Monday, September 28, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

3 out of 5 Stars
I enjoyed it. Though I still question why I bother to see these Harry Potter films since they are basically just a different persons' cinematic interpretation of the books. I love Bellatrix. Helena Bonham Carter needs more screen time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


3.5 out of 5 Stars
Sasha Baron Cohen is so in the method that I worry he may actually be schizophrenic. Still, I think he is brilliant, talented, scary, wonderful, and 'watchable'. Bruno lacks the story arch of Borat, but it's worth seeing for Cohen's 'performance'.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

3 out of 5 Stars
Some amazing acting (Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, et al). Tarantino had some excellent cinematic moments. Oddly enough, I would have thought that scalping Nazis would have made for a more in depth story arch. Instead, I left the theater feeling disappointed -- two wrongs will never make a right. Although I do respect Tarantino, I worry he will never live up to the brilliance of 'Pulp Fiction'.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


4 out of 5 Stars
Pixar films always end up being far more moving and visually arresting than the trailers make them out to be. I had no interest in seeing this film (or Wall-E for that matter) based on the previews. And in both cases I found myself pleasantly surprised. 'Up' is, overall, a beautiful, mature, and sentimental film about love, loyalty, adventure, fear and loss. I admit, I cried twice. The characters' facial expressions and how realistically each nuance is portrayed through animation never ceases to astound me. Of course, like all Disney films, there are several lengthy sequences involving talking dogs and chase sequences which I found dragged a bit. But by the time the credits rolled I found myself wiping away tears and wanting to applaud.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Phoebe in Wonderland

3.5 out of 5 Stars
The film critic in me had to rate this original film as 3.5 out of 5 stars. The sensitive teacher and former OCD/anxious child in me would give this 4 out of 5 stars. I loved the concept of the story enhanced by some really striking, honest and insightful lines in the screenplay. On paper, Phoebe is an extremely dynamic character. On camera, Elle Fanning portrayed the role with such subtlety and lack of melodrama that she managed to (without child actor pretentiousness) to outshine her very talented 'grown up' co stars. I did love Patricia Clarkson as the drama teacher (in 4th grade I had a teacher just like her). But her character loses steam in the final 20 minutes. Not at all Clarkson's fault, in fact the entire film crashes in on itself in those last 20 minutes. Felicity Huffman's caring and nurturing mom who wants what is best for her children falls flat, also due to the script. And Campbell Scott's talent is completely wasted in the role of the principal. In the final third of the film, the screen writer tied a beautiful and painful story together way too neatly. But days after seeing the film, I can't get the image of Elle Fanning as Phoebe counting steps, washing her hands, being unable to control her behavior and crying out for help in the world of fantasy out of my mind...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Proposal

2.5 out of 5 Stars
Ryan Reynolds has some shirtless scenes, Betty White cracks me up and the clips during the end credits were hilarious! Not a great film but its worth it for the above 3 reasons.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Brothers Bloom

3 out of 5 Stars
I was a fan of Rian Johnson's first film 'Brick' so I was intrigued to see what his second film would be like. I wasn't disappointed. In this day and age of remakes, sequels and retellings it was refreshing to watch a dark comedy that was well acted and original (though it should be noted that I was the only person in the theater who laughed during the film). Adrien Brody, as always, gives a great performance, Rachel Weisz is quirky and fun to watch, and best of all I adored Rinko Kikuchi as 'Bang Bang'. The film gets a bit repetitive in the third act but for the most part I solidly enjoyed the characters, the story, the setting and the originality.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Revolutionary Road

3.5 out of 5 Stars
This is a rare example of a film which I thought surpassed the novel. I found the book to be dated, slow moving, and thought the characters were cold and unlikable. But Mendes' film was so subtle, well acted, perfectly paced, and completely captured the trapped atmosphere of suburban life in the late 1950s -- I found myself intrigued by both April and Frank Wheeler and I also identified and sympathized with both of them (whereas in the book I was very much annoyed by April). Mendes' successfully capturing the suffocating setting, the hypocrisy, the sexism and the frustration that I was searching for in Yates's novel. It's not 'American Beauty' but it was a strong and very moving film.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hounddog (2007)

