DRIVE, A HOT TICKET

 

Just to make sure that the trailer for Drive doesn’t give you the wrong idea, NO, this is not a Jason Statham movie in the vein of the adrenaline pumping Transporter series.  Ryan Gosling holds his own in this rough surrealistic drama that inserts all the thrills shown in the preview and more.  If you like looking into the mind of a tough loner who is on a road to a life full of angst, then take a ride to Drive.

 

The story involves stunt driving and getaway wheelman Driver (Ryan Gosling) a loner running from life and heading for trouble.  His mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston) has never seen a more remarkable stuntman who has no fear and spits in the eye of danger.  Without a care in the world except his next meal and a place to sleep Driver lives from day to day.

Driver (Gosling) and Irene (Mulligan)

At a local grocery store he sees Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young attractive woman with a child in tow.  In a quirk of fate he finds that she has moved into the apartment next-door.  When his mind starts to imagine a life of possibilities with her, shifting gears becomes a risky challenge.

Ryan Gosling plays characters that take on a lot of psychological trauma (Blue Valentine, Fracture, All Good Things) and in Drive he ups the ante.  Playing Driver a very moody person who takes chances getting his kicks by cheating death at every traffic light and stunt car crash without a care.  Helping the mood, director Nicholas Winding Refn uses the camera with long close ups of the brooding man creating a surrealistic mood that projects Driver’s callous nature.  Then as the story turns 180 degrees, Refn’s Driver starts to change his outlook on life and Gosling’s there to create another side of his character.

Ryan Gosling and Director Nicholas Winding Refn on the set of DRIVE

In support both Cranston and Mulligan do a terrific job of being the catalysts to Driver’s actions and reactions.  As the stunt coordinator for Driver, Shannon becomes his pillar saving him from those who take aim.  When Driver finds himself in danger, it’s Cranston’s character that comes through, until it’s too late.

Mulligan plays Irene the one beautiful flower in Driver’s dark life.  Her ability to project innocence in the midst of her own life turmoil shows big on the screen.  With her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) she tries to show Driver that there’s more to life, even when things seem impossible. Refn turns Leos and Mulligan into the jewels that Driver wants even if he has to give them up so they can find happiness.

Talented comedian Albert Brooks puts on his dramatic face playing Bernie Rose a Jewish Drug contractor who puts danger in Driver’s way.  A brutal role for a ‘funny’ man, but he handles it with little difficulty.

There is a negative here but it’s a double edge sword.  Refn spools out his story slowly taking a lot of liberty with the camera in close-ups that made my mind wander at times, long shots that seem to take forever to complete and dialogue delivery with multi-beat hesitation in conversations. Those filmgoers, however, that like the mystery, psychological value and suspense that this sometimes brings, with accept it as part of the story.

The film is rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.  This is a film that should only be seen by the mature as the violent beating gets so unbearable I even turned away at times.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent drama with a sharp edge. (B+)

CONTAGION, NOT A FLU SHOT

Slick, compelling and gripping Contagion uses the fright brought on by past outbreaks of deadly virus attacks around the world to punch home a ‘what if’ plot that succeeds in scaring the pants off accepting moviegoers.  The recognizable actors saves the plot from being hard to follow as it jumps from country to country in this thriller that ‘could actually happen’.

 

Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home from a trip with flu-like symptoms only to die a short time later after being rushed to a local hospital.  The doctors are puzzled as to the cause, her husband Thomas (Matt Damon) distraught that they could do nothing for her.  On the other side of the world and in other US states the airborne and contact virus is spreading.  Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) has a blog on the web that exposes government cover-ups and his millions of followers are starting to get scared that the virus will be devastating causing panic in the streets.

Thomas (Matt Damon) tries to leave the infected city

Trying to control and find a cure for the fast moving disease Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet) has immersed mind and body in finding how the virus got started and where it’s spreading. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) head of the US health division has been pushing hard on his scientists to get a vaccine to stop the epidemic.  When all their work starts to breakdown due to affects of the killer germ, the pressure cooker starts to blow. Will Mears, Cheever and their scientists succeed or will a cure even be too late?

Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) distributes pamphlets

 

I enjoy the way director Steven Soderbergh moves the story along at a fast clip much like the spreading of his virus.  Moving in and out of different countries where he starts stories connected to the outbreak he adds the devastation that has been set upon the people along with it.  His most compelling story surrounds the Emhoffs who we get close to and more involved due to the erosion of this modern day American family unit.

 

His make-up and effects are very realistic and what I would envision an infected person would look like.  Soderbergh brings the virus up close, shows the damaging effects and makes it very convincingly scary.

Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet) tracking down the cause

His actors do a terrific job in their roles, especially Winslet whose character has to take the lead on getting close to the illness while fending it off her own body.  Her scenes show the tragic effects that someone would have if they contracted the virus.  You can feel her determination on getting to the root of the cause while sacrificing herself to save the world.

 

Contagion does have a few drawbacks that keep it from being an exceptional one.  Other movies of this ilk including Outbreak, 28 Days Later/26 Weeks Later, Quarantine, The Happening, The Andromeda Strain, Contagion 2001 to name a few have been released. And even though this Contagion had me on the edge of my seat at times it came up with a resolve all too quickly for my liking.

 

The movie is rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language, but nothing mature youngsters cannot handle.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Not a classic, but fun to watch. (C )


 

THE DEBT, A SIZZLER THAT FIZZLES

A fairly good drama with a lot of intrigue bows at local movie theatres starring a fine cast.  Although the actors do an excellent job of portraying the interesting characters, the story gets muddled a bit with questions of reality.  If you like films geared to getting you incensed about Nazi war crimes then The Debt is worth a look.

 

The film centers on Stephan and David, two Israeli Nazi war criminal hunters who get an assignment to track down a Dr. Vogel in Russian occupied East Berlin during the 60’s wall era.  Stephen and David have Vogel ready for capture but they need someone to be the patient in their plan.  Rachel, a retired agent accepts the assignment and meets up with Stephen and David in the dangerous occupied zone.  Although the capture takes a turn for the worse, the three find themselves heroes.  Years later, a horrible secret comes to a head.

Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington in THE DEBT

Intrigue saves The Debt from an early downfall in this fictional account of the capture of a Nazi war criminal.  Stellar acting helps the drama unfold nicely as the story skips from one era to another and back again.  I enjoyed the determination showed by the actors to make their characters real and fallible, but the story in my estimation gets implausible.

 

The twist here is not how they perceive the hunt and capture to work, but that no matter how intricate the caper the consequences would have been accepted, especially if you are an Israeli secret agent and true to the cause.  This bothered me and no matter how I played it in my mind I could not come up accepting the outcome of the film. I would be interested in finding out if any of my readers come up with the same conclusion.

 

John Madden does a good job of separating the past and present in The Debt.  Weaving the crime to the injustice, and then infusing the final justice, Madden keeps his audience on edge till the final twist of fate.  Although he did his job, the failed script becomes the loser here.

 

The film is rated R for some violence and language, but be aware that there are some very brutal scenes.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: The production flaw here is in the script. (C )


POINT BLANK, adrenaline pumping thriller

 

Thrilling, Intriguing and vicious Point Blank keeps the adrenaline pumping with excitement at every turn.  A fine cast ably directed by Fred Cavaye puts the film in a league with The Departed.  If you like a lot of action with a harrowing storyline then go and see Point Blank.

 

Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) is a male nurse working at a hospital when his pregnant wife Nadia (Elana Anaya) gets kidnapped before his very eyes. Knocked unconscious, he comes to and discovers that a dangerous criminal named Sartet (Roschdy Zem) is responsible, and if he’s ever to see his wife again, he must do Sartet’s bidding. Samuel quickly finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save the lives of his wife and unborn child.

Gilles Lellouche as Samuel in POINT BLANK

Acting by Gilles Lellouche, Elana Anaya and Roschdy Zem can only be described with words like realistic, stunning and gripping.  The three take on the major roles and with the fine direction of Fred Cavaye put on a great show.  I especially like Lellouche’s energy as Samuel who finds himself in some crazy dangerous situations while trying to free his pregnant wife.  Never wavering, his character pushes forward not knowing what his next test may be.

