Tag Archives: 2009 Movie reviews

My Bloody Valentine-2009

My Bloody Valentine-2009

Director-Patrick Lussier

Starring-Jensen Ackles, Jaime King

Reviewed January 20, 2009

Grade: B

What can I say? The remake of the classic slasher film from 1981 is a very slick version of the perfect Valentine’s day treat- My Bloody Valentine. To compare the 2009 offering to the original is unfair since I consider that one top notch. This version is what I expected it to be. Though several aspects of it were changed from the original, it was entertaining all the same.

The sleepy mining town that the film is set in becomes immersed in scandal as a string of grisly murders occurs in one of the town mines. It is revealed that a tragic accident occurred at one time causing several deaths. The one remaining victim awakens from a coma and goes on a killing spree. At the same time, youths throw a party near the mine and a series of deaths begin again.

The 3-D effects are necessary to a film like this, for without them, this movie would have been generic as anything else in the same style. The story is lame, implausible, and the characters are dumb, but looking past all that, as I usually do in the horror genre, this was a fun ride. Lots of gore nudity, violence, and a few genuine scares.

Friday the 13th-2009

Friday the 13th-2009

Director-Marcus Nispel

Starring-Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker

Reviewed February 17, 2009

Grade: C-

As a devoted and faithful fan of the Friday the 13th film franchise and having many wonderful memories of Friday the 13th’s of the past, I was expecting better than this version. There was no reason for the producers to start from scratch with a brand new beginning- that makes no sense to me.

There is really nothing to distinguish this, 2009 Friday the 13th,  from other sequels. They would have been better suited making a “Friday The 13th Part 11” since that’s really what it was. In essence, an entire new story-line was created- only keeping to the original Jason and Mrs. Voorhees characters, and Camp Crystal Lake location.

This movie is not scary, nor are any of the characters particularly likable. In fact, several were quite unlikable- way too many horror films do that. The film also contains very distinct stereotypes, which in this day and age seem ridiculous. Also, Jason has now graduated to “taking prisoners” instead of simply hacking his victims. There is also a “flashback” scene from 1980, which, inexplicably is a newly filmed scene. A wiser choice, and treat for loyalists, would have been to show this scene from the original Friday The 13th from 1980 instead of foolishly recreating one.

The story is completely implausible in countless ways. I am giving this film a very liberal C- grade for at least giving us a new film and for being somewhat entertaining, even though there are many negatives. This film will be forgotten before too long.

Drag Me To Hell-2009

Drag Me To Hell-2009

Director-Sam Raimi

Starring-Alison Lohman, Justin Long

Reviewed June 16, 2009

Grade: B

Drag Me To Hell is a fairly predictable, modern day horror film, with some supernatural elements and special effects that make it slightly above average. Directed by Sam Raimi (of Spiderman fame) one can definitely see his stamp on it, as he has a way of horror-camp. 1983’s cult classic, Evil Dead, directed by Raimi is evidence of this.

Young Loan Officer, Christine Brown, played by Alison Lohman, is bucking for a promotion and intent on impressing her boss by being a stickler for the rules. She chooses the wrong day to do this as an elderly woman, desperately needing a loan, is denied one by Christine. The angry woman places a curse on Christine, causing her life to spin out of control. She has a mere three days to remove the curse before her soul is “dragged to hell”.

As with most horror films involving a curse, the plot is completely unrealistic and filled with holes. The film also tries to be both serious and comical at times- sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. In a few scenes I was not sure if the intention was to be comical or if it was unintended, but periodically the acting was over the top.

With all that said, if one is interested in a fun horror film that has a few scares and is not too gory (it is rated PG-13 after all), one will enjoy Drag Me To Hell.

