PIRATES: ON STRANGER TIDE, NICELY CONNECTED BUT SLIGHTLY WORN

Yo Ho Ho and a mighty jug of Depp. Commanding every scene in his 4th installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp shows that he hasn’t slowed down.  Although the film is lacking in some respects, On Stranger Tides entertains with comedy, action and awesome 3D.  Whether you’ve seen the other three or just getting started, you are in for a pirating thrill ride.

 

In this episode of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), we find him being duped into looking for the Fountain of Youth by his newest sidekick and heartthrob Angelica (Penelope Cruz).  It doesn’t take long for Sparrow to find trouble and when he steps on the deck of the ship of his most feared remaining nemeses Blackbeard (Ian McShane), his love life and dreams of a fortune start to turn upside down.

Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) in a fine mess

Pirates’ 4 like its predecessors has all the fun chase scenes that find Jack in the thick of things.  With addition of Cruz as Angelica the daughter of the infamous Pirate Blackbeard and Jack’s one true love, in the heat of confrontation she challenges Sparrow’s actions at every turn.  Does he face up to his arch nemeses or turn away to protect the only woman he ever loved?  That’s the quandary we find in this installment.  The film has a lot of twists and turns, but in the end there’s always one more following the movie credits.

Sparrow (Depp) and Angelica (Cruz) slosh toward the Fountain of Youth

As for Johnny Depp, like in all the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Jack has to find a way out of the mess he gets himself into, even if the drunken sailor hasn’t a prayer.  This is where Depp shows his best bobbing around like he’s filled with rum and avoiding disaster at every turn.  He’s the jester of the comedy team, a Dudley Moore, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel all rolled into one.

Johnny Depp and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer on the set of On Stranger Tides

But that said, has there been too much of Jack Sparrow?  Has the character run its course?  He’s fought against ghostly skeletons (The Curse of the Black Pearl), ends up in Davy Jones’s locker (Dead Man’s Chest), sails into battle at the edge of the earth (At World’s End), and in this episode Jack’s headed for a chance at immortality.  Anyway, I think Jack’s about to hang up his tattered Pirate Hat for good and grab a case of Pyrat Rum.  Let’s hope however, that we won’t have to suffer through any spin offs that would never be the same without Depp.

 

Rob Marshall does an adequate job of directing this installment bringing a lot of excitement to the screen.  Although he didn’t have the full talent pool that included the likes of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly he still makes good use of the returning Geoffrey Rush (as Barbossa), Kevin McNally (as Gibbs) and even Keith Richards (as Jack’s father).  Throwing in some new faces like Ian McShane as Blackbeard, Sam Claflin as clergyman Phillip and a modest Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Syrena a mermaid gives the film a fresh newness but still doesn’t stand up to previous consummate casts.

 

I liked the film very much and when the Blu-ray comes out it will join the other three in my collection.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence, some frightening images, sensuality and innuendo. The film was viewed in 3D for this review. Although it runs for over two hours, I never found myself nodding off or antsy.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good continuation of a slightly worn saga. (B)

 

 

MY PERESTROIKA, A NEW RUSSIA

Through the art of interviews, news footage, old photos and home movies we are brought to the reflection of a new age for Russia in the feature documentary My Perestroika.  The eye opening of a huge powerful country in transition speaks loudly about capitalism, communism, socialism, politics and a proud people.  Has the amazing change stood the test of time?

When the USSR broke apart in 1991, a generation of young people faced a new realm of possibilities. An intimate epic about the extraordinary lives of this last Soviet generation,

The Pioneers, a children's communist organization

Robin Hessman’s feature documentary debut tells the stories of five Moscow schoolmates who were brought up behind the Iron Curtain, witnessed the joy and confusion of glasnost, and reached adulthood right as the world changed around them. Through candid first person testimony, revealing verité footage, and vintage home movies, Hessman, who spent many years living in Moscow, reveals a Russia rarely ever seen on film, where people are frank about their lives and forthcoming about their country.

I found the film interesting and revealing in a historical sense.  The people interviewed by Director/Producer/Cinematographer Robin Hessman certainly show the change in their lives including hardships, political differences and future choices within their ‘new’ lifestyles.

However, I am left with the feeling of uncertainty on the track Russia has taken.  Hessman seems to gloss over the political direction of Russia that still holds on to the roots of Communism. I would like to see what the other independent countries as a result of the break up of USSR have done with there new found freedom and compared their strife with that of the five Russian people centered on in the film.

