Curtis Jensen's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Stupid. Boring. Offensive. Gets a half star for good special effects, but their lack of restraint is partially responsible for this films enormous flaws.

Zero Dark Thirty

An excellent film with an awards worthy performance by Jessica Chastain as one of the strongest female characters in the history of film. The film's excellence is morally compromised by its tacit advocacy of torture as a successful and justified interrogation technique which dominates the first 45 minutes of the film. It's worth seeing especially because I do believe that we should understand what has been done on our behalf as Americans, in the service of finding justice for the victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. The film is deeply Machiavellian, the fact that we ultimately achieved e assassination of Bin Laden seems to be all that matters to this movie. The fact that we sold out our own souls as a society and compromised everything we are supposed to stand for in the world to achieve it carries no moral consequence in this particular work.

The Impossible

Be prepared, this amazing film about a family's true experience in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and its direct aftermath is gut wrenching. I bawled my eyes out, squirmed in my chair, and gasped constantly but I honestly never felt manipulated. Naomi Watts gives an awards level performance though frankly the whole cast is excellent. Explores the intensity of disaster from a deeply personal place. I loved it.

Life of Pi
Life of Pi(2012)

A brilliant gorgeous unforgettable film by one of the greatest masters of the cinema. Must be seen in 3D (anti-3D whiners miss it in this format at their peril). Ang Lee manages to take something that should be impossible to convey without being deadly dull and delivers a riveting exciting and even contemplative film experience. This is rousing entertainment and the best of art cinema all rolled up into one fantastic creation. Easily one of the Top 3 films of the year.

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas(2012)

A sprawling entrancing highly entertaining epic of the human experience over time, race and gender. A fantastic cast plays multiple roles in multiple times and spotting them can be part of the fun. The editing between the 6 different timelines flows like water tumbling in a brook. A movie I will watch again (and again, and again?).

Pitch Perfect
½

The "Bring It On" of competitive collegiate a capella groups. A slight but enjoyable trifle with solid singing and arrangements. Rebel Wilson steals every scene as "Fat Amy" but the entire cast is ..sorry...pitch perfect. Anna Kendrick, in her first leading role deserves a much better film, but I thought this was a delightful diversion on a hot night, and I laughed out loud several times.

End of Watch
End of Watch(2012)
½

A gritty and realistic cop drama that is excellently grounded by the strong performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as partners on the streets of LA. Shot mostly in a "found footage" style that provides a extra free of realism, "End of Watch" is gripping, filled with real world action, has a unique point of view, and is a solid addition to the genre.

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)

Ridley Scott returns to Sci-fi in this gorgeous delicious prequel to Alien. Seriously the production design and special effects are capital "F" Flawless. The story answers some questions (who is the "space jockey" in the crashed space ship that Siqourney Weaver and her friends find in Alien) and opens many others that in my opinion we will be very lucky to explore in future films.

The cast is fantastic. Noomi Rapace proves that she is very capable and effective as a kick ass heroine in English (though her character here is never called on to go to the heights of heroism that either Ripley or her own Lisbeth Salander go to). There's a scene where she has to take care of a health emergency by herself that is an act of intense will power and personal determination. Michael Fassbender steals the film as our duplicitous cyborg (it isn't an Alien film without one) and brings something completely unique, fresh and special to what is otherwise a stock character. Charlize Theron is also great as an ice queen/corporate lackey/mean boss. Bitch can rock a body suit and has the most glamorous space ship digs this side of Barbarella.

This isn't the visceral thrill ride of the original Alien or it's first sequel, but it is a mature and brilliantly crafted film by one of the masters of cinema.

The Cabin in the Woods
½

First up avoid any and all trailers for this film! This is the most original horror concept in years and having it's delightful, twisted, bizarre surprises ruined for you by a marketing campaign would be a crying shame. I'm not going to say much other than this sucker turns your horror expectations on their ear and is filled with fun performances from a great cast (also filled with surprises). Joss Whedon proves that he's still got it!

Chronicle
Chronicle(2012)

What a great surprise. This little sci-fi, fantasy gem came out of nowhere. Three High School boys stumble on something at a party that gives them strange powers. Wonder, danger and mayhem ensue. Shot is the "found video" style where all the action is captured theoretically by consumer video cameras that the characters had with them as the story unfolds, it manages to completely fresh, orginal and exciting, with a surprisingly good special effects and a great little story. Be on the vanguard and check out this fantastically entertaining film.

The Help
The Help(2011)

I admit I'm a bit uncomfortable with another film where the nice white person helps kick start the civil rights movement, but the light entertaining comic tone set here makes it go down like a delicious glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are Oscar nominee shoe-ins for their powerful but very different takes on two of the titular help. All the performances are fun, even though some verge on camp (or maybe because they do).

Attack the Block

Alien invasions just got fresh. The attack is confined to the "block" of an inner-city London housing block, and it's up to a rag tag group of miscreants to save the block, and maybe the world. Original, funny, raw, witty, and scary. I dare a Hollywood studio to approach this level of fresh creative spirit instead of wasting talent and resources on crap feasts like Cowboys and Aliens, or the sad Aliens vs. Predators series.

The Artist
The Artist(2011)
½

The last thing audiences were asking for turned out to be thing we may have needed most. A good old fashioned (quite literally) black and white silent movie about Hollywood, artistic integrity, fame and film itself. European directors are often the best at turning the lens back onto Hollywood. Here Michel Hazanavicius brings his French eye and two French leads to LA, grabbed some fantastic American character actors and gave us the freshest thing around by doing things in the way we had completely given up on. Wonderful.

Midnight in Paris
½

Woody Allen's best work since Match Point is a delightful romantic fantasy about nostalgia, the creative spirit, hero worship and the unique powers of the City of Light. Owen Wilson takes on the traditional "Woody Allen" role as a hack screenwriter on vacation in Paris who needs a dose of magic to help point him in the right direction in love and art.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol

I'm no fan of the MI franchise, but Brad Bird director of three of the best animated films of all time manages to breath life into the action series for the first time. By backing the emphasis off of Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt character and letting members of the IMF Team have their moments around
a series of fresh and original action set pieces that will amaze audiences, Bird has created an exciting and fun action adventure thrill ride that actually makes me excited four a fifth installment.

Drive
Drive(2011)

A stylish and gorgeous tour de force. An action movie that reaches the level of art. Director Nicolas Winding Refn brings a European eye and a serious love of 80's cinema to play. Gosling plays the driver with no name with a detached coolness that always seems to hiding a level of calculation, intelligence and awareness that the assorted LA petty criminals and old school gangsters around him lack. Great performances (Albert Brooks is fantastic in a villain turn) Stunning cinematography and shocking bursts of ultra violence combine for a riveting and delicious film experience.

Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids(2011)

Kristen Wiig wrote and stars in this fantastic and gut bustingly hilarious comedy about a Annie a woman in her 30's whose life is a complete mess except for her relationship with her best friend Lillian played my Maya Rudolph. Lillian gets engaged and Annie discovers a rival for Lillian's attention in the person of Helen, played with a nice stick up her ass by Rose Byrn. Annie seems to destroy everything she plans. While Helen is all composure, organization money and connections, things that Annie cannot offer. Joining them on the bridal mis-adventures are Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey and scene stealer Melissa McCarthy.
This film succeeds because it has a real friendship with all it's struggles and jealousies at it's heart. Kristen Wiig gives a fully formed and rich performance of an often unsympathetic protagonist who we still manage to love. Funniest movie of 2012 (just edging out Cedar Rapids)

The Descendants

Payne has the powers to leave me giddy with cinematic joy as he did with Election. This doesn't take me there, but I enjoyed every minute of this character driven drama about a man dealing with loss and betrayal. Clooney is great, and will surely be walking some red carpets come awards season. Shailene Woodley is terrific as the rebelious daughter who kind of becomes her father's "rock". Never predictable, with an excellent script. Won't likely make my top 10 for the year, but a solid pleasure for adult film lovers.

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Why. Why do I go. A deeply stupid movie that isn't worthy of 5 minutes of Bill Condon's time. I'm convinced he only made it because he would get to shoot Taylor Lautner shirtless, which is still the only possible excuse for seeing these horrid anti-sex turds. Even that is a rip off as Lautner is shirtless for exactly 3 seconds in the first few minutes of the film. Pattinson is terrible. Stewart is better than this. Lautner seems just right for this low brow crap. Even sex within wed lock is represented as deadly and dangerous. Please someone remind me how much I hate these movies when Twilight: Money Grab part II rolls around next year.

American Gangster
½

A solidly good gangster flick from a talented ensemble and director. Entertaining, but never reaches the cinematic glories of it's antecedents.

Enchanted
Enchanted(2007)
½

An utter delight. Amy Adams is pitch perfect in this family friendly confection that is never too sweet and always delicious.

No Country for Old Men
½

The Coen brothers at the top of their game and an Oscar worthy performance by Javier Bardem as one of the coolest killer in film history.

The Mist
The Mist(2007)
½

Creepy, dangerous, ready to kill and that's just the townspeople. Character driven thriller that keeps your blood running cold. Indeed there is something in The Mist - a horrifying good time at the movies.

Beowulf
Beowulf(2007)
½

Better than it has any right to be, this was good fun. THe technology has some ticks yet to be worked out, but the action is rock solid and features the best dragon sequence on film.

Lions for Lambs
½

Well meaning but largely ineffective.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)
½

One of the years best. Exciting, entertaining and well acted. I never thought I would like a western so much. Ben Foster in particular nearly steals the film from Crowe and Bale who are two of films best working actors.

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

I loved the first Harold & Kumar, but really hated the second one. Frankly it was the positive reviews that drew me back in, and you know what, I laughed my ass off. Sure the humor is juvenile, but I laughed, I laughed out loud, I laughed throughout the whole movie, and that folks is the ultimate measure by which to judge a comedy. I found the 3D, which is employed entirely as a gimmick to work largely because they did take it solely as a gag (my movie companion found it pointless though), you don't need to see it in 3D, because the humor isn't coming from that aspect. This will be a movie that is fun to revisit during the holiday season each year as an antidote to more middle of the road and obviously sentimental choices.

Immortals
Immortals(2011)

Like all of his films, Tarsem's "Immortals" is a sumptuously gorgeous visual feast with very little intellectual nutrition value. The plot is silly , the story practically non-existent. There is no theme to grab onto, no lessons about humanity to be learned, and certainly no lessons on Greek mythology (this seems only to use the names from mythology, no hint of actual myth here folks). But I'll tell you, I did derive real pleasure from the visual presentation, and film is a visual medium. Tarsem and his production designers and cinematographers never fail to make love to my eyes, even if they completely ignore my brain. The men are either gorgeous visions of muscular perfection or hideous to the point of a frightening beauty. The sets and costumes are extravagant, improbably, and give me a kind of giddy joy in their over the top execution. The 3D was employed to great effect. If you're looking to expand your mind skip this eye candy, but if you can find pleasure in something richly beautiful for the sake of beauty only, this is a nice treat.

Love Crime
Love Crime(2011)

Takes "Working Girl" and a wee hint of "Single White Female" and mixes them into a delicious Gallic thriller where Kristin Scott Thomas is the evil she-boss and Ludivine Sagnier (who comes off in this film like a cross between Uma Thurman and Blake Lively) is the tortured and taken advantage of assistant/junior colleague. Why are all the fun thrillers coming from France? Good old fashioned revenge ensues.

