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3111 reviews in total 
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So much intensity, 10 August 2014

In London, a Russian pregnant teen Tatiana stumbles into a drugstore bleeding. Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) is the midwife who delivered the baby but Tatiana dies. Anna steals her journal and finds a card of a Russian restaurant owned by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). He offers to translate it and she brings a copy. He keeps trying to get the book. His driver guard Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) is intense. His son Kirirll (Vincent Cassel) is a drunken brute. When her motorcycle doesn't start, Nikolai drives her home. Her uncle Stepan reluctantly translates the journal. Semyon is the Russian mob boss and his son Kirirll (Vincent Cassel) raped Tatiana at 14. They broke her and forces her to work as a prostitute. Uncle Stepan would like to go to the KGB. Her mother wants to leave it. Anna wants to get the baby back to Tatiana's family.

There is an intensity that is apparent from the first moment of this director David Cronenberg's film. It goes from slitting a throat to the bloody pregnant girl to the very intense trio of Armin, Vincent, and Viggo. This is Viggo Mortensen's movie more than Naomi Watts. She's alright but Viggo is crazy intense. There is desolation in the film that isn't showy but deeper. It doesn't take funny turns to allow the audience to laugh it off. The violence is dark and not the kung fu kind. There is something about naked fighting. The morality is ugly to say the least. It's a desert where seeds of humanity struggle to survive.

Bandslam (2009)
Charming and Cute, 10 August 2014

Will Burton (Gaelan Connell) is an unpopular high school outcast picked on as Dewey in Cinncinnati. His personal hero is David Bowie. His mother Karen (Lisa Kudrow) moves the two of them to Lodi, New Jersey. He is happy to be anonymous. He is a music obsessed kid who discovers that there is a popular competition called Bandslam. He befriends fellow student Sa5m (Vanessa Hudgens), the 5 is silent. Former popular cheerleader Charlotte Barnes (Aly Michalka) sees Will as a project and ropes him in to help with the daycare. They and others form a band to compete against former band mate Ben Wheatly (Scott Porter).

These are charming cute characters in a charming cute story with some charming cute dialog. Gaelan is a good lovable geek lead. Both Aly and Vanessa are former Disney stars with a lot of charisma. Lisa Kudrow has some hilarious bits. She's funny whenever she's on the screen. It's always nice when the adults aren't idiots. This is sorta like 'School of Rock' with a couple of dark secrets thrown in. It is adorable and a little awkward at times.

Modigliani (2004)
More ambition than ability, 9 August 2014

It's around 1919 Paris. Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (Andy Garcia) is in heated competition with the angry pompous Pablo Picasso (Omid Djalili). Modigliani is a confident flamboyant Jew in love with the Catholic Jeanne Hébuterne (Elsa Zylberstein). She has a child with him that her disapproving father won't allow him to even see. Modigliani needs money to take and raise his child. There is an annual art competition that nobody good enters and Modigliani signs up for it. This draws Picasso into the competition.

This movie opens with the most decisive of all disclaimer about how fictional this movie is. I'm sure the lawyers had a field day but they should have kept it much simpler. I think it's actually possible to make a fictional movie about real people. The movie itself is a scrambled prodding tired mess. It moves in a confused timeline jigsaw. I'm sure that I missed plenty of stuff. Sometimes things don't get explained well. It also doesn't help that the international cast are all doing their own different accents. Andy Garcia is always magnetic but he is never anybody other than Andy Garcia. He needs to stretch out his acting to create other personalities because he is the same character in every movie since 'The Untouchables'. And quite frankly, this movie is way too long trying to do too much without any kind of central vision. The style is all over the place. Some of it is interesting, but most of it look like a cheap TV movie trying to look grand. There are also some strange choices like a skinny model playing a woman doctor in 1919. I haven't seen anything else from writer/director Mick Davis. He seems to be a man desperately trying to make an art film. This movie had more ambition than capabilities.

Cellular (2004)
interesting thriller with too many coincidences, 9 August 2014

Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) is kidnapped and locked in a house. Ethan (Jason Statham) comes in and smashes the phone but somehow it still has a dial tone. Jessica frantically work the wires and calls up unsuspecting Ryan (Chris Evans). He hands off the phone to weary Sgt. Bob Mooney (William H. Macy) but he's busy with a ruckus. The kidnappers are after her kid and Ryan is off on a rescue mission. Mooney follows up on the case but one of the kidnappers Dana Bayback is impersonating Jessica.

It's a pretty good thriller although it's very manufactured. It's a fun ride if you allow it to be. It reminds me of Speed except less fun and more ridiculous. The story relies on a lot of complicated coincidences. There are some interesting actors in this one. Basinger does good one-note acting. Chris Evans keeps the story from going off the rails. It's also interesting to see Jason Statham as a quiet intense bad guy.

The Van (1996)
Still a fun ride, 9 August 2014

It's November 1989. Bimbo (Donal O'Kelly) is fired from the bakery. His best mate Larry (Colm Meaney) is struggling with only welfare for the coming Christmas. Bimbo is about to consider a MacDonald McJob when the guys are shown a food van. It's a piece of junk that doesn't even have an engine. Bimbo's wife buys the van and he invites Larry to join him selling fish and chips. Their chips van does smashingly as Ireland advances in the World Cup.

