Brazil (European Version: Re-release) HHHHH (10/19)
Little Children HHHHH (11/18)
Capote HHHH (1/30)
Mrs. Henderson Presents HHHH (1/21)
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont HHHH (5/7)
The Queen HHHH (10/14)
Match Point HHHH (1/18)
Brokeback Mountain HHHH (3/12)
The Devil Wears Prada HHH (9/23)
Good Night, and Good Luck. HHH (2/11)
Munich HHH (3/4)
Casino Royale HHH (11/24)
Boynton Beach Club HHH (9/10)
Friends With Money HHH (4/22)
Keeping Up With the Steins HHH (5/20)
Little Miss Sunshine HHH (8/20)
America:Freedom to Fascism-Volume 1HHH (7/30)
The DaVinci Code HH (5/22)
The Departed HH (11/9)
Thank You For Smoking HH (5/27)
An Inconvenient Truth HH (6/25)
For Your Consideration H(12/2)
A Good Year H(11/12)
A Prarie Home Companion H (6/10)
Brazil (European Version: Re-release) HHHHH
Writer/Director Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece is even more poignant today in the post-9/11 world as it was before. This time the Department of Ministry resembles The Department of Homeland Security. There are 10 additional minutes in this original European version. Gilliam made some cuts to meet contractual demands by Universal Studio for the American release. This version clarifies some ambiguous plotlines near the film’s end. Its black humor is not everyone's cup of tea, but the claustrophobic mis-en-scene will leave you breathless. A young bureaucrat (Jonathan Pryce) becomes entangled in a governmental snafu while he searches for the woman (Kim Greist) of his dreams. Also starring Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins, and oh yes, Robert DeNiro.
Little Children HHHHH
It was Henry David Thoreau that asserted “The mass of men lead lives of quite desperation.” This film by director Todd Field is one of the most emotionally draining and powerful films I've seen in a long time. All the adult characters are pretty much in the child state of the ego which provides for some disturbing moments. A young woman (Kate Winslet) is distanced from her porn-addicted husband (Gregg Edelman) and falls into a relationship with a stay-at-home father (Brad Adamson) who's married to a workaholic wife (Jennifer Connelly). Meanwhile an ex-police officer (Noah Emmerich) is obsessed with a recently released sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley). Cinematographer Antonio Calvache captures the vague sense of small town eeriness with a quiet stillness. All this is narrated by the wonderful voiceover of Will Lyman. Be forewarned, this may be extremely difficult for some to watch.
After a Kansas farmer and 3 other members of his family are murdered brutally, a young ambitious writer Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) sells his soul to the devil in order to write his magnum opus “In Cold Blood”. His friendship with one of the killers Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) is compelling. Watching this film is like staring at an Edward Hopper painting, there are people in it, but the desolation is poignant. When Capote wasn’t being a drama queen raconteur amongst a bunch of faux swank Manhattanites, he was manipulating the very people he loved. Director Bennett Miller keeps the pace just right. Most chilling is a scene that takes place in a grocery store when Capote is picking up some food for Perry and spots a young boy. If Hoffman doesn't pick up an Oscar for this, then Hollywood is truly cold-blooded.
A recent widow (Judi Dench) becomes instantly bored and decides to open a theatre with a curmudgeon (Bob Hoskins). When declining sales hit, she decides to add some spice to the show. Stephen Frears directs this marvelous celebration of life. The biting dialogue is provided by writer Martin Sherman. Also starring Kelly Reilly, an energetic Will Young, along with Christopher Guest as an uptight bureaucrat. This is truly a gem of entertainment.
Poor Mrs. Palfrey (Joan Plowright) decides to move into a London hotel that has seen better days. When her grandson doesn’t return her phone calls, she stumbles into the life of a young man (Rupert Friend) who plays her grandson to the other guests in the hotel. Despite one contrived scene, this is a real celebration of life. Also starring Anna Massey, Robert Lang, Zoe Tapper, and Millicent Martin. Dan Ireland directed this wonderful film based on the novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist, not the actress).
