WINTER IN WARTIME, A POWERFUL DRAMA

The Dutch drama Winter In Wartime is a gripping story that depicts a challenging time during World War II when the Germans occupied Holland.  Extremely well acted, brilliant cinematography and a suspenseful storyline make this film a must see.  The compelling film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Dutch author JAN TERLOUW who experienced five years under German occupation.

The film centers on Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) a young teenager growing up in a time were the world has lost touch with brotherhood and moved on to an evil time of occupation and hostility.  World War II has entered a tailspin, but for small towns in Holland the resistance still lives on trying to hold out until an end to the German atrocities.  With most of his village on edge, Michiel tries to keep out of danger.  But with his discovery a downed British flyer (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his Uncle (Yorick van Wageningen) a member of the resistance moving into his home, it isn’t very easy not to get involved.  When the Germans arrest his father (Raymond Thiry) after finding a dead soldier, Michiel has to make some challenging decisions that could put his family in jeopardy.

I enjoyed the story for its shocking elements involving the youngster who has to come of age during an appalling time in history.  Well acted by Lakemeier as the boy who looses a chance to grow up in a normal society and face the atrocities of a cruel occupation by the Nazis filled with greed and a lust for power. Lakemeier makes his character strong and willing to sacrifice all for his country even if it may affect his own future.

Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) resists German intervention

The keen direction by Martin Koolhoven shows the suspenseful and distasteful time with which his characters have to deal.  He weaves the story around young Michiel making him the thread that ties the script together.  His strict control of the brilliant camera crew to get his movie gives the viewer an opportunity to feel the effects of the damning war.

Winter In Wartime is rated R for some language.  It also contains war related violence and a scene of sexuality.  The film is acted out in the Dutch language with English subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A powerful drama that changes innocence into manhood. (B+)

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, A Ride In The Park

Interesting and mesmerizing Bill Cunningham New York hits the screen about a fashion photographer who’s a friend of many and a ghost to millions.  I liked this documentary as it bites off a piece of life that most people are unaware.  There are many stories in the world about people but not many that take such an in depth perspective of a person who makes a difference in the fashion world.

The documentary shows a chunk in the live of Bill Cunningham a recluse photographer who rides his bicycle around New York City taking shots of women dressed in fashions off the rack and haute culture.  His photos are published in the New York Times and over some 80 years have created a history of the way women dress.

 

The film treats the subject with a sensitive camera showing Bill’s recluse lifestyle, so simple and introspective.  It is amazing to find out the many idiosyncrasies of the man and yet how important he is to the fashion world.  Known by some of he most important people in fashion including The Devil Wears Prada focus Anna Wintour editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine, Bill is one of the most sought after for his opinions.

 

Direction by Richard Press is keen and kind.  He inserts film footage of Bill’s early life to show how adamant he has been in getting perfection in his photos from early on.  Interviews with Bill are smart and sometimes humorous giving the film a light and whimsical feeling.

 

The documentary Bill Cunningham New York is unrated but contains very little material that could be deemed harmful in any way.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good documentary for those who love fashion. (B)

 

 

SCRE4M, THE SHRIEK-QUEL

If you combine all of the three previous Scream movies you will not see as much blood as in Scre4m, it’s a sanguinary feast. The strongly violent film makes Scream 2 and 3 look like kiddy shows.  If you are into films that make your cringe, flinch and urge your dinner to come up, then this fourth edition of the famous Scream will do the trick.

This time we find Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) coming back to Woodsboro on the day and place where the murders in Scream were committed some 15 years earlier.  She’s there to do a signing of her book on self-help. Dewey (David Arquette) has become Sheriff of the small town and is happily married to Sidney’s arch nemesis Gale (Courteney Cox)… as you know Dewey and Gale got engaged at the end of Scream 3. It’s an unwelcome homecoming for Sidney and most of the town, including her close relatives feels an air of danger.  When high school kids start dropping like flies from violent stabbings, everyone becomes terrified of a possible slaughter at the hands of Ghostface.

