Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter's Bone

Jennifer Lawrence plays a 17 year old girl doomed to a life of poverty and family troubles in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri in this gritty, low-budget mystery now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.   On top of taking care of her mentally disabled mother and her younger brother and sister, she is in search of her missing dad, who she couldn’t care less about, but he’s due in court and posted their house as collateral.  Every white trash family member and neighbor she interacts with in the search for her dad is creepier, dirtier, and more suspicious than the last one.  The film is dark, gritty, and violent, and shows a part of America we rarely get to see on film.
I must admit, when I first saw this in the theater earlier this year I didn’t fully appreciate it.  But I’ve heard so many good things about it, including some Oscar buzz, that I figured I should revisit it.  And I’m really glad I did.  It’s a dark, tense mystery that will stick with you long after it's over, and open your eyes to how the other half lives.
Grade:  A-

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Most of the time I understand why famous people are famous.  But there are certain celebrities in Hollywood that seem more like contest winners than movie stars to me.  There’s just no other explanation for how they got where they are, and more importantly how they remain there.  Michael Cera is one of them.  (Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill are two others, but since they’re not in this movie I shouldn’t pick on them in this post.)  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’re all nice guys and they’re not terrible actors, but they just don't strike me as movie star material.  They don’t have the looks, the range, or the comedic chops to play with the big boys.  Well, that’s my opinion anyway.  I look forward to your comments.  Now, on to this ridiculously poor movie:
Cera plays a 22 year old aspiring rocker who’s scandalously dating a 17 year old high school girl, but then falls for the too-cool-for-school pink-haired new girl in town.  A series of lame live rock performances, lame kung-fu video game style fighting, and lame quick edit dialogue scenes follow.
I know I’m going somewhat against the crowd on this one, and I’m very ok with it.  Perhaps I’m just too old for this movie.  Some adults may try to relive their youth with it, or pretend they’re still young and try to rock out to it.  But it didn’t work for me at all.  I thought it was terrible.  I actually believe this film is a more accurate depiction of the youth of America than we’re probably supposed to.  And to that I say, God help us. 
I look forward to your comments.
Grade:  F

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eat Pray Love

Julia Roberts plays a woman unsatisfied with her life.  Rather than subscribe to the American way of marriage, parenthood, suburban living, and debt, she decides she wants to travel and see the world.  So she divorces her husband, played by Billy Crudup, and embarks to eat her way through Italy, pray her way through India, and love her way through Bali.  Along the way, she interacts with James Franco, Richard Jenkins, and Javier Bardem.
Most everything you need to know about this movie you get from the title.  And at 2 hours and 13 minutes, it’s just too long.  As much as I like James Franco, you could easily cut out his entire part of the film and it wouldn’t affect the storyline one bit.  In fact, it would improve it.
The draw of a movie like this would be to live vicariously through Roberts’ character, doing all the things you’ve always secretly wanted to do and gaining some sort of spiritual insight into your own life.  But I really wasn’t envious or enlightened by her journey at all.  The eating didn’t make me hungry.  The praying didn’t make me pious.  And the loving didn’t make me amorous.  And I didn’t care for Roberts’ character at all actually.  In fact, I found her quite self-absorbed.  Richard Jenkins (who finally got some long deserved attention in ‘The Visitor’) provides the best and most poignant segment of the film, but other than his small supporting part, I just wasn’t pulled in.  For me, ‘Eat Pray Love’ was more like ‘Yawn Doze Sleep’.
Grade:  C

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FOX 35 News Orlando - Friday 11/12/10

Check out my FOX appearance from 11/12/10.  In this one I review ‘Morning Glory’, ‘Unstoppable’, and ‘I Knew it Was You:  Rediscovering John Cazale’.
video

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Burlesque

Christina Aguilera makes her acting debut in a musical about a struggling Burlesque club in Los Angeles.  Aguilera comes to L.A. to find her niche and stumbles upon the club where she instantly knows she belongs.  But she has to convince club managers Cher and Stanley Tucci that she’s good enough to sing and dance onstage with the likes of their current top performer, the chronically late, drunk and belligerent Kristen Bell.  Of course she can people, she’s Christina Aguilera!  Sheesh!  But can she act?  Well, she’s actually not bad.  Don’t get me wrong, she won’t be receiving any Oscars, but this film will clearly get better reviews than arch-enemy Britney’s Spears’ film debut ‘Crossroads’ did.  Does anyone even remember that one?  So I guess it’s Aguilera 1, Spears 0.
And as for the rest of the cast? 