In all My Perestroika does show hope for the new beginning and although it may be a long road ahead it may be a little rockier than Hessaman’s camera has captured.

The film is unrated, but I found no offensive material.  The film is projected in the Russian language with subtitles.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A good historical look into the eyes of a ‘new’ nation. (B)

 

MY PERESTROIKA received the following accolades:

 

Official Selection – Sundance Film Festival, 2010, US Documentary Competition

WINNER – Filmmaker Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2010

WINNER – Special Jury Award, Silverdocs Film Festival 2010

WINNER- Best Documentary Film, Milwaukee Film Festival 2010

Official Selection- International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011

Official Selection – New Directors/New Films 2010

Official Selection – Hot Docs, Toronto 2010

Official Selection, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2010

Official Selection, Doha Tribeca Film Festival, 2010

 

 

 

BRIDESMAIDS, An Amusing Comedy

After watching the previews I had the impression that Bridesmaids was going to be a female The Hangover. You know a group of women of many personalities including an oddball that carries much of the laughter and getting into trouble in Las Vegas.  Well after watching the film, I found it’s not the case at all.  This quirky little film should be called Dueling Maids of Honor because that’s what the movie really portrays.

 

The movie centers on Annie (Kristen Wiig) the chosen maid of honor to bride to be Lillian (Maya Rudolph) her best friend since childhood.  Even with her life in a downward spiral, this event has put Annie on cloud nine.  With her ego rising Annie starts gearing up for the best wedding ever to hit Chicago.  Then she meets all the bridesmaids in a get together, one of which is Helen (Rose Byrne) the wife of the groom’s boss who in the past 6 months has become real close to Lillian.  When Helen starts nudging for control of Lillian and the wedding, Annie puts on the ‘gloves’.

Annie (Wigg) and Helen (Byrne) playing 'who can get in the last word'

So, if you are going to Bridesmaids to see a group of wild women that have a female stag party in Las Vegas much like in The Hangover, it’s not going to happen in this film.  Actually they never get to Vegas.  Bridesmaids is more of an ordinary comedy about Annie vying for friendships, getting her life on track, trying to bring romance into her life and dealing with personal money problems all at the expense of her best friends wedding.

Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig

That said, there certainly are a lot of funny scenes, some quite hilarious involving Melissa McCarthy as Megan sister of the groom (now that sounds familiar).  The wacky and silly character does in this film what Zach Galifianakis’s role accomplishes in The Hangover, carry the brunt of the mad humor that makes this film work.  She’s so funny I would almost say it’s worth the price of seeing the film regardless of the time tested plot.

Annie and Helen arguing over bridesmaids dresses

Oh, the picking out the wedding and bridesmaids dresses scene got so funny I didn’t know whether I was going to hurl or wet my shorts.

 

The film is rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout.  There is also a scene of drug use and drinking.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: An amusing joy ride. (C+)


EVERYTHING MUST GO, Ferrell to a higher level

Looking for a shot at huge recognition in acting, Will Ferrell takes on a dramatic role in the film Everything Must Go.  The deep seeded movie puts him in a setting far from his comical fame and he nails the character with aplomb.  If you like drama that deals with personal problems, marriage difficulties or psychological hardships, then Everything Must Go has it all for you.

 

The story centers on Nick Porter (Will Ferrell) a salesman who after 16 years with his company gets fired due to his drinking problem.  Arriving home he finds the house locks changed and all his belongings out on the front lawn.  His downward spiral has hit a low point in his life and it’s at this moment that he chooses to take a stand.  Organizing his office furniture, exercise equipment and other things he has accumulated in life, he decides to live on his front lawn.  When he meets Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a pregnant woman who moves in across the street, and Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) a young boy that’s willing to help, Nick starts to come to grips with his situation.

Dan Rush goes over a scene with Ferrell in EVERYTHING MUST GO

Ferrell gives a strong performance as the latent alcoholic who can’t seem to shrug the addiction.  Under the direction of Dan Rush who adapted the film from a short story by Raymond Carver, Ferrell shows that arrogant comedy isn’t his only path to fame.  The deep slow moving storyline of Everything Must Go could have surly tested the comedian’s ability to hold back a smirk in some scenes, (and there are probably several takes where he doesn’t) but Ferrell holds his own throughout.

