Saturday, January 31, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road is 2 hours of watching a woman with dreams, loose her shit. Emotionally draining, sad and depressing. The source of her unhappiness is a mystery to her husband. As with all Sam Mendes films, every shot is a work of art. I love what he does with color. The acting is top notch. Leonardo DiCaprio's performances, of late, are so mature and nuanced. Not a feel good movie, I left the theater with a pit in my stomach and a desire to watch Finding Nemo. The good news is, only two more films to see to complete my Oscar project!

Hellboy II

The only reason I rented Hellboy II:The Golden Army, was because it is Oscar nominated for achievement in makeup. Who knew I would actually be entertained? The melodramatic, otherworldly, superhero story underwhelmed me, but there are some awesome one liners ("I'm not going to kill him, but I am going to kick his ass.") and sight gags (gym lockers beating the crap out of Hellboy). I actually laughed out loud at times. My favorite part being a drunk Hellboy sequence. Didn't expect Barry Manilow's participation, too funny! Not a total waste of time, check one more off the list.


World War II has been the setting for many a film. In Defiance we see the story of the Bielski Partisans, who kept 1200 Jews alive in the woods, to escape the Nazi ghettos in the early 40s. This is an intense war story, with jarring battle scenes and a graphic depiction of the horrific conditions they lived in. The survival of these people is inspiring.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 1/30/09

I can't even bring myself to think about seeing New in Town or The Uninvited, which open in RI theaters this week. But that's just me. I'll be rounding out my Oscar list by seeing Defiance and Revolutionary Road. The Dark Knight is at IMAX once again, and I will be too! Oscar nominees The Wrestler, Doubt, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and The Reader are all still in theaters. There's also Inkheart, Last Chance Harvey, Hotel for Dogs, Notorious, Paul Blart:Mall Cop, Gran Torino, Bride Wars and Yes Man.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Love, Law, Lyrics and Ladies in DVD

It's a big week for DVD releases. In my que are Pride and Glory, Fireproof and Girls Rock To save time and space, this list is out in DVD also. Click the titles for more. Enjoy!

Lakeview Terrace
The Lucky Ones
The Rocker
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Express

The Express is the story of Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis. A gifted football player who's life and career were far too short. Not only does the film do a good job capturing the talent and drive of the athlete, but reminds us of that ugly side of racist America that is so shameful. The drama unfolds both on the field, and off as a young man works with his team and coaches, to succeed with dignity. A strong sports history film, I liked this one.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 1/23/09

The Wrestler makes it's arrival in RI theaters! I loved this film, a drama that is well worth a look. The DarkKnight makes a triumphant return to IMAX. I'll see it a third time, for sure. Take a look at the Oscar nominations for a wonderful guide to the movies. Doubt, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, Defiance, The Reader and Australia. All in RI theaters. For your entertainmet in new releases this week, there's Inkheart, Last Chance Harvey, Hotel for Dogs, Notorious and Paul Blart:Mall Cop. Don't forget about Gran Torino, Bride Wars and Yes Man. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Noms 2009

I've said it before, I don't think an Acadamy Award is the be-all and end-all of a film's worth. Over the years, I have come to embrace the Oscar nominations as a nice list of films to see. Not only does it have the studio powerhouses and big names, but there's always that odd film I may not have seen on my own. It can be an unpredictable list. "My Oscar Project" involves seeing all of the nominated films outside of the documentaries, foreign and shorts (I am a realist). In the last few years, I have been able to sniff out that obscure film that gets a nod for costumes or makeup, but I always miss one or two. This year it was Hellboy II, nominated for makeup (last year it was Norbit *yikes*). I'm glad I took a chance and saw Australia and The Duchess, both nominated for costumes.

This year, out of the 26 films with nominations, I've seen 22. Two of the films I need to see are still in theaters and two I can see in DVD, so the goal is attainable. A fun time of year for me to be a film fan. Of course I'll have thoughts and opinions on who should win, but for now I'm just enjoying the opinion of "The Academy". So for all the objections and screams of "snubs", I just grab the list and say, "what movie do I see next?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Faith, Fantasy and Football on DVD

I've only seen one of the the films released to DVD this week. In Henry Poole is Here we see a man who struggles with mortality and faith. An OK drama. In my DVD que are City of Ember for the fantasy lover in me and The Express for the sports history lover in me. It'll be a good weekend for watching movies at home.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


