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|1932 reviews in total|
Joseph Gordon-Levitt keeps testing his boundaries as an artist and that
is to be applauded. The strength of his performances in the past few
films grows steadily and now he branches out in to writing, directing,
and starring in a film that is truly his own. Is it a great film? No,
but it is an inventive one - and that is a breath of fresh air in the
current Marvel Comics shoot-'em-bang-bang-explode obsession. The fact
that it deals with the current focus on sex-rated themes may be off
putting to many, but that the theme is solely that speaks loudly for a
young writer/director to register a parody of our current shaky
There is not a lot of story so the more brief the synopsis the better: A New Jersey guy, Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love. Though he has many sexual liaisons those episodes do not fully satisfy him the way onanism in front of a porn video does. He hits on a tacky, gum-chewing, perfect 10 Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) but that continued dance has its problems. Finally he meets a very strange older woman Esther (Julianne Moore) who puts a bit of meaning into sexual expression and Jon's life changes - maybe.
Gordon-Levitt manages to pull together a fine cast (Tony Danza and Glenne Headly as his parents, Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke as his buddies, et al) and keeps the flavor of the accents and the characters very New Jersey. His writing for Jon's weekly confessions in church is hilarious and in general the dialogue is snappy. Gordon-Levitt spent as much time at the gym as he did creating this film and his very buff body is a showpiece! Everyone who sees this film should realize it deserves an R leaning toward X rating, but then most programs on television do these days, so everyone is used to the porn glut. Nice to see an actor take risks like this.
By now even non-Marvel comics devotees know the persona of The
Wolverine, primarily because he has been recreated by actor Hugh
Jackman six times (and if you pay attention to the film's ending it
seems there will be more
). Writers Mark Bomback and Scott Frank have
elected to place the action of this version in Japan both in the time
of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki and the present. Much of the reason
this version works well is due to the fact that the action is all in
the beauty of Japan of today not only the scenery but also the
symbols and traditions. Director James Mangold gives this version of
Wolverine adventure a hefty dose of compassion and human feeling and
that adds significantly.
According to the short synopsis form 20th Century Fox, 'In modern day Japan, Wolverine is out of his depth in an unknown world as he faces his ultimate nemesis in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality, emerging more powerful than we have ever seen him before.' That states it well. Add to that description the many fights and magic that occur before our eyes and the content is complete.
Hugh Jackman is in buff form as a very tender Wolverine (Logan) this time around (flashbacks to his loss of his love, Famke Janssen, add spice). Others who make solid appearances include Tao Okamoto as the important Mariko, Rila Fukushima as Logan's sidekick, Svetlana Khochenkova as the evil Viper, Hiroyuki Sanada as a credible Shingen, and Ken Yamamura and Haruhiko Yamanouchi sharing the role of Yashida.
A bit on the long side, the film provides the expected visual entertainment, and this time there is a bit more humanity infused as well. Grady Harp, December 13
For the many still stunned by the recent accidental death of Paul
Walker this movie will serve as a bit a comfort. In this low budget
small cast film Walker demonstrate that he was capable of providing a
fine dramatic performance with the addendum of fast cars and wild
action that brought him to fame. Writer/director Eric Heisserer manages
to make a film with big emotions confined to a hospital corridor and
room, and given the presence of Paul Walker, it works.
We are transported to New Orleans August 23, 2005 - August 30, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina's devastation destroyed the lives of many. Nolan Hayes (Paul Walker) gets a call from his beloved wife Abigail (Genesis Rodriquez) that she is going into early labor and is being taken by ambulance to the hospital. Nolan rushes to the hospital even as the hurricane winds and waters are destroying New Orleans and learns from the doctor (Yohance Myles) that his newborn baby girl is on a respirator and that his wife died. At first Nolan is in such grief over Abigail's death that he doesn't even want to see his new daughter, but when the doctor shows him the newborn in an incubator with O2 and IVs in a private room, Nolan realizes he is the only hope his baby has. Multiple flashbacks to the happy and carefree married life of the couple are focused as Nolan places mementos on the incubator lid. As the hurricane intensifies, the hospital is evacuated until it is just Nolan and his daughter and no power...except a hand crank generator. Nolan must turn the hand crank every three minutes or else his daughter will die. As the hours take their toll, Nolan fast and furiously attempts to get help, power, food, IVs, etc. in three minute intervals. He is assisted by compassionate nurse (Kerry Cahill) for a moment, must find IV fluids and food for himself, attempts to get help, fend off looters who enter the hospital to steal drugs and equipment, all in three minute intervals the generator provides battery action for the incubator. The degree of love that forms between the new father and the infant now named Abigail is palpably real.
