so often that it no longer seems to require any effort from him.  In Chloe, he plays a successful, financially well to do, lecturer/professor. He dresses in his usual dark, drab "Liam Neeson" garb and, of course, there is the dark and sophisticated side.

This family has its troubles to begin with and, naturally, problems deepens when Moore's character begins to employe a prostitute to spy on her husband's infidelity.  Typically when characters in the film begin to develop problems the audience cares about what is happening. They are either rooting for the family to over come the odds, or rooting for a character to carry out some scheme, or  root against good fortune.  In this film, the family has such a privileged, luxurious life, I could have cared less what happens to them. I felt nothing for this family.

The story is not exactly perfect but it works pretty well until maybe the final third of the film. Sure the writing and directing attempt a clever, subtle twist in the film but it gets completely steamrolled toward the end when the film looks too much like Glenn Close and Michael Douglass in the terrific film, Fatal Attraction.

Don't expect a lot if you see this.


Rated R

1 hour 38 minutes

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Never Let Me Go Film Review - Keira Knightly Carey Mulligan

All disease has been cured and people routinely live to be 100 years.  The reason for this, it seems, is that children are bred to be 'donors'   Their minds and bodies are conditioned to prepare them for an adulthood spent donating organs over a period of months or years until 'completion', their death.

 "Never Let Me Go" is based upon the novel, "Never Let Me Go", by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Very intriguing movie. I've heard people call "Never Let Me Go " a science fiction film but I think  it feels more like an alternative history film.  There are no futuristic scenes or techno gadgets. It is a bleak, austere world. The film is set in the 1960's, 70's, 80's, and 90's and the only 'sci-fi' element about it is that somehow the world was easily convinced to allow the forced execution of perfectly healthy, innocent young people so organs can be farmed.

Never Let Me Go focuses on three people, raised in a school for donors called Hailsham.  Hailsham reminds me a great deal of the school in the Harry Potter series. That sort of happy, all-too-innocent atmosphere with dark, dark undertones.  Hailsham being by far the darker.

The story moves along flawlessly. I was not once bored or looking at the clock. It was quite intriguing. The idea that the characters will die soon from donation was a heavy undertone of the film but it did not come close to dominating the dialog. It contributes to the depth of the characters but does not get in the way of the actual story.  The story focuses on three 'donors' and their intense lifelong relationship. 

Keira Knightly, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan play the three donors and are simply perfect. Watch their emotions as closely as you listen to their lines.  They give the characters great depth. Depth is important in this film as there are no save the world or save ourselves heroics. The characters are born to die and are willing to do so dutifully. There are no gimmicks to fall back on. The film relies totally on good writing, directing and acting. It does this beautifully.

Rated R


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Monday, September 19, 2011

The American - Movie Review a George Clooney Film

Is it me or do assassin / hit-man films all seem to have the same story line.   A world-weary,  aging hit man wants out of the business. The mysterious organization he works for turns against him.  The American is pretty much that kind of film.

The American stars George Clooney as the hit man who seems to just want a quiet life and, yes, the organization he has been so loyal to has other plans for their assassin in mind. Seen that before? I'll bet you have.

The plot came to me as no surprise.  The ending, and I'm not giving anything away here, no spoilers, is one I promise you've seen a number of times.  Let's just say, after the final climatic scene, you have no doubt about what is going to happen to Clooney's character.  Even if you don't suspect this ending, you've seen the same, exact finale used before in other films.

Oh yeah, and Clooney's mysterious character does manage to attract a bevy of beautiful women half his age.  Imagine that?

So, I did not like The American?  Actually, all of its cliches aside, it is a pretty taut film.   Clooney is actually great as the weary, done it all before profession.  A similar, albeit darker, role that he played in the 2007 Michael Clayton film, which i loved.  He looks like a million bucks but his terse, quiet character comes off very well.  He's is not a character you love but you don't hate him either.  The film does not go out of the way to make him look like a good-guy. There are no scenes of him become the reluctant hero or "pet-the-dog" scenes that give the audience something to rally around.  I really respected this direction of the film

Another credit to the film is that it is not about Clooney hunting a target. Actually, for much of the film he is hired to make a gun for another assassin, which is more interesting than it sounds.  The creation of the weapon takes all his mechanical skills and assassin-experience, which comes off nicely during some nice, sparse, dialog between him and the assassin the gun will belong to.  This gives the film some originality.