A snow storm, here in the north east, had me in Brooklyn for one more day. After a lazy morning, we decided to hit the cinema again. Staying with the theme of music history, Liza really wanted to see Notorious. She thought the theaters here in Brooklyn would be packed, so we cabbed to Battery Park to the Regal Theater for less of a crowd. The plan worked, and the modest audience was still full of fans. The story of Biggie Smalls' rise to success in the recording industry as a rap artist, was interesting. I liked the structure of the film, and the acting was solid. A good biopic with a sad ending. Someone at the end of our row was sobbing as the credits rolled.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cadillac Records

I was heading to Brooklyn for the weekend, to visit my daughter and her boyfriend. We usually see a movie at some point in my visit. Because it's Oscar season I try to see nominees that are not available in RI. With no Oscar noms till Thursday, I was guessing. My daughter loves music and Beyonce, so the movie Cadillac Records came up on my radar. One of the songs had been nominated for a Golden Globe, so it was our choice. After $3 Bloody Marys, and a hearty bowl of onion soup, we headed to Cinema Village. Nice theater in Manhattan that I've never been to. The film is the history of Chess Records recording success with Muddy Waters, Etta James, Little Walter and Chuck Berry. An interesting story, well told. And damn, that Beyonce can sing!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 1/16/09

When I look at my old journals, I realize I have traveled to see film on this weekend for several years now. The most memorable? The "Blizzard of 2005 Film Festival" in NYC (not a sanctioned event, just my own creation). This weekend I'm headed to Brooklyn to visit my daughter. There will be movies, there will be food, there will be fun. I'm flying blind with no Oscar nominees yet, but I'm thinking there could be a music nom for Cadillac Records, so that may be the ticket on Saturday. In RI theaters this weekend, there are some good openings. There's Revolutionary Road, Notorious, Last Chance Harvey, Defiance, Paul Blart:Mall Cop and Hotel for Dogs. We've still got Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Yes Man, Gran Torino, Marley & Me, Bride Wars, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Valkyrie and Milk. Lots to pick from, enjoy and stay warm!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top 10 of 2008

I didn't think this was a terribly strong year in film, until I tried to compile my personal Top 10 List. The original list of cinematic bright spots for me numbered 36. Some of these films were just plain fun to watch, others were nice film events. As so many of the bloggers I read and respect have, I'll narrow it down to 10. I'm not putting them in any specific order, because I can't decide if Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon or The Dark Knight is my number one. I am not qualified to name these "the best", I prefer to name these "my favorites".

The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Man on Wire
Shine a Light
Slumdog Millionaire
Son of Rambow
Young at Heart

I would be remiss without an honorable mention list so here's to In Bruges, The Visitor, Tell No One, Morning Light, Let the Right One In, Baghead, Paranoid Park, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Wrestler, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Pineapple Express, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, Happy-Go-Lucky and Rachel Getting Married. (I told you I had trouble narrowing it down) A good year in film, now on to 2009!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Politics, Ponies and Plots in DVD

In DVD this week is the movie Swing Vote. A dramatic comedy that takes an interesting view of our election process. In my DVD que are the western Appaloosa and romantic comedy My Best Friend's Girl. Not a bad mix for winter weekend viewing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Golden Globes 2009

The Golden Globe Awards are given by a small group (85-90) of journalists, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The awards are often touted as a precursor to the Oscars. To me, the only similarity is the network broadcast event to give out the awards. The Oscars are awarded by industry peers, The Golden Globes, by a small group of journalists. They tend to recognize the new face or the edgy. The awards show is usually entertaining to watch. Seating is party style, they serve booze (as the night goes on, the effects become obvious and fun), the stars get all dolled up, the element of unpredictability is fun. That said, these are my favorite moments from the broadcast.

Jake Gyllenhaal
Scorsese introducing Spielberg
Spielberg retrospective
John Adams, Slumdog Millionaire and 30 Rock cleaning up
Tina Fey telling her internet detractors to "suck it"
All the British presenters said "shush" when they came on stage
Surprise winner, Colin Farrell for In Bruges, yay!
Kate Winslet winning two awards and saying, "you have no idea how I'm not wrapping up".
Micky Rourke's acceptance speech
Darren Aronofsky flipping off Micky Rourke on camera
Slumdog Millionaire and Vicky Cristina Barcelona being chosen as the best films.

Good times!

Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood is a true film icon. His acting is usually superb, his directing inspired and he even composes some of the music for his films. In Gran Torino, he plays that cranky man on the block who takes on the punks who harass the weak. It was a decent story, but I really don't get how Clint Eastwood growling a string of racial slurs for 2 hours, translates as a great performance. I did like the ending of the movie. It made sense, was satisfying and Eastwood singing the closing song was a nice touch. By the way, the actual Gran Torino is hot, gorgeous automobile.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Wrestler

When I first heard that a new film called The Wrestler, was wowing folks at the Toronto Film Festival, I thought, "great, a Rocky ripoff". How wrong I was. The Wrestler is a simple story about a man's late life as a professional wrestler. He tries to become something he's not. In the end, he stays true to himself, at an emotional and physical cost. What a wonderful film, what a pure story. Well done.