Red State
Red State(2011)
½

Kevin Smith's stab at horror has three hapless and horny kids in mid-America cruising the web for willing older sluts. The slut turns out to be Melissa Leo doing Shirley Phelps (of God Hates Fags fame). We all knew Shirley was a horny slut, but it turns out she's also luring young men to be captured (along with homos caught in some other elaborate sting) for the twisted religious jollies of her Fred Phelpian Pappa the Rev Abin Cooper and his entire cult. Enter a completely coincidentally timed raid by a local closet case Sherriff (Stephen Root) and Fed played by John Goodman. Part straight up horror, part political and cultural satire it does most of these bits well, better than most Kevin Smith films. A great cast, some really inventive frenetic action in tight spaces, and actual original horror imagery (a major feat this late in cinema). Worth a peek (between the fingers).

Margin Call
Margin Call(2011)

If I'm not mistaken this film is something unique in film history, a financial thriller. A really great cast (Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Penn Badgley, Paul Bettany Jeremy Irons Demi Moore, and in his first really humble performance in years, Kevin Spacey) anchors this exciting and tense story of what happens over 24 hours in a big Investment Firm (patterned after Lehman Brothers) in 2008 on the eve of destroying the economy. Driven by greed and selfishness, but never played over the top, ethics and moral violations abound and we watch as these "Masters of the Universe" save their own asses and destroy ours. Really fantastic.

Take Shelter
Take Shelter(2011)

Both a disturbing psychological horror story of a man slipping into schizophrenia and a parable of the current state of our world where disaster is a constant dread current running under every day. Michael Shannon is fantastic as a father losing his grip. What he can convey without a single word is awe inspiring. Your sleep will be. Troubled as his is in the film after this creepy little gem.

Footloose
Footloose(2011)
½

A middle of the road entertainment kept afloat by enormously charming Kenny Wormald . Nothing is added to film history here, and the film does retain it's political aspects (reactionary church lead interference in laws steals the fun you deserve to have), but did we really need lukewarm country music remakes of the classic hits?

The Mill and the Cross
½

For art lovers only. A slow, considered, deliberate examination of the world of 16th Century Flanders in the context of the creation of an art Masterpiece, "The Procession to Calvary" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Not only do you get inside the meaning of a great painting, but you get inside the politics of the era with important parallels to our own time.

50/50
50/50(2011)

A movie that is truly funny and truly insightful about friendship, family, love, mortality, and survival. Gordon-Levitt continues to prove he is one of the most interesting actors working, Rogen demonstrates his usual icky but very effective charms. Avoids the maudlin cliches of most "cancer" movies, while not running from the harsh realities.

Fright Night
Fright Night(2011)
½

I'm a fan of the 1984 original, and this remake actually improves on it. Where the original was a little more broad and campy, this one roots it's fun in more solid ground. Colin Ferrell is menacing and sexy as the Vampire next door, Anton Yelchin is solid as our hero who has to save the neighborhood. Scary and funny. A fun late summer horror/comedy.

Our Idiot Brother
½

Face it, Paul Rudd is charming in everything he does. This isn't the biggest laugh out loud comedy of the year, but it's charming characters, fantastic cast and heart made it quite entertaining. I smiled through the whole film, and left very satisfied.

Point Blank
Point Blank(2011)
½

A wonderfully suspenseful thriller about an innocent man trapped into rescuing a criminal from from the hospital where he works. Old fashioned noir conventions hold up to the modern setting. A fun roller coaster ride of a movie. More thrilling than any American film I've seen this year.

Carlos
Carlos(2010)
½

The fascinating story of Ilich Sanchez, known as "Carlos" who was a terrorist active in the 1970s and 80s. Edgar Ramirez is magnetic in the lead. I have only seen the 2.5 hour version so maybe some of my complaints are addressed, but I felt like I didn't get a real explanation of the ideologies behind his "revolutionary" stances that drove him towards taking action, especially as time went on and the strange bedfellows of politics and violence became muddled, fluid and confused.

Very sexy gratuitous lingering full frontal male nude bath scene!

Cowboys & Aliens
½

there's some good action, some amusing acting from a couple beloved screen icons and character actors, but it all adds up to little more than a mildly entertaining way to fill a couple hours that you will largely forget within 24 hours.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
½

An entertaining and thrilling movie that solves many of the logic holes in the origin myth of this 40+ year old franchise (while potentially opening a couple of it's own). Real character development of the all CGI chimp Cesar played by Andy Sirkas grounds the film's action and provides real motivation. A really fun summer movie that shows real promise fro re energizing the franchise that ruled my childhood.

Cars 2
Cars 2(2011)

The run is over. Pixar stepped into a bag of flaming shit that it left on it's own doorstep with this absurd, stupid and boring sequel to what was already the only dent in the previously shiny perfect body of Pixar's legendary run of top level entertainment. For car enthusiasts, and small children only.

The Tree of Life
½

Director Terrence Malik's latest is a work of pure art. It's a head scratcher to be sure, and not a conventional narrative in the least. This is an impressionistic tone poem of a film that seems to take a stab at examining the meaning of life, our place in the universe, our significance to the epic of time. There is no purposeful dialogue, every word you hear feels like you are eavesdropping into someone's memories or personal thoughts. The performances are strong, emotionally complex and extremely naturalistic. Gorgeous, ambitious, confounding, entrancing and never boring. I think everyone who appreciates art should see it. It is a painting writ large as a 2 hour film. It is something special.

If you want or need pure entertainment from movies, this may not be the film for you, but if you would be just as likely go to a museum on a Sunday afternoon as go to a movie, then I think you would be able to appreciate the unique and wholly original cultural creation that this film is in my opinion.

Country Strong

It's not horrible, the cast is all fine, but it's just not any good. Every overly earnest song sounds exactly the same. Spoiler: I would kill myself too if I had to live this movie.

The Dilemma
The Dilemma(2011)

Pee Yoo! Just awful. I think United Airlines owes me reparations for forcing this stinker on me during a flight. I thought Homeland Security was supposed to protect me from acts of terrorism in the air. This was absolutely an act of cultural terrorism. Vince Vaughn is abhorrent an completely unlikeable as a priggish asshole who does everything wrong when he learns his best friend's wife is having an affair. Look Vincey, if I was married to a fat bore like Kevin James I would absolutely fuck around with Channing Tatum in a heart beat, and there's not a jury in the land that would think I was wrong.

Kung Fu Panda 2
½

I really kind of loved the first King Fu Panda, so it's not all that surprising that this second installment couldn't deliver. The animation is still stunning (I actually loved the flat old fashioned stuff at the beginning over the more dimensional computer animation of the main story), but the overall story and characters were a little meh this time around. The Furious Five are even less a real presence than they were in the original. This film makes me wonder what the big deal with having name Hollywood stars voice these things is all about. Honestly does anyone really see an animated film because of the "star" doing a voice? Why not give the legions of hugely talented character actors the work instead. I'm glad I saw it, but unlike the first I'm not sure I'll look forward to seeing it again.

X-Men: First Class

Wow. after the cinematic debacles that were X-Men: the Last Stand, and X-men origins: Wolverine I was really prepared for the worst. But I think this may actually be my favorite of the series. I loved the retro tone, the old school awesomeness of the villain and his submarine lair, the flawless special effects, but most of all the rock solid story and characters. Bravo.

Hanna
Hanna(2011)
½

Camp is really making a strong come back in mainstream movie making. This wonderful twisted take on spy thrillers stars Saorise Ronin as the mysterious title character a young girl raised in the woods by her (wood cutter) spy father to be almost a super spy/assasin. She's on the run from the (wicked Queen) head of a shadowy government intelligence organization played with juicy evil by the fantastic Cate Blanchett, and her minions lead by a creepy Tom Hollander A delicious visual treat and a quirky campy delight. Jessica Baren almost steals the movie from all these talents with her brilliantly comic turn as Sophie, a girl Hanna befriends (and endangers) along the way

Water for Elephants
½

A pretty but ultimately average period drama about a young man who joins a circus after the death of his parents. Robert Pattinson manages to not embarrass himself too much, Reese Witherspoon looks good and is fine, and Christoph Waltz squanders his post-Oscar opportunities on this mediocre movie. I can barely recall anything notable about it.

Bill Cunningham New York

Sometimes it's hard to know if a documentary is great because of anything the filmmaker is doing, or if the subject is just so compelling, fascinating and inspiring that you just can't stop yourself from loving it. This film presents just such a question. I unabashedly loved it, but there was really nothing special about the filmmaking. It's a very straightforward documentary. But the subject, Bill Cunningham the 80 something year old fashion photographer for the New York times is one of the most engrossing and amazing people I've come to know in a documentary. A simple man who seems to own one outfit, but is a paragon of the fashion industry who has been honored by the French Government for his cultural contributions to the Art, and who is loved and admired by nearly everyone who has ever met or worked with him. A portrait of a man who is completely and wholly all about his work, and what marvelously fun and inspiring work it is. A must see for anyone who cares about creativity, fashion, or the human spirit.

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
½

Morgan Spurlock scores another funny and entertaining documentary financed by and examining product placement. This isn't hard hitting "just the facts m'am" documentary filmmaking. Spurlock inserts his genial personality and sense of absurd humor into every frame. The participants are all in on the joke and conceit of the film. Wont change the world, but was completely enjoyable and very interesting even though I was very aware that this was going on. - isn't everyone?

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre(2011)

A truly gothic take on the classic literary romance with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbinder, this film is wonderful. Gorgeously shot and well acted, it sets a perfect mood and tone. I admit I haven't read the book, and haven't seen any other adaptation, so I have no idea if it adheres to the original text, but I always say adaptations should be judged on their own merits, and as such this one is excellent. The performances are great, the story is compelling and engrossing, the stakes are high and I believed every moment of it. Gave me just what I want from a haunting period romance.

Thor
Thor(2011)
½

An often funny and simply entertaining addition to the Superhero/comic book genre. Chris Hemsworth is sexy and perfectly cast as the Norse God from another realm. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but just good fun at the movies. The special effects are a little too obviously effects for my taste though. It has made me hopeful for the future Avengers films.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog proves that 3D can pack a major cultural punch in this fantastic and engrossing documentary about the prehistoric cave paintings in Chauvet France. Largely inaccessible to anyone but researchers and scientists, the paintings come to life in a way that traditional film or photography could never realize. Herzog's haunting narration and observations are just the right tone for this masterful triumph matchup of form and technology.

Priest
Priest(2011)

A slickly made stinker. Paul Bettany and Maggie Q play priests of a dystopian version of the Catholic church who return to the job of fighting off what have to be easily my least favorite cinema vampires of all time. The CGI vampires are only marginally humanoid and utterly devoid of individual personality or distinction. I think what has made Vampires so compelling to us is that they reflect parts of humanity back to us, and here they are just beasts. Even the presence of a Queen vampire lacks any impact. Karl Urban plays a priest who has been transformed into a vampire of sorts and serves as the central villain. Like too many modern takes on Vampires he doesn't seem to be affected by exposure to light (though the beast/vampires do).
Lots of showy martial arts style fighting and blade throwing are serviceable but lack real bite. There's hints of some kind of theocratic intrigue with Christopher Plummer and Alan Dale that might have been very interesting but just occupy a pointless edge of this tale. Even the production design is muddled - Why must future architecture all look like an oil refinery? Oh and if you're going to put Cam Gigandet in your movie, take his damn shirt off

Watch on the Rhine

Bette Davis gets star billing but is really a supporting character in this film which won Paul Lukas a Best Actor Oscar (beating out Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca no less). They play the Mullers, a family who has been wandering Europe for 8 years fighting against the Fascist juggernaut. They've come to Suburban Washington DC to visit Bette's family (she is an American married to a German). There are other guests as well and they aren't such characters of nobility. While so much of this political thriller is specific to it's time, the moral choices and dilemmas faced by the characters is still gripping and thought provoking. Lucille Watson, who played Mary Haines' mother in "The Women" sort of expands on that performance in a delightful turn as Bette's wealthy gabfest of a mother. I think Lukas probably won the Oscar more for the nature of the role and it's cultural relevance in 1943, than for his actual performance which struck me as merely serviceable.