3 out of 5 Stars
Dakota Fanning single handedly pulled this film off. The film critic in me veers toward criticizing a weak script which was an attempt at 'southern gothic'/Flannery O'Connor, underdeveloped characters with little to no back stories, bizarre plot twists, and an overall jumbled mess of a screenplay. But this film gets 3 stars from me because of how moved I was by Fanning's portrayal of Lewellen. Her eyes, her raw emotions, her dead eyed expressions, her concealed pain, her ability to steal scenes from David Morse (man, I felt bad for him, his part was so cringeful - no actor should have ever taken that one on), Robin Wright Penn (she did the best she could with a poor script) and Piper Laurie (reprising her role in Carrie -- heh!). Dakota Fanning made me cry and I never cry in movies. She is enigmatic, powerful and so fascinating to watch on screen. Her performance alone makes this film worth seeing. She truly is one of the best young actors I've seen on camera.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


2.5 out of 5 Stars
I was interested in seeing this film mostly because I greatly enjoyed Greg Mottola's first screenplay 'The Daytrippers'. Unfortunately, Adventureland does not manage to reach the same mix of humor, drama and character development that his earlier film script did. Adventureland falls somewhere in between the sensitivity of Mottola's earlier work and the baudy humor of Judd Apatow's films (which I am not a fan of). Adventureland has a few touching and honest moments, but it still feels underdeveloped. Jesse Eisenberg gives a fantastic performance as James. He is subtle and likable and gives his character a sensitivity that more often than not gets lost in these types of scripts (ie. virgin who has a hard time with the ladies). Kristin Stewart (who I normally enjoy watching onscreen) was a disappointment. The supporting cast (particularly Margarita Levieva as Lisa P.) hold their own. But in the end, I thought Adventureland fell short of living up to it's potential.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


2.5 out of 5 Stars
I secretly like Twilight. (maybe not so secretly). It has romance, humor, and a foggy/misty set location that lends itself perfectly for film. In many ways, I thought this was a better film adaption of the book than the Harry Potter films are. Twilight doesn't make any attempts at being a 'serious film'. It follows the book simply and concisely, not trying to capture every detail and small plot line from the book (the Harry Potter films, while well directed and well acted go on waaay too long). I thought Kristen Stewart (who I really liked in 'Speak') was a very convincing Bella. Yes, I'll no doubt see New Moon when it comes out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saw V

1 out of 5 Stars
The last few Saw movies have been oddly difficult for me to follow. I can't keep the characters straight (the corrupt detective dude looks almost identical to the dude with the hole in his throat). I don't understand the point of Jigsaw -- isn't he dead -- was this movie a flashback?
Also, the elaborate 'death' set ups are so insanely complicated. Where is Jigsaw (and his cohorts) getting the money to build these complex warehouse mazes? Where does he buy the supplies? When does he have the time to set up these machines/computers/video cameras, etc?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

4 out of 5 Stars
I realize that this film is an 'Imaginary' portrait of Diane Arbus. Obviously, the title states the obvious. I am surprised that this film was mainly disliked by film critics. I don't care that Diane Arbus (whose work I am fascinated by) never knew 'Lionel'. I don't care that this film is 99% fiction. Erin Cressida Wilson's brilliant script immediately drew me into Arbus's mind -- scary, erotic, beautiful, ugly, demented, sick, fantastical, breathtaking -- I was completely riveted. This is a beautifully shot film -- Nicole Kidman's eyes, Robert Downey Jr.'s unnerving sexiness, Jane Alexander's cold and uncaring glare. I actually thought Kidman gave a stronger, more original and more unique performance as Arbus than she did in her Oscar nominated 'Virginia Woolf' role in 'The Hours'. 'Fur' was David Lynch-esque, beautiful and scary to look at and overall very well done.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Wrestler