The Hangover-2009

The Hangover-2009

Director-Todd Phillips

Starring-Bradley Cooper. Ed Helms

Reviewed June 23, 2009

Grade: B+

It was not my idea to see this particular film- the raunchy, mindless “guy” films have always seemed lackluster and cheesy to me, but I confess to finding The Hangover, a novel and entertaining, summer blockbuster film. I did not expect much from this film, but instead found it comical and fun. Certainly, it has the “dumb frat boy/jock” shenanigans, and not much thought is needed, but it is good old boy entertainment.

Similar to the American Pie films of the 1990’s in which a group of guys find themselves mixed up in amusing, and sometimes humiliating situations, after a night of boozing, The Hangover has a likable cast led by, then up and coming star Bradley Cooper. What sets The Hangover apart is the great chemistry among the cast (Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, specifically) that other flaws or generic writing, can be overlooked or forgotten altogether. The group goes from one hysterical situation after another.

Set in Las Vegas (a great decision), three men awake to find the groom to be missing after a night of debauchery- they are there to celebrate via a wild bachelor party. In their hotel room is a tiger and a six month old baby. From this point, the film goes back to the arrival of the gang and the events that transpired leading up to the hotel room acquisitions. This is fun and keeps the audience engaged in the hi-jinks.

The Hangover was followed by the inevitable two sequels, neither of which was as good or as successful at the box office to the surprise of nobody except maybe movie studio executives.

Inglourious Basterds-2009

Inglourious Basterds-2009

Director-Quentin Tarantino

Starring-Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz

Reviewed August 23, 2009

Grade: A

Inglorious Basterds is simply a great movie. Blending many film genres together, it is hard to categorize, but that is because it is a Quentin Tarantino film and that says it all. The film as a whole contains excellent acting, is wonderfully shot, and extremely detail oriented, plus it has the familiar “Tarantino” style of music and sound, the chapter breakdown, and the heavy violence.

Set mainly in German occupied France during the early 1940’s, clearly during World War II, the action centers around two stories- Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), a teenage girl whose entire family is killed after being discovered hidden by a dairy farmer who is a Jewish sympathizer, barely escapes with her life when a SS Colonel, brilliantly played by Christoph Waltz, interrogates the man. Three years later, now living in Paris and owning a cinema, she plots her revenge. The other story is also of a revenge plot by a group of Jewish-American soldiers to kill as many Nazi’s as possible. Both stories eventually intersect with a grand finale inside a cinema.

The story itself is richly nuanced and unlike many generic films of today. The fantastic set design and the perfection to every last set piece is amazing. Long scenes play out slowly, but bristle with authenticity and good dialogue. Take the first scene for example- as the SS Colonel, aptly nicknamed the “Jew Hunter” plays cat and mouse with the dairy farmer, politely asking for two glasses of milk, the audience knows the pay off will be huge, but the conversation crackles with good dialogue.

What strikes me most about the film is the intelligent writing. The many scenes of conversations between characters- a chat over strudel and cream, a trivia game at a bar, and the aforementioned scene at the farmhouse, bristle with unique, clever written dialogue so that the scenes are far from merely filler. Of course, this is also a characteristic of Tarantino.

At over two and a half hours Inglourious Basterds is long, but satisfying. My only criticism is of Brad Pitt. I didn’t buy him as a Tarantino guy and found his character the only weak point of the film. His southern drawl just did not draw me in like I thought it might. He was touted as the main character (perhaps because he was the biggest star), but he really plays a supporting role.

Julie & Julia-2009

Julie & Julia-2009

Director-Nora Ephron

Starring-Meryl Streep, Amy Adams

Reviewed September 4, 2009

Grade: A-

Julie & Julia is a darling film about cooking and centering on the legendary chef Julia Child. It is for the foodie or culinary geek in all of us. The film is lighthearted and will ruffle no feathers, but a delicious, well told treat.

The film tells of the life of Julia Child, at one time an aspiring chef, contrasted with the life of a young New Yorker, blogger Julie Powell, who is determined to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, within a one year period.