Kind Lady
Kind Lady(1951)

A period home invasion thriller with Ethel Barrymore as a wealthy art patron who is taken captive by a creepy Maurice Evans (Samantha's father on Bewitched and Dr Zaius!) with the help of Angela Lansbury serving up full cockney realness. A bit tepid by the standards of even films made within the next decade.

Limitless
Limitless(2011)

Bradley Cooper stars in this sci-fi thriller about an amiable loser who is given a pill which allows him to access his full mental potential. The film is well made and original, Cooper is charismatic, but ultimately the movie doesn't pack much of a wallop. A mildly interesting diversion.

Light in the Piazza

An absorbing drama about a mother played by a very regal Olivia de Havilland, who has taken her gorgeous but mentally disabled daughter Clara, played by a stunning and delightfully charming Yvette Mimieux to Italy to escape her daughters ripening adult needs. In Florence they meet Fabrizio Naccarelli, a handsome young man (George Hamilton - who is a stunner too), and a romance develops between the two young people. Rossano Brazzi shows up as the charming and romantic Signor Naccarelli, Fabrizio's father who helps nudge Mrs. Johnson towards acceptance of the budding romance. Is Clara capable of an adult relationship? Can Mrs. Johnson relinquish control? Will love conquer all? Felt fresh despite it's age and the massive shift in sexual morality and the treatment of the disabled since the early 60's when this was made.

Paul
Paul(2011)

From Simon Pegg and Nick frost of "Sean of the Dead" fame, and Gregg Mattola the director of "Adventureland" comes this spoof of Alien invasion and encounter movies and television. Simon and Nick are vacationing British sci-fi nerds who meet an alien (the Paul of the title, named after a dog he killed when he crash landed on Earth in the 40s) on the run from government agents. Kristen Wiig absolutely steals the show as Ruth Buggs a sheltered fundamentalist Christian whose eyes are opened and world expanded by Paul. Wiig has a fireside scene that is worth the price of admission. Made me laugh throughout, though it did take a while to gather some steam. I saw several of the gags coming, some like 30-40 minutes before they were finally dleivered, but I still found them and the whole movie satisfying. Oh and note to Hollywood: putting an ELO song at the end of your movie nearly guarantees the audience will leave happy.

Mars Needs Moms

A right wing conservative fantasia where a radical feminist separatist society has destroyed the traditional family unit and must pillage the nurturing instincts of real "mothers" from Earth to supplement what was lost when they abandoned the nuclear family for a matriarchal society. A colossally stupid film and even worse a visually ugly one. Sometime these GGI animated novelties can dazzle with their bravura mastery of beautiful animation, or some technological leap that the viewer can latch onto. Here the motion capture "humans" are hideous, and along with the pathetic story the film is laughably bad. I'm laughing AT the film in disgust, not laughing with it in joy. I'm an absolute sucker for a story about love saving anything, and yet this just made me feel dirty. Some hippy dippy crap is thrown around to try to throw progressives off the scent of this reactionary traditional family values nonsense. Just horrible.

Battle: Los Angeles

Let me say it up front, this is no alien invasion classic, but it is a enjoyable action adventure film, with fairly modest goals, that manages to maintain a steady if not intense level of tension throughout. Battle: Los Angeles is not adding anything revolutionary to the sci-fi genre, it borrows heavily from the major cliches of the form, but sometimes those things are cliches because on some level they work over and over again. This is really more of a war movie, the Aliens, their ships, that's all besides the point. What we do in this movie is follow a group of soldiers fighting a battle that could just of easily been in Afghanistan or Vietnam, or Germany. The film misses the opportunity to give us something rich and interesting in the characters of the individual soldiers, they are lightly sketched out and are played by a talented but woefully underutilized group of actors, many familiar faces from TV. Aaron Eckhart is the only movie star in the bunch, and he manages to hold it together and deliver a solid perfromance despite not being given anything special to do. While there is nothing that elevates this to 5 star sci-fi or war movie classic status, it is not an abject turkey (look back to Skyline for something that is a real lazy sci-fi effort). Worth seeing on the big screen for the fun above average special effects (again more effective than Skyline). You'll have fun as long as you don't expect the world.

The Adjustment Bureau
½

Is there Free Will? Are our lives all part of a plan. If so who makes the plan and keeps us on track. Matt Damon is a young Congressman who veers off path and has to be adjusted. He sees behind the curtain and this causes trouble. He falls in love with the wrong person and is uncontrollably drawn to find her despite dire warnings. Will time and space collapse? Will his destiny, hinted at being important to all humanity be thrown off? I liked this one, it lacks the edge of your seat thrills it needs to be a classic, but was a nice distraction. And if there is someone in charge of our plans, can I make an appointment for an adjustment, cause right now I can't believe this is what's supposed to happening.

Summertime
Summertime(1955)

Katharine Hepburn plays a frigid American spinster who still harbors a bit of romance in her heart as she journeys to Venice. Her conventional mid-Century American morality is challenged at every turn, people she likes are leading lives that shock and offend her. And finally she is challenged by the unavoidable chemistry with the handsome Rossano Brazzi, an antique dealer who woos her into submission and self-discovery. Venice is captured in all it's beauty and is a true character in the film. Romantic and well acted. Hepburn is at her most charming.

Georgy Girl
Georgy Girl(1966)

A little trifle from the 60's with Lynn Redgrave as an overweight girl who is in the shadows of her more glamorously pretty roommate played by Charlotte Rampling. James Mason is the horny old millionaire who on one hand tells Georgy he thinks of her as a daughter and then presents her with a "Mistress Contract". It's dated, and the end is actually kind of sadly depressing, when I know that wasn't the intent, but worth a gander.

Rango
Rango(2011)

Stunning computer animation and gorgeous cinematography created from zeros and ones with the help of the great master Roger Deakins are just the beginning of the delightful and satisfying charms in this wonderful gem. Johnny Depp is a nameless chameleon (the Lizard with No Name if you will), a family pet, who is stranded in the dessert after his terrarium falls from a car on the highway. Depp's lizard eventually takes on the name "Rango" in a kind of con, and embarks on a journey of spiritual discovery, adventure, political intrigue and the exploration of the power of imagination, perception and heroism - yes all of that, in a strange and richly detailed world that is an homage to the entire Western genre with some Chinatown and the Big Sleep thrown in for good measure.
Easily in my opinion Gore Verbinski's best work. He had gone into horrific excesses with his Pirate's of the Caribbean films, the last of which was nearly unwatchable. The voice talent is great, with Verbinski's creative partner Depp tearing it up to perfect as Rango, Ned Beatty serving up a heavy dollop of John Houston as the evil Mayor, Harry Dean Stanton, Alfred Molina and even Timothy Olyphant (who had been on my mind through the whole film because Deadwood was all over this film) pops up giving us a salute to that other Man with No Name, Clint Eastwood as the spiritual embodiment of "the West".

Between Two Worlds
½

A bizarre cinematic relic about a group of passengers on a cruise to eternity who have to be judged by Sydney Greenstreet to determine their fates. Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus from Miracle on 34th St) is the steward on this twisted voyage. Truly weird.

Cool Hand Luke

Paul Newman mesmerizes as the ultimate anti-hero in this classic prison film. In the 70's it seemed there was a movie every month, especially on TV that showed the horrors of Southern Prisons, to this day I have an aversion to the South out of fear of being mistakenly imprisoned and thrown into the "box" for any reason. All these films wanted desperately to be as beautifully crafted as"Cool Hand Luke".
The entire cast is filled with what seems like a rogues gallery of character actors who would dominate cinema and television throughout the 70's and 80's. Look It Pa Walton, There's Harry Dean Stanton - you know Andie's Dad from Pretty in Pink, Oh Hey that's Trapper John McIntyre from M*A*S*H, and on and on. Every one of them is great.
Movies like this once inspired us to liberalize Prison conditions and gain an ounce of humanity and some control over our instincts towards cruelty of the downtrodden or rule breakers. Maybe we need a contemporary reminder in our "Tough on Crime" obsessed political times.

Take Me Home Tonight
½

Oh 80's nostalgia. Why is it so hard to execute? Last year we were tortured with the pathetic "Hot Tub Time Machine". That film failed for me not only because it wasn't all that funny (a comedy crime) but because it was so sloppy and cartoony in its 80's detail and production design. This 1980's coming of age tale gets the details almost completely right. As a child of the 80's myself I found it pitch perfect (well there is a little issue with a Madonna/Whitney Houston display that was off by 2-3 years, but otherwise perfect). The soundtrack was fantastic.
But while the production design and the music worked, sadly the narrative just kind of laid there flat. I didn't hate it, I was never bored, but I never laughed and was not moved emotionally by the film. Topher Grace is good, and in a revelatory scene, shirtless, laying on a trampoline, has become my sexy celebrity of the week. I just wish there was something worthy of his talents.

Amarcord
Amarcord(1974)
½

Fellini's sentimental (in a good way) look at life in a coastal Italian town during the Fascist period. Colorful and engaging, I was reminded of films that clearly were influenced by this one like Cinema Paradiso and Radio Days. I do think that both of those films realized their narrative goals better and are more enjoyable overall. The characters are wonderful and that Fellini visual style where everyone looks a bit like over painted whores is very present. (There is a whore in Amarcord and she is depraved to the point of madness). Delightful.

Barney's Version

Paul Giamatti leads this comic drama about a schlubby misanthropic TV producer and his love life, most particularly the pursuit of his great love. The performances are pretty good and the main reason to see the movie, with Dustin Hoffman chewing up some scenery as Barney's uncouth ex-cop father, Minnie Driver as a shrill wife, and Rosamund Pike giving an unusually low key low glam performance as his great love. Oh and Scott Spellman is a sexy beast!

The Broadway Melody

The first Movie musical and the first talkie to win Best Picture is a stinking mess by today's standards. The performances are strange, the direction is shockingly bad, the editing and transitions are worthy of a 10 year old's first try at Windows Movie Maker. Does have a couple memorable songs, but even the staging is an embarrassment. The film's big production number "The Wedding of the Painted Doll" is poorly and stiffly framed in a largely static shot and the choreography is a joke. I honestly had a hard time believing it was actually a professional production of performers who might have been considered the best in their fields.
Saw on video

Broadway Melody of 1936

Amazingly this Hollywood trifle about a Broadway producer, his ambitious High School sweetheart and a gossip columnist who harasses them while they try to mount a big Broadway show holds up. The songs are great including "You Are My Lucky Star", "Broadway Rhythm" and "Sing Before Breakfast." and the production numbers are top form. Even the humor manages to still be smile inducing if not laugh out loud funny.

We Were Here
We Were Here(2011)
½

An excellent documentary that remembers and reminds us what it was like to be in San Francisco and Gay in at the beginning of the AIDS era. Told by a group of survivors and care givers who recount a time when Gay men where dieing in alarming numbers and being Gay felt like it came with a short expiration date. Reminds me that the LGBT community acted with compassion while the outside world of politics and religion acted out of fear and bigotry. This film is particularly important if you are under 35 and you probably have little concept of what it was like to be Gay in an era when you felt like AIDS was a kind of inevitability.

Blow-Up
Blow-Up(1966)
½

Antonioni's masterful film about a photographer who shoots a murder without realizing it. Captures the "swinging" London of 1966 with perfection. The thriller aspects are patiently reeled out and the slow burn discovery of the crime by the witness is alternatively frustrating and fascinating. Enthralling. I loved the way it captured the world of a photographer and how they see the world.

