Category Archives: 2010 Movie reviews

BearCity-2010

BearCity-2010

Director-Douglas Langway

Starring-Joe Conti, Stephen Guarino

Reviewed March 19, 2017

Grade: B

BearCity is a small, independent, LGBT, coming of age film that tells of a young man living in New York City, and his exploration of a sub-culture within the LGBT community and a subsequent romance that follows. The film is a comedy and has a “Sex in the City” or “Queer as Folk” approach to its storytelling- a group of close knit friends and  raunchy and gratuitous to be sure. The budget is very small and some aspects rather amateurish, but the film is enjoyable, especially for those exposed to the LGBT lifestyle. The film is not a heavy nor are any of the characters dealing with “coming out” issues, but rather it is a fun sex comedy romp.

Our central character, Tyler (Joe Conti), is a young man in his twenties, an aspiring actor, who moves to New York City to pursue his career, with a mind for casual dating. His roommates encourage him to date Abercrombie and Fitch types, but Tyler comes to realize he prefers “bear” types- mature, hairy men. On the sly he begins to pursue this sub-culture and makes many friends. The apple of his eye, handsome Roger (Gerald McCullough) is a popular mature man, distinguished in the bear circle, and risks his reputation with “the bears” by falling in love with Tyler. The two men spend the greater part of the film conquering their respective fears and finding their way into each others arms in a predictable ending.

BearCity is a fun farce and nothing very heavy and the featuring of a strong circle of friends is a nice, positive portrayal- all of the friends connect well and stick by each other through thick and thin. Comical sub-plots abound such as one couples (Brent and Fred) awkward parlay into the world of threesomes with unsuccessful results. Another bear who is unemployed, and grossly obese, decides to undergo weight loss surgery much to the chagrin of his hunky boyfriend.

The main story though, belongs to Tyler and Roger and their inevitable reunion can be seen miles away. The film throws various hurdles in their way, such as a third person briefly dating Roger, or Roger’s commitment issues, but the climax of the film will be no surprise to anyone. Tyler and Roger make a nice couple as a whole, but perplexing is how the film makes Roger the undisputed leader of the bear group, when he is actually a lean, muscular man- not a “bear” at all! This is odd to me, but BearCity is so light hearted that I suppose I can let this detail slide in favor of a good romance.

Critically, the film is nice, but quite amateurish, and super low-budget. The acting, especially by some of the supporting characters (the pre-surgery guys boyfriend is the most glaring example), is not great. I half-expected him to accidentally look at the camera. Additionally, the film has a low-budget look and feel, which on one level is fine, but combined with the not so stellar acting, enhances the inexperience of the cast and crew. The film is tough to take too seriously- if this is even the intention of the filmmakers.

The film is a logistical treat for anyone privy to popular gay hangouts in New York City- specifically The Eagle and The Ramrod, both locales are featured prominently, and the use of many real-life people who hang out at those establishments are used throughout the production.

BearCity is not a bad experience and certainly a film that is light and comical within the LGBT community seems rather fresh compared to the myriad of dramatic and heavy films that exist. At the same time the film teeters towards goofy too much with more than one bafoonish, sex-crazed, stereotypical gay man, that it almost gives a bad impression, so the film has mixed results for me.

The Crazies-2010

The Crazies-2010

Director-Breck Eisner

Starring-Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell

Reviewed March 9, 2010

Grade: B+

The Crazies is an example of a very rare instance of a remake (especially in the horror genre) actually being better than the original (Cape Fear also comes to mind). Despite the original film being made in 1973, a wonderful time for creative film-making, I was not such a fan. The remake is more slick and stylized, but I actually think it works well and makes the film an above average effort.

There are many thrills during The Crazies and jump out of your seat scares (car wash scene), and I may never look through a keyhole again, ha! I actually felt tense watching several scenes and I genuinely did not know what was going to come next, which is quite an achievement for the modern horror genre.

I love the heartland, small town, middle of nowhere elements. A feeling of isolation and vulnerability is apparent and a must for successful horror.

The acting is above average for a horror flick, though, let’s not kid ourselves- who watches horror films for the Shakespearean acting? This film was sort of a cross between 28 Days Later and Night of the Living Dead, but set in mid-western surroundings. A must for fans of modern horror.