Samuel (Lallouche) and Nadia (Elana Anaya) in Point Blank

Anaya’s performance as the pregnant wife who has to face a brutal kidnapper with only a month left to her due date.  Her acting gets so realistic that you can feel her fright, exasperation and stamina as Nadia fights to keep her and her unborn baby alive. If she could be nominated for an Oscar, she certainly should be for the realism she put in her anguished character.

 

The cinematography by Alain Duplantier is outstanding getting shots that set the tone for the incredible chases, brutal attacks and punishing reprisals.  Duplantier’s next photography project is just a month away and pits Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro against some nasty assassins in Killer Elite. I can’t wait to see the production, if the camera work’s anything like Point Blank it’s sure to be a winner.

 

Point Blank is rated R for strong violence and some language.  The film also contains scenes of brutality and a disturbing image. The film is presented in French with English Subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A must see for the story and performances. (A)


 

 

 

 

THE HELP, TOUCHING AND REAL

It’s hard to believe that it was only a short period of time ago that people were still separating black from white.  In The Help we find what a little thing like writing a book could do to stir up segregation and bring it to the forefront.  In this story there’s a huge helping of right versus wrong with an unexpected outcome that reminds all that man’s inhumanity to man did exist even in the good old USA.

 

It’s the 1960’s Mississippi and the women in this particular town are prominent southern ladies who spend their days at teas and community events.  Their social life depends on how they look and present themselves so having a maid or two is a normal thing.  Skeeter, a local socialite, has just graduated college from Mississippi State and returns following her long absence. Being brought up by a black housekeeper she’s familiar with the power of the local ladies over the help.  A New York publisher gets a call from Skeeter about her wanting to write for the publication and the editor tells her that she wants something controversial.  When she offers her a story on ‘The Help’ things start getting edgy in Mississippi.

Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in THE HELP

I like the way writer/director Tate Taylor spools his story out slowly delivering a lot of character build-up in this segregation drama. Featuring fine acting from the whole cast their characters are caring, loving, controlling, hurtful and rebellious making the story forceful and convincing yet entertaining.

Tate Taylor and Emma Stone on the set of THE HELP

Both Taylor and novelist Kathryn Stockett were brought up in Mississippi homes where African American maids did all the work including the much-needed attention to the children of the household.  This first hand knowledge makes the film more real and compelling.  Taylor uses his sets and costumes to depict the era while putting his actors through their everyday routines, confrontations and finally a remarkable showdown that sums up the message embodied the film “Change begins with a whisper”.

 

The musical score by Thomas Newman helps put each of the scenes in the mood intended and remarkably adds to the dialogue. A song by Mary J. Blige “The Living Proof” written and sung by Mary for the film adds power to the presentation. Please stay for the end credits to hear the complete rendition.

 

Emma Stone has been making films for several years, all of which were shallow except for possibly Zombieland where she excelled here as a sweetheart with a cobra’s bite.  Here she does an outstanding job playing Skeeter with a very believable performance showing that yes, she can play with the big girls.

 

The Help is rated PG-13 for thematic material.  It does contain some derogatory language and vicious remarks so please be aware of this in choosing to bring immature youngsters.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A very realistic story and reminder of a troubled past (B)

 

 

 

SNOW FLOWER, BLOOMS

Beautifully photographed the drama Snow Flower and the Secret Fan provides a stunning window into the lives of four women.  Although the film is a bit long, I found the journey well worth taking. Although a major chick flick, the film still plays well to older males.

 

The film features the custom of laotung a binding of friends for life as soul mates.  The tradition comforts the main characters Snow Flower (Ji-hyeon) and Lilly (Li Bingbing) through the best of times and then the toughest tests of their lives.

 

In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong’s descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai.  Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever.

