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The Ugly Truth (2009)
Forget the reviews: Loved the film!
Saw the trailer months ago and flagged it as a film to see. Love Katherine Heigl-bright, beautiful, and more importantly, intelligent-and Gerard Butler is a hunk with charisma and masculinity. However, the reviews have been Luke warm and negative, and I wanted to see the film anyway and was not disappointed. I loved the romantic conflicts which are set up in the story, and the chemistry between Heigl and Butler is fantastic. I also loved the realism of the dialog in this film and the way it is utilized for character development and moves the story forward. The humor and the characters provide a sense of 2009 in the film and I found THE UGLY TRUTH a very entertaining and "truthful" film to see this Summer of 2009.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
An early "Oscar" film of depth and importance
THE HURT LOCKER hits you like a depth charge in your stomach from the first frames of the film with a tension and suspense that makes you grip the arms of your theater seat with fear and terror as you feel the Iraq war really come home and deliver a picture of a war that our soldiers have lived every day. Every scene of the film makes you realize what our troops have felt in fighting a war where you think the smile on the civilian is one of warmth, when in reality it is wrapped in a deadly bomb waiting to go off and maim and kill. Jeremy Renner is magnificent in his journey as the Bomb Tech and his bravery and skills are shown in intensive scenes that make you wonder how are men and women are dealing with shrapnel, bombs, terrorism and attacks that are both deadly and mortal. Renner is my first Nom for the major awards in the future months. The photography is out of this world and the close shots of the faces of the actors in their scenes and the intensity which Barry Ackroyd delivers is fantastic. THE HURT LOCKER brings home the horror of the war in Iraq and delivers to an audience a film which will linger in your mind forever. Bravo Kathryn Bigelow for this incredible film.
Lustrous Michelle Pfeiffer lights up the screen
Amidst a sea of "transfomers" on the screen comes the lustrous and elegant film CHERI with a tremendous cast of actors and dialog that jumps off the page from the talented Christopher Hampton. Just when you thought there wouldn't be an intelligent adult fare on the summer 2009 screen, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates light up the film with scenes that are so delicious and wicked in forming character and setting up the love story that follows. The costumes, french locations and the rich tapestry of elegance which Stephen Frears paints on the screen in CHERI is breathtaking with a touch of pathos thrown into the mix as Ms. Pfeiffer transforms her character into a heroine that will remain timeless. The last frame and the final scene of the film will long be remembered. Merci pour CHERI, Monsieur Frears.
Angels & Demons (2009)
A Trip to Rome via Tom Hanks
Went to see ANGELS AND DEMONS in Century City, Los Angeles, yesterday with a good film friend and we both left the film with, "okay, but not great". However, Tom Hanks looked tremendous in the film, and for me, carried it to its improbable ending. The film was too long in Act one, I fell asleep for 5 minutes of it, and eventually awoke to Hanks coming into Rome. I give Hanks an A+ for all the dialog his character, our kindly Harvard Professor, had to spout out in relation to the historical, or is it hysterical?, relevance of the Catholic Church, in relation to electing a new Pope with some of his brethren having to go through some twists and turns. When the film finally ended, and the fires had died down, I kept thinking, "there by the grace of God, go I..." But for the handsome Ewan McGregor, perhaps another choice in his "Catholic" motivations might have led to a different ending.
State of Play (2009)
A "Politico-Journo" Thriller
STATE OF PLAY is a timely film intertwined with stories that resonate on today's print pages and on the internet of political scandals mixed with corruption. But isn't that what American politics are all about? I had trepidations about seeing Russell Crowe, as I find him totally repulsive for how he has treated underlings here in the USA, but from the first frame of the film, to the last, he is brilliant in his role and his character drives the story. Helen Mirren is perfect as a "Ben Bradley" and Rachel McAdams once again proves herself on the screen as a very talented actor. The film moves at a fast pace, the dark exteriors of D.C. add to the darkness of the story, and the ending had me surprised, but then again, this is about power and how it corrupts those who have it, and can lose it in a second. Ben Affleck is a solid Stephen Collins, and you forget he is a film star, when the story propels him forward to his own fate.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2008)
"Coming of Age with humor and pathos...."
MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH is a truly 2009 "coming of age" story of three young people who meet in Pittsburgh and take a journey which will change their lives forever. The cast is superb; and I found Jon Foster's voice and performance refreshing inside a seasoned cast of Nick Nolte, Sienna Miller, "American Beauty's" Mena Suvari and the incredibly talented Peter Sarsgaard. Reviews have been mixed on the film, but I thought it took off in the second act, with humor of the challenges facing the characters, and the pathos of how "love" can take a turn when you least expect it. The dialog, at times witty and with a cynical barb to it, and the location of Pittsburgh, with its hills and older homes, adds to the story. I really liked this film, and once again, the cast is delicious to look at, and watch.
"Michael Clayton" goes "Intel"
I had been waiting for DUPLICITY for months, and finally caught it today at The Grove, West Hollywood, and I was elated to see such a smart film with the handsome Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts, as his perfect comedic foil. The dialog is crisp, sharp and witty from the first frame to the last. Owen and Roberts have great charisma and the attraction between the two despite their professional "Intel" roles is instant. The locations, sets are fabulous, with of course, New York the prime location.
What is also so brilliant about DUPLICITY is how, as in MICHAEL CLAYTON, the evils of "corporatism" are portrayed in the film as Owen, Roberts and cast attempt to steal from one another. With today's AIG and Bank issues on the front page of every paper, and across the Net, what Tony Gilroy adds to the film in his scenes of corporate warriors fighting one another for market control, is right to the point of the economic issues we are having to face today. But what Owen and Roberts do is bring a marvelous sense of humor to their roles, and effortlessly bring corporatism to the state of showing an audience just what a hellish world that is. Very entertaining and especially well written film.
The International (2009)
International Intrigue via Clive Owen & Company
Clive Owen delivers a nice thrilling performance in an international thriller which reminds an audience of the BOURNE ULTIMATUM films with a story which takes you all over the international map in attempting to solve a crime. Owen and the lovely Naomi Watts make an interesting team of mates to travel to Berlin, et. AL. and while the story is a bit far fetched, in today's world of terrorism and plots to steal, kill and overtake countries and governments, Owen as an international Agent does manage to convince an audience of attempting to "settle justice" in a very "unjust world and political climate".
The locations are magnificent and you feel as if you are on a international travel log of stops in Berlin, Milan, Istanbul, Lyon and of course, New York. But then, this is THE INTERNATIONAL and thus the foreign locations make the story ring true to the chase for justice and to solve an international crime. One can only hope that Clive's Agent will find something of reward in the chase.
Last Chance Harvey (2008)
Hoffman/Thompson create entertainment amongst a sea of dark films
LAST CHANCE HARVEY is a breath of fresh air amongst a sea of dark dramas up for kudos. The journey Hoffman takes to London and his encounter with the marvelous Emma Thompson creates a story that is so entertaining and enjoyable. The London locations, the brilliant chemistry between Emma and Dustin, and the joy one finds in their histories and luck in finding each other in London is wonderful to enfold on the screen. The writing is superb from Joel Hopkins, the London locations so fantastic to the story and film, and the supporting cast is excellent. Moreover, the themes which the film hits upon in regards to divorce, family relationships rings true to not only the film but to an audience, such as myself, that has felt the pains of divorce and the issues of loyalty. I loved this film, and HARVEY brings a "Dramedy" to the screen when one is needed amongst "the darkness" in 2009...
Gran Torino (2008)
"The lessons of life and death"
GRAN TORINO is another masterpiece from Clint Eastwood and is a story that resonates with the diverse cultures of America today and the issues of assimilation into a white America. Eastwood portrays a typical blue collar American in the Midwest, hesitant to change, and dealing with his own personal issues. But when he takes on his neighbors and begins to understand their differences,along with their culture, magic happens on the screen and Eastwood's journey is one that brings laughter, as well as tears, to his growth and love for others. The Golden Globes missed out on this film, but Eastwood should be there at Oscar time and GRAN TORINO is a film that should be justly rewarded as the themes of life, death, family and assimilation of cultures into the American main stream, are extremely important ones. I can hardly wait until the Oscar nominations for GRAN TORINO.
"Bless me father, for I have sinned..."