David Arquette,Adam Brody and Marley Shelton in SCRE4M

Although the film does include some comic relief from Sheriff Dewey’s blunders the realism of the stabbings however, instills chills and a nightmarish feeling that lingers far after the move ends.  Craven leaves not one of his central characters without a stab wound in this killer thriller.  Superb special effects, barrels of blood, lifelike sounds of the knife cutting into the body and realistic makeup bring out the horror that director Wes Craven expects from his visual crew.

The film’s storyline isn’t much, but neither were the other three.  I must admit, though that this chiller tops the list of the Scream quartet for acting, bloodletting, suspense and unpredictability.  And, it’s a shrewd release time from the master of gore especially since his audience following has nothing out there to compare. It’s the film that asks, “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and Jill (Emma Roberts)

Scream fans will get their refill of Campbell, Cox and Arquette with a little cherry topping of Emma Roberts (as cousin Jill) and Hayden Panettiere (as Jill’s best friend) thrown in for good measure. The cast is really up for this one and they really put on a good show.

Scre4m is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some teen drinking.  The film features gory scenes and some brutality so caution is suggested when being asked by any of your under 17 year olds if you can take them to see the film.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Take a stab at Scre4m only if you’re ready for a fright. (B)

 

 

Stars of ‘PROM’ coming to Ft. Lauderdale, FL

MEET THE CAST OF DISNEY’S PROM

Aimee Teegarden, Janelle Ortiz, & Thomas McDonell will sign autographs at Macy’s at Pembroke Lakes Mall

 

Aimee Teegarden

WHO: Meet the stars of Disney’s PROM, Aimee Teegarden Janelle Ortiz, and Thomas McDonell, at Macy’s Pembroke Lakes Mall on Saturday, April 16. The first 250 customers in line will receive their autographs.

 

Janelle Ortiz

WHAT: There are hundreds of nights in high school, but there’s only one PROM! Featuring an emerging ensemble cast and a powerful soundtrack, PROM hits theaters April 29.

At the signing event, Macy’s shoppers can make a girl’s prom dream come true by donating their gently worn prom or formal dresses, which will be given to Becca’s Closet, a nonprofit organization in the DonateMyDress.org network. Don’t miss the chance to meet the stars of PROM and give back to the local community.

 

 

WHEN: Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 2 p.m.

 

Thomas McDonell

WHERE: Macy’s at Pembroke Lakes Mall

Junior’s Department, Level 1

11605 Pines Blvd.

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026

 

 

 

 

ABOUT DISNEY’S “PROM”

At “Prom,” every couple has a story and no two are exactly alike. Several intersecting stories unfold at one high school as the big dance approaches; “Prom” portrays the precarious passage from high school to independence as some relationships unravel and others ignite. For Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden), it’s a battle of wills as she finds herself drawn to the guy (Thomas McDonell) who gets in the way of her perfect prom. Fellow seniors Mei (Yin Chang) and Tyler (De’Vaughn Nixon) harbor secrets, while others face all the insecurity and anticipation that surrounds one of high school’s most seminal events. There are hundreds of nights in high school, but there’s only one “Prom.”

 

Produced by Justin Springer and Ted Griffin, directed by Joe Nussbaum and written by Katie Wech, Walt Disney Pictures’ “Prom,” featuring an emerging ensemble cast and powerful soundtrack, hits theaters April 29, 2011

Spartacus TV Series: Sex and Violence on Steroids

First Season

“I need a hero…he’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.” Basically, he’s gotta be Spartacus, Gannicus or Crixus.

The half-naked Romans in the stands of the gladiatorial arena wanted a rock star to relieve them of the boredom of 70s B.C. Rome.  There was no TV, no porno channel. No SAW movies to sate their lust for violence.  They wanted blood and sex.  And you can taste their hunger for both in Stars’ epic TV series, Spartacus. Shot in New Zealand and featuring mostly an eye-candy cast of unknowns, Spartacus makes today’s WWE SmackDowns seem like Olympic curling.

The testosterone-filled epic borrows from 300, adding a more rounded, protracted storyline that kept diehard fans tuning in week after week. Filmed almost entirely on a sound stage, the high-budget, 13-episode first season delivered the blood and sex other TV shows only promise.