The setting is terrific too.  The majority of the film is set in and around  in a small, rocky, remote Italian village filled many intersecting tiny streets, alleys and wonderfully rustic homes.  The action is sparse but when it happens, this maze-like setting gives some nice tension without all the usual gun fighting and fisticuffs.

I was glad I watched the film.  The plot and ending showed no innovation at all, yet it still came off feeling fresh in many ways.  

I'd suggest checking it out sometime, especially if you are a fan of this genre of film or simply a fan of Clooney.


Rated R

1 hour 45 minutes

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York Movie Review - NY Times Photographer

Bill Cunningham New York is a documentary film about a New York Times newspaper fashion photographer.  

I loved this documentary and I loved Bill Cunningham.  Bill Cunningham lives a very simple and austere lifestyle.  He resides in an apartment above Carnegie Hall. His home has no kitchen or bathroom (the bathroom is shared with other residents down the hall).   He does not have a car and rides his bike around New York all day long.  He has no significant other and does not seem to have any close friends.  He devotes his life night and day to photographing the clothes people while walking the streets of Manhattan.

Sounds like a crazy guy right?  Perhaps some inaccessible, curmudgeon artist? Dirty appearance, no money, critical of others?

Nope.  Not only does Bill Cunningham live a life that would make a Quaker feel like a sinner, he is a contradiction to his values, and I mean that in the most flattering way. Bill seems to love people. He enjoys their company, laughs constantly and genuinely is a guy you'd want to get to know.  Seriously, you'd feel good around this guy.

His life is about fashion, yet he is the least fashionable man in New York.  He repairs jackets with tape and doesn't even need a closet as he has so few clothes.

Bill not only takes pictures all day long of people walking the street, but he is also a high-fashion photographer rubbing elbows with some of the most famous and influential people in New York City.  Their fame and influence have no meaning to him though, only their clothes give him purpose.  He looks for originality in fashion and he doesn't seem to mind who wears it.

I've probably said too much about this documentary (I usually try not to say to much about the content of films but couldn't resist). The crime in stating too much about this film is that 'understatement' is really what makes this film so beautiful. 

 You'll love Bill, but you never really know him and the film preserves that by not resorting to countless banal questions about personal relationships like so many other films do.  This film has a purely beautiful character who exudes so much passion in life it is infectious. It makes you want to, as they say, suck-the-marrow out of life.  Bill's life is not for me, yet somehow I am envious.    Toward the end of the film, the only moment when the movie begins to very reservedly ask the 'tough' questions of Bill, I actually began to cringe at the idea of this man opening up his personal feelings aside from his work.  I was not disappointed though.

You should really check this film out.  I don't care if you don't like the New York Times, fashion, or photography. If you like documentary films about people choosing a path in life and sticking to it no matter what, you'll love it.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Kids Are All Right Film Review - Mark Ruffalo Julianne Moore

"The Kids Are All Right" starts Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Annette Bening.   Two teens live with their same-sex mothers (Moore and Bening).  The kids decide to look up their sperm donor father (Ruffalo).  They meet the father and it has an effect on the family.

While their are some gay scenes, this is not a gay film. The film is about a no-so-traditional family facing the same challenges that any other family would face given the same circumstances.  I guess you'd say the film was about family and what could happen when an unexpected relative shows up.

The film is completely devoid of fatuous melodrama and emotion that a lot of "family" films tend to emphasize.  This is a great relief as it really helped the film feel more realistic.   Sure, there are emotions but they ingeniously muted and acted out from within.  When there is love, there isn't all the gushy emotions that make most bystanders sick.  When there is anger there is no screaming in the rainstorm or breaking of glass. It all feels so real, so very well done.