The film, of course, would not be half as good without the amazing talents of Meryl Streep, who portrays Julia Child herself. All of Julia Child’s personality characteristics are portrayed exceptionally well by Streep. Her laugh, her voice, her zest for life, are all perfect. Of course, since Streep is not nearly as tall a woman as Child was, liberties had to be taken by way of camera trickery.

Regardless of Streep’s performance, and props for a nice performance by Adams as well. Julie & Julia is a cute, charming, light, fun movie. I thoroughly recommend it.

The Final Destination-2009

The Final Destination-2009

Director-David R. Ellis

Starring-Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten

Reviewed September 6, 2009

Grade: B

The Final Destination is a fun, entertaining film, and exactly what one might expect from a film of this nature, of the horror genre, and by this time the fourth in the series. The 3-D effects were a nice (and needed) addition at this in the franchise as a way of keeping it modern and fresh.

The film has the expected additives- an attractive cast, mediocre acting, and the ridiculous situations, which inevitably lead to the fated kills- in typical grisly fashion. As audiences of the Final Destination films know, characters cannot tempt fate, and there is a specific order to the deaths. In fact, the only aspect that sets The Final Destination apart from its predecessors is the 3-D effects.

The story is reminiscent of the original version of Final Destination, made in 2000, only instead of an airport, the action begins at a raceway, where the main character of the film, Nick O’Bannon, has a premonition of a grisly accident at the racetrack. After he saves some folks from their deaths, they believe they have cheated “death”, but before long, fate has other plans for them.

Some fun kills include- decapitation by flying tire, a sharp rock emitted from a lawn mower, a crushing tub, and a speeding ambulance.

The novel concept of the film, originally fresh and unique, has become to be expected and rather redundant- the fun part is the creative kills. The film is the perfect movie to sit back, relax, have fun, see some interesting deaths, and be entertained.

Zombieland-2009

Zombieland-2009

Director-Ruben Fleischer

Starring-Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson

Reviewed October 25, 2009

Grade: B

Zombieland is a fun, entertaining, popcorn-style flick. The film is not designed to be taken very seriously given the subject matter of zombies- nor should it. Rather, the film goes over the top frequently to elicit a good time and plays for laughs. Sometimes it is successful, adding dark comedy to the story, other times the film comes across as silly.

The story takes place during a time when zombies have overtaken the world, and humans are left to fend for themselves and survive. The film is actually a more cartoon version of the popular television series, The Walking Dead, despite pre-dating it. It lacks the heavy drama of the series.

Still, for 2009, the film is a novel idea and the movie works more often than not. Woody Harrelson is amusing and charismatic. Jesse Eisenberg is falling into the Ben Stiller and Will Farrell trap of playing the same character over and over again, and I am personally a big fan of Abigail Breslin and she does not disappoint in this film.

Zombieland will likely only be remembered as a fun midnight, Saturday night fluff film.

An Education-2009

An Education-2009

Director-Lone Scherfig

Starring-Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard

Reviewed November 12, 2009

Grade: B+

An Education, a British film released in 2009, is a small, little gem of a film. The story-telling and the acting are very good. Since it is a British film, the accents can be a little distracting for some, but I enjoyed it very much.

It tells the story of an intelligent, college driven teenager, named Jenny, who falls in love with an older, charismatic man (Sarsgaard). She is faced with conflict from her family and teachers, most notably her father, played by Alfred Molina. The individuals in her life have differing opinions in which path Jenny should choose in her life. This leads to the main conflict in the film.

The setting is rainy, cold, London in 1961. Certainly headed for Oxford and a successful career (not common for a female in those days), Jenny is willing to risk it all for love, but is she being taken advantage of?

The film is romantic, comical, and serious all rolled into one. The story is nothing original, to be frank, but specifically, the excellent acting makes it worth seeing. An Education proves film makers can take a good story, told before, and make it compelling to an audience.

Carey Mulligan deservedly received an Oscar nomination for this film and made her debut as a high caliber young actress to watch.

