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Movie Ratings and Reviews

The September Issue
½

The September Issue, the documentary aboutVogue Magazine and its Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour is sure to rustle the glittered feathers of the fashion industry. It is not that it is a wildly controversial film or even a blown open expose on the industry itself. It is quite the opposite. It makes fashion and fashionable people...wait for it...human.

What we are presented with, by director R.J. Cutler, is the human side of these fashion divas. Anna, although strong handed and sometimes down right cold, has reasons for why she is the way she is. Did you know her father, Charles, was also an editor of the Evening Standard in England? Did you know she has a daughter that doesn't want to pursue her mother's path and who finds the fashion industry silly? I didn't either.

What also is so endearing about the film is the cast of characters that surround Ms. Wintour from Grace Coddington, the former model and now Creative Director behind Anna to Thakoon, the featured fashion designer who inspires Anna and she him.

We are able to follow the crazy and cut up world of trying to put together Vogue Magazine's largest annual feat, which is the September issue of their publication. I do not use the word "large" lightly. By the time the 2007 issue, which the film is based on, went to print it weighed over four pounds, reaching an audience of thirteen million people and was and still remains the biggest issue the magazine has ever produced.

To say this film is not put together like your average documentary is a gross understatement. There really isn't a centrally guided narration to the piece but more of a voyeur approach to documenting the day to day operations of producing the publication.

If you are looking to find the Anna Wintour that inspired the character of Miranda Priestly in the movie The Devil Wears Prada you will not find it presented here. In fact, even though there are brief interludes that portray that, the film makes Ms. Wintour out to be more of a quiet recluse than a raging, well you know what. This is most assuredly attributed to the editing and pairing down of the documented film.

By the time the film is over you are left with the feeling of being able to view numerous more hours serving as a fly on the wall in the halls of Vogue Magazine. You are left wanting more, which, in the world of fashion, is always a good thing.

Observe and Report
½

I knew there must have been a reason why I had a funny feeling when I first saw the trailer for Observe and Report. I remember thinking yes Seth Rogen is in it, yes Anna Faris is in it and yes it looks a bit funny, but it seemed just a little too far to the side of comedy to be one. It looks like my initial feeling was correct.

Seth Rogen plays a mall cop, a "rent-a-cop" if you will and to put it very mildly he takes it very seriously. He looks at himself as a renegade, a mall version of Patton if you will and the mall his war theater.

Sounds funny right? Okay, let me pose this question though: what if there really was someone like that and you saw not only how he handled the job but his everyday personal life. Not just the funny little tid bits of how mall patrons and employees look at him but his views on the world and the world around him. Starting to get that 'not-so-funny' feeling?

This isn't to say this movie is a bad movie. Not at all actually. Yes, there are silly trademarked funny Rogen parts, but they are few and far between. What is odd and yet wildly appealing is the storyline of looking at the man we all laugh at and are plunged into his delusional world. It is scary and is a ride that at first is fun but then you begin to look for the exit signs very fast.

Ray Liotta enters the mix about halfway through the film, which is when you know things are about to take a turn to the dark side. Liotta plays a veteran detective, who although a bit menacing, is not a bad guy or a out to get anyone...except Rogen....when he pisses him off...in as up and up away as possible.

The whole movie rides a very fine rail, which it does very well, of funny, yet dark, yet strange. You are not sure whether to turn it off, look away, or play it again. It is one of the oddest feelings I have been left with after a screening in a long time. That said you may want to check it out, if for the very reason of thinking twice before you make fun of and laugh at someone, you never know what they might be thinking.

Year One
Year One(2009)

When you watch a Jack Black movie you expect a lot of sex jokes, toilet jokes, and vulgarity...and that's what you will get with Year One.

I am a big fan of Jack Black ever since I saw him in the movie Mars Attacks! He is a great funny man and actually has a few acting chops to boot. Year One, directed by Ghostbusters veteran Harold Ramis, is a what you see, is what you get type of movie. You expect silliness, stupidity and throw away lines. This isn't to say everything that comes across the silver screen needs to be cinematic excellence, there is a place for silliness. This isn't one of the best comedies of all time, but surprisingly, it is not amongst the worst.

Jack Black along with eternally uncomfortably going through puberty Michael Cera charter a course through biblical times who stumble along the path of greats like Abraham, Cane and Able, and a cast of B.C. others.

Through their travels Black tries hard to be a more responsible tribesman and Cera tries to help him along the way while trying to "lie with a woman" as the man-boy that he is.

If you want a no-brainer with a few laughs this would be that movie. Don't expect too much, but sometimes, it is fun just to pop in a movie that is nothing more than a quick romp through the dawn of civilization

Management
Management(2009)
½

I picked up this movie on a whim. I didn't really think too much about it except for the fact that it said "romantic comedy". Jennifer Aniston was in it and it would be a good chick flick for the wife. I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually pretty good.

Steve Zahn stars along with Aniston as the night manager of his family run motel, The Kingsman, out in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona. Sue (Aniston) is just passing through for a business conference when she meets the strangely nice paramour Mike (Zahn) who tries to swoon her in the only small town ways that he can. It is funny to watch, sweet and endearing.

What starts off as a quick attraction on a business trip soon turns towards love. At least with Mike. See Mike is under the belief that if you find someone you like you don't let it go. It makes perfect sense to him; therefore he traces Sue's whereabouts and shows up on her doorstep much to her surprise. What ensues is a game of "why" and why not."

The story really centers on those that follow their hearts and those that are afraid to or are fearful of taking a leap. Although quite funny all throughout, with a sideline cameo by Woody Harrelson, there are a lot of serious undertones that makes you connect with both characters.

You may not have thought about this movie too much and I barely remember it ever being in theaters, but you might want to pick this up. It is a nice little story about the people that follow true love and those that recognize true love but are scared to follow it.

Where the Wild Things Are
½

Poor little Max. No one pays attention to him. He is a boy with a very active imagination and all he wants to do is play. His mother is struggling to keep her job, his sister is busy being a teenager and his father is no where to be found.

After a fight with his mother, Max runs away only to find himself on a distant island where he meets new creatures that become his friends. The wild things.

Maurice Sendack's beloved childrens book has been made into a major motion picture by director Spike Jonze. In any other director's lens this story might not have had the artistic value that Jonze brings to his films such as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. This movie could have easily found itself amongst the many childrens movies that are simple Saturday afternoon flair. I am happy to report that is not the case here.

What is really such a simple story speaks volumes, not only in the book version, but in the movie version as well. Since the book is extremely short the movie clearly needed to be fleshed out. This is done meticulously well to stay within the lines of the book. The book flows seamlessly into the movie version. Like all movies with animatronic characters, etc., one must suspend their beliefs for the length of the movie. If you are one to pick apart the fact that creatures like the wild things do not exist this is absolutely not the movie for you.

The voice actors are brilliantly cast with actors such as Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper and none other than Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini as Carol. Each actor voices their respective creature perfectly. It will be hard to see pictures of these creatures both in movie stills and in the original book and not think of their voices after viewing the film.

What also plays a separate character in the movie is the soundtrack. The soundtrack that Jonze has chosen to use is nothing you would expect. Using the sounds of Karen O and the Kids brings such a simplistic, alternative lullaby you almost can reach out and touch the notes. It accents the pictures on screen to a tee.

The movie, like the book, is quite simple. There is not a lot to it. What you see is what you get. However, this is very welcomed and refreshing, especially for such a beloved tale. The simple lines speak volumes and the volumes they speak are very simple.

You will take away from the film what you want and will imagine it to be what you will. Such are childhood dreams.

Land of the Lost

I remember growing up on Sid and Marty Krofft. If you don't know what I'm talking about then you probably think the movie Land of the Lost is a new concept.

Well kiddies, back in time around the time of the dinosaurs there was a variety show called Sid and Marty Krofft's Superstars. One of the shows they had was called Land of the Lost. It was a semi-serious show, or at the very least, it took itself seriously about a Professor and his family that get lost in time and take on dinosaurs, sleestacks and cope with their new surroundings.

Fast forward to 2009 where we find Will Ferrell starring as Dr. Rick Marshall who invents a time machine sort of contraption. Before you know it Marshall, Will Stanton, a white trash entrepreneur (Danny McBride) and Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel), all find themselves in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of nowhere in time.

What ensues is an adventure to find their way back home but also to help out with a task that the head sleestack (a fish/lizard sort of creature) needs their help with.

What I thought would be just a boring regurgitation of the old 70's show is a little more than that. It is some pretty fun humor in it, as well as some pretty good acting, if you can imagine that in this sort of film, from actress Anna Friel, who holds her own pretty good with the likes of Mr. Ferrell.

This is a fun little rental when you can't really think of something else to get. That is not to say it's not a good choice on it's own it's just a little lost. (queue cymbal crash)

Amelia
Amelia(2009)

You know when you went to watch 'Titanic' in the movie theater you thought: "well I know what happens..." and you thought why see it? However, when you did see it, you were happy you did (or maybe not) because the story and cinematic experience was good enough to keep you from just waiting for the doomed fate of the massive luxury liner. Well, unfortunately, Amelia is not that movie.

You go into the movie, of course, knowing what is going to happen, however, the hope is always that the story does not just rely on that solely, yet that's exactly what it did. This isn't to say there was no plot, story or fleshed out characters, it is just to say there was really nothing to it. The storyline is bland, boring, and very two dimensional.

Hilary Swank, once again looking like a young boy, plays Amelia Earhart, the infamous female pilot who was coined 'Lady Lindy' after Charles Lindbergh when she became the first female to cross the Atlantic. The movie focuses on Earhart's love of flying and her pursuit of the next big adventure in the skies. The story shows from a young age how Earhart was infatuated with flying and that it was her sole passion.

The movie also focuses on Amelia's private life and her relationship and later marriage to George Putnam, the author who journalizes her adventures and eventually falls in love with her. The relationship is a little rocky due to the fact that Amelia does not want to be tied down, but , at the same time, whether this fact was true or not, the movie really never gives good reasons as to why.

The film, directed by Mira Nair, seems very thrown together until the final act, when what you painfully wait for occurs. This final act is very well done and saves the move from flat out failure. If only the whole movie took the fine craftsmanship of the final act, the whole movie might have been a heavyweight, but as it is presented, it crashes terribly and falls flat.

Hilary Swank portrays Amelia Earhart wonderfully. I can't help but notice that once again Swank has chosen a role in which she looks like a young boy. I guess I am sort of saying that is what Amelia Earhart looks like to me, but, after the movie, looking at pictures of the original, I would have to say that Swank as Earhart looked more like a young boy then Earhart ever did.

Richard Gere was sort of just there in the film, he didn't take away from the scenes but also did not add to them. Same goes for Jude Law, who plays Gene Vidal, a fellow pilot and statesman. However, knowing the past performances of both of these actors, I tend to think that it is more the movie being a dud then the actors.

The one thing the movie did do was peak my interest in the whole Amelia Earhart mystery of her plane never being found after it was reported crashed into the ocean. It is mesmerizing to this reviewer that one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history (womanhunts) never came up with one shred of evidence that her plane crashed. There have been a lot of conspiracy theories into what became of her doomed flight and if it even might have entered the Bermuda Triangle. Who knows?

My interest could have been peaked just as easily from watching a History Channel documentary and I probably would have been more entertained, but this movie, is just flat, boring and drawn out.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
½

New York City subways can be stressful as it is. Late arrivals, departures, costs, crowding. Now what if John Travolta hijacked your train? That would certainly put a damper on your day. Oh sure you may ask him for autograph but it would cramp your style pretty fast to find out this isn't John Travolta at but Ryder, a just released from prison criminal who is ready to take revenge on the city he feels has wronged him in a big way.

This remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 directed by Tony Scott has that cool Tony Scott feeling that we have come to know and love. The directing style is flashy, fast and quick. The opening scene when Ryder and his men are about to take the subway train reminds me a lot of the precision directing of Christoper Nolan's work for the opening scene of The Dark Knight. Fine, articulated camera work and angles steer you right into the action and onto that fated subway car.

At the control panel hub of the subway operation is civil service worker Walter Garber (Denzel Washington). He most certainly doesn't expect the day to go any different then most days - his boss riding his ass, his humdrum job that he was demoted to after being accused of taking a bribe, and his wife telling him to bring home a gallon of milk, but fate lends a hand and next thing you know Ryder is talking to Garber via a walkie talkie and the game of cat and mouse begins.

The thing I really enjoyed about this film was the obvious dedication to the parts that both Travolta and Washington put into them. What could have turned out to be a pretty boring back and forth conversation is warded off by the sheer acting talent both of the leads put forth in their separate approaches to their parts. As much as you want Ryder to loose, you don't necessarily want Garber to win. It is a very different approach to the story and only one that in the hands of these brilliant actors with director Scott at the helm could be pulled off.

2012
2012(2009)
½

When going into watch the end of the world you can almost be sure that you are in for, at the very least, a small depression afterwards. This was not the case. In a few words the movie 2012 was sad, happy, amazing, wonderful, depressing, awful, fun, and fantastic. Confusing? Well that is what the apocalypse seems to have brought out in me.

The movie starts out like almost any other movie in the action genre - slow moving and a little boring. Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is a down and out published writer who has lost his family to another man due to his workaholic lifestyle. He now has a job as a limousine driver to a Russian billionaire. His ex-wife, Kate Curtis (AmandaPeet ), is happy in her new life, but is she? She seems to still have that small spark for her ex-husband, but who knows? Moreover who cares right? Let's get to the end of the world.

Well Earth ending friends the wait is not too long and what begins as minor cracks in the pavement soon turns to all out hell on Earth for the state of California. Jackson rushes to the aid of his family including Gordon (Tom McCarthy) the new Dad on the scene and whisks them away into an all out adventure to try and findsafety amongst the havoc.

Without giving too much away, there is something that Jackson and his family are rushing to to ensure their safety and survival. Usually in these sort ofstory lines you just know everyone will make it but the movie really doesn't it lend itself to cinematic assumptions and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat at every twist, turn and upside down twirl.

What I thought I was going to see was a overblown, Hollywood big nothing, what I wound up seeing was nothing short of a great movie going experience. 2012 will not win any acting, directing or writing awards. I have not read any other reviews of this movie yet, but, I assume they will not be that good. However, this movie doesn't set out to be the Oscar buzz of the year (at least I think so), this movie sets out to be a big screen adventure ride. A movie in which you can sit in the theater and feel like you are about of this end of the world madness all in the safety of your cushioned seat. Nothing to worry about here, yet.

Just when you thought the script would go one way, it goes another, and when it goes that way, it turns sharply up to just to head back down. Sounds like a roller coaster of sorts? It is. It is also a very emotional movie, which was sort of surprising to me. This wasn't a Bruce Willis "yippie-kay-yay" sort of movie like I thought it would be, these seemed like real people dealing with the end of the Earth as we know it. I don't know about you but that doesn't sound like nor does it look like all that fun to me. You truly do get caught up in the moment of it all. As versed as I feel I am in film, I very much had to remind myself it is just a movie.

I guess that actually was my ultimate problem/worry about the film. I wouldn't say I believe in the Mayan belief of the end of the world in 2012, but after watching the Earth fall apart quite literally under people's feet and the screaming,pandemonium, and casualties, it certainly makes one think as if they are that character in the movie who doesn't believe the truth...until it's too late.

500 Days of Summer

When first released 500 Days of Summer got a lot of attention. Of course me knowing everything about the typical romantic drama skipped it and knowing it was probably good didn't catch the film when it was in theaters. Boy was I wrong.

500 Days of Summer is definitely not your typical romantic drama. In fact in the very opening of the film the voiceover states this as the case. When Tom Hansen falls for new employee to his office, Summer Finn, his life changes forever...well at least the next 500 days. Yes folks, her name is Summer, so if you are an idiot like myself you can stop trying to figure out how they try and smush 500 days into one summer season. 'Nuff said.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a bit of a hopeless romantic who works for a greeting card company writing, what else? Romantic greeting cards. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is what one would refer to as a free spirit, a new school post-women's lib woman who enjoys life any way she wants.

The movie cleverly jumps back and forth between day one of their sordid love affair and day 500. Through this type of storytelling we are able to see the trials and tribulations and the ups and downs of their relationship. How many times have you gone back and forth in your own relationship remembering day 4 and comparing it to day 404? It is a great way of tracing how a relationship develops, or in this matter, deteriorates over time.

Both Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel give stellar performances. They really loose themselves in the characters of Tom and Summer. It is hard to see them at all because they do so well in making you feel the true empathy of who they are in the embodiment of their characters.

What I liked about this film is what I have come to despise in the real world: the modern relationship. The film clearly shows how old school (Tom) clashes with new school (Summer) and even though they seem to both enjoy each other's company and love, they are approaching it from two completely different approaches. You don't have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to know that when two people come at love in two completely different ways it is destined for failure and unfortunately someone is bound to get hurt.

500 Days of Summer takes you from the feeling of the initial love affair to the agony of the loss of love and the huge fall from such heights. No wonder there was so much buzz and attention around this film...we are all part of the new modern love affair.

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Why oh why does Hollywood waste such good talent sometimes? Why is it when you have actors such as George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges you throw them in a film that is overcooked that is tastes burnt?

Case and point: The Men Who Stare at Goats. I had only heard the bad reviews for this movie before I went to see it. Boy oh boy what a stinker. This is the first movie I have actually walked out on in a long time.

The story is about a group of soldiers that train as 'jedis' to use mind control to beat the enemy. I don't which is more stupid -- the real life concept that this actually happened or the move made about it.

The performances turned in here, the directing, the writing, and the movie as a whole is so bad that I wouldn't be surprised if it wins the Razzy this year for worst picture of the year. Of course the sadness of it all is that is so few and far between that you get such great actors all in one film.

I don't even want to go on about this movie anymore, skip it, burn it...what a waste.

An Education
An Education(2009)
½

England. The 1960s. Very stogy. Very droll. Very boring. For a young girl like Jenny (Carey Mulligan) who attends an all girl school and lives with her parents the only thing more exciting would be to watch the faucet drip. Enter David (Peter Sarsgaard).

David is a strapping young man, but not as young as Jenny. He is in his early 30s and takes an extreme liking to school girl Jenny. David not only decides to try and then later accomplishes to sweep Jenny off her feet but her parents played wonderfully by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour.

The seduction of Jenny is quite playful and one gets lost in the fun and fames of it all until you refocus and realize that David is literally seducing a school girl which is quite disturbing. Although David opens her eyes to the realities of the world both good and bad, it can't be helped but to wind up despising David and feeling bad for Jenny and her family.

The film not only captures the very real conservativenss of 1960's England but the very real feeling of the innocence of a young girl and the things she does to escape into a life of fantasy or for that matter a life of realness that is anything more than the existence she finds herself in.

I would be hard pressed not to say that Peter Sarsgaard would not get a best actor nomination for this performance. His awkwardness and brashness in this role comes across so creepy but yet incapsulating that you love and hate him all at once. In the same manner I wouldn't be surprised if Carey Mulligan finds herself walking to the podium to collect one of the little golden statues for her performance. For it is through her we experience the seduction from David and we fall for it hook, line and sinker as she does.

The movie itself is brilliant and I do hope that it continues to receive the accolades it so rightly deserves.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

When am I going to learn that as much as I want to like weird films they are nothing more than weird films. This one is a clear front runner for one of the worst of all. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus directed by Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam is simply put no good.

The film about a mystic named Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) who creates worlds in his head for people to enter their own imagination. He takes his show on the road to capture souls in his Imaginarium to satisfy a deal he made with the devil (Tom Waites.)

The film is so weird and disconnected that it is hard to hold onto it and get a grasp of it like a wet fish. I mean I get the whole artistic creativity of the whole thing, I get the quirky way of storytelling, but sometimes a movie is weird just to be weird, which this film clearly is.

Who knows if this is the film that Gilliam wanted to wind up in the can. With the sudden, tragic death of Heath Ledger, the movie came to a screeching halt in filming so that Gilliam could figure out how to move forward, if at all, with the movie. To his credit he continued casting Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farell as the Ledger role but only when inside the Imaginarium so that the character that Ledger played would see themselves "differently" inside the Imaginarium. Clever if you ask me. However this by far does not save the movie at all.

The movie does not achieve whatever it sets out to do. Again, this could be due to the retooling the movie makers found themselves having to do, but, if the original movie was anywhere close to what was finally released it never had a chance.

I can safely say that this is the worst film I have seen so far in 2010 and possibly ever. There is no reason to waste your time watching this, believe me you are not missing a thing.

Alice in Wonderland
½

"It's almost Alice but it's not the same one..." so says the Caterpillar which certainly rings true for Tim Burton's newest directorial venture into "Alice in Wonderland."
If you are expecting the platinum blonde little girl who falls down a rabbit hole only to have a few childlike adventures look away from Burton's "Alice." This Alice is a whole new tea party.

The story of Alice returning to Wonderland fifteen years after her original visit jumps right into the macabre and darkness as she enters this magical world with the entrance of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). As a child in the theater I was viewing so clearly put it upon her first appearance "why is she so mean?"

The Red Queen is the embodiment of anger and evil and is the antithesis of her sister the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) who ruled the kingdom in peace and happiness until she was ousted in a violent uprising by her sister.

The dark, murky rule of the Red Queen's empire casts a shadow over Wonderland and everyone from animals to humans are affected by her cruelty.

The whole reason for Alice to be led by the white rabbit to return to Wonderland is to fulfill a prophecy that the Caterpillar predicts of Alice slaying the Red Queen's Jabberwocky and restoring the White Queen to rule.

Alice is led to the man that most of the audience is waiting to see, that of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) who holds court around his tea party of disarray and drunkenness. The Hatter not only continues to tell her of the prophecy and her fate but also helps protects her to ensure she can pursue and execute it.

Although the film is both visually stunning and artistically mastered it does not live up to expectations of what one has come to expect from a Tim Burton film. I digress if your version of a Tim Burton film is that of "Mars Attacks!" or "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"; this movie is certainly on par with and is slightly better than those cinematic failures. I am more referring to the likes of "Ed Wood," "Edward Scissorhands," and "Batman."

A lot of the scene work, including storyline, is nothing more than a children's fluff piece. Big chases, explosions, quick edits and fair to poor writing. This is not to say this is a children's film by any means.

Although I did find myself feeling as if I was watching a glorified children's movie, there is just way too much graphic violence and dark imagery to advise taking a child to. During the screening one father took his three girls and left after an overtly violent scene. This was not billed as a children's film nor should it be treated as such.

This movie was supposed to be "Alice in Wonderland" with the Tim Burton treatment and style. The style was all there, but, unfortunately the movie fails to be anything more than a silly, two dimensional cut out of what a pop up "Alice in Wonderland" book might look like.

The saving grace of the film, just as most films he appears in, is Johnny Depp. Without his wonderful portrayal as The Mad Hatter this movie would have fell flat on its face. It is only with his pristine craftsmanship that the movie gets bumped up a higher letter grade. Even in the midst of this chaos, Depp gracefully dances through each line, jumping into the role whole heartedly without looking back. Tim Burton is lucky to have such an actor married to his directorial ventures.