Jimmy Carter Man From Plains

Continuing my fascination with past presidents, I rented the documentary Jimmy Carter Man from Plains. The film follows Carter to speaking engagements to promote and defend his book Palestine : Peace not Apartheid. A dignified, warm man set in his convictions and work. Reflections on his time as President were an aside to his childhood and present work. An interesting man.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 1/9/09

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times for movies in RI theaters. We have the best in the arrival of Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino and Ballast. Then we fall to the wasteland of winter film with Bride Wars and The Unborn. *sigh* So starts the winter movie season. There is a wealth of good film lingering in RI theaters this week. You can check out Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Four Christmases, The Reader, Bolt, Marley & Me, Doubt, The Tale of Despereaux, Valkyrie, Yes Man, The Spirit, Seven Pounds and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Enjoy!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Pot, Pills and Police in DVD

In DVD this week is one of the funnier movies of 2008. The Pineapple Express is a crazy, violent ride, as two stoners witness a murder and believe the killers are chasing them. In a more serious story, two veteran cops are after a serial killer in Righteous Kill. The Wackness is a dark comedy about growing out of adolescence. Quirky and poignant. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Savage Grace

Savage Grace is a film based on the true story of the shocking lifestyle of the volatile Brooks and Barbara Baekeland. Scandalous behavior in the presence of their friends, son and colleagues is a sad desperate story. Disturbing, yet compelling, this is one crazy story with such a tragic ending for both mother and son.


Coming of age is difficult for anyone. In Towelhead, we see that it is especially difficult for a 13 year old girl who's parents are divorced, racist, sexist and violent. Thanks to a creepy neighbor she learns too much about sex, too soon. Thanks to a kind neighbor she finds a safe haven. Brazen and graphic, this is a tough look at a difficult situation.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Frost / Nixon

In August of 1974, I had graduated from high school, and was going on summer vacation with my family before I left for college. We were spending 10 days sailing off the shores of southern New England. The first night of our trip, we met people in a cove in Narragansett Bay, rafted the boats together and settled in for an evening of cocktails and conversation. Someone had a battery powered TV on board, a special newscast came on. One by one, we all drifted over to watch. President Richard Nixon was resigning. I remember being a bit stunned. I really thought he was going to force an impeachment. For me, Richard Nixon has been one of the more fascinating political figures of my lifetime. A diplomat, a politician, a thief, a liar, a father, a husband, a manipulator. Driven by power, greed and a desire to be liked. And there he was, admitting defeat and throwing in the towel. After the many months of the Watergate trials, an early form of reality TV, he had nowhere else to go.

In the film Frost/Nixon, we get inside David Frost's pursuit of Nixon for a series of interviews about his political life. Nixon wants a positive spin, Frost and his team, want a confession about the Watergate break in and cover up. If you marveled at the acting performances in the film Doubt, wait till you see Frost/Nixon! An amazing cast gives this piece of history a passionate turn. Loved it!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

It's easy to forget that many Nazi soldiers had families. Not only were they responsible for the horrific genocide of Jewish people in WW II, but another victim of their abhorrent actions, were the people who loved them. Families either turned a blind eye or did not know what was going on, especially the children. In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, we meet a Nazi officer and his family. His 8 year old son is sheltered from the intricacies of his father's work. When they move to the country, so his father can command a concentration camp, the boy befriends a young boy in the camp through the electric fence. The consequences of his naivete, fear and good intentions is heartbreaking.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 1/2/09

There are no new releases in RI theaters this weekend. The glut of Oscar hopefuls remain. Milk, Doubt, Valkyrie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader. For the family there's Bolt, Marley & Me, The Tale of Despereaux and Bedtime Stories. Rounding out the selections are Yes Man, Four Christmases, The Spirit, Twilight and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ghost Town

An antisocial dentist has the ability to see dead people in Ghost Town. At first look, this concept is deep. To the dentist, it's just annoying. They want him to help resolve unfinished business in their past lives. Good comedic performances, a tight script and a clever redemption story make for a nice rental.

The Reader

A teenage boy carries on an affair with an older woman, for a summer, in The Reader. Years later, he sees her on trial as a guard for the SS, who was responsible for the death of hundreds. When you realize that the woman is motivated by her shame of illiteracy, pride and the love of a good story, and the boy is motivated (and a bit damaged) by love, this becomes a very emotional tale. A love story with a poignant ending. Risque and deep, well done.