The film has weak points - a script that loosens when it should tighten, some extraneous business that doesn't add to the drama, some very un-medical information that must be taken with a grain of salt - but Paul Walker manages to involve us and make us care. The film also is unafraid to show the inhumanity to man that can happen under crisis as well as the warm humanity that keeps people (and animals) together when Nature is angry.
Writer/director Kenji Uchida's newest film, KEY OF LIFE, is a crisply
written, adroitly directed, beautifully acted little story that is a
comedy on the surface, but does not fail to show the other side of the
infamous masks of comedy/tragedy. Though it is long (in excess of two
hours) the story is presented in such a fine overlapping episodic way
that it seems to whiz by to the final moments.
The film opens with a business meeting in which we meet Kanae (Ryôko Hirosue), a 34-year- old magazine editor who announces boldly that she is getting married in two months. Without a candidate for a husband she engages the help of her fellow workers to help her search for the right man during a rather narrow time frame. We next meet Sakuari (Masato Sakai), a 35- year-old aspiring actor who is jobless, living in squalor, and has just failed a suicide attempt. Then we meet Kondo (Teroyuki Kagawa), a wealthy successful hit man carrying out his latest hit. After their simultaneously acts Sakurai and Kondo end up going to the same public bathhouse: Kondo slips on a bar of soap, sustains a concussion, is taken to a hospital where he discovers he has complete amnesia. The somewhat desperate Sakuari switches locker keys, and in effect switches identities with Kondo, of course not realizing that he is stepping into the identity of a hit man. Kanae visits the hospital where her father (who expects his daughter to marry soon) is gravely ill - the same hospital where Kondo is recovering. Fate is such that the two meet. How a failed actor takes on the role of a hit man without much success, and a hit man gains employment as an actor who can convincingly play gangster parts, and how the lovesick Kanae connects with Kondo and helps him try to regain his memory forms the rush to the surprise ending of the story.
There is enough social commentary on relationships and what is love, what is acting, and what is ethical that makes this little film gleam. It is an excellent film from Film Movement and should enjoy success in the art houses. It is a breath of fresh air from the current clutter of over the edge CGI 'dramas'! Grady Harp, December 13
Mixed emotions his the viewer seeing FAST AND FURIOUS 6 for the first
time knowing that Paul Walker is gone and wondering what will happen
with the in process Fast and Furious 7. But in ways that fact makes
this movie more treasured. It is a whoop-'em up fast action packed film
that takes your breath away with the wild car chases and one the ground
derring- do. Writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin have this
medium down to a predictable but fine science.
The plot is fairly simple (as usual) allowing the telling of the story to be more important than any big philosophical notions. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, with even larger biceps varices!) has Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) reassemble their crew (Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludicrous, Sung Kang) in order to take down mastermind Shaw (Luke Evans) who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries. Payment? Full pardons for them all. The big driver is to 'rescue' Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who seems to be with Shaw's group after suffering amnesia, back into their fold. Wild situations abound and they are as exciting as ever if not more so!