Alice reels you into potential excitement only to leave you with a bad aftertaste of overcooked schmaltz. What had the chance of being one of Tim Burton's finest accomplishments turns out to be just another overly hyped, overly advertised flick that will wind up as a special edition, specially priced DVD at the local Wal-Mart next to the Mad Hatter action figures and Cheshire cat stickers. D

Zombieland
Zombieland(2009)
½

What happens in Zombieland stays in Zombieland. Welcome to the post apocalyptic world in which there are only a few regular humans left and the rest of the world has become zombies.

We are chaperoned through this world by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) as he shows us how to survive in this new existence and his list of rules that he recommends following unless ye be turned into a zombie, which he presumes you don't want.

Along the way he meets Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson) who is a character that might not have done too well in the regular world but is nothing short of a superstar in the new one. Together they begin on their adventure to nowehere. Literally. At first they set out for Columbus, Ohio, where, surprise, Columbus hails from, but once it sets in that really the whole planet has been taken over by the new zombie culture there really is nowhere to go but straight, or left, or right, it really doesn't matter because everywhere one turns it is still Zombieland.

That's not to say there aren't some surprises along the way, say in the manner of some young ladies which are in the human form of Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). These two young ladies cause some mayhem for the boys but friendship might be found at some point along the road of the living dead.

Also, in the way of surprises look for a zombie-like, ghostbuster in the form of Bill Murray which is a real high point in the movie.

I wouldn't go as far to say this is a good movie, but it is an entertaining one. It is not going to garner any Academy awards, but at the same time not every movie needs to shoot for that. The fact is this movie achieves what it sets out for, which is just fun and alternative adventure.

In the same vein of this sort of comedy, I enjoyed the movie 'Sean of the Living Dead' a little better than this one, but, Zombieland holds its own just fine and is a fun Saturday night at the movies flick if you are looking for some mindless humor.

Michael Jackson's This Is It

Imagine, if you will, a man who has the world on a string. Imagine that man to have created one of the best show stopping extravaganzas that the world would ever see. Now imagine that that show would never be seen. Never be heard. Never be launched. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was this man and his planned tour 'This Is It' was this show.

To take in the movie 'This Is It' is to watch a man who is at the top of his craft, knowing every nuance, sound, vision and clarity of what he is trying to achieve. After spending his whole life upon the wicked stage, he knows what lighting cues he wants, what notes to hit, when to fade, when to bring it, when not to and when to simmer.

Of course the great tragedy of this film is this show would never be seen. This perfect specimen of an entertainer would never been seen. With the sudden death of Michael Jackson in June of 2009 the world was left hanging. Never to see the tour that Michael referred to a little too eerily as his 'final curtain call.'

Obviously the world did get a chance to see the tour that would never be through the cameras that captured rehearsal footage for Michael's personal library and what would be concert footage. Thankfully this was done; otherwise, we would never get to see a rare glimpse into what would have easily been one of the best entertainment spectacles to have graced the world stage.

What was being planned to take off was nothing short of a supersonic blast. We all know how good Michael Jackson was at singing, dancing and entertaining. However, what this footage clearly and sharply shows is that Michael had finally reached the perfection he seemed to be always striving for. The show, crafted by Michael and Danny Ortega, was that perfect performance that is so rarely seen.

I say these things having only seen these performances captured during rehearsals on film. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like at a full thrust 100% during an actual show.

It is ultimately the great let down of watching the celebration this movie tries to be. Yes, it is fun. Yes, it is wildly entertaining. Yes, it is spectacular. However, ultimately, it is gut wrenching to watch such genius and know that only earlier this year this footage was captured and in a way will never be seen.

The great mystery of Michael Jackson as a living legend and now in death, will always capture the imagination of the world. We will always think of Michael Jackson as something bigger than life. We will always believe in the magic he cast upon us. It is this magic that will always make us continue to wonder who he was, how he came to be, and where he went.

Avatar
Avatar(2009)
½

I have heard that when Star Wars came out in 1977 that moviegoers were so blown away by the technology that they saw it a few times just for the sheer technological advancements of it all. The story was good yes, but the technology shown on the screen was so overwhelming that it had to be seen more than once.

Hyperspace yourself to 2009. Place yourself in the theater and behold James Cameron's Avatar. From the second you are launched into the Avatar universe you are immersed in the film. This is almost not a metaphor. When you put on the 3-D glasses and (for this reviewer) see it in IMAX, you are in the movie. It is almost like a ride at an amusement park but even more so.

The technology presented here is so new and so advanced that I have nothing to compare it to. It is truly something new, something I have never seen before, something far and away a new way of watching movies.

I was skeptical when I first heard that James Cameron's Avatar would change the way we as moviegoers will view films, that it would be a whole new way of the theater movie going experience. Once I saw the movie, it was easy to believe.

How do you go to a movie like this and then go back to watching movies the way we are used to. This is not to see a Merchant Ivory film should be done in the same way Avatar was, but, what I am saying is Mr. Cameron has truly raised the bar for films that should receive this treatment.

Every detail of the film is so finely crafted, from the blades of grass to the space stations, that it is flawless. I have heard a lot of people say that although the technology was amazing, the story was weak. I have heard others refer to the story as "Pocohantas in Space." I guess I just don't see it. I enjoyed the story. Not that it is the best story ever told or anything even close to that but it was good if not better than most stories I have seen and add to that the technological advancements that are beautifully achieved and you have a clear winner.

I recommend this film to any movie fan, if not for the movie itself then to see what movies have become. To think of when the motion picture first made its debut and compare it to Avatar is to see just how far we can advance ourselves if we put our minds to it.

A Serious Man

Joel and Ethan Coen are back! Now for a lot of you this means something while for others it does not. If the movies Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink mean something to you then you know all too well that their new opus is entitled A Serious Man.

From the trailer for the film it was sort of hard to tell what the movie would be about, which, true to their other trailers before the release of one of their films, is not surprising. I couldn't truly tell if this would be a comedy, drama or some derivative thereof.

Well I am here to tell you yes. Yes? You may ask. Yes is the answer. Just like other Coen brothers films you can take from it what you want. Yes, it has humor. Yes, it has drama, and yes I enjoyed it immensely.

The amazing thing about watching cult movie legends make movies is just that, you know you are watching legendary filmmaking. If the movie is good, bad or otherwise it is still part of their cinematic tapestry that will make up their filmography. That being said you truly have to put this aside and focus as if you don't know who is making the film and try to be as unbiased as possible.

The movie, about, well, a serious, or not so serious man, depending on how you look at him, is the story of Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). He seems to be living the hum-drum life of everyone in the 1960's and is neither here nor there about it. He seems bored, going about the routine of day to day living. It is, as they say, into this life a little rain must fall. With the revelation that his wife is having an affair with a family friend, his kids constant pestering, the stresses of his job, his live-in near autistic brother and his search of the meaning of life he sort of, well, looses it a little.

Larry seeks the help of his Rabbi's all with different approaches on how he should go about dealing with the stresses of his life and how he should put these practices into use. The tragedy of these helpers is that they never really help Larry, they only seem to confuse him more and make him that much more desperate to find the help he so desires.

Once again the Coen brothers put you in the driver's seat and make you feel as if you are the main character experiencing the life that the lead character on the screen is. It is extremely reminiscent of the character, Jerry Lundegaard that William H. Macy plays in their movie Fargo. As good as the brothers did with that character they tweak it just that much more in the character of Larry Gopnik.

The underlying theme in the film is that this is about a Jewish-American community in which everyone is drawn together by their Jewishness. Larry's son goes to a Jewish day school, his co-workers that seem to care for him are Jewish and his neighbors, minus one absolute stand out, are Jewish.

In full disclosure I am a Jewish-American and understood a lot of references in the film, but I am not sure general audiences will get a lot of the references. That being said, it doesn't hinder or take away from the storyline and we have all sat through films with references to different cultures in which we actually wind up learning something.

The movie is nothing short of another instant classic by the Coen's and I fully anticipate this getting an Oscar nod for best picture along with Oscar nods for Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Fred Melamed.

Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

Back in 2003 writer/director Richard Curtis became one of my favorites with his movie Love Actually. All I can say is what happened? How do you go from a movie like Love Actually, with its wonderful inter weaved, on the edge of your seat storytelling to a long, drawn out, boring movie like Pirate Radio.

The movie tells the story of how the British government tried to outlaw rock and roll from playing in the United Kingdom and 'pirates' took to the sea on a boat to broadcast the music that so many wanted to hear. This is the interesting piece of history that brought me into the theater but the way it was told was not interesting at all.

We follow the crew of DJ misfits that have made a life on the boat and have pledged their unending devotion to rock and roll and to bring that devotion to the masses. What is humorous to me is this is exactly the ingredients that this reviewer would need for an amazing film, however, sometimes, as is very present here, just because you have amazing ingredients an amazing meal is not guaranteed.

So what you may ask went wrong? I guess it is simply that the movie was very flat. The crew of misfits, although played by the extraordinary talents of Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rhys Darby just never take off. You are left waiting for them to do something that will make them connect with you as an audience member, but are left with a voyeuristic feeling of watching reality television after the editing is completed and the camera is left rolling...boring and nothingness.

On the other side of the story is the government officials trying to bring down the pirates in the embodiment of Kenneth Branagh. Although he, as always, shows his amazing acting skills, you get the feeling that he sort of called in this performance. This is not to say this is a bad performance, it is actually quite good, but in the context of the rest of the film you are left feeling like he did a favor for Curtis by doing the role. In a better movie, it might have been a more welcome performance.

In the end Pirate Radio never takes off, never gives you that sense of rock and roll revolution that I so wanted it to. I left with what I first walked in feeling: I want to learn more about this story of rock and roll history but would be better off watching a History Channel documentary than this schlock.

Nine
Nine(2009)
½

The 1982 Broadway musical Nine, about fictional move director Guido Contini has come to the screen by way of the directorial expertise of Chicago director Rob Marshall.

The logical question would be is it as good as Rob Marshall's best picture winner Chicago. Unfortunately it is not. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Contini, the tortured, selfish director that can't seem to make a hit after a series of flops due to the fact that, for lack of a better term, has lost his mojo.

Day-Lewis who is, in my opinion, one of the world's finest actors, turns in a great performance as the "maestro", he also has a good singing voice to boot. The problem is he is the best part of the movie. The songs are not so great, the story is pretty bland and the rest of the performances by the likes of Sophia Lauren, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Fergie, and Nicole Kidman are just sort of there. They are well done, but, the performances do not seem to be challenging at all to the actors or the audience.

Getting back to Day-Lewis, he is fascinating to watch and his performance stands out, not only due to his extraordinary acting ability but also because he is cast amongst such a drab story and other performances.

The one thing the movie has going for it is the style. Style, in this film, is not a strong enough word. The set design, the artistic direction, and the costumes are so exquisite it makes one want to run to Italy and fall in love. I would be very surprised if Nine didn't win some sort of award for these achievements. Just gorgeous.

This reviewer, being a major movie musical fan, wanted to love this movie. I wanted to love the songs, I wanted to love the whole thing. The problem is, it never really connected with me except for Day-Lewis who I would connect with if he were on screen reading a phonebook.

That is the ultimate downfall of Nine, it's good, it's just not great.

Up in the Air
½

If not for my extreme liking of Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, I would name Up in the Air the best film of 2009.

