Monthly Archives: August 2011

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Trailer – The Woman in Black

Category : Trailer

Director: James Watkins

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer

Year: 2012

I don’t think I’ve ever half-covered my eyes during a trailer before, but I did for this one. Lonely houses are intrinsically scary, Daniel Radcliffe is a good actor, and this movie would give me nightmares. Now I just have to decide if I’m brave enough to see it.



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Movie Review – Nell

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Apted
Starring: Liam Neeson, Jodie Foster, Natasha Richardson
Year: 1994

Friday night movie nights were a childhood family tradition. We would make popcorn, walk to the store, buy Skittles and M&Ms, and rent a random movie that seemed interesting. In this way I was introduced to different directors, actors, genres, and the world of film in general. And yet, as an adult, I have learned that my taste is very unlike that of my parents. Films such as Rob Roy and A River Runs Through It were seen as flops by my family, and I thought the same until I watched them again. Then I realized that I was just too young to understand that those films were my style, even if they were not my parents’. Nell, apparently, fits into that category; a film that my parents didn’t like, and so neither did I, at least until I grew up.
Set in the backwoods of North Carolina, this emotionally draining drama revolves around the title character, Foster (The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs), who lives such a secluded life that she has never seen a human being other than her deceased family, and who speaks her own distinct language. When local doctor Neeson (Schindler’s List, Love Actually) discovers the young woman, she becomes exposed to a world that she never knew existed; one that is both frightening and yet full of beauty.
Regardless of having seen this film before, I was able to watch it with an open mind, as I didn’t really remember anything about it other than the fact that my parents didn’t like it. Well, this time, I did. After about the first half an hour of story building and cheesy 90s lines, I began to be sucked in. The story was both beautiful and mesmerizing, revealing layer after to layer of meaning and introspection. The acting, as well, was excellent, allowing the made-up language, which at first came off as a little silly, to become believable and comfortable. By the end, I felt as if I understood Nell, and, cliche or not, as if she weren’t that different after all.
Although the story may seem a little outrageous, the point of the film was relatively simple, and any oddities became commonplace rather quickly. Strip away the ‘wild child’ and you’re left with a film that is basically telling a story that has been told before, and yet is continually ignored. Nell is often described as a ‘tearjerker’, and, although I didn’t cry, I was moved by this film. It meant something; something clear and universal and true. Perhaps not everyone hears it, but the message is there if you can just listen.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Trailer – Coriolanus

Category : Trailer

Director: Ralph Fiennes

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox

Year: 2011

Any film that takes Shakespeare and gives him a modern spin is worth noticing. And perhaps this is a sign that Fiennes and Butler are prepared to start working on good movies again. Ive had enough of noseless demons and talentless female co-stars.



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Movie Review – City of Ember

Category : Movie Review

Director: Gil Kenan
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway, Bill Murray
Year: 2008

As proven by Public Enemies, sometimes a film can have all the right pieces and yet can turn out to be quite awful. The opposite is true as well; a film that just shouldn’t work can somehow come together despite its many flaws. Surprisingly, City of Ember is the latter; a pleasantly poignant misfit of a movie that works for no concrete reason.
Based on the book by the same name, this sci-fi/fantasy adventure story is set in a dark and lonely city, Ember, created by the ancient Builders after an apocalyptic event . Residents of the city believe themselves to be the only living people in the world, kept that way by their sacred generator, which gives light to their otherwise unlit environment. As the generator begins to fail and the food begins to run out, a young girl, Ronan (Atonement, The Way Back), finds a mysterious box which may reveal a way to leave the city. As time runs out, she must find an exit from Ember before the chance it lost forever.
Nothing should have worked in this film. Kenan is a complete amateur, Treadaway (24) and Ronan (14) are supposed to be the same age, the book was written for teenage girls, and the dialogue is poor bordering on terrible. But somehow, for no apparent reason, it works. Perhaps it’s the underlying topics of nuclear war, an aging planet, and religious mania that the film brings up. Perhaps its the strong beginning that hooks you and keep you holding on for the whole ride. Or perhaps its simply that Bill Murray is amazing and makes everything better just by standing there. But whatever it is, it works, and that’s all that matters.
Admittedly, City of Ember is not a great film. It’s intentionally juvenile, poorly written, and oddly cast. And yet, it is a great movie. It’s exciting, entertaining, and surprisingly revealing. Although the pieces may not be individually excellent, the final product is a movie that is both interesting and fun. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


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Trailer – Abduction

Category : Trailer

Director: John Singleton

Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina

Year: 2011

In the spirit of Chandler Bing, “Could this movie BE any worse?” Although, what can we expect from the director of 2 Fast 2 Furious and the star of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D? Please, do not go see this movie.



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Movie Review – What Dreams May Come

Category : Movie Review

Director: Vincent Ward
Starring: Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra
Year: 1998