The Fourth Kind-2009

The Fourth Kind-2009

Director-Olatunde Osunsanmi

Starring-Milla Jovovich, Will Patton

Reviewed November 15, 2009

Grade: B-

I went into the theater to see The Fourth Kind certainly not expecting a classic, but rather, a few frights, chills, and something compelling. I ended up completely entertained and I believed it was a pretty good movie. However, after the credits rolled, I was left with an unsatisfying and misrepresented feeling.

The premise of the film is admittedly a bit trite. An Alaskan female psychiatrist, Dr. Abigail Tyler videotapes her therapy sessions with patients, she discovers they have possibly been abducted by some sort of alien. Yes, this sounds crazy, but the film is actually well made and rather believable all along.

The look of the film is similar to the Paranormal Activity films, a craze that was happening when the film was released in 2009. The documentary look and the interviews with the actors will be looked back on as “of it’s time”, to be sure.

The style and interspersing of “real” events with fictitious events was interesting. However, I was disappointed when I read that the supposed “real” events were entirely made up, a fact the movie never admits, and, in fact, time and time again reminds the audience are real events. I enjoyed the movie, but felt duped afterwards, rendering the film trivial.

A Serious Man-2009

A Serious Man-2009

Director-Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring-Michael Stuhlbarg

Reviewed November 20, 2009

Grade: B

A Serious Man is a quirky, odd film that is definitely a character study. Directed by the Coen brothers who typically have an offbeat style to their films (No Country For Old Men and Fargo spring to mind), A Serious Man is no different, offering wonderful, richly written supporting characters.

The film, however, lacks the violence of other Coen Brothers films, instead, adding more humorous situations and an overall comical premise. It tells the story of a Jewish Professor, Larry Gopnik, living in the 1960’s, who has a string of bad luck. People close to Larry begin to drop dead all around him and he seems cursed with a string of bad luck. The film centers around how he deals with crisis after crisis.

The first half of the film admittedly drags a bit, but the second part really picks up nicely. The plot suddenly comes to a head rather quickly. To stress, A Serious Man is a witty, dark comedy, so many of the dialogue is either tongue in cheek or dry in nature.

The rabbis that Larry meets, combined with his son Danny and wife Judith are very funny and well carved out characters, many certain “types”. The character of Larry also contained elements of the Larry David character on TV’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Also, for those cinema lovers who pay close attention to or have an appreciation for good set design, the film captures 1960’s style (dress, furniture, cars), perfectly.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire-2009

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire-2009

Director-Lee Daniels

Starring-Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’nique

Reviewed November 23, 2009

Grade: A

Precious is an amazing film and certainly one of the best to come out of the year 2009. Due to the hype, I had high expectations entering the theater and I was not disappointed. The film is an in your face slug-fest with some of the most raw acting performed in recent years.

The marvelous aspect is that the film takes the viewer into a world that is probably not one’s own experience and makes them empathize with the characters. The film is very disturbing at times, raw, gritty, and violent, but also has some light, humorous moments and an oh so important film to see. There is a heartwarming charm that offsets the violence perfectly.

The story itself, and the direction are basic, but the wonderful acting is what sets this film on a high pedestal. Gabourey Sidibe, a relative unknown and novice actress, gives an astounding turn as an unloved, overweight, pregnant teen mom. She is abused by both of her parents in separate ways and seems to have a life of pain ahead of her.

Paula Patton, who has been in several fluff films, shines as a teacher who takes a shine to Precious. Mariah Carey is simply unrecognizable as a plain looking social worker, who is also a sympathetic character. However, actress and comedienne, Mo’nique plays an unfeeling, brutal, violent mother to the hilt and holds nothing back. Her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win was deserving.

Everyone should see this fantastic slice of life film.

The Blind Side-2009

The Blind Side-2009

Director-John Lee Hancock

Starring-Sandra Bullock

Reviewed December 8, 2009

Grade: B-

The Blind Side is a 2009 film that garnered huge buzz and accolades largely  based on rave reviews for Sandra Bullock’s performance. Bullock subsequently went on to win an Academy award for the role (I personally would have awarded any of the other four nominees instead).