Definitely worth watching even for those who are not long term F & F fans. It is a terrific action film with sparkling actors having a great time. Grady Harp December 13
Margaret Mazzantini's very popular novel 'Venuto Al Mundo' (English
translation 'brought into the world') has been transformed into a
screenplay by the author assisted by the director (her husband) Sergio
Castellitto, the film in English is now called TWICE BORN. It is
complex story, beautifully sculpted with interlocking flashbacks that
cover a 30 year period, photographed with great skill by Gianfilippo
Corticelli, and a cast that makes this carefully integrated story of
varying timeframes work splendidly. Much of the film's beauty is in the
complexity of the manner in which the story develops and revealing too
much of that story would spoil the experience for new viewers. Very
basically the story relates a mother who brings her teenage son to
Sarajevo, where his father died in the Bosnian conflict years ago. But
more needs to be added.
Italian professor Gemma (Penélope Cruz) visits Sarajevo with her son, Pietro (Pietro Castellitto, son of the writer and director). The two of them had escaped the city sixteen years ago while the boy's father, photographer Diego (Emile Hirsch) remained behind and later died during the Bosnian War. As she tries to repair her relationship with Pietro, Gemma is forced by revelations to face loss, the cost of war and the redemptive power of love. She re-acquaints with her dear friend Gojco (Adnan Haskovic) and together they relive the horrifying experiences of the war in Sarajevo, Gemma's attempt to provide her beloved Diego with a son (she is sterile), the eventual plan to have Diego use musician gypsy-type Aska (Saadet Aksoy) as a surrogate for the couples much desired child, and the consequences that plan takes on, leading to a series of identity crises that the now older Gemma must face with her teenaged son Pietro. The story is structured on alternate scenes from the trip taken in present in Bosnia by Gemma and her son and flashbacks from the two time periods (of the first encounter and the war), a technique that at times is difficult to follow but that definitely enhances the tension of the story.
The cast is extraordinary: Penelope Cruz is dazzling, Emile Hirsch gives his most sensitive performance of his career, and Adnan Haskovic, Saadet Aksoy and Luca da Filippo (as Gemma's father) are outstanding. This is a difficult film in message but a profoundly moving drama. Highly Recommended. In English, Italian, and Bosnian.
RED 2 equals or even surpasses RED! This is a movie for people who
enjoy sitting back and being entertained by fancy camera work, a story
that has a plausible plot, smart dialog (Jon and Erich Hoeber), astute
direction (Dean Parisot), and most of all a cast of some of cinema's
finest actors who look like they are having such a great time you don't
want the at times rather silly movie to end.
The plot, twisted and turned now and then just to keep us glued, is simple that of a retired C.I.A. agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) who reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. The team includes John Malkovich (absolutely hilarious role for him), Mary-Louise Parker (often stealing the show), Helen Mirren (gorgeous as ever and having the time of her life knocking off just about everybody who gets in her way). The other folks who are on varying sides of the law (nobody really plays by the rules) include Anthony Hopkins (in stellar form), Catherine Zeta-Jones, David Thewlis, Brian Cox, Byung-hun Lee (in a brilliantly choreographed martial arts role and the physique to match), Neal McDonough, and Tim Pigott-Smith among others.
No, it is not deep, but it is silly and funny and entertaining and an exceptionally good time. This cast deserves an ensemble award! Grady Harp, November 13
A refreshingly humorous, insightful and sensitive film from the
Netherlands from director Michael ten Horn who also wrote this
contemporary story with Anne Barn Hoorn lights up the screen with vivid
color, funky music, a story with many twists and a groups of excellent
actors. It is a film hat deserves a wide audience because it addresses
issues usually avoided in honest filmmaking.