The Queen HHHH
The Old World collided with the New World when Princess Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997. This is about the week following the tragedy mainly focusing on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren in an Oscar worthy performance). The protocols of the past did not apply when the celebrity of Diana and the media kicked into high gear. With the diplomacy of the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), the queen is aided through the treacherous waters she doesn’t understand. While there is some rather heavy-handed symbolism, it’s well worth the viewing. Also starring James Cromwell and Alex Jennings. Stephen Frears directs.
Match Point HHHH
Writer/director Woody Allen replaces Manhattan with upscale London and returns to a theme he explored in his 1989 film "Crimes and Misdemeanors". A young Irishman (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) marries into a wealthy family and has a lusty affair with his brother-in-law's former fiancée (Scarlett Johansson). As usual Allen's camera wanders around art galleries, various landmarks, and along the River Thames. An interesting score includes a scratch recording of an aria. While the suspense is always there the conclusion is unsettling despite the strange turn of events.
Brokeback Mountain HHHH
Director Ang Lee directs this much talked-about film about gay cowboys (or are they shepherds?). Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) do a little male bonding in the wilderness. After their job ends, they leave to go on with their lives and get married to other women. Unfortunately, they never come to terms with their true selves and their wives are in denial. A fine performance by Michelle Williams, as Ennis’ wife, who discovers the forbidden love, but suppresses everything. Jack’s wife (Anne Hathaway) and Ennis’ girlfriend (Linda Cardellini) are equally clueless. Try to keep a straight face as Randy Quaid delivers an indelible analogy involving floral arrangement. An interesting twist on star-crossed lovers.
Screenplay writer Aline Brosh McKeena’s witty dialogue brings Lauren Weishberger novel to the silver screen. A young down to earth girl (Anne Hathaway) goes to work for a mean-spirited editor-in-chief (Meryl Streep) of a New York City fashion magazine. Directed by David Frankel, this has the right amount of comedy that keeps it from tipping into the absurd. Streep is simply brilliant in this comedy. Also starring Stanley Tucci, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thoms, and Emily Blunt.
Writer/Director George Clooney, with the help of screenwriter Grant Heslov, does an excellent job recreating the golden age of television during the 1950’s McCarthy hearings. This mainly focuses on journalist Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) along with Fred Friendly (George Clooney again) as they go against the Communist Red Hunt. Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Jeff Daniels, and Frank Langella round out the cast nicely. While it works amazingly, the appearance of jazz singer Dianne Reeves is an oddity. It’s almost reminiscent of singer Vonda Shepard’s appearance in the “Ally McBeal” television series.
Director Steven Spielberg's darkest film to date. After 11 Israeli hostages are killed at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich Germany, the country of Israel hires an underground assassination team led by Eric Bana to hunt down the planners of what is known as the Black September Group. There's a scene were the Israelis are machine-gunning down terrorists, recalling the Nazis shooting the Jewish ghetto dwellers in Spielberg's masterpiece "Schindlerís List". Spielberg in a couple instances strangely mixes sex and violence with disturbing results. This is an exercise in futility. Also starring Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Mathieu Kassovitz, Ciarán Hinds, Hanns Zischler, and Marie-Josée Croze as Jeanette (aka: The Dutch Woman, Oy!).
Casino Royale HHH
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is back. A retooled Bond more in the vein of "From Russia with Love" harkens back to the pre-"Goldfinger" era of gadgets and mindless women. This time we get to see how James gets his double-O license. Later he falls in love with a beautiful woman known as Vesper Lynd (Eva Green)-What no witty names? He is involved in a game of Texas Hold 'Em with a nasty villain known as Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who weeps blood. As in the book and 1954 teleplay, Bond gets tortured. Yeow! There's some spectacular stunt work amid a couple of construction cranes and Phil Mehuex's camerawork doesn't miss a beat. Judi Densh stars as the cold boss M. The only thing lacking, and it's minor, is the catchy theme song. A great introduction to Bond newcomers and a revival for aficionados. Don't miss it.