The story is surmised as a rich, white couple from the suburbs “rescues” poor black football player and gives him a decent life that he otherwise would not have been able to have.

I was impressed with Bullock’s performance, but I left the theater a little disappointed. I know this is a true story, but do we really need yet another movie about a poor black kid being “rescued” by rich, white people? Think Finding Forester. This film is riddled with the typical stereotypes (rednecks, racist friends, political/religious views)that seem a bit overdone.

Disturbing to me are folks that think The Blind Side is the best film in decades- no- it is certainly not. It is definitely a feel good, warm, fairy tale sort of movie, that, besides Bullock’s performance, seems rather ordinary.

I was expecting a bit more due to the success of the movie and would recommend this as a rental only or anyone who aspires to watch all of the Oscar nominated features.

Invictus-2009

Invictus-2009

Director-Clint Eastwood

Starring-Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman

Reviewed December 15, 2009

Grade: B

As sports films go, it is very difficult, especially a sports film based on real life actions, for a director to avoid cliches and make the film not a sappy, saturated mess. I will point out some of the latter day Rocky films as examples of cheese, not that those are true stories.

Nevertheless, Clint Eastwood has given us Invictus, and while the film is certainly predictable and sappy, somehow it also works as an above average offering.  This is undoubtedly helped by the superior acting of stars Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, who give both compelling and nuances performances.

While not a masterpiece, for the sports genre, it is above average, as it combined a South African history lesson along with good drama. Freeman portrays the famed Nelson Mandela, during the period when he took over as President and subsequently ended apartheid. He used the 1995 World Cup rugby matches as a way to unite his people. Damon stars as a key rugby player.

Invictus is a rousing, triumphant sports film with a happy ending one can see for miles away. There is particularly a rooting value and rallying cry to the film since the subject matter is an important social issue and historically significant.

I wish that the film might have contained more character driven elements, but it was clear the type of film that it was. Nothing very surprising ever developed as the film was certainly straight-forward. Still, a worthy effort that is a feel-good film.

A Single Man-2009

A Single Man-2009

Director-Tom Ford

Starring-Colin Firth, Julianne Moore

Reviewed December 27, 2009

Grade: B+

A Single Man is a dark film fraught with meaning and honesty-it is a very good movie. It is certainly a melancholy film and a bit surreal, but absolutely worth seeing. The acting, especially from star Colin Firth, is first rate. The subject matter involves being gay in the 1950’s and 1960’s and ramifications of living a forbidden and secretive life.The intelligent film is based on the novel of the same name, written by Christopher Isherwood.

The film is written as a sad tale of a day in the life of a gay man living in the 1960’s. Firth portrays George Falconer, a British college professor living in liberal minded Los Angeles. When his much younger lover (presumably a student) dies, George plans to commit suicide. Moore plays his best friend and confidante, Charley, who is dealing with her own demons.

Through flashbacks we learn about George and lover Jim’s secret life together and challenges that ensued. George also had a strange relationship with a male prostitute. We learn the path of life George leads following Jim’s tragic death- we also see them happy at one time.

A Single Man is a bit of a downer and contains a definite dream-like feel and is heavy on the flashbacks, but this is intriguing to the picture and not a complaint. A very good, but not an uplifting, film.

Sherlock Holmes-2009

Sherlock Holmes-2009

Director-Guy Ritchie

Starring-Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law

Reviewed January 15, 2010

Grade: B-

From a technical perspective. Sherlock Holmes, a 2009 attempt at revitalizing the famous detective story into something of a modern franchise for the masses, achieves a measure of success in style and editing, but ultimately fails in character development or story. Traditionalist fans of the detective and his partner will undoubtedly be displeased with this film.

