Monday, January 29, 2007

High Drama in DVD

Flyboys is an interesting piece of WW I history. The flight sequences in this film are impressive.

On another historical, dramatic note, Catch a Fire tells the story of a man fighting for his life against a volatile political situation in Apartheid-run South Africa. A very intense film.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Inland Empire

With Inland Empire, David Lynch presents film as art. Like the abstract paintings I like so much, I liked this film and I'm not sure why. It's long (3 hours), there is no cohesive story (though my brain kept saying aha! only to be left hanging)and many of the images are blurry and bizarre. But this is where I think Lynch has shown the brilliance of film as art. I never felt bored, and the acting was outstanding, Laura Dern is amazing in this. An added bonus is a cameo appearance from Diane Ladd as a gossip talk show host.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Peter O'Toole is one of the most endearing actors I have ever watched. Funny, crass, honest, sexy, the man owns the movie screen. In Venus, he plays a British actor who befriends a young girl. The film is a funny, poignant story of his relationships, and reflects on his life.

Smokin' Aces

Assassins are after Buddy "Aces" Israel for a million bucks, but the FBI wants him alive. There are so many people after this guy you need a score card! Smokin' Aces is a decent action flick that has the FBI chasing the mob, and an alleged witness. But why do they want his heart? The assassin vs cop mentality on killing is interesting and gives dimension to this thriller.

Friday, January 26, 2007

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Instead of watching the State of the Union address the other night, I watched the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. This film reminds me of why I have not watched the State of the Union address since the Regan administration, it just makes me mad. Whatever the bureaucracy, there seem to be secrets, backdoor deals and lies. The film industry, apparently, is not immune. From the time I got into my first R rated movie at the age of 14, I thought the rating system was a joke (trust me, I did not look 17). Later, as a parent, I tried to use the system to help me guide my family's viewing, but found the amount of violence and sexual innuendo that was acceptable in a PG-13 rating took some getting used to. Perhaps the ratings are an interesting guide to what the film's content might be, but I have come to realize that for the MPAA to make us think they are serving the public good or protecting the innocent, is laughable. Just the fact that most of the raters work for the major studios and theater chains, takes away much of their credibility. It is all about money, power, control and, oh yeah, money. This is an interesting film, and a system that may get a closer look as a result.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower

My Mother is a good sport, and she is always saying she wants to go to the movies with me. When Curse of the Golden Flower was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costumes, I figured here was the film. 10th century China, Emperor, Empress, history, pageantry, ninjas, deceit, revenge, murder, rated R for violence, whaaaat?!?!?! Have I mentioned that my Mother is a good sport? The film was OK. The story was very melodramatic (a lot like the operas she enjoys)and there were way too many long lingering shots. And did they have flying ninjas in 10th century China? The visuals were outstanding, the shear number of bodies in any one shot was impressive. Were the costumes Oscar worthy? Absolutely! Thanks for indulging my hobby Mom, only two more films to go!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar Noms 2007

So the Oscar nominations have been announced. It has been a good year in film and I think all nominees are very worthy. My only gripe with this whole process is the use of the term "snubbed". These are awards for achievement, not the junior high lunchroom. If a film or performance is not nominated, then it did not get enough votes, plain and simple. In my opinion, especially in awards for the arts, people will vote "for" something, not "against". The five pictures nominated for Best Picture are films that received the most votes from the members of the academy. Were I a voting member, I would have put films like Children of Men and Last King of Scotland in the top 5 .... that's the subjective part. I know the Oscars are a huge marketing machine, but the "glass is empty" press bugs me.

I choose to cheer on those nominated. I love the unexpected nominations for folks like Abigail Breslin, Ryan Gosling and Mark Wahlberg. Here's to the achievement of just getting a film to an audience, and a fun Oscar Award show!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima

In Letters from Iwo Jima, we get the unusual view of the World War II battles at Iwo Jima, from the Japanese perspective. The battle scenes are graphic and jarring. We see the fear, bad communication and fight till the death attitude of the Japanese. The letters that were found on the island, show us the human side of the soldiers. In war stories, it is easy to forget that the men behind the weapons have families and lives outside the fighting. This is another poignant war film, with amazing effects and film technique.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Miss Potter

With all the intense, violent dramas in this late season of film, Miss Potter is a relief. This thoroughly lovely and delightful telling of the published life of Beatrix Potter is beautifully filmed and well acted. A tongue in cheek look at her upbringing in Victorian London, gives us background to the stories that have delighted many children. I was reminded of how much I loved Miss Potter's work in my childhood. The library was our form of entertainment in the 60s, and I loved the stories of Peter Rabbit and friends in their small bound versions, because I could carry more of those than any other children's books. I was enchanteded by the stories of these beautifully drawn woodland characters. Animation of the characters from her books, add a whimsical flair to this film. An excellent biopic.

Little Children

In Little Children, a suburban community of people with unfortunate situations, make bad decisions looking for happiness. This is a complex story with themes of longing, desperation and love. The final sequence brings each situation to a surprising end. At the end of this film we just said "wow".

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Movie Audience

With movies going to DVD and download so quickly, I am always interested to see who shows up in the theaters. I'm a bit of a people watcher. Sometimes this makes the audience I see a film with, as interesting as the film! The type of film, time of day and location of the theater have a lot to do with who attends. I often go to the weekend matinees. In the early afternoon in RI, I am joined by active seniors. At the weekend matinees in and around Boston, it is mostly middle aged people, often couples or groups of friends.