It is not often a movie comes along that captures so perfectly the snapshot of the modern world. Up in the Air does this quite perfectly. The story is about Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) who is a professional fire-man. What I mean by this is he is sent to companies by his company to fire people because the powers that be at whatever company is sent to do not have the cojones to do it themselves. Bingham is quite good at what he does and is so suave about it that it makes one at peace and almost appreciative for being fired.

His company decides to invest in the idea of a young, wet around the ears graduate, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who presents the idea of firing people via webcam to save the company millions in dollars by keeping their fire-men in the office and off the road.

To make sure that Natalie understands the world she is in, Bingham is asked to show her the ropes on the road. He reluctantly accepts and decides to show Natalie why firing via webcam is cold and impersonal and why it is more important to be cold and impersonal in person. Wait...what? And there lies the heart of the story. The search for a meaning in the cold stark reality of the nothingness that Bingham lives in or more important doesn't live in. He has made clear steps around any attachments, any home, any mate, anything really except hotel room mini bard and frequent flyer mile goals.

Director Jason Reitman (Juno) has become so good at what he does that he has quickly caught up to and I dare say started to surpass his famous directing father Ivan Reitman. The movie is so good that it brings you in piece by piece spinning its web until it spits you harshly back out into the world that it portrays on screen. We may not be as disconnected as Ryan Bingham but it is the world we live in. It certainly poses the question of how far away are we from Bingham with people connecting more through facebook and skype then in person. People spend hours online and texting than they do having real conversations and real connections.

Up in the Air is great title for a film that so encapsulates where the world is at now. We are all up in the air right now, we are all waiting to see what happens, we are all wondering...what comes next?

The Spirit
The Spirit(2008)
½

The Spirit, based on the Will Eisner graphic novel, aspires to be another Sin City type franchise only to fall horribly flat on its face.


The story of a man who is dead but brought back to life as an experiment and decides to fight crime is a simple story that might have been better left in the pages of novel it was first born.


Besides the glow effects of a red tie against a black, white and charcoal grey screen is a nice picture but when there is no story to back it up, there is really nothing to see here.


The Spirit himself goes in and out of the shadows of the city to fight the evil Octopus, Samuel L. Jackson, who may be playing his corniest and most hokey role ever in this movie. It is a simple cat and mouse game with big buxom babes and film noir dialogue. The problem is, even if that sounds sort of kitsch, it never comes near what film noir like The Maltese Falcon or modern noir is in a film like L.A. Confidential. It simply falls flat and comes across as a bad episode of the 1960??s Batman television show. The only thing missing here is a POW! Or SLAM! That pops out of the screen.


It is unfortunate to give thumbs down to such a creative individual like Frank Miller who gave us wonderful graphic novels in The Dark Knight and Sin City. Not everyone is cut out for everything and this, his directorial debut, proves that he should leave the directing to someone, anyone else, and keep to the pages of comic book geek boy legends.

Milk
Milk(2008)

Discrimination, anti-gay laws, prejudice, injustice. Words that Harvey Milk, the first openly gay San Francisco City Councilman devoted his life to fighting.


Milk takes every effort and every moment of its story to show the hardships and fight that had to go into every step gay men and women had to take to ensure their basic human rights. At their helm, in the city of San Francisco was Harvey Milk, a dynamic, friendly and driven individual who seemed to spend almost every waking hour giving a voice to those that had no voice and empowering those that needed one.


The film takes you through the twists and turns that this group had to endure to ensure that equal rights were granted to all, not just those that considered themselves ??normal?? Harvey??s fight inspired many gay Americans to stand up and fight for what was right and fight against the hardship played against them on an everyday basis.


Sean Penn has cemented himself amongst the finest actors that have ever graced the silver screen in his performance of Harvey. One must do a double, and sometimes, triple-take to make sure that it is Sean Penn that they are watching and not Harvey himself. Penn let??s down every wall and caution imaginable to wrap himself into the role to make sure that Harvey is given the finest portrayal he could have been given.
Penn should easily be nominated for an Oscar and should easily win.


With the hardship of the passage of Proposition 8 in the state of California this year it is with a great sense of irony that Milk should be released around the same time of the proposition passing. As hard as Harvey??s fight was, it still continues, it still resonates and it still, clearly, need to be fought.


The story so powerful, the message so strong, the performances so stellar it is hard to imagine a better film that has come out in 2008.

Seven Pounds
Seven Pounds(2008)
½

Will Smith has become a household name synonymous with great films, great performances and a great movie track record. Why then, would he agree to play the lead in this mess known as Seven Pounds?


The entire movie follows Ben Thomas as he slowly plans for his suicide to punish himself for a crime he once committed. Before doing the deed, he decides that he wants to help as many deserving people as possible. He tests them, pursues them and a lot of times rudely challenges them. For what? To make sure they were ??real?? and truly in need of help.


Rosario Dawson plays the lead recipient of his charity. A love story develops but only to have it ripped out from under her due to his ultimate plan.


This is not to say that there are truly tragic stories and sometimes someone is not capable of being saved, but it is hard to find why this story even needs to be told. As tragic as Ben is, you never really connect with him due to the fact that you never really know his true motivation or why he is really doing any of the things he is doing. There is a fine line between keeping secrets of the story from the audience for surprise twists and never telling them, which in this case is exactly what happens. We never really find out why Ben is doing these great acts of charity, we never really find out, except for a few glimpses, what drives Ben, we just have to assume this is what this individual is without rhyme or reason.


If a story is going to be told and made into a movie there has to be a point. Otherwise it is just amounts to really nothing. Strong lines, tears and somber music cannot carry a movie as Seven Pounds relies on, there has to be a point, a plot, something that helps move the story along. Seven Pounds truly misses the mark and really is disappointing for such a great actor. However, with so many successes, one stinker is allowed. One.

Frost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon(2008)

When entertainment talk show host David Frost landed his whale of an interview with former President Richard Nixon he may have gotten more than he had bargained for or even wanted.


Through a few twist and turns of fate, Frost, better known for his glitz and glamour of hanging around and amongst movie stars, found himself preparing to interview Nixon in a three day interview process that would be live to tape.


For his part Nixon thought he was being quite cleaver by choosing Frost to be his interviewer instead of some tough edged, hard nosed reporter such as Mike Wallace or Walter Cronkite. By choosing Frost, Nixon showed exactly the type of interview he had hoped for and what sort of softball questions he assumed her would receive from such a lightweight.


Assuming is never a good thing, especially for a former President in exile. Frost surrounded himself with a team that wanted to ??get Nixon??. A team that wanted him to apologize for or admit his wrongdoings. They went at it night and day to make sure Frost went ??out there?? prepared to wage a title bout fight with the former champ.
Frost, at first, cowers, bobs and weaves, but once he finds his seal legs it is a jab for jab fight that keeps you on the edge of your seat.


Ringmaster director Ron Howard does a flawless job in bringing the one-two action of this sort of film, which if in the wrong directorial hands, could have been an extremely boring movie with actors merely doing impersonations the title characters.


Howard gives us a glimpse into both camps to let the audience see how each team prepared and what each team??s motivation was.


Frank Langella does a marvelous job as Nixon. It is nothing like an impersonation that one would expect from say, Rich Little Langella takes Nixon and makes him his own. He does not try to do a direct copy of Nixon, but rather takes his mannerisms, his voice and his persona and bends it into his own. It is quite mesmerizing and very well portrayed,

Michael Sheen, for his part, does a great job in making you feel the Captain Ahab feeling of trying to chase after Moby Dick without knowing or truly understanding the consequences. Sheen plays the part to a vulnerable tee, which is just what, is needed to be able heighten each confrontation he has with the Nixon.


Frost/Nixon is a very good film in that it takes this slice of American history and shows how hard the American people wanted to understand what happened and more importantly why.


Why, is another question that one is left with after viewing the film. Why would Nixon want to do an interview in the first place? Was it really about the money? The ego? Why would Frost risk everything to take on a persona he had no experience with? Why not play it safe? All of these questions are not really ever answered, they are hinted at, but one must decide for themselves into the drive that played within these two individuals.


Frost/Nixon might not be a huge moneymaker or blockbuster, but it is a sold film that will probably find its audience success on the more intimate setting of a living room as did the two men that sparred so gracefully.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
½

Broke, no heat, no water and no real hope of a bright future is where Zack and Miri Make a Porno begins.
Zack and Miri, friends since high school, live together and a small broken down apartment where they have a non-sexual platonic relationship. They are the yin and yang of each other??s lives, helping each other get by day to day without putting any real pressures on one another to strive to achieve more than just getting by.
When, after their high school reunion, their power gets shut off they realize that their lives are truly going nowhere and they really have nothing planned to move them past their self afflicted lot in life.


While drowning their sorrows at a local watering hole, a light blub, or something else, pops up in Zack's mind that makes him recognize his and Miri??s true calling ?? make a porno with each other and sell it for money. After some convincing and cajoling Miri agrees, attracting a whole cast of very interesting and alternative type of characters flocking to them.


Although the movie touches many times on the Judd Apatow type of every guy humor that is so popular in today??s sex farces, the movie has quite a bit of heart. Director Kevin Smith seems to mix his brand of Clerks script writing with a generous dash of Chasing Amy. Humor and heart both dance endlessly through the storyline with one liners, laugh-out-loud scenes and dramatic tugs.


Surprisingly, the film finds itself in the romantic comedy realm and not the teen sex comedy it seems to steer one to think it is with its title.


Seth Rogan as Zack and Elizabeth Banks as Miri make a fine and believable on screen couple. By the end of the movie, they have played their parts so well that you truly wish that Zack and Miri were a real couple and that they truly were making a real porno, er, relationship.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Let me start off by saying I had never seen the original until recently. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanau Reeves is an action packed adventure ride. Is it a good ride though? Eh. It's okay. Within five minutes of the film you are thrown into action where scientific experts from all fields are called into action to help on an unspecified project. No one knows what is happening. Then we find out that some sort of object is on a direct trajectory to planet Earth. What ensues is madcap mayhem of the extraterrestrial nature in the embodiment of Mr. Reeves. He warns of an eminent attack on the planet and of course everyone on Earth does not believe him.

The authorities and others know that something is happening. Something that they have never seen before. Something where they see giant orbs land on the Earth but of course do not believe the messenger when he says something bad is going to happen. How many times have we seen this? I get bored of not believing aliens when they say something bad is going to happen in a movie and then we, being the stupid, average citizens cannot even remotely believe it might happen. The movie itself is just okay and never really culminates into anything that the plot leads you to believe it is. If you are looking for just big explosions and bad acting, this is the film, otherwise skip it.

The Dark Knight

You know the THE DARK KNIGHT is going to be just a little different than it's predecessor BATMAN BEGINS as it opens in daylight instead of darkness. What you don't know is just how different the movie is going to be.

Batman has sent the underworld spinning into a tizzy by his crime fighting efforts and all the criminal element in Gotham wants to do is get everything back to normal. Normal is a far cry from where Gotham is headed. The mob contracts out with the new kid on the block, that clown jester of macabre, The Joker. At first they don't trust him, however they then realize his sole purpose of killing the Batman is exactly what needs to be done to restore disorder in Gotham.

From the moment Heath Ledger as the The Joker is revealed on screen there is no turning away, literally. You never want to take your eyes off him because this performance is mesmerizing. THE DARK KNIGHT was so hyped that it seemed anything short of one of the best super hero movies ever made, or for that matter the best superhero every made, would be a letdown. Well. lucky for us (and the studio) this movie was simply put, in this reviewers opinion the best Batman film ever made. Ledger's performance (and unfortunately his last) is one of the finest performances ever captured on film for the American cinema. Ledger takes a character we have known in the pop culture for years and totally breaks the mold. He turns a fun, vicious clown villain into a psychotic, manic terrorist.