Writer, creator and executive producer Steven S. DeKnight did a great job forging Australian newcomer Andy Whitfield into a hero with soul and substance. It doesn’t hurt that Whitfield has the body for the title role. When I interviewed Whitfield, he looked fit as a gladiator and talked about the training, “Our Boot Camp was 5 days a week, 4 hours a day for a whole month. And no junk food. It was literally 20 grams of this, 5 grains of that. You’re in great shape when you get out of boot camp but then you gotta shoot for 8 months and stay in shape. That’s the hard part. We practiced sword fighting and coordination, and you build a lot of camaraderie. ” Asked what attracted him to the role, he replied, “I loved the concept: Sin City, meets 300, meets Rome. ”

The Thracian gladiator had but one goal: to reunite with his wife, Sura (Erin Cummings), who was sold into slavery. Producers originally slated a sequel, but when Whitfield took ill, the star was forced to back away and a prequel was filmed.

Qunitus Batiatus (John Hannah), a Linista who runs a Ludus (gladiator school) is obsessed with entering Roman politics. A character of increasing complexity, Quintus slowly rises out of debt on the blood and sweat of Spartacus’ victories and almost succeeds in keeping the patronage of Roman legate Claudius Glaber (the very same legate who condemned Spartacus to slavery). Plans go awry when Spartacus leads a rebellion that wipes out nearly every Roman in Batiatus’ Ludus.

When I interviewed Hanna and asked about that final scene, he replied, “I thought it seemed morally right, there’s no real way Quintus could have survived. The whole concept was to follow historically what happened.”  Asked about the almost poetic dialog used in the series, Hanna noted, “Steven S. DeKnight is a brilliant writer, and I loved what he did. He created a sort of archaic Shakespearean dialog that was accessible, not just to a modern audience but an American audience—and I don’t mean anything detrimental about that.”

DeKnight reiterated, adding, “It wasn’t easy, and it was perhaps the one thing that created the biggest arguments in development. I call it Shakespeare meets Robert E. Howard. I studied as a playwright and combined the best elements of Shakespeare and Conan the Barbarian. During the first script conference people were saying, ‘what does this line mean? I don’t know what anybody’s saying?’ So I had to dial it back and it took a couple of episodes to dial it in. One thing people asked about was the use of modern curse words. And I had to explain to them that they did have these words, they were just in Latin.  Asked about the sociology of Rome Spartacus depicts, DeKnight observed, “We did some background research and we had two experts on hand, but I’ve always said, one shouldn’t write a term paper based on our Spartacus, because our first job is to entertain.”

Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) had her own problems. In the first season, she’s humbled by Ilithyia (Viva Bianca), then humiliates her in a smartly executed masked sexcapade that suddenly backfires when Ilithyia loses it and smashes the skull of Licinia, one of the richest women in Rome. Asked how she felt about that violent scene, Bianca exclaimed, “Lucretia lost almost everything in that moment and her life changed forever.” Asked about the outfits and masks she wore, Bianca replied, “They were absolutely fantastic.” Will she be back in season 2? “Yes, I’ll definitely be back in flying colors and so will Glaber. We’ll be going into more of our relationship.” Did she study the life of Roman women? “I did a bit of reading on that. The women in Rome had more rights than those in ancient Greece. They had a lot of power over their men back then, if you look at Ilithyia and Lucretia and the influence they had over their husbands, you can see that.”

The six-episode Gods of the Arena prequel delivered Spartacus on steroids. More sex, more blood, and some classic movie moments worthy of serious beer party palaver. Here, Gannicus (Dustin Clare) is the “rock star” that dispatches his opponents with a Tom Cruise bad-boy smile. After an opponent nicks him, Gannicus brazenly drops his sword and defeats him barehanded. Later, he defeats a muscle-bound mutant while blindfolded.  Then it’s cheap Roman wine and whores all night for the champion of Capua.

Later, when high-ranking Roman, Tullius (Stephen Lovat), beat and humiliated Batiatus, Batiatus, Gannicus, and Oenomaus do an “et tu Brute” on him and “Cask of Amontillado” his corpus into the new area (which Tullius financed).  The one sour note that many viewers objected to was the arena execution of slave Diona (Jessica Grace Smith) after being brutally deflowered by a Roman aristocrat in a sex orgy hosted by Lucretia.