Unknown
Unknown(2011)

It's winter so time for Liam Neeson to kick some butt in a European city. Set in Berlin, Unknown is a watchable, just entertaining enough memory loss, swapped identity thriller. Neeson is a solid action adventure presence, Diane Kruger is nice as a cab driver who helps him in his search. Sadly January Jones is wooden as Neeson's wife (or is she?). Something is just a bit off and prevents the movie from being exceptional in any way.

Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids(2011)

A comedy that starts with a funeral for someone who died of autoerotic asphyxiation is frankly right up my alley. This smart (dark?) comedy with a huge heart is a comic gem. I haven't loved a comedy as much in years. Ed Helms and John C Reilly are at the top of their game here with solid and grounded performances from the entire supporting cast. You never knew that the Midwestern Insurance business had such a dark corrupt underbelly, or that the underbelly could be a source of such rich comic fodder. If this had come out in 2010 it would be on my Top 10 for the year. I love it love it love it.

The Company Men

A well acted film about the effects of corporate decision making and lay offs in our current economy. Sadly never packs the emotional wallop it needs to in order to add up to much more than an agreeable mildly hopeful drama.

Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

How this film got nominated for an Oscar is a great mystery to me. This is a bizarre, deadpan, creepy turd of a film. I really don't understand what the point of this was. A Father, for no apparent reason other than he can, has isolated his children inside a rather mundane home inside a tall fence. They've grown to young adulthood with no other influences other than his purposeful lies. Little Kittens are man eating threats to safety. Airplanes are tiny toys just out of reach. Leaving the compound must be done in a car, and only the Father ever leaves. An outsider is brought in to satisfy the completely dispassionate sexual urges of the son. The kids compete against each other in silly games of endurance. None of it adds up to much in my mind. It's obscure absurd allegory and the entire audience of the screening I saw it with was reduced to befuddled laughter, not because it was funny, but because we were all so mystified as to why this thing was getting accolades. I swear reviewers just think they're supposed to get this thing so they're giving it positive reviews.

Another Year
Another Year(2010)
½

Mike Leigh directed another marvelous deeply realistic character study. Ostensibly about a year in the life of a happy and happily married couple played by Jom Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, but really more about the miserable life of the people around them. Resonate deeply with because of the stunning, tragic a heart breaking performance of Leslie Manville as Mary, a coworker who is facing late middle age with the realization that she is utterly alone. I died a little inside with sympathy for her.

The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)
½

From the animators who brought us The Triplets of Belleville and an unproduced 1957 script by legendary French mime Jacques Tati. Like Triplets there is almost no dialogue. Didn't engage me at the level that they achieved with Triplets.

The Way Back
The Way Back(2011)

Sweeping and epic in scope but disconnected and weirdly constructed story of a group of prisoners who escape a Stalinist prison in Siberia and walk to India. Peter Weir is capable of much better. The cast is all solid, but the direction leads them astray.

No Strings Attached
½

A dud of a romatic comedy. The main thing I learned is that Ashton Kutcher really isn't that hot at all. Sad looking ass, the face isn't that much of a head turner. I can think of 2 or 3 dozen people I know in real life who are much hotter. pointless

Biutiful
Biutiful(2010)

Irritu is a talented director with big ideas. Perhaps he needs to reel it in a little. The focus of this slightly overlong look at LIFE would have been better served to leave all the side stories alone and concentrate on Javier Bardem's central story. Bardem is stellar, but the film overall is not at his level. The film manages to make Barcelona ugly in it's grim realism and insistence on presenting only the underclasses. Their stories are more than worthy but somehow this film kind of misses some essential beat that left me not quite emotionally invested enough to really connect or care in the way that I at least hope Irritu intended. If he didn't intend for us to care what was the point?

Frozen
Frozen(2010)

It's totally "Open Water" on a ski lift, but this surprising little thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat. The dialogue is not terrific, the performances are merely adequate, but I totally bought into it all. Worth a peak on video.

The Rite
The Rite(2011)
½

Never quite scary enough, but never an outright disaster, this latest entry in the exorcism genre is a moody distraction on a winter day. Anthony Hopkins commits fully to his supporting role of the wizened veteran of the ancient Catholic art of casting out supposed demonic possession. I'm always slightly bothered by the conceit of these films, you basically have to buy the existence of god/devil and Catholicism to some degree, but hell I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings and that was all nonsense too. Just wish the Catholic church's destructive impact on the world were as fictional as Sauron's.

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)

I am not a big fan of inspirational sports films, and the appeals of the barbaric and disgusting sport of boxing are beyond my understanding. However, David O'Russell manages to make this film all about the characters and they are something to behold. Christian Bale steals the film in a manic, frenetic explosively wild performance as the crackhead brother of the main character, that is my favorite male performance of the year and will surely land him a much deserved Oscar if there is any justice. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are OScar worthy too as the women on either side of Mark Wahlberg's main character, tugging him in different directions. The delightful big haired Greek chorus of trashy sisters are caricatures to be sure, but big fun (they would make a fun group Halloween costume, though I'm afraid they will by out of our consciousness by next October).

Tron Legacy
Tron Legacy(2010)

An expensive glossy stinker of a film that follows 28 years after another expensive clunky stinker of a film. Worth it only for the stunning production design and score by Daft Punk.

Tangled
Tangled(2010)

A return to form from Disney. Broadway caliber songs and vocals help make this a major charmer of a "Disney Princess" Fairytale film, (a form that had lost it's way in the last decade) with a strong action/adventure element to draw in the boys. Abandoning 2D animation in favor of CGI and 3D help make it feel modern and add excitement. Great voice performances from Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore and Donna Murphy make it a new standard bearer for Disney.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)
½

The Coen Brothers are at the top of their game with this new take on a classic Western story. Jeff Bridges chews up the scenery as Rooster Cogburn the role that won John Wayne his Oscar. The revelation is newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross a fiesty and wise beyond her years 14 year old determined to exact her piece of revenge for the murder of her father. Matt Damon proves again that he is Hollywoods most reliable workhorse actor as the "other" Marshall along for the ride. Gorgeous cinematography and a wonderful script are just further ingredients making it one of the top films of 2010

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

A shocking and amazing film about the struggle for artisitic perfection and the price that can be paid for it. Natalie Portman is Oscar bound, and I expect the film and Aronofsky to in competition too. Truly the most disturbing and deeply effective film of the year. Stunning

Burlesque
Burlesque(2010)
½

I love Cher as much as the next Feygele but girlfriend I want more from my divas than this limp mish mash of Cabaret, Chicago, Moulin Rouge and Showgirls. The film is an emotionally flat experience that even the dozens of slutty sparkly costume changes couldn't save. The highlight of the film is a butt shot from male lead Cam Gigandet who I am officially inviting to sit on my face. A musical needs great songs and there isn't a strong contender here. For die hard queers and Christina Aquilera fans only.

Megamind
Megamind(2010)

A mildly amusing, rarely actually funny action/comedy/animated film that squanders the talents of it's voice actors. While liberally stealing from Pixar's the Incredibles this is NO PIXAR FILM. Elicited exactly one half hearted laugh from me.

Centurion
Centurion(2010)
½

A compelling and entertaining action adventure tale, with plenty of blood and guts. The violence, though pronounced never comes off as gratuitous, but just a reflection of the brutality of war and survival on the frontiers of the Roman Empire. I loved that the film made no simple black/white presentation of good and bad. There were political and historical lessons, but they don't weigh down the story, it never feels didactic or merely a history lesson.

Michael Fassbinder and Dominic West are great. Olga Kurylenko is creepy and a bit horrifying as the mute Pict tracker out to kill the centurions.

The cinematography is beautiful and is the strongest element of the film.

In general, much better than any big Hollywood action film I've seen in 2010.

The Social Network

Superb writing, direction, cinematography, and performances, not to mention a great score make the dramatization of the origin story of Facebook into one of the great defining stories our age. "The Social Network" is amazing.

Catfish
Catfish(2010)

I can't say too much without ruining the journey this documentary takes you on. I'll just say that it is very good, entertaining, thought provoking, and a bit disturbing. See it!

I Am Love
I Am Love(2010)

messy, strange, surreal, and deeply beautiful. I spent the first half hour wondering what rock the director crawled out from under where he had apparently never seen another movie before and didn't understand some basics about how to frame a shot and tell a story, but by the end I was in awe of the unique haunting emotional tone, the brilliant performance from the always amazing Tilda Swinton and was convinced I had just witnessed something entirely original and near genius.

8: The Mormon Proposition

A fascinating, compelling and heart breaking recounting of the Mormon Church's 15+ year covert battle to deny Gays the right to marry and specifically the multi-million dollar push behind the Prop 8 fight in California in 2008. The film relies on objective proof (documents, video, audio broadcast, campaign training films, eye witness testimony and commercials) of the Church's involvement. Also explores the harrowing emotional and psychological toll the Church's decades long obsession with homosexuality has had on it's Gay members.

While the film confirmed what I already understood to be true from my own personal experience as a former member of the Mormon Church and with the campaign as it played out in real life, the film never the less had fresh lessons to teach me about the campaign and new ways of inspiring me to action as a Gay man.

My only criticism of the film is that the films focus is entirely on the Mormon Church's involvement in the campaign and I would love to see a complete holistic examination of the campaign from both sides as I do believe that there were failures on the Equality CA LGBT side of the fight that contributed to the success of the Mormon Church's campaign.

A must see for anyone interested in civil rights, politics, the separation of church and state and LGBT issues.

Where the Wild Things Are

If you love film, you must see "Where the Wild Things Are". Spike Jonz has managed to make a children's book into an honest, wonderfully sophisticated, emotionally complicated tale. It is visually stunning and inventive, with a fantastic performance by a first time child actor. This film will likely be considered a classic. I will say that young children will likely not enjoy it, in fact will probably be bored by it. It's really more of an adult film and deals with issues that are more mature than most films targeted to adults.

Amelia
Amelia(2009)

I realized during this snoozey biopic film that despite being a history buff and caring about the contributions of women, I knew little about Amelia Earhart other than that she disappeared mysteriously. This movie made me realize there was little else to know, and that any attempt to make the rest compelling was doomed to be a boring bunch of obvious montages of cliched flying headlines and simulated stock footage about a series of boring to watch and learn about flights, broken up with bits about the world's least compelling love story. Her flights might have been thrilling back then, but so was flag pole sitting. Hillary Swank is a good actress and does the very best she can with this stinker. The films failures lie firmly in the hands of Ms Nair and whoever thought this story was worth telling.

A Serious Man
½

Philosophically bleak black comedy features really wonderful performances from little or completely unknown actors. The art direction is a flawless as that on Mad Men. It's also easily the most Jewish film ever made. While not a crowd please, if you love the Coen Brothers' viewpoint you'll enjoy this film. I can't wait to see it again.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

While filled with some interesting visual treats and creature effects, and an all star cast this lightweight "horror" action adventure tale is for the kids and so clearly meant to spawn a franchise that it's distracting. I didn't hate it, but it had stretches where it was actually a bit dull and in the end didn't add up to much.