This film is very well made, with snappy editing, fast-paced wit, and attempts at humor, but it really does not work all so well when put together as a film. The re-birth of Sherlock Holmes was clearly made to entice modern audiences. Director Guy Ritchie even brings in superhero elements to Sherlock Holmes- suddenly he can kick ass as well as solve a complex mystery, which is so far removed from the original character.

Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and partner Watson, have some humorous moments, but the chemistry is not really wholly there-it appears they are both trying too hard to create some magic where there is none.

All in all, though a well made, entertaining two hours spent, the story and characterization ultimately do not work. Downey Jr. gives a great performance and shows why he is one of today’s most versatile actors, but this cannot ultimately make the entire film a success.

Up in the Air-2009

Up in the Air-2009

Director-Jason Reitman

Starring-George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Reviewed January 16, 2010

Grade: A

Up in the Air is a fantastic film, but for some odd reason, circa its release to theaters in 2009 some reason it was categorized as a romantic comedy. While there is a bit of romance involved, the film is really a dark romantic drama. The content is absolutely perfect for this period in history- the terrible economy, and the unemployment rate rising sky high. The acting by the principles is excellent, and is worth watching, but do not expect a happy, uplifting film.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate “downsizer”, who travels the country firing employees from companies that hire him. Ryan has no qualms about what he does and enjoys traveling around the country. He mentors a young employee, Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, who is more sympathetic to the people whose lives she changes. Ryan meets another frequent flyer, businesswoman Alex (Vera Farmiga), and they begin an affair. He becomes a more sympathetic character as he develops real feelings for Alex, but will Alex return the affections?

The tone of the film is sarcastic and sardonic, and Clooney is dynamic in the lead role- carrying the film. He is charismatic and energetic, performing his work duties in an emotionless way. We slowly get to know him better and realize, through Alex, that he does have a heart. Alex is a more mysterious character, and Farmiga is equally as engaging in the role. When a big reveal is learned about Alex, the audience does not see it coming.

As the years go by, my hope is that Up in the Air is remembered for being a film that was released at the perfect time, given the difficulties many were going through. I love how the film carries smart dialogue- the characters questioning each others motivations and becoming intertwined. Jason Reitman and the screenwriters craft an exceptional film.

Avatar-2009

Avatar-2009

Director-James Cameron

Starring-Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana

Reviewed January 28, 2010

Grade: A

Acclaimed director James Cameron has done it again- similar to Titanic, he has created a masterpiece, but, oddly in merely one facet of the film, not the entire ball of wax. Avatar has two main factors to evaluate- the story and the visual aspect. Both are crucial, yes, but the visual experience is immeasurable, so much so, that the story is nearly irrelevant.

Futuristic in timeline and set in the Twenty-second century, human beings begin to colonize Pandora, a lush planet, filled with lavish forests and creature who flutter about. Planet earth has become depleted of resources, causing scientists to utilize Pandora for their own gain. Poisonous to humans, visitors must wear protection. Sam Worthington portrays Jake Scully, a paraplegic former Marine, who visits Pandora and falls in love with Neytiri, a native creature of the planet.

From a story perspective, Avatar is very ordinary and nothing separates the story from others that have come before it. At the center is a love story and a rather predictable one in nature, but this is not the reason to view Avatar. Jake and Neytiri are sweet together, but I had much more fun watching the film rather than caring what happened between the pair.

Visually, Avatar is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. The intricate style and the attention to detail are astounding- this is my favorite aspect of Avatar and why I feel that the story is really not the reason to see the film. Everything, from the art direction to the background pieces are perfectly made. Natives of Pandora are all CGI- blue/green in color, and are gorgeous, peaceful, and moving.

Avatar will likely go down in history as a groundbreaking film- it is a visual feast. The anti-war slant is also impressive to me, but the creative,technical achievements set this film over the top. James Cameron creates a magical, absorbing film that must be cherished.