Snow Flower and Lilly become laotung

Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) pulls excellent performances from his cast although I found myself struggling at times to separate the modern day female pair from their ancestors because he used the same actors.  Even with the make up and costume differences, the ploy just doesn’t work for me.  That said, Ji-hyeon as Snow Flower/Sofia and Li Bingbing as Nina/Lilly are brilliant in their roles portraying the delicate women who have to live through some very hard times.

 

The film does have some drawbacks however; the transitions between the modern day laotung women to their 1800’s counterparts happen a little too frequently, which causes a disjointing of the storyline.  Although director Wang found it a necessary bridge between eras, larger spans of each couples lives would have made the film more compelling.  Continuity suffered from a possible shorting of some scenes, especially the invasion of the Chinese rebels that displace a whole village only to find them returned in such a short span of time.

 

The customs of the early Chinese involve foot binding whereby the parents of young girls wrap their feet tightly so they will not grow.  Since most high-class suitors like women with small feet it becomes a way for most families to increase their station in life. Nicely inserted this binding process generates empathy and sadness for Sunflower and Lilly adding to the emotional charged film.

 

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence/disturbing images and drug use. Be cautions on dragging along immature pre-teens due to the subject matter. English subtitles are used during Chinese dialog.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A challenging film for viewers and the filmmaker. (B-)


 

BRIDE FLIGHT, A LOFTY ROMANCE

A period piece with a lot of style, good acting and directing Bride Flight inspired by a true event provides a visual delight for romantics.  I liked the film for its characters, the interesting story and New Zealand photography.  If you take your romance served slowly yet gracefully then Bride Flight’s a delicious treat.

 

The story involves three intended brides, Ada (Karina Smulders) a young woman desperate for companionship, Esther (Anna Drijver) a holocaust survivor with dreams of being a designer and Marjorie (Elise Schaap) on her way to start a family, that travel to New Zealand following World War II.  The three become friends fast on their long trip from Holland.  During the flight Ada meets Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) who is on his way to start a new life in the far county and the two become enamored with each other.  When the four finally land at their destination they realize that a bond has been made, but to what end?

Ada Von Holland (Karina Smulders)

I like the way director Ben Sombogaart (his film Twin Sisters was nominated for an Oscar in 2002) weaves his tail making sure each of his characters are developed before throwing them into their new lives.  Although he takes a long time with the story his characters are amazingly addictive with charming qualities that induce you to want more.  Not overbearing with a single subject, he takes the three women and intertwines their relationships playing out each act as one story.

 

A fine cast lead by Smulders as the lovely yet romantically confused Ada graces the screen with a stunning performance that keeps the viewer wanting more. Smulders’ chemistry with Torenstra as Frank makes the romanticism realistic and compelling.  The two smolder up the screen with their love for each other.

Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) and Esther (Anna Drijver)

The cinematography of post WWII New Zealand showing the beauty and promise of the land helps the story along.  I liked the way Sombogaart fits his costumed actors into the rugged sets providing a step back into the past. Aided by some great natural formations, hot springs, 1940’s settlements and majestic mountains, the film becomes somewhat of a travelogue as well.

 

 

Bride Flight is rated R for a strong sex scene and some graphic nudity.  The film also contains a traumatic birthing scene and some violence.  Subtitles are provided for the Dutch language.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A nicely played out romantic adventure. (B)

 

AWARDS

Scottsdale Film Festival – Audience Award for Best Film
Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival – Audience Favorite Award
Rehoboth Beach Film Festival – Best Feature Audience Award
Newport Beach Film Festival – Best Feature Film, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Screenplay

 


LARRY CROWNE, RIDES AGAIN

 

Opening up in a crowded market Larry Crowne takes a big chance that the romance filmgoer needs a break from all the explosive action now on the big screen.  But does this film have what it takes to go up against Transformers 3, Green Lantern, Super 8 and Bad Teacher?  Even Monte Carlo with its teen market will have a tough time.

The film centers on Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) a mild mannered man who is liked by his fellow employees at U-Mart.  In fact he has won Employee of the Month a lot of times.  On the last Friday of the Month he hears his name called over the store speaker to report to the break room.  The company is downsizing and since Larry doesn’t have a college degree they let him go.  Torn by this Larry goes home to rethink and downsize his life goals.  When the bank finds Larry with no job and late payments Larry decides to go to college and earn a degree.