Cher is basically Cher.  At 64 she’s still gettin’ it done, albeit with no facial expressions whatsoever courtesy of the Joan Rivers Face Preservation Plan.
Stanley Tucci seems to have found a niche of gay or effeminate counterparts to tough or driven women.  (See ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Julie and Julia’).  He’s actually quite good in that role, but he’ll always be Secondo to Tony Shalhoub’s Primo in ‘Big Night’ to me.
And of course I do love Kristen Bell, but she looks better as a blond than in this film as a brunette.  And I prefer her usual sassy and clever geek-love characters to this drunk and belligerent departure.
Basically, this is an ok musical, not a great musical.  (Think 'Nine', not 'Chicago'.)  So my review is simple.  Since we only get around one musical per year, if you like musicals then you should go see it.  If you don’t like musicals, you should pass.  Easy peasy.
Grade:  B-

Love and Other Drugs

I actually posted about this film two months ago, but since it's just now being released I'll give it another (virtually verbatim) post.
There aren’t many films released each year that successfully pull off both comedy and drama.  (‘Please Give’ and ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ are two of the best I’ve seen so far this year.)  So when they do, they generally rank high on my list.  And this one certainly qualifies. 
It begins as a pretty funny romantic comedy and slowly works its way into the heavy drama category.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical sales rep for Pfizer back in 1996 when drug companies were just beginning to push little known miracles like Azithromicyn, Zoloft, and Viagra.  While trying to convince a way-too-easily pursuaded doctor (well played by Hank Azaria) to recommend these drugs to his patients, Gyllenhaal meets and falls for Anne Hathaway.  Lots and lots of sex and nudity ensue.  (Yay!)  Unfortunately, Hathaway’s character has Parkinson’s (Boo!), so therein lies the trouble in paradise.  But don’t worry, there are plenty of laughs early on to balance out the heavy drama that follows.  New rule:  If you want to make a film better, add Oliver Platt and Judy Greer in supporting roles.  It’s just that simple!  Oh and there’re some good tunes in the 90’s soundtrack.  (Man, I miss the Spin Doctors.)
I've heard Gyllenhaal and Hathaway refer to this film as an 'emotional comedy' but I probably would've described it as a 'romantic dramedy'.  Same difference, but you should just know what you're getting into.  It's quite good, but it's not completely feel-good.

Grade:  B+

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wild Target

‘Wild Target’ is an offbeat British crime comedy starring Bill Nighy (‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, ‘Pirate Radio’) as a very meticulous hitman with an unhealthy relationship with his mother.  Emily Blunt (‘The Devil Wears Prada) is a con-woman who gets in deep trouble when she tries to pull a fast one on gangster Rupert Everett.  In turn, Everett hires assassin Martin Freeman (The British 'The Office') to even the score.  And Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series) is just a kid who gets mixed up in all this because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I really wanted to love this movie if only for the eclectic cast.  And I’m generally a huge fan of all British crime films.  But this one is just one unbelievable situation followed by another.  It goes way beyond quirky, and many scenes are just plain ridiculous.  Nighy is excellent as always, but not good enough to keep this movie from being a disappointment.  And that’s really unfortunate because I think in different hands, this particular story with this particular cast could have been something great.  Instead, it's just barely good.
Grade:  B- (but close to a C+)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - Guest Blog

As I mentioned last week in my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, I am excited to share my first guest blog from two of the biggest Harry Potter fans I know, Taralyn Slusarski and Jen Beers.  So, without further ado…


Flieder on Film has already given Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 an A+.  Since we both agree with that grade, we won’t spend a ton of time reviewing the movie per se.  We also don’t want to give away any spoilers, so it’s best to keep the details to a minimum.  And for the record, we don’t always agree with Flieder’s grades, so don’t think we’re just going along with him so he’ll let us guest post.
Who are “we”? Taralyn & Jen – two really big Harry Potter fans:

No those aren’t bug eyes, they’re home made Harry Potter glasses from our first Midnight Screening of a Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire circa 2005 (the picture is from the other night, but the glasses are circa 2005).
We’ve been attending these midnight screenings for years now together for Goblet of Fire and Half-Blood Prince and separately for Order of the Phoenix.
Our most recent adventure into Midnight Screening Land was for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
So what does it take to see a movie at midnight?
1) You have to stay awake really late or at least have a buddy who will wake you up.


2) You need to stay hydrated, but careful, you don’t want to miss any of the movie!
3) You need to eat and you should probably try to kill time with another movie:

 
Jen and Caroline (one of our friends who went to the movie with us) are watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and eating pizza, the food of choice for midnight screenings.