Splinter
Splinter(2008)

Keep it simple. That is the lesson to be learned from this very effective little horror film that is creepy, tense, and scary. This is old fashioned horror film making, by that I mean it doesn't rely on whiz bang eye busting effects, baroque supernatural spectacle, inhuman serial slasher murders, or a retread of a hit from the 80's to get me to curl up in a ball on the sofa. It earns my chills by just keeping it simple, a small group of people locked up against an attack from a creature of unknown origin and unknown capability, with little to protect them. If you are a horror fan you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore still has it. The right wing will be loosing it's shit trying to parse apart some individual scene in this film instead of focusing on the philosophical truths of the film which are rooted in Democracy and American fundamentals. Moores films are never about the individual facts, but about broad concepts and ideas. Informs, entertains, and riles me up. The blame goes to everyone in this film. Now hopefully Obama will live up to the hope Moore places on him, and we - all of us at rank and file citizens- will rise the challenge of holding our government accountable.

Zombieland
Zombieland(2009)

Everything I expect from a zombie comedy. You turn your back on American culture for a few minutes and suddenly zombies are hot on the heals of vampires as the cultural zeitgeist of choice. Arch, funny, witty, unique, original, with little surprises and lots of fun. A top notch cast of indie players lead by the dry and delightful Jesse Eisenberg propel this one along. Good clean zombie fun on a Saturday afternoon or anytime.

Transsiberian

It's so rare to see thrillers these days that don't seem all hatched from the same old Hollywood egg. This little gem trusts it's characters and story to take you on a great little ride without any predictability. I won't tell you much about it other than to say it makes you rethink those travel plans for an adventure across Russia. Emily Mortimer in particular is fantastic, but all the performances are strong.

Extract
Extract(2009)

Mike Judge has wonderful eye for a certain aspect of American life. He's not afraid to expose for our amusement our selfishness and the stupidity that we often employee in it's pursuit. Jason Batemen is great trying to grab his slice while swimming through the detritus of everyone else's own journey. Features the world's longest bong hit and lots of laughs.

World's Greatest Dad

Dark, smart, character driven comedy with a strong performance from Robin Williams. I can't say too much about the film's story because I would ruin the movie for you, but if you like deep dark comedy, don't mind profanity and love seeing sentimentality skewered see this little gem.

Taking Woodstock

A mostly forgettable, but well crafted film not about Woodstock, but sideline personalities at a motel in desperate need of customers. The movie just never takes off. The best thing about it is the acid trip scene, the most realistic I've ever seen captured on film. I didn't hate it, didn't love it.

The Final Destination

I blame it on the heat Saturday. The theater was air conditioned. I haven't seen any of the films in this franchise. This was completely silly and we laughed at each improbably gory kill scene. You just cant take this shit seriously. The 3D added to the laughs. Oh the boys were cute - it did have that going for it. I felt almost like could reach out and tweek their nipples

The Cove
The Cove(2009)

A disturbing, gripping and highly entertaining documentary about the Japanese slaughter of 23,000+ dolphins a year in a sheltered (from public view) cove in Taiji, the conspiracy of silence that protects it, and the Japanese efforts to keep the slaughter going through bribery and manipulation of the world's whaling regulatory body. Works like a thriller as the activists, lead by Richard O"Barry attempt to merely witness and film the slaughter and fight off the concerted efforts of the fisherman and the local authorities who do everything to stop them, and who come off as major film villains. Highly recommended.

My Life in Ruins

A not very funny, not very romantic little trifle of a romantic comedy that is the kind of movie you rent in a hotel room or watch on a plane when you've seen everything else on-demand and still have some good will left for Nia Vardalos left from her "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" days. Pretty much everyone's potential is wasted, but because they're all pretty great talents with enormous charm the film manages to avoid being awful.

Sex Positive
Sex Positive(2009)
½

An interesting documentary about Richard Berkowitz, a largely forgotten and unsung AIDS and Safe Sex activist (and in full disclosure a Facebook friend). The film brought back memories of the bad old days of the early 80's when the epidemic was still a mystery to all of us and all "insight" into the disease was guess work and conjecture, and every decision we made needed to find balance between life and death issues, civil rights, personal freedom, raw emotions, common sense and logic. We have Mr Berkowitz to thank for our earliest understandings of how to protect ourselves from HIV, ideas that still hold true, even if all his ideas about the origins and causes of the disease haven't borne the brunt of time any more than many of the earliest ideas of other figures in the crisis. The film breaks no new ground in the documentary form and is told in a very straight forward informative style. Berkowitz's mother Dottie provides comic relief and Mr Berkowitz is an intelligent, articulate man of contradictions, at once a symbol of liberation and a victim of it.

Inglourious Basterds

Is this the world's first Jewish revenge fantasy exploitation film? There might be others out there, I just don't know about them. All the violence ( I had to look away a couple times) and great dialogue that I've come to expect from Quentin Tarantino. It's lesser Tarantino, but still great fun. Brad Pitt channels a wonderful old fashioned bravado that seems part Clark Gable, part John Wayne, and Christopher Waltz is great as the "Jew Hunter", a creepy Nazi SS officer in charge of ferreting out the last of the Jews hiding in France and bedeviled by Pitt's band of Nazi hunting (and scalping) Jewish American Soldiers. If you are looking for any real WWII history look elsewhere, because this exists in it's own special fantasy universe where the war plays out quite differently than it did in reality.

District 9
District 9(2009)

Drop whatever you are doing and go see District 9. It is easily my favorite fiolm of the year so far. It had me captivated from the moment it started and didn't let go of me until it ended. There was literally not a false move for me in this film, mo lagging points, no characters I could do without, no scene that could be trimmed. An original Science Fiction film that shines high beamed lights on Racism, Human Rights policy, the treatment of immigrants, corprorate greed, the military industrial complex, and how the media and public are manipulated by false information. The aliens are ugly, but the humans are the real monsters. Sharlto Copley is great as a corporate functionary tasked with eviciting aliens from their South African township slums to an even less desirable location. The CGI is astounding, the aliens which I am pretty sure are all CGI creations are so corporeal and real particularly in the most intimate scenes. Just amazing. Can't wait to see it again.

Bakjwi (Thirst)
½

A unique Vampire film, primarily about the tortured nature of the main character and his relationship with a young married woman. There are some moments in the film that are great and some purposefully funny stuff that works just enough for me to like the film. Sadly it fails to reach greatness by having a drearily slow first half, a second half that is a little messy, and has distractingly ugly old fashioned cinematography that reminded me of cheap 70's B movies, but in a bad way.

Humpday
Humpday(2009)
½

I guess I just don't get it, perhaps I'm just not hipster enough. Critics have been going on and on about this thing. When did bad acting, a rediculous inauthentic unbelievable premise, terrible dialogue, ugly cinematography, unattractive slobs without their clothes, fake insight, and non-stop talking in place of anything happening ever add up to a good film? Sundance audiences, WTF? That probably sounds like I hated this more than I did, I just found it to be so average. There was nothing to hold onto in this entire film, and I can only guess that the film criticism world dominated by hetero men as it is, thinks this is a daring examination of male sexuality or something. I just thought it about as revelatory as it's two male leads are sexy. I actually think I preferred watching Ghosts of Girlfriends Past on the plane.

The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

A silly retelling of "A Christmas Carol" in romantic comedy form that I sat through on the flight from Sf to Toronto yesterday. Very strange concept. Matthew McConaughey plays a schmarmy man whore who, in the thesis of this film, is doomed to unhappiness if he remains single and denies love. As usual the life of a single person is treated as empty and soulless by the Hollywood film machine. I wish Hollywood would make a film where the single person acknowledges the existence of love, but still finds happiness with themselves. The film could have gotten an extra star if McConaughey was naked more, since there's little or no acting required of the script. What happened to his career?

Paper Heart
Paper Heart(2009)

If I had to categorize this film I guess I would call it a romantic comedy documentary. It's obstensively a documentary about love that has a slightly too inauthentic feeling and clearly acted out romance stuck into it for very little good reason. In fact the thing that kind of wrecked the movie a wee bit for me was the set up romance between Charlyne Yi, (the actress who interviews the subjects in the documentray portions) and Michael Cera. I loved the interviews with real people and the wonderful little reenactments of their stories using little puppets. I did laugh mnay times and there are little nuggets of truth to be had, but ultimately I left wondering what it was that the filmmakers thought I was upposed to take from it.

Julie & Julia

You know a film about food is successful when you leave the theater with a hunger for the particular cuisine in the film gnawing a hole in your stomach. I left the theater with my friends and headed straight for a Cafe Claude and had wonderful Soupe a l??oignon, followed by a perfectly cooked and delicious Paleron De Flanchet. Yummy. Julie & Julia is exactly like that meal: yummy, satisfying and delicious.

Meryl Streep perfectly captures the buoyant enthusiasm, humor and discovery that was Julia Child, she is just awesome to watch. Amy Adams turns in another accomplished and delightful performance as a contemporary woman who learns a little something about herself by cooking all of Julia's recipes. Jane Lynch even turns up as Julia Child's sister and holds her own against the massive talents of Meryl Streep. Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina are both husbands you want to eat alive, both sexy in their own right and the lperfect foils for their wives. It's not the greatest film of the year, but it is the feel-good-film-of-the-summer and I expect it will be a huge hit. I'm already looking forward to owning it on Blu-ray and 3watching it over and over, it's that kind of movie.

In the Loop
In the Loop(2009)

A funny well acted political satire about how the power and career ambitions and varying levels of incompetence and skill of government functionaries from the bottom to the top (but mostly mid-level) feed the march towards war. You'll not know whether to laugh out loud or cry into your hands at how sadly true this film probably is.

The Hurt Locker

Much has been made politically and culturally of the lack of popularity of films that directly or indirectly deal with the Iraq war. Frankly I think the biggest factor is the fact that all of the narrative films largely sucked. Finally a film on the subject to admire. Great award worthy performances anchor a taut and fascinating story about explosive experts in Iraq. A deeply satisfying film experience that let's you draw your own conclusions about the war driven entirely by beautiful and thoughtfully drawn characters.

500 Days of Summer
½

It's not perfect, but for me comes very close. Charming, quirky, self aware, cinematically referential and reverential, filled with truth and fun and pain and joy and the entire roller coaster that can be love. I really love this movie. I often hate when directors or writers play with narrative structure because it usually doesn't work. But when it does work, as I feel it does with this film it infuses film with excitement and energy. This film uses the familiar tropes and cliches of romantic comedies and love stories to get to the way we all feel inside about the process of a relationship, even one that is not ultimately a success. Wonderful soundtrack use. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues on a very exciting career trajectory that reminds me a bit of Johnny Depp, and Zooey Deschanel is the pixie-ish anti-pixie love interest. I left with a bit of joy in my heart and a little tear in my eye.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A very strong installment in the film series. Visually at the top of the heep, with stunning special effects, brilliant production design, and gorgeous cinematography. The cast has settled and matured beautifully into their familiar roles. Jim Broadbent gives a delightful performance as the new professor at Hogwarts, and Allen Rickman is the standout among the series regulars of brilliant English actors. That spotlighting of English acting talent is one of the things I love most about the Potter films. The addition of raging hormones into the student body, complete with secret make out sessions in dark corners of the Hogwarts complex gave the film a nice maturity. The wondrous, but empty kiddie delights of the first two films is thankfully well behind us. Wish I could have seen it on an Imax screen, but the dreadful Transformers was still clogging up Imax screen time this opening week.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
½

A surprising documentary about Steroids. Told in a compelling and very interesting personal way. I feel like I really learned a great deal about Steroids and it even changed many of the ideas I ad about them prior to watching it. Brings up some very fascinating ideas about sports, politics, drug policy, vanity, masculinity, fame, success, personal happiness and self esteem and how all these things are entangled in what it is to be (particularly) a man in America. I recommend it highly.