It wasn't until I watched this film that I began to wonder if Mark Ruffalo has ever played a bad role. He is truly acts well without appearing to try very hard at all.  Remember him in the movie "Zodiac" ? Same deal except in "The Kids Are All Right"  he is an immensely likeable, dare even say cool, well-intentioned individual with flaws of his own. 
Bening and Moore as terrific as always as the married couple. They are very convincing as a couple that has been married a long time.  They might not be as attracted to each other, but they still try (with the help of some, eh, interesting DVD's) 

 They are slightly out of touch with their teenage kids, but certainly not hopelessly out of touch. They both have very different views of life but still, for the most part, respect each others role in life.

I really enjoyed this film.  While it definitely does not take itself too seriously, it is not a comedic romp either.  It plays out both seriously and humorously without confusing the audience or making the film look awkward.  It is a nice piece of acting, writing and directing.

Seriously check it out. Excellent film.

106 Minutes
Rated R

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Battle Los Angeles Starring Aaron Eckhart Movie Review

Battle Los Angeles stars Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking) as an almost-retired career marine who is pulled back into action when the world is attacked by extra-terrestrials.

Roger Ebert utterly destroys this film in his terrific movie review. Ebert's article is so seething, so scathing that I mention it in hopes that you read it.  I've never seen a film so ruthlessly torn apart by him.

I utterly agree with everything he said, yet I still enjoyed the film.

The film has the same old formula as most action films.  Gritty, veteran marines, with some personal problems of their own, fight aliens in a desperate attempt to save the planet, etc.   Not real hard to figure out the flow of this film.

The dialog of the film is not particularly great.   There are no real quotable lines in the film and the dialog does little to develop the characters.  Basically, what you know of the characters in first moments of the film, pretty much stays the same way through the end.  

Like all war films it seems, the marine leader (Eckart) needs to earn the respect of his men. In the end he gets it.  Pretty much standard-faire in so many military films.

All that said, I somehow still enjoyed the film.  Maybe it is because I like the whole end-of-the-world film genre. War films I've always had a soft spot for as well.  

The premise of the movie, which is based on a supposed real alien invasion event back in the  1940's, is intriguing to think about.  I did respect how the enemy aliens were a bit more stronger and technologically advanced, but not so much that our own weapons completely fail. This makes for a devastating conflict but not one where we have to overcome utterly impossible odds.

Aaron Eckhart does a real good job as action hero.  No Oscar nod here. Honestly, there just isn't good enough writing to support his talent. Eckart does however show the world he too can walk with the popular action hero actors.

It is hard to write a convincing, positive review about a film when there are so many flaws but it is worth watching. There is plenty of combat and the movie moves along at a real fast pace.  Good entertainment.


116 minutes

PG 13

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Waiting For Hockney - Art Documentary Review

Imagine spending 10 years of your life working on the same project, 365 days per year, at no pay, having huge loans you must pay off.

Now, imagine the project you were working on was a pencil sketch based off a photograph of Marilyn Monroe. I said that correctly, a-pencil-sketch-of-a-photograph-of Marilyn-Monroe.  For ten years, that is.

Billy Pappas does just that, but in the process creates what could be a whole new genre of art... or is it? Waiting for Hockney is a documentary about Billy's attempt to get his work noticed.

Pappas attempts to contact David Hockney, a famous  artist to justify his work and the rest is an interesting ride.

The film takes a look at what it means when you bet not only your money but give up years of your life all for one thing that you are passionate about.  Papas loses years, ten years to be exact, off his career path and his development as an artist.  He has a close relationship with his mother and father but really seems to have no other close relationships, which is sad considering he is a very genial and friendly man. The kind of guy men would like to hang out with and women would like to date. 

Papas commits those ten years and Julie Checkoway films it.  The first three quarters of the film are interesting to watch but nothing exceptional. There are some problems I had with the film during this time.  Nothing is really said about Billy's technique or what tools he uses.  I know he uses pencil but I'm not even sure they mention the canvass or paper it is on. Billy is a trained artist and has a degree to prove it, yet the film is directed in a way that makes him look ignorant of the art world, which I find hard to believe.

The last quarter Checkoway throws in some intriguing perspectives from the key players in Papas ambitions. Perspectives you didn't expect earlier. This elevates the film to an above average documentary.

Nothing sensational but I certainly don't regret watching it.

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