The main event in the season finale of Gods of the Arena was everything bored Romans could hope for. A sine missione match up of the houses of Batiatus and Solonius. Confined by a ring of fire, the spectacularly staged and choreographed contests pitted Batiatus’ skilled titans against Solonius’ diaper-wearing mutants who had greater numbers and lesser skills. The final winner secured not only champion bragging rights but freedom.

There’s obviously much more to tell.  But with DVDs coming out (all loaded with eye-opening bonus features), it’s best left to watch–and wait, because friends, Romans and countrymen, the saga continues in the upcoming 13-episode Spartacus: Vengeance.

SOUL SURFER, EMOTIONAL & INSPIRATIONAL

Emotional and moving the true story of Bethany Hamilton called Soul Surfer makes its way into movie theaters across the nation.  Without a doubt the best film about recovery from a tragedy I’ve seen in decade.  If there is one film you see this year, make it be Soul Surfer, you will be truly inspired.

 

In December of 2004 a tsunami pounded the coastal region of Thailand causing much death and massive destruction.  In the middle of the crisis a group of volunteers from Hawaii went to help the survivors.  Included in the group is Bethany Hamilton, a one armed 14-year-old youngster who believes in herself and a chance to help others.

 

Flash back a year and two months earlier where in a freak accident Bethany is attacked by a shark while practicing for a surfing tournament off the coast of Hawaii.  The bite takes off her left arm and nearly kills her.  With the help of her surfing companions she gets rushed to the hospital where doctors save her life.

AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton in SOUL SURFER

Being a surfer with plans on becoming a professional one-day, you would think that this terrible act of nature would be a career ender.  Not many have survived such a tragedy and been able to pull themselves up and get back on the job.  A similar Hollywood movie last year called 127 Hours received a lot of acclaim when through perseverance a young rock climber Aron Ralston had to remove his own arm to save his life.  That man went on to climb many mountains including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It’s this kind of inspiration that I felt from the Bethany Hamilton story in the movie Soul Surfer.

 

In Bethany’s story we find not only inspiration, but also an abiding faith in a divine reason for the tragic attack.  This faith, and witnessing how others such as the people in Thailand have the desire to recover from tragedy, compelled her to regain her strength and become a world-class surfing champion.

 

The acting in Soul Surfer by AnnaSophia Robb shines as the young girl who has to raise herself up, shrug off pity and move on to her goal. Being able to project the emotional trauma, pain and suffering, Robb makes the story work.  Her ability to express the disappointment from the results of the attack, accept the fact that she must move on and then rise above the tragedy to become a champion is impressive.

 

A stellar support cast that includes Denis Quaid as Tom Hamilton, Helen Hunt as Cheri Hamilton and Lorraine Nicholson as Alana Blanchard provide emotional performances as parents and friend.  Never giving up on Bethany, Tom supports her belief that she can still become a professional surfer in spite of her loss of limb. And, Alana never turns away from her friend, encouraging her to work hard at conditioning herself, getting up on the board and becoming a champion.

 

As a closing point, the making of the movie with the use of advanced filming techniques provides the realism that is necessary for a winning project such as this. It’s amazing how through the use of green screen applications Robb is able to go though all the motions armless.

 

Stay after the credits start to roll to see real footage of Bethany in action on a surfboard, many of her videos of growing up and her trip to Thailand.

 

Soul Surfer is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: See this movie and feel the inspiration. (A)

 

 

 

 

ARTHUR, Hysterical

Another big comedy has entered theaters this weekend called Arthur and it’s a scream.  Of course the most fun comes from star Russell Brand the new champion of comedy who turns and old film into a touchingly brilliant laugher.  If you want to loosen up from everyday problems go see Arthur, his troubles are far from dull.

 

The film centers on Arthur Bach (Brand) a rich heir to a limitless fortune and a playboy who never has an empty booze bottle.  But, after so many embarrassing incidents his mother (Geraldine James) wants him to settle down and get married.  Not to anyone mind you, but to his ex-girlfriend Susan (Jennifer Garner) with whom his mother has business ties.  When Arthur stumbles upon Naomi (Greta Gerwig) his real love in life, things start getting real messy.