5 out of 5 Stars
I love Darren Aronofsky. Every single one of his films has made me cringe, gasp, appreciate beauty, empathize with the characters' struggles and always, always cry (and I'm not one to cry in movies). I love his story telling, his images, the dialogue, the sharp editing -- and once again the Wrestler completely consumed me and my emotions. I was glad that Mickey Rourke received an oscar nod, and hopefully someday Aronofsky will also be recognized for his personal, in your face, honest, metaphorical and ultimately heart wrenching directing. It is Aronofsky who has the ability to help his actors achieve such strong and wonderful performances.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


3 out of 5 Stars
I was actually sort of disappointed by 'Milk'. Sean Penn gave a great performance but he always does, and I thought he didn't so much 'create' a character but instead emulated Harvey Milk's mannerisms and tone. It's sad to see how little has changed since 1978 -- prop 6 and now prop 8 -- obviously, I was already 'Team Harvey' going into the film. It's too bad that people in the red states aren't seeing this film, but even if they did I doubt it would change their minds. I was more moved by Matthew Shepard's story and the documentary about hate crimes in Wyoming. I also thought the PBS documentary on the Castro did a better job of depicting Milk's struggle.

Friday, February 13, 2009


4.5 out of 5 Stars
I am so close to giving 'Coraline' 5 stars. A few small details hold me back. I was pleasantly surprised that Henry Selick not only kept my favorite images from the book (the never ending theater with the dog audience, the carnivale-esque mouse circus, and the walking through fog and mist into a space where everything disappears - only to walk back to the house), but created such stunning, scary, haunting and beautiful images of these scenes. The entire movie was so visually appetizing that I am eager to see it again in the theater. Selick managed to stay mostly true to Neil Gaiman's beautiful story. With two major exceptions. 1) I wish he would have set the story in England. Dakota Fanning gave an excellent voice to an 'American' Coraline -- a bossy and petulant 11 year old transplant from Michigan (yes, the young Southern Ms. Fanning even has the midwestern accent absolutely perfect!). It's scary just how realistic of an 'American' 11 year old Coraline actually is. But had Selick decided to stay true to Gaiman's original English setting, I have no doubt Dakota Fanning would have done an equally wonderful job. 2) I was extremely perturbed by the addition of the character 'Wybourne'. I thought this was extremely unnecessary -- in the book Coraline manages just fine on her own and does not need a boy to 'help' her out. But other than those two minor qualms, I thought this was a perfect film. Keith David as the voice of the Cat exceeded my highest of expectations. And even Terri Hatcher held her own as 'The Other Mother'. But even without such great casting, Henry Selick has trumped Tim Burton in every way imaginable, and reminded his loyal audience just how pivotal a role he was in the brilliance of Burton's earlier films (before they had the fallout after Nightmare and before James and the Giant Peach). Burton is a strong storyteller -- I do think that there was an emotional content to the character of Jack in Nightmare Before Christmas that Coraline lacked. But image wise? It's all about Henry Selick. It's no coincidence that the house in Coraline is a direct homage to the house in Beetlejuice. The ghost children, the garden, Coraline's bedroom, the highlights in Coraline's hair, the subtle gleam of the buttons in 'The Other Mother's' eyes -- Selick is an animation genius. I'm eager for him to find another dark childrens' tale to adapt into a film.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Man On Wire

3.5 out of 5 Stars
I recognize that this was a well done, well made, and well shot documentary (nominated for an Oscar this year). And it did, indeed, hold my full attention up to a certain point. I've always appreciated extreme stunts and I was swept away by Philippe Petit's adoration, awe, and absolute need to experience his stunt at the World Trade Center -- especially since he was obsessed with the idea before the towers were even built. I even enjoyed the reenactment sequences -- I enjoyed it enough to give the documentary 3.5 stars. Still, something about the 'heist film' nature of the documentary made me feel as though I was watching something scripted. I've never been of a fan of the 'we've got a heist scheduled and we're gonna pull it off' genre (such as Oceans Eleven). Still, I'm glad I saw this documentary. But overall, it didn't really appeal to *me* personally.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