 

His support cast does an exceptional job in light of the fact that Ferrell finds himself flying solo during most of the film. As Kenny a youngster who joins in to help Nick in spite of the circumstances, Wallace proves he can deliver with the best.  Helping Nick on the chance he can make some money during his boring summer, Kenny finds out that even he can give a hand up.

 

If I had to point out a weakness in the film it would be the poor fleshing out of the character of Frank Garcia played by Michael Pena. Although a pivotal role in Nick’s alcohol rehabilitation and marital separation, Frank’s character gets treated more as a second thought than a major player.

 

The film is rated R for language and some sexual content.  The use of alcohol is prevalent along with a scene of attempted robbery.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good acting job does not a great film make. (C+)

 

 

CEREMONY, A QUIRKY ROMANCER

The quirky comedy Ceremony features a great cast under the direction of first timer Max Winkler.  It’s Max’s entry into the world of controlling a set, actors and final production of a film.  Having written the script for Ceremony helps him pull off a nice little comedy that entertains.

Sam (Angarano) and Marshall (Thompson) take a ride in CEREMONY

The story finds Sam (Michael Angarano) connecting with his old friend Marshall (Reece Thompson) that he estranged some years earlier.  Although leery of their meeting, Marshall agrees to go with him to spend some time at the beach on Long Island.  When they get there strange things start happening, including crashing a pre-wedding party.  When Marshall realizes that Sam’s there to try to steal the bride (Uma Thurman) away from her intended (Lee Pace) things start getting out of hand.

Zoe (Thurman) and Sam (Angarano) walk the beach in CEREMONY

 

The fun in this movie comes with the interaction of the many personalities and although the old saying opposites attract, this meeting turns into a hilarious mess.  Angarano as Sam opposite Thurman as the bride to be Zoe makes a perfect fun picture as their height and age difference makes their interaction even more comedic.  The cast is perfect and Thompson as the confused friend complicates the plot even more.  When Whit (Lee Pace) Zoe’s puzzled intended gets into the mix things really get crazy.

 

Direction by Max Winkler, although a little unexceptional as a newcomer, still makes his story work.  His cool hand at giving his actors a lot of rope to develop their kooky characters is a smart move that insures a strong endearing finish.

 

Cinematography by William Rexer (Prime) helps the film showing the northern Long Island off-season drab in the beach scenes and good close-ups of the action between Angarano and Thruman.

 

Ceremony is rated R for some language, sexual references and drug use.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A strong start for a young director. (B)

 

 

 

THOR, AN EXCITING INTRODUCTION

Slam the hammer Thor has opened in theaters and it’s a hard-hitting CGI adventure.  Packed with action and electricity, the film makes this comic book hero a reality.  With the anticipated The Avengers set for May 2012 however, this film’s more of an introduction of the character than a stand-alone hit.

 

At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. When he takes it upon himself to fight the ice creatures, Thor is banished to Earth without his hammer where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Anthony Hopkins as Odin

I like Chris Hemsworth in the role of Thor, his physique, mannerisms and ability to create excitement are perfect for the part.  With screenwriter and director of the film Kenneth Branagh at the helm, the mighty hammer slinging Thor becomes a reality.  But, although action and adventure are present in this film, I found the plot more of an introduction to the character and lifeless at times. With the insertion of Natalie Portman as Jane the lead female, I found her more of a weakness rather than a draw to her pivotal character; it’s just not her thing.

‘Comic Bookers’ will certainly want to see this adventure, as the depiction definitely proves positive.  The Computer Graphics Imaging makes Thor powerful and forceful against his foes with electric coming from his immense hammer, the weapon of this comic book hero.  I totally felt the excitement in Thor’s battle in Asgard and on Earth.  For that I upped the films value.

 

Chris Hemsworth who owns the role of Thor, which he won in a duel with his brother over the character, will reprise his role in 2012’s The Avengers.  We’ve already been introduced to Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and with the upcoming Captain America (Chris Evans) it puts these three characters in line for their big challenge.  The other members of the heroic group are Don Cheadle as War Machine (from Iron Man 2), Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (the character makes his debut in Captain America), Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye (a new character to be introduced in The Avengers), Scarlet Johansen as Black Widow (also from Iron Man 2) and Mark Ruffalo as Hulk (a previously introduced character with a new face).