Shutter Island-2010

Shutter Island-2010

Director-Martin Scorsese

Starring-Leonardo DiCaprio

Reviewed March 15, 2010

Grade: A-

Shutter Island is a great, psychological thriller, that being a Scorsese film, I had high expectations for. Lo and behold, I was not disappointed in the slightest. Scorsese has a knack for making taut films, violent certainly, and with an edge. This film does not have the gore nor the blood that some of his other films have- especially since the subject matter is not mafia related.

After Teddy Daniels, a World War II veteran, turned U.S. Marshall investigates the disappearance of a female patient at a local psychiatric hospital, the case develops layers that are unforeseen. The time period is the 1950’s.

Shutter Island is not your typical, run of the mill thriller- it is much more than that and the complexities build and build. Not to be secondary to the interesting web of plot, but the art and set designs and visual effects are quite impressive- particularly during the storm scenes.

Leonardo DiCaprio is quite the gem, carrying the film in a demanding role, and working so well with Scorsese, as proven by his being a repeat player in his films. In fact, all the performances (even tiny roles) were played with perfection- with flawless nuances- I mainly mean the hospital staff and patients.

The unpleasant violent images may upset some as well as the ending, but I found it to be an edge of your seat, extremely well made film. I hope that it is remembered for some time. Kudos.

Clash of the Titans-2010

Clash of the Titans-2010

Director-Louis Leterrier

Starring-Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson

Reviewed April 6, 2010

Grade: B

Though I went to the theater begrudgingly to see Clash of the Titans (fantasy blockbusters are not typically my cup of tea), I have to confess to being moderately impressed by this film. I had no real expectations other than it is a tale loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus.

I have heard some people compare it to the original in an unfavorable way, but I have not seen the original- released in 1981 so any comparisons are a moot point. At one hour and fifty minutes the film is a perfect length and does not drag.

The plot is basic and focused. Perseus (Sam Worthington)  must save the life of the beautiful Princess Andromeda, as he leads a team of warriors into battle against vicious enemies. Some of the creatures they meet along the way are fascinating and interesting.

Clash of the Titans is not fine cinema, and the acting is not spectacular, but the effects are worth mentioning and the look of the film is impressive.

My only real criticisms are the way Medusa is portrayed (said to be ugly, she really is a beautiful woman with snakes on her head) and the 3-D, which really was pretty much unnecessary- this is probably an attempt by the studios to capitalize for profit.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work-2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work-2010

Director-Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg

Starring-Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers

Reviewed June 18, 2010

Grade: A

I found Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work to be a great documentary. For fans of Joan Rivers the film is obviously a treat, but for people unfamiliar with her, it is an amazing journey into her personal life, and we see her at her most vulnerable.

At the time of this documentary, she was a very busy seventy-seven year old entertainer. The film exceeds as it shows not only her stage persona, and her quick wit, but a more intimate, personal side to the woman. According to Rivers, the makers of the documentary were allowed free reign of what made the final cut, with no approval by Rivers.

Joan Rivers must be the hardest working, driven, seventy-seven year old alive. Not only is she the foul-mouthed, hysterical comedienne most know her as, but she also has an insecure, sensitive side that few see. Moments of this documentary are hysterical, others are heartbreaking. As she is heckled in a crappy club in the mid-west by a man offended by her jokes, Rivers lashes out at the man, and later shows a sense of regret as she speaks to the camera.

The documentary is basically set-up as a year in the life of Joan Rivers mixed in with her forty plus years in showbiz, how she got her start, breaks, etc. We experience the pain she felt when her husband committed suicide, forcing her to take almost any job as a way to pay her bills.

This is a documentary that reveals much, much more than the public sees her as. It is an intimate portrayal of a courageous woman that few wholly see. I loved it.

Toy Story 3-2010

Toy Story 3-2010

Director-Lee Unkrich

Starring-Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

Reviewed July 8, 2010

Grade: B+

It is not easy for sequels to succeed in the creativity or the originality categories, but surprisingly, Toy Story 3 is a fresh, imaginative, fun film. The characters are charming, interesting, and heartwarming, and the film is able to avoid a sappy result. Pixar has another hit.

Andy, now grown up and headed off to college, sees no reason to keep any of his childhood toys, now irrelevant and headed for the scrap box- at least that is what Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and friends, fear will happen as the dreaded day approaches. They must scheme to avoid their fate.