Crazy Heart-2009

Crazy Heart-2009

Director-Scott Cooper

Starring-Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Reviewed February 3, 2010

Grade: A-

Crazy Heart is a film that is perfectly crafted for Jeff Bridge’s talents as an actor and the role seems written specifically for him. To that end, it is a showcase for the actor, and as proof, he was awarded the Best Actor Oscar. He plays surly, grizzled, and rode-hard to the hilt. His chemistry with co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic- despite her character being much younger than his. First directorial effort by Scott Cooper, who does an outstanding job.

Gyllenhaal plays a reporter, Jean Craddock, who becomes attached and fascinated by Bad Blake (Bridges), a former country-western star turned alcoholic and now washed up old man. He has mentored an upstart played by Colin Farrell, who has since usurped Bad Blake in popularity, leading Blake to depression and alcohol to relieve his pain. he still performs, but in dirty hotels or bowling alleys, for peanuts.

Bridge’s character reminds me so much of Mickey Rourke’s character “Randy the Ram” in The Wrestler, from 2008, so anyone who enjoyed the latter will enjoy the former. In fact, one might watch the two exceptional films in tandem- and in both there appears a younger female character who meshes well in the stories.

The story portrayed in Crazy Heart is gritty and depressing, yet also heartwarming and sentimental. We root for Blake and Jean  to succeed, battling Blake’s many demons. Crazy Heart is very well acted and genuine. The film is nice as it is a character driven film instead of a story dictated one.

The Last Station-2009

The Last Station-2009

Director-Michael Hoffman

Starring-Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren

Reviewed February 17, 2010

Grade: A-

The Last Station is a wonderful film. It contains many worthwhile elements- history, culture, good drama, and great acting. Starring seasoned veterans such as Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren, the fantastic acting is as good as it gets.

The film tells the story of the final year in the life of famous Russian author Tolstoy and the relationship he has with his family- specifically his wife, Sofya, and his disciples. The year is 1910 and Tolstoy is ailing. He has had a stormy yet passionate relationship with his wife for decades, which is explored in the film. The film’s main point is of greed and in-fighting for control of a great literary figures legacy and money.

The main strong point of The Last Station is the relationship between Tolstoy and Sofya- both characters are headstrong, opinionated, but also madly in love, which lead to many sessions of battle.

This is a film of substance. Director Michael Hoffman also mixes some humor in with heavy drama. At the conclusion you might need to use some hankies.

The Secret in Their Eyes-2009

The Secret in Their Eyes-2009

Director-Juan Jose Campanella

Starring-Soledad Villamil, Ricardo Darin

Reviewed June 6, 2010

Grade: A

The Secret in Their Eyes is a wonderful film and one of the best of the year 2009- deservedly it won the Best Foreign Language Film of that year. Argentinian, it is a multi-faceted story with twists and turns, leaving the audience guessing.

The remarkable characteristic of the film is that it crosses genres. It lies somewhere between a thriller and romantic film, and with much depth. The story concerns a criminal investigator who decides to write a memoir of a case that happened twenty-five years ago as he reflects on the present as well as the past. This story angle in itself is highly appealing.

The film contains many flashbacks- a young newlywed was raped and murdered years ago in an unsolved case, and the film is clearly influenced heavily by both Alfred Hitchcock and Dirty Harry. It has a few surprises and twists to the tale, especially as the plot moves along. I adored the use of mirrors, reflections, shadows, and eyeglasses. Hitchcock lovers will know all about that.

I was fortunate to see this film at my local art theater and at close to three hours, it can be slow moving at times, but well worth the pay off. The Secret in Their Eyes is a very, very well made film.

Splice-2009

Splice-2009

Director-Vincenzo Natali

Starring-Adrien Brody

Reviewed June 13, 2010

Grade: B-

If you are looking for a realistic, character driven movie, this film is not for you. Rather, Splice is a science-fiction, thriller, that must be viewed while suspending all disbelief. Certainly not a work of art, and lots of plot holes, but it provides decent entertainment, bordering on fluff.