Susan Seielmann directs this great ensemble. When tragedy befalls an older couple, the wife (Brenda Vacarro) joins a bereavement group. There she meets an attractive friend (Dyan Cannon), a swingin' widower (Joseph Balogna), and a shy widower (Len Cariou). Together it makes a wonderful story about moving on with life in the golden years. Sally Kellerman , Michael Nouri, and Renee Taylor (yes, the real Mrs. Joseph Bologna) round out this fantastic cast. Surely to bring many smiles and laughs for those who enjoy living.
A housemaid (Jennifer Anniston) has friends with a little bit more money than her. One couple is a depressed wife (Frances McDormand) and her somewhat effeminate husband (Simon McBurney). Another couple (Catherine Keener and Jason Issacs) with more money and entitlement issues, while another couple (Joan Cusak and Gregg Germann) has even more money. Meanwhile, there's a selfish fitness instructor (Scott Caan) and a lonely slob (Bob Stephenson) who come into the maidís life. Interesting direction by Nicole Holofcener.
After an over the top bar mitzvah, put on by the Steins (Larry Miller and Sandra Taylor) occurs, an angry colleague (Jeremy Piven) and his wife (Jamie Gertz) plan an even more elaborate party at Dodger Stadium. But their son (Daryl Sabara) has other ideas when he invites his grandfather (Gary Marshall) and his girlfriend (Darryl Hannah). There's enough schmaltz and schpritz, but you'll enjoy it for its big heart. Also starring the incomparable Doris Roberts. Scott Marshall directs. Make sure you stay all the way through the closing credits.
Another somewhat funny and sad story of another dysfunctional family by directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. When a young girl (Abigail Breslin) wins a shot at the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest, her family takes her cross country to realize her dreams. She is accompanied by her closed-off motivational speaker dad (Greg Kinnear), her oblivious mother (Toni Collete), her angst ridden self-induced mute brother (Paul Dano), a suicidal gay uncle (Steve Carell), and outspoken foul-mouthed grandfather (Alan Arkin). This story goes along just fine until one of the character dies and then it slides into the absurd and ends somewhat hackneyed. Still its worth watching to see the interactions and comedic moments by Arkin.
Comedic genius Sacha Baron Cohen brings his anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist “Borat” character to the big screen. In order to help his hometown villagers and native country, Borat and his obese producer (Ken Davitian) set off to the U. S and A. to interview some "peoples". His "cultural greetings" are not exactly welcome by some jaded Manhattanites. Along his travels, he becomes obsessed with Pamela Anderson on "Baywatch". While this is certainly not for everyone, Cohen is holding up a fun-house mirror to some American foibles, whilst lampooning guns, bigotry, sexism, elitism, jingoism, homophobia, and Christian fundamentalism. Worth a peek if you can get through an indelible blowout he has with his producer in a Houston hotel.
I'm not quite sure what to make of Aaron Russo’s 95-minute polemic about the Federal Reserve and legality of the pesky 16th Amendment. Russo (the 2004 Libertarian Party Presidential candidate) spins a sinister web of a massive conspiracy to dominate the world vis-a-vis the Central Bank. While he gives some interesting advice like not paying your income tax and refusing your 2008 driver's license (which will be embedded with RFID technology in May 2008!) he never really tells you how to have your employer withhold your earnings from the IRS. Civil disobedience is the crying rally, but that should make for a fun time in Federal prison. I don't know which was more frightening, the idea of RFID chip implants or the people in the lobby from the Free State Project recruiting audience members to move to New Hampshire. Guess I'll start packing in a couple of years for my move to Canada instead.
Despite being true to Dan Brown's novel, this long-awaited, much ballyhooed film can’t even come close. Sometimes books don’t translate well to film and this happens to be one major case. The problem lies in a plodding screenplay and a terribly miscast Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. Director Ron Howard doesn’t decipher anything new and the pacing needs work to keep the suspense going without running out of gas by the end. Most of the cast is stellar, with Audrey Tautou being the best as Sophie. Also featuring excellent performances by Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, and Paul Bettany as Silas the Albino monk.