Largely known for his comedic acting, Robin Williams took a turn for the dramatic in the late 90s. He took on three very complex and sensitive roles in three very heavy films: Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams, and What Dreams May Come. In the first two, he was able to infuse humor into the characters, making them believable and realistic. However, in a film about a dead man’s journey to hell, there’s not quite as much room for that.
Williams plays a devoted husband and father who’s love for art is only surpassed by his love for his family. When he dies suddenly, Williams finds himself in his own version of heaven, surrounded by the beautiful paintings that were so important to him in life. Guided by kind soul Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire, As Good as It Gets), he soon learns that pain can still reach him, even in this perfect place. As the pair begin a perilous journey into the depths of hell itself, they will learn the truths that are hidden from them, both in life and in death.
‘Beautiful’ is as good a word as any to describe this film. It truly is a work of art, enchanting to both the eye and the mind. Imagine stepping inside a painting and manipulating the world around you, or closing your eyes and building your most pleasant dream; this film makes these fantasies a reality. The visual aspects of this film are extraordinary, but the rest could not quite keep pace. The dialogue was too obvious and the drama was overstated. The acting was just ok, as Sciorra was quite bad and Williams seemed always on the point of tears. I found myself wishing that the lines were as good as the scenery, or, at the very least, that there were less of them.
In such a serious film, a little break from the intensity would have been welcome, and an actor like Williams can give that. Instead, the sadness was near constant and any attempts at humor were through tears, making it feel even sadder. As beautiful as it was, the film as a whole was disappointing, made with a heavy hand where a light touch was needed. It just wasn’t as wonderful as I wanted it to be, making What Dreams May Come a slightly depressing piece of art.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰


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Trailer – The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Category : Trailer

Director: Peter Hedges

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Cameron Adams

Year: 2012

After watching this trailer, two questions came to mind: why did Peter Hedges sell out and when will Jennifer Garner stop making movies? Seriously, wasn’t Elektra torture enough?



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Movie Review – Appaloosa

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ed Harris 
Starring: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons 
Year: 2008

Westerns aren’t for everyone. With their antiquated dialogue, noisy gunfights, and set pieces that appear likely to fall down, they can be difficult to love. Yet Americans, for some reason, continue to give them a chance. Perhaps we see them as a part of our history, a look back into our wild past. Or perhaps we fall for the classic stories, tortured heroes and beautiful damsels. Whatever the reason, Westerns remain a part of American movie culture, despite countless flops. We are rewarded for our perseverance, however, when a film like Appaloosa comes along, renewing our faith in this fickle genre.
Set in a typical Western one-horse town, the story begins with the killing of the town’s resident marshal by the town’s resident villain, Irons (Stealing Beauty, Lolita). The town hires traveling gunmen Harris (Gone Baby Gone, The Way Back) and Mortensen (Eastern Promises, The Road) to restore order and bring the murderer to justice. Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds, as the mercenaries must contend with an outlaw gang, the terrified townspeople, and a piano-playing siren who might complicate matters beyond all control.
If it sounds like a classic Western plot, it is. The story is typical, the dialogue is archaic, and the sage brush is purple. Yet, it is never boring, never outdated, and always captivating. The film, somehow, seems both perfectly vintage and wonderfully modern at the same time. It is neither too cheesy nor too depressing, but a comfortable blend of old and new. And the acting, by both main and side characters, is superb. Harris and Mortensen play off each other very well, creating a believable partnership. Irons and surprise star Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain, Cinderella Man) are both solid, switching between likable and despicable with ease. In large part, terrific acting set the tone for a terrific film.
Although Mortensen’s monologues at both the beginning and end of the film were somewhat off-putting, the rest flowed smoothly and well. Harris, in his second attempt at directing himself, created a clean, smart, and surprising touching story. Appaloosa is a cut above the standard Western menu, reassuring movie-goers that they can still have faith in this essential American tradition. 
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

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Trailer – Drive

Category : Trailer

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks

Year: 2011

Action movies aren’t my thing. I understand that they’re produced to sell tickets, not create art, but I’m not buying. Bad plots, worse scripts, actors that aren’t good enough to make it in dramas; no thank you. However, this film may have none of those things. It may just be that perfect blend between art and adrenaline that both critics and audiences will love.



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Review – Annie

Category : Movie Review

Director: John Huston
Starring: Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, Carol Burnett
Year: 1982

Once in a very great while a movie comes along and knocks you off your feet. Maybe you didn’t know what it would be like and it totally surprised you. Or maybe you were ready to hate it and it just blew you away. Or maybe you had watched it as a child and had forgotten all about it. Annie, for me, did all these things, staggering me with a brilliance that I was in no way prepared for.
Based on the hit Broadway play that was itself based on the comic strip ‘Little Orphan Annie’, this spunky musical takes audiences on a wild ride through Depression-era New York City. Aileen Quinn plays the title character, who, stuck in a horrible orphanage run by Carol Burnett (Mama’s Family, Noises Off), still believes that someday her parents will come for her. When eccentric billionaire Albert Finney (Big Fish, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) asks for an orphan to stay with him as a publicity stunt, everyone’s lives are turned upside down. Complete with lavish costumes, musical numbers, FDR, and bomb-throwing Bolsheviks, Annie is a high-flying theatrical extravaganza.
It would be an understatement to say that this movie surprised me; I was floored. After seeing it when I was young and then completely forgetting about it, I was not at all prepared for how wonderful it would be or how much it would impress me. The comic acting by Burnett and Finney was outstanding. The representation of the 1930s in the costumes, the set, and the dialogue was spot-on. And the music; wow. Most people can hum a few bars of ‘Tomorrow’ but they don’t realize how amazing and near-perfect a song it is. Other numbers, like ‘Maybe’, ‘Hard-Knock Life’, and ‘Little Girls’ are nearly as excellent; full of feeling, hope, and humor.
If I was forced to find a flaw I might point to the main character. At eleven years old, Quinn was a complete unknown. With her giant red wig and her homely face, she was asked to melt the hearts of America. Well, perhaps she didn’t do that exactly, but what she did was give audiences a ragamuffin hero to root for and the film a reliable hub to work around. She added a little something to what would become an amazing, exciting, larger-than-life spectacle that will be loved forever. From top to bottom, Annie is nothing short of a musical masterpiece.
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