Monthly Archives: January 2012
With every job I have had, it has been inevitable that I would catch wind about the women’s bathroom, from my female co-workers. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard how disgusting their bathrooms are. Does this movie finally explain the reason? If it does, I missed it since I was laughing so hard; I had tears in my eyes. This movie is not meant to be hight art or make a political statement. All it is meant to do is give women the chance to be the stars in a stupid, goofy comedy; showing men that they can be just as raunchy (well, maybe not as much), crazy and funny. Kristen Wiig (Whip It, MacGruber) plays Annie Walker, best friend and maid of honor to Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph (Idiocracy, Grown Ups). Friction quickly grows between Annie and fellow bridesmaid, Helen Harris, played by Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek, X-Men: First Class), setting off a competition to outdo each other, in planning the bridal shower and helping with the wedding. Though the story is predictable, kudos to the women for doing a fine job with the physical comedy. Also, congratulations are in order for the movie’s Oscar nominations.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
Having been the recipient of bullying in my past, I tend to bond with the underdog character in a movie. With this film, I felt right in synch with 12 year old Oskar, played by Kare Hedebrant (Cupid’s Balls). Seeing his fear, hiding from his tormentors, brought back some unpleasant memories. But, I do not wish to turn this review into a therapy session. I was enthralled with the story of Oskar befriending the mysterious girl, Eli played by Lina Leandersson (Nyhetsmorgan-TV), who recently moved next door. She only comes out at night, hates food and will not enter his home without being asked. However, she quickly is attuned to his emotional state, helping him to gain confidence, to stand up to his tormentors. An unusual bond begins to form between the two as they unite in their sense of being the outsiders. Some of you may be familiar with the American version of this movie; however, I prefer this original Swedish version, finding it more artistic in the way it was filmed. For example, the use of light and dark, going from a dull palette of gray to a splash of color, all was fascinating to me. Please bear in mind there are bloody scenes in this thrilling movie. Swedish with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
I have to say a more apt title would have been, “Extremely Long & Incredibly Annoying.” The main character Oskar Schell, played by Thomas Horn (Jeopardy-TV), was so annoying, it was a distraction for me. I would be curious if the young boy was just as irritating in the book. The story revolved around 9 year old Oskar ‘s search through New York City, for a lock that matched a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. With a lack of drama and decent script, the searching for this lock became boring for me. Interspersed throughout the movie were flashbacks of Oskar interacting with his Dad, played by Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, The Green Mile). For me, the writers tried to do their best to manipulate us into feeling emotions for these lifeless characters. On some level I think the story, in the hands of better writers and director, could have been an interesting tale of perseverance after tragedy.
1 2/3 stars
For those of you who wish to have an extra serving of magic, gaze upon this movie review. A rich, sumptuous film that continuously teases the viewer with doses of drama, mystery and excitement. The time is the early 1900’s in Vienna and Eisenheim, played by Edward Norton (Fight Club, The Incredible Hulk) settles into a small theater, to enchant the ever increasing patrons with amazing magical feats. Ah, but the illusionist becomes enchanted with Sophie, played by Jessica Biel (Valentine’s Day, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry), who is engaged to a crown prince. What begins is an intricate cat and mouse game, as the amazing Eisenheim uses his skilled abilities, with the hope of succeeding in mastering the ultimate dream. Beautifully filmed as if with a velvet brush and earthly palette, I was enthralled with this wonderful, creative movie.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
How far would you go, using desparate measures, if you knew you only had a short time, before you could lose everything? As bitter as the winter season, with hope becoming as frosted as the St. Lawrence River, Ray Eddy, played by Melissa Leo (21 Grams, The Fighter), has no choice in her decision: become a smuggler of illegal immigrants. As the title of the movie implies, she does this by driving over the St. Lawrence River when frozen, bringing the hidden immigrants in from Canada through the Mohawk reservation, which reaches into Quebec from New York. When one hears about crossing the border, most people think of the southern border of the United States with Mexico. It was fascinating to have the location in a small northern town instead. Melissa’s raw presentation was incredible. One could feel the despair coming out of her. It was an amazing performance worth watching. Even Trooper Finnerty, played by Michael O’Keefe (Michael Clayton, Too Big to Fail) can sense her turmoil, though he is bound to uphold the law. A bitter, cold observation of a woman in crisis, this movie has to be seen–even if it means you have to wear a sweater to do so.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
I will not pretend to be a dance critic for this review. And I need to say, I am not a huge fan of the avant-garde style of modern dance. With no idea who Philippina “Pina” Bausch was, I ventured to this movie solely on the coming attractions for it. Pina was a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher and artistic director; who was a leading influence, since the 1970’s, of modern dance. Her style was unique, blending movement with different sounds, elaborate sets and what some may consider, unusual props. Philippina would allow her dancers to participate in the creative process of a dance piece to such an extent, that it became known as a style called “Tanztheater.” This film is a tribute to Pina Bausch, since she died only a few days before filming was to begin. Her dancers from Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch (formerly Wuppertal Opera Ballet) perform her works in this 3D presentation. The settings went from the starkness of a bare stage to the rim of a canyon. A variety of props, such as a wheelbarrow of dirt, to a pool of water were incorporated into what may be considered more theatrical pieces than dance numbers. For me, with piece after piece, some of the movements blurred together, leaving me slightly bored. Maybe the director wanted the different dance numbers filmed to teach the viewer about Pina; however, I did not get it. On the other hand, I have always been fascinated with the way the body moves and can appreciate the physicality of the dancers, including the older ones. But I left the theater wishing there was more substance to this movie.