Bruno
Bruno(2009)

Vulgar, controversial, intermittently funny, & far too infrequently hilarious. Never reaches the gut busting comic and satirical heights of Borat. I was only mildly offended by one theme that appeared twice in the film (the very tired alleged gay fetish for gerbils) which I thought was a bit much. I'm perfectly fine with a friendly exploitation of Gay stereotypes, because I do believe Cohen's point of view to be come from a Gay friendly place, so calls that this film is somehow bad for Gays are frankly pathetic and misdirected (Vitto Russo's Hollywood is long past dead). What disappoints me is that it feels less organic than Borat did, and so many of Cohen's provocations fall flat. He doesn't go far enough with the Christian Gay reparative therapist and the only moment that exposed the depths of American homophobia was the African American audience of a talk show and the white trash crowd scene at at a cage match late in the film the only two moments that he truly fucked with people's expectations and caught them off guard.

Public Enemies
½

Excellent on every level. Michael Mann proves once again that he is one of the modern greats. Johnny Depp's performance is great, Marion Cotillard proves she can successfully transition from the unknown foreign Oscar winner to American cinema and nearly completely erase her accent (in fact I think people who do not know she is French will not realize it here, how many American actors could pull off working seamlessly in a foreign language?), Christian Bale is the most reliable workhorse in film, and there are so many great moments from a really spectacular cast of familiar character actors. The digital cinematography gives the period film an immediacy and contemporary relevance it might otherwise have lacked, and is really beautiful. The scenes among trees are really beautiful, if a wee bit theatrically lit.

A really great American film that I think might just end up on some year end lists and be a staple come awards season.

Whatever Works
½

Middling Woody Allen for sure, but that makes it superior to 90% of American film. Larry David steps into a role Allen originally conceived for Zero Mostel in the 1970's as a misanthropic physicist to solid effect (Mostels death prevented it from being made). Patricia Clarkson and Evan Rachel Wood are wonderful and funny as southern women who bloom under David's unlikely life tutelage. Henry Cavill who has a small role as a love interest is hot hot hot and worth the ticket - someone make a shirtless flick with this young man right away!

The Good American

An interesting if cinematically stale doc about Tom Wiese, the founder of Rentboy.com and man behind the Hustlaball parties. Chronicles his last days in NY after 15 years as a illegal alien and "good American" captialist and philanthropist, and his return journey to Berlin (where because of regressive and homophobic immigration laws he will likely have to remain for a decade). takes a few side explorations into a couple of the escorts who advertise on his website and includes some nice sexy images. Overall thought the film lacked anything other than an interesting person behind it. It never really went anywhere. In an age when documentary film making has become so exciting and filmmakers have devised so many new ways of telling us these stories, this straightforward approach is a little dull.

Moon
Moon(2009)
½

One the hardest thing an actor can do is have to pretty much single handedly carry a film, with no other actors to work off of. Sam Rockwell gives an award worthy performance as an employee of Lunar Industries nearing the end of his 3 year contract working on the moon, alone. With only the company of Gert, a computer voiced by Kevin Spacey, Sam (also the characters name) battles loneliness with model building, intermittent and long delayed communication videos from his wife and young daughter, and the hope of leaving in 2 weeks. The 3 years is getting to Sam. Is he seeing things? Is there someone else with him? What happens if Sam gets hurt while away from the station? Rockwell has only incidental scenes (memory flashes) with other actors and delivers a performance that runs the gamut from joy to near insanity. Just wonderful.

The film is gorgeously shot, the special effects (apparently done a very tight budget and clearly done with models) look great, the music is perfect and the film feels much bigger than it actual is. An ambitious and out of the mainstream Sci-fi set psychological drama. A hugely rewarding film.

An Englishman in New York
½

John Hurt reprises his role from the 1975 "The Naked Civil Servant" as Quentin Crisp, a flamboyant outrageously visible gay man (he would say homosexual). The film cleverly picks up Quentin's story the night after the debut of "The Naked Civil Servant" and follows Crisps journey to NY and the joys and perils of becoming a celebrity as a wit , bon vivant, and gay icon. Hurt's solid performance anchors the film, and the his story is interesting, but the film never reaches greatness. Nice supporting turns from Swoosie Kurtz, Cynthia Nixon, Jonathan Tucker and Denis O'Hare are all fine but ultimately unremarkable. There was something missing from this film. Emotionally it never really grabbed hold. I would recommend it to any LGBT person (all queers need to know about Quentin), or anyone curious about the last great one-liner spouting wits. They don't make them like Quentin anymore.

Rudo y Cursi
Rudo y Cursi(2009)
½

Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna together again! Winning performances are the key to the films charms. Guillermo Francella's narration frames the story perfectly. ENjoyable and entertaining.

The Hangover
The Hangover(2009)
½

Funniest comedy of the year. I laughed throughout and it wasn't just gross out humor or the man boy stuff that is starting to get old (that's right Judd Apatow and Co I'm talking to you!) it was genuinely character and story driven humor. This is a movie that will definitely make it into my Bluray collection. Ed Helms is great, Bradley Cooper continues to be the sexiest funny guy in films, and Zach Galifianakis is jock strap adjusting fantastic. So good.

The Brothers Bloom

Gorgeously shot, nicely acted, a great twisting Con of a plot. Rian Johnson returns after his gem of a debut "Brick" with this sweet film. Great casting, fantastic location work, wonderful costumes, and the film has this fantastic 1970's look and feel to the cinematography that puts me right into the mood of that great decade for film. See this movie.

Drag Me to Hell

Back in the early 80's I went to see the first Evil Dead film with a guy I had the hots for. It was sick and twisted little movie that had me alternately scared shittless and laughing. It was so confusing, I had never seen anything quite like like it, but we left the movie and had t-shirts made that said "We can't bury Shelley she's our friend", our favorite line from the movie. Sam Raimi is back to that confusing hilarious, scary form after earning box office power with the Spiderman films. This movie had a scary gross out laugh inducing gut buster at every turn. Creepy Gypsies with dental issues, demons, creepy shadows, invasive insects and each leaves you laughing with them. Just wonderful. It was exactly everything I wanted it to be. Can't wait for a sequel!

Up
Up(2009)

Wow. Pixar just keeps serving up some of the best American film out there. Up (3D) is another brilliant addition to their catalog. By concentrating first on character and story telling and then wrapping them in the world's finest animation Up entertains on every level. This time the Pixar wizards take on an adventure film with everything you need from one; exotic locales, fantastical transportation (two forms in this film they even threw in a dirigible!), new species of animals, a villains out to destroy our heroes. This film satisfies. Simply amazing.

Terminator Salvation
½

I had a solid good time with this. The first 2 Terminator films, particularly Terminator 2 are classics of sci-fi action adventure, and ground breaking films. This new effort captures the spirit of the first two films (helping us to forget the pathetic third installment) and nicely sets up the mythology for further sequels. Christian Bale is solid, but the real story here is Sam Worthington, my new robot boyfriend. Hubba hubba. He's the focus and delivers a compelling performance with an undeniable screen presence. This man is a star baby. I miss a really strong female character, part of what I loved about the first two films, but this was great entertainment. Top notch special effects.

Angels & Demons
½

slightly better than the "Da Vinci Code" which preceded it to film (while following it to print), but the bar was so low that it would have been pretty hard not to do better. While I found them to be entertaining page turners as books Dan Browns stories just don't sem to translate well to film, and it's a shame that otherwise talented people are wasting theri time with these projects. The CGI is bottom of the barrel and Rome never looked so bad. At least Tom hanks got a haircut.

Female Trouble
½

I saw Female Trouble on the big screen at the Castro last night. It was probably the 100th time for me. Along with "Desperate Living" this is John's Water's funniest, most transgressive film, and most emblematic of who he is as a filmmaker. The first of his films that had a truly coherent screenplay that has a quotable line every two seconds and was more than just a loosely connected series of gross outs. The film also has a cast of iconic weirdos and outsiders played to perfection by the familiar cast of Dreamland actors, with the brilliant Divine, Mink Stole and Edith Massey leading the pack.

Visually the film delivers with Vincent Peranio's sets, and the fantastic costume designs of Van Smith (I would kill for a couple of Divine's dresses, and Aunt Ida's cat suit is the stuff of legends). And has there ever been better hair in a film?

Amazingly beyond the non-stop "Oh no he didn't" comedy there is actually some real content here about crime, celebrity, & the definition of art.

This movie is not for all audiences, but if you have a dark sense of humor and aren't afraid to look full on at the dark underbelly of the American Dream, then this cult classic will delight.

Outrage
Outrage(2009)

Powerfully lays out the case in favor of outing. It very clearly demonstrates why closeted politicians are the enemy, and shows that outing them is not only an important tool in defeating a political opposition that seeks to destroy us or cynically use as a fodder for their own careers, but that it is effective in turning them around as human being s and political allies. Also addresses to a lesser extent the way the media colludes in keeping the closet doors shut firmly for our public figures while casually exploiting heterosexuality. It'll make you want to punch Mary Cheney in the face, and there is a particularly nauseating bit with W's face that forced me to literally avert my eyes from the horror that is George W Bush.

Little Ashes
Little Ashes(2009)
½

I liked this movie just enough to feel like I hadn't really wasted a couple hours of my life, but not much more. The film was a bit too rambling and each scene felt disconnected from the next. The performances were fine if not spectacular and maybe that was the problem with every aspect of this film; it was just fine but never spectacular. It had the possibility to have a Merchant Ivory vibe to it, and it did capture a bit of that look, but with downmarket cinematography. For all the talk about how erotically charged this film was supposed to be I found it to be rather tepid and non committal. I'm also sick of films that are about a Gay love affairs or relationships and then have graphic female nudity, and a heterosexual sex scene but only hint at what's going on with the Gay couple whose story is being told.

One more note: Shouldn't people who haven't actually seen a film be banned frm reviewing it? More than half of the reviews on this site are from people reacting to the marketing or the mere idea of this film, or of their precious Robert Pattinson playing queer, not the actual film itself.

Every Little Step

I'm a huge musical theater fan, and a bigger fan of "A Chorus Line" the genius brain child of Michael Bennett. This wonderful doc takes us behind the scenes of the casting of the recent revival (which I had the enormous pleasure of seeing in it's pre-Broadway run here in SF a couple years back), and to a lesser degree behind the scenes of the creation of the original masterwork. It's like a DVD extra to a Broadway musical. The film would be more successful if they managed to connect a little more emotionally with some of the auditioners, and there was little suspense for me since I did see the production so I knew who made the cut the minute I saw them audition,but all in all I really loved this look behind the curtain of the creative process behind a product that I love. This doc also made me cry 3 times. I'm a total sap.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)

Every hope and high expectation I had that JJ Abrams would be able to restart the legendary Sci-Fi series and make it completely fresh and relevant to a new generation of film goers while staying true to the source materials spirit and legacy was brilliantly realized in this enormously enjoyable and entertaining film. The new Star Trek offers everything I needed: stunning special effects, good acting, a decent script, great casting, and characterizations that stayed true to the things that we loved about the original cast, but made them entirely new. Most of all it landed upon a story that credibly set the stage for a whole new time line of adventures that will free the screenwriters to write in the spirit of the original without being hamstrung by what is at this point an almost overly developed back story. The film has captured the essence of who these characters have always been to us is , a sense that it is fated that they be together to accomplish something, now I can't wait for the next one, or to see this one about 3 or 4 more times.

Auntie Mame
Auntie Mame(1958)

Decided to write a review since I just saw Auntie Mame on the big screen for the first time on Friday May 8 at the fabulous Paramount in Oakland. I have seen the film 3 or 4 dozen times, and it is one of my all time favorite films.