4) Be prepared to wait in line or risk sitting in the front row:

5) When you’ve finally gotten your seat, get excited!






Why would we subject ourselves to all this effort when the movie will be available in theaters for the next few weeks at completely reasonable times?  Honestly, who knows?
The real question is: Why should you care?
Anytime you head to the theater there is some level of anticipation. Will the movie be as great as the previews hype it up to be?  Will it be worth the overly priced ticket charge?  What kind of crowd will be in the theater (oh please don't let it be an obnoxious group)? 
For a midnight showing of Harry Potter you can multiply that anticipation by 100.   Will it be worth staying up until 3am on a work night?
The answer in this case is YES! The latest from the Harry Potter series did not disappoint. There’s no hand holding if you haven’t read the books, so a brief refresher may be in order.  As avid fans of the books we were thrilled with the attention detail.  The cynics may say that splitting the final book into two movies was just to squeeze more money out of the franchise. Well they’re probably right. But we’re glad they did it. There is so much in the final book, that to really do it justice two movies was the only way to do it.
So stop reading and get out there! You should be this excited:


That was great, Taralyn and Jen!  Thanks for sharing your experience.  I’m glad we all agree this one gets an A+.  So everyone out there should go see it.  But for those of you who haven’t seen or read the first six yet, be sure you do or you’ll be confused.  Start at the beginning, stick with it, and you’ll thank us later!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

I’m going to try to keep this brief for two reasons.  First, I’m not sure how much I can say about this film without giving away spoilers for those who haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies.  And second, I will most likely be having my first guest blog next week, where some of the biggest Harry Potter fans I know will be giving their thoughts after seeing it premiere tonight at midnight.  But I do have a few thoughts of my own I’d like to share on the series in general and this particular installment which is truly the beginning of the end.
It’s hard to put into words how much this series has meant for so many fans, including me.  I know there are many people who aren’t the least bit interested in the world of Harry Potter, and there are some who tried it and just didn’t get into it.  Well, I must admit I was initially a skeptic as well, thinking this was a series for children.  So I came late to the party, and read all seven books back to back when the seventh was released in the summer of 2007.  (And let me tell you, that’s the way to do it!  No waiting!)  Anyway, to those who think this is a series for children, it may start that way, but it absolutely does not stay that way for long.  It begins with young wizards in magic school, but by its end it becomes an epic battle of good versus evil.  The material matures as the books progress, and once the series hits its stride in the fifth installment, things get very dark and very intense.
While the films of 5, 6, and 7 Part 1 don't match the books completely, they do capture the essence of the books extremely well.  Unfortunately, some of the material had to be cut out or changed, but I believe the final product works amazingly well as long as you’re not hung up on a complete copy of the book.   And while I certainly have to give J.K. Rowling’s tremendous story a lion’s share of the credit, perfect casting, excellent directing, and a superb score were essential.
The cast truly gets better with each film.  Virtually every great British character actor manages to find the perfect part in the series, including Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Kenneth Branagh, and too many others to name.  (How did Michael Caine miss out on a role?)  In this one we get the brief addition of Bill Nighy as the Minister of Magic.  Sadly there wasn’t enough of Alan Rickman’s Snape, but when he walks on screen at the beginning you just can’t take your eyes off him.  That guy has some serious screen presence!
David Yates directed films 5, 6 and 7 Part 1 and he set the dark tone perfectly.  The seventh film looks and feels completely different than the first, as it should because it’s no longer about young kids in magic school.  It’s about a group of heroes facing real danger in the real world.  And it absolutely feels real.
And the score of the entire series has always been a favorite of mine, beginning with master film composer John Williams' iconic theme.  (Once it's in your head, there's no getting rid of it!)  Alexandre Desplat carries the torch in this one and does justice to his predecessors.