The Departed HH
Director Martin Scorsese departs once again from Italian mobsters and takes on the Irish mob in this forgettable tale of double cross. An Irish cop (Matt Damon) joins the police force only to be working for a mobster/FBI informant (Jack Nicholson). Meanwhile another cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes undercover to break into the mob. Who's conning who becomes muddled by the closing credits. Nicholson has a tendency to upstage in some over the top moments. There are some interesting homages to directors Hitchcock, Bertolucci, and Greenaway, but they don't really fit anything. After "Gangs of New York", this is another sad downslide for Scorsese. Also featuring Alec Baldwin, Mark Whalberg, and Martin Sheen. Oh yeah, by the time you do get up (from your seat), you'll be numb.
One of the most cynical comedies ever, as a young lobbyist (Aaron Eckhart) for the tobacco industry cons his way through life without any moral compass whatsoever. He meets up monthly with a group known as the MOD Squad (Merchants of Death) that comprises of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Firearms (get it?). When his young son (Cameron Bright) looks up to him, you can see the torch of bullcrap about to be passed. Despite some interesting sights (Rob Lowe in a Kimono), fine performances (Robert Duvall, William H. Macy, Sam Elliott, and J.K. Simmons) and snazzy opening credits by Shadowplay Studio, this one leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
While I believe the warnings of global warming, as described by former vice-president Al Gore, as is his passion as an environmental spokesperson, this documentary needs serious editing (does it really take three editors?). I managed to doze off three times during this screening. When he’s not browbeating us with endless charts and graphs, he appears to be making a prologue for a 2008 presidental campaign by recalling defining moments of his past. Most enlightening are comparative pictures of landscapes of 30 years ago and of today. Director Davis Guggeheim does the best he can, but unfortunately for civilization, Al Gore’s ego stifles the message he so wants to convey. If you want more information to help the environment, click here.
Don't even consider this rather reheated improv that Christopher Guest and company churn out every few years. If you enjoyed "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best of Show", you will be less enthralled with this latest exercise of hopeless wishful thinking. When a has been actress (Catherine O'Hara) stars in a ridiculous film entitled "Home for Purim", the Oscar buzz goes out even before the film is done shooting. Wild rumors abound and everyone gets caught up in the moment. The only reason to see this is to watch Fred Willard steal the show as he plays a snarky "Access Hollywood" type announcer. Also featuring Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, and Eugene Levy. Feh!
Not such a good year for wine movies. A self-centered financial analyst’s(Russell Crowe) world comes to a halt when his grandfather (Albert Finney) dies and he inherits a vineyard. He goes off to the French villa and wanders about the grounds, obliviously he almost runs over a women (Marion Collitard) on a bike and then falls into an empty pool when the diving board breaks. If this sounds like entertainment to you, then I want what you're drinking. There’s enough French bashing to wonder why this bottle was even cracked open. Also starring and wasting the talents of Freddie Highmore and Abbie Cornish.
I’ve never been a big fan of Garrison Keillor’s fictional radio show, set in the town of Lake Wobegon, with its quirky blend of “Mayberry” and homespun nostalgic consumerism, but this fictionalized account of its final radio show is a mishmash. This is another director Robert Altman ensemble piece, but Keillor’s screenplay goes nowhere. The best parts of the film involve a Duct Tape sketch with the real-life genius sound effects man (Tom Keith), and a ballad of bad jokes performed by Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly. For some odd reason an angel (Virginia Madsen) wanders around behind stage for no good reason. Meanwhile an anachronistic security manager/ex-private eye (Kevin Kline) searches for the angel and intermittently does a voiceover a la Phillip Marlowe. Finally a cold-hearted corporate suit, known as Axeman (Tommy Lee Jones), shows up late to stare out of a box seat window and then leaves. Also featuring Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Lindsay Lohan. And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where the action is wrong, the dialogue is weak, and the screenplay is below average.
© 2006 David Burnham
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