This adaptation of the Patrick Dennis novel, turned stage play, turned film, (and eventually to be come a stage musical and then a tragically miscast film musical) is pure fun on every level. Rosalind Russell absolutely was born to play the eccentric Mame Dennis who transforms the life of her orphaned nephew Patrick. Mame lives a life on glamor, romance, never ending redecoration of herself and her home, and is above all a person who deeply understands that, as the film's signature line says "Life is banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death" and lives by the mantra every day of her life. The film is subversive, progressive, campy, gorgeous, witty and hilarious, with humor that even 50+ years on still makes an audience laugh.

The monologue about a tragic ping pong tournament alone is worth the price of rental or admission.

This film is partly responsible for making the kind of Gay man I am today, it left a profound imprint on me as a young boy and has been a ritualized favorite of mine since.

To borrow from John Waters, if you don't like this movie, there's really something wrong with you.

X-Men Origins - Wolverine
½

A middling enterprise with passable if unspectacular effects, and a decidedly run of the mill story about a hero I couldn't feel more unconnected to. What was so wonderful about the first two X-Men films, a relatable story about a group of outsiders who happen to have the powers to save us all if we'll just get over ourselves and let them, is utterly missing here. This film's greatest crime is that it is so ordinary. It's your average everyday comic hero film with nothing exceptional beyond Hugh Jackman's decidedly sexy physical presence to recommend it. It's basic popcorn fare, but there are at least a dozen superior films of this genre.

Crank 2: High Voltage

This is some crazy over the top funny awesome shit, and I mean that in the nest possible way. This is pure nonsense, and Neveldine & Taylor are sick twisted brilliant mad scientists of cinema to create such a fun time at the movies.

Observe and Report

Sorry kids but whatever hipster justifications you spin about this being satire and such this just isn't a good movie. It's not only not funny, but actually boring in stretches. I love my comedy dark and satirical but this just doesn't work. Grotesque, borderline offensive (not in a good way). The only people who laughed in the theater I was in laughed not with droll intellectual introspection on the cleverness of the satire, but in inappropriate disturbing glee at scenes of date rape and violence. People who like to paint this as John Waters-esque, or the next "Big Lebowski" are out of their fucking minds. This film is a steaming pile of mentally disturbed bullshit. If this means I don't get to play on the hipster doofus film geek playground I 'll live.

State of Play

This is an excellent, intelligent, socially and politically relevant adult thriller. The performances are universally top notch and there are so many great actors giving them. WHile many people are focusing on this as a portrayal of a dying medium (the print media), I don't want to ignore what it says about corporate intrigue and the privatization of essential public resources that are best left to the government where at least there is some over site and accountability.

I'm not sure it will end up with any Oscar noms at the end of the year, but it is a wonderful, thoughtful, adult diversion to the stream of crap in theaters right now.

17 Again
17 Again(2009)

Let's chock it up to the heat - I needed an air conditioned theater after work yesterday. The theater was nice and cool and the comedy was tepid at best. Zac is undeniably pretty, and the producers did give us a wonderful sweaty shirtless scene (Wow is he cut!) in the first 5 minutes, though it was marred by a fugly wig that distracted from his glorious cum gutters. The film is just bland pablum that never warrants a laugh, the worst crime a comedy can commit.

Monsters vs. Aliens
½

A solidly entertaining B movie with some whiz bang visuals. I Had a fun time, I laughed a few times, and the big showdown at the Golden Gate Bridge was very well done, but Dreamworks relies too much on pop culture gags and yuck yuck jokes to ever reach the sublime heights that their Pixar competition hits with almost every film. See it in 3D for sure. Not sure I'm going to be running out to by this on Blu Ray when it comes out.

The Great Buck Howard
½

A mildly amusing indie comedy with some big talent, but no big punch. I recommend it for rental, and even then it's not very exciting. I liked all the preformances, the mood, the run down 3rd rate locations but it just never took off for me.

Adventureland
½

Ignore the marketing, and let this gem stand on it's own subtle merits. It's being sold as another "Superbad" but the comedy is not loud and bombastic as in that great comedy, but more quiet and cerebral here. It's really almost more of a drama. It's a wonderful story about a bad job, a memorable summer, and young love played pretty straight against the backdrop of the decrepit past it's prime amusement park of the title. The comedy is left to the supporting cast, especially Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. But the central story is wonderful and full of the heartbreak and optimism that is the hallmark of young love. It's played very real, not as a fantasy, and it's filled with pitfalls and errors and mistakes. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as the intellectual not quite a full geeky, not cool really guy trying to make enough money to get out of the world and trap that Adventureland symbolizes.

I went in expecting to laugh my ass off, but was very happy instead to have seen a great little movie.

Sunshine Cleaning
½

If not for the enormous and awesome powers of charm and charisma of Amy Adams and to a lesser degree Emily Blunt this film would be kind of forgettable. THey are both very good here as sisters who find various levels of salvation and self discovery cleaning up chunks of brain, and pools of blood from crime scenes. It wears its indie status on its sleeve, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but I don't think I'll be remembering much about this film later in the year. Oh, the one revelation: Steve Zahn has a nice ass.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

Stylish, beautifully shot, interesting, but at the end of the day a just slightly above average film. The original graphic novel may have set the tone that lead us on the path to The Dark Knight, but the Dark Knight has shown us what is possible with this genre in film, and this film just doesn't get there. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, and it is worth seeing on the big screen because it's visuals are it's strongest aspect. It's just not all that.

The International

An entertaining thriller with wonderful locations, and exciting action. Clive Owens is so good at these kind of roles. No deep emotional development, but highly effective screen presence. exercises a little vicarious whoop ass on the financial sector.

I'll likely forget this film in a couple months, but it was a good Saturday diversion.

The Class
The Class(2008)

So refreshing to see a film about an inner city school that isn't about how the inspirational teacher saves the students. Realistic and wonderful performances from a wonderful cast of young untrained actors. Examines the racial class and generational gaps in contemporary France wonderfully.

Taken
Taken(2009)
½

The only thing really saving this movie from turkey status is Liam Neeson's presence. The film is otherwise completely ridiculous, improbable, illogical and frankly silly. The first 30 mins are useless. The efficient 90 mins length could be dropped to 60. Don't bring your brain.

Coraline
Coraline(2009)

gorgeous and wonderful especially in 3D. Darker than I expected and a pure joy to behold. Henry Selick is a mad genius. I've never seen 3D used with such magical results, no mere gimmick here, it ads depth and well dimension. I will have to see this again in the theater and I'm sure this will have a place of honor in my DVD collection.

Waltz with Bashir

a heartbreaking and sad documentary drama hybrid about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and a subsequent massacre told with stunning and original animation. A wonderful examination of memory, war, guilt, responsibility, regret, duty, and humanity. Politics and the particulars of the events aside, this film has interesting things to say about being a witness to tragedy and what responsibility you bear as a witness. Really wonderful film.

The Reader
The Reader(2008)

I sure love me some moral complications and ethical conundrums. The Reader serves them up in delicious portions. Left me with so much to think about that applies to todays politics, our own daily lives.

Kate Winslet is on a roll. She's 2008's best actress not only individually for her work here and in Revolutionary Road, but for the combined impact of both.

Revolutionary Road

A recent study claimed that romantic comedies ruin our ability to have realistic expectations about the nature of love and relationships, something that I'm inclined to agree with. Revolutionary Road is the antidote.

I loved this film. Instead of a standard issue "here's how they meet, and fall in love and where its lead" story, we are thrown right into the thick of an established relationship that is less than perfect. Frustrations, stifled dreams, sacrifice of self and disappoint are all over this couple, side by side with a settled in and unromanticized love, responsibility and partnership. Kate Winslet proves she is one of the best actors working in one of my favorite performances of the year as the wife who has a proposal to save their relationship and their happiness. Leonardo DiCaprio is rock solid as the husband who has given up something, but even he's not quite sure what, to the pressures of male expectations and husbandly responsibilities in the patriarchal sexist world of 1950's America. The supporting cast is also from top to bottom in top form.

This film does not whitewash what we all know to be true, but that has never been so beautifully and starkly portrayed on film before. I believe the only reason this film is not sitting at the top of more critics top lists is that to admit this films truth is to admit that the myth of the American family as the route to fulfillment and happiness and the beautiful foundation of society is just that, a myth. This is the years most subversive film. Genius.

Battle Royale

What would happen, if for no reason other than adults are just sick of how disrespectful these kids are today, the government decided to kidnap radomly selected groups of classmates, set them down on an island, provide each with a unique and random weapon, and gave them 3 days to fight to the death with the possibility of only one survivor? That;s the premise for this entertaining if not very cleverly delivered cult film from Japan.

This movie is nothing to take too seriously. THe hyperviolence is campy and over the top in a way that is laugh inducing and was clearly influential to the Tarantino's Kill Bill film. There are little tiny kernels of interesting concepts that might have given this film a wee bit of gravitas and meaning, but none if it goes anywhere. Instead it is a bloody silly romp where these average teens kill themselves and each other off in a 3 day gore fest. The actign is terrible, and if the actual script is as lame as the horrible translations displayed in the subtitles it's a real sticnker, but it manages to be entertaining and never dull. Some good laughs including the films final line from the battle's winner.

For fans of wildly over the top violence, and film enthusiasts interested in a film with some influence over current film.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler(2008)
½

I have never had to avert my eyes from a film so much since I was dragged to Hostel a few years back. The discomfort in this case was completely worth it though. Mickey Rourke is phenomenal and heartbreaking as the title character and Marisa Tomei removes any doubt that she is an award worthy actress. Evan Rachel Wood continues to build her own legacy of strong performances too. Aronofsky clearly likes his audiences to squirm, but he always finds compelling and fascinating stories to tell. Another triumph for all involved.

Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding)

An Oscar nominee from last year (Best Foreign Language film) this is a wonderful Danish character study about family, loss, regret, and redemption. A challenging and rewarding film.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
½

lyrical, haunting, emotionally rich and truly unique film with possibly Pitts finest performance and another gorgeous turn from Cate Blanchett (one the best actors working) and a wonderful supporting performance from Tilda Swinton. David Fincher continues as one of my favorite Directors. The technical aspects of this film are amazing. It stays with you for hours after you leave the theater. Just delicious.

The Tale of Despereaux
½

boring. A literal snoozer, but the kids were quiet (they probably fell asleep). The animation style was lovely to look at.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie(2008)
½

A middling historical flick structured as a suspense thriller with a disappointing outcome that everyone knows going in. Cruise is ok, but distracting. The supporting cast is the best thing about it, but not compelling enough for me to recommend seeing it in theaters. Wait for the DVD rental or better yet cable screening.

Bedtime Stories

I was forced to see this with the family on a holiday visit and it was exactly what I expected; a lame excuse for Adam Sandler to continue his tired borderline retarded man-child routine. Even special effects of fantasy sequences can't save this turkey

Slumdog Millionaire
½

Danny Boyle continues to grow as a great storyteller, and a great filmmaker is this magical Dickensian fairytale set in firmly in the contemporary realities of Modern Mumbai. Inexplicably rated R (the MPAA is belched from Hell!) this is an wonderful romantic and heartbreaking story. Colorful, gorgeous, well acted, compelling, and though it doesn't exactly surprise you in the end (this is after all a modern fairytale of sorts) it is unexpected in how the journey unfolds. A delight!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

Just when you thought there was no innovative way of talking about the horrors the Holocaust specifically and the general insidiousness
of the banal and friendly face of racism, facism, hatred and bigotry comes this small scale gem. An intimate family drama told through the eyes of a child. It is not the fell good film of the season for sure, but packs an emotional wallop that I do think every family should take their children over the age of 8 to. Give your kids a little credit, they can handle it. It will require a frank discussion of history, but they will be richer people for it. Lovely performances across the board. It's not an epic like "Schindler's List", but a more reflective personal film that I actually think is far easier to relate to on a personal level. Few of us would ever have the kind of power or opportunities that Schindler had in a similar situation, but all of us would be faced with choices about how to conduct our family life, careers, and whether we turn a blind eye to hatred going on around us and allow propaganda to infect our lives.