OK, well I guess this blog ended up longer than I expected, but in closing I couldn’t have enjoyed 5, 6, or 7 Part 1 more.  And I couldn’t feel more sad that this installment is now over.  But I also couldn’t be more excited for 7 Part 2, the final chapter, to be released in July.  And then, sadly, we’ll all have to close the book on Harry Potter forever.  I can tell you now, I won’t be ready.
Grade:  A+

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Oh dear, whatever will you do?  Well, here are my grades at a glance:
The Social Network        Grade: A+  
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:  Part 1                   Grade: A+
127 Hours                            Grade: A   (#5/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer             Grade: B+  
Inside Job                           Grade: B   (#21/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Red                                      Grade: B

Megamind                          Grade: B
Paranormal Activity 2      Grade: B-
Due Date                            Grade: B- 
Morning Glory                   Grade: B-
The Freebie                        Grade: C+  
Hereafter                           Grade: C   (#29/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Tamara Drewe                   Grade: C
Monsters                            Grade: C-   (#33/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Fair Game                           Grade: C-
Unstoppable                      Grade: C-
Four Lions                           Grade: D

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leaves of Grass

Ed Norton plays identical twin brothers who are polar opposites.  One brother is a successful intellectual Ivy League professor of philosophy.  The other is a pothead drug dealer still living in their hometown of Oklahoma.  When the professor gets word that his brother has been murdered he returns home, where he hasn’t been in quite some time, only to find he’s been duped and his brother is very much alive.  Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Keri Russell, and Tim Blake Nelson co-star.  This film premiered at Toronto last year, had a very limited run in theaters, and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. 
I can see how Norton was attracted to the role.  Actors love the chance at playing two very different characters in one film to showcase their range.  But it’s not quite as fun to watch as it probably was to make.  I preferred the two Sam Rockwells in ‘Moon’, multiple clones of Michael Keaton in ‘Multiplicity’, and of course the original identical twins played by Hayley Mills in ‘The Parent Trap’, followed by identical cousins played by Patty Duke.
The first half of the film is mainly family drama with a little bit of comedy, but halfway through it takes a turn in a very different direction than I expected, into Coen Brothers-type territory.  I was about to dismiss the film at the halfway mark, but by the end I was glad I saw it.  Although, unless you’re a huge fan of Coen Brothers-type films, you may be better off just revisiting Norton’s early classics like ‘Primal Fear’, ‘Rounders’, ‘American History X’, ‘Fight Club’, and maybe even ‘Keeping the Faith’.  And you should also check out his awkward singing in Woody Allen’s musical ‘Everyone Says I Love You’.
Grade:  B

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Secret in their Eyes (El Secreto de sus Ojos)

I had been hearing great things about this Argentinean drama/thriller, now on DVD and Blu-Ray, ever since it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year.  And I now see why.
Ricardo Darin plays a criminal court investigator who is haunted by a particularly brutal case of a woman who was raped and murdered.  He becomes obsessed with finding the man responsible.  The story unfolds in flashback 25 years later.
The first half is fairly slow, but it picks up speed in the second half, particularly at a very memorable and complex scene at a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires.  And while it’s never fast paced, the film grows on you and stays with you long after it’s over.  At its core, it’s a haunting story of the loss of the deepest love.  And it’s very powerful.
Grade:  A-

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Freebie

Dax Shepard and Katie Aselton play the perfect married couple who are perfect roommates and have the perfect friends and family.  But their sex life just isn’t what it used to be.  So they decide to allow each other one night to sleep with someone else, with hopes that it will only strengthen their marriage.  Want to place your bet on how that one goes?
OK, before I go any further, I can’t not say a few words about Dax Shepard.  First off, it’s hard for me to take any actor seriously who started on ‘Punk’d’.  (Admittedly, Ashton has grown on me somewhat.)  Second, Shepard strikes me as a poor man’s Zach Braff.  (And Zach Braff as a poor man’s John Ritter.)  And third, he’s clearly not good enough for fiancé Kristen Bell.  But with all that said, he really wasn’t terrible.  Damn you, Dax! 
I will also point out that the film is directed by Aselton, who also happens to be married to Mark Duplass, increasingly famous for ‘mumblecore’ films like ‘The Puffy Chair’, ‘Baghead’, and ‘Cyrus’.
But I digress.
Considering how low budget it is, the film isn’t bad, but it also isn’t the most original topic.  I certainly found ‘Indecent Proposal’ more interesting, when $1M was thrown into the mix.  But here, we pretty much know where it’s going.  The only fun is the journey.  The cast is key, and Shepard and Aselton do a decent job.  And it’s really short at only 77 minutes.  But be forewarned, if you see this movie on a date as a couple, there will undoubtedly be some uncomfortable conversation on the car ride home.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Grade:  C+