2 2/3 stars
Imagine what it must feel like, to be picked out of the secretarial pool by your new boss, Adolph Hitler…during the final days of the war. This movie not only used the memoir of that secretary, Traudi Junge, played by Alexandra Maria Lara (Control, Youth Without Youth), as a basis for the story; but also, Albert Speer’s memoir and several other historical books. What we are presented with is a direct portrayal of the Third Reich without the “monster” connotations or political slant; simply human beings. In a tour de force performance as Adolph Hitler, Bruno Ganz (Unknown, Bread and Tulips) is outstanding, as he displays extreme emotions during the final days of Hitler’s life. It is one, if not the best, depictions I have ever seen of Adolph Hitler. As the Russian forces are nearing Berlin from the east and the Allied forces from the west, life inside Hitler’s bunker begins to crumble. This movie, with scenes of deep tensions, fury and despair; was one of the best dramatic portrayals of World War II’s history, I have ever seen. German with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Should a movie inspired by true events inspire us? Already in place was a wonderful piece of history that just needed to be told. A crew of African American pilots have endured prejudice, segregation and the lowest priority missions during World War II. They never backed down, hoping that one day they would do what they were trained to do–fly an important mission. How in the world did they come up with this lifeless script is beyond me. What could have been a powerful movie with outstanding characters, sounded so melodramatic and one dimensional; I was bored. It is an utter shame that George Lucas, who bankrolled this movie with his own personal money, could not have hired proper writers. His reason for using his own funds, he has said, was due to the banks fearful to back a movie with a black cast. Is he kidding? I assume they did not want to throw money at a poorly made movie. Now I get it, that actors wanted to be part of this movie, hoping to tell the story of the pilots from the Tuskegee training program. However, in my opinion, Terrence Howard (Iron Man, Hustle & Flow) playing Colonel A.J. Bullard and Nate Parker (The Secret Life of Bees, The Great Debaters) playing Marty “Easy” Julian should get new managers. This movie had no excitement, no strong action scenes and idiotic dialogue. What a shame.
1 1/2 stars
With my brothers having been teachers and myself teaching in the health fitness industry, this documentary was astounding to me. If I had a child, this movie would be horrifying. Using a mix of families’ personal stories, educator interviews and surveys, I cannot imagine anyone not being moved by the plight of the United States’ education system. With stand out interviews of Michelle Rhee (Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public School System 2007-2010) and Geoffrey Canada (CEO of Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York), we are lead to believe there is hope for our education system. But please do not misunderstand, there are some incredible roadblocks, for our nation to improve the system, depicted in this film. After I was done watching this movie, one statistic really stood out: our students are number one in the world when it comes to confidence; however, they do not have the grades to back it up. Whether you have children or not, old or young; I feel one can get a better understanding of our quality of life, by seeing this adventuresome documentary.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
There is a new addition to the tough, female action hero genre; joining the likes of Emma Peel, Xena, Honey West and Lara Croft. Her name is Gina Carano (Blood and Bone, American Gladiators-TV) and she is unbelievable to watch. It is worth seeing this film, simply to watch her fight Michael Fassbender (Shame, Jane Eyre); one of the best male/female fight scenes I have ever seen. Gina plays Mallory Kane, a covert operative, working for a private contractor. Her handler, Kenneth played by Ewan McGregor (Beginners, Amelia) has one more job for her, before she can take a well deserved break; however, Mallory discovers she was being set up. What follows is an international chase as she tries to stay alive, while finding out the reasons why she was double crossed. The story was a bit fuzzy and the acting is only okay. What I liked about this film, was having less gun battle scenes, usually found in a film of this nature. Instead, the focus was on Gina Carano’s considerable skills as a mixed martial arts fighter. For those who want to get a bit of aggression out of their system, this is the movie you want to see: fight scenes, even paced, with a steady dose of tension.
2 2/3 stars