Mirren as Hobson and Brand as Arthur

Even if you’ve seen the original release starring Dudley Moore, it’s time you met his match.  Brand puts on a hilarious performance as the drunken billionaire who finds himself in a quandary of loosing his fortune by going against his mother’s wishes.  He molds Arthur into a fun loving oaf who you cannot but adore his winsome personality and generosity.

In support, Luis Guzman plays his trusting butler Bitterman who desperately tries to keep Arthur in line. The perfect character to bounce off a lot of comedy in scenes that need to be uplifted following Arthur’s problematic times.

But the support star of this show is Helen Mirren who plays the loyal nanny Hobson.  She’s the backbone for Arthur, his fallback person and real ‘mother’ when it comes to life challenges. Mirren shows her acting charm and sensibility giving Brand the perfect person to bring out his character’s inner sincerity.

Director Jason Winer on the set of ARTHUR

Special applause goes to Jason Winer for his fine direction of his first motion picture.  Making a comedy for the big screen is no easy task and he nailed it with Arthur.  I’m looking forward to more of his filmmaking, hopefully in the near future.

Arthur is rated PG-13 for alcohol use throughout, sexual content and some drug references.  Please be cautioned that in most cases there is little consolation for Arthur’s drinking habits and a lot of comedy surrounds the bad habit.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A very funny comedy. (A)

 

 

YOUR HIGHNESS, a kingdom on drugs

Gross, rude, crude and lewd, Your Highness almost takes the trophy from Borat, Bruno, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back as the most vulgar film of the past decade.  Every laugh attempt uses tongue in cheek comedy and that gets wierd after awhile.  The special effect/CGI laden motion picture looked like a tribute to FX artists everywhere.  The only group worthy of such foolishness, men who think macho is still ‘in’, will probably suck it up big time.

 

There is no real story; well ok it’s about Thadeous (Danny McBride) the son of a king who’s jealous of his brother Fabious (James Franco) because he does all the fun stuff like slaying the local Cyclops.  When Fabious’s bride to be gets kidnapped by a wizard, the two join in a quest to get her back.

Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel in YOUR HIGHNESS

The ‘F’ word gets used so much, after awhile I became immune to the insult.  Constant sexual suggestions, pseudo portrayals of sex, exposed genitalia and mammary make the film so infantile that even the target audience will probably say, “You got to be kidding me” “Yuck,” “Oh no not that” or “Tell me that’s not real”.

McBride as Thadeous and Franco as Fabious

Now the film isn’t completely all that bad because it has some excellent special effects.  I even have to admit I laughed very loudly during the scene where Thadious, Fabious and Courtney are held captive in a stadium and they have to fight an evil looking five-headed monster.  Yeah, and also the stagecoach chase scene gets exciting, and the scene in the wizard’s castle where he tries to take Belladonna’s virginity, and the scene where Thadious has to kiss the Oracle, and … well maybe several other scenes, but not THAT many.

 

However, Your Highness is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.  I’m sure they left out other stuff like a genital necklace and a record number of times they use the ‘F’ word.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Warning, do not take your girlfriend to see the film. Trust me on this one, it’s a guy thing. (B)

 

 

HANNA, a fantasy

The movie Hanna has a lot of relentless action and for that the adrenaline seekers will be grateful.  It has Saoirse Ronan and her tough sweetness surly blisters the screen. Beautifully photographed, nicely acted and directed, but the storyline didn’t move me.

 

The film centers on Hanna a 16-year-old pubescent young lady who has spent most of her life in seclusion being trained to kill by he father Erik, an ex-CIA agent. She’s near the end of her critical education and has been allowed to make a decision, whether to continue to be in hiding or take on a task laid out by her father.  When she decides to take the mission, her whole world starts to change, including her desire to be a teenager.

Saoirse Ronan in HANNA

While the acting here is admirable, the script insists on being a hackneyed rehash of several movies that come to mind.  The never-ending story attempts to take you on a roller-coaster ride of martial arts fighting, narrow escapes and a relentless chase by Marissa (Cate Blanchett- horribly miscast for the character she plays), a ruthless intelligence operative.  But, the trip gets obviously predictable early one and once you figure out why Hanna is so valuable, it’s not fun anymore.