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in LARRY CROWNE

From this point on the fun begins with Larry getting acclimated with the younger students and his new teachers.  But the movie wouldn’t be more than a average Indie if it weren’t for Tom Hanks (the film’s writer, producer, director and actor).  As an actor Hanks makes his character inquisitive, energetic, positive and involving the things that make a person interesting. As a writer he invests in the deplorable situation of job loss in order to capture his audience before showing them that there is always a way out.

 

His directing skills are not all that bad either, moving his characters in and out of the story after showing their lighter side of life.  Here he really stands out however, keeping his story tight, not giving his recognizable actor’s too much rope to take over the action and not spending a lot of time with Larry’s difficulties thus avoiding a sappy film.

 

Julia Roberts makes a good teacher and even provides a few Erin Brockovich moments that show her characters bold ilk.  Although the chemistry between her and Hanks is lacking in part, Roberts still sells herself well on the screen.

Hanks here with Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson

Hanks throws in some good character actors like Cedric the Entertainer (his garage sale diva next door), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (a hottie fellow student), Bryan Cranston (Robert’s character’s husband in a midlife crisis), Wilder Valderamma (a jealous scooter ‘gang’ member), and many more recognizable faces to help his film with a comical touch.

 

The film is good and enjoyable to watch and though it received a PG-13 rating for brief strong language and some sexual content (a sensual kiss) should not be too over the top for mature pre-teens.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: It’s a film the older crowd will probably appreciate most. (B)

 


TREE OF LIFE, A MOODY SAGA

Could one compare the Cosmos with a 1950’s conflicted family?  With Tree of Life director writer Terrence Malick tries to do just that.  Although he may succeed on an existential level, a general audience will just see a family in disparaging change that picks at the heart and soul of their relationships.  I am not a big fan of the film and found Tree of Life to be preachy and more of a meditation on my own life problems.

 

The movie opens with grown up Jack (Sean Penn) now a successful architect thinking back on his life.  It quickly moves into the 1950’s where we are introduced to his father, Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) starting a family in a rural American town.  As time goes by O’Brien starts to spiral down from a life-changing problem taking his frustrations and deep seeded pain out on his children.  With only his wife (Jessica Chastain) as a barrier young Jack resists his father’s domination while trying to hold his place in the family.

Mr. O'Brien (Pitt) repremands his son while Mrs. O'Brien (Chastain) looks on

The acting is superb with Pitt as the high-strung domineering father and husband.  His emotional state changes in the film from loving to a man with a rattrap inside ready to spring shut with the drop of a foot.  He brings up his children with a strong hand never showing any real emotion beyond contempt and anger during his discipline.  Jessica Chastain as the children’s mother takes as much of the focus off the boys as she can in an attempt to ease the anger displayed by O’Brien.  Her ability to show weakness and yet protect her children is just one of Chastain’s acting strengths she brings to the film.

 

Many films come to mind involving domineering males but most recently Revolutionary Road where changing times and employment affect a couple trying to raise their two children.  In Tree of Life Terrence Malick goes another step further and shows the hostile situation between father and son that forces a distancing of their love and a scar that remains forever.

 

Using Sean Penn as older Jack really doesn’t make any sense. In fact it is quite distracting since it is such a small part.  It tends to make me believe that there must be a shortage of good acting in the acting pool.

 

As the film opens and intermittent throughout Malick interjects flashbacks to the beginning of time, dinosaurs, the universe, long underwater shots and lofty moody hypnotic music that seems to indicate the presence of God.  I’m not too sure that the entire splendor is needed in the film and tends to bring to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey a film that almost put me to sleep with the Blue Danube Waltz music.

 

Tree of Life is rated PG-13 for some thematic material, but in my opinion parents should be cautioned that verbal abuse is quite excessive in the film.