The movie itself takes us on a roller coaster through Gotham from the highs of the new white knight in shining armor of D.A. Harvey Dent to the lows of the established dark knight in Batman. We find James Gordon still giving a pass to the Batman to allow him to help fight crime as much as possible to the chagrin of the public.

Director Christopher Nolan's take on the Batman story is nothing short of a masterpiece. The story is a symphony of cinematic storytelling that other super hero movies, or for that matter movies will be compared to. The only complaint I had with this movie was some of the action scenes could have been clipped here and there and we could have seen just a little more of The Joker. These are very small complains and are hardly even worth mentioning.

THE DARK KNIGHT has reinvented the expectations of the studio - men, boys, women, girls, they all came out to see this movie. It seems to be inexplicable for people that study demographics and charts to see how to target and audience. Maybe it's simply people like good movies and are really sick and tired of bad stories and bad movie-making and were ready to embrace something more, something amazing, something darker.

Mamma Mia!
Mamma Mia!(2008)

Come on now critics! What is the problem here? I can't tell you how many scathing or at the very least negative reviews of this movie. What did people expect? It's a movie musical set to ABBA music based on the Broadway production. You want to know what I think? That a lot of these reviews were written before the movie even came out. Why do these critics hate ABBA? Come now come.


I saw this movie as well as the stage version and loved both. The movie did the stage version justice if not more so. Meryl Streep and the gang including Pierce Brosnan, Christine Boransky, Julie Walters and Colin Firth all did a phenomanal job. It is a feel good movie musical. This was not going to be THE PAINTED VEIL or something along those lines. It takes place on a Greek Island in the middle of aqua blue waters and pure white sandy buildings with dance numbers. I read one review that says only see it if you like ABBA music, well um, yeah, but that's like saying only see THE DARK KNIGHT if you like Batman. So let me get this straight, if I like ABBA I should see the ABBA musical, if I don't you are saying to pass? Hmmm, sounds like a pretty good idea.

The story is a very simple story of young girl getting married and wanting to find out who her to father is before the wedding. She finds her mother's (Streep) diary to find she has a potential three fathers based on a promiscuous summer her mother had. So she sends them each an invite from her mother unbeknown to her and the story unfurls from there.

It is a fun, summer romp and everything is there including the energy that the original stage version connects with its audience leaving them dancing in the aisles. Just remember if you are not an ABBA fan do not go see the ABBA movie. As if I needed to say something so blatantly obvious.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)

What a cool concept. In the post apocalyptic world, or what seems to be that, the planet Earth is uninhabited. Uninhabited save one WALL E which stands for Waste Allocation Lift Loader, Earth-Class.

For the first twenty minutes or so of the film WALL E goes about his business which is obviously a daily routine of picking up mounds of trash, compacting them and spitting them back out forming a tetris like garbage city. There are no humans, no birds, no blue sky, nothing. WALL E has converted an old storage facility of sorts for his home where he lives with a bug which is a cross between a c*ckroach and a grasshopper. There are no words, just beeps and clicks. The words we do hear are in the form of singing through a video WALL E loves to watch which is a song and dance number in the movie musical HELLO DOLLY. He studies the scene carefully and takes great pain to study how the man and woman hold hands and skip down the street forming a connection. WALL E practices this quite a bit holding his own "hands" longing for the connection for another being. Before long a spaceship comes to Earth and leave a white pod behind to search for vegetation and takes the form of EVE which is short for Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator. WALL E instantly falls in love and follows EVE everywhere.

Without giving away the rest of the story, which is extensive, the movie follows EVE (with WALL E holding on for dear life) back to where she came from. What ensues is a whole second half of the story which is a lot of fun and really gives you pause.

A lot of people have turned their noses up at this movie saying it is anti-human and anti-consumerism. This is just not the case. I went into this movie knowing this objection. Let me say that this is in no way the case. If anything what it is about is protecting the environment around us so we don't trash our planet and not lay at home on the internet eating big macs and not excercising. I suppose the people that had the original objections might be doing just that and don't want to change it, so be it, but for the rest of us trying to do something to change the future a movie like WALL E works wonders.

PIXAR has once again outdone themselves and it is amazing the emotional connection this film makes you feel to what really is a make-overed trash can and a Sharper Image type robot. Also is just me or has anyone stopped to point out that WALL E looks exactly like the Robot Number 5 from the 1986 movie Short Circuit? When I first saw the trailer I thought this and I couldn't help but noticing it throughout the movie. Oh well, I liked Number 5 then and I like him in his 2008 version of WALL E.

Hancock
Hancock(2008)
½

A summer blockbuster without Will Smith is like Alka Seltzer without the fizz. Yes, Will Smith is back playing John Hancock, no not that guy silly, a bad ass superhero with an even badder attitude to boot. He goes around saving people, fighting the bad guys, saving the whales, but without grace, manners or pleasantries. The undertaking of refinement comes along in the form of Jason Bateman, an unsuccessful ad exec who hears opportunity knocking through Hancock. Through Bateman, Hancock changes his image and decides to give it the old school try. The film then takes a turn to the serious side along with Bateman's wife played by Charlize Theron, which a lot of critics have panned. This critic however enjoyed the turn and thought it really lended itself to making a better story. Too often I hear people complain of how schmaltzy and corny super hero movies are, yet hear we have something that takes a different approach then the action comedy and people pan it. Hancock is a good summer action movie that is not your typical summer action movie and yes, that is a good thing.

Girl, Interrupted

"I had a headache" is how Suzanne Cason explains to her psychiatrist why she downed a bottle of aspirin chased by a bottle of vodka. She is put in a mental institution during the tumultuous times of the 1960's when people were trying to find themselves while these women were trying to escape from doing just that. The "cast of characters" Suzanne finds in her new home are far less disturber or interrupted then herself or so it seems. Through the movie we can't decide whether Suzanne really needs to be there or if she is just upset with her life and wants a change, unfortunately that change seemed to be in the form of suicide which lands her in the institution in the first place. She befriends a sociopath by way of Angelina Jolie (in a performance she won an Oscar for), empathizing with her and trying to find more escapism by trying to see the world through her eyes, which is really just a sideshow with Suzanne realizing who she really is and more importantly who she really is not. All of the actresses in this movie give stellar performances in a real serious manner. An Oscar overlook, in this reviewers' opinion is the performance of Whoopie Goldberg as a the head nurse on the floor. She is far from the Nurse Ratchet type and gives such a controlled, supportive performance it is amazing she was not given the golden guy for it. GIRL, INTERRUPTED is definitely not your average "flick" that you just pop in and watch. Be prepared to be quite floored and be prepared for an amazing movie.

The Happening

The Happening, or as I am referring to it: Good Night, M. Night, is a sad attempt at a once awesome auteur. M. Night Shyamalan, the once and future king of Hitchcock type film-making has now officially lost his edge.

With films like The Sixth Sense and Signs, it is hard to believe that movies like The Happening and Lady in the Water were
made by the same Writer/Director. The Happening about well, a happening of mysterious events taking place that makes people stop, walk backwards, and commit suicide. Um, okay.

The events that take place throughout the film are hokey and poorly done. You get a sense that M. Night called this one in borrowing on aspects of his other movie Signs, of a menacing presence out there that needs to be hidden from. Of course in Signs, it was aliens and of course it was way better storytelling.

M. Night seems to be trying to make an environmental statement in this film. The trees and the wind is what is attacking the people, where when your mind wanders off in this film (where there is plenty of time to do), you see the loosely put together abstract message: if you kill the environment, it will kill you. Um, okay. Even if this is the premise of the film, it could have been done in a much better manner.

What happened to this guy? Will he ever return? I used to love this director's movies as did a lot of people. In fact that seems to be what he is counting on. It doesn't even seem like he trying anymore. Maybe he got bored of being the "twist" guy. In fact when someone asked me what the twist was at the end, I told them there was none, which there isn't. Maybe M. Night got burnt out on himself. With his last two movies, The Village and Lady in the Water and now The Happening, it appears he has totally fizzled out. I wonder if he will ever return to true form. I also wonder if he will refer to these last three films the way John Travolta refers to Look Who's Talking or Eddie Murphy refers to The Adventures of Pluto Nash, duds.

I keep rooting for this guy, and the fact is, if he releases another film, I will go see it, yes, mainly because his first few films were that good. However, all I know is, when I was in the audience on opening night of this movie people were laughing consistently and last time I checked that is not good for a thriller.

An American Haunting
½

Yawn. The story of a family being tortured by a ghostly presence in the 1800's turns out to be nothing more than a campfire yarn.

The story is based on true events reported by the family. One never knows what of the true events it was based on or just how loosely interpreted they were. Does it mean a candle was blown out from a strong wind and the rest was made up or does it mean there were ghosts terrorizing them to no avail and it was basically told verbatim.

The haunting starts with the young teenage daughter. Her parents and her teacher (who has more than an interest in her than a student) say it is nothing more than a nightmare. Then they find her strung up in her room hanging in the air being, for lack of a better term, b*tch slapped by something they cannot see. The b*tch slapping looks comedic. It seems like a scene out of Scary Movie than a scene from a scary movie.

The movie itself is long and drawn out and never seems to do more then try and jump out at you every once in a while. You can feel the torture this family went through and that is only because of the stellar acting of Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek and Rachel Hurd-Wood, but beyond that the movie takes a nose dive into the abyss and never seems to recover less a few jumps and snarls.

Bobby
Bobby(2006)
½

Taking place at the Ambassador Hotel in California the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, the movie Bobby, dives into the trenches of the daily lives of the hotel's workers and guests.
Emilio Esteves' star crannied cast including the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, Shia LeBouf, and Demi Moore, shows the excitement, confusion and frustration of this tumultuous time period of the late 1960's, when a spark such as Bobby Kennedy gave people much needed hope at a time when hope was greatly needed.

The story travels room to room, and life to life, on a day that starts off very exciting only to end in historical tragedy. The story of a racist kitchen manager, a cheating hotel manager, a wartime marriage and acid tripping campaign volunteers all to seem to spiral out of control to the heart wrenching climax of the night in the service entrance of the hotel.

Esteves' intertwined stories, at first, seem to be an array of discombobulation, however, as the day unravels, the stories weave together in a common tapestry taking their place in unwanted world history.

The hope, the desires, the desperation the characters feel towards Bobby Kennedy, this symbol of change, are all extinguished in a final scene which includes a voice-over narrative taken from one of Kennedy's speeches that is one of the finest final sequences ever produced.

Be Kind Rewind

Awful, just awful. I went into this movie hoping for the best. What a neat idea - the tapes in a video store all get erased and the two friends entrusted with the tapes decide to recreate each movie using a home video camera.

I loved this concept, however, this is not what the movie ultimately was about. Oh sure, Jack Black and Mos Def go about recreating movies such as Ghostbusters and Driving Miss Daisy, but this is a very small part of the movie. The main portion of the film is the story of Danny Glover, the owner of the store, trying to save his building from being torn down by the city.

I don't know what it was about this movie I disliked more - the failed storyline or Mos Def. Even though I had different expectations for this story, I would have been fine adapting to a different story being told, if it was good and well presented. The actual movie felt like a home movie being recreated by a home video camera done by an amateur.

As for my dislike for Mos Def, I am not sure what it is about his acting I don't like. However, this is a very awkward performance, as was his performance in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I find that he sucks the life out of the scenes he is in and because of that each scene ultimately falls flat.