Milk
Milk(2008)

Wow. Harvey Milk is one of my heroes. I was inspired by his dedication and sacrifice to get involved in activism when I was 18 back in the 1980's. This film masterfully pulls the best parts of what Harvey stands for in my mind and puts them on the screen for a new generation to be inspired by, and for those of us who already know his story to be inspired anew. Penn gives and Oscar worthy performance, and the film too is easily a contender for Best Picture. The script is genius. Bravo to all involved. I have no complaints, no criticisms of it. I enjoyed it on so many levels, it was just a pure inspirational joy for me.

Australia
Australia(2008)

I'm a huge Baz Luhrman fan. I enjoy the theatrical stylized artifice of his filmmaking, the way he revels in the unreal cinematic possibilities of film - not reality. But it was that very aspect of his style undid this film. It's gorgeous, the costumes, sets and cinematography are superb. It's a colorful painterly joy to behold. Hugh Jackman has one of the sexiest moments in film history when he bathes campside. Kidman is exquisitely beautiful and all the performances are strong, but something just doesn't gel. It feels so phony that I never felt fully engaged. The film held me at arms length. The worst touch was David Wenham as the film villian, who was so over the top EVIL that he was just ridiculous.

Twilight
Twilight(2008)
½

A waste of an afternoon. I see vampire films on principle and this is my least favorite. On the positive side I did enjoy the things it added to the vampire mythos. The actors are attractive. But otherwise the film was handicapped by a terrible script, bad special effects, a horrendous score (worthy of a bad Lifetime Network movie of the week" and a complete lack of passion or sensuality. It failed utterly as a vampire film, and even worse failed as a teeny bopper romance.

Bolt
Bolt(2008)
½

A surprisingly strong film from the non-Pixar folks at Disney. Sophisticated top notch computer animation and a very engaging story and characters made it a fun time a the theater. You don't need kids to enjoy animation when the product is as strong as this. Thankfully Miley Cyrus' obnoxious celebrity personality is masked by her merely being a voice here. The movie would have been unbearable had she been "visible" in the role. I t allowed me to pretend that it was someone else.

Quantum of Solace
½

The Bod film standard bar was set very high by the wonderful Casino Royale. It was almost inevitable that almost anything coming after that high point would be a bit of a let down, and for Bond purists this may be a bit too contemplative and emotional. THat siad I think this is fun. I was frankly weary of the cheesey gadget obsessions, the over the top sexism and bad dialogue of that had become the hallmarks of Bond films. Daniel Craig's Bond is a man with real motrivations beyond the next lay and a blind robotic loyalty to Queen and Country. I like this Bond, who does his job magnificently but still has time to consider the human element. The action sequences are beautifully done and the cinematography is top notch. The film is low on silly gadgetry, but big on lustrous action. locations, sophistication and humanity.

C.R.A.Z.Y.
C.R.A.Z.Y.(2005)

What a delightful surprise. A sophisticated and beautifully made coming of age/family drama with great performances at all turns. Colorful, fun, touching, real, and best of all ultimately hopeful.

Role Models
Role Models(2008)

An enjoyable and funny enough comedy whose laughs come from a very juvenile, but no less funny for it sensibility. This does not rise to the level of recent comedy gems like 40 Year Old Virgin or Superbad, nor is it subversively funny like Hamlet 2. I did laugh and that's what I want most from comedy. Paul Rudd is the old reliable of 21st Century comedy and he wrote this film. Sean William Scott has accepted his type casting and roles with it here, though plays the straight man to his funnier co-stars. I will say not incidentally that Sean William Scott is still a sexy motherfucker. The best laughs come from two sources Jane Lynch who's finely honed mildly psychotic woman in charge act is presented in one of its best incarnations here as the "you can't bullshit a bullshitter" founder of the Big Brother type organization the protagonist are court ordered into. The other amazing scene stealer is the casts youngest, Bobb'e J Thompson who curses and bullies his way through every scene to great effect. Christopher Mintz-Plasse who was genius as McLovin in Superbad, actually manages to make you forget that character with his nice turn here.

Let the Right One In
½

Simply amazing. Original in almost every aspect. Just when you thought there was little new that could be mined from the Vampire Genre, this gorgeous Swedish film shows everyone how it's done. Truly horrifying moments combined with a wonderful thoughtful coming of age story. Kare Hedebrant anchors this film with a fantastic performance as Oskar the bullied outsider who falls for the eternally 12 year old Eli.

Bends our expectations of horror, vampires, love, loneliness, gender, sexuality, and beauty. Will Hollywood turn this into a pedestrian remake starring the Jonas Brothers and Hana Montana? Probably, so see this in its original form now!

RocknRolla
RocknRolla(2008)
½

Honestly I was thinking Guy Ritchie's whole sensibility was very played out. To mind mind he was one of Tarantino's apostles, the British one. I enjoyed Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels but really didn't think we needed another addition to the genre. Surprisingly I was reminded of why I enjoyed the others so much. It was pure fun. And in many ways I enjoyed this one even more. I felt that the characters were more interesting, the plot more cohesive the story more interesting. In fairness it's been awhile since I've seen his other films so maybe they just aren't that fresh in my mind. Tom Wilkinson continues to confirm his status as one of the top actors working today and every performance was perfect. Guy has an eye for sexy men too - and shoots them well.

Changeling
Changeling(2008)

Clint Eastwood has in my mind become one of the most consistently good directors in Hollywood, who occasionally delivers greatness. Changeling isn't the best of his work, but is a very good film. He transports us thoroughly to 1920's LA and the story is never predictable. Jolie gives a rock solid potentially award worthy performance. There were things in this movie that truly surprised me and the story was always gripping. A rock solid effort.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Kevin Smith matures as a filmmaker in this dirty, nasty, sweet delight of a romantic comedy. Seth Rogan redeems himself and proves he's not "over" just yet. Elizabeth Banks solidifies herslef as Hollywood's go-to actress for comedy. Jason Mewes gives an unforgettable monologue on the most unlikely of subjects (Smith just loves his homoerotic exchanges among straight men that never come off as cheap or desperate). Justin Long steals the film in one scene that is worth the price of admission. A great fun time at the movies.

Happy-Go-Lucky

Mike Leighs naturalistic style gets the comic treatment in this examination of the irritatingly optimisitic Poppy played with brimming good cheer by Sally Hawkins who I previously knew from BBC produced period films. She's starkly different here. Her performance bothered me in one respect; that she seems to be doing a Ricky Gervais imitation, she uses his exact speech rhythms for every line delivery and once I placed it, it was a bit annoying.

As usual Mike Leigh deleivers a realistic, naturalistic view of a slice of humanity. He's often been bleak, and here the sun is pouring from Poppy's every pore, or is it? The Flamenco teacher steals the film and her scenes give it it's biggest deepest laughs.

Rachel Getting Married
½

Ann Hathawy's Awards worthy performance is the main reason to see this. I can't decide if Lumet and Demme are genius for capturing the sheer boredom of attending a wedding, or if it was just boring for long stretches. Demme has been making documentaries for the last few years, and uses that style here to great effect. This feels like a very real family gathering, and it is very intimate. Overall not the most exciting movie of the year by a long shot, but Hathaway should get her appointments with Rachel Zoe booked for Awards season, she's going to need a lot of beautiful gowns.

Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye(2008)
½

Was surprised that this film was as entertaining as it was. It's fairly predictable, and it's issues are spoon fed (though still relevant). Shia has real charisma and given the limitations of an average script he still manages to shine. I enjoyed myslef but don't ever need to see it again.

Religulous
Religulous(2008)

Insightful, hilarious, allows religious nutcases, people of "faith" and true believers to hang themselves. I personally find the idea that faith is beyond criticism or examination to be the fall back position of people who KNOW their beliefs cannot be defended. We need more of this voice in a world were as the film points out we can no longer, for our own safety as the human race, tolerate religious zealotry and it's excesses. And that religious moderates create an atmosphere of acceptance that allows the zealots to run wild.

The Duchess
The Duchess(2008)

Its popular these days to dismiss Keira Knightley and make fun of her constantly appearing in costume dramas. Only problem is that she's generally good in them. The Dchess is no exception. A gorgeously shot and designed telling of the true story of an 18th Century proto-celebrity and proto-feminist Duchess who imacted fashion, social trends and politics but was privately trapped in a loveless marriage by sexist laws and social conventions. It's a fascinating portrait of a woman struggling with love, desire, sacrifice and duty.

Ghost Town
Ghost Town(2008)

Ghost Town is a midling average comedy that utterly squanders Ricky Gervais. The laughs are of the "isn't that cute" variety. Oddly stodgy and too sentimental. Please someone tell Gervias to stop wasting time doing these ordinary Hollywood films that don't use his acerbic dark wit well.

My call to Gervias; Get the to an indie project that does for screen comedy what your TV work has done for TV comedy - revolutionize the way I look at it!"

Burn After Reading
½

A deliciously absurd and dark comedy from the evil genius of the Coen Borthers. Face it, they are better filmmakers than 90% of people working today. This isn't Fargo, No Country, or Big Lebowski level work, but was a fun if slightly uneven ride, with a hugely talented cast. Everyone is unlikeable but that is the point so it works. George Clooney can have me over to ride his home carpentry project any day.

The Women
The Women(2008)
½

The original is one of my all time favorites and I was prepared for this to be a train wreck. Maybe my low expectations influenced my final impression, but I had a good time, I laughed out loud many times. It is flawed: the direction is weak, the performances are not up to the talent of the actresses and the script lacked the punch of the original, but it was good time at the movies. Straight me will hate it!

Incidentally the theater was packed. Looks like another potential commercial triumph for movies targeted at women and gay men.

Man on Wire
Man on Wire(2008)
½

One of the most interesting and entertaining documentaries I've ever seen. There's no reason this should work. I really couldn't possibly care less about the antics of a circus performer with delusions of grandeur, but this is a suspenseful, funny, amazing, inspiring movie. This man has huge balls!

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)

I saw Wall-E for the second time on Labor Day and was reminded again of what an astoundingly beautiful and ambitious film this is. I can honestly say that it's one of my favorite screen love stories. The central relationship between Wall-E and EVE is so touching and funny and gets right to the heart of what love can be.

The film's other messages about human husbandry of earth, consumerism, and corporate domination of the planet may make it contemporary and relevant, but that love story is what will make Wall-E resonate for generations.

Elegy
Elegy(2008)
½

Ben Kingsley's strong performance is the main reason to see this, and Penelope Cruz gives one of her most credible English language performances. Be warned that the film is very slow, but I do recommend it.

Ne le Dis  Personne (Tell No One)

A very nice thriller, seems the French are becoming the masters of the genre these days. Andre Dussollier's performance anchors the film perfectly. Has a wee bit of a "the Fugitive" vibe, but is far more rooted in reality. Unpredictably satisfying and delicious.

Tropic Thunder
½

far from perfect, but solidly entertaining and funny film with good performances especially from Robert Downey Jr. I Have an inexplicable soft spot for Ben Stiller (I think I used to think he was oddly sexy maybe..) and he continues to charm me for some reason.

Hamlet 2
Hamlet 2(2008)
½

The funniest movie of 2008 so far by a comfortable margin. I laughed out loud throughout, and isn't that the ultimate test for a comedy?