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

The title pretty much says it all.  During the ‘rise’ portion of the film, we get insight on how Spitzer became governor of New York, by targeting corporate graft and greed, and in the process making enemies of powerful people like AIG CEO Hank Greenberg, Home Depot CEO Kenneth Langone, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, all interviewed for the movie.  But Spitzer himself owns up to his own hubris which eventually led to his downfall, as he himself compares to classic Greek mythology.  He was admittedly a member of ‘the lucky sperm club’ and had everything going for him, but let pride and power go to his head.  The ‘fall’ portion of the film details his escapades with the Emperors Club VIP escort agency, which eventually led to his disgrace and resignation as governor.
This is a very interesting doc, regardless of how much you know about Spitzer.  And unlike most docs, it didn’t feel slanted or biased one way or the other, which was refreshing.  I suspect different people will come away from this film having very different views of Spitzer.  Some will find him to be a hypocrite, while others will find him a flawed hero.  (I’ll leave it to you to guess where I stand.)
The film is not quite as slick or polished as ‘Inside Job’, another great documentary in theaters now about the collapse of the financial and real estate markets, but the story is equally fascinating.  Neither one is really necessary to rush to see on the big screen, but they make for a really good double feature on cable or DVD.
Grade:  B+

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Morning Glory


Rachel McAdams stars as a TV news producer at a small morning show who has big aspirations.  Specifically she wants to produce ‘The Today Show’.  Well, when she gets let go at her current position, she doesn’t quite make it to NBC, but instead lands a job at the network ‘IBS’ at a struggling morning show called ‘Daybreak’, courtesy of new boss Jeff Goldblum.  The thing is, she has limited time to turn the show around and get the ratings up.  And that depends on her success in getting odd couple anchors Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton to play nice.  Unfortunately, hilarity doesn’t really ensue.  McAdams is SUPER perky and SUPER high strung.  Keaton is Keaton.  And Ford is cranky, jaded, and unlikeable.  There are some laughs towards the end, as McAdams gets more and more desperate, but the movie never really reaches its potential.  The ensemble cast is enjoyable enough to make this a decent date movie, but it really lacks substance.  Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I’m giving this a …
Grade:  B-

Unstoppable


‘Unstoppable’ is an action film about a runaway train directed by Tony Scott.  And that one sentence should tell you if you’re the type of person who will like this film.  I am not. 
To be sure, Tony Scott knows action.   His last film was the remake of ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’, also co-starring Denzel Washington who co-stars in this film.  Scott must be on some runaway train/Denzel kick.  Actually, this is the fifth colllaboration between the two of them, with the other three being 'Déjà vu’, 'Man on Fire, and ’Crimson Tide’.  I liked 'Man on Fire, but the others are fairly forgettable.  (For two great Tony Scott films, check out ‘True Romance’ and ‘Domino’.  And for a few recent enjoyable Denzel Washington films, check out 'The Book of Eli', 'The Great Debaters', 'American Gangster', and 'Inside Man'.)

'Unstoppable' also stars Star Trek’s Chris Pine, and even though I liked him as a young Captain Kirk, I’m not sure I dig the cockiness in general.  He's a fairly new star and yet I think I'm already tired of him.
I will say the film looks good and sounds good, and Denzel is always great.  (Frankly he’s too good for these types of movies.)  The dialogue is cheesy and there isn’t anything unexpected about the plot.  Some of the action scenes, especially at the end, do get exciting, but that’s the best thing I can say about it. 
If you want a mindless, surprise-less action film, then this is pretty much the only option in theaters.  But it’s not for me and I don’t recommend it.  Perhaps it should’ve been called ‘Unwatchable’?  (Yes, yes, another hacky pun, I know.)
Grade:  C-  (Not a D only because of Denzel)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FOX 35 News Orlando - Friday 11/5/10

Alrighty, here’s my latest appearance on FOX from last Friday.  It’s truly painful for me to watch.  Hopefully less so for you…

video

Frozen


I’ve been looking forward to this one, now available on DVD and Blue-Ray,  since I read about it in the Sundance guide in January.  It's about two guys and a girl who accidentally get stuck on a ski lift overnight.  It's a very simple concept, and probably a nightmare that has run through every skier's mind at least once. 