I will say that the cinematography of the wintry landscape, amazing night shots, great close-ups of Ronan and a lot of exciting fight scenes makes the film ‘watchable’.   That is if you are a male teen who probably doesn’t care about the story anyway. There’s one particular scene that really caught my attention, however; it’s a confrontation between Hanna and troops sent to take her down in her snowy woodsy home.

The hard-pounding soundtrack is also very good and adds a lot of excitement to the film. Special effects also play a big role in the film even though some of the green screen shots tend to be laughable.  Choreography of the fight and chase scenes almost makes the fighting look real, that is until you don’t see a mark on Hanna, almost never.

Eric Bana does his level best to keep the plot real as does Tom Hollander as a very nasty hired hit man.  But, nothing can save the film from a disastrous time line, including impossible appearances by Marissa who can get halfway across a continent in a matter of minutes in her nicely pressed skirt and blouse.

 

Hanna is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual material and language.  You know, most of the stuff that male teens want to share with their buddies.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Hanna’s not Hit Girl, but it will have to do for now. (C )

 

 

 

Bethany Hamilton, the ‘Soul Surfer’, an Interview

On October 31, 2003, Hamilton went for a morning surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai with friend Alana Blanchard, and Blanchard’s father and brother. Around 7:30 a.m., she was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water, when a 15 ft tiger shark attacked her,ripping her left arm off just below the shoulder. If the shark had bitten two inches further in, the attack would have been fatal. Hamilton had lost almost 60% of her blood that morning. Her friends helped paddle her back to shore, and fashioned a tourniquet out of a surfboard leash around what was left of her arm before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital… She then spent seven more days in recovery at the hospital.

Despite the trauma of the incident, Hamilton was determined to return to surfing. Less than one month after the incident, she returned to her board and went surfing again. Initially, she adopted a custom-made board that was longer and slightly thicker which made it easier to paddle. She has observed that she has to kick a lot more to make up for the loss of her left arm. After teaching herself to surf with one arm, she has again begun surfing competitively. She is now back to using competitive performance short-boards again.- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethany_Hamilton Read more

SOURCE CODE, A UNIQUE FORMULA

Unique, explosive and intriguing Source Code breaks the mold in this thriller that entertains.  The intricate plot constantly changes making the tale gripping and mysterious in a fantasy action adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Excitement and suspense lovers will get a double dip in Source Code where the expectancy never stops.

 

The plot centers on Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) a Special Forces soldier who finds himself sitting on a train across from Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) a beautiful young lady who he does not know.  He’s befuddled to find out that she knows him but calls him by another name.  Eight minutes later the train blows up and he’s at a lab where his programmer Colleen (Vera Farmiga) repeats the assignment given to him.  He again finds himself on the train in the same situation, but this time with more knowledge of what’s about to happen.  When he finds that his mission involves an even bigger target, he must act fast to save Chicago,

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal in SOURCE CODE

The direction by Duncan Jones of the gripping script is superb.  Able to keep the plot moving at a fast clip, make his characters real and create an action packed revolving door, Jones makes Source Code a winner.  I enjoy the way he adds another problem in the mix each time Colter returns to the train after it explodes.  Gathering the clues on each of his returns provides the fun of the movie keeping us guessing till the perpetrator gets revealed.  It’s a nail biter right up to the very end.

Director Duncan Jones on the set of SOURCE CODE

Gyllenhaal shows fine talent making his character keep you wondering each step of the way.  But I am more amazed by Farmiga who makes her dedicated character go from cold and calculating to sympathetic for her experimental subject.  In support, Monaghan keeps her role malleable enough to maintain Captain Stevens perplexity throughout the ordeal.

 

The film is rated PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images, and for language.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A unique cringing thriller (B+)

HOP, A KIDDIE DITTY

The film Hop comes to theatres just in time for the Easter season and kiddies will love it.  Filled with some very comical fun, the live action movie with computer graphics provides a good venue for mom to treat the youngsters.  I liked the cute little plot with some adult tongue-in-cheek quips and amusing sight gags.