The van End family is prototypically dysfunctional, having a tough time connecting to one another, leading their own little lives in their own silly little worlds. The father Evert (Ton Kas) works in a factory that makes a hot dog appearing food piece: once a year there is an eating contest and for the past few years his son Manuel (Abe Dijkman) has won the trophy for eating the most (otherwise Manuel is a trouble maker who spends his hours smoking dope). The mother Etty (Jacqueline Blom) is discontent with the family in general and feeling ignored by her husband who is caught up in preparing their 25th wedding anniversary party. The oldest son Erwin (Tomer Pawlicki) has severe facial acne but is obsessed with an upcoming marriage to an Indian girl Mardou (Anandi Gall), selecting paint colors and other distractions to avoid intimate contact with his fiancé. That leaves the only daughter, Eva (Vivian Dierickx), an overweight unpopular misfit whose best friend is her bunny rabbit and who announces to her family (though they ignore her) that she is participating in a school project to bring German exchange students to learn English by living with Dutch families. The German lad Veit (handsome and talented 19 year old Rafael Gareisen) arrives and is polite, thoughtful, caring, gentle, organized, spiritually centered, who also loves to party and be a proper house guest. The film's story is how Veit changes everyone in this family: introducing Evert to his little African friend Ngiri (Nicanor Zinga) over Skype and Evert elects to help the poverty stricken lad by sending money; introducing Etty to meditation that allows Etty to loses her pent up anger and sadness; Introducing Erwin to his sexuality (very subtly); and equally subtly deflowering the ugly chubby pathetic and very needy Eva. The result of Veit's 2 week stay dramatically changes this family, outing secrets that have been hurtful and making them care for each other in a normal and healthy, loving fashion.
It all comes together with many more sidebars of action that emphasize the fragility of each of the characters. Yes, it has humorous moments, but the overall message is a tender one and is very ell presented. In Dutch and English with subtitles.
There are two camps in regard to this yet another exhumation of a comic
book hero those who worship at its altar (and allow it to achieve a
box office intake of $291,021,565 in the USA alone, with nearly equal
international numbers), and those who see the entertainment value of
the film that is in dire need of editing at least 45 minutes of
extraneous repetitive CGI effects to make it tolerable. The cast is
very fine hunky Henry Cavill is a rather demure Superman and that is
in his favor, Amy Adams makes Lois Lane credible, Michael Shannon is
ominous as the evil General Zod, and then there are the home-baked
goodness of Diane Lane and Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe and Amtje
Traue as the variable parents (Krypton genes, Kansas adoption). Nods
also go to Christopher Meloni, Ayelet Zurer, Harry Lennix, Richard
Schiff, and Laurence Fishburne for trying to take all this seriously.
Plot (not really adapted from the original comic books): A child, sent to Earth from a dying planet, is adopted by a couple in rural Kansas. As a young boy he learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind. Sounds like a good story through the sci-fi telescope. The problem is the heavy handed emphasis on the monsters and space ships and tunnels and gore of Krypton and the mess made not only in Smallville, Kansas but in the major cities by the invading Krypton dudes. Makes you wonder when all the CGI minds behind it will tire of the noise and fire and space sailing of Superman. Enough already.
This somewhat ponderous but very moody film dates back to the year 2000
and it is fascinating to see how the actors, so glamorous at the time
of the filming, have changed. Age happens, and in the case of this film
it has aged well.
The title refers to the rail yards of Queens where contractors repair and rebuild the New York's subway cars. These contracts are lucrative, so graft and corruption rule. When Leo Handler (Mark Wahlberg) gets out of prison having taken the fall for his friends and family, he finds his aunt Kitty (Faye Dunaway) married to Frank Olchin (James Caan), one of the big contractors; he's battling with a minority-owned firm for contracts. Willie Gutierrez (Joaquin Phoenix), Leo's best friend, is Frank's bag man and heads a crew of midnight saboteurs who ruin the work of the Puerto Rican-owned firm. Leo needs a job, so Willie pays him to be his back-up. Then things go badly wrong one night, a cop IDs Leo, and everyone now wants him out of the picture. Besides his ailing mom (Ellen Burstyn) and his cousin Erica Charlize Theron) , to whom can Leo turn? He is drawn into a world of sabotage, high-stakes payoffs and even murder. Then, he discovers a secret that makes him the target of the city's most ruthless family - his own. How Leo responds is a lesson in courage.
Strong cast, good screenplay by Director James Gray ('We Own the Night', 'Little Odessa', etc) and Matt Reeves, atmospheric creative cinematography by Harris Savides, and a very beautiful musical score by Howard Shore make this little drama intense and moving.
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