Be Kind Rewind is a great concept, but does not even come close to reaching that concept.

Sex and the City
½

Let me start off by saying I was one of three men in the packed audience of the theater showing Sex and the City. Once I got used to the odds, I focused on the continuing story of the fab four from NYC and their escapades in sex.

At first I thought I was watching the hokiest, silliest film ever made. Everything was presented as sweet as a sweet tart and my initial reaction was that they were ruining everything that was good about the television series. Then the story delves into the human side of the girls and the lives they have adapted to or at the very least are trying to adapt to.

The movie ventures into the serious side of their "adult" lives. It is mesmerizing to watch these "silly" girls from the city cope with real subjects and figure out how to deal with them.

The writing is truly the strong under current of this film. Taking the movie from the highs and lows of each of the girl's individual stories. The movie goes far and beyond the Sex and the City formula. It becomes an actual story, an actual movie if you will. You don't even really need to know the individuals and stories from the series to appreciate the film. (The movie starts with the quick summation of each character, which really helps anyone who did not see the series.)

I found this "chick flick" to be one of the best films of 2008 so far. It was a really well put together story and didn't just rely on the success of the series. It took its motion picture undertaking very seriously and far exceeded my expectations to my pleasantly surprise.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)
½

Welcome back Robert Downey, Jr.. Finally one of the finest modern day actors is back in one of the finest modern day comic book adaptations.

Not since Batman Begins have I enjoyed a super hero movie quite as much as I did with Iron Man. The story of Tony Hawk, a weapons maker/supplier who suffers a near fatal accident only to find himself reconstructed in captivity by a doctor is what starts him down the path to super hero stardom.

Tony goes about melding himself into what will make him known to the world as Iron Man. He runs a series of tests and procedures to perfect his creation, and after a number of blunders, finally gets it right.
There are a number of scenes in this movie that Tony is alone with himself. Only an actor of Downey, Jr.'s ability would be able to make this work, playing off himself in a number of scenes. If a lesser actor was cast, this just plain would not work with the movie collapsing in on itself. The direction of the movie done by Jon Favreau works wonders incorporating the audience in rooting for Tony to become the legendary super hero. By doing this Favreau makes the audience part of the film, which is no easy task.

Just like Batman Begins, a new form of super hero movie making is being made here. Although films like the original Tim Burton helmed Batman and the Christopher Reeves Superman were fun, this new style of super hero movie making does something that all other super movie making did not. They bring the story down to Earth and make it real on a real person, every man level. There is no grandiose comic book set, there is no air brushed vibrant coloring, there is just the world as we know it around the story which makes it that much more real with an everyman (or in this case a billionaire everyman) becoming more than he is, while keeping his true form.

Iron Man works on many levels, with the most important level being grounded at all times, the human level.

License to Wed

Have you ever seen the trailer for a movie and just knew that it was going to be bad? Sure you have! License to Wed was a movie just like that for me.

The other night this was on the telly and I sat down to watch it. What a bore of a movie. The premise is simple boy meets girl, boy and girl get engaged, girl's Priest wants to put them through the trials of marriage to make sure they are a good fit. One of the trials is giving them demonic looking robotic babies that poop blue liquid. Don't ask. I couldn't believe this was made as a major motion picture. If I had seen this on YouTube I would have clicked it off.

Why are movies made like this, well I could go into why. However, with this movie Robin Williams sees paycheck and poor John Krasinski - he is getting movie roles, but they keep giving him crap. He is a star on NBC's The Office, and obviously his movie career is "taking off", but to where I have no idea yet. He is a good actor, even in these sh*tty roles, he gives it his all. Let's hope someone gives him something good soon.

Charlie Bartlett

Charlie Bartlett is the story of a bored, little rich boy who finds "his calling" by selling psychiatric prescriptions to his fellow classmates. He listens to their problems in a stall, takes those problems to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist writes a prescription based on what he is hearing. You see how it goes on from there.

All of the sudden, Charlie is the pseudo-psychologist-drug-selling-pop boy amongst the halls of his high school. He deals (or doesn't deal) with his own problems by listening to others. The only endearing quality of the film is the fact that Charlie actually feels and hopes he is helping these kids by giving them what they need.

My big problem with the movie is the ricochet direction of Jon Poll and the I need to be bigger than life acting of Anton Yelchin. I am fully aware of what the director was going for here. He was trying to show the manic life of a teenage boy who needs help, however, if the acting was better Poll wouldn't have to do with the camera what was clearly lacking in the performance of his lead.

If they ever remake this movie (and all remakes are just a matter of time at this point) they should slow down the camera work and get an actor who can play the role in a more controlled manner.

Persepolis
Persepolis(2007)
½

Stories like these make you really thankful for your own life. Growing up in American it is pretty easy to take things for granted - fun, food, freedom - and forget about those who have grown up not knowing those wonderful gifts but still yearning for them.

The story of Marjane growing up in war-torn Iran is nothing short of a masterpiece. Based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, we watch little Marjane grow up learning things children should not have to learn at such a young age. She becomes fully aware of the government and political system that shrouds her every day life only to try and ignore it as much as possible.

When her mother fears for Marjane as a woman living in Iran, she sends her abroad to Vienna, where she ripens into a young woman able to breathe freely, but with a sense of guilt and homesickness that burdens her on a daily basis. She then returns to Iran to see her family and what has become of her home.

The animated style of the film really lends itself to the dark and light imagery the story goes through. Should this have been a film with live actors, the story would have still been poignant but possibly not as haunting as the animated creations lend themselves to.

I am glad this movie was made. It really takes a lot of forethought to realize that this film would be met with curiosity and anticipation to wonder what life on the other side is all about. Too often I feel we get movies that do nothing but take up screen time, when we can have movies like this, that not only fill the screen, but fill the heart.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

They don't make 'em like they used to. The story follows Walter Mitty who leads a mundane life only to create fantastical stories out of everyday occurrences to escape it. He has an overbearing mother, future mother-in-law, fiance and boss. Sounds fun. Mitty played by the incomparable Danny Kaye, goes through life imagining that he is the captain of a ship guiding it through a storm, or a WWII pilot shooting down Nazi after Nazi, a surgeon who is called in to save a life when no one else can, well you get the picture.

I remember reading this short story in eighth grade and every time I have gotten in verbal fights with girlfriends over the years I have used the line "I feel like Walter Mitty" to their stunned response of "who?" Meaning I feel like I am beaten up and they are the overbearing woman in my life. Mitty is the ultimate martyr, besides say Joan of Ark, however he is obviously creative enough and smart enough to pull himself up and out of this mundane life and create larger than life stories in his real life.

This is a fun, well acted story with little song and dance numbers from Kaye, that you would really never find anymore, unless Jack Black was doing some sort of mocked out, rocked out School of Rock sort of thing. Think of this movie as the original BIG FISH, just not as boring.

Becoming Jane
½

[b]BECOMING JANE[/b]
[b]Featuring:[/b] Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell
[b]Directed by[/b] Julian Jarrold
[b] Rated PG[/b] for brief nudity and mild language
Review by Paci L.

[/color][color=Wheat] Becoming Jane is the story of how Jane Austin became the renowned author known across the world and beloved to many. I am a huge Jane Austin fan, I have read almost of all of her works and seen many movies about her stories. This one, perhaps because it was not written by Jane Austin ,seemed to have missed the true Jane Austin spirit. [/color]
[color=Wheat] Jane played by Anne Hathaway comes from a poor family, where her mother (Julie Walters) chooses love over wealth when she marries Reverend Austin (James Cromwell) leaving behind the comforts of a former life. This becomes the theme of the movie. Should Jane choose to marry for love, which her parents did and she always romanticized or to marry for money? [/color]
[color=Wheat] She meets a young man Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) who is sent away from England by his Uncle because he feels that there are too many diversions that might sully his path in becoming a lawyer. He is sent to the country where he meets a young Jane at a small party. Immediatley the two dislike eachother. He insults her writings, calling them juvenile and she despises him for his reputation as philanderer. Sound familiar? It should, because her relationship with Lefroy is what inspires her to write Pride and Prejudice. [/color]
[color=Wheat] I know that this movie was inspired by letters that were retrieved form Jane Austin�s correspondence with Mr. Lefroy. I won�t go into any more details, for fear of ruining it for those of you who do choose to see it. What I will say is that if you know your Jane Austin history than you know that she never marries. Do not expect a happy ending from this film since it is supposed to be the true life story of Jane. What I did expect to see and was disappointed that I didn�t was a scorching romance between Lefroy and Miss Austin. It seemed that their chemistry fizzled out early on in the film Also, I felt that the film dragged on in parts, more focused on the social restraints of woman than of Jane�s fever to change the roles of women. [/color]

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

[b]3:10 to Yuma[/b]
[b]Featuring:[/b] Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster
[b]Directed by[/b] James Mangold
[b]Rated R[/b] for violence and some language

The old Hollywood Western is alive and well if audiences want it. Movie Westerns have stayed away from the Cineplex for a long time except for a few popping up here and there over the last few decades. With 3:10 to Yuma, the Western is riding high in the saddle onto the silver screen in full glory. The story of a rancher named Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and his family who are struggling to survive in the Old West to make ends meet and Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) a villian of substantial proportions that Old Western legends are made of cross fateful paths when Wade is captured and to be brought to justice with a possy of escorts to make sure he boards the 3:10 to Yuma prison a few days out from where he is captured. When Evans is offered $200 to be one of the escorts he takes it. It is pretty clear right away that Evans is more thinking of his family and the money then that of Wade and him being brought to justice. I will not go into detail of the journey to the train to not give away story or plot points, but I will say this, this is a fantastic movie. Bale and Crowe spar on screen like some of the best movie duos, whether Western or otherwise, to no end. The acting in the film is stellar and without flaw with the two leads and gems like Ben Foster and Peter Fonda. 3:10 to Yuma is a remake, but there is no CGI, there are no special effects, there is no MTV jumpcuts, just place, plot, story, good acting. You know, like movies used to be. I have read that some scenes in the film were recreated to be like the original. What is also like the original and other old films, is, it doesn't rely on any modern technolgical movie making methods. Director James Mangold does a fantastic job showing that all you need to make a good, solid film is good solid storytelling and actors. I do hope this movie brings back the Westerns, because it is not just a reminder of what movies once were, it is proof of what movies can still be.

Blades of Glory
½

[b]BLADES OF GLORY[/b]
[b]Featuring:[/b] Will Ferrell, Jon Heder
[b]Directed by[/b] Josh Gordon & Will Speck
[b]Rated PG-13[/b]

Will Ferrell is funny. In case you weren't sure about that fact, he is. Does everything he puts out as a comedy mean it will be funny? No. Is Blades of Glory funny? Yes. Is it one of his best comedies? Far from it. Blades of Glory, the story of two champion figure skaters, Ferrell and Naploeon Dynamite's Jon Heder, who have such a bitter rivalry that it turns into an outright brawl during competiton which in turn gets both of them stripped of their membership in championship figure skating. They both are forced to move onto far different jobs when kicked out of the sport until a loophole is found that enlightens the two that they can compete in figure skating as a pair, the first male pair to grace the sport. What ensues of course are the jokes you would think would occur when two male figure skaters are paired up. The fact is even the dumbest jokes in the film are funny because of the fact that Ferrell and Heder in his hard to escape Napoloen delivery, are presenting them. This isn't a bad film, I have seen just bad comedies, it is just incredibly predictable and very uncerebral. Sometimes these movies are fun. Sometimes they are annoying. Ferrell proved he can act in [i]Stranger Than Fiction[/i], but for some reason, sometimes he still wants to put out these silly comedies. Not to say he shouldn't do comedies, but some with some meat would be nice. Blades of Glory is fun, but don't expect too much from it.