DOUBT is an extremely well written and acted film which has generated kudos and awards, but is a film I am glad to have seen, and put behind me. If you have grown up with Catholicism, and the guilt which goes with it, and the masks that belie the truth behind the faces of nuns and priests, then you can see DOUBT, and have "no doubts" that what transpires in this film does and has happened. Meryl Streep is once again an acting force in her role, too bad I didn't care more for her as a character, nor have any empathy for what she tosses to Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams-thank you JUNE BUG!-is such a strong contrast to Streep's nun. But it is with Viola Davis, the struggling mother of a troubled son, who really earns my respect and what a powerful scene she has with Streep. No DOUBT, DOUBT will garner it's awards, it is just too bad I didn't care more for this film.
A Heart lifting and wonderful film
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a magical film with performances from Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Taraji P. Henson that light up the screen with a story that never seems almost three hours long, but one in which you never want the film to end. I have never seen Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett look more beautiful, as they both give a wondrous luxe look to their characters that make them seem almost "ageless". The sets, the supporting cast, the technical aspects of the production, all add up to a story and film that make you say, "Oscar!" The last time I saw Pitt and Blanchett was in BABEL, and there is a great chemistry between these two actors that jumps off the screen in BENJAMIN BUTTON. The way the story is told and the introduction of the film in the beginning scenes so beautifully set up the journey of the characters that follows. And, the fact that love takes no face, nor color, to make one say, "you're my mother", is one that shall stay with me forever. BUTTON is a film you want to go back to see, to cherish the tenderness of scenes of old and young, black and white, living, and dying, together as family. Magical is the only word that I can describe is the ride the audience takes during their time with BENJAMIN BUTTON.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
An Acting Masterpiece
I have waited for weeks for this film to open in Hollywood, here in Los Angeles, and finally today I saw the film. Dicaprio and Winslet take REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and from the first scenes I think I am back with WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? with Martha and George bickering and arguing with biting dialog. Then REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, because of its time frame, reminds me of the fabulous MADMEN, with that intensity and drama of its leading characters, until I look into the eyes of April, Winslet, and realize that REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is a story and journey of two characters with their own enemies to face. Every frame of the film and the scenes between Kate and Leo remind me of what that it must have been like in the 1950's, attempting to live that perfect American life, but in the end, you realize that the "Donna Reed perfect wife and mother" American character, is a falsehood, and that April is only hoping to find something better. The supporting cast of Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn and David Harbour is superb with characters that only add to the history which is building between the Wheelers.
Sam Mendes does give us hints of American BEAUTY, but in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, he directs a story of brilliant drama and intensity. With the final scene, you can understand how April must have felt in a suburban world of perfection, and lies.
The Reader (2008)
A brilliant and simply stunning film
David Kross promises to be a young talent that is waiting to explode in films, and his role in THE READER is a mesmerizing and stunning role for a young man who learned English in order to play in the film. Kross and Winslet are glorious in scenes which are both of a tender nature, and at times frightening with the intensity of two tigers waiting to claw one another. The film is beautifully shot, locations are in complete relation to the story, and watching the face of David Kross look at Winslet is a treasure to behold. Stephen Daldry has directed an immensely important film of human flaws, coupled with the history of World War II Germany, and Kate Winslet better take the Globe and Oscar home for THE READER.
How about, FROST/NIXON/BUSH??
FROST/NIXON brought back the time of Nixon's demise with a strong story and remembrance of the Watergate cover-up and the downfall of Richard M. Nixon with a tremendous cast and strong writing. As George Bush finally disappears from the global scene, FROST/NIXON reminded me of the damage Bush has done to America, as had Nixon. Nixon will be remembered for Vietnam, and Bush the disaster of Iraq. When I watched Frank Langella's brilliant performance as President Nixon, I could only think also about Bush, and how destructive both these Republican Presidents have been to the reputation of the American Presidency.
FROST/NIXON is a very important film with a story that is so relevant to today in our country. But it is in the acting of Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, and a superb supporting cast, that the film brings to the screen such a well written Peter Morgan screenplay and story. I look forward to the film winning many awards in January/Februray 2009.