Many interesting new toys are introduced to this franchise with unique personalities, thereby giving a fresh approach, yet not forgetting the past. I adore how Toy Story 3 has many dynamic themes (loneliness, abandonment, togetherness), that play very well together with a nice message.

On a deeper level, the film certainly reflects the modern era. People are so easily thrown out, forgotten, and abandoned, whether through a job, relationship, etc. so that makes this film a sad reality if one chooses to look at it that way, which most won’t.

Great movie for kids and adults alike with a meaningful, relevant message. The film is not a sugar-coated affair and offers a cold reality, while still remaining accessible.

The Kids Are All Right-2010

The Kids Are All Right-2010

Director-Lisa Cholodenko

Starring-Julianne Moore, Annette Bening

Reviewed July 29, 2010

Grade: A

The Kids Are All Right is a fantastic film! In my opinion the film is one of the best of the year 2010 and was rewarded with a deserving Best Picture nomination. Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were also honored with acting nominations. Bening gives the best performance in the film.

Continuing the trend of more exposure to LGBT issues, The Kids Are All Right tells of a same sex centered family dealing with real issues. Though not dark, the film is not light or played strictly for laughs. It is a family drama that shows how same sex family units face problems like everyone else, and how they deal with them, never forgetting how much they love each other.

The writing is intelligent, deeply layered, and rich. The acting superb, and the characters complex.  The best scene is one where the entire family is eating dinner- suddenly the camera focuses on one person, goes in slow motion, the other voices become muffled and distance, and a painful emotion is portrayed on one of the character’s faces as a revelation comes to the surface. Brilliant.

Even the seemingly unimportant dialogue throughout the film is smart as it shows the bond of the family that cannot ultimately be broken. The Kids Are All Right is a worthwhile and compelling film.

Inception-2010

Inception-2010

Director-Christopher Nolan

Starring-Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page

Reviewed August 3, 2010

Grade: A-

Inception is the type of film that will leave you astounded, baffled, confused, bewildered, and many other adjectives. To put it more simply, this film needs to be pondered after the fact. This is a high compliment as it is tough to remember such a complex (in a good way!), savory film. Inception is visionary and meant to be processed.

A highly intelligent film, of sorts,  that will leave you thinking afterwards. The story is immeasurably complex and will leave many completely confused, but just go with it.

In a nutshell, it tells the story of a man who intercepts people’s subconscious minds through dreams. Different layers of their minds are revealed as the film goes along. There are also virtual levels to each person’s mind- complex, yes.

The film reminds me quite a bit of The Matrix- but better. The film has many twists and turns throughout and will keep the viewer both perplexed and fascinated. My only slight criticism is the dream sequences do not feel like dreams at all, but highly stylized action sequences. Many props given for being so inventive, though.

Never Let Me Go-2010

Never Let Me Go-2010

Director-Mark Romanek

Starring-Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley

Reviewed October 22, 2010

Grade: A-

Offering a unique experience in creative story-telling, Never Let Me Go is an excellent film that I was happy to discover. A mixture of romance and science-fiction, it tells of young love and tragedy in an interesting way- sacrifice and science can lead to dire results. Based on a 2005 novel of the same name.

A small British drama about a private school where the children are raised as typical children, but at a certain point are expected to donate organs to save other lives, the concept is quite fresh and original. The film deals with both the moral and psychological effects of the chosen ones as they attempt to allude ending their lives- if they can prove they are in love.

My initial reactions were multiple in emotion-thought-provoking, touching, and sad are what I felt. This film will make you think. It is equally evocative and thought-provoking- many times I imagined myself in a similar situation. As Andrew Garfield’s character gets out of his car on the side of the road and screams up at the sky, it is the most powerful scene in the film.

Excellent acting by the three leads (Mulligan, Garfield, and Knightley), with special praise for Carey Mulligan. Charlotte Rampling as the mysterious headmistress of the school is brilliant.

Inside Job-2010

Inside Job-2010

Director-Charles Ferguson

Starring-Matt Damon

Reviewed December 7, 2010

Grade: A-

Directly derived from the financial crisis of 2008, Inside Job explains what led up to, the factors involved in, and who is responsible for the 2008 crisis. The documentary is very important to see- if nothing else but a lesson in greed and corruption.

It is mainly divided into segments to make it less confusing and the content is easily digestible. The basic concept here is greed, and how people are predisposed to being greedy. Those responsible for the crisis and the subsequent effects on millions of people attempt to defend themselves and what they did to the end- sadly they are still in power, as immoral human beings as they are.