I like movies that explore a simple concept in primarily one setting.  (e.g.  ‘Buried’ and ‘127 Hours’, both of which I reviewed in my Toronto FIlm Fest posting).  They make you think, what would you do in this situation?  And I’m also a sucker for films programmed at the Sundance and Toronto festivals.  I always figure, if they don’t feature celebrities they must have been programmed because they’re great, right?  Well, not so much.  In fact, Sundance had a lot of terrible films this year.
I’m not sure exactly what I was hoping for, but this film didn’t really deliver anything unexpected.  The three characters pretty much do everything you’d think they would, but that’s it.  It just wasn’t very interesting to watch.  And if you only have a few characters on screen for most of the movie, they better be really engaging (e.g. Ryan Reynolds or James Franco in the aforementioned films.)  But unfortunately this cast is average at best.  And so is this film.
Grade:  C-

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Knew it Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale


I saw this documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009 and loved it, and have been waiting to hear of its fate ever since.  Well, today it was finally released on DVD.  You undoubtedly don’t know who John Cazale is by name, but you probably recognize his face, most likely as Fredo Corleone from ‘The Godfather’.  Well, it turns out Cazale was only in five films between 1972 and 1978 before his premature death from cancer at the age of 42.  (‘The Godfather’, ‘The Conversation’, ‘The Godfather Part II’, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, and ‘The Deer Hunter’.)  All five were nominated for Oscar Best Picture.  That’s a pretty phenomenal track record for just a 7 year film career!  Who knows what else he could’ve done if he had lived longer?  (Although truthfully, in all likelihood, it could’ve only gone down hill from there.)
The documentary is filled with fantastic new interviews including ex-fiance Meryl Streep, frequent co-star Al Pacino,  co-star Robert De Niro, co-star Gene Hackman, director Francis Ford Coppola, director Sydney Lumet, and fans Philip Seymour Hoffman and Steve Buscemi.  The film is short and really interesting.  It’s a shame it didn’t get more recognition.  I look forward to seeing it again.
Grade:  A

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tamara Drewe


I considered seeing this one at the Toronto Film Festival, but couldn’t fit it into my schedule.   And in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t waste my valuable time there. 
It’s directed by Stephen Frears who has made great films like ‘The Queen’, ‘The Grifters’, and ‘Dangerous Liaisons’.   And it features an ensemble cast at a country Bed & Breakfast in England, including the novelist owner, his wife who runs the place, her handsome farm hand, an American author staying at the B&B, two meddlesome teenage girls, a Russell Brand-type rock star, and former ugly duckling named Tamara Drewe who returns to town with a nose job and a new look that catches everyone’s attention.
I really wanted to like this movie, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me.  I wasn’t really interested in any of the characters or their storylines.  It's not terrible, but it was a big let down from what I expected.
Grade:  C

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Four Lions


We all know there’s nothing funnier than terrorism, right?  So it’s about time someone made a comedy about four bumbling British Muslim suicide bombers, right??  Wrong.
When I first heard about this film in the catalogue of the Philadelphia Film Festival, I had no interest in it whatsoever.  But the synopsis mentioned that it was a favorite among the programming staff.  It also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.  And the reviews are pretty good on Rotten Tomatoes.  So I figured I’d check it out when it opened at the Ritz this weekend. 
Well, while I must admit there was a smattering of laughter around me, I didn’t understand it.  I didn’t find it funny at all.  But then again, I don’t get films like ‘Borat’ either.  It’s just not my sense of humor.  It’s VERY dry.  And the characters are very unlikeable (which may go without saying, since they ARE terrorists.) 
The bottom line is the movie is boring.  I will admit that it's original, and that’s usually a great thing, but in this case it’s not enough.  I say, skip it.
Grade:  D
Keep checking back because I’ve got more reviews coming every day this week including my latest appearance on FOX, where I reviewed Megamind, Due Date, and Please Give.  Stay tuned…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don’t know what to see?  Can’t find your latest issue of Entertainment Weekly to help you?  Oh dear, whatever will you do?  Well, here are my grades at a glance:
The Social Network                Grade: A+  
It’s Kind of a Funny Story      Grade: A+   (#2/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Easy A                                      Grade: B+   (#15/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
The Town                                Grade: B    (#18/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps          Grade: B   (It’s been 23 years since ‘Wall Street’.  This one isn’t nearly as good as the first, but it’s worth seeing if only to see Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko just one last time.  ‘Greed is Good.’  Gekko is great.)
Inside Job                                Grade: B   (#21/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Red                                           Grade: B

Megamind                              Grade: B
Stone                                      Grade: B   (#22/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Paranormal Activity 2           Grade: B-
Due Date                                Grade: B- 
Hereafter                                Grade: C   (#29/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Conviction                              Grade: C   (Hilary Swank devotes her life to getting her brother played by Sam Rockwell out of prison.  Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t get the joys or the sorrows right.)
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger          Grade: C   (#30/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Monsters  (opens in Philly on 11/12)       Grade: C-  (#33/38 of my Toronto Film Festival blog)
Fair Game                               Grade: C-
Devil                                        Grade: D