3 out of 5 Stars
First of all, I find it peculiar that this film was named after one of my all time favorite short stories -- I had high expectations and nobody warned me in advance that the film had no relation whatsoever to Fitzgerald's short story (except for the backwards aging and the name of the protagonist). I was quite shocked by this fact, particularly in the opening sequence which involved literal buttons and later when we learn that Benjamin's father owns a button factory. So basically 5 minutes into the film I had to throw my illusions out the window. Clearly, this film was not going to have any Fitzgerald-ian elements. That aside, there was much I liked about this film. At least 2.5 hours (out of the 3 hour running time) are so beautifully shot and photographed. I could have watched the film without volume and been dramatically drawn in by the stunning juxtaposition of a picture of a young redheaded child amongst wrinkled seniors, followed by an older red haired woman tending to the needs of a two year old baby. The images alone moved me. The changing images of Benjamin and Daisy. The sunset on the pier, the sail boat, NYC in the 50s, Daisy dancing in a lush park with a reflection of water, etc. The story...not so much. The romance between Benjamin and Daisy is completely unbelievable (and not even because of the aging). I never once believed that they were destined to be each others' 'great loves' (unlike Slumdog Millionaire where I was completely swept away by the love story). Cate Blanchett gives a good performance, but I can't help thinking that she is always playing a variation of the same character (either 'Meredith Logue - of the Textile Logues' from Ripley or Queen Elizabeth). While I've never been a complete fan of Tilda Swinton, I was way more drawn to her character as a female protagonist. And Julia Ormand and the hurricane Katrina thing? That was kind of an unnecessary plot device. But I adored Brad Pitt as Benjamin -- his innocence, his maturing and ultimately his petulance when he becomes a child. But my favorite performance in the film? Taraji P. Henson as Queenie. The way her eyes lit up when her 'son' returned home, the way she subtly glances at Benjamin when she announces she is pregnant, and her stern yet protective glare at Daisy. She took my breath away at times. This film had enough beauty to it for me to give it 3 stars. But should it win best picture? I'm rooting for Slumdog!
(note : I have not yet seen Milk or Frost/Nixon)

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Strangers

2 out of 5 Stars
I was intrigued by the trailer enough to add this to my netflix cue. The images of 'Strangers' in creepy masks was enough to peak my curiosity. However, this film turned out to be highly disappointing. I know I should analyze a film like this so literally but I just couldn't get over the implausible idea that three people would have the intelligence, stamina and coordination to pull off such a well choreographed and well planned 'night of terror'. It was not all all realistic.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sybil (1974)

Sybil (1976 Miniseries)
4 out of 5 Stars
An amazing performance from Sally Field. Well written script, interesting subject matter and (for a TV miniseries from 1976) some very great Manhattan visuals.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Teeth - 3.5 out of 5 Stars
A strange yet oddly 'watchable' film which is a combination of comedy, cult horror and John Waters-esque bizarreness. Jess Weixler was the perfect choice for the role of Dawn O'Keefe (love the meaning behind the character name -- heh heh). She juxtaposes an innocent humor with a virginal and naive interest in revenge. Looking forward to watching her career take off! Yay Jess!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Films to See Before the Oscars

It's been quite awhile since I've seen a movie. Here are the films I'd like to see before the Oscars.

'The Wrestler'
'Revolutionary Road'
'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
'Frozen River'

I'm planning on skipping 'The Reader'

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscars Nominations 2009

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Achievement in directing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" Ron Howard
"Milk" Gus Van Sant
"The Reader" Stephen Daldry
"Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle

Best motion picture of the year
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"