 

The story finds E.B. (voice Russell Brand), the son of the Easter Bunny bored with his life on Easter Island.  He’s a drummer and wants to make his way in the world entirely different that delivering eggs to humans.  Sneaking down the transporting rabbit hole he ends up in the yard of Fred (James Marsden), an adult human who’s jobless and house sitting for some funds to keep him afloat until he can find his dream career.  When the two eventually team up, their lives start getting better in a crazy kind of way.

 

Russell Brand lends his voice of E.B.

The snappy comedy has a lot of fantasy content that if you just go with it, even adults can enjoy the ride.  Much like The Santa Clause there’s a lot of imagination needed to accept the story, but what a great opportunity to loosen up and be a kid again.

James Marsden plays Fred in Hop

The computer graphic animation of the rabbits and chicks is brilliant in this film.  And with the use of live characters the blend here provides a fun screen event that’s magical to watch.  Children will be begging for their own E.B. and I’m almost sure Wal-Mart can provide one.

 

Hop is rated PG for some mild rude humor, but nothing more than what Sponge Bob delivers.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Stuff some jellybeans in your purse, grab the kids and ‘bounce’ off to see Hop, it’s a blast. (A)

 

INSIDEOUS, GETS LUDICROUS

There are many bumps in the night in the film Insidious, but not enough acting delivery to make the horror work.  I do admit I jumped and flinched on a few occasions as director James Wan does set you up for some exciting chills, but it’s not enough to give the film even an average grade.  Of course like most horror flicks these days, they’re critic proof and this one will probably still do well at the box office with teens.

 

The plot centers on the Lambert family who moves into a Victorian home in the burbs.  Shortly thereafter, their young son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) starts having nightmares and ghostly visions.  Hearing a noise in the attic, Dalton goes up in the dreary room, climbs a ladder and falls putting himself in a coma.  When parents Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) cannot bring Dalton around they call in some ghost hunters in an attempt to release him from evil spirits.

Dalton gets a strange visitor in his bedroom

The story provides nothing new and the acting slips downward as the movie plays out; in fact it gets quite ludicrous.  The saving grace here are the scare techniques that James Wan (Saw) uses to get a rise out of the audience.  They are very chilling at times and he inserts them intermittently much like a walk through a scary Halloween horror house.

 

That said, acting by Wilson (Phantom of the Opera), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) and Byrne (Knowing) goes down hill shortly after the opening sequences.  I’m puzzled as to why the three consummate actors would even allow themselves to be in the B movie.  As for the plot, it’s so predictable, if you don’t get it right away you need to get out of the house more often.

 

Oh, and in one scene the director or one of his crew was probably so bored with the film that he drew a likeness of the mask from Saw on the blackboard.

 

Insidious is rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, terror, frightening images, and brief strong language.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A shock flick that needs more tricks. (D+)

 

JANE EYRE, AN EXCELLENT REMAKE

Captivating and as the British would say utterly romantic, the movie version of the Charlotte Bronte novel Jane Eyre moves into theaters this weekend. I enjoyed the acting, the amazing landscapes and period costumes.  If you like the book, enjoy period piece films, dream about those who live in huge estates, then wake up and go see Jane Eyre.

 

At the center of the plot is a young Jane Eyre (Amelia Clarkson) who finds herself living with her aunt after her parents die.  At odds with her male cousin, her aunt feels that Jane should be put in a private school.  Fast-forward to the 17 years of age Jane (Mia Wasikowska) who escapes the confines of her dull life and finds her way to the home of the wealthy Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) where she takes on the job of governess.  When a romance starts between Jane and Edward, her life starts to change in a direction she did not anticipate.

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre

Even though the age differences between Jane and Edward are distances apart, the actors are able to show the fire that burns between them.  You can see the change on Wasikowska’s innocent face when she realizes that Edward can be hers. The chemistry between the two burns a hole in the screen.