Many times the interviewer will either catch the subject in a lie or leave them tongue tied- one subject even threatens the interviewer. There is a sense of satisfaction that erupts as they squirm and attempt to quickly think of ways to evade the questions.

Inside Job shows how Wall street is incredibly powerful, and how most politicians are puppets, who are influenced greatly by them. It is a sad and discouraging documentary, but incredibly honest and thought provoking. I left the theater feeling angry and depressed, but feeling that the filmmakers do an excellent job of educating the viewer to the woes of the world.

Narrated by Matt Damon, Inside Job is one of the best documentaries I have seen in recent years.

The Fighter-2010

The Fighter-2010

Director-David O. Russell

Starring-Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale

Reviewed December 28, 2010

Grade: A-

The Fighter is an excellent film. Being a sports film there are the inevitable cliches, which make the entire sports film genre rather predictable. But this film is a very well done story and based on real-life figures (the Ward brothers). Tremendous acting by Wahlberg, Bale, and Melissa Leo, in the role of Mama Ward- a role of a lifetime.

The telling is a true story of Mickey Ward, a boxer from Massachusetts and his battle to stardom, dealings with family members, and his love life. The characters may be ever slightly overdone in the rugged, rough, Bostonian way, almost appearing New Jersey-Soprano-ish instead of New England, but the message is clear- they are in the boxing world and tough guys (and gals).

This film is much more character driven than many similar sports movies. thank goodness, and the casting is spot on. There is the inevitable final boxing match and the standard reaction shots, but again sports films are riddled with cliches. The real win here is with the characters layered, complexities as they love and hate each other.

Bale and Leo deserved their Oscars for their respective roles, specifically Bale for the shocking weight loss and spot on character imitation.

How to Train Your Dragon-2010

How to Train Your Dragon-2010

Director-Dean DeBlois, Chris Chambers

Starring-Gerard Butler, America Ferrera

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Reviewed January 6, 2011

Grade: B-

How to Train Your Dragon is a  decent, but less than spectacular, animated film from 2010. Undoubtedly targeted toward youngsters, it contains G-rated elements and I may have enjoyed it more if I were nine years old. The film is loosely based on the British book series of the same name. A subsequent sequel has commenced in 2014.

From a story perspective, the film does tell a story with a nice message. Young Hiccup is a teenage Viking on the cusp of becoming a man. As a ritual, he is expected to kill a dragon to prove his worth as a warrior to his tribe . When put to the test, Hiccup finds that instead of desiring to kill the dragon, he wants to befriend it. Of course, the traditional Vikings want no part of any unity between the tribe and dragons, who are long-time enemies.

Mixed in with the main story is the inevitable love story between Hiccup and Astrid, a tough Viking girl.

There are way too many endless aerial battles between the tamed and vicious dragons, that it begins to feel more like an effort to fill time rather than furthering the main plot in any way.

This film has a nice message of kindness and togetherness, but seems very predictable and does not take any risks. There is nothing  wrong with it, and animated fans may look at it differently, but to me, it is run of the mill.

Exit Through the Gift Shop-2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop-2010

Director-Banksy

Starring-Banksy

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Reviewed January 19, 2011

Grade: B-

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary from 2010. I am a fan of documentaries if the subject matter interests me. The topic of this documentary is street art, which is not especially appealing to me, but it is also nice to be open to new experiences and perhaps learn a thing or two.

Bansky, who both directed and starred in the documentary, is the main feature and his story is told. We meet a man from Los Angeles, who carries a camera with him wherever he goes. Through his cousin in France, he decides to do a documentary on street artists. He is fascinated by the mysterious and secretive, Bansky, until he manages to one day meet him. He then begins to film Bansky’s street art activity. So the documentary actually has some plot and is not the standard type of documentary.

Some claims that the film is actually staged and a bit of a hoax have run rampant, but have not been proven.

I respected this feature as a nice, telling, documentary, but it dragged a bit, which may be the result of my limited interest in the topic. Great for anyone into street art.

Piranha-2010

Piranha-2010

Director-Alexandre Aja

Starring-Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames

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Reviewed January 24, 2011

Grade: C-

2010’s Piranha is a tongue-in-cheek (I hope!) horror comedy that saves itself from being complete drivel by having some sense of humor. Remarkably, it stars some decent talents- Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, and Elisabeth Shue. The film is pure fluff- not high art in the least, with nary a message or a purpose to be found.