 

Thor is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence.  Most pre-teens however, have seen most of the fighting in their video games and cartoon network. Stay through the end credits for a hint about The Avengers.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good introduction to a vital character in The Avengers. (B-)

THERE BE DRAGONS, Torches the screen

The gripping story based on Saint Josemaria Escriva called There Be Dragons opens in theaters and it’s a must see for drama lovers.  It’s a film of Saints and sinners, war and romance that puts its weight on the power to forgive.  I liked the film for the knowledge of the period, the development of characters and direction by writer Roland Joffe.

Wes Bentley as Manolo

The biographical story follows Robert Torres (Dougray Scott), a young journalist writing a story on Josemaria Escriva (Charlie Cox) a Spanish priest about to be canonized as a Saint.  In his investigation of the facts he finds that his estranged father Manolo (Wes Bentley) was associated with Josemaria.  After some soul searching the long separated Robert decides to contact Manolo in a last ditch effort to get at the truth of Josemaria’s past.  During this interaction we see the story flashed back through Manolo, now a dieing man, who harbors a dark secret about his sins and the Saint.

Charlie Cox as Josemaria

The story consumes you from the very start as we meet the young Manolo and Josemaria growing up in the same town.  Both living different kinds of lives of upper class vs. middleclass they find themselves growing apart.  Manolo’s parents push him away from those beneath him until the final separation, one going to the priesthood and the other taking refuge with his family.  When the Spanish Civil War starts to rear it’s ugly head, Joffe’s characters chose sides.

Rodrigo Santoro as Oriol

Joffe (The Killing Fields, Vatel) does a brilliant job with his story intertwining war, politics and religious suffrage.   Making his characters fighters in all facets I felt like I was being dragged between fascism, communism and Christianity.  When he brings the threads of deceit, deception, cruelty and honor together in his finale, the climax puts your mind in a wringer of sorrow and disbelief.  It plays out like a novel you cant put down till the last page is turned.

 

There Be Dragons is rated PG 13 for Violence and combat sequences, some language and thematic elements.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A thought-provoking drama that torches the screen. (A)

SOMETHING BORROWED, Romance for the Chicks

This romance good girl bad girl story works well in Something Borrowed, but only a ‘chick’ would care.  Like all chick flick films I review however, leaning toward how much fun it would be for the ladies adds up in my final grade.  If you like your comedy with a lot of sugar and spice, then ladies this film should be desert for you.

 

The movie centers on Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) an attorney in a great firm in New York.  She got there with the help of her college buddy Dex (Colin Egglesfield) who kept her focused on the job.  One huge problem, just when Rachel planned to tell Dex that she had fallen for him, BFF Darcy (Kate Hudson) changed Rachel’s love life forever.  When announcements go out that Dex and Darcy are getting married, Rachel starts to get ideas that may reverse her downward love spiral.

John Krasinski, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson and Colin Egglesfield

The intentionally complicated love story has a lot of cute stuff going for it, but three quarters of the way through however director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door) decides the movie needs some unpredictability.  Here is takes a 180-degree turn and complicates his movie in a bad way, for me anyway.  His characters not only change their minds, but their personalities unlocking secrets that seem obvious to me were put there to make the film more challenging.

 

Goodwin has excellent chemistry with both John Krasinski and Egglesfield, so much so that you can feel the love coming off the screen.  Actually, acting by the whole cast is decent and enjoyable, especially Kate Hudson as Darcy the beautiful girl who has the world on a string.  Hudson knows how to play this part and she gives it her all making the movie a fun watch.  In addition to Hudson, the zany performance by Ashley Williams, as Claire a friend of Darcy, keeps the film comical in a big way.

 

Something Borrowed is rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A chick flick with some slick comedy. (C+)

 

PROM, A SWEET FOR THE SWEET

It’s that time of the year for the senior dance expecting to enhance memories of friendships, puppy love and dreams of being a mature adult.  Yes it’s the Prom and Disney’s new movie knows how to make it PG with some new faces and a display of morals fit for Middle America and the Bible belt.  It may not be reality with the lifestyle in the 2nd millennium, but what are movies for anyway? Places where you can still see family values and feel that they still exist.  You know, it’s the perfect movie for moms who worry about their High School daughters.

Jesse (Thomas McDonell) and Nova (Aimee Teegarden)

In this film every couple has a story and no two are exactly alike. Several intersecting stories unfold at one high school as the big dance approaches; the movie 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 Jesse 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.  Will this ‘perfect night’ be a night to remember?