The two main characters, Elsa and Clive, while admittedly neurological-scientists, are not the brightest people in the world and their motivations change with the weather. The basic plot involves a married couple (above said scientists) who conduct an experiment to splice human and animal DNA into a new creation, a female hybrid named Dren. Predictably, things go awry, once Dren is let loose on the world.

The plot is thin and there are questionable actions, motivations, and subplots, but somehow I still found it entertaining once I simply went with it. There are cliches such as the scientists ignoring instructions, the one-dimensional supporting characters, and so on and so forth.

As a comical aside, I overheard the guy sitting behind me in the theater mutter as the closing credits rolled,  “This was the worst movie ever”. I understand where he is coming from, but did not think the film was that bad. For fans of horror or thrillers I recommend it, anyone else might want to skip this one.

Get Low-2009

Get Low-2009

Director-Aaron Schneider

Starring-Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray

Reviewed August 25, 2010

Grade: B+

Get Low is an understated, gentle, sweet story set in Tennessee in the late 1930’s. The film is greatly enhanced by the stellar cast consisting of Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray.  I dislike the title of the film as, to me, it feels dull and boring. Despite the very slow pace, and the understated feel, the film is successful as one will become engaged with the characters lives.

It tells the story of an elderly man named Felix Bush (DuVall), who decides to plan his own living funeral for the small town to attend. Felix is a hermit who lives deep in the woods of Tennessee. He is despised, yet largely unknown by the townspeople, who only have past stories they have heard about him to formulate their opinions. He hides a long ago, dark secret, which predictably is eventually revealed.

DuVall is the standout in this movie, but Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray are also very good- unsurprising based on their string of acting credits.

Enjoyable are the exterior scenes of rural Tennessee, giving an authentic look into the lives of small town folks of that time period.

I could have gone for a quicker pace, despite the fact that I love slow moving stories, as long as a pay-off is to be received. The reveal served satisfactory, but I could have gone for some juicer scandals and revalations. Get Low is a simple, yet moving story about life, regret, secrets, and religion.

I Am Love-2009

I Am Love-2009

Director-Luca Guadagnino

Starring-Tilda Swinton

Reviewed December 28, 2010

Grade: A

Tilda Swinton shines in I Am Love,  an amazing Italian film from 2009 that I wish received wider recognition, but alas, some of the best films do not receive their due.

Swinton stars as a matriarch of a wealthy Italian family, who owns a successful business. To make this film very authentic, it was shot in and around Milan, and contains a highly stylish and exquisite appearance. It is a grand film with high class set pieces and a great look. I do not hesitate to categorize it as an artistic, female version of The Godfather as it is that good.

It focuses on the family as a whole but more so on Swinton’s character, who is bored and unhappy with her life and yearns for passion and feeling. One day she meets a friend of her sons and drama ensues. Obviously, the boy is only half her age, but they share a passion that awakens her from her doldrums. The conflict in the film is how the affair looks to society and effects the family business- not to mention detrimental to her marriage.

A really great film that should be discovered by those looking for a gorgeous film with great drama.

Saw VI-2009

Saw VI-2009

Director-Kevin Greutert

Starring-Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith

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Reviewed February 5, 2011

Grade: B

The Saw movies are a fun experience. They are like watching a puzzle form and there is usually some sort of twist or reveal at the end of each film, making them enjoyable. John Jigsaw’s torture legacy lives on in this film.

This installment picks up where Saw V left off and there are many flashback scenes to earlier installments so things make sense and all come together. The twist, however, is not as interesting as earlier ones, but the kills are extremely gory and the reasons behind the victims are always interesting. In typical fashion, the victims deserve, in some way, their punishments, either causing someone else’s death, or ripping someone off in their past, so the brutality is not exacted on the innocent.

Deaths and torturous methods such as a severed arm, busting temples, cages, hydrofluoric acid, and needles are all used in ready fashion.

For any Scream Queens reality show fans, Taneadra Howard has a role in this one. Decent movie, but not as good as other Saws.