The film is basically terrible, but kind of fun at the same time. It’s complete camp and not to be taken at all seriously. The plot is simplistic and standard horror fare- a school of piranhas are unleashed after an underwater earthquake, kill a fisherman, and ravage a college vacation party on a lake. The college kids come to Lake Victoria to party and lounge on the beach, and typically, are dressed precariously. They are unceremoniously ripped to shred by the angry and hungry killer fish.

Shue and Rhanes must have hit rough times, and have been in need of a paycheck to star in this. They play a Sheriff and Deputy- laughably unbelievable- as they try to protect the beach-goers from a grisly fate. Dreyfuss plays a ridiculous and unnecessary role as the aforementioned fisherman.

On a serious (and sour) note, the objectifying of women is shocking in this day and age. Haven’t we seen enough stereotypes for one lifetime? A few cool kills and humor, but basically a dumb, popcorn horror film.

The Last Exorcism-2010

The Last Exorcism-2010

Director-Daniel Stamm

Starring-Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian

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Reviewed January 24, 2011

Grade: B+

The Last Exorcism is a really enjoyable independent horror film. I found it unique and creative, and is shot documentary style, so there is a level of watching something new and different in the horror world, that I appreciated. Certainly the usage of either hand-held or documentary footage has been done before, this film feels fresh and not cliche driven. Horror master Eli Roth produced the film.

A doubtful preacher (Reverend Cotton Marcus) who lives in Louisiana, sets out to perform his final exorcism with a documentary crew in tow, only to find a girl who really is possessed by the devil. Cotton is assumed a con-artist, so we doubt he actually can help the girl, which is what makes the film so interesting and unpredictable. What will happen next? Could the girl or her family be frauds?

The film is really scary and contains dark, creepy, ambiance. It reminds me a bit of The Blair Witch Project with the shaky camera and dark, raw tones, and independent nature. Recommended for fans of horror.

Despicable Me-2010

Despicable Me-2010

Director-Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Starring-Steve Carell, Jason Segel

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Reviewed January 26, 2011

Grade: B-

My immediate reaction upon seeing Despicable Me is that it is a cute film, just custom made for the masses- children and families alike. This is fine, but I was honestly hoping for something a bit edgier or of more substance, but I did enjoy it at the same time.

To be clear, the film is a fun, family style affair for all ages with a nice story. It basically tells the story of a villain, named Gru, who is in competition with other super-villains and hatches a plan to shrink and steal the moon. He is reformed through three orphans (Margo, Edith, and Agnes) he first uses in his plan, but later comes to love and eventually adopts. The orphans predictably reform Gru and bring out the nice man within him. They clearly change his life for the better.

There is nothing really wrong with this film, nor is there anything really tremendous about it either. I know some people really loved it. To me it was decent, but I wanted a bit more and perhaps a more complex or interesting plot, but that is just my personal taste.

True Grit-2010

True Grit-2010

Director-Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring-Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

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Reviewed January 31, 2011

Grade: A-

Having not seen the original, 1969 version of True Grit,  starring John Wayne,  I cannot compare the two, but the remake is excellent. I do not profess to being the greatest fan of the western genre as the stereotypes are usually peppered throughout and the good versus bad cliches done to death, but True Grit is a different, contemporary western. Fantastic looking with numerous big, current stars, humour, and quirkiness.

True Grit is definitely a mainstream (in camera and style) Hollywood Western (the Coen Bros. usually are more gritty in their stories), but a well made one. The odd supporting characters make this film fantastic and there is an edge to it that enamored me. The film also contains some Quentin Tarantino elements making it left of center in some ways.

It tells the story of a tomboy-like fourteen year old girl, Mattie Ross, also the narrator of the film, who hires an aging U.S. Marshal to avenge her fathers death. The story is well told, the cinematography and attention to detail are great, giving off a crisp feel of really being in the Wild West.

Devil-2010

Devil-2010

Director-John Erick Dowdle

Starring-Chris Messina

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Reviewed January 31, 2011

Grade: B

Devil is an enjoyable thriller/horror film that is deemed as the first in a trilogy, though it is unknown if the subsequent films will see the light of day since this film was not a smash success at the box office nor was it critically acclaimed. A fun fact is that the screenplay is based off of a story written by respected director, M. Night Shyamalan.