One of the many costumes in Jane Eyre

The costuming and sets are a major part of the story and here no expense has been spared to provide the look and flavor of the early English period.  The camera captures every bit of the countryside, the worn English manor and the clothes that are as important to the entertainment as the actors.  The camera lens even instills a cold damp feeling during Jane’s trek through an unforgiving forest during a horrendous rainstorm.  Jane Eyre is a feeling and director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) provides the complete experience from script to actor to the big screen.

 

Jane Eyre has been produced some seventeen times on television and film starting as far back as 1914 according to the International Movie Data Base.  But with today’s technology, special cameras and creative sets, I found this Jane Eyre to be the amazingly good.

 

The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements including a nude image in a painting and brief violent content.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A classy look at an old plot. (A-)

MEMPHIS, BROADWAY’S TONY WINNER AT MOVIE THEATERS

 

BROADWAY’S 2010 TONY® WINNER ‘MEMPHIS’

COMES TO THE BIG SCREEN

FOR FOUR SHOWINGS ONLY

NCM Fathom and Broadway Worldwide Present Exclusive

Broadway Musical Event This Spring in More than 530 Movie Theaters


 

MEMPHIS, Broadway’s current  Tony Award® winning Best Musical, is hitting big screens nationwide for an exclusive four-night run on Thursday, April 28; Saturday, April 30; and Tuesday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m., with a special matinee on Sunday, May 1 at 12:30 p.m. (all times are local). This is the first time the current Tony Award®-winning Best Musical will be presented in movie theaters while concurrently running on Broadway. In addition to the electrifying musical, audiences will be treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the musical that won four 2010 Tony Awards® and continues to play to sold out houses on Broadway. MEMPHIS was captured live in performance earlier this year with the original Broadway cast for this special Fathom event presentation.

Tickets for MEMPHIS are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com. For a complete list of theater locations, prices and additional information — including cast photos and other details —visit the NCM Fathom website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Presented by NCM Fathom and Broadway Worldwide, MEMPHIS was captured live in performance at Broadway’s renowned Shubert Theatre in New York City, and will be broadcast to more than 530 movie theaters nationwide through NCM’s exclusive Digital Broadcast Network.  Broadway Worldwide’s production team is led by founder and executive producer Bruce Brandwen, Emmy Award®-winning director Don Roy King (Saturday Night Live, CBS’ The Early Show, Survivor) and Grammy® and Emmy Award®-winning sound producer Matt Kaplowitz (Ghandi, PBS’ To Bear Witness).

MEMPHIS takes place in the smoky halls and underground clubs of the segregated 50’s, where a young white DJ named Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball) fell in love with everything he shouldn’t:  rock and roll and an electrifying black singer (Montego Glover). MEMPHIS is an original story about the cultural revolution that erupted when his vision met her voice, and the music changed forever. Bursting off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love, this incredible journey is filled with laughter, soaring emotion and roof-raising rock ‘n’ roll.

“We are absolutely thrilled to share the story of MEMPHIS and its Broadway experience with audiences nationwide,” said MEMPHIS producer Sue Frost. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for all of us involved with the production, and we can’t wait for Broadway lovers across America to see it on the big screen!”

MEMPHIS features a Tony®-winning book by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) and a Tony®-winning original score with music and lyrics composed by David Bryan, Grammy Award® winning keyboard player and founding member of Bon Jovi.  Directed by Tony® nominee Christopher Ashley (Xanadu) with choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys), the all-star cast features Tony® nominee Chad Kimball, Tony® nominee Montego Glover, Derrick Baskin, J. Bernard Calloway, James Monroe Iglehart, Tony® nominee Michael McGrath and Cass Morgan.

MEMPHIS has been dazzling audiences since its Broadway premiere, and for the first time ever, audiences around the country will be able to experience Broadway’s current Best Musical at its finest – direct from Broadway – in their own hometown movie theater,” said Dan Diamond, vice president of NCM Fathom.

MEMPHIS will launch a U. S. national tour in Memphis, Tenn., in October 2011 at the Orpheum Theatre.  Additional cities, dates and casting will be announced at a later date.  The national tour is being booked by The Booking Group, contact Meredith Blair (212) 869-9280 www.thebookinggroup.com.

For more information about MEMPHIS on Broadway, please visit www.MemphistheMusical.com