 

Prom director Joe Nussbaum, who gave us Sydney White and Sleepover, both films featuring a group of newbie’s, continues his quest to find the perfect newcomers for the teen appeal.  His only known player, Aimee Teegarden has already had a string of hits, especially television’s Friday Night Lights that spotlighted her throughout the series.  Here she plays the pivotal role giving some strength to the very predictable plot.  Although Nussbaum gives her a lot of rope with her character, it’s not enough to make the film a winner.

 

Unfortunately the prime audience that will watch this film, ladies 12-18, will probably walk away with an empty feeling on what it may really be like at ‘the prom.’  Sadly the only action, a fire and a fight that points out the bad boy in town and the sole comedy surrounds a boy trying to come up with the nerve to ask out his perfect prom choice.

 

Prom is rated PG for mild language and a fight. But, this is a TEEN film so it’s a loss that Nussbaum made the film a little unrealistic by sticking in the ‘magic’ that’s usually infused in Disney’s Animated division youngsters.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A sugarcoated version of a High School rite of passage. ( C )

FAST FIVE, IN HYPERDRIVE

The action thriller Fast Five with its hot rod theme leaves the past four episodes in the dust.  High on energy, exhilarating plot and amazing chase scenes make this a must see adrenaline pumper. The opening ten minutes are so wild it took my breath away.


This episode of Fast and Furious finds Brian (Paul Walker) and Dom (Vin Diesel) on the run after breaking Dom out from a prison bus on the way to the lock-up.  Looking for more action and going into hiding they end up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where they set up a new scheme to knock off a corrupt businessman who controls the city.  The plan set up by Dom seems foolproof until FBI agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) takes a stab at binging him and his crew down.

Paul Walker as Brian and Vin Diesel as Dom in FAST FIVE

The directing by Justin Lin is creative, costly and daring putting his cast and stuntmen in some intricate positions while blowing up a train, toppling a huge bus and destroying a plethora of cars and other vehicles. But that chancy move brings an explosive film to the screen and that’s one of the reasons I highly recommend Fast Five.  If he tried to outdo his dynamite enhanced 2009 Fast & Furious, he succeeded.

Director Justin Lin on the set of FAST FIVE

Although the acting’s nothing to write home about, after all we are dealing with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster who are best known for their looks and not their acting talent, their presence does make the film worth seeing. But, what saves the talent end however, comes from Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tego Calderon and Don Omar who provide a comical touch and Dwayne Johnson causing a lot of violence with their limited screen time.  Add to this the hot chicks in the form of Brewster, Elsa Pataky and Gal Gardot and you have a recipe for high box-office revenue.

Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Vin Diesel

Fast Five is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: It’s a film made in heaven for thrill seekers and fast car fans. (A-)

HOODWINKED TOO!, A ‘LOONY’ GOOD TOON

Nicely put together the animated feature Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil entertains well on two levels.  With a fast moving plot packed with a lot of fun characters children will get the most from the wild and wacky comedy.  As for the parents, you’ll get more out of watching your kids reactions than the routine storyline that amuses with sight gags and offhanded one liners.

This time the gang includes Inspector Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), Red (Hayden Panettiere), Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Granny (Glenn Close) and Twitchy (Cory Edwards), who are on a real crime case. They are on the trail of the wicked witch (Joan Cusack) who has abducted Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler).  The group starts to solve the case but soon finds out there is more than meets the eye.  Will the crew save the German kids in lederhosen or be vanquished by the wicked witch.  You’ll find out when you watch this crazy fairy tale and get the twist (or is it twitch).

The loony animated feature has a lot of kid stuff peppered throughout so you won’t have to worry about a lot of potty calls.  The characters are valiant (Red and Granny), sinister (wicked witch, the troll and the spider) or very comical (Wolf, Twitchy and Nicky Flippers) and it’s all in fun.  It won’t take long before you discover that the plot includes a conspiracy that leads the gang to a Troll, Three Pigs and a Gingerbread House.

Twitchy (Cory Edwards), Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Red (Hayden Panetierre) and Granny (Glenn Close)

The voice characterization is perfect for the animated cast of Looney characters that make this story work.  Although kids may get a better kick out of the film, parents will still be able to guffaw at some of the comical asides.  If Heidi Klum (as Heidi) doesn’t make you laugh at her yodeling, then maybe a tune from Wayne Newton will do the trick.

Hoodwinked Too! Is rated PG for some mild rude humor, language and action.  Be cautions when bringing the very young and immature as the spider gets a little scary.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A kid flick that’s ‘hoodie’ but goody. (B)

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)

 

 

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)