I attended a discussion panel last spring, that spoke to how we consume film. The director, Steven Soderberg, made an interesting observation. He said that as long as people date, they will still go to the theater for movies. I was happy to see that this was true at the recent screenings I attended of Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men. Young couples in their late 20s to early 30s made up the audience that watched these fine films with me. I'm glad to see people in the theater when there are so many options for home viewing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Golden Globes 2007

I like the televised film awards at the end of the year as a nice recap of the past year in film. And it's usually one hell of a fashion show! A few observations on the Golden Globes:
My friend Meryl is such a class act, and funny too. Thats all ~
White is the new black.
Justin Timberlake is awesome.
Clooney and Dicaprio are HOT!
Jennifer Hudson looked fantastic. Great dress, great hair, great makeup.
Emily Blunt wore one of the most dramatic gowns, and gave one of the best acceptance speeches.
Jeremy Irons and Hugh Laurie gave entertaining speeches.
It looked like the Ugly Betty table was having a good time.
Tim Allen in reference to Vanessa Williams "If looks were a minute, this would be a long day!"

On to the Oscars!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Alpha Dog

In the film Alpha Dog, drug dealer Johnny Truelove kidnaps the brother of a man who owes him money. The characters are young, have drug money and way too much time on their hands. The 15 year old victim is having a rough time with his parents, and comes to like his captors. It comes to an unfortunate end. The acting is excellent in this film based on a true story.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth has been highly acclaimed by critics for months. I saw it today, and have to say this is one freaky-ass movie. Fairies, fauns and revolutionaries share the screen. I'm not kidding, it's what makes this film intriguing. Fantasy characters help the main character escape from the angst of her situation during the Spanish revolution circa 1840's. I was surprised at the graphic nature of the violence in this film. The cinematgraphy is impressive. The involvement of a child in such adult themes was unnerving, but very dramatic. Not your mainstream film, but worth a look for the adventurous.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


The storyline of Idiocracy is great. 500 years from now what will the world be like if only stupid people have babies? The concept of a sloven, stupid population is both funny and scary. Clever film that didn't play in many theaters, but is out in DVD now. An interesting social satire.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Misdirection in DVD

On a lovely summer afternoon, I decided to see The Illusionist. I figured it would be a small crowd. I was early to the theater, so I thought I'd take a walk around town. As I came up on the theater, there was a line out the door, so I thought I'd get my ticket before I took a walk. Everyone was saying "The Illusionist". I decided the walk was out, so I went into the theater. There I sat, 20 minutes early, as the theater slowly filled. I thought I was at an event! The audience was enthusiastic and applauded at the end. Out in DVD, this film is well worth seeing. A period mystery, where nothing is as it seems.
Another film in DVD, where things are not as they seem, is The Night Listener. And for a crazy action / crime flick check out Crank.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Children of Men

I would call Children of Men a futuristic drama. The story is set in 2027 London, and the world has plunged into chaos. Women have been infertile for almost 18 years and the future is grim. An activist group approaches a man to escort a pregnant woman through the maze of violence, to a hopeful future. Clive Owen is the backbone of the film and does an amazing job. The film is realistic, creatively shot and at times, funny. Through all the violence, ironies of the human condition provide light moments. A refreshing, creative film that has so much action, heart and appeal.

The Painted Veil

I met John Curran at the Newport Film Festival a few years ago. He was there for a screening of his film We Don't Live Here Anymore. Pleasant, smart and low-key, he and I had a brief chat about how he had enjoyed his visit to Newport. The Painted Veil is his latest work.

Beautifully shot, this story takes place in China in the 1920's. A British doctor and his reluctant wife, are based in Shanghai. They travel to rural China to help treat a cholera epidemic. The story is interesting, the emotional involvement is deep and the end satisfying. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts play the couple, very subtle and intense. As the film progresses, their characters grow and they show what world class actors they are. The film starts out quiet, thoughtful and subtle, and ends up emotional, sexy and powerful. I was impressed with this romantic drama.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Top 5 of 2006

I need to see a few more films from 2006 before I make my Best of 2006 Top 10 list. I have 5 minutes on Friday mornings on 92ProFM, Giovanni & Kim in the Morning Show, reporting the Friday Flick Picks. For the first Friday of 2007, I commited to my Top 5 of 2006. I thought I'd post them here for the listeners:
1. Little Miss Sunshine
2. The Departed
3. Neil Young : Heart of Gold
4. The Queen
5. Babel

I'll have the rest in a few weeks, my Top 10 usually ends up around 20, we'll see how I do!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Last Kiss

In The Last Kiss, relationships develop as well as fall apart. This remake of an Italian film, stays true to the original ... until the end. A decent rental if you are looking for a contemporary drama.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The History Boys

"History is just one f@#king thing after another." This is the definition of history in the charming British film, The History Boys. A group of young men, at a small British grammar school, become candidates for Oxford Cambridge. The headmaster hires a teacher to coach them toward acceptance to the prestigious university. This not only effects the students, but also the faculty. This film explores the philosophies of education, dreams and ambition. Struggles with sexuality, religion and scandal are addressed as well. I was surprised how much I liked this film, the audience I saw it with applauded at the end ... well deserved!!

Night at the Museum

What if things in a museum came to life at night? In Night at the Museum this thought comes to the screen. A man, desperate for a job, becomes the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Three old guards hand over the flashlight, everything in the museum come to life, and chaos ensues. Again, surprises abound and are the strength of this creative family comedy. Makes me want to visit the museum on my next visit to NY!