It's a steady decline from 'The Commitments' to 'The Snapper' and then to this. A more direct connection would have been better but I'm not an entertainment lawyer. It's still a fun watch. Donal O'Kelly doesn't have the screen presence. Colm Meaney is back and he overshadows everybody else. The trick is to make these poor losers lovable. Colm Meaney has that in spades. It would be better for them to get a steady young kid as their third. The relationship in the van is where this movie could have excel more. The guys' friendship could be more likable. I especially didn't like them picking up the ladies at the bar. Even their bickering could have been done with a lighter touch. Nevertheless it's still a fun ride.

Not as much fun, 9 August 2014

The clan is slowly scattering. Lorraine (Hilary Duff) has graduated and moving to NYC to intern. Nora (Piper Perabo) is pregnant, married to Bud McNulty (Jonathan Bennett), and moving away to Houston. Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) decides to regroup the clan to go on vacation back to Lake Winnetka. The Lake has become more upscale with their old rival the Murtaugh clan headed by successful Jimmy (Eugene Levy) who purchased most of the property. He has a new trophy wife Sarina (Carmen Electra) and 'only' 8 kids.

It's surprising to say but this one misses Ashton Kutcher as the butt of the jokes. It's very nice that all the Baker kids return for the sequel. It's usually very annoying to have new kids act like there's no change. There are some noticeable young actors as the Murtaugh kids like Taylor Lautner and Jaime King. The franchise was silly to start with, but this is even stupider. The constant competition adds a nasty tone rather than a funny one to the movie. Eugene Levy is playing too hard at being annoying. Although Alyson Stoner is given a little more room to have some fun. It has some slightly funny moments but the movie has lost some of the charm.

Fine cute coming-of-age movie, 9 August 2014

David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a big birder and is even in the Young Bird Society in his school. His mother is dead. His father Donald Portnoy (James Le Gros) is getting married to Juliana Santos (Daniela Lavender). His best friend girl-obsessed talkative Timmy Barsky (Alex Wolff) is also in the YBS. Then David thinks that he saw an extinct duck. Also Ben Kingsley plays expert birder Lawrence Konrad. The group goes in search of the duck with the help of student photographer Ellen Reeves (Katie Chang).

This is sorta like 'Stand by Me' with bird watching for awhile. It worked better as such. It pains me to say this but the movie is better off without Ben Kingsley in the second half. There is a reasonable coming of age movie. It's nothing special or original but it's somewhat cute. I was hoping it could keep going on that trail. The arrival of Kingsley broke up the group's chemistry. It's still a cute little movie. Kodi does a great job as the geeky lead. The kids are very natural. I wish the movie kept with just the four kids in the woods.

Two great actresses at work, 9 August 2014

The bitter Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) is a loner old teacher resentful of everyone and everything. She writes bitingly in her journal. She is fascinated with the new art teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). After she helps Sheba stop a fight, they become friends and Sheba invites her to a family lunch. She is surprised to find Sheba's husband Richard (Bill Nighy) is as old as she is. Sheba has been home taking care of her son Ben with Down's Syndrome for the last 10 years, and also has a teen Polly (Juno Temple). Sheba starts confiding in Barbara. Then she accidentally discovers that Sheba is having an affair with her student Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson). At first, she helps to keep Sheba's confidence. She pushes Sheba to end her affair. Her beloved cat gets deadly sick. When Sheba decides to go to his son Ben's play instead of going to the vet with her for her cat's death, she decides to let out her bitterness.

There are two great thespians at work. Judi Dench is brilliant and Cate Blanchett is just as brilliant playing the weaker character. Diabolical Dench is like a spider catching the unsuspecting Blanchett in her web. Her narration is delicious. It is a sickening ride that isn't for everyone.

Boring continuation of bland franchise, 8 August 2014

In Chicago, Jake (Matthew Knight) is now in a mental institution under the care of his therapist Dr. Sullivan (Shawnee Smith). He's afraid but she doesn't believe him. He is killed in his padded cell. In Tokyo, Naoko (Emi Ikehata) intends to stop the curse of her sister Kayako (Aiko Horiuchi). The news of the killings keep following her around. Back at the Chicago apartment, Lisa (Johanna Braddy) steals her brother Max the super's keys and her boyfriend Andy (Beau Mirchoff) leads them into apartment 305. She leaves immediately. She lives with Max (Gil McKinney) and their little sister Rose. Gretchen (Marina Sirtis) is their neighbor. The killing continues. Naoko arrives to investigate the apartment building followed later by Dr. Sullivan.

The timeline mashup has stopped. That was probably the only interesting part of the sequel. This is a very straight boring continuation. It's not scary although the franchise was never scary in the first place. Toshio seems to look a little too old to play the part. A younger boy would be creepier. Horror veteran Shawnee Smith gives a good death performance but I see nothing else.

Wild fun violent ride, 8 August 2014

It's around 1930 or '31. Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) is a restless waitress when Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) tries to steal her mother's car. Instead he steals her heart. The duo set off on a crime spree. They are later joined by C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) and then his older brother Buck Barrow (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons).

This is definitely a based on a true story type of movie. There is a lot of shooting and violence especially for its time. It treats the violent duo with a touch of comedy and a good dose of fun. They are the romanticized outlaws. It leaves the gritty realism behind although they don't leave out the blood. With all the violence and action, I do wish for better choreography but it's still quite exhilarating for its era. The characters are joking around a lot. Gene Wilder has a hilarious minor role as a kidnap victim of the gang. It's a fun ride.

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