Georgia Rule
Georgia Rule(2007)

[b]GEORGIA RULE[/b]
[b]Featuring: [/b]Lindsay Lohan, Jane Fonda, Felicity Huffman
[b]Directed by[/b] Garry Marshall
[b]Rated R[/b]

Any movie that starts off with Lindsay Lohan scantilly dressed walking down the side of a vacant road is something that this reviewer would potentially see as possibly one of the best films of all time. However cute and dramatic Georgia Rule is, it is not, surprise, surprise, one of the best films of all time. The story of Rachel (Lohan), her Mother (Felicity Huffman) and her Grandmother (Jane Fonda) all having strained relations with the other decend on Georgia's (Fonda) house in a small town in Idaho. Rachel is an out of control teenager when her mother decides to send her to live with Georgia even though her own relationship with Georgia is next to nothing. The movie which starts off as a teenager out of control, defying all the norm and any sense of reason story, soon turns into a very serious subtext with plot twists and turns that are very unpredictiable. Director Garry Marsall has always been one of my favorites. He always seems to capture the feel of the time, place and essence of any story he gets his hands on. Georgia Rule is no exception. You actually feel as if you are intertwined with each character and cathartically feel for them. I would like to say I could pinpoint exactly where the movie seemed to fall flat for me, whether it be with the scenes with Lohan and Dermot Mulroney as a Father figure, or the scenes with Lohan and Cary Elwes, as the anti-Father figure. The story just seemed to be heading to somewhere it never quite achieves, which is not to say it is not good, it is just not as good as I felt it could have been. What is also a sad irony is, that Lohan is actually a good if not potentially exceptional actress. She has great screen presence and has the chops to stand with Huffman and Fonda. The sadness is in the real life of Lohan and what she is doing with it. Even on the filming of this movie she had a major studio exec who fired off a letter to her to act more professional instead of not showing up to the set, etc. Here is hoping Lohan gets herself together, maybe she just needs some real time at Georgia's house.

Superbad
Superbad(2007)

[b]SUPERBAD[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] Greg Mottola
[b]Featuring[/b]: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
[b]Rated R[/b]

Superbad simply put is Supergood. Yes, the inevitible cliche opening to a good review of this movie, however it deserves it. The story of three geeky High School seniors who go on one last hurrah to make IT all happen before graduation is nothing short of most (at least guys) memoirs on film. This film is remiscent of days of chasing only one thing without rhyme or reason and not really being too sure on how to handle it, ahem, at first, when one, by pure dumb luck receives it. If you were not one of those guys (doubt it), or if you were of the fairer sex in High School you can still appreciate the pure comedic and desperate value the three main boys have in their seek for the 'holy grail' The movie, written by Knocked Up man Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg could have gone for the teenage booty flick quick puns and jokes, a couple of nude/sex scenes and thrown a couple of unforgettable, quotable one liners and been done with it. However, what they do here is actually give the typical teenage booty chase flick a brain. You actually have character development here, a plot, tension, excellent and free writing, and comedy that pushes the envelope just enough to not over exceed it. You feel the comradere of the boys and that ever present moment in life when your significant other becomes more important and more of a confidante than your best friend. The movie is topped off by Seth Rogan and Bill Hader who play "lost youth" cops and befriend their new badass friend McLovin. Don't ask, you'll see. Superbad is a very warm, funny and comedic spectacle much like the many nights of male adolescence is known for.

Lady in the Water
½

[b]LADY IN THE WATER[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] M. Night Shyamalan
[b]Featuring[/b]: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard
[b]Rated PG-13[/b] for some frightening sequences

I just recently rewatched Lady in the Water by M. Night Shyamalan. When I had first vierwed the film, I was not such a big fan of it. I think my expectations were a little high due to his previous films (excluding The Village). Now, upon watching this as a standalone movie instead of amongst the previous collection I was able to give it a chance. Even so, I still think the story as a whole is weak. Not weak with holes in the story or continuity problems or anything like that, just, I dare say boring. I really did not find myself caring about the Bryce Dallas Howard character and how she gets back home and all of the various twists and turns Paul Giamatti takes to make sure everything is perfect for her moment to go back home. The movie isn't bad, it's just not that good.

The story takes place on a "closed set" of an apartment complex, where all of the characters are residents and most all of them have a hand in returning the "alien" to her home. I felt where something like E.T. was "E.T. Phone Home", I thought this was more like "Water Lady Just Go Home." By the time everything is pieced together for her moment to check out of the complex, I found myself just wanting her to jump back in the pool where she came from. The story in the movie we are told is based on an ancient children's bedtime story, and I suppose if that is what M. Night was going for, that he achieved. A children's bedtime story, a little more intense than Little Red Riding Hood, but unfortunately not as entertaining either.

The Simpsons Movie

[color=#fffacd][b]THE SIMPSONS MOVIE[/b][/color]
[color=#fffacd][b]Directed by[/b] David Silverman[/color]
[color=#fffacd][b]Featuring[/b] Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardly Smith[/color]
[color=#fffacd][b]Rated PG-13[/b][/color]


[color=lemonchiffon][size=2][size=2]Needless, Pointless, Overdone, Forced and Boring were all of the words I thought I may be using in the review for The Simpsons movie.[/size] Well I am [/size][/color][size=2][color=lemonchiffon]happy to report those words will not be used by this reviewer. What I thought may not transfer well from the small screen to the big screen did just that and how! The Simpsons movie is now breaking box office records left and right. Now that is something that will make movie analysts stand up and say �D-Oh!�[/color][/size]
[size=2][color=lemonchiffon]Now I definitly am a Simpsons fan, so even if it were an elongated boring story, I probably would have still somewhat enjoyed it, however this is just not the case. The story, about how Homer upsets the balance of life in Springfield, surprise, surprise, and then has to try to remedy it, is all but one of the best Simpsons �episodes� ever. There is not once when you look down at your watch, except at the end when you cannot believe the story has kept you from start to finish for the length of a feature film. What I think works best for the movie is that the filmmakers didn�t try to �one up� themselves or feel like they needed to go over the top just because it was being made into a movie. They stuck to what works, they stuck to the formula that makes The Simpsons one of the longest episodic television shows of all time. all they did different was make it longer than a half an hour story. This is what makes it great. A great Simpsons story, told only the way the Simpsons writer could, and put on the big screen. This is a fun trip to the movies and I am sure it will continue to do well through the rest of the summer.[/color][/size]

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)

[size=2][color=lemonchiffon][b]RATATOUILLE[/b][/color][/size]
[size=2][color=#fffacd][b]Directed by[/b] Brad Bird[/color][/size]
[size=2][color=#fffacd][b]Featuring[/b] Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Peter O'Toole[/color][/size]
[size=2][color=#fffacd][b]Rated G[/b][/color][/size]

[size=2][color=lemonchiffon]Simply put Ratatouille is the best film I have seen this year thus far. Pixar has gone above and beyond with this simple story about a rat who loves the art of cooking and wants to pursue it and rise above his lot in life. Through some twists and turns he winds up in one of the best restaurants in all of France helping a novice Chef in the kitchen. The Chef has to cooking talent whatsoever, but with the aide of the rat, he is able to become one of the top chefs in all of France. I won�t go more into the story itself as to not give away anything. I, as well as most people, are almost always impressed with Pixar animation, but even Pixar seems to have outdone itself here. The animation seems even crisper and sharper than that of Monsters, Inc., Cars, or Toy Story for that matter. The pure imagination and detail on the screen is remarkable. The soundtrack by Michael Ginnochio, the voice acting by Jeanine Gerafalo, Patton Oswalt and Peter O�Toole all lend to the perfection of this motion picture recipe. It is reminscent of the Disney stories of old, Pinnochio, Snow White, etc. This is an instant classic and should take its place nicely upon the gold statue mantle of Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Films. [/color][/size]

Live Free or Die Hard

[size=2][color=#fffacd][b]LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD[/b][/color][/size]
[size=2][color=#fffacd][b]Directed by[/b] Len Wiseman[/color][/size]
[size=2][color=#fffacd][b]Featuring[/b] Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q[/color][/size]
[size=2][b]Rated PG-13[/b] for intense sequences of violence and action, language and a brief sexual situation.[/size]

[size=2][color=lemonchiffon]Action movies have really never been my thing. Big explosions, loud music, screaming, etc. I just have never seen the point of it. Just recently a friend of mine talked me into seeing Live Free or Die Hard against my protest. Well, I am glad I took a chance. Not only did I enjoy this film, but I am reexploring this action genre. In Live Free, Bruce Willis plays his big, bad brawny self again, this time going against a cybertech bad guy geek who has decided to take down and hold hostage the computer infrastructure of the nation. It is an interesting and scary concept. Instead of holding people at ransom with a gun, this guy decides to hold computer networks. With the help of another geek-like techie, Willis goes on a mission to track down the villain and save the nation. Sure the story has some unbelievable missions and special action effects, but whatever. The story does not depend on them. It is more like the action accents the storyline, which is actually very well written. One of my favorite subplots is of the Warlock, I won�t give away who plays him, but it was a fun, welcome addition. I know there are action movies out there that are silly and as long as they time the explosion perfectly that is all the film depends on, but, just like every other genre, there are good and bad films within it, this is something I have learned and look forward to the next, good action film, this is one of the good ones. [/color][/size]

Ocean's Thirteen
½

[color=lemonchiffon][b]OCEAN'S 13[/b][/color]
[b]Directed by[/b] Steven Soderbergh
[b]Featuring[/b] George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin
[b]Rated R[/b] for Sex, Nudity, Violence, Gore and Profanity

[color=lemonchiffon]Ask yourself this: If Sinatra and his Rat Pack were able to see the current Oceans trilogy would they be happy? I tend to think in some respects yes and in other respects no. On the one hand I think they would think it was great that a new group of Hollywood biggies are picking up were they left off by way of getting together, having some fun and shooting some movies. On the other hand I don�t think they would really care for the actual movies. The first Oceans with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and crew was pretty well done, a good, solid story, with a beginning, middle and end. Then came Oceans 12, or as I call it �The Give Me More Money and We Will Do Something In Front of the Camera Movie�. It was a terrible movie with nothing added to the story, and in fact, might have actually damaged the first story. Now we have Oceans 13. I have to tell you, after 12, I didn�t even care to see this one. In this story Al Pacino is the baddie, and the guys are out to get him for what he does to their pal played by Carl Reiner. I am not really sure what was happening in this story, its as if, with the slick camera moves, fancy lighting and Vegas pizazz, the filmmakers are hoping we forget that we are supposed to be watching a movie instead of a red carpet Oscar event. This story is boring, long and confusing. By the end of the movie, you know that Ocean�s crew is okay, that they had some cool, macho lines and still look slick. I don�t want to sound like that comic book guy who is putting down something here, but in the realm of film reviews, if something is bad, I suppose it has to be told. Oceans 13 is a must miss movie and I truly think it is time to retire this franchise and leave the Vegas memories to Sinatra and his guys. [/color]
[/color]

Transformers
Transformers(2007)
½

[font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]TRANSFORMERS[/b]
[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]Directed by[/b] Michael Bay
[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]Featuring[/b] Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox
[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]Rated PG-13[/b] for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor, and language.