 

FINAL ANALYISIS:  A preachy film with a derivative story. (C+)


 

 

THE ART OF GETTING BY, SIZZLES THEN FIZZLES

Take your time with The Art Of Getting By although the story has a simple plot Director Gavin Weisen spools his movie out slowly providing an abundance of character development.  Although this may be a good thing for film buffs, it’s not the kind of entertainment for those who like their romance with a lot less buildup.

 

The plot centers on George (Freddie Highmore), a conflicted teen that believes life has little meaning, especially when it comes to schoolwork.  Having reached his final high school year doing very little homework he still seems to eke through.  But, with finals coming just weeks away his teachers are demanding he turn in a year’s worth of reports and a passing grade on his finals or there will be no diploma.  Lost in a world of his grotesque drawings and contemplating giving up any future endeavors, he meets Sally (Emma Roberts) a defeatist person like himself.  This bonding takes the two on a course of apprehension then exploration and optimism.

Sally (Emma Roberts) and George (Freddie Highmore)

 

I personally did not care much for the film finding it repetitive and overwhelmingly dark.  Wiesen’s direction spends way too much time on character build up, divorce guilt and school conflicts leaving little time for the coming of age relationship for both Sally and George.

Emma Roberts in a scene from THE ART OF GETTING BY

The acting however shines with Highmore and Roberts making credible emotional teens that deal with age-old problems. And I’m impressed with Michael Angarano as the starving artist Dustin who takes George under his wing only to screw up his relationship with Sally.

 

The Art of Getting By is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, teen drinking, partying.  The film, however, does depict an over abundance of teen drinking without penalty so be cautious when approving pre-teens to early teens attending the film.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A little less would be more in The Art of Getting By. (C-)


 

INCENDIES, A Captivating drama

Stunned can be the only word to describe my reaction to Incendies an incredible story that shocks with disbelief.  Extremely well acted and directed the foreign language film was nominated for an Oscar and in my opinion should have taken home the gold.  If you are up for a drama that’s passionate, interesting and revealing then this movie should be at the top of your list.

 

The children of Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) sit down for the reading of their mother’s last will and testament in their Canadian hometown. The final codicil requires the notary to hand over two letters, one to their father they never knew and one for a brother they don’t know exists.  The notary asks that the letters be delivered to the respective parties before the will can be consummated.  While Simon feels unmoved by the gesture, Jeanne is more inquisitive and decides to travel to the Middle East to uncover the mystery. After months of searching, Simon decides to join Jeanne.  When things get heated up over their last name, their ancestral heritage consumes both.

 

The movie uses flashbacks to take us through Nawal Marwan’s life during one of the most despicable times in history where people were killed for political reasons.  Caught up in fight for survival, Nawal shows the anger, distrust and reality of an awful war.

 

Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne

The acting, directing and storyline provide an excellent drama and the twists add surprises at every turn.  Adapted from a play by the Lebanese born Wajdi Mouawad, director Denis Villeneuve gives an emotional live production a Hollywood makeover adding a Middle East background that enhances the unusual storyline.  Providing a confrontational aura Villeneuve plunges his audience into a controversial world while manipulating his characters in the deeply moving story.

 

The acting here is superb and reminiscent to the outstanding performances in the movie The Stoning of Soraya M. in which Shohreh Aghdashloo shined as an Iranian woman falsely accused of adultery.  Here Lubna Azabal as Marwan captures her audience depicting the torture and harsh cruelty forced upon her.

 

Incendies is rated R for some strong violence and language. The movie nominated for an academy award in the foreign film category, is Canadian produced.  Scenes of the Middle East contain some foreign language with subtitles.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: An outstanding film that captivates. (A)


Watch the STARZ Official Trailer for Torchwood: Miracle Day

 

Hey, did you see the STARZ official full length trailer for the new “Torchwood: Miracle Day” series? Well, it’s here, and it’s amazing! With a bigger budget and some big American co-stars (Mekhi Phefir, Bill Pullman, Lauren Ambrose) joining original favs John Barrowman and Eve Myles, the hit BBC sci-fi TV series looks better than ever thanks to the STARZ re-vamp and it’s got us practically gagging. Come on in, take a look, and get excited!

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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+)

 

 

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)

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+)