A San Francisco story of great relevance
Combing the writing of Dustin Lance Black with the direction of Gus Van Sant and a tremendous cast of actors has made MILK a great film of such relevance today with the fight to revoke Prop 8 in California. Sean Penn is absolutely out of this world as Harvey Milk and his performance is one to remember when Oscar comes along. Penn takes such an important character of San Francisco history, and makes Harvey Milk come alive with gestures and speech that are real to that moment in 1978 which the film presents. Josh Brolin and James Franco are marvelous in their roles and so are the rest of the cast.
Having lived in San Francisco in 1978, I remember the Milk/Moscone events as if they were yesterday. With the powerful film, MILK, 1978 becomes 2008 as civil rights and gay rights are still being fought on the battle lines and the remembrance of gay heroes such as Harvey Milk makes the struggle today once again, a sign of hope for change.
Congrats UCLA Film, Theater and Television for providing MILK with its writer, Dustin Lance Black, and for the talents of James Franco.
"That's NOT my son"...what a journey....
Clint Eastwood delivers a very powerful film with Angelina Jolie giving a very strong and emotional performance which should lead to many kudos. CHANGELING reminded me of L. A. CONFIDENTIAL, in a film noir, like CHINATOWN, of the dark side of Los Angeles in the 1920's and 1930's, in a true story which Jolie brings the full power of her acting skills in portraying Christine Collins. The supporting cast is solid, the sets and costumes very real to the period, the court scenes adding to the story, and of course, the forces of "good vs. evil" resonate through out the film. I wonder how far from yesterday is the LAPD, and that was my feeling when I left the theater. With CHANGELING, Eastwood, as in MYSTIC RIVER, has directed a film of noteworthy characters and story.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
A fast paced and very entertaining film
Once again Judi Dench and Daniel Craig and a terrific cast come together in a fast paced and dynamic film that hits you like a speeding bullet from the first frame to the final scene. Bond's "fighting the forces of evil" and the lush settings of Italy and Haiti make QUANTUM OF SOLACE a wonderful travel log of breath taking chases across roofs, in the water and out. Daniel Craig is a great Bond-handsome, lithe, masculine, subtle and very physical. His work with Judi Dench is brilliant to watch the back and forth that goes between them. But in the end, it is the physical force of Daniel Craig's James Bond that really drives QUANTUM OF SOLACE and makes the film a solid one.
What a glorious and entertaining journey to Australia
Australia is the big film an audience has been waiting for that ties in such a tremendous story and characters that rivet you from the opening scene to the very last moving frame. Nicole Kidman back in a film that brings out her lustrous beauty and talents. Hugh Jackman as the Drover is a perfect fit for Kidman and their chemistry jumps off the screen. The locations, sets and of course the action scenes of the cattle drive will capture your attention in an amazing production. Baz Luhrmann will no doubt be nominated for Oscar, and with Australia, as in MOULIN ROUGE, Luhrman brings you drama and romance and footage of a nation that is just waiting to be visited.
My first time "down under" was the gorgeous Japanese STORY with a love story and travels through Australia with Toni Collette that still haunt me even today. Luhrmann brings that haunting beauty of cinematography and shots that will live in memory for a long time. Bringing the World War II scenes of the Japanese attack in Darwin ties in with the love story, as well as the theme of segregation of people of color in that nation. I look forward to watching how many kudos awards the film will garner in the upcoming weeks. Australia is a big, emotional and sensational film of character and story.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
"A Bollywood/Hollywood" Romeo and Juliet
All the buzz here in Los Angeles for Danny Boyle's brilliant SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is absolutely right on the money for this Fox Searchlight film and "sure-to-be" Oscar Nom for Best Picture. What a heartwarming journey three young Orphans take in a tale that is so reminiscent in the story of Romeo and Juliet, but you have to wait to the end of the film to see if Romeo gets his Juliet. The film locations, action scenes and the drama set against a Quizz show brings to the screen a story that is a global one and makes you laugh and weep all at the same time. It is just so exciting when you find a jewel of a film in SLUMDOG that brings such tremendously interesting characters to the screen. Bravo Simon Beaufoy on your writing SLUMDOG and for the collaboration with Danny Boyle in a film that jumps off the screen with such energy and zest. I can hardly wait until the Globes and Oscar Noms and I look forward to SLUMDOG right up there for awards.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Hoo-ray for Kevin Smith!