[/color][/font] [font=Times New Roman][color=LemonChiffon][font=Verdana]Man vs. Machine, the ultimate test between metal and the mind. It all culminates in this cartoon come to life movie in Michael Bay�s Transformers movie. What could have been a careless, poorly put together motion picture was meticuloulsy cultivated and crafted to make the audience truly believe that they are watching real machines come to life. At first glance one waits to see the first car twisted into robot moment, when it comes it is done in such a subtle, yet shocking way that you one is automatically drawn into the story. The young hero played by Shia LeBouf is perfectly cast, not really a young boy anymore, but not yet an adult is just what the audience needs to be able to play upon the inner child in all of us to truly appreciate a toy come to life. Of course some of the action scenes are a little long, and some of the lines are extremely corny, but that is to be expected, and luckily it is not overdone. If you ever wanted your toys to come to life and then fight with each other and talk, well then this is the perfect movie for you.[/font] [/color][/font]

Knocked Up
Knocked Up(2007)
½

[font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]KNOCKED UP[/b]
[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]Written and Directed by[/b] Judd Apatow
[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]Featuring[/b] Seth Rogan, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon][b]Rated R[/b] for sexual content, drug use and language[/color][/font][font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon]

[/color][/font] [font=Verdana][color=LemonChiffon]I love Seth Rogan. He is like the everyguy you hung out in college with or was an old friend you just sit out on the porch and chill with. However, somehow, he is now emerging as a major Hollywood comedic actor. That is really neat. I believe that producers are getting smarter with certain genres. Although the likes of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams are brilliant comedians, we don�t always want that polished, over the top comedy. Sometimes we just want the guy that is well, like us. Just a guy, no more, no less, but funny with just making jokes about a commerical on television or busting on you just for a laugh. That seems to be the genius behind Rogan and his funny band of characters that he lives with in the movie Knocked Up. Can it really be called genius if it seems to come so naturally? Maybe not, what it does do is make you pull up a seat at the table and feel extremely welcome. The movie, about a regular shmoe who hooks up for a one night stand with a hottie and finds himself going to be the papa to her baby is a smartly done. It shows how two people that really don�t have too much in common, are thrown into the mix to try and make something work for the benefit of something or someone bigger than themselves. Just like Judd Apatow�s The 40 Year Old Virgin, the script is full of real emotion mixed with fun outrageous comedic moments. It is a fun movie, and what makes it fun is the actors and their performances. I find that the movie is a bit too long, I would say when Rogan and Paul Rudd head to Las Vegas could have been left on the editing floor, but this doesn�t take away from the whole of the movie itself. It is a fun ride. [/color][/font]

Garden State
Garden State(2004)

GARDEN STATE
Written and Directed by [/b]Zach Braff [b]
Featuring [/b]Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm
[b] R[/b] for language, drug use and a scene of sexuality.

Sometimes you just have to be in the right mood to see a particular movie. When I first saw [b]Garden State[/b] I found it and its creator [b]Zach Braff [/b]to be long, drawn out and pretencious. Then the right mood came along. All of a sudden I found myself enjoying it, really enjoying it. This actaully became a great story. It obviously always was. I found this story of a young man going through a period of introspection and self-awareness to be exhilerating. Braff really wrote a captivating and encapsulating piece of indie cinema here. The characters, relationships and tensions are all in place and unravel beautifully. Adding to the great ensemble is Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard. These two actors really round out the stellar cast nicely. Portman as an uncomfortable, but confident young woman makes you sympathize and celebrate her coming of age. I was real glad to have given this film a second chance, I guess, sometimes, you do get a second chance to make a first impression.

Broken Flowers
½

BROKEN FLOWERS[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] Jim Jarmusch
[b]Featuring[/b] Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange
[b] R[/b] for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.


[b]Bill Murray[/b] is on a search. He receives an anonymous letter in the mail on pink stationary from an old flame stating that he is the father of a grown teenage son and that the boy is now possibly searching for him. His friend Winston, played convincingly by [b]Jeffrey Wright[/b], obsessed with detective work, maps out an entire itinerary for Don Johnston (Murray) to travel to each of his old girlfriend�s homes to see if they may be the author of the pink letter. What ensues is an alternative road trip movie with only one man in the car. Johnston visits each of his past lady friends only to find just how different they have become. Each one has gone to an extreme in their personality, all different, all polar opposites. The old girlfriends are played by [b]Sharon Stone[/b], [b]Frances Conroy[/b], [b]Jessica Lange[/b] and [b]Tilda Swinton[/b]. Needless to say Johnston obviously had impeccable taste when he was dating. This search is very intriguing. It starts out as a search for his son, but what it seems to become is a search to give closure on the past and move forward to the future. I find that Director Jim Jarmusch either hits or misses. With [b]Night on Earth[/b] he hit it big; with [b]Coffee and Cigarettes[/b] he missed the boat completely. With [b]Broken Flowers[/b] he swings right down the middle, hitting us with a film that has a nice, steady pace and pulling out a very entertaining and wonderful performance from his lead Murray. This film is a sleeper for sure, but in its own way, it is a real find.

The Holiday
The Holiday(2006)
½

[b]THE HOLIDAY[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] Nancy Meyers
[b]Featuring[/b] Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black
[b] PG-13 [/b]for sexual content and some strong language.

Now I know a lot of you may say it�s a chick flick. Others may say I�ll watch it for my girl. Listen, this is not at all the case. This is a brilliant film. I went kicking and screaming with my wife to this film to do just what I said you will do, watch it for your girl. It�s nothing like that though. It is such a great story about the human condition and the meaning of love. The acting is superb and yes I know [b]Cameron Diaz[/b] is in it. In fact when she first came on the screen I sighed. I did not want to see her try her hand at acting again. However, by the end I had forgotten all about her and realized shw was right on the same level as her co-stars [b]Kate Winslet[/b] and [b]Jude Law[/b], which is no easy task. [b]Jack Black[/b] does a very decent job in the film as well, although he is the most muted character of the story, but delievers a nice performance. The most amazing discovery of the story is its writing. Just when you feel like you know where the scene is going, it takes you there, you assume what will be said and it is said so much better. Each line is like finding $100 in your pocket after getting them out of the dryer. This whole movie was a pleasant surprise and I highly recommend it. Don�t let the title fool you, and I have also learned never to judge a movie by its cover.

The Toy
The Toy(1982)
½

[b]THE TOY[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] Richard Donner
[b]Featuring[/b] Jackie Gleason, Richard Pryor, Scott Schwartz, Ned Beatty
[b]PG[/b]

Man, one thing you can say about the legends of comedy is that no matter what they were in they gave it their all. Think about this film for a second: [b]Jackie Gleason[/b] as a rich souther robber baron vacant father and [b]Richard Pryor[/b] as a down and out of work wanna be journalist. Playing against and with each other. Gleason tells his son that money is no object and he can buy anything. Therefore what else does any kid want? Richard Pryor, so of course, he buys him. Well rents him for a week actually. What ensues is nothing short of a comedy classic. I still remember seeing this movie in the theatre and thinking it was so neat that this kid had all those toys. I don�t think I ever thought about wanting to own a person as a toy but I do remember how fun this movie was and certainly still is. To watch Pryor�s battle with the Wonder Wheel is why he was one of the truly original kings of comedy. What�s a Wonder Wheel? Get this movie.

The Great Outdoors

[b]THE GREAT OUTDOORS[/b]
[b]Directed by [/b]Howard Deutch
[b]Featuring [/b]John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Stephanie Faracy, Annette Bening
[b]PG[/b]

I love this movie. In fact you could pretty much screen any [b]John Candy[/b] or [b]Dan Aykroyd[/b] film and I would be a pretty happy clam. Not that I am a clam. I just love these guys. They make a movie look good. The two of them together on vacation with their families was a great idea. The great American family vacation. I remember them well. This movie presents it all. Going to the mini golf range. Going to the fair. Seeing the locals. And of course it all comes to a frenzy when Uncle Roman (Aykroyd) comes to town in his Mercedes to try and Talk Chet (Candy) into an investment deal. They are completely different type of family men, but in the end and in the great outdoors family is family.

300
300(2007)
½

[b]300[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] Zack Snyder
[b]Featuring[/b] Gerared Butler, Lena Heady, Dominic West, David Wenham
[b] R[/b] for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.

"Madness? This is Sparta!" This line exclaimed by the Spartan King Leonidas sets the aggressively hungry tone for the entire story of the movie [b]300[/b]. Adapted from the graphic novel 300 by [b]Frank Miller[/b] about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., it is packed with a power house of blood, braun and battles. The movie does not even remotely sidestep around what it is: a total all out war movie. This is all about the want, need and fruition of a battle that was warned against by the Spartan elders, but that King Leonidas happily marches into against the powerful Persians. The coolness factor of this film is of course the great cinematography techniques incorporated in the other adapted Miller novel [b]Sin City[/b]. Sharp imagery and vibrant coloring is stretched across the celluloid canvas like a great painting coming to life. At times the film leans on these techniques a little too much, not paying attention to the story itself; however, for what the story is it doesn't lend itself to anything but the fact that it is a gigantic elongated battle scene. If you enjoy that, you will enjoy this movie. This is not to say that this film is not good, quite the contrary, it is very good. It just falls into the trap of all great special effects films of focusing more on the effects than the story. In general though, this is a great way to retell this historical battle and 300 will easily take its place in the history of the coolest movies of all time.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)
½

[font=Verdana][size=2][b]THE PRESTIGE[/b]
[b]Directed by[/b] Christopher Nolan
[b]Featuring[/b] Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, [/size]Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine
[b]PG-13[/b] for violence and disturbing images.[/font]
[font=Verdana][size=2]
Ta da and presto! I was very pleased to finally getting around to viewing the movie [b]The Prestige[/b] directed by none other than that [b]Memento Christopher Nolan[/b]. I had heard a lot of good reviews on it and had only seen its smaller cousin [b]The Illusionist[/b] which was just pretty good. The Prestige is a thriller, action-packed mystery. Movies like these are not around too much anymore. It sort of reminded me of an old Bogart movie meets pure pulp film noir. Pretty neat. The cinematography was just stunning and the way lighting becomes almost its own character in the film is really a trick in itself. The story keeps you entranced and both [b]Christian Bale[/b] and [b]Hugh Jackman[/b] have you rooting for both their respective feuding sides at every turn. The payoff in the end or ahem the prestige is worth the price of admission. I recommend this film and think it is definitely the better of the two magician themed films.

A Good Year
A Good Year(2006)

[/b][/i][b][size=2]A GOOD YEAR[/size][/b][i][b][size=2]
[/size][/b][/i][b][size=2]Directed by[/size][/b][size=2] Ridley Scott
[b]Stars [/b]Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Archie Panjabi, Abbie Cornish
[/size][b] PG-13[/b] for language and some sexual content.

[i][b][size=2]A Good Year[/size][/b][/i][size=2], simply put is a A Good Movie. This far from noticed [b]Russell Crowe[/b] film sweeps you off to Provance, France to discover the secrets of the soul as well as the Villa being left to Crowe by his recently deceased Uncle played by the legendary [b]Albert Finney[/b]. Crowe plays a workaholic British day trader who thinks the word "holiday" is worse than any four letter word that could be uttered. By being thrown into the situation of having to deal with the business of what to do with the villa, he is forced to remember and reconcile the childhood he left behind and the coarse adult he has become. The story is sweet yet dry and leaves a very nice aftertaste. The scenery, not just that of Provance, but Crowe's love interest in the film is at minimum worth a view. The only problem with this film is the way the studio went about marketing it. I don't think many movie-goers knew what to make of it. It almost looked like a "[b]Castaway[/b]" for Crowe. They made it look like a one man character study, which although there is study of character it is not a solo journey. Now on DVD, [b]A Good Year [/b]is a fine chilled glass of cinema.[/size]