The premise is very good;  set in Philadelphia, a man suddenly jumps from a tall skyscraper to his death. We learn from a narrator that the devil takes many forms and makes his presence known by a suicide. Detective Bowden (Messina) is called to investigate the death. Eventually five people are stuck in an elevator and one is a killer, presumably the devil. The film is a whodunit of sorts and also a tale of morality, good versus evil.

Parts of the film are a bit hokey and suspension of disbelief is certainly required, but Devil is also a decent, edge of your seat thriller. Being only rated PG-13, the film tones down the gore and the death in favor of lighter, tamer activity. The revelation of the actual killer is surprising and rather enjoyable.

Salt-2010

Salt-2010

Director-Phillip Noyce

Starring-Angelina Jolie

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Reviewed February 2, 2011

Grade: B+

Salt is a very good, fast paced, political thriller starring Angelina Jolie as a woman accused of being a Russian sleeper agent, who must go on the run in order to clear her name, all the while being chased by officials attempting to accost her.

The film really offers nothing that has not been seen countless times before in movies like this, but seeing Jolie in a role typically played by a male (the role was originally written for Tom Cruise), is really cool and the makes the film unique in itself. She is great in the role.

There are some twists and surprises along the way that keeps the viewer on edge- numerous action and car chase scenes abound and will keep the action flick viewer quite pleased. It is quite fast-paced and very big budget.

On the downside, I couldn’t help but think are they really making movies about the United States vs. Russia again? Apparently they are, but I could  not help but enjoy it for what it was.

Animal Kingdom-2010

Animal Kingdom-2010

Director-David Michod

Starring-Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton

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Reviewed February 3, 2011

Grade: A-

Animal Kingdom is an excellent Australian crime drama movie that is in the same vein as Goodfellas, The Godfather, or a myriad of other mafia/mob type films- only Aussie style, which in itself piques interest.

The film has an indie feel to it-is raw and not slickly produced- and is not over dramatized with explosions, CGI effects, and various other bells and whistles, making it character driven.

It is simply a well made drama about a seventeen year old boy named Joshua, who is taken in by his extended family of criminals. Staring out as an innocent, he slowly becomes entangled in the families web of corruption- similar to Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone from The Godfather. Making the plot even more compelling, is the arrival of a goodhearted detective (Guy Pearce) who tries to steer Joshua on the straight and narrow.

The acting is topnotch (Jacki Weaver in particular is amazing as the diabolical leader of the family), shocking events happen out of the blue, and operatic music mixed in with dramatic events is well done.

Animal Kingdom is a diamond in the rough.

Restrepo-2010

Restrepo-2010

Directors-Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger

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Reviewed February 14, 2011

Grade: B-

Restrepo is an informative documentary concerning a group of American soldiers sent into Afghanistan to battle the Taliban. Film makers spent one year in the life of this group of men, documenting their experiences, pains, losses, and joys throughout. Camera crews follow them almost non-stop.

The most interesting aspects of this piece are the camaraderie that is evident among the soldiers- a bond that is a brotherhood of sorts. Friendships that develop in the midst of peril that will undoubtedly never be broken or tarnished. Certainly, the fear and worry that these soldiers go through- under the constant uncertainty of attack, far away from their families, is powerful.

Slight gripes are the redundancy of the subject matter of the documentary itself. Seemingly endless are the projects developed surrounding one war or another. I freely admit this is an important matter, but while watching Restrepo, I could not help but feel that I have seen other incarnations of the same documentary before- not to mention in mainstream film. The war experience is a popular story to tell.

I also got the sense of an us against them mentality to this documentary, which is not always a good thing. More about the relationships with the “good” Afghanistan people might have been nice. Overall, though, a decent, interesting documentary.

You Again-2010

You Again-2010

Director-Alan Fickman

Starring-Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver

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Reviewed February 18, 2011

Grade: C

If not for the cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Betty White, and Sigourney Weaver) You Again would have been a bad experience and a dimwitted, by the numbers comedy, but the talent involved has helped matters greatly. This is not meant to parlay much credit to the film.

As it is, it is not a great film, and quite silly and dumb, but the cast successful turns it into a light, fun, dumb movie instead of solely drivel- with a cast of lesser this would have undoubtedly been the case. Bell is not my favorite actress, but alas she seems to be currently receiving star turns in these types of films.