Zack and Miri is a fun ride and a very entertaining film from start to finish. What is so great about this film is the honesty of the dialog and the characters which depict couples in the USA who are struggling to not only pay their bills, but to find a true soul mate, in a time when there isn't much to motivate you. Kevin SMITH gave us CHASING AMY and now has brought an audience in ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORN FILM of the same rich development of character, story and amusing elements that just make you want to see more.
The brilliance of taking a coffee bar, doesn't everyone remember the "yuppyness" of FRIENDS?, which is such a meeting place for people to connect, and taking that location to develop a porn film is such a twist on Starbucks. The supporting cast is terrific, down to earth, and such a contrast to pretty people in lush settings. With ZACK AND MIRI, Smith has written and directed a film which resonates with an audience today in America. Like BURN AFTER READING, ZACK AND MIRI gives us a story which makes you laugh every minute, as well as applaud the journey each character takes. Way to go, Kevin Smith, and when will STAR WHORES be in theaters?
"Skull and Bones" Goes to the White House
W. presents a tremendous performance from Josh Brolin as George W. Bush and provides a very entertaining story and film about the life of our current President. Oliver Stone has directed W. with a supporting cast that is out of this world, and Brolin really convinces an audience that he is the current Bush and you still wonder how this great country had the stupidity to elect Bush and put him into the White House for eight agonizing years. The cabinet scenes which dealt with Iraq are mesmerizing, and listening to the logic of these men, and a woman, take us into war in Iraq with lies and deception is beyond the contempt of the American public. But politics aside, Brolin gives us a picture of Bush, his longing to please his father, and to make a name for himself and to show his family that all along he had in him, is a picture of Bush that I will always remember. The reviews have been mixed on this film, but W. should be seen by an electoral public that now has the opportunity to make a change on November 4th that will reverse these eight years of deception, lies and a war that should never have taken place.
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
And who said romance is over???
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE brings back to the screen two talented actors in Diane Lane and Richard Gere in a simply beautiful story of a man and a woman hungry for something more in their lives than they have at present. The chemistry between Lane and Gere is magical from the first scene in the film to their last embrace. The locations, beauty of their attraction for one another when it unfolds when they first meet, and the story that follows, and as they begin to know each other with the attraction they feel towards each other is real, is romance that is projected to an audience with tender care. James Franco in another micro role is just the right casting, and the elegance of Lane in combination with the beach house, is a true Fall 2008 film to remember forever, as was THE NOTEBOOK.
The Duchess (2008)
Yes..forget the critics, and enjoy the beauty of THE DUCHESS
THE DUCHESS is a simply beautiful film, with lush English locations and costumes that are out of this world, along with a cast of actors that you can thoroughly enjoy. Ralph Fiennes is at the top of his game as the Duke, and Kira Knightley continues to grow in stature and grace in a role as the Duchess which makes you immediately think of the late and extraordinary Princess Diana. Charlotte Rampling once again graces the screen with a regal air, and Dominic Cooper brings a solid performance as Mr. Grey. And, it is in the cinematography and sets and costumes that brings THE DUCHESS to life and gives it the sheen and polish of that era of opulence and lushness of the Royals. THE DUCHESS, like MARIE ANTOINETTE, serves up a rich piece of elegance, set around a story that makes you want to have a happy ending, but that would be a fairy tale.
So, forget/ignore the critics, the soft reviews, and take in the story and intrigue which is THE DUCHESS.
Burn After Reading (2008)
A Box Office Fall 2008 Film Treat!
What a great cast, film and writing in BURN AFTER READING and the dark and cynical sense of humor of the Coen Brothers shines through in this marvelous parody on the American spy industry. All of the cast are simply superb in delivering lines and character development that keep you laughing from one scene to another. Loved the D.C. location shots of Georgetown side streets, beautiful colonial and brick buildings and the interior shots. John Malkovich is such a scream in this film, and Tilda Swinton's dead pan face and lack of humor in contrast to Clooney, Pitt and McDormand is so entertaining. BURN AFTER READING is my vote for the funniest, darkest and wittiest film this Fall 2008.