The premise is basic and tried and true- A twenty eight year old “beautiful” woman (Kristen Bell) who was an ugly duckling in high school, returns to her hometown for her brother’s wedding and his fiance turns out to be her high school nemesis. It is a standard Hollywood comedy cliched with typical gags, and a “we have seen this before” story. A gripe- Kristen Bell is cute, sort of all-American, girl next door, but I would be remiss if I did not point out she is not the beauty they make her out to be.

Thanks to the aforementioned cast, and the wit that Curtis and Weaver bring to their rivalry (as mothers of the respective fiancé and Bell’s character- they were high school rivals a generation before), the film does get some meager credit. Not much, but some.

Let Me In-2010

Let Me In-2010

Director-Matt Reeves

Starring-Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz

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Reviewed February 20, 2011

Grade: A-

I loved this film. It is nearly as exceptional as the original, Let the Right One In, which was Swedish. Billed as horror, it contains none of the typical horror cliches or corny dialogue- rather it is mysterious, compelling, and character driven. This in itself is refreshing. Additionally, the cinematography is exceptional in its coldness, darkness, and good old fashioned ambiance.

Let Me In is about a twelve year old outcast, named Owen,  who befriends a neighbor girl-Abby- who we learn is a vampire. Owen is bullied at school and through Abby, learns to stand up to his tormentors.

I am partial to foreign language films so, to me, the American version lacks the engaging language a bit and is not…well, foreign, so that detracts slightly, but not much at all, and this effort is quite remarkable.

This film is a horror film- in the classic sense of containing vampires and not being played for goofs- and quite gory, but also a beautiful, emotional film and the concepts of sadness and loneliness are explored. One of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years.

Night Catches Us-2010

Night Catches Us-2010

Director-Tanya Hamilton

Starring-Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie

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Reviewed February 25, 2011

Grade: B+

Night Catches Us, as a film, has some very good qualities and is quite captivating and interesting to watch. Largely, it is set during the 1970’s in Philadelphia and encompasses racial tensions during that time. Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie star and do a very nice job with the material given.

The film tells the story of a former 1960s Black Panther (Mackie) who returns home after a decade to start his life over- or so he hopes. Night Catches Us is a combination love story and political/social commentary and is an important film to watch.

The leads, along with Wendell Pierce are great and the real life 1960s Black panther rally footage is interesting to see from a historical perspective. My only criticism is I wanted a bit more.

Certain events seemed plot driven and forced- slightly clichéd in the romance department, but overall I enjoyed the film very much, especially for Mackie and Washington’s performances. Great acting and socially relevant story.

Sweetgrass-2010

Sweetgrass-2010

Director-Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor

70128353

Reviewed February 26, 2011

Grade: F

While generally I am an advocate and champion of the film documentary- I always love to learn something new- Sweetgrass had a strange effect on me- simply put-I despised the film. Even if the subject matter is such that it does not particularly interest me, it will usually garner at least some recognition and praise for what it is.

Sweetgrass is a documentary about a group of sheepherders from Montana transporting their herd to another location- it was unclear to me why the sheep were being transported or where to, but I assume rather close by. The documentary contains no narrative and little dialogue except one of the sheepherders ranting and raving about how tough it is to be a sheepherder, all the while smoking incessantly.

Most of the time is spent literally watching sheep and sheep and sheep and sheep- and still more sheep wandering about and drifting down a mountain range.  Then we see still more sheep moving about. As my mind began to wander, I began to wonder if the sheep were a metaphor of some kind. Then some dogs and horses were thrown in for good measure.

The location scenes are nothing special and after a brief five minutes of appreciation of the gorgeous landscape I was over it.

At 1 hour and 45 minutes in length- way too long for a documentary that moves along at a snail’s pace- it is about an hour too long for my tastes.

After pondering the film, my only determination is that the film makers were hoping to give the viewers a real-life slice of what it is like to be a sheep herder- snore! I would have much rather experienced interviews and commentary with some merit on the subject.

Worse than the redundancy of the pacing, the constant mistreatment of some of the sheep is inexcusable and really has no bearing on the topic at hand- which I confess to being unsure what the point of the documentary even was- other than as a cure for insomnia. Sweetgrass is a complete waste of time.